Archive for July, 2005

Terror War breeds terror

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

Can I make this short and simple?

The rightist blog Neognostikos has picked up on my previous post about Thomas Friedman, anti-Muslim propaganda, and the “excuse” rhetoric being used by officials to shut off debate about the failure of the Terror War to prevent terrorism.

When I tried to explain how there is quenching of “public discourse on the extreme violence that emanates from the US-run Terror War itself”, I was not understood.

I agree. Some of my text is too convoluted to follow easily. Here, I’ll try one of the main points again:


Condi and Tony take chapter from Thomas Friedman

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

“Excuse makers”: New York Times propagandist turns a useful phrase

Image of US Department of Defense propaganda brochure used in Afghan war, depicts the evil ones as less than human (reads, “They’re about to fall!” Names: Haqqani, Bin Laden, Mutawakkil) — Domestic reflection: Anyone concerned about US-UK brutality in Muslim lands is just making excuses for the subhuman killers.

In the wake of the terrible London bombing incidents, there has been a raft of official squirms from Tony Blair and US officials against the notion that insistent war policies pursued by the US and UK are one root cause of backlash terrorism. Use of an effective public relations phrase — “stop making excuses” for the animals who commit terrorism — is helping prevent principled public discourse on the extreme violence that emanates from the US-run Terror War itself.

This debate-quenching rhetoric seems to have sprung from a toxic column written by Thomas Friedman for the July 22 edition of the New York Times. In it, Friedman calls out all of us who would examine the relationship to backlash terrorism of US support for brutal hereditary monarchies in the Middle East, US-insisted-upon devastation of Iraq during the 12-year period of economic sanctions, US occupation strategies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and, through Israel, in Palestine (all these including much deadly aerial bombardment), and indeed US foreign policy in general.

Friedman writes,

We also need to spotlight the “excuse makers,” the former State Department spokesman James Rubin said [note Democratic pedigree of this remark]. After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed.

Officials in the powerful Terror War states have followed Friedman’s lead. US lieutenant and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in a Tuesday July 26 press conference said that while he has not stated that the London bombs have “nothing to do with Iraq”, and that, “They [Islamic terrorists] will use Iraq and Afghanistan to try and recruit”, he emphasizes, “Whatever excuse these people use, I don’t think we should give one inch to them, September 11 for me was a wake-up call — a lot of the world woke up for a short time, then turned over and went back to sleep again”.

Blair continued, “It’s an obscenity to say it’s concern for Iraq [that] drives these people to terrorism. We shouldn’t allow them a vestige of an excuse”.

Then on Thursday we had the spectacle of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reading the same chapter by fantasy writer Friedman to Jim Lehrer on the PBS Newshour for Thursday July 28. A full transcript of the interview is here, while Crooks and Liars has a video clip here.

JIM LEHRER: What about the additional element here that, increasingly, terrorism experts and Muslim experts are saying that the combination of Iraq and other foreign policy decisions by the United States are actually creating more terrorists every day than they are eliminating them.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: When we are going to stop making excuses for the terrorists? The terrorists on Sept. 11 attacked the United States. We weren’t in Iraq. We weren’t even in Afghanistan on Sept. 11.

They have attacked in places that had no forces in either place. They’ve attacked all over the world. They’ve attacked in Morocco and in Bali and in Egypt and in London and in Madrid.

When are we going to stop making excuses for the terrorists and saying that somebody is making them do it? No, these are simply evil people who want to kill. And they want to kill in the name of a perverted ideology that really is not Islam, but they somehow want to claim that mantle to say that this is about some kind of grievance. This isn’t about some kind of grievance. This is an effort to destroy, rather than to build.

And until everybody in the world calls it by name — the evil that it is — stops making excuses for them, then I think we’re going to have a problem. And I hope that after the bombings of innocent people in London, innocent people at Sharm el-Sheikh, innocent children in Iraq, that people will call this by name and stop making excuses for these people.

No one is making them do it. They’re doing it because they want to create chaos and to undermine our way to life.

An email from FAIR that came out in the last week addresses the course Friedman’s tacit charaterizations of anti-war sentiment appear to be taking.

According to this Action Alert, Friedman “urged the U.S. government to create blacklists of condemned political speech — not only by those who advocate violence, but also by those who believe that U.S. government actions may encourage violent reprisals”.

This is a strange way to treat the opinions of a majority of Americans who now question the wisdom of the war.

Also unleashed have been the hard right mouthpieces who are really starting to dig in with the nastiness they feel necessary to bury rational discussion and bring the population back into the proper reactive mode. FAIR recalls the distasteful O’Reilly issuing a “chilling call for the criminalization of war opponents” on his June 20 Radio Factor,

O’Reilly: Dissent, fine; undermining, you’re a traitor. Got it?

Meanwhile, issues of US war conduct about which dissent is entirely appropriate — in fact the responsibility of a courageous, moral, patriotic citizen in a free society — cannot get media traction. In just one of the misdirected targets of the Terror War, the rush to bomb and kill has not stopped attacks in Western capitals or brought in bin Laden for a fair trial. But it has buried tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

This last point is amply illustrated in a new report from Iraq Body Count. As with my last post on this subject I again draw what I think is the obvious conclusion — going to war while killing tens of thousands of civilians in aerial bombardments in order to occupy South Asian countries has been an utter failure with respect to the merits of stopping attacks. In the contest of ruthlessness and barbarity, the superpower always has and always will issue its punishments more frequently and with more devastating effect than the terribly violent minority who unfortunately respond in kind, albeit on a much smaller scale.

So no, what you are reading here is not a call to excuse or justify the actions of people who bomb. All such terror should be treated as criminality, including the illegal invasion, conquest, and occupation of Iraq that our own country has conducted in our name. It is my responsibility as a citizen of the United States to oppose these policies. I am convinced that if we opposed to war are taken seriously and our own government stops its foreign aggressions, a great side benefit will be reduced likelihood that terror will be served back to us.

Friday garden blogging

Friday, July 29th, 2005

Herbs ready for recipes

Thai basil on back porch

Here is a cooking tip: When a Thai recipe calls for Thai basil, do not substitute any other kind. You’ll be amazed how much closer to genuine restaurant flavor you’ll get if you use the right basil.

Onerous energy bill about to pass

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Bloomberg: Industry lobbying pays off:

Energy companies spent $314.4 million to lobby Congress, the White House and federal agencies between Jan. 1, 2003, and Dec. 31, 2004, according to records filed with the Senate and compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine, a Washington-based organization that tracks lobbying expenses. During the same 24-month period, environmental groups spent $42.1 million.

In addition to their lobbying expenses, energy company political action committees and employees made $52.3 million in campaign contributions for the 2004 elections, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks campaign donations. Environmentalists gave $2.1 million.

Bob Whitson over at Howling at a Waning Moon has a handy summary of what the net-$11 billion bill will do in its final form. From requiring “a delay of at least 141 days in a US government review of the Chinese-government owned CNOOC Ltd oil company’s $18.5 billion bid for American-oil giant Unocal” and giving the “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not the states, exclusive authority to approve LNG import terminals” to spending “$1.3 billion for experimental Idaho reactor that would also produce hydrogen fuel”, the bill nets out at an $11 billion taxpayer-funded subsidy for big fossil-fuel companies.

Deep Blade Journal has discussed that item on nuclear hydrogen in detail, see posts here and here. Of course nuclear power is not going to solve the post-peak-oil transportation fuel problem. But that won’t stop Bush, Cheney, and Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig from sending ooodles of pork to Bechtel to build a nuclear-hydrogen monster at INEEL.

On the matter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), it looks like the cockiness recently expressed here in Maine by an Oklahoma-based company, Quoddy Bay LLC — “The $200 million liquefied natural gas terminal proposed on Passamaquoddy Indian land in Washington County should have its permits in less than two years and go into operation in 2009” — is justified as strong local opposition will be crushed by the new Energy Bill.

Stories abound about the nefarious Republican back-room dealing that has infected the entire process of this Energy Bill. For example, it was revealed by Alan Murry on CNBC in November 2003 that Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) and the secret energy bill writing committee was basically an industry-run legal shop. Murry confronted Barton on air during a segment on the now-defunct Capitol Report program, after receiving an MS-Word document containing language in the bill. The document properties revealed that authorship of the provisions originated in energy giant Southern Company’s corporate suites. If anyone out there has access to LexisNexis, I’d appreciate a transcript look-up on this, as I am posting here from memory.

Enron Redux?
The really big kahuna in this bill (think Enron on steroids) as far as electric ratepayers’ pocketbooks are concerned is repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA). There was a fine Mark Hertsgaard audio commentary on the public radio Marketplace program last night. Highly recommended.

So finally for today, I will include some text from a fine series of articles by Susan Milligan that appeared in The Boston Globe in October 2004. The series examined a wide range of issues concerning how big business influences lawmaking. But Milligan’s reporting on how the PUHCA repeal came about is first rate. It explains the origin of the PUCHA, why it was enacted to protect electric customers, why financial elites so dearly wanted the repeal, and how they got it over the objection of consumer groups.

First on the to-do list was the elimination of a longtime regulation called the Public Utility Holding Company Act. Little known outside the energy and financial world, the regulation is a critical issue for the electrical industry, whose vast team of lobbyists persuaded negotiators in Congress to eradicate the law. In the hundreds of lobbying reports filed by those seeking to influence the energy bill, getting rid of electricity industry regulations shows up 98 times.

Electricity interests spent millions of dollars trying to kill the law. The Edison Electric Institute, which represents the electricity industry, spent $12,540,000 on a team of 35 lobbyists at its own shop and at 12 other firms to lobby Congress, the White House, and federal agencies against PUHCA and on other energy matters. Individual electricity companies and others against the landmark regulatory law dumped another $56,420,670 million on lobbying last year, according to reports filed with the clerks of the House and the Senate.

Nor has the industry been stingy in handing out campaign contributions. Electricity industry PACs and executives gave a total of $7,733,941 for the 2004 election cycle, making the industry the 19th biggest contributor, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Tauzin, the powerful former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was especially enriched, receiving more than $150,000 in campaign funds from the energy industry as a whole, including nearly $76,000 from the electricity sector, according to the center.

The effort was successful: Language killing the watershed regulatory law is included in all versions of the energy bill now on Capitol Hill. If the measure becomes law, both supporters and critics anticipate an explosion in energy investments.

But where financiers see investment opportunities, consumer advocates see future Enrons in the making, because the law was intended to insulate utilities from the kind of energy-trading schemes that caused the Houston-based Enron to collapse in the greatest bankruptcy in history. Get rid of the rules restricting cross-investment by utility holding companies, consumer advocates say, and the country faces an energy and stock market debacle much like the one that led to the creation of the public utilities act.

The law’s roots go all the way back to the Great Depression and the stock market crash of 1929. The then-nascent electricity industry was largely owned by a small group of holding companies, which used their reliable receipts from selling electricity to invest in riskier ventures.

When those ventures faltered, the holding companies imploded, and 53 electricity companies went bankrupt; the collapse helped deepen the Great Depression. Consolidation in the industry also allowed holding companies to manipulate the market and overcharge consumers for power.

After an investigation and hearings, Congress approved the PUHCA regulations in 1935, imposing historic controls on energy holding companies. Now, however, energy industry spokesmen say the law is outdated and so onerous that investors are discouraged from putting money into electricity.

“This is a fairly capital-intensive business. The repeal of PUHCA would serve to potentially encourage capital to flow back into the energy market,” said Pete Sheffield, a spokesman for Duke Energy, which once employed Andrew Lundquist, the director of Cheney’s energy task force, to lobby for the elimination of the law.

The Clinton and Bush administrations have already weakened the regulations by allowing companies to be exempt from certain PUHCA rules. But eliminating the law entirely could have a catastrophic effect on both the financial markets and consumers, critics say.

“It’s the only thing between us and a cartel,” said Lynn Hargis, a former staff attorney with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who now works for the watchdog group Public Citizen.

Deleting PUHCA from the law books would put an estimated $1 trillion in energy assets in play, she said, presenting enormous implications for both the energy sector in particular and the financial markets as a whole.

Deregulation, she predicted, would allow more episodes like the Enron scandal, because holding companies could move capital around and put the health of electricity providers at risk.

Many more Enrons are in our future.

Crucial US-Iraq history unearthed

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

US supplied biological weapons materials to Saddam’s Iraq during the 1980s in contravention of international law

President Bush: We’ve also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We’re concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the United States. And, of course, sophisticated delivery systems aren’t required for a chemical or biological attack; all that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it.

October 7, 2002
Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati, Ohio

Iraqgate is the forgotten scandal of the 1980s and early 1990s. Long before President Bush shamelessly told lies like those cited above, there was a time when with covert US support, Iraq did develop and possess a number of very lethal agents. They only were able to do so with US help.

These agents were destroyed in the early 1990s. This fact was known to US intelligence while Bush was lying in 2002 and 2003. The CIA had access to documents concerning debriefing of Hussein Kamel, the trusted defector to whom Bush referred in that same Cincinnati speech. Kamel, Bush failed to mention, told UN interrogators on August 22, 1995 that “I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed”

Deep Blade Journal is now pleased to post an extremely important 21-page white paper that provides, in the words of UK-based campaigner and author Geoffrey Holland, “Evidence of the export from the US to Iraq of the very biological materials that were later claimed –- due to Iraq’s possession of them -– to be the reason for the invasion of Iraq by the US and Britain in 2003”.

In an extraordinary finding, Holland traces the source of a virulent anthrax strain sent to Iraq as part of a May 1986 shipment to a dead cow from South Oxfordshire in the UK.

Geoffrey Holland has done a great service in providing this amazing document. It contains many active links that go straight to original source material. To save and redistribute the file yourself, please right-click the link below and choose “Save as…”, or “Save link as”, depending on your browser.

United States exports of biological materials to Iraq: Compromising the credibility of international law
by Geoffrey Holland (pdf format, 463kb download)

This paper argues that the United States breached the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) by supplying warfare-related biological materials to Iraq during the 1980s, at a time when that nation was at war with its neighbour, Iran. It is further argued that the United Kingdom has an obligation, not least due to its published policy on the issue, to formally report this breach to the United Nations Security Council. The case is made that if the UK, as a State Party to the BTWC, will not report this matter, then the Convention is not the legally binding international instrument it is claimed to be, thus compromising the credibility of international law. It may come as some surprise to the reader to learn – and as far as the author is aware this information has not previously been made public – that the anthrax threat from Iraq, a repeatedly cited reason for the 2003 invasion of that country, actually originated from a dead cow in South Oxfordshire.

Friday garden blogging

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

Pea harvest began this week

Enough snap peas for daily servings

Sweet 100s going crazy

Even though we are getting good helpings of snap peas and this should continue for two or three more weeks, the harvest is not as abundant as it was last year.

Meanwhile, the Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes have taken off. The two vines will probably produce in the… hundreds. All that good compost I planted with them really helps.

Iran war plan?

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

Alarming if true

Via Atrios and from an interesting original source — the August 1 print issue of Pat Buchanan’s organ The American Conservative (see this blog post, thank you — comes an article by CIA verteran Philip Giraldi. The article is quoted as follows:

The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing–that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack–but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.

Let’s couple this unconfirmed report with the following excerpt of a June 20, 2005 Aljazeera piece written by former weapons inspector Scott Ritter:

But the facts speak of another agenda, that of war and the forceful removal of the theocratic regime, currently wielding the reigns of power in Tehran.

As with Iraq, the president has paved the way for the conditioning of the American public and an all-too-compliant media to accept at face value the merits of a regime change policy regarding Iran, linking the regime of the Mullah’s to an “axis of evil” (together with the newly “liberated” Iraq and North Korea), and speaking of the absolute requirement for the spread of “democracy” to the Iranian people.

The reality is that the US war with Iran has already begun. As we speak, American over flights of Iranian soil are taking place, using pilotless drones and other, more sophisticated, capabilities.

The violation of a sovereign nation’s airspace is an act of war in and of itself. But the war with Iran has gone far beyond the intelligence-gathering phase.

President Bush has taken advantage of the sweeping powers granted to him in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, to wage a global war against terror and to initiate several covert offensive operations inside Iran.

The most visible of these is the CIA-backed actions recently undertaken by the Mujahadeen el-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group, once run by Saddam Hussein’s dreaded intelligence services, but now working exclusively for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.

To the north, in neighbouring Azerbaijan, the US military is preparing a base of operations for a massive military presence that will foretell a major land-based campaign designed to capture Tehran.

Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld’s interest in Azerbaijan may have escaped the blinkered Western media, but Russia and the Caucasus nations understand only too well that the die has been cast regarding Azerbaijan’s role in the upcoming war with Iran….

Ritter goes on to examine the military advantages of launching air assaults and controlling airspace from bases in Azerbaijan. See Deep Blade postings here and here for more discussion of US machinations concerning Azerbaijan and the recently completed Caspian oil pipeline.

Meanwhile, Juan Cole has written about the “extremely friendly” state visit to Tehran paid by Iraq’s Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and “eight high-powered cabinet ministers”. Could the effect of this sudden advance for political Shiism hasten the US administration’s war plan? Only time will tell. However, Deep Blade’s comment from some months ago that “deep in the White House, the Iraq Shiite connection with Iran must be terribly troubling” and that the new Iraqi government might be “Shiite allies the US does not want” seems apropos now.

Let’s emphasize here that we do not know what the “crazies” in the Pentagon and Vice President’s office will do. Domination of Iran with invading US troops seems highly unlikely. But air power and nukes? That’s another matter. One thing we can surmise, however, is use of nukes against Iran would require an “attack event” on US soil after which there would be a punishing response. For propaganda purposes, the source of such a precipitating attack would be said to be Iran. And there would be no fact-check requirement on the president. We will have learned nothing from the last war.

Update 7/25: The date of the issue of The American Conservative in which the Iran war plan item appears is August 1, not July 18 as originally posted.

Reproductive rights

Thursday, July 21st, 2005

Message to Bush and the Supremes

This is about as clear as it gets. I can say that my family and I concur with and will act to support what New York City Councilor Margarita Lopez said at a Union Square rally yesterday.

Margarita Lopez: My reproductive system is mine and mine only! It doesn’t belong to nobody else except me. I decide what happens with it, what do I do with it and it’s mine to take care of it. Whatever I do… is between me and my doctor when I have to make decisions about it. George Walker Bush! Keep your filthy hands out of my body!

Lopez audio clipped from Democracy Now!
(mp3, 32kbps mono, 1:16, 306kb download)

Enabling judge

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

Attack on principles of freedom

John G. Roberts, Jr.: George W. Bush Supreme Court nominee a corporate hack who will uphold special “Commander-in-Chief” powers

First, a big welcome to Counterpunch readers who have found Deep Blade Journal through Chris Floyd’s fine piece, Judge Dread: John Roberts and Enemy Combatants. The Deep Blade posting Floyd refers to is Domination by detention.

I am on the run just now, but I will say that Floyd strikes exactly the alarm that few Democrats and liberals lining up weak (if any) opposition to Roberts are sounding: Roberts has ruled just last Friday in favor of military trials with secret evidence for “enemy combatant” detainees (a ruling not restricted to non-citizens).

Floyd writes,

George W. Bush has granted himself the power to declare anyone on earth – including any American citizen – an ‘enemy combatant,’ for any reason he sees fit. He can render them up to torture, he can imprison them for life, he can even have them killed, all without charges, with no burden of proof, no standards of evidence, no legislative oversight, no appeal, no judicial process whatsoever except those that he himself deigns to construct, with whatever limitations he cares to impose. Nor can he ever be prosecuted for any order he issues, however criminal; in the new American system laid out by Bush’s legal minions, the Commander is sacrosanct, beyond the reach of any law or constitution.

Wow… more later…

General William C. Westmoreland

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

1914 – 2005

“Well the Oriental, doesn’t put the same high price on life, as does the Westerner. Life is plentiful, life is cheap in the Orient. And ah, … as the, … ah, philosophy of the Orient, ah, expresses it, ah, life is, ah, … not important” (General Westmoreland, as quoted in the 1974 documentary film Hearts and Minds)

Mourning (Image from graveyard in Vietnam, as shown in Hearts and Minds)