Archive for June, 2004

This Terrorist Is Bad Enough on His Own

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

by Peter Bergen new york times:full article

there are a few interesting bits in here…

…The day after the 9/11 staff report came out, Vice President Dick Cheney again put forward Mr. Zarqawi. “After we went in and hit his training camp, he fled to Baghdad,” Mr. Cheney said, adding that Mr. Zarqawi “ran the poisons factory in northern Iraq out of Baghdad.” The administration has also pointed out that American intelligence believes Mr. Zarqawi received medical treatment in Baghdad in 2002.

So is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi really the missing link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein? Actually, the evidence of his relationship with either is far from clear cut.

…Mr. Zarqawi’s connections to Saddam Hussein are equally tenuous. After fleeing Afghanistan, he probably spent as much time living in Iran as in Iraq. What Mr. Cheney described as the “poisons factory” Mr. Zarqawi ran was actually in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq, an area protected by American jets since 1991. Mr. Rumsfeld had more control than Saddam Hussein over that part of Iraq.

Venezuela: the Gang’s All Here***Replay of Chile and Nicaragua?

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

by Alexander Cockburn article
You can set your watch by it. The minute some halfway decent government in Latin America begins to reverse the order of things and give the have-nots a break from the grind of poverty and wretchedness, the usual suspects in El Norte rouse themselves from the slumber of indifference and start barking furiously about democratic norms. It happened in 1973 in Chile; we saw it again in Nicaragua in the 1980s; and here’s the same show on summer rerun in Venezuela, pending the August 15 recall referendum of President Hugo Chávez.

Chávez is the best thing that has happened to Venezuela’s poor in a very long time. His government has actually delivered on some of its promises, with improved literacy rates and more students getting school meals. Public spending has quadrupled on education and tripled on healthcare, and infant mortality has declined. The government is promoting one of the most ambitious land-reform programs seen in Latin America in decades.

Most of this has been done under conditions of economic sabotage. Oil strikes, a coup attempt and capital flight have resulted in about a 4 percent decline in GDP for the five years that Chávez has been in office. But the economy is growing at close to 12 percent this year, and with world oil prices near $40 a barrel, the government has extra billions that it’s using for social programs. So naturally the United States wants him out, just as the rich in Venezuela do. Chávez was re-elected in 2000 for a six-year term. A US-backed coup against him was badly botched in 2002.

The imperial script calls for a human rights organization to start braying about irregularities by their intended victim. And yes, here’s José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch. We last met him in this column helping to ease a $1.7 billion US aid package for Colombia’s military apparatus*. This time he’s holding a press conference in Caracas, hollering about the brazen way Chávez is trying to expand membership of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, the same way FDR did, and for the same reason: that the Venezuelan court has been effectively packed the other way for decades, with judicial flunkies of the rich. I don’t recall Vivanco holding too many press conferences to protest that perennial iniquity.

* In my digest on George Soros in the archive below, the old man’s connection to Helsinki Watch/Human Rights Watch is made. Since I found this out, I watch whose ‘human rights’ HRW watches out for, and whose it is conspiculously silent on: Haiti’s for example.

CIA Analyst: Iraq War Was a Huge Gift to Bin Laden

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

by Tabbassum Zakaria Reuters-full article

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S.-led war against Iraq was a huge gift to Osama bin Laden in his drive to incite Muslim extremists to attack the United States, a CIA analyst said on Friday.

And if the White House was not told that before the war, it was an intelligence failure, said the analyst in the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, who once led the unit that tracked bin Laden.

The unnamed analyst has written a book called “Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror.” It was signed “Anonymous” and is due out July 15.

He said he did not write the book to criticize Democrats or Republicans but wanted to tell the public that U.S. policies, not a hatred of the American way of life, were fueling anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.

“The last two administrations have consistently said that bin Laden and his ilk are out to rob our liberties and freedoms and democracy. And in fact that has nothing to do with what they’re after,” said the analyst, whose first name Mike was disclosed by others.

“They are fighting us because of our policies and they are becoming stronger and more violent because our policies are so vastly unpopular in the Islamic world,” he said.

In his book, he wrote policies that generate such anger in the Muslim world include U.S. support for Israel, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants, and U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low.

Fahrenheit 9-11: Summer Feel-Good Movie for Lefties

Friday, June 25th, 2004

Review of Fahrenheit 9-11
by Rootsie

Well this was in some ways a typical Michael Moore production, somewhat unfocused, throwing out a lot of information without getting to the point, too soft on Democrats…But for once Moore pretty much left himself out of the equation except for a couple of maudlin moments and let the footage speak for itself…

…Representative after Representative from the Black Congressional Caucus standing up to contest the 2000 election results in the joint session, over which Gore presides, to verify the Bush’s ‘election’…Again and again Gore asks: ‘Did a member of the Senate sign the petition?” And each time the Congressperson, getting shouted down, has to say ‘No. Not a single Senator…the Senate is missing in action…”

These were perhaps the most moving and evocative moment of the film. 400 years of history were standing up there, denied yet once more.

…the riots on Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day. The Limo carrying Bush gunning it down the appropriately rainy street…

…Bush’s look of blank confusion that morning in the Florida classroom after an aide whispers in his ear that the 2nd plane has hit the Tower…

…The heartbreakingly beautiful black high school boys from Moore’s own Flint, Michigan…’I looked on TV at some of those bombed neighborhoods in Iraq and they look just like Flint…’

…The aggressive Marine recruiters working the Flint mall parking lot…’You want to play basketball? David Robinson was a Marine…you want to rap? Shaggy was a Marine…’

…The handholding romance between Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and various Saudi diplomats and businessmen, including the Bin Ladens. Complete with bubblegum music.

Dead and wounded babies. Furious grieving mothers asking Allah to smite America. The former Welfare mother from Flint who goes to the White House to ask why her son is dead.

And all of this interspersed with the darkest of black humor, Wolfowitz slicking back his hair with his own spit, Bush stumbling over his words, Rice and Powell being prepped for the cameras: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft crooning a patriotic tune, Ridge, James Baker…the camera lingers on their eyes…dead eyes, living dead…like those scary kind of clowns. Except they are anything but funny to that screaming Iraqi grandmother…

Moore in a commandeered ice-cream truck reading the Patriot Act over the loudspeaker to passing Congressmen.

Collaring Congressmen outside the Capitol to shove military brochures in their hands, asking them to sign their kids up for Iraq…

Hamid Karzai, former Unocal rep, now president of Afghanistan, signing the pipeline deal with Unocal.

The Taliban’s visit to the US months before the attack, being encouraged to do the same…being wined and dined across America…those grumpy-looking guys with their beards and turbans…

Well I laughed, and I cried. Moore covered a lot of territory in 2 hours and a bit. But I’m having my usual sorts of problems with the experience.

First, the student I went with, a bright high school graduate, although she appreciated the film, left confused and feeling that she didn’t have the background knowledge to understand how the whole picture fits together. So Moore has made a film that preaches to the choir, and cuts from this travesty to that, without giving a timeline or any other structures that might educate the uninformed. A film, in other words, for in-the-know, self-satisfied liberals. If you are not informed too bad for you. That’s why we’re better than you.

Four showings of the film sold out while we stood in line, and in line were these same self-satisfied folks who collect the horrors of our government like trading cards… there we all were, as if a single one of us needed to be convinced that Bush is stupid and bad. It is the latest in entertainment for conscience-stricken American lefties, I guess. The film might change some minds if anybody whose mind needs changing shelled out the money to see it. I doubt many will. I did not, after all, go rushing to see Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.

So is Fahrenheit 9-11 the ’04 feel-good summer movie for peaceniks? I fear it is.

Moore has been very clear that his intent with this film is to lose Bush the election. And as I said, his film barely touches on the complicity of Democrats in all this. When those black members of Congress found themselves unable to find a single Senator to contest the ’00 election, the majority of those Senators were Democratic. Moore seems to suggest that if Bush were gone, all those bad Unocal and Halliburton people, and the entire corporate elite, would go away too.

What about the liberal elite, educated professional people who in their own way also benefit from the tragic state of affairs Moore describes? I argue constantly with my peers about whether we constitute an elite. I just say look at the world that suffers for the policies of our government while we rest in comparative comfort and safety, and you tell me.
And precisely because we go to see Fahrenheit 9-11 as a sort of self-flagellating penance, since we certainly learn nothing from it that we didn’t already know, we are a particular brand of hypocrite, and share the blame with Bush and Cheney and the rest.

Los Angeles Moves to Ease Tensions After Tape Captures Police Beating of Black Suspect

Friday, June 25th, 2004

By NICK MADIGAN new york times full article
LOS ANGELES, June 24 – In the wake of a videotaped police beating of an African-American suspect, officials here scrambled Thursday to plead for peace and offer assurances that the incident, an echo of the Rodney King beating in 1991, would be scrupulously investigated.

All eight Los Angeles police officers on the scene have been removed from active duty with pay since the beating, which occurred early Wednesday during the arrest of Stanley Miller, 36. He was suspected of having stolen a Toyota Camry that he had used to evade police cruisers in a chase that moved from Los Angeles itself through the streets of Compton, south of downtown.

In a tape shown repeatedly on television, Mr. Miller is seen sprinting from the car and then stopping to raise his arms in surrender and crouching on the ground; at that point the officers can be seen leaping on him.

One officer, later identified by the police as John Hatfield, a seven-year veteran of the force, then hit Mr. Miller with a flashlight at least 11 times and also kicked him.

…Percy Perrodin, who retired as a captain in the Compton Police Department in 2002 after 32 years on the force, said: “Use of a flashlight is never justified. You’re only supposed to use whatever force is necessary to overcome resistance. Once the resistance has ceased, the force must cease.”

Iraq’s Allawi Vows to Crush Rebels Sowing Violence

Friday, June 25th, 2004

new york times/Reuters article

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s prime minister vowed to crush Baathist die-hards and foreign militants he blamed for killing more than 100 people in a day of suicide bombings and attacks meant to sabotage next week’s move toward Iraqi rule.

…Allawi told reporters late on Thursday he believed Ansar al-Islam, a group linked to Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, was behind the Mosul bombings.

He blamed Baathists loyal to deposed dictator Saddam Hussein for the attacks in Ramadi and Baquba.

A group led by Zarqawi, who Washington says has links to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network, claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement on an Islamist Web site.

…Zarqawi, whose group has claimed responsibility for the beheadings of an American and a South Korean hostage in Iraq, threatened on Wednesday to assassinate Allawi.

A CIA official in Washington said the voice on the audiotaped message was probably Zarqawi’s.

Some of the black-clad gunmen who attacked police and government buildings in Baquba proclaimed loyalty to Zarqawi and wore yellow headbands linking them to his group.

It appeared to be the first time members of Zarqawi’s underground network had surfaced in street combat.

Fighters in the rebellious town of Falluja issued a taped statement on Friday denying Zarqawi was holed up there.

The violence that swept Sunni cities on Thursday did not extend to regions dominated by Iraq’s Shi’ite majority.

The Mehdi Army militia of radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr declared a unilateral cease-fire on Thursday in a Baghdad slum — its last holdout against U.S. troops.

“The Mehdi Army wants the security situation to stabilize and does not want those who are bent on causing chaos in the run-up to the power transfer to succeed,” a statement said.

Sadr, apparently keen to enter mainstream politics, has already withdrawn his forces from the holy Shi’ite cities of Najaf and Kerbala under pressure from moderate Shi’ite leaders.

…The war’s original justification was to destroy Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. None has been found.

Since Baathist Party members and Republican Guards comprise the Iraqi government’s ‘security force’ in Fallujah, it’s hard to figure just who it is Allawi wants to ‘crush.’
I would have to guess that the other Sh’ia convinces al Sadr to get smart and step out of the way so that the nature of this ‘rebellion’ would be exposed. It seems like a deliberate attempt on the part of MY GOVERNMENT to justify its ultimate aims in Iraq, which have nothing to do with democracy or ‘stability.’
And this al Zirqawi, he’s like the ubiquitous White Whale, everywhere at once doing every bad thing. But hey the CIA said the voice on said tape was ‘probably’ his. Fallujah, that ‘rebellious town’ is being bombed day after day, but the fighters have got word out: ‘Zirqawi’s not here!’ I wonder if he is anywhere.Except in the copy that’s written by a well-oiled (pun intended) misinformation mill.

Guardian story:Iraq War Will Cost Each US Family $3,415
The report predicted the war will ultimately cost each US household $3,415; its annual costs would be enough to provide healthcare for more than half of the 43 million US citizens who lack medical insur ance. Danielle Pletka, an analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, rejected such budget comparisons as intellectually dishonest. “That’s not the way budgets work,” she said. “I don’t think healthcare has been robbed to pay for Iraq.”

Paying the Price quotes a University of Texas economist, James Galbraith, as predicting that although the expenditure would initially boost the economy, long-term problems were likely, including an expanded trade deficit and high infla tion, with the spike in oil prices adding to the downward drag on the US economy.

However, Mr Wolfowitz predicted Iraqi oil would begin to flow at faster rates and help offset the cost of the reconstruction of Iraq. “There’s been $20bn of Iraqi money that’s almost never mentioned. Ten billion of it was leftover [UN] oil-for-food money. Ten billion is brand-new oil revenues. There’s another $8bn that’s projected, if the killers don’t destroy the pipelines, by the end of this year,” he said.

U.S. tackling violent crime in 15 cities**Justice Department dispatching ‘Impact Teams’

Thursday, June 24th, 2004 full article

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is dispatching teams of federal agents to 15 cities struggling with violent crime problems despite a dropping U.S. crime rate, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday.

Ashcroft told reporters that the effort would be targeted at “the hottest zones of criminal activity” in cities where high murder and violence rates persist despite a violent crime rate that is at a 30-year low nationwide, based on federal victimization statistics.

…Teams of agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; FBI; and Drug Enforcement Administration will be assigned to each of the 15 cities for six months. A Justice Department prosecutor will handle cases of those charged.

…Other cities getting teams are Albuquerque, New Mexico; Baltimore; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Tampa, Florida; Miami; Richmond, Virginia; Greensboro, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; Las Vegas; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Tucson, Arizona; and the Washington, D.C.-Northern Virginia region.

I think this should be called Operation Bust a Bunch of blacks, Mexicans, and Native Americans in time for the Election. Think swing states, kids. Or else some quasi-military drill. Fallujah comes to Omaha.

Bush Interviewed in Gov’t CIA Leak Probe

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

By DEB RIECHMANN ap full article
WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal investigators questioned President Bush for more than an hour Thursday as the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative’s name reached into the Oval Office.

The president was interviewed for 70 minutes by U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the head of the Justice Department investigation, and by members of his team. The only other person in the room was Jim Sharp, a private trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor hired by Bush, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

“The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter,” McClellan said, adding that the president repeatedly has said he wants his administration to cooperate with the investigation. “No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the president of the United States,” the spokesman said.

Investigators want to know who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative, to syndicated columnist Robert Novak last July. Disclosure of an undercover officer’s identity can be a federal crime.

Moonie leader ‘crowned’ in Senate

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

This completely bizarre relationship between the US government and Moon first surfaced in the mid/late 70’s when it was announced he a)got the contract to clean all Congressional office buildings and b) bought the WASHINGTON TIMES. Right around this time Gloucester (MA) fishermen were complaining that Moon had bought virtually the entire fishing fleet, which made our little paranoid selves think CIA/Southeast Asian heroin. He owns UPI too. This is all so incomprehensibly weird. ‘Moonies’ were the group who first brought people’s awareness to ‘cults.’ It was quite a fad in the 70’s for American kids to join. They practiced mind-control techniques like sleep-deprivation coupled with sugar overdose, isolation from family, 24-7 propoganda etc. etc…He did a wedding in Madison Square Garden in 1981 with 5000 couples or something…
It is interesting that the rabid right wing, which wishes to bring us ‘family values’ and good ole’ Bible thumpin’ Christianity would lie down with this guy, but hey…the true story is yet to be told.

Republicans and Democrats attend cult blessing ceremony

Julian Borger in Washington the guardian full article
Thursday June 24, 2004
The Guardian

The US Senate was used for a bizarre ritual in which the Rev Sun Myung Moon, the head of the Unification church, was “crowned” and declared himself the messiah in the presence of more than a dozen Republican and Democratic members of Congress, it was reported yesterday.
“Emperors, kings and presidents … have declared to all heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s saviour, messiah, returning Lord and true parent,” the 85-year-old Korean “Moonie” cult leader told several hundred guests at the meeting in one of the Senate’s office buildings on March 23, according to the Washington Post.

He also claimed endorsement from Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Hitler, who had all been reformed and reborn through his church’s teachings – an idiosyncratic version of Christianity which rejects the use of the cross as a symbol and denounces homosexuals as “dirty dung-eating dogs”.

An account of the ceremony was first published by a Washington investigative journalist, John Gorenfeld.

According to a transcript of the event, Mr Moon declared: “I am God’s ambassador, sent to Earth with his full authority. I am sent to accomplish his command to save the world’s six billion people, restoring them to Heaven with the original goodness in which they were created.”

The glittering event in the Senate’s Dirksen building reflected Mr Moon’s extraordinary influence in US politics. He owns the conservative newspaper the Washington Times and the US news agency United Press International.

His fiercely conservative attitudes towards homosexuality and pre-marital sex have won him the endorsement of leading Republicans, including the president’s father, George Bush, and John Ashcroft, the attorney general, who participated in one of Mr Moon’s “prayer luncheons” days before the president’s inauguration in January 2001.

Leading black Democrats also played a prominent role in the March ceremony.

An Illinois congressman, Danny Davis, wore white gloves and carried a purple cushion bearing a medieval-style “international crown of peace”, which was placed on Mr Moon’s head, at an event at which 100 Americans from 50 states were also given lesser “national” and “state” peace awards.

The event was an “innocent ceremony,” Mr Davis told the Guardian. “It was a banquet to give out awards. I didn’t have any way of knowing Reverend Moon would say he was the messiah, or whatever he said.”

Mr Davis acknowledged that “three or four individuals directly related to Rev Moon” took part in a fund-raiser for his primary campaign in Illinois earlier this year, but said small sums of money were involved.

Other members of Congress who attended the event said they had been fooled into going by being told only that people from their constituencies would be honoured at the ceremony.

A spokeswoman for a Democratic senator from Minnesota, Mark Dayton, said: “We fell victim to it. We were duped.”

It was unclear who gave permission for the Senate office building to be used.

During the ceremony Mr Moon invoked the blessing of all America’s past presidents. He also claimed to have communed with other big names in history.

He told his audience: “The five great saints and other leaders in the spirit world, including communist leaders such as Marx and Lenin, who committed all manner of barbarity, and dictators such as Hitler and Stalin, have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons.”

It is not the first time he has claimed posthumous backing. His followers recently took out a two-page advertisement in the Washington Times to run a testimonial to him, quoting 36 former presidents “from the vantage point of heaven”.

Violence Sweeps Iraq

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

In the American press it is harder to recognize the fact that the whole country is going up, since they report all of these ‘incidents’ seperately.

69 dead as violence sweeps Iraq the guardian
Thursday June 24, 2004

Insurgents today launched a wave of apparently coordinated car bomb and grenade attacks in several Iraqi cities, killing at least 69 people and injuring 270 more.
It was one of the worst days of violence since the US president, George Bush, declared the end of major combat in May 2003. Attacks targeting Iraqi police and US troops began at dawn in the Sunni-dominated cities of Baquba and Ramad and in the northern city of Mosul, where at least four bombs killed dozens of people.

There was also fierce fighting between US troops and militants in Falluja. Later, a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint in Baghdad, killing four Iraqi national guardsmen.

The US military said most of the fighting had calmed by noon (0900 BST), although fighting continued in Baquba. Three US troops were killed in the violence, the army said.

Security a shambles ahead of handover
With one week to go, 30,000 police officers face the sack amid serious shortages of staff and equipment
Rory McCarthy and Jonathan Steele in Baghdad the guardian
Thursday June 24, 2004

Up to 30,000 Iraqi police officers are to be sacked for being incompetent and unreliable and given a $60m payoff before the US hands over to an Iraqi government, senior British military sources said yesterday.

Many officers either deserted to the insurgents or simply stayed at home during the recent uprisings in Falluja and across the south.

Fourteen months after the war and just a week before the Iraqis take power on June 30, the sources revealed serious shortfalls of properly trained police and soldiers and vital equipment