During his visit, Mr. Bush wore a specially tailored Marine tanker jacket, the all-purpose, all-weather jacket for officers and enlisted men, said Maj. Jason Johnston, a Marine spokesman. Mr. Bush's jacket had custom touches like his name and designation as commander in chief embroidered across the front. -- New York Times story, Bush visits Camp Pendleton.

LI just half listened to another NPR broadcast about intelligence reform. While we would like to investigate this thing in depth and come up with a meaty beaty analysis for our readers, basically we find the whole thing boring, stupid and vapid. We know, from the hearings last year, what happened in 2001:
1. neither the government nor the airlines wanted to come up with the money to finance a security system at airports;
2. various people in the FBI and other law enforcement agencies sniffed out that something was wrong, and were stifled by their higher ups;
3. in spite of not being in the domestic pipeline, D.C. was bathed with information from the CIA that an attack was coming, culminating with a warning to Bush in August, 2001, which he ignominiously ignored.

Knowing this, the public went ahead and elected the inept and dishonest Bush to take another whack at the American pinata. No reform is going to replace the man who, both pre and post 9/11, simply doesn’t get terrorism. The idea of reforming the intelligence agencies around him has the appropriate tone of the way you arrange your household when you have an alcoholic father – you try to find ways to keep it going in spite of him.

One wonders how OBL is assessing his last four years. A state of the disunion address from him, this January, would be interesting. He’s done well. True, opposing a gang composed of people who have wrapped their essential ineptness in ideological anger isn’t that difficult. OBL can look back with satisfaction at destroying 3 thousand some American lives without suffering too heavily for it. He’s extended his operations over the past four years too, from Morocco to Indonesia. Saudi Arabia is an on again, off again thing – a matter of getting the right personnel.

As for his home situation, that’s pretty comfortable. The trail has gone “cold” on him, according to his former ally, Musharraf. OBL benefits from the peculiar dirtiness of the history between Pakistan and the U.S. Since the 70s, when Americans supported genocide in Bangladesh, we have been in bed with the worst of Pakistan’s society – the perpetual putschists, the death squad intelligence service, etc., etc. – putting them in contact with the worst of our society – the CIA veteran, the Republican party operative – and have produced a synergy that keeps finding its equilibrium on lower and lower levels. That the Pakistan president could triumphally tour this country while basically lying through his teeth about Al Qaeda and the Pakistan’s government extensive collaboration with the spread of nuclear weaponry know how is a nice symbol of where things stand, vis a vis the ‘war on terror’ committed to by the Bush republic, at the end of 2004.

It isn’t that al qaeda is a particularly smart organization – the dream of actually implementing the al qaeda idea in some national territory is still distant, and would no doubt shatter in reality. For every move that al qaeda has made, its real enemy – the “shi’ite crescent’, as the King of Jordan put it in the WP this morning – has made two or three. It seems that al qaeda is fated to be the best man, and never the bridegroom. Also, al qaeda has had to bear costs itself over the last four years. You don’t run a successful terrorist organization without costs. That the Taliban was knocked out of Afghanistan is a cost, for instance; but not one that probably bothers OBL too much. Allies – the CIA, Pakistan’s ISI, Sudan – come and go. In a sense, he’s landed in a better situation – he’s protected by a country that has both subcontracted the ‘hunt’ for him and made it clear that it has no interest in actually capturing him. When the hunt for you is monopolized by a timid and disinclined hunter, you can start thinking of other things than mere survival.