Archive for September 13th, 2007

Here’s a tree.

Where?

There, look, a tree.

There’s no tree there.

What do you mean. It’s there, a tree, right there. Look.

You are mistaken, there is no tree.

Look, I know that is a tree. I would know one anywhere. It’s big, has branches, leaves, blocks out the sun and has birds in it. It’s a tree, and it’s right there.

You are mistaken. There is no tree. I can see no tree, and nor can my colleagues. There is no tree.

But you must be able to see it. Right there, in front of you. A tree. Look, I can touch it even. It’s a tree.

I see no tree. My colleagues also see no tree. There is no tree. You are mistaken. There is no tree. You are mistaken. There is no tree. There is no tree. There is no tree.

But…….but I can……….no tree you say. I could swear I saw a tree……….

There is no tree. You are mistaken. There is no tree.

There is no tree. I am mistaken. There is no tree.

Now you see clearly. We will give you something to take so you do not relapse in your delusion that there is a tree, which there is not, correct?

Yes, there is no tree. I am mistaken.

By Chris Goner

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See updates at bottom.

There’s a huge new media scandal breaking this morning, and the headline so far — that a much-used consultant to ABC News published a phony interview with Barak Obama — may well be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The news about now ex-ABC consultant Alexis Debat (left) is just dribbling out, but I’m surprised people haven’t been connecting the dots. This post will seek to connect a couple of them.

Simply put, Debat — a former French defense official who now works at the (no, you can’t make these things up) Nixon Center — has also been a leading source in pounding the drumbeat for war in Iran, and directly linked to some bizarre stories — reported on ABC’s widely watched news shows, and nowhere else — that either ratcheted up fears of terrorism or that could have stoked new tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Ironically, while Debat’s alleged specialty is foreign affairs, it was a foray into American presidential politics that brought this budding scandal out into the open. This from today’s article by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post:

A former consultant to ABC’s investigative unit admitted yesterday that he put his name on a purported interview with Barack Obama that he never conducted. Alexis Debat, a former French defense official who now works at the Nixon Center, published the interview in the French magazine Politique Internationale. He said he had hired a freelance journalist to conduct the interview, in which the Democratic presidential candidate supposedly said that Iraq was “already a defeat for America” that has “wasted thousands of lives.” Debat said he had been unable to locate the intermediary, and the Obama campaign says no such interview took place.

“I was scammed,” Debat said. “I was very, very stupid. I made a huge mistake in signing that article and not checking his credentials.”

But that’s not the only red flag about Debat’s credibility. It turns out that ABC News fired Debat as a consultant in June when it discovered that he had lied about earning a Ph.D. from the prestigious Sorbonne. According to the Post, ABC News also checked our Debat’s work for the network and didn’t find anything wrong. Today they say they’re checking again, and they should. Most recently, since ending his role with ABC, Debat helped raise a big international stir by pounding the drums for a U.S. attack on Iran.

The report came in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London, right after rumors swept through Washington that aides to Vice President Dick Cheney were planning to use friendly news outlets — including several others owned by Murdoch — to whip up popular opinion for attacking Iran.

This story appeared in Murdoch’s Times on Sept. 2, 2007:

THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert. Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said.

Debat was speaking at a meeting organised by The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal. He told The Sunday Times that the US military had concluded: “Whether you go for pinprick strikes or all-out military action, the reaction from the Iranians will be the same.” It was, he added, a “very legitimate strategic calculus”.

Needless to say, the new information about Debat calls this story into question — big-time, as Cheney himself might say. But what is really going on? Is Debat pulling sensational stories from thin air, as was the case with Obama, to make a name for himself? Or in his role at the Nixon Center — which still has close ties to Henry Kissinger and others in the conservative foreign policy establishment like former Secretary of State James Baker, who spoke there recently– is he serving a higher agenda of spin?
If you look at the stories on which ABC News has acknowledged Debat’s work, many of the reports came from left field. Do you remember this report from June, on which ABC has apparently acknowledged Debat was a consultant?

Large teams of newly trained suicide bombers are being sent to the United States and Europe, according to evidence contained on a new videotape obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com. Teams assigned to carry out attacks in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany were introduced at an al Qaeda/Taliban training camp graduation ceremony held June 9.

A Pakistani journalist was invited to attend and take pictures as some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12, were supposedly sent off on their suicide missions.

How did ABC get this alarmist video — at a time when government officials in Washington seemed to be amping up fears over new terrorist attacks at home, going into the congressional debate over reauthorizing the government’s eavesdropping program and maintaining troop levels in Iraq? Did Debat play any role?

Ross acknowledged yesterday that Debat was a source on this controversial report regarding U.S. efforts in Iran, back in April:

A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News. The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.

It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.

Debat has also reportedly helped ABC analyze terrorism inside Saudi Arabia, and provided his “expert” commentary and information on stories ranging from the 2005 London bombings to the trial of his fellow Frenchman, al-Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui. His work should cause a re-examination of all of ABC News’ investigative reporting on both terrorism and Iran over the last couple of years, because — wittingly or unwittingly — no other network has better served the Bush agenda in the Middle East.

For example, no story raised tension on the Iranian front more than this one — which was instantly discredited by several knowledgeable experts:

Iran has more than tripled its ability to produce enriched uranium in the last three months, adding some 1,000 centrifuges which are used to separate radioactive particles from the raw material. The development means Iran could have enough material for a nuclear bomb by 2009, sources familiar with the dramatic upgrade tell ABC News.

The sources say the unexpected expansion is taking place at Iran’s nuclear enrichment plant outside the city of Natanz, in a hardened facility 70 feet underground.

Was Debat — who was aggressively working with Ross on other Iran stories at the time — one of the sources on this, as well? If so, it would fit with Debat’s modus operandi on the Times of London article.

As noted at the top, there are two radically different ways to look at this scandal. Either Debat is a lone wolf, a deluded self-aggrandizer whose main agenda is promoting himself. Or he is acting in his role at the Nixon Center as a conduit, spreading information and occasional disinformation at the behest of others.

Either way, this is unarguably yet another huge black eye for the American media. But if the latter is true, it could also raise major questions about American foreign policy, and about the future of war and peace in the Persian Gulf.

Just a footnote — here is Debat’s cached listing at the Nixon Center. The real one has vanished from cyberspace already.

UPDATE: Laura Rozen has a lot more on this.

UPDATE II: Wow:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have added their names to the list of people who say they were the subjects of fake interviews published in a French foreign affairs journal under the name of Alexis Debat, a former ABC News consultant.

From The Philadelphia Daily News – Attytood

Even the chair of the 9/11 Commission now admits that the official evidence they were given was ‘far from the truth’.

Peter Tatchell

12, 2007 10:30 AM

Comment is Free – the Guardian

Six years after 9/11, the American public have still not been provided with a full and truthful account of the single greatest terror attack in US history.

What they got was a turkey. The 9/11 Commission was hamstrung by official obstruction. It never managed to ascertain the whole truth of what happened on September 11 2001.

The chair and vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, respectively Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, assert in their book, Without Precedent, that they were “set up to fail” and were starved of funds to do a proper investigation. They also confirm that they were denied access to the truth and misled by senior officials in the Pentagon and the federal aviation authority;
and that this obstruction and deception led them to contemplate slapping officials with criminal charges.

Despite the many public statements by 9/11 commissioners and staff members acknowledging they were repeatedly lied to, not a single person has ever been charged, tried, or even reprimanded, for lying to the 9/11 Commission.

From the outset, the commission seemed to be hobbled. It did not start work until over a year after the attacks. Even then, its terms of reference were suspiciously narrow, its powers of investigation curiously limited and its time-frame for producing a report unhelpfully short – barely a year to sift through millions of pages of evidence and to interview hundreds of key witnesses.

The final report did not examine key evidence, and neglected serious anomalies in the various accounts of what happened. The commissioners admit their report was incomplete and flawed, and that many questions about the terror attacks remain unanswered. Nevertheless, the 9/11 Commission was swiftly closed down on August 21 2004.

I do not believe in conspiracy theories. I prefer rigorous, evidence-based analysis that sifts through the known facts and utilises expert opinion to draw conclusions that stand up to critical scrutiny. In other words, I believe in everything the 9/11 Commission was not.

The failings of the official investigation have fuelled too many half-baked conspiracy theories. Some of the 9/11 “truth” groups promote speculative hypotheses, ignore innocent explanations, cite non-expert sources and jump to conclusions that are not proven by the known facts. They convert mere coincidence and circumstantial evidence into cast-iron proof. This is no way to debunk the obfuscations and evasions of the 9/11 report.

But even amid the hype, some of these 9/11 groups raise valid and important questions that were never even considered, let alone answered, by the official investigation. The American public has not been told the complete truth about the events of that fateful autumn morning six years ago.

What happened on 9/11 is fundamentally important in its own right. But equally important is the way the 9/11 cover-up signifies an absence of democratic, transparent and accountable government. Establishing the truth is, in part, about restoring honesty, trust and confidence in American politics.

There are dozens of 9/11 “truth” websites and campaign groups. I cannot vouch for the veracity or credibility of any of them. But what I can say is that as well as making plenty of seemingly outrageous claims; a few of them raise legitimate questions that demand answers.

Four of these well known “tell the truth” 9/11 websites are:

1) Scholars for 9/11 Truth, which includes academics and intellectuals from many disciplines.

2) 250+ 9/11 ‘Smoking Guns’ a website that cites over 250 pieces of evidence that allegedly contradict, or were omitted from, the 9/11 Commission report.

3) The 911 Truth Campaign that, as well as offering its own evidence and theories, includes links to more than 20 similar websites.

4) Patriots Question 9/11, perhaps the most plausible array of distinguished US citizens who question the official account of 9/11, including General Wesley Clark, former Nato commander in Europe, and seven members and staffers of the official 9/11 Commission, including the chair and vice chair. In all, this website documents the doubts of 110+ senior military, intelligence service, law enforcement and government officials; 200+ engineers and architects; 50+ pilots and aviation professionals; 150+ professors; 90+ entertainment and media people; and 190+ 9/11 survivors and family members. Although this is an impressive roll call, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these expert professionals are right. Nevertheless, their scepticism of the official version of events is reason to pause and reflect.

More and more US citizens are critical of the official account. The respected Zogby polling organisation last week found that 51% of Americans want Congress to probe President Bush and Vice-President Cheney regarding the truth about the 9/11 attacks; 67% are also critical of the 9/11 Commission for not investigating the bizarre, unexplained collapse of the 47-storey World Trade Centre building 7 (WTC7). This building was not hit by any planes. Unlike WTC3, which was badly damaged by falling debris from the Twin Towers but which remained standing, WTC7 suffered minor damage but suddenly collapsed in a neat pile, as happens in a controlled demolition.

In a 2006 interview with anchorman Evan Soloman of CBC’s Sunday programme, the vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton, was reminded that the commission report failed to even mention the collapse of WTC7 or the suspicious hurried removal of the building debris from the site – before there could be a proper forensic investigation of what was a crime scene. Hamilton could only offer the lame excuse that the commissioners did not have “unlimited time” and could not be expected to answer “every question” the public asks.

There are many, many more strange unexplained facts concerning the events of 9/11. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to be puzzled and want an explanation, or to be sceptical concerning the official version of events.

Six years on from those terrible events, the survivors, and the friends and families of those who died, deserve to know the truth. Is honesty and transparency concerning 9/11 too much to ask of the president and Congress?

What is needed is a new and truly independent commission of inquiry to sort coincidence and conjecture from fact, and to provide answers to the unsolved anomalies in the evidence available concerning the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Unlike the often-stymied first investigation, this new commission should be granted wide-ranging subpoena powers and unfettered access to government files and officials. George Bush should be called to testify, without his minders at hand to brief and prompt him. America – and the world – has a right to know the truth.

Read this or George W. Bush will be president the rest of your life

September 11, 2007

by William Blum

www.killinghope.org

The world is very weary of all this and wants to laugh again

Okay, Bush ain’t gonna get out of Iraq no matter what anyone says or does short of a)impeachment, b)a lobotomy, or c)one of his daughters setting herself afire in the Oval Office as a war protest. A few days ago, upon arriving in Australia, “in a chipper mood”, he was asked by the Deputy Prime Minister about his stopover in Iraq. “We’re kicking ass,” replied the idiot king.[1] Another epigram for his tombstone.

And the Democrats ain’t gonna end the war. Ninety-nine percent of the American people protesting on the same day ain’t gonna do it either, in this democracy. (No, I’m sorry to say that I don’t think the Vietnam protesters ended the war. There were nine years of protest — 1964 to 1973 — before the US military left Vietnam. It’s a stretch to ascribe a cause and effect to that. The United States, after all, had to leave sometime.)

Only those fighting the war can end it. By laying down their arms and refusing to kill anymore, including themselves. Some American soldiers in Iraq have already refused to go on very dangerous combat missions. Iraq Veterans Against the War, last month at their annual meeting, in St. Louis, voted to launch a campaign encouraging American troops to refuse to fight. “Iraq Veterans Against the War decided to make support of war resisters a major part of what we do,” said Garrett Rappenhagen, a former U.S. Army sniper who served in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005.

The veterans group has begun organizing among active duty soldiers on military bases. Veterans have toured the country in busses holding barbeques outside the base gates. They also plan to step up efforts to undermine military recruiting efforts.

Of course it’s a very long shot to get large numbers of soldiers into an angry, protesting frame of mind. But consider the period following the end of World War Two. Late 1945 and early 1946 saw what is likely the greatest troop revolt that has ever occurred in a victorious army. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American soldiers protested all over the world because they were not being sent home even though the war was over. The GIs didn’t realize it at first, but many soon came to understand that the reason they were being transferred from Europe and elsewhere to various places in the Pacific area, instead of being sent back home, was that the United States was concerned about uprisings against colonialism, which, in the minds of Washington foreign-policy officials, was equated with communism and other nasty un-American things. The uprisings were occurring in British colonies, in Dutch colonies, in French colonies, as well as in the American colony of the Philippines. Yes, hard to believe, but the United States was acting like an imperialist power.

In the Philippines there were repeated mass demonstrations by GIs who were not eager to be used against the left-wing Huk guerrillas. The New York Times reported in January 1946 about one of these demonstrations: “‘The Philippines are capable of handling their own internal problems,’ was the slogan voiced by several speakers. Many extended the same point of view to China.”[2]

American marines were sent to China to support the Nationalist government of Chang Kai-shek against the Communists of Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai. They were sent to the Netherlands Indies (Indonesia) to be of service to the Dutch in their suppression of native nationalists. And American troop ships were used to transport the French military to France’s former colony in Vietnam. These and other actions of Washington led to numerous large GI protests in Japan, Guam, Saipan, Korea, India, Germany, England, France, and Andrews Field, Maryland, all concerned with the major slowdown in demobilization and the uses for which the soldiers were being employed. There were hunger strikes and mass mailings to Congress from the soldiers and their huge body of support in the States. In January 1946, Senator Edwin Johnson of Colorado declared “It is distressing and humiliating to all Americans to read in every newspaper in the land accounts of near mutiny in the Army.”[3]

On January 13, 1946, 500 GIs in Paris adopted a set of demands called “The Enlisted Man’s Magna Charta”, calling for radical reforms of the master-slave relationship between officers and enlisted men; also demanding the removal of Secretary of War Robert Patterson. In the Philippines, soldier sentiment against the reduced demobilization crystallized in a meeting of GIs that voted unanimously to ask Secretary Patterson and certain Senators: “What is the Army’s position in the Philippines, especially in relation to the reestablishment of the Eighty-sixth Infantry Division on a combat basis?”[4]

By the summer of 1946 there had been a huge demobilization of the armed forces, although there’s no way of knowing with any exactness how much of that was due to the GIs’ protests.[5]

If this is how American soldiers could be inspired and organized in the wake of “The Good War”, imagine what can be done today in the midst of “The God-awful War”.

Iraq Veterans Against the War could use your help. Go to: http://www.ivaw.org/

[1] Sydney Morning Herald, September 6, 2007
[2] New York Times, January 8, 1946, p.3
[3] New York Times, January 11, 1946, p.1
[4] Ibid., p.4
[5] For more information about the soldiers’ protests, see: Mary-Alice Waters, “G.I.’s and the Fight
Against War” (New York, 1967), a pamphlet published by “Young Socialist” magazine.William Blum is the author of:

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

From Thomas Paine’s Corner