Archive for July 28th, 2007

By Kathleen Parker – The Washington Post

July 20, 2007

Just when you thought the war in Iraq couldn’t get any stranger, a high-ranking al-Qaeda figure who was first captured and then killed — his body displayed on state-run TV — turns out to have been a fiction.

He didn’t exist.

The apparently invented character called Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was known as the head of the Islamic State of Iraq — believed to be a front group for al-Qaeda.

He wasn’t captured, as was reported previously. He wasn’t killed May 1 by hostile fire from U.S. forces, as reported in a May 3 New York Times story. He wasn’t even real, according to the U.S. military.

All this we learn from a leading al-Qaeda figure captured July 4 by U.S. forces in Mosul. Khalid Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who in the interest of economy will be referred to hereinafter as “Smitty,” told interrogators that Baghdadi was invented by Abu Ayyub al-Masri, aka Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, hereinafter referred to as “Jimbo.”

According to Smitty, Jimbo invented Baghdadi to create the impression among Iraqis that al-Qaeda is a nationalistic group in Iraq when, in fact, the Islamic State was a Sunni Muslim insurgent group run by an Egyptian, who hired an Iraqi actor to read statements from the fictional al-Baghdadi.

Well, it’s good to have all that straight.

If you’re confused, feel the love. Confusion is the coin of the kingdom in Iraq, an always-reliable weapon made sharper by cyber-technology and alphabet-exhausting names.

Whatever else Baghdadi may or may not have done during his fake life leading up to his fake capture and fake death, he has effectively killed comedy. How do you satirize satire? How do you parody a parody? How do you caricature caricature?

In a war theater of the absurd, where war is waged by actors pretending to speak for fictional leaders, does the world die laughing?

Given that al-Baghdadi wasn’t real and his organization existed in cyberspace, a cynic might be tempted to ask: If there’s no Islamic State of Iraq except in cyberspace, is there also no al-Qaeda?

If there’s no al-Baghdadi, is there no Osama bin Laden?

But of course there’s an al-Qaeda. We’ve all seen that videotape tape with the black-hooded guys hopping through an obstacle exercise. And of course there’s a bin Laden — or at least there was. Maybe he’s alive; maybe not. If you can invent an organization and a leader in cyberspace, you can surely keep a bin Laden alive in the hearts and minds of suicide-lemming squads.

What we have here isn’t a failure to communicate, but an excessive ability to communicate without the ability to differentiate between what is real and what is merely perceived. The world of virtuality has lifted war from the trenches into the realm of the imagination.

We have real enemies on the ground — real people who bleed real blood — but we also have virtual enemies who create impressions of force. Which is more deadly? Is it necessary to kill one’s enemy or is it sufficient to inflict the psychic equivalent of death — to convince the enemy that he has been defeated?

Nations have always employed propaganda in war, though the U.S. isn’t very good at it. We don’t like propaganda much — the American media are contemptuous of “disinformation” — and almost think of it as dishonest compared to the virtue of hands-on courage. But virtuality has amped up the reach and power of information and disinformation, and we’re losing that battle. Today entire universes of perception can be convincingly created and integrated into the global psyche.

If the conglomerate of female voices known as “Tokyo Rose” speaking seductively over the airwaves could rattle homesick American warriors during World War II, imagine what a Web site accessible to millions can accomplish among whole populations primed for demoralization — or dominion.

The idea of al-Qaeda is nearly as potent as the pathology that drives it. The terrorist wins by cultivating the expectation of horror with a few events strategically staged. A handful of psychopaths thwarts the armies of powerful nations through the propagation of perception.

In the virtual world of myth and viral propaganda, Osama bin Laden achieves immortality and the war on terror becomes a clash of phantoms. If our enemies can invent people and organizations, perhaps we might begin to invent victory.

We are limited only by our imagination — or defeated by a lack thereof.


Servicemen and women who made huge sacrifices fighting in the war and now paying yet another price, even after coming home.

One soldier in particular is currently battling against a new “debt of service.”

Brian Rodriguez is a fighter, an honorably discharged soldier who’d been deployed in Iraq.

“I was a combat engineer,” Rodriguez said. “We deal with land mines, explosives.”

He fought for his nation, only to return to his homeland and wage a fresh battle.

Former Army Specialist Rodriguez started getting bills for $700 for lost or damaged government property this summer. Although he was discharged some four years ago, bills recently arrived demanding payment, but giving no details on what or why — nor do they offer a way to dispute the charges.

“For doing my job you’re going to bill me?” Rodriguez said.

And he’s not alone. A 2006 government report found more than 1,000 soldiers being billed a total of $1.5 million. And while fighting overseas put their lives on the line, this battle on paper could cost them their future by ruining their credit. Rodriguez will be reported to credit agencies next month.

“It makes a terrible point about the nature of military service today,” citizen soldier Tod Ensign said.

Ensign is a veteran’s advocate. He says this is all part of the military’s push to be run more like a business.

“They’ll just pound him and call him, call his employers, and make his life as miserable as they can until he pays up,” Ensign said.

Testimony before Congress detailed in a report found that “although unit commanders and finance offices are authorized to write off debts for lost and damaged equipment … they have not always done so.”

“It happens too often and it’s just disgraceful,” Sen. Charles Schumer said. “Here are people who are risking their lives for us and they come home and they’re being treated as if they’re criminals instead of heroes.”

Because it’s been four years since he left the Middle East, Rodriguez’s battalion was dissolved and his commanders are long gone. And despite repeated requests, the Army never could tell us what piece of equipment Rodriguez was billed for, nor would they get rid of the debt.

“I did my time, I served my country and this is the thanks I get,” Rodriguez said.

Their suggestion? Call your Congressman. Schumer said he’ll reach out to the Army to intervene on Brian’s behalf.

Let’s see…most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi.  This is an interesting choice, in that light –

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States is developing a proposed $20 billion, 10-year arms sales package for Saudi Arabia, a senior administration official confirmed on Saturday.

The proposed sale, first reported in The New York Times, is intended to upgrade the Saudi military’s ability to counter possible Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf region, the official said.

“This is all about Iran,” said the official, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity because discussions with the Saudis are still going on and the arms sale deal has not been completed.

Israel is expected to raise objections to the arms package, and has expressed concerns about previous Saudi arms deals.

The official said the Bush administration is mindful that Israel must maintain its “qualitative edge” in the region.

One of the more controversial proposals will probably be selling the Saudis, for the first time, satellite-guided bombs known as JDAMs. The sale may include a 500-pound and a 2,000-pound version of the aerial bomb.

The Israelis are said to be very concerned about the Saudis having that precision-strike capability, so the United States will discuss basing the weapons as far away from Israel as possible, the official said.

Other elements under discussion are new naval vessels, an advanced version of air-to-air missiles already used by the United States, and advanced Patriot missiles.

The proposed sale is expected to be a major topic of discussion next week when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meet with Saudi officials.

The sale would have to be approved by Congress.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — One sentence in President Bush’s weekly radio address was deleted overnight after some Democrats privately complained that it was overly partisan on the explosive subject of reforming the administration’s warrantless wiretap program, White House officials confirmed Saturday.

In the initial radio address, which was taped Friday, Bush charged that the country is less safe because of Democratic delays in passing legislation that would reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“Every day that Congress puts off these reforms increases the danger to our nation,” the president originally said.

White House officials say that line of audio was deleted after Democrats saw a transcript of the remarks distributed Friday afternoon.

The extremely rare change to a taped address comes at the end of a week in which the White House faced a blizzard of questions about whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales committed perjury in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the surveillance program.

White House officials have vehemently denied that Gonzales gave misleading testimony, and say Bush still wants his Attorney General to stay on the job.

A senior White House official suggested Saturday that the administration wanted to turn the temperature down on all the controversy and get reform legislation passed.

“We’ve been making good progress with the Democrats on this legislation,” a senior White House official told CNN.

“Some of them felt the sentence sounded too political. Our sole objective has been to get the law changed — not to seek partisan advantage. So we were happy to make the requested change, particularly in light of Democrats’ expressed determination to make necessary changes in law.”

CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry

We’ve been passing this around for months – and just now thought you might like to watch it. Be warned – you may begin to wonder if you ever have an original thought!

Are we entering a time when we scrutinize and discuss the “attributes” of the male candidates? And this is from the “serious” Washington Post…

Hillary Clinton’s Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory

By Robin Givhan

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 20, 2007; Page C01

There was cleavage on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN2. It belonged to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

She was talking on the Senate floor about the burdensome cost of higher education. She was wearing a rose-colored blazer over a black top. The neckline sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape. The cleavage registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn’t an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable.

Finish the story.

Say “When.”