Wednesday, May 18, 2005

George Galloway

From Signs of the Times, 5-18-05:

No, not GW. We are referring to yesterday's testimony by British MP George Galloway, outspoken critic of the US and British led invasion and occupation of Iraq, now accused of profiting from the Oil for Food programme in what appears clearly to be a smear campaign against a politican who tells tell the truth about the situation in Iraq. Accused, tried, and convicted in the Senate and the US press last week, Galloway came to Washington to clear his name. Of course, he is well aware that the neocons don't care about truth and justice and that nothing he said would make a difference to their findings, therefore he used the opportunity to condemn the disaster in Iraq, the pack of lies from US officials that justified it, as well as coming back repeatedly to the number of Iraqis and Americans who are dead because of those lies.

However, as Mr Galloway was not speaking directly to the American people, the reports of his testimony come filtered through the political agendas of those controlling the news. We see that in the coastal cities, the papers go into more depth on Galloway's remarks, while in the heartland of Homeland Security, those reamrks are mostly edited out and the focus is on his refusal to answer loaded questions with a simple yes or no. Such is the way the red states stay red.

Below we have the transcript of Mr Galloway's opening statement, but first we have a selection of articles from a number of US publications on his appearance.

The Telegraph, the British paper that lost a libel case Galloway brought against it when they published forged documents, and one of the main voices of Zionism in the UK, avoided Galloway's criticisms of US war policy in their report, preferring to focus on Galloway's refusal to directly answer a couple of questions. Galloway was asked by Senator Levin, a Democrat, whether he was troubled that his friend, Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat, may have profited from the Oil for Food programme. Refusing to be drawn into simple yes or no answers that accept the assumptions of the hostile question ("Have you stopped beating your wife?"), Galloway gave a long response on his opposition to the programme, the absurdity of giving .30 a day for food, medicine, education, etc for each Iraqi during the embargo. He also pointed out the absurdity of claiming that the money Mr Zureikat donated to his Mariam's Charity came from the kickbacks when he was a very rich man who did much more business in Iraq and elsewhere, and returned again and again to the fact that the Senate's investigation shows it was American companies who were responsible for more improprieties than everyone else combined, and that these improprieties were done with the knowledge and agreement of the US government.

To the moralist Senators, whose indignation at ignoring UN rulings extends only to certain hand-picked programmes where the US has been able to impose its will (Where was this indignation when Israel ignores condemnation after condemnation or when the Security Council refused to legalise the Bush Reich invasion of Iraq?), Galloway's evasiveness was proof that he was an unreliable witness.

Galloway repeatedly pointed out that the evidence against him was flimsy at best and that if they had had anything concrete, it would have been published. They had nothing concrete.

The New York Times unleashed their neocon reporter Judith Miller, the same reporter who was embedded in Iraq with the fraudster and discredited Chalabi and whose reporting came up for such scathing criticism. She was then transfered to the UN where she has been one of the loudest conspirators in bringing down UN Secretary General Kofi Annan over the Oil for Food scandal. Annan has so far been vindicated of every charge of impropriety.

We ran an article yesterday by Wayne Madsen chronicling Coleman's ties with AIPAC and the neoconservatives. Be clear. The campaign against the British anti-war activist and harsh critic of Bush's poodle Tony Blair, as well as a Frenchman and a Russian, have all the earmarks of a vendetta against those who opposed the US rape and pillage of a country that was no threat to US security. As the Iraq disaster becomes more and more obvious, the Senate is indeed throwing up what Galloway so aptly termed "the mother of all smokescreens".


The Transcript:

"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

"Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.
"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his.

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.

"You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.
"Now you say in this document, you quote a source, you have the gall to quote a source, without ever having asked me whether the allegation from the source is true, that I am 'the owner of a company which has made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil'.

"Senator, I do not own any companies, beyond a small company whose entire purpose, whose sole purpose, is to receive the income from my journalistic earnings from my employer, Associated Newspapers, in London. I do not own a company that's been trading in Iraqi oil. And you have no business to carry a quotation, utterly unsubstantiated and false, implying otherwise.

"Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have been up there in your slideshow for the members of your committee today.

"You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realize played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.

"There were 270 names on that list originally. That's somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that committee included the former secretary to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress Presidential office and many others who had one defining characteristic in common: they all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.

"You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I've never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner, I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say, British citizens being held in those places.

"I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances. But you quote 13 words from Dahar Yassein Ramadan whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong.

"And if you had any evidence that I had ever engaged in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this committee today because I agreed with your Mr Greenblatt [Mark Greenblatt, legal counsel on the committee].

"Your Mr Greenblatt was absolutely correct. What counts is not the names on the paper, what counts is where's the money. Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them today.

"Now you refer at length to a company names in these documents as Aredio Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today: I have never heard of this company, I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me and I'll tell you something else: I can assure you that Aredio Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Mariam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime. I don't know who Aredio Petroleum are, but I daresay if you were to ask them they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.

"Whilst I'm on that subject, who is this senior former regime official that you spoke to yesterday? Don't you think I have a right to know? Don't you think the Committee and the public have a right to know who this senior former regime official you were quoting against me interviewed yesterday actually is?

"Now, one of the most serious of the mistakes you have made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that you have made. You assert on page 19, not once but twice, that the documents that you are referring to cover a different period in time from the documents covered by The Daily Telegraph which were a subject of a libel action won by me in the High Court in England late last year.

"You state that The Daily Telegraph article cited documents from 1992 and 1993 whilst you are dealing with documents dating from 2001. Senator, The Daily Telegraph's documents date identically to the documents that you were dealing with in your report here. None of The Daily Telegraph's documents dealt with a period of 1992, 1993. I had never set foot in Iraq until late in 1993 - never in my life. There could possibly be no documents relating to Oil-for-Food matters in 1992, 1993, for the Oil-for-Food scheme did not exist at that time.

"And yet you've allocated a full section of this document to claiming that your documents are from a different era to the Daily Telegraph documents when the opposite is true. Your documents and the Daily Telegraph documents deal with exactly the same period.

"But perhaps you were confusing the Daily Telegraph action with the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor did indeed publish on its front pages a set of allegations against me very similar to the ones that your committee have made. They did indeed rely on documents which started in 1992, 1993. These documents were unmasked by the Christian Science Monitor themselves as forgeries.

"Now, the neo-con websites and newspapers in which you're such a hero, senator, were all absolutely cock-a-hoop at the publication of the Christian Science Monitor documents, they were all absolutely convinced of their authenticity. They were all absolutely convinced that these documents showed me receiving $10 million from the Saddam regime. And they were all lies.

"In the same week as the Daily Telegraph published their documents against me, the Christian Science Monitor published theirs which turned out to be forgeries and the British newspaper, Mail on Sunday, purchased a third set of documents which also upon forensic examination turned out to be forgeries. So there's nothing fanciful about this. Nothing at all fanciful about it.

"The existence of forged documents implicating me in commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a proven fact. It's a proven fact that these forged documents existed and were being circulated amongst right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime.

"Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

"Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.

"Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.

"Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."

Friday, May 13, 2005

Captain Queeg

From the Southern Conservative columnist, Charley Reese:


Well, here we are, two years out (as they say in Washington) from "mission accomplished," the president's now-famous speech during the photo opportunity on an American carrier.

The American death toll in Iraq is now 1,585, and the wounded exceed 10,000. The cost is about $300 billion. Somewhere between 140,000 and 150,000 Americans remain in Iraq. A third interim government has been partially formed after three months of wrangling. The insurgency is still going strong. Iraq is now an excellent training ground for terrorists. All of the reasons cited for going to war have been proven false. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There were no ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. The Iraqis had nothing to do with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Has it been worth it? I don't think so. The number of acts of terrorism has gone up, not down, which is no doubt why the Bush administration has decided to discontinue the annual reporting of such acts. Facts are nasty little buggers that play havoc with political rhetoric. It's best to keep them under wraps.

Iraq was more stable under Saddam than it is today, and his wobbly regime never was a threat to the U.S., much less an imminent danger. The Pentagon has finally admitted that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have put such a strain on the U.S. military that any future actions will be longer, with higher casualties and higher collateral damage (that's the killing of innocent civilians).

Iran and North Korea, well aware of the limits of American military power, are thumbing their noses at us, and the president's "my way or the highway" approach to diplomacy has yielded nothing but a loss of American prestige.

In the meantime, the president is proposing the wrong solution to the wrong problem (his cockamamie scheme to gut Social Security) while he ignores the real problems: skyrocketing costs of medical care; the skyrocketing U.S. budget deficit; the skyrocketing U.S. trade deficit; illegal immigration; poor relations with the one country that could destroy us, Russia; a looming energy crisis; the dismantling of environmental protections; the bleeding of American jobs to overseas cheap labor; excessive secrecy and government propaganda; the weakness of the American dollar; the decline of education; and the usual corruption.

I think we are adrift in a sea of troubles, and our captain, like the infamous fictional Captain Queeg, is more concerned about who ate the strawberries than saving the ship. If you doubt that, take this little test. The next time the president holds a press conference or makes a speech, turn off the sound and study his face. I'm not saying he isn't there. It's we who are not there in whatever world he is occupying.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Reading Between the Lines: American Defeat in Iraq

From Kurt Nimmo:

May 10, 2005
Operation Matador: An Exercise in Futility

As Bush’s imbroglio in Iraq drags on, inching closer to complete disaster, with every passing day it gets easier to read the news, as spun by the corporate media, or rather it gets easier to read between the lines. For instance, read the following, gleaned from the Associated Press:

U.S. forces hunting down followers of Iraq’s most wanted terrorist pushed into a lawless region near the Syrian border today after meeting unexpected resistance from insurgents hidden in remote desert outposts along the southern banks of the Euphrates River.

The “most wanted terrorist” is, of course, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but for some reason his name is not mentioned in the news item (this is either an oversight or the editors at the Associated Press feel it is no longer necessary to mention his name, since they have spent months drilling into our impressionable heads a singular “fact,” as defined by Bush and the Pentagon—the “insurgency” in Iraq is driven by one man, now that Saddam is in prison, or one of his doubles is in prison, and that man is the phantom monster, mass murderer, beheader, executer of infidels, both Anglo-American and Shia, al-Zarqawi). It stands to reason, since the entire resistance is run by al-Zarqawi, or so we are led to believe, and al-Zarqawi’s “followers” are now trapped in a “lawless region” (conveniently near the Syrian border). However, even though the corporate media does not bother to tell us the whole story, most of Iraq (outside of the Green Zone) is a “lawless region” where the resistance rules and has few problems attacking occupation forces.

Marines fought yesterday against dozens of well-armed insurgents firing at them from balconies, rooftops and sandbagged bunkers in the
border town of Obeidi and surrounding villages, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In other words, these “well-armed insurgents” expected the Americans in Obeidi and made preparations for battle, indicating that somebody tipped them off (resistance spies are everywhere in Iraq, considering most Iraqis hate the U.S. military and the occupation of their country and many work directly with the resistance).

As many as 100 militants have been killed since Operation Matador, one of the largest U.S. offensives in Iraq in six months, began Saturday night in Qaim, 200 miles west of Baghdad, the military said.

Translation: the Pentagon has absolutely no idea how many “militants” (read: people who want the United States out of their country and have joined the resistance) are dead—and if they do, they certainly are not reporting the truth to the corporate media and the American people, as was the case in Vietnam (where the Pentagon often doubled body counts). “The return of the body count in assessing U.S. military operations is an ironic development, especially given the criticism the United States military received during the Vietnam war for using the number of enemy dead as a measure of effectiveness,” Mackubin T. Owens wrote when Bush invaded Afghanistan. “Critics of the body-count approach in Vietnam were generally correct. A reliance on the body count was the result of an overall lack of strategy for
fighting the war. It was also the logical consequence of a flawed operational approach—a war of attrition.” Obviously, a “war of attrition,” if this is indeed the Pentagon’s strategy, is failing big time in Iraq.

Gunmen, meanwhile, kidnapped the governor of Iraq’s western Anbar province today and told his family he would be released when U.S. forces withdraw from Qaim, relatives said. Gov. Raja Nawaf Farhan al-Mahalawi was seized as he drove from Qaim to the provincial capital of Ramadi, his brother, Hammad, said.

The U.S. military cannot even protect its stooges. Maybe they should all migrate to the Green Zone. At least, when the time comes, they will be closer to the evacuation helicopters.

The offensive comes amid a surge of militant attacks across Iraq, often
targeting security forces and civilians, since the new government was announced April 28.

In fact, the “offensive” has never ceased, regardless of Bush’s stage managed phony baloney “election” in Iraq. As for the targeting of civilians, the corporate media rarely mentions the fact—established months ago—that Bush and Crew have slaughtered well over 100,000 Iraqis (because the corporate media has dismissed the British medical journal The Lancet’s report out of hand). As usual, we are offered no facts or corroborating evidence in regard to these civilians supposedly killed by the resistance. Obviously, civilians are being killed in great numbers, but not only does the Pentagon refuse to release information on these deaths, but they seem to be targeting people who attempt to gather information (see The Mysterious Death of Marla Ruzicka: The US Military has Detailed Statistics on Civilian Casualties, by Michel Chossudovsky).

“This is an area [the northern Jazirah Desert near the Syrian border]which we believe has been pretty heavy with foreign insurgents from many different areas—Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine,” Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said late yesterday.

Apparently, the Pentagon wants to keep sending the message, long ago debunked, that foreigners (especially “al-Qaeda” terrorists) are streaming into Iraq. It is also significant that these purported “foreign insurgents” are being discovered on the border of Syria. “The question of foreign fighters crossing Iraqi [borders] has been exaggerated, given that only 24 of the 1000 men captured in Falluja are foreign,” noted Syria’s al-Thawra. “Of the more than 1000 men aged between 15 and 55 who were captured in intense fighting in Falluja … just 15 are confirmed foreign fighters, General George Casey, the top US ground commander in Iraq,” told al-Jazeera last November. Lack of evidence of foreign fighters, however, does not prevent the U.S. from claiming they exist anyway. “Despite the relatively small number of foreign nationals in custody, officials believe that non-Iraqis are playing key roles in organizing or financing attacks on U.S. troops and that foreign Muslim militants are behind some of the deadliest suicide bombings,” USA Today reported last July.

... According to the United States, the resistance is comprised strictly of “former Ba’athists,” criminals, opportunists, and foreigners, such as the mythical al-Zarqawi. In fact, the resistance is, increasingly, comprised of average Iraqis, many of them aggrieved and outraged relatives of the dead (100,000 and counting) who are taking matters into their own hands and attempting to get rid of Bush and his soldiers. It only makes sense that the former Iraqi military (i.e., the Ba’athists) would play an important role in this effort. It is, of course, absurd to claim all the trouble for the U.S stems from Ba’athists and dead-enders. It is, as well, an avoidance of reality, one that will cost Bush dearly.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Venezuela Networks

From Signs of the Times:

Here we see the real reason the United States is so intent on getting rid of Hugo Chavez. He is proposing and giving the tools to the poorest people of Venezuela to take charge of their own lives: health care, education, housing, and food. In the neo-liberal Bible, this is tantamont to freeing the slaves. How can people be controlled if they aren't terrorised about where their next meal is coming from or of losing everything they own if a family member gets sick?

How many people in the US media would tell the truth if they weren't afraid of losing their jobs and of the repercussions of that on their families?

The right-wing the world over argues that if people are given the essentials, they will become dependent upon the state. The changes in Venezuela show that such an outcome is not written in stone and is more a justification for the liberal economic jungle of survival of the fittest. Their ideology colours their thinking. Such an ideology serves to keep people separated while Chavez is inspriing the people to work together and take the power into their own hands, developing a parallel network of services that they build, operate, and benefit from themselves.

Unfortunately, in this world of ours, it will not be long before the power-brokers find ways of undermining these achievements, either by shooting Chavez, invading the country, or sending in agents provacateur to sow discord and turn the parallel networks into bureaucratic hellholes that are as dysfunctional as the goverment's. One psychopath or paid agent can undo the work of thousands of honest and sincere people. That is why such advances can never be permanent. Entropy is stronger is our world than creativity.

However, such a bleak prognostic should not stop
the formerly disenfranchised people of Venezuela from becoming active and from
building the parallel networks, from expressing this creative impulse in ways
that serve to better their lives, but they must be aware of the dangers that
face them on all sides. If the networks themselves do not become permanent, the
lessons learned from working together will be.

Quagmire

From Robert Dreyfuss in Rolling Stone:

The Quagmire: As the Iraq War Drags on, it's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Vietnam
by Robert Dreyfuss

The news from Iraq is bad and getting worse with each passing day. Iraqi insurgents are stepping up the pace of their attacks, unleashing eleven deadly bombings on April 29th alone. Many of the 150,000 Iraqi police and soldiers hastily trained by U.S. roops have deserted or joined the insurgents. The cost of the war now tops $192 billion, rising by $1 billion a week, and the corpses are piling up: Nearly 1,600 American soldiers and up to 100,000 Iraqi civilians are dead, as well as 177 allied troops and 229 private contractors. Other nations are abandoning the international coalition assembled to support the U.S., and the new Iraqi government, which announced its new cabinet to great fanfare on April 27th, remains sharply split along ethnic and religious lines.

But to hear President Bush tell it, the war in Iraq is going very, very well. In mid-April, appearing before 25,000 U.S. soldiers at sun-drenched Fort Hood, in Texas, Bush declared that America has succeeded in planting democracy in Iraq, creating a model that will soon spread throughout the Middle East. "That success is sending a message from Beirut to Tehran," the president boasted to chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" from the troops. "The establishment of a free Iraq is a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." Staying on message, aides to Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, later suggested that U.S. forces could be reduced from 142,000 to 105,000 within a year.

In private, however, senior military advisers and intelligence specialists on Iraq offer a starkly different picture. Two years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is perched on the brink of civil war. Months after the election, the new Iraqi government remains hunkered down inside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, surviving only because it is defended by thousands of U.S. troops. Iraqi officials hold meetings and press conferences in Alamo-like settings, often punctuated by the sounds of nearby explosions. Outside the Green Zone, party offices and government buildings are surrounded by tank traps, blast walls made from concrete slabs eighteen feet high, and private militias wielding machine guns and AK-47s. Even minor government officials travel from fort to fort in heavily armed convoys of Humvees.

"I talk to senior military people and combat commanders who tell me that the situation is much more precarious than admitted," says Col. Patrick Lang, former Middle East chief for the Defense Intelligence Agency. "Even inside the Green Zone you are not safe, because of indirect fire. And if you were to venture outside at night, they'd probably find your headless body the next morning."

Car bombs rock Baghdad and other cities virtually every day, and insurgents conduct hundreds of attacks each week on U.S. troops, Iraqi recruits and civilian police. Thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers have scattered or disappeared, and countless others either do no fighting or covertly support the insurgency. The out-of-control security situation means that few reconstruction projects can get off the ground. Transport is crippled, and Iraq's core infrastructure -- its roads and bridges, its power plants, its water-treatment facilities, and its all-important oil fields, pipelines and oil terminals -- remains heavily damaged from the war.

According to U.S. officials, the resistance attacks are being aided by an extensive network of informers. Insurgents, apparently making use of engineers and former insiders, have been able to hit oil installations and power plants expertly, foiling U.S. efforts to sustain Iraqi oil exports and to provide electricity and water to Iraqi cities. "They have tentacles that reach all through the new government and the new military," Lt. Gen. Walter Buchanan, who commands U.S. air forces in the Persian Gulf, admitted recently.

...If it comes to civil war, the disintegration of Iraq will be extremely bloody. "The breakup of Iraq would be nearly as bad as the breakup of India in 1947," says David Mack, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state with wide experience in the Arab world. "The Kurds can't count on us to come in and save their bacon. Do they think we are going to mount an air bridge on their behalf?" Israel might support the Kurds, but Iran would intervene heavily in support of the Shiites with men, arms and money, while Arab countries would back their fellow Sunnis.

"You'd see Jordan, Saudi Arabia, even Egypt intervening with everything they've got -- tanks, heavy weapons, lots of money, even troops," says White, the former State Department official.

"If they see the Sunnis getting beaten up by the Shiites, there will be extensive Arab support," agrees a U.S. Army officer. "There will be no holds barred."

In fact, it may already be too late to prevent Iraq from exploding. Iraq's new government is stuck in a fatal Catch-22: To have any credibility among Iraqis it must break with the U.S. and oppose the occupation, but it couldn't last a week without the protection of American troops. The Bush administration is also stuck. Its failure to stabilize Iraq, and the continuing casualties there, have led to a steady slide in the president's popularity: Polls show that a majority of Americans no longer think that the war in Iraq was worth fighting in the first place. Yet withdrawing from Iraq would only lead to more chaos, and the rest of the world has exhibited little interest in cleaning up America's mess. Of the two dozen or so countries that sent troops to Iraq, fewer and fewer remain: Spain, Portugal, Hungary and New Zealand have already quit, and the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Italy have announced they are getting out. Even if the United Nations agreed to step in, there is little or no chance that the administration will internationalize control over Iraq.

In the face of a full-scale civil war in Iraq, says a source close to the U.S. military, Bush intends to go it alone. "Our policy is to make Iraq a colony," he says. "We won't let go."

Monday, May 09, 2005

Jeff Wells's Coincidence Theorists' Guide to 9/11

From Rigorous Intuition

The Coincidence Theorist's Guide to 9/11

I posted an earlier version of this last week at Democratic Underground. I've added a number of more entries, and links for all.Happy coincidenting!

That governments have permitted terrorist acts against their own people, and have even themselves been perpetrators in order to find strategic advantage is quite likely true, but this is the United States we're talking about.

That intelligence agencies, financiers, terrorists and narco-criminals have a long history together is well established, but the Nugan Hand Bank, BCCI, Banco Ambrosiano, the P2 Lodge, the CIA/Mafia anti-Castro/Kennedy alliance, Iran/Contra and the rest were a long time ago, so there’s no need to rehash all that. That was then, this is now!

That Jonathan Bush’s Riggs Bank has been found guilty of laundering terrorist funds and fined a US-record $25 million must embarrass his nephew George, but it's still no justification for leaping to paranoid conclusions.

That George Bush's brother Marvin sat on the board of the Kuwaiti-owned company which provided electronic security to the World Trade Centre, Dulles Airport and United Airlines means nothing more than you must admit those Bush boys have done alright for themselves.

That George Bush found success as a businessman only after the investment of Osama’s brother Salem and reputed al Qaeda financier Khalid bin Mahfouz is just one of those things - one of those crazy things.

That Osama bin Laden is known to have been an asset of US foreign policy in no way implies he still is.

That al Qaeda was active in the Balkan conflict, fighting on the same side as the US as recently as 1999, while the US protected its cells, is merely one of history's little aberrations.

The claims of Michael Springman, State Department veteran of the Jeddah visa bureau, that the CIA ran the office and issued visas to al Qaeda members so they could receive training in the United States, sound like the sour grapes of someone who was fired for making such wild accusations.

That one of George Bush's first acts as President, in January 2001, was to end the two-year deployment of attack submarines which were positioned within striking distance of al Qaeda's Afghanistan camps, even as the group's guilt for the Cole bombing was established, proves that a transition from one administration to the next is never an easy task.

That so many influential figures in and close to the Bush White House had expressed, just a year before the attacks, the need for a "new Pearl Harbor" before their militarist ambitions could be fulfilled, demonstrates nothing more than the accidental virtue of being in the right place at the right time.

That the company PTECH, founded by a Saudi financier placed on America’s Terrorist Watch List in October 2001, had access to the FAA’s entire computer system for two years before the 9/11 attack, means he must not have been such a threat after all.

That whistleblower Indira Singh was told to keep her mouth shut and forget what she learned when she took her concerns about PTECH to her employers and federal authorities, suggests she lacked the big picture. And that the Chief Auditor for JP Morgan Chase told Singh repeatedly, as she answered questions about who supplied her with what information, that "that person should be killed," suggests he should take an anger management seminar.

That on May 8, 2001, Dick Cheney took upon himself the job of co-ordinating a response to domestic terror attacks even as he was crafting the administration’s energy policy which bore implications for America's military, circumventing the established infrastructure and ignoring the recommendations of the Hart-Rudman report, merely shows the VP to be someone who finds it hard to delegate.

That the standing order which covered the shooting down of hijacked aircraft was altered on June 1, 2001, taking discretion away from field commanders and placing it solely in the hands of the Secretary of Defense, is simply poor planning and unfortunate timing. Fortunately the error has been corrected, as the order was rescinded shortly after 9/11.

That in the weeks before 9/11, FBI agent Colleen Rowley found her investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui so perversely thwarted that her colleagues joked that bin Laden had a mole at the FBI, proves the stress-relieving virtue of humour in the workplace.

That Dave Frasca of the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit received a promotion after quashing multiple, urgent requests for investigations into al Qaeda assets training at flight schools in the summer of 2001 does appear on the surface odd, but undoubtedly there's a good reason for it, quite possibly classified.

That FBI informant Randy Glass, working an undercover sting, was told by Pakistani intelligence operatives that the World Trade Center towers were coming down, and that his repeated warnings which continued until weeks before the attacks, including the mention of planes used as weapons, were ignored by federal authorities, is simply one of the many "What Ifs" of that tragic day.

That over the summer of 2001 Washington received many urgent, senior-level warnings from foreign intelligence agencies and governments - including those of Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Afghanistan and others - of impending terror attacks using hijacked aircraft and did nothing, demonstrates the pressing need for a new Intelligence Czar.

That John Ashcroft stopped flying commercial aircraft in July 2001 on account of security considerations had nothing to do with warnings regarding September 11, because he said so to the 9/11 Commission.

That former lead counsel for the House David Schippers says he’d taken to John Ashcroft’s office specific warnings he’d learned from FBI agents in New York of an impending attack – even naming the proposed dates, names of the hijackers and the targets – and that the investigations had been stymied and the agents threatened, proves nothing but David Schipper’s pathetic need for attention.

That Garth Nicolson received two warnings from contacts in the intelligence community and one from a North African head of state, which included specific site, date and source of the attacks, and passed the information to the Defense Department and the National Security Council to evidently no effect, clearly amounts to nothing, since virtually nobody has ever heard of him.

That in the months prior to September 11, self-described US intelligence operative Delmart Vreeland sought, from a Toronto jail cell, to get US and Canadian authorities to heed his warning of his accidental discovery of impending catastrophic attacks is worthless, since Vreeland was a dubious character, notwithstanding the fact that many of his claims have since been proven true.

That FBI Special Investigator Robert Wright claims that agents assigned to intelligence operations actually protect terrorists from investigation and prosecution, that the FBI shut down his probe into terrorist training camps, and that he was removed from a money-laundering case that had a direct link to terrorism, sounds like yet more sour grapes from a disgruntled employee.

That George Bush had plans to invade Afghanistan on his desk before 9/11 demonstrates only the value of being prepared.

The suggestion that securing a pipeline across Afghanistan figured into the White House’s calculations is as ludicrous as the assertion that oil played a part in determining war in Iraq.

That Afghanistan is once again the world’s principal heroin producer is an unfortunate reality, but to claim the CIA is still actively involved in the narcotics trade is to presume bad faith on the part of the agency.

Mahmood Ahmed, chief of Pakistan’s ISI, must not have authorized an al Qaeda payment of $100,000 to Mohammed Atta days before the attacks, and was not meeting with senior Washington officials over the week of 9/11, because I didn’t read anything about him in the official report.

That Porter Goss met with Ahmed the morning of September 11 in his capacity as Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has no bearing whatsoever upon his recent selection by the White House to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

That Goss's congressional seat encompasses the 9/11 hijackers' Florida base of operation, including their flight schools, is precisely the kind of meaningless factoid a conspiracy theorist would bring up.

It's true that George HW Bush and Dick Cheney spent the evening of September 10 alone in the Oval Office, but what's wrong with old colleagues catching up? And it's true that George HW Bush and Shafig bin Laden, Osama's brother, spent the morning of September 11 together at a board meeting of the Carlyle Group, but the bin Ladens are a big family.

That FEMA arrived in New York on Sept 10 to prepare for a scheduled biowarfare drill, and had a triage centre ready to go that was larger and better equipped than the one that was lost in the collapse of WTC 7, was a lucky twist of fate.

Newsweek’s report that senior Pentagon officials cancelled flights on Sept 10 for the following day on account of security concerns is only newsworthy because of what happened the following morning.

That George Bush's telephone logs for September 11 do not exist should surprise no one, given the confusion of the day.

That Mohamed Atta attended the International Officer's School at Maxwell Air Force Base, that Abdulaziz Alomari attended Brooks Air Force Base Aerospace Medical School, that Saeed Alghamdi attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey merely shows it is a small world, after all.

That Lt Col Steve Butler, Vice Chancellor for student affairs of the Defense Language Institute during Alghamdi's terms, was disciplined, removed from his post and threatened with court martial when he wrote "Bush knew of the impending attacks on America. He did nothing to warn the American people because he needed this war on terrorism. What is...contemptible is the President of the United States not telling the American people what he knows for political gain," is the least that should have happened for such disrespect shown his Commander in Chief.

That Mohammed Atta dressed like a Mafioso, had a stripper girlfriend, smuggled drugs, was already a licensed pilot when he entered the US, enjoyed pork chops, drank to excess and did cocaine, was closer to Europeans than Arabs in Florida, and included the names of defence contractors on his email list, proves how dangerous the radical fundamentalist Muslim can be.

That 43 lbs of heroin was found on board the Lear Jet owned by Wally Hilliard, the owner of Atta’s flight school, just three weeks after Atta enrolled – the biggest seizure ever in Central Florida – was just bad luck. That Hilliard was not charged shows how specious the claims for conspiracy truly are.That Hilliard’s plane had made 30-round trips to Venezuela with the same passengers who always paid cash, that the plane had been supplied by a pair of drug smugglers who had also outfitted CIA drug runner Barry Seal, and that 9/11 commissioner Richard ben-Veniste had been Seal’s attorney before Seal’s murder, shows nothing but the lengths to which conspiracists will go to draw sinister conclusions.

Reports of insider trading on 9/11 are false, because the SEC investigated and found only respectable investors who will remain nameless involved, and no terrorists, so the windfall profit-taking was merely, as ever, coincidental.

That heightened security for the World Trade Centre was lifted immediately prior to the attacks illustrates that it always happens when you least expect it.That Hani Hanjour, the pilot of Flight 77, was so incompetent he could not fly a Cessna in August, but in September managed to fly a 767 at excessive speed into a spiraling, 270-degree descent and a level impact of the first floor of the Pentagon, on the only side that was virtually empty and had been hardened to withstand a terrorist attack, merely demonstrates that people can do almost anything once they set their minds to it.

That none of the flight data recorders were said to be recoverable even though they were located in the tail sections, and that until 9/11, no solid-state recorder in a catastrophic crash had been unrecoverable, shows how there's a first time for everything.

That Mohammed Atta left a uniform, a will, a Koran, his driver's license and a "how to fly planes" video in his rental car at the airport means he had other things on his mind.

The mention of Israelis with links to military-intelligence having been arrested on Sept 11 videotaping and celebrating the attacks, of an Israeli espionage ring surveiling DEA and defense installations and trailing the hijackers, and of a warning of impending attacks delivered to the Israeli company Odigo two hours before the first plane hit, does not deserve a response. That the stories also appeared in publications such as Ha'aretz and Forward is a sad display of self-hatred among certain elements of the Israeli media.

That multiple military wargames and simulations were underway the morning of 9/11 – one simulating the crash of a plane into a building; another, a live-fly simulation of multiple hijackings – and took many interceptors away from the eastern seaboard and confused field commanders as to which was a real hijacked aircraft and which was a hoax, was a bizarre coincidence, but no less a coincidence.

That the National Military Command Center ops director asked a rookie substitute to stand his watch at 8:30 am on Sept. 11 is nothing more than bad timing.That a recording made Sept 11 of air traffic controllers’ describing what they had witnessed, was destroyed by an FAA official who crushed it in his hand, cut the tape into little pieces and dropped them in different trash cans around the building, is something no doubt that overzealous official wishes he could undo.

That the FBI knew precisely which Florida flight schools to descend upon hours after the attacks should make every American feel safer knowing their federal agents are on the ball.

That a former flight school executive believes the hijackers were "double agents," and says about Atta and associates, "Early on I gleaned that these guys had government protection. They were let into this country for a specific purpose," and was visited by the FBI just four hours after the attacks to intimidate him into silence, proves he's an unreliable witness, for the simple reason there is no conspiracy.

That Jeb Bush was on board an aircraft that removed flight school records to Washington in the middle of the night on Sept 12th demonstrates how seriously the governor takes the issue of national security.

To insinuate evil motive from the mercy flights of bin Laden family members and Saudi royals after 9/11 shows the sickness of the conspiratorial mindset.

Le Figaro’s report in October 2001, known to have originated with French intelligence, that the CIA met Osama bin Laden in a Dubai hospital in July 2001, proves again the perfidy of the French.

That the tape in which bin Laden claims responsibility for the attacks was released by the State Department after having been found providentially by US forces in Afghanistan, and depicts a fattened Osama with a broader face and a flatter nose, proves Osama, and Osama alone, masterminded 9/11.

That at the battle of Tora Bora, where bin Laden was surrounded on three sides, Special Forces received no order to advance and capture him and were forced to stand and watch as two Russian-made helicopters flew into the area where bin Laden was believed hiding, loaded up passengers and returned to Pakistan, demonstrates how confusing the modern battlefield can be.

That upon returning to Fort Bragg from Tora Bora, the same Special Operations troops who had been stood down from capturing bin Laden, suffered a unusual spree of murder/suicides, is nothing more than a series of senseless tragedies.Reports that bin Laden is currently receiving periodic dialysis treatment in a Pakistani medical hospital are simply too incredible to be true.

That the White House went on Cipro September 11 shows the foresightedness of America’s emergency response.

That the anthrax was mailed to perceived liberal media and the Democratic leadership demonstrates only the perversity of the terrorist psyche.

That the anthrax attacks appeared to silence opponents of the Patriot Act shows only that appearances can be deceiving.

That the Ames-strain anthrax was found to have originated at Fort Detrick, and was beyond the capability of all but a few labs to refine, underscores the importance of allowing the investigation to continue without the distraction of absurd conspiracy theories.

That Republican guru Grover Norquist has been found to have aided financiers and supporters of Islamic terror to gain access to the Bush White House, and is a founder of the Islamic Institute, which the Treasury Department believes to be a source of funding for al Qaeda, suggests Norquist is at worst, naive, and at best, needs a wider circle of friends.

That the Department of Justice consistently chooses to see accused 9/11 plotters go free rather than permit the courtroom testimony of al Qaeda leaders in American custody looks bad, but only because we don't have all the facts.

That the White House balked at any inquiry into the events of 9/11, then starved it of funds and stonewalled it, was unfortunate, but since the commission didn't find for conspiracy it's all a non issue anyway.

That the 9/11 commission's executive director and "gatekeeper," Philip Zelikow, was so closely involved in the events under investigation that he testified before the the commission as part of the inquiry, shows only an apparent conflict of interest.

That commission chair Thomas Kean is, like George Bush, a Texas oil executive who had business dealings with reputed al Qaeda financier Khalid bin Mafouz, suggests Texas is smaller than they say it is.

That co-chair Lee Hamilton has a history as a Bush family "fixer," including clearing Bush Sr of the claims arising from the 1980 "October Surprise", is of no concern, since only conspiracists believe there was such a thing as an October Surprise.

That FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds accuses the agency of intentionally fudging specific pre-9/11 warnings and harboring a foreign espionage ring in its translation department, and claims she witnessed evidence of the semi-official infrastructure of money-laundering and narcotics trade behind the attacks, is of no account, since John Ashcroft has gagged her with the rare invocation of "State Secrets Privilege," and retroactively classified her public testimony. For the sake of national security, let us speak no more of her.

That, when commenting on Edmond's case, Daniel Ellsberg remarked that Ashcroft could go to prison for his part in a cover-up, suggests Ellsberg is giving comfort to the terrorists, and could, if he doesn't wise up, find himself declared an enemy combatant.

I could go on. And on and on. But I trust you get the point. Which is simply this: there are no secrets, an American government would never accept civilian casualties for geostrategic gain, and conspiracies are for the weak-minded and gullible.

Mainstream Journalist Tries to Break Story on Stolen U.S. Election

From Signs of the Times:

CITIZENS IN THE RAIN
By Robert C. Koehler

Tribune Media Services

"Where there is a free press the governors must live in constant awe of the opinions of the governed." - Lord Macaulay (one of many stirring quotes on the sacred role of the Fourth Estate adorning the lobby of the Chicago Tribune)

My fantasy of the mainstream media actually doing their job, and living up to the words they carve in marble to describe their own importance, is an 80-point (Terri Schiavo- or even Pope John Paul II-sized) headline running across the top of tomorrow's paper: ELECTION RESULTS IN DOUBT.

That would stop a few hearts. But the nation's major newspapers, even as they struggle with declining readership, have no intention of being quite that relevant to their readers - no intention, it appears, even to begin the process of looking into the hornets' nest of vote fraud allegations abuzz in meticulously researched reports on electronic voting (see uscountvotes.org) or the voluminous Conyers Report on what happened in Ohio on Nov. 2 (see truthout.org/Conyersreport.pdf).

Isn't our democracy at stake? Doesn't that matter?

"If John Kerry and the Ohio Democratic Party and all the other folks who had the most to gain from the election were making this challenge, I would get interested. But when the people with the most at stake don't step up, I'm suspicious."

So Don Wycliff, the Chicago Tribune's public editor, wrote to me in an e-mail exchange a few days ago, explaining why he, if not the Tribune itself, had no intention of investigating the issue with any seriousness.

It followed a strange breach in the Tribune's deathly silence on the irregularities of the 2000 and 2004 elections, which came about after readers began bombarding the Tribune with mail suggesting they run a column I had written, "The Silent Scream of Numbers," addressing these irregularities and reporting on a national election-reform conference in Nashville last month.

My column didn't run, but Wycliff wrote a column, "When Winning Isn't Everything," dismissing their concerns and telling them to ponder the moral leadership of Richard Nixon, who patriotically swallowed his close defeat in 1960 without complaint. In others words, shut up and get over it.

Wycliff was speaking only for himself, not "the media," but because his column was one of the few pieces to appear in a major publication even acknowledging that a huge number of Americans are distraught at mounting evidence of large-scale disenfranchisement in 2004 (and no guarantee that 2006 and 2008 will be any different), his words, by default, have special resonance. They stand in for the prejudices of the media as a whole.

Of all my objections to what he wrote, his contention that Kerry has the most at stake in all this is the most dispiriting, and most reflects the wrongheaded, "horse
race" coverage of elections the media have shoved down our throats for as long as I can remember.

In his column, Wycliff even used a sports analogy, pointing out that "it's not the pregame prognostication and expert opinions that count, but the numbers on the scoreboard after the contest has actually been played." The Bush team won; the Kerry team lost. And the voters must be the equivalent of sports fans then, either jubilant or disappointed when the game is over, but couch potatoes either way, not participants.

Anyone else just a little bit offended? As one of the hundred or so readers who responded to the column (and cc'd me) put it, "Winning isn't everything, but fair elections are everything."

Nearly a week after Wycliff's column ran, the Tribune has printed only one letter in response to it - and this letter was about Nixon. It didn't have a word to say about the 2004 election. So much for my naïve optimism that an actual debate would ensue on the pages of the Trib.

Once again I quote exit-poll analyst Jonathan Simon: "When the autopsy of our democracy is performed, it is my belief that media silence will be given as the primary cause of death."The stakes are getting higher and higher. Could it be we can't have election reform without media reform? The "respectable press" refuses to confer the least legitimacy on the citizens who are questioning this election and
demanding accountability in the voting process.

How do we make them care? How do we make them look for themselves? How do we make them stand outside with us in the rain, waiting to cast our ballot for democracy?

Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer. You can respond to this column at
bkoehler@tribune.com or visit his Web site at commonwonders.com.

Comment: Readers take note. The above article by respected mainstream journalist Robert Koehler was CENSORED by his superiors because it alludes to theDAMNING EVIDENCE that Bush WAS NOT ELECTED PRESIDENT BY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE in november 2004.

One of the main arguments against the suggestion that America now bears all the hallmarks of a fascist state, and that the Bush administration is remarkably similar to the Nazi regime in Germany leading up to and during WWII, is that there is not the obvious and blatant censorship of the press in the US that was so evident under Hitler. Yet what many people fail to realise is that this does not mean that Americans are not just as deceived by their government as Germans were by the Third Reich.

The reason that the censorship of the press and crass government propaganda was so noticeable in Nazi Germany was due to the fact that, prior to Hitler seizing control of the country, Germany was a relatively free nation with a relatively free press. Due to Hitler's sudden rise to power and the speed with which he desired to achieve his goals however, the Nazis had no choice but to quickly and obviously quash such freedoms. This is however not the case in the modern USA. The reason that average Americans do not see any obvious signs of censorship of the press is because such censorship has been in place in the US for over a generation and most have become comfortably unaware of it.

Below is Koehler's original article which outlines the case for the theft of the 2004 election that was carried by only a handful of outlets and which lead to the blatant censorship of his subsequent submissions on the same topic...

The Silent Scream of Numbers
by Robert C. Koehler

April 14 2005
The 2004 election was stolen — will someone please tell the media?

As they slowly hack democracy to death, we’re as alone — we citizens — as we’ve ever been, protected only by the dust-covered clichés of the nation’s founding: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

It’s time to blow off the dust and start paying the price.

The media are not on our side. The politicians are not on our side. It’s just us, connecting the dots, fitting the fragments together, crunching the numbers, wanting to know why there were so many irregularities in the last election and why these glitches and dirty tricks and wacko numbers had not just an anti-Kerry but a racist tinge. This is not about partisan politics. It’s more like: “Oh no, this can’t be true.”

I just got back from what was officially called the National Election Reform Conference, in Nashville, Tenn., an extraordinary pulling together of disparate voting-rights activists — 30 states were represented, 15 red and 15 blue — sponsored by a Nashville group called Gathering To Save Our Democracy. It had the feel of 1775: citizen patriots taking matters into their own hands to reclaim the republic. This was the level of its urgency.

Was the election of 2004 stolen? Thus is the question framed by those who don’t want to know the answer. Anyone who says yes is immediately a conspiracy nut, and the listener’s eyeballs roll. So let’s not ask that question.

Let’s simply ask why the lines were so long and the voting machines so few in Columbus and Cleveland and inner-city and college precincts across the country, especially in the swing states, causing an estimated one-third of the voters in these precincts to drop out of line without casting a ballot; why so many otherwise Democratic ballots, thousands and thousands in Ohio alone, but by no means only in Ohio, recorded no vote for president (as though people with no opinion on the presidential race waited in line for three or six or eight hours out of a fervor to have their say in the race for county commissioner); and why virtually every voter complaint about electronic voting machine malfunction indicated an unauthorized vote switch from Kerry to Bush.

This, mind you, is just for starters. We might also ask why so many Ph.D.-level mathematicians and computer programmers and other numbers-savvy scientists are saying that the numbers don’t make sense (see, for instance, www.northnet.org/minstrel, the Web site of Dr. Richard Hayes Phillips, lead statistician in the Moss v. Bush lawsuit challenging the Ohio election results). Indeed, the movement to investigate the 2004 election is led by such people, because the numbers are screaming at them that something is wrong.

And we might, no, we must, ask — with more seriousness than the media have asked — about those exit polls, which in years past were extraordinarily accurate but last November went haywire, predicting Kerry by roughly the margin by which he ultimately lost to Bush. This swing is out of the realm of random chance, forcing chagrined pollsters to hypothesize a “shy Republican” factor as the explanation; and the media have bought this evidence-free absurdity because it spares them the need to think about the F-word: fraud.

And the numbers are still haywire. A few days ago, Terry Neal wrote in the Washington Post about Bush’s inexplicably low approval rating in the latest Gallup poll, 45 percent, vs. a 49 percent disapproval rating. This is, by a huge margin, the worst rating at this point in a president’s second term ever recorded by Gallup, dating back to Truman.

“What’s wrong with this picture?” asks exit polling expert Jonathan Simon, who pointed these latest numbers out to me. Bush mustered low approval ratings immediately before the election, surged on Election Day, then saw his ratings plunge immediately afterward. Yet Big Media has no curiosity about this anomaly.

Simon, who spoke at the Nashville conference — one of dozens of speakers to give highly detailed testimony on evidence of fraud and dirty tricks from sea to shining sea — said, “When the autopsy of our democracy is performed, it is my belief that media silence will be given as the primary cause of death.”

In contrast to the deathly silence of the media is the silent scream of the numbers. The more you ponder these numbers, and all the accompanying data, the louder that scream grows. Did the people’s choice get thwarted? Were thousands disenfranchised by chaos in the precincts, spurious challenges and uncounted provisional ballots? Were millions disenfranchised by electronic voting fraud on insecure, easily hacked computers? And who is authorized to act if this is so? Who is authorized to care?

No one, apparently, except average Americans, who want to be able to trust the voting process again, and who want their country back.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Zombie Science

From a Signs of the Times editorial:

In an essay entitled "Eyes wide shut?" published in the April 30, 2005 issue of The New Scientist, Patricia Churchland tackles the ever-thorny problem of consciousness. In brief, she argues that neuroscience will provide the key to understanding consciousness as it elaborates four conditions:

    1. We understand how macro events emerge from the properties and organisations of the micro events;
    2. novel phenomena can be predicted;
    3. the system can be manipulated;
    4. and it is clear at what level of brain organisation the phenomenon resides.

In the coded language of neuroscience, the term "macro events" refers to consciousness, which, according to Churchland and many, many others, "emerges" from the "properties and organisations of the micro events, that is, the workings of the brain". In other words, consciousness emerges from evolution when the appropriate level of complexity is reached in the nervous system. It is neither the cause, the foundation, nor the prime mover of that evolution.

Churchland admits that "science is moving forward on the problem, but has not yet nailed down the answers - and no one really knows what the answers will look like." She admits, as well, that "neuroscience is a very young science, still in search of its own exoskeleton - the fundamental principles that explain how nervous systems work. Although an enormous amount is known about the structure and function of individual neurons, how macro effects emerge from populations of neurons remains poorly understood."

Fine so far. She sets out her ideas and her belief that consciousness will ultimately be explained through work on neuroscience: "a theory of consciousness will co-evolve with an understanding of the fundamentals of brain function."

But as she admits, we aren't there yet, so she cannot know this to be the case. It is, one might suggest, an intuition.

The trouble is that Ms Churchland spends a large portion of her essay criticising intuition in the domain of consciousness research, as long as these intuitions do not agree with her own. One in particular receives a severe dose of ridicule:

Among these intuitions is the idea that there could be a zombie like me in all respects - all, save that it lacks qualia. A lack of qualia means it doesn't have the "experience" of redness when it sees a London bus, but like me would say: "Look! There is a red London bus." Incredibly (I'm not making this up) zombie-me would have exactly the same conversations about conscious experience that I do. For example, we both say: "When I dream, I am aware of actions, such as flying, but not aware of how bizarre those actions are." The difference is that zombie-me has neither experiences nor qualia to talk about.

Could there be such a zombie? "Perhaps not," says the purveyor of zombies. "It is a thought-experiment-zombie." Fine. But so what? "Well, the mere imagining of such a thing entails that consciousness cannot be a property of the brain..." Good grief. As a colleague once muttered in despair, this argument is not even wrong.

Dennett is right about most of the philosophically pampered intuitions, especially those bravely predicting that "science can never, ever explain consciousness". These intuitions and the arguments they spawn have been repeatedly exposed as confusions, fallacies, circularities, failures of
imagination, arguments from ignorance and just plain bunk.

Ouch! Unfortunately, Ms Churchland's belief that the answers will come from neuroscience is as much an intuition as her zombie example. Moreover, there is an awful lot of evidence that supports the existence of such zombies. It has been gathered through observation, it is repeatable, and it allows one to make predictions. This evidence would also be dismissed without a thought by Ms Churchland because it is not "scientific" according to her unfortunately limited idea of what constitutes, or could constitute, science.

Could her limited view of science be related to the question of the existence of zombies?

First, let us do a thought experiment. Imagine a philosopher and neuroscientist who is herself a zombie. Her standards of what constitutes experience and an inner life would be limited to zombie experiences. When a non-zombie described his or her experiences to her, she would interpret them according to her own experiences. Those aspects that were foreign to her would either be reduced to fit her own experiences or would be rejected as impossible.

Isn't this what we see over and over again in the split between the materialists and the idealists in philosophy, in the split between science and mysticism, in the split between those who believe that there is nothing after death and those who have a deep conviction that there is? One would think that, if we really are all just 'one race', and after thousands of years of argument from both sides, the question would be resolved one way or another. Can we take the lack of resolution as evidence that the question goes to the heart of human experience?

Interestingly, many of those who would argue there is something more to consciousness than can be explained by neuroscience have the conviction that a scientific answer could be found if science was to open up its horizons, while those who hold the opposing view completely dismiss the need for science to incorporate lessons from other domains. This suggests to us that the experience or consciousness of the hard-science proponents is more restricted than that of those who are more open. The hard-science proponents' experience might be a subset of the experience of the others. This implies that while the "zombie" scientists could never understand the other group, the other group could understand the limits of the zombies.

The distinction between zombies and others is the distinction that we draw between 'organic portals' and 'potentially souled individuals'. What is missing from the scientific and philosophical debate in academia is the understanding that the difference in experience between the two types of people has to do with their ability to perceive what the esoteric Tradition calls the 'A' and 'B' influences, not their different experiences of the colour red. The zombies, or 'organic portals', are only equipped to perceive the 'A' influences. These are the trappings of the material world, the influences that are related to our basic desires for sex, food, and security. Grand and elaborate scientific and philosophical theories can be formulated based only upon those influences. These theories can be complex and accurately describe the world from the point of view of the 'A' influences, but they are missing a part of the world that the organic portal does not experience and therefore does not even recognise is missing. For them, these theories do take in all the available data because the rest of the data is not available to them because the data falls outside of their range of perceptions.

Unfortunately, as we have discussed elsewhere, the very capacities that form the basis for a belief in the afterlife or in the reality of there being "something more" to life can often be hindrances in getting ahead in our world. In this case, those who hold the reigns of power and decision-making, including within the sciences, would tend to be those of one persuasion, the 'zombie' or 'organic portal' persuasion. Their standards would be the standards of society, and therefore those who have a larger experience would be continually forced to reduce their knowledge to conform to the standards of those who set the rules, or who hand out the science grants.
And that is, in fact, what we see around us. Scientists who wish to investigate data that fall outside of the realm of experience of the zombie, or organic portal, are ridiculed, their grants are denied, and if they push hard enough, their careers can be ruined. The dominant scientific paradigm is as entrenched as the belief of Bush's supporters that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that he was involved in 9/11.

Churchland ends her essay with the following:

But the unglamorous truth is that science will come to understand the components of consciousness in pretty much the same way it has come to understand the nature of life.

And that is precisely what worries us.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Christian Fundamentalist Fascism is Here!

From Kurt Nimmo's blog:

First They Came for the Teachers

Certainly, Pastor Martin Niemoeller’s lament is cited a lot these days ( “First they came for the Jews” ) in regard to the way Bush and the right-wingers are going after their enemies in systematic fashion. I am citing Niemoeller’s food chain analogy in reference to SB 5 in California, a bill that includes “An Academic Bill of Rights,” and will be presented to the state Senate Committee on Education. “SB 5 is in fact part of a wide assault on universities, professors and teaching across the country,” writes the Los Angeles Times. “Similar bills are pending in more than a dozen state legislatures and at the federal level, all calling for government intrusion into pedagogical matters, such as text assignments and course syllabuses, that neither legislators nor bureaucrats are competent to address.”

Professors such as Ward Churchill and Jane Christensen will not be sent to the camps (not yet anyway) the way Niemoeller was. Instead, they will simply lose their jobs, in other words they will become unemployable, at least in education (and they will be “over-qualified” to work at Seven-Eleven). It should be obvious to anybody who pays attention that the far right is determined to purge universities big and small and install ideologues who either agree with them or teach curriculum so neutral as to be worthless. It begins with the Middle Eastern Studies departments and the professors deemed “Marxist” (in order to be a Marxist in Bushzarro world, all you have to do is criticize capitalism and neoliberalism). From there, the purge, the anti-liberal pogrom will spread out into other fields.

As I write, the far right is busy attacking the “liberal bias” of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in particular Bill Moyers. Bush PBS appointee, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, “hired an outside consultant who scrutinized the program ‘NOW with Bill Moyers’ and concluded that the program was biased by liberal attitudes and commentators. The chairman is adamant that PBS and Moyers (who recently retired from ‘NOW’) must ‘balance’ their political coverage within the independent program with more conservative commentary,” reports Indian Country Today. Notice no “outside consultants” are required to check the right-wing bias over at Fox News. “At the direct urging of White House officials, Tomlinson also hired as an official the director of the White House Office of Global Communications who, while still at the White House, set the guidelines for content reviewers who studied public radio and television broadcasts.” The White House Office of Global Communications is “a sort of global public-relations firm for the Bush administration and the U.S. war effort,” writes Bob Kemper, and “tightly coordinates the message of the Pentagon, the State Department and the military command in the Persian Gulf,” a concerted effort to propagandize the American people by the “brainchild [of]… Bush’s global communications strategy,” Karen Hughes. In short, PBS will bite the bullet and fall in line with the rest of the corporate media, not that PBS is particularly liberal, Bill Moyers not withstanding. Both National Public Radio and PBS have bent over backwards in the last four years to convince their far right critics that they are “fair and balanced,” the same way Fox News is.

So determined is the Bush effort to make sure no vestige of so-called liberal bias remains anywhere on the supposedly publicly owned broadcast spectrum, Tomlinson “lobbied the board [of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting] to replace [Kathleen Cox, CPB president and chief executive] with Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee,” according to Pat Nason of the Washington Times, even though most Americans like PBS the way it is (Tomlinson plans to implement “programming that satisfies a broad constituency,” that is to say right-wingers, the only constituency that matters). The “Washington-based Center for Digital Democracy recently reported that Tomlinson has been sitting on polling data showing that a substantial majority of Americans are happy with the programming on PBS and NPR. The CDD said the data was ‘buried in an annual report to Congress but never released to the press nor shared with PBS and NPR.’” In other words, PBS will become a pale reflection of Fox News, regardless of what most Americans want.

Conformity imposed by fanatical right-wingers on education and broadcasting will not be the end of it, of course. As the right begins its cleansing of academe and public television and radio, the Federal judiciary is being stacked with far right-wing ideologues (politely called “ultraconservative activists,” in other words reactionary radicals) and Christian Zionist zealots who are determined to convert America into a bible-thumping theocracy. In the Senate, a handful of Democrats are threatening to filibuster Bush’s nominees, but they are ultimately destined for failure. Bush has a hand basket full of reactionaries he wants installed on the federal bench for life: William H. Pryor Jr., Janice Rogers Brown, William G. Myers III, Henry Saad, Richard Griffin, and David McKeague, all of them “ultraconservatives” wildly out of step with most Americans. (See the Associated Press story, Filibuster Fight Nominees.)

Minus a few—a very few—feisty Democrats, the entire federal government—all three branches: the executive, legislative, and the judicial—are increasingly under the heavy-handed sway of radical “ultraconservative” ideologues determined to transform the United States into an autocratic dictatorship with Christian Zionist overtones, a direct subversion of Article I, sections 1, 2, and 3 of the Constitution (otherwise known as the “separation of powers” ). In the future, the not too distant future I might add, after the finishing touches are added to this coup launched by corporate and religious sociopaths, no dissent will be tolerated, not even inside cramped “free speech zones” encircled in concertina wire.

The emerging arrangement will be thus: the Christian Zionists will set social policy—gays hunted down and tormented, abortion doctors sentenced to death, Social Security and social programs eliminated, dozens of government agencies turned over to “faith-based” proselytes and wide-eyed rapture deluded mental cases—and the far right “conservatives” and neocons will run foreign policy—all war, all the time, especially in the Middle East, nuclear war against North Korea, and a big campaign against Cuba and Latin America, where progressive political movements opposed to neoliberal loan sharking and election fixing are finally gaining momentum. Of course, this will necessitate a return to conscription, or bullet-stopper slavery, since so-called “recruitment” (shamelessly tricking poor kids into fighting for the rich man’s empire) numbers are way down and there simply are not enough bullet-stoppers in the chute to invade Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and all the other “rogue regimes,” as defined by Bush’s handlers and evil geniuses from Zionist-dominated so-called think tanks and foundations.

In order to get the ball rolling, the public needs to be continuously and endlessly propagandized—and that cannot happen if teachers teach the real deal about American history and foreign policy, if a small number—small and getting smaller every day—of media people tell the truth about things such as what happened in Fallujah or Bush’s connection to the corporate overlords and foreign autocrats. Media will follow Bush and Crew lockstep and journalists will like it or they will be out of a job—or maybe thrown in a re-education camp (the newly constructed FEMA camps will do in a pinch).

Up next, the internet. It is the last bastion of truth and will not be allowed to continue as currently arranged for much longer. Corporate media is now complaining that bloggers such as yours truly are besmirching “journalism” (corporate dominated propaganda) and something must be done about it since increasing numbers of people are turning to the internet for information. “What I think is highly inappropriate is what’s going on across the Internet, a kind of political jihad,” complained corporate shill Tom Brokaw. Last September the New York Times (the newspaper of “record” and lies about Saddam Hussein’s illusory weapons of mass destruction) chastised left-wing bloggers for their “grubby, low-rent lifestyles, their lack of journalistic legitimacy, and their rabid, loony views,” as the Daily Kos summarized.

Bloggers and alternative news sites have apparently caught the attention of Bradley Smith, FEC Commissioner. “Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over,” writes Declan McCullagh. “In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign’s Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate’s press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines. Smith should know. He’s one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.”
Of course, this blogger does not circus bark for any of the neolib trash we are allowed to vote for, but that is really beside the point—the corporations and their lap dog, the federal government, are looking for a way to break the free speech zone known as the internet.

First they came for teachers… and then they will come for you, that is unless you are a Good American, a native version of the Good German, who does what he is told, believes the lies and fabrications he is fed by the corporate media, contrived by rabid right-wingers, donates himself (or herself) or his or her kids to the Neolib Crusade to “reshape” the world in the image imagined by a coterie of stinking rich bastards clutching a Judeo-Christian Bible.