Sunday, May 31, 2009

Who Is to Blame for the Next Attack?

by Frank Rich

After watching the farce surrounding Dick Cheney's coming-out party this month, you have to wonder: Which will reach Washington first, change or the terrorists? If change doesn't arrive soon, terrorists may well rush in where the capital's fools now tread.

The Beltway antics that greeted the great Cheney-Obama torture debate were an unsettling return to the post-9/11 dynamic that landed America in Iraq. Once again Cheney and his cohort were using lies and fear to try to gain political advantage - this time to rewrite history and escape accountability for the failed Bush presidency rather than to drum up a new war. Once again Democrats in Congress were cowed. And once again too much of the so-called liberal news media parroted the right's scare tactics, putting America's real security interests at risk by failing to challenge any Washington politician carrying a big stick.

Cheney's "no middle ground" speech on torture at the American Enterprise Institute arrived with the kind of orchestrated media campaign that he, his boss and Karl Rove patented in the good old days. It was bookended by a pair of Republican attack ads on the Web that crosscut President Obama's planned closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention center with apocalyptic imagery - graphic video of the burning twin towers in one ad, a roar of nuclear holocaust (borrowed from the L.B.J. "daisy" ad of 1964) in the other.

The speech itself, with 20 mentions of 9/11, struck the same cynical note as the ads, as if the G.O.P. was almost rooting for a terrorist attack on Obama's watch. "No one wishes the current administration more success in defending the country than we do," Cheney said as a disingenuous disclaimer before going on to charge that Obama's "half measures" were leaving Americans "half exposed." The new president, he said, is unraveling "the very policies that kept our people safe since 9/11." In other words, when the next attack comes, it will be all Obama's fault. A new ad shouting "We told you so!" awaits only the updated video.

The Republicans at least have an excuse for pushing this poison. They are desperate. The trio of Pillsbury doughboys now leading the party - Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Cheney - have variously cemented the G.O.P.'s brand as a whites-only men's club by revoking Colin Powell's membership and smearing the first Latina Supreme Court nominee as a "reverse racist." Republicans in Congress have no plausible economic, health care or energy policies to counter Obama's. The only card left to play is 9/11.

Yet even before Cheney spoke, Congressional Democrats were quaking in fear, purporting with straight faces that the transfer of detainees to "supermax" American prisons constituted a serious security threat. Many of the same senators who signed on to the Iraq war resolution in the fall of 2002 joined the 90-to-6 majority that put a hold on Obama's Gitmo closure plans.

The déjà vu in the news media was more chilling. Rather than vet the substance of Cheney's fulmination, talking heads instead hyped the split-screen "dueling speeches" gimmick of the back-to-back Obama-Cheney scheduling. Time magazine's political Web site Photoshopped Cheney and Obama's faces atop prize fighters' bodies.

Most of the punditocracy scored the fight on a curve, setting up a false equivalence between the men's ideas. Cheney's pugnacious certitude edged out Obama's law-professor nuance. "On policy grounds, you've got a real legitimate fight here," David Gregory insisted on "Meet the Press" as he regurgitated the former vice president's argument ("You can't compromise on these matters") and questioned whether the president could "really bring" his brand of pragmatism "to the issue of the war on terror."

One New York Daily News columnist summed up Cheney's supposed TKO this way: "The key to Cheney's powerful performance: facts, facts, facts." But the facts, as usual, were wrong.

At the McClatchy newspapers' Washington bureau, the reporters Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel detailed 10 whoppers. With selective quotations, Cheney falsified the views of the director of national intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, on the supposed intelligence value of waterboarding. Equally bogus was Cheney's boast that his administration had "moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and their sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks." In truth, the Bush administration had lost Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, not least because it started diverting huge assets to Iraq before accomplishing the mission of vanquishing Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. That decision makes us less safe to this very minute.

You can find a link to the complete Landay-Strobel accounting of Cheney's errors in the online version of this column. The failure of much of the press to match their effort has a troubling historical antecedent. These are the same two journalists who, reporting for what was then Knight Ridder, uncovered much of the deceit in the Bush-Cheney case for the Iraq war in the crucial weeks before Congress gave the invasion the green light.

On Sept. 6, 2002, Landay and Strobel reported that there was no known new intelligence indicating that "the Iraqis have made significant advances in their nuclear, biological or chemical weapons programs." It was two days later that The Times ran its now notorious front-page account of Saddam Hussein's "quest for thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes." In the months that followed, as the Bush White House kept beating the drum for Saddam's imminent mushroom clouds to little challenge from most news organizations, Landay and Strobel reported on the "lack of hard evidence" of Iraqi weapons and the infighting among intelligence agencies. Their scoops were largely ignored by the big papers and networks as America hurtled toward fiasco.

Another reporter who was ahead of the pack in unmasking Bush-Cheney propaganda is the author Ron Suskind. In his 2006 book on the American intelligence matrix, "The One Percent Doctrine," Suskind wrote about a fully operational and potentially catastrophic post-9/11 Qaeda assault on America that actually was aborted in the Bush years: a hydrogen cyanide attack planned for the New York City subways. It was halted 45 days before zero hour - but not because we stopped it. Al-Zawahri had called it off.

When Bush and Cheney learned of the cancellation later on from conventional intelligence, they were baffled as to why. The answer: Al-Zawahri had decided that a rush-hour New York subway attack was not enough of an encore to top 9/11. Al Qaeda's "special event" strategy, Suskind wrote, requires the creation of "an upward arc of rising and terrible expectation" that is "multiplied by time passing." The event that fits that bill after 9/11 must involve some kind of nuclear weapon.

"What are the lessons of this period?" Suskind asked when we spoke last week. "If you draw the wrong lessons, you end up embracing the wrong answers." They are certainly not the lessons cited by Cheney. Waterboarding hasn't and isn't going to save us from anything. The ticking time-bomb debate rekindled by Cheney's speech may be entertaining on "24" or cable-news food fights, but is a detour from the actual perils before the country. "What we're dealing with is a patient foe who thinks in decades while we tend to think more in news cycles," Suskind said. "We have to try to wrestle this fear-based debate into something resembling a reality-based discussion."

The reality is that while the Bush administration was bogged down in Iraq and being played by Pervez Musharraf, the likelihood of Qaeda gaining access to nuclear weapons in a Taliban-saturated Pakistan was increasing by the day. We know that in the month before 9/11, bin Laden and al-Zawahri met with the Pakistani nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. That was the real link between 9/11 and nuclear terror that the Bush administration let metastasize while it squandered American resources on a fictional link between 9/11 and a "nuclear" Saddam.

And where are we now? On the eve of Obama's inauguration, David Sanger reported in The Times that military and nuclear experts agree that if "a real-life crisis" breaks out in Pakistan "it is unlikely that anyone would be able to assure an American president, with confidence, that he knew where all of Pakistan's weapons were - or that none were in the hands of Islamic extremists."

Pakistan is the time bomb. But with a push from Cheney, abetted by too many Democrats and too many compliant journalists, we have been distracted into drawing the wrong lessons, embracing the wrong answers. We are even wasting time worrying that detainees might escape from tomb-sized concrete cells in Colorado.

What we need to be doing instead, as Suskind put it, is to "build the thing we don't have - human intelligence. We need people who are cooperating with us, who step up and help, and who won't turn away when they see things happening. Hearts and minds - which we've botched - must be corrected and corrected quickly. That's what wins the battle, not going medieval." It's not for nothing, after all, that Powell, Gen. David Petraeus and Robert Gates, the secretary of defense - among other military minds - agree with Obama, not Cheney, about torture and Gitmo.

The harrowing truth remains unchanged from what it was before Cheney emerged from his bunker to set Washington atwitter. The Bush administration did not make us safer either before or after 9/11. Obama is not making us less safe. If there's another terrorist attack, it will be because the mess the Bush administration ignored in Pakistan and Afghanistan spun beyond anyone's control well before Americans could throw the bums out.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Friday, May 29, 2009

If Iraq was a Mistake, Why are We Still There?

by Camillo Bica

However one frames the debate, it is apparent to any fair minded and rational person that the invasion of Iraq, based as it was on misinformation at best, lies and deceptions at worst, was a mistake and should never have occurred. Certainly President Obama has made this claim on numerous occasions as well as many who had previously supported (and voted for) the war. After having acknowledged this fact, however, President Obama and others would have us forget the past as it serves, in their view, no practical purpose to rehash and moralize over things that cannot be undone. It will be the work of future historians, legal scholars, and philosophers, they argue, to untangle, interpret, and make judgments regarding the complex events and decisions that led to the invasion and characterize the occupation of Iraq. They warn that it is imperative at this crucial juncture that we deal with the matters at hand, that we act quickly and decisively in our national interest to ensure that our Country remains safe, that our goals in Iraq and Afghanistan are achieved, and that our sacrifice in blood and treasure is not for naught.

What President Obama and others who advocate such a position fail to appreciate is that we live in a Nation that understands and accepts the importance of the Constitution and the rule of law, both moral and International. Accordingly, we determine our behavior, how we conduct ourselves as a Nation, not only by what is in our national interest but also by what is right, not only by what we CAN do, but also by what we OUGHT to do. This is what we stand for as a people, the values we hold sacred as a nation. Consequently, to focus exclusively on “practical considerations” – present conditions and problems – considered in isolation and apart from the causal chain of events that led to the situation as it exists today is morally and legally unacceptable and incoherent and counter to the principles and values we believe must guide and determine our future course of action not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the world as well.

By accepting that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a mistake we must accept all that such an admission entails. According to Just War Theory and International Law, the illegal and immoral use of violence and deadly force against a sovereign nation and its citizenry, constitutes aggression. Aggression is morally wrong and a war crime under International Law. Aggressors violate the rights of the aggressed to life, self-determination, and to live in a nation that enjoys political sovereignty and territorial integrity – sometimes referred to as the “rights of nations.” Aggressors are Unjustifiable Combatants. The victims of aggression have the privilege to assert their rights – to act in self and national defense. As such, they are Justifiable Combatants. Consequently, our invasion and occupation of Iraq is aggression, members of our military are aggressors – Unjustifiable Combatants – and those that struggle against us, the “insurgents,” are Justifiable Combatants asserting their right of self and national defense.

This is the reality of our involvement in Iraq, a reality entailed and implied by a recognition that our invasion was a mistake and should never have occurred. The “fact” that we may have had good intentions does not alter the moral and legal value of our involvement. “Mistaken” aggression is no less aggression, no less a war crime. “Mistaken” aggressors are no less liable to be resisted – warred against in self and national defense.

Yet despite the realization that the invasion and occupation in Iraq is aggression and despite our economy bordering on collapse, President Obama, and many of our fellow citizens, argue that we cannot just stop the killing and destruction and walk away. One important reason, they offer, is national security. We must end the chaos created by our aggression and restore stability in Iraq to ensure that it does not become a training ground and sanctuary for terrorists who wish us harm. A second reason, interestingly enough, is a moral one. Paradoxically, we cannot stop the killing and destruction in Iraq because we recognize our moral culpability and responsibility for our aggression. That is, we cannot just abandon the Iraqi people to the endless civil war and sectarian violence that would “inevitably” occur in the power vacuum created by our departure. Consequently, we are morally obligated to continue the killing and the destruction in Iraq for at least a few more years, in order to save the Iraqis from themselves and so they may enjoy the gift of freedom and democracy as recompense for our aggression. While the initial use of violence and deadly force against the Iraqi people may have been aggression, now, however, we are on solid moral and legal ground, as the continued killing and destruction entailed by our remaining, is humanitarian intervention. (General George Casey, the Army Chief of Staff, by the way, said recently that his strategic planning envisions combat troops remaining in Iraq and Afghanistan for as long as ten years).

This argument for the continued occupation of Iraq is clearly incoherent. It is as though our political leaders have accepted that the American public is incapable of rational thought and will accept any reason and justification for war as long as it is presented as furthering our national interest and feeds our national ego regarding our benevolence and moral superiority in the world.

It is time, therefore, long past time, that we show President Obama and the Congress that we will be duped no longer, that we are not a nation of sheep, and that we possess the ability to reason and think critically. It is time, therefore, long past time, that we accept the reality of what we have done and continue to do in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. We must stop the killing and the destruction now, not later. We must understand that bringing stability to the region is not about escalating violence, increasing the number of troops, or dropping more and larger bombs. Nor is it about searching out and destroying al Qaeda or the Taliban, or even capturing or killing bin Laden. Rather, it is about inclusiveness, diplomacy, understanding and dialogue. It is about doing the difficult work of reconciliation and of addressing the grievances that nourish radicalism. Most important, I believe, should we at long last recognize that the days of US unilateralism and imperialism are over and realize the necessity of involving and soliciting the assistance of area powers such as Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, China and India, not only will the world be a better and safer place, but perhaps for the first time in many years, we will begin to live according to the principles and values that we claim characterize our nation and of which we are so proud.

Camillo “Mac” Bica, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is a former Marine Corps Officer, Vietnam Veteran, long-time activist for peace and justice, and the Coordinator of the Long Island Chapter of Veterans for Peace.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Torture and the American Conscience


Torture is a violation of US and international law. Yet, president George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney, on the basis of legally incompetent memos prepared by Justice Department officials, gave the OK to interrogators to violate US and international law.

The new Obama administration shows no inclination to uphold the rule of law by prosecuting those who abused their offices and broke the law.

Cheney claims, absurdly, that torture was necessary in order to save American cities from nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Many Americans have bought the argument that torture is morally justified in order to make terrorists reveal where ticking nuclear bombs are before they explode.

However, there were no hidden ticking nuclear bombs. Hypothetical scenarios were used to justify torture for other purposes.

We now know that the reason the Bush regime tortured its captives was to coerce false testimony that linked Iraq and Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda and September 11. Without this “evidence,” the US invasion of Iraq remains a war crime under the Nuremberg standard.

Torture, then, was a second Bush regime crime used to produce an alibi for the illegal and unprovoked US invasion of Iraq.

U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R,Tx) understands the danger to Americans of permitting government to violate the law. In “Torturing the Rule of Law”, he said that the US government’s use of torture to produce excuses for illegal actions is the most radicalizing force at work today. “The fact that our government engages in evil behavior under the auspices of the American people is what poses the greatest threat to the American people, and it must not be allowed to stand.”

One might think that the American public’s toleration of torture reflects the breakdown of the country’s Christian faith. Alas, a recent poll released by the Pew Forum reveals that most white Christian evangelicals and white Catholics condone torture. In contrast, only a minority of those who seldom or never attend church services condone torture.

It is a known fact that torture produces unreliable information. The only purpose of torture is to produce false confessions. The fact that a majority of American Christians condone torture enabled the Bush regime’s efforts to legalize torture.

George Hunsinger, professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, has stepped into the Christian void with a powerful book, Torture is a Moral Issue. A collection of essays by thoughtful and moral people, including an American admiral and general, the book demonstrates the danger of torture to the human soul, to civil liberty, and to the morale and safety of soldiers.

Condoning torture, Hunsinger writes, “marks a milestone in the disintegration of American democracy.” In his contribution, Hunsinger destroys the constructed hypothetical scenarios used to create a moral case for torture. He points out that no such real world cases ever exist. Once torture is normalized, it is used despite the absence of the hypothetical scenario.

Hunsinger notes that “evidence” obtained by torture can have catastrophic consequences. In making the case against Iraq at the UN, former Secretary of State Colin Powell assured the countries of the world that his evidence rested on “facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.” Today Powell and his chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, are ashamed that the “evidence” for Powell’s UN speech
turned out to be nothing but the coerced false confession of Al-Libi, who was relentlessly tortured in Egypt in order to produce a justification for Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq.

Some Americans, unable to face the criminality and inhumanity of their own government, maintain that the government hasn’t tortured anyone, because water boarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” are not torture. This is really grasping at straws. As Ron Paul points out, according to US precedent alone, water boarding has been considered to be torture since 1945, when the United States hanged Japanese military officers for water boarding captured Americans.

If the Obama regime does not hold the Bush regime accountable for violating US and international law, then the Obama regime is complicit in the Bush regime’s crimes. If the American people permit Obama to look the other way in order “to move on,” the American people are also complicit in the crimes.

Hunsinger, Paul and others are trying to save our souls, our humanity, our civil liberty and the rule of law. Obama can say that he forbids torture, but if those responsible are not held accountable, he has no way of enforcing his order. As perpetrators are discharged from the military and re-enter society, some will find employment as police officers and prison officials and guards, and the practice will spread. The dark side will take over America.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

James Jones: US Safer Under Obama

LOLITA C. BALDOR | May 27, 2009 09:31 PM EST

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's national security adviser laid out a sweeping rebuttal Wednesday to former Vice President Dick Cheney's charge that America is less safe under the new administration.

Pointing to increases in defense spending, efforts to get out of Iraq and revamp the strategy for Afghanistan, and a broad campaign to repair the U.S. reputation abroad, retired Marine Gen. James Jones said the nation is safer today than it has been. But, he added, no administration is perfect.

"I think that the former vice president knows full well that perfection is an impossible standard," said Jones, adding that the U.S. can only do everything it can "to keep threats at bay and as far away from our shores as possible."

In recent speeches, Cheney has condemned Obama for ordering the shutdown of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and banning certain harsh interrogation methods for suspected terrorists. Overturning those Bush administration programs, he said, has made the country less safe.

Jones, speaking to an Atlantic Council forum, countered that, "I firmly believe that the United States is not only safe, but will be more secure, and the American people are increasingly safer because of the president's leadership that he has displayed consistently over the last four months both at home and abroad."

Jones said that Guantanamo has served as a recruitment tool for insurgents, and as a result has probably created more terrorists than it detained.

Asked about the administration's new strategy for the Afghanistan war, Jones acknowledged that "the jury is still out" on whether the U.S. and its allies will be able to meet all their goals to improve the country's security, economy and governance. While he said the infusion of 21,000 more troops, combined with efforts to beef up the Afghan army and police, will improve security, he was less certain about the more elusive improvements to the economy and governance.

"We should know within a year if this strategy is going to be successful," said Jones, a former commandant of the Marine Corps and head of U.S. European Command.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Petraeus agrees with Obama: It’s time to close Guantanamo and end torture.

In an interview this past weekend with Radio Free Europe, Gen. David Petraeus said that he supports President Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and opposes the use of enhanced interrogation techniques:

PETRAEUS: In fact, I have long been on record as having testified and also in helping write doctrine for interrogation techniques that are completely in line with the Geneva Convention. And as a division commander in Iraq in the early days, we put out guidance very early on to make sure that our soldiers, in fact, knew that we needed to stay within those guidelines.

With respect to Guantanamo, I think that the closure in a responsible manner, obviously one that is certainly being worked out now by the Department of Justice — I talked to the attorney general the other day [and] they have a very intensive effort ongoing to determine, indeed, what to do with the detainees who are left, how to deal with them in a legal way, and if continued incarceration is necessary — again, how to take that forward.

But doing that in a responsible manner, I think, sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees.

Will Petraeus change the minds of any conservatives who are currently criticizing Obama for these same opinions? Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has called Petraeus one of the “wisest people” he knows, and conservatives have said that it would be a “dream” to have the general run for president.

"There's No Way I'm Going to Deploy to Afghanistan"

by Dahr Jamail

MARFA, Texas - "It's a matter of what I'm willing to live with," Specialist Victor Agosto of the U.S. Army, who is refusing orders to deploy to Afghanistan, explained to IPS. "I'm not willing to participate in this occupation, knowing it is completely wrong."

Agosto, who returned from a 13-month deployment to Iraq in November 2007, is based at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

While in Iraq, Agosto never left his base, located in northern Iraq.

"I never had any traumatic experiences, never fired my weapon," Agosto told IPS in a phone interview. "I mostly worked in information technology, working on computers and keeping the network functioning well. But it was in Iraq that I turned against the occupations. Through my reading, and watching what was going on, I started to feel very guilty."

Agosto added, "What I did there, I know I contributed to death and human suffering. It's hard to quantify how much I caused, but I know I contributed to it."

Having served three years and nine months in the U.S. Army, Agosto was to complete his contract and be discharged on Aug. 3. But due to his excellent record of service and accrued leave, he was to be released the end of June. Nevertheless, due to the stop-loss program, the Army decided to deploy him to Afghanistan anyway.

Stop-loss is a program the military uses to keep soldiers beyond the terms of their contracts. Since Sep. 11, 2001, more than 140,000 troops have had tours extended by stop-loss.

A copy of his Counseling Form from the Army, dated May 1, reads, "You will deploy in support of OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] on or about [XXXXX] with 57th ESB. This is a direct order from your Company Commander CPT Michael J. Pederson."

Agosto posted copies of the Counseling Statements issued by the Army on his Facebook page. Counseling Statements outline actions taken by the Army to discipline Agosto for his refusal to obey a direct order from his company commander.

On one of them, dated May 1, Agosto's written statement appears: "There is no way I will deploy to Afghanistan. The occupation is immoral and unjust. It does not make the American people any safer. It has the opposite effect."

In another, dated May 18, he wrote: "I will not obey any orders I deem to be immoral or illegal."

On that day, Agosto was ordered to get his medical records in preparation to deploy to Afghanistan. He refused to do so. The Army threatened to take punitive measures, but Agosto wrote on the Counseling Statement, "I am not going to Afghanistan. I will not take part in SRP [Sealift Readiness Program]."

If Agosto continues to refuse orders, he almost assuredly will face court martial, and likely jail time.

When IPS asked Agosto if he is willing to take whatever consequences the Army is prepared to mete out, he replied, "Yes. I'm fully prepared for this. I have concluded that the wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan] are not going to be ended by politicians or people at the top. They are not responsive to the people, they are responsive to corporate America."

Agosto added, "The only way to make them responsive to the needs of the people is if soldiers won't fight their wars, and if soldiers won't fight their wars, the wars won't happen. I hope I'm setting an example for other soldiers."

Agosto has overtly refused to follow any order that has anything to do with his taking an action that would support the occupation of Afghanistan. For a time, according to Agosto, he was given simple orders to clean the motor pool, or pull weeds.

"They switched that recently," he told IPS, "I've continued to be fairly defiant, so on Tuesday I have to meet with Trial Defense Services, which then begins the process of getting an Article 15, which is movement towards being court-martialed, if these reprimands continue."

"If I take the Article 15, I'll take a reduction in rank and pay. I don't' know what is going to happen. I agreed to sweep the motor pool and pull weeds, but nothing else that I feel directly supports the war. I'm not going to follow orders I'm not comfortable with."

Agosto's case is not unique. The group Courage to Resist, based in Oakland, California, actively engages in assisting soldiers who refuse to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Although the efforts of Courage to Resist are primarily focused on supporting public GI resisters, the organization also strives to provide political, emotional, and material support to all military objectors critical of our government's current policies of empire," reads a portion of the group's mission statement.

IPS spoke with Adam Szyper-Seibert, an office manager and counselor with Courage to Resist.

"Currently we are actively supporting over 50 military resisters like Victor Agosto," Szyper-Seibert told IPS, "They are all over the world, including André Shepherd in Germany, and several people in Canada. We are getting five to six calls a week just about the IRR [Individual Ready Reserve] recall alone."

U.S. Army Specialist André Shepherd, who went AWOL after serving in Iraq, has applied for asylum in Germany after refusing military service because he is morally opposed to the occupation of Iraq.

The IRR is composed of former military personnel who still have time remaining on their enlistment agreements but have returned to civilian life. They are eligible to be called up in "states of emergency." The Army is currently undertaking the largest IRR recall since 2004, despite the recent inauguration of a so-called anti-war president.

Szyper-Seibert said that the number of soldiers contacting Courage to Resist has been increasing dramatically in the last year, and particularly in recent months.

"The number of soldiers contacting us is increasing," he explained, "With five to six IRR's contacting us a week, plus others going absent without leave [AWOL], the numbers are all climbing, as compared to a year ago. Since May 2008, we've had a 200 percent jump in how many soldiers are contacting us."

According to Courage to Resist, there have been at least 15,000 IRR call-ups since Sep. 11, 2001, for deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sgt. Travis Bishop, who served 14 months in Baghdad and is also stationed at Fort Hood, recently went AWOL when his unit deployed to Afghanistan.

Like Agosto, Bishop feels it is immoral for him to deploy to support an occupation he morally opposes.

"I love my country, but I believe that this particular war is unjust, unconstitutional and a total abuse of our nation's power and influence," Bishop's blog reads, "And so, in the next few days, I will be speaking with my lawyer, and taking actions that will more than likely result in my discharge from the military, and possible jail time... and I am prepared to live with that."

The reason he made this decision is addressed in his blog.

"My father said, ‘Do only what you can live with, because every morning you have to look at your face in the mirror when you shave. Ten years from now, you'll still be shaving the same face.' If I had deployed to Afghanistan, I don't think I would have been able to look into another mirror again."

Copyright © 2009 IPS-Inter Press Service

Monday, May 25, 2009

Just One More Thing, Soldier

Afghanistan Troop Recall Policies

by Sarah Lazare

"I felt like I was being robbed of everything," Matthew Dobbs said over the phone from his home in Houston, Texas. "I had visions of military police banging down my door and dragging me back to war."

Dobbs, a 26 year-old former soldier who served a tour in Afghanistan from 2003-2004, was recounting a story that has become familiar in the ongoing Global War on Terror. It is the story of a soldier who, after serving a tour overseas and being discharged from Active Duty, received involuntary orders to re-deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan years later.

Dobbs was not a victim of stop-loss, the policy of involuntarily extending a GI's term of service, sometimes after multiple tours in combat zones. This practice has recently garnered widespread negative attention and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates claims that it will be phased out.

Rather, Dobbs was a victim of reactivation orders from the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR), a lesser-publicized form of involuntary service that has been fueling troop supply for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While there has been a strong reaction to stop-loss, IRR recall has slipped under the radar, creating the illusion that the problem of involuntary military service has been solved.

The IRR is composed of troops who have finished their active duty service but still have time remaining on their contracts. The typical military contract mandates four years of active duty and four years in the IRR, but variations exist and an individual's IRR stint might be longer or shorter. IRR members live civilian lives, are unpaid, and are technically required to show up for periodic musters. Many have moved on from military life and are enrolled in college, working civilian jobs, or building a family.

The catch is that, at any point, IRR members can be recalled into active duty to serve in a "state of emergency." This policy has translated into the involuntary reactivation of tens of thousands of troops to fight the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since September 11th, 2001, about 28,000 IRR members in the U.S. Army have been mobilized, according to Major Maria Quon, Army Pubic Affairs Officer. There have been 3,868 Marines involuntarily recalled and mobilized during that time, according to Major O'Connor, Marine Corps Spokesman.

Dobbs was issued his reactivation orders in 2008, over four years after he had completed his tour in Afghanistan and been discharged from Active Duty. At the time, he was enrolled in school at Texas State University. The orders were sent to his mother's house, and he says that hearing her read them over the phone was, "one of the scariest moments in my life."

Dobbs says that his tour in Afghanistan left him with psychological scars that he struggled for years to overcome upon his return. He was deployed to Afghanistan as a communications specialist and bore witness to "firefights, rockets, and mortars," with two people from his unit killed in combat. When he returned from his deployment, Dobbs learned that his father was gravely ill. He got compassionate reassignment to Ft. Sill so that he could be with his dying father. Meanwhile, the rest of his unit was stop-lossed and forced to serve another tour in Iraq.

After his discharge from the military and his father's death, Dobbs struggled with depression and alcoholism. He moved several times, first living with his mother in Texas, then eventually getting a place of his own and enrolling in school. He says he was finally getting his life "to a happy place" when he got the reactivation orders in the mail.

The IRR provides a ready supply of troops who already have military experience, many of whom have already seen combat. With U.S. forces stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, this pool of GIs has played a role in boosting military capacity. Even though recent reports suggest that the military is reaching its recruitment targets for the first time in years, likely due to growing unemployment, Army IRR reactivation rates remain "steady state," according to Major Quon.

Critics charge that the IRR forces already over-extended troops to fight yet another deployment, pushing them beyond exhaustion. "If people thought this was a just war, if soldiers believed that fighting these wars was making the world a better place, the army wouldn't have to involuntarily drag them out of civilian life," said Seth Manzel, Executive Director of GI Voice, an advocacy organization for soldiers who are mistreated by the military, and an active member with Iraq Veterans Against the War, an organization comprised of military service people who have served since September 11th, 2001. "The IRR is nothing more than a backdoor draft."

But military officials say that recruits know exactly what they are getting into when they sign up for military service. "When you sign your contract, you know you have to serve time in the IRR and that there is a possibility you will get called up," said Major O'Connor. "I would hope they read the contract that they signed."

Veteran advocates cast doubt on these claims. "I can say, in my own personal experience, my military recruiter never went through the effort to explain what the IRR is," said Jeff Paterson, former Marine and current Project Director for Courage to Resist, an organization that supports the troops who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Military recruiters are expert at avoiding inconvenient details of the military agreement. In my case, there was no indication that recall during the inactive term would be a realistic event."

Others say that the very premise of the IRR is unfair, regardless of one's awareness at the time of signing their military contract. "No company in the world could make an employment contract like what the military has," said Seth Manzel. "Could you imagine IBM indenturing its workers in the same way? The only reason the contract is upheld is because it is with the government."

After returning from Afghanistan, Dobbs began questioning the ongoing wars. His own research led him to conclude that the war he had fought in was unjustified. "After a lot of reading and questioning, I found out this is not an honorable war, and I came to disagree with what I had done," he said. "Afghanistan did not attack us. This had nothing to do with the people of Afghanistan."

Dobbs became involved with a local chapter of IVAW, where he met his now fiancé. He became an outspoken critic against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and cites his activism as a key component that helped him get his life back on track.

It was in the midst of his burgeoning anti-war activism that Dobbs received his reactivation orders. He was furious. "Doesn't the military realize that if I get deployed again, that could be the end of my life?" he asked, his voice booming. "I have already served in combat. I started living a life of peace when I got out. I didn't ever think they would ask me to go back."

Dobbs told his mom to rip up his activation orders, and he hasn't looked back since. The military made several attempts to contact him, but he ignored them every time. On April 19, 2009, Dobbs was discharged from the IRR. He is still waiting to receive his papers.

GI counselors at Courage to Resist note that, up to this point, the U.S. military has not attempted to apply the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to IRR members who refuse to report. This means that the military has not had jurisdiction to go after IRR members who refuse recall. IRR members can receive a less than honorable discharge from the IRR, but so far this has not affected active duty discharge and has had no bearing on military benefits. Furthermore, the military does not arrest IRR resisters or force them to show up for activation, though they do resort to pressure via letters, phone calls, and even home visits.

However, many troops are not aware of this, and tens of thousands show up for recall. This dilemma was made famous Ryan Conklin of MTV's ‘The Real World,' who, in front of millions of TV viewers, reported back to duty after receiving reactivation orders from the IRR. The recent case of Matthis Chiroux, an IRR resister who pushed for an upgrade in his discharge from the IRR, also garnered widespread media attention.

Many troops also join the military reserves, in hopes of avoiding an IRR recall that will land them in a combat zone. "The IRR ultimately is a tool for military retention," says Jeff Paterson. "Many people are strong-armed into joining the reserves under threat of IRR recall."

Dobbs said that now that he has been discharged from the military, he is prepared to speak out against IRR recall, a practice that he says is indicative of the military's broader policy of using troops up and destroying their minds and bodies through multiple deployments.

"My heart goes out to all of those people showing up for recall," said Matthew Dobbs over the phone. "When you are in a combat zone, you live through the hardest stuff you ever thought you would have to. It is not just physically exhausting, it is also mentally exhausting not to know if this tour is going to be the tour where you die. And now, after making it through alive, they tell you have to go back."

Sarah Lazare is Project Coordinator for Courage to Resist, an organization that supports the troops who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a freelance writer currently living in San Francisco.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Former Senior Interrogator in Iraq Dissects Cheney's Lies and Distortions

by Matthew Alexander

As a senior interrogator in Iraq (and a former criminal investigator), there was a lesson I learned that served me well: there's more to be learned from what someone doesn't say than from what they do say. Let me dissect former Vice President Dick Cheney's speech on National Security using this model and my interrogation skills.

First, VP Cheney said, "This recruitment-tool theory has become something of a mantra lately... it excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do." He further stated, "It is much closer to the truth that terrorists hate this country precisely because of the values we profess and seek to live by, not by some alleged failure to do so." That is simply untrue. Anyone who served in Iraq, and veterans on both sides of the aisle have made this argument, knows that the foreign fighters did not come to Iraq en masse until after the revelations of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. I heard this from captured foreign fighters day in and day out when I was supervising interrogations in Iraq. What the former vice president didn't say is the fact that the dislike of our policies in the Middle East were not enough to make thousands of Muslim men pick up arms against us before these revelations. Torture and abuse became Al Qaida's number one recruiting tool and cost us American lives.

Secondly, the former vice president, in saying that waterboarding is not torture, never mentions the fact that it was the United States and its Allies, during the Tokyo Trials, that helped convict a Japanese soldier for war crimes for waterboarding one of Jimmie Doolittle's Raiders. Have our morals and values changed in fifty years? He also did not mention that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln both prohibited their troops from torturing prisoners of war. Washington specifically used the term "injure" -- no mention of severe mental or physical pain.

Thirdly, the former vice president never mentioned the Senate testimony of Ali Soufan, the FBI interrogator who successfully interrogated Abu Zubaydah and learned the identity of Jose Padilla, the dirty bomber, and the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) was the mastermind behind 9/11. We'll never know what more we could have discovered from Abu Zubaydah had not CIA contractors taken over the interrogations and used waterboarding and other harsh techniques. Also, glaringly absent from the former vice president's speech was any mention of the fact that the former administration never brought Osama bin Laden to justice and that our best chance to locate him would have been through KSM or Abu Zubaydah had they not been waterboarded.

In addition, in his continued defense of harsh interrogation techniques (aka torture and abuse), VP Cheney forgets that harsh techniques have ensured that future detainees will be less likely to cooperate because they see us as hypocrites. They are less willing to trust us when we fail to live up to our principles. I experienced this firsthand in Iraq when interrogating high-ranking members of Al Qaida, some of whom decided to cooperate simply because I treated them with respect and civility.

The former vice president is confusing harshness with effectiveness. An effective interrogation is one that yields useful, accurate intelligence, not one that is harsh. It speaks to a fundamental misunderstanding of interrogations, the goal of which is not to coerce information from a prisoner, but to convince a prisoner to cooperate.

Finally, the point that is most absent is that our greatest success in this conflict was achieved without torture or abuse. My interrogation team found Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaida in Iraq and murderer of tens of thousands. We did this using relationship-building approaches and non-coercive law enforcement techniques. These worked to great effect on the most hardened members of Al Qaida -- spiritual leaders who had been behind the waves of suicide bombers and, hence, the sectarian violence that swept across Iraq. We convinced them to cooperate by applying our intellect. In essence, we worked smarter, not harsher.

Matthew Alexander spent fourteen years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves. An “investigator turned interrogator”, he deployed to Iraq in 2006, where he led the interrogations team that located Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaida in Iraq, who was killed by Coalition Forces. Alexander was awarded the Bronze Star for his achievements. He is the author of How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cheney's speech contained omissions, misstatements

By Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers Jonathan S. Landay And Warren P. Strobel, Mcclatchy Newspapers
Thu May 21, 7:10 pm ET

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Dick Cheney's defense Thursday of the Bush administration's policies for interrogating suspected terrorists contained omissions, exaggerations and misstatements.

In his address to the American Enterprise Institute , a conservative policy organization in Washington , Cheney said that the techniques the Bush administration approved, including waterboarding — simulated drowning that's considered a form of torture — forced nakedness and sleep deprivation, were "legal" and produced information that "prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people."

He quoted the Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair , as saying that the information gave U.S. officials a "deeper understanding of the al Qaida organization that was attacking this country."

In a statement April 21 , however, Blair said the information "was valuable in some instances" but that "there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is that these techniques hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."

A top-secret 2004 CIA inspector general's investigation found no conclusive proof that information gained from aggressive interrogations helped thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to one of four top-secret Bush-era memos that the Justice Department released last month.

FBI Director Mueller Robert Muller told Vanity Fair magazine in December that he didn't think that the techniques disrupted any attacks.

— Cheney said that President Barack Obama's decision to release the four top-secret Bush administration memos on the interrogation techniques was "flatly contrary" to U.S. national security, and would help al Qaida train terrorists in how to resist U.S. interrogations.

However, Blair, who oversees all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, said in his statement that he recommended the release of the memos, "strongly supported" Obama's decision to prohibit using the controversial methods and that "we do not need these techniques to keep America safe."

— Cheney said that the Bush administration "moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and their sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks."

The former vice president didn't point out that Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Ayman al Zawahri , remain at large nearly eight years after 9-11 and that the Bush administration began diverting U.S. forces, intelligence assets, time and money to planning an invasion of Iraq before it finished the war in Afghanistan against al Qaida and the Taliban .

There are now 49,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan fighting to contain the bloodiest surge in Taliban violence since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, and Islamic extremists also have launched their most concerted attack yet on neighboring, nuclear-armed Pakistan .

— Cheney denied that there was any connection between the Bush administration's interrogation policies and the abuse of detainee at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, which he blamed on "a few sadistic guards . . . in violation of American law, military regulations and simple decency."

However, a bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report in December traced the abuses at Abu Ghraib to the approval of the techniques by senior Bush administration officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld .

"The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own," said the report issued by Sens. Carl Levin , D- Mich. , and John McCain , R- Ariz. "The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees."

— Cheney said that "only detainees of the highest intelligence value" were subjected to the harsh interrogation techniques, and he cited Khalid Sheikh Mohammad , the alleged mastermind of the 9-11 attacks.

He didn't mention Abu Zubaydah, the first senior al Qaida operative to be captured after 9-11. Former FBI special agent Ali Soufan told a Senate subcommittee last week that his interrogation of Zubaydah using traditional methods elicited crucial information, including Mohammed's alleged role in 9-11.

The decision to use the harsh interrogation methods "was one of the worst and most harmful decisions made in our efforts against al Qaida ," Soufan said. Former State Department official Philip Zelikow , who in 2005 was then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's point man in an internal fight to overhaul the Bush administration's detention policies, joined Soufan in his criticism.

— Cheney said that "the key to any strategy is accurate intelligence," but the Bush administration ignored warnings from experts in the CIA , the Defense Intelligence Agency , the State Department , the Department of Energy and other agencies, and used false or exaggerated intelligence supplied by Iraqi exile groups and others to help make its case for the 2003 invasion.

Cheney made no mention of al Qaida operative Ali Mohamed al Fakheri , who's known as Ibn Sheikh al Libi , whom the Bush administration secretly turned over to Egypt for interrogation in January 2002 . While allegedly being tortured by Egyptian authorities, Libi provided false information about Iraq's links with al Qaida , which the Bush administration used despite doubts expressed by the DIA.

A state-run Libyan newspaper said Libi committed suicide recently in a Libyan jail.

— Cheney accused Obama of "the selective release" of documents on Bush administration detainee policies, charging that Obama withheld records that Cheney claimed prove that information gained from the harsh interrogation methods prevented terrorist attacks.

"I've formally asked that (the information) be declassified so the American people can see the intelligence we obtained," Cheney said. "Last week, that request was formally rejected."

However, the decision to withhold the documents was announced by the CIA , which said that it was obliged to do so by a 2003 executive order issued by former President George W. Bush prohibiting the release of materials that are the subject of lawsuits.

— Cheney said that only "ruthless enemies of this country" were detained by U.S. operatives overseas and taken to secret U.S. prisons.

A 2008 McClatchy investigation, however, found that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees captured in 2001 and 2002 in Afghanistan and Pakistan were innocent citizens or low-level fighters of little intelligence value who were turned over to American officials for money or because of personal or political rivalries.

In addition, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Oct. 5, 2005 , that the Bush administration had admitted to her that it had mistakenly abducted a German citizen, Khaled Masri , from Macedonia in January 2004 .

Masri reportedly was flown to a secret prison in Afghanistan , where he allegedly was abused while being interrogated. He was released in May 2004 and dumped on a remote road in Albania .

In January 2007 , the German government issued arrest warrants for 13 alleged CIA operatives on charges of kidnapping Masri.

— Cheney slammed Obama's decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and criticized his effort to persuade other countries to accept some of the detainees.

The effort to shut down the facility, however, began during Bush's second term, promoted by Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates .

"One of the things that would help a lot is, in the discussions that we have with the states of which they (detainees) are nationals, if we could get some of those countries to take them back," Rice said in a Dec. 12, 2007 , interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. "So we need help in closing Guantanamo ."

— Cheney said that, in assessing the security environment after 9-11, the Bush team had to take into account "dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists."

Cheney didn't explicitly repeat the contention he made repeatedly in office: that Saddam cooperated with al Qaida , a linkage that U.S. intelligence officials and numerous official inquiries have rebutted repeatedly.

The late Iraqi dictator's association with terrorists vacillated and was mostly aimed at quashing opponents and critics at home and abroad.

The last State Department report on international terrorism to be released before 9-11 said that Saddam's regime "has not attempted an anti-Western terrorist attack since its failed plot to assassinate former President ( George H.W.) Bush in 1993 in Kuwait ."

A Pentagon study released last year, based on a review of 600,000 Iraqi documents captured after the U.S.-led invasion, concluded that while Saddam supported militant Palestinian groups — the late terrorist Abu Nidal found refuge in Baghdad , at least until Saddam had him killed — the Iraqi security services had no "direct operational link" with al Qaida .

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Defense of George W. Bush


If George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and other principals of the previous administration were ever brought to trial for war crimes, I would offer my services, in all sincerity, to their defense. For I think they would have a strong case to make, one that would be of vital, perhaps decisive importance for the future of the nation -- and the world.

I. The Case for the Prosecution

To see the Bush Faction in the dock -- charged with launching a war of aggression and creating a worldwide gulag of torture and illegal detention -- is of course the fervent dream of millions of people across the globe. Such a sight would seem to provide tangible proof that the ideal of justice cannot be vanquished entirely by the brute force of elite power.

The evidence supporting these charges is mountainous, and growing all the time. What's more, the essentials are undisputed, even by the defendants themselves. In the case of aggression, the public reasons offered by the Bush White House for the invasion of Iraq were even less substantial than those put forth by Adolf Hitler for the invasion of Poland in 1939. And this is true even if you accept the highly disputable notion that the Bush Administration really believed that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, it would be true even if Saddam really did have weapons of mass destruction.

In the Nazis' case, there was at least the pretense of a (faked) direct attack on German territory; not even Hitler dared publicly base his invasion on a mere threat, on the presumption that Germany might be attacked at some point in the future. But even in the best-case scenario, giving the American government the full (and wholly undeserved) benefit of the doubt, the Bush Administration launched a war that has killed more than a million innocent people solely on the basis of a mere threat, from weapons that had never been used against the United States -- and whose existence had not even been proven. If this is a legal, moral justification for war, then every American president of the last half-century has been guilty of a treasonous dereliction of duty for not launching a pre-emptive attack on the Soviet Union, whose actually existing arsenals of nation-destroying weapons were aimed openly and specifically at the United States for decades.

So the facts of the aggressive war case are not in dispute. And no, the UN resolutions stemming from the 1991 Gulf War are not relevant; nothing in them gave any member nation the right to launch military action unilaterally to enforce the resolutions without the prior approval of the Security Council. In every way, then, the invasion of Iraq was a clear violation of the UN Charter's very clear and specific strictures against aggressive war -- strictures which the United States helped formulate and had publicly subscribed to for almost 60 years at the time of the Iraq invasion. There is no genuine legal basis for denying that the invasion of Iraq constitutes the formal war crime of military aggression, as Arthur Silber, for one, has pointed out in great detail.

The torture case is, if anything, even clearer. According to the laws of the United States, it is simply illegal to order or carry out torture, at any time, under any circumstances whatsoever. Moreover, the question of what constitutes torture is clearly addressed -- and even though Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton colluded to exempt certain exquisite psychological and indirect tortures devised by the CIA from the law (as Noam Chomsky reminds us), the existing legal threshold for defining torture still falls far, far below the one adopted by the Bush Administration; i.e., anything short of death, organ failure or permanent physical damage. And of course, even these cynical and sinister standards were routinely violated: there have been many deaths -- murders -- as a result of the torture program which no one now denies was established, maintained and closely monitored by the Bush White House.

And again, the accused do not denying employing these practices; on the contrary, they champion them openly, and have long done so, as in the case of Dick Cheney's acknowledgment and praise for waterboarding -- a torture technique that has been prosecuted as a serious crime in American courts for generations, and was regarded, by the American government, as a basis of war crimes charges against Japanese officials following World War II.

Thus, by any understanding of the law -- from the most common-sense reading to the most arcane and convoluted parsing -- it is clear that the capital crime of torture has been committed by the Bush Administration. Any court proceeding would immediately establish this fact.

To sum up: Did the leading members of the Bush Administration instigate and collude in actions that resulted in a war of aggression and the deliberate, systematic infliction of torture on captives? Yes. Do they admit -- even boast -- that these actions occurred? Yes. What defense can they offer then?

II. In Defense of George W. Bush

Faced with prosecution for their admitted deeds, the principals of the Bush Administration would have only one defense: precedent. They would have to show that their actions had been accepted practice in American government for many, many years -- from the very beginning, in fact -- and had never been regarded as prosecutable offenses before. To imprison them now -- or even execute them -- for carrying on the standard policies and practices of bipartisan governance stretching back for generations would surely constitute cruel and unusual punishment. It would be selective prosecution. It would be nothing less than the "criminalization of political differences" -- for the historical record clearly shows that aggression and torture have always been treated in the American system as political implements, tools of political policy, and not as criminal matters.

Thus the Bush defense team would have to put forth a mountain of historical evidence, laying out in great detail the use of military aggression and torture (both directly and by client states under American direction, for American purposes) over the entire course of U.S. history. Naturally, they would focus most of their attention on the decades since World War II, as this would involve institutions, agencies -- and even some of the same people -- that serve as instruments of American policy and practice today; iIt would be easier, and more relevant, to show the continuity with their more immediate bipartisan predecessors. But the older historical material would also be important in setting out the long-established precedents and philosophies in which modern policies are rooted.

It is here that I would want to contribute to the defense. I would gladly act as a lowly researcher for them, sifting through the accumulation of historical fact and insightful analysis provided over the years by such noted writers as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Arthur Silber, Alfred McCoy, Richard Seymour, Fred Anderson and Andrew Clayton, and far too many more to mention. And beyond these overviews and works of synthesis, there are the innumerable, highly detailed articles, studies, monographs, and full-scale scholarly works produced by historians in every field of specialty: political, economic, legal, cultural, military, and so on.

A war crimes trial of George Bush, Dick Cheney and their chief minions would be a public spectacle of perhaps unprecedented scope. Millions of people all over the world would be riveted to it every day; the American public especially would be hanging on its every word. To mount such a defense, on such a powerful platform, would devastate the myth of American exceptionalism like nothing else imaginable. Horrific atrocity, brutal arrogance, deadly ignorance -- again, by both direct and collateral hand -- would all be brought into the glaring light. The principle of violent domination -- continuous, accepted, celebrated, legitimized, institutionalized -- would stand revealed as a core value, if not the core value, of the American way.

Only through such a spectacular act of non-violent "creative destruction" could we hope to sweep away the false narrative that is drummed into every American from birth until it becomes an integral part of their own self-image and their understanding of the outside world: the false narrative of righteous exceptionalism that underpins and "justifies" the monstrous violence of empire. This myth performs a kind of psychic and moral alchemy in the minds of Americans, transmutating the reality of bloodsoaked murder, repression and suffering into benign acts of "liberation" and "humanitarianism."

Removing these blinders would give us a chance to at least begin effecting genuine change and reform in a system that has poisoned its own people and wrought destruction and chaos around the world. It would not restore "the shining city on the hill" -- which never existed, and never can exist, given the manifold imperfections, confusions, and contradictions of human nature; but it might, just might, clear the ground for the construction of a better polity: more enlightened, more just, more humane. That is a noble endeavor I would be glad to join, whatever form it took -- even if that form happened to be the defense of George W. Bush at a war crimes trial.

Not that I believe Bush and his gang of gilded thugs are innocent; they are not. They are sadistic murderers at the outer reaches of depravity. But neither are they aberrations of the system that has produced them. Rather, they are its quintessence, its exemplars, its inheritors and continuers -- and they have, in turn, bequeathed the core value of violent domination to their successors, who have freely and eagerly embraced it. If the Bush gang stands trial, then the entire system must be put on trial; otherwise, their prosecution would be nothing but a show trial, a scapegoating designed to perpetuate the system while appearing to cauterize and cleanse it of a limited, aberrant evil, as Arthur Silber has argued in his powerful series, "Against Prosecution."

Thus the evils inevitably and inescapably produced by a system of violent domination would go on and on, gaining new strength from the reinvigoration of the national myth that has justified so much horror for so long: "See? We got rid of the bad apples; everything is fine now, the system is good now, we're exceptional again, the hill is shining once more." And the righteous bombs of humanitarian liberation would keep falling on the bodies of innocent people.

But we all know there will be no such trial, and certainly no such defense. As we have seen in the last few months, the American political class and its media sycophants have rallied 'round the flag to defend the system's core values. They have made it abundantly clear that they do not consider torture and military aggression to be criminal offenses when these actions are carried out by the American government. Instead, such things are regarded as affairs of state -- matters of policy and politics, subject to factional quibbling over their execution and extent, perhaps, but certainly not a question of law, or justice, or morality.

And so the system and its horrors keep churning on, regardless of the liberal credentials of its current managers. An overseer of a torture chamber and director of death squads, Stanley McChrystal, has now been put in charge of the "good war" in Afghanistan and its inexorable spread into Pakistan. The war crime in Iraq continues unabated, with an increasingly shattered army of desperate, doped-up, burned-out soldiers still loose in a crumbling, broken land, while vast permanent bases are being expanded to house the tens of thousands who will remain behind even after a still- uncertain "withdrawal" plan is completed. The "disease of permanent war," as Chris Hedges terms the swine flu of militarism that rages so virulently through the imperial system, will keep driving the nation, and the world, to one disaster after the next. As Silber puts it:

"Intervention always leads to more intervention: the first intervention leads to unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences, which are then used as the justification for still further intervention. That intervention in turn leads to still more unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences, which are then used as yet another justification for still further intervention. The process can go on indefinitely, and the ultimate consequences are always disastrous in the extreme."

A genuine trial of George W. Bush -- and a genuine defense, which, as outlined above, would lead to an indictment of the entire system -- perhaps could have broken this cycle. But each day's news -- each echo from the charnel houses that sustain the empire's exalted position -- makes it clear that we have not yet supp'd full with horrors.

Chris Floyd is an American writer and frequent contributor to CounterPunch. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Check Point Iraq


I don’t remember how old I was when my father asked me this peculiar question, maybe sometime during my high school years. And I don’t know why he asked me or how it came up in conversation, but when it did, it hit me like a brick. “How many dying boys have you held in your arms, crying for their mother?”

To this day I have never held anyone dying in my arms, and no one crying for their mother. I don’t remember how I answered his question. I was dumb founded.

My father fought in the Vietnam War. He was an Infantry Scout Dog handler where he walked the point man with his German Sheppard, Beau. They led they way and looked for Charlie, ambushes, booby traps, tunnels, and weapon caches. My father and Beau were a team. They walked out in front of the patrol and Beau would alert my father if he smelled trouble ahead. The lives of the men they were leading through the jungles of South Vietnam were in theirs’ to protect.

Years later after my father asked me this disturbing question, he explained what had happened to him years ago in Vietnam. One day my father and Beau were leading a patrol through the jungle, when Beau threw up a signal to my father that he smelled danger, so he signaled for the patrol to halt. The Lieutenant ran up front and asked why “his” patrol had stopped. My father explained to the LT that his dog had alerted him that there was something ahead to be cautious of. The LT became angry, “That’s bullshit, this area has been cleared. Charlie hasn’t been in the AO for days,” the LT then ordered them continue on with the mission. Against my father’s better judgment he continued to lead the patrol deeper into the jungle.

Within a few minutes they walked right into a heavy ambush. Beau had been right. The patrol was pinned down and had to fight their way out of it. They were able to break contact with the enemy and pull back to safety.

However, during the firefight, a soldier in the squad took a bullet to the lower stomach and was bleeding fast. This young soldier happened to be a good friend of my father. Seeing his wounded buddy, he ran over to him yelling for a medic to come and assist. The soldier was lying on the ground, holding his guts in his hands, crying out for his mother. All my father could do was hold his friend and provided what comfort he could as he died in his arms.

After my father told me this experience, he confessed that he still felt guilty for this young man’s life. He said he wished he could have tried to convince the LT not to continue the patrol any further. Maybe there was more my father could have done.

In my father’s face I could see the heavy guilt and anger as a tear rolled down his cheek. Right then I knew that my father had just shared something with me that he probably hasn’t shared with too many others. I didn’t know what to say. But I did gain a better answer as to why he asked me that question years ago.

As I mentioned, I have never held anyone dying in my arms crying for their mother. So the answer to my Dad is no I have never experienced that. But let me ask you this Dad, how many nine year old boys have you held in your arms, crying for their father? How about a boy clinging to his lifeless father that you just killed?

In the summer of 2003, I was working a check point outside the small city of Al-Hawija in Northern Iraq. I was in the Army, in the Infantry, just like my father was, but instead of patrolling the humid jungles of Vietnam, I was fighting an urban guerilla war in the extreme heat and sand of Iraq.

Our check point was set up outside of town and we were stopping every vehicle trying to enter. We were searching the vehicles for weapons, explosives, suspected bad guys, stuff to build IED’s, and other contraband. Our check point looked like this: 300 meters out we had a warning sign written in Arabic that said, “Slow Down. Prepare to Stop!” 150 meters out we had another sign that said, “Deadly Force will be used if you do not stop!” We then had a maze of concerinta wire set up for the vehicles to weave in and out of before coming to a stop in an area that we nicknamed the “pit”. In the pit we searched the vehicles, and when nothing was found and they were clean, we waved them on, and allowed them to enter the city.

On that summer day back in 2003, my squad was manning the check point into Hawija. It was a slow day with not much traffic. I think it had something to do with the mid afternoon heat. When the temperatures reached over 130 degrees, most of the Iraqis wisely stayed inside and off the roads. Most traveled at night when it was cooler. But a one vehicle approached our check point. So I peered through a pair of binoculars and spotted a small white Toyota pick-up truck heading towards our position. I put the binos down and raised my weapon to the ready position.

The white truck approached the first warning sign, but did not attempt to slow down. My squad leader ordered a warning shot to be fired as a sign of force, so the man next to me fired off a three round burst with his M-16 over the top of the truck. The truck was not slowing down. It soon approached the 150 meter second warning sign. Fearing that the truck could be loaded down with explosives on a suicide run, our squad leader ordered everyone to open fire on the truck. I raised my weapon and put 30 rounds into the driver’s side windshield. The man next to me with the M-240B machine gun opened fire and sprayed about 150 rounds into the vehicle’s engine. With each bullet weighing 180 grains, he put about a pound of lead into its engine block.

Black smoke started to billow out from under the hood, as the little truck started to swerve back and forth. It ran into our concertina wire and eventually came to a stop inside the pit. Immediately I slammed in a flesh magazine and fired off a few more rounds into the driver side door. Our squad leader then yelled for a seize fire. The firing stopped but my adrenaline was still pumping. The driver of the truck was hanging out the driver side door, hunched over. Blood was running out of his head, chest, and arms, turning the side of the truck a dark liquid maroon. A squad member opened the driver side door, and his body fell to the ground. I can still hear the thud it made as he rolled out of the truck.

Wildly, the passenger side door flew open, and I saw a young boy, eight or nine years old, jump out and run around the front of the truck. He dove on top of the bullet riddled body, screaming and crying, all in Arabic so I am not certian what was being said. All I could do was watch in horror.

As it turned out, the driver was the boy’s father. Fortunately thee boy was not injured as we all fired our shots into the driver’s side of the truck. The boy was wailing hysterically holding onto his dead father. He was now covered in his father’s blood and it took 3 of us to pry him away. We managed to drag the boy from his father’s body and over to one of our Humvees. We held the boy so he couldn’t see his father lying on the ground in a pool of blood. Our medic walked over to the body to check it out. There was nothing the medic could do. The damage had been done. The medic just stood over the body and kicked it a few times and then flung his arms up into the air, telling us, “fuck this!” We all knew he was dead. I don’t think you could count all the bullet holes in his body.

They loaded the young boy into the Humvee and drove him off. To where, I don’t know. I never saw the boy again. We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to clean up the carnage. We packed the father’s body into a body bag and tossed it into the back of another Humvee like it was a old bag of trash. Where they took him, I also don’t know. I never asked where they took the bodies after we killed them. I really didn’t care either. My job was just to kill. The rest was up to someone else. I don’t know whose job was worse.

Next, we had to figure out what to do with the truck. It was completely disabled and the inside of it was covered with blood and chunks of flesh. No one wanted to climb into the truck, so we called in the mechanics and they towed it out of our check point. Later on the mechanics told us after checking over the truck that the breaks were broken. The truck wasn’t trying to run our check point, it just couldn’t stop. It turned out just to be a father and son coming back into town after what had to be a grueling day working out in their watermelon fields. The back of their truck was full of watermelons and shovels. Maybe they were on their way into town to sell their melons at the market and perhaps make enough money to get the breaks on their truck fixed.

Could this shootout have been avoided? I don’t know. Myself, and the others in my squad were just following orders. We were ordered to open fire on the truck, and we were just doing our job. A job that was illegally ordered by a Congress and White House without any recognition of international law, let alone humanity. How were we to know if the white Toyota truck wasn’t loaded with explosives, ready to blow us all up. And how were we to know that the truck was just a father and son coming back from their fields and that the breaks on their truck were faulty? And how to you explain this to the young boy who watched his innocent father be killed by American Forces occupying his country?

That was over five years ago, making him a teenager by now. Maybe he will be driving a white Toyota pickup truck tomorrow, approaching a collation check point somewhere in Iraq. And I can damn sure bet you that he won’t be hauling watermelons.

Kristoffer Rehder was first deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq in 2003 where he served in the 4th Infantry Division, 1-12 Infantry Battalion for 13 months. In 2005 he was redeployed to Iraq for an additional 400 days despite being classified as 50% disabled by the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Minnesota for severe PTSD, hearing loss and bad knees. He now lives in Montana and can be reached at

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fun Exposition of the Absurd Conspiracy Theory Sold About 9/11

TZUTC: -0500
MSGID: 2.consprcy@1:123/160 0cff8364
PID: Synchronet 3.14a-Win32 Dec 31 2006 MSC 1200
TID: SBBSecho 2.11-Win32 r1.182 Dec 31 2006 MSC 1200
Note: I did not write this, but I find it so interesting that I find myself
reading over and over... It is so well written.

Astute observers of history are aware that for every notable event there will
usually be at least one, often several, wild conspiracy theories which spring
up around it. 'The CIA killed Hendrix', 'The Pope had John Lennon murdered ',
'Hitler was half Werewolf', 'Space aliens replaced Nixon with a clone', etc,
etc. The bigger the event, the more ridiculous and more numerous are the
fanciful rantings which circulate in relation to it.
So it's hardly surprising that the events of Sept 11 2001 have spawned their
fair share of these ludicrous fairy tales. And as always, there is sadly a
small but gullible percentage of the population eager to lap up these tall
tales, regardless of facts or rational analysis.
One of the wilder stories circulating about Sept 11, and one that has
attracted something of a cult following amongst conspiracy buffs is that it
was carried out by 19 fanatical Arab hijackers, masterminded by an evil genius
named Osama bin Laden, with no apparent motivation other than that they 'hate
our freedoms.

Never a group of people to be bothered by facts, the perpetrators of this
cartoon fantasy have constructed an elaborately woven web of delusions and
unsubstantiated hearsay in order to promote this garbage across the internet
and the media to the extent that a number of otherwise rational people have
actually fallen under its spell. Normally I don't even bother debunking this
kind of junk, but the effect that this paranoid myth is beginning to have
requires a little rational analysis, in order to consign it to the same
rubbish bin as all such silly conspiracy theories.
These crackpots even contend that the extremist Bush regime was caught
unawares by the attacks, had no hand in organizing them, and actually would
have stopped them if it had been able. Blindly ignoring the stand-down of the
US Air Force, the insider trading on airline stocks — linked to the CIA, the
complicit behavior of Bush on the morning of the attacks, the controlled
demolition of the WTC, the firing of a missile into the Pentagon and a host of
other documented proofs that the Bush regime was behind the attacks, the
conspiracy theorists stick doggedly to a silly story about 19 Arab hijackers
somehow managing to commandeer 4 planes simultaneously and fly them around US
airspace for nearly 2 hours, crashing them into important buildings, without
the US intelligence services having any idea that it was coming, and without
the Air Force knowing what to do.

The huge difficulties with such a stupid story force them to invent even more
preposturous stories to distract from its core silliness, and thus the tale
has escalated into a mythic fantasy of truly gargantuan proportions.
It's difficult to apply rational analysis to such unmitigated stupidity, but
that is the task which I take on in this article. However, it should be noted
that one of the curious characteristics of conspiracy theorists is that they
effortlessly change their so-called evidence in response to each aspect which
is debunked. As soon as one delusion is unmasked, they simply invent another
to replace it, and deny that the first ever existed. Eventually, when they
have turned full circle through this endlessly changing fantasy fog , they
then re-invent the original delusion and deny that you ever debunked it, thus
beginning the circle once more. This technique is known as 'the fruit loop'
and saves the conspiracy theorist from ever having to see any of their ideas
through to their (ill)logical conclusions.

According to the practitioners of the fruit loop, 19 Arabs took over the 4
planes by subduing the passengers and crew through the use of guns, knives,
box cutters and gas, and then used electronic guidance systems which they had
smuggled on board to fly the planes to their targets.
The suspension of disbelief required for this outrageous concoction is only
for the hard-core conspiracy theorist. For a start, they conveniently skip
over the awkward fact that there weren't any Arabs on the planes. If there
were, one must speculate that they somehow got on board without being filmed
by any of the security cameras and without being registered on the passenger
lists. But the curly question of how they are supposed to have got on board is
all too mundane for the exciting world of the conspiracy theorist. With vague
mumblings that they must have been using false ID (but never specifying which
IDs they are alleged to have used, or how these were traced to their real
identities), they quickly bypass this problem, to relate exciting and sinister
tales about how some of the fictitious fiends were actually searched before
boarding because they looked suspicious. However, as inevitably happens with
any web of lies, this simply paints them into an even more difficult corner.
How are they supposed to have got on board with all that stuff if they were
searched? And if they used gas in a confined space, they would have been
affected themselves unless they also had masks in their luggage.
'Excuse me sir, why do you have a boxcutter, a gun, a container of gas, a gas
mask and an electronic guidance unit in your luggage?' 'A present for your
grandmother? Very well sir, on you get.' 'Very strange', thinks the security
officer. 'That's the fourth Arab man without an Arabic name who just got on
board with a knife, gun or boxcutter and gas mask. And why does that security
camera keep flicking off every time one of these characters shows up? Must be
one of those days I guess...'

Asking any of these basic questions to a conspiracy theorist is likely to
cause a sudden leap to the claim that we know that they were on board because
they left a credit card trail for the tickets they had purchased and cars they
had rented. So if they used credit cards that identified them, how does that
reconcile with the claim that they used false IDs to get on to the plane? But
by this time the fruit loop is in full swing, as the conspiracy theorist tries
to stay one jump ahead of this annoying and awkward rational analysis. They
will allege that the hijackers' passports were found at the crash scenes. 'So
there!' they exalt triumphantly, their fanatical faces lighting up with that
deranged look of one who has just a revelation of questionable sanity. Hmm? So
they got on board with false IDs but took their real passports with them?
However, by this time the fruit loop has been completely circumnavigated,and
the conspiracy theorist exclaims impatiently, 'Who said anything about false
IDs? We know what seats they were sitting in! Their presence is well
documented!' And so the whole loop starts again. 'Well, why aren't they on the
passenger lists?' 'You numbskull! They assumed the identities of other
passengers!' And so on...

Finally, out of sheer fascination with this circular method of creative
delusion, the rational sceptic will allow them to get away with this loop, in
order to move on to the next question, and see what further delights await us
in the unraveling of this marvelously stupid story. 'Uh, how come their
passports survived fiery crashes that completely incinerated the planes and
all the passengers? ' The answer of course is that it's just one of those
strange co-incidences, those little quirks of fate that do happen from time to
time. You know, like the same person winning the lottery four weeks in a row.
The odds are astronomical, but these things do happen...

This is another favourite deductive method of the conspiracy theorist. The
'improbability drive', in which they decide upon a conclusion without any
evidence whatsoever to support it, and then continually speculate a series of
wildly improbable events and unbelievable co-incidences to support it,
shrugging off the implausibility of each event with the vague assertion that
sometimes the impossible happens (just about all the time in their world).
There is a principle called 'Occam's Razor' which suggests that in the absence
of evidence to the contrary, the simplest explanation is most likely to be
correct. Conspiracy theorists hate Occam's razor.
Having for the sake of amusement, allowed them to get away with with the silly
story of the 19 invisible Arabs, we move on to the question of how they are
supposed to have taken over the planes. Hijacking a plane is not an easy thing
to do. Hijacking it without the pilot being able to alert ground control is
nearly impossible. The pilot has only to punch in a four-digit code to alert
ground control to a hijacking. Unconcerned with the awkward question of
plausibility, the conspiracy buffs maintain that on that Sept 11, the
invisible hijackers took over the plane by the rather crude method of
threatening people with boxcutters and knives, and spraying gas (after they
had attached their masks, obviously), but somehow took control of the plane
without the crew first getting a chance to punch in the hijacking code. Not
just on one plane, but on all four. At this point in the tale, the conspiracy
theorist is again forced to call upon the services of the improbability drive.

So now that our incredibly lucky hijackers have taken control of the planes,
all four pilots fly them with breath-taking skill and certainty to their fiery
end, all four pilots unflinching in their steely resolve for a swift meeting
with Allah. Apart from their psychotic hatred of 'our freedoms', it was their
fanatical devotion to Islam which enabled them to summon up the iron will to
do this. Which is strange, because according to another piece of hearsay
peddled by the conspiracy buffs, these guys actually went out drinking and
womanizing the night before their great martyrdom, even leaving their Korans
in the bar — really impeccable Islamic behavior — and then got up at 5 am the
next morning to pull off the greatest covert operation in history. This also
requires us to believe that they were even clear-headed enough to learn how to
fly the huge planes by reading flight manuals in Arabic in the car on the way
to the airport. We know this because they supposedly left the flight manuals
there for us to find.

It gets better. Their practical training had allegedly been limited to Cessnas
and flight simulators, but this was no barrier to the unflinching certainty
with which they took over the planes and skillfully guided them to their doom.
If they are supposed to have done their flight training with these tools,
which would be available just about anywhere in the world, it's not clear why
they would have decided to risk blowing their cover to US intelligence
services by doing the training in Florida, rather than somewhere in the Middle
East, but such reasoning is foreign to the foggy world of the conspiracy
theorist, too trapped in the constant rotation of the mental fruit loop to
make their unsubstantiated fabrications seem even semi-believable.

Having triumphantly established a circular delusion in support of the mythical
Arabs, the conspiracy theorist now confronts the difficult question of why
there's nothing left of the planes. Anybody who has seen the
endlessly-replayed footage of the second plane going into the WTC will realize
that the plane was packed with explosives. Planes do not and cannot blow up
into nothing in that manner when they crash.
Did the mythical Arabs also haul a huge heap of explosives on board, and
manage to deploy them in such a manner that they went off in the exact instant
of the crash, completely vapourizing the plane? This is a little difficult
even for the conspiracy theorist, who at this point decides that it's easier
to invent new laws of physics in order to keep the delusion rolling along.

There weren't any explosives. It wasn't an inside job. The plane blew up into
nothing from its exploding fuel load! Remarkable! Sluggishly combustible jet
fuel which is basically kerosine,and which burns at a maximum temperature of
around 800°C has suddenly taken on the qualities of a ferociously explosive
demolition agent, vapourizing 65 tons of aircraft into a puff of smoke. Never
mind that a plane of that size contains around 15 tons of steel and titanium,
of which even the melting points are about double that of the maximum
combustion temperature of kerosine — let alone the boiling point — which is
what would be required to vapourize a plane. And then there's about 50 tons of
aluminium to be accounted for. In excess of 15 lbs of metal for each gallon of
For the conspiracy theorist, such inconvenient facts are vaguely dismissed as
'mumbo jumbo'. This convenient little phrase is their answer to just about
anything factual or logical. Like a conjurer pulling a rabbit out of a hat,
they suddenly become fanatically insistent about the devastating explosive
qualities of kerosine, something hitherto completely unknown to science, but
just discovered by them, this very minute. Blissfully ignoring the fact that
never before or since in aviation history has a plane vapourized into nothing
from an exploding fuel load, the conspiracy theorist relies upon Hollywood
images, where the effects are are always larger than life, and certainly
larger than the intellects of these cretins. 'Its a well known fact that
planes blow up into nothing on impact.' they state with pompous certainty.
'Watch any Bruce Willis movie.
' Care to provide any documented examples? If it's a well-known fact, then
presumably this well-known fact springs from some kind of documentation —
other than Bruce Willis movies?
At this point the mad but cunning eyes of the conspiracy theorist will narrow
as they sense the corner that they have backed themselves into, and plan their
escape by means of another stunning backflip.
'Ah, but planes have never crashed into buildings before, so there's no way of
telling.' they counter with a sly grin.
Well, actually planes have crashed into buildings before and since, and not
vapourized into nothing.

'But not big planes, with that much fuel ', they shriek in hysterical denial.
Or that much metal to vapourize.
'Yes but not hijacked planes!'
Are you suggesting that whether the crash is deliberate or accidental affects
the combustion qualities of the fuel?
'Now you're just being silly'.

Although collisions with buildings are rare, planes frequently crash into
mountains, streets, other aircraft, nosedive into the ground, or have bombs
planted aboard them, and don't vapourize into nothing. What's so special about
a tower that's mostly glass? But by now, the conspiracy theorist has once
again sailed happily around the fruit loop. 'Its a well-documented fact that
planes explode into nothing on impact.
Effortlessly weaving back and forth between the position that it's a
'well-known fact' and that 'it's never happened before, so we have nothing to
compare it to', the conspiracy theorist has now convinced himself (if not too
many other people) that the WTC plane was not loaded with explosives, and that
the instant vapourization of the plane in a massive fireball was the same as
any other plane crash you might care to mention. Round and round the fruit

But the hurdles which confront the conspiracy theorist are many, and they are
now forced to implement even more creative uses for the newly-discovered
shockingly destructive qualities of kerosine. They have to explain how the
Arabs also engineered the elegant vertical collapse of both the WTC towers,
and for this awkward fact the easiest counter is to simply deny that it was a
controlled demolition, and claim that the buildings collapsed from fire caused
by the burning kerosine.

For this, it's necessary to sweep aside the second law of thermodynamics and
propose kerosine which is not only impossibly destructive, but also recycles
itself for a second burning in violation of the law of degradation of energy.
You see, the kerosine not only consumed itself in a sudden catastrophic
fireball, vapourizing a 65 ton plane into nothing, but then came back for a
second go, burning at 2000°C for another hour at the impact point, melting the
skyscraper's steel like butter. And while it was doing all this it also poured
down the elevator shafts, starting fires all through the building. When I was
at school there was a little thing called the entropy law which suggests that
a given portion of fuel can only burn once, something which is readily
observable in the real world, even for those who didn't make it to junior high
school science. But this is no problem for the conspiracy theorist.

Gleefully, they claim that a few thousand gallons of kerosine is enough to:
* completely vapourize a 65 ton aircraft
* have enough left over to burn ferociously enough for over an hour at the
impact point to melt steel (melting point about double the maximum combustion
temperature of the fuel) and
* still have enough left over to pour down the elevator shafts and start
similarly destructive fires all through the building.

This kerosine really is remarkable stuff! How chilling to realize that those
kerosine heaters we had in the house when I was a kid were deadly bombs, just
waiting to go off. One false move and the entire street might have been
vapourized. And never again will I take kerosine lamps out camping. One moment
you're there innocently holding the lamp — the next — kapow! vapourized into
nothing along with with the rest of the camp site, and still leaving enough of
the deadly stuff to start a massive forest fire.

These whackos are actually claiming that the raging inferno allegedly created
by the miraculously recycling, and impossibly hot burning kerosine melted or
at least softened the steel supports of the skyscraper. Oblivious to the fact
that the smoke coming from the WTC was black, which indicates an
oxygen-starved fire — therefore, not particularly hot, they trumpet an alleged
temperature in the building of 2000°C, without a shred of evidence to support
this curious suspension of the laws of physics.

Not content with this ludicrous garbage, they then contend that as the steel
frames softened, they came straight down instead of buckling and twisting and
falling sideways.

Since they've already re-engineered the combustion qualities of jet fuel,
violated the second law of thermodynamics, and re-defined the structural
properties of steel, why let a little thing like the laws of gravity get in
the way?

The tower fell in a time almost identical to that of a free-falling object,
dropped from that height, meaning that it's physically impossible for it to
have collapsed by the method of the top floors smashing through the lower
floors. But according to the conspiracy theorists, the laws of gravity were
temporarily suspended on the morning of Sept 11. It appears that the evil
psychic power of those dreadful Arabs knew no bounds. Even after they were
dead, they were able, by the power of their evil spirits, to force down the
tower at a speed physically impossible under the laws of gravity, had it been
meeting any resistance from fireproofed steel structures originally designed
to resist many tons of hurricane force wind as well as the impact of a Boeing
passenger jet straying off course.
Clearly, these conspiracy nuts never did their science homework at school, but
did become extremely adept at inventing tall tales for why.
'Muslim terrorists stole my notes, sir'
'No miss, the kerosine heater blew up and vapourized everything in the street,
except for my passport.

'You see sir, the schoolbus was hijacked by Arabs who destroyed my homework
because they hate our freedoms.
Or perhaps they misunderstood the term 'creative science' and mistakenly
thought that coming up with such rubbish was, in fact, their science homework.

The ferocious heat generated by this ghastly kerosine was, according to the
conspiracy theorists, the reason why so many of the WTC victims can't be
identified. DNA is destroyed by heat. (Although 2000°C isn't really required,
100°C will generally do the job.) This is quite remarkable, because according
to the conspiracy theorist, the nature of DNA suddenly changes if you go to a
different city. That's right! If you are killed by an Arab terrorist in New
York, your DNA will be destroyed by such temperatures. But if you are killed
by an Arab terrorist in Washington DC, your DNA will be so robust that it can
survive temperatures which completely vapourize a 65 ton aircraft.

You see, these loonies have somehow concocted the idea that the missile which
hit the pentagon was not a missile at all, but one of the hijacked planes. And
to prove this unlikely premise, they point to a propaganda statement from the
Bush regime, which rather stupidly claims that all but one of the people
aboard the plane were identified from the site by DNA testing, even though
nothing remains of the plane. The plane was vapourized by the fuel tank
explosion maintain these space loonies, but the people inside it were all but
one identified by DNA testing.
So there we have it. The qualities of DNA are different, depending upon which
city you're in, or perhaps depending upon which fairy story you're trying to
sell at any particular time.

This concoction about one of the hijacked planes hitting the Pentagon really
is a howler. For those not familiar with the layout of the Pentagon, it
consists of 5 rings of building, each with a space inbetween. Each ring of
building is about 30 to 35 ft deep, with a similar amount of open space
between it and the next ring. The object which penetrated the Pentagon went in
at about a 45-degree angle, punching a neat circular hole of about a 12-foot
diameter through three rings (six walls). A little later a section of wall
about 65 ft wide collapsed in the outer ring. Since the plane which the
conspiracy theorists claim to be responsible for the impact had a wing span of
125 ft and a length of 155 ft, and there was no wreckage of the plane, either
inside or outside the building, and the lawns outside were still smooth and
green enough to play golf on, this crazy delusion is clearly physically

But hey, we've already disregarded the combustion qualities of jet fuel, the
normal properties of common building materials, the properties of DNA, the
laws of gravity and the second law of thermodynamics, so what the hell — why
not throw in a little spatial impossibility as well? I would have thought that
the observation that a solid object cannot pass through another solid object
without leaving a hole at least as big as itself is reasonably sound science.
But to the conspiracy theorist, this is 'mumbo jumbo'. It conflicts with the
delusion that they're hooked on, so it 'must be wrong' although trying to get
then to explain exactly how it could be wrong is a futile endeavour.

Conspiracy theorists fly into a curious panic whenever the Pentagon missile is
mentioned. They nervously maintain that the plane was vapourized by it's
exploding fuel load and point to the WTC crash as evidence of this behavior.
(That's a wonderful fruit loop.) Like an insect which has just been sprayed,
running back and forth in its last mad death throes, they first argue that the
reason the hole is so small is that plane never entered the wall, having blown
up outside, and then suddenly backflip to explain the 250 ft deep missile hole
by saying that the plane disappeared all the way into the building, and then
blew up inside the building (even though the building shows no sign of such
damage). As for what happened to the wings — here's where they get really
creative. The wings snapped off and folded into the fuselage which then
carried them into the building, which then closed up behind the plane like a
piece of meat.

When it suits them, they'll also claim that the plane slid in on its belly
(ignoring the undamaged lawn) while at the same time citing alleged witnesses
to the plane diving steeply into the building from an 'irrecoverable angle.'
How they reconcile these two scenarios as being compatible is truly a study in

Once they get desperate enough, you can be sure that the UFO conspiracy stuff
will make an appearance. The Arabs are in league with the Martians. Space
aliens snatched the remains of the Pentagon plane and fixed most of the hole
in the wall, just to confuse people. They gave the Arabs invisibility pills to
help get them onto the planes. Little green men were seen were seen talking to
Bin Laden a few weeks prior to the attacks.

As the nation gears up to impeach the traitor Bush, and stop his perpetual oil
war, it's not helpful to have these idiots distracting from the process by
spreading silly conspiracy theories about mythical Arabs, stories which do
nothing but play into the hands of the extremist Bush regime.

At a less serious time, we might tolerate such crackpots with amused
detachment, but they need to understand that the treachery that was
perpetrated on Sept 11, and the subsequent war crimes committed in
'retaliation', are far too serious for us to allow such frivolous
self-indulgence to go unchallenged.

Those who are truly addicted to conspiracy delusions should find a more
appropriate outlet for their

It's time to stop loony conspiracy theories about Sept 11.

by Gerard Holmgren

I didn't even include the Collapse of WTC 7 in my explanations and quotes I
selected of how crazy the official story truly is.

It was never even hit by a plane and had minimal structural damage but
collapsed at free fall speed.

But because the media and our government lies to the American public about
what actually caused 9/11 we are now stuck fighting a eternal war on terrorism
which will destroy America and every thing it once stood for.