Thursday, January 31, 2008

Keeping Warm, Guiliani Style

On the day of the Tuesday Jan 29th Florida primary, I belatedly had the thought: It’s cold in NH and Iowa this time of year. Belatedly because about a year ago, when one of Guiliani’s aides lost his playbook, I wondered if this incident could be a sign that Guiliani wasn’t going to make a serious run for president.

It turns out that Guiliani himself or the writers of his playbook thought the same thing -– as I just found out by searching the internet. The New York Times, no less, reported that

One page [of his playbook] cites the explicit concern that he might ‘drop out of [the] race’ as a consequence of his potentially ‘insurmountable’ personal and political vulnerabilities. On the same page is a list of the candidate’s central problems in bullet-point form: his private sector business; disgraced former aide Bernard Kerik; his third wife, Judith Nathan Giuliani; ’social issues,’ on which is he is more liberal than most Republicans, and his former wife Donna Hanover.”

However, when he subsequently took a commanding lead in the polls I was as ready as many others to concede the nomination to him.

Happily events proved otherwise, and for the moment, the scariest of this year’s crop is gone. Now all we have to do is worry about the ones who are left.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The New York Times, the "War on Terror," Habeas Corpus, Zionism and Battlefields

Glenn Greenwald ably deconstructs -- rips to pieces – the deplorable Michael R. Gordon's Sunday 1.20.08 NYT article which blasts the Democratic contenders because they dare to mildly reflect the electorate’s understanding that Iraq is a great catastrophe, that the war is destroying the US just as it is destroying Iraq. Gordon, as Greenwald points out, is incensed that the Democrats do not shout from the rooftops their support of Bush's plan to maintain the US occupation of Iraq indefinitely. Greenwald incisively points to the responsibility of the New York Times.

It is not hyperbole to say that the Liberal Media's New York Times bears as much responsibility for both the commencement of the war and its endless duration as any other American institution. Judy Miller and Gordon, of course, jointly led the way in funneling false pro-war claims to the public to justify the invasion, and ever since, its lead reporters on that conflict, Gordon as well as John Burns, have been overt proponents of continuing the war (thus becoming heroes to the pro-war, media-hating Right). It is, then, entirely predictable that we have yet another ostensible "news article" by Gordon today, preaching on the imperatives of our ongoing occupation of Iraq.

(see below for links to Greenwald and Gordon)

But Greenwald doesn't explain why Gordon is still employed by the NYT, why despite his insuperable credibility challenges, the Paper of Record still prints his blatant disinformation.

There are basically two reasons for US policy in Iraq and for the support that the NYT doggedly offers: one reason Greenwald hints at and the other he ignores.

Greenwald prefers not to dwell on Zionist interest in insuring that Iraq remain destroyed indefinitely. Greenwald is far from alone as a liberal or a progressive who misses or ignores the Zionist angle. Take the Center for Constitutional Rights' Michael Ratner who co-hosts one of New York City's WBAI-FM's best radio programs. It’s a Monday mornings, show called Law and Disorder wherein he and his colleagues detail and courageously struggle against the administration’s gross violations of human rights particularly in respect of the Guantanamo detainees and others.

Although it's apparent that a crucial reason that Bush has managed to proceed so far with his criminal actions is because of Zionist anti Muslim bias, you'll rarely if ever hear the words Israel or Zionism pass Ratner's lips. It would be nice if Ratner acknowledged that the reason that there are so few sympathizers for those detained at Guantanamo is because of the society-wide practice of religious and ethnic profiling. Thus far Bush and Cheney have made sure to incarcerate mainly those who could be viewed as real or potential enemies of Israel.

Secondly, Greenwald only hints at the Bush-Cheney CIA/military interest in endless war and destruction for its own sake. But the interesting question is why would the NYT support such a suicidal policy? My best guess is that the CIA, with the necessary collaboration of executive editor Bill Keller, and publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. continues to claim the required NYT real estate when it comes issues of U.S. state terror.

Three points on Zionism, habeas and disputing the "war on terror"

1. Zionism. Some mistakenly think that the Zionists have forced Bush-Cheney into many of their policy choices, particularly the war in Iraq, and the "war on terror" (which should always be within quotation marks) and torture and so on. It's pretty much the other way around. Bush and Cheney cleverly and cynically use the power of Zionism to smooth the way for their agenda of perpetual war. It's not always noticed that on some issues where the American Jewish community has a stake, such as in sharing Faith Based Initiative dollars, Jewish organizations are completely shut out just as are their Muslim brethren, and as they both are from other discretionary health and welfare funds. It’s no accident that the Zionists only get their way on war and militarism.

2. Why are Bush and Cheney determined not to allow habeas corpus and why is torture an essential element of their policy? If you've got all these guilty, (the "worst of the worst") villains down there in Guantanamo and in perhaps in a score of other places, why not charge them with crimes and convict them?

Isn’t it clear that the policies of Bush-Cheney betray an understanding that the guilty parties in the “war on terror” are not behind bars in Guantanamo? Shouldn’t the task of the left be to at least disprove the contention that the entire “war on terror” is nothing but a massive false flag operation? Needless to say this gets us into 9/11 truth issues. If Bush and Cheney are responsible for the 9/11 terror, and if no planes crashed that day in NYC, or Washington DC or in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the country, then young Islamic extremists had nothing to do with it. But even on the left, it seems that a majority are most comfortable blaming Muslims, despite the lack of evidence and the common sense notion that it takes the resources of the state to pull off such huge high profile events like 9/11, Oklahoma City, London, Madrid, Jordan, the African Embassy bombings and on and on.

3. Why do we accept that we are at war?

I've never understood why even our most brilliant and dedicated lawyers like Michael Ratner, Glenn Greenwald, Marjorie Cohn and many others seem to accept at face value the government contention that we are at war. War with whom? Where's the opponent? Where's the battlefield?

Most of us would agree that on the battlefield, due process must sometimes be adjusted or postponed until conditions permit. Our current wars against Afghanistan and Iraq shouldn’t complicate the discussion. When it comes to torture or the Guantanomo detainees, some of the 350 remaining have been there for 6 years, and none have faced charges. The WSJ editorial page early on understood this issue and dared anyone on the left to argue that we are not at war. To my knowledge no one has yet taken them up. Why can we not raise the issue in court? Why can’t we assert that we’re not on a battlefield. There’s no state fighting against us. Why has no one made this argument? What am I missing?

Glenn Greenwald: "Michael Gordon 'reports' on the 'only serious' Iraq option: Staying forever” 1.20.08

Michael R. Gordon: War, Meet the 2008 Campaign NYT, 1.20.08

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ronald Bleier: Hillary: Why do we and they hate her? Plus New Hampshire update

Now that Hillary is temporarily or permanently resurgent, it seems not inappropriate to wonder why the right wing hates her so much – and why not enough of the left is onto her shenanigans, her total subservience to special interests, her right wing leanings. It seems to have gone down the memory hole that she started out a Goldwater girl, and as a House staffer she worked behind the scenes with Bernard Nussbaum to water down the impeachment charges against Richard Nixon.

It seems clear that she was behind some of the worst episodes of the Clinton years and supported every right wing initiative like NAFTA. Media Deregulation, Dick Morris triangulation (whose advice Bill and doubtless Hillary continued to follow even after Morris was disgraced). Would she preside (as Bill did) over continued mountain top removal, forest clear cutting, and general environmental devastation on behalf of “development” interests who are among her main supporters? Note that Bill was in general absent without leave on environmental issues until his last month in office when it was clear that Bush would succeed him, and that whatever good he then did would be reversed.

Would Hillary endorse more draconian anti civil rights legislation as she apparently did when President Clinton signed the. Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, severely limiting habeas corpus. Would she close Guantanamo? One thing that can fairly safely be predicted is that there will be no substantive health reform, i.e., the private sector will continue to soak up our tax and remaining dollars and will continue to enjoy the lion’s share of our health budget after two terms of Hillary. (No, Virginia, I’m not calling her Hillary to be sexist. It’s just the simplest way to distinguish her from her husband.)

She’s promised the Zionist lobby (not to mention the public) not to remove our troops until at least the end of her first term and who knows if she would be pushed into a war against Iran by the same elements. At the very least one can imagine she would continue the embargo against Iran and maintain a state of tension with the Arab Middle East and she would continue to work against peace and the interests of the U.S. and world public and on behalf of the Zionists and neocon militarists.

Before Bush, the Clinton administration was the most Israel friendly of any U.S. government. She’s made clear she would repeat that, hence her refusal to call for a speedy withdrawal from Iraq – the most catastrophic policy for the United States!!! -–not to mention the Iraqis, the Middle East and the rest of the world. (Is there any more need for proof of the baleful effects of the power of pro Zionist ideology on the well being of every American?)

One can understand why so many Democrat and independent women support her on the basis of gender alone – although it’s depressing to think that millions of women seem to ignore her politics and seem to feel empowered by a woman president, any woman, even though is she is far to the right of Edwards and perhaps also Obama.

The one thing the Clintons have going for them is that if Bill Clinton’s two campaigns are predictive, unlike every other single Democratic nominee after LBJ, the Clintons actually WANT to win, and like the Republicans, they know how to do it. Whether she can win against a combination of a unified Republican opposition and the kind of electoral fraud that has been the case in presidential elections since 2000 (and in state and local elections in a smattering of cases since at least 1998) remains to be seen.

One thing that we have learned from the brilliant Walter Karp (see his indispensable Indispensable Enemies) is that both major parties are solidly against reform in large part because reform would bring into politics – and into their share of the spoils -- people they couldn’t control. Since Hillary is more a Republican than a Democrat, and is against any real reform, the party is in total support of someone who will not disturb the status quo. Since she is against reform, the middle class is as much her enemy as it is George W. Bush's.

Which brings us back to the question of why the right wing hates her so much – since she’s so right wing herself. It’s a mystery. I never did understand why they hated Bill Clinton so much since he was so right of center -–except, and it’s a big exception -- he managed to push through an important tax increase and the rich had to pay some of their share.

My best guess is that first of all the right had a sense of entitlement in the post Reagan-Bush era. By 1992 they had found their full throated modern day attack dog voice and they would have ravaged any Democrat.

But Clinton (and Hillary?!) had a lot to do with it. Since he stood for nothing, or was as anti reform as the Republicans (why else would he give health reform to Hillary?) there was no one to come to his support. In his first few months in office Clinton showed his weakness by sidestepping the important and symbolic gays in the military issue and by allowing the war in Bosnia to continue after campaigning that he would end it. Since he was determined to do nothing (besides the tax increase) for his first 100 or 700 or so days, he was seen as vulnerable and the talk radio sharks moved in for the kill. It is almost as if he welcomed the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 so that he could continue his do nothing policies while appearing to be the boy with his finger in the dike. And he only ended the war in Bosnia when it was time for his reelection.

As a progressive Democrat, let there be no mistake. As much as I revile Hillary for her right wing policies and her devious, small minded and bitter ruthlessness, there is no doubt in my mind that I would rather see her as president than ANY Republican. Luckily I live in NY where in 2008 we will still be allowed to vote one more time on our trustworthy lever machines, and so I’ll have the luxury of not voting for her and still having her beat the Republican candidate.

But the worst part may be in the NY primaries which are coming quickly upon us. As an Edwards supporter, it looks as if I may decide to vote for Obama who I scarcely trust more than Hillary, as a stop Hillary maneuver. So there goes my one vote.

Update: New Hampshire primary

It seems that there are real questions about the NH vote. It’s far from clear to me that Hillary really won. Check out Dave Lindorff on for some of the details and The Agonist has an item which has been sent around by Brad Friedman of BradBlog regarding the strange numbers that have come from the 80% of the NH electorate that voted electronically. And if the NH vote really went to Obama as the polls indicated, then she may have to worry more about NY where she’ll have a much harder time rigging it.

So it’s not only Republicans who are involved in this fraud. And that could explain why the Democrats (and the NYT) have been very quiet about it. Interesting that Obama’s campaign doesn’t (want to) know a thing about it. It’s not a good indicator that he really wants the job. Maybe he wants to be Vice President on this go around. Or maybe he’s satisfied to remain in the Senate for another 8 years.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dave Lindorff: Did Hillary Really Win New Hapmpshire? It's Diebold, Stupid

Just when you thought that the Democrats' hands would be clean as far as primary voting was concerned, here comes the beginning of the circumstantial evidence that they're taking lessons from Bush 2000 and 2004 (and any number of Senate and House races going back to 1998 through 2006. (Look for an update on the exact 52.95% vs 47.05% Cbama-Clinton and Clinton-Obama reversal from hand counted to optical (switchable) machines. Makes me wonder if Rudy did indeed beat Ron Paul.) Besides this on Counterpunch, I've seen the vote reversal on the Agonist which notes that he's got it from Brad Friedman.

January 11, 2008
More Questions About Diebold Voting Machines
Did Hillary Really Win New Hampshire?


Could someone have messed with the vote in New Hampshire?

That is what some people are wondering, after looking closely at the totals in the votes for surprise Democratic primary victor Hillary Clinton, and for Barack Obama, who placed instead of winning as all the polls had predicted he would. And thanks to candidate Dennis Kucinich, we are likely to find out. Kucinich today filed a request, and a required $2000 fee, to order up a manual recount of the machine ballots cast in the state.

Polls taken as late as the day before the Tuesday vote showed Obama up by 10 to 15 points over Clinton, whom he had just beaten the week before in Iowa, but when the votes were counted, Clinton ended up beating Obama in New Hampshire 39.4 per cent to 36.8 per cent. In a replay of what happened in Ohio in 2004, exit polling reportedly also showed Obama to be winning the New Hampshire primary.

When that's not what happened, shocked polling firms and surprised pundits, all of whom had been expecting a big Obama win, were left stumbling for explanations for the Hillary comeback from an 8 per cent drubbing in Iowa (even the Clinton campaign, whose own internal polling had predicted her defeat, were at a loss). Explanations ranged from her teary eyed final public appearance before primary day and some sexist heckling she had received, to dark talk about a wave of hidden racism in the voting booth.

But there were anomalies in the numbers that have some people suggesting something else: vote fraud.

What has had eyebrows raised is a significant discrepancy between the vote counts done by voting machine, and the ones done by hand.

In New Hampshire, 81 per cent of the voting was done in towns and cities that had purchased optical scan machines from the Diebold Election Systems (now called Premiere Election Solutions), a division of Diebold Corp., a company founded by and still linked to wealthy right-wing investors. In those towns, all voting was done on the devices, called Accuvote machines, which read paper ballots completed by voters who use pens or pencils to fill in little ovals next to the candidate of their choice. The ballots are then fed into, read, and tallied by the machines. The other 19 per cent of voting was done in towns that had opted not to use the machine, and to use hand-counted paper ballots instead.

The machine tally was Clinton 39.6 per cent, Obama 36.3 per cent - fairly close to the final outcome. But the hand-counted ballot count broke significantly differently: Clinton 34.9 per cent, Obama 38.6 per cent.

Could something have happened in those machines to shift some votes away from Obama or some of the other candidates in the race, and over to the Clinton total?

If all the votes cast had split the way the hand counts split, Obama would have won New Hampshire by over 10,000 votes, instead of losing to Clinton by about 5500 votes.

"My suspicion is that nothing untoward happened here," says Doug Jones, a professor of computer sciences at the University of Iowa and a member of the board of examiners that approved the use of the same Diebold optical scanning machines in Iowa. "But at the same time, the Diebold machines are vulnerable to viruses that can be spread through the machines by the PCMCIA memory cards, and there are other things that can go wrong too. I'd be much happier if they had a routine random audit procedure in New Hampshire."

A random audit, he says, would involve doing hand counts of some towns' optical scan ballots, and comparing those results with the results of the machine reading of those same ballots, as recorded election night.

While California does conduct such random audits as a matter of course, most states, including New Hampshire, do not. According to the New Hampshire Secretary of State's office, any recount of ballots would have to be requested by a candidate, and would have to be paid for by the candidate making the request.

An official in the press office of Obama's campaign in Chicago, contacted on Wednesday, claimed not to know about the discrepancy between the machine and hand-counted ballots. She said that there was no plan to call for a hand count of machine ballots.

As Prof. Jones notes, requiring a candidate to initiate any hand count makes such hand counts unlikely, since unless the evidence of vote tampering or fraud is overwhelming, such a call would open the candidate to charges of "poor loser."

Kucinich, in making his recount request, resolved that problem.

There is good reason to be suspicious of the results. The counting of the machine totals, in New Hampshire as in all states using the Diebold machines, is handled by a private contract firm, in this case Massachusetts-based LHS Associates, which controls and programs the machines' memory cards. Several studies have demonstrated the ease with which the memory cards in the Accuvote machines can be hacked, with some testers breaking into the system in minutes.

There are, to be sure, alternative quite innocent possible explanations for the discrepancy between the machine and hand votes for Clinton and Obama. All the state's larger towns and cities, like Nashua, Concord and Portsmouth, have gone to voting machines. While there are many small communities that have also opted for machines, it is almost exclusively the smaller towns and villages across the state that have stayed with hand counts-most of them in the more rural northern part of the state. So if Obama did better than Clinton in the small towns, and Clinton did better in the large ones, that could be the answer.

But that explanation flies in the face of logic, historic voting patterns, and most of the post election prognosticating.

If it is true that there was "behind the curtain" racism involved in people saying to pollsters that they were for Obama, while privately voting against him, surely it would be more likely that this would happen in the isolated towns of northern New Hampshire where black people are rarely to be seen. Clinton was also said to have fared better among people with lower incomes-again a demographic that is more prominent in the rural parts of the Granite State. Finally, Obama, in New Hampshire as in Iowa, did better among younger voters, and that is the demographic group that is typically in shorter supply in small towns, where job opportunities are limited. Furthermore, in Iowa, it was in the larger municipalities that Obama fared best, not in the rural towns, so how likely is it that his geographic appeal would be reversed in New Hampshire?

David Scanlan, New Hampshire's deputy secretary of state for elections, whom I contacted Thursday, said that while town election officials are required to do test runs of the Diebold machines in the days before an election, "to make sure that they are reading the ballot markings accurately," and that at that point the machines and the memory cards are sealed until the actual election day, there is no way for his office to independently conduct a post balloting test. The ballot boxes are sealed and the only way they can be opened if for a candidate to request (and pay for) a manual recount, or for a court to order one." Scanlan says that the same is true for the voting machines and the memory cards. While the sealed ballots are retained "for years," however, the memory cards will be back in the hands of the contractor, LHS Associates, in "a few months," to be erased and prepared for use in the general election next November.

Scanlan says that the state legislature is currently considering legislation to provide for routine audits of machines after elections, but that won't help this election cycle.

Scanlan said that because the machines are freestanding, there is no chance of their being hacked from the outside, but critics note that the hacking can be done in advance to the memory cards, which can pass changes to each other like a virus as each is programmed for a particular election.

Jonathan Simon, an attorney and co-founder of the group Election Defense Alliance, says that the vote discrepancies between machine and hand counts in New Hampshire's Democratic primary are troubling, and defy easy explanation.

"The trouble is, whenever you have a surprise result in an election, and it runs counter to the polls, the media always say the problem is the polling, not the counting." But he adds, "The thing is, these things always work in one direction-in favor of the more conservative candidate, and that defies the law of quantum mechanics."

Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can't be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff's newest book is "The Case for Impeachment", co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at:

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Nation Forum: The Global War on Terror Terroizes: Case Histories: Egypt, El Salvador, The Phillipines, Thailand, Pakistan

The Nation

Forum: What GWOT Has Wrought

This article can be found on the web at

[from the December 31, 2007 issue]

On September 20, 2001, before a joint session of Congress, President George W. Bush declared, "Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there.... Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." As it turned out, those fateful words ushered in not a concerted worldwide campaign against militant fundamentalism but a wave of repression felt around the globe. Instead of being a standard-bearer for human rights and civil liberties, the United States lowered the bar, creating secret prisons or "black sites," erecting Guantánamo, rationalizing torture and curtailing civil liberties at home. The US-fashioned "global war on terror" (GWOT) was then replicated in country after country, adapting to local circumstances to provide rhetorical refuge for tyrants and forsaking democratic principles. As the articles that follow show, the "war on terror" has been invoked to arrest and torture prodemocracy activists in Egypt, round up street vendors and protesters in El Salvador, rationalize politically motivated assassinations in the Philippines, jail bloggers and censor websites in Thailand and condone military dictatorship in Pakistan. The criminalization of dissent is not new to these places, and it does not always reflect US intervention or security interests. But the "war on terror" is a new paradigm, and it has proven remarkably versatile and severely damaging. While purporting to protect democracy against its enemies, the "war on terror" has become one of them.

GWOT: Egypt


This article can be found on the web at

[from the December 31, 2007 issue]

There's a story that when the news arrived that airplanes had flown into the World Trade Center, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak turned to one of his aides and said, "My job just got a little bit easier." Throughout the 1980s and '90s Egypt fought its own nasty, brutish "war on terror." As militant groups--Gama'a Islamiya and Islamic Jihad most prominent among them--orchestrated attacks on government officials, members of the country's Coptic minority and even foreign tourists, thousands of people were locked up incommunicado in crackdowns across the country. Most of the detained were tortured; others simply disappeared. At the height of the dirty war, some 30,000 suspected militants--or at least those unlucky enough to be regarded as such--had been whisked away to Egypt's famously inhospitable prisons. Enter 9/11 and the vaguely defined "war on terror" it inspired. Here was the perfect opportunity for Mubarak--by then a semibionic man entering his third decade of rule--to summon up his trusty narrative about fighting terror at all costs, especially in justifying his exceptional powers, not to mention his government's growing crackdowns on its own citizens.

Suddenly the sort of arbitrary detention, trials on flimsy evidence, torture and trampling of freedom of expression and assembly that had long been de rigueur in Egypt found a home under the banner of a global war on terror. When the Americans were in need of an ally in executing their extraordinary-rendition program, Egypt handily stepped up to the plate--quickly becoming one of the favored recipients of the unlucky Abu Omars of the world. Mubarak, in the meantime, continued to cooperate with the United States on security issues and maintained Egypt's fraught diplomatic ties with Israel. The country was, in turn, ensured its sustained bounty of military aid ($1.3 billion for 2008 alone)--and a blind eye was cast on its dismal human rights record.

Today, Mubarak's squeeze on civil liberties seems only to be growing tighter. The country's very own Patriot Act, in the form of an "emergency law" (this is the sort of emergency that knows no end; Egyptians have lived under its aegis continuously since 1981), was renewed in 2006 despite Mubarak's repeated promises to do away with it. A series of thirty-four cumbersome constitutional amendments hastily pushed through in March 2006 further cut into civil liberties. Among them, Article 179 places unprecedented restrictions on the right to privacy and due process, and gives the government sanction to use exceptional courts in trying terrorism suspects. While Nabil Fahmy, Egypt's smooth-talking ambassador to the United States, has indicated that a new terrorism bill will "provide for the necessary checks and safeguards on the use of executive power in fighting terrorism," the law is more than likely to be the same old emergency law in a new guise. Tellingly, the USA Patriot Act and Britain's Anti-Terrorism Law have been cited in Egyptian parliamentary discussions surrounding the bill. They have theirs, too--or so the logic ran.

When bombs went off in Egypt's stark Sinai Peninsula in 2004, 2005 and again in 2006, the state strained to frame the attacks as acts of foreign machination, even though most signs pointed to the operations being homegrown (Sinai's population has long been marginalized by the state, and the territory is thickly littered with gripes). In the bombings' wake, thousands have been arrested, and thus far three men have been sentenced to death for the 2004 bombings at the Red Sea resort town of Taba. Local human rights activists have pointed to questionable evidence, irregular trial proceedings and allegations of torture in eliciting "confessions" from the three. Even more recently, there have been indications that the state security forces may have gone as far as to fabricate incidents of terrorism to justify arrests. According to a new Human Rights Watch report, authorities have used trumped-up terrorism charges to clamp down on suspected Islamists, including resorting to arbitrary detention and torture to elicit false confessions in one 2006 case involving twenty-two detainees, referred to as the Victorious Sect.

And in recent months, the state has further turned up the heat on its enemies and civil society--particularly with the question of succession uncomfortably lingering (who will succeed the 79-year-old Mubarak?) and indications of growing opposition to Mubarak's rule. The Muslim Brotherhood has taken the lion's share of the pressure, with its highest-ranking leaders in and out of prison, while thirty-three members face trial in a military tribunal for membership in a banned organization and allegedly providing students with weapons and military training. Increasingly, the state has been monitoring the Brotherhood's financial doings. The state-run press frequently intimates that it is linked to international terrorist networks.

Torture continues to be rampant--of alleged Islamists, of democracy and labor activists, of bloggers and journalists. Authorities have shut down two NGOs in recent months, one that worked on torture cases and another on labor rights. The former, the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid, had been involved in the first-ever lawsuit against a state security officer for torture. And at least ten journalists have been sentenced for various publishing offenses in the past months. Egyptian civil society has plainly seen better times.

Where are Egypt's American patrons, who for one brief moment called for reform, having occasionally leveraged their power in pushing for modest, if not merely symbolic, political openings? In a 2005 interview with ABC News on the eve of the country's first multiparty presidential election, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that Mubarak had "opened the door" to reform. But this past June, when George W. Bush voiced his concern for the fate of Ayman Nour, an opposition leader locked up on politically motivated charges, Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit accused the American leader of "unacceptable" meddling in his country's affairs. The token gesture had been made, and it was back to business as usual. A Congressional foreign aid bill that would withhold $200 million in US military funds for Egypt--based on its human rights abuses as well as its failure to monitor weapons-smuggling into Gaza effectively--has shown little momentum since it passed the House this past summer.

And then came the news, in late July, that the United States had engineered a ten-year, multibillion-dollar arms package for Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Israel and Egypt. Ostensibly designed to counter growing Iranian influence in the region, the generous deal was described by the Secretary of State as part of a "renewed commitment to the security of our key strategic partners in the region." It seemed that the business of the "global war on terror" and, by extension, of cultivating friendly autocratic regimes had once again trumped reform. Egypt's door, once showing signs of cracking open, had slammed firmly shut. Somewhere, Hosni Mubarak was smiling.

Other Articles in the Forum

El Salvador, by Wes Enzinna
The Philippines, by Luis H. Francia
Thailand, by Noy Thrupkaew
Pakistan, by Shahan Mufti

GWOT: El Salvador


This article can be found on the web at

[from the December 31, 2007 issue]

In September 2006, after the Salvadoran Congress passed the Special Law Against Acts of Terrorism, then-US Ambassador H. Douglas Barclay congratulated the Salvadoran people. "The US and El Salvador are [now] partners in the war on terror," he beamed. The law, modeled on the USA Patriot Act, establishes a special terrorism tribunal and allows for anonymous witnesses and undercover agents to participate in those trials. It also criminalizes acts such as public protests, street blockades and "publicly justifying terrorism" with punishments of up to eighty years in prison. More than a year later, this law has turned scores of Salvadoran citizens into fugitives.

Last July, I spent two weeks in San Salvador chasing down one of these ersatz outlaws--Sandra Henriquez, a leader of the Salvadoran National Vendors Movement. On May 12 the National Civilian Police (PNC) raided vendors' stalls, including hers, in downtown San Salvador, attempting to confiscate the pirated goods they sell. The vendors resisted, and a group of angry onlookers--some say provocateurs--set fire to a police car. Shortly after, 150 riot police showed up and subdued the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Henriquez avoided arrest, but nineteen others were taken into police custody and charged under the antiterrorism law. At a press conference, President Elías Antonio Saca said, "[The vendors] are terrorists--the correct word is 'terrorist'.... Anyone who sells something illegal on the streets must go to prison."

On May 30 the government issued a blacklist of suspects accused of participating in the Vendors Movement and thus wanted on terrorism charges. Henriquez was in her home watching her 3-year-old son when she heard that her husband was on the list and had been arrested, along with several others, bringing the total to twenty-two in jail. "What I didn't know was that the government had made the order to capture me as well," she said. During the country's long civil war, government officials issued similar blacklists--the next day, many of those on the lists would be dead. "When I found out I was on the blacklist, I fled," Henriquez said.

The vendors were the first activists to be accused under the antiterrorism law, but they will not be the last. On July 2, protesters gathered in the town of Suchitoto to oppose President Saca's plan to "decentralize" the country's water systems, which many believe is the first step toward privatization. As government helicopters swirled in the sky, protesters blockaded the street, preventing Saca's caravan from entering the city. Riot police and PNC agents opened fire with tear gas and rubber bullets, and arrested thirteen people, including four leaders of the rural development organization CRIPDES, as well as journalist María Haydee Chicas. Thirteen of those arrested are being charged under the antiterrorism law.

María Silvia Guillén, executive director in El Salvador of the Foundation for Studies of Applied Law, believes the law is being used as a political weapon. It creates "wild cards that allow the concepts and penalties of the law to be invoked or left aside at any given time, influenced by any political motive," she says. Pedro Juan Hernández, a professor of economics at the University of El Salvador, concurs. "The objective of these antiterrorist laws isn't to fight terrorism, because there haven't been acts of terrorism [in El Salvador] in many years," he recently told In These Times.

The Bush and Saca administrations maintain close ties. El Salvador is the only Latin American country with troops still in Iraq and was the first to sign the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The country receives $461 million over five years in US aid through the Millennium Challenge Corporation and is home to the controversial US-run International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in San Salvador.

Despite ample evidence of abuses, US officials have failed to condemn violations of civil liberties in El Salvador. "Whatever step a government takes against terrorism is an appropriate step," said Ambassador Barclay after El Salvador's antiterrorism law squeezed through Congress last year. He also made news when he urged the Salvadoran government to step up its use of wiretaps. Current US Ambassador Charles Glazer has remained silent on the issue and declined to go on record for this article.

US economic interests run deep in El Salvador. After the 1996 privatization of the country's electricity industry, corporations like North Carolina-based giant Duke Energy, once a business partner with Enron, swooped in to invest. If El Salvador's water infrastructure is privatized, analysts predict, a similar assault will follow; in May the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, an agency of the US government, held a conference in San Salvador focusing on "investment opportunities in sectors such as infrastructure [and] energy." CAFTA also streamlines the privatization process and prioritizes strengthening intellectual property laws and punishments, and the ILEA's founding charter establishes intellectual property rights as a prime concern. Elsewhere, the ILEA has said its mission is to "enhance the functioning of free markets." The vendors, however, say that repression has increased since CAFTA and the ILEA came to El Salvador.

Wilfredo Berrios, a labor leader in San Salvador, argues that the recent crackdown is designed to silence protest against Saca's economic policies and to protect the investment climate for foreign businesses. "The opposition to CAFTA and to water privatization has been very strong," Berrios says. "These policies can't go forward unless their opponents are silenced."

Opponents of the new law now include three judges from the San Salvador tribunals, who recently criticized the measure for being too vague. In August forty-one US Congress members sent a letter to President Saca expressing concern over the arrest of Suchitoto protesters. On September 1 the government dropped all charges against the vendors. But the thirteen people arrested in Suchitoto, including Haydee Chicas, still face terrorism charges and will stand trial in February. If convicted, they could face up to sixty years in prison.

While it has offered rhetorical support for the antiterrorism law, the Bush Administration remains cautious about more direct intervention. After all, US involvement in the country's affairs--like the massacre at El Mozote, where US-trained soldiers raped, tortured and executed 900 villagers in 1981--has caused diplomatic disasters in the past. But like Ambassadors Barclay and Glazer, Washington remains quietly supportive of repression in El Salvador, continuing to deepen and benefit from economic and military ties with the Saca administration.

If the United States has learned to be more hands-off in its relations with El Salvador, President Saca draws a very different lesson from history. In a May 7 speech, he offered an example for today's armed forces to emulate in the "war on terror": Col. Domingo Monterrosa, the commander who led the massacre at El Mozote. "Colonel Monterrosa," Saca said without irony, "knew how to defend the nation, with nobility, in the saddest moment of the Republic."

Other Articles in the Forum

The Philippines, by Luis H. Francia
Thailand, by Noy Thrupkaew
Pakistan, by Shahan Mufti

GWOT: The Philippines


This article can be found on the web at

[from the December 31, 2007 issue]

Politically motivated killings in the Philippines--the United States' former colony and staunchest ally in Asia--have swelled since 9/11. According to Karapatan, an umbrella group for various Philippine human rights organizations, close to 900 men and women have been summarily executed since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took over in 2001 from disgraced President Joseph Estrada. Continuing to support Bush's "global war on terror," President Arroyo has ratcheted up her government's pressure on the Philippine left, reviving memories of the Marcos dictatorship and its dirty war against the opposition. Manila knows that as long as it supports the Bush Administration, thereby obtaining economic and military assistance from the United States, it can get away with murder--literally.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights First have criticized the Arroyo government for failing to prevent--and even abetting--such killings. A report to the United Nations by Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, based on a fact-finding visit in February, echoes such criticism. Alston points to two underlying causes for the unchecked murders: the indiscriminate labeling of left-wing groups as "front organizations" for "armed groups whose aim is to destroy democracy" and a government "counter-insurgency strategy" that encourages "the extrajudicial killings of activists and other 'enemies' in certain circumstances." Even the 2006 government-appointed Melo Commission blamed rogue elements in the military for these murders.

Those assassinated include pastors, labor leaders, student activists, farmers, workers and journalists--at least thirty-two of the last have been killed for reasons directly related to their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which ranks the Philippines as one of the most dangerous places for its profession. As veteran Manila columnist Luis Teodoro writes, "The killings are an integral part of the policy to dismantle whatever else remains of the democratic and populist legacies" brought about by the 1986 overthrow of the Marcos regime.

Last February the Philippine Congress passed the Human Security Act (HSA)--a virtual copy of the US Homeland Security Act--and many expect even more human rights abuses in its wake. By broadening the government's arrest and detention powers, the law seriously undermines civil liberties. With its vague definition of what constitutes terrorism, HSA criminalizes dissent; thus, burning an effigy could be seen as a terrorist act.

Last August, in one of the first instances of the law's application, three visiting women's rights activists who are members of the US-based Gabriela Network (an affiliate of Gabriela Philippines, the nation's largest militant feminist group) were initially prevented from leaving Manila: Annaliza Enrile, a US citizen and professor at the University of Southern California; Judy Mirkinson, also a US citizen; and novelist Ninotchka Rosca, a US permanent resident. Having attended the tenth Women's International Solidarity Affair in the Philippines, the three found themselves on a government watch list because of suspected ties to the Taliban.

Liza Maza, Gabriela's elected representative to the Philippine Congress, calls the charge "utterly preposterous," given Gabriela's politics and the Taliban's medieval, misogynistic bent. Rosca, a political detainee under Marcos, describes such tactics as part of a larger strategy by President Arroyo, whose 2004 re-election was tainted by charges of cheating, to "crush...the left and other advocates of dissent before 2010, which is when her term ends." According to Rosca, Arroyo intends to "push through a constitutional enable her to remain in office." In what was perhaps a dry run, Arroyo declared a monthlong state of emergency in early 2006. Arroyo might also be turning a blind eye to the military's excesses to ensure its loyalty, which is tenuous--as demonstrated by a failed coup in late November.

Not coincidentally, this dirty war was revived shortly before US Special Operations Forces landed in Mindanao in January 2002--the first time American troops have been in the Philippines since US bases were shut down in 1992. Even though the Philippine Constitution forbids the basing of foreign troops on native soil, the US military has kept between 100 and 500 personnel in the Philippines for the past five years. Their presence is justified under the bilateral 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows for joint military exercises and permits the US military to advise and train Filipino troops. The arrangement is supposed to be provisional, but neither government has set an end date.

According to Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based think tank that monitors US military activities, US soldiers have been more active than their technical roles allow. They've been photographed, by Agence France-Presse and Reuters, accompanying Philippine troops in their hunt for the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), alleged to have ties with the Southeast Asian terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah. Lee McClenny, US Embassy spokesman in Manila, states that the troops "are not involved in any combat roles but will fire back if fired upon.... Our role is to advise and assist the Philippine military."

Oddly, Philippine military units vastly outnumber the ASG, a small, violent and essentially criminal gang. Besides, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) knows the terrain much better than its US counterparts, having battled the Maoist New People's Army, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for decades without any US advisers on hand. The command structure, however, is corrupt and plagued by persistent accusations that the ASG has paid off higher-ups in the past. It isn't tactical intelligence or foreign advisers that the AFP needs but sweeping reforms.

Equally disturbing, the United States is building installations for its troops, recently awarding a $14.4 million contract to Global Contingency Services of Irving, Texas, to construct these "temporary" structures. In the context of Philippine-US relations, "temporary" is a word fraught with irony. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the US naval fleet steamed into Manila Bay, ostensibly to aid the Filipinos in their revolution against Spain. Instead, the brutal 1899 Philippine-American War ensued when it became clear that the bluecoats were taking over the archipelago. Except for a brief hiatus in the 1990s, they have never left.

Other Articles in the Forum
Thailand, by Noy Thrupkaew
Pakistan, by Shahan Mufti
(Not available at posting time.--RB)

Glenn Greenwald: Iranian Speedboats: More Bush Disinformation

After seeing the evening before some of the evidence below about WH disinformation regarding the Iranian speedboat (Gulf of Tonkin they apparently hoped)incident posted by less distinguished bloggers, I wondered to myself how quickly if ever this particular bit of Bush Cheney disinformation would be exposed for what it is. I should say that perhaps like most people I was prepared to believe the WH version if no contrary evidence appeared. But once such evidence appeared the only question was how high a level would it reach? Would it be completely exposed everywhere as in the Pat Tillman/Jessica Lynch cases which Greenfield mentions or would it stop at the marginalized posters I saw the evening of the 9th.

That it has gone to the level of Glenn Greenfield is a very good sign and I'd predict that it may even make it to the NYT, and WP -- but perhaps not to Fox TV for awhile. No matter, we'll soon see President Bush saying: I don't care. The Iranians are still provocative. They're still a threat.
Reminds me: the symbolic imagery of the more or less fake video the Pentagon presented was clear: a huge US armada right on top of the Iranian border vs. a couple of speedboats. Very provocative.


Update: 1.11.08
The Washington Post picked up the story. See below. Now let's see if the NYT is also forced to do the same. --R

Glenn Greenwald
Thursday January 10, 2008 14:49 EST
The U.S. military inflicts more damage on its own credibility

It seems increasingly clear that the U.S. military's initial claims about its interaction with those five Iranian speed boats in the Strait of Hormuz was exaggerated in significant ways, approaching Jessica Lynch/Pat Tillman/Iraq-is-going-great territory. It's impossible to resolve all of the conflicting details of each side's self-serving version, but the most inflammatory facts which the Navy originally asserted, and which the American news media uncritically regurgitated, are quite dubious, if not demonstrably false.

Here, for instance, was the first paragraph of Tuesday's Washington Post story by Robin Wright and Ann Scott Tyson, highlighting the most dramatic and scariest part of the U.S. military's narrative:
We're coming at you, the Iranian radio transmission warned. Your ships will explode in a couple of minutes.
The next paragraph summarized the Navy's version that "five Iranian patrol boats sped toward the USS Port Royal and two accompanying ships as they crossed the Strait of Hormuz" and then "'maneuvered aggressively' on both sides of the U.S. ships." The next paragraph recounted:
After the radio transmission, two of the Iranian boats dropped "white box-like objects" into the water, [Vice Adm. Kevin J.] Cosgriff said.
Those are the two "facts" that infused the story with such a sinister tone -- explicit threats from the Iranian boats to destroy the American ships, followed by their dropping of unidentifiable boxes, which, one was supposed to infer, could easily have been explosive devices.

But the first "fact" seems almost certainly false, and the second one is highly questionable. Iranian Hooman Majd at The Huffington Post noted that the voices on the tapes issuing the melodramatic threats were unquestionably not Persian. As he put it: "the person speaking doesn't have an Iranian accent and moreover, sounds more like Boris Karloff in a horror movie than a sailor in the elite branch of Iran's military." A regular Iranian commenter at Cernig's blog made the same point. Listen for yourself to the audio and see how credible the threats sound.

Since then, additional facts have emerged strongly negating the claim that that message came from those Iranian boats. The audio of the threats is crystal clear in sound quality, with no ambient noise -- something highly unlikely to be the case if delivered from a small, speeding boat. Moreover, as the New York Times' Mike Nizza reports today, quoting a reader claiming to be a former Naval officer, the channel that was used to convey the transmission is easily accessible to all sorts of private parties and is often the venue for hoaxes, pranks, and false messages.

Even the Pentagon itself is now acknowledging the lack of proof for the initial version, "saying that the voice on the tape could have come from the shore or from another ship." As Nizza put it: "The list of those who are less than fully confident in the Pentagon's video/audio mashup of aggressive maneuvers by Iranian boats near American warships in the Strait of Hormuz now includes the Pentagon itself."

Read more:

Iranian Boats May Not Have Made Radio Threat, Pentagon Says

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 11, 2008; A13

The Pentagon said yesterday that the apparent radio threat to bomb U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf last weekend may not have come from the five Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats that approached them -- and may not even have been intended against U.S. targets.

The communication Sunday was made on radio channel 16, a common marine frequency used by ships and others in the region. "It could have been a threat aimed at some other nation or a myriad of other things," said Rear Adm. Frank Thorp IV, a spokesman for the Navy.

In the radio message recorded by the Navy, a heavily accented voice said: "I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes." But Farsi speakers and Iranians told The Washington Post that the accent did not sound Iranian.

In part because of the threatening language, the United States has elevated the encounter into an international incident. Twice this week, President Bush criticized Iran's behavior as provocative and warned of "serious consequences" if it happens again. He is due to head today to the Gulf area, where containing Iran is expected to be a major theme of his talks in five oil-rich sheikdoms.

Pentagon officials insist that they never claimed Iran made the threat. "No one in the military has said that the transmission emanated from those boats. But when they hear it simultaneously to the behavior of those boats, it only adds to the tension," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. "If this verbal threat emanated from something or someone unrelated to the five boats, it would not lessen the threat from those boats."

Read more:

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Kurt Nimmo: CIA-ISI Destablized Pakistan, not Al Qaeda

CIA-ISI Created “Qaeda Network” Blamed for Pakistan Troubles

Kurt Nimmo
Truth News
December 30, 2007

It is a familiar if not worn-out refrain: “The Qaeda network accused by Pakistan’s government of killing the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is increasingly made up not of foreign fighters but of homegrown Pakistani militants bent on destabilizing the country, analysts and security officials here say.”

If we are to believe the New York Times — you know, the propaganda sheet in large part responsible for selling the “war” in Iraq, that is to say the plan to mass murder of more than a million Iraqis — the contrived terrorist scare crow al-Qaeda has “clearly expanded their ranks and turned to a direct confrontation with the Pakistani security forces while also aiming at political figures like Ms. Bhutto,” never mind there is absolutely no evidence of this and never mind as well al-Qaeda was in fact created by Pakistan’s ISI, with a large infusion of CIA cash and directives.

“Al Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks on the Pakistani government and Pakistani people,” averred Robert Gates, one of the primary founders of al-Qaeda, a fact he willingly admitted in his memoir, From the Shadows. Of course, no mention of this slimy connection in the “liberal” New York Times, the former home of the neocon disinfo operative Judith Miller.

“The expansion of Pakistan’s own militants, with their fortified links to Al Qaeda, presents a deeply troubling development for the Bush administration and its efforts to stabilize this volatile nuclear-armed country.”

And yet few seem to be troubled by the fact these militants were mentored and lavishly funded by the CIA. Long ago relegated to the memory hole are uncomfortable facts: Gen. Akhtar Abdul Rahman, Pakistani ISI’s head from 1980 to 1987, regularly met with bin Laden in Peshawar, Pakistan; the CIA essentially micromanaged Afghanistan’s opium production; the ISI trained “militants” (i.e., patsies and useful idiots) to attack the Soviet Union proper; well over 100,000 Islamic militants were trained in Pakistan between 1986 and 1992 in camps constructed and overseen by the CIA and MI6, with the British SAS training future al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in bomb-making and other black arts, etc., on and on, ad nauseam.

Now we are expected to believe al-Qaeda, appearing out of the mist of amnesia, is a portentous threat to the poor people of Pakistan, as related by the premier propaganda sheet, the New York Times.

Al Qaeda in Pakistan now comprises not just foreigners but Pakistani tribesmen from border regions, as well as Punjabis and Urdu speakers and members of banned sectarian and Sunni extremists groups, Najam Sethi, editor of The Daily Times, wrote in a front-page analysis. “Al Qaeda is now as much a Pakistani phenomenon as it is an Arab or foreign element,” he wrote.

Excuse me, but al-Qaeda, the database and perennial boogieman, has always been a “Pakistani phenomenon,” that is with the good grace of the CIA and MI6, with a bit of collaboration from the Mossad and German intelligence.

How long before we are told the U.S. has to send an infusion of soldiers, pronto, the fight the evil al-Qaeda in Pakistan?

Soon. Lest we face the specter of that Muslim atom bomb falling into the hands of al-Qaeda.

Oh, please.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Pat Shannan: Gov George Wallace Assasssinaton Attempt : Another Black Operation?

Just when you thought that your list of black operations (deep politics, Peter Dale Scott calls it) was more or less complete --at least going back to the 70s -- information surfaces about the assassination attempt on Gov George Wallace. --RB

Gov George Wallace too? Another Black Operation?

Summary of November 26, 2007 article by by Pat Shannan, American Free Press

In November 2007, Arthur H. Bremer was released from a Maryland prison after serving 35 years of a 53 year sentence for the attempted murder of Alabama Gov George Wallace in 1972. Pat Shannan’s November 26, 2007 article for American Free Press, “Evidence Shows Wallace Shooter Did Not Act Alone,” points to persuasive circumstantial evidence indicating that Bremer did not act alone -- that there must have been multiple shooters – yes, a conspiracy.

It turns out that Bremer’s gun, a Smith and Wesson Model 37 “Air Weight” carried only five shots. Shannan writes that Wallace was critically wounded by five .38 caliber slugs to the chest and abdomen. Then he writes that Wallace “sustained a total of nine wounds (two of which were “enter and exit” type through his right arm, and one of these went into his chest)."

But three other people were also wounded: Alabama State Trooper Captain E. C. Dothard, Wallace campaign volunteer Dora Thompson, and Nick Zarvos, a Secret Service agent. Thus, Shannan argues, there were a total of 12 wounds, but Bremer could only have fired five times.

Adding to the conspiracy evidence, Shannan cites a contemporary Newsweek magazine article which used diagrams to show that bullets would have had to enter Wallace from three directions: his right side, his front and from behind his left shoulder. “It is obvious,” Shannan writes, “that one man firing straight ahead, and even with enough ammunition, could not do that in the three seconds Bremer had before being subdued.”

In addition, the odd trajectories presented by Newsweek do not trace to a single firing position, and instead require at least one more shooter to be both behind and somewhat above Wallace. Shannan speculates that perhaps someone posing as one of the Prince George policemen stationed on the shopping center rooftop may have been the source of these shots from above.

Shannon helpfully reminds us of the RFK assassination and references a 1971 Los Angeles TV newsman, Ted Charach who “proved” that none of the eight shots fired from the 22 caliber revolver of Sirhan Sirhan even hit Senator Kennedy. As for who killed Kennedy, Shannan notes that Los Angeles Medical Examiner Thomas Naguchi discovered that RFK had two bullet holes behind the right ear that included powder burns. “Naguchi reported that the evidence showed that the gun would have to have been placed next to RFK’s head and the trigger pulled from 1-3 inches away.” Thus Sirhan Sirhan couldn’t have been the assassin.

As for the motive for shooting Wallace, Shannan notes that it was the Republicans, and the incumbent Richard Nixon in particular who were most “horrified” by the prospect that Wallace might gain 20 million votes in the ’72 election, most of whom they figured would come from Republican voters. If Wallace had garnered this much support, neither major candidate would have had a majority in the Electoral College. “If the election would have been thrown to the House, it would have guaranteed McGovern’s election.”

Shannon adds a paragraph of less persuasive, although intriguing, anecdotal evidence:

In May 1974, two years after the shooting, it was reported that Martha Mitchell visited George Wallace in Montgomery. She told him that her husband, former Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell, who also served time for the Watergate affair, had confessed to her that Chuck Colson, known as Nixon’s “hatchet man,” had met with Arthur Bremer four days before the assassination attempt. Bremer told his brother that others were involved and that he was paid by them.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ran HaCohen: Beware of Barak

Finally, a relatively widely circulated piece by an Israeli writing about the most ruthless Israeli politician on the scene -- and that's saying a lot. To me Barak doesn't come off looking smart or well spoken in English, but he's brilliantly hid his fanatical hatred of Arabs and Palestinians, maybe by simply choosing to be a member of Labor rather than Likud. I recall him bragging that unlike Netanyahu, he didn't give the Palestinians an inch -- literally. And now, relatively quietly, as Defense Minister, where for the moment he's perfectly placed to do the most harm, he's putting the screws to the Palestinians like never before.

December 27, 2007
Beware of Barak
by Ran HaCohen

Israeli "Defense" Minister Ehud Barak is definitely the most dangerous
politician in the Middle East. Ahmadinejad can only dream of having the
powers – political and military, conventional and non-conventional – that
Barak already possesses. Netanyahu and other far-right Israeli politicians
say what they think and are earmarked as extremists, so they are under
permanent scrutiny. Barak is more extreme than Netanyahu, but he's an
extremist in disguise.

The person who destroyed the Oslo Process and initiated the second
Intifada, the person who demolished the Israeli peace camp from within, by
spreading legends about a "generous offer" rejected by the Palestinian, by
persuading the Israelis that he "unmasked" Arafat and that there was no
Palestinian partner – this person still calls himself "the leader of the
Israeli peace camp." That's one of Barak's most dangerous traits: his
inherent untruthfulness, his presenting himself as the very opposite of
what he actually is.

Barak hasn't changed. As Yedioth Ahronoth announced just a few months ago
("Labor Leader More Right-Wing Than Netanyahu," Aug. 10, 2007), Barak
described the renewal of the peace talks as "a fantasy," said "there is no
difference between Hamas and Fatah"; promised "I will not remove
roadblocks in the West Bank"; and repeated his old mantra, "there is no
chance for a settlement with the Palestinians."

Indeed, Barak opposed the Annapolis Summit all along. His opposition
turned into reserved support just a few weeks before, when it became clear
the meeting would be nothing but a photo-op. On top of it, to make sure
nothing comes out of the newly launched process, Barak repeatedly calls to
resume peace negotiations with Syria, simultaneously with the Palestinian
track. A characteristic Barakian trick: urging to resume peace talks with
Syria enables Barak to boost his false reputation as a man of peace even
as he knowingly works to sabotage any prospect of peace. In an official
report written under then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000, recently
obtained and published in Hebrew by Ha'aretz (Dec. 13, 2007), Barak's
bureau chief wrote that resuming negotiations with Syria had led to
extreme distrust and stiffening on the Palestinian side, and, on top of
it, that the Israeli team had been unable to manage negotiations on both
fronts simultaneously. In other words, resuming negotiations with Syria is
a tested measure to make sure the Palestinian track doesn't work, and
Barak is playing this dirty card for the second time.

Barak promised to quit the coalition with Olmert after the publication of
the Winograd Commission final report, which is likely to blame Olmert for
the failed war in Lebanon in summer 2006. He has now hinted, through his
"aides," that he won't keep his promise (Barak never speaks to the media;
he sends his "aides" to hint at his intentions, so that no one can hold
him responsible for anything he actually says). It is quite likely that
Barak's perverse logic leads him to plan his return to the prime
minister's office by way of a "small" war. Once Olmert is officially
discredited for the failed Lebanon war, Barak as defense minister can hope
to take all the credit for a new, successful war – a big operation in Gaza
("drawing nearer all the time," as Barak tirelessly repeats), a war on
Syria, a strike on Iran, or a combination of all these. Such a war would
also be an excellent pretext to break his promise to exit the coalition:
after all, it would be "irresponsible" to quit when a war is imminent.

Barak knows all too well how to get Israel into a war, even behind the
government's back if needed: after all, it was young Maj. Gen. Barak who
in the early 1980s recommended to his superiors in the army to use
deception in order to allure the Israeli government and public into a war
in Lebanon.