Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Support Our Troops

Nothing I've seen explains this administration’s attitude toward our troops better than the juxtaposition of the following headlines:


Eisenhower's military/industrial complex warning is the most famous, and rightly so, but I think in the current context General Butler lays it down a bit better:

War is a racket ... in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.


Never has that been truer than right now, when the desire to monopolize control of oil, for both power and profit, is causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And the troops are viewed much as the turn of the century coal barons viewed their miners: necessary, but expendable, assets. They are to be paid as little as possible, and their lives and health only matter in so far as the bad publicity too many deaths might generate.

The proposed cuts in veteran health care, which is a recurring theme with this administration, are even more insidious than they sound. The current war is notorious for creating a greater percentage of wounded than previous wars. There are two reasons for this. One is that body armor and rapid medical evacuations lead to many severely wounded vets that would have been fatalities in previous wars. The other is the extensive use of depleted uranium, which is now viewed as a likely contributor to the "Gulf War Syndrome" of the first gulf war and which is currently wreaking havoc both on the Iraqis and our soldiers. It was just discovered that the initial shock and awe assault released so much of this toxic substance into the atmosphere that the increase in radiation was measured as far away as Great Britain. And what company was involved in suppressing that information? Halliburton, of course.

Anecdotal stories reinforce the notion of a callous military. Like the soldier who was charged for the body armor that got destroyed when he was wounded. Or those threatened with the loss of death benefits if they wore better body armor. Stories like these may be the exception, and not the rule, but they are common enough to indicate a real problem, a pattern of disdain for the needs of the soldiers doing the actual fighting.

Yesterday Zogby released a poll indicating 72% of the troops in Iraq think we should leave within a year. Being closer to the situation, the truths of the war are more obvious to them, despite the indoctrination they receive.

I hope these realities are also becoming clear to those sporting "Support Our Troops" bumper stickers. The best way to support our troops is to bring them home, and to replace the current administration with one that really cares about them.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Update: Domes and Nukes

I don’t have time for a real blog today, but there are a few short items worth noting relevant to past ones.

On the one involving the Shrine destruction. There have been a few pieces of evidence coming in indicating it was an occupation operation. The first is that it was a demolition requiring a lot of skill and time; this was not just a few guys throwing in some sticks of dynamite. They drilled through the pillars and planted explosives – a very carefully conceived and executed plan. In addition, there has been at least one report coming out that American and Iraqi National Guard troops showed up the night before, told people to stay indoors, and left early the next morning just before the explosion. While this could be disinformation from the vast al Qaeda media network, the one whose resources dwarf those of poor Rumsfeld's impoverished defense department, I suspect it’s true. Of course, since the al-Aribiya reporter that showed up there to interview people was promptly kidnapped and executed it’s hard to get first hand accounts. And not that there aren’t a lot of really nasty guys running around Iraq, but it’s amazing how many journalists who might have bad things to say about the occupation meet unfortunate ends. I’ll write an appropriate full blog on that at some point in the future.

On a more positive note, the NY Times, the newspaper I love to hate (their motto should be “all the news we want you to hear”) had a big, headlined op-ed piece today that said that which must not be said: It may be ok for Iran to have nukes, after all. Blow me down. Maybe tomorrow they’ll break down and talk about vote fraud or 9/11. I’m not holding my breath, but it was still good to see them have the guts to publish that piece, given that their news reporting, which is often much more biased than their usually reasonable editorial page, has been focusing on the evils of Tehran for quite a while now.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Troublemaker in the Middle

I’ve often found when reading the NY Times that the true story is hidden within the article as a quote from a local.

Let’s take bin Laden as an example. Buried in an article on the CIA in the Pakistani tribal areas, a school teacher, when asked where bin Laden was, said "America brought Osama bin Laden to this region. They know his whereabouts better than me." Similarly, in an article on Edward Caraballo’s experience in an Afghan jail, he mentions: ''They all love Bush, because he liberated their country, and they all say Osama bin Laden is Bush's friend.''

In today’s paper, the most truthful part is revealed, once again, by a local, in this case an Iraqi clothing merchant: "I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes — it is America. Everything that is going on between Sunnis and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America." Not that they don’t have a history. But in the current context, Ahmadinejad is quite right to blame the occupying forces for the destruction of the Askariya Shrine.

It took me a long time to believe that his axis of evil – America, Britain, and Israel – were actually involved in “terrorist acts” inside of Iraq. It just seemed so counter-productive. Didn’t they have enough problems there anyway?

But the evidence started dripping in. First were reports that the military was planting bombs in the cars of Iraqi civilians. Then two Britains, dressed as Arabs, were found driving around with explosives.

And then, after the 400th second in command to al-Zarqawi was caught, it began dawning on me that he was being put in a bin Laden-like mythical position (1,2,3). Given that almost every incarnation of al Qaeda has had extensive western support, it stood to reason that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia (perhaps they watch Jon Stewart) was essentially a cover for covert operations.

Elias Akleh began writing some interesting articles about coalition sponsered terrorism (1,2). All of a sudden the early attacks on the UN and Red Cross in Baghdad, which had been so confusing at the time, made sense. And evidently there’s a bit of history to these techniques.

And simultaneous with this, it was becoming clear that journalists were, indeed, being targeted – murdered – by Americans, and that the “Salvador option” talked about a year ago was surfacing as the vicious hit squads so reviled right now.

It took all this for me to realize just how ruthless our operations had become, above and beyond the normal horrors of war, and just how enamored of brutal covert operations the defense department was. Killing innocent civilians is just part and parcel of what they do.

So when I see a golden dome being blown up, followed by sectarian attacks, I tend to agree with the clothing merchant: “the troublemaker in the middle is America”.

Why would they do this? It seems so at odds with what we’re trying to achieve there. As today’s NY Times editorial says, the destruction of the shrine “was no everyday act of terrorism. It was a deliberate attempt to make it politically impossible to create a national unity government capable of leading Iraq to democratic stability.” To understand why we would be working against our own overt goals, it must be understood that one of the major reasons for invading Iraq was to establish military bases there.There was never any intention of leaving; that would defeat the entire purpose of the war, which had nothing to do with Sadam or WMD. The last thing the neocons want is a stable government, heavily influenced by Iran, that would actually ask us to leave. And Iraq was getting way too close to that for comfort. As a senior administration official almost gleefully notes: "Just in the last 36-hour period, Sunni Arabs who were urging us to withdraw forces from cities like Baghdad are now urging us to stay. I don't know if the American military is reconsidering its posture, but I can tell you that the Iraqis are reconsidering."

I guess it feels good to be wanted.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

From the Wilderness – A Review

Website: http://www.fromthewilderness.com/

Background

This is Michael Ruppert’s organization. He was an LAPD narcotics investigator who, on discovering CIA drug trafficking, was fired, but kept his focus on exposing what goes on under the covers in our government. His book, "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil" summarizes much of his investigations, with the major emphasis being the role of drug trafficking and the CIA in the corporate world, the role of members of our government, and in particular Dick Cheney, in the 9/11 attacks, and the peak oil phenomena and its ramifications.

Discussion

While I have not done an extensive analysis on exactly who came up with what first in the world of 9/11 investigations, I think it is safe to say that Ruppert is responsible for a number of major discoveries. Unlike some other investigators that focus on physical evidence, he works exclusively with the surrounding published material, much of which has turned out to be extremely important in deciphering the events of that day. His emphasis on the significance of Cheney being put in charge of a slew of relevant agencies under the guise of an “anti-terrorism” effort in May 2001, a change requiring Rumsfeld to approve the use of Norad fighters to intercept hijacked planes in June 2001, and the various Norad exercises on the day of the attacks has been extremely valuable in understanding the planning behind 9/11.

Ruppert has also been very active on the lecture circuit and has helped spread the word about the attacks – a difficult and important task where a contrived “war on terror” is being used as justification for so much of what is happening.

He has recently focused almost completely on the “Peak Oil” phenomenon and its ramifications. In fact, he can also rightly claim to be far ahead of the curve on this: he was warning of this years ago, and the likelihood that it’s happening is becoming more and more accepted in the mainstream. While there are some who don’t believe there is a current peak oil event, I think the consensus opinion is that it is quite real, and Ruppert was very on target in this regard.

The web site, though, has – to a large extent intentionally - become almost solely a good source for peak oil news and analysis, and interpreting the events of the day in the context of this phenomenon. Given that this does seem to be a dominant motivation for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and possibly Iran, it’s hard to minimize its importance. Ruppert does sometimes sound a bit apocalyptic, however, when discussing the coming years as oil production ceases to meet demand; hopefully the effects will not be as severe as he hypothesizes.

Despite this, Ruppert's contributions have been extremely important. So while there is a slight caveat about the direness of his warnings during every potential oil supply interruption, I listen very carefully when he talks.

Summary

Overall : Very Good – Excellent on what they cover, though the emphasis right now is on oil and energy issues.

Analysis: Excellent – Again, the scope is limited, but they often do fairly original work that may not be where my focus is but that is worth being aware of.

News: Good – Updated almost daily with a very selective set of articles, sometimes with commentary, with the usual oil/energy focus.

Bias: Dominant “Peak Oil” focus - Discussions on the implications of peak oil dominate the site.

Pros: Some solid, and often important, original research. An excellent site for understanding possible ramifications of peak oil and keeping abreast of relevant news relating to it.

Cons: Currently most of the analysis and news centers on the peak oil phenomenon and related events, so there is limited scope beyond this. Having said that, given that so much of the current geopolitical storm is energy related, this covers a decent amount of territory.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Iran

I really don’t know where to start on this one.

It’s not that the neocons, after what everyone else sees as an incredible failure in Iraq, still want to attack Iran. I’d long ago realized just how oblivious to human suffering they were, and how once they were fixated on something, they would aggressively pursue it regardless of circumstances. And the plan always was to go into Iran : "Anyone can go to Baghdad. Real men go to Tehran." – how cute. So there’s no surprise there.

What is shocking is just how on board everyone else is with this. The Democrats are positioning themselves somewhat to the right of the war-mongering administration, Europe is playing along sycophantically as if regretting they weren’t involved in that fun Iraq escapade, and the media is cooperating far more than they did for the Iraq build-up, even after just having castigated itself for that mistake.

There is an almost uniform, consistent message coming out:


  • Iran is defying the world and trying to build a nuclear device.

  • If they get one, they’ll certainly attack Israel (thanks, Ahmadinejad) and – look at those circles of destruction showing the range of their missiles – are likely to attack anyone else they feel like.

  • We’ll try real hard to settle this diplomatically. And there is really no military solution. Unless there is.

Of course, it’s not hard to see the next step. Darn, diplomacy just isn’t working on those irrational Iranians. Shock and Awe II, maybe with mini-nukes added. And, to safeguard the Iraqi border, we’ll simply have to occupy oil-rich Khuzestan.

I feel sympathetic with Heather Wokusch’s analogy: “Witnessing the Bush administration’s drive for an attack on Iran is like being a passenger in a car with a raving drunk at the wheel.” But the part of all this that I find mind-boggling is how widespread the support for it is. It doesn’t take a whole lot to see how the IAEA and UN are being used simply so the US gets to say that “diplomacy failed”, since we just went through that experience with Iraq, and yet it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find a mainstream media outlet that makes this point. Quite the opposite, they’re all right on board, emphasizing how “Iran is different – really – they must be stopped”.

Ron Paul remains one of the few honest voices in congress. But there is no reason to think his message will spread.

And it’s truly sad when Pat Buchanan sounds like a beacon of sanity when compared with the NY Times, which is trumpeting the dangers of Tehran along with the rest of the media.

But that seems to be where we are.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Center for Research on Globalization – A review

Website: www.globalresearch.ca

Background:

This is the web site of Center for Research on Globalization, which is led by Michel Chossudovsky, an economics professor at the University of Ottawa. According to its site it’s “an independent research and media group of writers, scholars and activists” who publish “news articles, commentary, background research and analysis on a broad range of issues, focusing on social, economic, strategic, geopolitical and environmental processes”.

Discussion:

I find this site extremely informative. Its articles represent a broad array of topics with an analysis that works from suppositions that I’ve found quite accurate and are those of this blog: that the powerful interest groups of the world work in fairly Machiavellian ways that are only superficially discussed in the western, and in particular American, press. And Chossudovsky himself has moved quite seamlessly from understanding the inherent ruthlessness behind the machinations of the globalization process under Clinton to the imperial militarism under the pretext of the 9/11 attacks and the war on terror of the current administration.

Summary:

Overall : Excellent – Good articles that attempt to analyze what is really happening in the current world situation.

Analysis: Excellent – The site’s strength.

News: So-so – While it is not a site that points to news sources and only a few articles are added daily, there is enough meat here to get a sense of what’s is happening around the world.

Bias: Very Good - I find the site fairly balanced, though clearly it is not fond of corporate globalization. It has been accused of an anti-Israel bias; I find this to be generally untrue, with the possible exception of the occasional rabid author.

Pros: A very solid site with fairly knowledgeable authors who are willing to look under the covers.

Cons: No direct mainstream news links, only a handful of articles added each day.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Terrorist Surveillance Program

A recent poll in USA Today, intrepidly trying to get the pulse of the American people, found that "By 50%-47%, Americans say the administration was wrong to allow wiretapping of international communications involving terrorism suspects without obtaining court warrants." As is often the case, the phrasing of the question disguises the real issue.

Some of the “terrorist surveillance” done by the FBI and DoD has been reported in the mainstream media, thanks to lawsuits brought by the ACLU. Usually those infiltrated are such Al-Qaeda affiliated groups as “Quakers for Peace”, “Moms against Military Recruiting”, and “Vegans opposing Chinchilla Abuse”. But while this gets a lot closer to the real need for warrantless spying, we’re not quite there yet. Exactly what is Grover Norquist worried about when, in speaking out against NSA spying, he warns that “at some point Hillary Clinton might be making these decisions”?

Paul Craig Roberts cuts to the chase in an article that has many excellent points:

We have reached a point where the Bush administration is determined to totally eclipse the people. Bewitched by neoconservatives and lustful for power, the Bush administration and the Republican Party are aligning themselves firmly against the American people. Their first victims, of course, were the true conservatives. Having eliminated internal opposition, the Bush administration is now using blackmail obtained through illegal spying on American citizens to silence the media and the opposition party.


Before flinching at my assertion of blackmail, ask yourself why President Bush refuses to obey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The purpose of the FISA court is to ensure that administrations do not spy for partisan political reasons. The warrant requirement is to ensure that a panel of independent federal judges hears a legitimate reason for the spying, thus protecting a president from the temptation to abuse the powers of government. The only reason for the Bush administration to evade the court is that the Bush administration had no legitimate reasons for its spying. This should be obvious even to a naif.

Ahh, now we get to the core of the matter. Political control through blackmail – a time honored tradition. It now becomes much clearer why somebody like Grover Norquist, who has quite a few skeletons in his closet, understands that unlimited spying can be a bad thing: it has nothing to do with terrorism, and everything to do with control of both allies and enemies – political enemies, the real threat to the administration, not someone with a turban in a cave.

Additional insight can be gained by peeking into the White House’s enemies list, as described by Doug Thompson in a Capitol Hill Blue article:


Spurred by paranoia and aided by the USA Patriot Act, the Bush Administration has compiled dossiers on more than 10,000 Americans it considers political enemies and uses those files to wage war on those who disagree with its policies. ...


The computerized files include intimate personal details on members of Congress; high-ranking local, state and federal officials; prominent media figures and ordinary citizens who may, at one time or another, have spoken out against the President or Administration.

Capitol Hill Blue has spoken with a number of current and former administration officials who acknowledge existence of the enemies list only under a guarantee of confidentiality. Those who have seen the list say it is far more extensive than Richard Nixon’s famous “enemies list” of Watergate fame or Bill Clinton’s dossiers on political enemies. …


“If you want to know who’s sleeping with whom, who drinks too much or has a fondness for nose candy, this is the place to find it,” says another White House aide. Karl (Rove) operates under the rule that if you fuck with us, we’ll fuck you over.”


The snooping is so pervasive that aides in the White House have taking to using disposable phones, for fear that they will become victems of their own administration’s eavesdropping. From another Doug Thompson article:


Wary White House aides, under constant scrutiny from a paranoid Bush administration hell bent on stopping leaks, have turned to a technique used by drug dealers and criminals to avoid detection – prepaid, disposable cell phones. …


“Every time a new story emerges in the press, everyone here comes under suspicion,” says one aide. “We spend most of our time covering our asses instead of tending to the nation’s business.”


White House sources tell us that even senior aides like embattled Presidential advisor Karl Rove uses the prepaid phones to avoid having certain calls show up on call logs or other records that might be subpoenaed.


If it’s beginning to sound like Stalinist Russia, where one never knew who would be purged next, you’re beginning to get the idea. The program never had much to do with terrorists.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Caught in the Middle

“Agent Provocateur” – this was the title of an interesting op-ed piece in the NY Times today. It was interesting for a few reasons. First, it almost acknowledged the fairly obvious fact that the current “cartoon crisis” is a manufactured situation. Of course it did this by citing the opinions of average Pakistanis, but it didn’t deride them as “unbelievable conspiracy theories” as is so often done. In fact, it almost seemed sympathetic to the notion. Here is a quote toward the end of the article:


Later, over dinner, a member of my family said: "It's just racism. You act in ways that you know will provoke the extremists to start ranting and then you get bearded men frothing at the mouth, and — because those are the only images that get significant news coverage — you can then turn around and say, 'You see, all Muslims are fanatics.' "

"And that plays straight into the hand of the right wing in Europe whose greatest strength comes from racist polemic?" I finished. That really didn't seem a million miles away from suggestions of a conspiracy.

That’s beginning to get pretty close to what’s going on, certainly a lot closer than you’ll read in most news articles. While the immediate need for the provocation is almost certainly to get more popular support in Europe for the impending attack on Iran, the more general purpose is to foment the idea of a “clash of civilizations”. And the desire for this notion to gain momentum seems to come from the extremists on both sides: the increasingly fascist right wing of the western powers and the radical Islamists. And despite their public declarations of each other as the ultimate enemy, they seem to, and often do, work together; I suspect the current cartoons and ensuing riots are just such an occasion.

Earlier in the article is a quote from a school teacher, who was asked what the point of the cartoons’ provocation was:

“Whoever knows what’s going on? It’s something internal going on in those places. Or something to do with their own politics about, who knows, Iran, Israel. It could be anything.”


This reminded me, in its tone, of a quote from an Iraqi I read a while ago: “I would never have believed the Arabs to be so vicious or the Americans so merciless”. There’s a sense of helplessness, of being caught up in the middle of events that have a great, and almost universally disastrous, effect on individual lives, because of the ambitions of a small number of hostile, deluded leaders. And these disastrous results are not limited to Islamic countries; they are clearly being felt in Europe and America, where our freedom and democracy are being threatened by the very people that claim to be protecting them. I sincerely doubt, as the neocons like to claim, that our children will be singing our praises years from now.

A Conspiracy Blog

This will be a political blog. It will be “conspiracy theorist” in that I’ve discovered that, yes, indeed, 9/11 was an inside job and the Kennedy’s were not killed by Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan. Though I think “reality theorist” may be a better term, since when you look into these things without the blinders it becomes pretty obvious that the public is being conned. The blog will also be liberal – or is the proper term for that now “progressive”? – as that has always been my leaning.

Generally, I’ll make comments on current events with a view towards looking under the cover of what is being reported in the mainstream media. Luckily, there are many other good sources for this type of information, and I'll be shameless about using and referencing them as needed.

I’ll also review other sites that have some insight into the current world situation. In attempting to research 9/11, I found that one of the great difficulties was wading through all the sources for information and their various prejudices and backgrounds. I’ll attempt to sort through some of that in a limited way.

Finally, I hope to have some blogs on the idea of “conspiracy theory”. Why is it so incredibly easy to pull off something as huge and with as much condemning evidence as 9/11, and yet completely get away with it? I’ve thought about this a lot, and there are a number of answers, so in the course of this blog I’ll try to bring some of those ideas to light.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Testing

Hello, world.