Monday, March 31, 2008

Tom Toles: Dementia

Selling Hope And Unity, Obama Makes His Intentions Clear

Hope is a wonderful thing, without which we can achieve nothing of value. And that may be sufficient reason to sell it as a political commodity, but it's not a good reason to buy it.

On the other hand, after seven years of being sold nothing but fear, the American people are ready to buy something different. So "hope" it is, and "unity" too -- two hot-ticket items this year.

But hope for what? Unity behind what? Clearly Barack Obama is hoping the country will unite behind him; but what then would become of the country?

Obama explained his position as clearly as we could ask for in Pennsylvania on Friday, as reported by Devlin Barrett of the AP, via Chris Floyd:

Obama aligns foreign policy with GOP
Sen. Barack Obama said Friday he would return the country to the more "traditional" foreign policy efforts of past presidents, such as George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

At a town hall event at a local high school gymnasium, Obama praised George H.W. Bush — father of the president — for the way he handled the Persian Gulf War: with a large coalition and carefully defined objectives.

"The truth is that my foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional bipartisan realistic policy of George Bush's father, of John F. Kennedy, of, in some ways, Ronald Reagan, and it is George Bush that's been naive and it's people like John McCain and, unfortunately, some Democrats that have facilitated him acting in these naive ways that have caused us so much damage in our reputation around the world," he said.
Under the title "Hope Abandoned: Obama Stands Up for Murder and Plunder", Chris Floyd goes on to explain just what it means to "return" to the "traditional bipartisan realism" that has marked US foreign policy since World War II, with the exception -- according to Barack Obama -- of George W. Bush, who has been -- in Obama's word -- "naive".

You should read the whole piece. But you won't have to go far.

After quoting the AP piece, Chris writes:
Obama is doing two things here, reaching out to two very different audiences, on different wavelengths. First, for the hoi polloi, he is simply pandering in the most shameless way imaginable, throwing out talismans for his TV-addled audience to comfort themselves with: "You like JFK? I'll be like him! You like Reagan? I'll be like him too! You like the first George Bush? Hey, I'll be just like him as well!" This is a PR tactic that goes all the way back to St. Paul the spinmeister, who boasted of his ability to massage his message and "become all things to all men." Obama has long proven himself a master of this particular kind of political whoredom -- much like Bill Clinton, in fact, another champion of "bipartisan foreign policy" who for some strange reason got left off Obama's list of role models.

But beyond all the rubes out there, Obama is also signaling to the real masters of the United States, the military-corporate complex, that he is a "safe pair of hands" -- a competent technocrat who won't upset the imperial applecart but will faithfully follow the 60-year post-war paradigm of leaving "all options on the table" and doing "whatever it takes" to keep the great game of geopolitical dominance going strong.

What other conclusion can you draw from Obama's reference to these avatars, and his very pointed identification with them? He is saying, quite clearly, that he will practice foreign policy just as they did. And what they do? Committed, instigated, abetted and countenanced a relentless flood of crimes, murders, atrocities, deceptions, corruptions, mass destruction and state terrorism.

Obama is telling us -- and the war-profiteering powers-that-be -- that he will give us "realistic policies" like those of John Kennedy. These include his steady march into the quagmire of Vietnam, and the backing of a deadly coup in Saigon to replace one brutal junta with another; greenlighting successful coups in Guyana, the Dominican Republic and Iraq, where the CIA helped the Baath Party come to power; greenlighting the spectacularly unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, not to mention the terrorist operations and assassination attempts there. As Edward Jay Epstein noted (in John Kennedy Jr.'s magazine George, of all places):
While the Mafia continued its unsuccessful machinations, John F. Kennedy became President and, in April 1961, launched the Bay of Pigs invasion, an attack on a swamp in Cuba by CIA-trained Cuban exiles that ended in disaster. Furious at this humiliating failure, Kennedy summoned Richard Bissell, the head of the CIA's covert operations, to the Cabinet Room and chided him for "sitting on his ass and not doing anything about getting rid of Castro and the Castro regime" (as Bissell recalled). Richard Helms, who succeeded Bissell, also felt "white heat," as he put it, from the Kennedys to get rid of Castro.

By then, the Kennedys had set up their own covert structure for dealing with the Castro problem the Special Group Augmented, which Attorney General Robert Kennedy and General Maxwell Taylor effectively ran and which, in November 1961, launched a secret war against the Castro regime, codenamed Operation Mongoose. Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara, who was not a formal member of this group but attended meetings, later testified: "We were hysterical about Castro at about the time of the Bay of Pigs and thereafter. And there was pressure from JFK and RFK to do something about Castro." It was a "no holds barred" enterprise, as Helms termed it, for which the Special Group Augmented assigned such "planning tasks" as using biological and chemical warfare against Cuban sugar workers; employing Cuban gangsters to kill Cuban police officials, Soviet bloc technicians, and other targeted people; using agents to sabotage mines; and, in what was called Operation Bounty, paying cash bonuses of up to $100,000 for the murder or abduction of government officials.
More of this kind of thing, then, from Obama when he reaches the White House?

As for his other two foreign policy mentors, Reagan and Bush I, the rap sheet is far too long for even a brief accounting here. (And indeed, I've spent much of the past seven years detailing many of these crimes in various venues -- because they involved so many of the same players now spewing filth and blood from the current administration.) We could begin, I suppose, with Reagan and Bush's act of treason in negotiating with Iranian hostage-takers in 1980 to ensure that Teheran would not release the American captives at the U.S. embassy before the November election; in return, Reagan and Bush pledged to provide cash and military hardware to the extremist mullahs, which they duly did. (See here, and here.)

Or we could cite Reagan's ardent support for mass-murdering militarist regimes in Central and South America; the arming and funding of the Contra insurgent army in Nicaragua, which received CIA training in terrorist tactics. Or the Iran-Contra affair, which saw Reagan and Bush ship weapons to the extremist Iranian regime in return for cash which they then gave to their Contra terrorist militia, in flagrant violation of the law. Or Reagan's stupid and pointless invasion of Grenada, which he undertook solely to cover up the embarrassment of his stupid and pointless intervention in Lebanon, where 241 American soldiers were killed after having been dropped into the middle of a multi-sided civil war. Or Reagan's vast expansion of a policy begun under Jimmy Carter of arming, funding, training and organizing a global network of violent Islamic extremists -- a "foreign policy" masterstroke that is still paying dividends today. (Quite literally paying dividends for investors in the defense, security and military servicing industries.)

But at least Obama did qualify his embrace of Reagan's traditional and realistic bipartisan foreign policy, saying that he would emulate "some" of Reagan's approaches. So maybe he will skip on the election-fixing treason and go for supporting mass-murdering militarist regimes instead? Or are we being too cynical? Perhaps Obama means he will follow in the footsteps of some of Reagan's more merciful and reconciliatory policies -- such as the time the Great Communicator laid a wreath at a cemetery where Nazi SS soldiers lie in honored burial: a clear signal from the U.S. president to these dead mass-murderers that "all is forgiven" at last.

Obama offers no qualification at all to his championing of George Herbert Walker Bush however. Indeed, his was the first name uttered in the paean to bipartisan foreign policy. But here too one quails (and Quayles) at the prospect of toting up the high crimes and monstrous follies of this "traditional realist" whom Obama promises to emulate. Should we start with Bush's arming and funding of Saddam Hussein -- long after the latter "gassed his own people" -- and Bush's later perversion of the legal process to cover up his largess to the dictator? Or Bush's pointless and unnecessary invasion of Panama, which killed hundreds if not thousands of innocent people and drove at least 20,000 people from their homes, all to remove a long-time U.S. intelligence "asset," Manuel Noriega, who in the 1970s received fat payments of bribes from the director of the CIA -- one George Herbert Walker Bush?

Or perhaps we should follow Obama's example and point to "the way [Bush] handled the Persian Gulf War." Yes, let's take a closer look at that, since Obama clearly sees it as a model for his own presidency. Here's an excerpt from an earlier piece, Scar Tissue: How the Bushes Brought Bedlam to Iraq (where you will also find much more on Bush's backroom tryst with Saddam):
Then came Bush's "Gulf War," when he turned on his protégé after Saddam made the foolish move of threatening the Kuwaiti royals – Bush's long-time business partners [in the oil business], going back to the early 1960s. Saddam's conflict with Kuwait centered on two main issues: first, his claim that the billions of dollars Kuwait had given Iraq during the war with Iran was simply straightforward aid to the nation that was defending the Sunni Arab world from the aggressive onslaught of the Shiite Persians. The Kuwaitis insisted the money had been a loan, and demanded that Saddam pay off. There was also Saddam's claim that Kuwait was "slant-drilling" into Iraqi oilfields, siphoning off underground reserves from across the border. These disputes raged for months; a deal to resolve them was brokered by the Arab League, but fell apart at the last minute when Kuwait suddenly rejected the agreement, saying, "We will call in the Americans."

How worried was Bush about the situation? Let's look at the historical record. In the two weeks before the invasion of Kuwait, Bush approved the sale of an additional $4.8 million in "dual-use" technology to factories identified by the CIA as linchpins of Hussein's illicit nuclear and biochemical programs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The day before Saddam sent his tanks across the border, Bush obligingly sold him more than $600 million worth of advanced communications technology. A week later, he was declaring that his long-time ally was "worse than Hitler."

Yes, the Kuwaitis had called in their marker. Like a warlord of old, Bush used the US military as a private army to help his business partners. After an extensive bombing campaign that openly – even gleefully – mocked international law in its targeting of civilian infrastructure (a tactic repeated in Serbia by Bill Clinton – now regarded as an "adopted son" by Bush), the brief 100-hour ground war slaughtered fleeing Iraqi conscripts by the thousands – while, curiously, allowing Saddam's crack troops, the aptly-named Republican Guard, to escape unharmed. Later, these troops were used to kill tens of thousands of Shiites who had risen in rebellion against Saddam – at the specific instigation of George Bush, who not only abandoned them to their fate, but specifically allowed Saddam to use his attack helicopters against the rebels, and also ordered US troops to block Shiites from gaining access to arms caches. It was one of the worst, most murderous betrayals in modern history – and has been almost entirely expunged from the American memory.

Then came the Carthaginian "peace" of the victors – Iraq sown with the salt of sanctions, which led to the unnecessary death of at least 500,000 children, according to UN's conservative estimates. The sanction regime actually strengthened Saddam's grip on Iraqi society, as the ravaged people were reduced to surviving on government handouts of food....
Yes, these are truly worthy examples of the kind of traditional, realistic, bipartisan foreign policy that we need more of. And my stars, isn't that Obama a breath of fresh air, promising to take us back to that golden age of yore!

Next up: "Sen. Barack Obama said today that he would appoint Supreme Court Justices 'like John Roberts, Samuel Alito and, in some ways, Antonin Scalia,' in 'a return to a more traditional, realistic, bipartisan judicial philosophy.....'"

P.S. We've said it before and no doubt we'll say it again: an Obama presidency, like a H. Clinton presidency, will mean some measure of genuine mitigation of some of the worst depredations of the Bush Regime. There's no question about that. But no one who openly embraces the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan and George Bush I, or John F. Kennedy for that matter, is going to change in any substantial way the militarist-corporate machine that has already destroyed our democracy, gutted our Constitution, corrupted our system beyond all measure (and probably beyond all repair), and killed – and keeps on killing – hundreds of thousands of innocent people, decade after decade. Given this fact, every American voter must decide, in his or her own conscience, this question: Should I act to mitigate some small measure of the mass suffering wrought by this machine; or does that action, that participation, merely legitimize the machine, and strengthen it?

That is the only question at issue in this election. For none of the prospective presidents offer any hope – audacious or otherwise – of any kind of root-and-branch reform of the imperial system, which will continue to grind on -- in its traditional, realistic, bipartisan way.
I almost always agree with Chris Floyd, but we disagree just a bit this time. My understanding of Kennedy's position on Vietnam is closer to John Newman's analysis (which Noam Chomsky calls "deeply flawed") than it is to Chomsky's (to which Chris links with approval).

In other words, I believe Kennedy was trying to get out of Vietnam, rather than marching into the quagmire there -- certainly Kennedy didn't march in with gusto, the way LBJ did. But this minor disagreement is of little consequence in the long run, and in all other respects (in my humble opinion), Floyd's history lesson is right on the money -- so much so that there's very little left to be said. But that's never stopped me before.

I want to point out that the word "realistic", when used in this context, is meant in the political (i.e. false) sense. When did we ever have a "realistic" policy? We didn't. But we have had some presidents who liked short, sharp wars against small, weak countries, and these are the presidents (if I am right about Kennedy) whom Barack Obama wants to emulate. They didn't attack big countries all alone; if they couldn't drum up a "coalition", they subverted them quietly instead.

This is the "realistic" foreign policy that appeals to Barack Obama. He's not against all wars, he's just against long ones that we lose!

So there's not much to return to. And a turn to something resembling sanity is unthinkable -- not without a full and open investigation of 9/11 (and the subsequent anthrax attacks), and -- even more unlikely -- a full repudiation of George W. Bush's so-called "reaction" to those events.

But Obama won't have it, and there's the rub, because investigating 9/11 and punishing the crimes of the previous administration would be just the first step. The next step would be a repudiation of the foreign policy Barack Obama wants to emulate.

One other point is absolutely critical in this regard: Because the so-called War on Terror has been declared a top-priority item (as opposed to so many of the "realistic, bipartisan" war crimes committed by JFK, RWR and GHWB) it will get all the money it wants, until and unless it is stopped. So Barack Obama's domestic policies have no chance to get funded, unless he ... What am I saying? There's no money left anymore anyhow; even if Obama nuked the Pentagon and never gave the DoD another nickel, there would still be no way out of the mess his predecessors have made.

Not that he's looking for a way out, mind you -- he simply wants to abandon Bush's "naive" ideas about invading and occupying big countries, and return to the traditional, realistic, bipartisan method of "picking up small crappy little countries and throwing them against the wall, just to show the world we mean business" ...

... for as long as we can afford it ...

... even if it means we can never afford anything else.


The perversion of the language is so severe that it's almost impossible to write about these issues without lying. We're in the realm of political "secret code", where the words don't always mean what they mean.

For instance, Obama calls the policies of three of his recent predecessors "realistic", "bipartisan", and "traditional".

There's no doubt that such policies were "bipartisan". In fact, two of the three past presidents Obama mentioned were Republicans.

And there's no doubt that such policies are "traditional" as well -- after all, they've eaten everything in their path for the last 60 years. And that's why we now have nothing left except a government of heinous criminals, a propaganda mill of blood-soaked liars, massively crumbling infrastructure, a crippling national debt, the enmity of the entire world, and these "realistic" policies. Oh yeah, and some private armies, too. I suppose they add to the realism.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush's foreign policy features preemptive, aggressive war based on lies -- not just one lie but a deliberately crafted, expensively packaged, constantly shifting story. It includes bombing defenseless residential neighborhoods. It involves the use of incendiary weapons on innocent civilians. It involves indefinite detention without charges, and torture as a matter of course. And when Barack Obama describes these policies, the word that comes to mind is "naive".

having or showing unaffected simplicity of nature or absence of artificiality; unsophisticated; ingenuous ... having or showing a lack of experience, judgment, or information; credulous ... simple, unaffected, unsuspecting, artless, guileless, candid, open, plain ...
Let's get this straight: the president starts a war based on a pack of lies that kills a million people and destroys the lives of millions of others, and when his lie is exposed, he makes a big joke and laughs about it, and this happens because he's "guileless, candid, open, plain ..."??

How about cynical?
showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one's actions, esp. by actions that exploit the scruples of others ... selfishly or callously calculating: showed a cynical disregard for the safety of his troops in his efforts to advance his reputation.
But that's not a hopeful and unifying message, is it?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Engineer Accused of Coverups On 9/11 And Katrina Wants An Investigation -- Of Those Making The Accusations

The Associated Press reports that the American Society of Civil Engineers is being accused of serious corruption, and that the "expert" who led investigations into 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Oklahoma City Bombing is calling for investigations -- into the people accusing him!

I am not making this up. Gene Corley [photo], the "forensic expert" most implicated by these very serious charges, is quoted by the AP's Cain Burdeau as saying:
"I hope someone looks into the people making the accusations"
Most honest people would like to see investigations of the accusations first. Then -- if and only if the accusations appear to be specious -- an investigation into the people who made them would be in order.

As for the accusations themselves, Cain Burdeau explains:
The professional organization for engineers who build the nation's roads, dams and bridges has been accused by fellow engineers of covering up catastrophic design flaws while investigating national disasters.

After the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the levee failures caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the federal government paid the American Society of Civil Engineers to investigate what went wrong.

Critics now accuse the group of covering up engineering mistakes, downplaying the need to alter building standards, and using the investigations to protect engineers and government agencies from lawsuits.
The name "American Society of Civil Engineers" and the acronym ASCE are familiar to regular readers of this page, because of the ASCE connection to the Journal of Engineering Mechanics (JEM), which recently published a "research paper" by Keith Seffen [photo] concerning the "rapid and total" destruction of the two World Trade Center towers which "collapsed" on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Seffen's paper came to our attention via the BBC, which reported on its conclusions in an article of September 11, 1007, which said Seffen's "findings are published in the Journal of Engineering Mechanics".

The BBC article also quoted Seffen as saying some remarkable things:
"One thing that confounded engineers was how falling parts of the structure ploughed through undamaged building beneath and brought the towers down so quickly," said Dr Seffen.

He added that his calculations showed this was a "very ordinary thing to happen" and that no other intervention, such as explosive charges laid inside the building, was needed to explain the behaviour of the buildings.
BBC even went as far as to say that
Dr Seffen's research could help inform future building design
even though his conclusions seem ridiculous on their face, and even though his motivations appear much more political than scientfic, as Seffen explained in a press release from the University of Cambridge which was issued on the same day (9/11/07), and which says:
engineers continue to speculate about the speed and totality with which the buildings were demolished during the fateful attacks.

Some have even dared to suggest that the catastrophic events that followed two planes being flown into the buildings were the result of a conspiracy that extended to the top of government itself.

Dr Seffen, a Senior Lecturer in the Structures Group in the Department of Engineering, was moved to find a scientific explanation for the collapse when he heard about reports of possible insider involvement. Claims of "controlled demolition" were being suggested, in order to explain the speed, uniformity and similarity between the collapses of both towers.

"I thought immediately that there had to be a rational explanation for why collapse happened as it did, one which draws on engineering principles," he said.
In other words, Seffen recognized that "controlled demolition" was proof of "insider involvement" which would suggest "a conspiracy that extended to the top of government itself". He rejected this potential explanation of the day's events as "irrational", saying "there had to be a rational explanation", and then he set out to find that explanation -- one that draws on engineering principles, rather than evidence from the scene of the crime.

Suffice it to say that honest scientists don't usually start their investigations by ruling out explanations which appear to fit the observed evidence; nor do they usually proceed by developing mathematical models to demonstrate that their "rational explanations" are correct. But rather than speculating as to Dr. Seffen's honesty, let us focus on an undisputed fact: back in September of 2007, when both the BBC and Cambridge were saying Dr. Seffen's "findings are published", the opposite was true.

The paper had not been published, as a search of the purported publisher's website revealed.

Seffen's paper -- obvious trash which has been debunked over and over and never seriously defended -- was eventually published by the JEM, which -- just coincidentally -- is a publication of the ASCE, the organization which is now accused of covering up rather than investigating, and protecting government agencies, as detailed in the report from Cain Burdeau linked above:
In the World Trade Center case, critics contend the engineering society wrongly concluded skyscrapers cannot withstand getting hit by airplanes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency paid the group about $257,000 to investigate the World Trade Center collapse.

In 2002, the society's report on the World Trade Center praised the buildings for remaining standing long enough to allow tens thousands of people to flee.

But, the report said, skyscrapers are not typically designed to withstand airplane impacts. Instead of hardening buildings against such impacts, it recommended improving aviation security and fire protection.

Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, a structural engineer and forensics expert, contends his computer simulations disprove the society's findings that skyscrapers could not be designed to withstand the impact of a jetliner.

Astaneh-Asl, who received money from the National Science Foundation to investigate the collapse, insisted most New York skyscrapers built with traditional designs would survive such an impact and prevent the kind of fires that brought down the twin towers.

He also questioned the makeup of the society's investigation team. On the team were the wife of the trade center's structural engineer and a representative of the buildings' original design team.

"I call this moral corruption," said Astaneh-Asl, who is on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley.
"Moral corruption" isn't the half of it.

The AP article also mentions some details regarding the ASCE's investigation of Hurricane Katrina:
In the hurricane investigation, it was accused of suggesting that the power of the storm was as big a problem as the poorly designed levees.

The society got a $1.1 million grant from the Army Corps of Engineers to study the levee failures.

The society issued a report last year that blamed the levee failures on poor design and the Corps' use of incorrect engineering data.

Raymond Seed, a levee expert at the University of California, Berkeley, was among the first to question the society's involvement. He was on a team funded by the National Science Foundation to study the New Orleans flood.

Seed accused the engineering society and the Army Corps of collusion, writing an Oct. 20 letter alleging that the two organizations worked together "to promulgate misleading studies and statements, to subvert appropriate independent investigations ... to literally attempt to change some of the critical apparent answers regarding lessons to be learned."
As mentioned above, the AP piece notes the reaction of
Gene Corley, a forensics expert and team leader on the society's report
said the society's study was peer-reviewed and its credibility was upheld by follow-up studies, including one by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

"I hope someone looks into the people making the accusations," Corley said. "That's a sordid tale."
A sordid tale, indeed!

W. Gene Corley, according to Wikipedia, also led the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing, after which
Corley explained about the design of the Murrah Building, "if a critical element fails, it may start a chain reaction of successive failures that collapses the whole building. "A majority of the fatalities were caused not by the force of the bomb blast itself, but by the progressive collapse of the building's floors which depended on the support of a few key columns that the bomb destroyed."
The problem with all this, apart from its eerie foreshadowing the "progressive collapse" of the World Trade Center towers, is that we've had credible reports of multiple bombs in Oklahoma City that day, and an "investigation" that looks an awful lot like a cover-up.

A piece written by Gene Corley and published on September 11, 2002, by the UK's Guardian, reveals that Corley's team was "fascinated" with a notion that could easily have "distorted" their approach:
The question that fascinated our team was not, "Why did the towers fall as quickly as they did?" but, "Why did they stay standing for so long?" The buildings really did extremely well. The most important thing to note is that the impact of the aircraft hitting the towers did not cause the collapse. We believe that the towers would have stood indefinitely until a second large event - such as a hurricane or an earthquake - hit them.
Focusing on the question "Why did they stay standing for so long?" would certainly divert attention from the matter of "Why did the towers fall as quickly as they did?" ... not to mention "Why did they fall at all?"

And of course, the question Corley was avoiding -- and the one Seffen tried to finesse -- remains: Why did the towers fall as quickly as they did?

Corley continues:
In this instance the second large event was the fire that broke out following the planes crashing into the buildings. It was this combination of the damage done by the aircraft followed by a major fire that could not be fought that led to their collapse.
The assertion that "the damage done by the aircraft" was followed by "a major fire that could not be fought" is unsupportable, in light of the evidence from the firefighters on the scene, who were recorded telling their supervisors just the opposite:
"Battalion Seven ... Ladder 15, we've got two isolated pockets of fire. We should be able to knock it down with two lines. Radio that, 78th floor numerous 10-45 Code Ones."
But Corley equates these "two isolated pockets of fire" with "a second large event - such as a hurricane or an earthquake." Why? Because evidence of what actually happened was of no value -- or, rather, negative value -- to Gene Corley and his friends at the ASCE.

It's no wonder they're being accused of covering rather than investigating.

And it's a very sordid tale, is it not?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Government Propaganda? Not Here, Surely -- Must Be Chinese!

William Blum:
The Washington Post recently ran a story about how the Chinese people largely support the government suppression of the Tibetan protesters. The heading was: "Beijing's Crackdown Gets Strong Domestic Support. Ethnic Pride Stoked by Government Propaganda."
He's not kidding: here's the link.

Blum writes:
The article spoke of how Beijing officials have "educated" the public about Tibet "through propaganda".
Indeed. Here's Edward Cody in the Washington Post:
In the West, the name Tibet has long evoked unspoiled Himalayan landscapes, cinnamon-robed monks spinning prayer wheels and a peace-loving Dalai Lama seeking freedom for his repressed Buddhist followers.

Here in China, people have embraced a different view; they regard Tibet as a historical part of the nation and see its sympathizers in the West as easily fooled romantics. Thanks to government propaganda, but also to ethnic pride, most Chinese see the Dalai Lama and his monks as obscurantist reactionaries trying to split the country and reverse the economic and social progress that China has brought to a backward and isolated land over the past 58 years.

The violent protests by Buddhist monks and other Tibetans that exploded in Lhasa on Friday, therefore, have generated widespread condemnation among the country's majority Han Chinese. In street conversations, Internet discussions and academic forums, most Chinese have readily embraced the government's contention that the violence resulted from a plot mounted by the Dalai Lama from his exile headquarters in India.
Blum again:
Imagine the Post or any other American mainstream media saying that those Americans who support the war in Iraq do so because they've been educated by government propaganda. ... Ditto those who support the war in Afghanistan. ... Ditto those who supported the bombing of Yugoslavia. ... Ditto scores of other US invasions, bombings, overthrows, and miscellaneous war crimes spanning more than half a century.
Can you imagine? Internet discussions where people speak out in favor of war crimes? Street conversations? Academic forums?

Cody says the people are even urging the government to be more vicious:
Against that background, the Communist Party has met with broad popular approval in vowing to crack down on the rioters -- most of whose victims were Han Chinese -- and in qualifying the "impudent" Dalai Lama as a "master terror maker" who has hoodwinked the West with his appeals for peace. While the rest of the world invokes the Beijing Olympics and advises restraint, Chinese specialists and the public have urged the government to move decisively...
And it all seems so familiar ... Are we sure we don't have any propaganda here?

Blum again:
A recurring theme of Hillary Clinton's campaign for the presidency has been that she has more of the right kind of experience needed to deal with national security and foreign policy issues than Barack Obama. The latest play on this is her advertisement telling you: It's three a.m. and your children are safe and asleep; but there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing; something really bad is happening somewhere; and voters are asked who they want answering the phone. Of course they should want Hillary and her marvelous experience. (If she's actually explained what that marvelous experience is, I missed it. Perhaps her near-death experience in Bosnia?)

Typical of Clinton's growing corps of conservative followers, the Washington Times recently lent support to this theme. The right-wing newspaper interviewed a group of "mostly conservative retired [military] officers, industry executives and current defense officials", who cite Mr. Obama's lack of experience in national security.

And so it goes. And so it has gone for many years. What is it with this experience thing for public office? It was not invented by Hillary Clinton. If I need to have my car repaired I look for a mechanic with experience with my particular car. If I needed an operation I'd seek out a surgeon with lots of experience performing that particular operation. But when it comes to choosing a person for political office, the sine qua non consideration is what their politics are. Who would you choose between two candidates -- one who was strongly against everything you passionately supported but who had decades of holding high government positions, or one who shared your passion on every important issue but had never held any public office? Is there any doubt about which person almost everyone would go for? So why does this "experience" thing keep coming up in so many elections?

A recent national poll questioned registered voters about the candidates' "approach to foreign policy and national security". 43% thought that Obama would be "not tough enough" (probably a reflection of the "experience" factor), while only 3% thought he'd be "too tough". For Clinton the figures were 37% and 9%. The evidence is overwhelming that decades of very tough -- nay, brutal -- US policies toward the Middle East has provoked extensive anti-American terrorism; the same in Latin America in earlier decades, yet this remains an alien concept to most American voters, who think that toughness works (even though they know it doesn't work on Americans -- witness the reaction to 9/11).

John McCain, who is proud to have dropped countless bombs on the people of Vietnam, who had never done him or his country any harm until he and his country invaded them, who now (literally) sings in public about bombing the people of Iran, and who tells us he's prepared to remain in Iraq for 100 years, is still regarded as "not tough enough" by 16% and "too tough" by only 25%. What does it take to convince Americans that one of their leaders is a bloody psychopath? Like the two psychos he may replace. How has 225 years of our grand experiment in democracy wound up like this? And why is McCain regularly referred to as a "war hero"? He was shot down and captured and held prisoner for more than five years. What's heroic about that? In most other kinds of work, such a record would be called a failure.

Winston Churchill said that "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." And if that doesn't do it for you, try a five-minute conversation with almost any American politician. This thing called democracy continues to be used as a substitute for human liberation.

One parting thought about Obama: Is he prepared to distance himself from Rev. Martin Luther King as he has from his own minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright? King vehemently denounced the Vietnam War and called the United States "the most violent nation in the world". Like Wright, he was strongly condemned for his remarks. As T.S. Eliot famously observed: "Humankind can not bear very much reality."
Blum gives his readers quite a few things to think about. Here's a sampling:
Expressing elementary truths about the oppression of the poor by the rich in the United States runs the risk of being accused of "advocating class warfare"; because the trick of class war is to not let the victims know the war is being waged.

What do the CEOs do all day that they should earn a thousand times more than schoolteachers, nurses, firefighters, street cleaners, and social workers? Re-read some medieval history, about feudal lords and serfs.

The campaigns of the anti-regulationists imply that pure food and drugs will be ours as soon as we abolish the pure food and drug laws. ...

The more you care about others, the more you're at a disadvantage competing in the capitalist system.

To say that 1% of the population owns 35% of the resources and wealth, is deceptive. If you own 35% you can control much more than that.

How could the current distribution of property and wealth have emerged from any sort of democratic process? ...

Capitalism is the theory that the worst people, acting from their worst motives, will somehow produce the most good. ...

Communist governments take over companies. Under capitalism, the companies take over the government. ...
How much reality can you bear?

Read the rest here.

Mike Gravel Joins The Libertarians

Former Senator Mike Gravel is no longer seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, but he's still running for president.

He's quit the Democrats and joined the Libertarian Party.

Gravel says:
the Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR. It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism -- all of which I find anathema to my views.

I look forward to advancing my presidential candidacy within the Libertarian Party, which is considerably closer to my values, my foreign policy views and my domestic views.
Sometimes I wonder whether Mike Gravel has studied any contemporary political history. It's been a long time since the Democratic Party was "the party of FDR", and it should come as no surprise that the Democratic party likes "war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism".

I also have trouble reconciling Gravel's anti-militaristic views with the Libertarian Party's (laissez-faire, "free market") economic policy, since in my view the military industrial complex is both the inevitable result of laissez-faire capitalism and the force which precludes the existence of any "free market".

But perhaps this is a good sign; if Mike Gravel is caught in a bind between what he says he believes and actual verifiable reality, then perhaps the other candidates will begin to see that he has something in common with all of them.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Presenting ... Donkey Candidates For "Drawdown"

The Washington Post says "42 Democrats Vow a Drawdown in Iraq If They Win Seats"
More than three dozen Democratic congressional candidates banded together yesterday to promise that, if elected, they will push for legislation calling for an immediate drawdown of troops in Iraq that would leave only a security force in place to guard the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Of course the Embassy could end up encompassing all of Baghdad and require upwards of a million troops to guard it, but I'm sure the Democrats will cross that bridge when they come to it.
Rejecting their party leaders' assertions that economic troubles have become the top issue on voters' minds, leaders of the coalition of 38 House and four Senate candidates pledged to make immediate withdrawal from Iraq the centerpiece of their campaigns.
They can campaign on whatever platform they like; if and when they get elected it'll be a different story.
"The people inside the Beltway don't seem to get how big an issue this is," said Darcy Burner [photo], a repeat candidate who narrowly lost to Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) in 2006.
I beg to differ. The people outside the Beltway are still under the mistaken impression that anybody inside the Beltway cares what they think.
The group's 36-page plan does not set a specific deadline for when all combat troops must be out of Iraq. "Begin it now, do it as safely as you can and get everyone out," Burner said.
It's an open-ended statement that sets up all manner of possible contradictions, some of which are already visible. Are they pushing for "a security force in place to guard the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad" or do they really want to "get everyone out"?
The starkest difference between the group's proposal, dubbed a "Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq," and those embraced by many senior Democrats and the party's presidential candidates is that it rejects the idea of leaving U.S. troops on the ground to train Iraqi security forces or engage in anti-terrorism operations. The group instead calls for a dramatic increase in regional diplomacy and the deployment of international peacekeeping forces, if necessary.
Or are we going to have "international peacekeeping forces" guarding the US Embassy? My head hurts!

And it may seem like a contradiction; but in politics there are no contradictions. Watch this and all the others vanish in the wink of an eye:
Democratic leaders said the new candidate coalition does not signal a divide in the party's war policy.

"Democrats are united in our need to bring change in Iraq," said Doug Thornell, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "It's up to the individual candidates to determine how to best do that for their district."
In other words, each candidate can promise whatever it takes to get elected, after which the central committee will tell them to concentrate on the economic troubles that have become the top issue.

You heard a similar song two years ago; in fact the tune was identical but the words went "Just get us elected, and then we'll impeach them."

Then they got majorities in both houses and impeachment was suddenly "off the table".

Go ahead. Vote for more Democrats. See how much good it does.

They may say they want to stop the war in Iraq but they all want to keep fighting the war on terror.

They may say they want to protect us from "another 9/11" but they won't even discuss a truly independent investigation of the actual 9/11.

The party leaders let their candidates say whatever they want when they're campaigning, but they'll be "united" if and when they get to Washington...

... or I'm a small blue fish with big green wings.

Bush Explains Why He And Cheney Haven't Been Impeached

According to President Bush via the BBC:
"Any government that presumes to represent the majority of people must confront criminal elements or people who think they can live outside the law - and that's what's taking place in Basra."
Now he tells us! Perhaps you thought our government "presumed to represent the majority of people", and maybe you couldn't figure out why the Democratic majority in both the House and Senate have chosen not to "confront criminal elements or people who think they can live outside the law."

But Bush explained it all ... there's no such presumption! In other words, our government doesn't even pretend to represent the majority of people, and that's why impeachment is "off the table" -- because your vote is meaningless!

At least things are going well for our friends in Iraq:
Iraq's parliament called an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis, which has also brought a three-day curfew to Baghdad.

But just 54 MPs out of 275 managed to get inside the fortified Green Zone to attend the session, because it was under fresh bombardment from mortars and rockets.

Another Sure Sign That The Surge Has Worked

U.S. Armor[ed] Forces Join Offensive in Baghdad Against Sadr Militia: Americans Appear to Take the Lead as Iraqi Units Wait

By Sudarsan Raghavan and Sholnn Freeman | Washington Post Foreign Service | Friday, March 28, 2008
U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in the vast Shiite stronghold of Sadr City and military officials said Friday that U.S. aircraft bombed militant positions in the southern city of Basra, as the American role in a campaign against party-backed militias appeared to expand. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the Sadr City fighting, as American troops took the lead.

Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army's AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead.

The clashes suggested that American forces were being drawn more deeply into a broad offensive that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, launched in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, saying death squads, criminal gangs and rogue militias were the targets. The Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite rival of Maliki, appeared to have taken the brunt of the attacks; fighting spread to many southern cities and parts of Baghdad.

As President Bush told an Ohio audience that Iraq was returning to "normalcy," administration officials in Washington held meetings to assess what appeared to be a rapidly deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country.
The Washington Post has more, and there are something like 12,000 other news articles floating around -- all of which show that the surge has worked very well so far.

But none of them, to my knowledge, explains how we can tell for sure that the surge is a success. And -- let's make no mistake -- the surge is a success.

The analysis goes like this: if the violence decreases, that shows US troops are good for Iraq, withdrawing them would be a bad move, and if we do anything, we should probably send more.

On the other hand, if the violence increases, that shows Iraq is in danger, we definitely should send more troops, and withdrawing would be a very bad move.

And since the war is "long" -- in other words, since we're in it to fight, not to win -- then no matter what happens, we probably (or definitely) should send more troops, and bringing them home would be a bad (or very bad) idea. So the surge is a sure success.

And it had to be; it was designed that way. Sending more troops could only enlarge and extend the war, which was the whole point in the first place.

What did you think? The war in Iraq was about WMD?

Of course
the surge has worked. It couldn't not work!

O ye of little faith!!

Tom Toles: Method To My Madness

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Scrubbed: Lee Hamilton And The Unbearable Baggage Of Recent History

(UPDATED below)

Guest contributor Jerry Meldon has an interesting new piece at Bob Parry's site, Consortium News dot com. It's called "Dr. Hamilton and Mr. Hyde", and it's interesting in quite a number of ways.

The "Dr. Hamilton" of the title is Lee Hamilton [photo], whose name is well-known to students of 9/11 -- not all of whom may be familiar with much of his background. Dr. Hamilton's official biography is indeed a well-connected one; here's a sample:
Lee H. Hamilton is president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University. Hamilton represented Indiana’s 9th congressional district for 34 years beginning January 1965. He served as chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress.

Hamilton served as co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, a forward looking, bi-partisan assessment of the situation in Iraq, created at the urging of Congress. He served as Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission and co-chaired the 9/11 Public Discourse Project established to monitor implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. He is currently a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council, the FBI Director’s Advisory Board, the CIA Director’s Economic Intelligence Advisory Panel, the Defense Secretary’s National Security Study Group, and the US Department of Homeland Security Task Force on Preventing the Entry of Weapons of Mass Effect on American Soil.
The Wikipedia page on Dr. Hamilton contains a good deal of overlap but some interesting additional information:
Hamilton was elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat as part of the national Democratic landslide of 1964. He chaired many committees during his tenure in office, including the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Joint Committee on Printing, and others. As chair of the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, Hamilton chose not to investigate President Ronald Reagan or President George H. W. Bush, stating that he did not think it would be "good for the country" to put the public through another impeachment trial. He was one of the top choices to be running mate of Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Bill Clinton. It was specualated that Hamilton's chances were blocked by feminist organziations like National Organization for Women who didn't find Hamilton sufficantly pro-choice on abortion. He remained in Congress until 1999; at the time he was one of two surviving members of the large Democratic freshman class of 1965 (the other being John Conyers).

On March 15, 2006, Congress announced the formation of the Iraq Study Group, organized by the United States Institute of Peace, of which Hamilton is the Democratic co-chair, along with the former Secretary of State (under President George H.W. Bush) James A. Baker III. Hamilton, like Baker, is considered a master negotiator.

Since leaving Congress, Mr. Hamilton has served as a member of the Hart-Rudman Commission, and was co-chair of the Baker-Hamilton Commission to Investigate Certain Security Issues at Los Alamos. He sits on many advisory boards, including those to the CIA, the president's Homeland Security Advisory Council, and the United States Army. Hamilton is an Advisory Board member and Co-Chair for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy. He is currently the president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and was appointed to serve as the vice chair of the 9/11 Commission.
Jerry Meldon's piece fills in more of the background on Dr. Hamilton's decision, "as chair of the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran", "not to investigate President Ronald Reagan or President George H. W. Bush".

Dr. Hamilton's "justification" for his decision -- that he did not think it would be "good for the country" to put the public through another impeachment trial -- may or may not represent faulty judgment about what's "good for the country", but it undeniably puts one man's opinion -- his -- above the rule of law.

It's a neocon fascist act, thoroughly consistent with the acts of the neocon fascists with whom he cooperates today -- as "an Advisory Board member and Co-Chair for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy".

This means: As an alleged Democrat who supports neocon fascist policies, Lee Hamilton tries to make neocon fascist policies seem reasonable, and this fabricated support for the Republican agenda among the "Democrats" is then used to paint any opposition as "hyperpartisan" -- shrill, radical, and not serious.

In other words, the "Partnership for a Secure America" is one of many front groups set up to provide a veneer of legitimacy for the post-9/11 transformation of America, and Dr. Lee Hamilton, the "bipartisan Democrat", has been selected to give the "not-for-profit" group its Democratic "credibility".

As Jerry Meldon points out, Dr. Hamilton has a long history of enabling criminal abuse of the country by radical Republicans. Extensive excerpts from Meldon:
When former Rep. Lee Hamilton gives the keynote address – entitled “Iraq: Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond” – at a Tufts University symposium on March 27, he may be thankful if he doesn’t have to discuss “yesterday.”

He probably would prefer not to revisit fateful decisions he made while chairing investigations into Republican dirty work, especially those that let George H.W. Bush off the hook and cleared George W. Bush's path to the White House.

As veteran journalist Robert Parry has persuasively argued at, the Bush family name squeaked through the 80’s and early 90’s essentially mud-free, only because:

-- On Christmas Eve 1992, lame-duck President George H.W. Bush pardoned six of his earlier co-conspirators in the Iran-Contra affair (the Reagan-Bush White House’s diversion of profits from illegal arms sales to Iran to bankroll Nicaragua’s contra terrorists in defiance of a congressional ban). Until he was pardoned that day, former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger might have bought clemency by testifying against co-conspirator Bush.

-- After Bush left office on Jan. 20, 1993, President Bill Clinton (along with other senior Democrats, including Hamilton) cut short a congressional inquiry into Bush’s secret billion-dollar loans to Saddam Hussein and did nothing to help Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh penetrate the Iran-Contra cover-up.

-- Hamilton also soft-pedaled two key congressional inquiries. The first investigated the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and the second examined allegations that the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign team had struck a treasonous deal with the hostage-holding Iranian government while Jimmy Carter was still president.

Conventional wisdom has attributed the target-friendliness of those latter investigations to Mr. Hamilton's celebrated spirit of bipartisanship.

After all, what else could have persuaded Hamilton to narrow the scope of the Iran-Contra investigation in order to placate Dick Cheney and the rest of the committee's Republicans, if not his desire to appear bipartisan?

And how else to explain Hamilton’s ill-advised decision to join with the panel’s Republicans (in defiance of all but one other Democrat) and immunize the testimony of a man on whom it had the goods, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North (whose operations in the Old Executive Office Building had been exposed by reporter Parry in 1985-86)?
How much more criminal activity can we celebrate in the "spirit of bipartisanship"?

One may note here that much of Jerry Meldon's reporting depends on the excellent work done by Robert Parry in the 1980s and 1990s.

Parry has been very critical of Bill Clinton for not pursuing allegations of treason against his predecessor, George H. W. Bush, arguing that George W. Bush could never have been presented as a "serious" presidential candidate if the full extent of his father's criminal past had been well-known before the 2000 "election".

Jerry Meldon again:
North proceeded to cover up for then-Vice President Bush, and North was spared a felony record because his later criminal conviction was reversed because of his immunized testimony, which Hamilton had helped arrange.

Hamilton’s Iran-Contra performance was troubling. But he went several steps further when he chaired the October Surprise Task Force and handed the Reagan-Bush administration a deck full of get-out-of-jail-free cards.

In the lead-up to the 1980 election, Republicans feared that Jimmy Carter would pull off an "October Surprise" and talk the Iranians into releasing 52 American hostages. Carter's failure to do so led to Reagan’s landslide victory.

However, over the next several years, a parade of individuals alleged that Carter failed only because the Republicans had secretly agreed to arm Iran in exchange for a delay in the hostages’ release.

Heated Republican denials notwithstanding, the fact remained that the Iranians chose to end the hostages’ 444-day ordeal within hours of Reagan’s inauguration. To put the nasty rumors to rest more than a decade later, the House Foreign Affairs Committee formed a task force under the leadership of Henry Hyde, R-Illinois, and … Lee Hamilton.
How much do you know about this task force? How much do you remember?

Jerry Meldon continues:
The task force was charged with examining allegations that in the summer and fall of 1980 Republican heavyweights, notably the vice presidential candidate, former CIA director George H.W. Bush, and the campaign director, future CIA director William J. Casey, had secretly flown to Europe to strike the fateful deal.

The key issue was the veracity of Bush’s and Casey’s alibis.

In the heat of his 1992 re-election campaign, an angry President Bush accused the task force of waging a “witch hunt.” Obligingly, Hamilton and Hyde disclosed that partially redacted Secret Service records backed Bush's alibi, thus clearing him of suspicion.

However, Spencer Oliver, chief counsel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, objected, asking why key sections of those records were blacked out; why one crucial entry asserted a trip to a Maryland country club that Bush never took; and why the identity of a person who supposedly met with Bush was withheld from the task force.

Oliver charged that the Bush administration was stonewalling:

“They have sought to block, limit, restrict and discredit the investigation in every possible way … President Bush’s recent outbursts [about] his whereabouts in mid-October of 1980 are disingenuous at best since the administration has refused to make available the documents and the witnesses that could finally and conclusively clear Mr. Bush.”

Journalist Parry adds: “The Bush administration flatly refused to give any more information to the House task force unless it agreed never to interview [Mr. Bush's] alibi witness and never to release [that person’s] name. Amazingly, the task force accepted the administration’s terms.”

Hamilton’s treatment of Mr. Bush was outrageously deferential...
Do you hear any echoes from the past?

Does Barack Obama hear those echoes? His plea for unity in the face of diversity sounds very much like the "good for the country" story under which the crimes of Bush 41 were buried.

And some of us fear that Obama -- if elected -- would follow in the steps of Bill Clinton and Lee Hamilton and bury the crimes of the preceding administration. Is it unreasonable for us to fear such an outcome?

Bob Parry doesn't appear to be concerned in the least; his support for Obama is on the order of Hollywood PR, even though Obama seems set to do the very same thing Parry rips Bill Clinton for doing. Very strange.

There's more from Jerry Meldon and you should read it all. If you do, you'll learn nothing of what Lee Hamilton has done in the past 15 years. You'll also note a subtle, ironic flavor to Meldon's introduction ...
When former Rep. Lee Hamilton gives the keynote address – entitled “Iraq: Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond” – at a Tufts University symposium on March 27, he may be thankful if he doesn’t have to discuss “yesterday.”
... and his conclusion ...
on March 27 – as Mr. Hamilton participates in the Fares Center’s symposium, “The United States and the Middle East: What Comes Next After Iraq?” – the Tufts community will have the opportunity to ask Mr. Hamilton exactly why he has repeatedly kept Americans in the dark about critical episodes of their nation’s history in dealing with the Middle East.
Such a treatment -- implying that Dr. Hamilton may not want to talk about "yesterday" and hinting about his role in keeping "Americans in the dark about critical episodes of their nation’s history in dealing with the Middle East" -- may well be valid, but when such a treatment is applied to an article that doesn't mention anything that's happened since 1993, it's tough not to think of a word that rhymes with "aristocracy" and starts with the letter "H".

Why would an "independent investigative journalist" whose website does so much good work exposing America's hidden history be so reluctant to discuss America's recent hidden history?

Is there something controversial about the claim that Lee Hamilton was the co-chair of the 9/11 Commission?

Is there something controversial about the claim that the 9/11 Commission's report is unbelievable?

If so, we've got a problem, because one of the people making that claim is Lee Hamilton himself.

Why couldn't Jerry Meldon mention any of this? Why couldn't Robert Parry -- who wrote both an introduction to Meldon's article and a coda -- have mentioned any of this?

Did I miss a memo someplace? Are we not allowed to talk about anything that's happened in the last 15 years?

Or is this what the Consortium News masthead means where it says "Independent Investigative Journalism Since 1995"??

I think I'd better stay away from "independent investigative journalism", and just keep blogging!


UPDATE: Larisa Alexandrovna praises the Consortium News piece, and adds some important details (and lots of interesting links):
Hamilton is a long time friend of both former SecDef Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

Remember that some of the Iran Contra folks graduated to the Bush II administration. Among them and perhaps the most notorious, Elliott Abrams (the current number two National Security Adviser). It is also widely believed that those old Iran Contra channels resurfaced to help with the delivery of the Niger Forgeries and even the same arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, had back-channel meetings with his Washington Iran Contra contacts. See my articles on this:

Cheney has tapped Iranian expatriate, arms dealer to surveil discussions with Iran

Spurious attempt to tie Iran, Iraq to nuclear arms plot bypassed U.S. intelligence channels

Cheney and Rumsfeld Outsourcing Special Ops in Iraq to Terror Group (MEK)

American Who Advised Pentagon Says he Worked for Magazine that Found Niger Documents

Chalabi Involved in Key US-Iran Policy Making Discussions

Pentagon Confirms Iranian Directorate

Intelligence Laundry: To Paris Again

Conversations with Machiavelli's Ghost: Demystifying Intrigue (Second installment of Michael Ledeen interviews)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tom Toles: Risk And Reward

Obama's Lies Are Better! (And The Sniper Who Fired At Hillary And Chelsea In Bosnia Was Virtual)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday she made a mistake when she claimed she had come under sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia in 1996 while she was first lady.

In a speech in Washington and in several interviews last week Clinton described how she and her daughter, Chelsea, ran for cover under hostile fire shortly after her plane landed in Tuzla, Bosnia.

Several news outlets disputed the claim...
... and right away, too! -- not five years later (or never!), like they do when some people make "mistakes" ... and they found some video, which
... showed Clinton walking from the plane, accompanied by her daughter. They were greeted by a young girl in a small ceremony on the tarmac and there was no sign of tension or any danger.
... as expected.
"I did make a mistake in talking about it, you know, the last time and recently," Clinton told reporters in Pennsylvania where she was campaigning before the state's April 22 primary. She said she had a "different memory" about the landing.
She's delusionial.
"So I made a mistake. That happens. It proves I'm human, which, you know, for some people, is a revelation."
What is she implying? We used to think she was perfect? Or is she saying "I can't be a monster because monsters don't make mistakes"?

Then she tried to change the subject:
"This is really about what policy experience we have and who's ready to be commander in chief. And I'm happy to put my experience up against Senator Obama's any day."
Right. Exactly. Let's talk about experience: How many times has Senator Obama been shot at in Bosnia?

But that's not what this is really about. It's about who can tell the most convincing lies.

And Obama is winning!

Why? His lies are also contradicted by video evidence...

Watch Jeremiah Wright preaching for racial equality:

Now watch Hillary Clinton grouping (and implicitly equating) Jeremiah Wright with Don Imus -- who, as you may recall, got in trouble for doing exactly the opposite!

How's that for reality-reversal?

Now watch Jeremiah Wright preaching about America's role in the world:

Read what he said, and consider carefully how much of it is true and how much is false:
“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

“We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

“We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

“We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

“We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.

“We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.

“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

“Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”
What did Barack Obama say about all this?
... the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity ...
Here's the rub: Are the major TV networks and the other candidates going to tell the truth that discredits Obama? Are they going to dig up video of all the countries we have invaded and bombed and destroyed? Are they going to start talking about all the terrorism we have deliberately fomented? Are they going to talk about all the death squads we've set up? Are going to select juicy clips and play them every 15 minutes, all day and all night until we scream? Are they going to say:
Hold it! Obama lied, too!! Jeremiah Wright wasn't wrong after all! We have released a few chickens. Maybe they did come home to roost on 9/11!

Violence does beget violence! Of course it does -- how could it not? Hatred does beget hatred! And how can we deny that terrorism begets terrorism?
Are they going to say that? Are they going to say any of that? In other words: Are we serious here? Of course not.

Even independent investigative journalists wouldn't do something that.

Makes ya proud ta be a murkin, don' it?

War!! Hypocrisy!! US Attacks Iran: Global Community Must Respond (Suggested Response Included)

The long-rumored war between the United States and Iran has begun, but not with a radioactive bang, as some had feared. That can still come later, of course. "All options are on the table," as they say -- "they" being all the so-called "serious presidential candidates" and the statement itself being thinly veiled "diplomatic code" threatening a nuclear attack against the Iranians.

Rather than an attack with "bunker-busters", the first attack of the war was made with a "bank-buster", and it came in the form of a shot across the bow of the global banking system. The hypocrisy couldn't be clearer, not that this will matter much to the Iranian victims -- unless the truth suddenly becomes as important to the world's bankers as it is to some of the world's bloggers.

The first alleged casus belli against Iran was supposed to be its purported pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Iranian leadership has renounced any desire to obtain such weapons; the international governing body, IAEA, has inspected Iran repeatedly without finding anything resembling a program designed to develop nuclear arms, and technically sound experts such as Scott Ritter scoff at the notion that Iran is even close to developing any nuclear capability.

There's irony in the American threat to use nuclear weapons against Iran, supposedly in order to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons itself. If the subject matter were any lighter; if there were not literally millions of lives at stake immediately, and many more thereafter; the irony would almost be funny.

But it's not. It is an affront to any sensibility not tainted by "American exceptionalism": the widespread American belief that the United States is uniquely blessed with democracy and liberty and therefore has the right to dictate the foreign and domestic policies of every other country on Earth -- at the point of a weapon if feasible. In other words, everyone save Americans -- and only those blinded by the propaganda barrage -- can see that this line of "reasoning" is bogus.

But that's just the beginning. Now, apparently because of the American failure to create a credible nuke-related casus belli, they've turned to a new game -- charging Iran with laundering money, supporting terrorism, and committing financial crimes detrimental to the world's financial community.

Using little-known provisions in the "USA PATRIOT Act", the exceptional Americans are cracking down on Iran for doing what comes naturally to the Bush administration: money-laundering, supporting terrorism, and endangering the global economy.

The "PATRIOT Act" itself is exceptional: it was passed by a Congress that hadn't read it and signed by a "President" who had never been legitimately elected; it strips Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms from American citizens and at the same time it purports to give the American administration control of global systems; it's an enormous piece of legislation amending hundreds of laws which was presented to the House only a month after the attacks of September 11, 2001 -- supposedly in response to those attacks and supposedly in order to prevent future attacks.

The problem, of course, is that the attacks of September 11 were never properly investigated; the sham investigation initiated by the White House didn't even get started until a year after the "PATRIOT Act" was made law; thus there was no way for the drafters of the "PATRIOT Act" to know what changes in legal and security structures would have been needed for the United States to prevent future attacks of the kind -- assuming, of course, that the United States National Security apparatus was not already fully prepared to prevent the attacks of 9/11, and for some reason chose not to do so.

The final assumption appears to be completely unjustified, but even if it were true, the "PATRIOT Act" would still be an abomination. So it's only fitting, in an Orwellian kind of way, that it would be used to start a war of aggression against a peaceful country that has never threatened the United States.

The accusations against Iran may be true, in part. It appears that Iranian banks have altered records to obscure some transactions. And Iranians have been accused of funding terrorism in the Middle East and of providing weapons for use against the Americans in Iraq. No credible evidence has ever been presented to support the weapons charge, but for the sake of the current analysis let's pretend it's a valid allegation. Let's just add up the charges, put them in context, and see what we've got.

A couple of Iranian banks were caught pulling a couple of shifty stunts. Does anything like that ever happen with American banks? Tell the truth, now.

The American intelligence services operate with black budgets in the multi-billion dollar-a-year range; they ship and sell weapons and drugs all over the world to generate even more billions (not to mention assisting the twin scourges of murder and drug addiction); Americans shipped pallets of hundred-dollar bills to Iraq which then simply disappeared; the list of money-laundering crimes goes on and on, and the financial crime not only tolerated but in fact perpetrated by official US government agencies runs in the hundred-billion dollar-a-year range; and the US has the gall to accuse the Iranians of laundering money. Nice.

Did Iranians send weapons to Iraq to be used against the Americans? Have Americans ever sent weapons to Iraq to be used against the Iraqis? Tell the truth again. Have they sent men to fire those weapons? Let's tell the whole truth: They're using radioactive ammunition, too.

The Americans have openly spent hundreds of billions of dollars every year for the past five years to fund their attack on a defenseless nation which had not threatened them. They have shipped more than a million men and women to fight there, at least 4,000 of whom have died in Iraq. Countless others have been wounded, physically or mentally or both. And that's just the American side of the damage sheet. On the Iraqi side it's much worse -- as usual when American troops destroy a foreign country. Tell the truth; it's good for all of us.

How many countries has the United States done this to? Count invasion and occupation; count bombing and inciting terrorism; count starting civil wars and setting up death squads; count covert subversion and overt sabotage of democratic processes; count Vietnam and Guatemala and Chile and Somalia and Grenada and Haiti and Iran and ... oops! did I just mention Iran? Strike that. Trust me: it's the Iranians who are to be feared for inciting terrorism. Just ask George Bush.

Are the Iranian banks to be feared for jeopardizing the global financial system? Again you can ask the Americans, but don't mention Enron or BCCI or (fill in the blank here _____) or any of the other tips of corrupt American financial icebergs that have been floating around sinking unsuspecting voyagers on the rough waters of national and international finance. Why? Just because, that's why!!

Because is the key word in all this; because the Americans claim to control the global financial system; because the Americans accuse the Iranians of certain crimes against that system; because Americans are exceptional and can never be held to account for obvious and egregious crimes against humanity; because of all these factors the allegations against a few Iranian banks have been spun into a threat against all Iranian banks -- and all banks which deal with Iranian banks!

The threat goes like this: the allegedly offending Iranian banks are to be isolated; all banks which do business in Iran are to be treated likewise; all banks which do business with any Iranian bank likewise as well. It's an international quarantine on Iranian banking interests, based on allegedly anti-terrorism provisions of the "PATRIOT Act". The inevitable result will be widespread poverty in Iran. The obvious intent is provoke the Iranian government into doing something that could be used as a casus belli -- a "case for war".

Two drippingly ironic facts are hidden in all this maneuvering.

First, the United States has no international legal right to quarantine Iran as it is doing -- with heavy-handed blackmail and threats of "cooperate with us or you'll be next". No nation or national bank wants to be seen as cooperating with terrorism -- and yet, in their efforts to eschew "terrorists" and cooperate with the Americans -- this is exactly what they're doing.

Secondly, by invoking these financial threats -- threats which could lead to genocidal economic blockade -- the Americans have provided the Iranians with a casus belli of their own, to be used against the United States. But Iran doesn't want war; so it doesn't need a casus belli. What it needs -- what is always needed when a schoolyard bully starts picking on a little kid -- is strength in numbers among the potential victims.

The "schoolyard bully" analogy may not be particularly apt in the context of international relations; but then again in this case it might be just perfect.

To everybody except the exceptional Americans, there appears to be one rogue state in the world. Its dubious public pronouncements are willingly swallowed by an increasingly centralized "news" media and broadcast to gullible idiots everywhere; the result is death and destruction on a scale and of a type heretofore unknown in the history of human conflict.

The residue of depleted uranium munitions will render a large chunk of the Middle East unfit for human habitation forever -- and the radioactive debris is spreading, slowly and inexorably, to the rest of the world.

But Iran is a threat! Iran must suffer sanctions! Iran must be isolated and punished! It's unbelievable -- or not -- depending on how low you think the Bush administration will stoop. (Here's a helpful hint: there's no limit!)

If the depleted uranium alone isn't enough to make the nations of the world band together against the schoolyard bully; if the Bush doctrine -- preemptive war, anywhere, anytime, based on the flimsiest lies -- is not enough; if the countries of the world are not drawn together by the enshrinement of torture and indefinite confinement as national norms in a country known (rightly or not) as a world leader for human rights; perhaps this overt act of war against Iran can provide the impetus. After all, the "justifications" used by the Americans also apply -- in every case and with overwhelming force -- to crimes committed by the Americans themselves.

Therefore, in my view, it is time for an alliance of all the life-affirming countries of the world -- an Axis Against Evil that could be based on a document as simple as the following:
WHEREAS the American use of radioactive ammunition in Iraq and Afghanistan poses an existential risk to humanity and all other forms of life all over the world,

WHEREAS the United States has nuclear weapons, has used them, and has threatened to use them again, while Iran has no nuclear weapons and no plans to develop any such weapons,

WHEREAS the United States of America has a long history of terrorism and fomenting terrorism,

WHEREAS covert agencies of the United States government regularly launder billions of dollars a year,

WHEREAS American banks are currently -- as always -- a grave threat to the global financial system,

WHEREAS America is currently and obviously guilty of all the crimes of which Iran is accused, and many more, on an unimaginably greater scale,

WHEREAS the American administration is now threatening Iran with economic destruction, allegedly to further the prevention of terrorism,

WHEREAS the blackmail tactics used by the United States in attempting to isolate Iran are reprehensible and typical, and constitute a form of terrorism in and of themselves,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that from this day forward and until all said issues are resolved to our satisfaction, we shall do NO BUSINESS with any American Business and NO BANKING with any American Bank, nor shall we enter into any transaction with any Bank or Business doing Business with any American Business or Banking at any American Bank; and we will do our coercive best to make sure that all Banks and Businesses within our jurisdiction do the very same.


[your name]


[your country]


[your position; circle one]

(King) (Queen)
(President) (Prime Minister)
(Prince) (Princess)
(Grand Poobah) (Petite Poobah)
It sounds like a crazy idea, but if we get two or three dozen of the right signatures, the American imperial project is finished.

Otherwise we are.


NOTES: My main computer has been down for the past several hours; I wrote this post on a machine that is not much more than a typewriter. It's a lovely discipline, for sure, but the piece is not as well-annotated as usual, nor does it quote any sources. Therefore:

[1] If you didn't click the links above, please do so now:

John McGlynn: The March 20, 2008 US Declaration of War on Iran

Chris Floyd: Worried Just a Bit? Bush Launches Economic 'Shock and Awe' on Iran

[2] If you are a world leader, you are invited to sign the declaration above. Otherwise, please bring it to the attention of your leader(s).