Thursday, May 26, 2005

Another Crack In The Wall

The Australian blogger "Gandhi", writing on his blog, Bush Out (by Gandhi), has lately been reporting on [and may have helped to cause] another crack in the propaganda wall.

Here, excerpts from [and links to] a few posts which seem especially significant:

Background from a Jan 24 post: Iraq The Model: The Full Story
It's no secret that the Iraqi blog "Iraq The Model" - run by brothers Omar, Mohammed and (till recently) Ali Fadhil - provides US neo-conservatives with a magnificent piece of public relations. The Fadhil brothers say they want to tell the world about all the good things that have been happening in Iraq since the US invasion, and they do so even while ignoring the endless violence, the growing anarchy and the horrific scandals which grab the attention of most other Iraqi bloggers. While the world was being shocked by photos from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, for example, the Fadhil brothers were earnestly discussing the merits of the new Iraqi flag. Arch neocon Paul Wolfowitz has frequently cited the blog while urging the global media to take a more positive line on events in Iraq. In the lead-up to the 2004 US elections, two of the Fadhil brothers even met with Wolfowitz and George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

Rampantly pro-war websites regularly link to the blog as proof that ordinary Iraqis love what America is doing in Iraq, despite any number of polls showing that the Fadhil brother's views are totally out of touch with popular Iraqi thought. "Iraq The Model" is not quite the PR equivalent of the rose-petal-strewn streets that neocons once predicted would greet US troops, but it's about as good as it gets for these militant ideologues. Even the name fits snuggly with the neocon mantra that Iraq will soon become a model for other countries in the region.


"Iraq The Model" provides an online oasis for people who would rather ignore the harsh facts of daily life in Iraq under US occupation. It's the perfect information cocoon for those who - like neocon leader Douglas Feith - would rather dwell outside the "reality-based community". And it goes a long way to explaining how George W. Bush achieved four more years in office.


I can accept that many Iraqis, keen to be rid of Saddam Husseins' brutal tyranny, welcomed the US invasion with open arms. And I can understand that people overwhelmed with bad news might want to set up a blog for good news stories, if only to cheer themselves up. But the Fadhil brothers' unquestioning support of all things US, coupled with their seeming disinterest in the suffering of their fellow Iraqis, was more that a little strange.

If these guys really are Iraqi dentists, I thought, why aren't they talking about the decaying state of Iraq's hospitals, or the appalling lack of medical supplies? And why do they tolerate the outrageously militant, rude, racist and otherwise abusive comments by some visitors to their blog, while banning pacifists like me who seek to engage in honest debate?

In my opinion, there was only one rational explanation. The "Iraq The Model" blog exists not for the sake of its authors or their fellow Iraqis, but for the sake of its many pro-war US visitors, who have already donated over US$10,000 to the Fadhil brothers, plus another US$14,000 for the brothers’ off-shoot political party, the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party.

So are the Fadhil brothers just a bunch of opportunistic Iraqis making money from dumb Americans, I wondered, or are more sinister forces at work? I started digging through the links at Iraq The Model to find out what was really going on.
Click here and read the rest of the article to see the results of the early digging. Lots of connections, lots of money, very interesting stuff. And this issue has been simmering on the back burner at Bush Out (by Gandhi) ever since.

Just recently, there's been a a break in the story, as Gandhi reported on May 21: Ali Fadhil Exposes Spirit Of America Lies
Well, about time. Ali Fadhil has finally explained what really happened between him, his brothers and Jim Hake's Spirit of America "charity". I congratulate Ali for speaking up:
I'm disappointed because they lied to us, both Iraqis and Americans. They used my brothers (and still are using them) to get to their goals which have nothing to do with the interests of Iraq or America. They are reassuring Americans that a great job is being done in Iraq through their donations, where in fact the good things that were accomplished are so small and so lacking that they should be ashamed of mentioning them. Not to mention that there are harmful things done without them caring to do anything about it.

I'm not sure what SoA's real agenda is but it seems to me that Jim has some personal political ambitions that he wants to achieve through SoA. This has become more obvious to me before and during that trip to America. But let me offer some details about my personal encounter with SoA's team (which I tried to avoid mentioning) and why I grew suspicious about them...
Ali looks closely at SoA's stated goals in Iraq and reveals how little of substance has really been achieved.
There were 7 objectives included in SoA "Friends of Democracy" project. What happened to these projects that were receiving donations for months now and that are still featuring on their website? I'll tell you what I know...
Ali also reveals some "strange behavior" from original SoA bigwig (now sacked) Kerry Dupont.
Besides her unacceptable behavior, Kerry Dupont told us lies after lies. One of which and the easier to mention here is that she told us that if Jim did not approve of the budget then she has 300 000$ that we could use to do what we want, but we told her that we prefer to deal with SoA...
Now where would Kerry Dupont have got $300,000, unless she had a very big piggy bank, or some very close ties to the people handing out cash in Paul Bremer's Iraq?

Ali says SoA CEO Jim Hake was shocked to hear about Dupont's offer, but more concerned that the scandal would mess up his planned meeting with the Fadhils, Bush and Wolfowitz in the White House. Here's Ali's analysis:
That should tell us something about the man's priorities and how important that trip was for him. He wasn't concerned about the "great job" we were about to do or the great relationship that was ruined; no he was only concerned about the trip.

Jim wanted to meet Bush SO bad and he knew he would never get that chance without our help, which is what he admitted to Mohammed later. But he didn't even ask for our help. He used us to get to what he wanted while telling us lies and giving us a vague schedule for the trip. I told my brothers more than a month before the trip, "these people want us to meet Bush" they didn't believe me at that time....

The "deal" about the meeting was also that Bush would mention SoA in one of his speeches, and don't ask me who set up this deal because I really am not sure who's the other part and what were they benefiting, but it is what I heard from Mohammed who heard it from Jim himself.

Anyway, it seems that Bush was not very impressed with SoA's work and did not mention them as far as I know, yet Jim got a huge propaganda after this meeting that helped him promote his organization and expand its activities.


Ali concludes:
Does this look like an honest NGO to anybody? Does it look to anyone that these people are really concerned about Iraq or America? And what about their un-done, hugely publicized projects? If anything happened that prevented them from following their original objects, shouldn't they inform their donors about it? Should I have just ignored all this mess and "grabbed" what ever I could for myself or even to help my country? What about the Americans who are giving all this hard earned money with a real love for Iraq and their country? Shouldn't that matter to me? Maybe money grows on trees in America... but even that wouldn't be an excuse to accept all this deception and abuse.

Some people seem to think that we probably shouldn't judge charitable organizations that harshly when they follow their own agenda. Ok, what about the blood that is being spilled on a daily basis in Iraq; American and Iraqi blood, and the huge amounts of money America is pouring to Iraq? Should we be gentle with people whom all that they could see in this horrible bitter war is a chance for a political promotion??


Following the recent exposure of Arthur "Good News" Chrenkoff as a liar and an employee of an Australian Senator in John Howard's "war party", these new allegations also makes it look like the whole tight-knit mob of rightwing "warbloggers" may soon have some explaining to do.
There's more -- a lot more -- but it's well-written and in my opinion worth a read. But that's just the beginning. He's still digging -- maybe more determined than ever now -- and he's posted two updates since then.

May 23: A Good Look At "Spirit Of America"
It seems the only people on the right who are taking Ali Fadhil's accusations seriously are the people he has accused of incompetence and lies - Jim Hake's supposed charity, "Spirit of America". Today yet another page appears on their website trying to convince donors to keep sending money.


Ali accuses Hake's team of massive dishonesty, corruption and incompetence. He says that SoA's accomplishments are "so small and so lacking that they should be ashamed of mentioning them" - Hake, of course, takes care to mention every one of them in detail. And yet a good look at SoA's projects indicates that Ali's allegations are totally true: donors' money has been used for US war propaganda purposes and little else.
There's much more, of course, if you're interested.

Now the second update: May 25: "Spirit of America": Where Does The Money Go?
We could ask Jim to explain where this money went. But what the heck, eh? I mean, in the current environment of anarchy and chaos surrounding Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be the easiest thing in the world to fake some receipts, bribe some officials, launder some cash... whatever! In this case, I think the testimony of a (previously) loyal person like Ali is a lot more indicative of what's really going on.

I also think they key thing here is to realise that Jim Hake is not on a money-making mission so much as a mission to glorify the neocon vision of a benign US global empire (benign as long as you play their game, of course). What's interesting is that the website strongly features all the minor programs, for which relatively small funding has been allocated, yet it doesn't explain where the big money is going. And when the money does get handed out, it seems that it gets handed out not by SoA staff but by US Marines and other uniformed US troops. In other words, as Ali complained, the propaganda element is always the key.

Or, as George W. Bush once said:
See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.

Catapult the propaganda? Kind of!
Over and over again, for the truth to sink in.
How much does that cost?

Bush admitting he's feeding the catapult?

There's a lot more here, too, of course.

Another Crack In The Wall? Well I don't mind a bit. The more the better!

You thought I was going to quote some Pink Floyd now, didn't you?

Well, all right. This one may be more relevant to my previous post than to this one, but in my opinion it's Roger Waters at his best.


Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
And shorter of breath, and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say