Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tom Toles: A Chain Reaction

Toles says the story writes itself.

I guess that means a break for me ... and an open thread for you.

There's Nothing Left But Spin

Please savor this amazing post from my Australian friend, Gandhi, on the best-known of his blogs (BushOut):

Bush Cites Fadhils For Proof Of "Success" In Iraq!
When the President of the United States of America is reduced to quoting propaganda nonsense fabricated by his own neocon supporters, that's pathetic.

When he does so specifically in order to justify failed policies which continue to see dozens, if not hundreds, dead every day in Iraq, that's worse than tragic. It's criminal.

Here's what President Bush just said [Thursday]:
The missions I described are only the opening salvos in what is going to be a sustained effort. Yet, the Iraqi people are beginning to say -- see positive changes. I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers -- they have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we've got here -- (laughter) -- "Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve."
That's a direct quote from the Fadhil brothers' Wall Street Journal piece I just linked to five minutes ago. Bush is really scraping the bottom of the propaganda barrel here, folks.

Where do I start? Let's hope Bush's remarks shine some long-overdue light on the neocons' favourite fantasists.

For anyone not familiar with the story, which is a long-running saga on this blog, Omar and Mohammed Fadhil run a blog called Iraq The Model (ITM). They have a brother named Ali Fadhil who angrily departed the blog under very odd circumstances just before the 2004 US election, when Omar and Mohammed went to Washington to meet with Bush and Wolfowitz in the Oval Office. The White House meeting was organized by a bogus US "charity" called Spirit of America (SoA), whose CEO Jim Hake was also present.

Ali Fadhil alleged that the SoA staff were using the Fadhil brothers for propaganda purposes. He said that SoA CEO Jim Hake and his former "Director of Logistics and Procurement" Kerry Dupont were "stealing donors money" and lying to both Iraqis and Americans. He said Dupont offered the brothers $300,000 "that we could use to do what we want".
Three hundred thousand dollars! Not bad cash for a bit of blogging!

There's a lot more. I have the urge to call it "incredible", but it's all true. Please read and learn how cynically these neocons work the "news".

OOPS! Here's a NEWS UPDATE from Juan Cole at Atlantic Free Press:
The US embassy in Baghdad circulated a memo to all Americans working for the US government in the Green Zone. It ordered them to wear protective gear whenever they were outside in the Green Zone, including just moving from one building to another. Guerrillas have managed to lob a number of rockets into the area in recent days, and killed one US GI on Tuesday.

The Green Zone is therefore actually the Red Zone. I.e., it is no longer an area of good security contrasting to what is around it. Senator McCain was more wrong than can easily be imagined. Not only can American officials not just stroll through Baghdad districts unarmed and unprotected by armor, but they can't even move that way from one building to the next inside the Green Zone!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Surge On! -- More Evidence Of Success

Here's a very brief item from Pakistan's Dawn news service which shows how well the "surge" is working:

Nearly 400 killed in Iraq bloodletting
BAGHDAD, March 30 (AFP) Nearly 400 people have been killed over the past three days in Iraq as insurgents and sectarian militias rip through [the] US security crackdown concentrated in Baghdad.
You can find wingnut blogs that claim the surge is working but none of them ever seem to mention the news.

I wonder why?

Veteran Intelligence Professionals Analyze The UK/Iran 'Crisis'

This message from former intelligence professionals Ray Close, Larry Johnson, David MacMichael, Ray McGovern (photo), and Coleen Rowley, was posted earlier today at Robert Parry's site, Consortium News dot Com. In view of its importance, I reproduce it here in full.
From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Brinkmanship Unwise in Uncharted Waters

The frenzy in America’s corporate media over Iran’s detainment of 15 British Marines who may, or may not, have violated Iranian-claimed territorial waters is a flashback to the unrestrained support given the administration’s war-mongering against Iraq shortly before the attack.

The British are refusing to concede the possibility that its Marines may have crossed into ill-charted, Iranian-claimed waters and are ratcheting up the confrontation. At this point, the relative merits of the British and Iranian versions of what actually happened are greatly less important than how hotheads on each side -- and particularly the British -- decide to exploit the event in the coming days.

There is real danger that this incident, and the way it plays out, may turn out to be outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s last gesture of fealty to President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and “neo-conservative” advisers who, this time, are looking for a casus belli to “justify” air strikes on Iran.

Bush and Cheney no doubt find encouragement in the fact that the Democrats last week refused to include in the current House bill on Iraq war funding proposed language forbidding the White House from launching war on Iran without explicit congressional approval.

If the Senate omits similar language, or if the prohibition disappears in conference, chances increase for a “pre-emptive” US and/or Israeli strike on Iran and a major war that will make the one in Iraq seem like a minor skirmish. The impression, cultivated by the White House and our domesticated media, that Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-majority states might favor a military strike on Iran is a myth.

But the implications go far beyond the Middle East. With the Russians and Chinese, the US has long since forfeited the ability, exploited with considerable agility in the 70s and 80s, to play one off against the other. In fact, US policies have helped drive the two giants together. They know well that it’s about oil and strategic positioning and will not stand idly by if Washington strikes Iran.

Lying Poodle

Intelligence analysts place great store in sources’ record for reliability and the historical record. We would be forced to classify Tony Blair as a known prevaricator who, for reasons still not entirely clear, has a five-year record of acting as man’s best friend for Bush. If the President needs a casus belli, Blair will probably fetch it.

Is there, then, any British statesman well versed in both the Middle East and maritime matters, who is worthy of trust? There is. Craig Murray is former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan (until he was cashiered for openly objecting to UK and US support for torture there) and also former head of the maritime section of the British Foreign Office, and has considerable experience negotiating disputes over borders extending into the sea.

In recent days, former ambassador Murray has performed true to character in courageously speaking out, taking public issue with the British government’s position on the incident at hand. He was quick to quote, for example, the judiciously balanced words of Commodore Nick Lambert, the Royal Navy commander of the operation on which the Marines were captured:
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may well claim that they were in their territorial waters. The extent and definition of territorial waters in this part of the world is very complicated.”
Compare the commodore’s caution with the infallible certainty with which Blair has professed to be “utterly confident” that the Marines were in Iraqi waters, and you get an idea of what may be Blair’s ultimate purpose.

Writing in his widely read blog, Murray points to a “colossal problem” with respect to the map the British government has used to show coordinates of the incident and the Iran/Iraq maritime border—the story uncritically accepted by stenographers of the mainstream press. Murray writes:
“The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree on their bilateral boundary, and they have never done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force...Anyway, the UK was plainly wrong to be ultra-provocative in disputed waters...
Here's the map. (Click the image to enlarge it.) Four positions are marked: the place where the British say the HMS Cornwall was, the place where they say the sailors were taken, the place where the Iranians originally claimed the event occurred and the place where they later said it happened. Go ahead and measure the distances. All four positions are closer to Iran than they are to Iraq. In the absence of an agreed-upon border, this fact weighs in favor of Iran's claims.
“They [the British Marines] would under international law have been allowed to enter Iranian territorial waters if in ’hot pursuit’ of terrorists, slavers, or pirates....But they were looking for smuggled vehicles attempting to evade car duty. What has the evasion of Iranian or Iraqi taxes got to do with the Royal Navy?”
Ambassador Murray has appealed to reason and cooler heads. To state what should be the obvious, he notes it is not legitimate for the British government to draw a boundary without agreement of the countries involved:
“A little more humility, and an acknowledgement that this is a boundary subject to dispute, might actually get our people home. The question is are we really aiming to get our people home, or to maximize propaganda from the incident?”
War Dreams

What is known at this point regarding the circumstances suggests Royal Navy misfeasance rather than deliberate provocation. The way the UK and US media has been stoked, however, suggests that both London and Washington may decide to represent the intransigence of Iranian hotheads as a casus belli for the long prepared air strikes on Iran.

And not to be ruled out is the possibility that we are dealing with a provocation ab initio. Intelligence analysts look to precedent, and what seems entirely relevant in this connection is the discussion between Bush and Blair on Jan. 31, 2003 six weeks before the attack on Iraq.

The “White House Memo” (like the famous “Downing Street Memo” leaked earlier to the British press) shows George Bush broaching to Blair various options to provoke war with Iraq. The British minutes -- the authenticity of which is not disputed by the British government -- of the Jan. 31, 2003 meeting stated the first option as:
“The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.”
Not to mention the (in)famous Tonkin Gulf non-incident, used by President Lyndon Johnson to justify bombing North Vietnam.

The increasingly heavy investment of "face" in the UK Marine capture situation is unquestionably adding to the danger of an inadvertent outbreak of open hostilities. One side or the other is going to be forced to surrender some of its pride if a more deadly confrontation is going to be averted.

And there is no indication that the Bush administration is doing anything other than encouraging British recalcitrance.

Unless one’s basic intention is to provoke a hostile action to which the US and UK could “retaliate,” getting involved in a tit-for-tat contest with the Iranians is a foolish and reckless game, for it may not prove possible to avoid escalation and loss of control. And we seem to be well on our way there. If one calls Iran "evil,” arrests its diplomats, accuses it of promoting terrorism and unlawful capture, one can be certain that the Iranians will retaliate and raise the stakes in the process.

That is how the game of tit-for-tat is played in that part of the world. What British and American officials seem not to be taking into account is that the Iranians are the neighborhood toughs. In that neighborhood, they control the conditions under which the game will be played. They can change the rules freely any time they want; the UK cannot, and neither can Washington.

Provocative behavior, then, can be very dangerous, unless you mean to pick a fight you may well regret.

Someone should recount to Tony Blair and Ayatollah Khameini the maxim quoted by former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix just last week:
"The noble art of losing face
Will someday save the human race."

Ray Close, Princeton, NJ
Larry Johnson, Bethesda, MD
David MacMichael, Linden, VA
Ray McGovern, Arlington, VA
Coleen Rowley, Apple Valley, MN

Steering Group
Veteran Intelligence Professionals
for Sanity (VIPS)
Many thanks to VIPS and Robert Parry.

Iranian Diplomat Says Detained U.K. Sailors Face Punishment

Here's more on the UK/Iran situation from Russia's RIA Novosti:
MOSCOW, March 30 (RIA Novosti) - Iran's Ambassador to Russia reiterated earlier official statements Friday that the British seamen detained allegedly for straying into Iranian territorial waters could face punishment.

"The legal process has been launched, and if their guilt is proved, they will face punishment," Gholam Reza Ansari said in an interview with Russia's satellite channel Vesti 24.

Iran detained 15 British seamen in the Gulf last Friday for violating its maritime border with Iraq. Britain has insisted the servicemen were in Iraqi waters under a UN mandate, and were returning in dinghies to the HMS Cornwall after patrolling oil platforms.
Today they were patrolling oil platforms. Yesterday they were interdicting car-smugglers. By tomorrow they will have been intercepting terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, I suppose. Because you'll believe anything!
Ansari said the problem could have been resolved if the U.K. acknowledged the border violation and offered an apology.

"If the government of Britain had offered an apology to Iran for the mistake, the issue could have been resolved immediately," the diplomat said.
It would have been so easy ... but they didn't, of course. Instead they went in the opposite direction:
London froze official bilateral contacts, suspended the issuance of visas to Iranian officials and referred the situation to the UN Security Council Wednesday. The UN expressed "grave concern" over the sailors' capture.
In a separate report, Iran says it wants nothing to do with third-party negotiations.
Iranian authorities said Tehran would ignore the Security Council's statement.

"This incident should be resolved bilaterally. Attempts by the British government to attract a third side, including the UN Security Council, will lead to nothing," the Iranian leadership said in a statement.
The situation does not look promising, but I will try to keep you posted.

US Ready To Attack Iran In Early April -- Russian Intel

RIA Novosti reports: U.S. ready to strike Iran in early April - intelligence source
MOSCOW, March 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russian intelligence has information that the U.S. Armed Forces have nearly completed preparations for a possible military operation against Iran, and will be ready to strike in early April, a security official said.

The source said the U.S. had already compiled a list of possible targets on Iranian territory and practiced the operation during recent exercises in the Persian Gulf.

"Russian intelligence has information that the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in the Persian Gulf have nearly completed preparations for a missile strike against Iranian territory," the source said.

American commanders will be ready to carry out the attack in early April, but it will be up to the country's political leadership to decide if and when to attack, the source said.

Official data says America's military presence in the region has reached the level of March 2003 when the U.S. invaded Iraq.

The U.S. has not excluded the military option in negotiations on Iran over its refusal to abandon its nuclear program. The UN Security Council passed a new resolution on Iran Saturday toughening economic sanctions against the country and accepting the possibility of a military solution to the crisis.

The source said the Pentagon could decide to conduct ground operations as well after assessing the damage done to the Iranian forces by its possible missile strikes and analyzing the political situation in the country following the attacks.

A senior Russian security official cited military intelligence earlier as saying U.S. Armed Forces had recently intensified training for air and ground operations against Iran.

"The Pentagon has drafted a highly effective plan that will allow the Americans to bring Iran to its knees at minimal cost," the official said.

Russian Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week the Pentagon was planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran's military infrastructure in the near future.

"I have no doubt there will be an operation, or rather an aggressive action against Iran," Ivashov said, commenting on media reports about U.S. planned operation against Iran, codenamed Operation Bite.

A new U.S. carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf. The USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006. The U.S. is also sending Patriot anti-missile systems to the region.
We believe the Russians have this detail wrong. The Stennis is already there; it's the Nimitz that's on its way.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, was rather optimistic about the situation and said he ruled out a military resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem.

"We are constantly working on how to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program and other conflicts peacefully," Lavrov said. "This policy is unchanged and we will pursue it in the future."

Russia and the U.S. are two of the six negotiators on Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is aimed at generating energy.
I will try to keep you up to date with foreign news reports, for surely we aren't going to learn anything by watching American news.

Meanwhile, why don't we see whether we can put some pressure on our "elected" representatives?

Here's the House of Representatives. You can find your Representative using the search box at the top left corner.

And here's the Senate. You have two Senators and you can find them using the box at the top right corner.

Please contact these people TODAY and tell them we do not support an attack on Iran! And read this post for more good background and action suggestions.

We'll never know what we can do until we try. And millions of lives are at stake.

The Senate. The House. Please!

They Shouldn't Even Let Him In The Door

USA Today: Bush to visit vets at Walter Reed
The news of neglected war veterans outraged Capitol Hill, caused resignations at the Pentagon and promises of better treatment from the Bush administration. Now the patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center get to hear from President Bush himself.

Bush on Friday was to tour the campus for the first time since reports surfaced of shabby conditions for veterans in outpatient housing.

He will meet with soldiers once housed in Building 18, who endured moldy walls, rodent infestation and other problems that went unchecked until reported by the media. Bush declared the situation unacceptable and ordered a full-scale review of care for veterans.

Walter Reed is considered one of the Army's premier facilities for treating the wounded. The revelations of shoddy treatment for those wounded in war was an embarrassment to Bush, who routinely speaks of the need to support the troops.

Bush will tour both Abrams Hall, where soldiers transferred after Building 18 was recently vacated, and the main hospital.
Read all about how Bush has been supporting the troops lately, from Chris Floyd:

Once Were Soldiers: More Bush Abuse for Cannon Fodder begins with a quote from Salon:
Soldiers on crutches and canes were sent to a main desert camp used for Iraq training. Military experts say the Army was pumping up manpower statistics to show a brigade was battle ready.
Salon recently uncovered another troubling development in the Army's efforts to shore up troop levels, reporting earlier this month that soldiers from the 3rd Brigade had serious health problems that the soldiers claimed were summarily downgraded by military doctors at Fort Benning in February, apparently so that the Army could send them to Iraq.
It is truly remarkable. The Bush gang and its media bootlickers have elevated "support for troops" into, quite literally, a religious dogma, which they invoke at every turn to choke off debate and dissent about the war. Yet I doubt that there has ever been a presidential administration that has abused and neglected its soldiers as egregiously – and deliberately – as the Bush Regime has done.
Never. Just never. And the anti-war "left" still hasn't managed to defeat the lie that Bush supports the troops.

Why? Is the propaganda fog really that thick?

Tom Toles: Setting A Time Limit

I'm busy again today but here's another great cartoon from Tom Toles, and another open thread for you.

I will rejoin you here as soon as possible.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Big News: The GWOT Is Counter-Productive!!

Here's David Morgan of Reuters reporting on a new study written by Veronique de Rugy (photo) and released by the American Heritage Institute, a "conservative" "think tank":
Five-and-a-half years after the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush's war on terrorism has emerged as a wasteful, misguided exercise that poses its own threat to U.S. national security, experts say.

A growing number of analysts and former U.S. officials say the global war on terrorism has undermined U.S. influence abroad, forced onerous costs in American lives and money in Iraq, and unleashed a huge government spending spree that has often funded projects unrelated to national security.

It has also produced a climate of fear in the United States that helped justify the war in Iraq and the curtailment of civil liberties at home, they said.
If you had said any of these things four years ago you would have been labeled a "tin-foil hatter", or a "terrorist sympathizer", or maybe even a "traitor". But it was all true back then, just as it is all true now. So where have these so-called "experts" been all this time? What else are they saying, and how far are they willing to go?
"The atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty, and the vagueness of the definition of the enemy, makes the country more fearful and more susceptible to being steered in irrational directions," said Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was U.S. national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s.

Unlike the muted response to attacks by Britain and Spain, experts say the U.S. has overreacted to the September 11 attacks that killed 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania in 2001.
OK, so here's the limit, apparently. We can now say that the GWOT was an "overreaction", but it's too soon to publish anything indicating that the "overreaction" was planned in advance -- in the same way as the attack, and by the same people, too.

It may indeed be too soon for that, but the time is coming.
Congress has spent nearly $271.5 billion on homeland security since September 11, with money often going to projects that have nothing to do with security but that are important to politicians and their constituents, according to a survey by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

At the same time, the number of potential terrorism targets identified by Congress has exploded from 160 in 2003 to 80,000, allowing such unlikely sites as a Midwestern apple festival and a roadside theme park in Florida to bid for funds.

Meanwhile, the private sector -- lobbyists, interest groups, industries, the media and even universities -- has also used the national security label aggressively to sell its own agendas, experts say.
It's a money pit, and we've seen our civil liberties thrown into it too. But what is it buying us, and where is it leading?
"What's clear is that there is no focus whatsoever in the way we are fighting terrorism," said Veronique de Rugy, author of the AEI study.
Government spokesmen dismissed the criticism, as they always do, with one lie after another.
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke dismissed the criticism as old and inaccurate, saying the Bush administration had never viewed sites such as small theme parks to be critical national assets deserving of funds. "This has no basis in fact," he said.
Nobody ever claimed the administration considered these sites as deserving of funds. It was pointed out that such sites bid for funds. Thus the government spokesman has destroyed a straw man of his own making, while leaving the original cricitism untouched.

You'll notice that he didn't address any of the main points.

You may also notice that calling the criticism "old" is disingenuous at best. When these concerns were first raised, they smeared the messengers by calling their patriotism into doubt. Now the concerns are raised again, and they are dismissed as being "old".

The fact that they have never been dealt with doesn't seem to matter to Knocke. And if that's not enough, we now present more lies, from Knocke's superior being.
Knocke's boss, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, has also taken issue with the assertion that the U.S. response to September 11 is exaggerated.

"If we begin to heed arguments that somehow our concern about security is overblown ... then I feel we're going to feel consequences in the loss of lives," Chertoff said in a speech outlining his priorities for 2007.
Utter horse manure, friends. We've lost more people trying to conquer Iraq in the past four years than we have lost to terrorist attacks at home in decades.
But terrorism experts say the United States has yet to develop a clear understanding of the threat posed by al Qaeda and other Islamist militant groups, despite the war on terrorism and a total of $500 billion spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The "clear understanding" that is needed to fight international terrorism was never part of this administration's grand plan. Every terrorist is affiliated with al-Q'aeda, in their eyes, and so is every political opponent. Unfortunately for them, the world is organized quite differently.
The most pernicious effect of the war on terrorism has been the Iraq war, which has claimed the lives of more than 3,200 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and damaged U.S. standing in the Muslim world for generation, experts say.
Au contraire; far more pernicious have been the way in which the administration has conflated al-Q'aeda with Iraq (supposedly justifying the war) and the way in which it has used the 9/11 attacks as a pretext to dismember our civil liberties -- despite never being able to show in any way that a reduction in our rights will make us safer.
"Iraq has been vastly worse than anything terrorism's ever done," said Ohio State University political science professor John Mueller, author of a book about the war on terrorism titled, "Overblown."
It's hard to argue with that. But let's put it in a more precise form:

What America has done to Iraq has been vastly worse than anything terrorism's ever done.

Or maybe more accurately:

What America has done to Iraq has been terrorism.

There. That's better.
While both Democrats and Republicans have acknowledged the shortcomings of U.S. policy in Iraq, experts say politicians have not questioned the war on terrorism mainly because it remains a vote-getter.

"Politicians are acting this way because they think they'll lose votes if they don't. Basically, it's a big pork-barrel, so the pork-barrel leaders are there in five seconds," said Mueller, using American vernacular for the politics of self-enrichment.
But maybe this is starting to change. Americans seem more than ever to distrust what their government tells them, except when it comes to terrorism, ironically the area in which the government tells the biggest lies of all. But seeing criticism of the GWOT -- even in a mild form -- coming from "conservatives" is somewhat encouraging.

Have we reached a point where honest forthright criticism of this so-called president and his so-called war are going to be deemed acceptable? Or is such criticism acceptable only when it comes from "conservative" sources, the American Heritage Institute?

Remember, only Richard Nixon could go to China.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Iranians Say GPS Of Detained Brits Show They Were In Iranian Waters

Iran has said the British (sailors and marines) they captured last week were definitely in Iranian waters, according to the GPS units carried by the captured Brits. And in a separate report, an Iranian representative has said that if Britain wants them back, they are going to have to admit making a mistake. Press TV of Iran reported Thursday:

Iran says detained Britons' GPS showed incursion
The British sailors were each equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) device at the time they were arrested by Iranian marine guards after illegally entering Iranian territorial waters.

Official sources told Press TV late on Wednesday that all the detained Britons carried GPS devices which clearly indicated they had left Iraqi territory and trespassed about 500 meters into Iran's waters in the Persian Gulf.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Iranian Embassy in London said the detained Britons were 0.5 km inside Iranian waters in Arvand Rud when arrested.

"We are confident that Iranian and British governments are capable of resolving this security case through their close contacts and cooperation in order to prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents in the area," the statement read.

"Iran has given the geographical characteristics of the place of arrests to the British government which indicates that the British personnel were half a [kilometre] inside Iranian waters," it added.

Britain's military had claimed earlier on Wednesday that the British vessels were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi territorial waters when the incident happened.
And Canada's CTV is reporting: Iran: Britain must admit 'trespass' to end dispute
Britain must admit 15 sailors and marines entered Iranian waters for the two countries to end their dispute, Iran's foreign minister has said.

Manouchehr Mottaki told The Associated Press that "admitting the mistake will facilitate a solution to the problem."
So now it will all be about whether Britain wants to solve the problem or allow it to fester. Clearly the idea of solving it sits well with at least one of those being held in Iran.
"Obviously we trespassed into their waters," British sailor Faye Turney said on the video broadcast by Al-Alam, an Arabic-language, Iranian state-run television station that is carried across the Middle East.

"They were very friendly and very hospitable, very thoughtful, nice people. They explained to us why we've been arrested, there was no harm, no aggression," said Turney, who was the only person to be shown speaking in the video.
The Iranian Embassy in London said Wednesday that a letter allegedly written by Turney to her parents says she had "apparently" entered Iranian territorial waters.

An embassy official sent a copy to the Associated Press:

"We were out in the boats when we were arrested by Iranian forces as we had apparently gone into Iranian waters," the letter said. "I wish we hadn't because then I'd be home with you all right now."

The letter also mentions that the British crew was being treated well.

"Please don't worry about me," the letter said. "I am staying strong. Hopefully it won't be long until I am home to get ready for Molly's birthday party with a present from Iranian people."
CTV has more, including a British spokesman disputing the Iranian claim about the GPS coordinates:
Iran and Britain are offering up different versions of exactly where the sailors and marines were seized.

Iran says they captured the Royal Navy crew 0.5 km inside Iranian waters.

However, British military officials say their boarding vessels were about three kilometres inside Iraqi territorial waters when the incident occurred.

British Vice Admiral Charles Style told reporters that co-ordinates given Sunday by the Iranians placed the vessels in Iraqi waters.

Style said the Iranians changed the co-ordinates on Tuesday to a location within their waters.

"It is hard to understand a legitimate reason for this change of co-ordinates,'' Style said.
Actually, it's even harder to understand why the Brits haven't said anything about their GPS systems. Surely British HQ knows exactly where those troops were captured. And after all, if the Brits had conclusive proof that their people were in Iraqi waters, they would have shown it to the world, no? And the sooner the better, too.

CTV also has this blinding insight:
Foreign affairs expert Eric Margolis told CTV Newsnet on Wednesday that the dispute has to be put into context.

"The Western powers and Iran are playing a game of chicken in the Gulf," said Margolis.

He said Iran is hypersensitive to probing by the U.S. and Britain at its borders and that they may be trying to make a statement to the countries to back off.
Sure looks like it to me.

To put this incident into even better context, with some understanding of the nature of disputed territorial waters, please see the extensive discussion from Craig Murray in this post.

UAE Tells US It Will Not Take Part In An Attack On Iran

From AP via Magic Valley dot Com
U.S. Wraps Up Persian Gulf Maneuvers

By JAMES CALDERWOOD aboard the USS Stennis and JIM KRANE in Dubai

ABOARD THE USS JOHN C. STENNIS - The United States wrapped up a massive military exercise in the Persian Gulf Wednesday, putting on a show of strength for Iran even as the United Arab Emirates became the second Gulf nation to declare it would not take part in any attack on the Islamic Republic.

The U.S. has denied any intention to attack. But the public refusals of two allies to help could affect U.S. military options or require shifting of resources if tensions did seriously escalate.

Qatar -- home to 6,500 U.S. troops and the enormous al-Udeid Air Base, headquarters of all American air operations in the Middle East -- said earlier this month it would not permit an attack on Iran from its soil.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose alliance of Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Emirates, has called on all its members not to support any U.S. action against Iran.

The United States has close to 40,000 troops in the Gulf, including 25,000 in Kuwait, 3,000 in Bahrain, 1,300 in the United Arab Emirates and a few hundred in Oman and Saudi Arabia, according to figures from the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

Gulf Arab nations are increasingly uneasy with the United States' tough stance against Iran, fearing any outbreak of hostilities could bring Iranian retaliation. All lie within distance of Iranian missiles.

Also, Iran has booming trade and tourism links and full diplomatic ties with the Emirates and most Gulf countries.
This next bit is interesting:
On Wednesday, the U.S. Navy wrapped up its largest show of force in the Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with 15 ships, 125 aircraft and 13,000 sailors in an exercise a few dozen miles off Iran's coast.

The maneuvers were meant to show "the commitment of the U.S. to stability and security in the region," said Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, commander of Strike Group Three -- which includes the USS John C. Stennis.
Well, this is a tough one, because some might ask: If we are so committed to stability and security then why would we invade and destroy and occupy Iraq in the first place? So let's just say: of all the countries which have invaded and occupied Iraq lately, we are among those most committed to its "stability and security".

In another interesting twist, according to RIAN, Iran has denied that such exercises are even taking place:
TEHRAN, March 28 (RIA Novosti) - Iran has denied reports that large-scale U.S. Navy exercises are underway in the Persian Gulf.

On Tuesday, it was reported that the U.S. had started its biggest naval exercises in the past few years in the area.

"Statements surrounding the U.S. Fifth Fleet conducting large-scale U.S. naval exercises in the region are untrue," a deputy commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said.
The AP piece continues:
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown said the U.S. Gulf maneuvers were defensive in nature, aimed at keeping open the sea lanes that carry two-fifths of the world's oil shipments.

"We're not looking for any kind of confrontation with Iran," Brown said. "The purpose of the exercise is to ensure that no one miscalculates about our commitment to security and stability in the Gulf."
Yeah, sure!
But some U.S. allies were clearly aiming to make it clear they don't want to be caught in the middle if the situation escalates.

"We have assured the brothers in Iran ... that we are not a party in its dispute with the United States," said United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyana in a statement carried on the Emirates news agency WAM. "We will not allow any force to use our territories for military, security and espionage activities against Iran."

The Emirates "refuses to use its territorial lands, air or waters for aggression against any other country," Khalifa said.

That could prevent the U.S. Air Force from flying intelligence missions over Iran with its squadron of U-2 and Global Hawk spy planes based at al-Dhafra Air Base near the Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi.

The U.S. Air Force said Wednesday it had not altered air operations in response to Sheik Khalifa's statement.

Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Pierson, based in Qatar, declined to say whether U-2s were flying missions over Iran, but said the Air Force only operated in international airspace or over countries that had granted permission.

In the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Turkey denied access to Turkish territory, forcing U.S. military planners to adjust their plans and to forgo opening a northern front. The refusal ushered in a tense period in Turkish-American relations.

Russia Says US Policy Toward Iran May Spark 'Clash Of Civilizations'

Further to previous posts about Operation BITE (a US "sneak attack" against Iran, reportedly scheduled for 4AM-4PM on April 6th), Larisa Alexandrovna is not buying it:
I want to address a report going around of a Russian general's allegations that the US is planning an air attack on Iran this April 6. I have gotten a large amount of emails about this article [by Webster Tarpley at OpEd News], in which a high ranking Russian general describes a US code-named ops called "Operation Bite."

While I find it highly likely that the US led six year covert war on Iran is likely about to spill over into prime-time, I have not been able to verify the claims made in that article. I have spent the last few days speaking to folks and no one finds this credible, and all for the same reasons. Moreover, no one has heard the April 6 date stated and no one finds the [allotted] time of 12 hours doable. Finally, everyone found the use of a single word for the ops - "Bite" rather suspect. The military rarely uses single word op names, but especially so under this administration who prefers long, sweeping patriotic sentiments such as Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and Operation Copper Green (rendition and detainment).

Or as one of my journalist friends said: "Operation Eradicate Tyranny" is far more their style. I tend to agree with this sentiment.

So while I do not claim to be right here, I did want to express my skepticism and to answer the horde of emails coming at me about this article. In the end, anything is possible of course.
I don't claim to be right either, and it's gratifying to see Larisa saying the same thing. We both just take what we've learned recently, add it to what we already knew, throw in a bit of analytic thought (or a lot, in her case) and maybe a joke or two (bad jokes, in my case), but in a situation like this, who can say they know anything for sure?

OK, ok, I've visited some wingnut sites lately where they're all dead-certain of everything they say, but I'm talking about reasonable people now. Nobody knows.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that this is the sort of information that should get passed along. So I'll keep watching for reports from Russia and Iran and elsewhere (since we've already seen that our own media are worthless), and we can look at these news items together and evaluate them just like we always do, in light of what we already know (and in my case with a bad joke every now and then)... (And I wish I could do more, but this is it, so let's use it the best we can!)

Having said all that:

If "Operation Bite" is a Pentagon code-name, it could be an acronym. They like acronyms. It could stand something like for "Bomb Iran, Tyranny Evaporates". Pretty close to "Operation Eradicate Tyranny" and also symbolic of the type of attack described here: One big chomp! Ka-Blam!!! Shock and Awe for 12 hours only.

I disagree about whether it's doable. We've got so many planes. They can all do one or more sortie(s) in that 12-hour period. They wouldn't want to use 'em all, but they might think about using most of 'em. Put together a really short target list, hit those targets as hard as possible for the 12 hours, and dare the Iranians to do anything about it.

As Larisa says, the covert war has been going on for six years. Lately Larisa and others have been writing about Americans sponsoring terrorist raids into Iran. They keep daring the Iranians to do something about it -- anything to serve as a pretext. So far the Iranians have been soaking it all up, not even reporting on it in their state media. So the maybe the Americans are getting bolder. In the run-up to the Iraq war they were running an extensive bombing campaign before the "war" officially "started", just hoping a bomber would be shot down so they would have a "reason" to start the war "for real".

Maybe they're thinking about doing something similar here. Who knows?

On the other hand, it could be that Larisa has it right (that wouldn't be the first time!) and we should look for alternative explanations to make sense of the article in question.

A wingnut blogger might tend to criticize Webster Tarpley, the "tin-foil hatter" who just coincidentally happens to have developed a conceptual model that makes perfect sense of 9/11. But surely Tarpley didn't plant those French-language articles in the Russian press.

Now, it could be a Russian psy-op, with a name something like "Bogus Information, Tell Everybody", designed to get bloggers blogging and anti-war folks calling and writing and mobilizing. Perhaps the date and time are made up. Perhaps the vague mumblings of "war imminent" was not enough to rouse the sleeping anti-war American giant, and the Russians are trying to get the American people to do something before all hell breaks loose.

(Side note: If this is the case, am I being used by the Russians? And if so, how do I feel about it?)

Or maybe it's a left blogosphere psy-op and the name stands for "Bush Is The Enemy". Who knows? I don't.

Now here's a bit of more recent news which Larisa will probably find much easier to confirm or deny. Again this is from RIA Novosti:

Moscow warns U.S. Iran policy may spark "clash of civilizations"
MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow urges the United States to avoid escalating tensions around Iran over its nuclear program as it could lead to a "clash of civilizations," the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Washington has been pushing for tougher international sanctions against Iran, which it suspects of pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The UN Security Council passed a new resolution Saturday introducing further sanctions on Iran.

"The international community should not risk escalating the situation around Iran and should wait for the U.S. to make a good-faith effort to normalize relations with Tehran," the Foreign Ministry said in a foreign policy review signed by the president.

The Russian ministry said the Iran crisis could have devastating consequences for relations between "civilizations," and then the U.S. would have to prove it is not preparing for a "clash of civilizations" by building up "Fortress America," separated from the rest of the world by two oceans and strict border controls.

The term "clash of civilizations" is part of a theory that people of different cultures and religions will be involved in a post-Cold War conflict. Samuel P. Huntington popularized and expanded the term in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order in 1996.
So clearly Putin knows what he is talking about ... and he's talking to the Americans in their language.
The Russian ministry said the U.S. was capable of reaching a compromise with Iran, and cited a visit by former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to the U.S. in August.

"The trip of former Iranian President Khatami to the U.S. in August showed that dialogue between civilizations could become a useful channel for the Americans to establish contacts with Tehran," said the ministry review ordered by President Vladimir Putin in June.

Khatami was the most senior Iranian official to visit the U.S. outside the UN framework in more than two decades after the Islamic Revolution and the embassy hostage crisis in Iran.
But the US has not seemed interested in peace. The US has seemed mostly interested in oil.
Unlike the U.S., Russia, which is building a nuclear power plant in southern Iran, has opposed any tough sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Russian authorities have also been seriously alarmed by U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Central Europe to prevent possible strikes from Iran or North Korea.

In his outspoken address to the Munich security conference in February, President Putin said the U.S. missile defense plans could trigger a new arms race, and accused the U.S. of ignoring international law and imposing its own rules on other countries.

"We are seeing an increasing disregard for the fundamental principles of international law," Putin said, adding that Russia would amend its military strategy in response.
Even if Operation Bite is a psy-op, we certainly are seeing "an increasing disregard for the fundamental principles of international law", and the Russians have every right -- indeed an obligation -- to amend their strategy accordingly.

That doesn't solve our problem, nor that of the Iranians, but if Tarpley is correct and the Russians are trying to avoid WWIII, then it would be most prudent of us to help them. Would it not?


[see also]

March 19:
(French) L'Iran serait attaqué début avril (experts militaires russes)
(machine translation): Iran would be tackled at the beginning of April (Russian military experts)

March 21:
(French) Le Pentagone va attaquer des cibles militaires iraniennes (expert russe)
(machine translation): The Pentagon will attack Iranian military targets (Russian expert)

March 27:
(English) Russian intelligence sees U.S. military buildup on Iran border

Should I Kill My Neighbor?

I've got a dilemma; maybe you can help. I'm trying to decide whether I should kill my neighbor.

I'm not talking about my next-door neighbor. We get along fine. I'm talking about the guy across the street.

Word around town says he's been looking to buy a knife. He says he needs it to cut his food, but I don't believe him. If I believed him, I'd sell him one of my knives. I've got plenty.

I've got all kinds of knives: butter knives, steak knives, bread knives, carving knives ... I've even got a cleaver and a machete. I could easily sell him a set of knives, if I wanted to. I wouldn't miss 'em. But, you see, the thing is, I don't want him to have a knife!

I'm afraid if he had a knife, he would hurt somebody. And I'm not the only one.

I actually don't think he's civilized enough to handle a knife. I mean, he might be fine for the first hour or two, maybe even a whole day ... but sooner or later he's gonna want to cut somebody. And I don't want to see that happen.

My friends and I, we all have knives, but we're ok with them, we know how to use them. But the guy across the street, I don't really think he could deal with being a knife owner. I mean, that's a big responsibility, and look at him! He's never had a knife in his life. Look at his parents! They don't have knives either. There are no knives in that family going back generations, and there's probably a good reason for that, don't you think?

But that's not all. This is not just about one knife. I actually don't think he'd stop with just one knife. He'd want more than one. He'd want a whole set of knives, and after he got tired of knives, it wouldn't be long before he'd want a gun.

The reasons why he shouldn't have a gun are obvious. I mean, look at him! Look at his parents! They don't even have knives!!

In fact, nobody across the street has a gun, and only a few of them have knives, and I'd like to see it stay that way. I've been talking to some of my friends around the neighborhood -- I mean, guys on my side of the street -- just kinda casual and quiet-like, filling them in on what's happening, and listening to them talk, and I can tell you: None of them wants to see the guy across the street get a gun!

That's natural, that's normal, if you ask me. In fact, they did ask me, and I told them to think of their wives and their kids and how awful we'd all feel if any of them ever got shot -- or even stabbed! And they all reacted more or less the same. So I think we're all on the same page about neighborhood security.

But there's more: I didn't mention this around the neighborhood -- no use sharing all my secrets! -- but just between the two of us: I'm afraid if the guy across the street gets a gun, he might take a shot at one of my tanks!

In fact, I'm sure he'd do it, because that's the kind of guy he is -- just look at his parents if you don't believe me -- and I really don't want to see that happen, for a number of reasons, which why bother listing them? You know what I mean, right?

So that's why I'm thinking I should kill him now, before he even gets a knife. You know how those people are; once they decide to commit their lives to hatred and violence, there's no stopping them.

So, even though he doesn't have a knife yet, I just know he's gonna get one sooner or later, unless I do something about it. And the sooner you do something like this, the better.

So I think I should nip it in the bud, cut it off at the root, stop it before it starts, put the kibosh on it. I mean, just anticipate it, get pro-active for a change, and abort the enemy mission before it gets off the ground.

I'm gonna kill him on his side of the street so I don't have to kill him on my side.

I think that's best. I really do.

Russian Intelligence Sees US Military Buildup On Iran's Borders

Further to previous posts about Operation BITE (a US "sneak attack" against Iran, reportedly scheduled for April 6th), here's another report from Russian intelligence sources (who seem to be leaking madly in order to forestall war), via the Russian Information Agency, RIA Novosti. Fortunately for all of us, the report is in English this time!:

Russian intelligence sees U.S. military buildup on Iran border
MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran's borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

"The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran," the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran "that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost."

He also said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran's military infrastructure in the near future.

A new U.S. carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf.

The USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006.

The U.S. is also sending Patriot anti-missile systems to the region.

[see also]

March 19:
(French) L'Iran serait attaqué début avril (experts militaires russes)
(machine translation): Iran would be tackled at the beginning of April (Russian military experts)

March 21:
(French) Le Pentagone va attaquer des cibles militaires iraniennes (expert russe)
(machine translation): The Pentagon will attack Iranian military targets (Russian expert)

Pentagon Memos Say GWOT Will End In October, 2008

Al Kamen of the Washington Post is ready to Pencil In That End-of-War Date. He says the Global War on Terror will be over just in time for the next presidential election.

This is not rank speculation; it's based on a series of memos from one of the Pentagon's top brass.

In a Dec. 6 memo to top civilian and military folks, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England outlined the Pentagon's eight priorities for this fiscal year, and No. 1 was "Win the Global War on Terror," or GWOT.

The No. 3 goal was "Meet the Challenge of Improvised Explosive Devices." No. 8 was "Improve Effectiveness and Efficiency Across the Board." England warned that meeting these goals "will inform our decisions on individual senior employee performance ratings." That means their paychecks.

In a Feb. 15 memo, England spotted a key fact that most everyone in this town has overlooked. "At noon on Jan. 20, 2009," he wrote, "many of the civilian Department of Defense (DOD) leadership positions will transition to a new Administration Team. This change, coupled with the normal rotation of military leadership, could disrupt many of the management process changes currently underway in the Department."

So "to ensure that warfighters and taxpayers receive maximum benefit from on-going initiatives," England suggested, "it would be highly desirable to complete current projects by the summer/fall of 2008."

There's a handy "notional" grid with the memos, with the eight priorities down the left side and quarterly milestones for 2007 and 2008 across the top. Little triangles denote the "expected milestone conclusion date."

Sure enough, the GWOT looks to be over around October 2008, just a month before ...
... before the next presidential election, of course.

So now we've got The History of the Future at our fingertips. George W. Bush's legacy is clear: he will become The Man Who Won the Global War on Terror.

The American people can forgive a president for starting a war based on a lie, as long we win! Or at least that's the theory. And if the Declaration of Victory is as bogus as the Declaration of War, that's only fitting, isn't it?

So the surge can go on for a little while longer, then we can start drawing down the regular forces, being sure to leave enough mercenaries independent contractors in Iraq to secure the permanent bases, and of course the oil. Then, when the campaign gets heated and Congress finally gets serious about saying "Get us out of Iraq", the President can declare Victory and wrap up the Long War -- decades ahead of schedule!

Thus he would morph from War President to Conquering Hero Of The Global Terror War, and go down in history as the Greatest President Ever. Or at least that's the theory.

Of course the violence in Iraq won't go away, and soon after the January 2009 inauguration, there will be people saying we have to go back: to restore their democracy, or remove their dictator, or rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, or all of the above. Public opinion will not support such a course of action, at least not without another catalyzing event ... which could spark another war, which the USA would win (of course!) in October of 2016!

Just a month before ...


Oh yeah ... I got it all figured out.

Tom Toles: You Can Relax Now

We don't actually need a new open thread but we can't very well blog on without this cartoon.

Tom Toles rocks!

I should be back later with more (about something!), but this thread is yours.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Craig Murray: UK Likely Wrong In Iranian Dispute; Western Media Mum

The former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has reportedly told a British paper that the British sailors held by Iran were quite likely wrong to be where they were and that the Iranians were within their rights to detain them. Explosive stuff, were it widely known in the UK, for instance. And that likely explains why no British paper, no American paper, and for that matter no paper outside of Iran is running the story.

It did appear in Iran, from Press TV dot IR, on two different days, under two different headlines ("Britons detention is Iran's right: ex-British diplomat" and "Murray: Detention of British marines legitimate"), but with identical text:
A former British diplomat says it is Iran's legal right to protect its sovereignty and the detained Britons should not have entered Iranian waters.

The UK's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, told the Daily Mirror on Monday, "In international law the Iranian government were not out of order in detaining foreign military personnel in waters to which they have a legitimate claim."

For the Royal Navy to be interdicting shipping within the twelve mile limit of territorial seas, in a region they know full well is subject to a maritime boundary dispute, is unnecessarily provocative, he added.

Murray noted that, "This is especially true as apparently they were not looking for weapons but for smuggled vehicles attempting to evade car duty. What has the evasion of Iranian or Iraqi taxes got to do with the Royal Navy? The ridiculous illogic of the Blair mess gets us further into trouble."

Murray then requested "the Iranian authorities" to "now hand the men back immediately," arguing that "Plainly they were not engaged in piracy or in hostilities against Iran."

He said the Iranians well demonstrated the ability to exercise effective sovereignty over their waters.
I've been thinking of blogging about this story, and wondering whether it were true or false. If you focus on what we've been told about Iran, you might tend to think the story was probably false. But if you focus on who's been telling us about Iran, you might think otherwise.

How can you decide? Here's one idea: wait and see what happens. That's what I did. And soon enough there was another story, from Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) via Muslim News dot Co dot UK. This time the headline reads: "Iran's arrest of sailors was legitimate, says former UK envoy" and the text has a few more details:
Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray Monday supported Iran's decision to arrest 15 UK marines in the Persian Gulf last week.

"In international law the Iranian government were not out of order in detaining foreign military personnel in waters to which they have a legitimate claim," Murray said, who was also a previous head of Foreign Office's maritime section, carrying out negotiations on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"For the Royal Navy, to be interdicting shipping within the twelve mile limit of territorial seas in a region they know full well is subject to maritime boundary dispute, is unnecessarily provocative," he said.

The former envoy said that this was "especially true as apparently they were not looking for weapons but for smuggled vehicles attempting to evade car duty."

"What has the evasion of Iranian or Iraqi taxes go to do with the Royal Navy?" he questioned in comments on his webpage, set up after he was sacked from his post in 2004 after criticizing British foreign policy.

While working for the Foreign Office, Murray was also head of the UK's Embargo Surveillance Centre, analyzing Iraqi attempts to evade sanctions and providing information to UK military forces and to other governments to effect physical enforcement of the embargo.

He said that under international law, Britain would have been allowed to enter Iranian territorial waters if in "hot pursuit" of terrorists, slavers or pirates."

But added "they weren't doing any of those things."

"Plainly, they were not engaged in piracy or in hostilities against Iran. The Iranians can feel content that they have demonstrated the ability to exercise effective sovereignty over the waters they claim," the former envoy said.

He criticized the "ridiculous logic" of Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying he was creating a mess that "gets us further into trouble."

The Daily Mirror, which has been an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, reminded its readers Monday that "if the UK had never joined the disastrous invasion of Iraq, the 15 would not have been put in a position where they could be seized."

In its editorial on the incident, it also said that "US threats in the recent past to launch military strikes on Iran have inflamed tensions."
Did you catch the crucial detail? I'll give you the key paragraph again:
"What has the evasion of Iranian or Iraqi taxes go to do with the Royal Navy?" he questioned in comments on his webpage, set up after he was sacked from his post in 2004 after criticizing British foreign policy.
Aha! His webpage! I know it. I've been there. I've got it bookmarked. Why didn't I just check it out before? LOL @ WP!!

Guess what? The Iranians are not lying about this one! Murray has done three posts about this situation and nowhere does he contradict any of the quotes attributed to him above. Links and excerpts follow (and the emphasis is mine).

March 23, 2007 : British Marines Captured By Iranians
The capture of British Marines by Iran has happened before, then on the Shatt-al-Arab waterway. It will doubtless be used by those seeking to bang the war drum against Iran, though I imagine it will be fairly quickly resolved.

Before people get too carried away, the following is worth bearing in mind. I write as a former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Iranians claimed the British soldiers had strayed into Iranian territorial waters. If they had, then the Iranians had every right to detain them for questioning.

The difficulty is that the maritime delimitation in the North West of the Persian Gulf, between Iraq, Kuwait and Iran, has never been resolved. It is not therefore a question of just checking your GPS to see where you are. This is a perfectly legitimate dispute, in which nobody is particularly at fault. Lateral maritime boundaries from a coastal border point are intensely complicated things, especially where islands and coastal banks become a factor.

Disputes are not unusual. I was personally heavily involved in negotiating British maritime boundaries with Ireland, France and Denmark just ten years ago, and not all our own boundaries are resolved even now. There is nothing outlandish about Iranian claims, and we have no right in law to be boarding Iranian or other shipping in what may well be Iranian waters.

The UN Convention on the Law of The Sea carries a heavy presumption on the right of commercial vessels to "innocent passage", especially through straits like Hormuz and in both territorial and international waters. You probably won't read this elsewhere in these jingoistic times but, in international law, we are very probably in the wrong. As long as the Iranians neither mistreat our Marines nor wilfully detain them too long, they have the right.
March 26, 2007: British Marines Captured By Iran
I explained that in international law the Iranian government were not out of order in detaining foreign military personnel in waters to which they have a legitimate claim. For the Royal Navy to be interdicting shipping within the twelve mile limit of territorial seas in a region they know full well is subject to maritime boundary dispute, is unneccessarily provocative. This is especially true as apparently they were not looking for weapons but for smuggled vehicles attempting to evade car duty. What has the evasion of Iranian or Iraqi taxes go to do with the Royal Navy? The ridiculous illogic of the Blair mess gets us further into trouble.

Incidentally, they would under international law have been allowed to enter Iranian territorial waters if in "Hot pursuit" of terrorists, slavers or pirates. But they weren't doing any of those things.

Having said all that, the Iranian authorities, their point made, should now hand the men back immediately. Plainly they were not engaged in piracy or in hostilities against Iran. The Iranians can feel content that they have demonstrated the ability to exercise effective sovereignty over the waters they claim.

Any further detention of the men would now be unlawful and bellicose. One of the great problems facing those of us striving hard to prevent a further disastrous war, this time on Iran, is that the Iranian government is indeed full of theocratic nutters.
March 27, 2007: Captured Marines (Again)
My two earlier posts have caused quite a stir, so here are some further observations.

Sadly, but perhaps predictably, both the British and Iranian governments are now acting like idiots.

Tony Blair has let it be known that he is "utterly confident" that the British personnel were in Iraqi waters. He has of course never been known for his expertise in the Law of the Sea. But let us contrast this political certainty with the actual knowledge of the Royal Navy Commander of the operation on which the captives were taken.

Before the spin doctors could get to him, Commodore Lambert said:

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may well claim that they were in their territorial waters. The extent and definition of territorial waters in this part of the world is very complicated".

That is precisely right. The boundary between Iran and Iraq in the northern Persian Gulf has never been fixed. (Within the Shatt-al-Arab itself a line was fixed, but was to be updated every ten years because the waterway shifts, according to the treaty. As it has not been updated in over twenty years, whether it is still valid is a moot point. But it appears this incident occurred well south of the Shatt anyway.) This is a perfectly legitimate dispute. The existence of this dispute will clearly be indicated on HMS Cornwall's charts, which are in front of Commodore Lambert, but not of Mr Blair.

Until a boundary is agreed, you could only be certain that the personnel were in Iraqi territorial waters if they were within twelve miles of the coast and, at the same time, more than twelve miles from any island, spit, bar or sandbank claimed by Iran (or Kuwait).

That is very hard to judge as the British government refuse to give out the coordinates where the men were captured. If they really are utterly certain, I find that incomprehensible. Everyone knows the Gulf is teeming with British vessels and personnel, so the position of units a few days ago can hardly be valuable intelligence.
I've snipped some technical but nonetheless very interesting material about international boundaries. Click the link and read the whole post if you're interested.

Here's the rest:
Anyway, the UK was plainly wrong to be ultra provocative in disputed waters. They would be allowed to enter Iranian territorial seas in hot pursuit of terrorists, pirates or slavers, but not to carry out other military operations.

The Iranians had a right to detain the men if they were in seas legitimately claimed as territorial by Iran. Indeed, it is arguable that if a government makes a claim of sovereignty it rather has to enforce it, possession being nine parts of international law. But now the Iranian government is being very foolish, and itself acting illegally, by not releasing the men having made its point.

The story leaked by Russian intelligence claiming knowledge of US plans to attack Iran on 6 April has had great publicity in Iran, if very little here.
I do believe a blog or two may have covered it.
Personally I doubt it is true. But it seems to me a definite risk that the Iranians will decide to keep the marines against that contingency.

That would be very unfortunate. The Iranian government, by continuing to hold the British personnel, are foolishly providing new impetus to Bush and Blair, whose attempts to bang the war drum against Iran have so far met profound public scepticism. We don't need any more oil wars.
After all this, the former ambassador concludes with good ideas for each side:
If Blair actually sought the release of our people, rather than anti-Iranian propaganda, he would stop making stupid macho noises and give an assurance that we intend to resolve not only this problem but all disagreements with Iran by peaceful means, and give specific reassurance that no attack is imminent.

But if the Iranian government wait for Blair to behave well, the marines will rot for ever. They should let the men (and woman) go now, with lots of signs of friendship, thus further wrongfooting Bush and Blair.
Now that's diplomacy!

So ... where are the British press? As far as I can tell, the only national paper which has mentioned him recently was the Guardian, in a piece headlined "Iran's Border Muddles Captivity Issue" which doesn't go nearly as far as Murray does in the text quoted above. It does quote him in this context:
``Until a boundary is agreed, you could only be certain that the personnel were in Iraqi territorial waters if they were within 12 miles of the (Iraqi) coast and, at the same time, more than 12 miles from any island, spit, bar or sand bank claimed by Iran,'' said Craig Murray, former chief of the Maritime Section of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

That means ships operating near the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab - where marshes and sandbars make navigation difficult and where ``ownership'' of the water is ambiguous - could easily run into trouble.
The article also quotes Richard Schofield of King's College in London, whom it calls "an expert on the waterway", as saying, "We have to accept the British claim with as much salt as the Iranian claim," and "There's a lot of room for making mischief, if that's what you want to do."

But it stops short of presenting Murray's position in full.

Is that "censorship"? or "good news judgement"? or is it "half a loaf is better than none"?

And what's with all the other "news" on this topic? Do they all treat it as if the British were definitely in the right and the Iranians who captured them were definitely in the wrong? Or not? We're all reading and hearing different things; and I am interested in how you see this story being played.

Maybe more to the point, Craig Murray says the British are the ones who are being unnecessarily provocative. Is anybody else painting it that way?

Personally, I would love to see Iran "let the men (and woman) go now, with lots of signs of friendship, thus further wrongfooting Bush and Blair."

But we shall see. Like it or not, we're still dealing with a government that's full of theocratic nutters. Or maybe two of them. Or maybe even more.

But what if the Iranians gave back all fifteen Brits, and give them each a gorgeous Persian carpet for themselves, another for their commanders a third for the queen? And what if they gave each of them a few thousand euros worth of credit at the Iranian Oil Bourse? How could Britain bomb them then?

Just a thought. Use it if you like.

The 9/11 OCT Is Critical -- DNR, SVP!

Woo-Hoo!! I've just finished reading a great article by Joe Plummer at OpEd News and he says The 9/11 Lie is in Critical Condition. (The "please do not resuscitate" was mine!). Plummer's piece starts like this:
There was a time, not long ago, when daring to question the official account of 9/11 was risky business. One was almost guaranteed to be attacked as a "crazy person" or a "traitor" or a "terrorist sympathizer."
Quite so. I remember it well; I especially remember posting my first few 9/11-related pieces ("9/11 Was a Hoax: How and When I Knew It", and "Trouble").

But as Joe Plummer puts it:
Times have changed. At this point, less than 20% of the population believes they were given the full truth regarding 9/11. Logically one might ask: "Why is that?"
There are two ways to take this question. Personally I was amazed to find that 16% still believe the official story. Why is that number so high?

But then I remembered that 20% of Americans think the Sun revolves around the Earth, so actually 16% believing the official story is probably about right.

Joe Plummer attacks the question from the other direction: Why has the number of Americans who disbelieve the official story become so large?
It wasn't for lack of trying that the government failed in its propaganda campaign. It wasn't for lack of "helping hands" in the mainstream media. (Though even that support has begun to fall apart.) No, it was one thing and one thing only that caused hundreds of millions of American citizens to openly question the official account of 9/11; the evidence.
Plummer runs through a quick recap of the various types of evidence (physical, historical, circumstantial) and the various topics the evidence falls into (false-flag terrorism, obstruction of justice, controlled demolition).

Then he takes a closer look at three of the incredible deficiencies of the offical report: its failure to mention Building 7, its misrepresentation of the architecture at the core of Towers 1 and 2, and its utter avoidance of the money trail connecting the hijackers to some very interesting individuals.

To settle any doubts as to whether questioning the official conspiracy theory is a wacko endeavor, he links to a page of statements from very distinguished patriots who disbelieve the official story and are willing to sign their names and stake their reputations on it.

And he finishes with something that startled even me -- and if you were as tired as I am you would know it takes quite a bit to get any reaction at all, let alone a startle. But this surprised me, and in a good way:
Times have changed and the people (for good reason) no longer believe the lies they've been fed about 9/11. We've woken up to the level of corruption in our government and the official lie (by all practical means of determination) is in critical condition and not expected to recover.

This can only mean one thing. An Independent investigation into the attacks of 9/11 WILL BE conducted. And this time, it isn't going to be handful of citizens asking questions and demanding answers; it's going to be 80% of the country. And this time, you won't so easily ignore and whitewash the sensitive issues, because an educated citizenry is not so easily fooled. And this time, those who have stonewalled, lied, manipulated, covered up and acted in a criminally negligent manner will be held accountable for their actions.

To those in power who've forgotten the reality of their position in government, YOU SERVE AT THE PLEASURE OF THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Once again, you're on notice to stop ignoring our demands for a new investigation. This issue isn't going to go away, and your refusal to address it will cost you dearly.

And to those of you with something to hide, perhaps now would be a good time to "lawyer up" and "cut a deal." The game is over.
I am in strict accord with Joe Plummer on almost everything he has said here, but I do not believe the game is over. On the other hand, I promise I'll take a nap when it finally ends.

Tom Toles: Too Tired For Irony

The previous open thread (which I posted only about 24 hours ago) is well and truly buried.

Ironically, I posted it because I knew I was going to be busy for most of the day, and not able to post much.

Actually, I might be able to come up with better irony than that, if I weren't so tired.

Chris Floyd With Scott Horton On America's War-By-Proxy In Somalia ... And Much More

Scott Horton says:
Chris Floyd discusses the rendition of an American citizen to Ethiopia until he admits he’s al Qaeda, the nearly unremarked-upon proxy war for the Warlords in Somalia, the arrogant ignorance of America’s political establishments and the distracted apathy of the American people.
Chris and Scott talked for about half an hour, but it seemed much quicker. Click here for the MP3; if that doesn't work you can probably reach it through this page ... or this one. And if none of those do it for you, try here. Sheesh!

I'm listening to it now, and here's my advice: Turn it up!!

Chris even mentions Paul Harvey -- Big Dan is gonna love it!

Many thanks to Chris Floyd, Scott Horton, and Antiwar Radio.

You guys rock!!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Was Paul McMulty Less Than Candid? Does The Pope Shxt In The Woods?

So much spin, so little time, part two:

I'm sitting here watching the wheels fall off again as the Washington Post reports the current White House spin:
The senior counselor to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales will refuse to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the unfolding U.S. attorneys scandal, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, her attorneys said today.

Monica M. Goodling -- who is on an indefinite leave of absence from Gonzales's office -- also said that at least one senior Justice Department official blames her for failing to fully brief him prior to a Senate appearance, leading to "less than candid" testimony.

The reference is to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty [photo], who told the Senate Judiciary Committee in early February that most of the prosecutors were fired for "performance-related" reasons. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said that McNulty called him to apologize for not telling the truth and blamed it on incomplete briefings.
There's something about this explanation that doesn't make any sense. But you'd be hard pressed to find it on your own. Fortunately, ABC has a much more convincing explanation:
Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, ignored White House Counsel Harriet Miers and senior lawyers in the Justice Department when he told the committee last month of specific reasons why the administration fired seven U.S. attorneys — and appeared to acknowledge for the first time that politics was behind one dismissal.

McNulty's testimony directly conflicted with the approach Miers advised, according to an unreleased internal White House e-mail described to ABC News. According to that e-mail, sources said, Miers said the administration should take the firm position that it would not comment on personnel issues.
Paul McMulty said too much; he sparked a political firestorm by going against orders.

Now he's under new orders: squelch the fire!

So he's calling Senator Schumer to "apologize for not telling the truth" and he's blaming it on "incomplete briefings".

I wonder if Schumer's thinking:
Ha Ha Ha!! You were less than candid? What do you think we are, stupid?
The answer to that question would be "YES", by the way ...

Oh what an odious web they weave, they who think they can deceive... But ABC has a nice, detailed scoop!
Until McNulty's testimony, administration officials had consistently refused to publicly say why specific attorneys were dismissed and insisted that the White House had complete authority to replace them. That was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's approach when he testified before the committee in January.

But weeks later, McNulty — confident he could draw on a long relationship with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat — decided he would instead try to explain in more detail, sources told ABC News.

In doing so, he went well beyond the scope of what the White House cleared him to say when it approved his written testimony the week before the hearing, according to administration sources closely involved in the matter.

Most important, part of McNulty's testimony also appeared to directly contradict the earlier testimony by Gonzales.

Those inconsistencies — and McNulty's characterization of the firings — fueled a firestorm over the dismissals, prompting the U.S. attorneys to aggressively defend themselves and their work and angering senators demanding to know what role politics played in the process.

"That's what lit the fuse," said Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "They should've expected pushback — not only from the U.S. attorneys but from their supporters once they characterized the reason as negative performance, inadequate performance."
There's a lot more, and it's beautiful! Go read it! Ha ha ha!!

Paul McMulty was "less than candid". And I am less than stupid. ;-)
I'm just sittin' here watchin' the wheels fall off and off
I really love to watch them roll...

OOPS! Did I say "wheels"?