Archive for November, 2005

Aggressive aerial bombardment

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

New Sy Hersh article lays out the next phase


US bombing of Southeast Asia, spring 1970 (from footage in the documentary film Hearts and Minds)

Damn, I wish I had more time to do more on this… Lately there has been an exchange of articles and postings between Alexander Cockburn and Juan Cole. Frankly, I’m troubled by the way Cole — a writer I usually admire and respect — has presented his vision for stepped American troop withdrawal from Iraq, first from urban areas. Cockburn has staked the anti-war position with which I agree. Where Juan Cole is coming from, on the other hand, should never be confused with an anti-war position.

The Cole vision in part calls…

…For as long as the elected Iraqi government wanted it, the US would offer the new Iraqi military and security forces close air support in any firefight they have with guerrilla or other rebellious forces . . . . With the agreement of the elected Iraqi government, the US would prevent any guerrilla force from fielding any large number of fighters for set piece battles.

Cockburn viewed this notion of “close air support” as tantamount to “saturation bombing”. Yes.

Now Seymour Hersh is weighing in with astonishing reporting of just how the US administration and the US military are planning — not necessarily harmoniously — to provide a stepped up air war as stepped withdrawals of ground forces occur over the next year. See this diary posted at Daily Kos for links and some sharp analysis.

Hersh will report in an upcoming New Yorker article just how the Bush Administration plans to “…increase the pace of air operations” with “more bombing in direct support of Iraqi units”.

The Vietnam parallel is deeply disconcerting.

Hersh (CNN, Nov. 27): …we can take out troops if we increase air. In other words, the temple of air bombing, bombing’s sort of the unknown story right now. We don’t know how many bombs are dropped, where. Nobody reports publicly as they did, Wolf, in Vietnam.

Juan Cole now should explain how what he is calling for is any different than what the administration is going to do. Like Alexander Cockburn, I see more potential for civilian death and destruction, that “nobody reports publicly”. Just like the latter years of the Vietnam War, where tonnage of bombs dropped became the rosy pr while the US ground its way through a disaster wrapped in an illusion.

Friday garden blogging

Friday, November 25th, 2005

Snow


White and cold all of a sudden


One tough broccoli plant

Icky week… Everybody has been sick. Then it rained 2.5 inches in 12 hours on Tuesday (more water in the basement) followed by a freeze-up. The interstate was a mess the day our company had to drive up. But the turkey was good.

Shoot the messenger

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

Bush planned to bomb al-Jazeera in allied Arab country


Horrors of the US invasion (March 22, 2003) — if the world sees this, there might be an “insidious” effect on the war effort (CAUTION! The link leads to extremely disturbing photos of actual results of the US war, many from al-Jazeera.)

The British newspaper Daily Mirror has reported the existence of another damaging Downing Street memo. This one reveals that President Bush wanted to blow up the home offices of popular Arab media channel al-Jazeera in Doha, the capital of Qatar. According to the report, the memo discloses a conversation between Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair on April 16, 2004. There was “no doubt what Bush wanted to do”, but Blair “didn’t want him to do it”, according to the Mirror’s source.

So President Bush did not add the home office to his collection of bombed al-Jazeera facilities. The US previously had hit it’s Baghdad office at the Palestine Hotel, killing correspondent Tariq Ayoub and injuring a cameraman on April 8, 2003.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher at the time said that the US had “expressed our regret” for the deaths, but also gave the disputed story that “there was firing going on in that area and that it’s necessary for our forces to return fire”. Boucher also took care to point out how the jounalists in Iraq were doing a “difficult job under dangerous circumstances”.

A report on the incident released by Reporters Without Borders in January 2004 stated that “US officials at first lied about what happened and then, in an official statement four months later, exonerated the US Army from any mistake or error of judgement.” But the report raised more questions than it answered, as it tried to trace the decision to bomb the hotel up the chain of command.

In a another incident, the US bombed the al-Jazeera offices in Kabul, Afghanistan in November 2002.

Deception bought and paid for

Monday, November 21st, 2005

Rendon, war seller

Because it illustrates crisply how the CIA & Pentagon procured a campaign of intentional deception of the Congress and the public on pre-war Iraq intelligence, this note fits with the previous post. I thought of adding it there, but that is already too long.

Browsing Steve Clemmons, I came across this post concerning James Bamford’s Rolling Stone story on The Man Who Sold the War:

…The illegal arms, according to [Iraqi defector Adnan Ihsan Saeed] al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad. It was damning stuff — just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That’s why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.

The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn’t true didn’t mean it couldn’t be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation — part espionage, part PR campaign — that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon.

This is another strong reason why President Bush and Vice President Cheney are full of it when they indignantly disavow their clear history of deception with malice aforethought behind the push to invade Iraq and now continue with their bloody, endless war.

Squirming

Monday, November 21st, 2005

Cheney is a chickenhawk and an embarrassment.


In friendly confines at the American Enterprise Institute


The Daily Show last Thursday provided an utterly devastating satire of Cheney. Trust me, you’ve never seen anything like it on TV, the hardest punch I’ve seen Stewart land in the three years I’ve been a regular watcher…go here and view “Weakened Update”.

Though he backed off a bit during today’s American Enterprise Institute speech, Vice President Cheney has been on a tear recently against critics of administration policy of endless war. Here was last week’s flavor.

Vice President Cheney (Nov. 16):…the suggestion that’s been made by some U.S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city….We’re going to continue throwing their own words back at them….

American soldiers and Marines are out there every day in dangerous conditions and desert temperatures –- conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers –- and back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie….

The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone -– but we’re not going to sit by and let them rewrite history….

Then today:

Vice President Cheney (Nov. 21): Recently my friend and former colleague Jack Murtha called for a complete withdrawal of American forces now serving in Iraq, with a drawdown to begin at once. I disagree with Jack and believe his proposal would not serve the best interests of this nation. But he’s a good man, a Marine, a patriot — and he’s taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion.

Nor is there any problem with debating whether the United States and our allies should have liberated Iraq in the first place. Here, as well, the differing views are very passionately and forcefully stated. But nobody is saying we should not be having this discussion, or that you cannot reexamine a decision made by the President and the Congress some years ago. To the contrary, I believe it is critical that we continue to remind ourselves why this nation took action, and why Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, and why we have a duty to persevere.

What is not legitimate — and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible — is the suggestion by some U. S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence.

Cheney is a jackass. And he is a chickenhawk. He does not get anywhere near the truth that the struggle for American pacification of an unwilling Iraq is devastating along with the Iraqi civilian population, towns, cities, and countryside, the US military itself. He suggests in a backhanded way that critics of the war, and of Bush and Cheney themselves, have an “insidious” effect on the war effort. No. It is the policy of fighting an illegal and unethical war that has such an effect on the Iraqi and the American people alike.

Murtha’s remarks about the effects of the war on Iraq and the American military itself damningly lay bare the sophistry of Dick Cheney’s arguments. Christopher Dickey has an excellent post on Murtha, who has called for American withdrawal from Iraq over a six-month time frame.

Murtha: I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.

Remarks by former Special Forces soldier and Vietnam Veteran Stan Goff in Orono, Maine last week reached back to an earlier war and resonate along with Murtha’s.

Stan Goff (Nov. 15): I don’t think any of us want to get to the point where we can clearly demonstrate that Iraq is Vietnam. We don’t need another wall with 58,000 more names on it. We don’t need another generation that melts down in the face of this war. And we’re already seeing it happen….Some of us who have lived to my age, or maybe even a little older – we were so hopeful that this would never happen again – that we would never do this to another generation of young people…. And we’re doing it right now,… you know,… we’re doing it right now. We’re killing ‘em, we’re maiming ‘em, we’re sending ‘em home crazy. And we’re not doing anything for ‘em when they get back. It’s the same thing again.

And I don’t want to see the end to this occupation be the same as it was in Vietnam, because the price of getting out of Vietnam was too high for everybody involved. Don’t need to be three million dead of anybody [as died in the Vietnamese civilian population during the war]. We don’t need to see an entire generation wrecked.

One of the reasons – one of the principle reasons – aside from the fact that we were militarily defeated by an anti-occupation force that had made up their minds not to quit until they expelled us. One of the reasons, one of the decisive reasons was that by 1971 the United States military in Vietnam had been destroyed as an effective fighting force. Fifty percent of us were strung out on heroine – in my unit – fifty percent. We were shooting our officers…. It would be immoral to wait until it gets that far again. But that’s where, that’s inevitably where, it will end up by and by if they continue on the same course that they’re on right now. We hear Dick Cheney talking about “decades” – plural, decades – is what our commitment is gonna be over there.

That Cheney won’t touch these facts about the slow, painful destruction of using the American military for unsuccessful pacification of 25 million Iraqis is telling.

History is lost on the squirming Cheney. Let’s look back to the original case for the war. No administration official told the public pre-war that it would be a “long, hard slog” that would require “decades”. Any reasonable person can see the distortion and equivocation evident in voluminous pre-war remarks by Bush, Cheney, and many other administration officials. Then, they spoke of a “cakewalk” and greetings of “liberators”. They had an army of equivocators selling a war that could not have been sold if a picture of the current foreseeable truth of what the war has become properly had been aired.

For example, Cheney addressed the VFW with this unqualified certainty:

Vice President Cheney (Aug. 26, 2002): Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors — confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today, and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth. [emphasis added]

Or how about this:

President Bush, (March 6, 2003): Saddam Hussein has a long history of reckless aggression and terrible crimes. He possesses weapons of terror. He provides funding and training and safe haven to terrorists — terrorists who would willingly use weapons of mass destruction against America and other peace-loving countries. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people, and to all free people.

Or how about the unreconstructed Cheney, who as late as January 2004 was still issuing canards about Curveball’s phony “Winnebagoes of Death”:

Vice President Cheney (Jan. 22, 2004): We know, for example, that prior to our going in that he had spent time and effort acquiring mobile biological weapons labs, and we’re quite confident he did, in fact, have such a program. We’ve found a couple of semi trailers at this point which we believe were, in fact, part of that program. Now it’s not clear at this stage whether or not he used any of that to produce or whether he was simply getting ready for the next war. That, in my mind, is a serious danger in the hands of a man like Saddam Hussein, and I would deem that conclusive evidence, if you will, that he did, in fact, have programs for weapons of mass destruction. [emphasis added]

The canard about “everybody agreed” on the conclusions from the intelligence was again in full view today in the Vice President’s speech:

Vice President Cheney (Nov. 21): They concluded, as the President and I had concluded, and as the previous administration had concluded, that Saddam Hussein was a threat. Available intelligence indicated that the dictator of Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and this judgment was shared by the intelligence agencies of many other nations, according to the bipartisan Silberman-Robb Commission. All of us understood, as well, that for more than a decade, the U.N. Security Council had demanded that Saddam Hussein make a full accounting of his weapons programs. The burden of proof was entirely on the dictator of Iraq — not on the U.N. or the United States or anyone else. And he repeatedly refused to comply throughout the course of the decade.

Even if this is all true, the emphasis on urgency and need for preventive action was engendered through false claims about “nuclear weapons within a year”, and sneak attacks “in 45 minutes”. In 2002, a minority of politicians could resist these specious arguments. So, yeah, a lot of senators and representatives went along with abdication to Bush on Iraq in October 2002. And the further canard about Security Council “demands” and “accounting” deserves fuller examination. In the end, the Security Council refused to consider a war resolution. The arguments used to declare the war legal remain on extremely shaky ground, as the Goldsmith memo shows.

So how is it so hard for the indignant chickenhawk to understand that most reasonable people would interpret the very definite language in the pre-war period as deliberate distortion and falsehood — especially when it becomes clear that there were voluminous pre-war doubts about every major element of the case the administration presented. It is legitimate to say the “administration purposely misled the American people”. Maybe they told the truth about what the faulty intelligence said, but they completely concealed all of the doubts about it. Absence of doubt is what drove the argument for preventive action. Falsification by omission is falsification.

It is far more accurate to state that widespread doubt existed pre-war about Iraq’s possession of WMD than to state that “everybody agreed” that Iraq did in fact have weapons that very likely were about to be used. The common anti-war slogan, “Bush lied and people died” is a lot closer to the truth than the phony pronouncements of the jackass, chickenhawk Dick Cheney.

Curveball and the “everybody agreed'' canard

Sunday, November 20th, 2005

Colin Powell on February 5, 2003 before the United Nations Security Council: “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. I will cite some examples, and these are from human sources.”

The oft-repeated rightist defense of the Bush administration pre-war public relations campaign against Iraq’s nonexistent weapons is that “everybody agreed, but all were wrong” about the WMD. The president, Prime Minister Blair, and other officials merely reacted with war due to their sincerely held beliefs that Iraq was some sort of threat. Now that they know war-&-sanctions-battered Iraq was not a threat, there still is no sign they will release their chokehold on the country anytime soon. They are still not forthcoming with the true motivations behind the major underlying policy decisions concerning the war. But that’s another matter and I’ll address it in a future post.

For now, I want to call attention to a new posting at Booman Tribune by Col. Patrick Lang, a highly decorated retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces. In this posting, Lang lays out and analyzes today’s LA Times follow-up story on “Curveball” — the intelligence fabricator on whom Bush administration claims of marauding Iraqi “Winnebagoes of Death” (mobile bioweapons labs) were based.

A taste:

CURVEBALL, the Iraqi source of the German intelligence (BND) became an essential element in the campaign of distorted and manipulated information. CURVEBALL was a fraud. The Germans said they did not believe him. DIA said they did not believe him, but the Bush Administration evidently did believe him. Why? They believed because they wanted to believe.

Now just one more quote, this time from President Bush on January 28, 2003 in the State of the Union message:

From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed them. [emphasis added]

Obviously, they did not “know” anything of the sort. The mobile labs never existed, even during the era of US & UK support for the real Iraqi bioweapons program in the 1980s.

My personal opinion is there was intentional pre-war distortion that this fabricated intelligence was solid — by the president, Secretary Powell, and other officials. The idea was to cherry pick whatever shards of intelligence they could get their hands on (and if necessary, create), and then puff it up into a threat case sufficient to provoke the desired drumbeat response from the Congress, the media, and the public. It worked so well that it’s hard to keep count the US soldiers, US Marines, and Iraqi civilians who keep dying as a result of the international crimes that followed.

So it is a rightist canard that there was an “overwhelming consensus” of world intelligence services that Saddam had weapons in March 2003. In fact the opposite was true. Warnings were rife in late 2002 and early 2003 about the shakiness of sources on which all of the main claims were based. These were not just minor peripheral nitpicks on an overwhelming consensus, but rather a complete collapse of the essential claims. And it is now known that that the collapse of these claims was evident before the war.

Nonetheless, it was months and months after the invasion before the promotion of the fabricated claims was abandoned. I analyzed this period in a long post written at two different times during the spring of 2004, after the initial LA Times story on Curveball emerged. The president’s handpicked weapons inspector, David Kay, a gung-ho believer, recognized the “damning” falsehoods behind the case for war earlier than other administration officials, Powell included. (I don’t think Cheney has yet renounced the mobile bioweapons labs as the fakes they were). Read that whole post — “We paid to fool ourselves” — here.

Recommended further reading
Rodger Payne has some excellent posts laying out this history with lots and lots of high-quality references. He examines the president’s Veteran’s Day shots taken against the anti-war movement. (I had wanted to post on that, but could not find enough time. Rodger does a great job there.) Please see:

(1) The Iraq “threat”, Saturday November 19; and
(2) The administration’s deceptions, Monday November 14

Friday garden blogging

Friday, November 18th, 2005

Long shadows, cold nights


Leaf composter and Dalek, the kitchen composter

Much is going on in this photo. The long shadows at 3:30pm portend an early sunset (4:05pm EST today, I think). The declination of the sun is markedly lower. In the foreground, next year’s garlic bed has been prepared with a dozen bulbs. The Brussels sprout plant (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera) is still standing, but the buds never came in worth crap. However, the volunteer broccoli did come in really well. We did not buy any seedlings. The leaves + grass clippings were chopped fine with the mowers last Sunday, making some excellent compost. A nice bed of the mix went into Dalek to hold the kitchen scraps. Note how green the grass remains. The clippings were perfect for compost — I guess one advantage of all the rain (2 more inches Tuesday and Wednesday this week). Can you find the kitty?

Global Public Media

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

I see that the excellent media website for peak oil & gas, Global Public Media, is carrying this week a link to my September 29 talk on peak oil on the front page. There I am, just down a few items from the important Denver Conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas!

Please do peruse the Global Public Media site. It’s an essential resource for global energy issues. It has lots of great audio and video archives of the peak oil heavy hitters like Matt Simmons, Richard Heinberg, and James Howard Kunstler.

Meanwhile, I’d like to direct visitors who find their way here to three archive links associated with my September 29 talk:

(1) Original podcast at peacecast.us

(2) Peak oil supporting links (posted 9/29)

(3) Handout from the talk (pdf, 311kb)

Stan Goff

Tuesday, November 15th, 2005

A new podcast featuring Stan Goff is now available at peacecast.us.

Troopship

Friday, November 11th, 2005

This is a special posting featuring a first-hand account of life on a World War II troopship written by my late father. It appeared in Now and Then (Vol. 39, No. 4, Wednesday January 30, 1946), a student publication from Saint Paul Academy. My dad taught and coached at this preparatory school in Saint Paul, Minnesota — now known as Saint Paul Academy and Summit School — from 1945 through 1949. I present this story in honor of the incredible sacrifices our veterans have made fighting wars for our country. –Eric


Mr. Olson

(Mr. Olson has recently completed three years of service in the army. The following story is a description of his voyage from the U. S. to England before D-Day.–Ed.)

TROOPSHIP
“When your surname is called, answer with your given name and initial. Pass quickly up the gangplank!”, someone barked in the maze of olive drab.

The tide was rapidly coming in and the liner was rising above the pier, making the gangplank a miniature problem in mountain climbing. A wool uniform and boots did not help one to forget that it was August. Here is a partial inventory of the items with which I was to “pass quickly”, as the announcer so blithely informed us, up that incline: one caliber 45 sub-machine gun, seventeen thirty-round clips for same, field pack complete with entrenching tools, gas-mask, and steel helmet, all draped around the neck and each in a competition to close the normal channels of air. Perched above all, one balanced his duffel bag containing extra uniforms, gas-resistant clothing, more boots and an array of personal effects.

“Is this trip necessary?” quirked a voice. We made the grade.

Nine thousand men in some nine hundred feet of ship (sardines and neutrons enjoy a tremendous freedom) present many interesting problems. There is, for example, the matter of food. Your card reads, “Sitting No. 7, Line No. 2”. So, one having inclinations for breakfast, without further dispatch seeks “Line 2”. It winds from the bow of the ship to the stern, through passageways, down gangways, and around bulkheads. Finally, one finds an emaciated individual who admits that he represents the end of “Line No. 2”. Your joy is short-lived, however, for he hastens to add that he also comes in the category of “Sitting No. 1”, You mentally survey the situation and wonder if it’s possible to have six more sittings of breakfast tucked away in the galley. It tried our patience–but we ate.

Recreational facilities were of necessity limited and most of us had degenerated, during the long period of training, into the habit of depending on others for entertainment. Here was a challenge to that rarely practiced faculty of entertaining oneself. Learning the secrets of the ship, the converted luxury liner, America, provided great interest. The radar detector apparatus, the turbines, the signal system, the sea doors, and a host of others were available to the observer. During clear weather one could worm his way among the discussion groups on the main deck and discover anything from the best recipe for “corn pone” to a fool-proof solution for all the world’s ills.

We were not in convoy. The ship’s speed (twenty-three knots) and constant change of course were her primary protection. Certain disciplines had to be strictly observed. At dusk, when the amplifier announced, “The smoking lamp is out,” the ship was in total darkness but for cat’s-eyes of light marking the inner passageways and lights in essential areas such as the galleys and engine rooms.

Until one became familiar with the ship, it was judicious to carry blankets and sleep on deck if he expected to remain there after dark–or perhaps spend the night groping in the bowels of the ship for his lodging on “B-Deck, Compartment 5, Bunk 65”.

Casting objects overboard was a serious offense. Unrestricted disposal of refuse by the men, each article in itself being of little significance, when multiplied by nine thousand would publish on the face of the ocean the size of the ship, its course, and type of cargo.

These random sketches are no attempt to summarize the character of all troopships. They are not a detailed account of the ship in question. Perhaps, they will help you add meaning to the laconic news item: “U. S. S. West Point arrived at Liverpool with nine thousand troops”.