Friday, October 21, 2005

Terrifying Incompetence and Error 

Powell Aide Blasts Rice, Cheney- Rumsfeld 'Cabal'
by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - As top officials in the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney’s office await possible criminal indictments for their efforts to discredit a whistleblower, a top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Wednesday, accused a ''cabal'' led by Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld of hijacking U.S. foreign policy by circumventing or ignoring formal decision-making channels. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Powell’s chief of staff from 2001 to 2005 and when Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces during the administration of former president George H.W. Bush, also charged that, as national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice was ''part of the problem'' by not ensuring that the policy-making process was open to all relevant participants. ''In some cases, there was real dysfunctionality,'' said Wilkerson, who spoke at the New America Foundation, a prominent Washington think tank. ''But in most cases..., she (Rice) made a decision that she would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president.'' ''…the case that I saw for four-plus years,'' he said, ''was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardisations, and perturbations in the national-security (policy-making) process'', he added. ''What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.'' Wilkerson also stressed that the ''extremely powerful'' influence of what he called the ''Oval Office Cabal'' of Cheney and Rumsfeld, both former secretaries of defense with a long-standing personal and professional relationship, adding that both were members of the ''military-industrial complex'' that former President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation against in his 1961 Farewell Address. ''… don’t you think they aren’t among us today in a concentration of power that is just unparalleled'', he asked. Wilkerson’s remarks came as the administration is besieged by record-low approval ratings and anticipation that a special prosecutor will hand down indictments of top aides to both Bush and Cheney, including Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove, and Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, in connection with efforts to discredit retired ambassador Joseph Wilson. In July 2003, Wilson publicly challenged the administration’s pre-war depiction of Iraq’s alleged nuclear-weapons programme, and particularly its assertion that Baghdad had sought to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger, an assertion that Wilson himself investigated and rejected in early 2002 after traveling to Niger as part of a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) mission. White House officials, including Rove and Libby, told reporters that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA and played a role in selecting him for the mission. On Wednesday, Capitol Hill was rife with rumours that Cheney himself may also be indicted or resign over the scandal. They were given more credence by an anecdote recounted that Powell had told a prominent Republican senator that Cheney had become ''fixated'' on the relationship between Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, after he and Bush learned about it directly from Powell. Since his departure from the administration, Powell has declined to publicly criticise U.S. policy or his former cabinet colleagues. Until now, Wilkerson has also kept his counsel, although he publicly opposed John Bolton’s confirmation as UN ambassador. At that time, most analysts believed that Wilkerson reflected Powell’s private views on Bolton. That would not be surprising, as Wilkerson worked directly with or for Powell for some 16 years out of their 30-plus-year military and government careers. At the same time, Wilkerson said he had paid a ''high cost'' in his personal relationship with Powell for publicly speaking out. ''Wilkerson embodies Powell and (Powell’s deputy secretary of state, Richard) Armitage,'' who is also a retired military officer, Steve Clemons, who organised Wilkerson’s NAF appearance, told IPS. ''That’s how his remarks should be seen.'' If so, it appears that Powell and Armitage have little but disdain for Rice’s performance as national security adviser, although Wilkerson was more complimentary about her work at the State Department and the relative success she has enjoyed in steering U.S. policy in a less confrontational direction compared to the frustrations that dogged Powell. He attributed her success to several factors, including her ''intimacy with the president'' and the fact that the administration ''finds itself in some fairly desperate straits politically and otherwise.'' Most of his remarks, however, addressed what he described as national-security policy-making apparatus that was made dysfunctional by secrecy, compartmentalisation and distrust, as well as the machinations of the Cheney-Rumsfeld ''cabal.'' ''You’ve got this collegiality there between the secretary of defence and the vice president,'' he said. ''And then you’ve got a president who is not versed in international relations -- and not too much interested in them either. And so it’s not too difficult to make decisions in this, what I call the Oval Office Cabal, and decisions often that are the opposite of what you thought were made in the formal (decision-making) process.'' ''Why did we wait three years to talk to the North Koreans? Why did we wait four-plus years to at least back the EU-3 approach to Iran,''’ he asked. ''…the formal process …camouflaged the efficiency of the secret decision-making process. So we got into Iraq''. ''And then when the bureaucracy was presented with those decisions and carried them out, it was presented in such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out,'' he said. ''If you’re not prepared to stop the feuding elements in the bureaucracy as they carry out your decisions, you are courting disaster,'' he said. ''And I would say that we have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran.'' Wilkerson was particularly scathing about the former Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, Douglas Feith, citing Gen. Tommy Frank’s famous description of the neo-conservative ideologue as the ''fucking stupidest guy on the planet.'' ''Let me testify to that,'' he said. ''He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man. And yet, after the (Pentagon is given) control, at least in the immediate post-war period in Iraq, this many is put in charge. Not only is he put in charge, he is given carte blanche to tell the State Department to go screw themselves in a closet somewhere. …That’s telling you how decisions were made and …how things got accomplished.'' He also denounced the abuse of detainees and said Powell was particularly upset by it. ''Ten years from now, when we have the whole story, we are going to be ashamed,'' he said. ''This is not us. This is not the way we do business. I don’t think in our history we’ve ever had a presidential involvement, a secretarial involvement, a vice-presidential involvement, an attorney-general’s involvement in telling our troops essentially, Carte blanche is the way you should feel. You should not have any qualms because this is a different kind of conflict.'' ''You don’t have this kind of pervasive attitude out there unless you’ve condoned it,'' he said adding that ''it will take years to reverse the situation'' within the military. He said it was a ''concrete example'' of the result of the way the cabal worked. Wilkerson also contrasted Bush’s diplomacy very unfavourably with his father’s. Referring to Bush’s first meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, Wilkerson noted: ''When you put your feet up on a hassock and look at the man who’s won the Nobel Prize and is currently president of South Korea and tell him in a very insulting way that you don’t agree with his assessment of what is necessary to be reconciled with the North, that’s not diplomacy; that’s cowboyism.'' ''It’s very different when you walk in and find something you can be magnanimous about, that you can give him, that you can say he or she gets credit, that’s diplomacy. You don’t say, 'I’m the big mother on the block and everybody who’s not with me is against me.' That’s the difference between father and son.'' At the same time, Bush had been ''wonderful'' in ''put(ting) his foot down'' against a more-aggressive policy on North Korea, at one point saying, according to Wilkerson, ''I do not want a war on the Korean peninsula.'' ''That was very helpful, very helpful,'' said Wilkerson. ''It helped us fight off some less desirable results''. Cheney, he said, was a ''good executive'' as defence secretary under George H. W. Bush but appeared to change as a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks. ''I think (he) saw 9/11 and the potential for another 9/11 with nuclear weapons and suddenly became so fixated on that problem that it skewed his approach,'' Wilkerson said, adding that neither he nor Rumsfeld could be considered neo-conservatives. On Iraq, he said he was ''guardedly optimistic'' because ''we may have reached the point where we are actually listening to the Iraqis.'' U.S. troops will likely have to remain in Iraq for between five to eight years, however, because ''it is strategic in the sense that Vietnam was not.'' He predicted that a precipitous withdrawal ''without leav(ing) something behind we can trust, we will mobilize the nation, with five million men and women under arms to go back and take the Middle East within a decade,'' due to the U.S. dependence on the region’s energy sources. He disclosed that the Department’s policy planning bureau had a discussion about ''actually mounting an operation to take the oil fields in the Middle East, internationalise them under some sort of UN trusteeship and administer the revenues and the oil accordingly.''
Copyright © 2005 IPS-Inter Press Service

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sordid Dealers in Death 

Published on Sunday, October 9, 2005 by The Sunday Herald (Scotland)
From Factory to the Firing Line:
The Story of One Bullet
How do legally manufactured AK-47 bullets get into the hands of mercenaries and child soldiers?
Their journey tells us much about the modern world.

by David Pratt

THIS is the story of a journey; one that begins in a drab industrial complex, shifts to the splendour of luxury hotels and villas, then ricochets across oceans and continents before its final stage is played out in some beleaguered country. Though long and tortuous, it's a trip that invariably finishes swiftly - at roughly 700 metres per second - and its ultimate destination is death.
7.62x39mm copper-plated, steel-jacketed, high velocity cartridges for the famous AK-47 assault rifleThis is the story of a 7.62x39mm copper-plated, steel-jacketed, high velocity cartridge for the famous AK-47 assault rifle, the most commonly used bullet around the world. The new film Lord Of War - which stars Nicolas Cage as amoral but charismatic arms dealer Yuri Orlov - opens with a rapid-fire montage which tells the story of a bullet, from its birth in a manufacturing plant, to its fatal impact on a child soldier. But what's the real story behind the Hollywood device?
As a war reporter, I have often come across AK-47 cartridges. I've seen them stacked in foil-sealed wooden crates in the caves and jungle hideouts of rebel armies. I've watched fighters shoving them into their familiar 30-round curved box magazines, which in turn are slipped into khaki green canvas pouches strapped to the bodies of the gunmen for whom they are simply the stock in a deadly trade. Time and again I've been around when they were fired, the discarded empty casings tinkling to the ground then rolling underfoot in the dirt and sand of battlefields, murder scenes and massacres, from Bosnia to Iraq, Congo to Angola.
I've even fired them myself. The first time was in the 1980s, while travelling clandestinely as a reporter in the mountains of Afghanistan with mujahidin guerrillas fighting the Russian invaders of their country.
"Shoot, shoot, mister Daoud!" insisted the commander of my rebel hosts for the umpteenth time , as we rested in a remote craggy valley. With his holy warriors looking on, the commander slotted a full clip of the boat-tailed bullets into a Soviet-made AK-47 and thrust the weapon towards me. The time had long since passed for acceptable excuses about journalistic ethics and my non-combatant status.
Judging by the looks of the fighters around me, this had simply boiled down to an issue of initiation and acceptance; a very Afghan thing about loyalty and brotherhood. To refuse now would have made my presence at best uncomfortable, and at worst, untenable.
A battered plastic bottle was set up as a target. As I squeezed the trigger and the first rounds cracked against some rocks reasonably close to the bottle, the gawping bearded guerrillas who had clustered around began to grin. It wasn't a question of them ever expecting me to fire in earnest, just about passing some strange macho muster.
After only minutes of instruction, the ease with which I was able to handle the rifle was proof of the AK-47's reputation as a so-called "user-friendly" weapon. It's the firearm of choice among mercenary suppliers who know that those who end up shouldering this oddly toy-like weapon - which fires 600 rounds a minute, each powerful enough to punch a hole through a man's chest from 100 yards - will have had little or no proper military training. Put another way, it's ideal for everyone from Rwandan peasant farmers to Liberian schoolkids-turned-killers.
That afternoon, following my noisy initiation in the Hindu Kush mountains, I picked up a few of the dark copper-coloured shells that lay in the dust to keep as souvenirs. En route through Pakistan on my way home from Afghanistan, I suddenly decided to throw them away, ostensibly for fear of being pulled aside at airport security checks, but also because of some lurking guilt about coveting a trophy of violence. Pausing to drop them into a bin outside Islamabad airport, I couldn't help wondering where these bullets had first come from. How did these rounds make their way from a high-tech manufacturing plant to the war-torn wilds of Afghanistan ?
It was, of course, in Russia - Afghanistan's mighty former communist neighbour - that the AK-47 (Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947) rifle, and those eight-gram bullets , were invented. The brainchild of a second world war tank sergeant, Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, the AK-47 was the weapon favoured during the cold war years by non-Western powers. Robust, simple, cost-effective, it was the mainstay of "military assistance programmes," in which Russia supplied its communist allies around the world - officially and unofficially - thus ensuring the AK-47's global proliferation.
With 100 million AK-47s across the planet, the rifle's familiar silhouette is part of modern iconography, making its way onto the flag of the Islamist Hezbollah movement and the Mozambique national coat of arms. In other African countries, Kalash - a shortened form of Kalashnikov - has even become a boys' name.
Whatever we may think about the morality of arms manufacturing, vast numbers of AK-47 bullets start life legally in Russia. In the grimy, polluted city of Tula, 170km south of Moscow, bullet-making is a way of life. This city - home to 550,000 people and hosting a military garrison of airborne troops, a 16th century kremlin as well as various onion-domed churches and cathedrals - manufactures only one other product: the samover, Russia's answer to the teapot.
Since at least 1940, the Tula Cartridge Plant has been producing rounds that fit the AK-47. Today it is the biggest domestic and export supplier of the bullets, which are marketed abroad under the "Wolf" trademark. At the factory, which resembles a scene from a socialist realist painting, 7.62mm rounds trundle off the conveyor belt by the million in a choice of either brass or bimetal jacket with a steel case. These are packed by some of the 7000-strong workforce into handy boxes of 20, or crated in larger numbers for bulk orders.
Many of the new rounds are likely to be sold through the Russian arms export agency Rosoboronexport, which also deals in older bullets sourced from cold war stockpiles. Ever since those tense years four decades ago, Russia and other central and eastern European countries have been sitting on billions of rounds manufactured for use in a full-scale war with the West that never came.
"Much of this ammunition is 20 or 30 years old, all from the 1970s and 1980s, so it's near impossible to check on where they come from, and that's just the start of the problem," insists Alex Vines, a human rights and Africa analyst who has intensively researched the arms trade. According to Vines, former Soviet republics desperate for hard currency were only too happy to sell off their large surplus armouries in the wake of the communist meltdown.
It's at this point that our bullet, especially if it originates from an older stockpile, can slip into a far more sinister channel, to become part of the vast ordnance on offer to a new breed of east European racketeers.
And what a breed they are. Gun-runners extraordinaire, like the Ukrainian Leonid Minin, or the Russian Victor Bout. Many people say that Yuri Orlov, the character played by Nicolas Cage in Lord Of War, is based on Victor Bout.
Indeed, the movie's director, Andrew Niccol, is rumoured to have rented the Russian-built Antanov cargo plane used in a fictional African arms delivery scene from Victor Bout himself. In another case of fiction mirroring fact, the thousands of AK-47s used by extras in the film were bought by Niccol on the international arms market. Given that the average going rate for an AK-47 in Africa is $30, it would hardly be surprising. Niccol has said: "I actually did become an arms dealer in the making of the film in the logistics of making it. I had to get hold of a tank for a scene and 3000 Kalashnikovs. I bought real Kalashnikovs because it was cheaper than getting fake ones." One can only assume that Niccol was making a political point by showing just how easy such a transaction is.
Men like Leonid Minin and Victor Bout are typical of the new breed of racketeer. So it's possible that, on its journey, our bullet was one of five million catalogued in documents uncovered during a police raid on room 341 of Minin's co-owned luxury Europa Hotel in Cinisello Balsamo, outside Milan, on August 4, 2000. Or perhaps it was among the 113 tons of 7.62 rounds the Ukrainian delivered by air into the west African country of Ivory Coast just a few weeks earlier - a dispatch that was revealed in a fax discovered during the same police operation.
Ironically, the Italian police weren't there to arrest Minin on any arms offences. When they crashed through his hotel room door at 3am that August morning, it was because of a tip-off from an unpaid prostitute. During the raid - in a scene one reporter described as "straight from a Tarantino film" - the leader of the so-called Odessa Mafia was found freebasing cocaine, naked, while flanked by a quartet of call girls.
"The Italian police arrested him for a minor offence and only later found out who he really is. Then they started to take an interest in the case," complains Johan Peleman, a chain-smoking Belgian and one of the world's most prominent arms-trade investigators, who has served on several UN expert panels.
To call Peleman's task difficult would be the ultimate understatement. The world in which "bullet detectives" like him operate is characterised by a complex array of international and local arms brokering syndicates, clandestine air transport, money laundering, embargo busting and ruthless regimes. It's a shopping-in-the-shadows world, where inventories of illegal arms - which could easily include our bullet - circulate between traders and suppliers. Then, when a customer is found (usually someone prevented from buying in the mainstream government markets), our rifle round is shipped by civilian cargo companies to a transit point, from where it is transported to its final destination in a war zone.
Fake end-user certificates (EUCs) are the first line of camouflage for the illegal arms dealers. In theory, these documents are provided by a purchasing government to guarantee that that country is the ultimate user of the arms being bought. But it is rarely this simple. "I have come across countless fake EUCs," confirms arms analyst Alex Vines.
One such example was the Pecos company of Guinea in West Africa, a front organisation that supplied a seemingly endless stream of counterfeit EUCs to the arms smuggling network of Victor Bout (pronounced "butt" in Russian). A former KGB major, Bout has been referred to as the "poster boy for a new generation of post-cold war arms dealers", who play an insidious role in areas where the weapons trade has been embargoed by the United Nations. Though worldwide in scope, Bout's main trafficking beat is the volatile Central African Great Lakes region, from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Angola.
A specialist air transport fixer since the early 1990s, Bout has been the overseer of a complex network of more than 50 aircraft, distributed among several airline companies and freight-forwarding outfits.
Although the arms merchant - formerly based in the United Arab Emirates and now rumoured to be in Russia - has been pursued for years by bullet detectives like Johan Peleman , a positive visual ID only became available when two Belgian journalists bumped into him at an airstrip in remote rebel-held Congo in 2001. Bout was then working with Jean-Pierre Bemba, the leader of the Mouvement Pour La Libération Du Congo.
During that time, one of the journalists, Dirk Draulans, saw two of Victor Bout's planes, carrying the registration numbers 9T-ALC and MLC - both unknown to international aviation authorities. Later, a Belgian researcher verified that the aircraft had been flying between Uganda and DRC at least until November 2001.
UN officials have accused Victor Bout of using many "flags of convenience" and subcontracting arrangements for his aircraft to facilitate illegal arms and diamond smuggling activities, despite Bout's assertions that his aircraft were simply used to deliver supplies to mining sites and take valuable commodities like coltan and cassiterite out of places like DRC and Angola.
"Landing heavy cargo planes with illicit cargoes in war conditions and breaking international embargoes such as the one on Angola requires more than individual effort," stated a UN report on Angola in December 2000. "It takes an internationally organised network of individuals, well-funded, well-connected and well versed in brokering and logistics, with the ability to move illicit cargo around the world without raising the suspicions of the law. One organisation, headed, or at least to all appearances outwardly controlled by Victor Bout, is such an organisation."
As ever, the UN's use of earnest rhetoric in pointing out the obvious is masterful. Across Africa, bullets, guns and other weapons are delivered with alarming regularity in illegal operations that are chastised in a similarly feeble manner by global bodies, yet remain immune from direct international legal action.
In response, campaigners against the arms trade are placing great emphasis on the need for all states to mark shells and cartridges with codes or marks denoting batch/lot number, manufacturer and country of manufacture, year of production and a code identifying the original recipient of the ammunition lot - such as a police or military force. All of which would help in identifying the convoluted supply chain either back to its original source or to its real end-user.
During many years of working across the African continent, I have stood on countless dirt airstrips watching Soviet-era cargo planes being loaded up with anything from gold and diamonds, to rocket-propelled grenade launchers and mortars, much of which has little or no accompanying "paperwork".
"African conflicts are wasteful of ammunition and are always in need of more. The guys who carry this stuff in are just flying truck drivers," says Alex Vines. He has a point.
In August 2003, at the height of Liberia's rainy season, I flew into the capital, Monrovia, on the second humanitarian aid flight ever to have reached the country since the upsurge of the civil war a few weeks before. The aircraft was flown by a group of volunteer pilots who told me that days earlier, coming in to land on the first aid flight, they had almost collided with an unscheduled incoming cargo plane. "Later we found out it was flying in ammunition and guns for President Charles Taylor, which some people said was coming from Libya," the 58-year-old Swedish pilot told me. "It's always the same across Africa, you never know who is flying what." One member of the pilot's own crew even admitted to having "ferried a few bullets" in his time.
For arms dealers, it's well worth the risk. According to Johan Peleman, while it's difficult to put an accurate figure on the profits men like Victor Bout make, back in 2002 the Russian was sitting on a fortune. "The Rwandan government alone owed Bout $21 million. That gives you some idea of the sums involved in his business. But that doesn't include barter operations - arms for coffee or arms for diamonds," says Peleman.
There is, of course, an altogether different price to be paid for every bullet that lands in those war-torn African lands . Take the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been the focus of Victor Bout's activities in recent years. Sustained by the easy availability of bullets and guns, war crimes and other human rights violations have been widespread and almost non-stop. Extra-judicial executions, unlawful killings of civilians, torture, rape and other sexual violence, the use of child soldiers, abductions, looting of villages and forced displacement are among the atrocities to which bullet suppliers are callously indifferent.
How many rounds delivered by these international dealers in death might have been used during May and June last year when dissident elements of the RCD-Goma opposed to the transitional government, took control of the city of Bukavu in South Kivu province in Democratic Republic of Congo? During the terrible days that followed, these dissident militias subjected the civilian population to systematic human rights abuse until government troops retook the city. Many of the guns and bullets they used were undoubtedly supplied illegally.
More than 60 people were killed and more than 100 women and girls were reportedly raped, including 17 who were aged 13 or younger. Some were raped as their parents watched helplessly. One victim was only three years old. Extensive looting was also commonplace. The abusive acts became known popularly among the militiamen as "opération TDF" - operation [mobile] telephones, dollars, daughters - because this is what the soldiers demanded at gunpoint after forcing their way into civilian homes.
Many of the killings took place during looting, often after the victims had given all they had or simply because, as one informant told Amnesty International, "they didn't like the look on your face". On more than one occasion soldiers reportedly levelled their AK-47s at children's heads to extort money from householders, demanding dollars for the life of each child.
The victims included Lambert Mobole Bitorwa, who was shot at home in front of his children; Jolie Namwezi, reportedly shot in front of her children after she resisted rape; Murhula Kagezi, a student killed at his home while his father was in the next room fetching a mobile phone to give to the soldiers; and 13-year-old Marie Chimbale Tambwe, shot dead on the balcony of her home apparently because a militiaman believed she had pulled a face at him while he was looting in the street below.
This is the bloody endgame in the story of our 7.62x39mm copper-plated, steel-jacketed bullet . On arrival at its final destination, entering the tissue of its victim, it usually travels forwards for about 26cm before beginning to yaw. Ballistics experts and doctors speak then of "damage patterns" - a sanitised term for the way the bullet rips through abdomens, legs, arms or brains, sometimes deflecting off bones before exiting, leaving a gaping, bloody hole.
If all this is to stop, then tighter global controls are imperative. The question is whether the political will needed to implement such legislation exists against the murky backdrop of a lucrative business that deals in genuine weapons of mass destruction. Just as the profiteering has become a way of life for the dealers, so it is, too, for those who dispatch the bullets by pulling the trigger.
Some years ago in Liberia, I met a 14-year-old soldier who called himself J-Boy. He was sitting on a bridge overlooking the Po River, smoking a joint and loading some of those familiar copper-coloured cartridges into his rifle. Had J-Boy himself ever killed anyone, I asked.
"Oh sure man, plenty, plenty," he assured me with a smile. "With this good AK and these real fine bullets, it's way easy."
Lord Of War is released on October 14.
Control Arms (a joint campaign between Amnesty, Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms) campaigns for tough controls on the arms trade, see www.controlarms.org
© 2005 newsquest (sunday herald) limited.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The War Party's Waterloo? 

October 3, 2005

Scooter-gate A criminal conspiracy

by Justin Raimondo

It isn't generally known that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff – now revealed as New York Times reporter Judith Miller's source in the Plame affair – is a novelist, as well as a policymaker. Aside from being a co-author of the Bush administration's narrative of "weapons of mass destruction" and Iraq's alleged links to al-Qaeda – a story that turned out to be a fable – he is also the author of The Apprentice, published in 1996, a novel set against the backdrop of the Russo-Japanese war. Unlike Lynne Cheney and Richard Perle, whose literary efforts in this vein have garnered less than stellar reviews, Libby appears to have some genuine talent as a fabulist. "As a work of prose, The Apprentice is easily the best of all neoconservative novels ever written," writes the journalist Jeet Heer, adding: "A dismal compliment, you could say, given the competition. Still, Libby has written a strong first novel that convincingly re-creates an exotic world." Since becoming the vice president's chief adviser and confidante, however, Libby has had little time to indulge his artistic imagination. In a profile of Libby published in the National Journal at the beginning of Bush's first term, he said:
"I try to stay up somewhat with fiction. I am looking forward to writing again some day. But the job is pretty demanding, and I haven't been progressing very far on the next novel."
It could be that Libby will have plenty of time to work on his next novel in the very near future – that is, if federal prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has anything to say about it. A stretch in prison could very well give Libby the space to hone his literary talent and fulfill his promise as the foremost neocon novelist – a possibility that seems increasingly likely.
Now that Libby has been identified as Ms. Miller's source, the focus in the investigation into who "outed" CIA agent Valerie Plame has shifted from Miller and Bush adviser Karl Rove to one of the most powerful men in Washington: "Libby Is to Cheney What Cheney Is to Bush," as a recent Washington Post headline put it. "Plame-gate" – always a bit of an awkward phrase, and not that descriptive, in any case – has now become Scooter-gate, which, you'll have to agree, is a much more mellifluous and catchy all-purpose rubric for Fitzgerald's ever widening investigation, which now seems to be reaching its dramatic climax.
In a denouement worthy of a good novel, prosecutor Fitzgerald is getting ready to wind up his probe and either decline to press any charges – unlikely, but within the realm of the remotely possible – or start issuing indictments. If the latter, then the indictments are likely to fly fast and furious, as this widely discussed clip from a Washington Post story would indicate:
"A new theory about Fitzgerald's aim has emerged in recent weeks from two lawyers who have had extensive conversations with the prosecutor while representing witnesses in the case. They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy, the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must have had a criminal purpose."
"A criminal conspiracy" – but what was its purpose? Aside from sliming former U.S. diplomat Joseph C. Wilson, who had the temerity to debunk the most egregious of the administration's tall tales of Iraqi WMD, and outing his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent, that is.
The characters in this Washington drama share a single characteristic, and it isn't just that they all appear to be inveterate liars: the major players in this case were part of the campaign of deception that lured us into Iraq and dropped us into the middle of a maelstrom from which there seems to be no escape. Ms. Miller's "reporting" on Iraq's alleged WMD required a retraction and apology from the editors of the New York Times: it appears she was using the front page of that venerable paper to broadcast the same sort of propaganda one might expect in the pages of the New York Post or the Weekly Standard.
Scooter was at the epicenter of this threatening storm of misinformation, which eventually reached Katrina-esque proportions in its intensity: he and his boss were pushing hard on the CIA to come up with the evidence of Saddam's WMD in order to justify an invasion. They both personally visited CIA analysts at Langley and berated them for not coming up with the goods; when the spooks demurred, they did an end-run around the intelligence community, setting up what Mother Jones magazine has called "the lie factory."
This is the criminal conspiracy Fitzgerald has set about uncovering. It isn't about Karl Rove, as I said months ago; it isn't about a possible violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, as I maintained from the beginning. It's about how a small group of government officials, in tandem with their overseas allies, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to falsify "intelligence" – and, in the process, lie the nation into war.
The event that ostensibly precipitated Fitzgerald's probe – the publication of Valerie Plame's name in a column by Robert Novak published in the Chicago Sun-Times – has garnered the lion's share of media attention, but Fitzgerald's concerns appear to have extended way beyond this starting point. As the Washington Post reported back in July:
"Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed."
From the possible violation of a law that had only been successfully prosecuted on a single occasion, and for which the penalty is a few years in the hoosegow and a hefty but payable fine, the investigation morphed into a probe of one of the most baffling mysteries of recent times: how did the White House fall for the Niger uranium forgeries, crude fabrications of documents that purported to show Saddam's Iraq was trying to procure fissionable uranium – yellowcake – from the African nation of Niger? It only took the International Atomic Energy Agency a few hours with Google to debunk this "evidence" of Iraq's efforts to build nukes, yet somehow the infamous 16 words pinpointing "Africa" as the site of Iraq's supposed violation made it into the president's 2003 State of the Union address. Who snookered the White House?
The idea that a special prosecutor was appointed, and an 18-month investigation launched, solely because Joe Wilson's wife was out of a job never made much sense. The outing of a CIA agent was only the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, the latest in a series of incidents that underscored a gaping hole in our national security defenses. The outing of Plame – an act of utter disdain for the country, and provocative in itself – provided investigators, already hot on the trail of possible treason in high places, with an opening to make their inquiry public. "Bulldog" Fitzgerald had a bone to pick with the neocons, and once he got his teeth into it he wasn't going to let go.
Many are wondering why Miller went to jail rather than utilize the waiver Libby's lawyer now says was given her months ago. The reason is because Floyd Abrams, her lawyer, insisted on gaining a key concession from Fitzgerald: that he would limit his questioning to Miller's conversations with Libby.
This narrowing condition was essential if Miller was going to continue to protect her other friends. Miller was at the center of the propaganda campaign that suckered us into war. As the War Party's major megaphone in the American media, retailing the tall tales spun by the INC and the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, Miller is a fitting martyr for the neocon cause: self-promoting, shameless, and an accomplished liar on a grand scale, she masquerades as the upholder of freedom – the "freedom" of journalists to protect government insiders engaged in criminal actions that can only be described as treasonous.
Even more self-consciously grandiose than Miller, however, we have Libby's letter to her, in which he says how much he "misses" her reporting – yeah, I'll bet! – and reiterates what we all know by now: that the waiver to testify was given to her long ago, and she simply chose not to cooperate unless certain other conditions were met. Libby concludes his missive on a distinctly odd note:
"You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover – Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work – and life. Until then, you will remain in my thoughts and prayers."
If we think of the criminal conspiracy targeted by Fitzgerald as a grove of aspens, then, yes, the neocons turn in clusters, all right, because their roots connect them: the neocon network in Washington is deeply rooted in the national security bureaucracy. Libby was brought to Washington in 1981 by former deputy secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, now head of the World Bank, then working at the State Department; Libby had been one of his students at Yale. During the Clinton interregnum, Libby had his hands full being Marc Rich's lawyer and writing The Apprentice. In 1989, Wolfowitz brought him back to government service, this time at the Pentagon. He became a central figure in the neoconservative Project for a New American Century, and co-authored, with Wolfowitz, a policy memo charting a post-Cold War foreign policy and defense stance positing American hegemony on every continent and broaching, for the first time, the policy of preemptive aggression that is today enshrined in the Bush Doctrine.
While Libby is a towering aspen, whose fall will make a rather loud noise, others in the same stand have already met a similar fate, and what we have here is a sort of domino effect. John Hannah, Cheney's special assistant for Middle East affairs, was fingered early on in this investigation. Last year, Richard Sale of UPI reported a rare leak from the investigators:
"'We believe that Hannah was the major player in this,' one federal law-enforcement officer said. Calls to the vice president's office were not returned, nor did Hannah and Libby return calls. The strategy of the FBI is to make clear to Hannah 'that he faces a real possibility of doing jail time' as a way to pressure him to name superiors, one federal law-enforcement official said."
Hannah has an interesting background. In the early 1990s, he served as head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). As Middle East scholar Juan Cole pointed out, Hannah was a key figure in the intelligence-manipulation effort that legitimized phony "evidence" of Iraq's WMD cooked up by the fraudster Ahmed Chalabi. Hannah, like the other aspens in the grove, turned with the rest of the cluster when it came to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East:
"The WINEP pro-Likud network, which includes Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith in the Pentagon as well as Libby and Hannah at Cheney's office, has virtually dictated Bush administration Middle East policy. Wilson's debunking of one of its central claims might well have led Cheney to fire Hannah or to disregard his opinion. The WINEP crowd takes no prisoners and is very determined, over decades, to get its way. (Josh Marshall notes that they are already trying to protect Hannah with denials he could possibly have been involved, presumably meaning that they would be willing to throw Libby to the dogs.) Wilson had to be punished, from their point of view, and if possible marginalized, to protect Hannah's position."
Hannah may have thrown Libby to the dogs, just to save his own skin. This wouldn't be any more surprising than the actions of former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, who will plead guilty to spying for Israel in return for leniency in sentencing – and for testifying against his handlers, Steve Rosen, who for 20 years served as AIPAC's foreign policy director, and Keith Weissman, AIPAC's top Iran specialist. Rosen and Weissman pumped Franklin for classified information and handed it over to Israeli "diplomats" stationed in Washington. The trial is scheduled for January.
While Hannah, the former director of AIPAC's think tank, was deeply involved in exposing a vitally important U.S. intelligence asset – Plame worked undercover in the CIA's WMD-nonproliferation unit – AIPAC officials Rosen and Weissman were sneaking around Washington, meeting Franklin in train stations and handing over U.S. secrets to Israeli spies. If we put Franklin's shenanigans [.pdf] with the AIPAC duo and the Israelis on a timeline, we see that this breach in our security occurred during roughly the same period as those involving the Niger uranium deception and the Plame matter:
Jan. 28, 2003 - The president utters those fateful 16 words.
Feb. 12 - Franklin met with Rosen and Weissman and revealed classified information relating to a certain "Middle Eastern country." (The Franklin-AIPAC-Mossad relationship, although first broached in 2002, only culminated in a personal meeting early in the next year.)
March 7 - Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, announces that the Niger uranium documents are forgeries.
March 10 - The treasonous trio met again, this time outside Union Station in Washington, and then proceeded to several restaurants, changing their venue frequently to avoid detection and ending their meeting in an empty restaurant.
March 13 - Franklin met with an Israeli official, when he revealed yet more classified information about internal U.S. government deliberations concerning a certain Middle Eastern country. Throughout the month, Franklin fed his AIPAC handlers classified documents, faxing them in some instances, while Rosen and Weissman relayed the information to the Israelis, and to certain favored members of the media.
June 26 - Franklin met with Rosen and Weissman and communicated classified information on possible attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq by pro-Iranian elements.
June 30 - The bonding rituals of spies: Weissman and Franklin attended a baseball game. On that day, also, Franklin was finally confronted by the FBI with his treason: the indictment states that "on or about" that date he "possessed" classified – "Top Secret and Secret" – materials in his Kearneysville, W.V., residence. Franklin was, in short, caught red-handed, and was "turned" – that is, he agreed to cooperate with the investigation and provide evidence against his AIPAC handlers.
July 6 - Wilson's New York Times op-ed piece, "What I Didn't Find In Africa," is published.
July 9 - Franklin, no doubt wearing a wire, met with Weissman, and more national defense information was turned over.
July 9 - Judith Miller discusses the Plame affair with Libby.
July 12 or 13 - Miller again discusses Plame with Libby.
July 14 - Novak outs Valerie Plame in his Sun-Times column.
July 21 - Franklin again met with Weissman, and turned over information that he said was "highly classified" concerning a foreign government's covert actions in Iraq, warning Weissman not to use it because he could "get into trouble." That same day, Weissman related the information to Rosen, and the two of them went to their Israeli bosses with the goods.
Aug. 3 - The FBI finally moved in on Franklin and Rosen, who denied everything – and continued to leak U.S. secrets to the media on at least one occasion.
Aug. 27 - The FBI interviewed Rosen again, and he still denied everything, whereupon AIPAC's chief Washington lobbyist contacted his Israeli handler and told him that he had "a very serious matter" he needed to discuss, but couldn't do it over the phone.
As the FBI reviewed Franklin's conversations with Rosen, Weissman, and the Israelis, the totality of what had happened to U.S. national security, in light of the Plame affair, had to have dawned on them. Many of the key individuals involved, in the vice president's office and the Defense Department's policy section (where Franklin worked), had intimate links with Israel, specifically the radical Likud Party policies favored by the neoconservatives. Outing Plame was only a measure of the ruthlessness of this cabal: Franklin's betrayal showed that they were not above espionage. The U.S. government, after years of tolerating a fifth column in Washington, was finally moved to crack down.
Now that our attention is focused on Libby, the real outlines of the scandal that will envelop this administration are becoming clearer by the day. Scooter-gate isn't about revenge, although that's part of it; it isn't about intra-bureaucratic infighting, although that certainly played a role; and it sure isn't about Karl Rove, as the chattering classes were convinced only a few weeks ago. It is about how a band of ruthless ideologues lied us into war – and betrayed their country in the process. It's about a criminal conspiracy finally felled by its own hubris. And, unfortunately for the defendants, it's about espionage.
Who knows how many neocons will be caught up in Fitzgerald's net? Scooter, Hannah, maybe even John Bolton – as I predicted a few months ago – and any number of smaller fry will face their moment of truth in the dock.
As I wrote last year, this is the War Party's Waterloo. So get out the popcorn and the chips-and-dip, pull up a chair, and let the show trial begin!
– Justin Raimondo

Corruption Everywhere 

The Plamegate Scandal seems to have bred an even more worrying Judy Miller scandal. The Press - which we tend to rely on as something of an independent, impartial and professional voice - is itself engaged in propaganda and pretence, in make-believe and in downright and deliberate misrepresentation.

If the account below is correct, the American society - and perhaps other Western societies with similar politics and similar media - is deeply corrupt to an extent that we have not before imagined. We have always thought some elements in the political process were corrupt and we have accepted that corruption as something that, however undesirable, is inevitable. However, that acceptance has been based on the belief that corruption will be revealed - and that the agency above all that will bring us revelation is the Press or the media more generally.

Now we have a situation in which this protection can no longer be relied upon; and, indeed, that it would be reckless to do so.

Elsewhere and recently, we have been told that the US Department of Education has been involved in illegal activities in paying for propaganda - that did not reveal its official origins - for the "No child left behind" program. There is also evidence that much of the statistical material provided by official sources in the Administration is unreliable and presents a misleading picture of vital aspects of the American economic situation and trends in the American economy. "Hedonic" calculations give us a "sexed-up" impression of the economy's growth. "Ghost" jobs inflate the number of jobs created each month. The unemployment statistics leave out hosts of the unemployed who, because of their long-term worklessness, are no longer regarded as workless.

Shams are not a modern novelty. They are and have been part of the human profile for as long as humanity itself. However, the universality of the shams, their sophistication and their appearance in connection with institutions that we have tended to regard as among the most highly respectable and reliable are terrifying features of today's world.

We have always had con men - and women. We have always had people who will sell us the Brooklyn Bridge. We have liked to think they were a small percentage of our society, that they could be contained, discovered and put away, when appropriate, under the processes of democratic justice.

That complacency is no longer wise - or tolerable. If we don't act robustly to root it out, it will overwhelm us. Our societies will self-destruct.

James Cumes

Published on Saturday, October 1, 2005 by the Los Angeles Times

Who is Judy Miller Kidding?

The New York Times reporter needs to write the truth about her involvment in Plamegate.

by Arianna Huffington

Now that Judy Miller has finished testifying, finished spinning for the cameras on the courthouse steps, finished hugging her dog and finished eating that special meal she wanted her husband to prepare, she needs to do what Time reporter Matt Cooper did and immediately publish a full and truthful account of her involvement in Plamegate.
Because what she — and the New York Times' publisher and editor — have said so far just doesn't add up.
The story being pitched to the public — that Miller was a heroic, principled martyr who sacrificed her freedom in the name of journalistic integrity, then fulfilled her "civic duty" after she "finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver" from her source — is laughable.
Indeed, it's already been greeted skeptically by 1) my increasingly frustrated sources at the Times; 2) a chorus of voices in the blogosphere, and 3) (and much more significantly) Joseph Tate, Scooter Libby's lawyer, who told the Washington Post that he informed Miller's attorney, Floyd Abrams, a year ago that Libby's waiver "was voluntary and that Miller was free to testify."
It defies credulity for Miller and the Times to keep insisting that Libby's earlier waiver was coerced when Libby says that it wasn't. I don't have much good to say about the vice president's chief of staff, but I don't doubt that he knows the difference between being coerced and acting on his own free will. How deep is the Times' contempt for its readers that it really thinks they'll buy the "Oh, Judy finally has the right waiver" line?
After appearing in front of the grand jury Friday, Miller was asked to describe her role in the case. "I was a journalist doing my job," she said.
But her role is actually much, much more complicated than that. Any discussion of Miller's actions in Plamegate cannot leave out the key part she played in cheerleading for the invasion of Iraq and in hyping the WMD threat. Re-reading some of her prewar reporting today, it's hard not to be stunned by just how inaccurate and pumped up it turned out to be.
During her incarceration, a Times spokesperson described Miller as "an intrepid, principled and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has provided our readers with thorough and comprehensive reporting throughout her career." But a "thorough and comprehensive" look at Miller's career reveals repeated examples of egregious reporting, a startling lack of objectivity, too-close-for-comfort relationships with dubious sources … and a penchant for far-from-thorough and far-from-comprehensive coverage.
Cut through the haze of revisionist portraiture and you might remember that Miller's byline appeared on four of the six articles that the Times apologized for in its unprecedented May 2004 mea culpa over its prewar news coverage.
What's more, Miller's involvement in Plamegate was a direct result of her WMD reporting. Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's now famous Op-Ed piece, which raised the idea that the Bush administration had manipulated and twisted intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat, went straight to the heart of Miller's reporting — and her credibility.
The Plame scandal took shape not only when the White House was under attack but when Miller herself was increasingly being attacked by critics for her deeply flawed dispatches. When she met with her anti-Plame source — or sources — she was not only still on the WMD beat but still a true believer promoting the administration's lies about Iraq's nonexistent WMD threat despite an avalanche of contrary information.
The inescapable fact is that Miller — intentionally or unintentionally — worked hand in glove in helping the White House propaganda machine sell the war in Iraq. And that includes Libby and his boss, Dick Cheney.
Before her transformation into a journalistic Joan of Arc, Miller was in a tailspin, her work discredited, removed from the WMD beat and forced to deal with colleagues who refused to share a byline with her. She desperately needed to change the subject and cleanse herself of the stench left by her misleading coverage leading up to the war — coverage that makes the Jayson Blair scandal, by comparison, seem ludicrously insignificant. And there are few more effective acts of purification for a reporter than going to jail to (in PR theory) protect the 1st Amendment.
Miller went from pariah to icon, and the Times went from apologizing for her work to comparing her in a series of over-the-top editorials to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Talk about an Extreme Makeover.
There is no way that the Times' repeated claims that Miller was in jail as a matter of principle can be squared with her hair-splitting explanations for why she suddenly changed her mind.
And there is no way to accept at face value Miller's ongoing grandstanding about "fighting for the cause of the free flow of information."
Who is she still trying to convince? Herself?

Arianna Huffington is the editor of the website The Huffington Post.

© Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

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