Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Latest British 'Terror Plot' Was Either Bizarre Or Brilliant

British police staged a shock-and-awe raid on a quiet residential neighborhood early this morning, disrupting an awful lot of people in a hunt that may turn out to be of the "wild goose" variety. The Times reported it this way:

British Muslim soldier 'was target of terror plot'
Counter-terrorism police in the West Midlands today foiled a suspected plot to kidnap and torture a British Muslim soldier before beheading him live on the internet, Iraqi-style.

Police arrested eight men in a series of pre-dawn raids at 12 addresses in Birmingham, including four commerical premises. A ninth suspect was arrested this afternoon on a motorway in the Birmingham area in connection with the alleged plot.

No details have officially confirmed about the plot, but security sources said that it appeared to have been in its late stages. If confirmed, it will mark a chilling new tack for Islamic terrorism in Britain.

The sources said that the alleged plotters planned to force their victim to plead for his life in online videos before torturing him and executing him much as Ken Bigley, the Liverpool hostage, was killed in Iraq in October 2004. The beheading would have been shown live on an extremist website.
If this "plot" was real, it was bizarre.

If it was fabricated, it was brilliant.

Here's more from The Times:

Police swooped before dawn to foil 'kidnap plot'
Locals in Jackson Rd, Alum Rock, were still asleep when the raid began at 4:40am, and peered out their windows to see white vans arriving in the street which lies to the east of Birmingham

One man described being woken by the noise of windows being smashed as police raided the property nearby - one of a dozen targeted in the city in connection with the alleged terror plot.

"I was woken by a bang," said Abid Hussain. "I thought there had been an accident, I thought someone had crashed into my van.

"I looked into the street and saw eight or ten police in the street and more rushing into the house.

"I don’t think they were armed but some were wearing black suits. At about 5am, they took someone away."
Away from what?
Jasvinder Chahal, who owns Chahal News, a newsagent’s on the corner of Foxton Road, said he had arrived this morning at 5am to find police everywhere.

"I have been working in the shop for 20 years and have not seen anything like this before. It’s usually a nice peaceful area."
One neighbour, who lives a few doors away, said that a couple lived there with three children.

"My daughters were leaving for school at about 8.30 this morning when they saw police everywhere.

"The family are a nice family. I believe their children are aged between 10 and 14. I am really shocked and it’s really scary because it’s on our doorstep."
Shocked and Scary. What do you know?

There's a hint of something in the air here -- can you smell it?
Raids also took place in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham where forensic officers began investigating another house, an Islamic bookshop and an internet cafe.

The metal shutters of the Maktabah bookstore were cut by police while photographers worked inside.

Sohel Aslam, from Leicester, who was passing by as the raid was going on, said he had also visited the shop to buy books for his five children.

"There are a few places around which are quite extreme, but not this place," he said.
Yes, I think I can smell it too!
The third raid in Sparkhill happened around 800 yards further south along Stratford Rd, close to the junction with Showell Green Lane.

Police were examing the inside of Blade Cybercafe and Communications, where a door at the rear had been forced open.
You'd probably have to be a terrorist to suggest that all this commotion just may have been caused by somebody making what he thought was a joke in an internet chat room. But it wouldn't be the first time such a thing has happened.

And you'd definitely have to be a terrorist -- or at least a terrorist sympathizer -- to question the timing of the raids, coming as they did after "months of surveillance" and just a few hours after Tony Blair's top fundraiser was arrested again!
BRITISH Labour Party chief fundraiser Michael Levy, a close ally of Prime Minister Tony Blair, has been arrested for a second time as part of a corruption investigation into party political funding.

Lord Levy, who is Mr Blair's Middle East envoy, was arrested yesterday on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and later released, Scotland Yard said.

He became the second person close to the Prime Minister to be held under suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
There's more on this story, of course, everywhere! The Australian has a good overview of how the tangled web began, and it's not pretty:
Popularly known as "Lord Cashpoint", Michael Levy forged links with Tony Blair soon after the now Prime Minister became Labour leader in 1994.

The pair met at an Israeli diplomatic dinner and famously became tennis partners and friends soon afterwards. In 2000, Mr Blair even installed Lord Levy in the Foreign Office as his personal envoy to the Middle East, a move that rankled some seasoned diplomats.
So ... with the stain of domestic corruption seeping ever closer to international war criminal Tony Blair, with the alleged Liquid Bombers plot having fallen apart and the prime suspect, Rashid Rauf, back in limbo in the Pakistani "justice system", Britain may have needed another jolt of fear, or perhaps Tony Blair may have felt that Britain needed such a thing.

And the implications, the ramifications, are absolutely incredible: IF it turns out that quiet, mild-mannered Muslim teenagers actually did plot to kidnap a soldier and behead him live on the internet, parents are going to start wondering: what is my child doing?

Oops! I spoke too late! They're wondering already. According to The Times:
Communities leaders claimed today that the terror raids have heightened the anxieties among the Muslim community.

Shabir Hussain, chairman of the Ludlow Road Mosque, near to the house in Jackson Road, Alum Rock, which was targeted by police, said that the raids were causing unease among local families.

"People don’t trust their own children any more. It’s causing difficulties inside families," he said.

"You feel like you should challenge your son or daughter: ‘Where are you going at night? What are you watching on TV? What are you doing on the internet?’ After this kind of thing, 100 per cent of families are worried."
Or as the BBC reported:
Muslim community leader Shabir Hussain said the community should co-operate with the police and remain vigilant of unusual activity in their homes.

"The community is under stress," he said.

"They do not know where their children are, they do not know what they do. At the mosque we are saying 'open your eyes, look underneath your feet'."
So far, it's been the BBC with the best line of the day, attributed to their Home Affairs Correspondent, Daniel Sandford:
He stressed the arrests were based on intelligence, which could prove to be wrong.
But in the meantime we have this story floating around, about Muslims planning to behead another Muslim, so the Muslim community is turned inside out, but it's also a story about terrorists plotting against a soldier, so the whole nation is rocked in such a way that the ripple effects spread around the world at the speed of internet.

All in all, if this "plot" was real, it was very bizarre.

And if it was fabricated, it was absolutely brilliant.

Either way, it's a boost to the Phony War. And it also accelerates our trip down the road to Impending Police State.

That's not to mention the people who were arrested, some of whom (or even all of whom) might be totally innocent.

It wouldn't be the first time for that, either.
Mohamed Barber told BBC News his cousin was one of the men arrested in Alum Rock.

"We can vouch for him he is innocent. He doesn't even have time to go to Friday prayers - that's how busy he is," he added.
You would think, if they were going to go to all the trouble of framing people, they would at least choose guys who go to Friday prayers. You would think...

Oh! Look over there! I think I see some wild geese!

All Eyes On Iran After False Flag Attack In Karbala

Unnamed officials from two different US government agencies have told CNN that the Pentagon is looking at possible Iranian ties to a "brazen attack" on a meeting in Karbala which left five American troops dead.

As reported here previously, the attackers wore American combat fatigues, drove black GM Suburbans, carried American weapons and spoke English. The attack was bold and swift, obviously carefully planned and well rehearsed.

According to CNN, Pentagon officials are looking at whether the attack was "carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives". CNN adds:
Both officials [...] agreed this possibility is being looked at because of the sophistication of the attack and the level of coordination.
Well forgive me for asking, but...

Since when have Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives been known for their "sophistication of attack" or "level of coordination"?

Have Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives
ever conducted an attack which was notable for its "sophistication of attack" or its "level of coordination"?

And why am I the only one asking these questions?

If the Bush administration were not so obviously eager to attack Iran, and if a lot of other things were different too, the American media might ask the same sorts of questions.

In fact, the American media might be seen as brave if it dared to mention the name of the intelligence agency which is famous for "sophistication of attack" and "level of coordination".

Such a report might even be seen as heroic, because that intelligence agency belongs to a country which has been doing everything in its power to drag the USA into a war with Iran.

So don't expect to see it anytime soon.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Where Have All The ...

There's an incredible amout of politics involved, but as the NYT reports, World Scientists Near Consensus on Warming

The headline is a bit misleading, because they're not exactly at loggerheads about warming; they're trying to come to an agreement about the wording of their report:
Scientists from across the world gathered Monday to hammer out the final details of an authoritative report on climate change that is expected to project centuries of rising temperatures and sea levels unless there are curbs in emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere.
That's what the report wants to say, but the wording is tricky because there's all manner of politics involved. And they're bickering over such things as whether the current rates of warming and melting will be typical in the future.
But scientists involved in the effort warned that squabbling among teams and government representatives from more than 100 countries — over how to portray the probable amount of sea-level rise during the 21st century — could distract from the basic finding that a warming world will be one in which shrinking coastlines are the new normal for centuries to come.
Ah yes, shrinking coastlines.

We might as well face it; No matter how much we try to curb the emissions of carbon gases, the atmosphere is already carrying a much higher concentration of carbon dioxide than it should, it's trapping heat at a greater rate than ever before, and the planet will continue to heat up, no matter what.

Regardless of what we do, the future will be hot, dry, and windy. And
Many economists and energy experts long ago abandoned any expectation that it would be possible to avoid a doubling of preindustrial carbon dioxide concentrations, given the growth of human populations, use of fossil fuels, particularly coal, and destruction of forests in the tropics.
As if that were not bad enough: the depleted uranium dust American troops are leaving in the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan will remain toxic for billions and billions of years. It will cling to tiny grains of sand which will be swept up in the hot dry winds that will literally cover the entire Earth. No place will be safe. And one radioactive particle, inhaled or ingested, is enough to ruin you.

"Depleted uranium" is not "depleted" of its radioactivity; it's not really depleted at all, but that's what they call it. In fact it's a waste product from the nuclear power industry, and the Pentagon likes making ammunition out of it because it's so heavy, and it burns on impact, so it can literally cut through a tank.

But you don't want to be anywhere near this stuff, because it's highly radioactive and it can not only give you cancer, but it can also scramble your DNA, causing birth defects. Thus many victims of depleted uranium contamination will have deformed children who are unable to reproduce, and then all of them -- the children and the parents -- will die horrible painful, deaths. The future will be hot, dry, windy, carcinogenic and mutagenic.

If there's one good thing we can all say about our so-called president, it's this: George Walker Bush did not start this depleted uranium madness. It was his father who did that, when he attacked Iraq in 1991. And William Jefferson Clinton -- to his eternal shame -- continued the insanity in Kosovo. But as with virtually everything else, George the younger seems intent on doing much more damage than either of his predecessors.

If it's any consolation, shrinking coastlines centuries from now will not be your problem.

They won't be anybody's problem.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Air America Finds A Buyer; Franken Out, Hartmann In

Air America Radio has found a buyer, Al Franken will do his final show in mid-February, and Thom Hartmann will take his spot in the afternoon lineup, according to a report from USA TODAY.

The new buyer is reportedly Stephen Green, a real estate developer from New York, whose brother Mark has been a frequent guest on the network.

Therefore, without further ado:

Rock On, Air America Radio!
Rock On, Stephen Green!
Rock On, Thom Hartmann!!
and Sayonara, Al.

and (of course) a lyric by Joe Rapposo
It's Not Easy Bein' Green
It's not that easy bein' green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red or yellow or gold
or something much more colorful like that

It's not easy bein' green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over
'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
or stars in the sky

But green's the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean
or important like a mountain
or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why,
but why wonder why? Wonder,
I am green and it'll do fine,
it's beautiful!
And I think it's what I want to be.
Best wishes to Stephen Green, Thom Hartmann, and Air America Radio!!

Bush Hates America: US Troops Face 'A Circular Firing Squad' In Iraq

Gunmen speaking English, wearing U.S. military uniforms and carrying American weapons abducted four U.S. soldiers last week [...] and then shot them to death.
This from the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
The attackers traveled in black GMC Suburbans — the type used by U.S. government convoys — had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues, and spoke English, according to senior U.S. military and Iraqi officials.
Chris Floyd certainly wasn't kidding when he asked:
Has anyone considered the possibility that these gunmen dressed as Americans, speaking English, driving American-style security vehicles and carrying American weapons were, well, Americans?
And the answer seems quite clear, at least to me:

Would you outfit your guys in new US combat fatigues, get them some black Suburbans, arm them with American weapons, and teach them to speak English, all to kill a handful of American soldiers?

There are easier ways to kill Americans in Iraq, are there not?

And why didn't they just kill them on the spot? Was there a pressing need to kidnap them first? Or was somebody just trying to make people angry?

The AP report [which I've edited slightly, for clarity] continues:
The raid, as explained by the Iraqi and U.S. officials, began after dark Jan. 20, while American military officers were meeting with their Iraqi counterparts on the main floor of the Provisional Joint Coordination Center in Karbala.

Iraqi officials said the approaching convoy of Suburbans was waved through an Iraqi checkpoint at the edge of the city. The Iraqi soldiers believed it to be American because of the type of vehicles, the distinctive camouflage American uniforms and the fact that they spoke English. One Iraqi official said the leader of the assault team was blond, but no other official confirmed that.

A top Iraqi security official for Karbala province said that the Iraqi guards at the checkpoint radioed ahead to the governor's compound to alert their compatriots that the convoy was on its way.
Whoever they were, they certainly knew where they were going and what they were doing. Hmmm...
Iraqi officials said the attackers' convoy divided upon arrival, with some vehicles parking at the back of the main building where the meeting was taking place, and others parking in front.

"The precision of the attack, the equipment used and the possible use of explosives to destroy the military vehicles in the compound suggests that the attack was well-rehearsed prior to execution," said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl of the Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

"The attackers went straight to where Americans were located in the provincial government facility, bypassing the Iraqi police in the compound," Bleichwehl said. "We are looking at all the evidence to determine who or what was responsible for the breakdown in security at the compound and the perpetration of the assault."
The fog of war in this case looks like a dust storm:

How did they know to go "straight to where Americans were located in the provincial government facility"?

And who would know about such a meeting, between the "American military officers" and "their Iraqi counterparts"?

Are "their Iraqi counterparts" working against the "American military officers"?

Or is this an operation that was set up so somebody could blame somebody else?

As for the attack itself, it was quick and vicious:
In its statement, the U.S. military said a soldier was killed and three wounded by a "hand grenade thrown into the center's main office which contains the provincial police chief's office on an upper floor."
It's Shock and Awe in miniature ...
The attackers seized four soldiers and an unclassified U.S. computer.
... and atrocity!
When they were found in a neighboring province, about 25 miles from the compound where they were captured, three of the soldiers were dead [two of them handcuffed together in the back seat of a sport utility vehicle, one on the ground] and one was mortally wounded with a gunshot to the head.
More utterly depraved stuff, and of course the question naturally arises: Who would do such a thing?

Here's Chris Floyd again:
Given the Pentagon's never-repudiated plan to foment terrorism to achieve the Bush Regime's geopolitical objectives; given the fact that Iraq is filled with private military "contractors," some of whom are almost certainly on retainer to U.S. security organs for various bits of "wetwork" and other ops on what Dick Cheney calls "the dark side"; given that we are already being told that the people who carried out this killing were "Iranian operatives" or Iraqis funded, armed and trained by same; and given the fact that the Bush Regime is now openly seeking any half-plausible pretext to launch its long-planned attack on Iran – would it not be irresponsible of us not to speculate on the ultimate origin of this bloody strike?

After all, who benefits from such a raid? All those who want more war and chaos in Iraq. This desire is not exclusive to the Bush Regime, of course – but the latter are definitely the beneficiaries of continued bloodshed, as it justifies their current policies, obscures past policies -- their deep-dyed crime against humanity in launching the war in the first place -- and it will most definitely be used to justify future policies: the "surge," the coming hellstorm of intensified urban warfare in Baghdad and the attack on Iran.

The obvious benefits that accrue to the Bush gang from this atrocity don't necessarily mean they are responsible for it; but it certainly puts them in the frame along with several other suspects.
But the AP has a different opinion: It Musta Been Those Pesky Iranians!
A senior Iraqi military official said the sophistication of the attack led him to think it was the work of Iranian agents in conjunction with Iraq's Shiite Mahdi Army militia, which Iran funds, arms and trains.
Right! Who else speaks English and rattles around Iraq in suburbans, carrying American weapons? The IRANIANS!!

And look who else is implicated: Motqada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Another fine source of blond guys wearing American combat fatigues!

It gets even more ironic insane. Because, as Chris points out,
If Sadr's forces did it, then this too is an instance of "friendly fire" – because the Mahdi Army not only receives arms from Iran; many of its troops are even now being armed, trained, paid and deployed by the United States.
So in effect the American troops in Iraq are being fed into
a circular firing squad, where they will, in effect, be killed with their own weapons. All questions of moral equivalency aside, you would have to go back to Nazi Germany to find a major power whose leaders act in such a howlingly stupid and self-destructive fashion.
Howlingly stupid? Yes indeed. However...

I take a dim view of the "stupidity defense", and I would call the administration's chosen path "self-destructive" only to the extent that America's "leaders" identify with the American troops and the American people, and clearly they do not.

It's howlingly stupid unless they consider us the enemy, in which case it -- and everything else they do -- makes perfect sense.

They didn't send enough troops, they didn't disarm the Iraqi army before they disbanded it, they didn't secure the existing explosives caches (not to mention any of the other Iraqi infrastructure), they still don't give the troops enough armor, and they don't even make Halliburton deliver on its no-bid contacts. Not to mention the shameful way they treat the vets.

And yet they say "We support the troops."

The chimperor in chief says things like "Bring it on!", and declares "Mission Accomplished" just when things are going to start getting ugly. Why? Because they are in Iraq not to win, but to fight.

They say they want "success", whatever that means, but actions speak louder than words. And their actions consistently say they're looking for a longer, wider war.

This is why they've been telling us ever since 9/11 that it's going to be "a long war" -- "a generational war". This is why they've set up death squads in Iraq.

And their supporters have the nerve to call people who oppose their war "traitors"!

Remember Me To Herald Square

Shahawar Matin Siraj was found guilty of plotting bomb attacks against NYC landmarks (including the subway station at 34th and Broadway) and sentenced to 30 years, in yet another case that seems to bear the markings of a very slick entrapment operation.

1) January 9, 2007
"Would-Be Subway Bomber" -- Who "Never Had A Violent Thought" Until He Met Undercover Cop -- Sentenced To 30 Years

2) January 11, 2007
Family of Entrapped "Terrorist" Arrested

3) January 15, 2007
Becky Akers on Entrapped "Terrorist" Shahawar Matin Siraj

4) January 25, 2007
Entrapped "Terrorist" Matin Siraj To Appeal Conviction And Sentence

5) January 26, 2007
Mother and Sister of Entrapment Victim Released; Father Still Detained Without Charge or Hearing

6) February 16, 2007
Defense Fund Established For Family Of Entrapment Victim Whose Father Is Detained Without Charge Or Hearing

7) March 4, 2007
Herald Square Bombing Conspirator Gets Five Years, Dim-Witted Accomplice Gets Promoted To 'Mastermind'

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tom Toles: There You Go

Tom Toles nails Dick "The Best Defense Is A Constant Offense" Cheney to the wall, like a specimen on a pin.

Open Thread.

Hillary Lays On The Tough Talk

According to the New York Times,
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said today that President Bush’s expectation that his successor would inherit the problems in Iraq was “the height of irresponsibility” and that Americans “should expect him to extricate our country” from the war there before he leaves office in early 2009.
The height of irresponsibility??

Knock it off, Hillary, you slay me!

I'm pretty sure the chimperor-in-chief is quaking in his snakeskins.

NYT Protest Photo = Propaganda Moment of the Moment

The National Mall was visited by two anti-Surge protesters on Saturday, joined by a young woman who came along for the photo-op, according to this picture from the New York Times.

You'll notice there's nobody else in the photo, which must have been staged shot early Saturday morning, before all the anti-protesters appeared.

The article with which this photo appeared was headlined "Protest Focuses on Iraq Troop Increase". As if the war itself were legitimate and widely supported. As if the protesters were only concerned about the so-called "Surge".

Thus the gray bitch continues its treasonous effort to mislead the American people about the war in Iraq -- and the public perception thereof.

If you're wondering how long the NYT has been a propaganda organ of the warmongers, the answer is: FOREVER!

Bush Ranges Far Afield To Reach Liquid Refreshment While Americans March In Protest

from Reuters via Malaysia: Tens of thousands demand U.S. get out of Iraq
Chanting "bring our troops home," tens of thousands of anti-war protesters rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol on Saturday to pressure the government to get out of Iraq.

Veterans and military families joined some lawmakers, peace groups and actors including Vietnam war protester Jane Fonda to urge Congress and President George W. Bush to stop funding the war and pull troops from Iraq.

"When I served in the war, I thought I was serving honorably. Instead, I was sent to war ... for causes that have proved fraudulent," said Iraq war veteran Garett Reppenhagen.

"We need to put pressure on our elected government and force them to ... bring the troops home," the former sniper said to cheers from a sign-waving crowd.

Tens of thousands of people attended the rally on the National Mall, according to a park police officer.
The protests drew similar coverage elsewhere, such as this from The Guardian:
House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. John Conyers, threatened to use congressional spending power to try to stop the war. ``George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing,'' he said, looking out at the masses. ``He can't fire you.'' Referring to Congress, the Michigan Democrat added: ``He can't fire us.

``The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today. Not only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush.''

White House spokesman Trey Bohn responded that Conyers ``needs to learn the difference between fact and fable, between a soundbite and a slur.'' He said Conyers' ``assertion that the president fires generals with whom he disagrees is flat wrong.''
Trey Bohn is a flat-out liar. And so is the New York Times: Protest Focuses on Iraq Troop Increase
Tens of thousands of protesters converged on the National Mall on Saturday to oppose President Bush’s plan for a troop increase in Iraq...
If you only read the top of the NYT article you'd think that being in Iraq is OK with most Americans, but a few of them have a problem with the "Surge". Hah!

The so-called president took the protests in stride. From the Sioux City Journal: President attends Alfalfa Club dinner
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush ventured out of the White House on a chilly Saturday night to a Washington hotel warmed by a roast of bigwig guests.

The president and his wife, Laura, took a short motorcade ride to a hotel, just blocks from the White House, to attend to the Alfalfa Club dinner, an annual event where Washington political and business leaders gather to give humorous speeches about the goings-on in the world.

Also invited were Bush's parents, former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush. The club is already a family affair -- the former president's father, Prescott Bush, once headed the club, and both Presidents Bush have also served as Alfalfa Club chief executives.

A number of Cabinet officers and White House staffers, including press secretary Tony Snow, also attended the black-tie dinner at the Capital Hilton Hotel.

The event was closed to news media coverage.

The club is named after the alfalfa plant because its roots will range far afield to reach liquid refreshment. Its sole task is holding the annual dinner. Founded in 1913, the club was off-limits to women until 1994 when then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the event with President Clinton.

Earlier Saturday, the president took a mountain bike ride on the grounds of a Secret Service training facility in Beltsville, Md., near Washington. He spent the afternoon in the White House as tens of thousands marched on the National Mall in an anti-war demonstration.
Nixon sat in the White House as thousands marched, too ... slowly going insane!

Mythical Victories In The Mythical War

David Swanson dissects the so-called president's claims of success in the so-called war against so-called terror, and gives the chimperor a zero!
President Bush claimed in his State of the Union speech to have prevented four terrorist plots. Phew! It's a good thing to know that we tossed out our Bill of Rights for some actual REASON – I mean other than turning Iraq into a training ground for terrorism.

Except that we didn't.
Swanson makes a convincing case that all four of the anti-terror "successes" claimed by the so-called president were, in his word, "fictional". It's a good read. Hint, hint!

Rashid Rauf and the Liquid Bombers came in at number 3.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bush Urges His Private Death Squad To Speed Up The Slow Rush To War With Iran

Dafna Linzer of the Washington Post reports:
Troops Authorized to Kill Iranian Operatives in Iraq
The Bush administration has authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran's influence across the Middle East and compel it to give up its nuclear program, according to government and counterterrorism officials with direct knowledge of the effort.
In Iraq, U.S. troops now have the authority to target any member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, as well as officers of its intelligence services believed to be working with Iraqi militias. [...] Bush administration officials have been urging top military commanders to exercise the authority.

The wide-ranging plan has several influential skeptics in the intelligence community, at the State Department and at the Defense Department who said that they worry it could push the growing conflict between Tehran and Washington into the center of a chaotic Iraq war.
Or -- on the contrary -- they might be intended to provoke a reaction which could then be used as a pretext for war with Iran.

Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque noticed that the Iranians who are being attacked in Iraq are in the country at the request of the government -- the government supported by the USA -- and as he says in Death and Dishonor: Bush's New Assassination Order, this leaves no doubt:
The purpose of the order is to provoke Iran into some action that can be trumpeted as a casus belli for the Bush Faction's long-planned war against Iran.

What Bush has done with this order is to turn the American military into his own private death squad. It is an act of breathtaking dishonor, of unspeakable moral filth. That this pathetic little man and the jumped-up thugs around him – especially the hulking, smirking, lying coward Dick Cheney – are allowed to show their faces among civilized people, much less exercise power over a mighty nation, remains an unfathomable mystery...and a source of deep shame for all Americans.
Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane of Raw Story have been collecting the history of our long slow rush to war. In Escalation of US Iran military planning part of six-year Administration push, they write:
The escalation of US military planning on Iran is only the latest chess move in a six-year push within the Bush Administration to attack Iran
While Iran was named a part of President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” in 2002, efforts to ignite a confrontation with Iran date back long before the post-9/11 war on terror. Presently, the Administration is trumpeting claims that Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than the CIA’s own analysis shows and positing Iranian influence in Iraq’s insurgency, but efforts to destabilize Iran have been conducted covertly for years, often using members of Congress or non-government actors in a way reminiscent of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.
There's much more good new reporting at Raw from Larisa and Muriel, including a timeline, The Build Up To Iran, which details -- step by deliberate bloodthirsty step -- exactly how our rogue administration has brought us to the very brink of war with a country which has done nothing to us or any of our people. Every step of the timeline is documented by references to mainstream news sources, so it will be invaluable for batting away wingnuts, but whether it will cut much ice against the professional mass-murderers who now run our country remains to be seen.

What is Bush thinking?

Stephen P. Pizzo at Atlantic Free Press calls it another game of Texas Hold-em and says:
He's not putting his own children's lives at risk, but OPK – Other People's Kids. [...] As long as he can keep feeding fresh troops into Iraq his project cannot be proven a failure. If Bush can just keep borrowing other people's kids to place at risk, and rolling over – renewing — his Iraq policy for just two more years, he's home free. It's another Texas “win/win” in which the perp gets away and the American people pay the price.
Pizzo is writing about banking scams and Iraq, but I believe the same demented keep-it-rolling philosophy is also driving the administration's policies in Iran, the Middle East, and the whole so-called War on so-called Terror.

In a nutshell: It's not their money being poured into Iraq, and it's not their blood either, but they and their moneyed base reap the profits.

It's not all about money, of course; to a certain extent it's also about power. But it's also about responsibility, and the avoidance thereof.

They simply can't stop now; they're in too-dangerous waters. If they stopped making war and allowed the truth to be revealed -- the truth about the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the truth about upcoming wars with Iran and likely Syria, the truth about 9/11, the truth about the so-called the War on Terror -- their final shred of legitimacy would vanish in an instant, and the so-called president and all his war-profiteering cronies -- the "have-mores" he likes to call his "base" -- would be one small step from the guillotines.

Am I dreaming? Of course I am. But at least it's a pleasant dream.

One small step for a few vicious men, and one giant leap for mankind.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Mother and Sister of Entrapment Victim Released; Father Still Detained Without Charge or Hearing

Two innocent women were released from the nightmare of the immigration prison system yesterday, after posting $35,000 bond.

Their son and brother, entrapment victim Shahawar Matin Siraj, now also known as a "convicted terrorist", was sentenced to 30 years in prison on January 8th, following his arrest in August of 2004.

In an astonishing coincidence, the other three members of his family were arrested the morning after the sentence was handed down.

Their visas had expired, but their appeals were pending. Thousands of people are in similar situations; they are normally allowed to wait for their appeals to be handled. So why was the Siraj family arrested? And why so soon after the sentence?

These are questions only the authorities can answer, but don't hold your breath waiting for answers. The authorities are not saying anything. And rightly so, from their point of view. If they tell the truth about this case, it could all fall apart -- and by "it" I mean not only the case itself but also the entire bogus war on bogus terror.

Defense attorney Martin Stolar has recently filed appeals against both the sentence and the conviction in this case. He argues that the conviction is unjust due to the jury's failure to see the obvious entrapment at the heart of the case; he also believes a 30-year sentence is extraordinarly harsh for a "crime" never committed, in which nobody was hurt and the "perpetrator" had no weapon, no independent means to obtain a weapon, and no workable plan of attack.

Indeed this case has all the earmarks of an entrapment-and-propaganda scam worthy of Kafka and Orwell at the same time.

No workable plan of attack: Like Derrick Shareef, Matin Siraj was spoon-fed the details of his "terror-plot", and prompted to talk about it, until he had said enough -- or, more accurately, until the feds had recorded enough. All they needed were the right words in the right order, and they went to extraordinary lengths to get their "evidence".

A crime on paper: Like Michael Reynolds, he was conned into doing a bit of "surveillance", a process by which he obtained (and/or prepared) diagrams of public places which could then serve as "evidence" of a terrorist attack in the early planning stages.

Politically expedient timing: Like the case of Rashid Rauf, the authorities struck when they needed a jolt of fear and a terror-related story to blot out something else in the news that seemed to be threatening their web of lies.

In all these ways and for all these reasons, Matin Sarij and his entire family have become "collateral damage" in America's endless mindless War Against Muslims.

When the 30-year sentence was handed down, Matin's family cried, "Entrapment!" Less than twelve hours later they were arrested.

Now -- after more than two weeks of unlawful confinement, after considerable support, on the net and in the streets, Matin's mother and sister have been granted a hearing and released on $35,000 bond.

But his father remains in prison, still allowed no hearing, still charged with no crime.


see also Becky Akers: When The Devil Creates A Devil | Becky Akers with Scott Horton on Antiwar Radio | Attorney Martin Stolar with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!


fifth in a series

Tom Toles: Are You Experienced?

Enjoy this Open Thread, but NO JOKES, please! ;-)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Is The White House Turning Over A New Leaf? Not In Ten Million Years!

[UPDATED below]

The headline from Reuters says "White House will cooperate with investigations", but the article below it doesn't leave the same impression. Not to me, anyway.

Here's the relevant part:
"Of course, we will cooperate with any investigations that the Congress wants to pursue. We believe in vigorous and legitimate oversight by the Congress," White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten said in an interview on National Public Radio.
Au conraire, mon ami: If there's one principle of governance this administration believes in, it's secrecy!

It's been clear ever since January of 2001 that the Bush administration does not believe in vigorous and legitimate oversight -- not by Congress, not by the American people, not by anybody.

They have classified documents at a faster rate, and released documents at a slower rate, than any administration since the Freedom Of Information Act came into existence, by far.

So Joshua Bolten's promise of cooperation rings hollow, on track record alone. But it rings hollower still when he follows it with a veiled threat.
He added, "I don't think political witch hunts are going to be particularly productive or well received here in Washington."
With this statement Bolten has laid bare the strategy by which the Shrub administration hopes to avoid being held accountable for any of the horror it has inflicted during the past six years!

According to Dictionary dot com, a "witch hunt" is "an investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views."

According to my notes about contemporary Republican usage, the word "political" is used to describe all kinds of dissent or opposition. The unspoken implication here is "We're in power; They're just jealous." And then they ignore the subject with religious fervor. Once an objection is labelled "political", they never acknowledge it again. It's almost as if the word "political" meant "beneath contempt". How ironic.

In any case, Joshua Bolten has just spelled out the White House strategy for handling the investigations which the Democrats will soon start running and with which the White House says it "will cooperate":

The White House will call such investigations "political witch hunts", implying that the administration has done nothing wrong and that the Democrats are merely harrassing them for partisan political reasons -- reasons beneath contempt.

The investigations will hardly ever get access to documents, and they will have incredible trouble getting access to witnesses, and anyone who is actually required to testify under oath will develop sudden and acute amnesia. But the White House will claim every step of the way that they are cooperating as much as they can, consistent with their sacred duty to protect our national security.

They'll also claim that the Democrats are lucky to get any "cooperation" at all, considering that their so-called investigations are little more than "political witch hunts".

Since the investigations are "political witch hunts", they will clearly not be "legitimate", and therefore even if they wind up being "vigorous", the Republicans will still treat them as "beneath contempt".

If you don't believe me, wait and see. I don't usually make predictions, but this one is easy! File it under "Obstruction of Justice 101".


Quivers of Flaming Darts to Reuters for the Headline

Imagine repeating a statement from this administration as if it were true!

What would have been wrong with ...
Bolten: White House will cooperate with investigations
White House will cooperate with investigations -- spokesman
White House says it will cooperate with investigations
White House promises to cooperate with investigations

Entrapped "Terrorist" Matin Siraj To Appeal Conviction And Sentence

The legal saga of entrapped "terrorist" Shahawar Matin Siraj, who was sentenced to thirty years in prison for saying whatever his "best friend" led him to say, may not yet be over.

Not if his attorney, Martin Stolar, has anything to say about it, anyway.

According to Court Docs dot KRKeenan dot com, an appeal has already been filed, against both the conviction and the sentence:
The lawyer for Shahawar Matin Siraj, the man convicted for plotting to blow-up the Herald Square subway station, filed a notice of appeal the day after his case, though his sentencing has been overshadowed by the arrest of his family.
The other three members of the Siraj family were arrested by federal immigration officials early in the morning -- or in the middle of the night, really -- just hours after Matin's sentence was handed down.
Neigbors and friends of the Siraj family are calling for their release, calling the Immigration and Customs Enforcement action heavy-handed and discriminatory.
That's kind of them. I would use much harsher language, if anyone were so foolish as to ask me.
Before the sentencing, Matin’s lawyers filed letters and documents from friends and family members describing him as a simple-minded young man who was manipulated by his best friend Osama Eldawoody, the main witness in the case and a paid informant.
Let's put that phrase best friend in quotes, shall we? Osama Eldawoody was certainly no friend to Matin Siraj. None of this would have happened had not Matin mistakenly thought Eldawoody was his friend.
A letter filed by Matin’s lawyer Martin R. Stolar described Eldawoody as an Egyptian Sunni muslim who introduced Matin to the concept of using violence as a form of jihad.
“While acknowledging the jury’s verdict, it is apparent that confidential informant Eldawoody spent countless hours alone with Matin creating a deep emotional bond between the two. Eldawoody frequently drove Matin home to Queens from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, using the time alone to teach Matin about the Koran and the Hadiths, or teachings of the Prophet Muhammed. Because Matin came from the shi’a Ishmaeli sect of Islam - a sect considered apostate or un-Islamic by many “mainstream” Sunni Muslims, Eldawoody spent a significant amount of time teaching Mr. Matin about Islam as understood by Eldawoody, an Egyptian Sunni whose father was an Islamic scholar. In his efforts to encourage Matin to join and stay involved in the conspiracy, Eldawoody taught Matin that Islam and jihad embraced violent concepts such as “kill the killers” and that American soldiers in the Middle East are “killers.”
Matin was not intellectually capable of executing the plot he was convicted of, according to his lawyers. He participated in the scheme to win approval from Eldawoody, whom he sought to please, they wrote. The defense lawyers argued that Matin was far from a terrorist and simply a misguided youth.
Exactly. A misguided none-too-bright young man led astray by a professional, a slick and practiced master of the entrapment game. It's everywhere. All of a sudden because of the so-called War On Terror, young, simple Muslim men are getting conned into saying they'd do things that they would never do, much less think of. And then it turns out their "best friend" was wearing a wire, and they're going to prison for a long, long time. For nothing!
“There was no loss of life, no damage to property, and no criminal organization of which the defendant was a member. Further, the defendant himself is not a dangerous psychopath, but more of a confused and misguided youngster,” according to the defense counsel’s letter. “In fact, given the legitimate basis of the (rejected) entrapment defense, it may well be that an overly lengthy sentence would not promote respect because it would flag the government’s conduct in helping to create the crime only to claim a victory in the ”war on terror,” and not to ferret out those who may be genuinely engaged in such conduct.”
Yes and No on this one. Definitely it is true that the government by creating and then solving a crime can claim a victory (however small) in the "war on terror", but I do not agree that this is the only reason behind these entrapment-sting operations.

Such operations promote the myth that terror sleeper cells are everywhere throughout America. They feed into the War on Muslims, and thus they lend support to wars against Iraq and Afghanistan (and Iran next, and perhaps others "just around the corner"). They provide useful though implausible pretexts for the gutting of the Bill Of Rights, the general shredding of our Constitution, and the loss of all our legal protection against tyranny.

The timing is always politically convenient. Matin Siraj was arrested on August 27, 2004. Why then? Put it this way: It wasn't Matin's idea to get arrested! The Republican National Convention was opening in NYC on the 30th.

By the summer of 2004, a large and growing percentage of New Yorkers understood that 9/11 and Truth could be found together but not in any official capacity, and they had become increasingly angry -- and increasingly vocal -- about the fact that the Republicans were holding their quadrennial national party in the heart of the city they had allowed to be attacked.

Many very angry people felt that the Republicans were using the wreckage of Ground Zero as a political prop, saying to America "Vote For US, because we can make sure nothing like this ever happens again!"

It was (and continues to be) the most grotesque protection racket in the sorry history of mankind. For some reason the key question, the only relevant question -- never arose: "If you -- Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Rice -- if you are so interested in protecting us, why did you allow us to be attacked in the first place?"

And feelings on the streets of NY were getting more and more along the lines of "How DARE you Republicans party in the city you allowed to be attacked?" 'Twas a heartbreaking question to be sure.

But then all of a sudden Matin Siraj was arrested and the Yellow Elephants swept into town and instead of "How dare you party here?" the tables were turned and the elephants were able to stare down the truth-tellers and huff, "How dare YOU protest against our tough response to terror, when there are terrorists among you?
Stolar argued before sentencing that Matin’s prison term should not exceed 10 years.
Insanity! Matin Siraj should not be going to prison at all! And his family should certainly be released immediately!!

Perhaps some people would argue that Osama Eldawoody's sentence should not exceed 10 years, but I would argue for the whole thirty!.

Good luck to Martin Stolnar and Matin Siraj with the appeal, and best wishes to the entire Siraj family. May truth, justice, and the virtue formerly known as "the American way" triumph in this case, for once. Please.


See also: Becky Akers with Scott Horton on AntiWar Radio | Becky Akers: When The Devil Creates A Devil | Martin Stolar with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! | Previous posts on this subject


fourth in a series

Larisa: "Chevron Rice: NOLA, no, Lebanon, yes!"

You have to read this!
During Katrina, a storm that drowned the entire city of New Orleans and nearly all of its citizens who were left behind, Condoleezza Rice was busy buying shoes and attending the theater in New York City.

Today she pledges $770 million to help Lebanon's 'fragile democracy' while many of NOLA's displaced have yet to get out of the FEMA prison-like camps they have been put into.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The "Chilling Plot" To Scare New York Senseless

The bogus terror scare we were sneering at on Monday turned out to be a big winner for the fearmongers at the New York Post.

Under the headline:


New York Post readers found out that
Al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq planned to sneak into the United States with student visas and carry out a devastating new round of 9/11-style attacks [...]
Whoa! It's a major emergency, right?

Well, not exactly...
Details of the frightening copycat plot were discovered in documents found about six months ago when coalition forces raided an insurgent hideout in Iraq, ABC News reported.
OK, what do we know about this?
Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently submitted written testimony to Congress based on a classified report that revealed al Qaeda "was planning terrorist operations in the U.S."

Maples gave no details but sources told ABC the plot may have involved as many as 20 terrorists slipping in to the United States using student visas - just like some of the 19 conspirators who carried out the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
Well of course Maples gave no details -- and it's not even clear whether the documents about which he spoke were found or fabricated.

But fortunately
The terror scheme was discovered in its early stages and there is no sign that any plotters reached the United States, the sources said.
So was the headline justified?

Elsewhere in the world, real news agencies reported that the so-called plot was "more aspirational than operational" and that the group was "years away from pulling it off".

And despite the hysterical headline, the "frightening copycat" aspect of the alleged "terror plot" seems to have consisted of nothing more than the notion that the would-be terrorists might try to slip into the USA on student visas.

  • Nothing about scheduling more than a dozen simultaneous war games in order to tie up the country's air defenses and create enough confusion to give their plot a chance.

  • Nothing about planting enough explosives in three skyscrapers so that they could be hyper-demolished -- not just knocked down but turned to dust!

  • Nothing about slamming a missile -- or a drone, or something small and extremely maneuverable -- into the Pentagon and then claiming it was a fully loaded jumbo jet.

  • Nothing about the awesome savagery of demolishing buildings full of fire and emergency workers.

  • Nothing about obtaining anthrax from a "secure" Army weapons lab, let alone arranging to have it sent to any politicians or newsmen who happened to be asking embarrassing questions.

  • Nothing about placing millions of dollars worth of put options on the very stocks which would fall after the attacks, and doing it through a bank run by a former CIA officer.

  • Nothing -- not even a hint -- about stirring the idiotic passions of a fat and stupid nation, boiling their blood with the most heinous attack imaginable, using the largest and most expensive propaganda symphony ever bought to whip them into a stupefied frenzy of hate, and using their oblivious rage as a pretext for starting the endless and limitless war the terrorists have always wanted.

  • In other words, it wasn't a "copycat plot" at all.

    9/11 II? Hardly!

    But what does the New York Post care? Fear sells papers, and since there are no longer any standards in American journalism, what's the harm?

    If you had no independent thoughts of your own, if all you knew of this so-called "terror plot" came from media coverage -- not just the Post but the American "news" media generally, you might be tempted to think this so-called "terror plot" was surprising... if we could invade and destroy a country of 28 million people, and occupy the place for nearly four years going on forever, without causing any of the natives to start thinking -- and maybe even talking -- about how fantastic it would be if just one small chunk of this great big awful war could be fought in the land of the invaders.

    Kerry Goes Out In A Blaze Of Glory

    For the very first -- and surely the only -- time since his sudden, and thoroughly unwarranted appearance at the forefront of the 2004 donkey "campaign", John F. Kerry has done something that made me very happy.

    Good luck and good riddance to the world's tallest living spineless skunk, ever to be remembered as the faux-opposition's pseudo-candidate in the ersatz election of 2004.

    And that's nothing to be sneered at; he'll be prominently mentioned in the most important footnote of the still-to-be-written classic, "History of Post-Democratic America".

    Check Out Cursor dot Org

    If you don't know about this site, you should.

    It's Cursor dot Org and it offers an excellent daily news roundup, full of interesting links, plus archives going back years.

    I just just found out about it yesterday, and it looks like a keeper. Hint, hint!

    Tom Toles: Health Care's Next!

    I'm going back to the grind for a while; perhaps I can rejoin you later in the day.

    I interested in your reactions to the SOTU obscenity perpetrated against the people of the world last night. So please speak freely, as usual.

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Bring On The Horse Manure, It's Time For Another SOTU

    The annual State Of The Union speech is due Tuesday night, so guess what we had in the news on Monday?

    Al-Qaeda No. 2 mocks new U.S. strategy for Iraq in new tape
    Al-Qaeda's deputy leader mocked President Bush's plan to send 21,000 more troops to Iraq, challenging him to send "the entire army" and vowing insurgents will defeat them, according to details from a new al-Qaeda videotape released Monday by a U.S. group that tracks terror messages.
    Do you hear that? That's the detector ticking...
    Excerpts from the video were distributed by the Washington-based SITE Institute, which said it had intercepted the footage of Ayman al-Zawahri. The tape had not yet been posted on Islamic militant websites, where his messages are usually placed.
    Do you see that? That's the detector's red light flashing!

    The SITE Institute, by the way, is The Search for International Terrorist Entities [!] and they say their transcripts and videos are available to their intel agency clients only. So sad, no? They'll tell you what he said, but they won't let you see him say it. Quite convincing, I'd say. Wouldn't you?
    SITE did not elaborate on how it received the video and it wasn't immediately possible to confirm its authenticity.
    Whoop-Whoop-Whoop!!! Unconfirmed, but rushed to release! Whoop-Whoop-Whoop!!

    And guess what else? Can't you just smell it?
    Al-Qaeda's deputy leader has mocked US President George W Bush's plans to deploy more troops in Iraq.

    In a video posted on a website, Ayman al-Zawahri challenges Mr Bush to send his entire army to the country.

    Over 20,000 more US soldiers are being sent to help the Iraqi government improve security.

    "Why send 20,000 only? Why not send 50 or 100,000? Aren't you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pining for your troops' dead bodies?" Zawahri said.
    The dogs of Iraq, pining for the troops' dead bodies. Isn't that just about perfect? And just in time, too. Hmmmm.

    In Al-Qaeda deputy mocks Bush, Britain's ITV gives us a few details that USA Today wasn't interested in conveying:
    Zawahri said peace would be impossible if Americans continued to follow the policies of Mr Bush and his administration.

    "If we are secure, you might be secure, and if we are safe, you might be safe," the website quoted Zawahri as saying.
    Ain't it peculiar how the phony terror video has the phony terror guy saying the same things that Bush's most intelligent domestic opponents would love to say? This makes it harder for such things to be said, of course, because anyone who makes ridiculous comments like "if we stop attacking them maybe they'll leave us alone" can be called a terrorist-sympathizer ... and as we all know, that's just one step away from a cage at Gitmo where in between your daily helpings of lemon chicken and two desserts you can hang from the ceiling by your wrists while the guards break your legs with baseball bats just for the fun of it.

    Oops! I wasn't supposed to say that, was I? Oh well, never mind...

    For an even more detailed account of the video, we turn to ... drum roll, please ... CNN via Kazakhstan!

    Al Qaeda deputy to U.S.: If we are killed, you will be killed
    In a video released Monday, al Qaeda's second in command ridicules President Bush's plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq and predicts a fate "worse than anything you have yet seen."

    "Security is a shared destiny," says Ayman al-Zawahiri [a.k.a. Zawahri] [...] "If we are secure, you might be secure, and if we are safe, you might be safe. And if we are struck and killed, you will definitely -- with Allah's permission -- be struck and killed."
    He rejected Bush's contention that U.S. forces have deprived al Qaeda of safe haven in Afghanistan, calling the claim a "naked, barefaced lie."

    In remarks intended for the American people, he said, "If you want to live in security, you must accept the facts of what is happening on the ground, and reject the fantasies with which Bush tries to deceive you.

    "You must honestly try to reach a mutual understanding with the Muslims, for then and only then you might enjoy security. If, however, you continue with the policy of Bush and his gang, you will never even dream of peace."

    He further warned, "What awaits you should you press on is much worse than anything you have yet seen."
    Seems plain enough to me. They hate us because of our freedoms! Argggh!

    Meanwhile, over by the barn some decaying equine fecal matter gets thrown into the mix. It's hard not to think that they've been saving this one for quite a while, letting it ripen, so to speak:

    Details emerge about possible terror threat
    Mimicking the hijackers who executed the Sept. 11 attacks, insurgents reportedly tied to al Qaeda in Iraq considered using student visas to slip terrorists into the United States to orchestrate a new attack on American soil.

    Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently testified that documents captured by coalition forces during a raid of a safe house believed to house Iraqi members of al Qaeda six months ago "revealed [AQI] was planning terrorist operations in the U.S."
    Who cares if the suspected terror plot was "more aspirational than operational"? Who cares if the progression of the plot was "so early" the group was "years away from pulling it off"? Just ramp up the fear for another SOTU! Just give this cruel and stupid little man one more chance to talk about hitting his 9/11 trifecta.

    Two More Years! Two More Years!!

    Are you ready for the SOTU yet? Or would you like a little warmongering propaganda to go along with what we've already got? Larisa Alexandrovna caught Reuters and the Associated Press serving up a steaming one, as we discussed here yesterday. Sweet!

    So maybe we should talk about the progress we're making in Iraq, where fewer than 150 people were killed in the capital city Baghdad on Monday. The Iraqi people owe us a great debt of gratitude, according to the so-called president. And we might even hear him voice that insane sentiment again on Tuesday night. Wouldn't it be loverly?

    Does all this get you in the mood for a rousing SOTU? I hope not.

    Over at the Niagara Falls Reporter, Bill Gallagher has it just about right:

    The state of the union is sad and shattered. After six years, the man who peddled himself as a "uniter" has torn our nation apart and ripped us away from the international community.

    President George W. Bush has systematically alienated most of the world and inflamed unprecedented hostility toward the United States, both from traditional friends and from an increasing number of angry people in the nations Bush has invaded, insulted, isolated and ignored.
    This is a rockin' op-ed that covers a lot of ground and I can't do it justice with a quote or even a series of quotes so I urge you to go read the whole column.

    But the State of the Union is even sorrier than Bill Gallagher writes it, because al-Q'aeda claims it shot down an American helicopter yesterday in Iraq; a dozen or more Americans died, and some others were hurt (the numbers depend on who you read).

    So that's even more bad news.

    And even though the Pentagon said it didn't know what had happened to the helicopter, the press went nuts with the old "al-Q'aeda, al-Q'aeda, al-Q'aeda" chant, because of something that was "posted on a militant Islamic website".

    And the story got some traction, spread like wildfire, and soon appeared all over the world (as such stories always do). The only little problem with this, of course, is that if it goes on long enough, people might tend to forget that al-Q'aeda Doesn't Exist.

    Are we having cognitive dissonance yet? No! because once you come to terms with the fact that al-Q'aeda is a hoax (just like the official story of 9/11 was a hoax), it gets easier to understand reports such as this one from Media Without Conscience, which says responsibility for the downed helicopter has also been claimed by another group:
    Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed on Monday that it had shot down the helicopter but a group called Jaish al-Mujaihadeen has also said it carried out the attack.
    My prediction: Don't expect to hear anything about Jaish al-Mujaihadeen (a.k.a. Jaish al-Mujahadeen) in the SOTU. But please remember all this while the so-called president fumbles his way through the speech, and try not to gag on any of it; you might suffocate and we can't have that. We're gonna need you again on Wednesday.

    USA TODAY's State Of The Union Forecast In Plain English

    I thought it might be fun to translate a few paragraphs from today's USA TODAY into plain English.

    Bush's State of the Union speech aiming to shift focus to domestic issues
    WASHINGTON — President Bush will try to change the subject from Iraq to domestic issues tonight as he delivers his State of the Union address before a Democratic-controlled Congress for the first time in his presidency.
    He can't afford to spend much time on foreign policy since so many Americans now understand the scale of the disaster it has inflicted. So instead he's gonna talk about the disasters closer to home.
    Broadly, the speech before a joint session of Congress will highlight flexibility in education standards, alternatives to oil as a way to reduce "greenhouse gases" and new tax breaks for health insurance.
    He can tell any bald-face lie he likes about the USA suddenly fighting climate change, but I won't believe a word of it. And unless I'm much mistaken he's also gonna tell us lies about how he plans to rob public education and swindle us on health insurance.

    Guess what? He thinks we're stupid!!

    And guess what? We are!!

    But we're getting smarter all the time.
    With his job approval rating hovering in the mid-30% range, Bush's overall agenda for the speech is twofold: present himself to the public as a leader with a sincere desire to work across party lines on practical solutions, and place pressure onto Democratic leaders to either go along or offer alternatives.
    Would his sincere desire to work across party lines be reflected in the "Surge"? Do they think we can't remember past last week?

    Besides which, Democrats have been going along and offering alternatives for six years. He's dismissed every single alternative as unworthy of serious consideration. Lately he's been saying nobody has ever offered any alternatives. What a sham!

    Of course, what he really means is: "Nobody has offered any alternatives that are completely acceptable to the people who are really in charge here."

    And how many of us are smart enough to notice that?

    I don't know the exact number but I can see it getting bigger every day.

    Thanks to you, it's spreading.

    Israeli Attorney General: Indict President Moshe Katsav For Rape And Abuse Of Power

    from The Guardian: Israeli president faces rape charges
    The Israeli attorney general today recommended that the country's president, Moshe Katsav, be indicted on charges of rape and abuse of power.

    Mr Katsav - who has been defying calls to resign or step aside while the case against him progresses - has been waiting more than three months for Menachem Mazuz's recommendations.

    A final decision on an indictment of the 60-year-old can only be made after a hearing at which he will be able to present his case.

    The Israeli president - who is the country's ceremonial head of state - has denied the charges, claiming he is the victim of a conspiracy by political enemies.

    The charges stem from complaints made by several women who worked for him during his tenure as president and, before that, as a cabinet minister.

    In October last year, police said that after months of investigations they had enough evidence to call for Mr Katsav to be charged with rape and sexual assault as well as fraud, illegal wiretapping, bribery and obstruction of justice.

    Five women from his office have provided evidence against him, saying that, in some cases, he forced them to have sex. A further five women made complaints of sexual harassment dating back several years.

    After the police announcement about the investigation in October, it was left to Mr Mazuz to study the evidence.

    Today, his office issued a statement saying it had collected enough evidence to support an indictment against Mr Katsav on charges of rape, harassment, abuse of power and obstruction of justice, among other crimes.
    and more...

    CRUCIAL VIDEO: al-Q'aeda Doesn't Exist

    This eight-minute excerpt from "The Power Of Nightmares" is wonderfully succinct.

    The BBC documentary from which the clip is taken is excellent, and you can watch the full video via links from this beautiful page at Really News dot com.

    The video clip here is available at YouTube courtesy of Halifaxion.

    Monday, January 22, 2007

    Carlotta Gall Asks "Where Is Mulla Omar?" And Gets Punched In The Face For Her Efforts

    Journalist Carlotta Gall has been asking tough questions in Pakistan, and she has the bruises to show for it. In Rough treatment for 2 journalists she describes being attacked by Pakistani intelligence agents.
    My photographer, Akhtar Soomro, and I were followed over several days of reporting in Quetta by plainclothes intelligence officials who were posted at our respective hotels.

    That is not unusual in Pakistan, where accredited journalists are free to travel and report, but their movements, phone calls and interviews are often monitored.

    On our fifth and last day in Quetta, Dec. 19, four plainclothesmen detained Soomro at his hotel in the downtown area and seized his computer and photographic equipment. They raided my hotel room that evening, using a key card to open the door and then breaking through the chain that I had locked from the inside. They seized a computer, notebooks and a cellphone.

    One agent punched me twice in the face and head and knocked me to the floor. I was left with bruises on my arms, temple and cheekbone, swelling on my eye and a sprained knee. One of the men told me that I was not permitted to visit Pashtunabad, a neighborhood in Quetta, and that it was forbidden to interview Taliban members.
    Carlotta Gall's offense? She was asking questions like: Are Pakistani intelligence agencies promoting Islamic insurgency?
    The government of Pakistan vehemently rejects the allegation and insists that it is fully committed to helping U.S. and NATO forces prevail against the Taliban militants who were driven from power in Afghanistan in 2001.

    But Western diplomats in both countries and Pakistani opposition figures say that Pakistani intelligence agencies — in particular the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence — have been supporting a Taliban restoration, motivated not only by Islamic fervor but also by a longstanding view that the jihadist movement allows them to assert greater influence on Pakistan's vulnerable western flank.

    More than two weeks of reporting along this frontier, including dozens of interviews with residents on each side of the porous border, leaves little doubt that Quetta is an important base for the Taliban.

    There are many signs that Pakistani authorities are encouraging the insurgents, if not sponsoring them.
    The "signs" consist of anecdotal evidence, told in fearful whispers:
    At Jamiya Islamiya, a religious school here in Quetta, Taliban sympathies are on flagrant display, and residents say students have gone with their teachers' blessings to die in suicide bombings in Afghanistan.

    Three families whose sons had died as suicide bombers in Afghanistan said they were afraid to talk about the deaths because of pressure from Pakistani intelligence agents. Local people say dozens of families have had sons die as suicide bombers and fighters in Afghanistan.

    One former Taliban commander said in an interview that he had been jailed by Pakistani intelligence officials because he would not go to Afghanistan to fight. He said that, for Western and local consumption, his arrest had been billed as part of Pakistan's crackdown on the Taliban in Pakistan. Former Taliban members who have refused to fight in Afghanistan have been arrested — or even mysteriously killed — after resisting pressure to re-enlist in the Taliban, Pakistani and Afghan tribal elders said.

    "The Pakistanis are actively supporting the Taliban," declared a Western diplomat in an interview in Kabul. He said he had seen an intelligence report of a recent meeting on the Afghan border between a senior Taliban commander and a retired colonel of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence.
    The history goes way back.
    The Pakistani military and intelligence services have for decades used religious parties as a convenient instrument to keep domestic political opponents at bay and for foreign policy adventures, said Husain Haqqani, a former adviser to several of Pakistan's prime ministers and the author of a book on the relationship between the Islamists and the Pakistani security forces.

    The religious parties recruited for the jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan from the 1980s, when the Pakistani intelligence agencies ran the resistance by the mujahedeen and channeled money to them from the United States and Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Haqqani said.

    In return for help in Kashmir and Afghanistan the intelligence services would rig votes for the religious parties and allow them freedom to operate, he said. "The religious parties provide them with recruits, personnel, cover and deniability," Haqqani said in a telephone interview from Washington, where he is now a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    The Inter-Services Intelligence once had an entire wing dedicated to training jihadis, he said. Today the religious parties probably have enough of their own people to do the training, but, he added, the Inter-Services Intelligence so thoroughly monitors phone calls and people's movements that it would be almost impossible for any religious party to operate a training camp without its knowledge.

    "They trained the people who are at the heart of it all, and they have done nothing to roll back their protégés," Haqqani said.
    Some of the evidence is much more visible:
    Hamid Gul, the former director general of Pakistani intelligence, remains a public and unapologetic supporter of the Taliban, visiting madrasas and speaking in support of jihad at graduation ceremonies.
    Big surprise! The civilians who dared to speak with Carlotta Gall have been visited by Pakistani intelligence, according to this report:
    It has become clear that intelligence agents copied data from our computers, notebooks and cellphones and have tracked down contacts and acquaintances in Quetta. All the people I interviewed were subsequently visited by intelligence agents, and local journalists who helped me were later questioned by Pakistan's intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence.

    [Photographer Akhtar] Soomro has been warned not to work for The New York Times or any other foreign news organization.
    Of course the obvious question is:

    If Pakistan is not providing assistance to the Taliban, why would ISI agents assault a reporter who asked questions about the relationship, and why would they intimidate anyone who dared to speak to her?

    A report from The Times of India contains a few additional details: Civilians on the border fear ISI
    Carlotta Gall, a New York Times correspondent, who was manhandled and punched on December 19 by Pakistani agents who broke into her hotel room in Quetta, said Pakistanis and Afghans interviewed on the frontier — frightened by the long reach of Pakistan's intelligence agencies, spoke only with assurances that they would not be named. Even then, they spoke cautiously.

    Despite this, they were visited by the ISI because the goons who broke into her hotel room copied data from the computers, notebooks and cellphones they seized, and tracked down her contacts and acquaintances.

    They have been lucky not to have been killed so far because the ISI has a built a hideous reputation for bumping off people they see as being inimical to hardline Pakistani interests.

    Some months back, Hayatullah Khan, a Pakistani journalist who exposed as lie the Pakistan military's claim of an attack on a terror camp (which was actually conducted by the US) was killed in cold blood. Several other journalists have been killed since the trend began with the unsolved murder of Daniel Pearl.

    Gall also wrote that a dirty war is building between Afghan and Pakistani intelligence agencies. An Afghan intelligence official told her that one of its informers in Pakistan was recently killed and dumped in pieces in Peshawar. Gall's story quoted the brother of a Pakistani jehadi saying, "All Taliban are ISI Taliban. It is not possible to go to Afghanistan without ISI help."
    How about that?

    The Pakistani Foreign Ministry denies everything but provides no information: Taliban Chief Said Likely in Afghanistan
    Taliban leader Mullah Omar is likely based in southern Afghanistan and leading the resurgent Islamic militia from there, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said Monday. A spokeswoman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said that Omar's exact whereabouts remain unknown.

    "But generally the likely scenario is that he is in Kandahar, from where he is marshaling his troops," spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said at a news conference, referring to a city in southern Afghanistan.

    Aslam's comments follow claims by Afghan officials that a captured spokesman for the Taliban militia told interrogators that Omar was living in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta and that he was protected by Pakistan's ISI intelligence service. The purported Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Hanif, was arrested last week in eastern Afghanistan.
    And there's more here: Fugitive Mullah Omar leaves only a trail of devotees