Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Democracy Now: Lawrence Wilkerson on the "White House Cabal" and Haiti; Ruth Conniff, Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq), Danny Schechter and Lisa Pease

Pentagon Docs: White Phosphorous Is A Chemical Weapon
New evidence has emerged that the U.S. military used chemical weapons during the assault on Fallujah a year ago. Last week the Pentagon confirmed for the first time that it used white phosphorous as a weapon to attack Iraqi fighters. But the Pentagon rejected claims that white phosphorous is a chemical weapon. White Phosphorous is often compared to napalm because it combusts spontaneously when exposed to oxygen and can burn right through skin to the bone. While the Pentagon is denying white phosphorous is a chemical weapon, a newly uncovered Defense Department document, reveals that is just how the military described it when Saddam Hussein allegedly used it a decade ago. A declassified 1995 Pentagon intelligence document reads QUOTE "Iraqi forces loyal to president Saddam may have possibly used white phosphorous chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels." Meanwhile a British commander has admitted that he trained his troops in using white phosphorus as a weapon. Until now the British government has maintained it used white phosphorous but only for tactical purposes.

Report: Bush Wanted to Bomb Al Jazeera Last Year
The British newspaper the Daily Mirror is reporting that President Bush considered bombing the Arabic tv station Al Jazeera last year. The paper based its report on a top secret Downing Street Memo that reveals Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair in April 2004 that he wanted to attack Al Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Blair allegedly feared such a strike would spark revenge attacks. The Mirror quoted one source saying "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush. There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do -- and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." Another British source said Bush's threat was humorous and not serious. In 2001 the U.S. bombed Al Jazeera's office in Kabul Afghanistan but claimed it was done by accident.

Texan Man Executed in 1993 Was Likely Innocent
And the Houston Chronicle is reporting that the state of Texas likely executed an innocent man in 1993. The paper has conducted an extensive investigation into the case of Ruben Cantu, who was convicted of murder at the age of 17. Now his co-defendant as well as the only eyewitness to the crime have recanted and claimed Cantu was innocent. Because of the newspaper's investigation, the judge, prosecutor, head juror and defense attorney have now all acknowledged that Cantu's conviction seems to have been built on omissions and lies. Cantu was executed even though no physical evidence tied him to the crime.

The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Liang, Lynda and Natalie. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for November 22, 2005
- Pentagon Docs: White Phosphorous Is A Chemical Weapon
- Iraqi Leaders Call for Troop Withdrawal Timetable
- Report: Bush Wanted to Bomb Al Jazeera Last Year
- General Motors To Eliminate 30,000 Jobs
- 40 Million Now Infected With HIV; 500,000 Die A Year
- 24 Ethiopian Opposition Leaders Remain In Jail
- Venezuela to Offer Discounted Oil to Mass. Residents
- Council of Europe Investigates CIA Use of Airports
- Texan Man Executed in 1993 Was Likely Innocent

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

Colin Powell's Former Chief of Staff Col. Wilkerson on Prewar Intel, Torture and How a White House "Cabal" Hijacked U.S. Foreign Policy
We spend the hour with a former senior member of the Bush administration: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. He served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005. In the interview, Wilkerson discusses what he calls a "White House cabal", led by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld; pre-war intelligence and Powell's February 2003 speech before the United Nations; the "memory lapse" by Gen. Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and much more. [includes rush transcript]

Colin Powell's Former Chief of Staff Col. Wilkerson on Haiti: Defends U.S. Role in Ouster of President, Claims Aristide's "Will to Power is Excessive Even Obsessive"
We speak with Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, about the overthrow of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Wilkerson defends the U.S. role in Haiti at the time. Aristide has maintained he was ousted in what he calls a modern-day kidnapping in the service of a coup d'etat backed by the United States. [includes rush transcript]

Lloyd e-mails to note Ruth Conniff's "Republicans Steal Thanksgiving" (Ruth Conniff's Weekly Column, The Progressive):

As the Republicans go home for Thanksgiving this week, House leaders are congratulating themselves on having squeaked through a divisive budget bill that takes canned goods from the poor in order to fund more luxuries for the rich.
The $50 billion in budget cuts for programs that help the poor will not quite cover the $57 billion in tax cuts for the rich they plan on ramming through right after the break.
In order to save face, they decided not to take up the giveaways in dividend and estate taxes on the same day they cut Food Stamps, Medicaid, and college loans.
But the connection is very clear. Dennis Hastert lectured his booing colleagues on fiscal responsibility and the importance of doing something about the deficit his own party has created. The Democrats were not buying it.

We didn't have highlights this morning due to the fact that the entry on Nightline took up so much time (it was an all nighter). (Thanks to Dallas and two other members for their help with research.) When I did look at the clock and saw that we needed morning entrie's up, I grabbed the Times, did a quick read and got hastily put together entries up as soon as possible. We'll note other entries this week in the morning entries and my apologies for the delays on that. (On the plus side, we'll have something to note. A number of sites may stop posting due to the holiday. Wally will be posting today, tomorrow and Friday at The Daily Jot. Betty will post Wednesday at Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man. Kat plans to post today and tomorrow. Rebecca intends to post everyday -- with a caveat that she's under the weather -- as does Elaine. Mike would like to take Thursday off, so he should, but he's still up in the air on that. Cedric intends to post Tuesday, Wednesday and possibly Thursday. I haven't heard from Seth. The Third Estate Sunday Review will post a new edition Sunday. This site will have something every day.)

In Dallas e-mails to note Ron's "Who told Woodward the 'Slam Dunk' bit? " (Why Are We Back In Iraq?):

Speaking of air and hot, Bob Woodward paid a visit to Larry King's CNN show the other night (transcript) and as other bloggers point out Mr. "I was scared of being indicted" is now claiming that he didn't tell his editor about being tipped about Plame early on in the game because he was "focused" on getting his book done.
From the Larry King interview last night:
"The evidence I had first-hand, a small piece of the puzzle acknowledge, is that that was not the case. So I'm trying to find out and focus on immense questions about, are we going to go to war in Iraq? How are we going to do it? What is the nature of Powell's position? What did Cheney do? What was the CIA's role? How good was the intelligence on all of this?"
The interview in question with the "casual and off-hand" comment about Valerie Plame being a CIA analyst, supposedly took place in mid-June of 2003 after we already went to war in Iraq.
Bob Woodward can't keep his "facts" straight.
More Woody on CNN:
"I think, at this point, I was learning things like, that the CIA director, George Tenet, went in and told the president the intelligence on WMD in Iraq was a slam dunk. That was new. That was the basis of this incredibly critical decision the president and his war cabinet were making on, do we invade Iraq?"
How many people in the studio audience still think it's a slam dunk that George Tenet actually
said "slam dunk" - much less said it twice and threw his hands in the air?
blogger has his doubts and, frankly, so do I.
Did Woodward ever get a confirmation from George Tenet that that really happened like that?

Eddie's had trouble finding Danny Schechter's books at News Dissector. He did find a list at "Danny's Bio" which we'll note here both because Eddie requested we do so and also because it's often assumed (wrongly) by me that we're aware of the backgrounds on various voices we highlight:

Danny Schechter is a television producer and independent filmmaker who also writes and speaks about media issues.
He is the author of "Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception: How the Media Failed to Cover the Iraq War" (Prometheus Books, October 2003); "Media Wars: News At A Time of Terror" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003); "The More You Watch, The Less You Know" (Seven Stories Press) and "News Dissector: Passions, Pieces and Polemics" (Akashic Books and Electron Press). He is the executive editor of MediaChannel.org, the world's largest online media issues network, and recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists' 2001 Award for Excellence in Documentary Journalism.
He has produced and directed many TV specials and documentary films, including "Counting on Democracy" about the electoral fiasco in Florida narrated by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; the post 9-11 film We Are Family" (2002) shown at the Sundance Film Festival; "Nkosi: A Voice of Africa's AIDS Orphans" (2001) narrated by Danny Glover; "A Hero for All: Nelson Mandela's Farewell" (1999); "Beyond Life: Timothy Leary Lives" (1997); "Sowing Seeds/Reaping Peace: The World of Seeds of Peace" (1996); "Prisoners of Hope: Reunion on Robben Island" (1995, co-directed by Barbara Kopple); "Countdown to Freedom: Ten Days that Changed South Africa" (1994), narrated by James Earl Jones and Alfre Woodard; "Sarajevo Ground Zero" (1993); "The Living Canvas" (1992), narrated by Billy Dee Williams; "Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy" (1992, co-directed by Marc Levin and Barbara Kopple); "Give Peace a Chance" (1991); "Mandela in America" (1990); "The Making of Sun City" (1987); and "Student Power" (1968).
Schechter is co-founder and executive producer of
Globalvision, a New York-based television and film production company now in its 16th year. He founded and exec-produced the series "South Africa Now" and co-produced "Rights & Wrongs: Human Rights Television. He has specialized in investigative reporting and producing programming about the interface between human rights, journalism, popular music and society. His career began as the "News Dissector" at Boston's leading rock station, WBCN. Later, Schechter was a producer for ABC NEWS 20/20. He produced 50 segments for ABC and won two national Emmys and was nominated or two others.
A Cornell University graduate, he received his Master's degree from the London School of Economics, and an honorary doctorate from Fitchburg College. He was a Neiman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard, where he also taught in 1969. After college, he was a full time civil rights worker and then communications director of the Northern Student Movement, and worked as a community organizer in a Saul Alinsky-style War on Poverty program. Then, moving from the streets to the suites, Schechter served as an assistant to the Mayor of Detroit in 1966 on a Ford Foundation grant.
Schechter joined the start-up staff at CNN as a producer based in Atlanta. He then moved to ABC as a producer for 20/20. Schechter has reported from 49 countries and lectured at many schools and universities. He was an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. Schechter's writing has appeared in leading newspapers and magazines including the The Nation, Newsday, Boston Globe, Columbia Journalism Review, Media Studies Journal, Detroit Free Press, Village Voice, Tikkun, Z, and many others.
For further information please visit

Eddie notes that the book Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception can be ordered on the WMD site for the film.

Today's an anniversary as many members e-mailed to note. Martha, Zach and Rob noted Lisa Pease's "The Enduring JFK Mystery" (Consortium News):

Forty-two years ago, on Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, Texas. In Bethesda, Maryland, this past weekend, a group of distinguished journalists, historians, scientists and others gathered to discuss and debate the evidence of conspiracy in the JFK case.
While the research community has often slammed the mainstream media for not covering the facts of the case, the blame must go both ways. The conference organizers offered no handouts, no summaries of what is new in the case this year, or any hook upon which a journalist might hang a story.
As one of the reporters said in a panel discussion, this is a story without an ending, and how satisfying is that?
But that is a tragedy, in light of the Downing Street Memo and other evidence that the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq was built on a false platform. The common thread throughout the weekend was that secrecy and democracy cannot safely coexist, that the more we have of the former, the less we have of the latter.
The credentials of the speakers this year was more impressive than in previous conferences. Featured speakers included former presidential candidate Gary Hart, author James Bamford, journalists Jeff Morley and Salon founder David Talbot, and historians David Wrone and John Newman (who was a military intelligence analyst), and the former head of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, G. Robert Blakey.
Former Sen. Hart, a Colorado Democrat, recounted his experiences on the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, more popularly known as the "Church Committee" after its leader, Sen. Frank Church.
Hart began with a disclaimer saying he didn't read the assassination books, hadn't reviewed his Church Committee files, and warned that everything he said should be prefaced with, "as I recall."
Little Interest
According to Hart, there was little interest among Committee members in seriously investigating the intelligence community. There had been little oversight of the CIA since its creation 28 years earlier. Reviewing the CIA's operations seemed both a gargantuan and ultimately unnecessary task. The Vietnam War was in its last days, and there was the sense that poking around in Agency business might undermine morale.
The Committee members also realized that if there was even one leak, their work would be over. That's one of the reasons there was so little oversight in the years up to that point. Simply put, the CIA did not trust Congress to keep its secrets. So they implemented strict security.
One day, CIA Director William Colby asked for even more security than ever before. He wanted the room swept for bugs before they began. Colby also insisted only members, not their staff, attended.
At that session, Colby presented Committee members with the 600-page Inspector General report on Agency abuses, a document popularly known as the "family jewels." Included in that document were tales of drug experiments on both witting and unwitting subjects, the wholesale opening of mail, bugging operations, and plots to overthrow governments including -- "with almost demented insistence," Hart said -- the attempts to kill Fidel Castro.
The Committee members were shocked. And significantly, Hart said that only a few items from that report have ever made it to the public, begging the question of what other abuses occurred. How can we measure the success of Congressional oversight if we don't know if any of those other abuses were successfully handled?
Hart recounted an episode where he had the chance to meet one of the CIA's top contract assassins, known only as QJ/WIN. After a long series of instructions, Hart arrived at the location, only to find QJ/WIN did not want to talk to him. Hart wrote about that episode in fictional form in the novel Double Man (co-written with William Cohen).
When Hart ran for president, he said he was frequently asked what he would do about the Kennedy assassination. He promised if elected, he would reopen the investigation. But then he was caught with Donna Rice on a boat in Florida. "If you've seen the movie 'Bullworth,' you know that now we can assassinate people with cameras," he said.

On the subject of the anniversary, should you rent (or buy) the two-disc special edition of Oliver Stone's JFK on DVD, you'll be able to check out the Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy documentary mentioned above in "Danny's Bio." It's among the bonus materials on Disc B.

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