Wednesday, March 31, 2004

OKC revisited

In the past, I've steered clear of conspiracy theories involving the Oklahoma City bombing. During the Clinton era, the people involved with constructing such theories always tended to remind me of...well, of people like Tim McVeigh. However, I'm impressed with the work of Jim Crogan, a responsible feet-on-the-ground sort of writer who keeps digging up odd new facts.

Check out Crogan's latest, which tells the tale of a stolen pick-up truck allegedly involved with the event. The truck belonged to a factory worker (name not revealed in the story) who, nine days after the tragedy, found an FBI agent named Jim Ellis on his doorstep. "We have some good news and some bad news for you," the agent said. "The good news is, we found your truck. The bad news is, it was used in the Murrah bombing."

Question: Used how?

Standard accounts of the bombing make no reference to a pilfered brown 1983 GMC High Sierra. Whoever stole it tried to disguise the vehicle as a yellow Chevy Silverado. (The cops identified it by the VIN.)

The redone vehicle matched the description of a yellow truck carrying two men of Middle Eastern descent, linked in early news accounts with the bombing. A week after the bombing, the truck was dumped near an apartment complex in Oklahoma City, where a witness saw two young Middle Eastern men leave the vehicle.

The FBI later claimed that the truck had no linkage to the bombing. “It simply wasn’t consistent with our investigation,” said one Bureau spokesman, who seems to have had a keen instinct for the un-reassuring phrase.

Check out the Crogan article for more.
Is anything real any more?

Roughly a year ago, a statue came down in Baghdad. Live television coverage showed the world images of cheering Iraqis -- many of whom happened to be carrying photos of Ahmed Chalabi, a man virtually unknown in Iraq (save perhaps to those few who knew of his legal troubles). When I saw this flagrant display of Chalabi-worship, I knew right away that something odd was up. Nobody living in Baghdad gave a damn about Chalabi, so who the hell were these guys dancing in the street?

As the day wore on, the television networks carefully edited their footage to remove any shots of the hagiographic Chalabi portraits. Too obvious. Soon enough, we learned that actual denizens of Baghdad were barred at gunpoint from entering the plaza; the cheering throngs dancing across our TV screens were imported members of the Iraqi National Congress. In other words, our military rented an audience. Sort of like the Dennis Miller show.

That afternoon, the local ABC affiliate in Los Angeles showed striking footage from the "enemy" point of view. The anchor informed us that we were watching members of the feared Iraqi Republican Guard in the streets of Baghdad, who, that very day, had opened fire on American forces, only to be soundly repulsed.

Nearly every word of this was false.

I recognized the footage; it had been broadcast two days before on a French-language newscast. The fighters were a hopeless ragtag band of foreign irregulars, not members of the well-trained Republican Guard. These irregulars did not open fire -- they came under attack before they could get into position. The encounter took place in another city entirely, days before American forces reached the Iraqi capital.

Why did ABC News overlay false information onto pre-existent footage? There's good evidence that the American military had, quite sensibly, paid commanders of Saddam's Republican guard not to fight. (To paraphrase Churchill, better pay-pay than war-war.) This ploy had but one drawback -- it robbed American viewers of satisfactory battle footage in which our Army kicked the asses of Saddam's best. Solution: A little found footage, a little editing, and the folks at home got a grand show.

While we're on the subject of Iraq's much publicized Republican Guard and their mysterious absence from the fight: On April 2, 2003, a short while before the American army's entry into Baghdad, Fox News reported that the 3rd Infantry Division had destroyed two whole divisions of the Republican Guard, including the vaunted Medina Division. This victory occurred during a massive battle at the Karbala pass. Alas, this battle never took place. Ted Kopple, embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division, neither saw nor heard any evidence of combat at this pass. A Guardian story of April 4 also denied the existence of such an encounter.

The Iraq war -- and right now, I'm talking about the actual fighting of it, not the rationales for it -- was marked by incessant lying. We were told that Syria had supplied night vision goggles to Saddam's forces; never happened. We were told that Saddam's henchman "Chemical Ali" was killed; later, we were told that he was the subject of a manhunt. The list goes on.

Is anything real any more?

In order to discount one claim made by Richard Clarke, George Bush's minions assured us that Bush was never in the situation room the day after the World Trade Center attacks; the president thus could not have said the words Clarke attributed to him. Then people began to ask a simple question: Are we to believe that Bush did not enter the situation room on September 12, 2001 -- on that day of all days? Recently, the administration has admitted that Bush and Clarke did indeed have such a conversation, although Clarke, it is said, misinterpreted the president's words. The old truth is inoperative; from now on, please refer to the new truth.

To whip up reactionary fever against traitors and spies, we are told that Susan Lindauer "conspired" with two men she never met in order to conduct espionage -- even though she is not charged with spying. The media screamed "espionage" in the case of army Captain Jim Yee, a Muslim chaplain -- and then charges against him melted away. British M.P. George Galloway was accused of spying, but the evidence against him turned out to be a forgery so well-crafted as to be downright (ahem!) spooky. We all know what happened to Wen Ho Lee. Hell, in light of the Galloway fraudulence, I'm starting to re-rethink the Hiss case.

As noted earlier in this column, Tony Blair warned Parliament about the frightening message sent by the Abu Hafs al-Masri brigades of Al Qaeda, even though intelligence professionals think that this group is fictional. Spain's reactionary leader Jose Maria Anzar infuriated his people by assuring them that ETA bore responsibility for the Madrid atrocity, an event now attributed to Al Qaeda. The Washington Times describes a transcript of an FBI interview with Al Qaeda planner Khalid Shaik Mohammed -- who seems to have died some months before his putative "capture."

One can go on and on. Again I ask: Is anything real any more? Politics no longer exists. There is only epistemology. The only question is Pilate's, and answering it has become an impossible chore.

First, Condoleezza Rice agreed to speak to the 911 investigative committee...but not under oath. Translation: She wanted to lie with impunity.

Now she has agreed to testify under oath -- with privisos: She cannot be called back to testify, and the committee cannot call in anyone else from the Administration who may be in a position to refute her version of events. Translation: She wants to lie with impunity.

I presume that she is now being prepped to "North" the committee. Just as Oliver North was able (briefly) to turn public opinion in favor of the contra cause, Condi's version of events will no doubt reverse the impact of Clarke's revelations. Don't be surprised if her uncontradictable testimony makes Richard Clarke about as popular as O.J. Simpson.

Testimony impervious to disproof is far worse than no testimony at all. Democrats made a serious tactical error when they aimed their spotlight at this performer.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

This isn't America

Paul Krugman is always worthwhile, but his latest is mandatory. Even the Israelis, it seems, use Bush's America as the standard reference point for governmental deception.

Krugman quotes an amazing bit of "reportage" from CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Unnamed administration sources allegedly told Blitzer that Richard Clarke "wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well."

And that's it. "Weird aspects." From an unnamed source.

I never thought I'd live to see an American newsman stoop to so low a level. Even the Soviet-era Pravda rarely carried this sort of garbage. I understand that Ed Murrow's corpse is spinning so rapidly someone had to tether it in place before it dug a tunnel to China.
Can you believe the Washington Times?
Once in a blue Moon...

This story in the Moonie Times informs us that "transcripts" of interrogations with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, captured Al Qaeda operations chief, reveal plans to brings down the Sears Tower in Chicago and the Library Tower in Los Angeles. We are told that the mighty Bush response to the attacks of September 11 so unraveled Al Qaeda that they had to put all further evilness on hold.

Do we believe this piece? There's one big problem: A very persuasive investigation published in the Asia Times avers that Khalid Shaik Mohammed died in a raid well before his alleged "capture." This earlier Christian Science Monitor report and this Daily Telegraph account confirm the raid, though not the identification of the body. Robert Fisk has also taken a close look at the controversial Khalid -- who, like El Cid, seems to have ridden into battle post-mortem.

If so, then who is the captive pictured in photographs that were broadcast all over the world? That sweaty, surly, burly fellow could be Ron Jeremy, for all we know. Whoever he is, he doesn't much resemble the pre-arrest photo of Khalid Shaik Mohammed.

Note that the WT does not print any substantial part of the actual transcripts -- which they surely would if the scoop were genuine. No other news source has this story. (And why would the FBI not share it more widely?) The only media outlets to pick up on it seem to have derived all their information from the less-than-credible Washington Times.

The few quotes attributed to Shaik Mohammed have a phony-baloney ring:

"Osama had said the second wave should focus on the West Coast," he reportedly said.

But the terrorists seem to have been surprised by the strength of the American reaction to the September 11 attacks.

"Afterwards, we never got time to catch our breath, we were immediately on the run," Mohammed is quoted as saying.

Shaik Mohammed seems to have a penchant for Americanisms, wouldn't you say?

The World Today, on Australian radio, carried the information, but hedged: "Now I'm not sure if this information is based off of leaks from the interrogation with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed or this is something that came out through speculation."

Speculation? How about propaganda?

Bush took a hit from Richard Clarke's testimony, so now the administration has to shore up its rep as The Sheriff Who Keeps Us Safe. Hence, the Shaik Mohammed seance, as brought to you by Reverend Moon's brainwashing brigadiers.
You know a Republican is in office when...

The homeless are more visible in areas where they usually are not seen. This new prominence was a signature feature of the first Reagan recession, and it is happening again.

I live in a fairly affluent suburb. A year and a half ago, I knew of only one homeless man who lived within walking distance; he slept near the trash bins servicing a car wash. The situation has worsened. The same area now encompasses seven-to-ten poor souls camping out in various niches. Their presence is, of course, a living warning to minimum wage earners: Don't press for that 15-cents-an-hour wage increase.

If that's the situation in a "nice" area, I wonder what things look like in the grimmer parts of town?

Sunday, March 28, 2004

About time someone said it!

Many people have waited a long time to read this a news story like this one: Gerald Kaufman, a Labor party Member of Parliament from Manchester, has asked for economic sanctions against Israel. He feels that such measures can force a return to the negotiating table. "Only widespread economic sanctions on Israel, together with cutting off arms supplies, can make any impact on this Government without a conscience."

Bravo, Mr. Kaufman! I hope you start a movement.

Kaufman, incidentally, happens to be Jewish. How many days -- no, strike that: How many minutes do you think will pass before an Israel apologist calls him an "anti-Semitic Jew"?

Kerrying the files away

The Los Angeles Times has reported that burglars entered the home of private Marin county researcher Gerald Nicosia and stole a cache of released FBI files on John Kerry. The files detail surveillance conducted during the anti-war period.

Other newspapers carrying this report lopped off some important paragraphs:

Nicosia said he left home Thursday and returned to find several doors inside his house ajar. He said he did not realize until Friday morning that there had been a theft.

"The police told me that burglars very easily could have come in through a sliding door without signs of a forced entry," he said.

He added that he had no idea why the thieves didn't take all 14 of the boxes. "My guess is that they were surprised during the act and didn't have time to take everything. Maybe the dog next door barked," Nicosia said.

He said that while the boxes had been tightly packed when released by the FBI, he saw signs that ones not previously opened had been riffled.

Lovenguth said police were investigating the case as a burglary. "Our investigating is ongoing," he said. "We're waiting for the victim to tell us exactly what was missing so we know what we're looking for."

"Whoever did this wanted to know something about John Kerry," Nicosia said.

Nicosia strikes me as too trusting. Why leap to the conclusion that whoever did this wanted to know something about John Kerry?

Anyone who wanted the knowledge could just as easily have filed an FOIA request with the FBI. Granted, the FBI charges a fee for copying declassified files, and those fees do add up. But opponents of John Kerry surely have sufficient funds to acquire the information without running the risk of arrest. Indeed, does anyone really believe that the RNC has not already studied their own copies of these very same files?

Note that the burglars had rifled through previously unopened boxes -- boxes they did not take. This detail indicates that they were looking for something in particular.

My very preliminary hypothesis: Thieves took the files not to learn something about Kerry -- but to prevent information from coming out. It is possible that whoever declassified the files wielded the black redaction pen rather too lightly, and let slip a fact or two that certain powerful interests would prefer to keep under wraps. Slip-ups of that nature have happened before. The slip-up could have been discovered when someone at the RNC scanned their copies of the same files.

And what might be the nature of this postulated "slip-up"? As long as we are speculating -- and clearly labeling speculation as such -- I would note that George Bush the elder was chairman of the Republican National Committee during the 1972-73 period. He may have expressed an interest in Kerry's activities at that time. Perhaps his name appears on one of the stolen pages.

On a not-unrelated note, I would also remind readers that the CIA and the Pentagon both carried out illegal domestic spying operations against dissidents in this era. And not just spying: There were also "dirty tricks" designed to discredit opponents of the the war.

If my surmise is correct, replacement copies of the stolen files will show heavier use of the black marker.
Good news, bad news...

The good news is that Ariel Sharon's days in power may be limited. In all likelihood, he will soon face an indictment for taking a bribe.

This story in Haaretz describes the affair as an exercise in simple sleaze: David Appel, a wheeler-dealer and behind-the-scenes Likud potentate, wanted to engineer some real-estate shennanigans on a Greek island. So he paid off Sharon's son to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In return, Sharon (then Israel's foreign minister) pulled strings with the Greek government to make sure Appel got what he wanted.

The bad news: Sharon won't go quietly. His awareness that time was short probably prompted him to take the bold step of killing Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Arafat may well be next. The resultant international outrage will mean nothing to a man on his way out.
Translating words into action

You may have already seen this story from Salon by Eric Boehlert on former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds testified to the 9/11 commission about her work translating terror-related tapes and documents from the pre-attack period. She reports that "there was specific information about use of airplanes, that an attack was on the way two or three months beforehand and that several people were already in the country by May of 2001."

Two simple questions:

1. Why didn't Bush tighten airport security?

2. Why has no-one from the press insisted that Bush answer question #1?
You know who I don't like?
Max Boot.

Los Angeles Times columnist Max Boot is vying for the #2 spot in the "Most Annoying Republican Pundit" derby. (Ann Coulter has a permanent hold on the #1 position.) A couple of days ago, I heard Boot on KCRW's "Right, Left & Center;" he discussed Richard Clarke and the 9/11 commission.

First, Boot insisted that public shock delayed the formation of this commission for so long. Sorry about that, Max, but you missed the truth by that much: The primary cause of the delay was George Bush, who rightly feared the exposure even a semi-honest inquiry could bring.

Then Boot, whose usual motto is "Dubya ueber alles," summoned up the audacity to lecture his listeners on the virtues of nonpartisanship. That's a little like Bill Gates telling you that poverty is good for the soul. I ain't listening to that song from that singer.
Al Qaeda and Oklahoma City

Richard Clarke's book has drawn attention to a controversy that has engaged many an internet fringe-dweller, as well as a few Washington insiders: Did the Oklahoma City bombing link up with a wider conspiracy involving Middle East terrorists?

The very concept is radioactive. Directly after the tragedy, unsubstantiated reports described the possible involvement of shadowy men from the Middle East. These amorphous reports seemed tinged with racism after the capture of home-grown reactionary terrorist Timothy McVeigh. Then we learned of a strange trip to the Philippines made by McVeigh's alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols. One witness has indicated that Nichols met with members of the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic extremist group Abu Sayyaf.

Some neocons have seized upon this allegation to create a scenario in which McVeigh received orders from Iraq. I don't buy that idea. Still, we have every legitimate reason to wonder what the hell Nichols was doing in the Philippines. For a good overview of the controversy, check out this article in the Independent.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Post-Clarke Polling

The President has had a terrible week, and White House attempts to spin away the Clarke controversy showed more energy than coherence. Yet the scattershot containment tactics seem to have worked. According to an AP poll conducted after Clarke's testimony on Wednesday, "Half those surveyed in the poll after Clarke's testimony Wednesday said they thought he was acting for political and personal reasons, while a quarter said they feel he's acting as a dedicated public servant."

Newsweek has given us the sole post-Clarke poll available at present; it shows Bush two points up, 45%-43%, if Nader stays in. If Nader quits, the results are Bush 47% and Kerry 48%. Which means (if I read these numbers aright) a certain number of people out there want Nader first, with Bush as a second choice.

In the key battleground state of Ohio, the race remains neck-and-neck. Here as elsewhere, Kerry has strong support among voters within the 18-29 age bracket. This much, at least, is excellent news. The younger crowd -- beset by high testosterone levels and short attention spans -- has been leaning Republican in recent times.

Also worth reading is this analysis of Kerry's performance in the "purple" states -- that is to say, the states that went red or blue by a tiny amount in 2000. Ruy Teixeira thinks Kerry is doing well, although I would caution against too much enthusiasm. For example, a recent poll in purple Wisconsin puts Kerry ahead by three points, within the margin of error.

People truly believe that Clarke's sole purpose is to sell books. Of course, the same lazy criticism can be directed toward anyone who writes any book for any reason. If money were the sole motive, Clarke would have penned (or lent his name to) a thuggish conservative screed which Scaife's buying power could have put on the bestseller lists. Does anyone really think that a dim bulb like Tammy Bruce could get into print if she wrote a non-reactionary book?
54 reasons

Jerry and Lisa Vasilatos have put together a deck of cards detailing 54 reasons NOT to vote for W. Check out their site -- you can see each and every one of the cards. My advice: Make the Queen of Clubs your first click. It talks about the real reason for the war.

My only quibble? 54 cards aren't enough. Next time, maybe they should consider cobbling together a tarot deck, which would allow for 78 images. And considering the Bush family's dynastic ambitions, I have a horrible feeling that there may yet be a "next time"...

Friday, March 26, 2004

Condi at halftime

Joshua Marshall noted a rather startling phrase in the March 26 New York Times piece on Condoleeze Rice: "As she prepares to leave her job at the end of the year..."

Is Rice really going to resign as National Security Advisor? Will she, as another source claims, leave the White House entirely?

Many have speculated that she would prove an important asset on the Republican ticket, presuming Cheney steps aside "for health reasons." However, a Reuters story from August 4 of last year labels Rice the leading candidate to replace Colin Powell, who will (probably) not continue as Secretary of State in a second Bush administration.

This piece from April 17, 2002, claims that Rice "wants to be commissioner of the National Football League. She is serious." And why not? After carrying water for W these past few years, she deserves a job with some dignity.
Madrid blast update

Apparently the March 11 terror attack in Madrid has a connection to Germany. So did the World Trade Center outrage. German authorities have raided an apartment in Darmstadt, previously occupied by an as-yet-unnamed 28-year-old Moroccan registered as an electronics student. (Most of the suspects arrested in Spain are Moroccan.) Since this "student" inhabited the apartment for less than a week last October, I'm curious as to what sort of clues the police hoped to find.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung , in its report on this development, left its most interesting tidbit for the very end. According to FAZ, Aznar's government -- which has had very strained relations with Morocco -- ignored clear warnings from that country's authorities about terrorists in Madrid. After the May 2003 attack in Morocco, Jamal Zougam and 15 other nationals living in Spain were identified as part of a terror network. Aznar's security services discounted the tip.

Or did they? Readers of this column may recall an odd assertion (odd, because most other sources make an opposite claim) printed in the Spanish newspaper La Rioja . This journal insisted that, just before the bombings, Aznar's "security forces were convinced that the ETA terrorists were going to return to Madrid." Moreover, "the riot police in Madrid began setting up checkpoints in order to find cars with explosives. They began patrolling commercial areas, train stations, airports, stadiums, large crowds and government buildings."

This report may just be ex-post-facto bunk offered by Aznar's apologists. Still, perhaps the "dragnet" scenario has a kernel of truth. Is it possible that the Spanish authorities went hunting for an Al Qaeda operation, not ETA ? If so, why didn't they make any effort to pick up Jamal Zougam?

Zougam remains an interesting character. Initial news reports describe him as a shady operator given to many a western-style vice, and not particularly pious. Subsequent stories -- including one published in the Los Angeles Times -- picture him as someone who had "gotten religion" to the point of annoying his friends.

In this connection, you may want to read an excellent article titled "Intruders in the House of Saud: The Jihadi Who Kept Asking Why," by Elizabeth Rubin. (This piece, part 1 in a series, was published in the New York Times Magazine of March 7. 2004. Alas, the article has passed into their archives and will re-emerge only for a fee. You may be able to find copies floating around the net.) This report offers a fascinating account of one man's journey into the Salafi cult -- a hyper-conservative sub-sect of Wahhabism, and the same cult which allegedly attracted Jamal Zougam.

Many have incorrectly identified Wahhabism (the prevailing religious ideology of Saudi Arabia) as the incubator for Al Qaeda. But "standard" Wahhabi beliefs and practices, puritanical though they may seem to American eyes, appear downright libertine to the Salafis, who abhor everything not explicitly sanctioned by the Koran. (My Americanization of Arabic terms may annoy those who know that language; apologies.) Rubin's piece pictures the cultists as somewhat akin to the Amish in their refusal of modern dress, not to mention the disdain they feel toward cars and other modern conveniences. The Salafis differ from the Amish, of course, in their willingness to use violence.

The sect grew out of the teachings of Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), an Egyptian Islamic reformer, Nasser opponent, and leading figure within the Muslim Brotherhoodood. The Brotherhood sanctioned jihad against infidels, "People of the Book" (Jews, Christians and Mandaeans), and even other Muslims.

Is Jamal Zougam a Salafi cultist, as some sources have alleged? I'm troubled by those reports which depict him as a wine-drinking, skirt-chasing, club-hopping petty crook. This is not at all the lifestyle we should expect of a follower of Qutbism, if we can judge from surface appearances -- and if we can believe what we read in the papers.

All of which leads to the most intriguing question: Do the Spanish police have the right man in Zougam? The Rubin article cited above portrays Salafi jihadists as having a gift for disguise. Apparently, they view identity-hopping as high sport: "Abdullah Bejad showed me a selection of passport photos he had made up in various guises -- change the headdress slightly and you're a Kuwaiti or a Yemeni. A little creativity and anyone can disappear in this region."

We have conflicting word on the "Hindus" arrested by Spanish police. The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that they were released on the 15th. But this AP story from the 26th claims that they remain in jail on charges of collaboration with a terrorist group. (The confusion may stem from the fact that a Moroccan and an Algerian were released.)

Are these Indians truly Hindu, as initial reports claimed? As everyone knows, Osama Bin Laden despises Hindus almost as much as he hates Americans.
Soldiers for the Truth

Check out "Ready, Aim, Fire" by David Hackworth on his site, Soldiers for the Truth. Hackworth details the dangerous shortchanging of American soldiers in Iraq. His main charge: Much of the defense budget went to ultra-expensive weapons systems designed for use against the USSR, leaving the ground-level grunts in Iraq and Afghanistan under-equipped. Individual Body Armor vests were supposed to be protecting our troops last Christmas, yet distribution hit a snag that lasted months.

Should John Kerry speak out on this issue? You bet. He should champion our under-valued soldiers, and he should do so now. For too long, Republican chickenhawks have managed to convince veterans and serving soldiers that the GOP was the sole party of military virtue. But recent history -- a history of misallocated resources, low pay and extended hardship tours -- may force some of our men and women in uniform to re-think their biases.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Posner's at it again

You may have missed the editorial by Gerald Posner, "celebrated" author of Case Closed, in which he chimes in on the Clarke controversy. Gerry's bottom line: Don't blame Bush -- or rather, don't blame just Bush. Blame Clinton too. Perhaps a little more.

To buttress the point, he relies on the memory of Clinton's ill-chosen advisor, Dick Morris:

"President Clinton seemed curiously uninterested when it came to terrorism. His former political advisor, Dick Morris, has said: "You could talk to him about income redistribution and he would talk to you for hours and hours. Talk to him about terrorism and all you'd get was a series of grunts.""

Richard Clarke gives us a rather different picture. He says Clinton took a tougher stance on terror than did Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, or the current president.

"They stopped al Qaeda in Bosnia," Clarke said. "They stopped al Qaeda from blowing up embassies around the world. Contrast that with Ronald Reagan, where 300 [U.S. soldiers] were killed in [a bombing attack in Beirut,] Lebanon, and there was no retaliation. Contrast that with the first Bush administration where 260 Americans were killed [in the bombing of] Pan Am [Flight] 103, and there was no retaliation. I would argue that for what had actually happened prior to 9/11, the Clinton administration was doing a great deal. In fact, so much that when the Bush people came into office, they thought I was a little crazy, a little obsessed with this little terrorist bin Laden."

Why, one wonders, does Gerry toss aside all of this history? Why does he prefer the far-from-unbiased assessment of Dick Morris, who has been toadying up to the Murdoch types for years? (The ultra-cons will ignore Morris' humiliating exposure as a foot fetishist as long as he keeps singing the kind of song they like to hear.)

Then again, how can we be absolutely confident that Morris said the words attributed to him? In Case Closed, Posner claimed to have interviewed people who later denied having talked to him.
Blair and the Brigades

It's always fun to watch CSPAN's broadcast of Tony Blair undergoing questioning by the House of Commons. I particularly enjoyed this bit:

"It is worth reading the statement put out by the Abu Hafs al-Masri brigades of al-Qaeda last Thursday...I can put a copy in the Library. That statement indicates that the war on which al-Qaeda is engaged is not simply in respect of the issue of Iraq; it also mentions Afghanistan, Palestine and Kashmir. It goes on to say that it is right to kill innocent Jewish people in whatever country they happen to be, apparently for no other reason than that they are Jewish people."

Lest you fret that the Brigades are 40 minutes away from striking Britain, you should know that an increasing number of people think the Abu Hafs al-Masri brigades is a fictional organization.

Abu Hafs was a Bin Laden aide who died in November of 2001. He was nicknamed "al-Masri" -- the Egyptian -- because he came from Egypt. Since his death, a group taking his name has claimed responsibility for various terrorist acts, including the Madrid bombing and the most recent Great Blackout. As one blogger sarcastically added: "And The Meteor That Killed The Godless Saurians? We Did That, Too."

I still haven't figured out who these guys are or what their game is, but I'll repeat (or rather, slightly re-phrase) one of my favorite maxims: Fakes don't make themselves. In their most recent missive, the Abu Hafs lads showed a remarkable interest in U.S. domestic party politics. Perhaps that's a clue.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


Here are the most interesting paragraphs from the Los Angeles Times' coverage of the 911 panel:

"Aerial surveillance spotted an official United Arab Emirates jet at the camp, and it became clear that senior UAE officials were there hunting and apparently meeting with Bin Laden. "Policymakers were concerned about the danger that a strike might kill an Emirati prince or other senior officials," the commission's report said.

"A commission official said the panel was still investigating why senior officials from the UAE, considered an American ally, were meeting with Bin Laden.

"In one passage, the commission's report says the United States uncovered evidence that the Taliban "was trying to extort cash from Saudi Arabia and the UAE with various threats and that these blackmail efforts may have paid off." Commission officials declined to elaborate on the nature of those threats."

Blackmail? Well. How very intriguing.

This brings us to the thorny question of Saudi relations with Bin Laden, the subject of much speculation and investigation over the past few years, and a sub-theme of Craig Unger's new book. On one hand, we do have abundant evidence that the Bush administration has covered up links between various Saudi figures and Al Qaeda. On the other hand, certain neocon forces have sought to publicize a Saudis-fund-Bin Laden conspiracy theory in order to foment conflict between that nation and the United States.

Why, one may ask, would anyone connected with the Saudi family throw money at a man and a movement dedicated to dynasty change in the Arab holy land?

We've heard a few suggestions over the years. Many say the Saudis have doled out "go away" money in order to keep Al Qaeda busy elsewhere. Others say (correctly) that Saudi Arabia is no monolith; as is always the case with monarchies, there are factions and intriguers. A few voices have darkly suggested that Bin Laden's rift with the Saudi rulers amounts to nothing more than an elaborate ruse -- a suggestion that makes about as much sense as James Jesus Angleton's fancies about the Sino-Soviet split.

The time has come to contemplate another possibility: Blackmail.

Blackmail usually involves sex. The men of the Saudi royal family are known for their prodigious libidos, even though they rule a land considered holy. And this is not the first time their activities have given rise to whispers of extortion.

Anthony Summer's book about Nixon relates a fascinating, little-known and maddeningly incomplete tale of a sexual blackmail operation set up in New York around the time of the Watergate break-in. The targets were prominent figures in the Arab world. And the honeytrap was baited with ladies provided by none other than the Happy Hooker herself, Xaviera Hollander.

More to come...
Rummy before the commission

Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said some rather interesting things before the 911 commission. Here's a key excerpt:

"But imagine for a moment that we were back before September 11, 2001. Imagine that a U.S. President had looked at the information then available, and gone before the Congress and the world, and said: We need to invade Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist network, based on what little was known before September 11th. How many countries would have joined in a coalition? Many? Any? Not likely.

"We likely would have heard objections to pre-emption similar to those voiced before the Coalition launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. We would have been asked: Where is the smoking gun? How can we attack Afghanistan when it was al-Qaeda that attacked us? Aren't North Korea, Iran, Iraq, or Libya more immediate threats than Afghanistan? Shouldn't overthrowing the Taliban regime be the last step, not the first? Why can't we just take out terrorist training camps?

"If we go to war in Afghanistan, does it mean the U.S. will now go to war with every state that harbors terrorists before they have threatened us? Should we go to war when there is no international consensus behind ousting the Taliban regime by force?

"wouldn't U.S. intervention enrage the Muslim world and increase support for the terrorists? How can we go to war when not one country in the region publicly supports us, and many seem to be opposed? Wouldn't the U.S. get bogged down in an expensive, dangerous long-term military occupation?

"wouldn't we open ourselves to the risk that other rogue regimes might take advantage of the fact that the U.S. is tied up in Afghanistan to invade neighbors or cause other mischief? Wont launching a pre-emptive strike simply provoke more terrorist attacks against the U.S.?"

He's correct, of course, to point out that not many countries would have joined the coalition. But since when does the Bush administration feel skittish about unilateral action? At any rate, action would not have been unilateral. The effort would have had one key partner, unmentioned by Rumsfeld: The Northern Alliance. Richard Clarke had proposed regime change in Afghanistan before 911 by giving aid to the alliance, and such assistance probably would not have outraged world opinion.

Most of Rumsfeld's other points apply just as well to the war in Iraq. Where was the smoking gun there? Where is the international consensus? How many countries in the region supported our actions?

By contrast, the Cole incident had in and of itself given the United States all the cause for war necessary to justify action against the Taliban. That government had offered material aid to the criminal force that had attacked our ship -- and international opinion would have understood that fact as a legitimate rationale for military action.

As for support from other nations in the region: I doubt Iran, which despised the Taliban regime, would have offered any complaints -- perhaps they would have muttered a few pro forma protests, but not much more. Most of the Arab world disliked the Taliban, whose ultra-fundamentalist ideology threatened to spread and undermine regional stability. India would have seen an attack on the Taliban as a welcome gesture against Pakistan.

A United States attack on Afghanistan before September 11, 2001 was justifiable and would not have provoked an unmanageable degree of protest. Substantial U.S. assistance to the Northern Alliance would have been better still.
Clarke in the cornfield

While pondering the Clarke controversy, samsara struck me: We’re living in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Submitted for your approval: The story of an all-powerful spoiled brat -- call him Georgie -- who thinks all reality should conform to his whim. When someone says something he does not want to hear, he throws a fit. “You’re a bad man! A very bad man! Into the cornfield!”

And everyone around him proclaims: “That was a good thing you did, Georgie. That was a very good thing.” They know that if they don’t feed the kid’s fantasies, if they allow themselves a single independent thought, they too might end up in the cornfield.

That’s why the G.O.P. attack machine gets away with so many illogical, contradictory, and deceitful accusations against Richard Clarke. Clarke’s a Kerry-loving partisan, the smear-mongers say -- even though he’s a registered Republican, and a hawk. Clarke’s a softie who wanted to “arrest” terrorists, they say -- even though he’d been screaming for years before 911 about the need to chuck bombs at Osama Bin Laden and sic the CIA on Al Qaeda. Clarke didn’t make his concerns known to the administration, they say -- and never mind the fact that he practically shouted for attention, only to be ignored. It would have been a mistake to do as Clarke suggested, some administration sources say. We did everything he suggested, other sources say. Clarke was out of the loop before 911, Cheney says. No, other Bushites say, he was the guy in charge of counter-terrorism during 911, and he therefore deserves all blame for what went wrong that day.

The smears don’t have to make sense. The G.O.P.’s thoughtcrime enforcement patrols keep much of the electorate afraid of any reality other than the Georgie-approved reality. Richard Clarke is a bad man. He’s a VERY bad man. That’s all you need to know.

If George W. Bush had spent the entire State of the Union address chanting “Hail Satan!” while masturbating, Jay Leno’s monologue would have switched the subject to Monica Lewinsky. And millions of good Republicans would have gone to bed thinking: That was a GOOD thing you did, Georgie. A very good thing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Clarke, Mylroie, Iraq and terror

One of the major motifs in the right-wing's attack on Clarke concerns the question of Iraq's alleged involvement with the first attack on the World Trade Center. The primary exponent of this theory is neocon-artist Laurie Mylroie, author of The War Against America and Bush vs. the Beltway. The latter book struck me as the boldest attack on the CIA ever to emerge from a right-wing source; the subterranean war between Langley and the neocons is, in my view, the most important parapolitical tale of this administration. That war may yet erupt into visible battle as the election proceeds.

Mylroie is of primary importance for her contributions to the mythology of Iraqi terror. For a fine expose, read this Washington Monthly piece from last December, written by Peter Bergen. The best quote in this piece comes from an unnamed U.S. counterterrorism official: "Mylroie probably thinks the Washington sniper was an Iraqi."

(Hm. Wonder if Clarke was the one who said that?)

Clarke, Clarke, Clarke...

It sets one's head a-spinning. The attacks on Richard Clarke have been nonstop and nonsensical. Joshua Marshall provides a must-read analysis, as always. I must reiterate and expand upon one of his key points. He quotes NSC spokesman Jim Wilkinson on Clarke:

"This is a president who had Condoleezza Rice and others ask for a strategy. Dick Clarke, when he first came and briefed, presented several ideas, all of which frankly were overseas... I want to make a very point here, that all of his ideas he presented were not a strategy. This is a president who wanted a comprehensive strategy to go after al Qaeda where it lives, where it hides, where it plots, where it raises money. All the ideas that -- except for one -- that Dick Clarke submitted, this administration did."

Clarke did, in fact, outline a strategy to hit al Qaeda where it lived -- literally -- years before Bush took office. His big idea was to drop bombs on Afghanistan and kill Osama Bin Laden. The AP story cited in a previous post makes the point clearly.

If the Bushanistas had attacked Osama as viciously as they are now attacking Clarke, the World Trade Center towers might still be standing. Administration hagiographers don't much care if their arguments against Clarke make sense, or if they contradict each other. Some administration apologists (Cheney, for example) tells us Clarke was out of the loop, a low-level guy. Others (Wilkinson, for example) berate Clarke because "he was in charge of counterterrorism" when 911 happened -- as though the disaster was all his fault, when in fact he was the one guy in the administration who wanted to chuck bombs at Osama Bin Laden.

C'mon, guys, get your stories straight. He was either small potatoes or the chief spud. You can't have it both ways.

(That phrase "not in the loop" -- it seems so familiar. Wasn't that something Bush the elder said, vis-a-vis the Irangate arms-for-hostages deal? And didn't he later admit, in an interview on October 13, 1992, that he was lying, that he knew all along that arms were traded for hostages?)

Cheney's argument hinges on his assertion that Clarke moved from counterterrorism to cybersecurity before 911. Actually, Clarke did not make the switch until later. At the time of the attacks, he was in the White House situation room, more or less running the show as Condaleezza Rice told him: "Okay, Dick, you're the crisis manager; what do you recommend?"

The Bushites are still trying to damn Clarke by his association with Rand Beers, the counter-intelligence specialist whose story parallels Clarke's: Beers quit the administration because he felt the president mishandled the war on terrorism, then went on to become an advisor to John Kerry, at a time when Kerry was still floundering. I don't see how one can damn Beers for ambition when he quit a position of power to join a campaign that then had (and probably still has) little hope of attaining power. Neither does it redound to Bush's credit that his former terrorism specialist has accused him of "underestimating the enemy" and ignoring many pressing domestic security concerns.

Ryan Lizza makes this superb point: "How can you defend yourself from charges that you didn't take terrorism seriously before 9/11 while simultaneously attacking the credibility of the person you put in charge of terrorism before 9/11?"

Answer: You write Clarke out of the history, much as Stalin's literary goons wrote Trotsky out of the Russian Revolution. So Clarke was unimportant. Except for 911. 911 was all his fault.

And we've always been at war with Eastasia. We have never been at war with Westasia.

Monday, March 22, 2004

More on Clarke

Oh, this is juicy!

Below, in my main article on Richard Clarke (the former insider now spilling many a bean about Bush's mishandling of terrorism), you'll find a refutation of the first major attempt to smear his credibility, offered by that estimable journal, FrontPage Magazine. Clarke, a byline-free article contends, "bought into the now-discredited "law enforcement" approach to counter-terrorism: if people are making war on us, arrest them!"

In other words, he eschews military solutions. He's weak. Not an ass-kicker.

Or so we are told.

Ah, what a difference five years make. Look up an A.P. story dated February 7, 1999, titled "U.S. Reserves Right to Bomb Governments That Harbor Terrorists." Here's a key quote:

"The Clinton administration now asserts the right to bomb government facilities in nations that act as safe havens for international terrorists, a significant escalation of U.S. attempts to combat terrorism.

"'We may not just go in a strike against a terrorist facility; we may choose to retaliate against the facilities of the host country, if that host country is a knowing, cooperative sanctuary,' Richard Clarke, President Clinton's coordinator for counterterrorism, told The Associated Press.

"In an interview last week, Clarke described the policy that marks a departure from the tactics employed last August when U.S. cruise missiles struck at alleged terrorist strongholds in Afghanistan and Sudan.

"Now the administration contends it could broaden such an attack to include government buildings and assets in nations that knowingly harbor terrorists."

End quote. There you have it: Clarke and Clinton wanted to chuck bombs at al-Qaida (not named in the article, but obviously the target) and at the leadership of Afghanistan in 1999. If the United States had done so at that time, the World Trade Center attack may never have taken place.

You know who opposed this new doctrine? Conservatives!

They viewed it as part of Bill Clinton's evil Illuminati scheme for world conquest. Check out these usenet responses from rightists:

"There is no one on earth safe from this bastard."

"This is a very scary development! If Clinton is willing to be this arrogant and reckless in his use of raw, naked power against the whole world, he must have horrible plans for conservatives within this country."

""Under Bill Clinton we have now taken the first steps to becoming a world dictator. Today, we bomb governments who allegedly harbor terrorists, even if there is no proof."

I ask you: Who was coddling al-Qaida back in 1999? Was it Richard Clarke? Bill Clinton? Or America's reactionary legions?
Christopher Wren, of all people, joined the funereal frenzy on The Dennis Miller Mortuary Hour. (I think that's the name of the show.) As a few of you may recall, Wren was a longtime Moscow correspondent for the New York Times. He told Miller to beware of Vladimir Putin -- after all, Putin used to be KGB.

I quite agree, Christopher. You just can't trust anyone who ever worked for spooks.

Here we go again!

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Daily News (the other L.A. daily, which circulates primarily in the San Fernando Valley) published a troubling story titled Bush's 90-day-plan: Trash Kerry fast. The piece gets quotes on the record verifying what we've suspected for the past couple weeks: The Republicans plan to use this early period to write a "story" around John Kerry -- a story which will define him for the rest of the campaign.

The most unsettling quote, alas, comes from the Kerry side: ""The notion that you have a one-sided definition that takes hold five months before an election is ridiculous," said Bob Shrum, a senior adviser to Kerry. "I don't think the Bush campaign's caricatures are going to stand up to the reality. Voters are smarter than that.""

Uh oh. God save us from campaign advisors who bet the rent money on the proposition that voters are intelligent.

Shrum, old chum, I beg you to consider one name: Al Gore. Polls indicated that voters turned away from Gore because the GOP's "serial liar" caricature took hold. Their phony redefinition of that decent man carried the day.

Don't think it can't happen again.

A few words about the Daily News. Anyone who thinks all newspapers lean left has never spent much time in any area where that rag circulates. Consider, for example, its coverage of Der Gropinator. Lots of right-wingers castigated the Los Angeles Times for publicizing an (accurate) story about the charges against Schwarzenegger shortly before the election, but few complained about the gallons of favorable ink showered on this candidate by newspapers up and down California. The worst offender was the Daily News, which published a seemingly endless series of shameless front-page puff-pieces. An acquaintance of mine privately nicknamed the paper the Daily Arnie.

And don't get me started on the way that rag handled the issue of valley secession...!
If it happens again...

The new Zogby poll puts Kerry ahead by a tiny 48%-to-46% margin in a head-to-head race; if Nader stays in, the race is even. The most interesting finding: "If a major terrorist attack were again to hit the United States, 51% of likely voters prefer to be led by Bush as compared to Kerry with 40%."

If a Democrat, any Democrat, were in office and we got clobbered twice, the radio rightists would surely denounce said Democrat as a weakling. But with Bush, a second strike would only add to his aura of strength -- despite his inability to capture Osama! Go figure.

The article below is not unrelated.
Briefcase Nukes

The most important story in the news today is here. I am a pessimist. I believe that al-Qaida has obtained these devices, and I wake up every morning expecting to hear that one has been used in the United States.
Richard Clarke

As you've probably heard, Richard Clarke, the one-time terrorism advisor to George W. Bush (and senior man in six previous administrations), has spilled more beans than Juan Valdez sees in a year. Just in case you didn't catch him on 60 Minutes, here are the juicy quotes (which you can skim past if you're already familiar with this material):

"Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11."


"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq. And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq."

Further on:

""The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.' He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."

The report was verified by the CIA and the FBI, neither of which saw a link between the World Trade Center attacks and Iraq.

Clarke: "It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'"

Clarke confirms that, previous to the attack, the Bush administration ignored al-Qaida: "That should have been the first item on the agenda. And it was pushed back and back and back for months.

"There's a lot of blame to go around, and I probably deserve some blame, too. But on January 24th, 2001, I wrote a memo to Condoleezza Rice asking for, urgently -- underlined urgently -- a Cabinet-level meeting to deal with the impending al Qaeda attack. And that urgent memo-- wasn't acted on.

"I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on Cold War issues when they back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier."

At this writing, the land of Blog offers two terrific analyses of the Clarke affair. The first comes from the reliable Joshua Marshall. The second comes from Billmon at The Whiskey Bar, who searches his memory for the last time someone this senior came out against an administration he had served. General John Singlaub's contretemps with Jimmy Carter over South Korea comes to Billmon's mind; I suppose one could also cite General Walker's defiance toward JFK and McArthur's disobedience of Harry Truman. All three instances involved ultra-conservative generals getting snippy with Democrats. By contrast (as Billmon notes), "Clarke is a national security ultrahawk taking aim at a hawkish president."

Clarke seems to have been (until recently, at least) a classic neocon. He counted among his friends Steve Emerson, the fervent Likud supporter accused by some Arabs of racism. Emerson also wrote an influential -- and deceptive -- article which helped shield (temporarily) George H.W. Bush from the October Surprise scandal.

Clarke predicted that the Republicans would sic their attack dogs on him. Already, the hounds have indeed strained free of their tethers.

FrontPage Magazine, for example, has bared its fangs in an unrestrained personal attack. The piece proclaims "Iraq was involved in the Islamofascists' 1993 attempt to destroy the World Trade Center" and that "Iraq did in fact support and collaborate with al Qaeda." The former theory, associated primarily with neocon writer Laurie Mylroie and former CIA director James Woolsey, has never been proven; the latter contention is pure propaganda.

The FrontPage smear also contradicts itself: At first, it derides Clarke for justifying pre-emptive military attacks when Bill Clinton was in office. (The charge here is partisanship: If Bill could do it, George should be able to do it.) Later, the piece alleges that "Clarke bought into the now-discredited "law enforcement" approach to counter-terrorism: if people are making war on us, arrest them!" Well, which is it? At first, Clarke is damned for supporting a military solution, then he's damned for doing otherwise!

The one piece of evidence cited for the "law enforcement" canard is a quote from Clarke which includes these words: "Where possible and appropriate, the United States will bring the terrorists back to this country and put them on trial." No-one in his right mind would interpret that statement as a repudiation of a military response to a terrorist attack sponsored by a foreign nation.

Moreover, Clarke's previous endorsement of a military strike by Clinton does not mean that Clarke was so fierce a partisan that he took a "Bill can do it, but George can't" approach. I have yet to see or read a single statement by Clarke in which he denounces the idea of a military response. Re-read the quotes above: He prodded the administration to attack Afghanistan. But he thought Iraq was the wrong target. So did the CIA. So did the FBI.

It is true that Clarke worked for Clinton. He worked for seven presidents, five of them Republican. He left the current administration. He has a friend named Rand Beers who went to work for Kerry. The Republican Brainwashing System will try to convince you that Clarke was some sort of Democratic "mole." Seems to me his actions were those of a man who had a crisis of conscience and left an administration blinded by its preconceptions.

On an amusing note: One cable news outlet began its Clarke segment by stating that, from day one, George Bush increased America's focus on the al-Qaida threat. Then the reporter went on to interview Clarke, who made precisely the opposite claim. Talk about cognitive dissonance! How can a journalist continue to bleat the propaganda line even when presenting evidence that demolishes it?
"Non-partisan." Yeah. Right.

Wanted: A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy directs our attention to this excellent investigation of the allegedly "non-partisan" nonprofits which provide the GOP with innumerable services. We're talking "think tanks," media pressure groups, legal pit bulls, student associations, publications and the like. Mega-dollars pour into these groups from the silver-spoon brigade: Scaife, Coors, the John. M. Olin foundation, and the rest. These groups all provide the Republican party with ideological rigor and raw muscle.

The "non-partisan" label, requisite for tax-exempt status, peeves me the most. The courts tend to define non-partisanship far more stringently when a nonprofit does not toe (or establish) the ultra-conservative party line.
Blair and the Witch

Earlier tonight, I caught a repentant Jayson Blair on America's Black Forum, undergoing a grilling from a panel which included Deborah Simmons, an editor at the Washington Times. I had to laugh. Nobody working at that rag has the right to deliver a lecture on integrity to anyone. The Moonie-owned Times lied repeatedly about Clinton, lied repeatedly about Gore, and recently tried to keep aloft the outrageous Kerry-and-the-intern fable. Blair's fabrications were, by comparison, far less significant.

Cult-leader Reverend Moon has stated that he began the Washington Times because most other newspapers are "pro-communist." (Gee -- most newspapers endorsed George W. Bush. Does that mean Bush is a bolshie?) Moon has come out in favor of world rule by "automatic theocracy" because democracy is "a good nursery for the growth of Communism." Despite his anti-communism, Moon has done millions of dollars' worth of business with North Korea.

Many sources report that Moon supports the money-losing Times to the tune of $100 million annually. Where does he get that kind of cash, year after year? No outsider knows for sure, but few consider the money clean. He does own legit businesses, including Wacom, the folks who make graphics tablets (designers take note!). But innumerable news stories have also connected the good Reverend with the Yakuza and massive money laundering schemes.

If this is the kind of filthy lucre that puts food in Deborah Simmons' pantry, Jayson Blair should be giving her a lecture on ethics.

Regarding America's Black Forum, this snippet from The Black Commentator may prove enlightening:

"The Hard Right has thoroughly infested what began, 25 years ago, as the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. Since the mid-Nineties, ABF has devolved into a menagerie of professional Black propagandists in service of the most vicious elements of the Republican Party."

Saturday, March 20, 2004


You need to read Joshua Marshall's excellent analysis of how Bush has bulled his way ahead of Kerry. Marshall's main argument: At a critical moment, the Bush forces have successfully framed the public's perception of Kerry, based on lies. And Kerry has stumbled in his attempts to break the frame.

Marshall: "The winning campaign against the president is equally clear. He doesn't tell the truth. Almost nothing he has told the American people has turned out to be true (from budgets to jobs, from wmds to his personal past). In many cases, that's because he's lied to them. In others, it's because he's promised things he had no reason to believe were true. In some instances, he just failed to deliver."

I disagree with Marshall on one key point: "Just as the president only tauntingly alludes to the attacks being mounted by his campaign surrogates, Kerry can't go around calling the president a liar."

Really? What if he did? Imagine the publicity!

The Republican brainwashing system would scream in outrage, of course. But so what? They'll scream in outrage no matter what the Kerry forces do.

I suggest Kerry initiate a phase of his campaign centered around two words: "BUSH LIES!" I see posters on telephone poles around the country, bearing that phrase and the URL of a website detailing all of this administration's many fabrications.

Yes, I think Kerry should say the words himself. He should lead crowds in chanting the phrase. When the pundits howl in protest, don't back down. Keep hitting hard: BUSH LIES. BUSH LIES. BUSH LIES!

Make the campaign about the president's credibility. Never offer an apology for using those two words; always offer specific examples demonstrating why the words are justified. When the press asks Kerry why he isn't running a positive campaign, he should answer that there is nothing more positive than the truth, and he wishes Mr. Bush would start telling it.

Later, the opportunity will come for John Kerry to have a "pet the dog" scene (as they say in Hollywood) to prove his likability. Right now, he needs to do something dramatic -- even melodramatic -- to make the race about George W. Bush. He needs to deliver a clear, simple message: BUSH LIES!
What can you do but love 'em?

I just noticed this paragraph from a NYT story on the race published March 16.

"By 59 percent to 35 percent, respondents said they supported a constitutional amendment that would "allow marriage only between a man and a woman." But 56 percent said that they did not view the issue as important enough to merit changing the nation's constitution."

In other words, a significant percentage of the folks out there support a consitutional amendment -- but don't think the constitution should be changed.

Perhaps these same people think it's possible to go vegetarian without giving up meat?
Lindauer defends herself

Check out the first substantive interview with Susan Lindauer. Forgive the self-satisfied smirk, but so far, I seem to have called the shot rather well in my analysis of the indictment. Seems she really is the proverbial starry-eyed idealist who thought private diplomacy could bring about peace. I now strongly doubt that she did anything resembling espionage.

And she insists that she had never met her alleged co-conspirators. I fully expect the conspiracy charge to be dropped, once Fox News has taken sufficient footage of Susan Lindauer sharing the frame with two young men from the Middle East.

We learn for the first time that she recently wrote letters to Congressfolk about her attempt to get weapons inspectors into Iraq. ""Immediately after I go to Congress with this info," she said, "immediately after that, a grand jury is convened against me.""

Some "spy"! Desperately trying to get the attention of Andrew Card and Congress...

I doubt that her communications with legislators initiated the charges against her. More than likely, the Bushies caught wind of her case and recognized that they had a propaganda coup on their hands, if they played the situation right.

In the interview, she comes across as well-meaning but exasperating in her ingenuousness. Didn't she understand that the war in Iraq was about oil, not weapons inspection? Doesn't she comprehend that her pointless peacenik project accomplished nothing beyond handing some ammo to the GOP's psychological warriors?

What's wrong with "Rightsizing"

Gadflyer has an interesting new piece by Ann Lewis called "Rightsizing Rove" which discusses various missteps by the Bush camp: The ill-chosen "manufacturing czar" who had been a monumental outsourcer, the flawed prescription drug benefit, and the widely condemned ads featuring 911 imagery. Lewis' main point: Rove and co. ain't so brilliant. Be afraid, but don't be very afraid.

The poll numbers undercut her argument. In CBS/NYT polling, Kerry led Bush by five points a month ago, but now trails Bush by three points (seven points if Nader stays in the race). In the Investor's Business Daily poll, a Kerry three-point lead has turned into a five-point deficit.

Granted, other polls show conflicting results, but the general trend is in Bush's favor. Face it: The ads worked. I doubt many people paid attention to the brouhaha over the manufacturing czar. The GOP is pulling out all the stops to convince the public that W is saving Medicare. Rush and co. have had amazing success in defining the 911 families and the firefighters as fringe-dwellers.

I don't like the Republican product, but I'm in awe of their ability to sell it.
Burmese harping

Update: The supplier of the fleece pullovers for the Bush campaign has offered apologies for doing business with Burmese tyrants; the campaign will buy American from now on. Excellent news. But my basic point still stands: If despotism is sufficient grounds for ignoring national sovereignty, why didn't W send the Marines into Burma? Could the answer have anything to do with a certain black substance, found in some parts of the world and not in others....?
We knew W had a conflict with the CIA...

...but is he now being undercut by the Pentagon? First, the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment offers a report acknowledging the serious threat posed by global warming, a threat Bush prefers to consider imaginary.

Now we learn (via the good folks at Tom Paine) that the same group has endorsed a study by the Arlington Institute outlining a plan to wean America away from its oil addiction in a mere 15 years.

Feasible? Read the report and decide for yourself. I doubt if anyone named Bush much appreciates any interference with the family bidness.

Next thing you know, the Pentagonians will be issuing tie-dyed fatigues and vegan MREs...
Bush invades
A land with oil
But happily
Exploits the toil

All his other rationales for war having vaporized, W and the neocons now justify the Iraq invasion purely on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was a very, very bad fellow. As indeed he was.

Y'know who are even worse? The despots who rule Burma, a country with no democracy, no human rights protections, no freedoms whatsoever. The Burmese government has been involved in narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and sex slavery.

Will Bush invade Burma? Hell no; they have no oil. Instead, he's giving them money.

Poor Burmese workers, who toil under serf-like conditions, make some of the merchandise sold at Fork over $49.95 to the Bush/Cheney campaign, and you can get a fleece pullover made in Burma. (The word "fleece" suggests an obvious pun...)

Last time I looked, there are still clothing manufacturers struggling to get by here in the United States. You'd think the President would throw a little business their way. Nope! He'd rather deal with the insanely corrupt Burmese government. Even though a trade ban prohibits the United States from doing business with Burma.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Lindauer update

More on the alleged "spy" for Iraq, Susan Lindauer: We have further indications that the "conspiracy" count against her is fraudulent. As noted in an earlier post, the indictment does not mention a single instance of her working with the alleged co-conspirators, Wisam Noman al-Anbuke and his brother, Raed Roman al-Anbuke (both sons of a former Iraqi diplomat). Indeed, nowhere does the indictment link the three in any specific way.

According to a March 17 Reuters story, the brothers' defense attorney has denied that the men even knew her.

An earlier indictment against the al-Anbukes makes no mention of a conspiracy involving an American woman.

Why, then, do they pop up in the Lindauer indictment? I suspect, based on the facts so far available, that she was placed alongside two young men of Middle Eastern origin for propaganda purposes. Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and others have pushed the "Democrats befriend terrorists" theme, and l'affair Lindauer plays right into the new McCarthyism.

I will put my suspicion into rewrite, of course, the moment someone demonstrates that the three colluded even once to commit a criminal act. Hell, I'd like to see some evidence that they even spoke on the phone.

Susan Lindauer's father, a former Republican candidate for Governor of Alaska, said that his daughter would not face these woes if she had come out against John Kerry.
The first African-American Vice President?

Just a thought. Would African-American voting patterns shift significantly if the Republicans became the first party to nominate a black Vice President?

No-one can blame black people who resent the fact that they have never had a chance to vote for a black candidate for national office in the general election.

In a TV interview this afternoon, Lawrence Eagleberger castigated Dick Cheney in surprisingly direct terms. The current VP is not a popular man. Eagleberger is hardly the first Republican unable to hide his displeasure.

Suppose Cheney left the ticket, citing health reasons, and Bush offered the spot to Condoleezza Rice. (Cheney could continue to run the country under the cover of some lesser office.)

Kerry, in an obvious counter-move, could choose Carol Moseley Braun. She doesn't help carry a state (Illinois is already solidly Democratic), but her presence on the ticket would probably create a sharp upsurge in black voter participation. Alas, the Susan Lindauer pseudo-scandal probably means Braun would cost the ticket more votes than she would bring.

My suspicion: If Republicans had a black VP nominee and the Democrats did not, voting patterns would not change to an overwhelming degree. But just enough African-American Democrats would cross party lines to keep (or rather put) Florida in the Bush column.
Tammy Faye

I never thought I'd feel sympathy for Tammy Faye Messner, the televangelist who gained fame for co-hosting "The PTL Club" with then-husband Jim Bakker. Having lost a family member to lung cancer, I know the nature of the ordeal she will face. I am sorry, and I wish her well in her fight.

Still, I remain angry that she regained society's favor even though she (unlike her ex-husband) never apologized. She helped raise money for a non-existent broadcasting center in Korea. Then she and her husband grossly oversold time-shares in a resort complex and pocketed the cash. Lots of people lost a lot of money.

Today, she blames Jerry Falwell and continues to pretend that she had no idea what Jim was up to. I refuse to believe that Tammy Faye was ignorant. People watching at home were able to figure out the scam; how could she not know?

If my stance seems harsh, I apologize. But the best favor her friends can do for her is to remind her that confession is good for the soul. Now is the time for it.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The Boot

In today's Los Angeles Times editorial pages, Max Boot, of the Council of Foreign Relations, delivers an outrageous diatribe.

Boot's schtick (here as elsewhere) consists of telling bits of the truth, or a distorted version of the truth, about Bush and the neocons. And then Boot sniggers. No counter-argument: Just sniggering. His message: "Come join the ranks of the superior sniggerers. Close your eyes to fact. Ignore debate. All you need do is snigger."

He sniggers at the idea that Enron and MCI bilked working class Americans. According to Boot, only the "loony left" could interpret events in such a harebrained fashion.

He sniggers at the idea that the Bush administration has promoted outsourcing to India -- even though Colin Powell recently toddled off to India to assure the folks there that they'll continue to receive a steady stream of formerly-American jobs.

Boot sniggers at the suggestion that Dubya's grandfather Prescott Bush "made his loot in shady deals with the Nazis". Only a loony leftist would think that way. Or so saith Max.

Never mind the fact that the evidence proving Prescott's skullduggery is solid. And never mind the fact that the chief researchers into that claim are Kevin Phillips -- a Republican -- and John Loftus, a former prosecutor in Reagan's Justice Department. Loftus is a fervent Likud supporter who has praised W in at least one radio interview that has reached my ears.

Yet Boot thinks these guys are loony leftists!

He sniggers at the suggestion that the Bushies "put the fix in at the Supreme Court, sending Antonin Scalia on duck hunting junkets in return for not sending Dick Cheney to the slammer, where he so richly belongs." Unfortunately, no "leftist" has made that suggestion, which exists only within Boot's imagination. The simple truth: Many Democrats believe that Scalia should recuse himself in a case involving his good friend. Is that an unreasonable notion? Only to Boot.

Boot sniggers at Michael Moore for calling Bush a deserter. Moore's website quotes the definition of "deserter" as a soldier who goes AWOL for more than 30 days. The fact is, we still don't know where Bush was during his period of missing time, but we do know that he was gone for more than 30 days.

Boot sniggers at Cynthia McKinney for suggesting that the Bush administration had advance warnings of imminent danger before 9/11. Actually, scores of newspapers made that very claim well before McKinney gave voice to it. The most notable example: Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. Remember the "Bush Knew" headline?

Maybe dear old uncle Max considers Murdoch a "leftist."

Max goes on to do a lot of sniggering about Haiti. He sniggers at the idea that there has ever been CIA involvement in that country, although such involvement has been proven beyond the point of rational debate. Check here and here and here. Hell, just go to Google and type in the words "Haiti" and "CIA."

Boot's definition of a "loony leftist" is anyone who tells the public a truth the neocons don't want you to know. That's why, a week ago, Uncle Max joined the GOP effort to smear Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, the former insider who revealed the Bush administration's corrupt handling of intelligence. Boot did not refute any of Kwiatkowski's charges, preferring to engage in character assassination. Her sin? She's a Libertarian, and she has been published by some folks Boot does not like. Guess that makes her a "loony leftist."

Better debate through name-calling. No facts: Just sniggering. Such is the GOP strategy -- and it seems to be working.
The latest on the Madrid blasts

Xymphora, whoever he is, has a good piece on the Madrid terror attacks.

More info is coming out about alleged terrorist Jamal Zougam, who has a background as a crook, a drinker, a nightclubber and a womanizer. His old buddies don't recall him as even slightly religious. He spent his time on scams involving stolen cel phones and credit cards.

Mr. X gloms onto one fact that also leaped out at me, and which I should have noted earlier: The individuals arrested with Zougam include three "Spaniards of Hindu origin." Hindus in al-Qaida? That's like Ann Coulter working for the DNC.

A Guardian New Service story offers an interesting tidbit about the ideological basis that may have driven Zougam (if he really did do it):

"One of Morocco's leading anti-terrorist experts, Mohamed Darif, told the Guardian that he believed two groups were involved in the Madrid attacks: one based in Morocco and one founded by al-Qaida's reputed head of operations in Spain, Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, a Syrian also known as Abu Dahdah, now in a Spanish jail awaiting trial.

""Salafia Jihadia,'' Professor Darif said, ``is more a doctrine, like Marxism, than a single coherent organization. Zougam helped prepare the Casablanca attacks but left Tangier a month before they were carried out.''"

Brisard (the French investigator mentioned in an earlier post) has described a phone tap of a conversation between Zougam and Mohamed Fizazi, leader of Salafia Jihadia. Do we here have a case of a ne'er-do-well who meets a charismatic leader, "gets religion," and blows things up?

Or is something even darker afoot? Xymphora speculates we may have a case of stolen identity. Zougam was identified by a phone card left in an unexploded bomb. Was this the bomb found in the ever-so-convenient "clue dump" van? On the other hand, Zougam was questioned a year ago in a Spanish police sweep of al-Qaida suspects.
The lies never stop

Bush's new ads claim (falsely) that Kerry voted against combat pay raises for soldiers. In fact, Bush tried to cut combat pay just a few months ago.

Bush's rising approval ratings indicate that these outrageously deceptive ads work. Yes, memory really is that short. Yes, people really are that foolish.

The single most awe-inspiring political reality in today's world is the Republican propaganda system. It can convince millions that up is down.
A Strange Bush Endorsement

Who are the puckish wits behind the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades? They claim to be connected with al-Qaida, and they've taken responsibility for events (such as the recent Madrid blast and the power outages last year) they probably had nothing to do with. Many believe this is a paper organization. Disinformation at work?

Check out the analysis here. The piece quotes Peter Bergen as saying that some al-Qaida splinter groups may be waging psychological warfare. But Robert Fisk (see earlier post) reports that al-Qaida is just as confused by these guys as everyone else is.

Whoever they are, they certainly have a morbid sense of humor. In their latest communication, they've come out in favor of George Bush's re-election, because they consider it impossible to find a leader "more foolish" than Bush, "who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom." They say they consider Kerry more of a threat: "Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization. Because of this we desire...(Bush) to be elected."

Very funny, but it all leaves me wondering. If these al-Masri guys are fakes, what are they up to?

When they wrote a letter falsely taking responsibility for the Madrid blast (apparently the work of another al-Qaida-linked group -- a real one), they helped to unseat Anzar's Popular party. As detailed below, the government rapidly lost credibility when Anzar blamed ETA -- sans evidence -- while clues pointing to Islamic extremists started to pile up. One of those clues was the letter from our old friends at the al-Masri brigades. has the goods on Donald Rumsfeld. Click the link, watch the clip, drop your jaw, laugh your ass off...

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Bye-bye jobs...

The NYT reports that Colin Powell has flown to India to assure the good folks there that the Bush administration will do nothing to halt the flow of high-tech American jobs to that country.

This comes not long after Bush's chief economic advisor, Greg Mankiw, wrote a report favoring massive outsourcing of this nation's jobs. Bush signed off on that report. Of course, the companies responsible for much of the outsourcing give millions of dollars to the Republicans.

Meanwhile, here at home, millions of people are out of work, only low-wage jobs are available, many folks are paying 80% of their income just to keep a roof overhead, and few can afford the average European's standard of living.
Spanish lie

Editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez, the Los Angeles Times’ ill-chosen successor to Paul Conrad, yesterday offered his vile take on the Socialist triumph in Spain: The cartoon pictured successful candidate Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero hand-in-upraised-hand with a blood-spattered terrorist. This misleading image reflects the spin one finds on Fox news and other GOP propaganda organs: Zapatero’s victory is a victory for terror.

Wrong. It's a victory for truth and democracy. The Socialist candidate won for two reasons:

1. The vast majority (some say 90%) of the Spanish electorate opposed the Iraq war. Jose Maria Aznar, the outgoing right-wing Popular party leader, dragged the people into a conflict they did not want. Only Americans confuse the war on al-Qaida with the war to control the oil fields; everyone else sees the two issues as separate.

2. Aznar lied. Outrageously. When the Madrid bombings occurred, he personally assured the nation that responsibility rested with the Basque separatist group ETA. He decreed “case closed” even before the cops began their detective work. And he continued to scapegoat ETA even after clues pointed toward Islamic extremists.

Why did he pretend to solve the crime before the police had investigated? Obviously, Aznar did not want his people to surmise that fealty to Bush came at the price of Spanish blood. So Aznar lied.

Even his sycophants in the state press hated having to mouth the "case closed" canard. Meanwhile, the uncontrolled press -- and the internet -- publicized evidence pointing to Al-Qaida, evidence censored on right-wing broadcasts. The government rapidly developed a bad case of credibility gap.

Outrage against governmental disinformation -- not fear of al-Qaida -- caused a decisive shift against Aznar’s party.

Will the new Spanish government be “soft on terror,” as our neocon propagandists insist? Doubtful. After the horrors of the Madrid attack, Spaniards won’t stand for half-hearted measures, and the Socialists have a history of being tough on terror (a fact many Americans may refuse to believe). When that party was in power before, they employed death squads to battle ETA. Not at all the right approach, but you can't call it soft.

GOPropagandists have already started to damn Spain as a part of “Old Europe” -- as opposed to the dynamic new Europe of...what? Bosnia? The Ukraine? Let’s hope the American people can see past the name-calling and grab hold of a clue: “Old Europe” is an economic powerhouse, financially healthier than we are, and getting better all the time. Many believe the Euro will soon replace the dollar as the standard currency for oil purchases. If that switch occurs, and if (as seems likely) the dollar continues to fall against the Euro, oil prices in America may well make the most dramatic ascent since Montgolfier. And that's when things will start to get really bad.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The GOP brainwashing machinery is trying to blame Kerry for ignoring a warning about lax security at Logan airport in Boston. It turns out that Kerry did receive a warning, which he passed on to the Bush administration's Department of Transportation. They yawned and turned away.

So what, exactly, did Kerry do wrong here? Looks to me as though this one's the fault of those asleep-at-the-switch Bush folks. What was Kerry supposed to do -- charge into the airport and scream: "I'm shuttin' this place down"?

"How dare John Kerry pass information to the appropriate Bush officials!" the Republicans are now screaming. "He should have known they'd just ignore it!"
Terror in Madrid: Of "lions" and red herrings

The terror attacks in Spain brought to a head the conflict between the government, which supported the Iraq war, and the electorate, which detested it. The people of Spain rejected the Popular party of Spanish rightist Jose Maria Aznar (the son of a Franco official), who was supported by the Church’s most reactionary wing -- specifically Opus Dei. The arrogant Aznar achieved power by promoting fear and nationalism, and did everything he could to dismantle protections for the destitute and the elderly while eroding the separation of church and state. His economy was marked by skyrocketing housing prices and a widening gap between rich and poor.

It’s tempting to suggest that “Aznar” is Spanish for Bush. But that wouldn’t be fair to Aznar. The Spanish economy has not suffered the wounds inflicted on America’s.

In the old days, terrorists signed their acts. The signature was the point. The message was “Do what we want,” which meant that the “we” could not remain mysterious. Nowadays, matters are more difficult.

Aznar personally assured inquirers that the Basque terrorist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) bore responsibility. The Spanish investigators have not (at this writing) ruled out ETA, although this attack differs in striking ways from their usual modus operandi -- for one thing, ETA has always given prior warning. When they were last in power, the Socialist party had taken extremely stern anti-ETA measures; the Basques may not welcome a Socialist return to power. The Popular party, however, was just as harsh, and had rebuffed even those representatives of the Basque cause who denounced violence.

Although the American press have told us that the attack came as a complete surprise, and was preceded by no terrorist “chatter,” a story by Mario Andrade in the Spanish newspaper La Rioja indicates something quite different:

“The Spanish Ministry of Interior was on maximum alert, just days prior to the terrorist attack in Madrid. The ministry deployed over 200 agents, heavily-armed and equipped with riot gear. Officials stated that the reason for the security alert was to protect the nation's capitol against a possible terror attack from the Basque ETA terrorist group.

“The security forces were convinced that the ETA terrorists were going to return to Madrid, in spite of their previous attempt to smuggle explosives into the capitol. Just two weeks ago, t he police in Spain reported they had foiled a big attack by the Basque separatist guerrillas, ETA. Police arrested two suspected members of ETA as they drove towards the capital, Madrid, in a pick up truck carrying eleven hundred pounds of explosives.”

The article goes on to state that two days before the attacks, “the riot police in Madrid began setting up checkpoints in order to find cars with explosives. They began patrolling commercial areas, train stations, airports, stadiums, large crowds and government buildings.”

Was it Al Qaida? Near the scene of the crime, a witness saw men in ski masks coming out of a van, which was left in place. The police found detonators, unexploded bombs, and an Islamic tape recording. Why was the van left there? Why would the perpetrators leave evidence pointing to Muslims? A “clue dump” of this sort always seems rather too convenient.

The London-based Arab-language newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi published a statement from a “death squad” of the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades, supposedly an al-Qaida linked group. The message claimed responsibility and reported that preparations for a major strike against America are “90% completed.”

Do we have our perps? Not so fast...

This same group also claimed responsibility for the power outage in the United States and Canada last year -- an assertion few take seriously. A line-by-line analysis of this statement by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) argues against its authenticity; the wording differs in striking ways from genuine Al-Qaida communications.

Robert Fisk adds: “Sources close to Osama bin Laden's organisation are puzzled about the strange message, supposedly from the attackers, which was printed in the Arabic language paper Al-Quds al-Arabi. It suggested that the initial response to Spain's involvement in Iraq was the attack on Italian troops in Kerbala - if real, it would surely have referred to the killing of seven Spanish intelligence officers near Hilla. Using a public statement to order its own "cells" to make more attacks does not show the
desperate discretion which al-Qa'ida normally shows in its communications.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Forgeries do not make themselves.

I don’t know if Al-Qaida had anything to do with the blasts. Clearly, however, someone wants us to so believe. The question is: Why?

One way to approach that question is to ask another: Did the perpetrators believe that the bombing would bring about a Socialist government? Or did they predict (wrongly) that outrage against terror would insure a right-wing victory?

Another terror group, a newcomer to the scene, has taken responsibility. They are called "the Lions of al-Mufridoon" -- and they too, have been linked to Al-Qaida. After an Islamic website named Jihad Unspun printed this group’s communiqué, the site reportedly suffered “a very serious hack attack that brought it to its knees. This was no ordinary hack, which we deal with every day, but a very high level effort to prevent us from getting this information out.” According to Jihad Unspun, these “Lions” include operatives from Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria.

The most recent report holds that the Spanish police are holding six Moroccans who took part in the Madrid attack. The main suspect is Jamal Zougam, a disciple of al-Qaida leader Imad Yarkas. French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard – 911 researchers will recognize the name – claims that Zougam has connections with a radical Islamic group in Morocco and may have played a part in the bombing in Casablanca last August.

Is Zougam’s group the aforementioned Lions of al-Mufridoon? What was the purpose of the letter from the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades? Was it (as Alan Dershowitz might put it) an attempt to frame a guilty party? Were the Spanish authorities alerted before the attack, or were they caught unawares? And what made Aznar so positive that ETA did it?

Monday, March 15, 2004


Did you know that we’ve been living in a continuous state of national emergency since 1990? That’s just one of the surprises contained in the indictment against accused “spy” Susan Lindauer.

Before we take a close look at this indictment, I’d like to ask her far-right critics to recall the case of Randy Weaver. Hard to believe, but twelve whole years have passed since the shoot-out. I still recall my initial reaction: “Screw him. He’s a racist. Exactly the kind of guy I don’t like.”

Right-wingers countered: “Just because you don’t like the guy doesn’t mean you can countenance what the government did to him. There’s a principle at stake.” This argument was spot on, as I finally had to admit after educating myself about the Weaver affair.

Can we expect right-wingers to adopt a similar stance in the case of Susan Lindauer, an anti-war activist whom they don’t like? Doubtful. Attitudes have hardened in the past dozen years, and today’s rightists care more about agit-prop than about principle.

So don’t be surprised if the agitators keep calling her a spy and a traitor -- even though the indictment charges her with neither spying nor treason.

The charges

The primary charge against her is a violation of Section 951 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. In other words, she allegedly functioned as an agent of a foreign government without first notifying the Attorney General.

The indictment claims she conspired with two men: Raed Noman Al-Anbuke and Wisam Noman Al-Anbuke. Yet a close reading indicates that the charges against these two men are separate issues. The document gives us no indication that Susan Lindauer even knew these fellows. Perhaps she did; perhaps not. At the moment, we have no information beyond the text in hand, which does not mention a single instance of the three working together. Where’s the conspiracy?

For now, we shall skim the sections of the indictment dealing with the Noman Al-Anbukes and concentrate on the “overt acts” ascribed to Susan Lindauer. What, specifically, did she do?

Alas, the indictment will displease those who like specifics. It tells us that on two separate occasions -- October 14, 1999 and September 19, 2001 -- Susan Lindauer “met with an officer of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) in Manhattan.” No further information on these meetings.

Nothing indicates she knew this officer was a spy. I doubt that he wore a t-shirt with the word “SPOOK” emblazoned on the front, and he probably didn’t wear a baseball cap bearing an “Iraqi Intelligence” logo. Foreign spies operate under cover, often posing as diplomatic personnel or businessmen. That’s why it’s called “spying.”

The indictment does not name this officer. We can presume, however, that he met many people during his sojourn in New York -- business people, real estate agents, hot dog peddlers, cab drivers, etc. If we can yell “Traitor!” at any American who exchanges words with a foreign spy -- even one operating under cover -- then all citizens must avoid all foreigners, and we must behave like the unhappy denizens of Stalin’s USSR.

The indictment goes on to charge that “on or about October 2001, SUSAN LINDAUER, a/k/a “Symbol SUSAN,” accepted a task given to her in Manhattan by an officer of the IIS.” That’s it. A “task.” This word could indicate anything, even the purchase of a cup of coffee. I suspect this “task” was innocuous -- otherwise, the indictment would favor us with specifics.

By comparison, we do get specifics in the charges against Raed Noman Al-Anbuke, who “in or about 2001” met with an IIS agent and provided information about Iraqi expatriates. The charge against Wisam is even more detailed: He divulged the “location and employment of an Iraqi expatriate, the son of a former Iraqi diplomat.” Then we learn that Raed “facilitated a meeting” between an Iraqi spook and an Iraqi dissident.

Why are the charges so detailed against Raed and Wasim, while those against Susan remain so vague as to justify the adjective “Kafkaesque”?

Now we come to the sections involving money. The media has implied that Susan, motivated by greed, accepted pay-offs for treason. The indictment indicates something quite different.

“In or about January 2002, SUSAN LINDAUER, a/k/a/ “Symbol SUSAN,” met in Manhattan with an officer of the IIS and accepted payment from the IIS for travel, lodging, and meal expenses in the amount of $232.77.” The indictment contains four similar paragraphs. On each trip, she receives a similar amount of money to cover expenses. Considering the cost of a trip to New York City, I would say she practiced frugality.

At this point, let’s pause and take stock. What do we have so far?

An Iraqi spook operating under cover strikes up a relationship with an American woman. They meet six times. On four of those occasions, he picks up her travel expenses. We do not know what they discussed, or what kind of story he has told her.

For reasons given below, I believe he used diplomatic cover. No law prevents an American from talking to a diplomat.

Does the government allege that Susan gave this man classified information? No. I doubt that she had access to any.

Why did they meet? The indictment does not say. Our strongest clue comes from Susan Lindauer’s own words to the media: “I have done good things for this country. I worked to get weapons inspectors back to Iraq when everyone else said it was impossible.”

Many will call this statement naïve. I won’t argue. Recall, however, that at the time of these meetings, people around the world hoped that Iraq could avoid war if weapons inspectors regained access to the country.

More recently (mintues ago, as of this writing) she has told the press that she had hoped the FBI would interview an official in Baghdad "about an alleged meeting between a Sept. 11 hijacker and an Iraqi agent in Prague." Readers will recall the tale then in circulation -- and since debunked -- that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague. (Atta was in the United States at the time.)

More ingenuousness. American officials knew full well that the Atta/Iraq claim had no basis. And if they didn't know, no blandishments from Iraq would have set their minds at ease.

Here is my preliminary deduction, based on the few facts so far available: This IIS officer, no doubt pretending to be something other than an IIS officer, led Susan to believe that she could somehow help the U.N. inspectors re-enter Iraq. Maybe the Iraqis really believed that little Lindauer, journalist and sometime congressional aide, could help avert war. If so, then they were the ones being naïve.

Nothing in this barrage of ingenuousness reeks of genuine disloyalty. So far, I see no evidence that Susan Lindauer wanted Saddam Hussein to do anything other than that which George W. Bush demanded: Allow weapons inspectors into Iraq.

We can extrapolate from the above a possible explanatory scenario for the most damning charge against Susan: That on February 23, 2002, she traveled to Iraq and met with several IIS officers at the Al Rashid hotel. She received $5000, presumably to cover her expenses. Inexplicably, this figure metastasizes to $10,000 later in the document. I don’t know which figure is correct (if either is), but even the higher figure seems too low for espionage. At any rate, the document does not mention spying.

Did she know that the people she met were IIS officers? The indictment does not say, but we can presume they operated under cover. Did she help these men in any way? We have no reason to believe she did, since the document makes no such allegation. What was her objective? Not one scrap of evidence indicates that she had anything on her mind other than the return of U.N. weapons inspectors and her hope that the FBI could interrogate the Iraqis over the Prague matter.

Few jurors will consider those goals ignoble.

Nearly a year after this meeting, she wrote a letter to a “United States Government official,” not named in the indictment but identified in the press as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, her distant relative. At this time, all we know about this letter is that “LINDAUER conveyed her established access to, and contacts with, members of the Saddam Hussein regime, in an unsuccessful attempt to influence United States foreign policy.”

Here we get a clue that the IIS officers acted under diplomatic cover: Had she known they were spooks, Susan would not have mentioned them -- certainly not to Andrew Card! Neither is it likely that they introduced themselves to her with the words: “Hi, we’re Saddam’s henchmen.” No, in all likelihood they said they were diplomats. Movies and television dramas give most people the impression that diplomats -- even the ones employed by thuggish regimes -- are civilized “John Gielgud” types.

Had she conducted any espionage, had she desired anything other than the inspectors’ return, would she have brought her actions to the attention of the White House Chief of Staff? The phrase “an unsuccessful attempt to influence United States foreign policy” sounds ominous -- until one recalls that nearly everyone writing a government official hopes to influence policy.

As far as we know, all we have here is a case of an Iraqi "diplomat" rather desperately meeting with an American woman who possesses far less influence than he hopes. And he tells her: “Please, find some way to let your government know that we’re sincere. We want to cooperate...”

If that scenario (or anything near it) is true, where’s the crime? Someone trained in the technicalities of the law may have an answer. But change the question to “Where’s the harm?” and even the cleverest lawyer will sound like Porky Pig as he stutters a response.


In writing to Andrew Card, Susan Lindauer announced herself as a naïf. Not only did she have no hope of averting a war decided upon long in advance, she brought herself to the attention of the White House.

The Republican smear machine always needs new fuel. Susan had the perfect resume: A left-wing journalist. An anti-war Democrat. Worked for Carol Moseley Braun, a possible nominee for vice-president. At a time when the Republican party line labeled all war opponents traitors, a case against Susan Lindauer would damn by association every Democrat she ever met -- perhaps even every Democrat, period.

Readers who consider the above scenario unlikely should recall the case of Britain’s left-most Member of Parliament, George Galloway. “Evidence” was found in Iraq indicating that he took a pay-off from Saddam Hussein. The key document turned out to be a forgery. Forgeries don’t make themselves. This one was the work of pros.

Enter John Ashcroft’s FBI.

After Lindauer’s letter to Andrew Card, she became the target of an FBI sting. We read that she met with an undercover man from the Bureau posing as a Libyan intelligence officer, with whom she “discussed the need for plans and foreign resources to support resistance groups operating within Iraq.”

This strangely-worded passage makes little sense. At the time (summer of 2003), newspapers carried stories about warming relations between Libya and the United States. Why would the FBI choose such a guise? Even someone as ingenuous as Susan Lindauer must have wondered why Libya would help the Iraqi resistance when it did not lift a finger to help Saddam Hussein. Besides, how could this unimportant woman in Baltimore affect events in Iraq in any way?

Something here does not add up.

What was the true nature of this encounter? Did Lindauer know beforehand that she was meeting an “intelligence officer,” or did the FBI plant gain her confidence by pretending to be something else? Did she know beforehand that the Iraqi resistance would be Topic A, or did the undercover man surprise her by bringing up the subject? Why do we receive zero details as to what Susan actually said?

Keep in mind: An undercover cop can testify that he “discussed” a crime with you even if your only part in the conversation consisted of the words “Don’t do it.”

The indictment goes on to allege that, pursuant to instruction from the FBI agent, Susan Lindauer “left documents in a designated location in Takoma Park, Maryland.” And that’s it. No further information. Once again, we get so few details we might as well be looking at a child’s picture of a cow eating grass.

At first glance, this procedure sounds like the “dead drop” tactic we read about in spy books. But “designated location” can mean any place -- including a receptionist’s desk. And for all we know, “documents” could refer to a newspaper clipping, or a Pizza Man discount coupon.

We have one excellent reason to suspect that this “document” is innocuous: If it were otherwise, the indictment would describe it.

In your imagination, turn back the clock to 1997. Suppose that the government issued so vague an indictment against a militia leader. In response, the right-wing media would no doubt damn the FBI as a den of prevaricators. Does the FBI become incapable of questionable tactics when it tries to entrap a liberal?

The victims of COINTELPRO might have an opinion on that score.

National Emergency

Finally, we come to the most surprising aspect of this indictment. During a state of national emergency -- and according to this document, we have lived in such a state since August 2, 1990! -- the International Emergency Economic Powers Act grants the President broad authority over many types of transactions.

The administration can “investigate...prevent or prohibit, any acquisition, holding, withholding, use, transfer, withdrawal, transportation, importation or exportation of, or dealing in, or exercising any right, power, or privilege with respect to, or transactions involving, any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest in by any person, or with respect to any property...”

As I read this act, the administration can prosecute WalMart for doing business with China. It can prosecute you for buying a bar of Belgian chocolate. In fact, the president can do pretty much anything. After all, it’s a national emergency.

Remember when Susan received that money from the Iraqis as reimbursement for her travel expenses?

The government claims that her receipt of this money violated Executive Order 12722, which declared a national emergency and specifically prohibited trade with Iraq. But does this order truly apply in the case of Susan Lindauer’s ninny-noodle attempt at pseudo-diplomacy? Obviously, she did not visit Baghdad to sell widgets; “trade” was not the issue. Moreover, the order specifically exempts journalists. And she’s a journalist.

The right-wing media will continue to speak ominously of Susan Lindauer’s “tradecraft,” as though she had conducted Le Carre-esque spookery. But the government does not accuse her of spying. If a jury finds against her, it will do so on very technical grounds. Most Americans do not know that “acting as an unregistered agent” is a crime, and those who do know may not understand that “agent” is a word capable of very broad definition.

Ignorance of the law is, of course, no excuse. As further evidence comes out, we may learn that Susan Lindauer was guilty of something worse than doing her dunderheaded best to bring in the U.N. inspectors. I doubt it. But we cannot know for sure at this time.

As matters stand, the case remains shrouded in a troubling haze. I am no lawyer, and I haven’t read many criminal indictments. But I have read a few -- and I’ve never before seen one so amorphous as the list of charges levied against Susan Lindauer. Perhaps the rest of the government’s case will be more detailed and substantive.