Google search of my sites and the web


Saturday, September 18, 2004

Bill Moyers: Journalism Under Fire

This is an outstanding speech by a veteran journalist. Moyers, who has spent 54 years in the profession, gives a well thought-out perspective on what journalism is, what it ought to be, and how it influences the society. Of journalists he writes,
Our job remains essentially the same: to gather, weigh, organize, analyze and present information people need to know in order to make sense of the world. You will hear it said this is not a professional task—John Carroll of the Los Angeles Times recently reminded us there are “no qualification tests, no boards to censure misconduct, no universally accepted set of standards.” Maybe so. But I think that what makes journalism a profession is the deep ethical imperative of which the public is aware only when we violate it—think Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, Jim Kelly. Ed Wasserman, once an editor himself and now teaching at Washington and Lee University, says that journalism “is an ethical practice because it tells people what matters and helps them determine what they should do about it.” So good newsrooms “are marinated in ethical conversations…What should this lead say? What I should I tell that source?” We practice this craft inside “concentric rings of duty and obligations: Obligations to sources, our colleagues, our bosses, our readers, our profession, and our community”—and we function under a system of values “in which we try to understand and reconcile strong competing claims.” Our obligation is to sift patiently and fairly through untidy realities, measure the claims of affected people, and present honestly the best available approximation of the truth—and this, says Ed Wasserman, is an ethical practice.
The speech is an excellent review of the challenges an honest journalist is bound to face,- government secrecy, ideological rejection, pressure and intimidation by corporate powers. He makes a specific point of saying that this US Administration is, in his opinion, most committed to secrecy of all the ones he has worked with.

This is an excellent speech, a must-read.

Another Guantanamo Military Case Came to Naught

As reported in this December 1, 2003 Oklahoma Daily article, Col. Jackie Duane Farr, 58, a long-serving senior intelligence officer working at he US military base in Guantanamo bay, was charged in a criminal investigation.
Col. Jackie Duane Farr, 58, is accused of two violations of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice: making a false statement and failure to follow orders. Conviction of the crimes could carry a maximum combined punishment of seven years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and a loss of pay.

The U.S. Southern Command in Miami announced the charges in a statement. "Specifically, Farr is charged with wrongfully transporting classified material without the proper security container on or around Oct. 11, and making a false statement in the course of the investigation into his handling of classified material."
Now, Reuters reports, these charges are no more.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army has dropped all charges against a colonel who served as an intelligence officer at the Guantanamo prison and had been accused of trying to take classified material from the base, officials said on Thursday.

Army Reserve Col. Jackie Duane Farr was the highest ranking of three U.S. service members charged in 2003 in connection with suspected security breaches at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States is holding about 585 foreign terrorism suspects.

All charges have now been dropped against Farr as well as Army Capt. James Yee, a Muslim chaplain who ministered to prisoners, while the prosecution case against Air Force Senior Airman Ahmad al Halabi, an Arabic language translator, has run into numerous troubles.

The Army dropped charges against Farr of disobeying an order by transporting classified material without the proper security container, and making a false statement during an investigation, said Army Maj. Hank McIntire, a spokesman at the Guantanamo base.

Instead, Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, commander of the Guantanamo prison, on Aug. 27 imposed "nonjudicial punishment" in an administrative proceeding, McIntire said.

I really like the bit about charges being dropped but some kind of "nonjudicial punishment" being imposed. Those with a better grasp of the English lexicology are welcome to try and explain to me the difference between "nonjudicial" and "extrajudicial". Be that as it may, it sounds like the Army ain't really got nothin' on that ole' soldier Farr but they just can't come clean and admit it.

But that is not the most important part of the story, I reckon. The most interesting part, in my opinion, is the fact that all the security-related investigations of the US military personnel working at the Guantanamo POW camp have yielded practically no results. Some bloggers have called these investigations "frame-up attempts". That is possible, though I have an easier time envisioning an individual overzealous security official somewhere in the hierarchy trying to strike it big. Be that as it may, this string of investigations demonstrates, at the very best, the utter confusion in the military intelligence and counterintelligence operations.

The US media, while covering the initial accusations extensively, appears to be largely mum when it comes to covering the subsequent annulment of those accusations. At least that was the case with Captain James Yee. Does this qualify as biased reporting?

Ellen Mariani: The Story That Could Have Been Big

Ellen Mariani is suing "Bush et al". One would think that I need not go any further here,- anyone suing the US President, one would think, would get so much publicity that I could hardly stand a chance of being able to add anything of value to it. Unfortunately, that is hardly the case. Most people in the US would probably never know whom you are talking about if you mentioned Mrs Mariani's name to them.

So, who is she? She is a widow of Louis Neil Mariani, and late Mr Mariani was one of the passengers on United Air Lines flight 175, one of the doomed planes involved in the September 11, 2001 tragedy.

Mrs Mariani was not happy with the official version of the events of that fateful day and decided to seek justice in the US Court System.

(Philadelphia, PA – 11/26/03) - Philip J. Berg, Esquire, announced today that he, attorney for Ellen Mariani, wife of Louis Neil Mariani, who died when United Air Lines flight 175 was flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9-11 at a news conference regarding the filing of a detailed Amended Complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on 11/26/03 in the case of Mariani vs. Bush et al that he is alleging President Bush and officials including, but not limited to Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and Feinberg that they:

1. had knowledge/warnings of 911 and failed to warn or take steps to prevent;

2. have been covering up the truth of 911; and

3. have therefore violated the laws of the United States; and

4. are being sued under the Civil RICO Act.

It is certainly comforting to know that in the US we have a rule of law, not men, and anybody, even the President, can be named a defendant in a court of law. The US media, however, did a shameful job of covering this case,- which most would view as being of paramount importance.

Grieving New Hampshire widow who lost her man on 9/11 refuses the government's million dollar hush money payoff, studies the facts of the day for nearly two years, and comes to believe the White House "intentionally allowed 9/11 to happen" to launch a so-called "War on Terrorism" for personal and political gain.

She retains a prominent lawyer, a former Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania, who served with distinction under both Democrats and Republicans and was once a strong candidate for the governor's seat.

The attorney files a 62-page complaint in federal district court (including 40 pages of prima facie evidence) charging that "President Bush and officials including, but not limited to Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft and Tenet":
1.) had adequate foreknowledge of 911 yet failed to warn the county or attempt to prevent it;
2.) have since been covering up the truth of that day;
3.) have therefore abetted the murder of plaintiff's husband and violated the Constitution and multiple laws of the United States; and
4.) are thus being sued under the Civil RICO (Racketeering, Influence, and Corrupt Organization) Act for malfeasant conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wrongful death.

The suit text goes on to document the detailed forewarnings from foreign

governments and FBI agents; the unprecedented delinquency of our air defense; the inexplicable half hour dawdle of our Commander in Chief at a primary school after hearing the nation was under deadly attack; the incessant invocation of national security and executive privilege to suppress the facts; and the obstruction of all subsequent efforts to investigate the disaster. It concludes that "compelling evidence will be

presented in this case through discovery, subpoena power, and testimony [that] Defendants failed to act and prevent 9/11 knowing the attacks would lead toтА| an 'International War on Terror' which would benefit Defendants both financially and politically."

Press releases detailing these explosive allegations are sent out to 3000 journalists in the print and broadcast media, and a press conference to announce the filing is held in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on November 26th (commemorating the end of the first futile year of the independent National 9/11 Commission).

Imagine the world-churning implications of these charges. Imagine the furor if just one was proved true. Imagine the courage of this bribe- shunning widow and an eminent attorney with his rep on the line. Then imagine a press conference to which nobody came.

(Well, more precisely, imagine a press conference at which only FOX News appears, tapes for 40 minutes, and never airs an inch.)

Now imagine the air time, column inches and talk show hysteria that same night devoted to the legal hassles of Michael, Kobe, and Scott Peterson, and divide that by the attention paid to our little case of mass murder, war profiteering and treason. (OK, this is really a trick question because no number divided by zero yields any answers whatsoever, which evidently in this case is the result preferred.)

This is not to say that Ellen Mariani and her attorney Phil Berg have no support. Thousands of people are backing their efforts, and, according to this press release, they have got at least one member of the US Senate, Sen. Mark Dayton, Democrat of Minnesota, making statements that bolster their argument. However, the unfortunate reality appears to be that the majority in the US is not even aware of this case. And this contributes to a widespread illusion that no one disputes the official version of what went down on 9/11 in any meaningful way. However, an illusion it is,- to which the multitude of alternative media sources challenging the official version of events is testament.

For additional info, links to articles on the Mariani court case, an online petition supporting Mrs Mariani's effort, etc. you may want to go here.

There May Be Something to This Picture...


I don't know much about the Skull and Bones Society,- a secretive student group at Yale University to which both George W Bush and John Kerry are alleged to have belonged while at Yale. However, the lack of a real public debate that one would expect prior to a crucial Presidential Election makes this picture look somewhat relevant to me.

Friday, September 17, 2004

17,000 Short

A UPI report states that the Iraq war casualty figures are about 17,000 short.
In a statement Wednesday, the Pentagon gave a different definition that included casualty descriptions by severity and type and said most medical evacuations did not count. "The great majority of service members medically evacuated from Operation Iraqi Freedom are not casualties, by either Department of Defense definitions or the common understanding of the average newspaper reader." It cited such ailments as "muscle strain, back pain, kidney stones, diarrhea and persistent fever" as non-casualty evacuations. "Casualty reports released to the public are generally confined to fatalities and those wounded in action," the statement said. A veterans' advocate said the Pentagon should make a full reporting of the casualties, including non-combat ailments and injuries. "They are still casualties of war," said Mike Schlee, director of the National Security and Foreign Relations Division at the American Legion. "I think we have to have an honest disclosure of what the short- and long-term casualties of any conflict are."
Mental injuries, the part of every war most hawks would rather not talk about, also appears to be a major issue.
Among veterans from Iraq seeking help from the VA, 5,375 have been diagnosed with a mental problem, making it the third-leading diagnosis after bone problems and digestive problems. Among the mental problems were 800 soldiers who became psychotic. A military study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in July showed that 16 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq might suffer major depression, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Around 11 percent of soldiers returning from Afghanistan may have the same problems, according to that study.

Great Move, Senator Kerry!

Lynne Gobbell of Moulton, Alabama was allegedly fired for displaying a pro-Kerry sticker on her car. She has since gotten a new job.
Kerry hired her to work for the DNC on Tuesday after reading a DAILY story about how her employer allegedly fired her for displaying a Kerry-Edwards political sticker. The sticker was on the rear windshield of her car.

In her Decatur office, Gobbell said that she will report to attorney Brian Oakes, the Morgan County Democratic Party's chairman.
Kudos to John Kerry,- not only for making a savvy political move, but also for doing what's right.

PNAC Primer

The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is a collection of documents outlining the doctrine that is a driving force behind many of Bush Administration's endeavours. Yet that doctrine is somehow not part of the common knowledge in the US today.

I do not have a ready-made explanation for this curious fact. This may be due to the lexical and structural complexity of the PNAC's documents. Another possible explanation is that PNAC was never directly mentioned,- approvingly or disapprovingly,- in any of the two major parties' campaign speeches that I am aware of, and the major media sources were never thorough enough to "discover" and research it on their own.

Be that as it may, let me present Bernard Weiner's execellent introduction to PNAC. I think Weiner has done a really good job of describing both the history and the ideas of PNAC.
In the early-1990s, there was a group of ideologues and power-politicians on the fringe of the Republican Party's far-right. The members of this group in 1997 would found The Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Their aim was to prepare for the day when the Republicans regained control of the White House -- and, it was hoped, the other two branches of government as well -- so that their vision of how the U.S. should move in the world would be in place and ready to go, straight off-the-shelf into official policy.

This PNAC group was led by such heavy hitters as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, James Woolsey, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol, James Bolton, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, William Bennett, Dan Quayle, Jeb Bush, most of whom were movers-and-shakers in previous Administrations, then in power-exile, as it were, while Clinton was in the White House. But even given their reputations and clout, the views of this group were regarded as too extreme to be taken seriously by the mainstream conservatives that controlled the Republican Party.

Weiner provides a point-by-point list of objectives the PNAC authors envision America fulfilling. He summarizes them thusly:
Chief among them are: 1) the policy of "pre-emptive" war -- i.e., whenever the U.S. thinks a country may be amassing too much power and/or could provide some sort of competition in the "benevolent hegemony" region, it can be attacked, without provocation. (A later corollary would rethink the country's atomic policy: nuclear weapons would no longer be considered defensive, but could be used offensively in support of political/economic ends; so-called "mini-nukes" could be employed in these regional wars.) 2) international treaties and opinion will be ignored whenever they are not seen to serve U.S. imperial goals. 3) The new policies "will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia." In short, the Bush Administration seems to see the U.S., admiringly, as a New Rome, an empire with its foreign legions (and threat of "shock&awe" attacks, including with nuclear weapons) keeping the outlying colonies, and potential competitors, in line. Those who aren't fully in accord with these goals better get out of the way; "you're either with us or against us."

I can not claim to have read all of the PNAC's documents and they are quite numerous and at times quite cryptic; however, those I did get through are pretty much consistent with Weiner's description above. I think his article is a must-read for anyone seeking the truth about what people in charge of the US policy today really think.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Pre-crime Arrests and Other Curious Facts of Life in the USA Today

A woman cop blurted out, “Look, we all know that eventually you guys were going to do something. So why should I follow you around town just waiting for you to do it? It’s a lot easier for all of us this way. You guys knew you didn’t have a permit, what did you expect?”

Was the NYPD inspired by Tom Cruise in the movie Minority Report where pre-crime police arrest those before they can do wrong? Or was it simply a call made pretty high up the food chain that the cost of a little bad PR about “civil rights curtailed” and a likely wrongful arrest lawsuit down the road were a small price to pay to put a dent in the rising chorus of anti-RNC voices in the streets?

Mainstream media would laud these “successful police tactics” later under headlines such as “protesters clash with police” I later read.

"You are not going anywhere until Bush leaves town” I would hear a few times from various jailers over the next 48 hours.

This is part of the description Jeff Paterson wrote of his arrest and detention in New York City during the 2004 Republican national Convention. It is a very interesting account providing the picture emerging today of police effectively performing a function more consistent with that of a political tool rather than a law enforcement or public safety agency.

Simply put, it is a well carried out plan all around. Everyone did their job well. Organizers followed police instructions to proceed down a specific sidewalk. Cops methodically took up positions for the coming ambush. A “warning” was issued, and the arrest announcement was given. Police troop movements seemingly prevented any possibility of escape.

But escape many did. Television crews with anchormen in suits, women in “Republican” looking dress, and a few others that could prove that they were indeed “good Americans” in the wrong place at the wrong time. My “Independent Media Center Working Press” badge displayed on my camera strap did not suffice for a free pass. While NYPD Police Officer Western who arrested me paused momentarily on the question of rounding up the media, his supervisor quickly clarified that my IMC press credentials were indeed “arrest-able.”

So, this is quite curious. Since when does American law stipulate that you are subject to arrest not based upon what you have done,- or conspired to do,- but merely based upon your appearance?

This is an interesting account. It is also a scary account,- not because of what is described there, but because it is hard not to view this as a test conducted by the authorities in order to see how far they can get in using abusive and unconstitutional tactics in suppressing and criminalizing dissent and free speech. I think this is a call to all Americans valuing their constitutional freedoms to rise up and decisively denounce these tactics,- regardless of whether they support the demonstrators arrested in New York City or endorse their message.

Who is Richard Perle?

Here is a good article about a man who has mostly stayed in the shadows but has been a powerful conservative political player in Washington for many years.

A center of ethical controversy as long as he has been in Washington – twice in the 1980s over perceived conflicts of interest with Israel – Perle has survived because of powerful patrons like Kissinger and Black, whose wife, Barbara Amiel, also serves on the board of the Jerusalem Post. Black's Hollinger holdings include some 200 publications, including conservative newspapers such as the Chicago Sun-Times, London Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and Jerusalem Post.

Perle turned down an appointment in the Bush Defense Department in order to take the position as chairman of the policy board and continue his business interests, which center around Trireme Partners Ltd., a company that invests in defense and security companies and has Kissinger as one of its advisers.

Perle was forced out of his Pentagon position when it became public this year that Global Crossing was paying him to lobby the Pentagon at the same time he was heading the Pentagon advisory group. His resignation came two weeks after allegations by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker that Perle used his position as Pentagon adviser to try to profit from the war in Iraq.

Last April, even after resigning his Pentagon post over conflicts of interest, he was invited by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to testify as an "expert" on Iraq. According to Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan and a leading expert on Iraq who was also on the panel, Perle used his time "flacking for Ahmad Chalabi." Perle was added to the panel at the last minute, says Cole, "and it is mysterious why he was there, since ours was supposed to be an 'expert' panel."

With these latest charges, even people in the foreign policy establishment can see Perle for what he is: a sleazy, self-interested operator. Leslie Gelb, a former colleague of both mine and Perle's and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, says Perle was "seduced by money."

Quite a few fall for the charms of that seduction, and that in itself is nothing new. However, the fact that a person like Perle has been time and again appointed to powerful official positions is a sign that our system of checks and balances is not working as well as it should. Unfortunately, we may not have heard the last of him yet.

How comforting to know U.S. foreign policy – especially the war power – is in the hands of such principled people. If Bush is re-elected, rest assured Richard Perle will be back.

Uri Avnery on The Two Recent Public Letters in Israel

This is Uri Avnery's analysis of the two manifestos recently published in Israel. The first public letter Uri Avnery writes about is the one authored by some of Israel's hardliners protesting the proposed pullout from Gaza. The second one is a religious edict seeking to give the Israeli military guidance as to the value of the enemy civilians' lives.

I think Avnery's criticism of the first letter leans too much on the issue of the writers' perceived racism. Racism is likely a major factor here; however, I think it is easier to debunk their claims by simply bringing up the fact that Gaza settlers are being resettled into reasonably comfortable residences and compensated financially for whatever losses they may incur. And while the definition of what constitutes a crime may vary from person to person, I don't think those who compare the plight of the Gaza settlers to that of the people resettled by Stalin into the deadly Siberian cold with no adequate means for survival have much of a point. Furthermore, those settlers live in an area that was never officially listed as part of their country of citizenship, hence their right to reside there indefinitely can not be guaranteed.

Some of what Avnery says about the second letter is quite poignant.
The second manifesto declares that the Halakha (Jewish religious law) commands the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians if this helps to save Jews. It is signed by the heads of the "Arrangement Yeshivot," the West Bank settlement rabbis and other religious leaders. They were later joined by one of the two chief rabbis (the Sephardic one).

The second manifesto is far more dangerous. A religious doctrine that calls for the killing of civilians in the name of God is very serious. Such a decree signed by the rabbis of the "Arrangement Yeshivot" is tenfold worse.

In order to understand this, one has to know that these Yeshivot are in fact military units. They constitute a unique phenomenon in the Israeli army: whole units formed on an ideological-political basis, obeying their own leaders.
The present setup was created, officially, in order to enable students of Yeshivot (Jewish religious seminaries) to serve in the army without interrupting their studies. In practice, they constitute a militia of the extreme-right wing, especially the settlers. While serving in the army, the Yeshiva students are nominally under the army chain of command, but in practice they are also subject to their rabbis, whose position is reminiscent of the political commissars of the Red Army.

The stories I've heard from many veterans of the IDF is that the force is largely secular. However, the fact that there are such "ideological-political" units in the IDF is a serious concern, and it is also a serious concern that the "Rabbis' Letter" may be taken up by some in those units as a "Rules of Engagement" manual.

Avnery wraps up his article with the words to which I fully subscribe.

May God protect us from those who would speak in His name.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

War Or Terror: What's Worse?

This is an interesting review of casualties of the "War on Terror" vs the losses the world suffered from terrorism itself in the recent decades.
When the US death toll in Iraq crossed 1,000 last week, the number seemed like a shocker. However, that figure pales in comparison with the 30,000 Afghans and Iraqis estimated to have died in the War on Terror.
The total figure of 30,000 is more than the number of people killed in terrorist acts in the last 35 years - studies show 22,000 people have been killed in terrorist incidents since 1968.

The cost of reconstruction and related aid has been estimated at $23 billion in Iraq and $30 billion in Afghanistan which seems much smaller than the $100 billion loss caused by the WTC attacks. But while the WTC losses translate to 0.91% of US GDP, it amounts to 59% of Iraq's GDP and 150% of Afghanistan's GDP in 2003.
It is also worth noting that it is not clear that the "War on Terror" has thus far yielded tangible results in terms of reducing the terror threat.

When Saddam was Nasty, and That was Just Fine

Here is a timeline on the use of WMD's by the Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in 1980's.

Rumsfeld's dirty war on terror

The following (Part 1, Part 2) are a couple of extracts from Seymour Hersh's new book, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. In his book, Mr Hersh asserts the connection between various human rights violations, including torture, committed by the US forces in the course of the war on terror, and the highest levels of the US Department of Defense leadership.

He also shines light on the government's incompetence,- which, however, appears not to be on any of the US high ranking official's "to fix immediately" list.
...the interrogations at Guantánamo were a bust. Very little useful intelligence had been gathered, while prisoners from around the world continued to flow into the base, and the facility constantly expanded. The CIA analyst had been sent there to find out what was going wrong. He was fluent in Arabic and familiar with the Islamic world. He was held in high respect within the agency, and was capable of reporting directly, if he chose, to George Tenet, the CIA director. The analyst did more than just visit and inspect. He interviewed at least 30 prisoners to find out who they were and how they ended up in Guantánamo. Some of his findings, he later confided to a former CIA colleague, were devastating.

"He came back convinced that we were committing war crimes in Guantánamo," the colleague told me. "Based on his sample, more than half the people there didn't belong there. He found people lying in their own faeces," including two captives, perhaps in their 80s, who were clearly suffering from dementia. "He thought what was going on was an outrage," the CIA colleague added. There was no rational system for determining who was important.

Two former administration officials who read the analyst's highly classified report told me that its message was grim. According to a former White House official, the analyst's disturbing conclusion was that "if we captured some people who weren't terrorists when we got them, they are now".
It is certainly comforting to know that we are not only fighting terrorists but also manufacturing new ones as we go. And aren't we all lucky to have people like Mr Bush and Mr Rumsfeld spreading democracy throughout the world?

Americans' Perception of AIPAC

A poll was recently conducted to see what Americans think about AIPAC. And here are the results.
The poll found 61% "strongly or somewhat agree" that AIPAC should be asked to register as a foreign agent and lose its tax exempt status, while only 12% strongly or somewhat disagree that it should. 27% were unsure on the issue.

Frankly, the very name of this organization,- "The American Israel Public Affairs Committee: America's Pro-Israel Lobby",- suggests that this organization is at the very least international and not a purely US-based political organization.

The poll is apparently tied to the scandal unfolding around the allegations of Israeli spying in the US,- allegations that implicate AIPAC. Whether those allegations are true or not should not, in my opinion, seriously affect the perception of AIPAC in the US. It is clear that this is an organization that, by its very name, states furthering the interests of a foreign state (Israel) as its primary objective. There is nothing wrong with having such an objective; however, as it does not qualify as either charity or domestic political activity, it is quite clear that AIPAC should not be tax-exempt.

Top 10 Signs You Might Not Get a Fair Trial at Gitmo

A nice summary, courtesy Connie Rice.

Ex-Feds on the Bush Administration and 9/11 Commission

According to this Village Voice report,
A group of 25 former federal employees directly involved in the government's counterintelligence and counterterrorism programs held a press conference here [Washington, DC] this morning to lambaste both the 9-11 Commission and the Bush administration for failing to hold government officials accountable for failures leading up to 9-11.
The ex-feds bring a lots of experience to the table, and the evidence they cite to illustrate the government's incredible incompetence in the area of counter-terrorism is certainly poignant.

Diane Kleiman, a former Customs agent at JFK who was fired in 1999, scoffed at the idea that airport security has been improved. Emphasis on checking passengers coming into the airport hides the real problems in the back of the airport, she said, where literally anybody can board a parked plane. She outlined a scenario, for instance, in which, say, 10 terrorists could apply to be cargo handlers (a job with high turnover), get hired and work, but then quit, retaining their passes, which give them access to ramps and the unlocked aircraft. They then could enter the airports with backpacks full of explosives, get on the planes, stash the bags in the cargo holds, and leave. In this way, 10 planes with all their passengers could be blown up.

Holding up a special government security-clearance pass, she described how lax airport security remains. Her pass gave her entrance to every nook and cranny of the airport, from ramps to runways to planes to cargo-handling entrances. Such a pass is worth thousands of dollars to any would-be terrorist. When she was fired, nobody took this valuable passport from her. "The leadership and management at JFK are terrible," she said.

Many of the names of those involved in this group are no news to those of us who have followed the recent string of internal disclosures within various bureaucracies in the US government. Those disclosures mostly testify to the fact that many in the government mostly concern themselves with scoring political points and to that end sacrifice and destroy professionalism in the ranks. Secrecy and obfuscation is used to cover one's tracks.

The 25 signed a letter to Congress—organized by Sibel Edmonds, the former FBI whistleblower who is blocked from telling what she knows by a Justice Department gag order—citing "intentional actions or inaction by individuals responsible for our national security, actions or inaction dictated by motives other than the security of the people of the United States."

The 9-11 Commission's final report, the letter added, "deliberately ignores officials and civil servants who were, and still are, clearly negligent and/or derelict in their duties to the nation. If these individuals are protected, rather than held accountable, the mindset that enabled 9-11 will persist, no matter how many layers of bureaucracy are added, and no matter how much money is poured into the agencies. Character counts. Personal integrity, courage, and professionalism make the difference. Only a commission bent on holding no one responsible and reaching unanimity could have missed that."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Poll: Americans Resigned To Terror

According to a CBS News poll, 71% of Americans believe the threat of terrorism will always be with us. The poll also offers other interesting findings.

Some may say this perception is gloomy. But to me, it is good news. After all, in my humble opinion, expecting for terrorism to disappear is as realistic as expecting crime or alcoholism to become things of the past. This perception shows that Americans may be willing to embrace pragmatism and pressure their government to pursue a realistic goal of keeping the threat of terror to a minimum as opposed to waging an unrealistic and undefined "War on Terror",- which, just like the "War on Drugs" is likely to create more problems than it solves.

The Potential Hidden Cost of 9/11

It is official: the people who lived and breathed in Lower Manhattan after 9/11 have been subjected to severe environmental danger, and the number of them who may be reasonable expected to die as a result exceeds the immediate death toll of 9/11.
The US government study provides the latest evidence of a systematic cover-up of the health toll from pollution after the 9/11 disaster, which doctors fear will cause more deaths than the attacks themselves.
The official report - sent to Congress last week by the US Government Accountability Office - says that between 250,000 and 400,000 people in lower Manhattan were exposed to the pollution on 11 September 2001. But it shows that the government has yet to make a comprehensive effort to study the effects on their health.
In a way, this is reminiscent of the "Gulf War Syndrome". While medical and military professionals argue over whether or not the veterans of that war exhibit a set of conditions consistent enough to be called a syndrome, 10,000 of those veterans have died since the Gulf War. Given their average age and the fact that of those 10,000 few suffered injuries while in the theater of operations, that figure is exceedingly high and can in no way be attributed to normal causes of death.

"War is a Racket"

This is the title of a paper authored by Smedley Darlington Butler (1881-1940), a Major General in the United States Marine Corps. Adjusting for different conditions and different worth of the dollar at the time, I think it is highly relevant, in just about its every sentence, to the events of today.

Writes Butler,

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits – ah! that is another matter – twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent – the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let's get it.

Of course, it isn't put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and "we must all put our shoulders to the wheel," but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket – and are safely pocketed.
Could we word it better today? Not me, that for sure. At any rate, I think General Butler was a smart man, and I think we could all learn a thing or two from his wisdom.

Dr. Khassan Baiev on the Beslan Tragedy

This is what Dr. Baiev, a Chechen surgeon who worked in the frontlines of both Chechen wars, has to say about the tragedy of Beslan. While there are some inconsistencies in the article,- for instance, ex-Russian President Boris Yeltsin sent the troops into Chechnya in 1994, not 2003,- a lot of points Dr. Baiev makes certainly make sense.

I am not sure why Dr Baiev refers to the latest events as "the recent 10-year war with Russia". I believe for three years, between 1996 and 1999, there was no active warfare and Russian troops were not in Chechnya. However, there was never real peace, and Chechnya, destroyed in the first war, was never rebuilt and remained a violent and lawless land. However, Dr Baiev is probably right when he writes,
I fear for the future of Chechnya - and of Russia, too - as President Vladimir Putin vows to place his country on a wartime footing against terrorism. Violence begets violence. If there is no peaceful resolution to the Russian-Chechen conflict, terrorism is likely to increase. More young women will strap on suicide belts, women who are not the puppets of Middle East extremists but mothers, daughters and wives driven mad by loss. Increasingly Chechnya will become a cause for extremists who have declared war on the Western way of life.

Dr Baiev is Chairman of International Committee for the Children of Chechnya. He is also the author of The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Lynne Gobbell: Another Victim of The Struggle for Democracy in The US?

Lynne Gobbell of Moulton, Alabama claims to have been fired for displaying a Kerry/Edwards campaign sticker on her car.
Gobbell gave this account:

"We were going back to work from break, and my manager told me that Phil [Phil Gaddis, Gobell's employer] said to remove the sticker off my car or I was fired," she said. "I told him that Phil couldn't tell me who to vote for. He said, 'Go tell him.'

She went to Gaddis' office, knocked on the door and entered on his orders.

"Phil and another man who works there were there," she said. "I asked him if he said to remove the sticker and he said, 'Yes, I did.' I told him he couldn't tell me who to vote for. When I told him that, he told me, 'I own this place.' I told him he still couldn't tell me who to vote for."

Gobbell said Gaddis told her to "get out of here."

"I asked him if I was fired and he told me he was thinking about it," she said. "I said, 'Well, am I fired?' He hollered and said, 'Get out of here and shut the door.'

She said her manager was standing in another room and she asked him if that meant for her to go back to work or go home. The manager told her to go back to work, but he came back a few minutes later and said, " 'I reckon you're fired. You could either work for him or John Kerry,' " Gobbell said.
If what she is saying is true, she has joined ranks with other victims of politically-inspired personnel policy by some in the private sector. I have previously commented on Glen Hiller who lost his job under similar circumstances. We as a society need to find a way to express our solidarity with people who lose their source of income for merely excercising their inalienable civil rights. A financial support infrastructure for such people is the first thing that comes to my mind. Any other ideas, anybody?

Cheney and The Politics of Fear

A good review of fear-mongering as a political and propaganda tool, as well as the way the neo-conservatives in power in the US today use it.

September 13, 2004: A War Video

This is a video of a clash in Baghdad. I don't have enough military experience to comment on this, but I do think that this is the way to show war, so that no one has any illusions as to what it is about.

"Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War"

This is another quality documentary about the 9/11, Iraq war and other key aspects of the current US politics and policy. You can view it here. To learn more about it or to purchase in online, click here.

The film is in many ways akin to "Hijacking Catastrophe",- in fact, I think some of the same footage is used in both documentaries. However, "Uncovered" offers its unique view of the events.

What motivates Abu Mujahed?

Abu Mujahed is a nome-de-guerre of an Iraqi resistance fighter interviewed by The Observer in Baghdad. Unlike many other resistance operatives who appear to have little concern for Iraqi civilian casualties this man and his comrades in arms appear to concern themselves greatly with sparing their civilian compatriots which in my book earns one a lot of respect. It is also interesting to note his group's ideological position and attitude towards other groups fighting the US and its allies in Iraq.
Western intelligence analysts worry that various resistance elements might combine. But Abu Mujahed dismissed the Mahdi Army as 'thugs and traitors who ... welcomed the Americans to Iraq with flowers and then went looting' and said that relations with Islamic militants coming from overseas are worse.

'Some have no allegiance to any group, others have so much money they must come from al-Qaeda. It is impossible to work with them. They are bloody people, far too irrational. They do not care if they kill innocent Iraqi people. They are terrorists.'
Overall, I think this interview provides a very intriguing insight into the world of Iraqi resistance,- and, in fact, into the perceptions of any nation which finds itself under foreign occupation.

Watch "Hijacking Catastrophe" On-Line

Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear, and the Selling of American Empire is now available for viewing online, courtesy Information Clearing House.

I have mentioned this film before, and I think this is a very thorough analysis of the political, economic and military shortcomings of the Bush Administration and the neo-conservative doctrine this Administration is following.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

"Hijacking Catastrophe" Introduced on "Democracy Now!"

"Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear and the Selling of American Empire" is now hitting the theaters. Click here to see it introduced on "Democracy Now!". The introduction includes an interview with Sut Jhally, the film's director and a University of Massachusetts professor.

I have written about this documentary before. Here is how the team that made the film introduces it:
Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire examines how a radical fringe of the Republican Party used the trauma of the 9/11 terror attacks to advance a pre-existing agenda to radically transform American foreign policy while rolling back civil liberties and social programs at home. The documentary places the Bush administration’s false justifications for war in Iraq within the larger context of a two-decade struggle by neoconservatives to dramatically increase military spending in the wake of the cold war, and to expand American power globally by means of military force. At the same time, the documentary argues that the Bush administration has sold this radical and controversial plan for aggressive American military intervention by deliberately manipulating intelligence, political imagery, and the fears of the American people after 9/11.

Circle Of Accountability

This PBS report is certainly good news, as it is about time the mainstream media in the US dropped the veil of "politically correct" reporting on 9/11 and the "War on Terror". It may not go as far as I might have gone if I were to write an article along the same lines,- but it definitely makes a whole-hearted attempt to call things what they are.

Digg This!!!