October 31, 2004

In Case You Missed It:

George W. Bush, 13 March, 2003 at a press conference:

Q: Mr. President, in your speeches now, you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden. Why is that? [...]

BUSH: ... I don't know where he is. Nor - you know, I just don't spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you [...]

Q: Do you believe the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead of alive?

BUSH: As I say, we hadn't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, you know, again, I don't know where he is. I'll repeat what I said: I truly am not that concerned about him. '
Bush Has Been Exploiting Terrorism For Three Years

Written two or three days ago, before the bin Laden tape appeared, Bill Berkowitz's column at Working For Change is eerily prescient:
"The re-election of President George W. Bush will not depend on the quagmire in Iraq, the state of the economy, Florida re-counts, suppressed votes in the battleground states, the lack of a paper trail from electronic voting machines, or a decision by the United States Supreme Court. The president will win if Team Bush has successfully convinced voters that their guy is more capable of fighting the war against terror and keeping Americans safer than Senator John Kerry.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it was clear that Election 2004 would turn on the threat of terrorism in the homeland. Whether that threat was real or imagined when Karl Rove set out his strategy for Team Bush, terror was at its core..."
It's laughable that the Bush election team are now ready to jump all over any Democrat who dares use the bin Laden tape "for partisan political purposes" - they themselves have been doing just that for over three years!
Although Bush's sprint to the finish line has been marked by all sorts of potholes -- escalating US casualties in Iraq, 380 tons of weapons gone missing after US troops arrived in country, report after report detailing the administration's feckless behavior during the occupation -- Team Bush has never veered from its message: There could be another major terrorist attack on the United States if John Kerry becomes president.
Bush's election campaign, indeed his whole Presidency, has been totally charaterized by this Orwellian fear campaign. Although his successes against terrorists are few and far between, although his mistakes are many and major, statistics indicate - against all logic and facts - that the US public still trust him over Kerry to handle terrorist issues.

Dare we hope that the reappearance of a grinning, re-invigorated bin Laden will give voters pause for thought? The bin Laden bounce is helping Bush today, but there is still enough time for that initial reaction to be turned into contemplation, then backlash. As the Berkowitz article concludes:
If you believe that terrorism is the No. 1 threat to the nation... why ever would you vote for George Bush?
Spinning Bin Laden

Like it or not, the new bin Laden tape is DEFINITELY a positive for the Bush campaign. Some bloggers like Kos are trying to pretend it isn't, and given the limited time left till voting (with the Net usually 24 - 48 hours ahead of mainstream news anyway), I can understand their desire to "spin" the tape their guys' way. But there is just no escaping the facts.

Personally, I think it is best that voters go the the polls with a very clear understanding: this bin Laden tape does help Bush. The timing is extraordinarily fortunate for the Bush camp. Make of that what you will.

New York Daily News reports on GOP officials' delight with the new bin Laden video:
"'We want people to think 'terrorism' for the last four days,' said a Bush-Cheney campaign official. 'And anything that raises the issue in people's minds is good for us.'

A senior GOP strategist added, 'anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush.'

He called it 'a little gift,' saying it helps the President but doesn't guarantee his reelection."
P.S. I like how this report suggests that Osama should have ended the tape: "I'm Osama Bin Laden and I approved this message." You gotta laugh, right?

P.P.S. Speaking of laughing, this one's good:

Q: What's the difference between Vietnam and Iraq?

A: Bush had a plan to get out of Vietnam.
Bin Laden Helps Bush

A new Newsweek poll indicates the bin Laden tape has give Bush a 4-point boost. In a sign that ignorance continues to reign supreme, registered voters in today's poll say they trust Bush over Kerry 56 percent to 37 percent to combat terrorism.

October 30, 2004

Today's Headlines If Osama Hadn't Appeared:

Reporter saw insurgents loot Qaqaa arms depot:
"A French journalist who visited the Qaqaa munitions depot south of Baghdad in November last year said she witnessed Islamic insurgents looting vast supplies of explosives more than six months after the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The account of Sara Daniel, which will be published Wednesday in the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, lends further weight to allegations that American occupying forces in Iraq failed to protect hundreds of tons of munitions from extremists plotting attacks against their own troops.

Much of the controversy has centered around the disappearance of about 380 tons of the powerful HMX explosive. The material, which had been monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency before the war and subsequently sealed in bunkers by its inspectors, was reported missing by Iraqi officials earlier this month.

Daniel, who spent nearly two hours at Qaqaa with a group that has since become known as the Islamic Army of Iraq, could not confirm seeing buildings that carried the agency's seal or explosives that were marked to be of the HMX variety. But her report is one of terrorists having easy access to a vast weapons inventory.

'I was utterly stupefied to see that a place like that was pretty much unguarded and that insurgents could help themselves for months on end,' Daniel said on Friday. 'We were there for a long time and no one disturbed the group while they were loading their truck.'

A man who identified himself as Abu Abdallah and led the group Daniel was with, told her that his men and numerous other insurgent groups had rushed to Qaqaa after U.S.-led troops captured Baghdad on April 9 last year. The groups stole truck-loads of material from what used to be the biggest explosive factory in the Middle East..."
Their Own Words

George W. Bush, 13 March, 2003 at a press conference:
Q: Mr. President, in your speeches now, you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden. Why is that? [...]

BUSH: ... I don't know where he is. Nor - you know, I just don't spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you [...]

Q: Do you believe the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead of alive?

BUSH: As I say, we hadn't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, you know, again, I don't know where he is. I'll repeat what I said: I truly am not that concerned about him. "
And since we are quoting people here, is it "un-American" to want to actually know what bin Laden said on this new tape? I don't think so, nor do I think that publishing the tape necessarily helps either Bush or bin Laden's cause - it is up to people to decide for themselves.

Isn't that what Democracy is supposed to be all about, First Amendment and all?

So here is a transcript from Al Jazeera, who broadcast excerpts only:

"O American people, I am speaking to tell you about the ideal way to avoid another Manhattan, about war and its causes and results.

"Security is an important foundation of human life and free people do not squander their security, contrary to Bush's claims that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not attack Sweden for example.

"It is known that those who hate freedom do not possess proud souls like those of the 19, may God rest their souls. We fought you because we are free and because we want freedom for our nation. When you squander our security we squander yours.

"I am surprised by you. Despite entering the fourth year after Sept. 11, Bush is still deceiving you and hiding the truth from you and therefore the reasons are still there to repeat what happened.

"It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American forces... thought listening to a child discussing her goat and its ramming was more important than the planes and their ramming of the skyscrapers"

"God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers but after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed -- when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the US Sixth Fleet.

"In those difficult moments many emotions came over me which are hard to describe, but which produced an overwhelming feeling to reject injustice and a strong determination to punish the unjust.

"As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way (and) to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women.

"We had no difficulty in dealing with Bush and his administration because they resemble the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half by the sons of kings ... They have a lot of pride, arrogance, greed and thievery.

"He (Bush) adopted despotism and the crushing of freedoms from Arab rulers and called it the Patriot Act under the guise of combating terrorism.....

"We had agreed with the (the Sept. 11) overall commander Mohammed Atta, may God rest his soul, to carry out all operations in 20 minutes before Bush and his administration take notice.

"It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American forces (Bush) would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone at a time when they most needed him because he thought listening to a child discussing
her goat and its ramming was more important than the planes and their ramming of the skyscrapers. This had given us three times the time needed to carry out the operations, thanks be to God...

"Your security is not in the hands of (Democratic presidential candidate John) Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands and each state which does not harm our security will remain safe."
The fact that bin Laden specifically mentions Kerry indicates that the tape was probably made quite recently, so bin Laden is probably still alive.

And while bin Laden taunts Bush, he does not advocate Kerry. Indeed, Kerry's campaign has been widely criticized by peace advocates for failing to set out a less aggressive agenda for the Middle East. To Bin Laden and his supporters, it makes little difference who is in the White House - as he says, it is the policies that matter.

And am I the only one who senses a degree of guilty apology in bin Laden's words? I suspect the 3000 WTC deaths - and others - weigh heavily on his conscience. Even if he is never brought to justice, he chose the path of violence and his life will never be the same. Nor will the lives on millions of others.

The sad irony is that bin Laden's violent actions have only led to more aggressive US policies and more death in the Middle East. And this latest tape may only guarantee that - even if Kerry is elected - it will be even more unlikely that those aggressive US policies will change. The political implications and public perception of "caving in to terrorists" are likely to over-ride more reasonable arguments for peace, tolerance and respect for basic human rights.

Perhaps it's easy for me to say this, sitting in my comfortable Australian home, but surely a sustained campaign of peaceful resistance would have been more effective, wouldn't it, Osama?

I strongly urge anyone who wants to change US policies in the Middle East and elsewhere to consider more peaceful means than those adopted by Al Quaeda and its off-shoots.

A blog, for instance...? Or, if you have it, a vote...

Daily Kos looks at the Bin Laden tape:
"I saw OBL today and I thought, hmmm. Looks in good health. Had access to video equipment. Arms work. Looks clean. So where is he? Why hasn't Bush found him? Why isn't Bush talking about him?

.. It's the Friday before the election, and here are the two leading non-campaign stories: Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose and threatening the U.S., and tons of explosives are missing from Iraq and presumed to be in the possession of terrorists and/or the insurgents fighting our troops in Iraq...

The Bin Laden tape does not help Bush. It probably has no significant effect, but if it does, that effect is probably negative toward Bush. The Bin Laden tape does not present any reason for us to be concerned in terms of the election. Our concern should be that Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose, and we need to elect a President who will make it a priority to capture Bin Laden."
Surprise Is No Surprise

With Kerry building up a seemingly unstoppable momentum in these final days, and the Al Qaqaa weapons fiasco being slowly and painfully nailed home, Karl Rove had to come up with something.

But is this it? The timing is very, very, very suspiscious. Bin Laden threatens new attacks:
Arabic TV station al-Jazeera has broadcast a videotape apparently featuring Osama Bin Laden, in which he threatens new attacks on the US.

In his opening remarks, the al-Qaeda leader accused President George W Bush of deceiving Americans in the years since the 11 September 2001 attacks.

He compared the Bush administration to what he termed corrupt Arab regimes...

Bin Laden said he first thought of attacking the US after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

He said the attacks on the US would have been less severe if President Bush had been more alert.

But he added that the security of the American people depended neither on Mr Bush nor on his challenger, John Kerry, but on US policy.

"The reasons to repeat what happened remain," he said.

If genuine, this is the first videotape of Bin Laden speaking to have surfaced since the US-led war in Afghanistan following the 11 September attacks, which he is generally thought to have masterminded.

It was not obvious when the video was recorded.
This tape can only help Bush at this stage, so what is bin Laden trying to achieve?

What if this tape has been in Bush's hands for months? Or what if - as many suspect - Bush's team knew about bin Laden's plans for 9/11 but let it happen anyway... could Bush and bin Laden still be co-operating? I know, I know - "Conspiracy Theories"! But if you had been writing this blog for the last year and a half like I have, by now you would be open to considering just about anything too.

Rove was always going to spring something by Friday, so the electorate would have the weekend to digest it and pass the news around, building an unstoppable wave of (presumably) righteous anger by Monday. Then off to the polls on Tuesday, blind to all reason.

Forget all the expensive advertising. Bin Laden's gloating "Face Of Evil" is exactly the image Rove wants in voters' minds right now. He just got it.

Josh Marshall says the GOP-friendly media outlets are already spinning this as "Osama's endorsement of John Kerry", even though the tape specifically says it is the US policies that need to change, not the candidate.

Hunter S. Thompson on the election:
The White House has never been seized by timid warriors. There are no rules, and the roadside is littered with wreckage. That is why they call it the passing lane. Just ask any candidate who ever ran against George Bush - Al Gore, Ann Richards, John McCain - all of them ambushed and vanquished by lies and dirty tricks. And all of them still whining about it.

That is why George W Bush is President of the United States, and Al Gore is not. Bush simply wanted it more, and he was willing to demolish anything that got in his way, including the US Supreme Court. It is not by accident that the Bush White House (read: Dick Cheney & Halliburton Inc) controls all three branches of our federal government today. They are powerful thugs who would far rather die than lose the election in November...

Back in 1948, during his first race for the US Senate, Lyndon Johnson was running about 10 points behind, with only nine days to go. He was desperate. And it was just before noon on a Monday, they say, when he called his equally depressed campaign manager and told him to call a press conference for just before lunch on a slow news day and accuse his high-riding opponent, a pig farmer, of having routine carnal knowledge of his sows, despite the pleas of his wife and children.

His campaign manager was shocked. "We can't say that, Lyndon," he supposedly said. "You know that it isn't true."

"Of course it's not!" Johnson barked. "But let's make the bastard deny it!"

Johnson - a Democrat, like Bill Clinton - won that election by fewer than 100 votes, and after that he was home free. He went on to rule Texas and the US Senate for 20 years and to be the most powerful vice president in the history of the United States. Until now.

Armageddon came early for George Bush this year, and he was not ready for it...

The numbers are weird today, and so is this dangerous election. The time has come to rumble, to inject a bit of fun into politics. That's exactly what the debates did. John Kerry looked like a winner, and it energised his troops. Voting for Kerry is starting to look like serious fun for everyone except poor George, who now looks like a loser. That is fatal in a presidential election...

Back in June, when John Kerry was beginning to feel like a winner, we ...reminisced about trying to end the Vietnam War in 1972.

That was the year I first met him, at a riot on that elegant little street in front of the White House. He was yelling into a bullhorn and I was trying to throw a dead rat over a black-spike fence and on to the President's lawn. We were angry and righteous in those days, and there were millions of us. We kicked two chief executives out because they were stupid warmongers. We conquered Lyndon Johnson and we stomped on Richard Nixon - which wise people said was impossible, but so what? It was fun. We were warriors then, and our tribe was strong like a river. That river is still running. All we have to do is get out and vote, while it's still legal, and we will wash those crooked warmongers out of the White House.

October 29, 2004

Cautious Optimism?

Zogby is now declaring Kerry will win, and even the The Economist is (very reluctantly) backing Kerry.

Don't count your chickens, folks... Ted Rall advocates a vote for Kerry as Anybody But Bush, then advises:
Americans should follow the lead of groups like BeyondVoting.org, which are calling for a national Day of Outrage on November 3, with "widespread noncooperation if Bush is elected, if the elections are canceled or if there is overt election fraud again." Call in sick, hit the streets and refuse to disperse. Bush should go home--not us.
Duelling Videos

First up, back to that mysterious bulge during the first debate...


Salon now has detailed analysis from Dr. Robert M. Nelson, a senior research scientist for NASA and for Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an international authority on image analysis.

A well-informed friend of mine says it looks more like an inductive wireless loop than a receiver. This is a mechanism for activating a wireless earpiece that sits deep in the ear canal (anybody got pix of this?). Normally the loop is worn around the neck but being high on the back would probably work equally well.
George W. Bush tried to laugh off the bulge. "I don't know what that is," he said on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, referring to the infamous protrusion beneath his jacket during the presidential debates. "I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt."

Dr. Robert M. Nelson, however, was not laughing. He knew the president was not telling the truth.
Bush knew what it was. His answer proves he is both a liar and a fool.

Meanwhile, former Iraq WMD Inspector David Kay has confirmed that the photos (below) of Al Qaqaa explosives were indeed the HMX and RDX high explosives under IAEA seal, whatever Bush and his apologists may say. Talking Points Memo has the details.

Now that Bush has again been proved an incompetent liar, watch the media "move on" from this story. Hey! There's a new Al Quaeda video (or not, perhaps) to scare the viewers with. Is it genuine? Is it threatening, or otherwise newsworthy? Who cares!?! Just run the damn thing! The Post reports on how ABC news was pressured to put the dodgy tape on air:
Ross and other ABC staffers say they believe that a Bush administration official leaked the story to Internet gossip Matt Drudge as a way of pressuring the network into airing the tape, which would heighten concerns about terrorism in the final week of the president's reelection campaign. They note that whoever gave the information to Drudge had a transcript of the tape.

One counterterrorism official said the tape shows the man "just ranting and raving."
So when you watch your TV news today, which video will get top billing? One of two tapes that prove the President Of The United States is a lying fool, or some unidentified, psuedo-Arabic geek "ranting and raving"?

UPDATE: ABC executives were frustrated that after holding the tape and working closely with federal officials to authenticate it, Fox News obtained and aired a copy about 20 minutes before it was shown on Peter Jennings's newscast last night.
Have You Had Enough Blood Yet, America?

Lest we forget, 3,000 innocent civilians were killed on 9/11. In the days that followed, the US media, politicians and indeed civilians were baying for bloody vengeance.

We now learn that Iraqi civilian deaths have been conservatively estimated at 100,000. That is more than 33 times the number killed in the World Trade Centres.

The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher than before the war, primarily because of indiscriminate US bombing of civilian areas. Two-thirds of violent deaths in the study were reported in Fallujah, where US forces continue to mass for a "final" massive ground assault.

I have been calling the Falluja assault a massacre for some time now on this blog. It's time the media started acknowledging it for what it is, too.

People of America, it's time to stop the bloodshed. It's time to pull your troops out of Iraq and give the country back to the Iraqis. You have no business there.

Update: It's little wonder British cinema-goers have just voted Bush Film Villian Of The Year for his role in Fahrenheit 911.
Iraq Weapons: Cased Closed

Daily Kos today posts the following pics of IAEA-sealed weapons from Al Qaqaa, which Bush is still claiming may have been removed before US troops arrived:
Oops. Looks like those embeds with the 101st in Iraq got pictures of the very same high explosives that later went missing. All of it captured on tape by the Minneapolis/St. Paul ABC affiliate.

The explosives were there. Now they're in the hands of terrorists.
Thanks Don. Thanks George. You're getting our people killed.
Update: You want IAEA seals? Well, KSTP has IAEA seals.

This is it folks. Conclusive proof. Case closed.
Time for Bush to explain how his war planning gifted terrorists with (at least) 760,000 pounds of high explosives to use against our troops and god knows who else. "
Here's another link to report from a TV Crew who were in the area at the time. By the sound of things, US troops cut through padlocked gates, discovered tons and tons of boxes marked "Explosives" and then just drove off, leaving the Al Qaqaa compound unguarded and not even locked while "Iraqis were coming and going freely."

Kos also has a pic from a GOP campaign advert, showing photo-shopped relicants in the thronging crowds:

As a Kerry spokesman said, "Now we know why this ad is named `Whatever it Takes.' Well done, Kos.

October 28, 2004

What's Rove Up To?

A search on Google News doesn't turn up much new information, although this article from the Guardian might be a pointer to some coming "surprises":
"If Karl Rove were nervous, he would never admit it. But as the Republican cavalcade ploughed through rainswept rural Wisconsin and Iowa this week, the shadowy chief architect of the Bush presidency could barely have been more ebullient.

'We like playing offence. We're on the march,' he said, his body language all fist-pumping energy, his yellow baseball cap bobbing with enthusiasm.

At an early morning campaign stop in Onalaska, a Wisconsin farming town, questions about possible last-minute surprises from the Kerry camp received short shrift. 'I like surprises!' he declared, grinning. "
Any Rove last-minute surprises will probably be aimed at keeping new voters (favouring Kerry) at home, or mobilising the "disinterested" voters who don't watch much news (favouring Bush).
Seeking Accountability

Four Brits released from Guantanamo Bay are suing the US government:
"The four former detainees are seeking damages but primarily want Rumsfeld and other defendants to be held accountable for their actions, said Eric Lewis, the lead lawyer in the case.

'This is a case about preserving an American ideal - the rule of law,' Lewis said at a news conference.

'It is un-American to torture people. It is un-American to hold people indefinitely without access to counsel, courts or family. It is un-American to flout international treaty obligations.' "



Today the Iraq Body Count (IBC) website has published its analysis of the civilian dealth toll in the April 2004 siege of Falluja. This analysis leads to the conclusion that betweeen 572 and 616 of the approximately 800 reported deaths were of civilians, with over 300 of these being women and children.
A Falluja Archive carrying relevant and related excerpts from nearly three hundred contemporary news reports is also being made available on the website, and constitutes the largest publicly-available resource for investigators researching the human consequences of the siege. IBC's number for the civilian dead emerges from detailed and exhaustive analysis of these reports as well as others more recently published.

Press spokesman, John Sloboda said "Data recently released to the public by the Iraqi Health Ministry has allowed IBC to resolve a problem we have been struggling with for months: how to reconcile casualty figures reported by local doctors of 800 total dead with a much lower estimate (280 dead) produced in short order by the Iraqi Health Ministry (IHM), soon after US Gen. Mark Kimmitt told the press that the CPA would ask the Ministry to 'get a fair, honest and credible' figure. Details of our analysis are provided on the website, but it now appears incontrovertible that the IHM estimate was quietly withdrawn once media attention moved away from Falluja, leading us to conclude that their estimate was acknowledged to be flawed".

The IBC totals are based on multiply-cited reports from doctors and eyewitnesses that no less than 308 of those killed were women and children. This number demonstrates the huge impact of US attacks on civilian areas, and allows the conclusion to be drawn that many of the males killed must also have been non-combatants.

There are clear reports of 600 people killed in total up until April 12th, most of them killed before US forces began to permit women and children to be evacuated from the town. Civilian totals have been derived by assuming a conservative ratio of one civilian adult male killed for every woman killed prior to April 12th, and by using the minimum-maximum range to account for differing possible numbers of women and children remaining in the targeted areas after the exodus had begun.

The project's Principal Researcher, Hamit Dardagan, commented "The unique IBC Falluja Archive allows members of the public to examine for themselves the multiple violations which yielded this shocking toll. These include attacks on ambulances and sniper fire at children as well as the aerial bombardment of residential areas. Talk of "precision strikes" is mere techno-babble when these are part of military campaigns causing thousands of civilian deaths and injuries.

"The failed US attempt to "pacify" Falluja via "overwhelming" military means was first and foremost a disaster for its civilian population. The fact that it also embarrassed those who ordered it is of little sigificance in comparison, except in one regard. Current US plans to launch a "final assault" on Falluja, supported by back filling from UK troops, suggest that we can expect another human catastrophe whose scale no one can judge in advance but which will certainly result in the destruction of innocent lives. The question planners in Washington, London and Baghdad - and the public at large - need to consider is this: are the next attacks being planned as a true measure of last resort? If not, it is not just mass slaughter that is being contemplated here, but mass murder."
US forces are now preparing for another deadly onslaught to finish off the operation, but the attack has been delayed till after next Tuesday for political reasons.
"If we're told to go, it'll be decisive," Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, the commander of nearly 40,000 marines and soldiers in western and south-central Iraq, said in an interview. "The goal will be to limit the damage, limit the casualties and do it as rapidly and decisively as possible. We're not here to destroy the town. We're here to give it back."
Give it back? According to reports, there is not much left of the city already.
Bank employee Mohammed al-Alwani said: "Whoever looks around Falluja now can only feel saddness. The damage is so heavy the suburbs look like they were hit by an earthquake."
After another massive onslaught, there won't be much to give back but corpses. It's time John Kerry promised to put any further offensives on hold as soon as he is elected.
Tide Turns Against Bush?

After three whole days ignoring reporters questions on the issue, Bush finally responds to concerns about 380 tons of missing explosives from Al Qaqaa in Iraq. Bush says Kerry is jumping to conclusions and insists that "the explosives may have been moved before our troops even arrived at the site."

Hogwash. The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear watchdog said the site was never secured by the U.S. military after the March 2003 invasion. And now even Iraqi ministers are saying their officials have signed declarations to the effect that the explosives were intact when the facility was handed over to US forces.
"It is impossible that these materials could have been taken from this site before the regime's fall," Mohammed al-Sharaa, who heads the Science Ministry's site monitoring department, said.

"The officials that were inside this facility (Al-Qaqaa) beforehand confirm that not even a shred of paper left it before the fall.

"I spoke to them about it and they even issued certified statements to this effect which the US-led coalition was aware of."
Bush is also making a desperate appeal to Democrat voters:
"I want to speak directly to the Democrats. We're proud Republicans. But I believe my policies appeal to many Democrats. In fact I think my opponent is running away from some of the great traditions of the Democrat Party... If you're a Democrat and you want America to be strong and confident in our ideals, I'd be honored to have your vote," Bush said.
Is it possible there is a single Democrat in the USA who would vote for Bush? I guess there could be, but there are surely more Republicans who are pulling the wool off their own eyes in these final days of campaigning. This morning I got an email from a group called Yes Bush Can, claiming they were a pro-Bush campaiging team who had switched sides and were now supporting Kerry.
Before breaking with Bush, the Yes, Bush Can team worked earnestly to support him. They went to the Pacific Northwest to promote Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative--and discovered it was enabling the logging industry to cut down our last old-growth forests. They visited a nuclear power plant in Ohio to promote Bush's domestic security policies--and found no one in the guard booth to meet them. In western Pennsylvania, while promoting the President's energy policy, they learned that it allows coal emissions which kill 23,000 people a year. Finally, while defending Bush's war on terrorism, they found out that even Donald Rumsfeld feels the Iraq War has made the world a more dangerous place.

After many similar discoveries and much internal turmoil, the Yes, Bush Can group arrived at the difficult conclusion that they could not continue their work. At a press conference Tuesday, in order to demonstrate how profoundly they are rejecting their former boss's ideas and policies, they defaced and abandoned the campaign bus they had purchased and outfitted.
It sounds a bit suss, to be honest... possibly a bunch of Democrats with a sense of humor. But full marks to them anyway.

And if that sounds suss, what about this? A new FBI terror alert shows a geeky US kid with a half-assed effort at a bin Laden beard - is this the new Face Of Evil? The CIA supposedly has a tape, but is not taking this joker too seriously at the moment.

What next? I think it's almost time for Karl Rove to make his move. And the waythings are going, it could be a big one. Imagine for example if Kerry and other Democrats ridicule this geeky-looking "terrorist" and then, the next day, a bomb goes off in a shopping mall and the kid is arrested? That "fall guy scenario" would fit into previous patterns of CIA-run civilian terrorism of the domestic front - think Lee Harvey Oswald, or the attempted assasination of Reagan - and public opinion would swing sharply against the Democrats just on the day it mattered.

Expect something. Be alert, but not afraid.

October 27, 2004

Al Qaqaa Is Symptomatic Of Wider Failures

Matthew Barganier, a former Marine officer who was embeeded in Iraq, hits the nail on the head:
"'However disturbing this story, what the New York Times and CBS News have overlooked so far is that the missing munitions at Al Qaqaa are only the tip of the iceberg and in all likelihood represent a mere fraction of the illicit explosive material currently circulating in Iraq. Having personally toured weapons caches comparable in scale to Al Qaqaa and seen similar ordnance in the process of being converted into roadside bombs at an insurgent hideout, I believe that the theft and redistribution of conventional explosives and weapons represent the largest long-term threat to American troops in Iraq. Strangely enough, it is likely that dealing with this conventional weapons threat, rather than eradicating the mythical unconventional WMD threat, will be the U.S. legacy in Iraq.'"
Indeed, the story of Al Qaqaa is only symptomatic of the broader failures of Bush's mis-guided Iraq adventure. These include:

1. Failure to seriously plan ahead, heeding the advice of those who should know,

2. Failure to provide enough soldiers to do the job properly, and

3. Misguided priorities the soldiers were given ("Secure the oil fields and the Ministry Of Oil!").

As Josh Marshall points out (is this election becoming Bush versus Marshall?), Paul Bremer himself said he didn't have enough soldiers to do the job properly, and he is now keeping very quiet (claiming his publisher won't let him talk - how pathetic).

And who was responsible, primarily, for the decision to use very limited numbers of troops in the attack? That's right, Donald Rumseld, who is now trying to pretend that this whole Al Qaqaa thing is just a big exaggeration, and the 380 tons will no doubt turn up somewhere soon, just like the museume treasures that were looted after the war.

Just hope they don't turn up in YOUR town!
Bush's Hidden Jet Pack

The concealed wireless device under Bush's suit in the first Presidential Debate continues to generate lots of attention (well, online at least), including quite a few Google/Yahoo search hits to this site.

The bizarre absurdity of the subject matter is also leading to some great cartoons. Following Ted Rall's earlier effort, Doonesbury is now doing a whole new series on it, while Tom the Dancing Bug today has an absolutely hilarious cartoon amalgamation of a cloned Bush trying to destroy the Universe, only to be thwarted by the real, "scrupulously honest" (ha!) Bush who voyages through trans-dimensional portals on the "Internets" (another Bushism) with a concealed jet-pack under his suit!

Bush may need a real Jet Pack soon, to escape the wrath of US voters when they find out what really happened on subjects like 9/11, WMDs, Guantanamo Bay, Ariel Sharon's Israel-on-steroids, the Orwellian Patriot Act, etcetera.... of course, that is IF they ever find out the truth on these issues! And if Bush wins next Tuesday, that is not likely.
Openly Flaunting The Geneva Convention

From The New York Times today:
"A new legal opinion by the Bush administration has concluded for the first time that some non-Iraqi prisoners captured by American forces in Iraq are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, administration officials said Monday.

The opinion, reached in recent months, establishes an important exception to public assertions by the Bush administration since March 2003 that the Geneva Conventions applied comprehensively to prisoners taken in the conflict in Iraq, the officials said. They said the opinion would essentially allow the military and the C.I.A. to treat at least a small number of non-Iraqi prisoners captured in Iraq in the same way as members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban captured in Afghanistan, Pakistan or elsewhere, for whom the United States has maintained that the Geneva Conventions do not apply.

The officials outlined the opinion on Monday in response to a report in The Washington Post over the weekend that the Central Intelligence Agency had secretly transferred a dozen non-Iraqi prisoners out of Iraq in the past 18 months, despite a provision in the conventions that bars civilians protected under the accords from being deported from occupied territories."
No wonder many world citizens consider the USA a greater threat to their own personal safety than Osama bin Laden and his cohorts.
Bush Wants Another $70 Billion For Iraq War

Story here: Increase in War Funding Sought.
A Great Idea For Anyone Thinking Of Voting Bush

From Doug Giebel at the The Smirking Chimp:
"If you support the 'war' in Iraq:

(a) excepting yourself, choose five people from your immediate family and/or from among your best friends whom you would be willing to 'sacrifice' (i.e., kill) in order to depose Saddam Hussein;

(b) tell them personally of your decision."
Challenge your friends and family with this one!
Disturbing News

Reading the news at Daily Kos and Josh Marshall today is just ... disturbing.

Worst of all is the concerted effort by media outlets like CNN, NBC and of course FOX to spin the GOP line that the 380 tons of Al Qaqaa explosives had already disappeared before US troops arrived on April 9th. As Josh points out, there is no evidence to support this and ample evidence to refute it. A reporter with the unlikely name of Lai Ling Jew, who was embedded with the 101st Airborne, Second brigade that reached Al Qaqaa that day, said the soldiers made no attempt to secure the weapons:
There wasn't a search. The mission that the brigade had was to get to Baghdad. That was more of a pit stop there for us. And, you know, the searching, I mean certainly some of the soldiers head off on their own, looked through the bunkers just to look at the vast amount of ordnance lying around. But as far as we could tell, there was no move to secure the weapons, nothing to keep looters away.
This version of events has now been backed up by the unit's commander:
"We were still in a fight," he said. "our focus was killing bad guys." He added he would have needed four times more troops to search and secure all the ammo dumps he came across.
And Charlie Duelfer, Chief of the Iraq Survey Group, says the Al Qaqaa issue is nothing to get workup up about!
"It's hard for me to get that worked up about it," Duelfer said in a phone interview from Baghdad, adding that Iraq is awash in hundreds of thousands of tons of explosives.
Well, that's reassuring, isn't it? Here's how Kerry expressed it:
"What did the president have to say about the missing explosives? Not a word. Complete silence. Despite devastating evidence that his administration's failure here has put our troops and our citizens are in greater danger, George Bush has not offered a single word of explanation. His silence confirms what I have been saying for months: President Bush rushed to war without a plan to win the peace. He didn't have enough troops on the ground to get the job done. He didn't have enough allies to get the job done. He failed to secure Iraq and keep it from becoming what it is today - a haven for terrorists.
Meanwhile, Kos has a few more scare stories from the US Domestic front...
A secret document obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggests a plan - possibly in violation of US law - to disrupt voting in the state's African-American voting districts, a BBC Newsnight investigation reveals...

Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called "caging list".

It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: "The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day." [...]

In Jacksonville, to determine if Republicans were using the lists or other means of intimidating voters, we filmed a private detective filming every "early voter" - the majority of whom are black - from behind a vehicle with blacked-out windows.

The private detective claimed not to know who was paying for his all-day services.

On the scene, Democratic Congresswoman Corinne Brown said the surveillance operation was part of a campaign of intimidation tactics used by the Republican Party to intimate and scare off African American voters, almost all of whom are registered Democrats.
Some of the black vopters on the "cage list" are even servicemen stationed at a nearby Naval Base. If that's not disturbing, how about this: Rachel Schultz is the superintendent of Richland Center School District in Wisconsin (where students were told not to wear any Kerry regalia during Bush's visit). Turns out Rachel is married to Dale Schultz, Republican candidate for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District in Wisconsin.Reassuringly, however, Kos points out that both Arnold Schwarzennegger and Iyad Allawi are distancing themselves from the Bush campaign, while the latest LA Times poll shows Bush and Kerry locked at 48-48. Time for a terror alert?

October 26, 2004

Riverbend "Votes" For Kerry

Riverbend at Baghdad Burning has a post about the US elections:
War and peace in America are in the average American’s hands about as much as they are in mine. Sure, you can vote for this man or that one, but in the end, there’s something bigger, more intricate and quite sinister behind the decisions. Like in that board game Monopoly, you can choose the game pieces- the little shoe, the car, the top hat… but you can’t choose the way the game is played. The faces change but the intentions and the policy remain the same...

Who am I hoping will win? Definitely Kerry. There’s no question about it. I want Bush out of the White House at all costs. (And yes- who is *in* the White House *is* my business- Americans, you made it my business when you occupied my country last year) I’m too realistic to expect drastic change or anything phenomenal, but I don’t want Bush reelected because his reelection (or shall I call it his ‘reassignment’) will condone the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. It will say that this catastrophe in Iraq was worth its price in American and Iraqi lives. His reassignment to the White House will sanction all the bloodshed and terror we’ve been living for the last year and a half.

No one can be worse than Bush. It will hardly be fair to any president after Bush in any case- it's like assigning a new captain to a drowning ship. All I know is that Bush made the hole and let the water in, I want him thrown overboard.
Bush Continues Ignoring The Facts

So how did Bush & Co respond today to concern over the threat posed by tons of hi-grade explosives that have gone missing in Iraq?
"...both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney fell silent about the disappearance of 377 tons of high explosives in Iraq, leaving it to aides to explain."
That's real leadership for you!

And what did their aides have to say? White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters no nuclear material was involved (the explosives can be used to TRIGGER a nuclear blast, they do not comprise the nuclear material itself). McClellan then started talking about how many weapons had been found, ignoring those that were lost.

Meanwhile, the story just gets worse:
At the Pentagon, an official who monitors developments in Iraq said US-led coalition troops had searched al-Qaeda [sic: should be Al Qaqaa] in the immediate aftermath of the March 2003 invasion and confirmed that the explosives were intact. Thereafter the site was not secured by US forces, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bad as this story is, some analysts believe it is not as bad as the fact that Bush allowed both bin Laden and al-Zarqiwi to escape. Bush is vehemently denying the latter accusation, but today's Wall Street Journal has all the facts:
The Pentagon drew up detailed plans in June 2002, giving the administration a series of options for a military strike on the camp Mr. Zarqawi was running then in remote northeastern Iraq, according to generals who were involved directly in planning the attack and several former White House staffers. They said the camp, near the town of Khurmal, was known to contain Mr. Zarqawi and his supporters as well as al Qaeda fighters, all of whom had fled from Afghanistan. Intelligence indicated the camp was training recruits and making poisons for attacks against the West...

But the raid on Mr. Zarqawi didn't take place. Months passed with no approval of the plan from the White House, until word came down just weeks before the March 19, 2003, start of the Iraq war that Mr. Bush had rejected any strike on the camp until after an official outbreak of hostilities with Iraq.
As Tim Dunlop concludes, you can't decry the horror that is the work of the al Zarqawi faction and also support the Bush administration's approach to the "war on terror."
Black Humour

A disturbing cartoon from Martin Rowson on the drive for new Iraqi Army recruits. I love the Uncle Sam/Bush poster on the wall: "I want YOU to save my ass."
Positive Vibrations

Chins up, folks. Win, lose or - dare I say it? - draw, the good news is that Bush's extremism has already set in motion a social backlash that will not be silenced or subdued. The consequences are still unpredictable, but the revolution has already begun.

So on a positive note, here's a very uplifting song and video called I Didn't Know I Was Unamerican by Ian Rhett.

Daily Kos has a great picture of Kerry drawing a crowd of 120,000 to 120,000 in Philadelphia:

And here's a very forward-looking article from The Smirking Chimp:
"If our leaders will not provide the nation with an agenda, we must provide it to them. On Election Day, win or lose, we must carry forward the movement to reclaim government from the hands of corporations and extremists and turn it from a movement into an organic part of American life. We cannot waste time either on bickering and blame or on gloating. We must make every American aware that free men and women do more than vote. They educate and govern themselves.

And who is to accomplish all this? Look in the mirror. It's you and me alone."
The Falluja Massacre

"We will kill and maim you and yours until you agree to our demands to accept our domination and say you are ecstatic to be given this 'freedom' and the right to vote from the grave."
You Call That Democracy?

The USA, a nation which calls itself the world's greatest Democracy and even presumes to "export" Democracy worldwide, is in danger of becoming a laughing stock. Unable to provide free and fair elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, it cannot even guarantee a fair vote to its own citizens.
Last week saw the start of early voting in Florida and a clutch of other states, and with it came a plethora of problems. In three heavily populated counties - around Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale - the network connection used to verify voter identifications broke down on the first day, creating hours of delay. In Jacksonville, where poor ballot design in 2000 knocked out the votes of 27,000 poor, predominantly black, predominantly Democratic voters, the county elections supervisor chose the first day of polling to resign, citing ill health. He had come under fire for failing to make early voting available in the city's African-American neighbourhoods - something his interim successor is now going some way to remedy.

Elsewhere, there were computer breakdowns during early voting in Memphis. Pre-election testing of electronic machines in Riverside County, California, and in Palm Beach County, Florida, led to multiple computer crashes. Elsewhere, machines have manifested problems handling basic addition - especially when asked to display instructions in a language other than English. Several county administrators have chosen simply to skip the non-English language part of the test.

In Nebraska, dead people were found to have applied for absentee ballots. In Ohio, a representative of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was found to have offered crack cocaine to a known drug addict in exchange for completed voter registration forms, which he duly submitted in the names of Mary Poppins, Janet Jackson and Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious cannibal serial killer.
Given the chaos of the 2000 elections, the Bush administration's failure to ensure proper elections this time around is quite simply unforgiveable. Hanging chads have been replaced by dodgy, bug-ridden computer systems that leave no paper trail. Delayed funding for new electoral laws means "most states won't have their electoral procedures fully updated and coordinated until the next presidential election in 2008." And the ferocity of partisan politican battles has accelarated to a point where the whole country could soon be in the hands of lawyers.

The Independent examines a worst-case scenario where the Supreme Court could again decide the election:
The most disconcerting possibility is that the highest court in the land could remove the electoral process from the voters altogether and turn it over to the state legislatures... who would promptly hand the election to George Bush.
Saddam's Weapons Were Not Even A Priority

Juan Cole on the missing 308 tons of high explosive:
"The disappearance of these explosives is yet one more disaster caused by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's mania to send a small military force into Iraq. Rumsfeld over-ruled the officers in the Pentagon, who wanted hundreds of thousands of troops and knew that many would be needed to secure the country after the war. Why hasn't Rumsfeld been fired? He ran Iraq for most of the last 18 months and it is beginning to be as cratered as the dark side of the moon...

How bad a job Bush is doing is clear when we consider that we might well be relieved to know that this equipment went to Iran, since that means Bin Laden doesn't have it."
Cole also reminds us that this is not the first such case - in the wake of the invasion, radioactive materials disappeared from Tuwaitha, a site that was specifically targetted by the US as one of Saddam's "weapons factories".
So Bush not only failed to have al-Qaqaa guarded against theft of HMX and RDX, not only failed to guard against theft of dual-use equipment from a long-defunct nuclear program site, but also failed to do the elementary work of ensuring that the notorious al-Tuwaitha facility was secured against the theft of radiocative materials!

Since Tuwaitha was the great bugaboo impelling the Iraq war in the first place, you would imagine that Bush would have sent out a unit to secure and search it immediately. But no, he politely let the looters have a look-around first, waiting in line.

I know someone is going to write me asking whether the existence of all this equipment and dangerous explosives doesn't prove that Saddam still had an active weapons program. The answer is a categorical "no." A lot of this stuff was left over from the 1980s when there had been such active programs, but which were abandoned after the Gulf War. Ironically, the bits and pieces Saddam still had were useless to a major state. But they could be stolen and cobbled together by a small band of terrorists to deadly effect.

I just don't feel any safer with Bush in the White House. Maybe it is just me.

October 25, 2004

Winning The War On Terror - NOT!

More on those tons of missing Iraqi explosives. The BBC has a very clear analysis of the story, proving that someone there still does remember how to do journalism.
"The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the explosives vanished from the al-Qaqaa facility near Baghdad during looting after the invasion.

It added that the explosives could be used in powerful conventional weapons or to detonate nuclear devices.

The IAEA said the US-led coalition had been warned about the danger posed by the explosives on several occasions.

It says the coalition forces were specifically told to keep the material secured.

...the explosives had been monitored by the IAEA until the US-led invasion of Iraq, after which point it had not been allowed to access the site...

The chemical and explosives complex at al-Qaqaa was repeatedly visited by (UN) weapons inspectors before the war. "

Once upon a time I wanted to be a cartoonist. I remember drawing a cartoon of US president George Bush Snr, with a duck-bill mouth and wings, flying over the head of Saddam Hussein and dropping bombs on him (while Saddam gave him the finger).

At the time, Bush had already lost the election to Bill Clinton, but was still in charge of the White House. During these last few months in office, Bush Snr literally had nothing to lose. So he got some of his own back by dropping bombs on Iraq, despite considerable international objections.

Now imagine if Bush Jnr loses the election next week. He will still have quite a few months to do whatever he likes, without much serious fear of recrimination from fellow Skull-and-Boner John Kerry. So what will he do?

How about bombing Iran? Hell, why wait till next week?
All Hail To The Chief

Joshua Micah Marshall stayed up till 3 a.m. last night to protect democracy.
Never Again: The Bizarro "Coalition"

Quiz time. Which countries are providing military support in Iraq?

Newsweek posts the following (misleading) figures, courtesy of Reuters. It would be funny to see how many Americans could even place these nations on a map, let alone spell their names correctly or name their capital cities.

United States 138,000
Britain 8,530
Albania 70
Australia 850
Azerbaijan 150
Bulgaria 455
Czech Rep. 92
Denmark 510
Dominican Rep. 300
El Salvador 360
Estonia 55
Georgia 150
Hungary 300
Italy 2,700
Japan 1,000
Kazakhstan 25
Latvia 120
Lithuania 105
Macedonia 28
Moldova 25
Mongolia 180
Netherlands 1,263
New Zealand 60
Nicaragua 115
Norway 150
Poland 2,400
Portugal 120
Romania 730
Singapore 200
Slovakia 105
South Korea 675 (3,000 on way)
Thailand 460
Tonga 44
Ukraine 1,700

These figures are, in fact, totally "cooked" (more lazy journalism, presenting them as facts). I live in Australia and our own (lying) government tells us that our troops are only there to protect Australian diplomats. If it's true, I would hardly call that "military support" for the US troops. The only thing we are supporting is our self-interest. New Zealand's troops have already come home, so I have no idea why they are still on the list (more lazy journalism). And I am sure that if you look at what Norway's troops are doing, it would be nothing like "military support" either. Probably keeping the beers cold in the Green Zone.

Consider the Japanese contingent's contribution:
By law, they cannot instigate combat, and have not fired a single shot in anger. In fact, troops from the Netherlands' 500-strong contingent are deployed around the SDF compound in southern Iraq to provide an extra layer of security for the Japanese.
In all honesty, there are really only four participants, and (aside from Spain) that's all there ever was: Bush's USA, Tony Blair's Britain, Silvio Berlusconi's Italy and poor, pathetic Poland. Berlusconi is a known Fascist who sought the Presidency as a way to stay out of jail. Blair is a psychologist's dream, an egomaniac religious pratt who may have been blackmailed by the CIA. And Poland... well, who cares about Poland?

As one senior British diplomat put it: "Never again."
"Even if John Kerry defeats Bush, any British government will find it difficult, if not impossible, to muster popular support for a future American-led military intervention."
If you really want to look into this, it would be interesting to know exactly what bribes the US government paid to all these countries in order to win their allegiance. If you have any good links, send me an email.

Newsweek looks at the end of the most pathetic international coalition ever formed.
the Big Picture...

"Let us traverse the road of reality, sojourning through history and through mirages of hidden truths. Let us dive into the making of the Evil Empire so that we may see what our government has and continues to do in our name. The road ahead will not be easy to swallow or comprehend, yet we must open our minds to the possibility that what has happened is real and what is occurring is not fiction. Only then will we understand why our hands are smeared in the blood of tens of millions of human cadavers and countless more whose lives and futures have been devastated at the hands of the United States of America... "

Read the story of the Evil Empire.
#$%& The Geneva Convention

The oh-so-popular Senator John McCain, who was held prisoner by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, today questioned the CIA's continued abuse of prisoners in Iraq (condoned by the Justice Department):
"These conventions and these rules are in place for a reason, because you get on a slippery slope and you don't know where to get off. The thing that separates us from the enemy is our respect for human rights."
Well, it used to be. And if it wasn't, at least we could believe it was...
Eight Days To Go: A Big Story Breaks

Coming into the final week of the 2004 US Presidential Elections campaign, I recommend you keep your eyes on the following sites:

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall

The Daily Kos

Juan Cole: Informed Comment

The big question this week is, what's Karl Rove got up his sleeve? Expect something big toward the end of the week, so there won't be enough time to fully analyze, investigate and refute it before voting on Tuesday.

Today's big news, though, could put Rove & Co. into damage control mode for a few days at least. A story that the Bush team has been desperately trying to suppress for over a year has broken in the New York Times and should soon be picked up by other mainstream media:
The Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives - used to demolish buildings, produce missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons - are missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations.

The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no-man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Saturday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished after the American invasion last year...

American weapons experts say their immediate concern is that the explosives could be used in major bombing attacks against American or Iraqi forces: the explosives, mainly HMX and RDX, could be used to produce bombs strong enough to shatter airplanes or tear apart buildings. The bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 used less than a pound of the material of the type stolen from Al Qaqaa, and somewhat larger amounts were apparently used in the bombing of a housing complex in November 2003 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the blasts in a Moscow apartment complex in September 1999 that killed nearly 300 people.

The explosives could also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon, which was why international nuclear inspectors had kept a watch on the material. But the other components of an atom bomb - the design and the radioactive fuel - are more difficult to obtain. "This is a high explosives risk, but not necessarily a proliferation risk," one senior Bush administration official said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency publicly warned about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion it specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured, European diplomats said in interviews last week.
In other words, the neo-cons total lack of pre-war planning included failing to plan how to safeguard deadly weapons depots that the IAEA had been monitoring for years. Worse yet, when it became clear the stuff was missing, the Bush administration tried to hide the facts and would not even let IAEA officials back into the country! The political implications are huge. As Josh Marshall writes:
It is apparently widely believed within the US government that those looted explosives are what in many, perhaps most, cases is being used in car bombs and suicide attacks against US troops. That is, according to TPM sources and sources quoted in this evening's Nelson Report, where the story first broke.

One administration official told Nelson, "This is the stuff the bad guys have been using to kill our troops, so you can’t ignore the political implications of this, and you would be correct to suspect that politics, or the fear of politics, played a major role in delaying the release of this information."
Of course, these are just FACTS... Whether voters choose to believe them or not is another question.

Gonna be an interesting week!
Knowing And Believing

Dom Stasi takes a long look at Bush's faith-based lack of intellectual curiosity and declares, as Carl Sagan once said, "I would rather know than believe."
We the people of the United States are being held hostage to our own government's domestic economic policies, many of which border on the fraudulent. At the same time, our monetary treasure, our priceless young, and our military might are all being squandered further still by imposing dictatorship and indignity on entire regions of the world. They then expect us to believe, such actions are consistent with the promotion and spread of democracy.

My country appears guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of what I cannot help but consider at the very least irresponsible, at the very most criminal conduct both at home and abroad. Simply put, under the administration headed by George W. Bush, America's actions as a member of the global society demand a more plausible explanation than that which we, her psychologically and financially exploited people, are being offered. The gangsters, oil barons, arms merchants, and theocrats who've usurped our ostensibly representative government, represent to be sure, but what they represent is the interests of themselves and their masters, not those of their constituents. Yet, despite what is unfolding before us, the majority of this country's honest, freedom-loving people seem ever less interested in knowing, and ever more inclined toward believing that what we're being shown and what we're being told and what is being carried out in our name, is truth.

US Torture Continues

The CIA is still transferring prisoners out of Iraq for torture sessions abroad, in defiance of the Geneva Convention. And it's a practice which has been condoned by the US Justice Department, as a freshly leaked memo reveals.

In other words, the Bush administration has learned only one thing from the Abu Ghraib scandal and similar outrages for which nobody has ever been held accountable: we can get away with this.

WP Story here: Memo Lets CIA Take Detainees Out of Iraq.
What Is WRONG With These People???

The US elections have officially become a contest between George W. Bush and Reality. And its a battle that is largely being fought within voters' own minds.

According to a new poll, 72 percent of Bush supporters believe either that Iraq had actual WMD (47 percent) or a major program for producing them (25 percent). Furthermore, 75 percent of Bush supporters said they believed that Iraq was providing "substantial" support to al Qaeda, with 20 percent asserting that Iraq was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. 63 percent of Bush supporters even believe that clear evidence of such support has actually been found, and 60 percent believe that "most experts" have reached the same conclusion.

Remarkably, when asked whether the U.S. should have gone to war without evidence of a WMD program or support to al Qaeda, 58 percent of Bush supporters said no.
"To support the president and to accept that he took the U.S. to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about pre-war Iraq," Kull says.

He added that this "cognitive dissonance" could also help explain other remarkable findings in the survey. The poll also found a major gap between Bush's stated positions on a number of international issues and what his supporters believe Bush's position to be. A strong majority of Bush supporters believe, for example that the president supports a range of international treaties and institutions that the White House has vocally and publicly opposed.

In particular, majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assume that he supports multilateral approaches to various international issues, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (69 percent), the land mine treaty (72 percent), and the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming (51 percent).

In August, two-thirds of Bush supporters also believed that Bush supported the International Criminal Court (ICC). Although that figure dropped to a 53 percent majority in the PIPA poll, it's not much of a drop considering that Bush explicitly denounced the ICC in the first, most widely watched presidential debate in late September.

In all of these cases, majorities of Bush supporters said they favored the positions that they imputed, incorrectly, to Bush.
Jim Lobe's full analysis of this is at Alternet.

October 24, 2004

Why Was Bush Doing Community Service in 1973?

Coming just a year after he went AWOL from the National Gurad, was this unpaid work some kind of pay-off punishment deal?

Story here: Former workers dispute Bush's pull in Project P.U.L.L..
WolfpacksforTruth.org: The Real Story on George Bush's "Wolves" Commercial
Soldiers Say No To Bush

This is quite a staggering figure. 37% of soldiers fail to report for duty:
"More than 800 former soldiers have failed to comply with Army orders to get back in uniform and report for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, the Army said Friday. That is more than one-third of the total who were told to report to a mobilization station by Oct. 17.

Three weeks ago the number stood at 622 amid talk that any who refused to report for duty could be declared Absent Without Leave. Refusing to report for duty normally would lead to AWOL charges, but the Army is going out of its way to resolve these cases as quietly as possible."

October 23, 2004

Today's Reality-Based News

Good morning/evening, and welcome to today's Reality-based news from Iraq.

A new poll shows that
religious leaders are the most popular politicians in Iraq and would win a vote if it were held today. More than 45 percent of Iraqis also believe that their country is heading in the wrong direction, while one out of three Iraqis blames the U.S.-led multinational force for Iraq's security problems, slightly more than the 32 percent who blame foreign terrorists (and because this is reality-based news, I am compelled to remind you that there were no foreign terrorists in Iraq before the US invasion, whatever other Bizarro World news services may say).

85 percent of Iraqis want to vote in the January election. The most popular politician is Abdel Aziz Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). US puppet Iyad Allawi had the greatest name recognition of any politician, with 47 percent of Iraqis supporting him for a seat in the new parliament. But Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr came in a very close third, with 46 percent backing him for an assembly seat.

For his comments on this, we now cross to our correspondent Salam Pax in Washington:
I am surprised at how much everyone here seems to have bought what the Bush administration has been selling them - especially the line about a well-educated Iraqi middle class that will take over and transform Iraq into a democratic paradise.

To tell you the truth, I bought into that as well - and boy were we wrong. That educated middle class was everywhere around the world, but not in Iraq. What it decided to do was to shut its mouth or turn religious.

And that is another thing that seemed to be incomprehensible to one of my new Washington friends: when we were talking about the popularity of the clerical militia chief Moqtada al-Sadr I was asked how anyone could be fooled by someone who so obviously used religion to boost his own popularity and went for the lowest common denominator for popular appeal? I was saved by another guest who asked if we were talking about Bush or Sadr here.
Thank you, Salam.

The US administration in Iraq is now actively seeking to reduce the popularity of the Muslim clerics... by arresting them (run Reuters footage):
Sheikh Abdel-Sattar Abdel-Jabbar, his two sons and a neighbor were arrested in a raid on the mosque compound where they live in the Tunis area of Baghdad around 1:30 a.m., association officials said.

"This arrest is part of a campaign not just against the Muslim Clerics' Association but all opposition voices," spokesman Mohamed Bashar al-Faidhi told Reuters.

The officials said they did not know why Abdel-Jabbar was detained. Witnesses said hundreds protested for his release after noon prayers outside the Najib mosque where he preached.

The U.S. military said it had no reports of any Iraqi cleric being arrested in Baghdad.
And now for the weather. It's still raining bombs in Falluja, where another 8 people were killed. Elseshere, conditions remain hot and dry and dangerous. More later.

October 22, 2004

Ted Rall's ten reasons for voting against Bush:

1. He stole the 2000 election.

2. He politicized 9/11.

3. He let the terrorists get away while giving them a payraise.

4. He murdered nearly 100,000 people.

5. He bankrupted the treasury.

6. He threw thousands of innocent people into concentration camps.

7. We are more feared than Al Qaeda.

8. Bush has done nothing to improve the economy.

9. Bush will appoint the next Supreme Court justice.

...and my favourite, number 10.

"We deserve a president who can speak English and doesn't look like a chimpanzee. John Kerry is a far from ideal prospect but he's a huge leap forward from an evolutionary standpoint."
A Prayer For Iman al-Hams

Dear God,

On the 5th of October, in the Tel Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah - a restricted area near Gaza's border with Egypt - a young Palestinian girl named Iman al-Hams was shot dead by Israeli soldiers. You must have seen the incident because You are all-powerful and You see everything.

But in case You missed it, or lest You be confused by all the other cases of Palestinian children being killed by Israeli troops, or lest Your attention be diverted by so many devout politicians invoking Your name during the US election campaign, here is how the Guardian newspaper described it:
Iman walked past her school with her satchel over her shoulder, crossed the road and climbed down a small sandy bank to an area that was an olive and citrus orchard until the army's bulldozers flattened it in April. She had entered the "forbidden zone" next to the watchtower where any Palestinian risks being shot.

The schoolgirl kept on walking toward the tower but was still several hundred metres away when two shots caught her in the leg. She dropped her bag, turned, tried to hobble away, and fell.

Four or five soldiers emerged from the army post and shot at her from a distance. Palestinian witnesses and some Israeli soldiers say that the platoon commander moved in closer to put two bullets in the child's head. They say that he then walked away, turned back and fired a stream of bullets into her body.
That's right, God. The Israeli Army held an enquiry and the soldiers who were present confirmed it: the platoon commander fired two bullets from close range at her head, then went back a second time, put his weapon on the automatic setting and emptied his entire magazine into her body.

The soldiers said they were pleading with him over the walkie-talkie to stop. As one soldier said:
"We were in shock. We couldn't believe what he was doing. Our hearts ached for her. Just a girl of 13..."
God, I know You work in mysterious ways. So I will not ask why You allow such atrocities to happen. But I would like to know if You were there in the courtroom when the platoon commander said that he had actually been shooting into the ground. Was he lying, God? Because a Palestinian hospital doctor said Iman's corpse had at least 17 bullet wounds:
Iman's corpse was taken to Rafah's hospital and inspected by Dr Mohammed al-Hams. "She has at least 17 bullets in several parts of the body, all along the chest, hands, arms, legs," he said. "The bullets were large and shot from a close distance. The most serious injuries were to her head. She had three bullets in the head. One bullet was shot from the right side of the face beside the ear. It had a big impact on the whole face. Another bullet went from the neck to the face and damaged the area under the mouth."
And God, how are we to understand the Israeli Army's statement, clearing the platoon commander of unethical behaviour?
"The investigation did not find that the company or the company commander had acted unethically. The investigation concluded that the behaviour of the company commander from an ethical point of view does not warrant his removal from his position."
God, if You choose not to intervene in such matters, who will condemn this act? Will our politicians speak up for Iman al-Hams? Will the combined might of all the nations in the world unite as one voice to condemn such barbarity at the United Nations, or will a handful of countries - the Unites States, Australia, Palau and other US dependencies - once again vote against such a motion, or veto it in the Security Council?

And if they do, God, will You spare them from Your righteous anger and furious vengeance? Will You spare them from the angry retribution of Iman al-Hams' family, friends and countrymen, who may be tempted to abandon futile stone-throwing, give up all hope of a long and happy life, and become suicide bombers, perhaps even joining the growing throngs of terrorist networks like Al Quaeda?

God, help us to understand. And forgive us our sins.


October 21, 2004

Bush Is No Christian

"I want people to judge me on my deeds, not how I try to define myself as a religious person of words." - George W. Bush.

This article is a must-read, one of those illuminating analyses that strip away all the hogwash and bullshit and reveal the screamingly obvious truth for all to see:
Like no president in recent memory, George W. Bush wields his Christian righteousness like a flaming sword... (but) when judged by his deeds, an entirely different picture emerges: Bush does not demonstrate a life of faith by his actions, and neither Methodists, evangelicals, nor fundamentalists can rightly call him brother. In fact, the available evidence raises serious questions about whether Bush is really a Christian at all.

Ironically for a man who once famously named Jesus as his favorite political philosopher during a campaign debate, it is remarkably difficult to pinpoint a single instance wherein Christian teaching has won out over partisan politics in the Bush White House. Though Bush easily weaves Christian language and themes into his political communication, empty religious jargon is no substitute for a bedrock faith...

Once and for all: George W. Bush is neither born again nor evangelical. As Alan Cooperman reported in The Washington Post last month, the president has been careful never to use either term to describe his faith.

...the president’s supporters in Christendom cling to his words as prima facie evidence of his deep Christian faith. And though Bush is not an evangelical, he certainly talks like one. As has been often noted, Bush effortlessly speaks the language of the born again, and his remarks are loaded with subliminal messages to the nation’s 60 million white evangelicals. Ironically, the theology embedded in this language is not even the president’s own -- it belongs to Michael Gerson, Bush’s crack speechwriter, himself a devout Christian and a graduate of Wheaton College, the “evangelical Harvard.” Far too often, though, the press confuses Gerson’s words with Bush’s beliefs.

Read the full story here: As God Is His Witness.
Bush Expected "No Casualties" In Iraq

When Pat Robertson said that Bush told him there would be no casualties in the invasion of Iraq, the White House had a big problem - do they admit Bush made a massive mistake, or do they call one of the USA's leading Christian evangelists a liar? Here's how they are trying to get out of it:
Bush campaign senior adviser Karen Hughes said Bush adviser Karl Rove was at the Feb. 10, 2003, Nashville meeting and that Robertson's recounting of their conversation "did not happen."

"I think he (Robertson) either misunderstood, misheard, or (had) been confused about what the conversation was,' Hughes said."
So who are you going to believe, Pat Robertson or Karl Rove?

The truth is, both are playing clever, self-interested politics. Robertson is probably telling the truth, but he is also lining himself up for a shot at the GOP leadership if Bush loses. Interestingly, he followed up his revelation by saying he thought Bush would win the election because he was chosen by God. So you can't call him disloyal, can you? And if Bush loses because of Robertson's remarks, well... that must be what the Good Lord intended.
Remembering the World Trade Centre

I watched an amazing documentary on 9/11 last night, filmed by two French brothers who were filming a FDNY Fire crew when the towers were hit. It's a fairly old documentary now, you may have seen it. But for me it was very strange, very compelling and very disturbing.

I was swept back to that semi-real mental space, just like the days in 2001 when everybody was glued to CNN 24 hours a day, staring slack-jawed at the endless replays of planes hitting towers, towers collapsing, people staring, people racing or just staggering helplessly through dust-covered streets. But what was different this time was the voice I could hear in the background.

It was the voice of George W. Bush on television that day, telling the world that the USA would hunt down the people who did this and bring them to justice. And it was different because now, three years later, we know that Bush has not brought those people to justice. And because now, after all the books and articles and investigations, we have a much better idea of what was really going through Bush's mind on that terrible day.

As I watched the fire-fighters helplessly struggling to reach the inferno, with more and more bodies crashing and thudding to the ground around them, I couldn't help thinking that George Bush was still sitting in a pre-school somewhere, pretending to read a children's book. I couldn't stop thinking that he sat there for seven minutes - seven minutes! And I think we all have a pretty good idea now of what he was thinking...

"Plane crash? Hitting a building? Two of them? Gotta be that bin Laden kid, the angry one... Shit. I'm doing deals with his family! How's that gonna look? Ooh, this is bad... I'm stuffed this time. I've really screwed up. Condi even showed me a report the other day, the warnings from the CIA... What did we do about it? Anything? I don't think so... Shit. OK, don't panic. Keep a straight face. Keep reading this book. Yeah, nice kid... How do we get out of this? Karl's gotta come up with something... "

It took days and days and days before the White House finally went public with information indicating that bin Laden's Al Quaeda group was behind the attacks. As we now know, this was well and truly obvious to anyone in the intelligence community at the time, if not to Bush himself. And yet we also know that, during those days of heated White House discussion, people like Rumsfeld were actively trying to lay the blame on Saddam Hussein's Iraq (see Bob Woodward's books). Why?

Why? Are we allowed to ask? And if no-one gives us an answer, can we assume that the very idea of using Iraq as a scapegoat was an attempt at a massive cover-up? And is that not an admission in itself that there was something that needed to be covered up? I think so.

And what about the "we will bring them to justice" bit? The suicide bombers on those planes were facing God's divine justice before Bush even knew about them. But despite two pre-emptive wars, despite the loss of tens of thousand of lives (many, if not most of them just as innocent as those who died that day in the World Trade Centres), bin Laden himself, and other top Al Quaeda figures, remain free. The efforts to "hunt them down", we are told by Bush himself, do not even occupy his mind very much these days.

And even those that have been captured and taken to places like Guantanamo Bay, even these people have not faced anything that could so far be called "justice". Indeed, long-standing concepts of US Justice have been torn down just as willfully, just as destructively, and perhaps just as permanently as the crumbling edifices of the World Trade Centre towers. To date, not a single "terrorist" has been captured and tried and legally found guilty within the established US legal system of "justice". Not one.

So I look back today at the horror of 9/11 with a renewed sense of outrage and horror. And now I see a double tragedy: firstly, that so many innocent lives were lost in such a barbaric act of wanton destruction, and secondly, that the man in the White House that day was the most incompetent, lying and corrupt leader in US history.

And I remember that there were reports of people, in far-off places like Pakistan, Nigeria and Palestine, who cheered when they heard the news of the Trade Centre attack, only to be rebuked by their fellow countrymen. And I wonder, if another such attack occured today, how many would be cheering, and how many would dare try to rebuke them?
Terrorists Infiltrate Reuters - Not.

Apparently the Reuters correspondent in Falluja is "a known Zarqawi propagandist (who)is passing false reports to the media". His cameraman is obviously a terrorist too. And if you believe you own eyes, you may also be a terrorist:
A Reuters witness saw a man and a woman and four children, two boys and two girls, being pulled out of the rubble of a razed home in the rebel-held city of Fallujah, about 50 kilometres west of Baghdad.

The US military denied a family of six was killed, saying it launched four strikes against safehouses used by Zarqawi's fighters.

"Intelligence sources indicate a known Zarqawi propagandist is passing false reports to the media," it said in a statement.

Reuters television footage showed men chanting "There is no God but Allah!" as they carried the body of the father of the family of six.

"Is this the gift that [interim Iraqi Prime Minister] Iyad Allawi is giving to the people of Fallujah?" asked one man, pointing to the small bodies of two of the children lying in the trunk of a car. "Every day they strike Fallujah."
The US and Allawi forces continue to pound Falluja, demanding that residents hand over Al Zarqawi. But Falluja's remaining residents claim he is not in the city, and there is no firm evidence to prove them wrong.

October 20, 2004

The Truth Can Be Boring

One thing I - and many others - have never understood is why Al Gore did not stand and fight after being robbed of the 2000 election. Did he think it unwise to take on the Supreme Court? Did his own party desert him? Was he afraid of riots in the streets and a schism that could irreparably damage the USA's political, economical and even social status quo? It has never been explained. I hope one day it will.

Yesterday Gore gave a long speech (it would have made Fidel Castro proud) in which he very lucidly set out the problems with the Bush administration. The speech also makes it clear that Gore, who let us remember won the majority of votes in 2000, would have made an excellent President. As Gore says, "the challenges America faces are often quite complex and require rigorous sustained disciplined analysis" - this speech is all that and more.

Gore disagrees with those who dismiss Bush as an idiot or a religious fanatic:
Most of the problems President Bush has caused for this country stemmed not from his belief in God but his belief in the infallibility of the right-wing Republican ideology that exalts the interest of the wealthy, and of large corporations over and above the interests of the American people. It is love of power for its own sake that is the original sin of this presidency.

The surprising current dominance of American politics by right- wing politicians whose core beliefs are usually wildly at odds with the opinions of the majority of Americans is a dominance that has resulted from the careful building of a coalition of interest groups that have little in common with each other besides a desire for power that can be devoted to the achievement of a narrow agenda.
Gore comes very close to calling the Bush administration Fascists, but presumably holds off because there is still one final impediment to full-fledged Fascism - the November 2 election.
Bush's ideology involves ducking accountability for his mistakes. He has neutralized accountability by the Congress by intimidating the Republican leadership and transforming the Republican majority into a true rubber stamp, unlike any that has ever existed in American history. He has appointed right-wing judges who have helped to insulate him from accountability in the courts. And if he wins again, he will likely get to appoint up to four Supreme Court justices. He has ducked accountability from the press with his obsessive secrecy and refusal to conduct the public's business openly. So there is now only one center of power left in our Constitution and in our country capable of at long last holding George W. Bush accountable, and it is you, the voters.

The Smirking Chimp has the full text of Gore's speech.

Will this insightful speech recieve the attention it deserves at this crucial stage of the 2004 elections? In a word, NO.

Long before Howard Dean was effectively branded A Dangerous Hot-head, Al Gore was branded Boring. It's a tag he may be able to shake off if he continues resisting the political conventions of polite party politics.


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