Monday, May 28, 2007

Ronald Bleier: Bush's Permanent War Agenda

The Bush-Cheney Regime and U.S. Middle East Policy: Radical Nihilists Driving Permanent War

By Ronald Bleier

May 2007

“What I’m describing to the American people is this war on terror is going to take awhile, and Iraq is just a part of it.
- President George W. Bush, Interview with NPR/ Juan Williams, 1.29.07

When we look at the situation in Iraq today we see the destruction of a country and the unimaginable tragedy and suffering of tens of millions of peoples, only a tiny portion of which is reported in the mainstream media. By way of acknowledging some of the nightmare that is Iraq today, I’d like to quote a portion of an email sent to me by a colleague in April 2007. My friend had just attended a lecture at MIT given by an Iraqi academic now teaching in England. According to my informant, women in Iraq today,

fear going into labor at night because they are terrified they and their husbands will be killed on the way to hospital. EVERYONE fears going outside on the commonest of errands -- so much so that when people leave the house they say goodbye for the last time, since each time may well be the last. Women are afraid to leave their houses and many if not most are simply house-bound. Schools and universities are non-functioning. University professors among this lecturer's circle of friends have taught two or three classes in the past YEAR because criminal gangs/the factions have targeted professors as well as non-university professionals (doctors for instance) and have been killing them wantonly. Electrical grids and water supplies are still ravaged, with, for instance, no air conditioning in heats frequently at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (this affects women, children and family life in ways one can only imagine); queues for everything, including of course petrol - queues that give warring factions and gangs further killing opportunity.

By some estimates, excess Iraqi deaths since March 2003 exceed half a million. More than 2 million Iraqis have been forced to flee the country, the bulk to Jordan and Syria, threatening their stability. Hundreds if not more of the cream of Iraq’s professional and academic society, a bulwark against fascism have been victims of targeted assassination, similar in purpose and manner to Israeli targeted assassinations of Palestinian activists. This crime wave has forced thousands of their professional colleagues to join the massive refugee outflow.

There is also an enormous loss of blood and treasure to the coalition forces. One thing the losses on both sides have in common is the apparent disinterest and pitilessness of the Bush-Cheney clique to the enormous human and cultural and civic tragedy and suffering on all sides.

Several questions arise, chief among them: how long can this devastation continue? Due to a confluence of forces, not least consideration of Israeli interests, there is no consensus in Congress to put a brake on the war momentum that the Bush administration has achieved.

Perhaps the most useful question is still: Why did we go to war in the first place? As a springboard to my argument I’d like to use a fairly conventional and economical statement of the reasons for the Iraq war by Ghali Hassan, writing for the Global Research website. In his article, “Iraq’s Death Squads: An Instrument of the Occupation,” he begins, as he says, by stating the obvious.

The U.S. did not invade Iraq to establish “democracy” and to “free Iraqis”. The U.S. invaded and destroyed Iraq in order to humiliate and divide Muslims – Arabs in particular – protect Israel’s Zionist expansion and control Iraq’s natural wealth.

The contradiction between Israel’s goals and bringing democracy to the Middle East was also mentioned by NYT op ed columnist Robert Wright. He asks

What if the Iraqi people, once empowered by democracy, decided they didn’t want their country to be a U.S. aircraft carrier? … After all, America is bound to use bases on behalf of itself and key allies, and one key ally is Israel. What were the chances this would sit well with an Arab Muslim nation…

It’s not for oil
A more controversial point raised by Ghali Hassan is the one about controlling Iraq’s natural resources. One of the mantras of the anti-war left is that the invasion of Iraq has been and still is a war for oil. But is this correct? As a number of observers have pointed out, there’s no evidence that oil was the Bush’s administration’s priority, nor that the oil companies were pushing for this war. Even Noam Chomsky, a major proponent of the war for oil theory has lately noticed that it seems that the war has, if anything, put Iraq’s oil reserves in jeopardy. If the real goal of U.S. policy was to ensure a reliable and cheap oil supply they would have done everything in their power to keep Saddam Hussein in place. Bush and Cheney would not have embarked upon a policy that predictably would destabilize the region.

But why would the security conscious Bush administration embark on an illegal, wildly unpopular war if they knew in advance that it was going to destabilize a key region of the world? That they knew in advance is hardly open to question. Cheney himself as Secretary of Defense in the George H. W. Bush administration in 1991 argued that for the U.S. get involved in regime change in Iraq “strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire."

As we move well into the fifth year of the Iraq war, a few brave voices are daring to suggest that the catastrophe that is now Iraq was not a result of a colossal mistake but is rather the result of conscious, deliberate intention. Nicholas Kristof’s remarkable op ed column, entitled “Iran’s Operative in the White House,” where he wondered whether Bush administration policies which seemed to empower Iran’s most hard-line elements were driven by “malice” or “ineptitude.”

It may be helpful to consider whether the drive for Empire and the broad nature of what we mean by Imperialism, accurately describe the Bush administration’s wars against Afghanistan and Iraq and the war many believe they still hope to initiate against Iran.

Observing the current chaos and devastation that is Iraq today, we can suggest that the purpose of the war was not to extend the American imperium or aggrandize U.S. Empire. Quite the opposite.

The day before the Bush clique took office in January 2001, the US was the world’s only superpower, the strongest empire, the most powerful imperial nation in history. If Empire was all they wanted, they could have simply coasted for eight years, and they would have ended up perhaps even stronger than when they started. But the Bush-Cheney agenda was not passive and it had nothing to do with the painstaking work of carefully consolidating and adding to Empire.

The concern that the Bush administration is not about growing Empire, but about weakening it, perhaps fatally, was expressed by none other than President Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the foremost spokespersons for American Empire. In a mid March 2007 interview on NPR, Brzezinski warned that the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq might spiral into an utterly destructive war with Iran. Indeed, in February 2007, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he surprisingly wondered out loud whether the Bush administration might deliberately provoke war with Iran by staging some sort of incident or provocation. Even more to our present purpose, he went on in the question and answer portion of his testimony to assert that the U.S.’s Iran policy has worked against its own interests. Brzezinski spoke of the “exceedingly hostile” U.S. attitude toward Iran

which has gelled together a kind of residual national sentiment, particularly in support of the nuclear program. And I think our policy has unintentionally- I hope unintentionally; maybe it was devilishly clever, but I think unintentionally helped Ahmadinejad consolidate himself in power…
(emphasis added)

Why would Brzezinski broadly hint that the Bush administration might be intentionally shoring up support for the most hard line elements in Iran? Is he not suggesting that approach would ease their path to a disastrous war? Such a theory would also fit well with their otherwise arbitrary decision to include Iran as part of the Axis of Evil in 2002.

Had Bush and Cheney wanted to extend the U.S. Empire, they would have acted in a manner calculated to enhance their advantages and enrich their coffers. They would have acted for their perceived benefit and self-interest. If the priority in Iraq was self-interest, wholesale destruction of the invaded country would have been be avoided. Self-interest imposes limits on the Imperial power.

Confusion about Empire

One reason for popular confusion about Empire may be that an Imperial power typically uses its military might or the threat of its military might to extend, consolidate or preserve its empire. However true Empire builders characteristically are judicious in their use of the military. They generally shun the reckless profligacy and sheer waste that Bush-Cheney have exhibited. If Empire is to be advanced, not the use of power, but the threat of the use of power is often most effective. Empire builders typically use the tools of diplomacy; they forge alliances, employing the military only as a last resort. Empire builders would also work to strengthen the military, not tear it down and destroy it. They would devote adequate resources for training and equipping their military, and would seek to provide adequate health care if only for the purpose of maintaining the morale of current and incoming troops. Their privatization scheme for the military speaks volumes about their underlying motivations. Jeremy Schahill, the author of a recently published book on Blackwater, The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Nation Books) has asserted that the Bush administration has proven to be the most anti-military administration in history.

Stephen Smith/ The first days of the occupation

At the very beginning of the occupation of Iraq the Bush administration gave evidence that their intention was to destroy the country when they allowed or encouraged the ruin of Iraq’s cultural heritage.

Six months after the occupation, Stephen Smith, writing for had sufficient perspective to point to this crucial issue and to suggest an appropriate theory.

Heavy suspicion remains that failure of the US to protect heritage sites, more than negligence, was a deliberate oversight designed as a kind of cultural 'shock and awe' that would devastate a sense of shared culture among Iraqis, leaving a blank page for the imprint of the US occupying force and the reconstruction to follow. If proven, this would be cultural genocide not witnessed during this civilization and indeed rarely experienced over the 7,000-year time span of these lost collections.

Smith quotes senior Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk who asks the appropriate questions.

"But for Iraq, this is Year Zero; with the destruction of the antiquities in the Museum of Archaeology and the burning of the National Archives and then the Koranic library, the cultural identity of Iraq is being erased. Why? Who set these fires? For what insane purpose is this heritage being destroyed?"

Both Smith and Fisk have suggested answers to their own questions. Yes, allowing the trashing of Iraq’s cultural heritage was a deliberate oversight (if that’s the right word) intended to reduce the country to a blank page, to year Zero. And Fisk also gets it right by suggesting that the purpose, to destroy Iraqi civil life, destroy its sense of cultural heritage was perhaps clinically insane in the sense that it cannot have any constructive purpose.

A war for Israel

Writing at the very beginning of the invasion in March 2003, conservative journalist Patrick Buchanan pretty much identified the purposes of the war.

"We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords. We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people's right to a homeland of their own. We charge that they have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity.

If there is anything missing from Buchanan’s argument it would be the deeper intention behind the war policy of the Bush administration. That intention, much easier to see today than in March 2003, is to bring Iraq back to Year Zero, to rub it out as a political and civil entity.

Activist and journalist Naomi Klein went to Baghdad in 2004 and published an article in Harper’s Magazine (September 2004) entitled “Baghdad Year Zero.” Her subtitle is: “Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia.” She attributes to one faction in the Bush administration the belief that “Iraq was so contaminated that it needed to be rubbed out and remade from scratch.” She was right about the first part: the only thing the neocons – or the ones making policy in Vice President Cheney’s office -- wanted to do to Iraq was to destroy it. They have been called radical nationalists. But nationalists also have as their priority the self-interest of their nation or their tribe. I see the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld clique rather as radical nihilists, bent on permanent war and destruction for its own sake. According to Wikipedia, one of the definitions of Nihilism is the irrational desire to destroy meaning, knowledge and value and it embraces suicide and mass murder. Note the distinction between radical nationalists as they have been called and radical nihilists. Nationalists, for good or ill generally have an agenda of self aggrandizement or self interest, not self destruction.

We’re in a better position now to answer the question: why did Bush and Cheney invade Iraq. They did it in pursuit of an endless war agenda. They used the terror events of 9/11 as their rationale to go to war against Afghanistan. From there they braved the tough uphill slog in the face of prodigious popular opposition to get to Baghdad. From Baghdad they may have assumed it would be downhill to Teheran, which as Hillary, and Obama and Edwards have assured us, is not off the table.

Needless to say it’s counterintuitive to seriously consider a 21st Century American administration devoted to the destruction of all meaning, knowledge and value, the destruction of worlds. Such an agenda signals the exceptionalism of Bush and Cheney. The evidence indicates that theirs is an ideological, not a practical or realist or self-serving agenda since endless war is ultimately suicidal. If it’s counterintuitive to view Bush and Cheney as determined on a path not for self interest but rather for destruction and endless war, that’s in part because most of us see elements of ourselves in our government. In order to survive and thrive we are properly trained from an early age to work on behalf of our self interest. Those who don’t tend to fall by the wayside and are typically weeded out from positions of power. However sometimes circumstances conspire, not least when the society is weakened by inner or outer challenges, to bring to the fore leaders who are very successful and at the same time utterly vicious and remorseless. One such 20th century leader who arose in just such circumstances was Pol Pot, the 1970s leader of the Kymer Rouge in Cambodia who did everything he could to destroy his country and kill millions of his countrymen.

Endless war – A public declaration

The case for a Bush-Cheney agenda for destruction should begin with their public statements, and their openly proclaimed policies. If we examine every single major and minor domestic and international policy initiative of the Bush administration from Iraq on down, we may find that they fit the pattern of deliberate destruction.

The Bush administration made no secret of their desire for endless war from the first moments after the terror events of 911. On message and unified almost as if they knew of the attacks in advance, they insisted that we were in a war on terror. The remedy, they urged could not merely be a police action: this was war. As they consolidated a revolutionary, aggressive program of war, with no little assist from the anthrax attacks, the Bush-Cheney team were finally comfortable for the first time since they took office. Now they had something that they had sorely lacked earlier: an agenda. And a heady, action packed agenda it turned out to be: the Patriot act, two wars, enemy combatants, torture, indefinite detention, Guantanamo, suspension of habeas corpus, warrantless wiretapping, the evisceration of the positive role of virtually all government agencies, illegal massive surveillance of mail, phone and email traffic; construction of concentration camps, a doubling of their inherited military and secret agencies budgets, the hyper trashing of health, safety and environmental regulations, the destruction of the economy through their targeted tax cuts and corporate giveaways– what did I leave out?. Note that their entire agenda has been one of destruction of civil life everywhere, leaving only a police state to enforce their revolutionary and widely unpopular policies.

There is an abundance of circumstantial evidence indicating that the violence and the inability to pursue normal civil and political life that characterizes Iraq in 2007 is a result of deliberate planning, not the result of miscalculations or misjudgments. We can begin with two high profile actions taken by Paul Bremer that dramatically turned the invasion into a tragic occupation. .

The context of Bremer’s still unsatisfactorily explained actions is Bush’s early cashiering of General Jay Garner who was the first official chosen to lead the post-war reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Garner began his tenure in March 2003. He hoped to implement early elections, 90 days after the fall of Baghdad with a view to an independent Iraq. Garner said: “I don’t’ think [Iraqis] need to go by the U.S. plan…. it’s their country… their oil.”

Less than two months later, in May 2003, Paul Bremer who was selected to head the Coalition Provisional Authority replaced Garner. Bremer immediately scotched the plan for early elections, and by the time he left, about 13 months later, he did just about as much damage to Iraq as someone in his position could manage.

Less than a month after he took office, Bremer issued Order Number 2, in effect disbanding the Iraqi army and putting 400,000 Iraqi soldiers out of work. This immediately created a large pool of disgruntled armed youths for the insurgency.

Secondly, he fired thousands of schoolteachers and removed Ba’ath party members from top government positions. The effect was to rob the country of its most experienced people who could have played a key role if reconstruction was the goal.

Covert Death Squads

We move now to the covert aspect of the Bush-Cheney plan for Iraq. One particularly telling pattern of actions is evident from the title of Ghali Hassan’s paper, “Iraq’s Death Squads: An Instrument of Occupation.” If such a pattern of activity could be demonstrated it would go far toward subverting the mainstream notion that victory means putting an end to sectarian violence since it would be evident that the coalition forces are covertly driving the violence, largely through their sponsorship and direction of both Shia and Sunni death squads.

Gali Hassan summarizes the situation when he writes that the aim of the campaign of assassinations and the activity of the death squads “ is to create a climate of terror and incite civil war among Iraqis in order to justify the Occupation of Iraq and the fraudulent “war on terror.”

A.K. Gupta
A. K. Gupta is a freelance writer and editor of the Indypendent in NYC has written several articles for Z Magazine on the militias. In “Iraq: Militias and Civil War: “The Pentagon is using militias in sectarian battles,” (Z Magazine, December 2006) he explains that the rise of the militias is a disincentive to the Iraqi national police and army forces. He explains that by one means or another Iraq’s national forces are starved of resources and allowed to deteriorate to the point of uselessness. Instead of creating a process insuring accountability and transparency, and instead of seeking out strong and dedicated Iraqi leaders, the U.S. has overseen a system where corruption has become an integral part of the process. In the end recruits aren’t paid for months, training isn’t adequate. As a result recruits leave in droves and those who stay are unreliable and have little or no loyalty to a national force.

Gupta explains that the militias were organized and overseen by the U.S. military to step into the vacuum left by the national forces. They were originally deployed against the Sunni resistance but have since been involved in Shia against Shia violence, particularly U.S. backed Shia militias fighting against the nationalist al-Sadr forces.

Gupta and others also document the involvement of U.S. personnel who have played key roles. One of these is Steven Casteel, is identified by Gupta as the “federal overseer of the effort” to train the Iraqi police. A veteran of the Latin America’s dirty wars, Casteel’s name, Gupta writes,

keeps surfacing in reference to militias. While Casteel was referred to as the “senior advisor” to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, this was just a euphemism. Like other Americans serving as “senior advisors” to Iraqi ministries under the Coalition Provisional Authority, Casteel was actually running the ministry until the CPA went out of business on June 28, 2004.

Max Fuller
Max Fuller, a researcher who writes regularly for the Global Research website has also been tracking evidence of U.S. involvement and direction of Iraqi militia and death squad activity since at least 2005. In “For Iraq The Salvador Option Becomes Reality, “ and in a follow up article the same year, “Crying Wolf: Media Disinformation and Death Squads in Occupied Iraq,” , he presents evidence that the bitter spiral of sectarian tit for tat Shiite Sunni death squad style killings that is making civil life impossible for most Iraqis is an organized campaign driven by the occupation forces.

He notes for example the case of Yasser Salihee, a journalist for Knight Ridder who investigated the steady stream of extra judicial killings in 2004 and 2005. Salihee describes what happens to the death squad victims.

“Characteristically the victims’ hands are tied or handcuffed behind their backs and they have been blindfolded. In most cases they also appear to have been whipped with a cord, subjected to electric shocks or beaten with a blunt object and shot to death often with single bullets to the head.” Investigating the bodies, Salihee found that eyewitnesses claimed many of the victims were seized by men wearing commando uniforms in white Toyota Land Cruisers with police markings.” Three days after Salihee’s last article was published on June 27, 2005, he was fatally shot by a U.S. sniper at a routine checkpoint.” Max Fuller concluded.

What is possible is that both sides of the apparent sectarian violence are run as part of a huge CIA-lead intelligence operation designed to split Iraq at the seams. I tentatively suggest that the intelligence apparatus at the Interior Ministry is contriving attacks on Sunnis and that British and US special forces in conjunction with the intelligence apparatus at the Iraqi Defence Ministry are fabricating insurgent bombings of Shias.

In his most recent article on the subject, published in March 2007, Fuller’s subtitle is “Proof of US orchestration of Death Squads Killings in Iraq, He cites two survivors of the notorious Jadiriyah detention facility which was infamously raided by U.S. troops in November of 2005 when they discovered some 170 detainees suffering from “horrific conditions, many of them clearly the victims of obscene tortures.”

Despite the wide publicity of this incident, amazingly the prisoners were returned to Iraqi custody, proof Fuller thinks of U.S. involvement in the death squads. One victim was distinguished Professor of Pedagogy, Professor Samaree [first name not given] whose condition was so bad when the Americans found him, that he and a dozen others were taken to a local hospital. Afterwards Professor Samaree, one of whose sons resides in the States, like the others was to be returned to prison, but he managed to escape. He subsequently fled to Europe where he is claiming political asylum.

Another Jadiriyah survivor, Abbas Z. Abid, was arrested in August 2005 and spent 14 months in prison before he was finally released in October 2006, having undergone imprisonment and torture eleven months after the U.S. intervention. Fuller claims that such accounts demonstrate U.S. complicity.

These stories, and relevant accompanying information, published by the Brussels Tribunal were offered, Fuller writes, to a range of mainstream media organizations such as the New Yorker, the New Statesman, the Independent, The Big Issue and Z Magazine, all of whom rejected it. Fuller concludes that the Jadiriyah story was “simply off the agenda.” One can understand why the right wing and the mainstream center would find them off-putting. But why would a radical left organ like Z Magazine also find such evidence discomforting. Perhaps because it would raise difficult questions about the U.S. mission in Iraq.

A less blinkered view of the dynamics of the violence in Iraq would make it easier to respond to critics who argue that if we withdraw, chaos if not genocide will follow. The nugget of truth in such a response is that so much depends on how we leave, assuming that we can muster the political will to do what the American people and the international community demand. If there were good will on the American side it’s not beyond the abilities of diplomats to arrange for example for a serious international conference which might deal with the most critical issues. Needless to say, no positive action can take place with a U.S. presence in the country. Total withdrawal will always be the first requirement.

The harder question is what do we do about Israel’s needs. Leaving Iraq to the Iraqis, while it could not for the foreseeable future pose a security threat to Israel by any stretch of the imagination, would be perceived as a defeat for them, for the power of the Israel Lobby and for the right wing and the neocons.

Withdrawal would not be such a terrible conundrum if Israel’s interest in dominating the Middle East were not at stake. Since Israel has such power to press its interest within and without of the U.S. government, it’s difficult to see now how we extricate ourselves, not to mention how we begin to put things right in Iraq. One thing we can do is look clearly at the evidence exposing the source of much of the violence.

The End


1.See Lancet’s October 11, 2006 survey which calculated excess deaths went though June 2006.
3. “The Neocon Paradox” (4.24.07)
4. March 2007
5. Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill - Feb 2007)Interview broadcast on CNN-Books TV, March 31, 2007.
6. Stephen Smith,, Electronic Iraq, September 4, 2003.
7. Patrick J. Buchanan, “Whose War?, March 24, 2003.
June 2005
8. November 2005
9. “Silence of the Lambs? Proof of US orchestration of Death Squads Killings in Iraq,”
10. Max Fuller Global Research, March 14, 2007.
11. available online

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Michael Parenti: Conspiracy Phobia on the Left

From Dirty Truths by Michael Parenti
(1996, City Lights Books)
(Pages 172 - 191)


Almost as an article of faith, some individuals believe that conspiracies are either kooky fantasies or unimportant aberrations. To be sure, wacko conspiracy theories do exist. There are people who believe that the United States has been invaded by a secret United Nations army equipped with black helicopters, or that the country is secretly controlled by Jews or gays or feminists or black nationalists or communists or extraterrestrial aliens. But it does not logically follow that all conspiracies are imaginary.

Conspiracy is a legitimate concept in law: the collusion of two or more people pursuing illegal means to effect some illegal or immoral end. People go to jail for committing conspiratorial acts. Conspiracies are a matter of public record, and some are of real political significance. The Watergate break-in was a conspiracy, as was the Watergate cover-up, which led to Nixon's downfall. Iran-contra was a conspiracy of immense scope, much of it still uncovered. The savings and loan scandal was described by the Justice Department as "a thousand conspiracies of fraud, theft, and bribery," the greatest financial crime in history.

Conspiracy or Coincidence?

Often the term "conspiracy" is applied dismissively whenever one suggests that people who occupy positions of political and economic power are consciously dedicated to advancing their elite interests. Even when they openly profess their designs, there are those who deny that intent is involved. In 1994, the officers of the Federal Reserve announced they would pursue monetary policies designed to maintain a high level of unemployment in order to safeguard against "overheating" the economy. Like any creditor class, they preferred a deflationary course. When an acquaintance of mine mentioned this to friends, he was greeted skeptically, "Do you think the Fed bankers are deliberately trying to keep people unemployed?" In fact, not only did he think it, it was announced on the financial pages of the press. Still, his friends assumed he was imagining a conspiracy because he ascribed self-interested collusion to powerful people.

At a World Affairs Council meeting in San Francisco, I remarked to a participant that U.S. leaders were pushing hard for the reinstatement of capitalism in the former communist countries. He said, "Do you really think they carry it to that level of conscious intent?" I pointed out it was not a conjecture on my part. They have repeatedly announced their commitment to seeing that "free-market reforms" are introduced in Eastern Europe. Their economic aid is channeled almost exclusively into the private sector. The same policy holds for the monies intended for other countries. Thus, as of the end of 1995, "more than $4.5 million U.S. aid to Haiti has been put on hold because the Aristide government has failed to make progress on a program to privatize state-owned companies" (New York Times 11/25/95).

Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: "Do you actually think there's a group of people sitting around in a room plotting things?" For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together - on park benches or carousels? Indeed, they meet in rooms: corporate boardrooms, Pentagon command rooms, at the Bohemian Grove, in the choice dining rooms at the best restaurants, resorts, hotels, and estates, in the many conference rooms at the White House, the NSA, the CIA, or wherever. And, yes, they consciously plot - though they call it "planning" and "strategizing" - and they do so in great secrecy, often resisting all efforts at public disclosure. No one confabulates and plans more than political and corporate elites and their hired specialists. To make the world safe for those who own it, politically active elements of the owning class have created a national security state that expends billions of dollars and enlists the efforts of vast numbers of people.

Yet there are individuals who ask with patronizing, incredulous smiles, do you really think that the people at the top have secret agendas, are aware of their larger interests, and talk to each other about them? To which I respond, why would they not? This is not to say that every corporate and political elite is actively dedicated to working for the higher circles of power and property. Nor are they infallible or always correct in their assessments and tactics or always immediately aware of how their interests are being affected by new situations. But they are more attuned and more capable of advancing their vast interests than most other social groups.

The alternative is to believe that the powerful and the privileged are somnambulists, who move about oblivious to questions of power and privilege; that they always tell us the truth and have nothing to hide even when they hide so much; that although most of us ordinary people might consciously try to pursue our own interests, wealthy elites do not; that when those at the top employ force and violence around the world it is only for the laudable reasons they profess; that when they arm, train, and finance covert actions in numerous countries, and then fail to acknowledge their role in such deeds, it is because of oversight or forgetfulness or perhaps modesty; and that it is merely a coincidence how the policies of the national security state so consistently serve the interests of the transnational corporations and the capital-accumulation system throughout the world.

Kennedy and the Left Critics

In the winter of 1991-92 Oliver Stone's film JFK revived popular interest in the question of President John Kennedy's assassination. As noted in part I of this article, the mainstream media launched a protracted barrage of invective against the movie. Conservatives and liberals closed ranks to tell the public there was no conspiracy to murder the president for such things do not happen in the United States.

Unfortunately, some writers normally identified as on the Left have rejected any suggestion that conspiracy occurred. While the rightists and centrists were concerned about preserving the legitimacy of existing institutions and keeping people from seeing the gangster nature of the state, the leftists had different concerns, though it was not always clear what these were.

Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, and others challenge the notion that Kennedy was assassinated for intending to withdraw from Vietnam or for threatening to undo the CIA or end the cold war. Such things could not have led to his downfall, they argue, because Kennedy was a cold warrior, pro-CIA, and wanted a military withdrawal from Vietnam only with victory. Chomsky claims that the change of administration that came with JFK's assassination had no appreciable effect on policy. In fact, the massive ground war ordered by Johnson and the saturation bombings of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos ordered by Nixon represented a dramatic departure from Kennedy's policy. On some occasions, Chomsky says he refuses to speculate: "As for what JFK might have done [had he lived], I have nothing to say." Other times he goes on to speculate that Kennedy would not have "reacted differently to changing situations than his close advisers" and "would have persisted in his commitment to strengthen and enhance the status of the CIA" (Z Magazine, 10/92 and 1/93).

The evidence we have indicates that Kennedy observed Cambodian neutrality and negotiated a cease-fire and a coalition government in Laos, which the CIA refused to honor. We also know that the surviving Kennedy, Robert, broke with the Johnson administration over Vietnam and publicly stated that his brother's administration had committed serious mistakes. Robert moved with the tide of opinion, evolving into a Senate dove and then a peace candidate for the presidency, before he too was murdered. The two brothers worked closely together and were usually of like mind. While this does not provide reason enough to conclude that John Kennedy would have undergone a transition comparable to Robert's, it still might give us pause before asserting that JFK was destined to follow in the direction taken by the Johnson and Nixon administrations.

In the midst of this controversy, Chomsky wrote a whole book arguing that JFK had no intention of withdrawing from Vietnam without victory. Actually, Kennedy said different things at different times, sometimes maintaining that we could not simply abandon Vietnam, other times that it ultimately would be up to the Vietnamese to fight their own war.1

One of Kennedy's closest aides, Kenneth O'Donnell, wrote that the president planned to withdraw from Vietnam after the 1964 elections. According to Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, who headed military support for the clandestine operations of the CIA, Kennedy dictated "the rich parts" of NSAM 263, calling for the withdrawal not only of all U.S. troops but all Americans, meaning CIA officers and agents too. Prouty reflects that the president thereby signed "his own death warrant." The Army newspaper Stars and Stripes ran a headline: "President Says - All Americans Out by 1965." According to Prouty: "The Pentagon was outraged. JFK was a curse word in the corridors."

Concentrating on the question of withdrawal, Chomsky says nothing about the president's unwillingness to escalate into a ground war. On that crucial point all Chomsky offers is a speculation ascribed to Roger Hilsman that Kennedy might well have introduced U.S. ground troops in South Vietnam. In fact, the same Hilsman, who served as Kennedy's Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, the officer responsible for Vietnam, noted in a long letter to the New York Times (1/20/92) that in 1963 "President Kennedy was determined not to let Vietnam become an American war - that is, he was determined not to send U.S. combat troops (as opposed to advisers) to fight in Vietnam nor to bomb North Vietnam." Other Kennedy aides such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and General Maxwell Taylor made the same point. Taylor said, "The last thing he [Kennedy] wanted was to put in our ground forces . . . I don't recall anyone who was strongly against [the recommendation], except one man and that was the President." Kennedy opposed the kind of escalation embarked upon soon after his death by Lyndon Johnson, who increased U.S. troops in Vietnam from 17,000 to approximately 250,000 and committed them to an all-out ground war.

Kennedy and the CIA

Chomsky argues that the CIA would have had no grounds for wanting to kill JFK, because he was a dedicated counterinsurgent cold warrior. Chomsky arrives at this conclusion by assuming that the CIA had the same reading of events in 1963 that he has today. But entrenched power elites are notorious for not seeing the world the way left analysts do. To accept Chomsky's assumptions we would need a different body of data from that which he and others offer, data that focuses not on the Kennedy administration's interventionist pronouncements and policies but on the more private sentiments that festered in intelligence circles and related places in 1963.

To offer a parallel: We might be of the opinion that the New Deal did relatively little for working people and that Franklin Roosevelt actually was a tool of the very interests he publicly denounced as "economic royalists." From this we might conclude that the plutocrats had much reason to support FDR's attempts to save big business from itself. But most plutocrats dammed "that man in the White House" as a class traitor. To determine why, you would have to look at how they perceived the New Deal in those days, not at how we think it should be evaluated today.

In fact, President Kennedy was not someone the CIA could tolerate, and the feeling was mutual. JFK told one of his top officials that he wanted "to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds" (New York Times, 4/25/66). He closed the armed CIA camps that were readying for a second Bay of Pigs invasion and took a number of other steps designed to bring the Agency under control. He fired its most powerful and insubordinate leaders, Director Allen Dulles, Deputy Director Charles Cabell, and Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell. He tried to reduce its powers and jurisdiction and set strict limits as to its future actions, and he appointed a high-level committee to investigate the CIA's past misdeeds.

In 1963, CIA officials, Pentagon brass, anti-Castro Cuban �migr�s, and assorted other right-wingers, including FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, hated JFK and did not believe he could be trusted with the nation's future. They referred to him as "that delinquent in the White House." Roger Craig records the comments of numerous Dallas police officers who wanted to see Kennedy done away with. Several years ago, on a San Francisco talk show on station KGO, I heard a listener call in as follows: "this is the first time I'm saying this. I worked for Army intelligence. In 1963 I was in Japan, and the accepted word around then was that Kennedy would be killed because he was messing with the intelligence community. When word came of his death, all I could hear was delighted comments like 'We got the bastard'."

In his book First Hand Knowledge, CIA operative Robert Morrow noted the hatred felt by CIA officers regarding Kennedy's "betrayal" in not sending the U.S. military into the Bay of Pigs fiasco. One high-level CIA Cuban �migr�, Eladio del Valle, told Morrow less than two weeks before the assassination: "I found out about it last night. Kennedy's going to get it in Dallas."2 Morrow also notes that CIA director Richard Helms, "knew that someone in the Agency was involved" in the Kennedy assassination, "either directly or indirectly, in the act itself - someone who would be in a high and sensitive position . . . Helms did cover up any CIA involvement in the presidential assassination."

Several years after JFK's murder, President Johnson told White House aide Marvin Watson that he "was convinced that there was a plot in connection with the assassination" and that the CIA had something to do with it (Washington Post, 12/13/77). And Robert Kennedy repeatedly made known his suspicions that the CIA had a hand in the murder of his brother.

JFK's enemies in the CIA, the Pentagon, and elsewhere fixed on his refusal to provide air coverage for the Bay of Pigs, his unwillingness to go into Indochina with massive ground forces, his no-invasion guarantee to Krushchev on Cuba, his overtures for a rapprochement with Castro and professed willingness to tolerate countries with different economic systems in the Western hemisphere, his atmospheric-test-ban treaty with Moscow, his American University speech calling for reexamination of U.S. cold war attitudes toward the Soviet Union, his antitrust suit against General Electric, his curtailing of the oil-depletion allowance, his fight with U.S. Steel over price increases, his challenge to the Federal Reserve Board's multibillion-dollar monopoly control of the nation's currency,3 his warm reception at labor conventions, and his call for racial equality. These things may not have been enough for some on the Left but they were far too much for many on the Right.

Left Confusions and the Warren Commission

Erwin Knoll, erstwhile editor of the Progressive, was anther left critic who expressed hostility toward the conspiracy thesis and Oliver Stone's movie in particular. Knoll admitted he had no idea who killed Kennedy, but this did not keep him from asserting that Stone's JFK was "manipulative" and provided false answers. If Knoll had no idea who killed Kennedy, how could he conclude that the film was false?

Knoll said Stone's movie was "a melange of fact and fiction" (Progressive, 3/92). To be sure, some of the dramatization was fictionalized - but regarding the core events relating to Clay Shaw's perjury, eyewitness reports at Dealey Plaza, the behavior of U.S. law officers, and other suspicious happenings, the movie remained faithful to the facts unearthed by serious investigators.

In a show of flexibility, Knoll allows that "the Warren Commission did a hasty, slipshod job" of investigation. Here too he only reveals his ignorance. In fact, the Commission sat for fifty-one long sessions over a period of several months, much longer than most major investigations. It compiled twenty-six volumes of testimony and evidence. It had the investigative resources of the FBI and CIA at its disposal, along with its own professional team. Far from being hasty and slipshod, it painstakingly crafted theories that moved toward a foreordained conclusion. From the beginning, it asked only a limited set of questions that seemed to assume Oswald's guilt as the lone assassin.

The Warren Commission set up six investigative panels to look into such things as Oswald's background, his activities in past years and on the day of the assassination, Jack Ruby's background, and his activities on the day he killed Oswald. As Mark Lane notes, there was a crying need for a seventh panel, one that would try to discover who killed President Kennedy. The commission never saw the need for that undertaking, having already made up its mind.

While supposedly dedicated to bringing the truth to light, the Warren Commission operated in secrecy. The minutes of its meetings were classified top secret, and hundred of thousands of documents and other evidence were sealed for seventy-five years. The Commission failed to call witnesses who heard and saw people shooting from behind the fence on the grassy knoll. It falsely recorded the testimony of certain witnesses, as they were to complain later on, and reinterpreted the testimony of others. All this took careful effort. A "hasty and slipshod" investigation would show some randomness in its errors. But the Commission's distortions consistently moved in the same direction in pursuit of a prefigured hypothesis.

Erwin Knoll talks disparagingly of the gullible U.S. public and says he "despises" Oliver Stone for playing on that gullibility. In fact, the U.S. public has been anything but gullible. It has not swallowed the official explanation the way some of the left critics have. Surveys show that 78 percent of the public say they believe there was a conspiracy. Both Cockburn in the Nation and Chomsky in Z Magazine dismiss this finding by noting that over 70 percent of the people also believe in miracles. But the fact that people might be wrong about one thing does not mean they are wrong about everything. Chomsky and Cockburn are themselves evidence of that.

In any case, the comparison is between two opposite things. Chomsky and Cockburn are comparing the public's gullibility about miracles with its unwillingness to be gullible about the official line that has been fed to them for thirty years. If anyone is gullible it is Alexander Cockburn who devoted extra column space in the Nation to support the Warren Commission's tattered theory about a magic bullet that could hit both Kennedy and Connolley while changing direction in mid-air and remaining in pristine condition.

Chomsky says that it is a "curious fact that no trace of the wide-ranging conspiracy appears in the internal record, and nothing has leaked" and "credible direct evidence is lacking" (Z Magazine, 1/93, and letter to me, 12/15/92). But why would participants in a conspiracy of this magnitude risk everything by maintaining an "internal record" (whatever that is) about the actual murder? Why would they risk their lives by going public? Many of the participants would know only a small part of the picture. But all of them would have a keen sense of the immensely powerful and sinister forces they would be up against were they to become too talkative. In fact, a good number of those who agreed to cooperate with investigators met untimely deaths. Finally, what credible direct evidence was ever offered to prove that Oswald was the assassin?

Chomsky is able to maintain his criticism that no credible evidence has come to light only by remaining determinedly unacquainted with the mountain of evidence that has been uncovered. There has even been a decision in a U.S. court of law, Hunt vs. Liberty Lobby, in which a jury found that President Kennedy had indeed been murdered by a conspiracy involving, in part, CIA operatives E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis, and FBI informant Jack Ruby.4

Nixon advisor H.R. Haldeman admits in his memoir: "After Kennedy was killed, the CIA launched a fantastic coverup." And "In a chilling parallel to their coverup at Watergate, the CIA literally erased any connection between Kennedy's assassination and the CIA."

Indeed, if there was no conspiracy, why so much secrecy and so much cover-up? If Oswald did it, what is there to hide and why do the CIA and FBI still resist a full undoctored disclosure of the hundreds of thousands of pertinent documents? Would they not be eager to reveal everything and thereby put to rest doubts about Oswald's guilt and suspicions about their own culpability?

The remarkable thing about Erwin Knoll, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, and others on the Left who attack the Kennedy conspiracy findings is they remain invincibly ignorant of the critical investigations that have been carried out. I have repeatedly pointed this out in exchanges with them and they never deny it. They have not read any of the many studies by independent researchers who implicate the CIA in a conspiracy to kill the president and in the even more protracted and extensive conspiracy to cover up the murder. But this does not prevent them from dismissing the conspiracy charge in the most general and unsubstantiated terms.

Let's Hear It for Structuralism

When pressed on the matter, left critics like Cockburn and Chomsky allow that some conspiracies do exist but they usually are of minor importance, a distraction from the real problems of institutional and structural power. A structural analysis, as I understand it, maintains that events are determined by the larger configurations of power and interest and not by the whims of happenstance or the connivance of a few incidental political actors. There is no denying that larger structural trends impose limits on policy and exert strong pressures on leaders. But this does not mean that all important policy is predetermined. Short of betraying fundamental class interests, different leaders can pursue different courses, the effects of which are not inconsequential to the lives of millions of people. Thus, it was not foreordained that the B-52 carpet bombing of Cambodia and Laos conducted by Nixon would have happened if Kennedy, or even Johnson or Humphrey, had been president. If left critics think these things make no difference in the long run, they better not tell that to the millions of Indochinese who grieve for their lost ones and for their own shattered lives.

It is an either-or world for those on the Left who harbor an aversion for any kind of conspiracy investigation: either you are a structuralist in your approach to politics or a "conspiracist" who reduces historical developments to the machinations of secret cabals, thereby causing us to lose sight of the larger systemic forces. As Chomsky notes: "However unpleasant and difficult it may be, there is no escape from the need to confront the reality of institutions and the policies and actions they largely shape." (Z Magazine, 10/92).

I trust that one of the institutions he has in mind is the CIA. In most of its operations, the CIA is by definition a conspiracy, using covert actions and secret plans, many of which are of the most unsavory kind. What are covert operations if not conspiracies? At the same time, the CIA is an institution, a structural part of the national security state. In sum, the agency is an institutionalized conspiracy.

As I pointed out in published exchanges with Cockburn and Chomsky (neither of whom responded to the argument), conspiracy and structure are not mutually exclusive dynamics. A structural analysis that a priori rules out conspiracy runs the risk of not looking at the whole picture. Conspiracies are a component of the national security political system, not deviations from it. Ruling elites use both conspiratorial covert actions and overtly legitimating procedures at home and abroad. They finance everything from electoral campaigns and publishing houses to mobsters and death squads. They utilize every conceivable stratagem, including killing one of their own if they perceive him to be a barrier to their larger agenda of making the world safe for those who own it.

The conspiracy findings in regard to the JFK assassination, which the movie JFK brought before a mass audience, made many people realize what kind of a gangster state we have in this country and what it does around the world. In investigating the JFK conspiracy, researchers are not looking for an "escape" from something "unpleasant and difficult," as Chomsky would have it, rather they are raising grave questions about the nature of state power in what is supposed to be a democracy.

A structuralist position should not discount the role of human agency in history. Institutions are not self-generating reified forces. The "great continuities of corporate and class interest" (Cockburn's phrase) are not disembodied things that just happen of their own accord. Neither empires nor national security institutions come into existence in a fit of absent-mindedness. They are actualized not only by broad conditional causes but by the conscious efforts of live people. Evidence for this can be found in the very existence of a national security state whose conscious function is to recreate the conditions of politico-economic hegemony.

Having spent much of my life writing books that utilize a structuralist approach, I find it ironic to hear about the importance of structuralism from those who themselves do little or no structural analysis of the U.S. political system and show little theoretical grasp of the structural approach. Aside from a few Marxist journals, one finds little systemic or structural analysis in left periodicals including ones that carry Chomsky and Cockburn. Most of these publications focus on particular issues and events - most of which usually are of far lesser magnitude than the Kennedy assassination.

Left publications have given much attention to conspiracies such as Watergate, the FBI Cointelpro, Iran-Contra, Iraq-gate, CIA drugs-for-guns trade, BCCI, and savings-and-loans scandals. It is never explained why these conspiracies are important while the FJK assassination is not. Chip Berlet repeatedly denounces conspiracy investigations while himself spending a good deal of time investigating Lyndon LaRouche's fraudulent financial dealings, conspiracies for which LaRouche went to prison. Berlet never explains why the LaRouche conspiracy is a subject worthy of investigation but not the JFK conspiracy.

G. William Domhoff points out: "If 'conspiracy' means that these [ruling class] men are aware of their interests, know each other personally, meet together privately and off the record, and try to hammer out a consensus on how to anticipate and react to events and issues, then there is some conspiring that goes on in CFR [the Council for Foreign Relations], not to mention the Committee for Economic Development, the Business Council, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency." After providing this useful description of institutional conspiracy, Domhoff then conjures up a caricature that often clouds the issue: "We all have a tremendous tendency to want to get caught up in believing that there's some secret evil cause for all of the obvious ills of the world." Conspiracy theories "encourage a belief that if we get rid of a few bad people, everything will be well in the world."

To this simplistic notion Peter Dale Scott responds: "I believe that a true understanding of the Kennedy assassination will lead not to a few bad people but to the institutional and parapolitical arrangements which constitute the way we are systematically governed." In sum, national security state conspiracies are components of our political structure, not deviations from it.

Why Care About JFK?

The left critics argue that people who are concerned about the JFK assassination are romanticizing Kennedy and squandering valuable energy. Chomsky claims that the Nazi-like appeals of rightist propagandists have a counterpart on the Left: "It's the conspiracy business. Hang around California, for example, and the left has just been torn to shreds because they see CIA conspiracies . . . secret governments [behind] the Kennedy assassination. This kind of stuff has just wiped out a large part of the left" (Against the Current 56, 1993). Chomsky offers no evidence to support this bizarre statement.

The left critics fear that people will be distracted or misled into thinking well of Kennedy. Cockburn argues that Kennedy was nothing more than a servant of the corporate class, so who cares how he was killed (Nation 3/9/92 and 5/18/92). The left critics' hatred of Kennedy clouds their judgment about the politcal significance of his murder. They mistake the low political value of the victim with the high political importance of the assassination, its implications for democracy, and the way it exposes the gangster nature of the state.

In 1894 Captain Alfred Dreyfus was a conservative militarist. Clemenceau once conjectured that if the man's name had not been Dreyfus, he would have been an anti-Dreyfusard. Does that mean that the political struggle waged around l'affaire Dreyfus was a waste of time? The issue quickly became larger than Dreyfus, drawn between Right and Left, between those who stood with the army and the anti-Semites and those who stood with the republic and justice.

Likewise Benigno Aquino, a member of the privileged class in the Philippines, promised no great structural changes, being even more conservative than Kennedy. Does this mean the Filipino people should have dismissed the conspiracy that led to his assassination as an event of no great moment, an internal ruling-class affair? Instead, they used it as ammunition to expose the hated Marcos regime.

Archbishop Romero of El Salvador was a member of the Salvadoran aristocracy. He could not have risen to the top of the church hierarchy otherwise. But after he began voicing critical remarks about the war and concerned comments about the poor, he was assassinated. If he had not been murdered, I doubt that Salvadoran history would have been much different. Does this mean that solidarity groups in this country and El Salvador should not have tried to make his murder an issue that revealed the homicidal gangster nature of the Salvadoran state? (I posed these questions to Chomsky in an exchange in Z Magazine, but in his response, he did not address them.)

Instead of seizing the opportunity, some left writers condescendingly ascribe a host of emotional needs to those who are concerned about the assassination cover-up. According to Max Holland, a scribe who seems to be on special assignment to repudiate the JFK conspiracy: "The nation is gripped by a myth . . . divorced from reality," and "Americans refuse to accept their own history." In Z Magazine (10/92) Chomsky argued that "at times of general malaise and social breakdown, it is not uncommon for millenarian movements to arise." He saw two such movements in 1992: the response to Ross Perot and what he called the "Kennedy revival" or "Camelot revival." Though recognizing that the audiences differ, he lumps them together as "the JFK-Perot enthusiasms." Public interest in the JFK assassination, he says, stems from a "Camelot yearning" and the "yearning for a lost Messiah."

I, for one, witnessed evidence of a Perot movement involving millions of people but I saw no evidence of a Kennedy revival, certainly no millenarian longing for Camelot or a "lost Messiah." However, there has been a revived interest in the Kennedy assassination, which is something else. Throughout the debate, Chomsky repeatedly assumes that those who have been troubled about the assassination must be admirers of Kennedy. In fact, some are, but many are not. Kennedy was killed in 1963; people who today are in their teens, twenties, thirties, and forties - most Americans - were not old enough to have developed a political attachment to him.

The left critics psychologize about our illusions, our false dreams, our longings for Messiahs and father figures, or inability to face unpleasant realities the way they can. They deliver patronizing admonitions about our "conspiracy captivation" and "Camelot yearnings." They urge us not to escape into fantasy. They are the cognoscenti who guide us and out-left us on the JFK assassination, a subject about which they know next to nothing and whose significance they have been unable to grasp. Having never read the investigative literature, they dismiss the investigators as irrelevant or irrational. To cloak their own position with intellectual respectability, they fall back on an unpracticed structuralism.

It is neither "Kennedy worship" nor "Camelot yearnings" that motivates our inquiry, but a desire to fight back against manipulative and malignant institutions so that we might begin to develop a system of accountable rule worthy of the name democracy.

1 Kennedy's intent to withdraw is documented in the Gravel edition of the Pentagon Papers ("Phased Withdrawal of U.S. Forces, 1962-1964," vol. 2, pp. 160-200). It refers to "the Accelerated Model Plan . . .. for a rapid phase out of the bulk of U.S. military personnel" and notes that the administration was "serious about limiting the U.S. commitment and throwing the burden onto the South Vietnamese themselves." But "all the planning for phase-out . . . was either ignored or caught up in the new thinking of January to March 1964" (p. 163) - the new thinking that came after JFK was killed and Johnson became president.

2 Del Valle's name came up the day after JFK's assassination when Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade announced at a press conference that Oswald was a member of del Valle's anti-communist "Free Cuba Committee." Wade was quickly contradicted from the audience by Jack Ruby, who claimed that Oswald was a member of the leftish Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Del Valle, who was one of several people that New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison sought out in connection with the JFK assassination, was killed the same day that Dave Ferrie, another suspect met a suspicious death. When found in Miami, del Valle's body showed evidence of having been tortured, bludgeoned, and shot.

3 The bankers of the Federal Reserve System print paper money, then lend it to the government at an interest. Kennedy signed an executive order issuing over $4 billion in currency notes through the U.S. Treasury, thus bypassing the Fed's bankers and the hundreds of millions of dollars in interest that would normally be paid out to them. These "United States Notes" were quickly withdrawn after JFK's assassination.

4 See Mark Lane, Plausible Denial; Was the CIA Involved in the Assassination of JFK? (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1991). For testimony of another participant see Robert Morrow: First Hand Knowledge: How I Participated in the CIA-Mafia Murder of President Kennedy (New York: S.P.I. Books, 1992).

Michael Worsham (1997) Cockburn, Chomsky (and I.F. Stone) Pass on JFK Conspiracy

by Michael Worsham
When JFK came out in 1991, I felt Oliver Stone hit the nail on the head. During 1992, some progressive/liberal writers, including Alexander Cockburn of The Nation, criticized Stone, and said there was no conspiracy, and even if there was, it did not matter because Kennedy, despite his great personal charisma, dynamic speaking, etc., was underneath, the same as all the other power-hungry and money-loving capitalists.

I asked Alexander Cockburn about JFK when he visited TAMU in 1992 (with the help of Danny Yeager and The Touchstone), but he seemed bored talking about Kennedy. As I sat and chatted with Mr. Cockburn along with the rest of the Touchstone gang (as it existed back in 1992) around a table at a local College Station restaurant, I was extremely puzzled and just could not understand how someone as educated, well-read, and perceptive about so many national and world affairs as Mr. Cockburn could really believe a complete load of crap like the Warren Commission report. It just did not make sense.

I learned a little later that Noam Chomsky also took the position that there was no conspiracy. Most of what I know about Mr. Chomsky is what I read in his occasional editorials in the now-defunct Lies Of Our Times magazine, and through the movie Manufacturing Consent (a biography of Mr. Chomsky worth watching, especially for the section on the N.Y. Times and East Timor).

Now, an answer as to why these and other progressive writers smart enough to know better, support (at least publicly) the Warren Commission has surfaced in the Jan-Feb issue of Probe (the newsletter of Citizens for Truth about the Kennedy Assassination,

According to a Probe article by Ray Marcus, back in early 1969 Mr. Chomsky met with several Kennedy experts and spent several hours looking at and discussing assassination photos. Mr. Chomsky even cancelled several appointments to have extra time. There was a followup meeting with Mr. Chomsky, which also lasted several hours. These meetings were ostensibly to try to do something to reopen the case. According to the Probe article, Mr. Chomsky indicated he was very interested, but had to give the matter careful consideration before committing.
After the meeting, Selwyn Bromberger, an MIT philosophy professor who had sit in on the discussion, said to the author: "If they are strong enough to kill the President and strong enough to cover it up, then they are too strong to confront directly . . . if they feel sufficiently threatened, they may move to open totalitarian rule." According to the author, Mr. Chomsky had given every indication that he believed there was a conspiracy at these meetings. However, Mr. Chomsky never got involved with trying to reopen the case.

The same Probe article mentions that (the late) I.F. Stone, another leading progressive writer of the past, also took a position supportive of the Warren Commission in I.F. Stone's Weekly for Oct. 5, 1964.

Alexander Cockburn now writes for CounterPunch, a solid bi-weekly newsletter associated with the liberal Institute for Policy Studies. CounterPunch is fine, and worth reading, although its articles are never authored. CounterPunch also overly dwells on Washington D.C. politicians, like the tabloids, except that CounterPunch emphasizes financial instead of sexual misdeeds—i.e., it follows the money. (Recently CounterPunch was also the only organization of about 20 which refused my renewal check, subject to a simple agreement not to release my name or pester me with junk mail—more on this in a future issue of The Touchstone).

It has now become clear to me that leading progressive/left/liberal thinkers and writers like I.F. Stone, Noam Chomsky and Alexander Cockburn will only criticize the monied and powerful to the extent that they think it is safe for them to do. This is no different in principle from what the mainstream news media does: critiques are within a constrained margin of what is acceptable and not acceptable to the powers that be.

The only difference is that Mr. Chomsky and Mr. Cockburn have much wider margins than ABC (now owned by Disney), NBC (owned by General Electric), CBS (owned by Westinghouse), The Washington Post (with long ties to the intelligence community), and the N.Y. Times (so biased that the previously mentioned Lies Of Our Times was created to combat the rampant disinformation).

Mr. Chomsky and Mr. Cockburn are also really no different than Dan Rather. Mr. Rather publicly supports the Warren Commission, but has a private position on the assassination we have not heard. On specials about Kennedy, Mr. Rather will spout some mealy-mouthed nonsense like "The mystery of the assassination burns like an eternal flame" while the camera pans over Rather's shoulder to the Kennedy torch that burns at Arlington Cemetery.

To some extent Mr. Chomsky and Mr. Cockburn practice what the Kennedy research community is often accused of—they have created a cottage industry—standard left-wing/liberal criticisms of power. Their critiques are well-meaning and accurate, and provide a comfortable if not wealthy living, but don't really make a substantial dent in the problems they write about. Mr. Chomsky has been writing for over 30 years now, yet how many people have even heard of Noam Chomsky—even after the feature film about him (Manufacturing Consent) was produced? Has corporate power been reigned in any? How many Americans know about East Timor?

I hope these and all progressive writers will develop the courage to speak all of the truth that they know, or at least be honest about it, because even repeated, sharp, and direct-to-the-point criticisms of power, are not worth much if they are deliberately mis-aimed against the most important and critical problem: That forces in the supposedly constitutional democracy of the U.S. will murder democratically elected leaders like John F. Kennedy (and progressive leaders like Robert F. Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) and get away with it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Nafeez Ahmed: The State's Culpabilty: The Strategy of Tension: NATO's Secret Armies

The Strategy of Tension

Nafeez Ahmed

We are at War against International Terrorism,

defending our Values and our Civilization.
(Thanks to for the pointer.)

Western anti-terror legislation does not allow the state to be considered in any way culpable for terrorist activities. As far as our elected representatives are concerned, terrorism is a problem of loosely associated groups of reactionary fanatics “attacking our freedoms”. The assumption, never explicitly stated for then it would be revealed, and easily and permanently ridiculed, is that the state is innocent, immune to indulging in such barbaric practices. Written into the rule of law itself, this assumption posits the state as a paternal Fuhrer, a God figure whom we must all entrust our lives and liberties to.

Yet whichever way you look at it, international terrorism has its origins in the state itself. There are many ways of understanding this, but perhaps the most pertinent for our purposes is contemporary history. We don’t need to go very far back either. Only twenty odd years, to the era of the Cold War, when we were also getting Trigger-Happy trying to defend the “Free World” from the “Evil Empire” of International Communism, as Ronald Reagan put it so aptly.

The “strategy of tension” denotes a highly secretive series of interconnected covert operations conducted jointly by the CIA and MI6 largely in Western Europe during the this period. Well-documented by several respected historians, confirmed by official inquiries, and corroborated by former intelligence officials, the “strategy of tension” is one of those unsavoury moments in contemporary history that we don’t learn about in school, or even university.

My favourite book on the subject, and the most authoritative in my view, is Dr. Daniele Ganser’s NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe (2004). Published in the UK as part of the “Contemporary Security Studies” series of London-based academic press Routledge, Ganser’s study is the first major historical work to bring the “strategy of tension” into the mainstream of scholarship.

During the Cold War, indeed through to the late 1980s, the United States, United Kingdom, and Western European governments and secret services, participated in a sophisticated NATO-backed operation to engineer terrorist attacks inside Western Europe, to be blamed on the Soviet Union. The objective was to galvanize public opinion against leftwing policies and parties, and ultimately to mobilize popular support for purportedly anti-Soviet policies at home and abroad – most of which were really designed to legitimize brutal military interventions against nationalist independence movements in the “Third World”.

Ganser was a Senior Researcher at the Center for Security Studies in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, before he moved to Basel University to teach history. Citing the transcripts of European parliamentary inquiries; the few secret documents that have been declassified; interviews with government, military and intelligence officials; and so on, Ganser shows how intimately the British were involved.

In fact, it wasn’t even an American idea – it was very much ours. The strategy of tension began on the order of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who in July 1940 called for the establishment of a secret army to “set Europe ablaze by assisting resistance movements and carrying out subversive operations in enemy held territory.” (p. 40) By 4th October 1945, the British Chiefs of Staff and the Special Operations branch of MI6 directed the creation of what Ganser describes as a “skeleton network” capable of expansion either in war or to service clandestine operations abroad: “Priority was given in carrying out these tasks to countries likely to be overrun in the earliest stages of any conflict with the Soviet Union, but not as yet under Soviet domination.” (p. 41) In the ensuing years, Col. Gubbins’ Special Operations branch of MI6 cooperated closely with Frank Wisner’s CIA covert action department Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) on White House orders, and in turn coordinated US and UK Special Forces, to establish stay-behind secret armies across western Europe. (p. 42)

Among the documents Ganser brings to attention is the classified Field Manual 30-31, with appendices FM 30-31A and FM 30-31B, authored by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to train thousands of stay-behind officers around the world. The field manual was published in the 1987 parliamentary report of the Italian parliamentary investigation into the terrorist activities of “P2”, the CIA-MI6 sponsored Italian anti-communist network. As Ganser observes: “FM 30-31 instructs the secret soldiers to carry out acts of violence in times of peace and then blame them on the Communist enemy in order to create a situation of fear and alertness. Alternatively, the secret soldiers are instructed to infiltrate the left-wing movements and then urge them to use violence.” In the manual’s own words:

“There may be times when Host Country Governments show passivity or indecision in the face of Communist subversion and according to the interpretation of the US secret services do not react with sufficient effectiveness… US army intelligence must have the means of launching special operations which will convince Host Country Governments and public opinion of the reality of the insurgent danger. To reach this aim US army intelligence should seek to penetrate the insurgency by means of agents on special assignment, with the task of forming special action groups among the most radical elements of the insurgency… In case it has not been possible to successfully infiltrate such agents into the leadership of the rebels it can be useful to instrumentalize extreme leftist organizations for one’s own ends in order to achieve the above described targets… These special operations must remain strictly secret. Only those persons which are acting against the revolutionary uprising shall know of the involvement of the US Army…” (p. 234-297)

The existence of this secret operation exploded into public controversy when in August 1990 upon the admissions in parliament by Italian Prime Minister|Giulio Andreotti,]] the existence of ‘Gladio’ was exposed as a secret sub-section of Italian military-intelligence services, responsible for domestic bombings blamed on Italian Communists. Ganser documents in intricate detail how a subversive network created by elements of western intelligence services – particularly that of the US and UK - orchestrated devastating waves of terrorist attacks blamed on the Soviet Union, not only in Italy, but also in Spain, Germany, France, Turkey, Greece, i.e. throughout western Europe. Despite a number of European parliamentary inquiries; an European Union resolution on the Gladio phenomenon; NATO’s close-doors admissions to European ambassadors; confirmations of the international operation from senior CIA officials; and other damning documentary evidence; NATO, the CIA and MI6 have together consistently declined to release their secret files on the matter.

The Strategy of Tension simply isn’t part of our historical consciousness. Very few historians of the Cold War are fully conversant with it, let alone academics working in international relations and political science. This is despite the fact that it played an instrumental role in physically constructing a threat, projected into the USSR, which did not ultimately exist. Ipso facto, the Strategy of Tension belongs to the waste-bin of history.

The immense fear and chaos generated by the impact of the Operation Gladio phenomenon throughout western Europe was instrumental in legitimizing the interventionist policies of the Anglo-American alliance in the South, throughout the Cold War period. Although the Soviet Union was supposed to be the real threat and source of terror, and thus the ultimate object of the over 70 military interventions conducted since 1945 [see William Blum’s Killing Hope (London: Zed, 1995)] the Soviet threat was in fact actively exaggerated ideologically – and even physically constructed through clandestine operations – to mobilize the comprehensive militarization of western societies. This does not mean that many government officials did not believe their own propaganda. But we now know that there was a secretive sub-section of the Western intelligence community, known only to very few members of elected governments, that was involved in this.

The number of people who were killed across the “Third World” as a consequence of this militarization process is shocking, its implications genuinely difficult to absorb. According to Dr. J. W. Smith, a US development economist who runs the Institute for Economic Democracy in Arizona, in our glorious self-evidently noble fight to defend the “Free World” from imminent Soviet attacks, invasions, and general inconceivably irrational hell-bent pure evilness, Western states:

“… were responsible for violently killing 12 to 15 million people since WW II and causing the death of hundreds of millions more as their economies were destroyed or those countries were denied the right to restructure to care for their people. Unknown as it is, and recognizing that this has been standard practice throughout colonialism, that is the record of the Western imperial centers of capital from 1945 to 1990” [Smith, Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle of the 21st Century (2003)]

12 to 15 million people from 1945 to 1990.

I have to repeat these figures to myself to absorb their implications.

Repeat these figures to yourself.

Six million Jews in the Second World War, and now 12 to 15 million innocents in the post-WWII period. The former in the name of German lebensraum. The latter in the name of the free market.

Yet as a society, as a Civilization, we are oblivious, utterly blind, to our historic complicity in the systematic destruction of "Other" societies who fail to conform to our (deluded) self-image of universal prosperity.

It is a blindness with which we remain afflicted.

Consider Blair’s rendition of the “War on Terror” in early 2007, as “a clash not between civilizations”, but rather “about civilization.” The War on Terror is therefore a continuation of “the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace the modern world and those who reject its existence.”

And what is this "progress", this "modernity" that should be embraced? The "progress" that slaughtered millions of men, women and children across continents, in Nicaragua, El Salvador, in Somalia, Rwanda, in Kenya, Malaya, in Oman, Iraq, etc. etc. (in no particular order and with significant omissions)?

If this is modernity then I must be a backward, semi-feudal ignoramus. Along with most of the population of the entire world. But then, who cares what the world says? Bush, Blair, and their enlightened ilk are no doubt the modern civilized ones. As long as they do what they think is right. Right???

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tony Karon: Abrams and Dahlan Drive Palestinian Fighting

This article clearly fingers Mohammed Dahlan, nominally under Abbas's control but supported by Eliot Abrams and Bush-Cheney as the key Palestinian leader responsible for the current Palestinian infighting, despite Condi Rice's and the Saudis' attempt to put an end to hostilities.

My only quibble is with one word in Karon's final paragraph. He refers to the petulance of Bush's policy when malice would have been closer to the truth. Why would Karon soft pedal the destruction that Bush is working so hard and so effectively to induce there?
--- Ronald

Palestinian Pinochet Making His Move?

by Tony Karon

Global Research, May 17, 2007
Rootless Cosmopolitan - 2007-05-16

There’s something a little misleading in the media reports that routinely describe the fighting in Gaza as pitting Hamas against Fatah forces or security personnel “loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas.” That characterization suggests somehow that this catastrophic civil war that has killed more than 25 Palestinians since Sunday is a showdown between Abbas and the Hamas leadership — which simply isn’t true, although such a showdown would certainly conform to the desires of those running the White House Middle East policy.

The Fatah gunmen who are reported to have initiated the breakdown of the Palestinian unity government and provoked the latest fighting may profess fealty to President Abbas, but it’s not from him that they get their orders. The leader to whom they answer is Mohammed Dahlan, the Gaza warlord who has long been Washington’s anointed favorite to play the role of a Palestinian Pinochet. And while Dahlan is formally subordinate to Abbas, whom he supposedly serves as National Security Adviser, nobody believes that Dahlan answers to Abbas — in fact, it was suggested at the time that Abbas appointed Dahlan only under pressure from Washington, which was irked by the Palestinian Authority president’s decision to join a unity government with Hamas.

If Dahlan takes orders from anyone at all, it’s certainly not from Abbas. Abbas has long recognized the democratic legitimacy and popularity of Hamas, and embraced the reality that no peace process is possible unless the Islamists are given the place in the Palestinian power structure that their popular support necessitates. He has always favored negotiation and cooperation with Hamas — much to the exasperation of the Bush Administration, and also of the Fatah warlords whose power of patronage was threatened by the Hamas election victory — and could see the logic of the unity government proposed by the Saudis even when Washington couldn’t. Indeed, as the indispensable Robert Malley and Hussein Agha note, nothing has hurt Abbas’s political standing as much as the misguided efforts of Washington to boost his standing in the hope of undermining the elected Hamas government.

Needless to say, only an Administration as deluded about its ability to reorder Arab political realities in line with its own fantasies — and also, frankly, as utterly contemptuous of Arab life and of Arab democracy, empty sloganizing notwithstanding — as the current one has proved to be could imagine that
the Palestinians could be starved, battered and manipulated into choosing a Washington-approved political leadership. Yet, that’s exactly what the U.S. has attempted to do ever since Hamas won the last Palestinian election, imposing a financial and economic chokehold on an already distressed population, pouring money and arms into the forces under Dahlan’s control, and eventually adapting itself to funnel monies only through Abbas, as if casting in him in the role of a kind of Quisling-provider would somehow burnish his appeal among Palestinian voters. (As I said, their contempt for Arab intelligence knows no bounds. )

But while the hapless Abbas is little more than a reluctant passenger in Washington’s strategy — and will, I still believe, repair to his former exile lodgings in Qatar in the not too distant future — Mohammed Dahlan is its point man, the warlord who commands the troops and who has been spoiling for a fight with Hamas since they had the temerity to trounce his organization at the polls on home turf.

Dahlan’s ambitions clearly coincided with plans drawn up by White House Middle East policy chief, Elliot Abrams — a veteran of the Reagan Administration’s Central American dirty wars — to arm and train Fatah loyalists to prepare them to topple the Hamas government. If Mahmoud Abbas has been reluctant to embrace the confrontational policy promoted by the White House, Dahlan has no such qualms. And given that Abbas has no political base of his own, he is dependent entirely on Washington and Dahlan.

Seeing the disastrous implications of the U.S. policy, the Saudis appeared to have put the kibosh on Abrams’ coup plan by drawing Abbas into a unity government with Hamas. And as Mark Perry at Conflict Forum detailed in an excellent analysis Dahlan was just about the only thing that the U.S. had going for it in terms of resisting the move towards a unity government. Although his fretting and sulking in Mecca couldn’t prevent the deal, the U.S. appears to have helped him fight back afterwards by ensuring that he was appointed national security adviser, a move calculated to provoke Hamas, whose leaders tend to view Dahlan as little more than a torturer and a de facto enforcer for Israel.

But Dahlan appears to have made his move when it came to integrating the Palestinian Authority security forces (currently dominated by Fatah) by drawing in Hamas fighters and subjecting the forces to the control of a politically neutral interior minister. Dahlan simply refused, and set off the current confrontations by ordering his men out onto the street last weekend without any authorization from the government of which he is supposedly a part.

The new provocation appears consistent with a revised U.S. plan, reported on by Mark Perry and Paul Woodward, that emphasized the urgency of toppling the unity government. They suggest the plan emanates from Abrams, who they say is operating at cross purposes with Condi Rice’s efforts to appease the Arab moderate regimes by reviving some form of peace process. They note, for example, that Jewish American sources have told the Forward and Haaretz that Abrams recently briefed Jewish Republicans and made clear to them that Rice’s efforts were merely a symbolic exercise aimed at showing Arab allies that the U.S. was “doing something,” but that President Bush would ensure that nothing would come of them, in the sense that Israel would not be required to make any concessions.

Whatever the precise breakdown within the Bush Administration, it’s plain that Dahlan, like Pinochet a quarter century, would not move onto a path of confrontation with an elected government unless he believed he had the sanction of powerful forces abroad to do so. If does move to turn the current street battle into a frontal assault on the unity government, chances are it will be because he got a green light from somewhere — and certainly not from Mahmoud Abbas.

But the confrontation under way has assumed a momentum of its own, and it may now be beyond the capability of the Palestinian leadership as a whole to contain it. If that proves true, the petulance that has substituted for policy in the Bush Administration’s response to the 2006 Palestinian election will have succeeded in turning Gaza into Mogadishu. But it may be too much to expect the Administration capable of anything different — after all, they’re still busy turning Mogadishu into Mogadishu all over again.

Global Research Articles by Tony Karon

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

French Jewish Council Forces Sarkozy to Withdraw Foreign Minister Vedrine as enemy of Israel

For a brief moment, it looked like Sarkozy might be able to do the impossible: achieve an independent foreign policy, free to follow its own interests when it comes to the Israeli-Arab and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. He planned to appoint Hubert Vedrine, known for favoring an even handed approach to the issues, as Foreign Minister All it took apparently to force France back into line was one meeting where the Zionists threatened war.

Jeff wrote:

The following article appeared in French on the Bellaciao website and is my cleaned-up version of Google's translation. As I have said before, even before the election, France, like the US can be said to be Zionist Occupied. --JB

Wednesday May 16, 2007
CRIF [Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France] intervenes directly with Sarkozy to prevent the appointment of a minister

by Sindibad

The representatives of the Israeli lobby in France have just struck a great blow.
The representatives of CRIF who claim to represent the interests of the Jews in
France have just shown once again that they are before all the representatives in
France of the interests of Israel and the defenders of the criminal and colonialist policies
of its government.

In Canard Enchaîné of Wednesday May 16, 2007, we learn that the outgoing president
of CRIF, the very Zionist Roger Cukierman intervened personally to oppose the
appointment of Hubert Védrine to the post of Foreign Minister of the first government
of new President Sarkozy. Védrine, having been judged by the representatives of
CRIF to be not enough of an Israélophile, since he dares to call for the application
of the international law for the settlement of the Palestinian question. The intervention
of Roger Cukierman seems to have borne fruit, and even beyond, since Védrine will
be replaced by Bernard Kouchner. A solution which would satisfy everyone, since
Kouchner has the advantage of being at the same time an enthusiastic partisan of
Israel and the American policy in the Middle East (he had approved the war and the
occupation of Iraq) and especially a man of the left, very useful for creating the
image of the unifier for our new President.

And there are some who always think that the lobbies do not exist in France.

Here is the article from Canard Enchaîné:

The enemy of Israel

As soon as the leaders of CRIF (the Council representative of the Jewish institutions
of France) learned this prospect [the appointment of Vedrine] from the new Head
of the State, Roger Cukierman, outgoing president of CRIF, telephoned Claude Guéant
with a violent warning.

“We held a meeting with CRIF, today, and the rumour circulated of a nomination of
Védrine to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs . That caused panic because, for us,
Védrine is worse than the usual anti-Israelis of the Quay D'Orsay.”

A little later, Cukierman directly joined Sarkozy and said to him that the Jewish
community would take the nomination of Védrine as a “casus belli”.

It should be understood that Cukierman and its friends had campaigned across the
country for Sarko explaining why the victory of Ségolène would cause the return
of Védrine to the Quay!




Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bleier/Still Diggin: No planes on 911

In April, Still Diggin sent me the email below including a link to his 911 blog. As you’ll see, he says that he has spent 4 months researching no planes and he’s concluded:

No planes crashed anywhere on September 11th. It’s a fact.

I like this. Succinctly stated. Of course there's the little matter of proving it.

The most interesting information I found on his blog is Exhibit A, his interpretation of a frame from one of the (in)famous videos of the plane going into the South Tower (the second hit). Once you're convinced, as I am from the work of Holmgren and Reynolds and Webfairy etc. that no big passenger planes were involved in the 9/11 terror, Still Diggin's photo and his interpretation makes sense. But as he says himself, one photo is not going to change most people's minds.

His exhibit B may or may not make sense. I'm not capable of judging.

His exhibit C, information and photos and diagrams relating to the supposed exit of parts of the plane from the South Tower that we saw on the video is more interesting. One part that I found easy to understand is that a photo he reproduces of the aftermath of the _plane_ exiting the South Tower, reveals that no sections of steel columns are missing. This is circumstantial evidence that the video showing parts of the plane exiting the building is a fake.

We can deduce that if the video is a fake than something other than a big passenger jet caused the damage. So that's helpful.

Still Diggin's subsequent comments are interesting but marred I found by his sarcastic tone which may put off some readers.

It was very good to see another convert to the cause. If people would like to pursue this issue I recommend they read breakthrough essays by Gerard Holmgren and Morgan Reynolds (see below). If they do, they will find for example that the government has refused (or been unable) to present "a single airplane part by serial number for independent corroboration," and why there is no confirmed debris of any of the alleged four planes

It goes without saying that the importance of the no planes theory (NPT) cannot be overstated. If there were no planes involved in the 9/11 terror, than there were no hijackers, Muslim fanatics or otherwise. Those who refuse to look objectively at NPT evidence may be said to some extent to be supporting the official account and more importantly, implicitly supporting the bogus war on terror since they would seem to be acknowledging that Islamic fundamentalists were involved, even if only as patsies.

No Planes is perfectly consistent with Bush administration policies regarding torture, Guantanamo, warrantless wiretapping, etc. If there were no Muslim hijackers, then can be no evidence to produce against them, and thus no fair judge who would sign an order for them to continue to be detained. And that might partly or largely explain why the Bush administration refuses to allow them due process. And also why they have arranged matters so that every single person in the world, including American citizens, is liable to be termed an enemy combatant and lose all habeas corpus protections.


Gerard Holmgren, "Manufactured Terrorism – The Truth About Sept 11," (2004, revised 2006).

Morgan Reynolds, "We Have Some Holes in the Plane Stories," (March 2006).

Still Diggin wrote:
April 2007

I devoted 4 months to advancing the "no-planer" argument.

Now I'm trying to spread the word. Maybe you can help?

The Earth Is Not Flat

Glenn Greenwald: Comey's Testimony on Warrantless Wiretapping

Glenn Greenwald
Wednesday May 16, 2007 06:16 EST
Comey's testimony raises new and vital questions about the NSA scandal
(Updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV)

The testimony yesterday from James Comey re-focuses attention on one of the long unresolved mysteries of the NSA scandal. And the new information Comey revealed, though not answering that question decisively, suggests some deeply troubling answers. Most of all, yesterday's hearing underscores how unresolved the entire NSA matter is -- how little we know (but ought to know) about what actually happened and how little accountability there has been for some of the most severe and blatant acts of presidential lawbreaking in the country's history.

The vital issue highlighted by Comey's testimony

President Bush ordered the NSA to engage in warrantless eavesdropping back in October 2001. The incidents which Comey described yesterday -- whereby the DOJ refused to certify the program's legality -- occurred in March, 2004, two-and-a-half years later. Since the NSA was spying on Americans outside of FISA the entire time, what prompted the DOJ suddenly to "reexamine" the legality of the program after all that time?

Comey did not say specifically what prompted that re-evaluation. This is all he said on that topic:

In the early part of 2004, the Department of Justice was engaged -- the Office of Legal Counsel, under my supervision -- in a reevaluation both factually and legally of a particular classified program. And it was a program that was renewed on a regular basis, and required signature by the attorney general certifying to its legality.
And the -- and I remember the precise date. The program had to be renewed by March the 11th, which was a Thursday, of 2004. And we were engaged in a very intensive reevaluation of the matter.

Comey then made clear that he and Ashcroft met, determined that the NSA program lacked legal authority, and agreed "on a course of action," one whereby the DOJ would refuse to certify the legality of the NSA program. Yet even once Ashcroft and Comey made clear that the program had no legal basis (i.e., was against the law), the President ordered it to continue anyway. As Comey said: "The program was reauthorized without us and without a signature from the Department of Justice attesting as to its legality."
Amazingly, the President's own political appointees -- the two top Justice Department officials, including one (Ashcroft) who was known for his "aggressive" use of law enforcement powers in the name of fighting terrorism and at the expense of civil liberties -- were so convinced of its illegality that they refused to certify it and were preparing, along with numerous other top DOJ officials, to resign en masse once they learned that the program would continue notwithstanding the President's knowledge that it was illegal.

The overarching point here, as always, is that it is simply crystal clear that the President consciously and deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law.

Recall that the only federal court to rule on this matter has concluded that the NSA program violated both federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and although that decision is being appealed by the Bush administration, they are relying largely on technical arguments to have it reversed (i.e., standing and "state secrets" arguments) and -- as has been true for the entire case -- are devoting very little efforts to arguing that the program was actually legal or constitutional.

Yet even once Bush knew that both Aschcroft and Comey believed the eavesdropping was illegal, he ordered it to continue anyway. As Anonymous Liberal wrote yesterday:

That's a rather stunning fact, and one that I wish at least a few mainstream journalists would attempt to grasp the significance of. The White House authorized a program that everyone of significance in the Justice Department had determined to be lacking any legal basis. They willfully violated the law.
Even The Washington Post Editorial Board -- long tepid, at best, concerning the NSA scandal -- recognizes that Comey has offered "an account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source." And as I documented yesterday, these "shocking" revelations were long concealed due to Alberto Gonzales' patently false assurances that the testimony of Comey and Ashcroft -- which Democrats on the Senate Judiicary Committee sought last year -- would not "add to the discussion."
What more glaring and clear evidence do we need that the President of the United States deliberately committed felonies, knowing that his conduct lacked any legal authority? And what justifies simply walking away from these serial acts of deliberate criminality? At this point, how can anyone justify the lack of criminal investigations or the appointment of a Special Counsel? The President engaged in extremely serious conduct that the law expressly criminalizes and which his own DOJ made clear was illegal.

The new unresolved issue highlighted by Comey's testimony

Beyond the indisputable crimes that were committed here -- and violating the law and engaging in eavesdropping that the Congress has prohibited are "crimes" in every sense of the word, in this case punishable with five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense -- there is still the completely unanswered question of how the President used these illegal eavesdropping powers. And Comey's testimony raises some very troubling questions about that matter. Here is why:

In January of 2006, the DOJ released its 42-page position paper purporting to set forth the "legal justifications" for the President's warrantless eavesdropping program. It advanced two arguments -- (i) that the President had "inherent authority" under Article II of the Constitution to engage in warrantless eavesdropping regardless of what Congress said, and independently, (ii) that Congress "implicitly" authorized the Bush administration to eavesdrop in violation of FISA when it enacted the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against Al Qaeda and Afghanistan, which implicitly authorized them to use warrantless eavesdropping as part of that "war."

It has long been clear that when the NSA program began in 2001, the only legal basis cited was the Article II claim (which amounts to a declaration that the President can eavesdrop however he wants, including in violation of Congressional law). The AUMF "justification" was one that was only added some time later as an afterthought -- quite likely once Ashcroft and Comey advised the White House in 2004 that the program had no legal authority (the definitive background on that development is here, in a February 2006 post by A.L, who first suggested the late apperance of the AUMF theory).

In other words, Ashcroft, Comey and other DOJ officials did not accept the Article II theory that the President could simply ignore the laws passed by Congress in how he eavesdropped on Americans, and therefore wanted to create an alternative legal basis for the program -- one which claimed that Congress did authorize warrantless eavesdropping when it enacted the AUMF.

Comey testified yesterday that after the dramatic hospital scene, once it became clear that there would be mass DOJ resignations over the illegal NSA program, the President met privately with Comey, and then-FBI Director Robert Mueller. Comey testified that Bush instructed them to make whatever changes to the program they thought needed to be made in order to convince them that the program was legal:

We had the president's direction to do what we believed, what the Justice Department believed was necessary to put this matter on a footing where we could certify to its legality.
And so we then set out to do that. And we did that.

In fact, given that FISA makes it a felony to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants, no changes could render a warrantless eavesdropping program legal. And whatever changes were made did not make it legal, as the federal court ruled last August. But the question still remains: what changes were made that convinced Comey and Ashcroft that the program was legal?
As indicated, it has been assumed for some time that what changed at that point was that the AUMF legal "justification" was concocted, and it was the addition of that argument -- one which at least had the appearance of being grounded in Congressional authorization -- that is what convinced the DOJ to certify the program's legality. In other words, what changed in 2004 was not the eavesdropping program itself, but merely the DOJ's theories about why the program was legal.

But Law Professor Orin Kerr offers some speculation on that question which strikes me not only as persuasive, but also as the only logically possible answer. He suggests that there were changes to the program itself -- i.e. changes in the operational rules of the NSA's eavesdropping -- not merely changes to the DOJ legal theories (emphasis added):

It sounds like the President personally either gave in or reached a compromise with Comey (it's not clear to me which) that refashioned the program in a way that DOJ was willing to approve.
The only real possibility for how the program could be "refashioned" in order to convince the DOJ of its legality would be tighten the nexus between the warrantless eavesdropping and the AUMF.
Since the AUMF authorized, in essence, the instruments of war to be used against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, that would mean that -- in order to make the program appear more legal in the eyes of these DOJ officials -- the warrantless eavesdropping would need, presumably, to be tied to terrorist groups encompassed by the AUMF. That's the only conceivable way that the program could have been "refashioned" in order to make it seem as though it had legal authority.

But if that's the case -- if it was only in 2004 that a requirement was created that the eavesdropping be tied closely to terrorists encompassed by the AUMF -- then that would mean that prior to that time, there was no nexus between the eavesdropping and those terrorist groups. It would mean that prior to this 2004 DOJ rebellion, the scope of the NSA eavesdropping -- the list of those who were subject to warrantless eavesdropping -- was far broader than the Islamic terrorist groups against whom the President was authorized by the AUMF to use military force.

That would necessarily mean that -- contrary to what the administration has repeatedly insisted was true -- it was not merely Al Qaeda and similar groups who were the targets of the eavesdropping conducted in secret, but targets beyond that category. Obviously, this is speculation, though I would suggest for the reasons indicated that it is approaching the realm of logically necessary speculation. What other changes besides tying the eavesdropping to Al Qaeda-type groups could have been made that would have enabled Ashcroft, Comey & Co. to conclude that there was a plausible legal basis for warrantless eavesdropping?

The key questions still demanding investigation and answers

But the more important issue here, by far, is that we should not have to speculate in this way about how the illegal eavesdropping powers were used. We enacted a law 30 years ago making it a felony for the government to eavesdrop on us without warrants, precisely because that power had been so severely and continuously abused. The President deliberately violated that law by eavesdropping in secret. Why don't we know -- a-year-a-half after this lawbreaking was revealed -- whether these eavesdropping powers were abused for improper purposes? Is anyone in Congress investigating that question? Why don't we know the answers to that?

Back in September, the then-ranking member (and current Chairman) of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller, made clear how little even he knew about the answers to any of these questions in a letter he released:

For the past six months, I have been requesting without success specific details about the program, including: how many terrorists have been identified; how many arrested; how many convicted; and how many terrorists have been deported or killed as a direct result of information obtained through the warrantless wiretapping program.
I can assure you, not one person in Congress has the answers to these and many other fundamental questions.

The NSA scandal has always presented two equally critical but completely distinct issues: (1) the eavesdropping was against the law; and (2) precisely because it was conducted in secret, we do not know whether the administration engaged in the eavesdropping abuses which the law (by requiring judicial oversight) was designed to prevent.
Proposition (1) has long been established, and ought to result in serious consequences by itself. But we still do not know the answer to (2) -- were these eavesdropping powers used for improper purposes? -- and whether anyone in Congress yet knows is still a mystery. But Comey's testimony yesterday adds some obviously significant information that ought to heighten the concern about whether there was such abuse.

There is one other aspect of Comey's testimony worth highlighting. This is part of what he said when describing the scene in Ashcroft's hospital room:

I tried to see if I could help him get oriented. As I said, it wasn't clear that I had succeeded. I went out in the hallway.
Spoke to Director Mueller by phone. He was on his way. I handed the phone to the head of the security detail and Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances.

Comey repeatedly stated that it appeared that Ashcroft was not even oriented to his surroundings. Compare that to Tony Snow's disgustingly dismissive defense yesterday of the behavior of Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales: "Trying to take advantage of a sick man -- because he had an appendectomy, his brain didn't work?"
But more revealingly, just consider what it says about this administration. Not only did Comey think that he had to rush to the hospital room to protect Ashcroft from having a conniving Card and Gonzales manipulate his severe illness and confusion by coercing his signature on a document -- behavior that is seen only in the worst cases of deceitful, conniving relatives coercing a sick and confused person to sign a new will -- but the administration's own FBI Director thought it was necessary to instruct his FBI agents not to allow Comey to be removed from the room.

Comey and Mueller were clearly both operating on the premise that Card and Gonzales were basically thugs. Indeed, Comey said that when Card ordred him to the White House, Comey refused to meet with Card without a witness being present, and that Card refused to allow Comey's summoned witness (Solicitor General Ted Olson) even to enter Card's office. These are the most trusted intimates of the White House -- the ones who are politically sympathetic to them and know them best -- and they prepared for, defended themselves against, the most extreme acts of corruption and thuggery from the President's Chief of Staff and his then-legal counsel (and current Attorney General of the United States).

Does this sound in any way like the behavior of a government operating under the rule of law, which believes that it had legal authority to spy on Americans without the warrants required for three decades by law? How can we possibly permit our government to engage in this behavior, to spy on us in deliberate violation of the laws which we enacted democratically precisely in order to limit how they can spy on us, and to literally commit felonies at will, knowing that they are breaking the law?

How is this not a major scandal on the level of the greatest presidential corruption and lawbreaking scandals in our country's history? Why is this only a one-day story that will focus on the hospital drama but not on what it reveals about the bulging and unparalleled corruption of this administration and the complete erosion of the rule of law in our country? And, as I've asked many times before, if we passively allow the President to simply break the law with impunity in how the government spies on our conversations, what don't we allow?

If we had a functioning political press, these are the questions that would be dominating our political discourse and which would have been resolved long ago.

UPDATE : It is not merely Bush followers and our establishment journalists who insisted that President Bush did nothing terribly wrong here, but also -- perhaps most destructively -- the "liberal" punditocracy, which spent all of 2006 shrieking that Democrats must do nothing about the NSA lawbreaking because the President was justified in his Protective conduct and Democrats would thus suffer politically unless they acquiesced like good little Patriots.

Hence, in January, 2006, the truly odious Joe Klein -- in a Time column entitled "How to Stay out of Power" that should be a featured exhibit at a Museum for what went wrong with our country during the Bush presidency (h/t Atrios & rootless) -- attacked Nancy Pelosi for daring to challenge the Leader's NSA lawbreaking. Klein openly defended lawbreaking and actually said: "these concerns [i.e., that Bush's eavesdropping is illegal] pale before the importance of the program. It would have been a scandal if the NSA had not been using these tools to track down the bad guys."

Klein then obediently repeated this administration-dispensed idiocy: "There is also evidence, according to U.S. intelligence officials, that since the New York Times broke the story, the terrorists have modified their behavior, hampering our efforts to keep track of them." He then oh-so-presciently pronounced: "until the Democrats make clear that they will err on the side of aggressiveness in the war against al-Qaeda, they will probably not regain the majority in Congress or the country." In September of 2006, the Democrats blocked enactment of a bill legalizing NSA warrantless eavesdropping and then proceeded to crush the Republicans in the election.

Identically, "liberal" pundits like Eleanor Clift and The New Republic's Ryan Lizza chided Russ Feingold for criticizing the Leader's lawbreaking and wanting to censure him for it because, they insisted, such criticism would harm the Democrats politically and/or was without merit. This is why the administration has, with impunity, been able to behave with such transparent lawlessness. It is because the Beltway class is as corrupt and barren of integrity and judgment as they are.

UPDATE II: One of the blogosphere's most knowledgeable experts on the NSA/FISA matter, Just an Observer, makes this superb point in Comments which perhaps an intrepid reporter may want to consider:

Note that nowhere in Comey's story are NSA officials mentioned. But FBI Director Robert Mueller was a central player in the drama -- he even met personally with President Bush -- and also was one who threatened resignation. This indicates that, whatever was going on before the program was modified, those activities were being conducted by the FBI, not just the NSA. That could mean purely domestic unwarranted wiretaps, unwarranted black-bag jobs, or similar misconduct.
It is indeed quite notable how prominent a role the FBI Director played in the Comey episode, and how absent are NSA officials. It might be worthwhile asking why the FBI Director was so intimately involved in eavesdropping which allegedly did not include purely domestic communications. Whether there was warrantless eavesdropping on purely domestic communications is, of course, yet another still-unanswered question.

UPDATE III: As Peter Swire over at Think Progress notes, Gonzales testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that "there has not been any serious disagreement about the program" and "to my knowledge, none of the reservations dealt with the program that we are talking about today."
Gonzales was emphasizing there that the objections from Ashcroft, Comey and others were directed toward an eavesdropping program different than the one in place in 2006, which strongly suggests that the program itself was changed operationally to satisfy the DOJ, not merely that its legal justifications expanded. Prior to the 2004 changes made to satisfy Ashcroft and Comey, in what types of eavesdropping was the administration engaged for the prior 2 1/2 years? Purely domestic eavesdropping? Non-terrorist-related eavesdropping? Why do we not know the answers to those questions?

On a different note, via Jane Hamsher, Comey's testimony can be viewed on YouTube here.

UPDATE IV: The always insightful Marty Lederman -- who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Clinton DOJ -- provides some further detail about the events which almost certainly prompted the 2004 re-evaulation of the legality of the eavesdropping program, as well why the revelations of yesterday were so extraordinary.

As Marty says, he and I are "singing from the same hymnal" on virtually every one of these issues -- particularly the high likelihood that the pre-2004 eavesdropping program was even far broarder than the extremely broad (and illegal) post-2004 eavesdropping activities which satisfied Ashcroft and Comey: "This is the real heart of the Comey story -- What happened between September 2001 and October 2003, before Comey and Goldmsith came aboard? Just how radical were the Administration's legal judgments? How extreme were the programs they implemented? How egregious was the lawbreaking?"

-- Glenn Greenwald

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Tuesday May 15, 2007 14:19 EST
Gonzales' yearlong effort to block Comey's testimony
(updated below)

Back in February, 2006 -- a couple months after the New York Times first revealed that the Bush administration was spying on Americans in violation of FISA -- the Senate Judiciary Committee informed the Justice Department that it wanted to question John Ashcroft and his former Deputy, James Comey, regarding the NSA program. In particular, the Committee wanted to question the two DOJ officials about a Newsweek article reporting that both of them, in 2004, refused to certify that the NSA eavesdropping program was legal.

In response, Alberto Gonzales refused to allow Ashcroft or Comey to testify about any such matters, and in doing so, this is what he said:

In addition, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales signaled in an interview with The Washington Post yesterday that the administration will sharply limit the testimony of former attorney general John D. Ashcroft and former deputy attorney general James B. Comey, both of whom have been asked to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the program.
"Clearly, there are privilege issues that have to be considered," Gonzales said. "As a general matter, we would not be disclosing internal deliberations, internal recommendations. That's not something we'd do as a general matter, whether or not you're a current member of the administration or a former member of the administration."

"You have to wonder what could Messrs. Comey and Ashcroft add to the discussion," Gonzales added.

Similarly, Assistant Attorney General William Moschella claimed: "we do not believe that Messrs. Ashcroft and Comey would be in a position to provide any new information to the committee."
Today, Comey testified before the Committee and it became clear exactly what they could "add to the discussion," and it became equally clear why Gonzales sought to suppress their testimony:

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey detailed the desperate late night efforts by then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card to get the Justice Department to approve a secret program -- the warrantless wiretapping program.
According to Comey's testimony this morning, only when faced with resignations by a number of Justice Department officials including Comey, his chief of staff, Ashcroft's chief of staff, Ashcroft himself and possibly Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, did the White House agree to make changes to the program that would satisfy the requirements of the Justice Department to sign off on it. . .

The events took place in March of 2004, when the program was in need of renewal by the Justice Department. When then-Attorney General John Ashcroft fell ill and was hospitalized, Comey became the acting-Attorney General.

The deadline for the Justice Department's providing its sign-off of the program was March 11th (the program required reauthorization every 45 days). On that day, Comey, then the acting AG, informed the White House that he "would not certify the legality" of the program.

The transcript of part of Comey's testimony is here. In particular, Comey detailed the attempt by Andy Card and Gonzales to manipulate Ashcroft's approval while Ashcroft was in the hospital so sick from a gall bladder condition that he named Comey Acting Attorney General pending his recovery. Comey's recollection is that the hospital visit by Gonzales and Card was arranged as a result of a telephone call from the President himself to Ashcroft's wife.
Comey testified that upon learning of this intended visit, he literally ran up the stairs to Ashcroft's hospital room, and his reason for the rush tells you all you need to know about this administration: "I was worried about him, frankly. I was concerned that this was an effort to do an end-run around the acting attorney general and to get a very sick man to approve something that the Department of Justice had already concluded -- the department as a whole -- was unable to be certified as to its legality." According to Comey, once he arrived in Ashcroft's hospital room, this is what occurred:

And it was only a matter of minutes that the door opened and in walked Mr. Gonzales, carrying an envelope, and Mr. Card. They came over and stood by the bed. They greeted the attorney general very briefly. And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there -- to seek his approval for a matter, and explained what the matter was -- which I will not do.
And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me. He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, rich in both substance and fact, which stunned me -- drawn from the hour-long meeting we'd had a week earlier -- and in very strong terms expressed himself, and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent, and said to them, But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the attorney general.

SCHUMER: But he expressed his reluctance or he would not sign the statement that they -- give the authorization that they had asked, is that right?


In addition to blocking Comey and Ashcroft's testimony about these matters throughout all of last year, the Bush administration -- led by Bush himself -- single-handedly blocked an investigation into the role played by DOJ lawyers in authorizing the NSA program by extraordinarily refusing to grant security clearances to DOJ investigators in the Office of Professional Responsibility. That investigation -- had it proceeded -- would have encompassed an examination of whether DOJ lawyers acted unethically in authorizing the program.
As always, the contempt which the Bush administration has for the rule of law is illustrated not only by their serial and conscious lawbreaking, but also by their extreme efforts to conceal those actions and shield them from any scrutiny or oversight of any kind. Knowing about these events in Aschcroft's hospital room (because he was a key participant in them), Gonzales, with a straight face, insisted in February, 2006 that he would not allow Ashcroft or Comey to testify because "you have to wonder what could Messrs. Comey and Ashcroft add to the discussion." It is impossible to express how free they are of even the most minimal constraints to tell the truth.

UPDATE: Michael Scherer highlights some additional details of the hospital room scene and its aftermath.

And then there is this rather amazing exchange from the White House Press gaggle with Tony Snow this afternoon:

Q. Tony, following on that. Whenever the President has received criticism about the terrorist surveillance program, he has said, look, top Justice Department officials are monitoring this for abuses.
Okay, very dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill today -- James Comey, who in 2004 was the Acting Attorney general, testified that when he raised objections to the terrorist surveillance program, that Alberto Gonzales, as White House Counsel, and the White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card, took this extraordinary measure -- they went to the hospital room of John Ashcroft to try to get him to override what Jim Comey was saying, about how this needs proper legal footing.

So wasn't that an end run by the White House to try to get John Ashcroft to overrule James Comey?

MR. SNOW: Well, number one, you've got a representation of internal White House deliberations, and we simply don't talk about that and are not going to.

Q. But he's testified on Capitol Hill. I mean, he --

MR. SNOW: I understand that, but --

Q. All that "you have to tell the truth to the American people" -- he's testified about this now, it's public.

MR. SNOW: Let me give you a couple of things. Also, what had always been noted is the terrorist surveillance program was, in fact, something that was constantly reviewed by the Department of Justice at either 45- or 90-day periods, and furthermore was reviewed by the Inspectors General at the Department of Justice and at the National Security Agency. In addition, there was review by the FISA Court. The terrorist surveillance program saved lives, period.

Number two, those who had questions about the FISA Court sat down and worked with the administration last year, and we worked out legislation that I think has met any questions that anybody had. But the fact is, you've got reforms, and I'm not going to talk about old conversations.

Q. But you had the Acting Attorney General at the time saying, in regards to what Inspectors General -- the acting -- chief law enforcement officer in the country is saying in 2004, I've got problems with this, and then you've got the Chief of Staff and the Counsel, Alberto Gonzales at the time, going -- and according to James Comey, they were trying to take advantage of a sick man who was in intensive care.

MR. SNOW: Trying to take advantage of a sick man -- because he had an appendectomy, his brain didn't work?

Q. Yes, "I was very upset, I was angry." He was in intensive care at GW. "I thought I had just witnessed an effort" --

MR. SNOW: I --

Q. -- let me just tell you -- "I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man." Okay? Did any White House officials come and try to take advantage of you -- I mean, that's really not applicable in terms of this.

MR. SNOW: You know what, Ed --

Q. They were trying to take advantage of him, according to James Comey.

MR. SNOW: Ed, I'm just telling you, I don't know anything about the conversations. I've also told you the relevant thing, which is, you wanted to ask from a substantive point of view, were there protections in terms of the terrorist surveillance program -- the answer is yes.

It had multiple layers of review, both within the Department of Justice and the National Security Agency. Jim Comey can talk about whatever reservations he may have had, but the fact is that there were strong protections in there. This is a program that saved lives, that is vital for national security, and furthermore has been reformed in a bipartisan way that is in keeping with everybody. And you can go -- frankly, ask him. I'm not talking about --

Q. Last question. The Republican, Arlen Specter, not James Comey, reacted to this by comparing it to the Saturday night massacre during Watergate. Are you concerned about Republicans now comparing this White House to the Nixon White House?

MR. SNOW: What I'm concerned about is -- I'm not even going to get there. That's too tempting and probably not responsible on my part. I think what you really want to do is --

Q. Oh, go ahead. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: That's my way of counting to 10. (Laughter.)

The fact is, you've got somebody who has splashy testimony on Capitol Hill. Good for him. We're not talking about internal deliberations.

As always: it's irrelevant if the program was illegal, according even to the President's two top DOJ officials. It was a good program "that is vital for national security," and that's all that matters.
Also, does anyone know what Snow is talking about when he says that "those who had questions about the FISA Court sat down and worked with the administration last year, and we worked out legislation that I think has met any questions that anybody had" and "has been reformed in a bipartisan way that is in keeping with everybody"?

Tony Snow seems to be under the impression that new FISA legislation has passed or something which "reformed" the old law. Someone should tell him that this has not happened, that the old law is still in place, and that it is still a felony to eavesdrop on Americans without judicial warrants from the FISA court.

-- Glenn Greenwald

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