Archive for April, 2007

Yeow! Media engagement

Monday, April 30th, 2007

CBS’s Mark Knoller takes on Moyers’s “Buying the War” and gets pummeled in return

We have not yet seen Bill Moyer’s devastating documentary on the cooperation of mainstream media with the Bush Administration in developing public consent for the Iraq invasion because our PBS station here in Maine had its annual auction last week. NOTE TO MAINE READERS: It will air THIS WEDNESDAY, MAY 2, at 9pm on channels 10 & 13.

Still I want to point out that there is a very interesting mainstream media response to the Moyers piece from CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller. Knoller attempted to criticize the Moyers piece HERE, on the basis of how Moyers treated an important March 6, 2003 Bush press conference. Knoller wrote last week,

He shows only a single, brief example of a question – deep in the news conference – in which a reporter asked Mr. Bush to reflect on how he was guided by his faith at that difficult time. Admittedly, it was a softball.

But Moyers did not cite any of the other much more pointed questions put to the President that evening in the East Room.

Now, I took quite an interest in this, having posted recently about that very press conference on its 4th anniversary. Before citing the dozens of times the president was allowed to give his stock answer at this crucial pre-war event, “If he [Saddam Hussein] doesn’t disarm, we’ll disarm him,” I wrote,

The president’s gibberish–”I hope we don’t have to go to war, but if we go to war,” and “I’ve not made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully,” and “We hope we don’t go to war; but if we should, we will present a supplemental [budget].”–should have been transparent at that point. For the most part, the sheepish press corps was more interested in Mr. Bush’s “faith.”

It is also striking how almost nobody in the room seemed at all interested in the president’s long-term plan for Iraq, and what the costs of a lengthy occupation might be. Only that question about Vietnam even raised the issue about going down a long, destructive path. Of course if the attack had been presented as leading to a lengthy occupation possibly costing thousands of American lives, which at the time even this administration certainly could have expected, support for it would have been much lower.

Needless to say, I do not think much of Knoller’s point about “pointed questions.” Now, there is a whole lot of attack on Knoller in the public comment section for his piece, which I thank CBS for even having. I posted twice in there. The first (now down on page 15) as follows:

If these WH Press Corps questions on March 6, 2003 were so probing, how is it that President Bush was able to give exactly the same answer every time? (eg., “If he doesn’t disarm, we’ll disarm him.”) It was like the WHPC served him, cooperatively, these “doubts” that made a whole lot of the world’s citizens rightfully very angry just so he could bat them away with his stock answer.

I remember almost punching the TV that night, you guys came off so weak.

It is also striking how almost nobody in the room seemed at all interested in the president’s long-term plan for Iraq, and what the costs of a lengthy occupation might be. Only that question about Vietnam even raised the issue about going down a long, destructive path. Of course if the attack had been presented as leading to a lengthy occupation possibly costing thousands of American lives, which at the time even this administration certainly could have expected, domestic support for it would have been much closer to the level in the rest of the world–LOW.
Posted by owl0426 at 07:17 PM : Apr 26, 2007

Yesterday, I noted that Knoller had posted an update, obviously stunned by the content of the hundreds of comments he received. He threw down a challenge for commenters to put themselves into the reporters’ position on March 6, 2003 and to come up with a “finely-crafted question…that both serves the public interest and will get a meaningful response.”

Here’s what I wrote,

I respect Mark Knoller’s challenge here. But I also think one additional, overriding criterion for the questions beyond “serves the public interest” and “meaningful response” needs to be added: “will not harm the correspondent’s access or attract unwanted flak from the White House or bosses”.

Here is something that could have be asked, but probably would have run afoul of that third, unspoken criterion:

In the March 3 issue of Newsweek, John Barry reports that “Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.”

You and Secretary Powell both have cited Kamel as a credible source. Does this not undermine totally your present case that Iraq must now be “disarmed”?

Posted by owl0426 at 01:27 AM : Apr 30, 2007

If the press corps had pressed on this, they might have pumped the Barry story up to the level it deserved, and brought the rest of the then-voluminous available information contrary to Bush’s case for war out into the light. As it turns out, Barry was 100% correct. There was no threat in Iraq that had to be “disarmed,” as the UNMOVIC mission without a doubt eventually would have been able to certify. Iraq had in fact not lied in its declaration under UN Security Council Resolution 1441. The US invasion was pure and simple a war of aggression–a taking of Iraq.

While they did serve up a few, mild, non-detailed critiques of the WMD case chielfly so Bush could slap them down, the sheep in the press corps failed to press Bush on his stock answer, and failed to vigorously pursue any stories about how the president’s “views were challenged or disputed by others.”

The world could have been spared the utter disaster that is now Iraq if members of this elite press corps had taken their jobs seriously.

Prophets of the punditocracy

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

How quickly they forgot… see Tom Tomorrow for details

Right wing columnist Cal Thomas, April 2003:

THOMAS: All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent.

Do go view Tom Tomorrow. I’ll agree with Mr. Thomas on the above point quoted in the cited post. Unlike Mr. Thomas and the rest of the paid pundits, I can cite my own archives without recant or repent. From Issue #1, first published February 11, 2003 and substantially revised March 12, 2003:

…why this war is wrong and must be stopped:

1. Slaughter. War will mean death and destruction for hundreds of thousands of innocents….

…U.S. taking of Iraq does not appear to be the end of the imperial designs of U.S. planners. An extended, dangerous period of escalation of application of U.S. power in an attempt to hold and control its expanding spoils of war can be expected. Despite their arrogance and hubris, Bush and his team should not have much confidence that the chaos of the post-invasion period can be kept benign.There is great uncertainty about the controllability of forces that could be unleashed as America commits to new global management requirements far beyond its present substantial deployments….

The imperialism of Bush and his lieutenants is a BETRAYAL of the troops and the American people, while they engender a false image that American troops do not care about human life. This image of our troops as storm troopers enforcing imperial policy, like it or not, will take a quantum leap in currency after an attack on Iraq. We will have lost any remaining legitimacy we have in using our military might against actual terrorists (not that I agree this has been the U.S. aim at any point, but post-9/11 legitimacy in the eyes of the world will have been squandered totally). None of this weight do I want our great country, our troops, and all of our people to have to bear.

And Deep Blade Issue #2, also published March 12, 2003:

In the short term, some Americans, informed or not but usually not, like to feel powerful because of the fact that we can dominate and destroy Iraq while changing its government, occupying its lands, and rebuilding it in our image at our president’s will. Many of these fine Americans unfortunately swallow the pretexts hook line and sinker. They are unaware of or willfully ignore the war’s underlying motivations and potentially disastrous consequences.

Will it dawn on us some day that we have allowed another disingenuous administration write yet another sorry entry for the annals of U.S. history to be filed with Vietnam and the human tragedy for civilians and soldiers alike that that war represented? If the war can be stopped, this can be prevented. Otherwise, I cry for my country.

Please pass me the hankies.

Where is Sidney Freedman when you need him?

Saturday, April 21st, 2007
Reaper
“Reaper” drone aircraft

National Pentagon Radio does Reaper promo

It must be nice for the US Air Force to have for its public relations campaigns a listener-supported national radio outlet and a staff of fawning reporters to do its work. That’s the role Mary Louise Kelly of NPR took on Friday for the Air Force as she reported on the latest version of its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a killing machine known as the “Reaper.”

The old version, called “Predator” was used to assassinate people who insufferable NPR host Robert Siegel called “suspected terrorists” in his introduction. The Reaper is a “bigger, stronger version” Siegel reports with a relatively cheerful inflection, almost a chortle. Hey, wow, “twice as fast as the Predator, and can carry far more ordnance — 14 Hellfire missiles as opposed to two.”

Shouldn’t the tenor of all this talk about sending Reapers to kill while controlled from a lab half a world away at least be grimly appropriate? Not on NPR, where the copy flows like brochures at an armaments industry trade show.

I won’t dwell on the details of the remote killing machine and its ambitious delivery schedule talked up by Kelly. But here is something that really struck me near the end of the five-minute audio brochure. At that point Kelly quotes as follows one Major John Chesser, a bomber pilot obviously very anxious to drop bombs:

Chesser also sees a distinct advantage to flying by remote control–instead of long tours of duty overseas, he points out, “You get to go home and eat dinner with your wife.”

I was reminded immediately of the episode of the TV series MASH where psychiatrist Sidney Freedman writes a letter to Sigmund Freud. In one scene, Sidney observes how the staff at the 4077th deals with a bomber pilot who had bragged of his easy days at the office dropping bombs on Korea from 20,000 feet, followed by comfortable meals at home. He then saw how the surgeons operated on a badly wounded eight-year-old Korean girl. Hawkeye and Col. Potter explained,

Col. Potter: Someone dropped a bomb on her building from an airplane.
Bomber Pilot: Who did it?
Hawkeye: He just dropped it. He didn’t autograph it.
Bomber Pilot: Was it one of theirs or one of ours?
Hawkeye: What difference does it make?
Bomber Pilot: A lot. It makes a lot of difference.
Col. Potter: Not to her.

Beyond the question of whether or not it is “the moral high ground” (quote from a military guy, also in Kelly’s report) to be assassinating even “suspected terrorists” with diabolical remote-controlled machines, it is inevitable that the 500-lb bombs and hellfire missiles exploded on top of residences will kill a lot more innocents than “suspects.” Unfortunately, Major Chesser and colleagues probably never will see for themselves that aspect of their work. Someone should send these Air Force men a DVD of that MASH episode. It should be viewed at NPR as well.

Friday garden blogging

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Signs of spring

Crocus
Crocus

Frankly it’s been a depressing week. There was a HUGE storm that wandered in here late Sunday and didn’t really get out until midday Wednesday. We got off lucky, just about 100 mm (3.8 in.) of rain over 48 hours and winds hitting 90 km/hr. In southern Maine, it was much, much worse, with $20 million in damage and some people still without power.

Things are looking up, however, so it’s a good time for Friday Garden Blogging to return. It’s like a switch was thrown–a warm 20 degrees C today, and maybe 25 or more by Monday. Unlimited sunshine to warm the ground.

And the HOPE Festival is tomorrow!

Next week, forsythia?

Too much 9/11 conspiracy for the conspiracy nuts

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Split in the 9/11 “truth movement”

I hadn’t been there in a while, so I was pretty amazed to find THIS. It’s a point-by-point response from Jim Fetzer to a letter written by BYU physicist Steven E. Jones. Jones apparently has found the direction of ultra-conspiracist Fetzer too whacky even for him and has parted company with the 9/11 “scholars for truth.”

Here is an excerpt:

Jones: This is to inform you that I (along with chemist Kevin Ryan and many others) have withdrawn from association with Jim Fetzer (JF) and “his” version of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, and to provide reasons for this action.

1. On the Scholars web site he manages (www.st911.org), Jim Fetzer casts aspersions on my research regarding the use of thermates at the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 — which is fine as long as he provides serious technical objections, which he has not done. At the same time, JF is promoting on the web site notions that energy-beams from WTC 7 or from space knocked the Towers down.

Here you will find Jim’s assertion that energy beams directed from WTC 7, or from space, may be the “fascinating” explanation for what caused the Twin Towers to collapse. He also here discusses “falling grand pianos.” My sincere efforts to correct his evident errors/misinformation have been twisted and distorted until I want no more to do with such “tar-baby” discussions.

Fetzer’s response: I have become convinced that the extent of the destruction of the World Trade Center, the fact that the bathtub survived functionally intact, and the existence of “toasted” vehicles as much as a half mile to a mile-and-a-half away is, in my opinion, very unlikely to be explainable on the basis of termite/thermate, even in combination with other explosives. If we want to get serious about what happened in New York, we have to consider a broader range of alternative explanations. That is not “casting aspersions”; on the contrary, that is what science is all about. If we do not consider all of the possible alternatives, we may never discover what happened because we omitted the true hypothesis on a priori or political or psychological grounds that were independent of logic and evidence. Science can be messy, complex, and controversial. Welcome to the search for truth! If thermate/thermate can provide a more adequate explanation than the alternatives, then he will have been proven to have been right; but you can’t do that without considering the alternatives!

Energy beams from space? Yeah, that’s messy science all right. I don’t think I need to say much more about this.

Wolfowitz of mass destruction

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

Wolfie's hair careThe smart ones did lie

With Wolfie in the news for corruption behind the anti-corruption veneer at his World Bank post, the ever engaging and insightful Jonathan Schwarz has up a fine post about whether or not “members of the Bush administration were lying about Iraq’s non-existent WMD.”

Because, as Schwarz puts it, “the smarter ones were lying, while the stupider ones believed what they said,” it turns out Wolfie is a great source on this matter. According to Jonathan Schwarz,

I’m pretty sure Wolfowitz’s pre-war view was this: Iraq may or may not have WMD. But due to Iraq’s oil wealth, they will eventually be able to build them, and–also due to their oil wealth–we’ll never have much leverage on them short of invasion. So it’s better to do it now.

Depending on the crowd you run with, that’s a halfway defensible argument. Certainly it’s far more persuasive than the Bush administration’s sledgehammer propaganda line. However, it’s also much more difficult to use to whip up war fever, at least if you believe Americans are a bunch of half-witted ten year-olds who need you to protect them.

So I suspect Wolfowitz decided just to go along with the propaganda–some deception of Americans was required to make necessary things happen. Moreover, he likely realized many of his superiors and co-workers were idiots who really believed all the crap they were saying, and it would be extremely impolitic and counterproductive to contradict them.

Schwarz has good evidence to back this up. Of course, in Deep Blade Journal, I have blogged about Wolfie’s obsession with forming NSC-68-like-Cold-War guiding principles for the Clash Against Islamo-fascism, because, as Wolfie put it in his 2004 tribute to the late Cold Warrior Paul Nitze, “the ideology of terrorist fanaticism is even more dangerous” than the Soviet threat. See HERE and HERE, and also HERE for more on Wolfie’s squirm over the “accuracy” of WMD claims.

The war you're not reading about

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

The Iraq SituationUN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): 4 million displaced Iraqis since 2003

The title of this post is the same as that of an oped published Sunday in the Washington Post (reprinted today in the Bangor Daily News) carrying the byline of the Republican presidential candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain. Along with McCain’s properly much-ridiculed April Fools walk through a Baghdad market backed by a powerful militia, his oped would be extremely silly except for the fact that the war McCain so dearly supports is causing death, injury, and displacement for millions of innocent Iraqis.

I won’t take on McCain’s “cautious optimism” point-by-point. Instead I’ll challenge his complete omission of any sense that he understands the full devastating depth and breadth of the total destruction of the foundations of Iraqi society that the war has brought. And, let me say I just cringe at the deep colonial mentality revealed by the “counterinsurgency approach” that McCain argues “for” — “separating the reconcilable population from the irreconcilable.”

If taken to its logical end, the language used here by McCain shows that he believes the part of the Iraqi population who continue to display their opposition to US control of their country is disposable. To me, McCain’s use of “irreconcilable” suggests that in the end his recommended approach would involve applying force in a manner tantamount to genocide. To McCain, “separating” means ridding Iraq of those who never will accept American domination, a clear majority in every study of Iraqi public opinion.

©Reuters/Ali Jasim, CourtesyUnfortunately, McCain is correct in one unintended sense. Many Americans who find themselves reading war cheerleading by the likes of the senator are not reading about how terrible the actual war is.

Just today, for example, the International Committee of the Red Cross released a report that describes an Iraq where, “The suffering that Iraqi men, women and children are enduring today is unbearable and unacceptable. Their lives and dignity are continuously under threat.” The American media barely has covered this release. It’s a slight footnote in a few news stories and I have seen no mention yet on television.

The report, called “Civilians Without Protection,” (unlike the situation for Senator McCain in the Baghdad market) describes the “ever worsening humanitarian crisis” where “Thousands of Iraqis continue to be forced out of their homes owing to military operations, general poor security and the destruction of houses. And the outlook is bleak, particularly in Baghdad and other areas with mixed communities, where the situation is likely to worsen.”

It’s all so depressing. American public opinion generally has turned against McCain and the war, but there still is woeful ignorance about what is actually happening to the Iraqis as a direct result of the American invasion. We don’t see the most important reporting on the situation.

Patrick Cockburn of the UK Independent, author of The Occupation, a riveting book on Iraq, is an essential antidote to the poison of McCain. His dispatches are not published in American newspapers, but the Internet is an easy way to get them. Here are just a few recent doses of reality filed by Cockburn around the 4th anniversary of the invasion:

  • March 19, 2007: Almost Every Aspect of Iraqi Life has Gotten Worse in the Last Four Years

Tony Blair and George Bush still occasionally imply that the picture of Iraq as a war-torn hell is an exaggeration by the media. They suggest, though not as forcibly as they did a couple of years ago, that parts of the country are relatively peaceful. Nothing could be more untrue.

In reality, the violence is grossly understated. The Baker-Hamilton report by senior Republicans and Democrats, led by James Baker, took a single day last summer, when the US army reported 93 acts of violence in Iraq, and asked American intelligence to re-examine the evidence. They found the real figure was 1,100–the US military had deliberately understated the violence by factor of over 10….

  • March 20, 2007: Four Years After the Invasion: Iraq is a Vast, Blood-Drenched Human Disaster

Four years after the US and British troops invaded Iraq the country is drenched in blood and its people full of fear. Iraqis often have a look of half-suppressed panic in their eyes as they tell how violent death had touched them and their families again and again….

  • April 10, 2007: The Beacon of the US “Success” The Myth of Tal Afar

Embedded American journalists scurried to this poor and depressing Turkoman city between Mosul and the Syrian border to report on the good news. President Bush even singled it out for optimistic comment in March 2006. “Tal Afar shows that, when Iraqis can count on a basic level of safety and security, they can live together peacefully,” he said. “The people of Tal Afar have shown why spreading liberty and democracy is at the heart of our strategy to defeat the terrorists.”

It was always a myth. On March 27, a gigantic truck bomb exploded in a Shia market area in Tal Afar. It was the deadliest single bomb out of the many that have been detonated by Sunni insurgents. The Interior Ministry said that 152 people were killed and 347 wounded in the explosion….

It was always absurd to treat Tal Afar as a possible textbook case of how the US might successfully expedite a counter-insurgency policy.

For more on Tal Afar, see Deep Blade Journal HERE. This SEARCH produces a large catalog of Patrick Cockburn dispatches from Iraq. Cockburn’s book, “The Occupation,” is a highly recommended read.

Saudi oil: implications for US in Iraq

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

Key sections of super-giant Ghawar field may be “watering out”;
Why does Senator Levin say “we’re not going to cut off funding for the troops” in Iraq??

Ghawar Field oil saturation

Stuart Staniford at The Oil Drum says THIS DISCUSSION is “not introductory.” No, surely it isn’t. There is no way that I understand all of the oil field concepts involved. However, the upshot of this post, previous cited posts, and a great deal of debate and discussion attached to all of these posts is that the largest Saudi oil field, Ghawar, will play out in one to two decades.

This is no small matter. This single field produces about 5% of all the oil produced in the entire world.

The way oil is produced at Ghawar involves the injection of water in order to force out the oil. At some point, mostly water will be produced and not much oil. It will have “watered out”. Indications are that this is happening now. Including handy references to the entire discussion, Staniford writes of the

hypothesis that watering out of North Ghawar is the main cause of declines in Saudi production in the last couple of years. Readers getting up to speed may want to read the following earlier posts which document most of “The Oil Drum Ghawar Project”:

In many cases, the comments contain a great deal of additional analysis and value beyond the posts themselves…

Do go read this stuff. There are several competing points of view, but they are beginning to merge upon a concensus that Saudi Arabia is no longer capable of increasing oil production in a sustained way. In fact, Saudi output involuntarily is declining at an alarming rate.

Of course, the implications of this are staggering. What country can function as swing oil producer if Saudi cannot? Perhaps in ten years, Iraq? Maybe. Plenty of reporting on Iraq’s potential may be found on the net. A typical number used for Iraq’s potential production intensity is cited HERE, “Iraq might be able to pump up its production to as much as 6 mbd by 2010 and 7-8 mbd by 2020”.

But the US project to harness control of development and production of Iraqi oil has hit a roadblock that if looked at honestly would be called armed indigenous resistance. Hence, US troops are destined to remain under the policies of President Bush, or ostensibly competing strategies offered by Democrats.

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI, Chair of Senate Committee on Armed Services) cleared up the point on ABC News today. He said that in the end, the Democrats will continue to fund war in Iraq against the will of the American people for the indefinite future.

Though he says, “What we should do, and we’re going to do, is continue to press this president to put some pressure on the Iraqi leaders to reach a political settlement,” what this really means is that the Democrats are all for the colonial project. The “benchmarks” Levin and the Democrats speak of include “dividing the oil resources.”

This is code for what I have discussed before, that the new Iraqi oil law will give “executive managers of from important related petroleum companies” control of Iraqi oil valves, thus taking direct control of world swing oil production–what the Saudi’s have been in charge of since the Texas Railroad Commission lost its power due to the depletion of Texas oil reserves after 1971.

The only way to keep these “executives” in charge will be to keep thousands of American troops in Iraq for an indefinite time.

GAO: US "especially vulnerable" to oil supply shocks

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

US government report issued March 29 (pdf HERE) discusses “uncertainty about future oil supply” and need to “develop a strategy for addressing a peak and decline in oil production”

The report asserts, “Most studies estimate that oil production will peak sometime between now and 2040.”

That’s a wide range. But the date of peak oil is not the most important issue, though I do personally believe it’s a lot closer to “now” than “2040”. Whatever, this official government report should be a real wake-up call. There is a lot of potential for oil shock and disruption in a “vulnerable” America. And it could happen at any time.

Here’s a worthwhile 7-1/2-minute Matt Simmons interview on the topic:

And there is a bunch more at The Oil Drum, HERE.