Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Democracy Now: Seymour Hersh, Greg Palast; Danny Schechter, Tom Hayden, Dexy

Report: Bush Admin. Suppressed Evidence Refuting Iraq WMD Claim
The Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration claimed to have found mobile weapons labs in Iraq after the invasion despite the explicit conclusions of a Pentagon-sponsored mission the claim was untrue. On May 29, 2003, President Bush cited the discovery of the trailers in an attempt to justify his decision to go war two months earlier. Bush said: "We have found the weapons of mass destruction." But just two days before, a Pentagon team sent to Iraq had concluded that the trailers were in fact "the biggest sand toilets in the world." One team member said: "Within the first four hours, it was clear to everyone that these were not biological labs." The Bush administration failed to make the findings public and continued with its faulty claim for more than one year.

Looming Health Care Measure Requires Proof of Citizenship
In other news, the Boston Globe is reporting thousands of low-income Americans are at risk with the pending activation of a federal law that would require them to show proof US of citizenship in order to receive health care. The requirement was attached to the Deficit Reduction Act, which President Bush signed into law this year. Healthcare advocates said the requirements could adversely affect undocumented immigrants and Medicaid recipients who will be unable to provide the necessary documentation. Bill Walczak, chief executive officer of the Codman Square Health Center in Massachusetts, said: '"We didn't create the healthcare centers to become citizenship enforcement centers."

Government Agency Colluded with CIA in Re-Classification Scheme
The National Security Archive has revealed that the government agency responsible for state archives colluded with the CIA and other intelligence agencies to remove thousands of previously declassified historical documents that were previously available to the public. In a secret agreement, the National Archives and Records Administration agreed to remove the archival records and re-classify them in order to avoid scrutiny from researchers. The re-classification scheme was disclosed earlier this year but details of how it came about were largely unknown.

Cheney Booed At Washington Baseball Game
And in Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney was greeted with loud boos Tuesday when he threw out the ceremonial pitch at the opener for Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals. This wasn't the first time Cheney has gotten a hostile reception at a baseball game -- in June 2004, Cheney was booed at a Yankees game here in New York.

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Markus, Brenda, Susan and ??? Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for April 12, 2006

- Iran Says It Has Enriched Small-Scale Uranium
- Report: Bush Admin. Suppressed Evidence Refuting Iraq WMD Claim
- Suicide Attack Kills 57 in Pakistan
- Berlusconi Refuses to Concede Italian Elections
- 29 Indicted Over Madrid Train Bombings
- Thousands Mark Death of Palestinian Girl in Gaza
- Three Killed, Hundreds Arrested in Nepal Unrest
- Cheney Booed At Washington Baseball Game

Seymour Hersh: Bush Administration Planning Possible Major Air Attack on Iran

We speak with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh about his latest article in the New Yorker that the Bush administration has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack.

French Student Leaders Hail 'Historic Victory' After Mass Protests Force Government to Abandon Controversial Youth Job Law

In France, mass student protests and labor strikes have forced the French government to abandon a controversial new law that would have made it easier for companies to fire young workers. We speak with University of Paris professor, Gilbert Achcar.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Refuses to Concede Defeat Despite Official Election Results

In Italy, opposition leader Romano Prodi has been declared the official winner in the country's elections, defeating Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in one of Italy's closest races ever. Berlusconi is now refusing to admit he lost the race and is calling for a recount of thousands of disputed ballots.

Investigative Reporter Greg Palast: U.S. Energy Dept. Concludes Venezuela Could Have Biggest Oil Reserves in OPEC

In an interview with BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he would ask the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to set the long-term price of oil at $50 a barrel. Palast reports that analysis by the US Department of Energy shows that Venezuela -- not Saudi Arabia -- could have the biggest oil reserves in the OPEC.

In England, Malcolm Kendall-Smith's court martial continues and today he stated that, "As early as 2004 I regarded the United States to be on par with Nazi Germany as regards its activities in the Gulf." The Associated Press seems to be fudging that quote and stating Kendall-Smith said "I have evidence" and not "I regarded" as Reuters and other news outlets have reported.

Gareth recommends Kim Sengupta's "RAF doctor refused to fight 'illegal' Iraq war" (London's Independent) and, from that, we'll note Kendall-Smith's statements:

As a commissioned officer I am required to consider... every order that is given to me and I am required to consider the legality of each order... Since my initial operational deployments, I have studied... the commentaries and... notes, including one prepared by the Attorney General and in particular the note to the Prime Minister dated 7 March 2003.
I believe the occupation of Iraq is illegal... and for me to comply... would put me in conflict with both domestic and international law. The illegality of the use of force against Iraq was the only reason I could not follow this order... [and] was the only reason for my resignation.
I would, in fact, refuse the orders as a duty under international law, the Nuremburg principles and the law of armed conflict...
To take the decision I have taken saddens me but I feel I have no choice.
I was subjected, as was the entire population, to propaganda depicting force against Iraq to be lawful but it was not until the middle of 2004 that I researched and found that not to be the case.

Iraq? The Associated Press reports that bombs have killed 13 in Iraq -- "including three U.S. soldiers" -- and that gun fire claimed an addition six civilians.The BBC reports that Jeffery Chessani, Lucas McConnel and James Kimber, US marines, have been "stripped of their commands" as a result of an investigation into the murder of fifteen Iraqis. AFP reports car bombs claimed at least two people in Tal Afar (wounding at least seven), and two in Kirkuk (with four wounded). In Tuz Khurmatu, Reuters reports, a roadside bomb has killed at least two and wounded at least four while in Khalis, a car bomb has wounded at least twenty and killed two. In Baghdad last week, a bombing outside a Shi'ite mosque killed ninety people, today a bombing outside a Shi'ite mosque has killed at least twenty.

Lynda notes that Danny Schechter's back (from Switzerland, I believe) and steers us towards "Your Letters, A Passover Greeting" (News Dissector):

Years ago, I directed a film (now on DVD) called BEYOND JFK featuring the story behind the story told in Oliver Stone’s controversial film JFK. One of Stone’s heroes was the widely discredited New Orleans DA Jim Garrison who put on the only trial of men accused of being part of the assassination. He lost the case and lost his reputation under heavy FBI and media assault until Stone came along to dramatize his story. Our film featured Garrison's last interview on his death bed when he insisted that the full story must be told.
All these years later, I ran into Temple University English Professor Joan Mellen who has exhaustively and painstakingly told that story in a thoroughly documented and detailed book called "A Farewell to Justice." (Potomac Books) It's a great read filled with newly unearthed facts that link Oswald and Ruby to a plot hatched in New Orleans. Don't scoff. She has done in-depth reporting the press missed and knows how to tell a story. (She teaches writing!) You can read about it on her website:
In a dinner with Joan I asked her about her obsession with the case. Like many of the today's 911 researchers, she can't let it go. Her site carries a speech that explains why and it touches on the press:
"I would like to suggest that the truth about the Kennedy assassination, far from being a matter of interest only to historians, and not even to most of them, will help us understand how we have arrived at a point where people as respectable as New York attorney Martin Garbus are comparing the current U.S. government with the rise of fascism in the mid-twentieth century. It's my belief that the present state of our political culture is a direct result of the fact that those responsible for the murder of President Kennedy have never been brought to justice.
"To sum up: "A Farewell To Justice" suggests that the clandestine service of the CIA not only covered up the truth about the Kennedy assassination -- that's easy to demonstrate from the four million documents now residing at the National Archives -- but organized the event itself. That the CIA escaped without penalty, this extraordinary fact, has been integrated over these forty-two years into the body politic. It has produced a political culture where the unthinkable has become accepted practice. Meaningful freedom of the press has fallen into serious jeopardy."

A few comments on the above. If you'd like to see Danny's documentary, it's available on the director's cut of JFK. It features interviews with Robert MacNeil, Walter Cronkite and others. (And is more than worth watching.) (Need another reason? Tom Wicker comes off more ridiculous on film than in print so New York Times readers of old can enjoy that.) Second, please read Joan Mellen's A Farewell To Justice. Members who have read it can't stop singing the book's praises. (I read it as well and also recommend it strongly.)

Remember Lewis Lapham's "The Case for Impeachment" (Harper's Magazine)? Remember that they also hosted a debate on the topic? Brandon notes that text excerpts and an MP3 are available online. Participants included Michael Ratner, Elisabeth Holtzman, John Conyers Jr., John Dean and Lapham.

Visitor Debbie notes Tom Hayden's "Kerry Steps Up...Who Will Respond?" (Huffington Post):

Will Kerry, a much more formidable candidate, take the same course? No one can be certain, but the primary winds are blowing in the direction of peace and progressive politics. Sen. Hillary Clinton, the seemingly invincible front-runner, is not likely to emerge from Iowa and New Hampshire unscathed. Her hardline support of the Iraq War is not only out of touch with Democratic voters, but appears to many as chronic opportunism. Unless the war suddenly ends, her credibility will suffer severely in the primaries.
This is why the "Kerry factor" becomes important. As the former nominee, Kerry commands media and public attention. As an anti-war voice, he is in sharp contrast with the silence of the lambs. As a potential presidential contender, he is a credible foil to the centrist hawks and challenges the party leadership to make up its mind.
On the other hand, many anti-war Democrats still blame Kerry for vascillating on Iraq in 2004 in the same ways the party leadership does today. Some in the anti-war movement will continue demanding withdrawal "now" instead of by year's end. Others will insist, rightly on real reconstruction and sovereignty for post-war Iraq, not its transfer to control by the WTO. Still others will watch how Kerry connects the war with domestic issues of jobs, poverty, immigration and racism. The potential of a progressive majority, or center-left politics is there. Not since Watergate has there been the opportunity. In both crises, the unpopularity of an imperial war led the White House to illegally discredit and spy on its critics, lose credibility with a majority of Americans, and prompt Congress to cut off funding for war.

Visitor Debbie feels that I have "raked Kerry over the coals" for the past few days. She notes she was a John Kerry supporter in 2004 and hopes he runs in 2008.

My comments on John Kerry's "plan" appeared on Sunday and only on Sunday. Since then, members have highlighted two commentaries on Kerry's "plan." I didn't write those critiques. I noted that I was "blah" to it. I don't think it's impressive. I do think it's past time to stop looking at 'solutions' from the eyes of the United States:

The occupation needs to cease, the troops need to return home. If Kerry's plan does that, fine. But it's a great deal like the IMF in that there are "deadlines." And you'll note the deadlines are for the Iraqis. There's no deadline in there for the occupying power. There's no deadline that states the United States will, for instance, have 35% of the hospitals in Iraq back up to pre-war levels within six months or the United States will leave Iraq. It's a "jump through our hoops, Iraqis" plan to me.
They're occupied and each week brings a new administration-outsourced reconstruction scandal. But the expectations are placed upon Iraqis, not upon the occupying power. Iraqi's didn't bomb their own infrastructure. But there are no expectations for the administration (other than to tell the truth -- which, sadly, does need to be put into Kerry's plan).
If it ends the occupation, great. Anything that ends the illegal occupation is appreciated. But the operating principles continue to be "Iraqis must do" while they've had no real power under the illegal occupation. Expectations for the occupying power are aims/goals/deadlines that are never thought of.

I stand by those remarks; however, until now, Sunday is the only time I've written about Kerry's plan. The other times have been highlights.

Hayden is correct that Kerry making some sort of a call has an impact. I remain blah on Kerry's call. If his call/plan helps, great. But I'm not going to stroke his ego online to get him to take another step. "Come on, Baby Kerry, you can do it, one more step, one more! Come on!"

I'm not invested in Kerry or his plan. Congress has had three years to do something. I'm not seeing anything to clap over. Nor am I pinning hopes on the elections with regards to Iraq.

The only thing that will end the war is the people. And not by responding to a phone survey that's then run by the New York Times or whomever.

The country turned against the war long ago. This hasn't been followed by courage in Congress. (Quite the contrary.)

I understand what Hayden's getting at and how this can be another milestone. That's not to be underestimated. But the plan itself? Blah.

Iraqis aren't idiot-savants (or idiots). They're an educated people (and the brain drain hasn't changed that). It's past time that elected leaders grasped that. I see nothing in Kerry's plan that indicates he grasps that. I see, "Iraqis will do this and then they will do . . ." I see no obligations for the United States.

Did Iraq invade itself?

Kerry's speaking out against the war in some form. Good for him. He's where the American public was almost a year ago. If I'm supposed to get excited about leadership, I'll need to see some. The politicians are starting to follow the public. And maybe some would have high-fived and head butted over Kerry's plan a year ago?

I'd like to hear his old voice -- the one he hid (was forced to hide) at the convention. That might excite me. This plan where he plays "Mean Daddy" with the Iraqis? I think he needs to be sent to his room.

Where is the morality? In his plan, where is it? I thought that was on the BIG DEM BLACKBOARD these days: no to abortion, talk a lot of God, push morals . . .

Where's the morality of writing a plan for an (illegal) occupation that seems unaware of the occupation? As long as our "leaders" act like we're just over there visiting, as opposed to occupying, we'll continue to be underwhelmed by our elected leaders. (And to follow the Carter Doctrine?)

I do understand what Hayden's sees as noteworthy and possible. The 'plan' continues to leave me with a case of the blahs. I do understand why Debbie feels Kerry's being attacked. Except to note the xenophobic assumptions of the plan (a key point, true), I've had little to say until now because in terms of 'action,' Americans were ready for that a year ago. Members have highlighted criticisms of the 'plan' and may continue to do so. That's how it works and the site title remains "The Common Ills" as opposed to "The John Kerry Fan Club." As for another fear Debbie had -- that I'm "tearing him down to build up Hillary" -- Debbie, have you seen Isaiah's "Got War?"

Walk on,

But not too far. Another visitor sputters how dare I say the Times took part in a propaganda scheme.

US Exaggerating Zarqawi Role in PR Effort
The Washington Post is reporting the Pentagon is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of al-Qaeda figure Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. Some military intelligence officials believe the campaign may have exaggerated Zarqawi's importance and helped the Bush administration link the Iraq war with the September 11 attacks. The propaganda effort has also been reportedly used to build sentiment against non-US foreigners in Iraq. One military briefing was entitled: "Villainize Zarqawi/leverage xenophobia response." Another document lists "U.S. Home Audience" as a target audience for the campaign.

That's from Monday's Democracy Now! (and we skipped it because it had been noted in "Other Items" that day). Propaganda? Iraq?

Let's ease on down the road to the one and only Dexy Filkins. But let's not fall back into something prior to the mea culpa/non mea culpa of the Times. Let's drop back to March 25th of this year for "NYT: SITE gives Dexy translations, he gives them play -- None dare call it reporting."

Dexter Filkins files "Iraq Qaeda Chief Seems To Pursue A Lower Profile" in this morning's New York Times. Files from where? Readers may wonder since it's a front page article without a dateline. So let's give it the byline and dateline it's earned: "By DEXTER FILKINS and RITA KATZ, SITE Institute, March 24."
Without a dateline, but never without experts, wherever he goes, Dexter always packs his cliches and his experts. This time he tells us that "experts believe" and "American and Iraqi officals . . . are divided." An unnamed "American intelligence official" gives him an actual quote.
In paragraphs sixteen and seventeen of the twenty-five paragraph article (check my math), Filkins finally has names. Rita Katz comes stumbling in in paragraph sixteen. Ms. Katz is identified by Filkins as "the director of SITE Institute, which tracks violent Islamist groups" and someone who wrote "an opinion article in The Boston Globe."
Katz, though Filkins doesn't tell you this, has also written at least three times for The National Review. Katz has been sued by several groups who accuse her of falsely labeling them terrorist groups, another fact that Filkins doesn't provide to readers. She is also an Iraqi exile which Filkins forgets to tell readers. He also can't state she is a supporter of the Patriot Act. She has stated that the US had "success" in Afghanistan. (That laughable comment alone should prevent the Times from quoting her.) Despite Bully Boy's famous/infamous statement on his so-called war on terror ("I don't think you can win it."), Katz firmly believes that you can.
Dexy loves Rita. But when he noted her on December 2, 2005, he was able to note that she and her organization were "now working under a United States government contract to investigate militant groups." Today she's just an independent "expert" -- not affiliated with anything but the 'truth.' It's a loose affiliation, not unlike
Dexy's affiliation with reporting.
Well Dexy's had
go-go boy gone wild times in the Green Zone and apparently never learned the language so he has to depend on Katz and her organization "which provided the translations of his statements . . ." Him being Zarqawi, whose alleged statements are the focus of Dexy's article. She gives him translations (which he can't evaluate) and he gives her quote play. Rita Katz used to be "anonymous" but when she went on 60 Minutes in 2003, she was "Sarah." Anonymous is one thing, false alias, however, should give the press pause. Not Dexy. Dexy runs with the administration doggies.

It's called propaganda and Dexy's quite familiar with it. Again, Judith Miller was not the paper's problem. The paper has many problems. One of which is Dexy and he's in a completely different league. (Miller didn't witness a massacre that she then turned into feel-good-propaganda.) Dexy Filkins's work should be examined everytime he files. It rarely holds up to even a basic once over. So this week, we learned that the Pentagon implemented a propaganda campaign and somehow, Dexy just happens to swallow it. It's almost as though he's riding around in a jeep with his mouth open, isn't it? And isn't Rita Katz's involvement interesting?

Especially since this was a US propaganda campaign and she just happened to have documents that would let Dexy pad out his article. How strange? And what is she on the government payroll for? And why didn't Dexy note that in his article?

Dexy benefits from the fact that people look the other way. Judith Miller became infamous in a period of time that he won an award, an actual award, for his propaganda. It's past time people paid attention to what he writes. And I think that requires more than what Greg Mitchell notes with regard to a February 9, 2004 article. Thomas E. Ricks wrote "is conducting." And we saw Filkins' with a new "scoop" less than two weeks ago on the same topic.

It's past time that people played connect the dots. Falluja, propaganda (which didn't end in 2004), there's a lot to examine. It's a body of work (including the "award winning" piece) that goes far beyond one story and, when you consider its scope and how it was used to sell the war after it began, as damaging as anything Judith Miller could have done. We're seen as Dexy "haters" by some. I'll take that as a compliment. Filkins may have gotten a pass in many places, but he never got one here.

And we should pay attention to the fact that the operation was illegal. The government intended this propaganda to reach Iraqis and to reach Americans. The later of which is illegal. It must be nice to have a New York Times reporter that you can rush to when you're trying to lie to the American people. It must be nice to know he'll type up the lies and they'll end up on the front page.

Are people going to start noticing Dexter Filkins? Probably not. Since the invasion he (and his mentor John F. Burns) have largely gotten a pass. But let's all play bash-the-bitch one more time and go after Miller, right?

Miller (and others) helped get us over there with bad reporting. Filkins has helped keep us there with lies and distortions.

Lastly Danny Schechter (again) has a take on Katie Couric that I was dared to note (by a friend, not a community member). I'll note it. I know both the writer and the topic. So I will just wonder whether the same sort of critique greeted Brian Williams move to anchoring the evening news? Or if "gravitas" just 'hang naturally' on men? I think we're seeing a lot of criticism come into play that doesn't when the topic is a male. Having noted the prior link, we'll also note Feminist Wire Daily's "Katie Couric Makes History."

However, I actually may say more later because, going beyond Danny's piece, there's an attitude that's really beginning to grate on my nerves popping up throughout. In fact Ava thinks we may take it on together in a joint entry here or at The Third Estate Sunday Review.

The e-mail address for this site is And members should use the designated backup site or the public site because there have been problems with the site designated for members since this morning.

[Note - Typos fixed and "the" put in bold.]