Friday, February 28, 2003
Thursday, February 27, 2003
- The NATO bombing attacks on Serbia unfortunately put an end to the idea that sovereign countries were not to be attacked unless they represented a real danger to another country. The war philosophers managed to convince themselves that it would be a swell thing to use military force to instal a version of American democracy wherever they could get one to fit. The sad fact is that even the smartest bombs have never improved anyone's life. This sort of 'humanitarian' war has never worked before (look at the mess that Serbia is in) and it should be clear that war is simply too blunt a weapon to improve the lot of its victims.
- We have to see the 'moral argument' in the context of the American triumphalism that was still believable in the 1990's. American propagandists had pronounced that it was the end of history, that the Hegelian mind had worked out all its problems with a synthesis that turned out to be exactly the government and life of Americans living in the 1990's [insert your own ironic comment here]. No further progress to human life or politics was felt to be possible. For our current standpoint this belief seems profoundly misguided and naive, but it was the common currency of think-tanks and neo-cons at the time (I wonder if Francis Fukuyama walks around with a brown paper bag over his head now?). It was thus a short step to forced evangelical conversion of those benighted people who suffered under a regime that wasn't sufficiently like the one enjoyed by Americans. In these days of unelected leaders and the fascist security state and the probable destruction of the U. S. economy through a mixture of incompetence and greed, it is difficult to see how anyone would want to be blessed with the American system. The idea that your own beliefs and mores are the best of all possible beliefs and mores, and that you have the right to force them on others, is the most profound kind of colonialism, and lies deeply beneath the assumptions of the 'moral argument'.
- Of course, dropping tons of bombs on urban areas from a great height tends to cause a few problems on the ground. The deaths and injuries are thought to be unfortunate, but a necessary sacrifice for the dubious benefits of Americanization. It is not moral to treat the lives of human beings as a means to achieve benefits for others (that is the main precept of Kantian morality). How would we feel about killing healthy people so that we can harvest their organs to help other people? How do we feel about killing innocent Iraqis so that other Iraqis might have a chance at a better life? The American technique of bombing is called 'shock and awe'. How does Tony Blair find morality in dropping hundreds of bombs a day on an urban area? Even if you somehow accepted the idea that killing thousands or tens of thousands or even more people was somehow 'just' if it could lead to a better life for others, the onus is on the warmongers to prove that the same goal could not be accomplished by another means, a goal they have not even attempted to meet.
- A confidential UN document predicts that 30 percent of children under 5 in Iraq, or 1.26 million, "would be at risk of death from malnutrition" in the event of this war. UN relief agencies have actually started a program to 'beef up' Iraqi babies in order to give them a better chance to survive the war. What kind of a monster must Tony Blair be to think he can toy with lives like this?
- There is a rather obvious hypocrisy in the 'moral argument', in that it tends to be selectively applied. Noam Chomsky has made a career about pointing out the inconsistencies in American foreign policy, where the most vile of dictators (including, ironically, Saddam in the 1980's) are supported if there is an American geopolitical reason to keep the dictator in power. When there is a perceived need to remove him, suddenly the American government and press are filled with stories that the dictator is a terrible abuser of human rights. Saddam was doing the same things for years and years with nary a peep out of Tony Blair or any of the other warmongers. The bad faith has happened so often that it is not possible to accept the positions of the American government as anything more than propaganda. Many have noted that the worst human rights abuser in the area is none other than U. S. ally Israel. The Israelis are killing 30 to 40 Palestinians a week now by making incursions on land thay have no right to be on. The Israelis have nuclear weapons of mass destruction they have no right to have. Why not regime change there?
- There are numerous awful regimes in the world. Is Tony Blair ready to commit the British military to fight to fix all of them up to Tony Blair's moral standards? If not, why is Iraq so lucky?
- There is the famous joke about the man who kills his parents and then looks for leniency at his murder trial because he is an orphan. Tony Blair has made lots of arguments based on the suffering of the Iraqis, not mentioning that a great deal of this suffering is caused directly by the bombs dropped by American and British planes on the no-fly zones, and on the unreasonably stringent way the sanctions are being administered (see this outstanding article on how the Americans and British have repeatedly interpreted rules of the sanctions to prevent humanitarian relief to civilians and thus to cause unnecessary suffering on the Iraqi people). For Tony Blair to base his argument for war based on this suffering makes him exactly like the orphan.
- One of the main arguments used by the Americans was the terrible plight of the Kurds under Saddam. Indeed, the northern no-fly zone was supposedly established to protect the Kurds from the attacks from Saddam (actually, its real purpose seems to be to keep Iraqi oil production down to artificially keep the price of oil high) . It now appears, at the first instance of complaint from Turkey, that the Americans are prepared to completely abandon the Kurds. The best solution for the Kurds would be to have their own state. The most practical solution would be to have their own province within a loose Iraqi federal state. Thanks to American appeasement of the Kurds, they are likely to be left in some permanent state of war or Turkish occupation. The irony is that the Kurds are now closer to having a country than they have ever been (actually two countries, as the Kurds also fight amongst themselves). In fact, with world recognition, they could have a full-fledged country now (presumably such recognition isn't forthcoming because of Turkish opposition). In the case of the Kurds, the hypocrisy of the 'moral argument' is completely clear.
- Another aspect of the 'moral argument' is that the Anglo-American war will restore sovereignty to the people of Iraq. The government in exile was set up to take power once the troops had removed Saddam. Well, that was the stated plan. Now it appears that Iraq will be run by a permanent pasha, an American general. Iraqis won't even get the dubious benefits of American democracy (will they get an Electoral College, President selected by a corrupt Supreme Court, and crooked voting machines?).
- Iraq was cobbled together specifically to make it ungovernable except by a dictator who would take direction from the colonial power. As is the case in many other states in the area, the dictator was hand-picked (in this case, with CIA assistance) to be from a minority group so that he could only govern with the violent assistance of the colonial powers. It is not an accident that there are similar dictatorships of minority groups in the area. While much is now made of the evils of Saddam, he is not noticeably more violent against his own people than, say, the Saudis are against their own people. In fact, Saddam's main failing from an American point of view was that he was a secular socialist who distributed a much higher proportion of his country's wealth to the people than many other states in the region. This beneficence largely ended when he squandered Iraq's position in two wars, the first of which, against Iran, he waged with the active support of the Americans, and the second of which, against Kuwait, he started only after being tricked by the placid response of the American ambassador when he told her of his plans. The problems of Iraq and Libya were that they were a bad example for other countries in the area and represented a threat to U. S. oil interests, and thus both had to be repressed. The current sad state of Iraq is a direct result of these colonialist games, and the United States and Britain are largely to blame. Their attempts to 'fix' the problem of Saddam are just more colonialist games hidden under this 'moral argument'.
- The same problems of how the various Arab states were constructed means that there is going to be a huge civil war between Kurds, Sunnis and Shi'ites after Saddam is removed. Can we count on the United States and Britain to stop the bloodshed that will be caused by this civil war? Of course not!
- What exactly happened between the 1980's, when the United States and Britain were happy to support Saddam and sell him the implements with which he attacked his neighbors, and now? If the 'moral argument' didn't apply then, how does it apply now? The 'moral argument' gets particularly overworked when we consider the connections of the Americans (including members of the current Bush Administration) and British using BCCI to illegally arm Saddam.
- Remember Afghanistan? Well, the Bush junta doesn't. The Americans had promised all kinds of money as part of their 'humanitarian' mission to save the Afghans from the evil Taliban. When they made up their budget they 'forgot' to include any money to rebuild Afghanistan, and the money had to be added by the U. S. Congress. Afghanistan has been left a disaster, at least as badly off as it was before. What do you think are the chances that Iraq will receive any assistance in reconstruction after the damage caused by the Anglo-American attacks? Afghanistan, needless to say, will be deeply forgotten once the U. S. has to run Iraq, and will therefore be another indirect victim of this war. How many times do the Americans have to lie before people notice that they always lie? The military operations of the United States in the last thirty years have always resulted in disasters for their victims. Why is this going to change now?
- We know that this dirty war is going to be justly seen by Muslims around the world as a crusade against Islam. It will thus be the inspiration for more terrorists and the direct cause of innumerable acts of terror causing much more suffering. This terror will lead to governments further restricting the freedom of their citizens (and will lead the Americans further down the path to the complete '1984' fascist security state). It may very well cause massive civil wars in various countries including Pakistan (it might even lead to a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, especially if it causes a massive increase in terrorist attacks against India), the Philippines, Indonesia and all the states in the Middle East. How can people like Tony Blair be blind to this massive risk of apocalyptic destruction and loss of freedom?
- Apart from everything else, this war is going to destroy much of the authority of the United Nations and international law. The United Nations was established to allow for an international mechanism to avoid war. Now, the Bush Administration is explicitly threatening that it will remove all authority from the United Nations if it does not rubber-stamp his war, a war that breaches all rules of international law. In other words, Bush is threatening the effective end of the United Nations unless it goes against all the principles for which it was established. He is simultaneously threatening to destroy the international understanding that comprises international law that is the result of hundreds of years of rational thought on war. How can anyone see this as moral?
The 'moral argument' is immoral. Tony Blair has the nerve to use it in support of a war which is completely illegal under international law (it would have been considered to be an unjust war 2000 years ago by St. Augustine). We know that there are many reasons for this war, and not one of them is moral. Tony Blair is obviously a moral cretin, so I don't expect much from him. Why do other people who care about the issue give support to this vile 'moral argument' by pretending to consider that it might have some validity?
Monday, February 24, 2003
- I've described much of the strange story of Ali Mohamed before. The oddest parts are the radical transitions back and forth. While in the Egyptian Army he took an officer training course for Green Berets at Fort Bragg in 1981 (similar to the type of training that some of the 9-11 terrorists appear to have had, and it is difficult not to see this type of training as an opportunity for recruitment). He was forced out of the Egyptian Army for being too much of an Islamic fundamentalist (he was in the army unit that later killed Anwar Sadat). When he was out of the Egyptian Army he approached the CIA about working for them, but was rejected by the CIA after about a month of contact on the basis that he was 'unreliable'. The CIA was so disturbed about him that they had him put on the State Department watch list (sound familiar?), and warned other U.S. government agencies about Mohamed and urged them to detain him if possible. Despite this, a year later he obtained a visa to come to the United States (sound familiar?). He flew to the U. S., married an American woman he met on the plane (!), joined the U. S. army at a relatively late age, and worked his way up to Sergeant (he received a level "secret" security clearance). So a major in the Egyptian army unit that killed President Anwar Sadat was given a visa to come to the U.S., was accepted into the U. S. Army, and worked his way up to Sergeant. He made no secret of the fact that he was a fanatical Islamic extremist. In the late 80's he started to disappear from the United States, and it was commonly thought by those who know him that he was assisting the CIA in their use of the mujahedeen in fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. He actually made a completely unauthorized and illegal trip to Afghanistan, it being illegal for an active-duty U.S. soldier to fight in a foreign war, returning with a trophy belt from a Russian he claimed to have killed. His superior wrote him up and expected him to be disciplined, but nothing happened (this situation where someone does what would always result in punishment but no punishment occurs is highly suspicious, and indicates that his 'unauthorized' activities were actually authorized). When he officially left the Army, he continued to go to Afghanistan, and again his friends assumed he continued to work for Army intelligence.
- In 1989, the U.S. Army sent Ali Mohamed to Jersey City to provide training for mujahedeen recruits, including El Sayyid Nosair, the man who killed Rabbi Meir Kahane in November 1990, and Mahmud Abouhalima, later to be a convicted World Trade Center bomber (although the Official Story now seems to be that Mohamed was sneaking off to do this training, it is more likely that it was an authorized part of his training potential mujahedeen recruits). At a trial in 1995, it was revealed that Special Forces documents Ali Mohamed had stolen turned up in the possession of Nosair (actually, they found the documents in investigating the Kahane assassination, but only connected them to Mohamed after the first World Trade Center bombing). Despite this, nothing was done to him at the time (leading me to wonder whether they were really 'stolen', or just removed as part of an authorized training operation).
- Ali Mohamed had joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, while he was still in the Egyptian Army. Ayman al-Zawahiri made at least one, and probably two, 'fundraising' tours of the United States in the 1990's (one in the early 90's and one in late 1994). This is particularly odd as he is now best known as the second-in-command of al-Qaeda and bin Laden's right-hand man, and had been known as a terrorist since the early 1980's, having spent three years in jail in Egypt for his association with those involved in the assassination of Sadat. What's even odder is that his tour guide for his trips to America was none other than Ali Mohamed!
- Ayman al-Zawahiri is reported to have been in Albania participating in the KLA offensive against
Serbia. He had been tried in absentia in Egypt for terrorist acts, but still managed to get out of Albania and to Afghanistan (indeed, it is possible that the embassy bombings were a response to the CIA-led campaign to capture the fundamentalists in exile in Albania and ship them to Egypt for trial). A man called Abu Mohamed al-Amriki ('Mohamed the American') had supposedly acted as a go-between between al-Zawahiri and the CIA, and had asked the CIA for $50 million early in the 1990's to stage a coup in Egypt, with the assurance that the United States would not interfere with an Islamicist takeover of Egypt, and allegedly proposed a modus vivendi between U.S. forces and the Islamicists in the Balkans. Abu Mohamed al-Amriki is almost certainly Ali Mohamed:
- it makes sense that someone named Mohamed who came from the United States would be known as 'Mohamed the American', and the description of the man exactly matches what we know of Mohamed
- we know that Mohamed assisted al-Zawahiri in his visit to the United States
- Ali Mohamed was originally from Egypt, and had to leave the Egyptian Army because of his radical Muslim views
- Ali Mohamed was in the American Army, lectured Special Forces, and worked for the Americans in Afghanistan in their operation against the Russians using the mujahedeen, a CIA-led operation
- A Wall Street Journal article actually says that Ali Mohamed was known as 'Abu Mohamed al Amriki', and there was testimony to this effect at the embassy bombing trial.
- Ali Mohamed worked smuggling illegal aliens into the United States from Vancouver. At the same time, he was acting as an FBI informant, reporting on the illegal smuggling of aliens into the United States! In 1993, he was the first man to inform the FBI of an organization called 'al-Qaeda'. In the same year, he got out of detention in Vancouver by having an FBI agent vouch for him when he was caught after a bin Laden aide was arrested trying to enter the United States with Mohamed's driver's license and a false passport (from this incident I think we can conclude that there is an understanding between the RCMP and the FBI that some alien smuggling has U. S. government authorization). He told the RCMP he hoped the incident wouldn't hurt his chances of getting a job as an FBI interpreter. Actually, his whole life seems to have been lived with the same insouciance towards authority that we've also seen in some of the September 11 hijackers:
- while in the Egyptian Army he joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad
- while on a U. S. State Department 'watch list', he managed to obtain a visa to come to the United States
- his military personnel files shows that he underwent a curiously incomplete Army background check in 1987
- while in the U. S. Army, in 1988, he went off on an unauthorized trip to fight in a foreign war, came back to boast about it, was written up by his superior, but received no punishment
- while in the U. S. Army he was training Islamic fundamentalists in New Jersey (also while in the Army, he received at least two U.S. Army medals and a commendation for "patriotism")
- he stole written materials from Fort Bragg, materials which were found in the possession of a man who was the assassin of Rabbi Kahane and an associate of a later convicted World Trade Center bomber, but received no punishment for providing these materials to terrorists
- he was detained in Canada in 1993 for smuggling an illegal alien but told the RCMP to phone a contact with the FBI, and was released after this call
- also in 1993, he told the FBI that he had trained bin Laden followers in intelligence and anti-hijacking techniques in Afghanistan
- he was named on a list of 118 potential unindicted co-conspirators in the 1994 and 1995 World Trade Center bombing trials
- in January 1995, he applied for a U. S. government security clearance so he could work as a security guard at a defense contractor, and claimed in three interviews with Defense Department officials, who conducted a background check on him, that he had never been a terrorist
- in 1997, he told FBI agents that he had trained bin Laden's bodyguards, and claimed he loved bin Laden and believed in him
- in August 1998, after the embassy bombings, he told the FBI that he knew who did it, but refused to provide the names, and still nothing was done to him!
- he was finally arrested two weeks later, only after he lied to a U.S. grand jury investigating the bombings.
- The reason Ali Mohamed is in jail is his involvement in the embassy bombings. He is supposed to have trained the bombers and scouted the embassy in Nairobi on their behalf (I note that there is some debate over whether this was an al-Qaeda operation). What is interesting about this is the complete incompetence of the scouting and the bombing. The Dar es Salaam embassy was the former embassy of Israel, and was built like a bunker in anticipation of some sort of bomb attack. It was so well constructed that only 11 people died in the bomb attack, none of them Americans. In the case of the Nairobi bombing, the bombers drove up to the front entrance of the embassy, as it was the front of the embassy that was the most vulnerable. Unfortunately for the bombers, the guard stationed at the front gate wouldn't let them through, and they had to drive around to the back of the building to set off the explosion (in fact, they were prevented by a guard at the back from entering the underground parking garage). The explosion still did a massive amount of damage, and killed many people, but only 12 Americans. An attack on the front of the embassy would have killed many more. In both cases, the scouting was completely incompetent. Ali Mohamed should have been able to tell the bombers that the Dar es Salaam embassy was a terrible target, and that there was no way to attack the front of the Nairobi embassy. Since Ali Mohamed was very competent in everything else he did, we have to wonder whether his incompetent scouting of the two embassies was intentional.
- L'Houssaine Khertchou testified that al-Qaeda leader Mohamed Atef refused to let Ali Mohamed know what name and passport he was traveling under as he was afraid that Ali Mohamed was working for the United States or other governments.
- Although he was a Muslim, at least L'Houssaine Khertchou did not regard him as a good practitioner of Islam. It is decidedly odd that an Islamic fundamentalist would not be devout (of course, we know that Mohamed Atta also was not a good Muslim).
- Even the trial of Ali Mohamed was weird. He entered into a plea bargain whereby he would agree to give the U. S. investigators information and would agree to make a statement on his role in the terrorism, and in return would get 25 years. Everything went smoothly until the judge was about to pass sentence in accordance with the plea bargain. At that point the defense objected to the sentencing, and the judge in fact never specified the length of the potential prison term (the page of the transcript where this is discussed - page 17 - is under seal!). What kind of a plea bargain is that? Even odder perhaps is the fact that he had been expected to testify at the trial of his fellow terrorists but did not, and that his plea bargain and many of the court documents and much of the testimony was sealed.
Just about any of the odd facts about Ali Mohamed would give one pause, but the cumulative total of them is unbelievable. When all this is topped off by the extraordinary way his court case was treated, it becomes impossible not to see Ali Mohamed as a U. S. Army intelligence agent. If he was a U. S. Army intelligence agent, and was protected by the U. S. government even after his participation in terrorist activities, he proves that it is possible to simultaneously be a U. S. agent and a member of al-Qaeda. This is the model I've been trying to build for Mohamed Atta.
Sunday, February 23, 2003
- The American forces were ordered to provide a corridor of escape where there was to be no firing on air transport from that area of Afghanistan to Pakistan.
- The order to allow for the corridor came from at least as high as Donald Rumsfeld.
- The stated rationale for the order was to allow for the evacuation of Pakistani military intelligence (the ISI), including some generals, who were trapped with the al-Qaeda fighters.
- Musharraf personally requested that the evacuation be allowed to avoid the huge political problems he would have had from the Pakistani fundamentalists should a group of Pakistani military be captured by the Americans.
- The escape route was supposed to allow for only the evacuation of the Pakistani military, but the Americans lost control of the evacuation and the Pakistanis also managed to evacuate the trapped al-Qaeda members.
There are also some interesting comments on Pakistan's role in nuclear proliferation, and even another shot at the Saudis, but I will focus on questions about the evacuation story:
- It doesn't surprise me that there were ISI agents with the Afghan fighters. The ISI set up the Taliban using CIA-supplied money and arms, and the Taliban remained an ISI project until the end. The issue that remains unresolved is the current relationship between the ISI and the CIA. American propagandists would have it that this once close relationship has grown somewhat frosty due to the influence of Islamic fundamentalists within the ISI. Indeed, the idea that Musharraf was influenced by fear of these fundamentalists within the ISI forms the basis for the creation of the escape corridor. I have trouble with this. While there may be fundamentalists in the lower ranks of the ISI, intelligence agencies always end up being run by, and on behalf of the class interests of, the elites in a society. The Pakistani elites are not Islamic fundamentalists. U. S. Deputy Secretary of State Dick Armitage is connected to the CIA and is also very close to the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies. The head of the ISI was actually meeting in Washington during the week of September 11, 2001, and met with Armitage on the 12th and 13th. The ISI remains very close to the CIA and attempts to create the illusion of distance between them are disinformation. Their current big project together is the management of the poppy production in Afghanistan, an operation which must bring back nostalgic memories of their joint campaign to use drug addiction as a weapon against the Russian troops in Afghanistan.
- Given that there were ISI agents mixed in with the Afghans, why couldn't the Americans have detained everybody and quietly allowed the Pakistanis to leave? In other words, the main rationale for the escape corridor, to allow the Pakistanis to avoid the embarrassment of having their intelligence agents arrested by the Americans, doesn't make sense.
- Just how serious are the Americans about fighting al-Qaeda? After all, the fight against al-Qaeda was the sole justification for the attack on Afghanistan, and is forming one of the tenuous grounds for the attack to steal Iraq's oil. If the Americans managed to trap thousands of al-Qaeda members, all of them potential terrorists, could they not have found some way to detain them? Even extreme embarrassment to Musharraf would be worth it to keep these people out of circulation.
- The Americans had to have known that they would not be able to stop the evacuation of the al-Qaeda members. There was no way they could have 'lost control' of the evacuation, as they never had control to lose. In fact, Hersh's earlier article on the incident quotes a CIA analyst who says that they were supposed to have access to the Taliban leaders who were smuggled out, access which the CIA never in fact received. If they were supposed to get access, they had to have known that these people were going to be airlifted out.
- This was not the only incident where fleeing al-Qaeda members were trapped by the American military and mysteriously allowed to escape. Near Logar, an al-Qaeda convoy of at least 1,000 cars and trucks, which may have included Ayman al-Zawahiri, supposed second-in-command of al-Qaeda, was allowed to escape. There is no Pakistani intelligence excuse for this.
I feel that Hersh is one of the best reporters around, but he has to protect his continued access to his sources by putting a bit of spin on the reporting. Nothing stops us from reading between the lines. The excuse that Rumsfeld authorized the corridor at the request of Musharraf is very flimsy. If al-Qaeda members escaped, it can only be because that escape was thought by Rumsfeld to be in the interests of the cabal which runs the United States.
Friday, February 21, 2003
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
"CIA Director George J. Tenet, meanwhile, faced a storm of criticism from Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee who charged that the administration has sabotaged the U.N. weapons inspections by not fully cooperating with the United Nations. They also accused Tenet of misleading them about the intelligence on Iraqi weapons that the CIA had turned over to the inspections teams."On Tuesday, February 11, Tenet had told the Senate intelligence committee that the CIA "had given U.N. inspectors all the information it had on weapons sites of 'high' and 'moderate' interest, meaning those sites that are likely to contain weapons or remnants of weapons." On Thursday, February 13, Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee that there are "one handful of sites which may not have been known" to the U.N. inspectors. In other words, the United States bases its attacks on the inspection process on the basis that it is doomed to fail, claims that it is providing all the information it has to assist the inspectors, and now has admitted that it has lied and is holding back information. Sen. Carl Levin referred to classified letters from the CIA dated January 24 and 28 in which the CIA said it had not shared information about what he characterized as "a large number of sites of significant value". It is impossible to overstate the significance of this. The American position is that a rigorous system of inspections cannot disarm Iraq sufficiently for Iraq to be in compliance with UN Resolution 1441, and that therefore war is necessary, but has now admitted that the CIA has held information back from the inspectors (and has lied in stating that it has not held back such information). How can the Americans know that the inspection process won't work if they are tying the hands of the inspectors by holding back information? The inspection process can only operate if the inspectors are in a position to cross-examine Iraqi officials using information that the officials don't know the inspectors have. It is only if the Iraqis are aware that their attempts at deceiving the inspectors may reveal that they have failed to comply with the UN Resolution that they will be forced to make full disclosure. It is abundantly clear that the United States is doing everything in its power to sabotage the inspection process so that it may use its allegations that the process has failed to call for war.
- Powell announced on Tuesday February 11 before the Senate Budget Committee that the tape would play on al-Jazeera later that day. This was before the station said that it had the tape. Al-Jazeera in fact dismissed Powell's assertion as a rumor, a rumor that in fact had been circulating for several weeks. Al-Jazeera chief editor Ibrahim Hilal told The Associated Press that al-Jazeera had no such tape.
- On Tuesday night, hours after Powell had read a transcript of the tape at the hearing, Ibrahim Hilal told The Associated Press that al-Jazeera had just received an audio tape with bin Laden's voice.
- The explanation for this is that there was a secret arrangement whereby al-Jazeera gave the audiotape to the Qatari government, which in turn gave it to the U.S. government (al-Jazeera is said to usually receive bin Laden tapes by mail). This was said to be in accordance with an arrangement between Qatar and the United States. Presumably the Official Story is that the U. S. government received the tape from Qatar, then prepared the transcript that Powell read, and Powell was able to announce that al-Jazeera would broadcast the tape later in the day.
- The problem with the explanation is that al-Jazeera had no knowledge of the tape on Tuesday afternoon, and in fact dismissed Powell's assertion as a rumor. Therefore, it is impossible that al-Jazeera could have given the tape to the Qatari government. The tape only arrived at al-Jazeera on Tuesday night. As well, Mohammad Jassem al-Ali, Al-Jazeera's general manager, denied that his station had any involvement in such a transaction and denied turning the tape over to the Qatari government.
- "Yasser Thabet, a broadcast editor at Al-Jazeera, said the tape appeared to be authentic because the television station got it through the same means as previous bin Laden statements." How can this be true if the station usually gets the tapes by mail and this time seemed to get it from the Americans?
- A U. S. 'intelligence source' claimed that the U. S. knew about the latest Osama bin Laden tape five days before it was broadcast by the Qatar-based TV station al-Jazeera, and that it came from the Qatar government who got it from al-Jezeera management. But:
"Yesterday, al-Jazeera staff appeared surprised at the arrangements for submitting Bin Laden tapes to the US via the Qatari government. 'I'm not aware of this procedure at all,' said a spokesman. 'We got the tape at the station literally two hours before it was aired. A group of us huddled round and listened to it, and discussed what to do with it in the light of Mr Powell's statement.'"
- Powell was oddly certain that the tape was legitimate and was by bin Laden, even though in the past it had taken the CIA a number of days to verify that the voice was that of bin Laden. Of course, if the U. S. had had it for five days before Powell discussed it, they may have confirmed its validity during that time, although it is odd that they announced its validity only on Friday. The Americans were so keen to have the tape broadcast that they did not make an issue of whether there might be hidden terrorist instructions contained in the tape.
- The Qatari government has developed an unusually close relationship with the United States, and is the only Arab state that remains enthusiastic about the presence of U. S. troops on its territory. The main shareholder of al-Jazeera is Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar. Al-Jazeera has generally been described in the U. S. press in a very positive way, as if it was a light in the wilderness of Arab media (see general al-Jezeera links here). Other Arab countries are often less enthusiastic. I would not be surprised if the CIA were somehow involved in it.
It appears unlikely that the Official Story is true. Al-Jazeera probably did not receive the tape until just before it was broadcast, and therefore probably wasn't the source of the tape. All the evidence points to the fact that the tape didn't come to the station first, and probably didn't come into Qatar until it arrived at the station from the Americans. The tape is unlikely to be a fake made by the American government, as it clearly demolishes the American theory that bin Laden is allied with Saddam. One possibility is that the tape is from an Islamic fundamentalist group still using the bin Laden identity (if bin Laden is not still alive) and came to the United States through the same channels of cooperation between these groups and the CIA that have existed since the 1970's and continue up to the present day. The whole Qatar/al-Jezeera story may be a clumsy attempt to hide the real source of the tape as the admission of a connection between the CIA and these fundamentalists would raise too many embarrassing questions.
Sunday, February 16, 2003
- Turkey, like Iraq, is a Muslim country.
- Turkey is one of the main destinations of the oil smuggling that Iraq uses to get around the sanctions.
- Turkey hates the Kurds much more than Saddam does, and is terrified that the Iraq war will lead to the creation of a Kurdish state which will then attempt to annex the eastern part of Turkey where there is a majority Kurdish population.
- To get around the natural disinclination of Turkey to be involved in this war, the United States is offering a lot of money (essentially bribes which will presumably go to the extreme right-wing mafia which runs Turkey), and had also attempted to strongarm the Europeans into allowing Turkey into the EU (a move that has probably served to make it less likely that Turkey will be admitted).
- Article Four of the North Atlantic Treaty only says that the members of NATO will 'consult'. It is probably the first time that this Article has ever been used. It is Article Five which really applies here: "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area." Note that the obligation to assist only occurs "if such an armed attack occurs", and therefore NATO members are perfectly within their rights to decline assistance before the war starts. In fact, the argument of the NATO dissenters is that the request for aid is premature, as the inspection process may succeed and there may not be a war (see here or here). The U. S. Ambassador to NATO said: "The US stands by its basic principle that under Article 4 (of the Nato charter) all parties are obligated to come to the assistance of their allies." This interpretation appears to be incorrect, and the Americans are trying to conflate Articles Four and Five.
So what is really going on here? While Turkey has a huge army, any extensive use of the Turkish army in the Iraq conflict would probably cause more harm than good, with the danger that the Turks use the situation to grab the northern part of Iraq. What the Americans are really after is the use of Turkish air bases. Presumably, the Americans could have 'rented' the use of these bases with the billions of dollars of aid they are offering, and there was no need to involve NATO at all. In fact, the supposedly desired military equipment could have been supplied by the Americans and probably will come from the Americans. What appears to be happening here is that the Americans are manipulating the rules of NATO to attempt to bring NATO into the war on Iraq, even though there is no obvious reason for NATO to be involved (originally, even NATO troops were to be involved in the aid to Turkey). An attack on any NATO member is to be considered an attack on all, and having Turkey involved in the war puts Turkey at a danger from Saddam, thus meaning that NATO might eventually have to come to the aid of Turkey. Therefore, the United States figured it could bring NATO into the conflict through the backdoor by claiming that Turkey is at risk even before the war starts. Presumably, the Americans felt that without the sanction of the United Nations it could still use NATO, represented primarily by the U. S. and Britain, as the mechanism for disguising the essentially unilateral nature of the attack to steal Iraq's oil. It appears this little bit of trickery has blown up in the face of the Americans, and the Bush junta has again demonstrated its ham-handedness at diplomacy.
Friday, February 14, 2003
- The Sheriff of Nacogdoches, Texas, Thomas Kerss, stated that there was nuclear material on board the shuttle, and therefore any recovered debris would be tested for radioactivity. The Shreveport Times reports, referring to Nacogdoches County: "NASA provided county officials with a list of recovery priorities that includes anything that could contain data or resembles computer circuitry, or potentially radioactive materials." What does 'potentially radioactive' mean?
- The Orlando Sentinel reports:
"Dale Vodak, environmental investigator for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said the teams have made progress recovering hazardous materials, including explosive bolts, fuel cells and a small quantity of a radioactive isotope, Americium 242 - used in smoke detectors."Americium is a radioactive metal. Smoke detectors use Americium 241. It may be a coincidence, but the Israelis are researching the use of Americium 242m as a nuclear fuel to propel spacecraft. An Israeli, Ilan Ramon, was doing scientific research on the shuttle. Could he have had a secret project to test the use of Americium 242m as a propellant in space? If so, how much of it is now spread over Texas?
- Unless someone actually approaches a significant concentration of nuclear material, we are not likely to see any dramatic deaths. NASA is presumably counting on the fact that the effects of the crash will only be a statistical long term rise in certain kinds of cancers, which will only become apparent long after it has started its nuclear program.
- Animals in Texas are showing symptoms of unusual illness. This could be caused by exposure to some chemical in the debris. Could it also be caused by exposure to radiation?
- The shuttle, if it did contain radioactive material, is now serving as an experiment for NASA in determining how widely the material would spread in a crash. Not telling the people of Texas about their possible exposure, and thus preventing them from taking any steps to keep from getting sick, will allow NASA to study the long-term health effects of any spread of radioactive materials.
NASA is trying to tread carefully as it heads towards the use of nuclear-powered space exploration (some people are against this - remember the protests against the use of nuclear fuel in the Cassini?). Obviously, the crash of a nuclear-powered shuttle over earth could have immensely tragic consequences. NASA feels it needs nuclear fuel to send man to Mars, and is desperate, for a combination of practical (a Mars mission will keep NASA alive) and mystical (a Mars mission will allow for the continuance of the quasi-religious attitude NASA has towards manned space missions; did you see those insane NASA scientists salivate in their Columbia press conferences when they talked of 'manned space flight'?)) reasons to have a manned mission to Mars. If NASA were to reveal that Texans and others may have been exposed to radiation due to some secret experiment, the political repercussions would probably end the chance for NASA to use nuclear power in space. The use of nuclear power in space is also part of the militarization of space, something which the Bush Administration is in the process of implementing. Since no one is able to stop the Bush Administration or the nuts at NASA, I imagine we're going to see many more of this kind of incident as NASA conducts its experiments on the world.
Wednesday, February 12, 2003
- France, Germany and Russia are now working in an alliance to fight evil. Fifty years ago, how likely would it have been for those three countries to be allied against evil, especially evil which derives from the United States?
- Incompetent Bush Administration officials (Perle, Rumsfeld) gratuitously insulting European countries that have the temerity to not rubber-stamp every wish of the Administration may so anger Europe as to lead to the possible end of NATO, an anacronism now that the real threat to Europe is no longer Russia. NATO is the mask Americans hide behind so as not to be seen as acting unilaterally. NATO is merely a tool for American geopolitics, and the Europeans would be much better off with a purely European force. The real threat to Europe is now terrorism caused by tensions stirred up by American stupidity (in particular, the American one-sided position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). If the United States ever has another election and replaces the current Administration, it is going to take the State Department fifty years to reestablish alliances that the Bush Administration is in the process of thoughtlessly and petulantly breaking.
- Similarly, Bush Administration 'diplomacy' may lead to the removal of American troops from Europe, where they now form more of an occupying army than any type of protection. If anything, their presence makes Europe more of a target for terrorism. Sovereign countries shouldn't host the troops of another country. Once the Americans are gone from Europe, other countries (Japan, Arab countries, the Philippeans, Colombia, and even, eventually, South Korea) should also question whether American troops are doing more harm than good.
- The world is finally waking up to the fact that, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the main source of evil in the world has been the United States. Until the end of the Second World War, the exact opposite was true, and the United States was rightly thought of as a beacon of hope to the world. Unfortunately, since the late 1940's, the Americans have allowed themselves to be led by a group of violent thugs, culminating in the group of psychopaths who are currently in place. Although the nature of what America stands for has shifted 180 degrees, Americans still see themselves as representing some sort of godliness. The most pathetic aspect of this is when Americans use the example of the Second World War to criticize countries like France and Germany, seemingly unaware that while the United States was acting on the side of good fifty or sixty years ago, it has all been downhill since. Europe and other countries learned from the Second World War, while the United States uses it as an excuse to hide the problems of American society and exploitative American foreign policy. When you find yourself using examples of fifty or sixty years ago to prove to yourself how good you are, and you can't find any more recent examples of your decency, you should know you've got a problem.
- One of the criticisms of the Americans of Europe is that European governments spend too much money on social programs, and not enough on arms! The general idea is that the Europeans have to be ready to assist the Americans in fighting whatever wars the Americans feel like fighting. The United States is spending such an obscene amount on defense now, most of which is either stolen by military contractors (the Pentagon can't account for trillions of dollars and no American politician ever dares complain about it) or paid out in ridiculously overpriced contracts, that the expense is actually eating into the social fabric of the country (and the Bush Administration seems to want social programs to be starved out of existence by military spending). The fact that European countries made the intelligent and prudent decision to spend money on social capital in the form of education, aid to the poor, and health care drives American neo-cons insane, as it represents an example of what the United States could have done. With all the money produced by the current dominent position of the U. S. economy, the U. S. could have been the most socially progressive country in the world. Instead, a series of bad governments have decided to squander this fortune on a ridiculously wasteful and bloated military and the cultivation of a tiny group of the richest men who have ever lived. Why should European countries make stupid political decisions just to please American warmongers? I hope the main lesson of Iraq is that Americans will from now on have to fight their own damn wars.
Monday, February 10, 2003
Sunday, February 09, 2003
- He is an Anglican, and his church has strongly come out against the war. He attends his wife's Catholic church. I am sick and tired of hearing about churches that express their opinions about issues and then fail to do anything about them. If the Church of England isn't completely hypocritical, it has to tell Blair it will kick him out of the church if he puts Britain in this dirty war.
- Unlike the U. S., where the President is treated like some combination of God and King (having lost a King in the Revolution, Americans seem to suffer from 'King envy'), the Prime Minister of Great Britain is constantly vulnerable to being replaced by his caucus. The majority of the people of Britain are against the war, many are deeply embarrassed by Blair's toadying attitude towards the Americans, and many believe, probably correctly, that Blair's mysterious change in attitude towards the war is due to his having been bought off by promises of shares and directorships in military contractors and oil companies (note this outstanding interview of Blair by BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman - can you imagine a similar interview of Bush on American television or any American interviewer being as well prepared as Paxman or as willing to ask the tough questions?). It also appears that the majority of Blair's caucus is against this dirty war. On top of that, there are rumors that Blair made a deal with his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, that he would step down in his second term (i. e., now) in favor of Gordon Brown. If the Members of Parliament in the Labour Party aren't another bunch of hypocrites, they should tell Blair in no uncertain terms that he is out if Britain enters the war.
- Britain has signed on to the International Criminal Court. Blair and Bush may be able to get away with this dirty war on their feeble excuses now, but some years from now when the true disaster of the war becomes apparent, the world will see what a sham it was. Blair is still a relatively young man, and he will have to spend the rest of his life waiting to be arrested on war crimes charges, charges which a court will probably find quite convincing. Unlike Bush, once Blair is out of power he will lose his protection from the state, and his political enemies will probably be happy to feed him to the wolves. Someone has to tell him he may have to enjoy his shares in Carlyle from a cell in The Hague.
There is very little time left. Regardless of how Blair is trying to spin it, the United States isn't going to get its UN resolution and it is clear that Blair will find some way to go ahead with the war anyway. If this dirty war is to be stopped, the duty to do it lies on the people of Britain.
Saturday, February 08, 2003
- The authorities haven't stated unequivocally that the videotapes prove that it was not Malvo at the bank - they have just said that it was impossible to tell from the videotapes. The oddity is that from this difficulty with interpreting the video, and in the face of the testimony of the employees, who, after all, recognized Malvo from the picture in the media, the authorities have stated with certainty that it was not Malvo. How can they be so sure? If they had poor videotape evidence but good eyewitness evidence, why would they say with certainty that it was not Malvo? Just a few days prior to the announcement that it definitely wasn't Malvo at the bank, the bank's director of security, two other high-ranking bank officials and two senior law enforcement sources all said they believed that it was Malvo who appeared on the video.
- Note the extremely convoluted quote of the general counsel for the bank, R. Timothy Hanlon, which I've exerpted from the Washington Post article:
"We do not have a basis for saying it is or it isn't. Mr. Smith [the bank's director of security] believes that he did not confirm that it was [Malvo]. He said 'a subject' came to the bank. . . . We don't really know who that person was."What does "believes that he did not confirm that it was [Malvo]" mean? Do they speak English in Maryland?
- We know that the extensive network of video cameras over the highways of suburban Washington, not to mention satellite photos, should have allowed the police to identify all the movements of Muhammad and Malvo once they had identified the car. Is the problem with the Malvo identification at the bank the fact that other video evidence proves that the car was elsewhere at the time?
- John Muhammad is not an idiot, and has a very sophisticated understanding of how to manipulate the authorities. He supposedly made his living by producing immigration documents good enough to successfully smuggle people into the United States. He allegedly made phony passports, driver's licenses, and even credit cards. One of the very weakest points of the whole official sniper story is the idea that Muhammad thought he could use a stolen credit card, charged with the ransom money, to safely obtain the money from the government (this was the plan set out in the famous 'Call Me God' letter). He was simply too sophisticated to fail to know that this was a ridiculous plan, and that he could be caught when he used the card. Why would he send Malvo into a bank with security cameras to ask a dumb question about wire transfers? How could he have thought it might be possible to obtain a wire transfer without leaving his name? It almost seems that this was part of an operation to frame Malvo. Is it possible that Muhammad was attempting to leave a trail leading to Malvo so that Malvo could be blamed for the whole operation and Muhammad could escape?
- The Muhammad/Malvo spree has been officially depicted as a folie à deux, technically a conspiracy only because it involved two people, but certainly not part of a larger operation which would raise larger questions. The authorities already have a problem with the Montgomery shooting, as the bullet that killed the victim allegedly came from the Bushmaster rifle but neither Muhammad nor Malvo was seen with the rifle at the shooting scene, thus raising the question that at least one other person was involved in the spree. To add to the confusion, a handgun was found over a month later (wouldn't they check the ground for such evidence at the time?) at the Montgomery shooting scene, a gun which turned out to have been stolen in Texas and was linked ballistically to a fatal shooting in Atlanta (the late discovery of the gun leads one to wonder whether it had been planted later). Is it possible that the authorities are uncomfortable with the bank sighting as it may raise the issue that a Malvo look-alike was involved, perhaps in an attempt to frame Muhammad and Malvo? If Muhammad and Malvo were completely innocent of the shootings, one way to tie them into the spree would be to use a double who could leave video evidence of a suspicious question at a bank which is certain to be monitored by video. If subsequent surveillance camera evidence proved that this person could not be Malvo as the car was elsewhere at the time, this attempt to frame Malvo and Muhammad may have backfired (I am reminded of the problems of bilocation that plague the story of Mohamed Atta). The essential problem with using doubles is that they tend to leave evidence of one person being in different places at the same time, a problem which becomes increasingly difficult as we approach 100% surveillance in the fascist security state.
If the person in the bank was Malvo, it may be evidence that Muhammad was attempting to leave an evidence trail, either to put the blame entirely on Malvo or for some other purpose. If it was not Malvo, but a Malvo look-alike, at the very least the conspiracy was wider than we have been led to believe as there was at least one other person involved, a person who looked very much like Malvo. At the very worst, an attempt was made by some unknown person to frame Malvo and Muhammad.
Wednesday, February 05, 2003
Monday, February 03, 2003
"Kean, who was unavailable for comment, may not have been aware of the Mahfouz connection. But Hess spokesman Carl Tursi did reveal another interesting coincidence: Three weeks before Kean's appointment, Hess severed its ties with Delta."This raises some issues:
- Henry Kissinger was appointed chairman of the commission on November 27, and resigned on December 13. Kean was appointed chairman on December 16. It appears that the connection between Hess and Delta may have been severed in anticipation of Kean being appointed a member of Kissinger's commission, as it would have occurred almost exactly at the time of Kissinger's appointment (the alternative is that this is just another big coincidence). If it did occur in anticipation of Kean serving on the commission - and it would make sense for Bush, struggling to find someone in a hurry, to elevate someone to the chairmanship who had already been selected to be a member of the commission - this indicates that Kean felt that this relationship with bin Mahfouz/al-Amoudi would cause trouble.
- If the connection to Delta was severed on behalf of Kean, isn't this just another example of the cozy crony capitalism that we've seen too much of, where the interests of the corporation and its shareholders take a back seat to the personal interests of the directors? Of course, the directors could just argue that making Kean happy would make Bush happy, a happiness that could only benefit the corporation in the long run.
- What does "Hess severed its ties with Delta" mean? It is not clear what the actual corporate structure of the Hess/Delta joint venture was. Did Hess sell its interest to Delta? Did Delta sell its interest to Hess? Did one or the other sell to a third party? Is Hess still involved in the project? Is it possible that Hess made some contractual arrangement, perhaps in the form of an option, whereby it will be able to buy back into the project after this embarrassing incident with Kean's chairmanship is over? I find it amazing that Hess would enter into this much discussed project, the oil exploitation joint venture agreement of which was called "the contract of the century", part of one of the great hydrocarbon developments of our time (particularly the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli development, which is in itself the reason for building the BTC pipeline), and simply walk away from it (see the history of the development here; Hess bought Ramco's interest and then combined its interests in the project, in a still mysterious way, with the interest of Delta to form the joint venture). I note that an Azerbaijan directory of businesses in Baku still has a web page for the Delta Hess Alliance (see also here at 13). Hess's website still shows its 2.72% interest in the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli fields, which may indicate that it is Delta that has left the project. On the other hand, Hess's News Release dated January 30, 2003 stated: "In the fourth quarter, the Corporation also recorded a gain from the sale of an interest in two small producing properties in Azerbaijan."
- Even severing the ties with Delta won't help Kean's conflict problem as a director of Amerada Hess. If he is chairman of the 9-11 investigation commisssion, his commission will still have an obligation to examine sources of financing for the terrorism, which will lead directly to an examination of bin Mahfouz and al-Amoudi. Since Kean still owes a duty to Hess, and Hess was doing business with Delta, Kean's proper investigation will be likely to breach his duties to Hess. The fact that Hess has terminated its relationship with Delta doesn't change the fact that Hess was doing business with Delta at a time that Delta was owned by people who may have been financing terrorism. Whatever the strict legal position, the public relations aspects of a proper investigation of bin Mahfouz and al-Almoudi should deeply trouble Kean.
- These is also the small matter of the trillion dollar law suit of the families of the victims of 9-11 against a number of parties, including bin Mahfouz and al-Amoudi. Obtaining a large judgment against bin Mahfouz probably isn't worth very much, as I imagine collecting on it would be impossible. Plaintiff lawyers tend to look for deep-pocketed domestic defendants. Some enterprising lawyer might see in the Delta/Hess joint venture a method by which someone like bin Mahfouz might attempt to launder money that would be use to fund terrorism (the joint venture existed well before September 11, 2001). Any partner of bin Mahfouz might be seen, particularly by one of these notoriously stupid American juries, to be engaged in enabling bin Mahfouz to launder terrorist funds. There would probably be a number of corporate veils to pierce, but the thousands of bodies under the WTC make corporate veil piercing quite easy. I don't know why a completely reputable publicly traded company like Hess would take the risk of doing business with someone with the reputation of bin Mahfouz or al-Amoudi (and why did George Bush do business with bin Mahfouz?). I'm not even going to mention the possibly problematic area of the effect of various amendments in the laws of the United States contained in the USA PATRIOT Act, some of which deal with forfeiture of property and the criminal act of providing material support to terrorists, and which might apply to actions taken in the United States after the act was passed.
- Severing the ties with Delta also won't help Kean's conflict problem as the chairman of the commission. Justice has to be seen to be done. How are the relatives of the deceased of 9-11 going to be able to trust an investigation by the chairman of the commission of the owners of a former business partner of a company of which the chairman is a director, especially if it is only a former business partner due to the fact that the business relationship was severed in anticipation of the fact that the chairman would be a member of the commission doing the investigation? It is difficult to imagine how anyone could be in more of a conflict of interest situation.
- Fortune says that "Kean . . . may not have been aware of the Mahfouz connection . . . ." Even in these days of amazingly lax standards of corporate governance, I find it impossible to believe this.
There is absolutely no reason to doubt the integrity of either Amerada Hess or Thomas Kean (though I have to say I doubt the business sense of dealing with a company owned by people involved in something like BCCI and who have been accused of funding terrorism). This whole mess is caused by the unfortunate connection between Hess and Delta. Part of the problem could be dealt with by the termination of the relationship with Delta. The other part of the problem can only be dealt with by the resignation of Thomas Kean as chairman of the commission.