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:: Friday, May 30, 2003 ::

Misquoting Wolfowitz

The Independent pulls a MoDo:
WMD just a convenient excuse for war, admits Wolfowitz

By David Usborne
30 May 2003

The Bush administration focused on alleged weapons of mass destruction as the primary justification for toppling Saddam Hussein by force because it was politically convenient, a top-level official at the Pentagon has acknowledged.

The extraordinary admission comes in an interview with Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defence Secretary, in the July issue of the magazine Vanity Fair.

Usborne goes on to cite a passage from the Vanity Fair interview in which Wolfowitz does say, "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." He concludes that the WMD argument was an "empty shell" and tries to spin Wolfowitz' "confession" into an admission that the administration's position was dishonest.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre doubted this interpretation yesterday, saying that he hadn't read the Vanity Fair article, but that he had read the interview transcript, and that "I'd have to say that that's not what he said."

Here is the transcript, and the entire exchange, complete with interruptions by a phone call, is as follows:
Q: Was that one of the arguments that was raised early on by you and others that Iraq actually does connect, not to connect the dots too much, but the relationship between Saudi Arabia, our troops being there, and bin Laden's rage about that, which he's built on so many years, also connects the World Trade Center attacks, that there's a logic of motive or something like that? Or does that read too much into --

Wolfowitz: No, I think it happens to be correct. The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but -- hold on one second --


Kellems: Sam there may be some value in clarity on the point that it may take years to get post-Saddam Iraq right. It can be easily misconstrued, especially when it comes to --

Wolfowitz: -- there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two. Sorry, hold on again.

Kellems: By the way, it's probably the longest uninterrupted phone conversation I've witnessed, so --

Q: This is extraordinary.

Kellems: You had good timing.

Q: I'm really grateful.

Wolfowitz: To wrap it up.

The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there's the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we've arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his UN presentation.

Not as egregious as the Forest Gump treatment of his statements by the Chronicle last year, but seems to me to be a pretty gross distortion.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:18 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 29, 2003 ::

Digging In Deeper

Robert Scheer is playing the martyr to the Pentagon propaganda machine over his column endorsing the BBC version of the PFC Lynch rescue:
It is one thing when the talk-show bullies who shamelessly smeared the last president, even as he attacked the training camps of Al Qaeda, now term it anti-American or even treasonous to dare criticize the Bush administration. When our Pentagon, however -- a $400-billion- a-year juggernaut -- savages individual journalists for questioning its version of events, it is worth noting.

Obviously, the right thing to do would have been to simply roll over and admit that they are lying bastards. Anything less is fascism!

Scheer doesn't simply say that his column was supported by the facts as he knew them. Like the BBC's Kampfner, he goes beyond saying that there are differing accounts of what happened during the rescue, but makes a clear judgement about who is telling the truth despite having nothing to verify either side. It used to be that when you called someone a liar, you bore the burden of proof. Not anymore. But Scheer adds even more disinformation to the mix:
Despite their current defensiveness, Clarke and other Pentagon honchos had to know that the [April 4 Washington Post] story attributed to U.S. officials was false because Lynch had at that point already been rescued and examined by U.S. military doctors, who found no evidence of a single gunshot wound, let alone multiple gunshot wounds. Yet they did nothing to challenge the Post story, which was carried worldwide and quickly became the main heroic propaganda myth of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

They had to have known? It may have been possible to ascertain that she had neither been shot nor stabbed just two days after the rescue (and several days and a few surgeries after the incident itself), but unlike Scheer, I'm not a doctor, so I won't make that assumption.

And on the question of whether the Pentagon did "nothing" to challenge the erroneous leaked report, here's paragraph four of Vernon Loeb and Susan Schmidt's story:
Several officials cautioned that the precise sequence of events is still being determined, and that further information will emerge as Lynch is debriefed. Reports thus far are based on battlefield intelligence, they said, which comes from monitored communications and from Iraqi sources in Nasiriyah whose reliability has yet to be assessed. Pentagon officials said they had heard "rumors" of Lynch's heroics but had no confirmation.

Clearly, if the Pentagon had known that the report was false, they could have done more than this to kill the story. But this caution could hardly be deemed nothing, and as the passage states, all they had to go on at that time was battlefield intelligence (no living eyewitnesses had been rescued at that point). So I don't know where Scheer gets this "had to have known" nonsense.

Regardless of whether the pentagon did enough to stop this erroneous report from seeing the light of day, Lanstuhl Army doctors had set the record straight long before the Toronto Star piece on which the BBC documentary -- and Scheer's own oped -- were based. But those whose livelihood depends on casting the military in the lying bastard role continue to portray these false initial reports as the "official government version."

Scheer continues:
Perhaps Clarke is frustrated that in the days since the BBC report, several major publications such as the Chicago Tribune and the London Daily Mail have independently verified much of the BBC's disturbing account of what the broadcasting corporation called "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived."

More nonsense. The Daily Mail story (no link) doesn't independently verify anything about those account, relying on exactly the same sources as the original Toronto Star/BBC story and adds no relevant details about the rescue at all. Scheer claims:
The Tribune's Monday story, for example, provided new details of how slickly a tale of derring-do was created, enhanced for television by that five-minute Pentagon-supplied night-vision video. The Tribune also added details supporting the BBC account that hospital staff members had placed Lynch in an ambulance and tried to deliver her to a U.S. checkpoint before being turned back by random American fire.

One has to wonder whether he bothered to read that story at all. For one thing, it actually casts serious doubt on the claim that the ambulance had been fired upon by Americans, as well as the notion that there was no Iraqi military presence in the area at the time of the rescue.

I'm not sure what "new details" about the slick derring-do he's talking about. The Tribune story does mention that yes, a campaign staffer was sent to run CENTCOM's media ops -- old news -- and that they had spent $250,000 on the sound stage -- also old news. Interestingly, the Trib does include new details about how the Defense Department had "tried very hard to tamp down a lot of the stories and speculation about [Lynch] and her circumstances." I guess Scheer skipped that part.

Again, it is true that -- as is usually the case -- initial reports reached the media that had turned out to be false. But there is not a shred of evidence that the pentagon either intentionally leaked nor recklessly allowed those stories to surface.

About the rescue itself, there is no "independent verification" of what happened. The military maintains that the rescuers received hostile fire from spots surrounding the hospital both before and after the rescue itself, while a handfull of Iraqi doctors -- and a waiter who was in his home at the time -- claim that the Iraqi military had fled.

If the military version is wrong, then someone is lying, but it is not out of the question that these Iraqi sources simply don't know what they're talking about. It's entirely possible that the bulk of the Iraqi forces had bailed, but left a few snipers and other paramilitary types behind to confront any Americans when they arrived. This happened in virtually every town we took during the war, so why would anyone -- anyone without an anti-American axe to grind, that is -- assume that the area was completely free of government types (except for the officer riding in the ambulance with Lynch, and that checkpoint where soldiers allegedly gave the officer a gun to kill Lynch)?

Sources like the hospital staff and this lone waiter aren't exactly unimpeachable authorities on the tactical situation on the ground, and even in mundane situations eyewitness accounts are often wrong. In other words, it would not take patent dishonesty on the part of these Iraqi witnesses to make their accounts false. It would only take ignorance, and a certain degree of that has already been established.

As I've said before, I do not consider reporters like Mitch Potter to be "anti-American" for reporting these contrary claims. But the BBC's Kamfner clearly made a judgement in his documentary as to whose version was true and whose wasn't, despite any independent evidence whatsoever. Later, he backpedaled from his ridiculous claim that CENTCOM had somehow known before hand that the operation would be a cakewalk, and now admits that the military should have presumed the worst (especially when one considers that it was probably that kind of hubris that led to the ambush of the 507th Ordance Maintenance Company to begin with).

Unlike Kampfner, Scheer doesn't even know when it's wise to retreat. While the questions about these revisionist accounts continue to mount, Scheer continues to dig himself deeper into a hole of nonsense:
Instead, eager to turn the war into a morality play between good and evil, the military used -- if not abused -- Lynch to put a heroic spin on an otherwise sorry tale of unjustified invasion.

Scheer says the "truth hurts," but demonstrates once again an uncanny ability to remain impervious to it.

UPDATE: Ugh, here we go again. The Lynch family held a press conference today, refusing to discuss the "news management" dispute. Here's how AP spins Greg Lynch's statements:
PALESTINE, W.Va. - American POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch's parents said Thursday they are not permitted to discuss details of their daughter's capture and rescue in Iraq.

It is true that Lynch did use the phrases "not supposed to" and "can't talk about that" during the press conference. A few seconds later, he said:
QUESTION: Who told you not to talk about this?

G. LYNCH: Nobody has told us not to talk about it. Our main concern is to get Jesse back on her feet in good health right now.

CNN's Bob Franken said later that he talked to Lynch after the press conference and he reiterated that no one had put a gag order on him. But in keeping with the whole "news management" meme, I don't think this is the last we'll hear of the allegation that DoD's spinmeisters are trying to silence anyone who dares question their version of history.

You heard it here first. Er, unless you were also listening to the press conference live, and paid better attention than this AP reporter.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:10 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, May 28, 2003 ::

He Can't Be Serious

And the RIchard Perle Award Hyperbole Award goes to:
If Dowd intentionally misrepresented the President's words, she is guilty of a journalistic offense much worse than Bragg's intern problem, or even Blair's fantasies.

Oh, please. The Times should run a correction, but if they fired columnists for sophistry, there'd be nothing left to read.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 5:33 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, May 27, 2003 ::

More Doubts About "Revisionist" Lynch Story

The latest from the Chicago Tribune (requires registration):
As U.S. forces began moving closer to the hospital, al-Houssona, the doctor, believed that Lynch's life was in serious jeopardy. He said at one point an intelligence officer ordered him to transfer her to another hospital, where he believed she might be killed, but he tried to stall.

Ambulance driver's view

Ultimately, Lynch was loaded into an ambulance and driven off by Sabah Khazaal, a hospital driver, and an Iraqi officer, the staff said. Soon afterward, at an Iraqi army checkpoint, another Iraqi gave the officer a gun and told him to shoot Lynch, but the officer refused, saying that was against Muslim belief, according to Khazaal.

Farther up the road, Khazaal said, the ambulance approached a U.S. Army checkpoint. The driver slowed down and turned on his ambulance lights, but then he heard gunfire, which he assumed was coming from the checkpoint, so he quickly turned around and returned to the hospital.

In its report, the BBC said that the ambulance came under direct fire from U.S. soldiers, "almost killing their prize catch by mistake." But interviewed Saturday by the Tribune, Khazaal said he had no evidence that the troops had aimed at the ambulance carrying Lynch.

In the two days leading up to April 1, the Iraqi paramilitaries fled the hospital as the city began to fall to U.S. forces. That night, another driver, Abdul-Hadi Hannoon, said he told Lynch he would drive her to the U.S. checkpoint in the morning.

About an hour later, just around midnight, the staff heard an explosion that knocked out the hospital's power. The rescue mission had begun.

Watching it all from a safe distance near his house was Hamoud, the hospital neighbor, who said an interpreter with the landing U.S. commandos approached him and asked if there were Iraqi fighters inside the hospital. Hamoud said there were not.

The allegation that the ambulance was shot at was attributed to al-Houssona in the BBC piece, but this version jibes with Col. Hunt's "lies" on Fox News.

Apart from that, this story raises more questions than it answers. In Potter's story, al-Houssona claimed that the Iraqi military had left the area two days prior to the raid. Why, then, was there an officer in the ambulance that allegedly tried to take Lynch to the Americans?

Military sources -- both official and unofficial -- continue to maintain that the rescue effort met armed resistance. I see no reason to doubt that given the growing discrepancies in the accounts by their detractors.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:21 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, May 26, 2003 ::

Memorial Day

No posting today.

UPDATE: I'll make an exception for this. In the spirit of the holiday, how about a modest donation to some soldiers and marines who lost their personal property in a fire that burned down three tents in an Undisclosed Middle Eastern Country™?
:: COINTELPRO Tool 2:02 PM [+] ::
:: Saturday, May 24, 2003 ::

Come On, Matt. Gloat!!

Virtually everyone has now linked to this story except for my blogfather, who has more right to say "I told you so" than any of us.

UPDATE: Looks like he has mentioned the story over at Hit & Run, asking aloud what -- if anything -- the propagandists will say now.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 5:07 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, May 23, 2003 ::


Bruce Rolston corrects a glaring error I made -- as it turns out, retired Col. David Hunt has alleged that there was a firefight within the hospital where PFC Lynch was held.

But on the question of how the U.S. media handled reports of Lynch's injuries, he now writes:
Herbert again says that, because there were a lot of stories in the first 48 hours that said Lynch had not been shot (in addition with dozens more that said she was), that therefore there was nothing new to report on Lynch's injuries by the time interviewers could get to the Nasariyah hospital. Of course, the first stories of the frenzy are always chaotic, but I think it's fair to say that the conventional wisdom in Americans' minds after the first couple days was that Lynch had been shot, either in captivity or while struggling valiantly, and that that was not definitively retracted until later.

He goes on to quote a People magazine from April 21 in which an Army doctor (with or without authorization from the Lynch family, I have no idea) saying that Lynch had after all, been shot.

Bruce's argument on this point has evolved considerably, to put it mildly. He initially said -- and this is what I thought I was responding to -- that if there had been any such retractions before May 8, he certainly missed them. That he did.

Version 2.0 of the argument was, OK, so maybe there was just one story (one, more than half a dozen -- whatever) that "corrected" the initial reports (I use the scare quotes, because we still don't know the "definitive" truth), but that this was insufficient, because:
Right-thinking.com said he remembered ALL the major news sources running stories saying she was, in fact, not shot, stories that ran before May 5.

Of course, we now know that Right-thinking.com's memory was indeed better than Bruce's. All of the major networks -- even Fox -- reported either the statement by Lynch's father, or the Landstuhl doctor, that said she had no bullet or stab wounds.

So now he sets the bar impossibly high: it's still not a "definitive" correction, apparently because the American media didn't treat the possibly erroneous initial reports the way they have treated the Jayson Blair scandal. This is indeed unfair and unreasonable. As Richard Cohen notes this morning, the press never invites a commensurate amount of attention to its corrections as it does to the mistakes they correct.

And in this case, the follow-up reporting has been as "definitive" as it possibly can be. Potter and Gilmore didn't "definitively" set the record straight, either. They merely found Iraqis who contradicted earlier accounts. We still do not know how much -- if any -- of their version of events is accurate, although I will say that their stories were responsible and innuendo-free, unlike Kampfner's propaganda. I think it's unfair to lump Potter/Gilmore in with the "most stunning piece of news management in history" idiots, as a lot of people on the right have. But at the same time, I think referring to their work as the gold standard on the Lynch rescue is a bit premature, to say the least.

I happen to think that Cohen is right to lead his column with the phrase "much of that may be false." I'm willing to wait for some hard evidence before making any "definitive" declarations on this story.

UPDATE: Bruce just doesn't get it. In his update to his last post, he largely evades my central point -- that the dust has not completely settled on the Lynch rescue, so we can't very well expect the press to draw definitive conclusions on what happened -- or didn't.

He maintains that his position on what happened during the rescue "hasn't changed all week." I never said that it did, but the record shows quite clearly that he made very specific accusations about how the rescue was covered that have come apart like a cheap suit. And when they did, he changed his argument midstream. Twice. First it was "they didn't correct their errors for over a month." Then it was "they may have run one story, but that isn't good enough." Now, he has set the bar even higher with his demand for a definitive retraction, when the press still only has access to hearsay. Please.

Then there's this:
Herbert talks about Jayson Blair. Well, fine... why hasn't FoxNews censured Hunt for telling complete lies on-air about the raid, or even corrected him?

Huh? How does Bruce know he's lying? His account differs from the "official story" coming from the pentagon -- which could have actually understated the severity of the battle -- as well as accounts from Iraqi doctors. When I offered the quote from BGEN Brooks' April 2 briefing that said there was no firefight inside the hospital, I did so only to challenge the accusation by the BBC that the Pentagon had overblown the operation. I did not suggest that official statements made mere hours after the operation were the final authority.

Hunt interviewed the SOF guys themselves, relayed their own account, and vouched for the truthfulness of individuals with whom he would trust his life. They could be wrong, and if it is established that they are wrong, I hope Fox will correct the record expeditiously. But "censure" Hunt for believing what he was told?

Ditto for the Post's Susan Schmidt (and Vernon Loeb, who I think is one of the best reporters on the beat). Their mistake was in running with information that someone improperly divulged before the incident had been completely investigated, rather than waiting to make sure those accounts were verified. I have no doubt that their report was "accurate" in the sense that it was what they were told. I also have no reason to doubt that their source believed the information to be true as well, but that they were perhaps too close to the action to be impartial -- kind of like those Iraqi doctors.

The important thing is that the story was corrected. Bruce asks:
Is yanking the story off the web and hiding it the only response we can expect from the Post?

I don't know, Bruce. An editorial by the paper's ombudsman detailing the mistakes made by Schmidt and Loeb isn't good enough for you? And I guess Richard Cohen didn't get the memo about never speaking of the incident again either.

Actually, the Schmidt/Loeb story hasn't been "yanked off the web" at all. It's available -- for a fee, like all Post archives over two weeks old -- right here.


And yes, Bill, Cohen's column from yesterday, finally giving his own paper its due criticism, is wholly different from that wishywashy earlier piece by the WashPost ombudsperson saying only that the facts could still be in doubt, and the Post was still standing by both stories in the meantime. The ombudsperson piece certainly doesn't "detail the mistakes," as you say: exactly the opposite, in fact.

Complete nonsense. From Getler's piece:
Schmidt and Loeb are experienced reporters, and there is no reason to doubt they were told what they reported, and by a source in whom they had confidence. They say it is certain that the descriptions they used are included in sensitive internal intelligence reporting about the rescue. The official silence about Lynch, they suggest, may be due to intelligence classification, possible war crime investigations or other issues.

The issue here is not Lynch, a courageous young soldier, but how that second-day story was handled.

Yes, Getler defended the actions of his reporters. Barring any real evidence that they were not told what they reported -- and no such evidence exists, I would have, too. And you know what? So did Cohen:
I take my own paper to task for the manner in which it reported the Lynch story not because anyone did anything unethical or wrong -- or, for that matter, different from what is done elsewhere. On the contrary, all involved did their jobs. The two reporters who wrote the original story may have been misled or misinformed by their sources in the military. They were only reporting what they had been told.

This sort of thing happens often. Journalists work on the fly, and so do the people we rely on for information. Maybe the Pentagon hyped the Lynch story. Maybe in the confusion of the rescue, some honest people in the Pentagon just got things wrong. Whatever the case, The Post seemed unable to simply say so. In no news story -- and certainly not on the front page -- did it say that the initial account might have been wrong. Only the paper's ombudsman, Michael Getler, was able to come straight out and say that the original account was suspect.[Emphasis added]

Cohen does go further than Getler in criticizing how the Post handled the story, but only in that the "corrections" were not labeled as such, and were featured far less prominently than the erroneous story. But the Getler piece actually goes into more detail about the mistakes of the reporters than did Cohen:
The fourth paragraph contained some cautions. "Several officials cautioned that the precise sequence of events is still being determined, and that further information will emerge as Lynch is debriefed. Reports thus far are based on battlefield intelligence, they said, which comes from monitored communications and from Iraqi sources in Nasiriyah whose reliability has yet to be assessed. Pentagon officials said they had heard 'rumors' of Lynch's heroics but had no confirmation." Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon spokeswoman, gave no specifics of Lynch's condition, the story said, other than that she was in good spirits.

Clearly, Loeb and Schmidt should have held onto the story until they had gotten some confirmation one way or another, but sadly, that kind of restraint rarely happens any more. But I don't doubt that they were reporting what they heard.

The issue of the rescue itself -- i.e., whether there was any resistance, or that the Iraqi military and fedayeen had fled two days prior -- is another matter entirely. Bruce still continues to refer to Col. David Hunt (ret.) "lying" on the air, even though he doesn't know that this is the case. In fact, he even engages in what psychologists call projection:
I find it interesting that faced with one of only two logically exclusive possibilities (A -- that an unnamed soldier had lied to Hunt; B -- that Hunt had lied on-air about what he'd heard), Bill automatically assumed the retired colonel on the tube was the truth-teller.

To say that I am the one making assumptions -- any assumptions -- is laughable. Unlike Bruce, I haven't made up my mind that the Hunt version is false and the version told to Potter and Gilmore by those doctors is the truth. I'm still holding out for a possible "C" -- that Hunt is right and the doctors are wrong (about the raid itself, not about Lynch's wounds). It's interesting that he can make such a categorical statement like "only two logically exclusive possibilities" and go on to accuse me of making assumptions.

I do think reporting the Iraqi doctors' version of events was the responsible thing to do, but I have doubts about just how much "value" their version adds to the story. Certainly, the ridiculous claim by Anmar Uday (not Harith Hassouna, as Bruce incorrectly claims) that the SOF rescuers were firing blanks calls the rest of his account into question. Bruce should stop talking as if he knows that the account given to Potter and Gilmore is the truth and that Hunt's statements were lies, because the truth is that he has no idea.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 12:19 PM [+] ::

More Statues Coming Down Every Day

From Newsday:
Baghdad - Throughout the 13 years of UN sanctions on Iraq that were ended yesterday, Iraqi doctors told the world that the sanctions were the sole cause for the rocketing mortality rate among Iraqi children.

"It is one of the results of the embargo," Dr. Ghassam Rashid Al-Baya told Newsday on May 9, 2001, at Baghdad's Ibn Al-Baladi hospital, just after a dehydrated baby named Ali Hussein died on his treatment table. "This is a crime on Iraq."

It was a scene repeated in hundreds of newspaper articles by reporters required to be escorted by minders from Saddam Hussein's Ministry of Information.

Now free to speak, the doctors at two Baghdad hospitals, including Ibn Al-Baladi, tell a very different story. Along with parents of dead children, they said in interviews this week that Hussein turned the children's deaths into propaganda, notably by forcing hospitals to save babies' corpses to have them publicly paraded.

All the evidence indicates that the spike in children's deaths was tragically real - roughly, a doubling of the mortality rate during the 1990s, according to humanitarian organizations. But the reason has been fiercely argued, and the new accounts by Iraqi doctors and parents will alter the debate.

Under the sanctions regime, "We had the ability to get all the drugs we needed," said Ibn Al-Baladi's chief resident, Dr. Hussein Shihab. "Instead of that, Saddam Hussein spent all the money on his military force and put all the fault on the USA. Yes, of course the sanctions hurt - but not too much, because we are a rich country and we have the ability to get everything we can by money. But instead, he spent it on his palaces."

As they say, read the whole thing.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 8:42 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 22, 2003 ::

Lynch Rescue Revisionism, Cont'd

Bruce Rolston responds to my last post on the Lynch rescue, specifically on the issue of when U.S. reporters corrected their initial reports about Lynch's injuries. I presume we're passed all the nonsense about the Pentagon having deliberately mislead the press, which was the BBC's central thesis.

Bruce writes:
For this story strikes me as good journalism. But is its lead really THAT different from the other, later print story people are condemning? ("Hollywood dazzle, with little need for real action?" How?) So is Richburg part of the anti-American "pile of odour" that Laughing Wolf saw, or not? The "deliberate smear campaign?"

As I've said before, the BBC sin is not that they reported on "revisionist" claims by Iraqi doctors. The smear campaign is that Kampfner alleged a) that the Pentagon had claimed that there was fighting inside the hospital, and b) that they had ever claimed that Lynch had been shot and/or stabbed (Kampfner continued to refer to this as the "official U.S. version" in his retraction that wasn't). I have demonstrated clearly that both these allegations, being central to the whole "one of the most stunning pieces of news managment ever conceived" thesis. That, Bruce, is what separates the reporting by Richburg from Kampfner's.

Bruce continues:
And if the Post had settled the truth for all time why, for instance, DIDN'T Fox News, for instance, get around to debunking its "Lynch-shot" stories until May 8? (I'd thought they were just three days behind, but it turns out it was nearly a month.) Right-thinking.com said he remembered ALL the major news sources running stories saying she was, in fact, not shot, stories that ran before May 5. So far, we've found one that did, then: still a ways to go on that one, to say the least.

Gosh, I don't remember ever defending Fox or Right-thinking.com. I merely pointed out that there were reports that Lynch had not been shot which ran much earlier than May 5 (Bruce said he couldn't find any before May 8). And he apparently didn't read my last post thoroughly: I found a total of three such stories on April 4 (two if you discount the plagiarized Jayson Blair story in NYT, but I consider NYT, Washington Post, and LA Times all on the same day to be pretty thorough). These are in addition to the "one," which was Richburg's April 14 (on-line post date -- it appeared in the April 15 print edition, according to Lexis-Nexis).

To be honest, I hadn't even checked the networks, but will do so now. I realize using Lexis-Nexis vice the networks' own Web sites is cheating a bit, but frankly I don't have the patience for their broke-ass search engines. From ABC News' Good Morning America, April 4:

Well, we want to bring you the news now, the latest this morning on Private Jessica Lynch. As we said, it's been confirmed she was not shot, she was not stabbed. Doctors are tending her wounds, which include two broken legs, a broken arm, a fractured disk.

CNN Live on Location, April 4:
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: An Iraqi man identified so far only as "Mohammed" is being described by U.S. Marines as a hero, and is being granted refugee status. The reason, he helped plan the rescue this week of Army Private First Class Jessica Lynch.

Lynch's doctors confirmed today what her parents said yesterday, that she was not shot or stabbed, as previously reported. She is recovering in Germany from fractures, including in both her legs.

I do not know if the doc at Landstuhl got permission from the family to "confirm" this, which would certainly be required. From NBC Today, April 4:
COURIC: You must have been quite relieved, Mr. Lynch, when you heard that--that your daughter had not been shot or stabbed. Obviously, you're quite concerned, and I know she has some surgeries to go, but were you--were you relieved when you got that news?

Mr. LYNCH: Yes, ma'am. We was. Because, you know, gunshot wounds is very--very bad even if they're not in a vital part. You can get a lot of bad infections out of them. So that--the gunshot wounds and--and knife stabbing, we was greatly relieved when we heard there was none.

And finally ... (wait for it) Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume, April 4:
DAVID LEE MILLER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: ... And as for Jessie Lynch, U. S. officials say she is expected to make a full recovery. But exactly how she was injured is still not entirely clear.


CMDR. DAVID RUBENSTEIN, LANDSTUHL HOSPITAL: While the mechanism of injury is still unclear at this point, the most recent evaluations by our staff do not suggest that any of her wounds were caused by either gunshots or stabbing injuries. She was not stabbed, she was not shot.

Despite the weasel words, Fox did report the correct information.

Finally, Bruce notes:
Col. David Hunt (retd.) was on Fox News saying he knew for a fact the stuff about no fighting in the hospital was crap. So, was he wrong, then?

Gee, I don't know. For one thing, the Media Research Center piece quotes Hunt only as saying that "there were 25 to 30 guys, armed, both fedayeen and army, Iraqi military outside and inside the hospital." He does not specifically allege, as Bruce suggests, that there was fighting inside the hospital (CENTCOM had stated on April 2 that there was no gunfire inside the hospital), unless you consider flex-cuffing the hospital staff a fight.

Hunt does maintain that the rescuers "took" the hospital, assaulting it from the outside, which is consistent with BGEN Brooks' statement that there was a firefight outside the hospital but not inside. This does directly conflict with the Iraqi doctors' contention that all Iraqi forces had left the area two days prior.

I don't know who is telling the truth here, and neither does Bruce. But there is something else Hunt said on Fox's O'Reilly Factor on May 20 that I think is quite telling:
O'REILLY: Right, we know that. Their [Robert Scheer and the BBC's] credibility is suspect. Now, you did your own reporting her. You're not just taking the Pentagon's word for it, right.

HUNT: I haven't talked to anybody in the Pentagon. I talked to the guys who were on the raid. I talked to a guy who was number one guy in the door. I talked to guys I served with in Bosnia, who I -- we trust each other, and we saved each other's lives. I know these guys personally. I talked to the guys who were there. I did not talk to the Pentagon.

So much for "news management."

UPDATE: On the other hand, Wilbur Smith reveals what really happened:
“Sir, shall I fire a warning shot?”
“Not yet, soldier. I have a Pentagon spinmeister on the satellite phone, calling from Qatar. He can see into the back of the van using secret satellite technology that we are not cleared for. He’s about to confirm we should fire on the ambulance, in the hope it will survive, return it’s passenger unharmed to a hospital that the Iraqi military abandoned this morning, and there the passenger will await us staging a rescue with blank ammunition for the cameras.”
“That’s great sir.”

They are so busted.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:45 PM [+] ::

Stupidity, Undeterred

Now that she no longer has an incumbency to protect, Cynthia McKinney has decided to stop censoring herself, letting loose with mind-numbing dementia in her commencement address to UC-Berkeley African studies graduates:
I wondered out loud why Tupac was murdered and why we don't have any clues as to who did it.

But understanding how the Black Panthers were targeted in their heyday, I wondered if the fact that Tupac's mom was a Black Panther and his father figure a black activist contributed to certain death threats against Tupac's life that were being investigated by the FBI. So I decided to have a Hip Hop event in Georgia and one in DC to explore these and other issues of Hip Hop as a political movement--infiltrated and cut short.

As an amusing (and, more importantly, self serving) anecdote, I'm reminded of an e-mail a reader sent me after her sound defeat in the primary election in Georgia's 4th District last year.

Now that she had been defeated, I was asked, would I change the name of my conspiracy theory blog, mckinneysucks.blogspot.com? My reply was something along the lines of "of course not. Just because she's no longer in office doesn't mean she no longer sucks."
[Via Damian Penny]

UPDATE: McKinney also mentions the *yawn* Grand PNAC Conspiracy:
And I will end with this: On page 60 of The Project for a New Century report, Rebuilding America's Defenses, the author writes:

"[A]dvanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool."

Now, I don't know what they meant by that bit of advice. But I do know that such research has been conducted already, according to news reports, in Israel and in apartheid South Africa.

Just for shits & giggles I checked the PNAC report itself. Here is, ah, a bit more context of that passage:
Space itself will become a theater of war, as nations gain access to space capabilities and come to rely on them; further, the distinction between military and commercial space systems -- combatants and noncombatants -- will become blurred. Information systems will become an important focus of attack, particularly for U.S. enemies seeking to short-circuit sophisticated American forces. And advanced forms of biological warfare that can "target" specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.

this is merely a glimpse of the possibilities inherent in the process of transformation, not a precise prediction.[Emphasis added]

Clearly, this passage is a warning of the kinds threats and challenges we will face in this process, and not a "bit of advice."
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:19 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 ::

More Thoughts on Lynch

Bruce Rolston's comments are getting more ridiculous on this. He had suggested that bloggers are making a big to-do about this because it's a chance to beat up on the BBC, but his own comments seem as if he's defending the revisionist version of the Lynch rescue because two Toronto Star reporters "broke" that story -- which, actually, isn't true either. The Washington Post ran a story with the same allegation -- that there was really no resistance to the SOF team that rescued Lynch -- by Keith B. Richburg on April 15 ("Iraqis Say Lynch Raid Faced No Resistance," p. A17), some three weeks before the Mitch Potter story he crowed about.

Then there's this:
Glenn cites Right-thinking.com, which claims, without evidence, that all the erroneous stories about Lynch having been shot had already been properly retracted by mainstream media, so the BBC didn't have anything new to say. Funny, I must have missed those retractions... and they must not have made it to the websites, either. For instance, on the Fox news site, the first story that explicitly states that Lynch was not shot is dated May 8... three days after the Potter/Gilmore story appeared. Other sites are similar. So Potter and Gilmore did have a scoop of sorts, it seems.

Two fundamental problems with this passage. First, the notion that the earlier stories about Lynch having gunshot wounds should have been "properly retracted" begs the question -- there is still no confirmation of whether the initial reports were true or false. As I noted before, it is against the law for military spokespeople to give specifics on injuries. Period.

Second, there were indeed a number of stories that "explicitly" stated that she had not been shot much earlier than May 8. The Los Angeles Times reported on April 4 that Lynch's parents were denying that she had bullet wounds. The New York Times -- under Jayson Blair's byline, no less, reported the same thing on that day, as did the Washington Post. The story got murkier, however, when Newsday's Craig Gordon reported on April 6 ("Anxious Moments; More details of POW's rescue," p. A06) that Lynch's mother Deadra corrected her husband, and said that doctor's did find "two entry and exit wounds consistent with small-caliber bullets."

Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler recounted the whole saga ("Reporting Private Lynch," April 15, p. B06) and included the following:
In stories by other Post reporters on April 6 from Doha, Qatar, and on April 13 and 14 from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, military briefing officers gave no information other than that Lynch looked good and was in satisfactory condition. There has been no statement by an authoritative U.S. or military official since Rubenstein's. On April 15, Post correspondent Keith B. Richburg reported from Nasiriyah, Iraq, that physicians at the hospital where Lynch was treated as a captive said she suffered fractures to her arms and lower limbs and a small skull wound. "There were no bullets or shrapnel or anything like that," they said.

The truth is that Potter, Gilmore, and Kampfner haven't shed any more light on the issue than any of these earlier reports. They simply added yet another account to the mix, which was no more authoritative than the previous ones -- and they "scooped" absolutely no one.

But all of this misses the point. The Kampfner allegation went far beyond trying to "set the record straight" on Lynch's injuries. He flatly accused the Pentagon of deliberately putting out false information. This, as I've pointed out before is just nonsense. If the Pentagon is at fault at all for the amount of confusion that has surrounded the Lynch rescue, it is in that they have been too reticent, refusing to arbitrate over these varying account. They may have milked the rescue for all the PR value they could get, but they in no way have engaged in "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived."

:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:42 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, May 20, 2003 ::

Uh, Sorry I Asked

My fiance found this response by an Indymedia administrator to the Ontario regional director of B'nai Brith Canada, who had the temerity to ask that a link to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion be removed from their site:
As you may know, all Indymedia sites use a system of "open publishing," meaning that any individual is free to post to the site without being subject to prior editorial controls. This innovation has been crucial to our organization's many successes in covering important news around the world.

I mean, where would we be today if we hadn't let that Brazilian student post a brazen lie about CNN using "ten year old footage" to portray Palestinians celebrating the September 11 attacks? Would you have even heard of us?
On the other hand, it is a policy which lends itself to abuse, and each IMC including www.indymedia.org has an editorial policy allowing for the removal of certain kinds of posts. Indeed, removing repugnant, anti-semitic posts from our site can often be a full-time job for IMC volunteers at many sites, including posts referring to the "learned elders of Zion."

Indeed? Well, yeah.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:07 PM [+] ::

It's Getting Lonely Here in Blogspotland

Damian Penny is the latest to go off the reservation ... and open his own damn casino.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:40 PM [+] ::

'Tis the Season ...

... for politicized commencement speeches. My insufficient credit hours to graduate spared me from this polemic, by CNN's Jo'burg Bureau Chief Charlayne Hunter Gault:
But I do hope that this momentous event that inserted itself into the finals weeks of this part of your formal education will form part of your memory bank, yielding some useful lessons for the future -- not least your need for good information, from both near and far.

I tried to make a contribution to that. Living as I do in a part of the world where most people had a view at odds with what the polls said was that of most Americans - i.e. supportive of the war- I thought it was an important part of my job as a journalist who makes an effort to provide good information to share those views with our international television audience and the reasons for them.

Here, memory also played its part - not mine, but theirs?the memory of South Africa's history of colonialism and white domination. That was more on their minds than the possibility that the people of Iraq might soon be rid of a murderous tyrant.

Listen to none other than the distinguished Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Desmond Tutu. He said: "It's a kind of deja vu. Where white people were always able to tell us what they thought was good for us. The United States is saying 'we know what is good for the people of Iraq. And we're going to give them that. That is sad," he added.

Likewise, it was memory of a painful, oppressive past that drove an award-winning Talk Show host, celebrated for his balance, to tip it?Tipped, it seems, by memory. He told me:

"I think many South Africans, given their experience are opposed to the colonization of Iraq."

I asked the South African Talk Show host if this passionate anti-Americansim in South Africa extended into ordinary Americans and was surprised by his answer. He said:

"I think it is Bush and his government more than anti-American. But unfortunately, it is being done in the name of America. So by extension, it is going to fuel an anti-American sentiment in time."

My effort at eliciting these comments was aimed - not at being provocative, but at insuring that the mix of news the global public was receiving was news that could be used. News to help those who were trying in earnest to sort out their feelings, attitudes and positions, not by pandering to popular or patriotic sentiment, but by opening a window on a layer of the multi-layered, elusive commodity called TRUTH -- seeking to reflect the reality of the space I inhabit and am responsible for interpreting, in the hope that it will provide my viewers with what they need to better understand the multiple realities in what is now and has been for some time a global neighborhood, though there has been a woeful reluctance in some quarters to accept that reality! [Emphasis added -- emphatically!]

Not nearly as egregious as the Hedges example, as she was not a war correspondent. But surely a bureau chief cares more about the appearance of objectivity than this.

She concluded her address by reciting an "anonymous" poem, which I am told is also a Lee Ann Womack song (definitely too good to check).

American University grads were also subjected to a full-blown treatise by JFK speechwriter and Stepford Husband Ted Sorenson. Sorenson has no such obligation to appear credible, but I can't imagine his delivery making this dry, step-by-step plan on how America can be right again any more enjoyable than it looks as pixels.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:34 PM [+] ::

Advantage -- Warren "Wilbur" Smith

BBC "reporter" John Kampfner is backpedaling (in the half-assed way indicative of the genre, of course) from some of his earlier claims about the PFC Lynch, and the specific references to firing blanks makes it pretty clear who deserves credit for debunking this nonsense.

Bruce Rolston, however, thinks we're making a bit much of this, seizing on an opportunity to bash the BBC:
What goes unrefuted (detailed in the more sober stories on this topic by the Star/Telegraph team that the BBC was scalping), and seems ever more clear with time, is that Lynch was in fact no longer in imminent danger, and the "rescue" was overdramatized somewhat in the official accounts, for obvious reasons. As Special Ops outings go, it was basically an unnecessarily robust walk in the park. What's still not known is how accurate the Americans' recce picture of the situation at the hospital was. It's fair to say, though, that they took no chances, and were probably prudent to do so. And then the army public affairs officer attached to the whole tableau did the best he could with what he was given.

Not exactly. Bruce is certainly correct that the firing blanks portion of the story does not by itself make this story a howler of Rainesian proportions. But Kampfner was definitely not, as Bruce puts it, "just repeating the allegation of an Iraqi doctor" on that point. He waved it around like a bloody shirt to condemn military "spin artists" as bald-faced liars. He did not "raise questions" -- as our conspiracy theory friends like to put it -- about the Lynch rescue story. He passed judgement on the veracity of the Pentagon's version of the story, based on the allegations of people who had an equally strong motive to lie.

Worse than Kampfner's uncritical acceptance of the Iraqi version of events (which reminds me of another British journalist, was his flagrant misrepresentation of what the military briefers have said about the case. From the Guardian story on Kampfner's documentary:
Releasing its five-minute film to the networks, the Pentagon claimed that Lynch had stab and bullet wounds, and that she had been slapped about on her hospital bed and interrogated.

Absolutely false. The pentagon was not the source of the inaccurate information -- if it even was inaccurate, as we still do not know -- about Lynch's wounds. From BGEN Brooks' April 2 briefing on the rescue:
GEN. BROOKS: I don't want to comment too specifically on her condition. The good news is she's alive. She's in coalition control and receiving appropriate medical attention and care and screening right now. And for her privacy, I won't go any further into that.

In fact, Kampfner is now trying to blame the Pentagon for speculations made by other reporters on the exact nature of Lynch's injuries. The truth is that it is against the law -- the Privacy Act, to be precise -- for military spokespeople to release information about personal injuries. Kampfner admits that DoD public affairs deputy Bryan Whitman would not "engage" these specifics, but still refers to the allegation that she had been shot and stabbed as "the official U.S. version." That is a lie.

On the issue of how much resistance the rescue team encountered:
They were said to have come under fire from inside and outside the building, but they made it to Lynch and whisked her away by helicopter.

Once again, from Brooks' briefing:
We were successful in that operation last night and did retrieve PFC Jessica Lynch, bringing her away from that location of danger, clearing the building of some of the military activity that was in there. There was not a fire fight inside of the building, I will tell you, but there were fire fights outside of the building, getting in and getting out.

So, what we have here is a violently incompetent reporter trying to blame the Pentagon Spin Machine for his own inability to discern facts from baseless speculations made by his collegues. And even worse, he has tried to use his own ignorance as a battering ram to pressure DoD to release information that would either be illegal (Lynch's injuries) or operationally stupid (the entire, unedited combat camera footage of the rescue operation).

And his shamelessness doesn't end there. It is one thing to chide military spokespeople for not being able to get accurate information out in a timely fashion. Kampfner went much further, offering the muddled details as evidence of a deliberate disinformation campaign:
The American strategy was to ensure the right television footage by using embedded reporters and images from their own cameras, editing the film themselves.

The Pentagon had been influenced by Hollywood producers of reality TV and action movies, notably the man behind Black Hawk Down, Jerry Bruckheimer.

There is no attribution for this passage -- it's Kampfner's narrative, and it is entirely baseless and without merit.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 3:41 PM [+] ::

Yet Another Staged Rescue of a Fallen Comrade!

This one is actually funny.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 12:48 AM [+] ::

This is So Dog-Bites-Man

Robert Fisk, filing stories from two datelines hundreds of miles apart on the same day? I'm *yawn* shocked.

Seriously, wake me up when he tops this:
Was it true, the Iraqi minister of information was asked at his daily 2pm press conference (11pm NZT) - a routine institution of usually deadly tedium - that the Americans were at the airport? "Rubbish!" he shouted. "Lies! Go and look for yourself." So we did. And, alas for the Anglo-American spokesmen in Doha and the US officer quoted on the BBC, the Iraqi minister was right and the Americans were wrong.

On second thought, have me cryogenically frozen, then wake me when he tops that.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 12:46 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, May 19, 2003 ::

Hey, What's This I Hear about a Neo-Con Conspiracy to Take Over the World?

Looks like the Beeb has finally picked up on this stale meme.

Stephen Pollard writes:
First, it got some of its basic facts wrong. Joshua Muravchik, for instance, who the viewer was led to believe is part of the great Jewish conspiracy - yes, we even got that one, the reporter stooping to the old trick of asking a question which, of course, he would never ask left to his own devices but which 'other people' want asked - is a committed Christian. But then since he has a yid name, that no doubt meant he had to be Jewish, I suppose. Second, when it interviewed opponents, it chose those who happily lie about what neocons believe and what they - we, I should say - want to see happen: the Deputy Syrian Ambassador and a spokesman from the Islam Institute, for instance, who clearly have no axe to grind in such matters. Third, it insisted that the neocons are a small, tightly knit bunch who have taken over US foreign policy and pulled off this astonishing trick effectivly in secret. They just happen to have written thousands of newspaper columns and appeared on thousands of TV years over many years putting forward their views.

Next week's topic: "How did the Americans allow looters to steal 17,000 artifacts from a Baghdad museum?
[Via Au Currant]
:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:14 PM [+] ::
:: Sunday, May 18, 2003 ::

BBC Report Shoots Blanks

Wilbur Smith offers a good critique of this BBC report that attempts to punch holes in the Official Story™ of the PFC Lynch rescue:
The BBC alleges that the rescue event was pretty much staged for the cameras, and that the American troops fired blank ammunition during the rescue in order to make things seem more dramatic for the benefit of the cameras.

"It was like a Hollywood film.” Said interviewed witness, Dr Anmar Uday, who worked at the hospital. “They cried 'go, go, go', with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show for the American attack on the hospital - action movies like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan."

The BBC has accepted this witness as reliable without cross examining his story.

Now, a few firearms facts for the uninitiated.

American troops use three main infantry weapons.

First, there is the M16A2, a modern derivative of the old Vietnam era M16.

Secondly, there is the M4 carbine, a shortened version of the M16, often used by special forces troops.

Third, there is the Minimi Light Machine Gun.

None of these weapons can be converted from firing blanks to live, or back again, in a speedy manner.

Blank ammunition, when fired in these three weapons, is not powerful enough to force the weapons mechanism through its full cycle of operations. Because there is no live projectile, the build up of gas in the barrel is much less. When the weapon fires, there is no way that the mechanism will re-cock and chamber a fresh round.

Fire a blank round, and the weapon will stop firing after the first round is expended.

As Wilbur correctly notes, troops use a blank firing attachment (BFA) to maintain enough pressure to recycle the weapon, and that these attachments are not readily removed. Hence, the SOF guys would have had to have been 100% certain they wouldn't encounter hostiles and need to use live ammo -- not something combat troops, even spec ops, generally do.

Wilbur also notes that BFA's would have been clearly visible on the rescuers' rifles, and does not recall seeing them in the video released by DoD. He's right about that. here is an AFRTS report with clips of the rescue interspersed, which shows their rifles without BFA's attached. I'll link to a longer, less edited version if I can find it.

But even without Wilbur's astute observations, one has to wonder why these correspondents would accept uncritically the testimony of these two witnesses as being inherently more valid than the U.S. version -- especially on matters well out of their expertise. How would they have known the rescuers were firing blanks? BGEN Brooks alleged in his press conference announcing the rescue (see the same clip that contains the rescue video) that the hospital where Lynch was found had stored large quantities of heavy ammunition, and was being used much more than a hospital.

I don't expect the media to accept such pronouncements at face value, but surely this suggests a motive by these two doctors to lie. Shouldn't their testimony be given the same level of skepticism as DoD spin doctors'?

Other parts of the BBC story are patently absurd:
The American strategy was to ensure the right television footage by using embedded reporters and images from their own cameras, editing the film themselves.

The Pentagon had been influenced by Hollywood producers of reality TV and action movies, notably the man behind Black Hawk Down, Jerry Bruckheimer.

Bruckheimer advised the Pentagon on the primetime television series "Profiles from the Front Line", that followed US forces in Afghanistan in 2001. That approached was taken on and developed on the field of battle in Iraq.

Oh, please. The U.S. military has had Combat Camera teams accompanying its operations since World War II. They perform a vital function, and their footage is much less embellished than that shot by independent journalists. Frankly, I don't think Bruckheimer would have been pleased with the lighting and camera angles of that rescue video at all.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 2:00 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, May 16, 2003 ::

Welcome, C-SPAN Viewers

All four of you!

Had I realized that Michael Rivero was going to be on (didn't catch the beginning), I would have waited to call in. In any event, you'll find all your conspiracy theory debunking needs here. I don't really specialize in Rivero-debunking, though. For that, I strongly recommend, Zach Cohen, Marduk and Damian Penny.

UPDATE: I have, however, written a bit about one of the arguments made by Rivero on C-SPAN -- that the invasion of Afghanistan had been planned in advance, and was even brought up in a July meeting in Berlin. I've recapped my arguments on this theory here.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 8:14 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 15, 2003 ::

First Jews For Jesus, Now This

Oh. My. G-d:

Mazel tov to 59-year-old Fox News star Geraldo Rivera -- who will wed his 28-year-old girlfriend, television producer Erica Levy, at New York's historic Central Synagogue on Aug. 10, The Post's Christine Haughney reports. "You can't be my age and getting married and not be an optimist," Rivera, the son of a Jewish mother and Puerto Rican father, told us yesterday. He noted that he had been to the altar four times previously and had four children to show for it. "I don't know, maybe there will be one more with Erica," he said. He added that "hundreds of people" -- including Bill and Hillary Clinton, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a top Palestinian official, the foreign minister of Afghanistan and various U.S. military commanders from Iraq -- have been invited to the Reform Jewish ceremony and the reception at the Four Seasons restaurant. "I was not only bar mitzvahed; I was confirmed. But this is actually my first 'church' wedding, as opposed to some hippie thing in a back yard," Rivera said. "I'm making a conscious decision to take this whole Judaism thing seriously. I think the Jews need me right now."

:: COINTELPRO Tool 8:14 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 ::

They Wouldn't Be That Spiteful, Would They?

Look who wants another 500,000 dead Iraqi babies:
After five years spent working to end the sanctions on Iraq, I find myself in an odd position. I'm opposed to the current U.S. plans to end the sanctions.

You see, the end cannot be allowed to justify the means, even when that end is the betterment of the Iraqi people. If the oil revenues assist the unilateral U.S. presence in establishing a "puppet government" -- which, according to this guy, has already been done in Afghanistan. I've heard a lot of people voice valid concerns about our having neglected the Afghans, but I'm not sure how to react to the suggestion that we're "dominating" Afghanistan by refusing to give ample assistance to our UNOCAL puppet -- then the people must starve!

Way to position yourself!

:: COINTELPRO Tool 7:21 PM [+] ::
:: Saturday, May 10, 2003 ::

Rachel Corrie Update

A while back I responded to this John Sutherland piece from the Guardian on the "demonisation" of Rachel Corrie by numerous bloggers -- a claim that was not without merit.

I remarked that Sutherland's comments about the infamous photo of Corrie burning a paper American flag as Palestinian children in Gaza watched were suspiciously similar to a conspiratorial piece from the anti-Semitic web site National Vanguard News, which was posted, as neo-Nazi screeds often are, at Indymedia. I had e-mailed Sutherland to verify whether this was the source of his information, but never heard from him.

Until now. I'm updating this now, because it appears Sutherland may never have received my e-mail, but did read my post, and responded in earnest (I know how annoying it is to be accused of "no responding" when you don't remember being asked to). As it turns out, he did indeed get his information on the "mysterious" photographer Khalil Hamra from Indymedia, and he admits that his claims were wrong.

I should also add that he seems quite reasonable, taking my critique seriously, but not defensively. I have to admit when I saw the name in my inbox, I was expecting a kind of "how dare you" condescension. I was pleasantly surprised that he was as interested in setting the record straight as I was. Journalism -- and the blogosphere -- could use more of that.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 1:23 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, May 09, 2003 ::

Top Gun Scandal Update

Today's Washington Post, Corrections, p. A02:
The headline on a May 8 article about President Bush's visit to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln incorrectly said the ship was delayed. The ship arrived at its scheduled time after waiting offshore for a day.

And in Dana Milbank's battered horse carcass, p. A06:
House Appropriations Committee Democrats allege Bush's trip delayed the return of the Lincoln by a day, costing $800,000 to $1 million in power, food and security. The White House and the Navy said the ship returned on schedule.

Even without the correction four pages earlier, this graf is as lame as they come, giving equal weight to those who know what they're talking about, and those who do not.

Milbank also takes issue with Ari Fleischer's assertion that the Viking flight that brought the president on board Lincoln cost only $7 more in hourly operating costs than Marine One:
That accounting, however, left out crucial elements. First, there were two Vikings in Bush's entourage. Then there were the four "COD" aircraft, the "carrier onboard delivery" planes that ferried Bush's staff and selected journalists to the USS Abraham Lincoln. In addition, Marine One flew to the ship anyway, separate from Bush's trip by Viking. Marine One, a backup and a third transport helicopter were all flown to the Lincoln to carry Bush and his entourage from the ship.

How pathetic. Milbank assumes that the COD flights would not have been made anyway, but the fact is that they are pretty routine. And since we're parsing over the details, Milbank's own accounting doesn't take into account that the flight hours for the Viking were taken out of training time, as are all distinguished visitor (DV) embarks flown by the Navy. Which, of course, makes this whole story nothing more than a circle jerk. Hope it's been good for Milbank and the other reporters who have essentially let John Conyers Jr. and Robert Byrd write their copy for them, because I can't say it's done a whole lot for the rest of us.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:18 AM [+] ::

Top Gun Scandal Update

Today's Washington Post, Corrections, p. A02:
The headline on a May 8 article about President Bush's visit to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln incorrectly said the ship was delayed. The ship arrived at its scheduled time after waiting offshore for a day.

And in Dana Milbank's battered horse carcass, p. A06:
House Appropriations Committee Democrats allege Bush's trip delayed the return of the Lincoln by a day, costing $800,000 to $1 million in power, food and security. The White House and the Navy said the ship returned on schedule.

Even without the correction four pages earlier, this graf is as lame as they come, giving equal weight to those who know what they're talking about, and those who do not.

Milbank also takes issue with Ari Fleischer's assertion that the Viking flight that brought the president on board Lincoln cost only $7 more in hourly operating costs than Marine One:
That accounting, however, left out crucial elements. First, there were two Vikings in Bush's entourage. Then there were the four "COD" aircraft, the "carrier onboard delivery" planes that ferried Bush's staff and selected journalists to the USS Abraham Lincoln. In addition, Marine One flew to the ship anyway, separate from Bush's trip by Viking. Marine One, a backup and a third transport helicopter were all flown to the Lincoln to carry Bush and his entourage from the ship.

How pathetic. Milbank assumes that the COD flights would not have been made anyway, but the fact is that they are pretty routine. And since we're parsing over the details, Milbank's own accounting doesn't take into account that the flight hours for the Viking were taken out of training time, as are all distinguished visitor (DV) embarks flown by the Navy. Which, of course, makes this whole story nothing more than a circle jerk. Hope it's been good for Milbank and the other reporters who have essentially let John Conyers Jr. and Robert Byrd write their copy for them, because I can't say it's done a whole lot for the rest of us.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:18 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 08, 2003 ::

The Bush AWOL Meme

I haven't spent much time researching this favorite smear of the Left against Bush -- that he was "unaccounted for" for a period of 18 months during his service in the Texas Air National Guard. For those of you who are interested, read this post and this post by Bill Hobbs.

Frankly, the issue has always struck me as dumb. As Hobbs notes, the only real "evidence" is the lack of evidence that he showed up for drills during that period. And as Hobbs also points out, there are valid reasons for such an absence in Reserve duty, and ways to make that time up.

But the thing that irritates me most about the argument is that I know from personal experience that such a lack of documentation doesn't prove a damned thing. Missing personnel evaluations (EVALS and FITREPS) are common, even in today's military. Admin weenies in the military are no more flawless than those who work at the DMV, believe me.

As I noted in an e-mail to Hobbs, the Navy's Bureau of Personnel sends messages out to the fleet once every advancement cycle, and before selection boards meet, listing individuals who are missing EVALS or FITREPS. The lists are huge, and create a lot of work for young division officers, who harangue their admin offices to make sure the evaluations are sent to the bureau stat.

It happened to me personally once, and I had to track down a former commanding officer (who, luckily for me, just happened to be in the same building I did at the time) to get a copy of a four-year-old FITREP to send to Memphis before the O-4 selection board met.

I can't imagine the Texas Air National Guard had their shit together moreso than our military HR people do today.

Also, if Bush was truly "AWOL" during this 18-month period, and never received any kind of court martial, or even a Non-judicial Punishment, what does that say about his chain of command?
:: COINTELPRO Tool 6:58 PM [+] ::

Mission Creep

:: COINTELPRO Tool 1:16 PM [+] ::

Blinded, or Just Blind?

Jonathan Chait, pretty much explaining my disillusionment with my fellow Liberals, in a nutshell:
Perhaps the most disheartening development of the war -- at home, anyway -- is the number of liberals who have allowed Bush-hatred to take the place of thinking. Speaking with otherwise perceptive people, I have seen the same intellectual tics come up time and time again: If Bush is for it, I'm against it. If Bush says it, it must be a lie.

This kind of pathetic cynicism has even led the Democrats to try to spin Bush's visit to USS Abraham Lincoln asinto something negative. Yesterday, Democrats alleged that the "photo op" cost the taxpayers between $800,000 to $1 million in operating costs for the aircraft carrier. Today's Washington Post headlines "Ship Carrying Bush Delayed Return:
Carrier That Spent Night off San Diego Could Have Gone Straight to Home Port."

The subhead is accurate -- the carrier certainly could have pulled into port some 18 hours earlier, and spoiling plans htat had been made weeks ago for a homecoming -- during daylight hours -- that was fitting for the ship's crew. The story goes on to mention that the arrival time and date had been set before the president's visit was even considered. That date did not change, so the Post's headline is simply a lie, as is the allegation that the delay that wasn't cost the taxpayers nearly $1 million.

Lincoln used the standard transit time from Pearl Harbor to San Diego -- five days. I don't know whether cutting that time by a day would have any impact on operating costs, though I can tell you from personal experience that on a conventional steam platform, fuel consumption would skyrocket. In any event, these transit times are not for th ship's commanding officer to decide.

So why did Lincoln end up loitering off the coast during the president's visit? Most likely, the ship was ordered to get a few hours ahead of schedule -- also not at all uncommon on Navy ships -- to avoid having to make the president fly out further than the 30 miles to meet the ship, in the event something were to happen to the plane, or accommodate any unexpected changes in Bush's schedule. Not that this has any bearing on the Democrats' allegations, because there was no delay in the ship's arrival.

But the most baffling part of this sniveling by clowns like Byrd and Waxman is the confidence they seem to have in that they are speaking for the Lincoln Sailors. Today's WSJ editorial suggests they need to get out of their "Washington echo chamber" a bit more, which secertainly seems to be the case.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:34 AM [+] ::

It Was Only a Matter of Time

A Sudanese editorial cartoon blaming the SARS epidemic on the Jeeeeeeeewwwwzzz.
[Via Damian Penny]
:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:44 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 ::

Our MacGyvers

"Iraq problems spark creative solutions"

VICTORY CAMP, Iraq — There is a story of a replacement engine pulley made from a Meals Ready to Eat box and duct tape.

There are others about a commandeered fuel truck and a fan belt made from a length of a parachute cord.

I once had to call an electrician after trying to replace the mounting for an overhead lighting fixture in my kitchen. Stories like this make me feel like a useless sissy.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 7:21 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, May 04, 2003 ::

What Belafonte Is Defending

I seem to have missed this story, from over a week ago:
Reporters Without Borders activists were beaten by staff of the Cuban embassy in Paris today when they chained themselves to the embassy railings in the presence of several prominent cultural figures to protest against the imprisonment of 26 journalists in Cuba.

A dozen Reporters Without Borders protesters were attacked by Cuban embassy staff today after the ambassador refused to accept a letter demanding the release of 26 journalists recently imprisoned for up to 27 years. Cuba has now overtaken Eritrea, Burma and China as the world's biggest prison for journalists.

After the refusal, the protesters chained shut the entrances to the embassy and handcuffed themselves to the railings outside. Embassy staff then beat up the organisation's secretary-general, Robert Ménard, and the head of its Latin America desk, Régis Bourgeat.

The demonstrators wore masks and t-shirts bearing pictures of the journalists and carried two banners, one reading "Cuba = prison" and the other showing a quote by one of the jailed journalists, Raúl Rivero, saying : "I don't plot, I write."

Among those who came to express support for the jailed journalists were Cuban writers Zoé Valdès and Eduardo Manet, Spanish playwright and filmmaker Fernando Arrabal, French film director Romain Goupil and French novelist Pascal Bruckner.

Reporters Without Borders also released a letter it sent on 18 April to French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, criticising France for not including in its policy towards Cuba the common stand adopted by the European Union (EU) making closer ties between the EU and Cuba conditional on allowing multiparty democracy and basic freedoms. It asked the minister to step up contacts with the dissidents and their families and give them more support. (Read the letter).

What does this say about the French, when even RSF is calling them appeasers?

UPDATE: No wonder I missed it -- Lexis-Nexis doesn't show any mention of this in U.S. media, and even the European wires were silent, with only a single story from AFP.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:29 PM [+] ::

Lonely at the Bottom

Ha'aretz reports that the Tel Aviv bombing by two of its "associates" has left ISM in disarray:
Reports that last week's two British suicide bombers, one of whom blew himself up at Mike's Place, entered Israel as activists in the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) has wreaked havoc with the group's self-confidence. Only three to six ISM members remain in Rafah.

One of the group said the peace activists are determined to continue their "passive resistance to the Israeli occupation," but others paint a different picture.

I thought Ha'aretz had broken its habit of labeling these brazen advocates of murdering Jews "resistance" as "peace activists," but I guess they're having a relapse.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 6:03 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, May 02, 2003 ::

DoD Issues Instructions for Military Tribunals

The eight instructions are here. Included are provisions for civilian counsel for the accused -- essentially they have to be eligible for a secret level security clearance.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 2:50 PM [+] ::

Finally, Peace for Vieques

Uh, not exactly:
VIEQUES - What began as a peaceful celebration of the official closing of the U.S. Navy target range quickly turned violent as protesters tore, destroyed, and set fire to everything in their path.

In a matter of minutes, the mob tore down the metal fence, destroyed the concrete structure that served as U.S. Camp Garcia’s entrance, and set fire to three military vehicles.

Chaos took over the scene and neither Gov. Sila Calderon nor Police Superintendent Victor Rivera were able to control it.

Rivera’s decision to drastically cut police presence in Vieques for the closing of the target range could have played against him as the less than 100 agents present at the site were not enough to handle the over 800 demonstrators.

"This has been a struggle of peace not of violence,” Calderon whined. Whatever.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:45 AM [+] ::

You Mean They're Not All Bloodthirsty Savages?

Charles Krauthammer on the "Shi-ite Menace":
Moreover, Shiism is not a hierarchical religion like Roman Catholicism. It is extremely decentralized. Among the Shiite majority itself are myriad ideological and political factions. Islamic scholar Hillel Fradkin points out that Khomeiniism -- the seizure of political power by clerics -- is contrary to centuries of Shiite tradition and thus alien and anathema to many Iraqi Shiites.

Does this mean that Jeffersonian democracy is guaranteed in Baghdad? Of course not. But the United States is in a position to bring about a unique and potentially revolutionary development in the Arab world: a genuinely pluralistic, open and free society.

Surely, no one will give Krauthammer credit for treating Shi'ite Iraqis like human beings, just as no one is crying racism over the media's attempt to paint an entire religious sect by its most extreme elements.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:18 AM [+] ::

But How Do They Feel about the BBC?

Tuesday's All Things Considered had yet another example of the self examination that the war in Iraq has caused in the Arab world (but to which their self-appointed advocates in the West seem largely impervious): "Mideast Pundits Critical of 'Al Jazeera-Like' News"

Also, some devious bastard posted this Dar al-Hayat piece on how Syria can best defend itself from American imperialist aggression over at Indymedia:
Syria must now reform under external pressure. Respect for the rule of law, the granting of political and economic freedoms, responsible government and greater accountability - these must surely be Syria's best defense lines at this critical time. President Bashar al-Assad came to power promising reform. He now deserves all possible support as he steers Syria through the dangers ahead.

Yeah, I know it was written by some guy with an infidel-soundng name, but they ran it.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 12:30 AM [+] ::

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