Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The American violence against the people of Iraq has noticeably escalated, and is even starting to take on the qualities of a frenzy:

  1. The most dramatic incident has been the massacre in Mansur. American troops, supposedly on a search for Saddam, attacked the neighborhood of Mansur in Baghdad. Mansur had already been the victim of American attempts to kill Saddam, as an American bomb on a building in which Saddam was supposed to be killed 16 Iraqi civilians in April. In the newest incident, the Americans opened fire on vehicles and killed as many as 11, including two children (other sources say five were killed, or perhaps three). A witness said (or here):

    "The Americans didn't try to help the civilians they had shot, not once. They let the car burn and left the bodies where they lay, even the children. It was we who had to take them to the hospitals."

    This was another operation of Task Force 20, responsible for the deaths at the Syrian border and the attack on Saddam's sons. It was completely botched, with the Americans closing the main streets but failing to close the side streets. Unwitting residents, who had absolutely no way to know that an American operation was going on, then drove right into the massacre from the side streets, dying in a hail of indiscriminate fire. If the Americans were wise, they'd drag these incompetent cowboys back home as quickly as possible. As Robert Fisk, who appears to be the only one to take this incident seriously, writes:

    "Yet again, false informers, ill-trained American soldiers who appeared to exercise no fire control and a lack of military planning has created a tragedy among the people the Americans claimed to be 'liberating' from Saddam Hussein only 15 weeks ago."

  2. On Sunday, U. S. troops opened fire on protesters in Karbala, killing three. The protesters were protesting the killing of a man by the Americans the day before. That man had been killed when residents tried to block an American patrol from approaching the religious shrine of Imam Hussein, the Americans fired tear-gas, with one canister striking the mausoleum, and a predictable protest occurred. Step by step, things are spiralling out of control, with another combination of cultural and religious insensitivity, violent response to protest, lack of training in crowd control, inability or unwillingness to use non-lethal control methods, and lack of fire-control.

  3. Last week, Americans appear to have fired into a crowd in Mosul, killing one and wounding others. The Americans deny it, but there is enough independent testimony of residents that it probably did happen. This shooting occurred very near the house where the Saddam sons were killed, and was in response to rock throwing by residents who were blocked from going to their mosque immediately after the firefight at the house had ended. Mohammed Ramzi, who was shot in the arm, said, referring to the American troops:

    "They were angry and they just started shooting at everybody; it was not a spontaneous thing."

  4. There is a growing brutality amongst the American troops, even in cases where they don't manage to kill anybody. A witness to a raid in Mansur said:

    "They tied up all the men with plastic and steel cuffs around their wrists and took all our guns. A soldier pointed his rifle at this child here and his Iraqi translator said in Arabic that they'd count to 10 to be told where our guns were. Yes, of course we have guns: we have to defend ourselves from thieves who come in the night. Everyone in Baghdad has a gun now because there is so much robbery and killing."

    When the Americans left, they didn't bother to remove the handcuffs.

  5. There are rumors amongst the Iraqis that the Americans are stealing from them, and at least one instance where an American soldier was caught red-handed. It is unknown whether he received any punishment.

  6. One American officer claims to have seen at least twenty incidents where American soldiers have beaten or robbed civilians at checkpoints. One such incident, involving victim Rahim Nasser Mohammed, was particularly serious. An American officer said: "They beat him pretty bad. They beat him, tied him up and beat him again." This was for being caught with a small handgun in his car at a checkpoint.

  7. In unequivocal contravention of the Geneva Conventions (Protocol One, relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, Article 75, Paragraph 2(b)) [Note: I shouldn't rely on Protocol 1 because the United States hasn't ratified it, but it has ratified the Geneva Conventions, the fourth of which states (Article 34) "The taking of hostages is prohibited" and the "International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages", Article 1 of which clearly applies here; see also 18 USC 1203, which, together with the Hostages Convention, would seem to compel the United States to criminally try all the Americans involved], the Americans are now taking hostages:

    "Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: 'If you want your family released, turn yourself in.' Such tactics are justified, he said, because, 'It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info.' They would have been released in due course, he added later.

    The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered."

    I guess we can now add hostage taking to the list of other breaches of international law committed by the United States.

  8. In Bayji, a mother and two of her daughters were killed by American fire. The Americans claim the Iraqis were killed in the crossfire when the Americans were attempting to shoot a 'terrorist', but it appears that the Americans panicked and fired blindly when the mother rose suddenly to get her family off the roof where they were sleeping.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The David Kelly 'suicide' is becoming much more interesting as more information continues to ooze out. The BBC had referred to their source as a 'senior intelligence source', and this became one of the main issues of the Blairites' attack on the BBC, saying that he wasn't in intelligence and this was just another example of the BBC's lies on the whole subject of the sexing up of the dossier. Now it turns out that he was at a level of importance in the world of British intelligence that he could reasonably have been called a 'senior intelligence source.' He was no 'middle-level technician', as the Ministry of Defence called him, but:

  • was probably the Government's most knowledgeable advisor on the history of Iraq's weapons programs;

  • had a high security clearance;

  • sat in on MI6 interrogations of Iraqi defectors;

  • was a member of a high-level committee reviewing all the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction;

  • had been appointed a 'special deputy chief scientific officer', which allowed him to move in senior circles without having administrative responsibilities; and

  • was the single most important person in forcing Saddam's regime to admit the existence of its biological weapons program in the mid-1990's.

When he appeared before the foreign affairs select committee it appears that he may have been involved in a rather elaborate charade:

  • his extremely soft-spoken and shy demeanor appears to have been a ruse;

  • the stories that he was shattered by his experience there are probably false;

  • he intentionally misled the committee into believing that he could not have been the sole source for the BBC; and

  • he denied that he had met Gavin Hewitt, the third BBC journalist involved in the matter, and we now know that he had met Hewitt.

Blairites were trying to use the argument that he had been the sole source for the BBC, and hadn't used the term 'sexed up', so therefore the BBC story was false and should be ignored. Kelly's misleading the committee into thinking he was not the sole source gave them no means to dispute the BBC story, and thus was consistent with Kelly's desire to explain how Blair had misled the British public. But there seems to be more to the story. We've seen how the turf war between the CIA and the Pentagon has played out in the United States, with the Bush Administration/Pentagon using the Office of Special Plans to completely squeeze out the intelligence gathering and advising functions of the CIA. Could Kelly's death be part of a similar turf war in Britain? Blair seems to have used an almost identical method of making intelligence that suited his war by running it through a committee chaired by Alastair Campbell (a man who was not even elected). Real British intelligence was squeezed out by the warmongers in Blair's government and the Ministry of Defence. If Kelly was part of a conspiracy by British intelligence to grab back some of this turf by fronting for the intelligence position that the dossier suffered from this politicization of the intelligence function, we may be able to make some sense of what has been going on:

  • Kelly's embarrassing of the Blair government might have led to the replacement of that government by Conservatives, an outcome probably to the liking of high intelligence bureaucrats;

  • Kelly's refutation of the dossier serves to point out the importance of real intelligence input in the making of military decisions, and regains some of the turf lost by intelligence agencies to the military;

  • Kelly's activities may explain why he was so roughly treated by the Ministry of Defence, who may have been furious with him for embarrassing them and attempting to reduce their power to make their own intelligence;

  • journalist Tom Mangold wrote: "David never liked the MoD, he used to complain bitterly about them.";

  • the fall-out from Kelly's actions may have been what Kelly was referring to when he spoke of 'dark actors playing games'; and

  • the fact that in two of the BBC reports there is a sense that Kelly spoke not only for himself but for 'people in intelligence' may indicate that he was fronting for intelligence interests.

Is it possible that the Ministry of Defence thought they had a deal with Kelly to testify before the foreign affairs select committee that he was the sole source for the BBC and that his words had been twisted by them, thus proving that the dossier wasn't dodgy after all and all the blame for this issue could be put on the BBC? Is it possible that Kelly agreed to this, but never intended to lie, and breached his understanding with the Ministry of Defence by going through his elaborate performance before the committee? Is it possible that he was assassinated for his betrayal? Did David Kelly die in a power struggle between British intelligence and the Ministry of Defence? In answering these questions it would be interesting to see who first planted the idea in the press that Kelly was highly distraught over his testimony before the committee, as that seems to be the beginning of the suicide cover story.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Saddam's sons:

  1. An eyewitness account of the American attack:

    "About 9:10 am a Toyota Land Cruiser stopped in front of the house, and after two minutes the U.S. troops surrounded the place. A BMW came out of the back-door garage of the house and started driving towards the soldiers. They stopped the car, arrested the passengers and took them to a nearby house. Then the soldiers threw in grenades and tried to open the door. They entered the house and faced gunfire, and were forced to leave the premises. Then people inside the house started attacking the soldiers from three corners of the second floor and that's when it all started. The Americans just poured missiles into the place."

    Is it possible that the Americans overreacted and killed the occupants of the house before they stopped to think about what they were doing? The same article raises the possibility that the U. S. soldiers did not know Saddam's sons were in the house, but were acting on tips that the house included 'some high level Baath Party officials.' This makes some sense, for even if they wished to kill the two sons they would hardly risk the massive attack they made on the building, including the use of anti-tank missiles, for fear of completely destroying the bodies. They may very well have inadvertently killed the two sons, and then said they had no choice but to attack.

  2. What were Uday and Qusay doing in Mosul, a city largely controlled by the Kurds and largely opposed to the Baathists? It seems bizarre that the two sons would be holed up in a house in what amounts to enemy territory with no or few local sources of support, one bodyguard and Qusay's 14-year-old son.

  3. There are even more than the usual amount of inconsistencies in the American account, which makes it clear that at least part of the Official Story is a fabrication.

  4. Rumsfeld tried to explain why they weren't taken alive:

    "Given the amount of gunfire that came from that building . . . it is I think obvious that there was no chance of taking them alive."

    This is, frankly, silly. The Americans had massive amounts of firepower and had the building completely surrounded. They have all manner of incapacitating gasses to allow them to take everyone in the house alive. If they wanted to wait, they could merely have starved them out. The amount of gunfire from the building - and how much gunfire could four people produce? - was completely irrelevant.

  5. If the Americans wanted to make a plausible case that they had the right guys based on visual identification, they should never have released the first set of pictures. As the second pictures differ so greatly from the first, it appears that they have merely put the equivalent of Uday and Qusay masks on two corpses.

  6. The decision by the Pentagon to release all these pictures is going to guarantee that similar pictures of dead Americans will be exhibited by the many, many military opponents that the neocons intend to face in the next few years.

It is abundantly clear that this exercise was entirely intended for domestic American consumption. Not only do the Americans not care about Muslim sensitivities about desecrating a corpse, they don't really care if the people of Iraq think that the two sons are dead or not. The spectacle of the two sons was intended to be another fake victory to distract the American public from the problems of the occupation and the lying that led to the war.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Here is what Dick Cheney said as part of the continuing Bush Administration attempts to change the subject when confronted with the Bush lies which led to the debacle of the attack on Iraq:

". . . at a safe remove from the danger, some are now trying to cast doubt upon the decision to liberate Iraq. The ability to criticize is one of the great strengths of our democracy, but those who do so have an obligation to answer this question: How could any responsible leader have ignored the Iraqi threat?"

In the light of the ongoing unwillingness to answer the question of Bush's failure to heed the many warnings he and his Administration received in the summer of 2001 about the threat of al Qaeda, and specifically on August 6, 2001, for that's the day for which they refuse to disclose the contents of the President's Daily Brief that contained information on bin Laden, here is what Cheney might have asked:

". . . at a safe remove from the danger, some are now trying to cast doubt upon the decision to ignore the many warnings about an imminent attack on the United States by Osama bin Laden. The ability to mindlessly praise the Bush Administration is one of the great strengths of our - heh heh - democracy, but those who do so have an obligation to answer this question: How could any responsible leader have ignored the al Qaeda threat?"

The difference is that the al Qaeda threat was real while the Iraqi threat still exists only in the minds of a few neocons.
Uday and Qusay:

  1. Do you think that Saddam's sons were murdered because their testimony at any trial they would have would reveal even more lies about the Bush Administration's flimsy case for the attack on Iraq?

  2. If Bush wasn't in desperate need of a distraction, would the order have been for them to be taken alive?

  3. It may be that Uday was trying to negotiate their surrender, which makes even more clear that their deaths were really murders. Any arguments that their deaths were legitimate because they occurred during wartime miss the point that this isn't a traditional war - it is an unprovoked attack and occupation of a sovereign country. Americans have no legitimate excuse for these murders as they have no legitimate excuse to be in Iraq.

  4. Since the brothers could have given real information about the location of any weapons of mass destruction, it is obvious that the Bush Administration has given up really looking for these mythological weapons.

  5. Since both brothers had doubles, how is it that extremely lousy dark photographs of heavily mutilated corpses is supposed to prove that these are indeed the two brothers? The Americans seem also to be relying on dental records, but how do they know that they don't have the dental records of the doubles? X-rays have a similar problem.

  6. They were killed by the same Task Force 20 that killed some 80 people at the Syrian border and into Syria a few weeks ago. Is it possible that Task Force 20 has decided that it simply doesn't take prisoners? The four deaths were all as a result of firing anti-tank missiles!

  7. Since they had the house surrounded, and had a massive amount of firepower and no doubt various non-lethal methods of subduing whoever was in the house, there was absolutely no need to kill the brothers. It appears that either Bush ordered them killed for his domestic purposes, or the troops involved were grossly incompetent.

  8. If the two brothers have been identified as being dead but are actually alive, it puts them in a greatly improved position both for their personal safety and for their ability to lead the resistance. On the other hand, they may have been living in Belarus all along!

Thursday, July 24, 2003

In a surprise move, British defence secretary Geoff Hoon paid a visit to David Kelly's widow. I know they make greeting cards for all social situations these days, but do you think they make one which says: "I'm sorry I killed your husband"?:

  1. The Observer has a fairly decent summary of the whole matter.

  2. The New Scientist asks three questions:

    • ". . . why does Kelly's testimony to the select committee differ from accounts given by BBC reporters of their discussions with him? By the time Kelly gave evidence, he had reportedly been questioned for five days by his employer (the Ministry of Defence), named in public by the MOD against his wishes, and kept in an MOD safe house. During all this time, had the MOD forced him into some kind of deal?"

      I think the testimony differs because Kelly was trying to lead the select committee away from thinking that he was the sole source for the story. He wasn't necessarily doing this to protect himself - he may have been doing it as he was offended at their attempts to manipulate the story to protect the Labour Party from the truth that Blair lied.

    • "Could it be that BBC reporters manipulated Kelly's views for their own ends? For one journalist to do this is plausible. But it seems Kelly spoke to three and gave a similar account to all of them."

      I think they answered their own question. There has yet to be one iota of evidence that the BBC manipulated the evidence, and the fact he spoke to three reporters, and gave substantially the same account to each, proves that the Labour attacks on Gilligan are unfair.

    • ". . . in two of the BBC reports there is a sense that Kelly speaks not only for himself but for 'people in intelligence'. This raises the question of whether he acted alone or with the approval of others."

      This raises the whole specter of whether Kelly inadvertently fell into the trap of helping to set up a partisan attack on the Labour Party by deeply conservative members of British intelligence. Once he found himself in trouble with the Ministry of Defence, certain people might have had a hold on him and convinced him that he could get out of his problem only if he cooperated with them. This may be what Kelly meant by 'many dark actors playing games'. Once he had served his purpose of embarrassing Blair, they might very well have killed him.

  3. While Kelly seems to have been the main source for the story, or at least the source which instigated the story, there are indications that there were other sources involved. Many people connected to intelligence were upset at Blair's blatant lying. In an interesting parallel to Bush's Office of Special Plans, Blair used a 'joint intelligence committee' (JIC) to produce his lies. The Guardian refers to a former member, Colonel John Hughes-Wilson, and reports:

    "He has told me that the purpose of those JIC meetings chaired by Campbell was to 'cherry-pick' those bits of information which, no matter how tentative or uncorroborated, might persuade a supremely doubtful public that Saddam was about to murder us in our beds. The colonel also asks the following questions: 'Why was an unelected party official allowed to chair those meetings? The select committee noted that the tone of the dossier was unusually assertive. Where did that come from, if not Alastair Campbell?'"

    This follows the Bush Administration's politicization of intelligence through manipulating it through a closed system.

  4. Lord Hutton, who was appointed to lead the inquiry into Kelly's death, has requested that the proceedings be broadcast live on television. The BBC has a tape of Kelly's interview with one of its journalists. Wouldn't it be superb television to hear that tape played as Kelly, from beyond the grave in which Blair put him, testifies to Blair's lies and puts Blair in his political grave?

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

A bit more on the murder or suicide of David Kelly:

  1. Unfortunately for Blair, the BBC's Andrew Gilligan kept the contemporaneous notes of his interview with Kelly on an 'electronic device', which has been kept under lock and key (good idea!) and will be available for the inquiry. Gilligan also later confirmed with Kelly which quotes he could use in his report. Even worse for Blair, Kelly also talked to two other BBC reporters, and one of them taped the conversation in which Kelly said that Blair's office was 'desperate' for information and had exaggerated 'out of all proportion' the claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. A BBC spokesman said:

    "We do have a tape but it's only a small part of our evidence for the inquiry. We don't want to go into too much detail of our evidence before the inquiry starts."

    This looks like it is going to be fun.

  2. The term 'sexed up', which was never used in BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's report on Kelly, seems to have been the herd construction of the British press. A variation of it was used by Alastair Campbell in his appearance before the foreign affairs select committee. It suited both the British press and Campbell as it served to sensationalize the whole matter.

  3. David Kelly was a practising member of the Baha'i Faith, a religion with a strong prohibition against suicide.

  4. The whole criticism of the BBC is starting to turn into farce, as it now seems to depend on whether the BBC erred in calling Kelly a 'senior intelligence source', when they should have called him an 'intelligence source.'

  5. The idea that Kelly was psychologically shattered by his treatment in the foreign affairs select committee appears to be less and less likely. Tom Mangold "spoke to Dr Kelly's wife, Janice, who explained how angry Dr Kelly had been at the way he was treated by the foreign affairs select committee and that he had felt 'physically sick' on his return home." In other words, he was 'physically sick' because he was furious, not because he had been broken by his treatment. People don't kill themselves because they are angry. Mangold does seem to think that Kelly was damaged by his treatment, but it is a long way from being angry or upset to killing yourself.

I still can see no fault in the BBC's actions. It received information from a good source about a huge story. Was it not supposed to air the story? It maintained the secrecy of its source to the best of its ability. Was it supposed to betray its source? It may even be the case that the BBC kept quiet while Kelly allowed the foreign affairs select committee to deceive itself into believing that Kelly wasn't the sole source, thus giving Kelly a chance to find a way out of his predicament. It was Hoon and Alastair Campbell, probably with the direct approval of Blair, who set Kelly up, and there was nothing the BBC could do to save him from such treachery. The sad fact is that Campbell has at least partly succeeded in his plot to turn the whole issue into one concerning the BBC, and not the issue it should be, namely the contents of the story - that Tony Blair lied to trick his country into entering a war it didn't want - and the terrible way that David Kelly's life was caught up in the propaganda war of Blair, Campbell, and Hoon. The British public can't allow the Labour Party to shoot the messenger of such important news. The BBC ought to receive an award for its conduct in this matter; Blair, Campbell and Hoon ought to resign.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Who murdered David Kelly? A theory:

  1. Kelly was a microbiologist who was the leader of the British weapons inspection team in Iraq. Contrary to what you might think, Kelly was a war hawk with respect to Saddam, thought Saddam was a grave danger with his weapons of mass destruction, and supported the attack on Iraq. He was also, however, a stickler for truth and accuracy, and this might have led to his death.

  2. With the complete lack of success of the attack on Iraq, both Bush and Blair have had to delve deep into their sack of lies to justify the necessity for the war. Since the tenuous legality for the war depended on the imminent danger from Saddam, Blair relied heavily on his claim that Saddam could launch an attack of deadly weapons of mass destruction on Britain in 45 minutes. This has turned out to be complete nonsense. Saddam had neither the weapons of mass destruction nor the delivery system. The 45 minute claim apparently came from one Iraqi defector and referred to the period that the Iraqi command and control operations could become active. It had absolutely nothing to do with the actual launching of weapons of mass destruction and was absolutely no proof of imminent threat to Britain. Since there was no imminent threat the whole attack was completely illegal. Since the British people still believe in the importance of international law, this lie in Blair's justification for the war would have political consequences.

  3. Kelly was aware that the 45-minute claim, as well as other claims made by Blair, were lies or exaggerations, and he was troubled by it. He was so troubled by it, that he decided to contact a BBC reporter to explain what was wrong with Blair's claims.

  4. Kelly probably received the normal assurances from the BBC that his identity as a source would be protected, and had no idea of the political firestorm that the BBC reporting would cause. The British government immediately went on a hunt for the source, and levelled terrible threats at the BBC, which, to its credit, didn't back down. It was Alastair Campbell, the government’s director of communications and a key aide to Blair, who decided to spin the whole story so that it appeared to be entirely about the identity of the source, thus hoping to deflect the importance of the contents of the story away from the government. In fact, Campbell may have invented the term 'sexed up.' The original story said that the dossier:

    "was transformed in the week before it was published to make it sexier. The classic example was the claim that weapons of mass destruction were ready for use within 45 minutes. That information was not in the original draft."

    Campbell seems to have over-dramatized the story in order to attempt to reduce its credibility and to deflect the allegation that he personally was responsible for the inclusion of the 45-minute claim, and the whole attempt blew up on him. When Campbell - who by the way appears to be absolutely and completely insane - started to exaggerate the situation, thus making the informant look more important than he actually was, Kelly decided to confess his involvement in the matter to the Ministry of Defence, and here his problems began.

  5. The Ministry of Defence appears to have isolated him and interrogated him in the harsh way they might treat a spy. It is possible that they threatened him with loss of his job or pension, or perhaps even criminal punishment. They kept him in a 'safe' house, which was to keep him safe from talking to any reporters. Then they ratted him out to the Blair government and the press (the other view, which may be pure Labour spin, is that the Ministry of Defence tried to protect Kelly and that it was Defence Minister Geoff Hoon who was behind the decision to release Kelly's name to the press, thus pinning the blame on Hoon and isolating Blair from the scandal).

  6. The Labour members were furious that the informant's information had criticized the famous 45-minute claim. This was a direct attack on Alastair Campbell. They were even more furious at the BBC and its reporter, and wanted to have the head of the reporter, Andrew Gilligan. Their scheme, which may have been Hoon's idea, was to prove that Kelly was the sole source for the leak, and then have Kelly say he never used the words 'sexed up', thus proving that the BBC reporter was a liar and therefore casting doubt over the whole story. To that end, they viciously attacked Kelly, whose quiet demeanor seemed to have fooled them into thinking they could bully him into giving them what they wanted. In fact, Kelly never admitted that he was the sole source, leaving open the possibility that another source had used the words 'sexed up', and thus destroying their whole scheme. Kelly was extremely clever in the way he led them to believe that he could not have been the sole source as there was information in the story which he was not aware of. Their attacks on Kelly were so vicious, however, that it appears that they led to his suicide. The irony is that Kelly probably was the sole source, a fact which the BBC has now revealed.

  7. Blair's people are actually attacking the BBC for bearing responsibility for the death of Kelly. Their argument seems to be that if the BBC had revealed its source, the Labour hounds would not have had to so attack Kelly that he would have decided to kill himself. This is the type of argument that the kind of psychos in Labour would come up with: if you'd broken your journalist's obligation to protect your source, we wouldn't have had to kill him. The BBC is almost entirely blameless in all this. They received information from a whistle-blower, reported the story, and protected their source. What else could they have done? If whistle-blowers were better protected, this kind of witch hunt could not occur. The only mistake the BBC made, probably to further shield their source, was to misidentify him as an intelligence official, but that in no way led to his death. In fact, the main cause for what happened appears to be Campbell's decision to blow the whole matter out of proportion in order to direct the attention of the public away from the Blair government. Glenda Jackson hit the nail on the head when she said that Kelly was:

    "sacrificed as a result of a quite deliberate political strategy to afford a smoke screen for the government, who were having difficulty in giving straight answers to serious questions as to whether they have used or misused intelligence."

    It is interesting to watch the power games that are playing out in the British press. It is the Guardian which is trying to undermine the BBC's case, probably seeing this whole episode as a veiled attack on the Labour Party, which the left-wing Guardian is trying to protect.

  8. The Official Story appears to be that Kelly was depressed at the treatment he had received from the British government, and feared losing the Iraq inspection job he loved so much. He therefore went for a walk, took some painkillers, and slashed his left wrist, bleeding to death. There are many reasons why this story makes no sense (for even more, see here and here). Kelly had just gotten through the hard part, and the questioning had not impugned his credibility. He had recently written of how he was looking forward to returning to his job in Iraq. Slashing of wrists is not a normal way for an adult male to kill himself, and Kelly was smart enough to have known some less messy and painful ways. For one thing, the painkiller he had, if taken in a large enough dose, is a common method of committing suicide (so common that there have been calls in Britain for there to be more restrictions on the prescribing of this particular medication; note also that the press stories proclaimed that Kelly had taken the painkillers before the authorities could have done the tests to determine if that was true). His body placement was also odd. From television pictures, I note that his body was found in an open area a few feet away from a heavily wooded area. It appeared to be an odd place to choose to die, but exactly the kind of place you might end up being caught if you were being pursued through the woods and headed across the field.

  9. Kelly, in an e-mail to Judith Miller (!), spoke of "many dark actors playing games" (assuming we can trust what Judith Miller says). Someone could have phoned him to suggest a very private talk at a secluded place in the woods. Kelly walked there, seeming normal and happy to those who saw him. When he got to the meeting place, he was pursued and murdered, with the drugs and knife planted on the scene. The slashing of the left wrist may have symbolic connotations.

  10. Who were the "many dark actors playing games" and why did they benefit from the murder of David Kelly? My guess would be extreme right-wingers in the deep recesses of the British bureaucracy, either in defense or intelligence. By offing Kelly in this way they:

    • punish a traitor to the conservative cause (Kelly was, after all, one of them);

    • discourage other whistle blowers;

    • stop the British search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction by removing its leader, as the search is a waste of time and is just continuing for the partisan purposes of the Labour Party; and

    • deeply embarrass the Labour government, with the hopes to a return to their preferred rule by Tories.

    Blair's incompetent spinners are playing right into their hands.

I don't wish to downplay the culpability of the Blair government in the death of David Kelly. In one way or another they are directly responsible for his death, and they are all completely covered in his blood. In particular, Alastair Campbell, for his crude attempts at misdirection to spin himself and the government out of trouble, and Andrew Mackinlay, in his thuggish questioning of Kelly, might as well have slit his wrist themselves. They either caused a suicide or created the situation where a suicide could be easily faked. The essential problem is their overweening arrogance, the idea that no one dare raise the issue that they might not be entirely right about everything they do. This appears to derive from the weird messianic symptoms that both Bush and Blair are exhibiting, the madness of megalomania.

Monday, July 21, 2003

The American occupation of Iraq is proving to be violent:

  1. The Americans ran over and killed an 11-year-old boy on the road between Baghdad and Basra, and didn't even bother to stop. In Baghdad, they shot and killed an unarmed 12-year-old boy who was on the roof of his house. A boy and two girls who range in age from 10 to 11, suffered burns when they set fire to a bag that they found on the street in their village which contained explosive powder. Their father asked Sergeant David J. Borell for help, and he immediately called for assistance. However, the two army doctors who arrived refused to treat the children because their injuries were not life-threatening and had not been inflicted by U. S. troops (back home, they must work for an HMO!). One of the doctors refused to even give the children something for their pain. As a result of the failure to treat the children are remained in pain and the boy cannot use his right leg. This refusal to treat appears to be Pentagon policy, and is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Of course, children are still at high risk of death throughout Iraq due to disease, malnutrition, and the unexploded munitions, including cluster bombs, that litter the country. American cluster bombs use old technology and lack the secondary fuse used by more civilized countries which causes the duds to explode, thus removing the danger to civilians of the unexploded bombs.

  2. The American have taken to arresting (or here or here) Iraqis in the true style of tyrants everywhere, with a knock at the door in the middle of the night. The prisoners are then taken to concentration camps, where no information is provided to their relatives and no visits allowed. They are kept in terrible conditions in the camps, one of which is actually located on the grounds of Saddam's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, with the symbolism probably not lost on the Iraqis. Children are mistreated in the same way as adults. Hussein Ali Shalal of Tikrit said:

    "Even in the old days if someone was locked up they would have told us where they were and we could visit them every 10 days. But the Americans don't let us see them or even tell us if they're here."

    Amnesty International has accused the United States of violations of international law by subjecting Iraqi prisoners to 'cruel, inhuman or degrading' conditions at its detention centers. Prisoners are held in the sun, with plastic hoods, tightly handcuffed with plastic handcuffs, and sometimes are denied water and access to a toilet in the first night of arrest. They are also denied access to lawyers. Neither the United States nor Britain is living up to its obligations (or here) under international law to notify the Red Cross of any arrests. Some American interrogation techniques amount to torture (or here). Some of the most famous victims of the mistreatment are the Iraqi scientists, which the Americans are desperately attempting to 'break' in order to obtain information on the mythical 'weapons of mass destruction.'

  3. The American strike into Syria, which has been downplayed as a mere border skirmish (and is subject to a Pentagon cover-up), seems to have resulted in the deaths of at least 80 people, some of them Syrians killed on Syrian territory. It is quite likely that the attack was precipitated by faulty Israeli intelligence, which was intentionally misleading in an attempt to have the Americans make a provoking attack on Syria, perhaps leading to the war which Israel so deeply craves. All these attacks are probably war crimes, which I suppose fades into insignificance considering all the many war crimes the Americans are committing. The Syrians have played it exceptionally coolly, and have therefore so far avoided the trap. The result is that the Americans have slaughtered many people whose main crime, if any, was smuggling. The Americans are continuing to make provoking attacks along the Syrian border.

  4. The many American operations against supposed enemies of the occupation, each operation with its own distinct clever name, are resulting in a tremendous amount of anger in the population, but relatively few weapons or high-level Baathist functionaries. The usual problems of cultural insensitivity, including entering houses unannounced and the frisking of women, just adds to the anger. This is almost a textbook example of how you increase the fury in an occupied population.

Due to all the other things to write about, I've gotten woefully behind on Iraq, but more is coming soon!

Sunday, July 20, 2003

The current scandal over the series of lies told by the Bush Administration to trick Congress and the American people into the utterly disastrous attack on Iraq has numerous parallels with the Watergate scandal:

  1. The most obvious parallel is how this scandal is starting to feel like the Watergate scandal. We are seeing the same constant series of small developments, each one contradicting the latest attempt by the Bush Administration to lie itself out of trouble. Each day, you can read the newspaper articles and expect to see a new revelation damaging to Bush. Even more reminiscent of Watergate, many of these articles are appearing in the moribund Washington Post, which had become a sad mockery of its former self having fallen to the status of a mere government propaganda sheet. We are also seeing exactly the same attempts at holding back the tide by Republican legislators, failing each time due to the unremitting series of damaging leaks. We even now have a political murder in the death of David Kelly, which reminds me of the mysterious plane crash of the airliner containing Dorothy Hunt, wife of Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt, who immediately got the message and stopped being difficult and pled guilty. Kelly's death will ensure that poodle Tony won't have to put up with any more annoying leaks.

  2. At a deeper level, the Watergate matter only became important when Nixon, in a stupid and clumsy move, tried to blackmail the CIA into helping him out of the problem by threatening to reveal what he knew about the CIA's role in the JFK assassination (what Nixon referred to as 'the whole Bay of Pigs thing'). This brought the wrath of the 'Company' down upon him, and effectively sealed his fate. Karl Rove has made a similar mistake in having Tenet make the humiliating admission that the inclusion of the Niger uranium allegations in the State of the Union address was entirely the fault of the CIA (particularly galling in that the CIA did everything it could to keep the Niger allegations from being used). This was a massive tactical error for two reasons:

    • it angered the CIA, which knows where all the bodies are buried and has an unsurpassed mastery of the slow leak of damaging information to select journalists; and

    • by having the admission of responsibility happen so soon, Rove has removed any reason for the CIA to lie, which means that everything the CIA says on this issue has 100% credibility (so when Joseph of the Bush Administration directly contradicts Foley of the CIA on the key point, and Foley has absolutely no reason to lie, who are you going to believe?).

    The romanticized notion that journalists cracked open the Watergate case has been replaced by the idea that the leakers of information controlled the whole process of the downfall of Nixon. Instead of being some kind of victory for the 'system', it appears that Watergate may just have been another in the series of coup d'etats which plague American politics, with Nixon being removed because of fears that his attempts at being a great President might have led him to end the Cold War twenty years early, thus causing great harm to the military-industrial complex. In the current case, insulting the CIA may have triggered the series of leaks, but we have to delve deeper into Watergate parallels to understand more of the symmetry.

  3. One of the oddities about Watergate is that we still don't know why it happened. There have been at least three deep and dark suggestions:

    • one theory is that the Watergate burglary had something to do with a call-girl ring which was being used for sexual political blackmail in Washington (an even odder theory is that John Dean's actions were motivated by his attempts to cover up Mo Biner's involvement in this call-girl ring, a theory which has fairly recent reverberations);

    • another theory is that the whole Watergate matter was deeply connected with the financing of the American political process by foreign countries in order to obtain favorable foreign policy treatment from the United States; and

    • finally, the most interesting theory is that the whole Watergate matter turned on a turf war between the Pentagon and Henry Kissinger.

    So what are the parallels to the current scandal?

  4. I don't see any parallel to the sexual blackmail aspect of Watergate, although you would think that the kind of holier-than-thou evangelical Christians who have taken over the White House would be the kind of hypocrites who would find themselves in this kind of trouble, so it is something to watch out for in the future.

  5. The foreign involvement in American politics has an exact parallel in the current case, with the curious influence of Israel over American foreign and military policy. We know that Ariel Sharon's office had a direct line to the sausage factory of the Office of Special Plans (or here or here), and played a direct role in the production of the 100% beef sausages which justified the attack on Iraq (there were so many sausages involved, they actually seem to have had a production line to make them). Indeed, with all the Zionist neocons in and around the White House-Pentagon axis, many of whom actually seem to hold Israeli passports and all of whom show much more loyalty to the interests of Israel than to the interests of the United States, it is not unfair to say that the United States has been acting like a colony of Israel (instead of the other way around). If the American people ever come to realize the treason that has been involved here in tricking them into a new Vietnam all for the benefit of the Likudniks, Bush won't last longer than Nixon.

  6. Finally, there are parallels to the Pentagon-State Department conflict in Nixon's White House. Basically, Kissinger had decided that he alone was going to run all American foreign and military policy, and had excluded the Pentagon from even participating in the debate. Things got so bad that the Joint Chiefs of Staff actually attempted to put a spy in the White House, but were caught, and had to be forgiven by Nixon (probably Nixon's first mistake). This conflict seems to have precipitated a decision to remove Nixon, and Alexander Haig's role in this remains a large part of the whole mystery (read the whole story here - a must read!). In the current case, the problem is exactly the mirror image of Nixon's problem. In this case, the Pentagon has taken over all the military and foreign policy planning of the American government, completely squeezing out the State Department. At the same time, the Office of Special Plans has been created to produce 'intelligence' to support the plans of the Pentagon, and the CIA has been completely excluded from any meaningful role in gathering and analyzing information. The improper concentration of power in the military has led to a view of every issue in the world as a military issue, with the resulting debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq, and no doubt Iran, Syria and North Korea in the future. All this is in line with the neocon quasi-fascist ideology (Ledeen), which would like to see the United States constantly involved in wars all over the world, and regards diplomacy as a sign of weakness. These people simply like wars and the accompanying military ethos which would pervade American society, and their views are a recipe for disaster. The lies which deceived the United States into the attack on Iraq are the symptoms of this disease, and the reaction of the American body politic to the disease is the series of leaks we are beginning to see.

If the Watergate parallels play out we should see an ongoing series of small leaks each in response to a White House attempt at deception. The scandal will eventually focus on the process of the cover-up, and the additional illegalities which will no doubt have to occur. In no event can Bush admit that American foreign policy is controlled by and for the exclusive benefit of Israel, so he will have to ask people to lie. We'll also be hearing a lot of the concept of 'executive privilege', as he attempts to keep conspirators from testifying. Eventually, he'll have to start sacrificing some of the neocons in an attempt to make the problem go away. Someone will get caught in a lie, or will try to save themselves from allegations of treason, and will start to squeal. Moderate Republicans will start to get cold feet, and things may get quite dicey for Bush. On the other hand, and what is far more likely, the disgusting American media will order that reporters stop working on this story and the whole thing will disappear.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

I was listening to the radio today and nearly fell over when I heard Tony Blair defending the Niger uranium claim:

"We know in the 1980s that Iraq purchased from Niger over 270 tons of uranium, and therefore it is not beyond the bounds of possibility let's at least put it like this that they went back to Niger again. That is why I stand by entirely the statement that was made in the September dossier."

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility . . . that they went back to Niger again. This remark drew gasps from British Members of Parliament, and I can see why. We're witnessing the public collapse of Tony Blair's reputation, and his lies to try to extricate himself from his problem are as bad as the lies of the Bush Administration. He dragged his county kicking and screaming into a disastrous and illegal war because it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that Iraq purchased uranium from Niger. Pathetic. Actually, even with this extraordinary weak test, the Niger uranium story is beyond the bounds of possibility:

  1. The Niger uranium industry is completely controlled by a French consortium, and all its production is accounted for by the French and is operated under the authority of the French atomic energy commission. Besides Ambassador Wilson (the Bushites are viciously trying to smear Wilson and ruin the CIA career of his wife - I keep asking: How much abuse of its credibility and its agents will the CIA take?), it now turns out that the Americans also sent Marine Gen. Carlton W. Fulford Jr. to Niger, who also confirmed that Niger's yellowcake was kept secure by the French consortium.

  2. Saddam would have required tons of the yellowcake to have manufactured the ingredients for a bomb, and it would have been impossible to divert any yellowcake from the Niger production, let alone tons. In fact, Iraq already had 500 tons of uranium, portions of which came from Niger, so it is difficult to see why Saddam would want to take the additional risk of buying more.

  3. The yellowcake itself is just the raw ingredient for producing the fuel for a nuclear bomb, and would have required a large factory to convert the tons required into bomb material. There is not a shred of evidence that Saddam had such a factory. In fact, the International Atomic Energy Agency was fully aware of and monitoring Saddam's nuclear facilities, including the famous one at Tuwaitha which the Americans allowed to be looted, and knew that the uranium that Saddam did have was not a problem because he lacked the facilities to process it. We have to always remember that the whole context of this debate was that the United States and Britain could not afford to wait for the weapons inspectors to do their work, as the United States and Britain were in imminent danger of attack (in the case of Britain, in danger of attack in 45 minutes). How was Saddam going to build a nuclear bomb without building an enrichment plant, and how was he going to build an enrichment plant under the eyes of the International Atomic Energy Agency?

  4. Iraq has uranium itself, and would have had no need to buy it from Niger, particularly if such purchases would lead to the risk of being caught in violation of sanctions (prior to the Gulf War, Iraq had attempted to enrich its indigenous uranium at the Tuwaitha plant).

  5. Niger vehemently denies that it tried to sell any nuclear material to Iraq. Prime Minister Hama Hamadou has said, accurately:

    "Niger cannot sell its uranium to whoever it likes: it has neither the technological means, nor the military capability, nor the ability to do so."

  6. Blair, obviously flailing around, claimed that the French were another of his mysterious sources for the Niger story (so mysterious, that Blair won't even tell the International Atomic Energy Agency, thus arguably subjecting the world to the danger of not having this issue of world security investigated - of course, there is really no danger because we all now know that Blair's mysterious other sources are fictitious). Besides the obvious facts that the French would have known that the Niger story was impossible, and they would have hardly given Blair evidence to support a war they were against, they have now expressly denied being a source for Blair's lies.

Since the Niger connection is beyond the bounds of possibility, Blair's claims that he has other sources for his claims, sources which he cannot reveal, must be seen for lies as well. Similarly, American claims of having other evidence for African sources of uranium must also be lies. Bush's 'darn good' intelligence can't be so 'darn good', because, simply speaking, it is impossible. The reason the Niger story ended up in the State of the Union address is explained by Walter Pincus:

"By Jan. 28, in fact, the intelligence report concerning Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa - although now almost entirely disproved - was the only publicly unchallenged element of the administration's case that Iraq had restarted its nuclear program. That may explain why the administration strived to keep the information in the speech and attribute it to the British, even though the CIA had challenged it earlier."

Someone is going to have to walk the plank for this. Blair seems to suggest Cheney (and note the case of the Niger embassy perfume robbery later in the story!), but as Cheney is the real power in the United States, and the pick of the Powers That Be to run the United States, I think Cheney would be the last to go. My guess for the American fall guy would be Wolfowitz (or here or here), who appears to be in the process of being prepared for the ritual sacrifice. He's clearly 'in the loop' and can be held responsible for the whole mess (the irony is that it is quite possible that he, unlike Cheney and Rumsfeld and Feith and Shulsky, had nothing to do with it). He's a neocon, which would allow the Bush Administration to pin the blame for the whole Iraq debacle on the neocons, and Wolfowitz's firing would then serve as proof that the neocons were punished for their arrogance. Wolfowitz is an egghead with a big mouth, and is the main source for the claims of how easy the attack would be and how few troops would be required and how inexpensive it would all be. If they remove Wolfowitz, they could depict Cheney and Bush and Rumsfeld and Rice as victims of this evil intellectual, but leave all the rest of the Zionist neocons in place to plan the attacks on Iran and Syria after Bush wins the next election. Unfortunately for Tony the poodle, he has left himself open as the only obvious British fall guy.
Tenet took the blame for not forcing the Bushites to remove the reference to African uranium from the State of the Union address, even though the CIA had grave doubts about the claim. It took months and months for the International Atomic Energy Agency to extract the documents which purported to prove the Niger connection from the United States (three of the the documents can now be seen, with a colorful story of where they originated that is subject to the problem that a diplomat from Niger wouldn't have produced documents with such obvious mistakes). Now, in what has to rank as one of the more amazing things in this amazing story, it turns out that the CIA itself had not seen the actual documents on which the Niger claim was based at the time of the State of the Union address. The Bush Administration had been relying on these documents for months, and they were still being used in January to back up the State of the Union claim, but no one had bothered to show them to the CIA! The Cheney-Rumsfeld plan to isolate the Office of Special Plans lie-producing sausage factory from the CIA had been completely successful, and the CIA was forced to vet the State of the Union address, and to take the complete blame for the lie, without being allowed to see the main documents on the issue in the possession of the Bush Administration. This fact completely destroys the Rice claim that they were relying on the CIA to determine what would have to be taken out of the address, for the Administration intentionally denied the CIA access to the documentation which the CIA would have needed to see to make a proper determination. Obviously, this was done because the Administration did not want the CIA to see that the documents were forgeries before they could be used to justify the attack on Iraq. Note that the failure for not seeing the documents is being blamed on the CIA as well, with the whole matter turning into another FBI-CIA battle! How much slander will the CIA take before it starts to make its real power known by leaking some interesting facts? History has shown us that you don't mess with the CIA!

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I have been pondering the Niger documents and am having trouble with the story as it has been presented. There were four documents. They have been described as 'crude forgeries' (a summary of all the reports on the forgeries is here). What is wrong with them?:

  • one of the documents purports to be a letter signed by Tandjia Mamadou, the president of Niger, with a childlike signature that is clearly not his;

  • another document was written on paper from a 1980's military government in Niger (the "Supreme Military Council"), bears the date of October 10, 2000, and bears the signature of foreign minister Allele Elhadj Habibou, a man who by then had not been foreign minister of Niger for 14 years; and

  • one letter referred to the Niger constitution of 1965, which had been superseded by a new constitution in 1999.

There are two obvious anomalies with these documents:

  1. the actual forgery is incompetently done, but using paper that would not be available to the average amateur forger; and

  2. there is some kind of weird time warp going on, with the forger appearing to operate on the basis of information that is ten to fifteen years out of date.

How do we explain this? I think the forger used as his starting point copies of genuine documentation involving the government of Niger and the government of Iraq. The only unusual aspect of this is that these documents were from the 1980's. In other words, the forger took copies of documents from fifteen years ago, and cut and pasted them to look like they were documents from a few years ago. So the forger must have been an individual who:

  1. is not a professional intelligence agent, as a professional would have done a much better job and wouldn't have made the serious and obvious errors,

  2. is not from Niger, for someone from Niger wouldn't have made the errors, and

  3. is someone who had access to internal Iraqi government files from the 1980's.

In other words, the forger was almost certainly a functionary in the Iraqi bureaucracy of the 1980's, who took copies of the Niger documents with him when he defected out of Iraq. He is almost certainly one of the Iraqi defectors that Cheney has been using to provide much of the raw material on which the attack on Iraq was justified. All this talk about Italian intelligence, and French intelligence, and intelligence sources from 'another country', and a mysterious diplomat from Niger, are all fog meant to confuse the issue. From what information we have, the information flow is likely as follows:

  1. Cheney and Chalabi decide it would be a good idea if some documentary evidence were to surface tying Saddam into recent attempts to buy nuclear materials.

  2. One of Chalabi's cronies, who worked for Saddam in the 1980's and has since defected with as many incriminating documents as he could carry, uses some of his old Niger documents to cut and past some rough forgeries, without even bothering to get the minor details right as he knows that the recipients of these forgeries aren't going to look at them too critically (Niger was specifically picked as one of Saddam's Ambassador to the Vatican in Rome had recently visited there, and this visit had led to rumors that the purpose of the visit was related to the acquisition of uranium).

  3. The documents end up with Cheney and/or Rumsfeld, who pass them on to their Office of Special Plans, the sausage factory led by Abram Shulsky which was set up to create lies without the interference of the professional intelligence agencies, and from there directly to Ariel Sharon's office, as Sharon plays a special hand's on role in the creation of the lies.

  4. In the sausage factory, the lies get made into part of the whole framework of lies to justify the attack on Iraq.

  5. Either the Americans or the Israelis pass the documents on to the Italians, so that their provenance will seem less obvious.

  6. The Italians pass on summaries (the Italians are now claiming they didn't provide any documents, but haven't mentioned summaries) to the British (so the British didn't actually see the documents until after they were denounced by the International Atomic Energy Agency; there is some question about this in that some reports have it that the documents went to MI6 and then to Cheney) and the British are also led to obtain the same information from another source other than the United States, probably Israel, so that Blair can claim he has multiple sources independent of the United States (the British are trying to claim that the sources were France and Italy, with the French unwilling to supply the information to the Americans, a story which doesn't make sense since the French had to have known that Niger couldn't have supplied the uranium - see below).

  7. The British include the Niger claims in a dossier.

  8. One of Cheney's people, probably specifically Robert G. Joseph, puts the 16 words in the State of the Union address, worded so they can blame the whole thing on Blair's dossier if they need to.

The Americans have said that the source for the documents was neither Israel nor Britain, a statement which is probably true. The forgery was probably by a non-professional forger who created a mess of a forgery, but with careful manipulation of the intelligence trail the Americans managed to get it into Blair's dossier, where it formed the basis of the sixteen words in the State of the Union speech (note that Bush said that the British learned that Saddam had sought uranium in Africa, which implies more than that the British thought this to be true, but that it actually was true). Contrary to what Rice is now saying, the sixteen words were absolutely crucial to the case for the attack on Iraq. Since the whole argument depended on the necessity for war due to the imminent risk of attack to the United States, and the aluminum tubes story had been largely discredited, the Niger uranium was the only real evidence the Bush Administration had to justify the attack. Even worse, perhaps, was the fact that Cheney was using these same nuclear arguments at a time when he knew them to be lies (he gave a speech on August 26, 2002 stating that Saddam could "directly threaten America's friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail" when Ambassador Wilson had given his report in May 2002), in order to influence the Congressional debate on the subject. Perhaps the most interesting fact in all of this, and something which flows directly from the fact that the British, the Americans and the Israelis all intentionally did their sausage making in offices separated from their respective intelligence agencies, is that Niger could not possibly have provided this uranium to Iraq. The International Atomic Energy Agency investigated the documents carefully (it was Jacques Baute who almost immediately determined they were fakes), and indeed had unsuccessfully insisted on seeing them for months, only receiving them when they complained to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission, because it knew that all of Niger's production was under the complete control of an international consortium, and was all shipped to France, Japan and Spain under absolute security. The amounts in question couldn't possibly have been sent to Iraq without anyone noticing. An expert on the situation would know immediately that Niger couldn't have supplied this uranium, so the documents had to be fake. But neither the original forger, nor the people in the sausage factories in Israel, Britain or the United States knew this (I think Cheney may have suspected it as he insisted that Ambassador Wilson be sent by the CIA to Niger to check the matter out). We know that the CIA never accepted the documents as genuine, but the whole structure of the sausage factory was intended to exclude the CIA from having any meaningful input. The fact that Britain is still trying to claim that the report is accurate (and suggesting that Ambassador Wilson is some form of idiot), with references to mysterious intelligence source(s) including, of all countries, France (who may be playing along with this to do Tony the poodle a favor), is incredible.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

George Tenet has been muscled by Condoleezza Rice into falling on his sword to save his President from allegations that he lied to the American people in the State of the Union address (CBS is having trouble reporting on the lie without the annoying syndrome of 'headline drift'!). He has given a quite remarkable statement taking the full blame for the Niger uranium fiasco, on the basis that the CIA saw Bush's State of the Union address before it was given and didn't say anything:

  1. The technical reason the CIA is said to have kept its mouth shut is the same dumb reason used as the excuse by the Bush Administration - because the Niger assertion specifically refers to a British government source, it wasn't technically incorrect, as the British government source had in fact made the allegation. Needless to say, this is nonsense. The State of the Union address isn't supposed to be a speech given by a trickster trying to con the American public, and Bush can't get away with stating something that the Administration knows is highly questionable just because the British wrote a report about it. The CIA knows that this is a completely bogus excuse, and so Tenet's explanation for why they didn't say anything makes no sense.

  2. Tenet and Rice can't even keep their lies straight. Tenet in his statement said:

    "Portions of the State of the Union speech draft came to the CIA for comment shortly before the speech was given. Various parts were shared with cognizant elements of the Agency for review. Although the documents related to the alleged Niger-Iraqi uranium deal had not yet been determined to be forgeries, officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues. Some of the language was changed. From what we know now, Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct – i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa."

    On the other hand, Rice said:

    "The CIA cleared on it. There was even some discussion on that specific sentence, so that it reflected better what the CIA thought. And the speech was cleared. Now, I can tell you, if the CIA, the Director of Central Intelligence, had said, take this out of the speech, it would have been gone, without question."

    But the changes she is referring to relate to "specifics about amount and place," i. e., specific references to amounts of uranium and countries from which Iraq was seeking to obtain it. She claimed the CIA did not object to the assertion that Iraq was seeking to procure uranium from Africa, when in fact Tenet's statement makes it clear that the CIA did so object, and only got around their objection with the technicality of relying on the British report. Another account has it that Tenet himself (?) vetted the entire address and removed any reference to 'yellow cake' or the specific country of Niger, while Tenet implies he did not personally see the speech. This is the difficulty of creating a lie when one party is in Africa and the other in Washington.

  3. Rice knew that the Niger story was false months before the State of the Union address was delivered (from the MSNBC story):

    "But U.S. officials told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell that Tenet himself advised Rice’s top deputy, Steven Hadley, to remove a reference to the uranium report from a speech Bush delivered Oct. 7 in Cincinnati, establishing that the nation's top intelligence officials suspected that the allegation was false more than three months before they approved Bush’s repeating it in his nationally televised address on Jan. 28."

    Rice's argument is that Bush is off the hook because the CIA, when given a chance to say something, didn't comment on the inclusion of the Niger claim in the State of the Union address. But Rice knew. She knew it was false, or at least highly questionable, and yet let it stand in the speech. How can she possibly think that the Bush Administration can get away with pinning this on the CIA? Someone wrote the State of the Union address, and expressly included something which they all knew to be highly questionable. How does the fact that they ran this by the CIA absolve them of lying to mislead the country into a very bad war? Rice said:

    "If the CIA - the director of central intelligence - had said, 'Take this out of the speech,' it would have been gone. We have a high standard for the president’s speeches."

    Not so high that they wouldn't say things that they knew to be highly questionable.

  4. Former US ambassador Joseph Wilson (or here - article dated June 8, 2003) was the fellow that the CIA sent to Niger to investigate the original claims about Saddam's alleged attempts to obtain uranium there. Who put pressure on the CIA to send someone to check? None other than Dick Cheney (note that Tenet goes out of his way in his statement to note that Wilson was sent by CIA counter-proliferation experts, on their own initiative, as if that point was in issue)! Now, we're supposed to believe that no one bothered to tell Cheney the results of Wilson's report, and that Cheney wasn't curious enough to ask. Wilson says that the CIA, the State Department, the U. S. National Security Council and the Vice-President's office were all informed of the results of his investigation. Did Dick Cheney not read the State of the Union Address before it was given? Why didn't he say anything about the problems with the Niger story? Ari Fleischer has said specifically:

    "The vice president's office did not request the mission to Niger. The vice president's office was not informed of his mission. He was not aware of Mr. Wilson's mission until recent press reports accounted for it."

    Who do you believe, Wilson or Fleischer?

  5. Just eight days after the State of the Union address, Colin Powell specifically left the Niger claim out of his address to the United Nations. He said:

    "I didn’t use the uranium at that point because I didn’t think that was sufficiently strong as evidence to present before the world."

    So it wasn't strong enough to present before the world, but presumably was strong enough to present to the American people. Powell said he read the State of the Union speech before it was delivered. Why didn't he say anything?

  6. Lots of people in the Bush Administration, including Bush, Cheney and Rice, knew that the CIA had strong misgivings about the Niger claim. They knew that these misgivings had existed for months. The CIA knew that the Bush Administration knew that the CIA had these misgivings. In fact, as mentioned above, the CIA had already blocked the use of the allegations in a previous Bush speech on October 7. Tenet was personally involved in this previous case. The State of the Union address was passed by the CIA for comments, and it contained the Niger claim. Wouldn't it be natural for the CIA to assume that its misgivings had been overridden, particularly in the light of the fact that they had already made exactly the same comments on a previous speech? After all, the CIA works for Bush. If it starts to nit pick about something which Bush may feel has already been dealt with, the CIA may find itself in trouble with the Administration. If I keep telling you that something is a lie, and then you show me a speech you are about to give which states that the very thing is true, wouldn't it be natural to assume that you didn't believe me, or didn't care, or were going to lie about it, and really didn't want to hear my opinion on that subject again? Wouldn't you get mad at me if I attempted to raise the issue again? There was an understanding as to what the CIA's position was, and it would no doubt have been considered gross insubordination if the CIA officiously tried to raise the issue again. This whole story that Rice has concocted to save Bush makes no sense.

  7. So how did this mistake end up in the speech? After all, someone had to write the speech, and the Niger uranium claim had to come from somewhere. From the Washington Post, referring to a national intelligence estimate (NIE):

    "By January, when conversations took place with CIA personnel over what could be in the president's State of the Union speech, White House officials again sought to use the Niger reference since it still was in the NIE.

    'We followed the NIE and hoped there was more intelligence to support it,' a senior administration official said yesterday. When told there was nothing new, White House officials backed off, and as a result 'seeking uranium from Niger was never in drafts,' he said."

    So who added it after the draft stage? Bush's chief speechwriter, Michael J. Gerson, claims he does not remember who wrote the line, which is of course silly as it could be easily determined. From the Independent:

    "Quite how the claim entered the speech remains unclear. Reports yesterday suggested the decision was taken after a conversation between Robert Joseph, a nuclear proliferation expert at the national security council, and Alan Foley, a CIA official with similar expertise. Exactly what the two men said to each other is unknown. Some unnamed administration officials said Mr Joseph had pressured the CIA man to authorise the claim, while others said he had done no such thing."

    Robert Joseph?! From the New York Times:

    "Before the speech, the crucial conversations between the C.I.A and White House over whether to include the African reference in the State of the Union address were held between Robert G. Joseph, a nuclear proliferation expert at the National Security Council, and Alan Foley, a proliferation expert at the C.I.A., according to government officials.

    There is still a dispute over what exactly was said in their conversations. Mr. Foley was said to recall that before the speech, Mr. Joseph called him to ask about putting into the speech a reference to reports that Iraq was trying to buy hundreds of tons of yellowcake from Niger. Mr. Foley replied that the C.I.A. was not sure that the information was right.

    Mr. Joseph then came back to Mr. Foley and pointed out that the British had already included the information in a report. Mr. Foley said yes, but noted that the C.I.A. had told the British that they were not sure that the information was correct. Mr. Joseph then asked whether it was accurate that the British reported the information. Mr. Foley said yes.

    Other government officials said, however, that Mr. Joseph did not recall Mr. Foley's raising any concerns about the reliability of the information. If he had, they said, Mr. Joseph would have made sure that the reference was not included in the speech."

    You may recall I've mentioned Mr. Joseph here before. From the important article by Jonathan S. Landay (my emphasis):

    "'The intelligence community had generally discredited the Niger angle well before the Feb. 5 presentation, though the (CIA) had caveated the whole matter with 'it's a possibility' type language,' said one senior administration official. 'The State Department's (Bureau of Intelligence and Research) had footnoted the caveat with a 'hardly believable. . . . It was too bad even to get on the table at the (CIA) by that time.'

    'However, during the time between the 'almost no good' report from the agency and the 'unbelievable' footnote from INR, various people tried time and again to resurrect it and use it,' the official said.

    Among the most vocal proponents of publicizing the alleged Niger connection, two senior officials said, were Cheney and officials in the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The effort was led by Robert G. Joseph, the top National Security Council staff official on nuclear proliferation, the officials said."

    It was Robert G. Joseph, working for Cheney and Rumsfeld, who inserted the magic 16 words.

  8. The funniest part of the whole story is that the CIA is supposed to have not told the Bush Administration about the problem, but did tell Tony Blair about it! Even funnier is that Tony Blair asserts that he could use the story because he had additional reliable sources for it. Funniest of all is that he cannot reveal who the sources are (my wild guess is that they are Israeli, although the Americans specifically claim the forgeries did not come from Israel, and Italian, with the Italians simply passing on Israeli information to make it look like two independent sources).

The Bush Administration has put me in the very odd position of feeling sorry for the CIA.

Friday, July 11, 2003

The romanticized story of the Watergate reporting of Woodward and Bernstein, as depicted in the movie 'All the President's Men', turned on the battle of the reporters to avoid being fooled by the Nixon Whitehouse into publishing material which seemed to be damning to Nixon but which was was false and could be shown to be false, thus allowing Nixon's people to ruin the reputation of Woodward and Bernstein and undermine their stories on Watergate. The current scandal of the Iraq lies appears to have produced its first example of this kind of trickery. Doug Thomson, publisher of Capitol Hill Blue, ran a story based on a source who called himself 'Terrance J. Wilkinson', a man who had been a reliable source on intelligence matters for twenty years. The story, entitled 'White House Admits Bush Wrong About Iraqi Nukes', referring to the Niger uranium story, stated (or, slightly shortened, here):

"An intelligence consultant who was present at two White House briefings where the uranium report was discussed confirmed that the President was told the intelligence was questionable and that his national security advisors urged him not to include the claim in his State of the Union address.

'The report had already been discredited,' said Terrance J. Wilkinson, a CIA advisor present at two White House briefings. 'This point was clearly made when the President was in the room during at least two of the briefings.'

Bush's response was anger, Wilkinson said.

'He said that if the current operatives working for the CIA couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could,' Wilkinson said. 'He said he knew the story was true and so would the world after American troops secured the country.'"

This appears to be the smoking gun which proves that Bush knew the story to be false, and thus lied to the American people. Unfortunately, the source turned out to be a phony, and Doug Thompson has had to apologize for the story and amend the it (here is the story as it now appears). The effect of all this is to blunt the attacks on Bush, as stories attacking Bush can now be depicted as lies made up for partisan political purposes. Is it possible that this 'dirty trick' is the work of Karl Rove? Consider:

  1. Karl Rove started out as a 'dirty tricks' operative for none other than Richard Nixon.

  2. 'Terrance J. Wilkinson' appears to have been a professional liar, probably planting ideas for intelligence agencies who wanted to place their own spin on issues reported in the media. The fact that he had been doing this for twenty years, with good enough information not to get caught, indicates that he had professional backing.

  3. The method of this operation is noticeably like the attack on the reputation of James H. Hatfield, an attack allegedly engineered by Karl Rove. Hatfield had written a book on the life of George W. Bush, containing many sordid details that might have interfered with the upcoming election campaign of Bush. One allegation was that Bush's father had arranged for a Texas judge to have his son's conviction for possession of cocaine expunged from the record. Hatfield's book, 'Fortunate Son' was ready to be printed when this allegation made the news, and the original publisher prevailed on him to put the details in an afterword to the book. Immediately when the book came out, the press learned that Hatfield himself had a criminal past, and the book was withdrawn and destroyed less than a week after publication, with much being made of the anonymity of the source for the drug story. Neatly, the issue of Bush's sordid life had been hidden behind the scandal of Hatfield's past, and the potentially dangerous book was off the market. The bad reputation of the book and its author made the drugs story much less credible, and it caused Bush no great problems (other than losing the election!). When the book was republished by Soft Skull Press, Hatfield refused to deny that Karl Rove had been one of his sources. If it was Rove who was behind all this, and some have questioned Hatfield's assertions that it was citing discrepancies in his story, it would be the ultimate successful 'dirty trick'. Unfortunately, we will probably never know the answer, as Hatfield, who was working on another book on the life of George Bush, was 'suicided' shortly after he started to discuss his sources.

The scandal over Bush's lying about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has become so obvious that even the disgusting American media can no longer continue to cover up for him. CBS News is now reporting that the claim that Saddam was attempting to buy uranium from Niger, which formed a prominent part of Bush's State of the Union address, had been vetted by the CIA before the speech was delivered, and the CIA had warned members of the Bush’s National Security Council staff that the intelligence was not good enough to state that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger. So Bush lied. We now have two independent sources, Joseph Wilson and Gregory Thielmann, making it clear that the whole Bush Administration argument for the attack on Iraq was based on information which had been disputed by American intelligence, and which the Bush Administration knew was in dispute. What is interesting is that the defense of the Bush Administration for the Niger uranium lie is that the statement was technically true. Bush actually said:

"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Although the Bush Administration knew that American intelligence wouldn't support the allegation, they rely on the extreme technicality that the statement was true as the British government did have a report which suggested that Saddam had sought to buy uranium from Niger. This is an extremely offensive argument for the Bushites to make, as it means that they are claiming that they could say things that they knew to be untrue as long as the way the statement was worded was deceptive enough to allow for the fallback position that they were only passing along information from Britain. But it is even more offensive than that. Blair's own 'dodgy dossier' was made up from a number of sources, including old material posted on the internet, and we are not entirely sure where it all originated. We do know, however, that the main source for all this information was the Bush Administration's Office of Special Plans led by Abram Shulsky, which brewed a concoction of nose-stretchers made up of material obtained from Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress and material custom-made for the purpose out of Ariel Sharon's office (and by the way, isn't it just about time for someone to figure out exactly where these clumsily forged Niger documents originated?). Therefore, it is quite possible that the original source for the lie was out of the Bush Administration's own office. If Bush wants to lie to the American people, all he has to do is feed the lies to his poodle Tony, who has it typed up into a 'dodgy dossier', and then carefully make the lie expressly referring to the Blair dossier, thus effectively laundering the lie through poodle Tony. We are starting to see Bush and Blair defend themselves by making statements that tend to pin the blame on the other (we try co-accused together so they can't get off by each one blaming the other). I wonder if Tony's defense for his lying will be that he was only relying on information that Dick Cheney gave to him.