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75 Percent Of What

We got a rare piece of skilled interviewing from Wolf Blitzer last Sunday:

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: To be clear, we are after Osama bin Laden. He is being chased by Pakistani forces and Afghan forces and American and other forces. We have broken up 75 percent of the al Qaeda known leadership. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia fully...

WOLF BLITZER: Well, when you say 75 percent, of how many leaders are we talking -- 75 percent of a quantity of what? 30, 25?

RICE: Of its known leadership.

BLITZER: But how many...

RICE: I would suspect that that's in the tens to hundreds -- tens to 100.

So when Bush et. al say "75 percent of the al-Qaeda known leadership" they could mean as few as eight people. But more to the point -- it's easy to understand why you would nead to employ estimation when doing quantitative measures of al-Qaeda. But how could the number of known al-Qaeda leaders possibly be an estimate? If Rice knows anything about al-Qaeda it should be how many al-Qaeda leaders she knows about. Does she know of ten, or does she know of 100?

October 7, 2004 | Permalink

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» Estimating the Known? from AngryFinger
This is why Matt makes the big bucks: CONDOLEEZZA RICE: To be clear, we are after Osama bin Laden. He is being chased by Pakistani forces and Afghan forces and American and other forces. We have broken up 75 percent... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 7, 2004 2:04:08 AM

» 75% of What Exactly? from Discourse.net
Matthew Yglesias: 75 Percent Of What catches Condi Rice floundering when asked how many al-Qaeda people are being counted as “leaders” when Bush et. al say they have captured or killed ‘75 percent of the al-Qaeda known leadership̵... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 7, 2004 8:58:44 AM

» "Known Al Qaeda Leadership" from chez Nadezhda
Matthew Yglesias--yes, the Matthew Yglesias, discovers that Condi Rice is unaware of the actual numbers behind the "75% of known leadership" figure. [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 7, 2004 9:00:40 AM

» "Known Al Qaeda Leadership" from chez Nadezhda
Matthew Yglesias--yes, the Matthew Yglesias, discovers that Condi Rice is unaware of the actual numbers behind the "75% of known leadership" figure. [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 7, 2004 9:04:02 AM

» Gift Basket from Tom Jamme's Blog
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» Gift Basket from Tom Jamme's Blog
Sweet Blessings, a new Christian-based online shop featuring cookie bouquets, candy bouquets and gift baskets, opens with a campaign to donate a portion of all profits to Habitat For Humanity. The devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while not a... [Read More]

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» Gift Basket from Tom Jamme's Blog
Sweet Blessings, a new Christian-based online shop featuring cookie bouquets, candy bouquets and gift baskets, opens with a campaign to donate a portion of all profits to Habitat For Humanity. The devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while not a... [Read More]

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» Gift Basket from Tom Jamme's Blog
Sweet Blessings, a new Christian-based online shop featuring cookie bouquets, candy bouquets and gift baskets, opens with a campaign to donate a portion of all profits to Habitat For Humanity. The devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while not a... [Read More]

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Comments

Does Condi know anything at all about al Qaeda? I would say there is no evidence that she does. But, she doesn't need to. This administration doesn't base its decisions on any known data.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Oct 7, 2004 12:32:44 AM

Does Condi know anything at all about al Qaeda? I would say there is no evidence that she does. But, she doesn't need to. This administration doesn't base its decisions on any known data.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Oct 7, 2004 12:33:06 AM

I have actually been suprised by Wolf Blitzer after the past two debates. He has asked some pointed questions. I've been watching him since I was 14 years old, and I have never seen him act less like the midless cyborg to which I have grown so indifferent.

Posted by: Brian A. Fox | Oct 7, 2004 12:42:25 AM

Apparently that is one of those unknown knowns. Or something.

Posted by: JakeV | Oct 7, 2004 1:01:09 AM

How can they assert that 75% of al Qaeda leaders have been broken up if they don't know how many there are?

More importantly, how can they assert that 75% of al Qaeda leaders have been broken up if they don't know HOW MANY THEY'VE BROKEN UP?

They should, at least, be able to give us an actual number on that.

75% of statistics are made up.

Posted by: Royko | Oct 7, 2004 1:26:29 AM

If I recall correctly, Richard Clarke made a list with pictures of known al-Queda leaders. Bush would then cross of the pictures when someone was reported killed. This is maybe 30 guys. 75% certainly sounds better than 'we've killed 24 people in 3 years'. Particularly when you have not killed #1, #2 and the bonus supercharge mullah.

But, of course, some of those people were reported killed and are not DEAD. And then, there's the assumption that we knew then who all the actual al-Queda leaders were. And of course, there are the number of reg'lar flavor al-Queda we killed.

I figure that, tops, we've killed maybe a thousand al-Queda (not Taliban, who were functioning as al-Queda body count substitutes) and maybe 20 leader guys.
Or perhaps 1% of the al-queda membership and 20 leaders, not including #1 and #2.

Effective.

I can certainly see why she'd qualify it as 75% of known al-Queda leadership. It sounds so much better.

ash
['She's the Spin Faerie!']

Posted by: ash | Oct 7, 2004 1:26:57 AM

I have in my hands, a copy of the New York Times from the FUTURE!!! And, quoting directly:

"But, as reported by The Washington Post more than a year ago, the internal debate among intelligence analysts was intense, with the experts in the CIA and the Department of Defense who specialize in tracking al-Qaeda leadership adamant that very few leaders were killed. They argued that instead the leaders of al-Qaeda had escaped in large numbers during the conflict in Afghanistan.

Administration officials at the time did not acknowledge that debate, though Rice acknowledged yesterday she was aware of it. "I knew that there was a dispute," she said. "I actually didn't really know the nature of the dispute."

But, she said, "a policymaker cannot afford to be on the wrong side, underestimating the number of al-Qaeda leaders killed." She said she stood by "the decision to reduce the troop levels in Afghanistan to use in the war against Saddam Hussein and remove this threat to American security."

So, you see, all her statements are perfectly reasonable!

Posted by: Anonymous Blogger | Oct 7, 2004 2:17:28 AM

She doesn't know how many Al Qaeda leaders there are.

She doesn't know how many Al Qaeda leaders have been eliminated.

But somehow, she does know that 75% of Al Qaeda leaders have been eliminated.

WTF! Did she have Gallup take a poll for her?

Posted by: synykyl | Oct 7, 2004 2:42:09 AM

"tens" is 20+, not 10+.

Posted by: Troy | Oct 7, 2004 4:16:50 AM

(and it's always good counter-intel never to give out exact information about anything)

Posted by: Troy | Oct 7, 2004 4:17:55 AM

Condi is an embarrasment now, just as much as Cheney is. I can't recall a time when she didn't say something incredibly stupid to be crucified with. "We could never have imagined flying planes into buildings" et al.

More to the point, before she started this gig, I don't think she knew what al Qaida was. She obviously knew of Osama bin Laden, but not the network he created. Her specialty was in Cold War security studies, which kinda explains why our national security has centered around missile defense and attacking Iraq.

I've frequently thought that this group is literally so dense that they aren't quite sure the Soviet Union is no more and that loosely associated terror cells are the new black (or red).

Posted by: Nate | Oct 7, 2004 4:33:56 AM

Troy, I hope that your second comment is a joke -- it's so hard to tell in comment sections -- since 75% is already exact information about something. And, as ash noted above, it's pretty clear where she's getting a sense of the number (althoguh I think that Clark had it at tw-thirds dead, not three quarters.) What's disconcerting is that she can not say this simply. Maybe because she knows it's outdated -- there may very well be a lot more al Qaeda leaders since Clark's list -- or, maybe because she just doesn't know. In either case, there's no indication that she's trying to keep the knowledge hidden. She's using an exact figure, and then refusing to elaborate, instead sputtering about there being as much as an order of mangitude difference in her estimates. That's incompetence.

Posted by: me | Oct 7, 2004 4:46:39 AM

This is what drives me nuts about these clowns. They don't even try. They are such pathetic and transparent liars, and neither their supporters or the press calls them on it.

It's damn frustrating. We aren't dealing with clever hucksters that spin an elaborate tale that one never knows is false. We are talking about simpletons standing in front of us with their hand in the cookie jar, telling us that they didn't take any cookies.

And such a large proportion of the American people nods in agreement.

Posted by: Timothy Klein | Oct 7, 2004 5:06:39 AM

This actually elides with the 'flypaper' nonsense that was spouted for a time: the notion that there was a fixed number of 'terrorists' who would be drawn to fight in Iraq rather than launch attacks on the US.

If, God forbid, an attack wiped out 75% of 'the House leadership' -- as vague a statement, in some ways -- would we assume that:

a) nobody would be appointed in their place; or
b) that any replacements would not be up to the task?

As for Condi herself, I'm not sure whether, having learned about al-Qaeda, she's learned what it has become since the invasion of Afghanistan and overthrow of the Taliban. That's to say, it's metastasized into 'jihadi international', with lots of local groups sympathetic to 'Osama-ism', but without the logistical and financial 'venture capitalism' of the 1990s.

Posted by: ahem | Oct 7, 2004 5:16:23 AM

I've always said Condi was dumb, but what the fuck?

When the number was two-thirds,, it was based on a CIA estimate tht came out last September, and we're talking about 20 out of thirty. Now, if the denominator is the same, we're talking 24.

Posted by: praktike | Oct 7, 2004 7:28:56 AM

Dear Republican Mailing List Member

My opponent continues his pattern of confusing contradictions. After voting for the war, after saying my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, he now says it was all a mistake. But asked, does that mean our troops are dying for a mistake? He said, no. You can't have it both ways. He can't say it's a mistake and not a mistake. He can't be for getting rid of Saddam Hussein when things look good, and against it when he's falling in the polls. He can't claim terrorists are pouring across the border into Iraq, yet at the same time try to claim that Iraq is somehow a diversion from the war on terror. The American President must speak clearly, and when he speaks, must mean what he says.

This is just one example of how my opponent's weak, vacillating views would make for a more dangerous world. In these final days of the campaign, will you make one more contribution to the Republican National Committee so they can help me and the Republican team get our message to the American people?

www.GOP.com/Support

Americans are seeing fundamental differences between my opponent and me -- differences I believe are crucial to America's national security. First of all, there's a big difference when it comes to supporting our troops in harm's way. When America puts our troops in combat, I believe they deserve the best training, the best equipment, and the full support of our government.

Last week my opponent said our troops deserve better. They certainly deserve better than they got from my opponent and the liberals in Congress when they voted to send them to war, then voted against funding our troops in combat.

You may remember my opponent's quote when they asked him about his vote. He said: "Well, I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

During the course of this campaign when they asked him to explain the vote, he said the famous quote and then went on to say he was "proud" of his vote. He said the whole thing was a "complicated" matter. And then he gave yet another explanation of his vote. He said, well, it was a "protest" vote.

In the debate last week, he said he had made a mistake in how he talked about that vote. But the mistake wasn't what he said; the mistake was what he did. When we put American troops in harm's way, they certainly deserve better than to have a candidate for President use them as a protest.

We will never use our troops as a protest. We will give them everything they need to do the job. They deserve nothing less.

Will you stand with us?

www.GOP.com/Support

During his 20 years as a senator, my opponent has not had many accomplishments. Of the hundreds of bills he has submitted, only five became law - and one of them was ceremonial. But to be fair, he has earned a special distinction in the Congress. The nonpartisan National Journal analyzed his record and named John Kerry the most liberal member of the United States Senate. When the competition includes Ted Kennedy, that's really saying something.

It wasn't easy for my opponent to become the single most liberal member of the Senate. He earned that title by voting for higher taxes, and more regulation, and more junk lawsuits, and more government control over your life. And that sets up a real difference in this campaign. My opponent is a tax-and-spend liberal; I am a compassionate conservative. My opponent wants to empower government; I want to use government to empower citizens. My opponent seems to think that all the wisdom is found in Washington, D.C.; I trust the wisdom of the American people.

Our differences are also clear on issues of national security. The most important question for voters in this election: Who can lead this war against terror to victory?

My opponent has a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of this war against terror, and he has no plan to win in Iraq. The cornerstone of my opponent's plan for Iraq is to convene a summit. I've been to a lot of summits. Since I've been your President, I've been honored to be at summits throughout the world. But I've never been to a meeting that has deposed a tyrant or brought a terrorist to justice. The way to defeat the terrorists is to stay on the offense, attacking them abroad so we do not have to fight them here at home.

My opponent last week claimed he can work with our allies, yet, he said those who are standing with us are not a part of a "genuine" coalition. He earlier called them a coalition of the "coerced" and "bribed," and dismissed their sacrifices as "window dressing."

You cannot lead by pushing away the allies who are already with us, who are sacrificing along with our soldiers. You can't expect any support for a cause you have called a "mistake," a "grand diversion," or the "wrong war" at the "wrong time." The way to lead this coalition is not to be disdainful or dismissive. The way to lead this coalition to victory is to be clear about our thinking, grateful for their sacrifices, and resolute in our determination to achieve victory.

Let me say one last thing about my opponent. Perhaps his most disturbing recent comment was when he said that America has to pass a "global test" before we can use our troops to defend ourselves. He wants our national security decisions subjected to the approval of a foreign government.

I will continue to work with our allies. I'll work with the international community. But I will never submit America's national security to a "global test." Decisions about America's national security will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals.

Can we count on you to show your support one last time before this election?

www.GOP.com/Support

Four years ago, I had the honor of traveling this country with Vice President Cheney and other Republican leaders and we made a pledge. We said if you gave us the chance to serve, we would uphold the honor and the dignity of the offices we sought. With your hard work, with your help, we will do so for four more years.

May God bless you, and may God bless our great country.

Sincerely,

George W. Bush

Posted by: Kurt Vine | Oct 7, 2004 7:58:40 AM

When reached for comment, God said that, yes, He does endorse George Bush for another term, that Florida will endure another spate of hurricanes should it not deliver the GOP vote, and that Falluja should be flattened since He never liked it all that much anyway . . .

Posted by: santo | Oct 7, 2004 9:49:05 AM

Earlier this year, the Bush Admin bragged of bagging "two thirds" of the al Qaeda leadership. It was frustrating that no one ever bothered to ask how many AQ that actually was. Was it based on pre-9/11 intel of AQ numbers? Did it include the many, many new recruits since we started shoving democracy down the throats of Iraqis? So in the last few weeks, the figure becomes "75%" with all the same vagueness. Finally, Blitzer pressed for a number (and didn't get one, not even from our National Security Advisor -- feel safer yet?). Why couldn't he go the extra step and ask why she -- of all people -- didn't really know? It would have exposed this wholly made-up "statistic" for what it is. And why couldn't Matt credit me for bringing this his attention? Or doesn't he read the comments? See yesterday.

Posted by: Philboid Studge | Oct 7, 2004 9:54:55 AM

>So when Bush et. al say "75 percent of the al-Qaeda known leadership" they could mean as few as eight people.

She could mean as few as four people--75 percent of four would mean that they have three people in custody.

If the "known leadership" is known, why was she unwilling to quantify the actual number? To channel Ronald Dumsfeld, there are known "knowns." If the number of people in Al Qaeda's "known leadership" is "known," that should be a known "known." The fact that she was unwilling to quantify it suggests that the number of people they have taken into custody is ridiculously low.

Posted by: raj | Oct 7, 2004 10:21:23 AM

Newsweek, of all places, did a reasonably decent job of hashing this out about a month ago.

Posted by: Philboid Studge | Oct 7, 2004 10:41:50 AM

It's Dr. Rice you dolts! Show some respect.

Posted by: Drew - Dallas, TX | Oct 7, 2004 11:26:02 AM

(and it's always good counter-intel never to give out exact information about anything)

It also a convenient tactic to use when you are trying to pull the wool over the voting public's eyes.

Posted by: synykyl | Oct 7, 2004 11:37:27 AM

>It's Dr. Rice you dolts! Show some respect.

Doctorate in Spin Studies, Whassamatta U.!


ash
['Who has time for a husband when you've got a President to think for?']

Posted by: ash | Oct 7, 2004 12:20:36 PM

That Newsweek piece is smokin':

An official with the recently disbanded 9/11 commission also dismissed the new number... “It was meaningless when they said two thirds and it’s meaningless when they said three fourths,” said the official, who asked not to be identified. “This sounds like it was pulled out of somebody’s orifice.”

Snap!

Posted by: lemuel pitkin | Oct 7, 2004 12:43:41 PM

Kurt, was that an actual letter, or a parody?

Or both?

Posted by: Barry | Oct 7, 2004 2:45:27 PM

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