Saturday, October 22, 2005

She Says She Said: Judith Miller's Masters

No one risks their own career and their paper’s credibility for short-term gratification or fleeting notoriety. The breadth and detail of Miller’s lies implies that other factors were involved. Miller clearly had an agenda that far exceeded her own ambitions. What was it? Who does Judy Miller serve?

Escorting Judy to the Gallows
Mike Whitney
October 22, 2005

For the last 85 days the New York Times has been heaping praise on Judy Miller for going to jail rather than divulging the name of her source in the Valerie Plame case. The paper composed 15 editorials lauding her courage and comparing her to everyone from Rosa Parks to Joan of Arc.

So, why did Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger suddenly fire her after she was out of prison for less than a week?

Did heroism suddenly go out-of-style at the paper of record? Or were Miller’s shenanigans too hot to handle for the right-leaning Times?

A week earlier the Times had Saint Judy up on a pedestal, elevating her to near-mythic status and celebrating her eagerness to accept jail time rather than flinch on a matter of principle. They tried to turn her case into a national referendum on free speech and make it look like she was the victim of a justice system run amok. Miller was presented as the femme fatale enduring the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” rather than compromise her steadfast convictions.

What rubbish.

Miller broke the law by obstructing an investigation into the outing of a CIA agent. She deserved to be penalized. This isn’t Watergate, where reporters’ Woodward and Bernstein withheld the names of sources that knew the details of the government break-in at Democratic headquarters. Miller committed a felony when she took Plame’s name from Libby and passed it on to others, putting other CIA agents in the field directly at risk. The First Amendment does not protect reporters actively participate in the commission of a crime.

Sorry, Judy.

Fortunately, the case has attracted widespread attention and the public seems to know that Miller is just protecting the creeps in the White House. The whole mess is nothing more than a personal vendetta carried out by the dirty tricks branch of the Bush administration. And, no one is buying the Times’ pompous rhetoric about journalistic integrity and the freedom of the press. Everyone knows that Miller was simply hiding the facts to shield her powerful friends.

Since Miller’s testimony, the focus of the investigation has shifted to Libby, Rove, and VP Dick Cheney. But what about Miller? Is she off the hook or can she be prosecuted for her involvement in a crime?

And, what about her role in building the case for war with fraudulent information from fly-by-night sources? Isn’t there a statute that covers that?

Miller’s earlier articles laid the foundation for going to war. Week after week she conjured up the lurid details of mobile weapons labs, aluminum tubes designed for nukes, and biological weapons plants hidden in the basement of Saddam’s castles, all completely bogus. Most of the fake claims that appeared on America’s front pages came from Miller’s pen.

Is it really possible that someone who contributed so greatly to the violent deaths of over 100,000 people will get off Scot-free?

Miller now says that she may have “got it wrong” about Saddam’s WMD, but that hardly seems likely. She wrote at least five blockbuster articles that convincingly challenged the findings of the UN Weapons inspectors and whipped the country into war hysteria. The Times never once disputed her uncorroborated allegations or her skewed perspective. Instead, they took a laissez faire approach; giving her headline space for every specious claim made by dubious defectors or Pentagon spokesmen. As she later admitted, “I can do whatever I want.”

Yes, she could.

But, WHY did she? No one risks their own career and their paper’s credibility for short-term gratification or fleeting notoriety. The breadth and detail of Miller’s lies implies that other factors were involved. Miller clearly had an agenda that far exceeded her own ambitions. What was it? Who does Judy Miller serve?

What exactly is her relationship to the White House? Did she really have a direct line of communication to Donald Rumsfeld? Was she the main channel for disseminating the lies that mobilized public support for administration policies? If so, we need to find out whether she received any compensation for her work or if she was acting as an agent for a foreign country. If Miller accepted as much as one thin dime for her efforts, then she is not protected under the 1st amendment and can be charged with a crime.

Let’s investigate the lead up to the war and see if Miller and Sulzberger colluded with the White House to create the deceptive news that duped the Congress into supporting the war. Let’s see if the “facts were fixed to fit the policy” in the newsroom as well as in the Oval Office. Perhaps, there’s a connection between Miller and her Washington benefactors that goes beyond mere ideological compatibility.

The First Amendment does not prohibit rigorous, independent investigations nor does it preclude assigning blame where it belongs. If Miller and Sulzberger were part of a larger conspiracy to initiate hostilities against a defenseless nation, we need to know. The Iraq war is the greatest crime of the new century. We need to find out who is responsible and hold them accountable.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at:

Friday, October 21, 2005

The New Told Lie: Syria in the Sights

Friday October 21st 2005

Once again, we must assume the Syrians are dunderheads so murderous and impulsive as to be unable to control themselves, going right ahead and killing Rafiq Hariri, irrespective of the consequences. In fact, if we are to believe the United Nations—a disgusting lickspittle for neocon interests on several different occasions—the pernicious conspiracy to murder Hariri runs right up the Syrian totem pole of power to none other than the family of Bashar Assad, the Syrian president. According to the Independent, the politically motivated UN “report says senior Syrian and Lebanese security officials were directly involved in the killing of Hariri in February and planned it over many weeks. The missing names are of Asef Shawkat, President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law who is Syria’s intelligence chief, and his brother, Maher Assad.”

Naturally, Bush wants a special UN session so he can rattle the bones of war. It’s of course no secret the neocons want to take out Assad and render Syria into a smaller version of Iraq—a smoldering ruin of misery and chaos—or short of that (the UN gets squeamish about such things and prefers inflicting misery from a distance) impose a medieval siege on the country as the UN and the United States teamed up to do more than a decade ago against the people of Iraq. Imposing sanctions and a “no-fly zone” over Syria will also provide U.S. pilots with the same opportunity they enjoyed in Iraq—to blithely fly around and shoot up Iraqis like fish in a barrel. All told, the Bush-Clinton-Bush sanctions were a smashing success, killing around a million hapless Iraqis. It was worth it, as the Iron Maiden, Madeline Albright, attested.

Few people doubt there is a treacherous dictatorship in Syria and the Assad family is capable of wholesale butchery (consider the elder Assad killing around 40,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Syrian city of Hama in 1982—and the well-documented fact the Brotherhood is a CIA penetrated organization). Even so, it is a stretch to believe the Syrians, especially the Assad family—having clung to power all these past decades—would be stupid enough to kill a high-profile Lebanese politician and expect to get away with it, especially when it should be obvious to a ten year old killing Hariri plays right into the hands of the United States and especially Israel.

It is common knowledge in Bushzarro world on the Potomac that Syria is “low-hanging fruit,” an easy target for neocon bullies determined to reduce Muslim society and culture to smoldering wreckage, a front and center plan for hoodlum Likudites for some time now. As Bill Van Auken writes, Hariri’s assassination is fishy:

The timing of the assassination, barely a week after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced their truce in Egypt, is noteworthy. It is quite possible that any limited concessions the Israeli regime may agree to make as part of the “peace process” with the Palestinians will be repaid by Washington giving the green light for Israeli provocations and military actions against Syria.

Moreover, the assassination and the impending sanctions (or direct military action) are manna from heaven for the likes of neocons such as David Wurmser, Cheney’s adviser on the Middle East. “Wurmser has long called for the United States and Israel to work together to roll back the Ba’ath-led government in Syria,” notes SourceWatch. “For the latter part of the 1990s, he wrote frequently to support a joint U.S.-Israeli effort to undermine then-President Hafez el-Assad in hopes of destroying Ba’athist rule and hastening the creation of a new order in the Levant to be dominated by ‘tribal, familial and clan unions under limited governments,” a long-held Israeli dream. It should also be noted that Wurmser, a rabid Zionist, would do all of us well if he were wasting away in federal prison (making sure not to drop the soap) for his role in passing classified information to Ahmad Chalabi and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—an act of treason once punished by firing squad, now apparently no big shakes, especially for Zionists who more or less are allowed to roam around, organizing “art student” spies and micromanaging nine eleven terrorists.

In fact, Wurmser co-authored (along with the weasel Douglas Feith and the Prince of Darkness Richard Perle) a report drafted for incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (the infamous A Clean Break: a New Strategy for Securing the Realm document). “It called for a repudiation of the ‘land for peace’ formula that had served as the basis for Middle East peace negotiations, in favor of a plan to ‘roll back’ regional adversaries. It advocated the overthrow of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and recommended Israeli strikes against ‘Syrian targets in Lebanon’ and within Syria itself,” explains Van Auken. A couple years later, Wurmser “helped draft a document entitled ‘Ending Syria’s Occupation of Lebanon: the US Role?’ It called for a confrontation with the regime in Damascus, which it accused of developing ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ Among those signing the document were Feith and Perle, as well as Elliott Abrams, Bush’s chief advisor on the Middle East, who was recently appointed deputy national security advisor.”

Considering all of this—well documented and not hidden under a rock—and also Israel’s long and sordid history of using assassination (especially car bombings) as an instrument of state policy, you’d think the United Nations would have arrived at a different conclusion. Instead, we are expected to believe the Assad family is not only stupid but also unable to cover its own tracks and self-destructively begging to be bombed or stand by while their people starve to death under brutal sanctions, a favorite tactic of milquetoast bureaucrats at the United Nations. In fact, according to the Independent, Shawkat and Maher Assad were so stupid they “talked about killing Hariri in talks begun in September last year in Damascus,” conversations apparently so casual the United Nations had no problem tracking down alleged documentation.

Once again, we are expected to believe whatever our rulers tell us—even if it makes absolutely no sense and it is obvious only the neocons and Israelis stand to benefit from such carnage. Syria only stands to lose—and lose big time as the U.S. will eventually use military action against the Syrian people, as they did—predicated on similar lies—against the people of Iraq.

It’s about time more of us wake up and call the Bushites on these transparent crimes. But of course this will not happen because Americans generally do not care what their government does—apparently not even to their own Constitution and Bill of Rights—and most Americans are hard-pressed to even find Syria on a map, let alone understand the magnitude of the neocon war against Islam and the horror that portends: millions of people ultimately slaughtered, entire countries reduced to uninhabitable rubble, and poisonous depleted uranium and who knows what other deadly and noxious chemicals spread over large areas, killing and making people sick for generations to come.

Indeed, we are verging on Nazi-like crimes here. Only the magnitude is missing—but given enough time, the neocons will give Hitler and Stalin and run for the money.

Shutting Down Chavez, Shutting Down CITGO

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez has again charged the United States with a conspiracy to remove him from power. Chavez said, in an address to the solidarity group, 'Friends of a Democratic Venezuela' in Paris, and broadcast live in Venezuela Wednesday, "intelligence reports" had revealed evidence of a planned attempt against the nation.

Shutting Down Chavez,
Shutting Down CITGO

C. L. Cook

PEJ News
October 21, 2005

Discounting the possibility of the success of a supposed "planned invasion" of Venezuela, Chavez said he felt compelled to issue a warning as to the consequences, saying:

"If it occurs to them [United States] to invade Venezuela to try to halt the process in Venezuela, that would start a 100-year war. We would defend against it with our teeth, with our nails."

But, Chavez has more than hands and teeth in his arsenal.

Venezuela currently supplies more than 1.5 million barrels of crude to the U.S. per day, or roughly fifteen percent of America's imports. Only Canada and Saudi Arabia supply more. But the president, who warned the Bush administration last March, following another intelligence bulletin, vital oil supplies would be cut-off entirely should he be killed, added a new wrinkle to the scope of his country's retaliatory power should something untoward befall either he, or Venezuela.

In addition to the significance of Venezuelan oil, Chavez reminded, CITGO, Venezuela's nationalized oil company, operates eight refineries and more than 14,000 gas stations within the U.S.

"We are sure that it will be very difficult for the United States to attack Venezuela, he said. "If the United States tried to attack Venezuela by a direct invasion, forget the oil."

In an allusion to televangelist, and one-time Republican presidential hopeful, Pat Robertson's now infamous call for his head, Chavez said:

"The barrel price of crude oil could hit $150 following a U.S. attack. That's why Pat Robertson, the spiritual adviser of Mr. Bush, is calling for my assassination - that would be much cheaper than an invasion."

Excoriating U.S. media propagandizing against he and the "people's revolution" he represents, President Chavez concluded, saying he wouldn't be surprised if the USA says Osama bin Laden is living in the Presidential Palace in Caracas.

The Bush administration denies there are now, or have been in the past, any plots against either Chavez, or Venezuela.

Chris Cook
serves as a contribution editor to PEJ News. He also hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Disaster: A Silver Lining for Kashmir

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Cautious optimism is being whispered in the wake of what's been deemed the worst natural disaster for the Near East region smashed nearly two weeks ago by a massive earthquake.

Disaster: A Silver Lining for Kashmir
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
October 19, 2005

The Kashmir, a hotly contested confluence of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan has seen nuclear powers India and Pakistan nose to nose for years, neither swearing off the possibility of a "nuclear option" to end the hostilities. Already, the two young nations have fought three wars over control of the area, and terrorist activities conducted by both sides and Kashmiri independence factions is a constant in the decades-old conflict. Now, overwhelmed by the scope of relief efforts in the rugged, mountainous reaches where thousands have been left homeless and hungry, the two main protagonists are talking.

While champaign corks are not exactly popping over the prospect of an amicable resolution to India and Pakistan's long-standing emnity over Kashmir, the two parties are working out details to allow travel between their respective "lines of control" by relatives of the afflicted. The division of the territorities was largely manufactured by the British in the waning days of the Raj, creating the new nations of Pakistan and India and effectively seperating families and friends by the new border. In the early days of independence that followed the end of the Second World War, horrific ethnic cleansing bloodied the ground on both sides, setting the scene for the decades of war and mistrust leading to the current stand-off.

Pakistan's "President" Pervez Musharraf made the first move. Following a visit to the quake stricken capital city of Pakistani-controlled Muzaffarabad, Musharraf addressed India's leadership, saying:

"We will allow every Kashmiri to come across the Line of Control and assist in the reconstruction effort."

India responded immediately, if not definitively, saying:

"We welcome the offer. This is in line with India's advocacy of greater movement across the LOC (Line of Control) for relief work and closer people-to-people contacts."

India has sent relief flights into Pakistan and suspended it's "no-fly zone" rule for Pakistani helicopters. So far, fatalities from the October 8th quake are estimated to have been over 42,000, with a further 60,000 believed at risk of dying of exposure and hunger in its aftermath.

Powerful aftershocks have continued throughout the region, further complicating relief efforts.

Chris Cook
is a contributing editor to PEJ News. He also hosts the weekly public affairs program, Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.

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No Further Delay: Bush Lieutenant Booked Today

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - One of the most influential members of George W. Bush's political apparatus submitted himself for fingerprints and pictures today at Houston's Harris County Sheriff's Department. Republican Leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay stands accused of conspiracy and money-laundering.

(Photo/Harris County Sheriff Department)

No Further Delay:
Bush Lieutenant Booked Today
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
October 20, 2005

Delay's troubles began with allegations he funnelled corporate donations into Texas state elections, something prohibited under Texas law. The Texas Republicans carried that election, held prior to the presidential election campaign, and subsequently redrew voting districts to favour George W. Bush's presidential bid.

DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin told reporters the charges are politically motivated, accusing the Travis County District Attorney's office of bias against his client and charging District Attorney Ronnie Earle of headline seeking. Referring to Earle, DeGuerin told reporters:

"Now Ronnie Earle has the mugshot he wanted."

But, the defense didn't limit accusations of bias to the Travis County District Attorney's office; DeGuerin also demanded presiding Judge Bob Perkins be removed from the case. In a motion for a change of venue citing Perkin's past contributions to "DeLay opponents," DeGuerin presented records of 34 instances of the judge's past political donations, including to Bush '04 opponent, John Kerry, and, a "liberal" advocacy organization.

District Attorney Earle denounced the defence's assertions, saying:

"The logic behind the defendant's motion to recuse Judge Perkins would mean that no criminal defendant could be tried in a court presided over by a judge who did not belong to the defendant's political party."

DeLay, nicknamed "The Hammer" for his reputation of ruthless political tactics employed against both Democrat opponents and dissident Republicans, is a long-time Bush associate and confidant.

DeLay's first court appearance is set for tomorrow in Austin, Texas.

Chris Cook is a contributing editor to PEJ News. He also hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Anglo-American Axis Powers Charge Iran in Iraq Bombing Campaign

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Rolling the contentious issue of Iranian nuclear development into the mix, British P.M., Tony Blair has accused Tehran of involvement in the recently escalated rate of bombings throughout the south of Iraq. The Iranians deny their participation, instead claiming Blair and his American partner are simply practicing "psychological warfare" against them.

Anglo-American Axis Powers
Charge Iran in Iraq Bombing Campaign
C.L. Cook

PEJ News
October 16, 2005

At the crux of Blair's charge is, what he claims, a heightened level of sophistication in the bombings and, he says, evidence that the materiel used could only be coming from the Iranian military. Charges again denied in Tehran. One thing is certain though; attacks have been on the increase, and have been increasingly deadly.

But the bombings are not limited to Iraq.

Just yesterday, two bomb attacks in the Iranian city Ahvez killed four and injured more than 80 bystanders. The bombs, described as "homemade" and placed in garbage cans, were detonated a few minutes apart, and while Britain condemned the attack, they provided no clue as to why the Iranians would be blowing up their own people.

Iranian state media has openly blamed yesterday's blasts on Britain.

There is a strong suspicion in Iran, and throughout the Middle-East, British and American "black-ops," covert agents provocateurs have been, and continue to be, responsible for many of the puzzling terrorist attacks against primarily civilian and religious targets.

In a statement, Britain acknowledged and rejected Iranian suspicions, saying:

"There has been speculation in the past about alleged British involvement in Khuzestan... We reject these allegations. Any linkage between the British Government and these terrorist outrages is certainly without foundation."

Last month, two British SAS agents were captured in Iraq by "police." When their car was stopped, the two men opened fire, killing one officer. Their vehicle was later found to be full of weapons and bomb-making materiel. British forces later mounted a raid on the jail where the men where being held, freeing them and killing at least five Iraqis in the process.

For their part, the Iranian government, when asked about possible British involvement in the string of bombings in Iran's Khuzestan province said, through spokesperson, Hamid Reza:

"Unlike the British we are not going to express our views without the necessary investigations," adding: "The (U.N. Security) Council cannot be used as a Sword of Damocles against Iran, we cannot be threatened by referral."

Khuzestan province is the heart of Iran's oil industry.

Chris Cook is a contributing editor to PEJ News. He also hosts the weekly public affairs program, Gorilla Radio. You can check out the GR Blog here.

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"We Don't Need No Stinking Scientists"

Science gets shut out of rainforest negotiations

Reed Noss, Paul Paquet and Faisal Moola

Special to the Sun
October 15, 2005

Environmental groups recently ran a full-page ad in the New York Times urging Victoria to save a vast swatch of the province's central coast wilderness nicknamed the Great Bear Rainforest.

All the B.C. government has to do, the ad claims, is rubber-stamp an agreement reached by environmentalists, logging companies and first nations after years of negotiations.

You would think the province would be scrambling to legislate an agreement made between such historic adversaries as environmentalists and logging companies. After all, the ad asks, "Who could be against protecting a rainforest when even logging companies are for it?"

For ecologists like ourselves, however, the more pertinent question is,
"What, exactly, is being protected?"

In 2001, the province appointed a panel of scientists working under the auspices of the Coast Information Team. For two years, these researchers sat with rolled sleeves and sharpened pencils to determine what areas needed to be protected to save the biological integrity of this global treasure -- which represents a quarter of the world's remaining temperate rainforests.

By 2003 the CIT had developed a set of recommendations to the negotiators, including the recommended level of protection necessary to meet a range of conservation goals: 40 to 70 per cent.

Just as important, they carefully defined areas of "high conservation" value, the most ecologically rich, old-growth forests, with the most productive salmon streams, supporting the greatest number of species, including many threatened and endangered plants and animals, like grizzly bears.

Those of us who worked on the CIT project were dismayed to learn that the current agreement proposes a mere 28 per cent of the rainforest be partially protected -- which includes the nine per cent of the region already protected by previous governments. Thus the negotiations have really only added protection to an additional 19 per cent of the rainforest -- a far cry from what the scientific panel proposed.

In fact, the deal leaves the vast majority of Canada's last remaining temperate rainforest open to development. According to a recent report by the Raincoast Conservation Society, the proposed agreement would leave 83 per cent of critical grizzly habitat open to logging. The David Suzuki Foundation's 2005 Status Report on Canada's Rainforests found the deal does
not protect 80 per cent of kermode bear habitat, 75 per cent of remaining old-growth forests, or 65 per cent of the most productive salmon streams.

Clearly, this is not good enough. And it's indicative of a problem facing conservation planners. Effective conservation is not just about how much is partially protected, it's about what is protected and where. A recent National Geographic article, for example, calls for an urgent review of global conservation strategies, claiming that protected areas will not prevent wide-scale extinctions in coming decades if they aren't created in the right places.

The central coast rainforest suffers from this exact problem. The proposed protected area may seem enormous, but it's not one big protected area -- it's a collection of politically negotiated areas that are poorly connected and too small to provide enough habitat for wide-ranging carnivores like wolves and grizzlies.

Indeed, a high percentage of patially protected areas in the region are "rock and ice," habitats of little value to logging companies. Conversely, the most productive, species-rich, valley-bottom, old-growth forests, where the biggest and most valuable trees are found, have been left unprotected and thus remain vulnerable to logging, mining or other development.

The current deal also ignores a CIT recommendation to shift from clearcutting to ecologically responsible forestry called "ecosystem-based management." EBM is still there, but in name only.

Environmental and first nations groups have worked hard to get the best deal they could for the region and they deserve credit for hanging in there year after year. But the deal simply isn't good enough to provide even the slimmest chance of maintaining the biological integrity of one of the most ecologically valuable areas on the planet.

Premier Gordon Campbell should sign the agreement as promised, but he should do so with the full knowledge that it is just the beginning of conservation planning in this rainforest, not the end.

Reed Noss is professor of conservation biology at the University of Central Florida; Paul Paquet is professor of environmental design at the University of Calgary; Faisal Moola is a PhD candidate in biology at Dalhousie University.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005