Thursday, October 21, 2004
October 24, 2004FRANK RICH
The O'Reilly Factor for Lesbians
And guys, if you exploit a girl, it will come back to get you. That's called 'karma.' "- Bill O'Reilly, "The O'Reilly Factor for Kids"
IN the annals of election year 2004, Oct. 13 will be remembered as the day it rained lesbians in red America. That was when we learned that Andrea Mackris, an associate producer on "The O'Reilly Factor," had filed her sexual harassment law suit, charging that her boss had an obsessive interest in vibrators, phone sex and, most persistently, erotic scenarios involving pairs of women. That night brought the final presidential debate, in which John Kerry's description of Mary Cheney as a lesbian so riled the Bush-Cheney campaign, not to mention the easily aghast Washington press corps, you'd have thought the vice president's daughter was accused of enlisting in a threesome with Bill O'Reilly.
What's followed ever since is an orgy of schadenfreude and hypocrisy almost entertaining enough to take your mind off Iraq (as the Bush-Cheney campaign hopes it will). It's the kind of three-ring circus that makes me love this country. Only in America could Mr. O'Reilly appear on "Live With Regis and Kelly" to plug his new moralistic children's advice book (sample dictum: "Healthy sex is a combination of sensible behavior and sincere affection") just as old and young alike were going online to search thesmokinggun.com for the lewd monologues attributed to him in Ms. Mackris's 22-page complaint. Everyone is now so busy matching Mr. O'Reilly's alleged after-hours oratory - none of which he or his lawyer immediately denied - with his past condemnations of Janet Jackson, Ludacris, wet T-shirt contests, Joycelyn Elders and the televised Madonna-Britney smooch that the findings could fill another Starr report. My own favorite example, hands down, is Mr. O'Reilly's reverie about hooking up with "hot" Italian women during a visit to the Vatican while his pregnant wife was marooned at home in Plandome, Long Island.
The bad news for Fox is not only that its most bankable cable star could end up in the third-tier broadcasting oblivion of William Bennett but also that Fox News, handed the kind of story it lives for, could not (or, more precisely, would not) turn it into a mediathon, complete with legal analysis from Greta, Gloria Allred and Jeanine Pirro. So the network made do instead with the parallel soap opera of Mary Cheney. The Focus on the Family politico James Dobson quickly set the tone on "Hannity & Colmes" by accusing Mr. Kerry of "outing" the vice president's daughter - a charge duly echoed by others on the right, led, inevitably, by The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
To try to prop up its fictional headline "Outing Mary Cheney," The Journal argued that "Mr. and Mrs. Cheney have not kept their daughter's lesbianism a secret but neither have they shouted it to the sky." Huh? Though Dick Cheney doesn't shout anything, he described his daughter as gay on camera at an Iowa campaign appearance this summer. But whatever Mr. and Mrs. Cheney may have to say about it, The Journal never entertained the thought that Mary Cheney herself has a voice in this matter. She has been openly gay for years. Before the 2000 campaign, she held a job that literally announced her homosexuality: gay and lesbian liaison for Coors, a public marketing assignment that even required her to travel the country with the winner of the 1999 International Mr. Leather competition. She later joined the Republican Unity Coalition, a gay-rights advocacy group formed as an alternative to the similarly inclined Log Cabin Republicans.
From all the outcry over Mr. Kerry's invocation of Ms. Cheney, with the attendant rhetoric about the evil of exploiting a candidate's "child" in a campaign, you might never guess that the child in question is not Chelsea Clinton at age 12 but a 35-year-old woman (two years older than Andrea Mackris). Or that she lives openly with her partner, Heather Poe, whom she brought onstage after the vice presidential debate. Or that she is the paid director of vice presidential operations for the Bush campaign, and that her mother is the author of a notorious potboiler ("Sisters," 1981) that drools over the prospect of lesbian coupling with O'Reilly-like glee. (For choice excerpts from Mrs. Cheney's fiction, go to whitehouse.org/administration/sisters.asp ).
So you have to wonder what motivated the Bush-Cheney brigade to go ballistic over Mr. Kerry's "outing" of Mary Cheney after it had ignored not just John Edwards's previous "outing" but also the earlier "outings" by Bush campaign allies like the Concerned Women for America and the Republican senatorial candidate Alan Keyes. Unlike the Democrats, who spoke respectfully of gay sexual orientation, these right-wing activists trashed the vice president's daughter for sowing anti-family values. But as Andrew Sullivan has pointed out, even when Mr. Keyes attacked Mary Cheney in August for practicing "selfish hedonism," the same Mrs. Cheney, who, "speaking as a mom," called Mr. Kerry "not a good man," spoke not at all.
To understand what strange game is playing out here, you must go back to the equally close 2000 election. In the campaign postmortems, Karl Rove famously attributed his candidate's shortfall in the popular vote to four million "fundamentalists and evangelicals" in the Republican base who didn't turn up on Election Day. A common theory among Bush operatives had it that these no-shows had been alienated by the pre-election revelation of Mr. Bush's arrest for drunk driving years earlier.
The current Bush-Cheney campaign clearly believes that for these voters, Mary Cheney's sexuality could be a last-minute turnoff equivalent to Mr. Bush's D.U.I. history. When Rich Lowry of National Review said on Fox that "millions and millions of people" were not aware that Mary Cheney was gay until Mr. Kerry brought it up, it was clear just which four million he was talking about. Mr. Kerry, his critics all speculate, was deliberately seeking to depress voter turnout among Mr. Rove's M.I.A. religious conservatives by broadcasting Mary Cheney's sexuality to them for the first time.
To buy this theory you have to believe that by this late date a large group of potential voters obsessed with homosexuality didn't yet know that Ms. Cheney is gay. I find that preposterous, but only Mr. Kerry knows if he thought so and if his intentions were so smarmily Machiavellian. Even if they were, there's no ambiguity about what the Bush campaign is up to. Mr. Rove can out-Machiavelli Mr. Kerry anytime. Though the president pays "compassionate conservative" lip service to "tolerance" of homosexuality to appease suburban swing voters, his campaign has pushed a gratuitous constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, one opposed by Mary Cheney's own father, to stir up as much fear and ugly rage as it can.
When Mrs. Cheney hyperbolically implies that even using the word lesbian in 2004 is a slur out of the McCarthy era - "a cheap and tawdry political trick," she said - she is playing a similar game. She is positioning lesbian as a term comparable to child molester. But as Dave Cullen writes in Salon: "It is not an insult to call a proudly public lesbian a lesbian. It's an insult to gasp when someone calls her a lesbian." Mrs. Cheney and her surrogates are in effect doing exactly what Elizabeth Edwards had the guts to say they were doing: they are sending the message to Mr. Rove's four million that they are ashamed of Mary Cheney. They are disowning her under the guise of "defending" her. They are exploiting her for the sake of political expediency even as they level that charge at Democrats.
The deployment of homosexuality as a nasty campaign weapon has long been second nature to Mr. Rove. In the must-read article "Karl Rove in a Corner" in the November issue of The Atlantic, the journalist Joshua Green exhaustively researches the tightest campaigns of Mr. Rove's career and exhumes the pattern. As Mr. Green reminds us, George W. Bush's 1994 gubernatorial race against Ann Richards "featured a rumor" that Governor Richards was a lesbian. Gay whispers have also swirled around Rove adversaries like a rival Republican campaign consultant in the 1980's and a 1994 Alabama judicial candidate who was branded a "homosexual pedophile."
None of these rumors were, in fact, true, but Mary Cheney is unambiguously and unapologetically gay. For a campaign that wants to pander to the fringe, that makes her presence in the Bush-Cheney family a problem - just how big a problem can be seen by its disingenuously hysterical reaction to Mr. Kerry's use of the L word. But Mary Cheney isn't the only problem for Mr. Rove as he plays this game. The Republican establishment is rife with gay people - just ask anyone in proximity to its convention in New York - and the campaign doesn't want the four million to know about them, either. But in this election season, actual outing has begun to creep onto the Internet, where the names of closeted Republican congressmen and aides who support anti-gay policies are a Google search away. Some named so far - one of whom dropped out of his re-election campaign in August - hail from districts where some of those four million live.
Sooner or later this untenable level of hypocrisy is going to lead to a civil war within the Republican party. But this hypocrisy is not just about homosexuality - it's about all sexuality, as befits a party that calls for the elimination of Roe v. Wade and the suppression of candid sex education that might prevent teenage pregnancy and AIDS alike. Should Bill O'Reilly-Andrea Mackris tapes exist, as many believe they do, we will learn graphically where the right's most popular cultural defender of G-rated values stands not only on lesbianism but also on extramarital sex, sexual tourism in Asia and masturbation -which all figure in the complainant's detailed description of her alleged conversations with her boss. But anyone who fears that Mr. O'Reilly has completely abandoned his political faith need not worry. According to Ms. Mackris's account, the one time this would-be Lothario succeeded in luring her to his hotel room alone it was not by offering to show her his etchings, or even Spectravision, but a televised news conference by President Bush.
by George Trinkaus
A Review of The New Pearl Harbor, Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11by David Ray Griffin, Olive Branch, an imprint of Interlink, 2004, trade paperbackno illustrations, 240 pages, $15.00
Seen for what it is, 911 can put one into an ambivalent state of fight or flight. In considering the former, one asks, Me and what army? Which is to ask, Is there a movement, and what is its power? Can a liberal college professor bring vitality to the 911 truth movement, or could his example and influence neutralize its spirit? David Ray Griffin's The New Pearl Harbor has acquired in recent months a biblical status in certain circles of the 911 truth movement.
Here in Portland [Oregon], our 911 lecture series is called "Deconstructing the New Pearl Harbor" and our other meet-up is "The New Pearl Harbor Discussion Group". (Your reviewer has participated in both groups.) Griffin admits in his introduction that it was not until the spring of 2003 that he dared to look at any of the evidence.
"I was vaguely aware," Griffin says, "that there were people, at least on the Internet, who were offering evidence against the official account." But, Griffin says, he regarded these people as "conspiracy theorists," "beyond belief," "crackpots," "loonies." He confesses his belatedness with no shame; there may even be a touch of pride in his own innocence as a clean slate. Griffin has held for thirty years a professorship at Claremont College and got his PhD there. His specialty is philosophy and religion, an unexpected disciplinary focus for a writer on this subject. Mysteriously, Dr. Griffin's resume' shows no evidence of political writing or political activism of any kind or any other intellectual or empirical foundation for venturing into the most politically sensitive subject of our time.
Griffin remained steadfastly innocent of the proliferating 911 what-really-happened issues until clued in by a fellow professor (female), whom he describes as a "sensible person." (The Sensible Person, that paragon.) The Claremont Colleges (Pomona, Scripts, Claremont, and Claremont-McKenna) have their joint campus in the town of Claremont, an insular, upscale suburb in the smoggy foothills of the San Gabriels, thirty miles east of LA. (Griffin's publisher, Interlink, is located in the collegiate hamlet of Northampton, Mass., the home of Wellesley). New Pearl Harbor is from the campus and of the campus. Little wonder then that Dr. Griffin's professorial gestalt plays so well here in campus-studded Portland. The title of professor Griffin's book is deliberately ambiguous and coy.
To grasp its intended meaning it helps to know (1) that FDR let Pearl Harbor happen, (2) that Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his Global Chessboard (1997) that only another Pearl Harbor could con the U.S. public into accepting an invasion of Central Asia, and (3) that the neo-con Project for a New American Century is saying ditto today. The term "Pearl Harbor" is indeed a mainstay of the vocabulary of the neo-con 911 propaganda script and was reiterated incessantly by officials and pundits participating in the TV brainwash on September 11th itself. "Pearl Harbor" is a loaded term, like "terrorist attack," best excluded from loose use in any work of 911 truth.
The New Pearl Harbor could easily ride on the cover of a book by a Brzezinski or a Kissinger. Does this ambiguity allow the professor to navigate more easily in academic society than a right-on title like, say, 911 Was an Inside Job? (That's the book's essential thesis anyway, the author's elusiveness notwithstanding.) Is Dr. Griffin trying to have it both ways?
Having it both ways would seem to be the wish also in Chapter One, "Flights 11 and 175: How Could the Hijacker's Mission Have Succeeded?" What hijackers? ask I, who have the conviction that 911 had to have been pulled off robotically. Yet Dr. Griffin goes on and on here, employing loosely the word "hijacker" in all its forms That is, until you get to Footnote 32 (one of 94 in the chapter and 636 in the book.)
Footnote 32 (page 175) is one of the longer notes, nearly a page worth of 8-point type. In the obscurity of footnote 32, Griffin ventures diffidently into the robotic "theory." He says, "There are many questions that I have not broached in the text." (One wonders which other ones, and why.) Then he is writing knowledgeably, and with conviction, about the Global Hawk aeronautic remote-control technology. He comments on the impossibility of the "alleged hijackers," actually using this term. How could they have performed these feats?
And he supplies an item that I had not heard of before, that each of the errant flights had at least one passenger who was a senior official in Raytheon's division of electronics warfare. But the footnote becomes embarrassing as the author confesses, "the fact that I have not discussed these more radical challenges to the official account in the text does not necessarily reflect my judgement that they are not true." Radical challenges? Isn't challenging the official story in any way a radical act? (Ask Bush.) Some challenges are more radical than others? These must be excluded? What are the criteria here? The footnoting of long-winded matter that belongs in the text is a dubious way to construct a book. This discontinuity would never pass my desk.
But editorial considerations aside, what does this say about the character of the author? Most of Griffin's 636 footnotes are not digressions but source references. Griffin's is the only 911 book on the market that is innocent of any original research whatsoever. Everything is second-hand. The book is devoid of illustration. There is no common-noun index, just a perfunctory index of proper names, so access is limited for other 911 researchers. Griffin's sources, are principally Nafeez Ahmed, Paul Thompson, Thierry Meyssan, Michael Chossudovsky, and (thank God) Eric Hufschmidt. He also gives a nod to Michael Ruppert and Barrie Zwicker. If Griffin has made any contribution, it is that he has condensed the ponderous work of Ahmed and Thompson, for readers of this kind of fare.
Griffin is very selective of his sources. The above-named are deemed acceptable; many others are not.. There are a number of interesting omissions. Researchers whom Dr. Griffin has decided that (on the basis of criteria not supplied) lie outside the etiquette. Those who are under the influence of the professor tend to take these exclusions very seriously. A snobbery is encouraged. Among those excluded are Jim Marrs, Alex Jones, Anthony J. Hilder, and David Vonkleist, to name a few. A common denominator of this group is that, unlike the innocent Dr. Griffin, when 911 occurred, they all knew instantly what was coming down and where it was coming from. They also tend to take a greater interest in 911's impacts on the U.S.A. (as opposed to Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.).
They focus on the threat to the U.S. population by a reinforced police state and on the menace to the citizenry by the New World Order, phenomena they have studied for many years. Yet their analysis of the 911 evidence is strikingly similar to that of Griffin and his bunch. Perhaps they are perceived as a bit audacious and raffish compared to a sedate professor of theology. Liberals have traditionally dismissed activists like these as "right wing." Please define. Today, if the neo-cons are the "right," then how can those who oppose them 180 degrees also be "the right?" In addition to their intrinsic worth, these researchers have extensive constituencies that they reach by various radio syndications (as well as by public appearances, videos, and books), and some are themselves syndicated talk-show broadcasters. The Griffinite snobbery that excludes this group, along with all of their followers, can only weaken the movement. Divide and conquer, says the System, and this is what Griffinism encourages.
Griffin goes on through his chapters to posit all the usual questions, providing a credible summary of the familiar evidence available in all the 911 books. About failure to scramble (which evidence points to an inside job), about the controlled demolitions of the WTC towers and Building 7 (which points to an inside job), how Flight 77 could not be what hit the Pentagon and why it hit the west wing (inside job), how Flight 93 was probably shot down (inside job), and the president's strange behavior that day (suggesting an inside job). Griffin's treatment of this familiar territory allows for the probability of complicity at the highest levels. Twice at least our coy author even uses the term "inside job," but obliquely, as in, "If it was indeed a controlled demolition, of course, that would mean that the terrorists were able to succeed in their mission to bring down the WTC only because it was an inside job." (But what terrorists? The book is full of discontinuities like this.) Also, obliquely, "Although the evidence that the collapse of the WTC was an inside job might mean that it was planned by private parties, the fact that the federal government allowed evidence to be removed suggests ... official complicity in a cover-up."
At this point in the book, Griffin could drop his coyness and trot onward forthrightly on a steed called Inside Job. This animal would have no problem putting its hooves down on solidly documented turf. All the foundation is there. But no, again the professor must have it both ways. This book is an exercise in doublethink. So in a Part Two, vaguely headed "The Larger Context," Dr. Griffin gets on a horse of a different color for the rest of the ride, one called Foreknowledge. Foreknowledge? But of course they knew. They did it!
In this part, Griffin does give a good analysis of Who Benefits? And a good summary of various agency investigations crushed by the administration. There is nothing here that would contradict a full-blast, candid position on Inside Job, but that's just not the spin, not quite. Instead, it sounds a bit like we're back on the TV networks. The chapters are sprinkled with the vocabulary of the big-lie propaganda, the one he's supposed to be busting here: terms like "terrorist attacks," "bin Ladin," "al-Qaeda," "Mohamed Atta," and, yes, "hijackers" and "hijackings." In just one instance here, Griffin feels moved to modify "hijacking" by "alleged," not because of the robotics, mind you, but because here Griffin is citing reports that at least five in the alleged suicide squad are known to be alive. Griffin has no scruples about shifting the language to meet any expediency.
Yet New Pearl Harbor is often cited as the "definitive" work on 911. Politics and language are inextricable, which is why the scrupulous use of language is so important in political discourse. Fuzzy language means fuzzy politics. Fuzzy politics is debilitating to any movement.
Griffin's fuzziness (his ambiguity, his equivocation) are compromises that he has evidently chosen in the interest of cultivating a persona of respectability for himself and his work. New Pearl Harbor's appeal may be largely due to the book's pretensions to respectability. Some 911ers may have been waiting for a respectable Griffin type to materialize before they dared to come out.
Many 911ers are desperate for any material that might convince their doubting friends, family, or co-workers, and thus deflect such persecutions as "conspiracy theorist" or "wacko." They would do better showing their friends Eric Hufschmidt's well illustrated book Painful Questions (it's even certified by Dr. Griffin), or Hufschmidt's video, or the videos of a bunch of others, whom Griffin censors out. People new to this kind of conspiratorial politics also may wish to soothe the nagging in their own psyches, their inner discomfort over this novel transgression into dark, taboo, and politically incorrect territory. Many are drawn to the professor in the wish that some of his respectability may rub off and ease the way. But is such self-consciousness and defensiveness healthy to the psyche of an individual?
The have-it-both-ways, politically-correct Griffinite position is an insecure spiritual footing and may require tranquilizers and antidepressants to maintain. One is better off letting go and allowing passage over the gap into where fearlessness and solidarity can be found. In an individual or a movement, energy cannot flow freely through self-consciousness and defensiveness. They are fundamentally debilitating and disempowering. And what about the wish for respectability itself? Can it be vitalizing, or is it poison?
So what has Griffin's respectability, coyness, snobbery, and scholarly posturing won for him thus far? A publisher (Interlink, 50 titles annually) not insubstantial, but hardly a household word. And a back-cover blurb from rad-lib icon Howard Zinn.
However, Dr. Zinn, in interviews, continues to spout nothing on 911 but politically correct "blowback." Dr. Griffin has won some access to the campus, but makes few public appearances of any kind. Someone in our discussion group contrived to get a tape of Griffin's lecture (at the University of Oregon, Eugene) aired on our local Pacifica FM (heretofore steadfastly silent on the subject) but only as a pledge-drive tease, interrupted every ten minutes by pitches for funds, and then cut short.
Our local New Pearl Harbor lecture person got his Griffin book review run (on page 14) in the local foundation-funded "progressive" paper, The Alliance, also chronically silent on the 911 issues. The publisher of this paper, which thrives on photos of sign-bearing protestors, came upon our 911 anniversary demo at the Central Library steps, us all in black with large graphic signs, but he walked on past us, as if we were invisible. Most notable among these token gestures, Griffin got his opus reviewed in the notoriously denialist The Nation, which, granted, could have rendered him invisible, like every other 911er. But the nasty reviewer paints him a "conspiracy theorist", a "crackpot," and "wacky," all the epithets Griffin's affectations of liberal respectability and scholarship are designed to deflect. The Nation would have to refocus its editorial priorities from top to bottom in order to accommodate the implications of 911 truth, as would Mother Jones, Utne, Z or any other of the foundation-funded "left."
But, given the way the money flows, this would be institutionally impossible. If Griffinism can only win token notice at best, is this dubious advantage worth the spiritual trade-off?
So, in his Part Two, Griffin abandons Inside Job, mounts a safer horse and gallops on toward his Conclusion, his final posture. This is, incredibly, a plea to the government for a "full investigation." The impetus for such a phenomenon would come from the Fourth Estate. "It is only when the press leads the way that there can be an official investigation," declares Griffin. OK, class, let's get this straight. A fascist military junta, on the heels of a stolen election, blows up 3000 people, then on this pretext goes to war in three theatres, one being its own citizenry, to whom it declares, "You are either with us or against us."
The junta threatens another national-security event bigger and uglier than 911. It squelches all police-agency investigations. It rigs two bogus official investigations. It conducts a cover-up and big-lie propaganda in the mass media and in the foundation-funded left media, both of which the junta has under its totalitarian control. All the above Griffin, in his own elusive way, has acknowledged in pages preceding. Still the coy professor is insisting that right action under these extenuating circumstances is to petition that same fascist government and its controlled media. Well, I guess that's just the sensible, respectable, reasonable, and grown-up thing to do. Had we but world enough and time ...
Is liberalism a true political position from which action can be taken, or is it just a psychological-adjustment syndrome, a tranquilizer that enables the more sensitive and thoughtful to live with the ugliness of our system of rule? From the well-schooled demographic that is particularly stricken with this syndrome, a liberal elite emerges: academics, bureaucratic professionals, think-tankers, publishers, broadcasters, pundits, and a steady crop of pathetic politicians (Liebermans, Schumers, Kerrys). They feed on the fires of true revolt burning in those whom they may cast out at any time for crimes of candor and spontaneous passion (the Dean scream). "What we usually call human maturity is some kind of resigned reasonableness" (Albert Schweitzer).
Griffin's posture is to acknowledge no particular conviction of his own (just asking these reasonable questions), but something like conviction often shines through. He claims to have no thesis, but the Inside Job one does shine through. He acknowledges no particular personal experience that flashed his consciousness into suspicion, although there must have been one. He is removed from any spontaneous ground in his own being and seems proud of it. This book, he postures, is just an intellectual exercise, objective, impersonal, balanced, scholarly. A crime under totalitarian rule is spontaneity itself, which is feared.
The well indoctrinated, the resigned and reasonable, learn to fear spontaneity, directness, honesty, and candor in themselves, as Griffin has. Spontaneity and idealism get washed out in the name of "growing up." Griffin's compromises seem so very sensible and grown up. The Politics of Gesture in the practice of politics, the resigned and reasonable, having bargained away the idealism and spontaneous truth of themselves, are eager to crush it in others. Calculation moves into the hollowed-out self. A low standard of sincerity becomes acceptable. Back-stabbing can lurk behind an amiable surface.
A politics of gesture replaces true action. Left politics, then, becomes a series of futile but correct feel-good gestures: the letter to the sold-out congressman or editor, the petition, the demo, the teach-in. Round and round with the familiar old rituals, but to what effect? The politics of gesture leaves a big vacuum. One politics that moves in to fill it may be violent action. Many who advocate violence are just disgusted with the politics of gesture, starved for true action, and could be conducted into nonviolent action if it were true and not just symbolic.
Many issues which may burn on for years in other political spheres elude the milieu of resigned reasonableness. Big-lie propagandas are rarely challenged.
All the official media, straight or "alternative," render some very challenging and relevant issues politically incorrect, invisible. That is, until the system develops that issue into a fait accompli. Then it may be permitted to come out. The liberals then institutionalize an opposition consisting of ineffectual gestures mixed with some power brokering. An orthodoxy is established. The issue and the opposition need each other, as a disease charity needs the disease, and thus it is guaranteed that the problem will never be challenged by true resistance. A good example is media conglomeration, which was well on its way in the book industry in the mid-1960's (on the heels of another coup called JFK) but did not become a fashionable issue until the 1990's, when it was way too late. Today every other sentence in political discourse begins with "The media," and we have foundation-controlled institutions, like Counterspin, FAIR, and Norman Soloman, that won't touch the 911 big lie. Is 911 truth itself becoming a liberal institution? Is the September 11th coup now, after three long years, a fait accompli? Is this why Griffinism is now materializing, because the matter is settled, because it is a done deal? The saddest thought of all.
Griffin treats 911 as if it were an isolated item from the remote historical past. He even refers to himself and some of his sources as "revisionists," as if they were academics rewriting a long established historical text. When the 911 Team contrives the next national security event, 911 will indeed become academic. When the "homeland" goes code red, this period of vocalized dissent may prove, historically, to be just a momentary luxury.
This looks like a three-phase coup. Phase one: the 2000 election. Phase two: 911. Phase three: coming right up? The Team may be engineering a code-red election crisis as I write. September 11th is just one climax in an ugly process that is ongoing. Are we not all on the same moving train? Is this train not inexorably rolling still quite solidly on tracks laid down by the same old neo-con fascist agenda? Prove to me otherwise. A bearded Russian gentleman appeared at the very first meeting of our local 911 discussion group. He said ominously, "You people just don't know about genocide, how easily it can happen."
His observation went undeveloped. He did not return. Griffin, whether he knows it or not, is riding on the same train as the rest of us. Is he not taking the same risks as other vocal 911ers? There on the insular Claremont campus, does he imagine himself exempt? Didn't Hitler's Brownshirts throw the professors into the cold lake? The question now for the cognoscenti of 911 should be, "So 911 was an inside job. Now what?" Instead, Griffinism seems to encourage perpetual study, paralyzing the issue into another dilettante political fashion. We can chose for ourselves what literature we allow to influence us. Do we chose equivocation or candor? Censorship or spontaneity? Fuzziness or precision? Resigned reasonableness or passion? Snobbery or solidarity? Respectability or f-'em-if-they-can't-take-a- joke? Do we choose tokenism or effectiveness? Accommodation or resistance? Diffidence or confrontation? Gesture or action? Movement or paralysis?
George Trinkaus, firstname.lastname@example.org, wrote a TV review called NBC Spins 911. This article is also available as a free e-book download: http://www.teslapress.com/NBC%20html%20web%20version.htm. His bio is at "Who is George Trinkaus?" on teslapress.com.
"Why They Believe the Government: Left Denial on 911" by August West is at San Francisco Indymedia. "The Gatekeepers: Foundations Fund Phony Left Media" is at questionsquestions.net. The NPH Portland 911 discussion group meets Thursdays, 7 pm, at Laughing Horse Books, SE 36th and Division. email@example.com This article previously appeared at Portland Independent Media Center.
The World Trade Center Demolition and the So-Called War on Terrorism
Serendipity Home Page
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Witnesses in the trial of a U.S. soldier charged with abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib have told the court that the CIA sometimes directed abuse and orders were received from military command to toughen interrogations.
The evidence, from an officer and a chief warrant officer who served at the jail, is among the strongest so far in the Abu Ghraib trials pointing to more senior involvement in the abuse and direct orders from above to "soften up" detainees.
Previously, the Pentagon has claimed that the sexual and physical abuse that took place at the prison was the work of a few "bad apples" acting on their own initiative.
Testifying in the court martial of Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, who is charged with five accounts of abusing prisoners, Captain Donald Reese, a military police commander at Abu Ghraib, said the CIA was involved in abusing detainees.
He said U.S. civilian "OGA" officials -- an acronym meaning Other Government Agency reserved for the CIA -- interrogated Iraqi inmates at night, when supervision at the prison was low.
One inmate, who CIA interrogators were depriving of sleep, was suffering from "panic attacks", he said.
"They (CIA) came in at any time of day. They came in through the back door and put (prisoners) in one of the cells. We were told by OGA that they'd be back for them again later," Reese said via video from the United States on Wednesday.
Frederick's trial, which began on Wednesday at a camp on the outskirts of Baghdad, is expected to conclude later on Thursday. He has pleaded guilty to the five charges against him, although he has denied some of the details.
Reese, the commander of the 372nd Military Police Company, said there were so many types of interrogators on the site it became difficult to keep track. He mentioned staff from the CIA, the FBI, military intelligence and military police.
"It was very confusing," he said. "Sometimes they wore civilian clothes, sometime military uniforms. And military intelligence had their name tags removed sometimes."
He said he had seen naked detainees being held at the prison shortly after arriving in October and wondered what on earth was going on. "Did you ask about the nudity?" Frederick's lawyer Gary Myers asked Reese in court.
"I was told it was the actions of the military intelligence community and it was an accepted practice," Reese replied.
Taking the stand after Reese, Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Kramer, a military intelligence soldier, said he had received an email in August, before much of the abuse is believed to have occurred, demanding that interrogations be "toughened up".
"We were told we weren't getting the intelligence they expected. Therefore we must not be conducting enough interrogations to get the intelligence," Kramer told the court.
Kramer said the email, read out in court and admitted as evidence, had come from a captain in the U.S.-led command headquarters in Baghdad, and told him and others in similar positions to get interrogators to "take off the gloves".
"The gloves are coming off, gentlemen, regarding these detainees," it said. It said a Colonel Boltz "wants the detainees broken". It did not identify him further.
"They were trying to get us to do more aggressive interrogations," Kramer said. "They wanted us to be more aggressive in the booth."
Myers asked whether there was a backlash among the military intelligence community that received the email.
"We were almost in shock," Kramer said, adding that he didn't think the U.S. military command was aware of or understood the Geneva Conventions.
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Larry King live had Bob Woodward as his guest.
Among other things, Woodward was saying how coarse the rhetoric was this year, talking about the vicious attacks going on.
"Duh, why has it gotten so bad, and isn't this a bad thing."
If I hear more of this from ostensibly intelligent pundits, my head is going to explode!
2000 The election was stolen
2001 Repubs road roughshod of Dems in Congress. Dick Chaney and others conducting govt. business in a more secretive way than ever before
2001 Horrible inside job murderous conspiracy killed thousands on American soil
2001 Cover up, War, Billions wasted, massive legislation giving govt unbelievable police powers.
2002 Police state, govt. military sponsored torture
2003 Unbelievable amount of innocent fatalities of War. More of the Same
2004 Corporate Gravy Train for Powerful and Cronies. Major media is totally syncophatic!
and the problem we have is "harse rhetoric"?!!! The current Murderous Regime is lucky the public isn't converging on the Whitehouse and torching it!
October 20, 2004
Study Suggests Design Flaws Didn't Doom Towers
By ERIC LIPTON
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 - After the most sophisticated building analysis in United States history, federal investigators have arrived at the clearest picture yet of the sequence of events that led to the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, largely ruling out a design flaw in the buildings as a central factor in the catastrophe.
Since the twin towers fell, questions have reverberated among families of victims and some fire-safety experts about whether insufficient fireproofing or an unusual weakness in the innovative, lightweight floors played a critical role in the collapse.
Instead, the investigators tentatively conclude in nearly 500 pages of documents released Tuesday, the twin towers failed because the structural columns at the buildings' core, damaged by the impact of the airliners, buckled and shortened as the fires burned, gradually shifting more load to the tower's trademark exterior pinstripe columns. The exterior columns ultimately suffered such extraordinary stress and heat that they gave way.
The investigation - based on an analysis of thousands of photographs and videos, an examination of nearly every element used to construct the towers and meticulous computer-enhanced modeling of the plane impacts and spreading fires - is not yet complete. A final report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology is not scheduled to be issued until December or perhaps January.
In interviews Tuesday, the lead investigator, as well as other engineers who have studied the collapse, said the evidence increasingly suggested that the giant structures - given the extreme conditions, including temperatures that reached more than 1,000 degrees - performed relatively well on Sept. 11, 2001.
"We always said we had no preconceived notions, and that we would look at the failure information dispassionately," said S. Shyam Sunder, the lead investigator at the institute, a division of the Department of Commerce, which has conducted the two-year, $16 million inquiry at the request of Congress. "The buildings performed as they should have in the airplane impact and extreme fires to which they were subjected. There is nothing there that stands out as abnormal."
Elements of the design and construction of the towers, investigators said, certainly played a part in how long the buildings stood. Buildings designed differently - with more robustly protected and spread-out emergency stairwells, for example - engineers said yesterday, might still have resulted in fewer deaths.
But the most severe shortcomings identified at the World Trade Center in the institute's comprehensive review do not pertain to how the buildings were conceived or built. Instead, the failings on Sept. 11 were chiefly found in the response by the New York City Fire and Police Departments, which was hampered by inadequate command, unreliable communications equipment and an overwhelmed dispatching system.
For Leslie E. Robertson, the structural engineer who helped design the twin towers as a young man back in the early 1960's, the latest findings buttress his longstanding assertion that the towers were fundamentally sound. His wife, Saw-Teen See, who is a managing partner at Mr. Robertson's New York design firm, said the report "validates the way we thought the structure would have performed."
The findings by the institute, however, still do not exonerate Mr. Robertson or the building's owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which, in defending the trade center project from critics in the 1960s, boasted that the design was so robust that the towers could be hit by a jet traveling at 600 miles per hour without collapsing or endangering the lives of occupants beyond the impact zone. In retrospect, such a claim was unjustified because the engineers had failed to consider the added stresses caused by the resulting fires.
Sally Regenhard, who founded a group called the Skyscraper Safety Campaign in honor of her son, Christian Regenhard, a probationary firefighter who was one of 2,749 victims, said she was not ready to concede that the towers' design were not fundamentally at fault.
"It is far, far too premature to come to any conclusions that it wasn't the fault of the building, or nothing was wrong with the building," she said after listening to a daylong presentation in Gaithersburg, Md., about the latest findings.
The investigators have examined just about every possible factor that could have contributed to the collapse, including the steel used in the columns. Computer models were used to calculate, as accurately as possible, where different airplane parts traveled, and what kind of damage they did. Then, intricate models were built, essentially recreating the resulting fires.
Through all this, particular attention has been focused on the innovative floors that were central to the design of the twin towers. The floors were particularly critical in the trade center because in office buildings built before the 1960's, structural columns and beams were generally spread throughout - holding up the enormous weight and allowing the tower to resist the force from wind.
In the trade center, only the building's exterior and core had structural columns, and in between them were wide-open floors - relatively lightweight, decklike structures. Some engineers have wondered if insufficient fireproofing on the floor trusses led them to fail, undermining the structural integrity of the towers.
The federal investigators found, after conducting a test with a reconstructed section of the floor, that the original fireproofing on the floors, as built, was sufficient to ensure that they met the New York City building code under standard testing parameters.
Instead, the report released yesterday say, the Boeing 767 planes ripped through a swath of exterior steel columns, resulting in an immediate redistribution of the load to adjacent perimeter columns and, to a lesser extent, to the core columns.
As the planes penetrated the towers, they destroyed sections of the floors, knocked off spray-on fireproofing and severed three to 10 of the core columns in each tower.
The report found that the towers were able to stand, despite the initial assault, as "loads on the damaged columns were redistributed to other intact core and perimeter columns mostly via the floor systems and to a lesser extent, via the hat truss," a steel structure at the top of the towers that was connected to the core and perimeter columns.
The infernos that erupted in the two towers are to blame for the ultimate collapse, the report found. As temperatures rose in the buildings, the remaining core columns softened and buckled, shifting much of the burden to the building's exterior. The floors, which largely remained intact outside the impact zone, reacted by pulling the exterior columns inward, adding to the extreme stress on the exterior columns.
In the north tower, as fires consumed office furniture and other debris, softening the steel in the exterior columns, they gradually started to bow inward and then buckle. Ultimately, the entire upper section of the building above the impact zone tilted to the south, sealing the fate of the tower and anyone who remained inside.
"The buckled columns exceeded the strain energy that could be absorbed by the structure,'' the report says. "Global collapse then ensued."
The floors played a more significant role in the collapse sequence in the south tower, the investigators said. Fires there caused them to sag by as much as two feet, adding to the inward pulling that already had started because of the buckling of the core columns.
But the investigators say that without the plane impact - which weakened the structure and knocked fireproofing off the floor trusses and columns - if a typical office fire had occurred, "it is likely that burnout would have occurred without collapse."
The tentative conclusions by the federal investigators conflict with an earlier report by a team of structural engineers organized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who had asserted that the collapse of the north tower started in the core, not in the outer columns. But W. Gene Corley, a structural engineer from Skokie, Ill., who led that inquiry, said Tuesday that the new hypothesis was feasible, given that the federal team had the money to more closely dissect what happened.
But James G. Quintiere, a professor of fire protection engineering at University of Maryland, said he questioned the tentative conclusions, as his analysis showed that in the fires created by the impact, the lightweight floors rose to a temperature high enough to make them separate from the exterior columns. "They have not presented enough evidence," he said.
By Sebastian Usher BBC News
One of the highest Sunni Islamic authorities in Iraq has issued a strong warning against any major assault on the rebel-held city of Falluja.
Sheikh Harith al-Dari called on Iraqis to boycott January's planned elections if Falluja is attacked.
His comments come after a meeting of senior Sunni clerics in Baghdad.
Speculation is mounting that the US army is preparing to launch an offensive to drive insurgents out of their Falluja stronghold.
Last week Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi ordered the residents of Falluja to hand over notorious militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his supporters, or face attack.
Yet there is little doubt that a full-scale assault would be a big political gamble.
Sheikh Harith al-Dari, the head of the Association of Muslim Scholars, voiced his fears after an emergency meeting with his fellow senior Sunni clerics.
"This conference made recommendations and took decisions that are enough for the occupation forces and the interim government to understand that storming Falluja is not an easy thing," he said.
"Storming Falluja will also lead to consequences and dangers that will affect both sides and it will not be easy as it was in other places.
"The Iraqi people view Falluja as the symbol of their steadfastness, resistance and pride. Falluja did not give any excuse to be stormed," he added.
The Association of Muslim Scholars is seen as one of the most important Sunni religious voices in Iraq.
In recent months, it has tried to secure the release of foreigners kidnapped by Islamic militants like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and has condemned the killing of hostages.
But its rejection of the US military presence in Iraq has always been adamant.
In the past it has warned that free and fair elections were impossible while US troops remained.
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/3761530.stmPublished: 2004/10/20 22:08:02 GMT© BBC MMIV
Del. GOP says senator's remark went too far
By MIKE BILLINGTON / The News Journal
Sen. Joe Biden rallied supporters for John Kerry's presidential campaign Tuesday with a blistering attack on Bush administration policies that he said hurt retirees and working-class Americans.
Biden criticized the administration's prescription drug policies and their impact on consumers. "He is brain dead," Biden said of the president. His comment was greeted with loud applause at the UAW Local 435 union hall in Cranston Heights but quickly drew the ire of Delaware Republicans.
"Sen. Biden should be ashamed of his below-the-belt rhetoric and personal attacks on the president," said David Crossan, executive director of the state's Republican Party. "Challenging policies is one thing, but calling someone 'brain dead' crosses the line."
Many of the union members and retirees who attended the rally didn't think Biden's comments were out of line.
They said in the past they often crossed party lines to support the late U.S. Sen. Bill Roth, a conservative Republican who spent more than three decades in the Senate, and continue to vote for U.S. Rep. Mike Castle, a moderate Republican. However, they would have a hard time supporting Bush, they said, because of his administration's policies.
"The senator wasn't talking the political talk, he was pretty straightforward. That's what we wanted and that's what we got, straight talk," said Bill Wasik, Local 435's vice president. "Basically, the senator said that the Bush administration isn't listening to the working men and women, and that's true."
Local 435 recording secretary Nancy Smith said that while Biden's speech was "very emotional" she did not think his comments were off base.
"He spoke from his heart about what's at stake for all labor and all working-class people in America," she said. "He talked about issues that definitely affect us. These are serious issues for us, and he talked about what could happen if we don't make a change."
Biden touched on a wide range of issues during a speech in which he walked among audience members, stopping to shake hands with people whose names he wove into anecdotes.
Wasik and other members of the audience said they are concerned about the war in Iraq. They worry because it seems the White House has no clear strategy for getting U.S. troops out of there.
"It's a quagmire," Wasik said. "We support our troops, of course, but we know now that the war in Iraq didn't turn out to be what they said it was going to be about. I think that the war should be in Afghanistan. That's where the terrorists are, not in Iraq."
Biden discussed the war during his speech and later told reporters the United States and its allies must send large numbers of soldiers to Iraq to guarantee free elections
in 2005, just as they did in Afghanistan this year. The Bush administration may not have the political will nor the international credibility to ensure that happens, he said.
Biden's attack on the Bush administration's policies focused attention on White House support for the prescription drug bill and tax policies that favor U.S. industries that move their operations overseas.
If Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is elected president, Biden said to loud applause, the tax breaks will go to companies that remain in America instead of those that go overseas.
The prescription drug bill, he said, "is a sham" and illegal because it forbids Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices.
Biden took exception to Bush's recent statements that lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada - which are made by the same companies that make and sell them in the United States - may not be safe.
"He said that and yet he then told a Canadian company to manufacture our flu vaccine," Biden said.
In a separate interview, Biden said he won't call for a suspension of the U.S. military's controversial anthrax vaccination program.
Recent stories in The News Journal have called attention to the plight of soldiers who received anthrax vaccines containing a booster called squalene. The booster is blamed for adverse reactions in troops who received the shots at Dover Air Force Base.
Biden reiterated a statement he issued last week with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Castle in which they said no evidence has yet surfaced that current batches of the vaccine contain squalene. He believes the military must continue vaccinating troops against the threat of anthrax attacks as long as the shots are safe.
Contact Mike Billington at 324-2761 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The News Journal/FRED COMEGYS
At Tuesday's union rally, Sen. Joe Biden (left) attacked President Bush's policies on Iraq, taxes and prescription drugs. Many in the Cranston Heights hall welcomed Biden's comments.
2004, The News Journal. Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Service (updated 12/19/2002)
10/20/2004 @ 1:59pm
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A year ago, The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation awarded former Ambassador Joseph Wilson the first annual Ron Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling. I had something of a double connection to this event. Ridenhour, a Vietnam veteran and whistleblower who exposed the My Lai massacre (and who later became a dogged investigative journalist), was a friend of mine. (He died at the age of 52 in 1998.) And I had suggested that Wilson be awarded this honor, for he had challenged the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq (particularly the claim that Iraq had been uranium-shopping in Niger) and then received a brutal payback: two administration officials revealed his wife's CIA identity to conservative columnist Robert Novak (thus ruining Valerie Wilson's career as an undercover counterproliferation officer, harming national security, and perhaps violating federal law).
This past summer, the Senate intelligence committee released a report on the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The report was an indictment of the intelligence community, noting that the community's critical findings on Iraq's WMDs were "either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting." That was the big news: the war had been based on bad and overinflated intelligence. (And, by the way, Bush had even overstated the exaggerated intelligence.) But conservatives jumped on a portion of the report devoted to the Niger affair to mount an attack against Wilson. At the time, I debunked much of this assault in two columns (Click here and here). I didn't realize then that Representative J.D. Hayworth, a Republican from Arizona, and ten of his GOP House colleagues had written a letter to The Nation Institute to demand that the institute withdraw the award it had bestowed upon Wilson. Recently, this letter became an issue in Arizona when Wilson traveled to Phoenix and attended a fundraising event for local Democrats.
I have always enjoyed sparring with Hayworth, my dad's congressman. He is a large fellow with a large laugh. So it is my pleasure to post below his letter to The Nation Institute and the response from the institute and the Fertel Foundation. In my humble opinion, The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation--which drew upon my published columns in crafting their response--win this debate in a slam-dunk. Without further explanation...The Nation Institute versus J.D. Hayworth et. al.:
July 22, 2004
Dear Mr. Hamilton Fish:
You've been snookered and you shouldn't stand for it!
We are referring to the Nation Institute's giving the first Ron Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling to Ambassador Joe Wilson, who has just been exposed as a liar on, well, pretty much everything.
In the interests of "Truth-Telling," we think you should withdraw Wilson's award so that your organization does not become a laughingstock. While it is doubtful Wilson would agree to give you the $10,000 prize back, maybe you could shame him into donating it to some charity, since it was undoubtedly received under false pretenses. Consider.
The award was given to Wilson for his "raising questions about the Bush Administration's truthfulness, and undermined its claim that it had ample evidence to justify an invasion of Iraq." Specifically, Wilson wrote in a 2003 New York Times op-ed that President Bush had "twisted" intelligence to "exaggerate the Iraqi threat." He allowed that he had been sent to Niger to look into claims that Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake ore from that country. Wilson informed us "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place."
We now know, of course, that all of Wilson's claims were lies. First, there is the exhaustive British report put out by Lord Butler that concludes, "the statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that 'The British Government has learned the Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa' was well-founded."
This assessment was backed up by the report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which stated that Wilson's debriefing provided "some confirmation of foreign government service reporting," in other words, the British were right.
Then there is the claim by Wilson that his wife had nothing to do with his going to Niger on behalf of the CIA, saying "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip." However, the Senate report quotes from a February 12, 2002 memo from Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, that does promote her husband for the mission, saying "my husband has good relations with both the PM and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity."
Finally, Wilson was not truthful when he told the Washington Post that documents about the uranium deal may have been forged because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong." When asked by the committee staff how he came to such a conclusion when he could not possibly have seen the documents in question, Wilson said he may have "misspoken." We'll say.
As you know, Wilson's fraudulent claims were the basis for many of the most scurrilous attacks on the president and vice president. These attacks continue today. By withdrawing your award you will be not only restoring integrity of the Ron Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling, but you will also be sending a clear message about the importance of accuracy and fairness in political discourse.
For the sake of your organization and its honor, rescind Ambassador Joe Wilson's award.
Thank you for your consideration.
Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Rep. Joe Wilson, Rep. Steve King, Rep. Michael Burgess, Rep. Randy Neugebauer, Rep. Steve Chabot, Rep. Trent Franks, Rep. Wally Herger, Rep. Cass Ballenger, Rep. Robin Hayes. Rep. Bob Beauprez
October 20, 2004
Dear Representatives Hayworth, Wilson, King, Burgess, Neugebauer, Chabot, Franks, Herger, Ballenger, Hayes, and Beauprez,
We are in receipt of your letter of July 21, 2004, regarding The Nation Institute's Ron Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling, which was awarded last year to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
You claim that the Institute has been "snookered" by Ambassador Wilson and "shouldn't stand for it." That is not so. We humbly suggest that you have been misinformed by staffers who have not read the full record and have presented you with selective information. Please allow us--two nonprofit organizations that seek to encourage the dissemination of important information--to provide you with a fuller picture.
Your letter refers to three points. Let's take them in order.
1. Regarding Wilson's New York Times op-ed--in which he reported that it was "highly doubtful" that Iraq had been able to purchase yellowcake uranium from Iraq--you state, "We now know, of course, that all of Wilson's claims were lies." That is a rather broad statement. Are you suggesting that Wilson was not sent to Niger by the CIA in February 2002, as he maintained? That he did not meet with people in the private sector and with former Niger officials? That he did not conclude--as a result of these conversations--that the structure of the Nigerien uranium industry (which is controlled by an international consortium) made it "highly doubtful" that such a transaction could have happened? That his conclusions were at odds with the assertion that President Bush made in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium in Africa? The Senate Intelligence Committee report that you cite does not challenge Wilson's account. It reports:
"[Wilson] told Committee staff that he had told...U.S. officials [in Niger] that he thought there was 'nothing to the story.' [U.S.] Ambassador [to Niger] Owens-Kirkpatrick told Committee staff she recalled the former ambassador saying 'he had reached the same conclusions that the embassy had reached, that it was highly unlikely that anything was going on.'"
The Senate Intelligence Committee report notes that Wilson had met with former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki, who had also been foreign minister. A CIA report written after Wilson returned to the United States said that Mayaki had told Wilson about a meeting he had in the late 1990s with an Iraqi business delegation to discuss expanding commercial relations. Mayaki told Wilson that he had assumed the Iraqis were interested in uranium sales, though the matter had not been explicitly discussed. Mayaki maintained that nothing happened after this meeting. Mai Manga, a former minister for energy and mines, told Wilson that there had been no uranium sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency channels since the mid-1980s, and that he knew of no contracts signed between Niger and any rogue state for the sale of uranium. The intelligence committee report states:
"Mai Manga also described how the French mining consortium controls Nigerien uranium mining and keeps the uranium very tightly controlled from the time it is mined until the time it is loaded onto ships in Benin for transport overseas. Mai Manga believed it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a special shipment of uranium to a pariah state given these controls."
In your letter, you cite two statements in your attempt to brand "all of Wilson's claims" lies. You note that the Butler report released in England said "the statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that 'The British Government has learned the [sic] Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa' was well-founded." And you point to a sentence in the Senate Intelligence Committee report that stated that Wilson's trip to Niger provided "some confirmation of foreign government service reporting." You conclude, "In other words, the British were right."
That is not a fair reading of the record. The Senate Intelligence Committee report said much more on this point than you indicate. It noted that Wilson's trip was interpreted differently by different US intelligence analysts. Some took Mayaki's recollection of his meeting with Iraqi businesspeople as possible confirmation of the Niger allegation; others believed the information Wilson had obtained offered additional reason to doubt the charge. As the report stated:
"For most analysts, the information in the report [that was written by the CIA following Wilson's trip to Niger] lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal, but State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) analysts believed that the report supported their assessment that Niger was unlikely to be willing or able to sell uranium to Iraq."
In other words, Wilson's work was thrown into the stew. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee's account of this episode, the CIA went on to disseminate a report noting that a foreign intelligence service had told US intelligence that Niger had agreed to supply Iraq with hundreds of tons of uranium. And in the National Intelligence Estimate produced in October 2002, the intelligence community reported that Iraq had been trying to strike a uranium deal with Niger in 2001. But the NIE noted that INR strongly disagreed with this assessment. Moreover, when the deputy CIA director testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on October 2, 2002, he said that in the judgment of US intelligence, the British had "reached a little" on Iraq's purported uranium-shopping in Iraq. He testified, "We've looked at these reports, and we don't think they are very credible."
About that time, the National Security Council was drafting a speech for President Bush, and the CIA recommended that the address not include the Niger allegation because it was "debatable" whether the yellowcake could have been obtained from Niger. As the speech was being prepared, CIA Director George Tenet called the deputy national security adviser and said he did not want President Bush to repeat the British allegations--that Bush should not be a "fact witness" on this matter--because CIA analysts had concluded that the reporting was weak. In a follow-up fax to the NSC, the CIA reiterated that "the evidence is weak" and "the procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory." The fax noted, "The Africa story is overblown."
Still, in late January 2003--after INR's Iraq analyst had concluded that papers recently obtained by US intelligence related to the supposed Iraqi-Niger uranium deal were "clearly a forgery"--Bush went ahead and accused Iraq of seeking uranium in Africa. He did so to bolster his case for war against Iraq.
On April 5, 2003, according to the Senate report, the National Intelligence Council issued a memo that noted, "We judge it highly unlikely that Niamey [the capital of Niger] has sold uranium yellowcake to Baghdad in recent years." It added that the government of Niger would have been unlikely to proceed with such a deal. And on June 17, 2003, the CIA produced a memo that said, "Since learning that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal was based on false documents earlier this spring, we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad."
So Wilson's assessment, rather than being false, ended up being accepted by the CIA. And, of course, the White House conceded in July 2003 that the allegation should not have been included in the State of the Union address.
Wilson's reporting may not have been conclusive. But as we have been told often, such is frequently the case in intelligence collection. After coming back from Niger, Wilson's view--which he did not express publicly for nearly a year and a half--was different from that held by CIA analysts. Yet his conclusion--that the Niger allegation was probably bunk--was in line with the thinking of the State Department on this matter. And Wilson's reasoning came to prevail and to be shared by the intelligence community.
The British government seems to be standing by the original allegation, and Butler has provided it backup. But the CIA, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, ended up concluding that the charge was not well-founded. You are free to point to the Butler report and accept its word over that of our own intelligence system, which you supposedly oversee, but you (or your staffers) should be aware that US intelligence reached the opposite conclusion.
When you're done reading this article,visit David Corn's WEBLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent entries on Bush's belief he is on a (free-from-facts) mission from God, the possibility of extra innings in the presidential race, how the Chicago Tribune blew its endorsement of Bush, and Alan Keyes' obsession with incest (as a political issue).
2. In claiming that Wilson is a liar, you noted that Wilson said that his wife "definitely HAD not proposed that I make the trip" to Niger. But you maintain that the Senate report quoted from a memo from his wife that did (in your words) "promote her husband for the mission, saying 'my husband has good relations with both the PM and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.'"
This strikes us as rather a small point. So what if Valerie Wilson had suggested her husband? A week in Niamey for no pay was hardly a junket. What would have been wrong with a CIA officer telling another CIA officer that her husband, a former ambassador, is an Africa expert with experience in Niger and that perhaps he should be dispatched to Niger to see what he can learn? But because Wilson is on record saying it did not happen this way, his truthfulness and in fact his character are being questioned.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report stated,
"Some [CIA Counterproliferation Division] officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador, however, interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador's wife 'offered up his name' and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from [Valerie Wilson] says, 'my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.'"
This passage can be read two ways. It could be that Valerie Wilson "offered up" her husband as someone that CIA officials should talk to about the Niger allegation. It could be that she proposed him specifically for the trip. The record presented by the Senate report does not support a definitive reading. By the way, at least two media reports--a July 22, 2003, Newsday article and a July 13, 2004, CNN report--quote senior unnamed intelligence officers saying Valerie Wilson did not propose her husband for the mission to Niger. The Senate report does not mention these denials. Wilson says that the CPD reports officer quoted in the passage above has told Valerie Wilson that he was misquoted. Wilson has asked the Senate Intelligence Committee to re-interview him. Wilson also says that the chief of the CIA task force that sent him to Niger was never questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee about the manner in which he was selected to go to Niger.
Whatever happened in this regard, the report noted that the CIA people in charge of investigating the Niger allegation deliberated over what to do and then reached the decision to ask Wilson to perform a pro bono act of public service. And Wilson said yes. He had the experience for the job. His trip was no boondoggle arranged by his wife for his or their benefit.
3. Your final charge against Wilson is that he told the Washington Post that documents about the uranium deal may have been forged because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong," though he could not have possibly seen the documents in question at the time of his mission to Niger. The Post story you are referring to was published on June 12, 2003, and Wilson was an unnamed source for this article. It reported,
"After returning to the United States, the envoy [Wilson] reported to the CIA that the uranium-purchase story was false, the sources said. Among the envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because the 'dates were wrong and the names were wrong,' the former U.S. government official said."
Indeed, Wilson could not have rendered a judgment on the documents at the time of his February 2002, mission to Niger, for they were not yet in US hands. And Wilson has said that he did not see the forged documents until months after they became public in 2003. (He says he first saw them when NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell handed them to him during a July 22, 2003, interview, but since he did not have his glasses with him he could not read them.) By the time he spoke to Walter Pincus, who wrote the Post article in question, the forgeries were already well-known. It could well have been that during this conversation Wilson referred to what was already in the public record. And Wilson would not have been wrong to say at this time that his trip provided additional cause to suspect the documents were phony. He cannot be held responsible for how a newspaper characterized his off-the-record remarks. More importantly--and more to the point--when Wilson finally did go public about his trip to Niger (three weeks after this Post article appeared), he made certain to note that he had never seen the forged documents. In his July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed, he wrote:
"As for the actual [forged] memorandum [on the alleged Niger deal], I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors--they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government--and were probably forged."
This seems another minor dispute to us. But since you bring it up, you should note that the record shows that Wilson did clearly state he had not seen the forged documents. While there may have been some miscommunication between him and Pincus--or inartful editing at the Post--Wilson subsequently made certain the record was accurate.
In your letter, you refer to the "importance of accuracy and fairness in political discourse." To that, we say amen. We applaud Ambassador Wilson's truthful contribution to the national discourse. And we have a modest suggestion for you. Rather than obsess over the Wilson episode--and we note you say nothing in your letter about the Bush Administration leak that outed his wife as a CIA officer, ruining her career and possibly harming national security--perhaps you ought to ponder the larger issues presented by the Senate Intelligence Committee's report.
Two days before the Iraq war, George W. Bush justified the invasion of Iraq by saying "intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal" weapons of mass destruction. Later on, he claimed his decision to attack Iraq had been predicated upon "good, solid intelligence." The report--which you might have seen covered in the media--concluded that the intelligence community's critical findings on Iraq's WMDs were "either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting." In other words, President Bush presented a false picture to the American public. Furthermore, the Senate report said, "The Central Intelligence Agency reasonably assessed that there were likely several instances of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda throughout the 1990s, but that these contacts did not add up to an established formal relationship." This means that when President Bush said before the war that Saddam Hussein was "a threat because he's dealing with Al Qaeda," he was not basing this significant assertion on the findings of the US intelligence community. The report also indicated that President Bush ignored the intelligence when he called Saddam Hussein "an ally" of Al Qaeda during his May 1, 2003, speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
In your capacity as public officials devoted to truth in public discourse, we encourage you to pressure the House leadership to investigate whether the Bush White House accurately represented the intelligence on WMDs and the supposed connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. As you might know, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee has postponed such an inquiry until after the election. Given that more than 1,000 Americans have been killed in a war that was (according to the Senate report you passionately cite) sold to the public with bad information, you have a profound constitutional duty to rise above partisan inhibitions and unite in a call for a complete and truthful accounting.
Please join us in requesting an immediate Congressional investigation into how the Bush Administration handled and depicted the intelligence it received before the war. We look forward to your response.
Hamilton Fish, President of The Nation Institute, and Randy Fertel, President of the Fertel Foundation
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a defeat for the government, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday that three prisoners held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba can meet with their attorneys in private.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected the government's proposal for audio and video monitoring and for a review of notes taken at the meeting because it would undermine the attorney-client relationship.
"The court is acutely aware of the delicate balance that must be struck when weighing the importance of national security against the rights of the individual," she said in the 25-page ruling.
"However, the government has supplied only the most slender legal support for its argument, which cannot withstand the weight of the authority surrounding the importance of the attorney-client privilege," she concluded.
More than 500 people are being held at the Guantanamo prison, detained during the 1991 invasion of Afghanistan and in other operations in the U.S. war against terrorism.
The three prisoners in this case are Mohammed Ahmed al Kandari, Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad al Odah and Khalid Abdullah Mishal al Mutairi.
They were among 12 Kuwaitis who sued in 2002 seeking to be told of the charges against them, to be allowed to meet with their attorneys and families and to have access to the courts.
Their case and another one reached the U.S. Supreme Court and the justices in June ruled that foreign prisoners at the base can go to U.S. courts to pursue their claims.
Kollar-Kotelly ruled the three detainees were entitled to legal representation. The government took the position that while the detainees could meet with their attorneys under the proposed restrictions they had no constitutional or legal right to representation.
"It is simply impossible to expect petitioners to grapple with the complexities of a foreign legal system and present their claims to this court without legal representation," she said.
The Supreme Court ruled the prisoners have the right to bring their claims before the court, and she said they cannot be expected to exercise this right without the assistance of counsel.
The government's proposed review, meant to check for any disclosure of classified information, would cover all written materials brought into or out of the meetings and any legal mail sent between the attorneys and the detainees.
"The government is not entitled to unilaterally impose procedures that abrogate the attorney-client relationship and its concomitant attorney-client privilege covering communications between them," Kollar-Kotelly said.
The judge came up with her own plan to allow the attorneys to meet with the detainees without being monitored.
She said one attorney would meet with one detainee. The information would be treated as confidential under attorney-client privilege, and would not be disclosed to anyone.
If the attorney wanted to disclose the information, the lawyer then would have to go through the government's proposed classification review, Kollar-Kotely said.
She said the attorney would be required to disclose to the government any information from the detainee involving future threats to national security.
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by Joe Conason
When George W. Bush speaks, the listener is often left guessing whether the President of the United States intends to deceive or is merely ignorant of basic facts. Either is always possible, since Mr. Bush is as capable of deception as any politician, and more indolent than many whenever "hard work" is required.
That unflattering question arose again this week when Mr. Bush went out to talk about the final report of the Iraq Survey Group. The chances that he actually read the dense, thousand-plus pages delivered to his desk by Charles Duelfer, the President’s hand-picked chief weapons inspector, were of course minimal. In any case, the likelihood that he could bring himself to describe the report’s findings honestly was equally small, because they decimate his justifications for war.
Although he acknowledged that the Duelfer report "confirms the earlier conclusion that Iraq did not have the weapons that our intelligence believed were there," the President went on to declare that the report also "raises important new information about Saddam Hussein’s defiance of the world and his intent and capability to develop weapons. He retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction. And he could have passed that knowledge on to our terrorist enemies. Saddam Hussein was a unique threat, a sworn enemy of our country, a state sponsor of terror. And America and the world are safer for our actions."
The least that can be expected of a hard-working chief executive, perhaps, is to read the "key findings" of a report on such important matters, especially since those findings are summed up in fewer than 20 pages. If we assume that Mr. Bush read those key findings—or that someone told him about them—then he must also know the following:
• "Iraq’s ability to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program," which served as the most important rationale for war, had "progressive decayed" since 1991—and Mr. Duelfer "found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program." Here, too, the report confirms that "aggressive" U.N. inspections had neutralized the Iraqi nuclear program. (The report also suggests that Saddam was chiefly concerned about the "Iranian threat" if and when Teheran got the bomb.)
• "Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991"—and Mr. Duelfer also saw no "credible indications" that the regime had "resumed production of chemical munitions" since then, or even sought to acquire "precursor chemicals in bulk" to make them. Once more, the report emphasizes Saddam’s concern with deterring Iran—and mentions no evidence that he would have given chemical weapons to terrorists.
• The Duelfer team discovered "no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new [biological weapons] program or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes." Although Iraq initially tried to preserve those facilities, that effort ended when the regime razed its Al Hakam weapons plant. For seven years prior to the invasion, Iraq had conducted no "illicit research into [biological warfare] agents." As for those "mobile labs" featured in Colin Powell’s scary presentation to the U.N. Security Council, they were "almost certainly designed and built exclusively for the generation of hydrogen."
• Iraq possessed "plans or designs for three long-range ballistic missiles," but that effort, too, had been stymied by the United Nations. In December 2002, the Iraqi regime revealed its new missile systems to the U.N. inspectors led by Hans Blix, who were busy dismantling those rockets a few months later when the invasion began.
• "Iran was the preeminent motivator" of Iraq’s desire to re-create its destroyed W.M.D. arsenal, as Mr. Duelfer explains in his comments on "regime strategic intent." Saddam hoped to revive his chemical and nuclear weapons programs someday—mainly because he feared his mortal enemies in Iran rather than the United States or even Israel. Nowhere do Mr. Duelfer’s "key findings" mention Al Qaeda or other terrorists (to whom Baghdad presumably could have passed chemical or biological weapons when the dictator still had them, a decade ago, but did not).
In short, the Duelfer report proves that Iraq was in no sense a "gathering threat" to us—as the President continues to insist in his stump speeches. The Iraqi regime’s diminished power presented a problem not nearly as grave as those posed by North Korea, Iran and Al Qaeda.
After last year’s invasion, those who had publicly doubted the firm assurances of the President and his cabinet about Saddam’s possession or imminent acquisition of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons were told to wait patiently for inspections to be completed. The White House couldn’t wait another eight weeks for the U.N. inspections to conclude, but asked the world to withhold judgment for 18 months on its preemptive attack.
Now the truth is here, belated yet still devastating—which is why the President still speaks as if he doesn’t know it.
Thursday, September 30th, 2004Daughter of Soldier Contaminated with Depleted Uranium in Iraq Born with DeformitiesListen to Segment Download Show mp3 Watch 128k stream Watch 256k stream Read Transcript Help Printer-friendly version Email to a friend Purchase Video/CD
In a major expose in the New York Daily News, Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez uncovered the story of how a new-born baby may have suffered deformities because her father was exposed to depleted uranium while deployed as a soldier in Iraq. We are joined in our studio by Guardsman Gerard Darren Matthew and Sgt. Ray Ramos, one of the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict. [includes rush transcript]
Welcome to Democracy Now!, I'm Amy Goodman in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Juan Gonzalez in New York. For the last five months Juan, you have chronicled the plight of soldiers who have returned from Iraq with mysterious illnesses. Your exclusive groundbreaking investigation in April found that depleted uranium contamination was far more widespread in the military than the Pentagon would admit.
Well in a major expose in yesterday's Daily News, Juan you uncovered the story of how a new-born baby may have suffered deformities because her father was exposed to depleted uranium while deployed as a soldier in Iraq.
Army National Guard Specialist Gerard Darren Matthew tested positive for uranium contamination after he returned from Iraq. He suffered constant migraine headaches, blurred vision, blackouts and a burning sensation whenever he urinated. Shortly after he returned home, his wife became pregnant.
When his daughter, Victoria Claudette, was born on June 29 she was missing three fingers and most of her right hand. The family believes the deformities are a result of the depleted uranium contamination. The Daily News headlined the story "The War's Littlest Victim." Today, Gerard Darren Matthew joins us in our studio in New York. Welcome to Democracy Now!
We are also joined by Staff Sgt. Ray Ramos who was deployed in Iraq with the 442nd Military Police. He is among the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict.
Gerard Darren Matthew, Guardsman sent home from Iraq with mysterious illnesses. He tested positive for uranium contamination. Shortly after his return, his wife, Janice, became pregnant. On June 29, she gave birth to a baby girl, Victoria Claudette. The baby was missing three fingers and most of her right hand.
Ray Ramos, deployed in Iraq with the 442nd Military Police. He is among the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict.
Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! co-host and columnist with the New York Daily News. His front-page piece in yesterday's paper is entitled "The war's littlest victim."
By Kim Sengupta
17 October 2004
The missiles struck at just after 3am with devastating effect. Eight members of the al-Jabouri family were killed as they slept, their home destroyed. The following morning the US military issued a statement saying that fighters loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, America's number one enemy in Iraq, had been taken out in a precision strike in Fallujah.
The town had been pounded nightly for three weeks, with the Americans insisting that those killed and maimed were insurgents mainly from Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group, which kidnapped and murdered the British hostage Ken Bigley and his two American colleagues. Repeated protests by doctors in local hospitals that the vast majority of the casualties are civilians have been dismissed as rebel propaganda. Now the town is waiting for an imminent ground and air assault, amid fears of a bloodbath.
Among the dead in the al-Jabouri family were 26-year-old Atika, who was six months pregnant, her three-year-old son Omar, her husband Thamir, 28, her sister Athra and her mother. Atika's prematurely born baby lived for a few hours after her, but they were buried in the same grave.
The only member of the family to come out alive was Atika's five-year-old daughter, Ayisha. She was asleep, hugging her grandmother, who was killed instantly. Miraculously the little girl survived, but she was badly injured, burnt and lacerated by shrapnel and flying glass. Ahmed Fawzi, Ayisha's uncle, recalled: "I live nearby and ran over after hearing the explosions. There was nothing left. We had to bring out the bodies one by one." Ayisha, with injuries to her shoulder, arms, back and legs, was taken to a hospital in nearby Ramadi for treatment. She is now being looked after by the family of her mother's uncle, Khalil Hammadi, in a village outside Fallujah. Lying on a mattress on the floor, she does not betray the considerable pain she must be under. But the normally bright and inquisitive girl is very quiet.
Mr Fawzi said: "When in hospital in Ramadi, she overheard some discussion about an operation on a boy called Omar. She said to us afterwards 'I hear them talking about Omar'. She did not know at the time he was dead. That is the only time she had talked about her brother. She has not once asked anything about her mother or father. It is very sad, but what can we do?"
Mazin Younis, an Iraqi -born human rights activist from Manchester who visited Fallujah to investigate the damage, found that the overwhelming number of attacks have been on civilian targets. Mr Younis, who as a legal case worker helped gather evidence of alleged abuse by British troops in southern Iraq, is attempting to raise funds so that Ayisha can get medical treatment abroad, and hopes that the same help can be extended to other injured children in Fallujah.
"People in Fallujah say they are being punished," said Mr Younis. "Ordinary people are being killed. I had a meal in a kebab restaurant called Hajji Hussain. It was full of families. Two days later it was bombed by the Americans." The US military maintained the kebab house was in fact a front for a command and control centre for Tawhid and Jihad.
There are already 1,000 US troops, backed up by artillery, tanks and Iraqi government troops, surrounding Fallujah. The Americans and Iraq's interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, have demanded that the town hand over Zarqawi, supposedly based there, or face retribution. Civic leaders have protested that this is an impossible demand. They point out that the Americans, for all their military might and a reward of $25m, have not managed to capture or kill the Jordanian-born militant. Rahim Haidar Mohammed, a resident of Fallujah, said: "The Americans have created a bogeyman in Zarqawi. We haven't seen him. They can't kill him, so they kill us. We are just waiting for the big attack."
Many see the Fallujah deployment as retaliation for last week's bombings in the Green Zone in Baghdad, in which four Americans were killed. The bitter Fallujah clashes of last April were also regarded as retribution, following the lynching of four US contractors. After a bloody siege for weeks, and 600 Iraqi dead, US-led forces withdrew, leaving the town to the insurgents.
At the time President George Bush said: "Our military commanders will do all that is necessary to secure Fallujah." The commander of the Marines who carried out the assault later disagreed with that policy of aggression, saying it destroyed the trust being built with local people through reconstruction projects.
"We felt we had a method that we wanted to apply to Fallujah, that we ought to let the situation settle before we appeared to be attacking out of revenge," said Lt Gen James Conway. But he added: "We follow orders. We had our say ... We saluted smartly and went about our attack."