Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Democrats proving useless yet again
As the Bush administration ratchets up its military threat to Iran, the leadership of the Democratic party is providing a free pass to continue on that potentially disastrous course. Congressional leaders have tacitly or explicitly accepted the necessity of keeping the “military option”—meaning a massive, unprovoked air attack on Iran—“on the table,” as have all three of the leading candidates for the party’s presidential nomination.
The Democratic leadership in Congress has defined the Iran issue only in terms of congressional prerogatives to declare war; none have seen fit to say that threatening Iran with an unprovoked attack is an unacceptable option. Leading Democrats refuse to reject the option of aggressive war against Iran because they have bought into one of the central myths of the U.S. national security elite: that the U.S. must use its unchallenged military dominance to coerce Iran on uranium enrichment.
The three leading candidates in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination have all stated their support for continuing to consider the option of military attack. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., told the AIPAC annual convention at the end of January, “In dealing with this threat ... no option can be taken off the table.” Former senator John Edwards was even more vehement in a speech on Iran last month at the Herzliya Conference in Israel. “To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep all options on the table,” he said, and then repeated the point for emphasis. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., appearing on “60 Minutes” recently, declared, “I think we should keep all options on the table.”
An attack on Iran would be illegal under the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact and would violate Article VI of the Constitution of the United States of America. Apparently it is risker to be viewed as weak (though you'd have to be bloodthirsty to see obeying the law as weak, in this case) than to chance being a thug by keeping war crimes "on the table."
Monday, February 26, 2007
US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran
America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.
In a move that reflects Washington's growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran's border regions.
The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime...
...Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA's classified budget but is now "no great secret", according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.
His claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, who said: "The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime."
Although Washington officially denies involvement in such activity, Teheran has long claimed to detect the hand of both America and Britain in attacks by guerrilla groups on its internal security forces. Last Monday, Iran publicly hanged a man, Nasrollah Shanbe Zehi, for his involvement in a bomb attack that killed 11 Revolutionary Guards in the city of Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchistan. An unnamed local official told the semi-official Fars news agency that weapons used in the attack were British and US-made...
...John Pike, the head of the influential Global Security think tank in Washington, said: "The activities of the ethnic groups have hotted up over the last two years and it would be a scandal if that was not at least in part the result of CIA activity."
Such a policy is fraught with risk, however. Many of the groups share little common cause with Washington other than their opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose regime they accuse of stepping up repression of minority rights and culture.
The Baluchistan-based Brigade of God group, which last year kidnapped and killed eight Iranian soldiers, is a volatile Sunni organisation that many fear could easily turn against Washington after taking its money...
A row has also broken out in Washington over whether to "unleash" the military wing of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iraq-based Iranian opposition group with a long and bloody history of armed opposition to the Iranian regime.
The group is currently listed by the US state department as terrorist organisation, but Mr Pike said: "A faction in the Defence Department wants to unleash them. They could never overthrow the current Iranian regime but they might cause a lot of damage." ...
Read the full article at the Source.
Hersh: U.S. policy benefitting our enemies?
In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that “realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.”
......The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.
A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. “We haven’t got any of this,” he said. “We ask for anything going on, and they say there’s nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, ‘We’re going to get back to you.’ It’s so frustrating.”
The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.
The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.”
Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.”
...Last November, Cheney flew to Saudi Arabia for a surprise meeting with King Abdullah and Bandar. The Times reported that the King warned Cheney that Saudi Arabia would back its fellow-Sunnis in Iraq if the United States were to withdraw. A European intelligence official told me that the meeting also focussed on more general Saudi fears about “the rise of the Shiites.” In response, “The Saudis are starting to use their leverage—money.”
The Saudis are driven by their fear that Iran could tilt the balance of power not only in the region but within their own country. Saudi Arabia has a significant Shiite minority in its Eastern Province, a region of major oil fields; sectarian tensions are high in the province. The royal family believes that Iranian operatives, working with local Shiites, have been behind many terrorist attacks inside the kingdom, according to Vali Nasr. “Today, the only army capable of containing Iran”—the Iraqi Army—“has been destroyed by the United States. You’re now dealing with an Iran that could be nuclear-capable and has a standing army of four hundred and fifty thousand soldiers.” (Saudi Arabia has seventy-five thousand troops in its standing army.)
Nasr went on, “The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis”—Sunni extremists who view Shiites as apostates. “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.”
The Saudi royal family has been, by turns, both a sponsor and a target of Sunni extremists, who object to the corruption and decadence among the family’s myriad princes. The princes are gambling that they will not be overthrown as long as they continue to support religious schools and charities linked to the extremists. The Administration’s new strategy is heavily dependent on this bargain.
Nasr compared the current situation to the period in which Al Qaeda first emerged. In the nineteen-eighties and the early nineties, the Saudi government offered to subsidize the covert American C.I.A. proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Hundreds of young Saudis were sent into the border areas of Pakistan, where they set up religious schools, training bases, and recruiting facilities. Then, as now, many of the operatives who were paid with Saudi money were Salafis. Among them, of course, were Osama bin Laden and his associates, who founded Al Qaeda, in 1988.
This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”
The Bush Administration has publicly pledged the Siniora [in Lebanon] government a billion dollars in aid since last summer. A donors’ conference in Paris, in January, which the U.S. helped organize, yielded pledges of almost eight billion more, including a promise of more than a billion from the Saudis. The American pledge includes more than two hundred million dollars in military aid, and forty million dollars for internal security.
The United States has also given clandestine support to the Siniora government, according to the former senior intelligence official and the U.S. government consultant. “We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can,” the former senior intelligence official said. The problem was that such money “always gets in more pockets than you think it will,” he said. “In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like. It’s a very high-risk venture.”
American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with Al Qaeda.
Alastair Crooke, who spent nearly thirty years in MI6, the British intelligence service, and now works for Conflicts Forum, a think tank in Beirut, told me, “The Lebanese government is opening space for these people to come in. It could be very dangerous.” Crooke said that one Sunni extremist group, Fatah al-Islam, had splintered from its pro-Syrian parent group, Fatah al-Intifada, in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, in northern Lebanon. Its membership at the time was less than two hundred. “I was told that within twenty-four hours they were being offered weapons and money by people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government’s interests—presumably to take on Hezbollah,” Crooke said.
Leslie H. Gelb, a past president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the Administration’s policy was less pro democracy than “pro American national security. The fact is that it would be terribly dangerous if Hezbollah ran Lebanon.” The fall of the Siniora government would be seen, Gelb said, “as a signal in the Middle East of the decline of the United States and the ascendancy of the terrorism threat. And so any change in the distribution of political power in Lebanon has to be opposed by the United States—and we’re justified in helping any non-Shiite parties resist that change. We should say this publicly, instead of talking about democracy.”
The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.
Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.
I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)
The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because “he believes he can influence the government in a positive way.”
The government consultant said that Negroponte shared the White House’s policy goals but “wanted to do it by the book.” The Pentagon consultant also told me that “there was a sense at the senior-ranks level that he wasn’t fully on board with the more adventurous clandestine initiatives.” It was also true, he said, that Negroponte “had problems with this Rube Goldberg policy contraption for fixing the Middle East.”
The Pentagon consultant added that one difficulty, in terms of oversight, was accounting for covert funds. “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general.
“This goes back to Iran-Contra,” a former National Security Council aide told me. “And much of what they’re doing is to keep the agency out of it.” He said that Congress was not being briefed on the full extent of the U.S.-Saudi operations. And, he said, “The C.I.A. is asking, ‘What’s going on?’ They’re concerned, because they think it’s amateur hour.”
The issue of oversight is beginning to get more attention from Congress. Last November, the Congressional Research Service issued a report for Congress on what it depicted as the Administration’s blurring of the line between C.I.A. activities and strictly military ones, which do not have the same reporting requirements. And the Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by Senator Jay Rockefeller, has scheduled a hearing for March 8th on Defense Department intelligence activities.
Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, a Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, told me, “The Bush Administration has frequently failed to meet its legal obligation to keep the Intelligence Committee fully and currently informed. Time and again, the answer has been ‘Trust us.’ ” Wyden said, “It is hard for me to trust the Administration.”
Sunday, February 25, 2007
US Generals ‘Will Quit’ If Attack On Iran Ordered
SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.
Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.
“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.
“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”
A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.
US Intelligence on Iran Does Not Stand up
Much of the intelligence on Iran's nuclear facilities provided to UN inspectors by American spy agencies has turned out to be unfounded, according to diplomatic sources in Vienna.
The claims, reminiscent of the intelligence fiasco surrounding the Iraq war, coincided with a sharp increase in international tension as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran was defying a UN security council ultimatum to freeze its nuclear programme.
That report, delivered to the security council by the IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, sets the stage for a fierce international debate on the imposition of stricter sanctions on Iran, and raises the possibility that the US might resort to military action against Iranian nuclear sites.
At the heart of the debate are accusations, spearheaded by the US, that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons. However, most of the tip-offs about supposed secret weapons sites provided by the CIA and other US intelligence agencies have led to dead ends when investigated by IAEA inspectors, according to informed sources in Vienna.
"Most of it has turned out to be incorrect," said a diplomat at the IAEA with detailed knowledge of the agency's investigations. "They gave us a paper with a list of sites. [The inspectors] did some follow-up, they went to some military sites, but there was no sign of [banned nuclear] activities."
"Now [the inspectors] don't go in blindly. Only if it passes a credibility test."
One particularly contentious issue concerned records of plans to build a nuclear warhead, which the CIA said it found on a stolen laptop computer supplied by an informant inside Iran. In July 2005, US intelligence officials showed printed versions of the material to IAEA officials, who judged it to be sufficiently specific to confront Iran.
Tehran rejected the material as forgeries and there are still reservations about its authenticity in the IAEA, according to officials with knowledge of the internal debate inside the agency.
"First of all, if you have a clandestine programme, you don't put it on laptops which can walk away," one official said. "The data is all in English which may be reasonable for some of the technical matters, but at some point you'd have thought there would be at least some notes in Farsi. So there is some doubt over the provenance of the computer."
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
From Democracy Now!:
Majid [not his real name] and his nine-year old son Kevin are Iranian immigrants currently being held at the Hutto detention center. They’ve been forcibly detained since their plane was forced made an emergency landing in Puerto Rico as they made their way to Canada. Kevin says: “I want to be free. I want go to outside.I want to go home to Canada.”You can read the rest here, or listen to it on Real Player here.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m going to break in for one minute, because we have just gotten a call from the Hutto detention facility. We're joined on the phone by an Iranian immigrant named Majid, from inside the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. He, his wife, his nine-year-old son Kevin have been held at the center for the past nineteen days. Majid, your story is quite a remarkable one. Can you tell us how you ended up at this Texas jail?
MAJID: Hello. Thanks for taking my call. I was on my way to go to Toronto, Canada, and my plane was -- after three hours in the flight, somebody died on the plane and had an emergency landing to Costa Rica. After that, they said everybody should come out. After that, we went out. Immigration, they said you need to have American visa. We had no American visa. And they hold us over there --
AMY GOODMAN: Now, just to be clear, you were never planning to end up in the United States, is that right? You were flying to Canada, but another passenger on the plane had a heart attack, and so you guys had a forced landing in Puerto Rico, and when you had to come out of the plane, while he was taken off the plane, that's when they took you?
MAJID: Yes. This happened, yes -- was a Canadian Zoom Airline, and our ticket was direct from Guyana to Toronto. And this happened. They hold us -- my son is Canadian -- hold child is nine-and-a-half years old, and they put us in detention in Puerto Rico. And from Monday to Friday, I was in the jail in Puerto Rico between criminal people, and my wife and son was other place. We had no news from each other from Monday morning until Friday at noon, until we see each other in a Puerto Rico airport. After that, they brought us here to Hutto Detention Center, and here we are in same part, but different room. My wife and my son is room, but it’s totally inside the room, uncovered toilet. My son has asthma, and he’s very bad and still comes here. It’s very horrible here. And we are in very bad situation. We need help. We need the people help me --
JUAN GONZALEZ: Majid, in other words, basically, what reason did they give you for holding you if you never intended to enter the United States at all? What reason did they give for locking you up?
MAJID: Because they said, “You have an American visa?” That's why you have to stay here. Just plane was waiting one hour for us, but they didn't let us pass. A few officers came. They said Immigration officers -- six, seven -- they said, “We’re going to send you, but let us make decision.” After that, they called the police chief. He came there. He said, “Let me think five minutes.” After five minutes, he came, he said, “I’m going to send you to Canada, but I’m afraid to lose my job. But usually we have to send with your plane, but we keep you here. America is much better than Canada. Here you have safer place. We send you to hotel, and after a few days, you're going to be free.” But they broke their promise. That's why they keep us here, and we have very bad situation here.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Do you know whether any other passengers on your plane were also detained in the same way, or was your family the only one, as far as you can tell?
MAJID: Only my family. No other passenger.
AMY GOODMAN: I just want to say to our listeners and viewers, we are not giving your full name, we’re not showing your face at your request. You did apply for political asylum in Canada in the past when you lived there for ten years. You were ultimately denied, sent back to Iran. And what happened when you were sent back to Iran, you and your wife?
MAJID: Yes. In December 2005, we sent to Iran, whole family, when my Canadian son born. And all documents -- the immigration officer gave all our documents to the captain of plane. After that, in Italy, we went with the Alitalia Airline. In Italy, police came to plane. They took us to [inaudible] room in the transit of Italy, and after that, again, they put us in the plane and give all documents to the captain of Alitalia again. We went to Iran, and in Iran, the plane’s captain said, “You have to sit until the police come to take you.” All passengers went out, and four Iranian secret police came in the plane, and he got all documents from the captain, and they took us in the airport in the secret police office. We were there for a few hours, four or five hours, in the same room.
After that, they separate us. They took me to other place, unknown place. I was in Iran a small cell for six months, and lots of torture and hitting. Now I have physical problem and knee problem and lots of things. And they took my wife to other prison, where we have no news from each other. And for six months, my wife was one year and one month in the prison, and she [inaudible] -- after she was free she [inaudible] the child, and because they [inaudible] him, and she was [inaudible] two, three time in the jail. And it's a very bad situation. But we had no news from each other. They told my wife, because your husband, you have to cooperate with us.
AMY GOODMAN: They said they killed you?
MAJID: Yeah, they a few times told. One time they told her, “He's in coma.” The other time, they said, “Already he was killed.” And, you know, many times they play with her. After one month, they free her in the street at nighttime. They did with me, too, after six months, a lot of torture. And this one, they free me in the street out of the town with closed eyes. And I didn't see anybody, but they took me in daytime some day in winter -- you know, they take my pants off to put in very cold water. They already broke the ice, they put in the water, and they hit me every day, hitting me.
And when I came out, I was less than thirty kilograms, my weight. And my wife was different, six months was under psychologist’s medication over that. And after free, I should register two times a week, every Sunday and Thursday. And when I took -- they took us over there, they took me over there again. One week, they put me in detention, and the other time, again three days. And after that, one guard told me, “I’m going to help you.” After that, he called me, said, “OK, your future is very dangerous. You have to leave. Otherwise, you are in big trouble. I don't know what will happen to you and your family.” That's why we decided and we escaped from there.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Study Findings Shocking (to no one).
Another study is now out published in Mother Jones. But first, let's loot at what the President of the United States has to say of his efforts:
From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense. The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing and free-flowing communications are long over. The terrorist’s life since 9/11 has never been the same.
And now the Mother Jones report:
"If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people." So said President Bush on November 30, 2005, refining his earlier call to "bring them on." Jihadist terrorists, the administration’s argument went, would be drawn to Iraq like moths to a flame, and would perish there rather than wreak havoc elsewhere in the world.
The president’s argument conveyed two important assumptions: first, that the threat of jihadist terrorism to U.S. interests would have been greater without the war in Iraq, and second, that the war is reducing the overall global pool of terrorists. However, the White House has never cited any evidence for either of these assumptions, and none appears to be publicly available.
The administration’s own National Intelligence Estimate on "Trends in Global Terrorism: implications for the United States," circulated within the government in April 2006 and partially declassified in October, states that "the Iraq War has become the ‘cause celebre’ for jihadists...and is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives."
Yet administration officials have continued to suggest that there is no evidence any greater jihadist threat exists as a result of the Iraq War. "Are more terrorists being created in the world?" then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rhetorically asked during a press conference in September. "We don’t know. The world doesn’t know. There are not good metrics to determine how many people are being trained in a radical madrasa school in some country." In January 2007 Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte in congressional testimony stated that he was "not certain" that the Iraq War had been a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and played down the likely impact of the war on jihadists worldwide: "I wouldn’t say there has been a widespread growth in Islamic extremism beyond Iraq. I really wouldn’t."
Indeed, though what we will call "The Iraq Effect" is a crucial matter for U.S. national security, we have found no statistical documentation of its existence and gravity, at least in the public domain. In this report, we have undertaken what we believe to be the first such study, using information from the world’s premier database on global terrorism. The results are being published for the first time by Mother Jones, the news and investigative magazine, as part of a broader "Iraq 101" package in the magazine’s March/April 2007 issue.
Our study shows that the Iraq War has generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third.
We are not making the argument that without the Iraq War, jihadist terrorism would not exist, but our study shows that the Iraq conflict has greatly increased the spread of the Al Qaeda ideological virus, as shown by a rising number of terrorist attacks in the past three years from London to Kabul, and from Madrid to the Red Sea.
Read more here.
Travel firm offers trips to CIA prison
A Polish travel firm said Thursday it was giving tourists a chance to follow in the footsteps of CIA agents and terror suspects near an alleged US detention centre in Poland's lakeland -- which the authorities deny exists.
Visitors will be able to cycle and canoe near the Polish intelligence service's training centre at Stare Kiejkuty in the northern Mazuria region, and the nearby Szymany airport, Joanna Sobieska of Szarpie Travel was quoted as saying by the PAP news agency.
Stare Kiejjuty and Szymany have been in the spotlight since allegations surfaced that the United States had flown terror suspects to Poland for interrogation. Washington acknowledged last September that it had held suspects in secret outside US territory, but refused to say where.
A report approved last week by the European Parliament alleged that a host of European Union member states and several other countries had turned a blind eye to or even facilitated covert US flights.
The investigating lawmakers had suggested that Poland and Romania may have hosted CIA detention centres -- something both countries have fiercely denied -- but an amendment to the study said there was insufficient proof.
Poland was singled out for its "flagrant" lack of cooperation with the parliamentary investigation, which began in 2005.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The War On Bullsh*t
The Justice Department has routinely misrepresented the number of terrorism prosecutions, possibly undermining decision-making in the war on terrorism, an independent government audit has found.
The report, released Tuesday by the Justice Department's inspector general, concluded that the department in most cases "could not provide support for the numbers reported or could not identify the terrorism link used to classify statistics as terrorism-related."
All but two of the 26 statistics reviewed from October 2000 through September 2005 were wrong. "These inaccuracies are important because department management and Congress need accurate terrorism-related statistics to make informed . . . decisions," Inspector General Glenn Fine said in the report.
Part of the problem, according to Fine, was that the Justice Department routinely counted criminal cases as terrorism-related even when prosecutors had found no links to terrorism. Fine also blamed a "decentralized and haphazard" system.
The Justice Department defended its tracking system and the inclusion of cases that aren't directly linked to terrorism.
From Democracy Now!:
[A] new audit has found widespread inaccuracy in how the government collects statistics on terrorism. The Justice Department Inspector General says hundreds of completely unrelated cases have helped inflate numbers on offenses and prosecutions. Offenses including drug trafficking, marriage fraud and immigration violations were among those wrongly included. Just two of twenty-six collections of statistics were found to be accurate. The Bush administration has previously cited the statistics in efforts to provide evidence of successes in prosecuting terrorism cases.
'You did this hit piece because your corporate masters instructed you to. You are a controlled asset of the new world order ... bought and paid for." "Everyone has some skeleton in the cupboard. How else would MI5 and special branch recruit agents?" "Shill, traitor, sleeper", "leftwing gatekeeper", "accessory after the fact", "political whore of the biggest conspiracy of them all".
These are a few of the measured responses to my article, a fortnight ago, about the film Loose Change, which maintains that the United States government destroyed the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Having spent years building up my leftwing credibility on behalf of my paymasters in MI5, I've blown it. I overplayed my hand, and have been exposed, like Bush and Cheney, by a bunch of kids with laptops. My handlers are furious.
I believe that George Bush is surrounded by some of the most scheming, devious, ruthless men to have found their way into government since the days of the Borgias. I believe that they were criminally negligent in failing to respond to intelligence about a potential attack by al-Qaida, and that they have sought to disguise their incompetence by classifying crucial documents.
I believe, too, that the Bush government seized the opportunity provided by the attacks to pursue a longstanding plan to invade Iraq and reshape the Middle East, knowing full well that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Bush deliberately misled the American people about the links between 9/11 and Iraq and about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. He is responsible for the murder of many tens of thousands of Iraqis.
But none of this is sufficient. To qualify as a true opponent of the Bush regime, you must also now believe that it is capable of magic. It could blast the Pentagon with a cruise missile while persuading hundreds of onlookers that they saw a plane. It could wire every floor of the twin towers with explosives without attracting attention and prime the charges (though planes had ploughed through the middle of the sequence) to drop each tower in a perfectly timed collapse. It could make Flight 93 disappear into thin air, and somehow ensure that the relatives of the passengers collaborated with the deception. It could recruit tens of thousands of conspirators to participate in these great crimes and induce them all to have kept their mouths shut, for ever.
In other words, you must believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their pals are all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful, despite the fact that they were incapable of faking either weapons of mass destruction or any evidence at Ground Zero that Saddam Hussein was responsible. You must believe that the impression of cackhandedness and incompetence they have managed to project since taking office is a front. Otherwise you are a traitor and a spy.
Why do I bother with these morons? Because they are destroying the movements some of us have spent a long time trying to build. Those of us who believe that the crucial global issues - climate change, the Iraq war, nuclear proliferation, inequality - are insufficiently debated in parliament or congress, that corporate power stands too heavily on democracy, that war criminals, cheats and liars are not being held to account, have invested our efforts in movements outside the mainstream political process. These, we are now discovering, are peculiarly susceptible to this epidemic of gibberish.
The obvious corollorary to the belief that the Bush administration is all-powerful is that the rest of us are completely powerless. In fact it seems to me that the purpose of the "9/11 truth movement" is to be powerless. The omnipotence of the Bush regime is the coward's fantasy, an excuse for inaction used by those who don't have the stomach to engage in real political fights.
Let me give you an example. The column I wrote about Loose Change two weeks ago generated 777 posts on the Guardian Comment is Free website, which is almost a record. Most of them were furious. The response from a producer of the film, published last week, attracted 467. On the same day the Guardian published my article about a genuine, demonstrable conspiracy: a spy network feeding confidential information from an arms control campaign to Britain's biggest weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems. It drew 60 responses. The members of the 9/11 cult weren't interested. If they had been, they might have had to do something. The great virtue of a fake conspiracy is that it calls on you to do nothing.
The 9/11 conspiracy theories are a displacement activity. A displacement activity is something you do because you feel incapable of doing what you ought to do. A squirrel sees a larger squirrel stealing its horde of nuts. Instead of attacking its rival, it sinks its teeth into a tree and starts ripping it to pieces. Faced with the mountainous challenge of the real issues we must confront, the chickens in the "truth" movement focus instead on a fairytale, knowing that nothing they do or say will count, knowing that because the perpetrators don't exist, they can't fight back. They demonstrate their courage by repeatedly bayoneting a scarecrow.
Many of those who posted responses on Comment is Free contend that Loose Change (which was neatly demolished in the BBC's film The Conspiracy Files on Sunday night) is a poor representation of the conspiracists' case. They urge us instead to visit websites like 911truth.org, physics911.net and 911scholars.org, and to read articles by the theology professor David Ray Griffin and the physicist Steven E Jones.
Concerned that I might have missed something, I have now done all those things, and have come across exactly the same concatenation of ill-attested nonsense as I saw in Loose Change. In all these cases you will find wild supposition raised to the status of incontrovertible fact, rumour and confusion transformed into evidence, selective editing, the citation of fake experts, the dismissal of real ones. Doubtless I will now be told that these are not the true believers: I will need to dive into another vat of tripe to get to the heart of the conspiracy.
The 9/11 truthers remind me of nothing so much as the climate change deniers, cherry-picking their evidence, seizing any excuse for ignoring the arguments of their opponents. Witness the respondents to my Loose Change column who maintain that the magazine Popular Mechanics, which has ripped the demolition theories apart, is a government front. They know this because one of its editors, Benjamin Chertoff, is the brother/nephew/first cousin of the US homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff. (They are, as far as Benjamin can discover, unrelated, but what does he know?)
Like the millenarian fantasies which helped to destroy the Levellers as a political force in the mid-17th century, this crazy distraction presents a mortal danger to popular oppositional movements. If I were Bush or Blair, nothing would please me more than to see my opponents making idiots of themselves, while devoting their lives to chasing a phantom. But as a controlled asset of the new world order, I would say that, wouldn't I? It's all part of the plot.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Iran: The attack plan
US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned.
It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.
The US insists it is not planning to attack, and is trying to persuade Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.
The UN has urged Iran to stop the programme or face economic sanctions.Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.
But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran.
That list includes Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - which it denies.
Long range B2 stealth bombers would drop so-called "bunker-busting" bombs in an effort to penetrate the Natanz site, which is buried some 25m (27 yards) underground.
The BBC's Tehran correspondent Frances Harrison says the news that there are now two possible triggers for an attack is a concern to Iranians.
Authorities insist there is no cause for alarm but ordinary people are now becoming a little worried, she says.
New Cold War ?
The stark threat, by missile forces chief Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, was one of the most bellicose comments yet by Russian officials on the issue, which 10 days ago led President Vladimir Putin to warn of a "new Cold War" in a speech in Munich that shocked Western governments.
This statement when taken in context with the comments recently made by Putin could easily draw us towards unsettling conclusions. After accusing the US of establishing, or trying to establish, a "uni-polar world". He went on to state...
"What is a uni-polar world? No matter how we beautify this term, it means one single centre of power, one single centre of force and one single master,"
"The United States has overstepped its borders in all spheres - economic, political and humanitarian, and has imposed itself on other states,"
Has a lack of world stability and incompetent leadership brought us back to the threshold of a new cold war ? There is no doubt that the Russians have turned up the volume with their rhetoric. There is also no doubt that the US has illegally overstepped the boundaries of the sanctuary of sovereign states.
A new cold war? Well maybe not yet, but it is a warning sign to be taken seriously. My question is, are those in power actually listening?
Big Brother is watching you!!
It took a year of wrangling to get permission to film inside Iran but the result is an amazing portrayal of an energetic and vibrant country that is completely different to the usual images seen in the media. A country of contrasts
1 hr 29 min 30 sec
Monday, February 19, 2007
Despirately Seeking War, Part 2
WASHINGTON - Karl Rove, then White House deputy chief of staff for President George W. Bush, received a copy of the secret Iranian proposal for negotiations with the United States from former Republican Congressman Bob Ney in early May 2003, according to an Iranian-American scholar who was then on his Congressional staff.Karl Rove, then White House deputy chief of staff for President George W. Bush, received a copy of the secret Iranian proposal for negotiations with the United States from former Republican Congressman Bob Ney in early May 2003, according to an Iranian-American scholar who was then on his Congressional staff.
Ney was chosen by Swiss Ambassador in Tehran Tim Guldimann to carry the Iranian proposal to the White House, according to Parsi, because he knew the Ohio Congressman to be the only Farsi-speaking member of Congress and particularly interested in Iran.
Guldimann helped the Iranians draft the proposal and passed it on the United States.
The White House press office had not responded to a request for a comment on the account naming Rove as the recipient of the Iranian proposal by midday Friday.
The Iranian proposal for negotiations, which suggested that Iran was willing to consider far-reaching compromises on its nuclear programme, relations with Hezbollah and Hamas and support for a Palestinian peace agreement with Israel as part of a larger peace agreement with the United States, has become a contentious issue between the Bush administration and its critics in and out of Congress.
The identification of Rove as a recipient of the secret Iranian proposal throws new light on the question of who in the Bush administration was aware of the Iranian proposal at the time. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied in Congressional testimony last week that she had seen the Iranian offer in 2003 and even chastised former State Department, National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency official Flynt Leverett for having failed to bring it to her attention at the time.
At a Capital Hill conference on U.S.-Iran relations Wednesday, sponsored by the New America Foundation and NIAC, Leverett responded to Rice's criticism by saying it was "unthinkable that it would not have been brought to her attention" and demanding an apology from her.
The revelation that Rove received a copy of the Iranian negotiating proposal within days of the receipt of the State Department makes it appear very unlikely that Rice was not immediately made aware of the document.
The new account of the transmission of a second copy of the Iranian proposal to the White House coincided with the release Wednesday of both the actual text of the proposal as received in Washington and of the cover memo by Ambassador Guldimann which accompanied it. The two documents contradict the suggestion by Rice and by other State Department officials that Guldimann was acting on his own in forwarding the proposal, and that it did not reflect the intentions of the Iranian government.
The two documents were made available on the website of the Washington Post online edition in connection with a story by Post reporter Glenn Kessler. Kessler wrote that they had been provided by "a source who felt its contents were mischaracterised by State Department officials."
The memo from Guldimann, dated May 4, confirms previous reports that the Iranian proposal was drafted by the Iranian Ambassador in Paris Sadeq Kharrazi, in consultation with Guldimann but only after extensive discussions between Kharrazi and the three top figures in Iranian foreign policy: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, then President Mohammad Khatami and his Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.
As the memo notes, Ambassador Kharrazi, a former deputy foreign minister, was extremely well connected to the very top level of Iranian leadership. Khamenei's son is married to his sister, and the foreign minister is his uncle.
The memo recounts that a first draft of what was to be called a "roadmap" was done by Ambassador Kharazzi with Guldimann's help during a long discussion on Apr. 21, 2003. It was that document that Parsi later obtained from Iranian sources and has been reported in previous accounts of the proposal. After that initial meeting Kharrazi had two long meetings with Khamenei, President Khatami and the foreign minister which he reported as lasting a total of four hours.
According to Kharrazi's account, the three leaders agreed on "85%-90%" of the draft roadmap, with the president and foreign minister voicing no objection and Khamenei raising "some reservations as for some points". Guldimann reported in his memo that Kharrazi asked him at a meeting on May 2 to make "some minor changes in the previous draft," especially on the Middle East peace process.
In the final draft, which has now been made public, the bullet point on "U.S. aims" on the Middle East regarding the Palestinian-Israeli peace issue was changed from "acceptance of the Arab League Beirut declaration (Saudi initiative, two states-approach)" to simply "acceptance of the two-states-approach".
The intention behind that shift is made clearer by the only other substantive change in the newly released final draft. In the discussion of a possible "decision on the first mutual steps" the document suggests that the Iranians would issue a "statement that it supports a peaceful solution in the Middle East, that it accepts a solution which is accepted by the Palestinians and that it follows with interest the discussion on the Roadmap, presented by the Quartet." That formula would allow the Iranian side to maintain a position of support for "the Palestinians" in negotiations with Washington.
Guldimann's memo reports that Kharrazi told him all three leaders supported the initiative. But the Iranian diplomat asked him if he could pass the proposal "very confidentially to someone very high in the DoS [Department of State] in order to get to know the U.S. reaction on it." He also warned that, "if the initiative failed, and if anything about the new Iranian flexibility outline in it became known, they would -- also for internal reasons -- not be bound by it."
That was a clear indication that the Iranian leaders were afraid that their conservative critics would attack them if such a proposal did not bring desired results, charging that it showed weakness.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Right To Exist ?
I am an Israeli patriot, and I do not feel that I need anybody's recognition of the right of my state to exist. If somebody is ready to make peace with me, within borders and on conditions agreed upon in negotiations, that is quite enough for me. I am prepared to leave the history, ideology and theology of the matter to the theologians, ideologues and historians...
...The US and their European satellites are boycotting the Palestinian government and starving the Palestinian population. They have set three conditions for lifting the blockade:
(a) That the Palestinian government and Hamas must recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist,
(b) They must stop "terrorism", and
(c) They must undertake to fulfill the agreements signed by the PLO.
On the face of it, that makes sense. In reality, none at all. Because all these conditions are completely one-sided:
(1) The Palestinians must recognize the right of Israel to exist (without defining its borders, of course), but the Israeli government is not required to recognize the right of a Palestinian state to exist at all.
(2) The Palestinians must put an end to "terrorism", but the Israeli government is not required to stop its military operations in the Palestinian territories and stop the building of settlements. The "roadmap" does indeed say so, but that has been completely ignored by everybody, including the Americans.
(3) The Palestinians must undertake to fulfill the agreements, but no such undertaking is required from the Israeli government, which has broken almost all provision of the Oslo agreement. Among others: the opening of the "safe passages" between Gaza and the West Bank, the carrying out of the third "redeployment" (withdrawal from Palestinian territories), the treatment of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one single territory, etc. etc.
Read the full article Here
I often hear the argument that Hamas refuses to accept the right of Israel to exist, but rarely do I hear people defend the rights of Palestine itself to exist. Surely any two nations 'rights to exist' should never be mutually exclusive ?
Friday, February 16, 2007
Italian judge orders the arrest of 26 CIA agents
Hassan was abducted and taken to Egypt, where he was imprisoned for 4 years. The cleric claims he was interrogated and severely tortured while in Egyptian custody. He was finally released about 4 weeks ago.
With this being only a couple of weeks after Germany ordered the arrest of 13 suspected CIA agents, you might begin to wonder when the number of wanted CIA agents will outnumber the number of wanted 'terrorists' which they are seeking.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Repost: Desperately seeking war
From Democracy Now!:
The Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration ignored an offer from Iran in 2003 to cooperate on a number of key issues now at the center of the dispute between the two nations. According to the report, Iran offered to fully cooperate on its nuclear program, recognize the state of Israel and terminate support for Palestinian militant groups. Iran sent the offer just weeks after the U.S. invaded Iraq. The Bush administration belittled the offer and formally complained to the Swiss ambassador for sending the proposal along.Yet Bush has recently had the gall to say this:
“If Iran's leaders reject our offer, it will result in action before the Security Council, further isolation from the world and progressively stronger political and economic sanctions..."
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
No Evidence of Meddling by Iran's Regime
A day after the U.S. military charged Iran's government with shipping powerful explosive devices to Shiite Muslim fighters in Iraq to use against American troops, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [ Marine Gen. Peter Pace]said Monday that he hasn't seen any intelligence to support the claim.Pace goes on to say that devices manufactured in Iran have been found, but this does not mean the Iranian government is involved.
But hold on a moment. What is this?:
Why is it that an Islamic regime would use the Christian date 3-2006 and not the Jalāli Calendar (used in Iran) date of E [as in Esfand] 1384? Could it be that the Iranian military has adopted the Christian calendar, or could it be that an organisation [the U.S. military] that has been caught lying time and time again is once again lying?
And while pondering that thought, let us remember that we have zero direct evidence. We have only the military's say-so, and, given their track record, taking them at their word would be very foolish. And the circumstances around the announcement were bizarre to say the least: the officials were anonymous and reporters were not allowed to bring in recording devices of any kind.
But most importantly of all, please forget the fact that last year, the AP reported that private Saudis were providing money for Sunni insurgents (i.e. those who are doing most of the attacks against the U.S. and whom the Iranians would not want to support) to buy weapons.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Old wine, new Iranian bottle
As with Iraq before the war, the evidence is already available for people to examine should they choose to shake themselves out of laziness and that particular mental illness known as "patriotism." There is no information demonstrating that Iran has a nuclear weapons program.
By now, the story of how neoconservatives hijacked American foreign policy is a familiar one. With Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld leading the way, neocons working out of the office of the vice president and the Department of Defense orchestrated a spectacular disinformation operation, asserting that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction posed a grave and immediate threat to the U.S. Veteran analysts who disagreed were circumvented. Dubious information from known fabricators was hyped. Forged documents showing phony yellowcake-uranium sales to Iraq were promoted.
What's less understood is that the same tactics have been in play with Iran. Once again, neocon ideologues have been flogging questionable intelligence about W.M.D. Once again, dubious Middle East exile groups are making the rounds in Washington—this time urging regime change in Syria and Iran. Once again, heroic new exile leaders are promising freedom. [Including the U.S. and UK's (and formerly Saddam's) favourite terrorist group, the Mujahideen-e Khalq Organisation. - DJEB]
..."It is absolutely parallel," says Philip Giraldi, a former C.I.A. counterterrorism specialist. "They're using the same dance steps—demonize the bad guys, the pretext of diplomacy, keep out of negotiations, use proxies. It is Iraq redux."
Similarly, we know the effects a war would have on the region: they are transparent. Still, there do exist various think tanks and institutions to tell you that red is green and up is down:
Writing in The Weekly Standard last spring, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, made the neocon case for bombing Iran's nuclear sites. Brushing away criticism that a pre-emptive attack would cause anti-Americanism within Iran, Gerecht asserted that it "would actually accelerate internal debate" in a way that would be "painful for the ruling clergy."Interesting here how we are supposed either to be totally ignorant of recent history, or consciously push out of our minds the fact that there was a"internal debate": the students' movement in Iran that the "ruling clergy" were having to concede to... until George Bush set his sights on Iran with his "axis of evil" speech. After that, dissent in Iran was quashed in the name of national security, if that sounds familiar. And it should sound familiar, not because it so often happens here, but because it was predicted that Bush's speech would have this effect on the students' movement in Iran.
That an attack would entrench the power of the Revolutionary Council is so obvious that even disinterested old George W. Bush knows it:
In a total vacation from reality, the American Enterprise Institute's Gerecht says that an attack on Iran would not harm their mission in Iraq:
At a farewell reception at Blair House for the retiring chief of protocol, Don Ensenat, who was President Bush's Yale roommate, the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine's Soroush Shehabi. "I'm the grandson of one of the late Shah's ministers," said Soroush, "and I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime we all despise will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized."
"I know," President Bush answered.
"But does Vice President Cheney know?" asked Soroush.President Bush chuckled and walked away.
As for imperiling the U.S. mission in Iraq, Gerecht argued that Iran "can't really hurt us there." Ultimately, he concluded, "we may have to fight a war—perhaps sooner rather than later—to stop such evil men from obtaining the worst weapons we know."Diverting manpower, creating a new enemy and turning Iraq's Shia against the U.S. "can't really hurt" the U.S. in Iraq. I can't imagine how drunk on patriotic fervor someone's mind would have to be, and how ignorantly optimistic as well, to believe something that ridiculous.
Then there is the issue of geography and geology. Grab a map and look at the Persian Gulf. Find the Strait of Hormuz. Then ask yourself how much the price of oil might rise if Iran started to fire shells at oil tankers traversing those waters.
Ordinarily, it would be an insult to a person's intelligence to try the same scam on them twice. Yet more and more I am seeing the more vocal of the cyberworld's crazies frothing at the mouth for Iranian blood. Logic and fact are not a part of this, I suspect. We are reaching into the more primal areas of the psyche with these people. The men in power, yes, I expect them to lie, when have people in power not? It is the believers that I worry about.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Global Incident Map
Friday, February 09, 2007
Fair and Balanced vs We Tried
The Mother of All Scandals
From McClatchy Newspapers via Common Dreams:
Show me the money, or at least some receipts scribbled on the backs of old envelopes and grocery bags.
This week, we were treated to the spectacle of the former U.S. civilian overlord of Iraq, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, squirming in the hot seat as he attempted with little success to explain what he did with 363 TONS of newly printed, shrink-wrapped $100 bills he had flown to Baghdad.That's $12 billion in cold, hard American cash, and no one, especially Bremer, seems to know where it went.
It may be an urban legend, but the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, the Illinois Republican, is widely quoted as saying: "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." If he didn't say it, he should have.
Bremer, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in totally screwing up the first two years of the Iraq Occupation, said that a lot of the cash was delivered to ministries of the Iraqi government to meet payrolls that were patently fraudulent.
The Department of Defense's special inspector general for Iraq, Stuart Bowen, said that a 2005 audit he conducted found that in some ministries the payroll was padded with up to 90 percent "ghost employees" - people who didn't really work there or perhaps didn't really exist.
Bremer said that he decided to provide the money to meet those payrolls, even though he knew they were bogus, for fear of starting riots and demonstrations among the Iraqis, real and imagined.
After all, the former czar told the representatives, it wasn't really our money anyway. It was Iraqi money - oil earnings and bank accounts seized from Saddam Hussein's government - that we were holding in trust.
I can think of no period in American history when we sat idly by while $12 billion just disappeared, poof, without a paper trail; without heads rolling; without someone going to prison.
And all this was happening at a time in the war when American soldiers and Marines were going without properly armored vehicles, without lifesaving body armor and even without some of the weapons they needed.
What does it take for the American people's gag reflex to kick in? When do we begin to realize that this is only the tip of an iceberg of fraud, waste, abuse and corruption perpetrated on a monumental scale by the Bush administration, its buddies among the military contractors and their handmaidens on Capitol Hill?
The cost of this war is swiftly building toward a trillion dollars. How much of that was siphoned off by crooked and incompetent contractors, greedy defense corporations and Iraqi crooks in a government that we created and installed?
No one in the congressional hearing has yet asked Bremer or the inspector general how much of that $12 billion in cash was handed out to American contractors in Baghdad, although that question begs to be asked and answered.
During the dark days of World War II, Congress established a Committee on War Profiteering and put a little-known senator from Missouri, Harry S. Truman, in charge. Truman, a veteran of combat service in World War I, was a bulldog.
His committee went after not only those who stole money but also those who provided shoddy or worthless equipment and supplies for our troops. He had the power to shut down an offending company or contractor, and he used it.
Where's our Truman Committee today? Where are the righteous representatives of the people charged with standing guard over our troops and our money?
We've wasted $600 billion on a war that we're losing, day by bloody day, at a time when our president presents a federal budget that cuts Medicare to find billions for more that war. The Decider boasts that if we do things his way, America's wealthiest individuals won't have to pay even one dollar more in taxes.
Meanwhile, the people's representatives, on both sides of the aisle, round up the contributions they need for re-election by putting themselves in the pockets of the very robber barons they're supposed to be investigating, interrogating and policing.
Perhaps we should let a no-bid cost-plus contract to Halliburton to construct large additions to the country club federal prisons to accommodate a population explosion in the years ahead. Or, for convenience sake, maybe we could just add a prison wing to the $500 million George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Domestic extremists and angry motorists
The police's national co-ordinator for domestic extremism said both animal rights activism and the possibility of a grudge-holding motorist were being examined as "priority lines of inquiry".
How long until animal-lovers and car-owners become potential terrorists?
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Ban Secret Detentions? No Way!
The signing capped a quarter-century of efforts by families of people who have vanished at the hands of governments....
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined comment except to say that the United States helped draft the treaty, but that the final text "did not meet our expectations."
McCormack declined comment on whether the U.S. stance was influenced by the administration's policy of sending terrorism suspects to CIA-run prisons overseas, which Bush acknowledged in September.
Many other Western nations, including Germany, Spain, Britain and Italy, also did not sign the treaty. France introduced the convention at the U.N. General Assembly in November and it was adopted in December.
Many delegates expressed hope that other nations will sign by year-end. Some European nations have expressed support for the treaty, but face constitutional hurdles or require a full Cabinet debate before signing, French and U.N. officials said.
Arbour said the United States had expressed "reservations" about parts of the text, but declined to elaborate, and she urged U.S. officials to sign and ratify it. She noted that America often backs activities of the UNHCR without formally signing on to them.
The convention defines forced disappearances as the arrest, detention, kidnapping or "any other form of deprivation of freedom" by state agents or affiliates, followed by denials or cover-ups about the detention and location of the person gone missing.
Nations that eventually ratify the text would enshrine victims' rights, and would require states to penalize any forced disappearances in their countries and enact preventative and monitoring measures.
French officials, who led the effort, counted more than 51,000 people who were disappeared by their governments in over 90 countries since 1980, Douste-Blazy said. Some 41,000 of those cases remain unsolved.
"Men and women disappear every day on every continent, for defending human rights, for just opposing their governments' policies or simply because they want justice," Douste-Blazy said. "The situation could not continue to go unpunished. It required a strong response from the international community."
Latin American states like Argentina, once plagued by disappearances, are now owning up to much of the violence that left hundreds of thousands dead or disappeared in the 1970s and 1980s. Disappearances were also a common Nazi tactic in World War II.
Argentina's first lady, lawmaker Cristina Kirchner, took part in the signing. She was in Paris in an effort to raise her profile before a potential presidential bid.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Passing the buck
This is a little out-of-date (!) but still relevant.The city guy claims the squatters are putting lives at risk.Apparently the city's responsibility is to protect people's lives. Giving people a roof over the heads appears not to be part of that responsibility. Here in France
homeless orgs have succeeded in getting a new law which stipulates the government's legal responsibility to find a home for every citizen, ie. a citizen can sue the government if it doesn't provide a home. Will the law be put into practice? Probably not. It's a step in the right direction, and the struggle continues.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
The case against pre-emptive holocaust in Iran
...If you read the “talkbacks” on The Jerusalem Post or Ha’aretz websites, not to mention the radical right-wing blogs, the idea of nuking Iran has been boiling in the minds of more than a few people, Jews and gentiles, for a long time.
But this idea has now traveled beyond the boundaries of the crackpot Right, and is reportedly on the menu of options for dealing with Iran that the Israeli military is preparing to put at the government’s disposal...
... The Iranians have weapons of mass destruction n chemical and possibly biological, too. They also have missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel. If they are so bent on wiping us out, why haven’t they showered tiny little Israel with WMD-armed missiles?
The answer, again, is that while the Iranians are crazy, they’re not that crazy. I believe that even if they think they could take out Israel with a first strike before Israel could retaliate, they realize that the U.S. would immediately nuke Iran to rubble...
...If Israel uses its nuclear weapons against Iran, which is nearly 80 times Israel’s size, the very least that would likely happen is that Israel would immediately be showered by Iranian missiles carrying chemical and possibly biological weapons.
What’s not just a possibility but a very strong probability, though, is that since some of Iran’s nuclear facilities “are in or near major cities,” ... millions of Iranians would be killed.What would such an act by Israel be? It would be genocide. It would be a holocaust.Those who think they can see into the future might try to call it a “pre-emptive holocaust.” But a holocaust it would be...
Why do those who quite rightly show disgust at any 'perceived' threat of the genocide of Israelis so often fail to show equal sickness for the genocide of Iranians ?