Sunday, April 30, 2006

Colbert brings it! WH Correspondents' dinner

The funniest thing I've seen in ages: Stephen Colbert MCs the WH Correspondents' dinner and skewers the preznit & his press-geishas. The geishas are not amused :) I loved the little movie he made with Helen Thomas! Made a great capper to the festivities, even if it meant pissing off the rest of the room ;)

Thanks so much to Crooks & Liars for posting most of the performance. If you'd like to read the whole transcript, check out the Democratic Underground. Cheers to Atrios for the links!

Read on, MacDuff!

Interpreting from inside the wire

Law student Mahvish Khan has written an account of her visits to Gtmo prisoners in today's WaPo. She volunteered to help habeas counsel attorneys translate for the prisoners. Please check it out. I've excerpted a few passages below but the whole thing is a must read.
"My Guantanamo Diary: Face to Face With the War on Terrorism"
Mousovi [a prisoner] is a physician from the Afghan city of Gardez, where he was arrested by U.S. troops 2 1/2 years ago. He tells us that he had returned to Afghanistan in August 2003, after 12 years of exile in Iran, to help rebuild his wathan , his homeland. He believes that someone turned him in to U.S. forces just to collect up to $25,000 being offered to anyone who gave up a Talib or al-Qaeda member.
As I translate from Pashto, Mousovi hesitantly describes life since his arrest. Transported to Bagram air base near Kabul in eastern Afghanistan, he was thrown -- blindfolded, hooded and gagged -- into a 3 1/2 -by-7-foot shed. He says he was beaten regularly by Americans in civilian clothing, deprived of sleep by tape-recordings of sirens that blared day and night. He describes being dragged around by a rope, subjected to extremes of heat and cold. He says he barely slept for an entire month.
No matter the age or background of the detainee, our meetings always leave me feeling helpless. These men show me the human face of the war on terrorism. They've been systematically dehumanized, cast as mere numbers in prison-camp fashion. But to me, they've become almost like friends, or brothers or fathers. I can honestly say that I don't believe any of our clients are guilty of crimes against the United States. No doubt some men here are, but not the men I've met.
[...] Over steak dinner, I comment on how nice our military escorts are. They joke and laugh with us. Primo gives me pointers on shooting pool in the CBQ lobby. Everyone brings them beer and cigarettes. I think I had expected them to be more aloof, even hostile.
But Tom Wilner, a partner in the Washington office of Shearman & Sterling LLP, quickly retorts: "Yeah, they're nice. But this whole place is evil -- and the face of evil often appears friendly." [...] Tom and his firm got involved representing 12 Kuwaiti detainees in March 2002, after a group of families contacted him. At first, like most of the lawyers here, Tom took up the cause because of the legal principles at stake. But after he finally met the detainees in January 2005, his attitude changed. Suddenly he was fighting for real people. "Most of these guys," he says, "were totally innocent and simply swept up by mistake."
[...] At 80, Haji Nusrat -- detainee No. 1009 -- is Guantanamo Bay's oldest prisoner. A stroke 15 years ago left him partly paralyzed. He cannot stand up without assistance and hobbles to the bathroom behind a walker. Despite his paralysis, his swollen legs and feet are tightly cuffed and shackled to the floor. He says that his shoes are too tight and that he needs new ones. He has asked for medical attention for the inflammation in his legs, but has not been taken to a hospital.
"They wait until you are almost dead," he says.
He has a long white beard and grayish-brown eyes that drift from Peter's face to mine as we explain his legal issues to him. In the middle of our meeting, he says to me: " Bachay ." My child. "Look at my white beard. They have brought me here with a white beard. I have done nothing at all. I have not said a single word against the Americans."

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sistani, Badr corps persecute gays

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani issued a fatwa against gays and lesbians in October 2005. That, coupled with the menace of hard-liner SCIRI Death Squads (Badr corps) have been responsible for approximately 70 threats and 12 deaths (according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).
"Gay Iraqis face death threats" [GAY.COM/PlanetOut Network, 24 April, 2006]
Homosexuality is considered sinful in Islamic countries, but an anti-gay edict issued by the revered Shiite Muslim leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in October has unleashed what amounts to a pogram against gays and lesbians, according to accounts by gay Iraqis.
A Web site published in the Iranian city of Qom in the name of Sistani says, "Those who commit sodomy must be killed in the harshest way".
Death squads have reportedly used this fatwa to launch a systematic campaign of kidnapping and murder against gays. gets worse. The SCIRI gang "give" gays and lesbians a 30 day period to get rid of their gayness...
“Badr militants are entrapping gay men via Internet chat rooms,” Hili said. “They arrange a date, and then beat and kill the victim. Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35 are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate men. They will be investigated and warned to get married.
“Badr will typically give them a month to change their ways. If they don’t change their behavior, or if they fail to show evidence that they plan to get married, they will be arrested, disappear, and eventually be found dead. The bodies are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes, and bullet wounds to the back of the head.”
Oy...I should have posted this over a month ago, when I first heard about it on Amy Goodman's show.

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Now who's seditious?

By now you've probably heard about Mary McCarthy, the CIA officer who was fired last week for--allegedly--leaking to WaPo's Dana Priest about the CIA black-sites/gulags. It should be noted that we're not yet 100% certain why McCarthy was fired. What we can say is that it smacks of vengeance. Payback. Whatever you want to call it, I think it's probably the case that McCarthy was made "an example of"...or as Amb. Joe Wilson would say, a "shot across the bow" to warn any other would-be whistleblowers.

This, of course, is nothing new. I was just about to put together a brief accounting of BushCo.-brand payback-for-truthtelling when someone much more competent published such a thing this morning. My dear friends, I give you esteemed journalist Robert Parry (he of uncovering-Iran-Contra fame). Parry gives us several other examples of whistleblowers getting tarred as seditious, treasonous, etc, in his Consortiumnews piece: "Bush Brandishes Jail Time at Critics" (April 23, 2006).
Goss was recruited to the task of putting the CIA back in its place by Vice President Dick Cheney in 2004. During the run-up to the Iraq War, Cheney had banged heads with intelligence analysts who doubted White House claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
Though many senior CIA bureaucrats bent to Cheney’s pressure on the WMD intelligence, some analysts resisted. After the Iraq invasion failed to find WMD, some of the CIA’s suppressed doubts began surfacing in the press and causing Bush political embarrassment during the presidential election campaign.
After the November 2004 election, Bush and his allies sought retribution against these out-of-step CIA officials. The powerful conservative news media joined the drumbeat against analysts who were seen as a threat to Bush’s goals in Iraq and elsewhere.
[...] In April, too, the Bush administration was stunned when a half dozen retired generals criticized the conduct of the Iraq War and called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Bush’s defenders struck back, warning that letting retired generals criticize Rumsfeld – and by implication, Bush – threatened the principle of civilian control of the military.
[...] In 2005, as conditions in Iraq indeed worsened and anti-U.S. sentiment in the Islamic world swelled, the Bush administration lashed out at other disclosures – about the network of secret prisons (by the Washington Post) and Bush’s decision to ignore legal requirements for court warrants before spying on communications by American citizens (reported by the New York Times).
And Parry leaves no-press-hack behind: Brooks, Blankley, et al. get smacked for complicity in this 3 yr+ witchhunt:
Conservative columnists, including Robert Novak and David Brooks, argued the CIA’s rightful role was to do the president’s bidding.
“Now that he’s been returned to office, President Bush is going to have to differentiate between his opponents and his enemies,” wrote Brooks in the New York Times on Nov. 13, 2004. “His opponents are found in the Democratic Party. His enemies are in certain offices of the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Brooks justified a purge at the CIA because the spy agency had made Bush look bad.
“At the height of the campaign, CIA officials, who are supposed to serve the president and stay out of politics and policy, served up leak after leak to discredit the president’s Iraq policy,” Brooks wrote. “Somebody leaked a CIA report predicting a gloomy or apocalyptic future for the region. … A senior CIA official, Paul Pillar, reportedly made comments saying he had long felt the decision to go to war would heighten anti-American animosity in the Arab world.”
In other words, conservative commentators saw what sounded like reasonable CIA analyses as threats to Bush’s authority.
[...] On April 18, Tony Blankley, editorial-page editor of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s staunchly pro-Bush Washington Times, raised the prospect of sedition charges against active-duty military officers who – in collusion with the retired generals – might be considering resignations in protest of Bush’s war policies.
“Can a series of lawful resignations turn into a mutiny?” Blankley wrote. “And if they are agreed upon in advance, have the agreeing generals formed a felonious conspiracy to make a mutiny?”
Blankley wrote that this possible “revolt” by the generals “comes dangerously close to violating three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” including “mutiny and sedition.” Blankley thus raised the specter of courts martial against officers who resign rather than carry out orders from Bush.
[...] Former Education Secretary (and now right-wing pundit) Bill Bennett used his national radio program on April 18 to condemn the three Pulitzer-winning journalists – Priest, Risen and Lichtblau – as not “worthy of an award” but rather “worthy of jail.”
Well, look...they can bray and squawk and otherwise fill their diapers all they want. It doesn't make any of it true:
However, neither right-wing commentators nor Bush administration officials have ever explained exactly how national security interests were hurt by the disclosures. As even Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has acknowledged, al-Qaeda operatives already were aware of the U.S. capability to intercept their electronic communications.
[...] As for the secret prisons, the fallout appears to be largely political, causing embarrassment for countries that collaborated in what appears to be a clear violation of international law by granting space for “black sites” where torture allegedly was practiced.
The most likely consequence is that the Bush administration will find it harder in the future to set up secret prisons outside the scrutiny of the International Red Cross, the United Nations and human rights organizations.
Parry concludes with some chilling predictions:
The firing of CIA officer Mary McCarthy and the threats of criminal charges against various dissenters are just the latest skirmishes in the political war over who will decide what Americans get to see and hear.
The other signal to Bush’s critics, however, is this: If they ever thought he and his administration would accept accountability for their alleged abuses of power without a nasty fight, those critics are very mistaken.
BTW, if you haven't checked out Parry's "Secrecy and Privilege" book, you really should. It's a chronicle of the Bush family "doin's" from Watergate through Iran-Contra and onto Iraq. Everything old really is new again :(

Read on, MacDuff!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

More 911 remains found at Deutsche Bank Bldg.

Yikes. Is this respect for the dead? What's taken so freaking long? Why is the long-since-condemned building still standing? (AP):
New York - An additional 150 tiny bone fragments have been recovered from the rooftop of a skyscraper near the World Trade Centre site, a spokesperson for the medical examiner's office said on Monday.
More than 500 human bone fragments have been found at the former Deutsche Bank building since workers began cleaning it last year and preparing to dismantle it. The 41-storey building suffered severe damage on September 11, 2001, when the trade centre's south tower partially collapsed on it, and it has stood vacant, contaminated with asbestos and trade centre dust.
Retired firefighters and fire department battalion chiefs joined in the search last week for human remains that have been found mixed in with gravel on the building's roof.
The latest remains were recovered at the end of last week, and one more week of recovery work on the roof is planned, said Ellen Borakove, spokesperson for the medical examiner's office.
No, I'm not going to go all 'Conspiracy Theory Rock' on this one. It's just creepy and sad. And here's the creepiest part...guess how many people remain unidentified? (ABC Local NY News, April 14):
Crews at Ground Zero found the remains while preparing the building for demolition. The city Medical Examiner's office says the bone fragments range in size, some as small as one-sixteenth of an inch.
The specimens are now being carefully preserved to protect their DNA potential.
Some families are furious that the remains went unnoticed for so long. They are now demanding that the contaminated building be thoroughly searched before it's torn down.
The city suspended the overwhelming identification process last year but now this new development is giving family members new hope that their loved ones may finally be put to rest.
According to the latest numbers, there are still 1,151 people who died on 9/11 who's remains still have not been identified and family members want answers.

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

And the Lord said, "Ask about her sex life."

Enfin! Some comic relief brought to you by P-Rob himself (God's gift to liberals...literally!). Behold, sinners! Pat Robertson's interview with Rita Braver (CBS News Sunday Morning, April 9). I've taken the --ahem--liberty of highlighting the naughty bits:
RB:You know you-- you talk about-- a couple very specific cases in the book that--
PR: Yeah.
RB: --you say you were personally involved in. You tell the story of-- being on a trip to the Holy Land, and some people coming to you and asking you if you can help a woman with severe asthma.
PR: That's right.
RB: And you say-- that God spoke to you and--
PR: Well--
RB: --told you--
PR: --well it wudn't (PH) quite that way. Well-- well anyhow, they thought she was demon possessed. And these women are in the conference, and they said, "Go cast demons out of her." And I ignored it and ate dinner and went on to the meeting.
And then the next night, they had moved this poor woman out of the hotel. She was crying out for mercy and saying, "Oh God, help me," because she had such bad asthma. So-- I had to go see her. But fortunately I had my wife with her, so we went to another hotel-- in the heart of Jerusalem and knocked on the door.
And here, this haunting woman, she looked like-- she really looked like she was terrified-- very attractive-- striking brunette, 45 years old, you know thin, 5'8" kinda thing. And-- she had this look in her eyes. And-- so I went in, and my wife was with me. And they took the two chairs and I sat on the bed.
And I said, "Tell me about your problem." And she said, "I've got this asthma." And I said, "Have you been to the (LAUGHTER) doctor?" And-- and she said, "Yes. The doctor said my asthma was caused by praying with nuns." And I said, (LAUGHTER) "A doctor?"
RB:That sounds--
PR:"A doctor?"
RB:--that sounds like-- (LAUGHTER) you should've advised her, "Maybe go see another doctor."
PR:There was-- (LAUGHTER) well see-- the-- "A doctor told you this?" (UNINTEL) said, "Yes, that's what my doctor told me." And I says, "There is no way that praying with nuns is gonna cause you-- asthma." And then I prayed. And I said, "Lord, what's wrong with her?" I just prayed silently. And the Lord said, "Ask about her sex life." And--
RB:The-- the Lord said that to you?
PR:Yes, He said that to me. And I said, "There's no way I'm going to ask a strange woman about her sex life." So I said-- (COUGHS) "Excuse me for-- being personal, but would you tell me about your marriage."
She said, "Oh, I have a wonderful marriage." I said, "You do?" She (UNINTEL PHRASE), "A wonderful husband, wonderful marriage. It's just absolutely marvelous." I said, "You do?" She said, "Yes." So I prayed again. (LAUGHTER) I said, "Lord, what's the matter?" And she-- He said, "Ask her about her sex life."
RB:I-- it's hard to imagine the Lord--
PR:The-- the--
RB:--saying this to you--
PR:--the Lord say-- well He did. And I-- and I said-- "You know, please forgive me if I'm being personal, but tell me about your sex life." And she said, "I don't have any." And I said, "Well, I thought you had a wonderful marriage." And she said-- "I do, but I don't have any sex life."
And I said, "How long has that been going on?" And she said, "Two years." And I said-- "And that's when your asthma started, isn't it?" And she said, "Yes." And I said, "Well it's obvious that you're blaming yourself-- for this condition. What's the problem?" And she said, "My husband's impotent."
And I said, "You think it's your fault." And she said, "Yes. It's-- I think it's my fault." And I said, "Well it isn't your fault. And it may be that he's working too hard. He may be having a physical impairment. But-- there's something in his life, that this isn't your fault." And she said, "It's not?"
I said, "Absolutely not." And I said, "Okay, now let's pray for your asthma. And she said, "Okay." And we prayed. And God healed her asthma just like that. And--
RB: You-- you know that--
PR: There's--
RB: --that's a tough one for people to swallow.[H&O: Oh no she di'int!]
PR: I was there. My wife was the witness. And thank goodness she was there. I never woulda done this otherwise. But that woman went on her ma-- her way rejoicing. And it took maybe max, 10 minutes.
PR: And-- and-- whereas if I was a psychologist, I could've had her on the couch for you know, a year and a half and not gotten to the root of the cause. Or if these women thought she was demon possessed, and the doctor says she's got asthma 'cause she prays with nuns. They were all wrong. (LAUGHTER) But the Lord knew what her problem was. He's (UNINTEL PHRASE) about even the most intimate details of our lives. And I think that's what's so very important.
Go watch/read the whole interview here :) Hat tip to Rachel Maddow.

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Haditha heart-of-darkness: 3 Marines "relieved" of duty

I can't believe this didn't make big-huge news. Oh wait...yes I can. "3 U.S. commanders relieved of duty as Iraqi town mourns its dead," By Nancy A. Youssef, Knight Ridder Newspapers, Posted on Sat, Apr. 08, 2006
HADITHA, Iraq - In the middle of methodically recalling the day his brother's family was killed, Yaseen's monotone voice and stream of tears suddenly stopped. He looked up, paused and pleaded: "Please don't let me say anything that will get me killed by the Americans. My family can't handle any more."
The story of what happened to Yaseen and his brother Younes' family has redefined Haditha's relationship with the Marines who patrol it. On Nov. 19, a roadside bomb struck a Humvee on Haditha's main road, killing one Marine and injuring two others.
The Marines say they took heavy gunfire afterwards and thought it was coming from the area around Younes' house. They went to investigate, and 23 people were killed.
Eight were from Younes' family. The only survivor, Younes' 13-year-old daughter, said her family wasn't shooting at Marines or harboring extremists that morning. They were sleeping when the bomb exploded. And when the Marines entered their house, she said, they shot at everyone inside.
And the Marines' account of the incident?
The Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) began an investigation in February after a Time Magazine reporter passed on accounts he had received about the incident. A second investigation was opened into how the Marines initially reported the killings - the Marines said that 15 people were killed by the roadside explosion and that eight insurgents were killed in subsequent combat.
Three of these Marines have been "relieved of duty." Of course, there's no connection...
The Marines' announcement didn't tie the disciplinary actions directly to Haditha, saying only that Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, had lost confidence in the officers' ability to command.
So how do the citizens of Haditha feel about the Americans now?
Indeed, many in this town, whose residents are stuck in the battle between extremists and the Americans, said now it is the U.S. military they fear most.
"The mujahadeen (holy warriors) will kill you if you stand against them or say anything against them. And the Americans will kill you if the mujahadeen attack them several kilometers away," said Mohammed al-Hadithi, 32, a barber who lives in neighboring Haqlania. With a cigarette between his fingers, he pointed at a Marine patrol as it passed in front of his shop. "I look at each of them, and I see killers."
The 1st person account of the massacre is the worst part: I can't imagine how horrifying this was:
Yaseen said he and his brother's family were asleep in their houses about 100 yards away when the explosion woke them. Minutes later, they heard the Marines blocking off the road.
Yaseen, citing [his niece] Safa's account, said Younes started to prepare the family for the search they knew was coming, separating the men from the women and the children, as is custom during searches.
Younes moved his five children and sister-in-law into the bedroom, Yaseen said Safa told him. There, his wife was lying in bed, recovering from an appendectomy. They waited.
The Marines moved into another house first, according to U.S. officials. In that house, the Marines saw a line of closed doors and thought an ambush was coming. They shot, and seven people inside were killed, including one child. Two other children who stayed in the house survived. A woman who ran out with her baby also survived, military officials said.
Yaseen said Safa told him that her father heard something so he went to the front of the house. Seconds later, Safa said she heard several gunshots. She didn't know it at the time, but her father was dying. Four Marines then moved into the bedroom, where some of her sisters were standing at their mother's bedside, hugging her.
Yassen said Safa told him that one Marine started yelling at them in English, but that they didn't understand what he was saying. The women and children started screaming in fear, which Yaseen could hear from next door. This went on for several minutes, he said.
He said he never heard gunshots, only a long sudden silence.
Desperate, he tried to get next door and find out what happened, but Marines wouldn't let him pass.
"The waiting was killing me," Yaseen said. "We didn't know what happened."
Three hours later, someone knocked at Yaseen's door. He could hear a young voice wheezing and sobbing on the other side. It was Safa, covered in blood and dirt. Yaseen said he couldn't remember what she was wearing; he only saw the blood.
The family was dead, Safa told Yaseen.
Yaseen's wife cleaned Safa up while Yaseen prepared a white flag. Marines were still blocking the area. Carrying the flag, Yaseen, his wife, and Safa ran 200 yards to another relative's house where they have stayed since.
Safa trembled as Yaseen told the story to a visitor. She tried to tell it herself, but she couldn't. "My father told us to gather in one room, so the Americans could search," she said. And then she started to cry.
Yaseen said that Safa told him that four soldiers came into the bedroom, but only one did the yelling. Her mother, who had heard the shooting asked: "What did you do to my husband?" Her sisters, mother and aunt were crying. And then the one soldier who had been yelling started shooting.
Frightened, Safa fainted. She thought she had died. When she awoke, she remembered seeing her mother still lying in bed. Her head was blown open. She looked around and heard her 3-year-old brother, Mohammed, moan in pain. The blood was pouring out of his right arm.
"Come on, Mohammed. Get up so we can go to uncle's house," she told her brother. But he couldn't.
In the same room where her mother, aunt and sisters lay dead, Safa grabbed the toddler, sat down and leaned his head against her shoulder. She put his arm against her chest and held it to try to stop the bleeding. She kept holding and talking to him until, like everyone else in the room, he too was silent. And then she ran next door.
[...]According to the death certificates, Younes died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest. His wife, who was lying in bed, died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head. The daughters were all shot in the chest. Mohammed bled to death.
Younes didn't have a weapon, military officials confirmed.

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Iraq, Iran, AIPAC & the Pentagon: Reading makes a country great!

Ow, ow, ow, my achin' head! I was listening to Steve Clemons the other night on Majority Report Radio and he got me thinkin'...and then readin'...
...and then came the achin' head. I'm so confused. Clemons was talking about the unfinished business of the AIPAC spy affair. If you're like me, you're having trouble keeping your scandals straight. So let's allow Prof. Juan Cole to refresh our memory. First: what's AIPAC?
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a lobbying group that used to support whatever government was in power in Israel, and used to give money evenhandedly inside the U.S.
In late August 2004, CBS News reported that a member of the Sec. Defense's office (Pentagon) secretly passed on White House plans for Iran to AIPAC. The Defense Dept. official? One Lawrence Franklin. He plead guilty to passing information to AIPAC...a particularly good move, considering FBI had just raided his office. Who's Larry Franklin? Back to Juan Cole for some background (the password is: "Iran")...
Franklin is a reserve Air Force colonel and former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst. He was an attaché at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv at one point, which some might now see as suspicious. After the Cold War ended, Franklin became concerned with Iran as a threat to Israel and the U.S., and learned a little Persian (not very much – I met him once at a conference and he could only manage a few halting phrases of Persian).
[...]Franklin moved over to the Pentagon from DIA, where he became the Iran expert, working for Bill Luti and Undersecretary of Defense for Planning, Douglas Feith. He was the "go-to" person on Iran for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and for Feith. This situation is pretty tragic, since Franklin is not a real Iranist. His main brief appears to have been to find ways to push a policy of overthrowing its government (apparently once Iraq had been taken care of). This project has been pushed by the shadowy eminence grise Michael Ledeen for many years, and Franklin coordinated with Ledeen in some way.
Here's where my head started to ache: Steve Clemons reminded me of the shadowy business in 2004--just after the Franklin/AIPAC story broke--where Ahmed Chalabi's INC office in Iraq was raided by CIA. Clemons talked about the Josh Marshall/Laura Rozen blockbuster piece connecting Franklin, Chalabi, Ledeen et al. to those old Iran Contra felons. Luckily (?!) I had bookmarked their 2004 piece: "Iran Contra II?" (Washington Monthly, Sept 2004)
Franklin, along with another colleague from Feith's office, a polyglot Middle East expert named Harold Rhode, were the two officials involved in the back-channel, which involved on-going meetings and contacts with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials. Ghorbanifar is a storied figure who played a key role in embroiling the Reagan administration in the Iran-Contra affair. The meetings were both a conduit for intelligence about Iran and Iraq and part of a bitter administration power-struggle pitting officials at DoD who have been pushing for a hard-line policy of "regime change" in Iran, against other officials at the State Department and the CIA who have been counseling a more cautious approach.
[...]the DoD-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a "regime change" agenda not approved by the president's foreign policy principals or even the president himself.
Now here's where it really strains the ol' noodle: the Italian connection. Remember the Niger forgeries? SISMI? All that jazz?
The first meeting occurred in Rome in December, 2001. It included Franklin, Rhode, and another American, the neoconservative writer and operative Michael Ledeen, who organized the meeting. [...]The Washington Monthly has also learned from U.S. government sources that Nicolo Pollari, the head of Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, attended the meetings, as did the Italian Minister of Defense Antonio Martino, who is well-known in neoconservative circles in Washington.
So where the fuck's Congress in all of this? Well, they got wind of it...
By the summer of 2003, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had begun to get wind of the Ghorbanifar-Ledeen-DoD back-channel and made inquiries at the CIA. A month later, Newsday broke the original story about the secret Ghorbanifar channel. Faced with the disclosure, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld acknowledged the December 2001 meeting but dismissed it as routine and unimportant.
Remember how the Senate Intell. Cmtte. was supposed to report on "Phase II" of the Iraq intelligence manipulation? And how they put it all off until after the November 2004 Presidential elections? Yeah. Of course you remember. Breaks your fuckin heart, don't it?
Over the last year [2003/4], the Senate Intelligence Committee has conducted limited inquiry into the meetings, including interviews with Feith and Ledeen. But under terms of a compromise agreed to by both parties, a full investigation into the matter was put off until after the November election. Republicans on the committee, many of whom sympathize with the "regime change" agenda at DoD, have been resistant to such investigations, calling them an election-year fishing expedition. Democrats, by contrast, see such investigations as vital to understanding the central role Feith's office may have played in a range of a dubious intelligence enterprises, from pushing claims about a supposed Saddam-al Qaeda partnership and overblown estimates of alleged Iraqi stocks of WMD to what the committee's ranking minority member Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) calls "the Chalabi factor" (Rhode and others in Feith's office have been major sponsors of the Iraqi exile leader, who is now under investigation for passing U.S. intelligence to Iran).
Oh. right. "the Chalabi factor." Back to him: "Chalabi Aides Suspected of Spying for Iran" [WaPo, May 22, 2004]
Members of the political organization headed by Ahmed Chalabi are suspected of providing information to Iran on U.S. troop positions in Iraq and of kidnapping a prominent physician from his home, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials familiar with three investigations into a group the Bush administration once favored to run postwar Iraq.
[...]The inquiries are focusing on allegations of corruption, kidnapping and robbery, and on a U.S. suspicion that one of Chalabi's closest advisers is a paid agent of the Iranian intelligence service, according to U.S., INC and Iraqi police officials. The adviser, Aras Habib, has a long working relationship with the Defense Intelligence Agency and is now a fugitive.
Aras Habib...ding ding ding ding!!!! Steve Clemons talked about him too...
We would not have suspected Franklin, in my view, if he was not quite visibly engaged in relationship building with an oddball roster of players in the Middle East. Douglas Feith, in my view, had created a culture where this exchange of information, including quid pro quo deals, were part of the way he and his team operated. After all, Feith -- who had deep and broad relationships with the senior echelon of Israel's defense and intelligence bureaucracies -- had also housed the Iraqi National Congress in his pre-DoD legal office. Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress Chief of Intelligence Aras Karim Habib was apparently a sieve of information from Feith's activities and operation to Iranian intelligence.
In fact, one interesting question that few have seriously explored is whether Iran, Israel, Turkey and Chalabi were essentially colluding via Douglas Feith's operation for some time -- both before Feith went into government and after. (I will be writing more about this in a future post.)
NOTE: the link provided above was to Josh Marshall's TPM post on Habib: Marshall references a 1998 NYT article about the INS detention of Iraqi National Congress members on "secret evidence". Their lawyer? "former CIA Director James Woolsey, who was also a lobbyist for the INC."
Well fuck me...I don't know what to think of all of this. Tangled-mangled-new-world-order or Conspiracy Theory Rock?! As indicated above, Clemons promised to write more about this in the future. Yes! Yes, Steve Clemons! Write so we can read it! 'Cause reading makes a country great!
Ow, ow, ow, my achin' head. The cat & I are off to our sleeping basket now :(

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Niger forgeries & The Italian Job

The Timesonline's Michael Smith, revealer of all-things-Downing-St-Memoish, has published another blockbuster: 'Forgers' of key Iraq war contract named
TWO employees of the Niger embassy in Rome were responsible for the forgery of a notorious set of documents used to help justify the Iraq war, an official investigation has allegedly found.
According to Nato sources, the investigation has evidence that Niger’s consul and its ambassador’s personal assistant faked a contract to show Saddam Hussein had bought uranium ore from the impoverished west African country.
The documents, which emerged in 2002, were used in a US State Department fact sheet on Iraq’s weapons programme to build the case for war. They were denounced as forgeries by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) shortly before the 2003 invasion.
[...]According to the sources, an official investigation believes Adam Maiga Zakariaou, the consul, and Laura Montini, the ambassador’s assistant, known as La Signora, forged the papers for money.
They allegedly concocted their scheme as reports reached western intelligence agencies, including MI6, that Saddam Hussein had been trying to buy uranium ore, known as yellowcake, from Niger. The agencies had no evidence he had succeeded. The pair are alleged to have copied a real contract to look like an agreement with Iraq under which Niger would supply Saddam with 500 tons of yellowcake.
The story of the fake deal had begun with a meeting in a Rome bar in February 2000 set up by Antonio Nucera, an officer in the Sismi, the Italian intelligence agency, between two of his former agents, Rocco Martino and Montini.
However, unknown to the Sismi, Martino, a former policeman turned spy, had been working for the French intelligence service, the DGSE, since 1996. He was controlled by the DGSE head of station in Brussels, who paid him a retainer of between £1,050 and £1,400 a month.
You can read the rest here. Tip to for their advanced "headsup". If you're not bothered to read the whole thing, Josh Marshall has a summary at Also, feel free to visit my October 2005 posts if you would like more quick & dirty background on the CIA leak case & Niger documents or on the Italian connection/neo-con Michael Ledeen & the SISMI intelligence link. Remember: the timing of the release of these 'uranium from Africa' forgeries was crucial! They came out just before the Oct 2002 Senate vote on 'disarming' Saddam.

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Doctors, soldiers, and one suicidal cook: what happened to Jumah al-Dossari?

If an honest history is ever written about life at JTF GTMO, something tells me that Jumah al-Dossari's story will figure prominently. al-Dossari has attempted suicide more than any other prisoner at Guantanamo: at least 10 times. I first learned about him in an October 2005 WaPo story about suicide and hunger-striking at the prison. I wrote a bit about him--and the military whitewash of the desperate conditions there--in a piece called 'Dispatch from the War on Brains.' At the time, al-Dossari's lawyer, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan had just told WaPo about witnessing his client's suicide attempt (Oct 31, 2005 WaPo):
Jumah Dossari had to visit the restroom, so the detainee made a quick joke with his American lawyer before military police guards escorted him to a nearby cell with a toilet. The U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had taken quite a toll on Dossari over the past four years, but his attorney, who was there to discuss Dossari's federal court case, noted his good spirits and thought nothing of his bathroom break.
Minutes later, when Dossari did not return, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan knocked on the cell door, calling out his client's name. When he did not hear a response, Colangelo-Bryan stepped inside and saw a three-foot pool of blood on the floor. Numb, the lawyer looked up to see Dossari hanging unconscious from a noose tied to the ceiling, his eyes rolled back, his tongue and lips bulging, blood pouring from a gash in his right arm.
And now? WaPo reports that, sometime over the last few weeks, al-Dossari was discovered to have slashed his own throat. It is unknown whether he survived this latest attempt, since "officials have refused to answer any questions about his condition." His lawyer only found out about it from other lawyers:
The attorneys say other lawyers visiting clients at Guantanamo Bay in late March heard that Dossari had slit his throat and nearly died. Declassified notes obtained by Dossari attorney Joshua Colangelo-Bryan also record the suicide attempt.
Despite weeks of trying to determine Dossari's condition, Colangelo-Bryan said yesterday, he has not heard from the Justice Department, which represents the Pentagon in detainee matters. A Justice spokesman referred questions to the Defense Department.
"I'd like to know if he's alive," Colangelo-Bryan said. "I think it underscores the fact that the government does not believe that it has to play by any rules at all."
Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said yesterday that there has been one suicide attempt at the facility so far this year -- on March 11 -- and that the detainee is "clinically stable." But Durand would not identify him.
Apparently referring to Dossari, Durand noted that a single detainee accounts for 12 of the 39 suicide attempts at Guantanamo Bay since it opened in 2002. No detainee has died in custody there.
So why can't al-Dossari's own lawyer obtain critical information about his client's condition (you, "Hey, is my client alive?!")? Remember the "Detainee Treatment Act"? That incredibly fucked up 'compromise' sponsored by Senators Graham (R-SC) and Levin (D-Mich)? The one that denies GTMO inmates habeas corpus (ostensibly in "exchange" for not torturing prisoners). Well, today's WaPo indicates that this same Detainee Treatment Act serves as a barrier between lawyers and their clients:
Lawyers blame the Detainee Treatment Act, enacted a few months ago, for their lack of information about clients. The government has argued that the law severely limits access to federal courts for Guantanamo detainees, and hundreds of habeas corpus cases in U.S. courts have been held up while federal judges weigh the law's impact.
How did Jumah al-Dossari find himself in this desperate state? According to Josh White at WaPo, he was arrested "in late 2001, shortly before he was arrested at the Pakistani border.":
Before his trip to Afghanistan, Dossari lived in the United States on a visa and was an imam at a mosque in Bloomington, Ind., according to military records. Federal agents allege that Dossari was recruiting for al-Qaeda and left shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The only charges levied by the military relate to his allegedly being a cook for enemy forces at Tora Bora in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops fought a fierce battle with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001. Dossari denies being there or being an al-Qaeda member.
al-Dossari has documented his long, horrifying ordeal for us in a July 2005 letter--a suicide 'note'--in which he wrote about being kidnapped and sold to the Americans by the Pakistani military. After a gruelling series of beatings by Pakistani forces, al-Dossari goes on to describe the handover to American forces and his torture in Afghanistan (Kandahar and Bagram AFB) including brutal beatings, electroshock, extreme cold, starvation, stubbing cigarettes out on his wrist, defiling the Koran in waste-buckets and witnessing the sexual assault of an Afghan prisoner. And then: the packaging-off to GTMO...
The second stage in Kandahar, with its pain and affliction, had ended. I had spent two weeks there from the beginning to mid January, two [illegible] weeks, full of sadness, pain and torture, only to start a new stage of afflictions in American detention camps, a stage of organised torture. In this stage, it was not only the soldiers who tortured us but also the doctors, nurses, investigators, translators and officials. Each of them played their part in torturing us, physically and psychologically, and all of this in the name of the law. [...]It was then [at Guantanamo] that my suffering started.
al-Dossari goes on to describe unspeakable abuse by soldiers and medical staff. I should hasten to add that there are witnesses to at least some of these instances: videotapes and the testimony of U.S. military linguist Erik Saar ("Inside the Wire"). As for the medical staff and their alleged complicity in torture/abuse, please see: "The Experiment" (Jane Mayer, The New Yorker) and "Glimpses of Guantanamo - Medical Ethics and the War on Terror" (Susan Okie, M.D.; you can listen to Dr. Okie talk about her visit to GTMO at More recently, over 255 doctors wrote to The Lancet in protest of medical involvement in the abuse: "Forcefeeding and restraint of Guantanamo Bay hunger strikers" by David J Nicholl, Holly G Atkinson, John Kalk, William Hopkins, Elwyn Elias, Adnan Siddiqui, Ronald E Cranford, Oliver Sacks and on behalf of 255 other doctors (The Lancet, March 11, 2006 issue, subscription only):
...The World Medical Association specifically prohibits forcefeeding in the Declarations of Tokyo and Malta, to which the American Medical Association is a signatory.
Fundamental to doctors' responsibilities in attending a hunger striker is the recognition that prisoners have a right to refuse treatment. The UK government has respected this right even under very difficult circumstances and allowed Irish hunger strikers to die. Physicians do not have to agree with the prisoner, but they must respect their informed decision. Those breaching such guidelines should be held to account by their professional bodies.
...[John Edmondson, former commander of the hospital at Guantanamo] in a signed affidavit, stated that “the involuntary feeding was authorized through a lawful order of a higher military authority.” This defence, which has previously been described as the Nuremberg defence, is not defensible in law.

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Bunker busting: "Divine Strake"

From The Guardian's Julian Borger: "Pentagon plans record-breaking explosion in Nevada desert"
The Pentagon is preparing to set off a record-breaking bang, detonating 635 tonnes of high explosives and sending a mushroom cloud into the sky over the Nevada desert. The blast, on June 2, codenamed Divine Strake, is likely to be the biggest controlled conventional explosion in military history, experts said, and is designed to test the impact of bunker-busting bombs aimed at underground targets.
The blast comes at a time of rising tension with Iran over its nuclear programme. The US has refused to rule out military action and is considering the feasibility of destroying underground warhead development sites Iran is alleged to have built.
"We have several very large penetrators we're developing," James Tegnelia, head of the Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) told US defence reporters. "We also have - are you ready for this? - an explosively formed charge that we're going to be putting in a tunnel in Nevada ... and that represents to us the largest single explosive that we could imagine doing conventionally to solve that problem."
Aha. The WH doesn't want Iran to get dabomb so it 'asked' Congress to approve nuclear bunker-busting bombs to penetrate Iranian underground facilities. Too many ironies... must... not... let head explode!

Alas, poor Yorick did not get his new baby-nukes (just yet). These are ol' fashioned--just friggin huge mofo bombs:
The explosive used will be ammonium nitrate soaked in fuel oil - a cheap but potent combination. "I don't want to sound glib here but it is the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons," Mr Tegnelia said.
Ivan Oelrich, a munitions expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said: "I suspect this is primarily a test of their computer modelling abilities, because I don't know how they could deliver a weapon like this. They are looking at how different rocks respond to shockwaves."
The White House and the Pentagon wanted to develop a nuclear bunker-buster bomb, but the initiative was blocked by Congress, obliging the defence department to experiment further with conventional explosives.
FYI, the US has used so-called "bunker busters" (thermobaric) bombs in Afghanistan and has been waiting with blueballs to develop the nuclear variety since forever. Well, at least since March 2005's "Joint Publication 3-12: Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations." Check out this gem (pg. III-I, under "Preparation"; emphasis mine):
Responsible security planning requires preparation for threats that are possible, though perhaps unlikely today. The lessons of military history remain clear: unpredictable, irrational conflicts occur. Military forces must prepare to counter weapons and capabilities that exist or will exist in the near term even if no immediate likely scenarios for war are at hand. To maximize deterrence of WMD use, it is essential US forces prepare to use nuclear weapons effectively and that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use.

Read on, MacDuff!