Monday, May 31, 2004

Another Berg mystery!

Well, folks are starting to pay attention to the mysterious Aziz Al Taee, Nick Berg's Iraqi business partner. You will recall that Aziz was the same guy with connections to the criminal underworld and to right-wing hate groups like GOPUSA and the Freepers (who targeted Berg's father).

I re-read one key story on Aziz and came across this fascinating nugget:
In interviews with several news organizations in Baghdad, Aziz claimed he may have been the last friend to speak with Berg before his kidnapping and beheading by terrorists possibly linked to the al Qaeda network. The radio-tower contractor had come back to Baghdad after a 13-day detainment in Mosul, only to disappear again on April 10...

Aziz said that on April 10 Berg "surprised me by calling me at 9 or 10, to say that he found some friend to travel with to Jordan." Berg said he was en route, but Aziz doesn't know who he was with or what kind of vehicle they were driving. "He said they were nice people. I told him to have a nice trip."
Just who were these "nice people," I wonder?

This is no small matter. Whoever these "nice people" are, they would be the only ones who could tell the story of Berg's re-capture by terrorists (if that is, in fact, what occurred on April 10). Why haven't they stepped forward?

Why did Berg trust them to drive him to Jordan, when he previously told American officials that he did not believe that the military could escort him in safety to the airport?

If these "friends" really did exist, we can logically presume one of three scenarios:

1. Like Berg, they were captured -- in which case, we would probably know of their disappearance.

2. They escaped the fate Berg met -- in which case, they would have come forward to tell us what happened to Nicholas Berg.

3. They participated in Berg's capture.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Osama sez: "Vote Bush!"

The RNC party line holds that Osama Bin Laden doesn't want W to keep his current gig. That's why (according to the right-wing flacks) Al Qaeda plans a "big event" this summer: They want John Kerry to become president.

Never mind the fact that another terror attack would give Bush a hammerlock on the job. Never mind the fact that if not for 9/11, W would be the least-popular president in the history of the office.

This GOP propaganda point has stirred up much debate, but no-one has mentioned one little-noted counter-fact. In the only election-related communication from an (alleged) Al Qaeda source, the terrorists cast their vote for Bush. Why? Because they think he's an idiot, and therefore more likely to do things that make Osama look good. Things like, y'know, invading a Muslim country in order to steal the oil.

Of course, that missive came from those puckish rascals at the Abu Mafs Al-Masri brigades -- a putative Al Qaeda affiliate group which, so far as anyone knows, consists of or one or two guys with internet access.

The under-the-radar candidate

Mort Sahl once said that Reagan won because he ran against Carter; if he had run unopposed, he would have lost. John Kerry seems to favor Sahl's insight. By running a stealth candidacy, Kerry keeps the spotlight on Bush as Iraq worsens and the economy threatens to head for southern climes once again. Bush is running unopposed, and he's losing.

The American Prospect has a good dialogue on Kerry's inviso-mode campaign. Well worth reading.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The Kerry "intern" speaks

Remember the fake Kerry "intern" scandal Matt Drudge was pushing? The Big Lie that Rush Limbaugh is still pushing?

Now Alex Polier, the woman at the heart of the tale, speaks her piece. The hunted has become the hunter.

As you may recall, The Sun, a British tabloid, published two seemingly-damaging quotes from Polier's parents. The father supposedly called Kerry a "sleazeball," while the mother said that Kerry "chased after" Alex. Turns out the former quote was taken out of context (the father had not yet heard of the Drudge story and was not referring to sexual matters) while the latter seems to have been pure invention. The writer of the Sun story, a low creature named Brian Flynn, did not even speak with the mother.

Polier tried to track down Flynn, hounding him relentlessly for an explanation as to why he lied in print. He ducked, of course.

Public humiliation isn't enough: Flynn should see the inside of a courtroom. And he's not the only one. There are those who suspect that Drudge's initial source, the onlie begettor of the whole shoddy yarn, was ABC's Chris Vlasto.

Chalabi, Ledeen and Iran

A growing number of folks have expressed skepticism about the Chalabi links to Iran -- indeed, about the whole attempt to blame the Iraq war on Tehran. Joshua Marshall thinks that Chalabi really was spying for, in the pocket of, or at least too-close-for-comfort with the Iranians:

From what I'm told, what really cooked Chalabi's goose was that the evidence against him was sufficiently damning that his one-time advocates and protectors inside the government -- folks very high up the ladder -- simply washed their hands of him, wouldn't try to defend him.

Another point: look at these sorta-kinda defenses of Chalabi and you'll often see the argument that Chalabi's main enemies at the State Department and the CIA -- particularly at State -- are hopeless hypocrites because, while attacking Chalabi for his contacts with the Iranians, they are the very ones who endorse fuller engagement with the Iranians. (A finger is often stuck in the eye of Armitage at State.) So why can't Chalabi talk with the Iranians when these jokers have been saying we should do that for some time?
Yeah, but...

The infamous neocon Michael Ledeen remains (last I checked) a die-hard Chalabi supporter. And his was one of the strongest voices for war with Iran, back in the days of "Mission Accomplished," when the Bushites were wondering which nation to bomb next.

So why would a vehement opponent of Iran support a man widely viewed as Tehran's tool? How do we reconcile this seeming contradiction?

More is going on here, methinks, than most believe...

Major newspaper tackles Berg controversy

The Sydney Morning Herald has a good, balanced round-up of the conotroversy surrounding Nick Berg's decapitation. Allegations of conspiracy are neither embraced nor pooh-poohed: There are no crazed warnings about the New World Order or the Illuminati, and no smarmy references to black helicopters and tin foil hats. Just a summary of the claims.

The end of the piece references Nick Possum's analysis. I've already voiced my problems with his view. The article does not go into suspicions (denied vehemently by the family) that Nicholas Berg was tasked by an intelligence agency to make contact with Al Qaeda operatives at the University of Oklahoma. Relatively few commentators (such as yours truly) have taken an interest in that angle.

Which reminds me: I called the university library to ask whether Nick Berg ever worked there, and was relayed to the school's legal affairs department. Apparently, I was not the first to make inquiries. Berg's work history should be a public matter soon.

At that time, we will know if there is anything to the rather startling suggestion that he was the white male library employee who purchased an airline ticket on behalf of one of the 911 hijackers. Right now, I'd bet against the idea. Still, we live in very odd times; anything's possible.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

"Expose Bush!"

Now here is an organization that has my full approval. Meet the good ladies of the Axis of Eve. They flash their panties to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the present administration. And if you can think of a "Bush" pun not already on their site, you're cleverer than I am.

Sibel Edmonds

Have you been following the Sibel Edmonds story? You should. She is the FBI translator who has been telling the world that the administration had (or at least should have had) foreknowledge of the 911 attacks.

James Ridgeway now takes her tale into strange new areas. Apparently, the hijackers had connections to drug smugglers and money launderers in Florida, whose activities were under surveillance by the Bureau. Here's a sample:

Cybercast News Service (, part of the conservative watchdog Media Research Center, reports that Mehrzad Arbane, an Iranian convicted of drug smuggling and suspected of money laundering and smuggling people from the Middle East into the U.S., told an associate who had become a government informant in October 2001 that he "may have smuggled two of the hijackers who flew planes into the towers in New York on September 11, 2001." Arbane was convicted May 13 in a Florida federal court of importing cocaine. He is expected to stand trial in New York for harboring illegal aliens, including two from Iran.

Jairo Velez, "well-known" for smuggling cocaine from Mexico and Colombia into the U.S., met Arbane in 1999, and the two went into business smuggling cocaine, according to court documents obtained by But two years later, Velez, spooked because Arbane had told him of having possibly transported the hijackers, became a government informant, providing the information used by prosecutors in their case against Arbane, according to

Whether the U.S. is tracing the connections between Arbane and the hijackers is not known. However, Ecuador is one of the countries from which Arbane is believed to have operated, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a House Foreign Operations appropriations subcommittee in April 2002 that along the border between Ecuador and Colombia, "we have got...a bit of a problem with Al Qaeda itself and some Hezbollah elements."


Remember when Bush said he was going to be the education president? His new budget is going to slash funding for education.

Remember when Max Cleland lost his reelection bid on the issue of Homeland Security -- even though Cleland sponsored the original Homeland Security bill, which Bush (at first) opposed? Well, now Bush is going to slash funding for Homeland Security.


But the cuts are politically sensitive, targeting popular programs that Bush has been touting on the campaign trail. The Education Department; a nutrition program for women, infants and children; Head Start; and homeownership, job-training, medical research and science programs all face cuts in 2006.

"Despite [administration] denials, this memorandum confirms what we suspected all along," said Thomas S. Kahn, Democratic staff director on the House Budget Committee. "Next February, the administration plans to propose spending cuts in key government services to pay for oversized tax cuts."
The largest sectors of the budget go, of course, to Defense and the servicing of the national debt. The former won't be cut and the latter cannot be cut.

Chalabi, the neocons, and the CIA

Worth reading: This analysis of Ahmed Chalabi and the neocons in the Pentagon.

I'm a tad skeptical about the links between Chalabi and Iran. These links were surely known for some time -- published reports hinted at them even when Chalabi remained in Bush's good graces. Now that Chalabi is officially designated a Bad Man, the press is shocked, shocked to discover that he had passed information to the dreaded Iranians.

Backchannel information exchanges are nothing new. Such exchanges are a way for intelligence professionals to open up dialogue with counterparts in adversarial nations. Chalabi may have been part of such an exchange.

The above-mentioned analysis claims that neoconservative Pentagonians gave Chalabi access to some highly-sensitive intercepts, which he then passed on to Iran. And who, you ask, is the source of this claim? An unnamed "intelligence source" at CIA.

I've long tended to interpret events in terms of the subterranean "battle" between CIA and the neocons. Naturally, I see the latest allegation against Chalabi in this light, and I wonder if the Agency was truly surprised when the leaked intercepts showed up in Tehran.

If those close to Chalabi (Feith, Ledeen and that crowd) are found guilty of a security lapse, then we may finally see some heads roll in the Bush administration.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Limbaugh in the Sky with Deceptions

What's the point of arguing with a man like Rush Limbaugh -- a man paid millions to lie?

Al Gore, in his recent speech, castigated Rush Limbaugh for the latter's outrageous remarks about Iraqi prisoner abuse. Gore also denounced Bush and the Republican party for not distancing themselves from the more horrendous statements made by Rush and company.

In my view, it's about time someone said what Gore said. If the GOP does not condemn the atrocious things said by its defenders -- Rush, Savage, Coulter and company -- then those statements should be regarded as the official views of the Republican party. Rush's endorsement of torture, Coulter's call for Clinton's assassination, Savage's racism and homophobia: All these things should be laid on the doorstep of Bush, Ed Gillespie, and the RNC.

Rush, in his defense, maintained that everyone abused at Abu Ghraib was a terrorist and a mass murderer. Actually, they were average Iraqis -- the people we were supposed to liberate. As I've pointed out in this column many times, the Red Cross and numerous press reports indicate that 70-90 percent of the abused prisoners were innocent. If Limbaugh questions that figure, I'd like to know why his expertise on Iraqi prisons outweighs that of the Red Cross.

As the Los Angeles Times and others have reported, military units with poor Arabic language skills would go out in search of various Iraqi insurgent leaders. As a result of miscommunication and frustration, the search teams would often pull in what I call an "AOI" (Any Old Iraqi) unconnected to the insurgency. The innocent always fare worse than the guilty under harsh interrogation, because a man who knows no secret information cannot relieve his stress by talking.

It's worth noting that Rush said nothing about the 37-and-counting prisoners who became corpses under interrogation.

Rush claims that the Geneva convention does not cover terrorists. But it does cover insurgents in an occupied country; the White House calls those insurgents "terrorists" not because the term is accurate but because that is the new label for anything and anyone the neoconservatives do not like. If Richard Perle's dog soils the carpet, poochie is a terrorist. (And as we have seen, many of the abused prisoners were neither terrorists nor insurgents.)

Rush says that Al Gore represents the radical fringe of his party. Gore won the majority of votes to become president in 2000 -- not the record of a fringe candidate. Limbaugh, on the other hand, endorses torture -- which I hope is still considered a fringe stance.

Rush goes on to make many other utterly false statements, waving the bloody shirt of the Clinton era even if doing so requires buckets of fake blood:

* Clinton slashed military spending, according to Rush. In fact, Clinton's $281 million budget did nothing of the kind: He spent more on the military (as measured in constant dollars) than Nixon did during Vietnam.

* Clinton "calls for civil rights for terrorists," according to Rush, who cannot cite a quote to back this assertion. I doubt that Clinton ever issued such a call, although I certainly would: Rights denied the worst of us will soon be lost to the rest of us. As noted earlier, the term "terrorist" has gained an unnerving elasticity.

* Clinton did nothing to stop Bin Laden, according to Rush. Richard Clarke and others say otherwise. Do a Google newsgroup search for the years 1998-2000, and you'll see that Republicans screamed bloody murder about civil rights violations every time Clinton tried to do something about terror! And never forget: Bush the elder and Ronald Reagan funded Saddam and Osama.

One can go on, but why? One cannot bring the sky-high Limbaugh back to earth.

Good lord, the man even espouses the very fringe-y belief that the United States Army is a hotbed of "cultural Marxism"...! If so, why did the military regale its troops with broadcasts from Rush Limbaugh, but not from Air America?

Two against one

A Buzzflash reader offers this interesting take on the sworn testimony of Major General Geoffrey Miller before the Senate Armed Services Committee. His statements conflict on two important points with the sworn testimonies of Brigadier General Janice Karpinski and Brigadier General Mark Kimmett. Either Miller, the man charged with "cleaning up" Abu Ghraib, is a pejurer or Karpinksi and Kimmett are perjurers.

Israelis at Abu Ghraib?

Speaking of the egregious NewsMax -- and we were; see the post below -- they've offered this strange story on Israeli agents operating as "civilian contractors" inside Abu Ghraib. I am not terribly surprised by the allegation -- but I am stunned that a neocon organ like NewsMax would make it.

Berg: Meetings with remarkable men

As readers know, the aspect of the Berg controversy that most intrigues me concerns his possible involvement with an espionage service. Anyone following this angle will want to read this piece by someone named Ewing2000. He tries to establish as fact a point on which I've sought clarification: How many terrorists did Berg "accidentally" meet during his years at the University of Oklahoma?

Previous reports spoke of but one, met on the bus. Berg's father, however, alluded to more than one.

Ewing2000 quotes NewsMax -- not a reliable source -- to the effect that Berg met with Zacarias Moussaoui himself, an assertion conflicting with previous reports that Berg met a Moussaoui associate. More than that: The FBI apparently thinks that Berg "may have known" Moussaoui's two roommates, also tied to Al Qaeda.

The piece goes on to make other claims about Moussaoui and the Oklahoma City bombing. Much of this material is familiar to those who follow such matters, and the details do not congeal into a proper theory. It is still worth reading.

The important revelation here concerns the number of terrorists Berg encountered. "Twice is coincidence; three times is enemy action," as the old spy adage has it -- and Berg, we are told, met with no less than three men linked to Al Qaeda. The mere fact that the press reported the "bus encounter" story while placing Moussaoui and his roommates offstage is significant.

Of course, the above observations all presume that Ewing2000, whoever he is, has his fact straight. I'd like to see a citation that points to a source other than the egregious NewsMax.

Berg again

A fellow named Nick Possum, previously unknown to me, offers an analysis of the Berg video.

Possum solves the orange jumpsuit mystery with this scenario: The first part of the video shows Berg during his first period of captivity by the "Iraqi police" (i.e., the Americans). On this occasion, Berg delivers identifying information about his parents while being videotaped. Berg is released, spends a few days in a hotel in Baghdad, and then -- something happens on the way to the airport. He is killed, perhaps accidentally. Recognizing the propaganda implications, the Americans take the body into prison, dress it in an orange jumpsuit, and cut off the head of the corpse while tape rolls. The jumpsuit was necessary to match the previous footage.

Possum has put some thought into his theory, but I see problems.

1. Berg was initially captured in Mosul, quite some ways away from Baghdad. Published reports -- which may not be accurate -- say that Berg traveled from Mosul to Baghdad after his release. We have yet to hear from Michael Berg as to whether his son called him on April 6 from Mosul or another city. If from Mosul, then Possum asks us to believe one of two scenarios: 1. Berg's corpse was shipped from Baghdad to Mosul for the second part of the shoot (unlikely; rigor would set in), or 2. The execution portion of the video was carefully rigged to look just like the previous scenes -- wall color, chair color, floor color, costumes for the bad guys, etc.

2. Possum suggests that the first part of the video shows "routine investigative documentation by CIA and/or FBI interrogators." Hardly! The video shows men in hoods, speaking in Arabic. Not routine at all. Possum believes that Berg was "already dead" in the shot in which he sits upright while the lengthy message is read. Impossible: He is clearly moving, blinking, and so forth.

A careful analysis cited by Possum concurs with my assessment: "Nick is definitely alive and conscious though-out this section."

If the video is in fact a staged event, then we are left with two options:

1. The video was, as is commonly believed, shot after Berg's re-capture on April 10.

2. The video was shot during the period of his incarceration; Nick Berg knowingly participated in a faked death.

The second option will strike most people as incredible -- so much so, that I hesitate even to list it as a possibility. Some may feel, however, that the second theory helps to explain Berg's odd behavior (not contacting his parents; refusing official aid in leaving Iraq) between his release on April 6 and his recapture on April 10.

Calling the shot

Today's Washington Post, citing administration sources, says that Al Qaeda will commit a big terrorist outrage in the United States this summer. The real story appears in this paragraph:

That information dovetails with other intelligence "chatter" suggesting that al Qaeda operatives are pleased with the change in government resulting from the March 11 terrorist bombings in Spain and may want to affect elections in the United States and other countries.

"They saw that an attack of that nature can have economic and political consequences and have some impact on the electoral process," said one federal official with access to counterterrorism intelligence.
This bogus claim plays into the right-wing party line on the Madrid attacks. The propagandists have long tried to convince all the FOX-watching dolts out there that the Spanish electorate capitulated to terror. That's the song they keep on singing, and never mind the facts:

1. The Spanish socialist party, which won the election, has a tough-on-terror history; indeed, they once were considered too tough.

2. The Socialists may well have won the election even if the Madrid blasts had never happened, because 90% of the Spanish populace hated the Iraq war.

3. The people turned against Aznar's party because he was caught in a lie: He insisted that strong evidence pointed to ETA, when no such evidence existed.

The Republicans want America to think that Al Qaeda will attack America to insure a Kerry victory. Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. Osama Bin Laden knows damn well that Bush will win in a landslide if a massive terrorist event occurs close to the election. Kerry has a chance (a slim one in my view, but a chance) only if nothing goes boom.

The situation is unnerving. Not only are administration officials forecasting the dreaded event, they are even preparing the ground for the pro-Bush propaganda onslaught that will surely follow.

Suspicious. Very suspicious.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Chelabi and the Iranians

I suggest you check out this renegade analysis, by the mysterious blogger known as Xymphora, of the rapid downfall of Ahmed Chelabi -- who, as America was shocked to learn, was passing information to the dreaded Iranians. Mr. X does not doubt that these Iranian ties exist, but he feels that they had American sanction, a notion which makes sense to me: Chelabi's people would provided America with a valuable backchannel to Tehran. It's worth noting that Chelabi's most die-hard American backer, Michael Ledeen, has long had Iranian ties. Xymphora's view -- which I think gets within walking distance of the truth -- is that the Iranian accusations serve only to force offstage a marionette who snapped his strings.

I will add only this:

1. When Chelabi's offices and apartment were raided, the media floated a story that "Saddam's agents" had penetrated Chelabi's network. That story didn't fly. Enter the Iranian angle.

2. Xymphora writes:

The neocons provide themselves with an excuse for their failed attack on Iraq, as they can now blame the whole attack on Iraq on misinformation supplied to them by the Iranians through their secret agent Chalabi (I wonder if it will suddenly turn out that the Niger uranium documents were Iranian forgeries).
In fact, some have already blamed Iran for the forgeries; see here. The idea that Iran wanted America to unseat the dictator next door may seem superficially attractive -- until one recalls that the neocons were sending strong "You're next" messages to Tehran immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Terror, conspiracy and thoughtcrime

Recall, if you will, the great terrorist attacks in Russia in 1999.

Four apartment buildings were blown up, killing some 300 people. Citing no real evidence, Vladimir Putin announced that the atrocities were the work of Chechen rebels linked to Osama Bin Laden. Putin's popularity and stranglehold on power skyrocketed; the country plunged into a bloody war in Chechnya. Only a few people asked if the Chechens really did the deed.

Late in 1999, police in the town of Ryazan caught FSB agents in the act of planting a bomb in the basement of an apartment building. (The FSB is the spy agency formerly known as the KGB.) The official story -- which many don't believe -- holds that these FSB men were conducting a security exercise to test preparedness.

A former FSB agent turned lawyer, Mikhail Trepashkin, spent years investigating the apartment bombings, and was prepared to testify in court that the Russian government committed the crime. Not surprisingly, the government arrested Trepashkin, charging him with revealing state secrets to British intelligence and with carrying an unregistered weapon. (Trepashkin claims the gun in question was planted by the officers who pulled over his car.)

Trepashkin has now been sentenced to four years in a penal colony.

The FSB, for its part, claims that the Kremlin-did-it theory of the apartment bombings is nothing more than a disinformation scheme cobbled together by two anti-Putin Russian expatriates living in Britain: former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko and tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Trepashkin would pass information to Litvinenko and Berezovsky, who, in turn, had contacts with MI5; hence the charges of revealing state secrets.

This theory will probably find few converts outside Russia. Indeed, Trepashkin's arrest and conviction will only increase world attention on the lingering mysteries surrounding the bombings.

If the case against the Chechens is as clear-cut as Putin claims, then why did two members of a four-man investigative commission die mysteriously? Why has every independent attempt to settle the controversy been upended? Why did the Russian government put pressure on a key witness to change his testimony about the mystery man who rented a basement in one of the bombed apartments? And could Trepashkin be telling the truth when he identified a widely-circulated sketch of the mystery man as FSB agent Vladimir Romanovich?

Putin's denial of FSB responsibility included this memorable phrase: "It is immoral even to consider such a possibility."

That sentiment may seem oddly familiar. Don't think that way. Don't discuss the evidence. Even the most gingerly-phrased, carefully-couched speculation is odious..

Americans find conspiracy theories more credible when the action takes place overseas. Even Gerry Posner will contemplate the idea of a murder plot, as long as the alleged plotters are Saudi Arabian. Suggest that an odor of fish surrounds the Berg video, and many Americans will express their outrage in fustian shrieks. Suggest that the Russian espionage apparat concocted a bomb plot, and those same Americans will mutter "Well, yeah, sure; it's possible."

The flames of the Reichstag fire may touch other homes. Never ours.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The massacre

Many rightists claim that the Berg murder proves that Muslims show a particular disregard for human life. Yet headlines tell us that the number of suspicious deaths of detainees in U.S. custody has risen to 37.

That's hardly the worst of it. The world seems to have forgotten about the "convoy of death" in Afghanistan, which killed some 3000 Taliban prisoners. Not active combatants. P.O.W.s in allied custody.

From the Democracy Now website:

According to eyewitnesses, after the seige of Kunduz, some three thousand prisoners were forced into sealed containers and loaded onto trucks for transport to Sheberghan prison. Eyewitnesses say when the prisoners began shouting for air, U.S.-allied Afghan soldiers fired directly into the truck, killing many of them. The rest suffered through an appalling road trip lasting up to four days, so thirsty they clawed at the skin of their fellow prisoners as they licked perspiration and even drank blood from open wounds.

Witnesses say that when the trucks arrived and soldiers opened the containers, most of the people inside were dead. They also say US Special Forces re-directed the containers carrying the living and dead into the desert and stood by as survivors were shot and buried. Now, up to three thousand bodies lie buried in a mass grave.
Of course, reactionaries will try to justify this atrocity (in which the body count outdistances the 911 attacks) by noting that the Northern Alliance did much of the actual butchery. Call this the "Sharon" defense. If you're old enough to recall his use of the Phalangists at Sabra and Chatilla, you know what I mean.

Why does the death of Nick Berg count more than the deaths of Iraqi detainees (many of whom were innocents picked up at random)? Why are the victims of the World Trade Center attack granted a presumption of humanity denied to Afghan prisoners of war? Why do we still feel outrage at the Nazi massacre of American P.O.W.s at Malmedy, while we ignore the massacre of P.O.W.s in American hands?

We all know the answer: Skin color and religious bigotry.

The FBI's "Jewel" in the crown

When the FBI held Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield in connection with the Madrid bombings, they no doubt felt that this catch would prove a feather in their collective cap. Instead, this fiasco has become another "Jewel" in the crown.

"Jewel" as in Richard.

As the L.A. Times indicates, Mayfield came under suspicion of participation in the terror attacks based on fingerprint evidence. His real crime seems to have been converting to Islam. Mayfield was detained and his name smeared in the press before the feds verified whether or not he had even left the country -- which, as it turns out, he had not.

The authorities in Madrid determined that the fingerprints in question actually belong to an Algerian, Ouhnane Daoud.

Mayfield has been released, but the FBI arrogantly refuses to 'fess up to their mistake. This miscarriage of justice illustrates the potential for abuse when an administration holds someone as a "material witness" not because he or she is a flight risk, but simply to keep that person in custody while a case is cobbled together.

To describe an injustice of this sort, the standard literary reference takes us into Kafka territory. But even Kafka's Josef K. received fairer treatment.

Y'know, the Bureau really has gone to hell ever since they fired Mulder and Scully. Maybe those two should be re-hired to chase sea serpents and leprechauns and whatnot. It's time we got something valuable for our tax dollars.

Berg and the CIA

According to this unverified story, which summarizes a web site which appears to be in Farsi, the Iranians have evidence that Berg worked for the CIA. He was recruited to penetrate Al Qaeda, then sent to Iraq under cover as a telecommunications specialist. The first arrest was a ploy to put him in contact with Al Qaeda operatives in prison.

I do not find this account persuasive, and would very much like to see the documentation.

To be frank, I've come to the conclusion that if Berg worked for anyone, the agency must have been Mossad. I find it hard to believe that CIA would recruit for field work someone who was, in essence, a vagrant. That's what Berg was, for at least a short while, while at the University of Oklahoma. Where and when would he have received the training necessary for a job like penetrating Al Qaeda?

Mossad, on the other hand, has few field agents. The Israeli esionage agency makes up for this lack with sheer audacity, and with a system of "helpers" or sayanim. Extensive evidence indicates that an ad hoc group of young sayanim were tracking Al Qaeda operatives in the United States for some time before the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Mossad might be ballsy enough send an American Jew to "mingle" with Al Qaeda terrorists. I doubt that CIA would choose a Jewish operative for that task.

Berg killers nabbed?

It's confirmed: Four men were detained in the killing of Nicholas Berg. Two were released; two remain in custody.

It is not known whether these are the same four men whose arrest was mentioned a few days ago by an Iraqi official (as per Agence France-Presse).

Here's the kicker: According to the new story, the killers of Nicholas Berg have no known connection to Al Qaeda, and are led by the nephew of Saddam Hussein. I thought the CIA identified the head of the execution squad as Al Zarqawi!

When this tale starts making sense, I'll let you know.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Bizarre Berg angle

I'm not quite sure what to make of the folowing, but it's worth mulling over.

Michael Wright, of Norman, Oklahoma, has been looking into Nicholas Berg's stay in his fair city while attending the University of Oklahoma. Berg, we learn, was arrested twice for trespassing during his student period, at which time he became known for vagrancy -- sleeping on couches at the university, and so forth. This sort of thing is not uncommon. (I still wonder why he went to Oklahoma in the first place.)

Wright becomes more interesting when he suggests that Berg could have been the library assistant who bought a 911 hijacker's ticket from a computer terminal at OU. Wright verified that Berg worked for the University in 2000 and 2001. On this site, Wright offers a lengthy analysis of the attack on America. His theories and observations are too detailed for summary here. This paragraph, however, commands attention:

Former Senator David Boren is currently president of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where I reside. In the fall of 2001, I was talking to an OU library employee who told me that she was present when an FBI agent was interviewing her colleague. From this encounter she learned that an OU library computer terminal had been used for an online purchase of an airline ticket for a 9/11 hijacker who was on the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania. She also told me that the person who made the purchase had not been a hijacker. Contrary to expectation, he was a white American male, but he knew he was assisting the hijacking operation.
My emphasis added.

The FBI looked into this angle, but refused to divulge the name of the purchaser. Obviously, a university employs many people; the fact that Berg worked for the University does not mean he worked in the library. Still, this last word from Wright deserves our careful consideration:

The most likely explanation indicated by all the evidence compiled for this report is that he [the library assistant] was a participant in a failed attempt by the CIA to organize a sting operation against terrorists who later succeeded in the 9/11 attack. Had he not been an infiltrator, he would have been accused of a crime and brought to court in a public proceeding. The concealing of his identity cannot be explained by offering the possibility that he is a fugitive. The names and photos of fugitives are commonly put on wanted posters.

Where's the beef? Not in Japan

Thanks to W:AVLWC for this head's up: A beef supplier named Creekstone wants to re-enter the market in Japan. In fact, they're willing to pay for the BSE testing of imported beef required by Japanese authorities. But the Bush administration won't let Creekstone do it. One wonders why. Could it be that if "mad cow" disease is found in Creekstone beef, American consumers will demand testing of all beef?

I'll be watching this one closely. When I make chili, I like to scald my guests without actually murdering them.

The most disgusting Abu Ghraib photos so far

More photos have turned up of corpse-abuse at Abu Ghraib. Navy SEALS dragged an AOI ("Any Old Iraqi") into Abu Ghraib, where he was tortured to death -- no doubt because he had no information to reveal. One wonders where the U.S. finds such inhuman goons for its military police.

The most interesting paragraph is this:

A seventh member of the unit, Spc. Jeremy Sivits, pleaded guilty today to four counts for taking pictures of naked Iraqi prisoners being humiliated.
This wording implies that the problem was the photography, not the abuse: "Sivits, you know better than to leave evidence...!"

Some worried that the "drip drip drip" of slowly released photos would prove more damaging to Bush than would a sudden flood of vile imagery. But repeated viewings have a "training effect" on the public. People get used to the sight: Remember what psychologists were saying about repeat viewings of the Rodney King beating?

Hell, many of our fellow citizens probably like the sight, because they stupidly see the invasion of Iraq as payback for 911.

Goat story

Gore Vidal is the only one, to my knowledge, to point out the irony in the fact that W was listening to a story about a goat while jets plowed into the World Trade Center. The word "tragic" originally meant "goat story."

According to this report by Roger Ebert, Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 911 includes full camera footage (originally posted to the net) of Bush in that second-grade classroom, looking as though he's out of his level, for a full seven minutes after the second tragedy, until an aide tells him to leave. Since his location was public knowledge, he placed those children at risk just by sharing a room with them while the country was under attack.

But there's one big problem with Ebert's report -- this paragraph:

The Moore version: He was informed of the first attack, went into the room anyway, was informed of the second attack, and remained with the students until a staff member suggested that he leave.
No no no no. Not "the Moore version." That phrasing implies that we must accept all the real and imaginary baggage Moore carries before we accept what the videotape and other evidence demonstrates. Such wording opens the way for a classic "attack the messenger" response. Moore has nothing to do with it: Bush really did go into the room after the first attack, and stayed there learning fun new goat facts while the second tower burned.

Poor Chelabi

I almost feel sorry for Ahmed Chelabi. Once, the GOP brainwashing system tried to convince us that he was the new De Gaulle. (Those were imported Chelabi supporters dancing around that fallen Saddam statue; real Iraqis weren't allowed near the place.) Now, the army has raided his digs on spurious grounds, and his funders have shut off the money spigot. He's the new Marcos. If he's smart, he'll take whatever "go away" money Bush offers, and then he'll go away.

How have the mighty fallen? Clue:

Chalabi has many critics in the U.S. government, notably at the CIA, which suspected his group may have been penetrated by Saddam's agents before the war and which questioned the intelligence information it provided.
Ignore the guff about Saddam's agents, a claim directed at the drooling dolts who watch Fox News. The important point is this: The Agency has finally tired of the antics of neocon brats; the time has come for some adult supervision.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Arrest of Berg killers?

Agence France-Presse issued a report yesterday, claiming that four of the five videotaped killers of Nick Berg (not Zarqawi, of course) have been arrested. The information came from a "senior Iraqi source."

No further information was made available on AFP today. To my knowledge, no-one else has confirmed the story.

We shall see...

Go Poddy!

Nick Berg's father Michael is a more powerful fellow than I first thought. In fact, if the war ends badly for Bush, you can blame Michael. And/or the New York Times.

Or so says John Podheretz, writing in Murdoch's propaganda organ, the New York Post. As Josh Marshall points out, the neocons are already trotting out a prototype version of the "back stab" theory to explain why the war was lost. Podheretz claims that the New York Times blamed America, not terrorists, for the murder of Nick Berg, with a demoralizing effect that could well undermine the war effort.

Of course, the Times said no so such thing; they merely reported Michael Berg's statement that his son died because of a Bush mistake. Poddy's quotation abuse is positively Coulter-esque.

"...Staging murders of Americans..."

Celerino Castillo. Now there is a name I haven't thought about for a while. He was a primary source for the reports that the American intelligence community allowed cocaine to be flown out of Ilo Pango airport in El Salvador, profits from which funded the Nicaraguan contras.

He is writing now about the CIA, prisoner torture, and the death of Nick Berg. His information about torture comes from personal experience; his observations on the Berg mystery are more speculative. Still, they are worth repeating here:

There is no doubt, in my mind, that the CIA was involved in the murder of Nick Berg, the America who was executed in Iraq. There is a history of how the CIA has a way of staging murders of Americans, so that the enemy takes a fall from it. My opinion is that the CIA found that Nick was getting to close to some Iraqis, which made him an automatic target of the CIA. According to his family, he had been detained by American intelligence and later disappeared.

I saw it time and time again in the 1980s in Central American. Our government has staged several events where it attempted to implicate Nicaragua government in drug trafficking. The CIA was also implicated in the torture of an American nun in Guatemala. And in El Salvador, it had staged the murder of Jesuits priests. The FMLN were supposed to have to taken the fall for the murders, but it backfired on the CIA. A U.S. military adviser, who accompanies thSalvadoranan soldiers, gave up the U.S. involvement. Once again, in my opinion, Berg's murder was set up to enrage the American people in support of what American is doing to the prisoners in Iraq.
No-one will deny that all spy shops engage in deception operations. During the Reagan era, phony photos were produced to provide "evidence" of Sandanista drug smuggling; there were similar disinformation campaigns against Libya and the Soviet Union. (If you're old enough to recall the "yellow rain" allegations, you may be surprised to learn that, in some circles, the controversy lingers; see here.)

I would also strongly recommend reading the book Death in Washington, by Donald Freed -- particularly the chapter on press manipulation and deception in the days before the coup. No matter how stodgy your mind-set, this text will expand your view of the possible.

One can mount differing arguments against the concept of video fakery in the Berg affair, based upon which theory is under scrutiny. The more adventurous theorists have claimed that the beheading was staged, and that Nicholas Berg is still alive under an assumed identity. If so, we must presume that Berg would willingly cause his family unbearable grief -- a scenario most will consider hard to believe. Others claim that the beheading was real, but that the hooded terrorists were not Zarqawi and company. (Since the men wore hoods, the actual voice of Zarqawi could have been dubbed in easily -- sort of like Marni Nixon singing for Natalie Wood.) The major problem besetting this scenario is the inherent difficulty of believing that a group on "our" side could do such a thing.

Incidentally, in my essay posted below, I asked why Berg went to Mosul. I forgot to mention the published reason (which you may or may not consider credible): That he traveled through a war zone to visit the brother of a relative by marriage.

More on Berg, Aziz and the Freepers

A January 18 email from Nick berg showed up on usenet some days ago; you can find the entire letter here. It's worth reading.

Much of it concerns technical matters. There is the surprising revelation that Berg ran into the Iraqi police in January, during his first trip; they seem to have wondered (for at least a moment or two) if he was a spy for the Iranians!

Incidentally, one report claims that a hotel staffer saw that Berg possessed both Jordanian and Iranian currency. I have no idea what to make of all this; these facts may be significant or otherwise.

More pertinent to our current inquiry is Berg on his shadowy new partner, Aziz Taee or "Joe Aziz":

Other than that, we're trying to wrap up our preparations here so I can get back to the US. I think our interests will be well taken care of while I'm gone. I've found a very competent and fairly reliable commercial Manager here. He's actually been living in Philadelphia the last twenty years and just came back - so he's similarly a bit out of his element. Imagine coming home to a country so different form where you grew up. We're right now at an office near the sporting club where he played European Football as a kid.

Since then it's been destroyed, rebuilt, run by Oday, son of Hussein, and finally privatized. The fact alone that he and I are just now sitting in a free and open internet shop is unbelievable to most Iraqis. Even a year ago he would have been arrested upon his return. Neither of us would be seeing the un-restricted internet. At any rate, Aziz will do us well I think, and I'm happy I finally found someone I can strategize with.
Nothing in this section indicates that Berg knew anything of Aziz's reported link to drug smuggling, illegal CD duplication, the Russian mafia, the neocon's pro-war propaganda effort -- and, just possibly, the intelligence community.

Irony of ironies, Aziz also had a connection to the thugs at FreeRepublic, the right-wing hate site which put Berg's father on an enemies list. A usenet post of December 16, 2003, includes this message:

The FReepers and MOVE-OUT also will host Aziz Al-Taee of the
Iraqi-American Council as speaker.

"Theirs is a voice that isn't heard in the media," Taylor complains.

Aziz recently appeared on Greta van Susteren's Fox News show, Taylor
said, and now he is starting to get a "few appearances." He adds that
Aziz and his group publicly demean Osama bin Laden in very strong
terms, something that isn't seen or heard – a very rare thing in the
Islamic world."
Further Googling reveals that Aziz has connections with GOPUSA and other right wing groups. At a pro-war rally, Aziz was quoted -- hilariously -- as saying of war opponents: "They never tell of Saddam's horrible crimes. They never want to show pictures of Halabja..."

No, Mr Aziz. You're wrong. In fact, you're re-writing history.

In the 1980s, it was Reagan and the elder Bush who tried to cover up the atrocity at Hallabja; liberals made an effort to direct the public's attention to the issue. Theirs were the only voices in this country discussing Saddam's many crimes. The Republicans treated Saddam Hussein as a partner. Since then, even the most vociferous opponents of the latest war have always been careful to stipulate the evils of Saddam Hussein. Anyone who pretends otherwise is a propagandist.

Berg: It gets even stranger

You can't turn your back on the internet. I took a day off to write an article detailing every fact indicating Nick Berg's possible employment by an intelligence agency. Bare minutes after posting it, I ran into this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer (registration required -- a hassle, but the piece is worth it).

You can find more at the Daily Kos.

Berg, it seems, was connected to a shadowy Iraqi (transplanted to Philadelphia) named Aziz K. Aziz -- a.k.a. Aziz al-Taee, a.k.a. Joe Aziz -- whose neocon ties and pro-invasion views made him a welcome voice on Fox News. Previously, Aziz had been connected to a drug ring run by a Russian mafia figure; later he was charged with manufacturing pirate CDs. His anti-Saddam organization had a West Virginia address and unusual connections to the State department. His group played a key role in the propaganda maneuvering that led to war.

The article ends on this intriguing note:

Now, Aziz is now getting publicity for monitoring the final cell-phone calls of his slain partner. He said this weekend he understands Berg's phone was used as recently as April 19, and that three calls were made that day to Jordan, to the United Arab Emirates and to a local number.

"He could still have been alive."
Recall that Berg was captured on April 10. There have been reports that the terrorists tried to negotiate a prisoner exchange, although it is hard to see how a call to Jordan could have been connected to any such effort. Whether the calls were made by terrorists or by Berg, one wonders why none of the calls went to Berg's parents, who last heard from their son on April 6.

One also wonders how Aziz would even know about calls made on Berg's cel phone on April 19.

The Daily Kos commentary notes that a Google search on Aziz brings up the noteworthy fact that he corresponded with to two "former" CIA officials, Vince Cannistraro and Graham Fuller, as well as neo-con propagandist Laurie Mylroie.

Cannistraro is of particular note, since his name comes up in every recent investigation of terrorist-related activities; he was frequently quoted in stories after 9/11 and the Lockerbie disaster. (There have even been unconfirmed reports that he took an interest in the controversy over Princess Diana's death!)

So far, we are playing a game of telephone -- Berg to Aziz to Cannistraro to CIA. But the steps are few, and the implications have a direct bearing on the theory we have pursued.

Did Berg hide a secret?

Nicholas Berg – the affable 26-year-old communications specialist whose videotaped execution shocked the world – may have had a secret agenda.

Before proceeding, please note: I am not proposing that Berg’s activities were in any way underhanded or dishonorable. Neither does this essay address the controversy surrounding the videotape. I am merely suggesting that researchers take a closer look at the odd circumstances surrounding Berg’s final journey to Iraq.

One insufficiently scrutinized aspect of the Berg mystery concerns what we may call the “in between” period. This term refers to the four days between April 6, 2004 (the date of his release from “Iraqi police” detention) and April 10, the date of his reported re-capture by terrorists linked to Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Berg “usually called home once a day and e-mailed several times; [father] Michael Berg is his business manager, and they needed to stay in touch.” During his first detention, Berg’s parents naturally became quite worried for their son’s safety, and one can imagine how they felt upon hearing his voice on April 6. (No news account known to me specifies whether this call came from Mosul or Baghdad -- an important point, as we shall see.)

That conversation, we are told, was the last time Nick Berg’s parents heard from their son. He also sent an email on that date -- reportedly his last.

An AP account published May 13 establishes that Berg spent the next few nights in the Fanar Hotel in Baghdad. While staying at the hotel, he went out for drinks with friends Hugo Infante (a Chilean journalist) and Andrew Duke (a Colorado businessman). He even visited a local gym, where he spoke with a journalist named Jamie Francis.

Berg was a man in a war zone with free time -- yet he apparently did not let his anxious family know either his location or his specific travel plans. No public statement by Michael Berg indicates that he knew where his son was staying. Before his first detention, the younger Berg had asked his parents to meet him at the airport on the expected arrival date. Yet he had no similar discussion with his parents after his release.

How did he get to Baghdad and how did he intend to leave Iraq? The stories differ widely.

First, we must account for the trip from Mosul to Baghdad on April 6 -- presuming he was, in fact, in Mosul at the time of his release. Road conditions were extraordinarily hazardous. Yet news accounts would have us believe that Berg made this journey without military assistance -- an unlikely scenario (rendered even moreso by the suggestion that he continued to wear an orange prison jumpsuit, as depicted in the videotape).

The oddities do not end there. United States officials confirm that they offered to fly Berg out of Iraq via Jordan. Berg turned down this offer, which must have come on or before April 6, because he discussed this business with his father on that date. Michael Berg reports that his son turned down the proposal because travel to the airport was “too dangerous.”

This statement makes little sense. The United States rotates soldiers, private contractors and CIA personnel in and out of Iraq on a routine basis. Is it likely that safety concerns would have prompted Berg to refuse official help? Is it likely that Berg felt safer journeying from Mosul to Baghdad, and from Baghdad to another country, entirely on his own? What factors would make “private” travel plans safer?

A key AP story of May 13 insists that Berg “preferred to travel on his own to Kuwait.” The report goes on to describe Berg’s April 9 conversation with Duke:

Duke, who drank beer with Berg the night before he left, said Berg told him he had made a lot of money and was thinking about going sailing in Turkey. He said he thought Berg was planning to leave the country by land.

"He was looking forward to going home," Duke said.
A journey by land would seem an odd choice for a man who told his father that travel to the airport was too dangerous.

But did he truly fear travel to the airport? According to a CNN report of the same day, “Infante said he thought Berg was intending to go to Baghdad Airport the following morning and take a flight back to the United States.”

During this time, Berg also made odd references to the reasons for his detention as a suspected spy. He did not mention the matter at all to Jamie Francis (in fact, Francis felt that Berg’s very presence in the country was a tad mysterious). He gave his friends at the hotel the impression that the arrest was something of a grand adventure.

He told them that he was arrested because he had a Jewish-sounding last name and an Israeli stamp in his passport. Many countries will not accept visitors whose passports show evidence of a previous trip to Israel, which is why travelers to that nation frequently receive a second passport. Berg had traveled widely throughout the third world in his young life; it is difficult to believe that he could have done so with only a stamped-in-Israel passport.

According to Infante, Berg mentioned that Iraqi police found the electronics equipment in his car suspicious. At no point did he tell his friends that he carried a Koran and an allegedly anti-Semitic book titled “The Jewish Problem” (or something similar), as later reported in the press.

Berg did discuss with Infante and Duke the nature of his captivity, in terms that call into question the official story that he was held solely by the Iraqi police. Coalition Provisional Authority Dan Senor told CBS: "I think there's a little bit of confusion that emanates in part from the fact that many of the Iraqi detention facilities are supported in some way by American MPs." According to Infante, however, Berg said that he was held in “a coalition facility” which also housed Syrians, Egyptians, and other outsiders suspected of entering the country illegally. (We can fairly presume that foreign fighters would not be questioned by the police.) Berg made a similar statement to his father -- a statement consistent with State Department communications with Michael Berg and with the claims of the Mosul police.

Berg’s brag to Duke -- that he had “made a lot of money” -- also deserves some scrutiny.

Although Berg’s ostensible purpose in the war-torn nation was to repair communications towers, none of the many news stories about Berg’s second trip to Iraq specifies who paid him and for what purpose. Accounts differ as to whether his company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service, was approved by the Coalition Provisional Authority to do work in Iraq. Spokesman Senor told a briefing that Berg “was not a U.S. government employee, he has no affiliation with the coalition and to our knowledge he has no affiliation with any Coalition Provisional Authority contractor.”

In January, Berg wrote an email reporting that he would do “tower work” for the Harris Corporation of Melbourne, which had won a Coalition contract. However, there is good reason to suspect that Berg did no work pursuant to this deal.

Some background: Berg had made an earlier visit to Iraq in December, ostensibly in search of work -- even though he had a number of tower jobs lined up at home (Baltimore Sun, May 13). During this time, he seems to have worked on the damaged communication tower at Abu Ghraib -- despite the fact that, according to Senor, his company did not appear on the Coalition’s list of approved contractors.

He also seems to have made contact with Harris representatives. According to AP:

He stayed until Feb. 1, making contact with a company that indicated there would likely be work for him later. But he returned on March 14 and there was no work, so he began traveling.
Those three words -- “he began traveling” – are the sole clue we possess as to his reasons for going to Mosul. Why did he go there? What work, if any, did he do in Iraq on this second journey? Just how did he make “a lot of money” in the short span of time before his detention?

The Iraqi police arrested Nick Berg as a spy. The FBI was sufficiently intrigued by this allegation to interview him three times and to interview his family. Is it possible that the charge held some measure of truth?

We should re-examine, in this light, a bizarre coincidence – if coincidence it be: Iraq was not the first place Nick Berg encountered Al Qaeda-linked terrorists.

In 1999, Berg attended the University of Oklahoma (we are not told why he chose a not-overwhelmingly distinguished college far from home), where he encountered one or more members of an Al Qaeda cell. Most news accounts refer to a single meeting on a bus with an associate of Zacarias Moussaoui; Michael Berg, however, has told reporters that his son had accidentally run into more than one terrorist while in Oklahoma.

One would think that there would be immediate tension between an increasingly conservative young Jew and a Muslim with secret links to terrorism. Yet Nicholas Berg, we are told, allowed access to his computer – and even revealed his password! (Even pre-teens usually know better than to discuss passwords.) The password traveled throughout the terror network, and seems to have provided the FBI with one mechanism for tracking Al Qaeda members in the United States.

One may fairly ask if “accident” truly suffices to explain these events. Berg’s “foolishness” had the interesting effect of making Al Qaeda more transparent to the authorities.

Nicholas Berg was young but mature, intelligent, in good shape, politically conservative, eager to take risks, willing to learn difficult languages, and fond of travel to exotic lands. What intelligence agency would not want to recruit someone of that description?

Further investigation may resolve many of the questions asked in this essay. New facts may reveal that Nick Berg really was just a telecommunications specialist in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At this moment, however, we have good reason to wonder.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Hip, Hip, hypocrites!

Remember when I said the Bush administration had (as per Newsweek) replaced the Geneva conventions with a "new paradigm"? (Also see here.)

As if sensing the potential public relations problem, the source for the Newsweek quote -- presidential counsel Arturo R. Gonzales -- wrote this in an editorial for the New York Times:

Both the United States and Iraq are parties to the Geneva Conventions. The United States recognizes that these treaties are binding in the war for the liberation of Iraq. There has never been any suggestion by our government that the conventions do not apply in that conflict. Although recent news reports from Iraq have caused some to question our commitment to the treaties, make no mistake that the United States is bound to observe the rules of war in the Geneva Conventions.
Well, which is it? Geneva or post-Geneva? The new paradigm or the old one?

This contradiction reminds me of Taguba's congressional testimony. In a widely-quoted prepared statement, he averred that prisoner abuse was not widespread at Abu Ghraib. Under questioning, he admitted that, yes, abuse was widespread.

"There is no cannibalism in the modern British Navy! And when I say there is no cannibalism in the modern British Navy, I mean...that there is some, but we we have it under control."

(One of the oddities of the Bush administration is the fact that every news story seems to illustrate a Monty Python quote.)

Monday, May 17, 2004

I was wondering when someone would say it...

While scanning the newsgroups, I found a great quote from a right-wing UseNut:

"Geneva Shemeneva! I am so tired of vague references to the Geneva Conventions..."

Didn't Colonel Klink once say something similar...?

Another murder: More shocking than Berg

Want to see the image of a murder that is (arguably) even more shocking than the Berg atrocity? Here it is.

You won't hear Sean Hannity talking about this one. You won't hear Rush Limbaugh discuss this tragedy. I doubt that it will get much coverage on Fox News -- or on any American cable news network.

Why? Because the victim was an Iraqi. One of the people we are supposedly liberating.

47-year-old Asad Abdul Kareem Abdul Jaleel was picked up on an open road by an American unit. They seem to have come under the erroneous impression that he had some connection to the insurgency. He was then tortured to death.

Death is not a sporting event, and few would want to argue about which form of death is the worst. Most people, however, would find a relatively quick beheading preferable to the prospect of being flogged and beaten to death.

Remember: The Red Cross says that 70 percent (or more) of the detainees are innocent. Interrogation is far worse on the innocent than on the guilty, because the innocent cannot end their suffering by delivering information.

Just ask the ghost of Asad Abdul Kareem Abdul Jaleel.

Berg: Fake Video "warfare" predicted in 1994 Army War College report

Those following the controversy over the strange deth of Nicholas
Berg, allegedly at the hands of Abu-Musad Al Zarqawi, will want to
read this.

In a well-known 1994 paper titled the "THE REVOLUTION IN MILITARY AFFAIRS AND CONFLICT SHORT OF WAR," authors Steven Metz and James Kievit (of the Army War College) glancingly discussed the use of fake videos to combat insurgencies and stir up the home front.

Here is one excerpt, which should give you a flavor of the whole:

...military use of television against foreign adversaries raises the specter of domestic applications. Even if domestic use was never contemplated, its possibility might cause greater public skepticism regarding television appearances, reducing the impact of one of the American politician's greatest communication tools. Deception, while frequently of great military or political value, is thought of as somehow "un-American."

To illustrate how the "Revolution in Military Affairs" would play out in real life, the authors create a fictional after-action "report" on the use of such tactics in Cuba:

Individuals and organizations with active predilections to support the insurgency were targets of an elaborate global ruse using computer communications networks and appeals by a computer-generated insurgent leader. Real insurgent leaders who were identified were left in place so that sophisticated computer analysis of their contacts could be developed. Internecine conflict within the insurgent elite was engineered using psychotechnology...

The attitude-shaping campaigns aimed at the American public, the global public, and the Cuban people went quite well, including those parts using computer-generated broadcasts by insurgent leaders--"morphing"-- in which they were shown as disoriented and psychotic. Subliminal messages surreptitiously integrated with Cuban television transmissions were also helpful.45 In fact, all of this was so successful that there were only a few instances of covert, stand-off military strikes when insurgent targets arose and government forces seemed on the verge of defeat. U.S. strike forces also attacked neutral targets to support the psychological campaign as computer-generated insurgent leaders claimed credit for the raids. At times, even the raids themselves were computer-invented "recreations." (These were a specialty of the Army's elite Sun Tzu Battalion.)

While the "Cuba" campaign was an excercise in future forecasting, the full article makes clear that, even ten years ago, military planners viewedthese techniques as "do-able."

The entire Metz/Kievet article is online here:

-- Joseph Cannon

New Paradigm

Now we have the latest explanation for what happened at Abu Ghraib: According to Newsweek, The Bush administration canned the Geneva convention in favor of a "new paradigm."

Well. I guess that ten-dollar word makes everything quite all right.

Even though, according to the Red Cross, at least 70 percent of the Iraqi prisoners were innocent. In the new paradigm, such concerns don't matter.

MPs and spooky interrogators "could be accused of war crimes. Among the possible charges: homicide involving deaths during interrogations." (My emphasis.)

Right-wing bloggers are asking "where's the outrage?" when it comes to the death of Nick Berg, whose (alleged) death shrieks have graced the airwaves of Sean Hannity and others. Why aren't right-wingers more concerned about multiple unjust killings funded by our tax dollars, as opposed to the unjust killings perpetrated by others? Could it be that brown-skinned victims matter less than white-skinned victims in the "new paradigm"? If so, the "new paradigm" seems a lot like one that a lot of people hoped was long gone...

Remind me...just what was it Jesus said about that splinter in the eye?

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Polls, polls, polls...

What's this nonsense I hear about Bush's plummeting poll ratings? True, his approval numbers are down. But even after weeks of terrible news from Iraq, he still looks good in head-to-head match-ups with Kerry. This is from Polling Report:

CNN/USA Today: Bush ahead, 48-47. A week ago, Kerry was ahead by one point, 49-48.

Christian Science Monitor: Bush ahead, 46-41. Bush has slightly gained ground since the previous poll.

AP: Bush ahead, 46-43. A month ago, Bush led by only one point.

Fox News: Bush ahead, 44-41. A month ago, Kerry was ahead by one point.

American Research Group: Kerry 47, Bush 44. If you think that's good, look at the direction: Last month, Kerry was ahead 50-44.

Newsweek: Kerry 43, Bush 42. The difference is statistically not significant. Again, look at the direction: Last month, Kerry was ahead 46-42.

Zogby shows a different direction: 47-42, Kerry ahead; previously, the numbers were 47-44, Kerry ahead. This is the sole poll showing good news for Kerry. Yet it shows Bush sinking (slightly) with no gained ground for the Democrat.

So far, I see zero evidence that Kerry has regained any of his lost momentum. And this is after Bush has suffered from weeks of bad news.

Behind Abu Ghraib

From The Guardian:

NEW YORK (AP) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the expansion of a secret program that encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners to obtain intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq, The New Yorker reported Saturday
That sums it up. Here are a few choice bits from the New Yorker piece itself, authored by Seymour Hersch:

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon's operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld's long-standing desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A...

Rumsfeld reacted in his usual direct fashion: he authorized the establishment of a highly secret program that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate "high value" targets in the Bush Administration's war on terror. A special-access program, or sap -- subject to the Defense Department's most stringent level of security -- was set up, with an office in a secure area of the Pentagon. The program would recruit operatives and acquire the necessary equipment, including aircraft, and would keep its activities under wraps...

A key player was Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the detention and interrogation center at Guantanamo, who had been summoned to Baghdad in late August to review prison interrogation procedures. The internal Army report on the abuse charges, written by Major General Antonio Taguba in February, revealed that Miller urged that the commanders in Baghdad change policy and place military intelligence in charge of the prison. The report quoted Miller as recommending that "detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogatio"n...

Miller's concept, as it emerged in recent Senate hearings, was to "Gitmoize" the prison system in Iraq -- to make it more focussed on interrogation. He also briefed military commanders in Iraq on the interrogation methods used in Cuba -- methods that could, with special approval, include sleep deprivation, exposure to extremes of cold and heat, and placing prisoners in "stress positions" for agonizing lengths of time...

Who was in charge of Abu Ghraib -- whether military police or military intelligence -- was no longer the only question that mattered. Hard-core special operatives, some of them with aliases, were working in the prison. The military police assigned to guard the prisoners wore uniforms, but many others -- military intelligence officers, contract interpreters, C.I.A. officers, and the men from the special-access program -- wore civilian clothes....

The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March, 2003, invasion of Iraq...

In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged -- one, that Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation...

The government consultant said that there may have been a serious goal, in the beginning, behind the sexual humiliation and the posed photographs. It was thought that some prisoners would do anything -- including spying on their associates -- to avoid dissemination of the shameful photos to family and friends...

There's much more. Read the whole thing. Everyone's talking about this one.

Nota bene: While I am sure most of Hersch's article is quite accurate, I would not be surprised if someone fed him some bad info to injure his credibility. This sort of thing has happened to him before.

Berg erratum

In a previous post, I linked to a story which implied that Nick Berg met a Zacarias Moussaoui associate in 2001. That bizarre meeting of the minds actually took place in 1999, according to this article.

Commie-lovin' Republicans

By now, you probably have read Joe Conason's expose of the anti-Kerry propaganda organization, Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth. Leading lights in this group include Lewis Waterman, William Franke, and Stephen Hayes. These men also head up a company called Gannon International -- which has extensive business ties to Vietnam. Imagine what the right-wing pundits would say if a prominent anti-Bush group used money earned from dealings with Vietnam!

But that's not all. Look at the pattern:

Rupert Murdoch -- The owner of Fox News does tons of business with China; his American news outlets squelched reportage on the Chinese crisis of April, 2001. (Wouldn't want to offend a partner...)

Sun Myung Moon -- The man (or Messiah?) behind the Washington Times has talked the anti-communist talk for decades, which doesn't stop him from doing a large amount of business with North Korea.

Israel -- beloved by neocons, the Israeli government often works closely with China, in the realms of both business and science. Israel even sells an enormous amount of arms (including guided missile systems!) to the world's largest communist nation.

The Bush family -- long-standing business ties to China; most recently, Neil Bush took a $400k-a-year gig to help out with a Chinese computer chip company. The George Bushes, father and son, also have heavy ties to Moon (and thus, to North Korea)...

Dick Cheney -- business ties to China and, in days gone by, with the Soviets.

Mitch McConnell (arch-conservative Kentucky senator) and his wife, labor secretary Elaine Chao -- Tied to China through the Lippo group.

Henry Kissinger -- long-standing ties to China.

Wal-Mart -- The store is run by one of the most conservative families in America. You know damn well where all that cheap clothing is made.

And that's only a quick run-through. What's appalling is the double-standard. All my life, right-wing pundits have screamed like Fay Wray on fire whenever they have perceived any link -- real, tangential, or imaginary -- between any Democrat and the godless bolshies. The rightists have always insisted that all communist countries should be treated like lepers. Hell, the right-wing conspiracist networks were spreading scare-stories as late as 1995 (!) that the Red Army was about come marching across into California via Mexico.

But when Republican big-wigs do "bidness" with the commies to the tune of millions, billions of bucks -- well. That's very different. The G.O.P. money men can do that which is forbidden to others...

[Note: In the original posting, and on usenet, I referred to "South Vietnam." That's what I get for reading a history of the war the week before. Many years ago, I referred to Brezhnev as "the Czar," because I had been reading War and Peace.]

Saturday, May 15, 2004

The Berg mystery is getting spooky

Michael Berg has insisted to the press that pure coincidence put his son Nick in the presence of a comrade to Zacarias Moussaoui, and I am not the sort of person who wishes to doubt the word of a grieving father. Still, we're dealing here with a really interesting coincidence.

According to CNN (see link in the post below), Berg met an acquaintance of Moussaoui's while riding a bus. (In an earlier post, I erroneously said that Berg met Moussaoui himself.) At the time, he "was taking a course a few years ago at a remote campus of the University of Oklahoma near an airport." This places the pair in Norman, Oklahoma, also the location of the Airman Flight School.

Berg gave the man access to his laptop computer, and even -- in what we are supposed to accept as an act of flabbergasting naivete -- divulged his email password. This password apparently was passed around by the terrorists, who used Berg's account.

One interesting aspect of the CNN story: Michael Berg's quotations seem to tell a story at a slight variance from the gist of the article, which speaks only of a connection to Moussaoui's comrade. The elder Berg, however, says something rather different -- that his son had run into "some terrorist people -- who no one knew were terrorists at the time." Note the use of the plural, which indicates that the bus encounter was not the only time Nick Berg ran into underground Al Qaeda operatives.

A story on Berg published in the Philadelphia Daily News of May 14 tells much the same story related in the CNN account, but the story published the day before includes these words: "He'd made some contact with Arab kids at the University of Oklahoma - that's what the FBI was checking into..." Again, this wording would indicate that the encounters with Arabs were rather more extensive than one meeting on a bus.

We might here paraphrase Fleming: "Accidentally" running into one or two terrorists is coincidence; three is enemy action.

(A side note: An Al Qaeda operative named Ihab Mohammed Ali attended this flight school in 1999. One wonders who Moussaoui's partner was, and how many other Al Qaeda sympathizers were in that location at that time.)

I am not the only one who has toyed with the possibility that an intelligence agency recruited Berg; for reasons given in previous posts, any agency would want a man of his caliber. If such a recruitment took place, the parents may not have known about it. This theory may seem extreme, but once we grant the possibility, we may inch closer to an explanation for some of the nagging "sub-mysteries" surrounding this affair -- for example, the FBI's curious inquiries, the strangeness involving the passport, Berg's refusal to register his company, his odd choice of reading material at the time of capture, his interest in Arabic (unusual in a Pennsylvania tech worker), and his odd behavior after his release.

Who might have recruited him? It is known that Berg had visited Israel. There have been many reports indicating that ad hoc teams of Mossad helpers (not full-fledged agents, which have always been few in number) were tracking Al Qaeda members in the United States prior to September 11. A little careful Googling will divulge a number of relevant stories. Some of these stories indicate that the FBI has long known about these activities, but considers the matter too sensitive for discussion.

In this light, I would like to know the name of the email service used by Berg -- and therefore by Moussaoui and company.

For example, Commtouch -- an Israeli firm then run by the daughter of known Mossad asset Robert Maxwell -- offers email services. That firm could have easily tracked any Al Qaeda operatives in the United States using their services -- if the company knew which password the terrorists used.

The trick, of course, would be convincing the bad guys to use that password. At this point, one would need the services of a field agent.

Have I speculated beyond the limits of the available facts? Probably. Still, keep this scenario in mind. Further facts may buttress or undermine it.

Berg: Let's be careful...

I'm not comfortable with conspiracy theories, and I don't relish the prospect of being categorized alongside the paranoia junkies. Some of the people attracted to the Berg mystery are the same folks who annoyed us with that "missile-hit-the-Pentagon" nonsense. When you see folks like that in the room, you may be in the wrong room.

For example, Xymphora is an often insightful blogger, despite -- or because of? -- his frequent sidetrips into conspiracy-land. (Alas, he had an embarrassing fondness for that missile-hit-the-Pentagon theory.) In today's post, he asks these questions (among others):

Berg may have been recruited when he was interviewed by the FBI about the password. Why did the FBI visit him three times while he was in custody?

Why would an increasingly observant Jew be carrying around anti-Semitic literature, possibly written in Arabic, a language he couldn't read? Analogous to what we have seen in Israel, with the Holocaust misused to inspire a Holocaust against the Palestinians, it may be that Berg was using the tangible evidence of the hatred that some have against the Jewish people to justify to himself whatever it was he was doing.

Going to Iraq without a job or any prospect of work makes absolutely no sense.

The orange prison jumpsuit is probably not a clue. If the Americans were behind his death, they would be unlikely to be so stupid to have him killed in a jumpsuit which seems to be evidence of American involvement. The only way I can see such a mistake being made is if the video were a production of the same doofus guards in Abu Ghraib prison who were involved in the torture. If Berg was being held there, and 'accidentally' died, someone might have decided to kill two birds with one stone and make a video to take the pressure off the American torturers.

It isn't hard to come up with answers for most of these questions.

I have already noted that Berg was precisely the sort of individual any intelligence agency would want to recruit -- young, conservative, brave, technically savvy, gifted at languages, adventurous. By no means would I discount the possibility that the FBI (or CIA, or Mossad) saw his potential. But the three FBI visits while in custody may have concerned the alleged connection between Michael Berg and A.N.S.W.E.R. It is not unreasonable to believe that someone in the national security complex took the Freeper "hit list" seriously.

[UPDATE: As my later post hints, I'm now wondering if the FBI made its strange inquiries for reasons that go beyond the Freeper smear.]

The claim that Berg carried anti-Semitic material comes from only one news account (unless the situation has changed -- if so, a link or two would have been appreciated). The reports have become so contradictory, I think we should wait for confirmation of this "anti-Semitic" business before going any further with it.

[UPDATE: The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Berg carried a copy of the Koran and a book titled "The Jewish Problem" or something similar. I'll take this as sufficient confirmation of the report in The Scotsman.]

Berg maintained communications towers. That was his stated reason for going to Iraq in December and in March. He may (or may not) have had other reasons, but I see no justification for the "without a job" remark.

The orange prison jumpsuit remains one of the best clues that something odd is afoot. Books on espionage reveal many instances of covert operations which succeeded on the strength of sheer audacity, even after foolish mistakes began to pile up.

Xymphora goes on to say: "Official American denial that he was in American custody, when we have clear proof that he was, is evidence of official American guilt about something." Here we concur!

Friday, May 14, 2004

Berg and Zacarias Moussaoui

You have probably read reports that Nick Berg was once investigated by the FBI because he had coincidentally used the same password as accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. Until now, I had ignored the tale as irrelevant.

I'm still not sure whether the story has any larger significance. But as it turns out, this business runs deeper and gets weirder than anyone knew.

CNN (and you will recall that the administration used CNN to tell the teeming millions that Al Zarqawi "re-grew" his leg) details a very strange incident in which a Moussaoui associate met Berg in Oklahoma in 2001, during a bus ride to a rather obscure college campus. Berg let the man use his laptop -- and his email account. Berg even revealed his password!

It's hard to make sense of this report. Berg was a telecommunications specialist. Not a dummy. He surely knew that one never divulges a password.

Why, come to think of it, would he even need to divulge it? Think about it: You can let someone sitting next to you use either your POP3 or web-based email without giving away your password.

And why was he going to a small college half-way across the country?

I imagine that the last question will eventually give way to a reasonable explanation. Perhaps all my questions will soon have answers. But right now, this whole episode seems odd.

(Addendum: Those pooh-poohing any alternative thoughts on the Berg matter are trotting out the inevitable references to black helicopters and tin-foil hats. C'mon, guys...! In my day, the skeptical harrumphers were capable of expressing themselves with greater originality.)

Al Zarqawi: What's the truth?

We have a potential explanation regarding one aspect of the Al Zarqawi mystery. But I'm not sure if I buy it.

The problem is this: How could the killer of Nick Berg be the infamous Al Zarqawi if, as previous news stories had alleged, the terrorist had an amputated leg?

Previously, Al Zarqawi's amputation was mentioned by no less august a figure than Colin Powell. The terrorist was allegedly fitted with a prosthetic leg in a Baghdad hospital. This medical treatment was -- we were told -- the key piece of evidence proving a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

Previous to April 6, 2004, no news report (that I know of) treated this amputation story as conjectural or "iffy." However, on that day -- the day of Berg's release from American custody -- a new story was floated. CNN saw fit to tell the world that Al Zarqawi had not lost his leg after all. This announcement came by way of a "U.S. official" who "would not discuss the reason for the change in assessment."

The timing is suspicious. Why on earth would an official choose that day to make sure CNN reported that there was no leg amputation? It's not as though the teeming masses in America cared much either way.

But if the execution video had been created on or before April 6, 2004, someone might have noticed that the on-camera "Al Zarqawi" had a problem. A problem that could be cleared up with a little "official" announcement.

I know, I know. I'm being paranoid. Can't help it. The President lied about weapons of mass destruction. Compared to that, is a lie about a leg all that unbelievable?

Berg Murder: What to believe?

Go to Google News and plug in the name of Nick Berg. You'll see how right-wing columnists have shamelessly used his death for propaganda purposes.

Look a little closer at the news stories and you'll see anomalies. Little things that just don't add up.

For example, this line in a St. Peterburg Times article popped out at me:

Berg was last in contact with U.S. officials in Baghdad on April 10, and his body was found Saturday in Baghdad. Staff members at the $30-a-night Fanar Hotel in Baghdad told the AP that Berg stayed there for several days until April 10.
Four days, we are told, separated Berg's release from American custody and his second capture by Al Zarqawi's terrorists. Why, then, was he still in an American orange prison jumpsuit?

Come to think of it, why did an earlier report hold that Berg had but one conversation with his family after his release? During that conversation, he said he would travel home via Jordan, Kuwait or Turkey. Why didn't he call them on April 9 to confirm flight plans?

The St. Petersburg Times piece and other news reports claim that Berg refused a flight home offered by "U.S. officials." According to the New York Daily News: "Michael Berg...said his son feared he might he killed on the treacherous route to the airport and decided to make his own way." Andy Duke, a friend of Berg's who saw him at the hotel on the night of April 9, says that Berg intended to fly home from the Baghdad airport the next day. Can we assemble these statements into some sort of sensible order? It seems odd that Berg thought he could get to the airport more easily without official U.S help; soldiers are rotated out of Iraq all the time.

It is said that Berg told a friend (Duke?) that the Iraqi police had considered him (Berg) suspicious because he had an Israeli stamp in his passport. Nearly all Islamic countries refuse entry to anyone whose passport indicates a previous trip to Israel; that is why travelers to that nation are given a second passport. It's a matter of routine.

Berg must have known about all this -- he had visited the Middle East before, including a previous trip to Iraq. He had entered Iraq via Jordan. As noted, he planned to visit Jordan, Kuwait and/or Turkey on his return journey. It is fair to presume that he possessed more than one passport; he could not have passed through Jordan otherwise. But if he did have a "Israel-free" passport, why did he flash the stamped-in-Israel passport in Iraq? Why would he even carry it?

The most stunning news comes by way of this site. Audio from the execution video includes a Western voice (not Berg's) saying the words "Thy will be done." We would expect that wording from a Christian, not from a Muslim.

This site notes that the same stackable plastic chair appearing in the Berg video also appears in the Lyndiee England Photographs from Abu Ghraib prison. Granted, such chairs are common: My family used to own one much like it, many years ago. Still, this find adds a touch more credibility to the theory that the entire execution was staged in Abu Ghraib.

Also worth noting: The walls of Abu Ghraib and the walls visible in the execution video are painted (roughly) the same color. According to one account: "The hollow audio quality of the tape also suggests the room was large and empty." Although one can easily imagine a room of this sort in Abu Ghraib, one wonders if terrorists in hiding would have access to a large, unfurnished facility.

I have no problem with speculation as long as it is clearly labelled as such, and as long we separate speculation and established fact. In that light, let us take a closer look at the unusual Mr. Berg.

This young man was, by all accounts, something of an adventurer. He was smart, well-traveled, gifted at languages, politically conservative, and a risk-taker -- precisely the sort of person an intelligence agency would want to recruit. He may have volunteered to take part in a fake video of his own death. Alternatively, American authorities could have deceived or forced him into partipation in a theatrical venture of this sort. He may not have foreseen that the video would subsequently be offered to the world as genuine, or that he would have to be killed "for real" to prevent the spillage of beans. Conversely, he might have chosen to disappear into a new life.

Do those notions seem a tad too Ian Fleming-esque? Perhaps they are. But now let us take a close look at Berg's alleged killer, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. The anomalies keep piling up.

Many news accounts inform us that Al Zarqawi has, or had, an amputated leg. (As noted earlier, one report holds that he was killed in 2002.) Did his leg grow back for his video debut? The Sun reports that the amputation was below the knee. While below-the-knee amputees can walk fairly normally, they usually (in my experience) cannot completely hide their missing limb, especially when engaging in a difficult job like decapitation. In the video, "Zarqawi" also flashes a gold ring -- an affectation which, some aver, is forbidden to a devout Muslim.

You may want to read -- for whatever it is worth -- this anonmyous poster's analysis of the video. He or she claims that accents and body language reveal that the "terrorists" are not Arabs.

While the official U.S. translation includes a reference to Al Qaeda, an independent translation reveals that Bin Laden's terror network is never mentioned. The error may have been innocent, since one speaker does use the phrase "al qaed," meaning "the one sitting."

I am still on the fence when it comes to "fake video" allegations. But such theories no longer strike me as foolish.