Monday, December 4, 2006

Robert Gates: Realist or Neo-Con?

By Peter W. Dickson
December 4, 2006

The nomination of Robert Gates to replace Don Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense has fueled claims that Gates is part of the realist-pragmatic group of advisors that served Bush the Older and now are being called upon to help Bush the Younger extricate the United States from a quagmire in Iraq.

It is also not lost on many Washington insiders that, according to Bob Woodward, author of the bestseller State of Denial, that President Bush has turned to Henry Kissinger (the personification of Realpolitik) to assess the dire situation in Iraq which he remarked two weeks ago on the BBC was totally hopeless in terms of Washington's various objectives.

In a major op-ed item in The Washington Post on Nov. 24, Kissinger who argued against a precipitious withdrawl in U.S. troops strongly implied that they had become bargaining chips in prospective negotiations with Iran -- an argument that may have resonated with the President with whom Dr. K may well have cleared the essay before publication.

With regard to the nomination of Gates to oversee the war effort, James Mann, who authored The Vulcans which explored the emergence of the foreign policy team of the current Bush Administration, had questioned Gates's credentials as a realist in an op-ed item in The Washington Post on Nov. 10. Mann pointed (correctly) to Gates's hawkish or neo-conservative worldview on how to deal with the Soviet Union during the Reagan era when he was a loyal deputy to CIA Director Wild Bill Casey.

Little love was lost between the Kissingerian realists and the neo-conservatives personified by Casey and Jeane Kirkpatrick in those years. So where now does Bob Gates fall in this political spectrum among foreign policy experts associated with the Republican Party?

The Kissingerian Clique

Gates joined the CIA during the Johnson Administration and for him to have been part of the realist-pragmatist faction within Republican circles, there should be some traceable connection to Kissinger -- whose career I explored in my intellectual biography of Dr. K entitled Kissinger and the Meaning of History published by Cambridge University Press in 1978.

For his part, Kissinger did not want serious intellectual rivals near him, but he did have a core group of loyal, competent assistants and aides during the Nixon years, General Alexander Haig (Reagan's first Secretary of State) was Kissinger's deputy on Nixon's National Security Council staff. But the best known Kissinger loyalists were William Hyland, Hal Sonnenfeldt, Winston Lord and Peter Rodman.

Lawrence Eagleburger who was briefly Secretary of State in 1992 and who has just replaced Gates on the Baker-Hamilton Commission is also a longtime Kissinger loyalist from the NSC of 1969-1972. However, his original career track was independent since he had been a career diplomat who had risen at the State Department to which Kissinger only moved in 1973.

Brent Scowcroft (Gates's presumed primary intellectual mentor) was Nixon's military advisor and Haig's replacement as Kissinger's NSC deputy in August 1973. Scowcroft joined Kissinger and Eagleburger in 1982 as the founding partners of the firm, Kissinger & Associates.

The cohesiveness of the Kissinger realist clique has been impressive over the years
Winston Lord's selection as a new ambassador to China by Reagan in 1985 was a clear sign of the more pragmatic influence of Kissinger, Scowcroft and Eagleburger -- the last two being dispatched by Bush the Older to Beijing in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989

Nonetheless, the Kissingerian clique has developed some divisions. Peter Rodman drifted away from Kissinger and toward the neo-conservatives while serving in many top posts at the NSC and State Department during the Reagan-Bush administrations. In fact, Rodman recently resigned from the Pentagon after serving since 2001 as a close advisor to Rumsfeld in the post of Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs (ISA).

The biggest rupture among the Kissingerians is that Scowcroft could not swallow the decision in favor of a preemptive invasion of Iraq in 2003, whereas Kissinger ultimately did voice support, though in an oblique fashion, while gnashing his teeth.

As for Gates, there is little doubt that his primary patron following the death of Casey in 1987 has been Bush the Father, who was Ambassador to China and then CIA Director for President Ford in 1976. The elder Bush was a great admirer of Kissinger for the opening to China and the pursuit of triangular diplomacy with the two Communist powers.

Finally, James Baker (Secretary of State 1989-1992) may have been an admirer as well, and seems to share the same realist-pragmatic approach to foreign plicy challenges. But Baker's deepest political ties are to the Bush family, and not to Kissinger nor to Reagan though he served as the latter's White House Chief of Staff. Baker was chairman for the older Bush's unsuccessful campaigns for a Senate seat from Texas in 1970 and for the White House in 1980. Furthermore, Bush the Younger turned to Baker to protect his stake in the Florida vote in the 2000.

Where Does Gates Fit In?

Gates was not originally part of the Kissinger-Scowcroft-Eagleburger realist clique. Given that he joined the CIA in 1966 at 23 and had not studied under Kissinger at Harvard as some like Rodman did, Gates was not in a position in the late 1960s or early 1970s to become part of the original core group of Kissinger proteges or loyalists. In fact, Gates tells us in his memoirs entitled From the Shadows (1996) that while a CIA analyst, he participated in an anti-Vietnam War rally in Washington in the early 1970s.

Evidently not a Cold Warrior, Gates's CIA career advanced but he was impatient to climb through the ranks and decided to jump at an offer to serve under Brent Scowcroft on the NSC staff. Claiming that his superiors warned him of the downside, he arrived at the White House in July 1974 just as Nixon was about to resign over the Watergate scandal. This segment of the memoirs is quite intriguing. Gates remarks that he took over the desk that Hyland occupied as one of the NSC's Soviet experts after Hyland had moved over to the State Department with Kissinger, Lord and Sonnenfeldt.

Given that Gates was an intelligence officer, there is not much of a paper trail outside his memoirs as to whether he privately shared the neo-conservative complaints in the 1970s about policy (both Kissingerian and then Carterite) being too soft toward the Soviet Union. What he says there suggests that he did not.

In his memoirs, Gates offers a balanced, insightful evaluation of the Nixon-Kissinger detente praising them for maintaining the central strategic balance of power with the Soviets. Surprisingly he even strongly defends President Carter for having sustained several weapons programs that protected American strategic interests.

Gates complains that Carter has been given a bum rap about being soft on the Soviet Union and he is very fond of Carter's NSC Chief Zbigniew Brzezinski, Kissinger's critic and rival going back to their days as Harvard graduate students. Gates describes himself as a senior NSC aide to Brzezinski in the late 1970s. In his memoirs, Power and Principle (1983) Brzezinski makes only one passing mention of Gates as one of several aides that he "burned out", though adding that Gates was "the epitome of discretion and good judgment".

No hard core neo-conservative would ever be as generous as Gates is toward these Administrations from Nixon through Ford to Carter -- though perhaps Gates found it politically advantageous to give all Presidents their due in helping to win the Cold War which seemed like ancient history by the mid-1990s. What is amazing is in all this is that in the 1980s Gates became legendary for becoming joined to the hip of the notorious, quite corrupt Wild Bill Casey.

Getting Ahead with Little Strain?

So how did Gates succeed in securing high position in so many Administrations that were sharply opposed to one another? Was he a chameleon? To some degree he had to be. Did he really actively seek to hang on in top posts either at the CIA or the NSC when a new Administration came to power?

In his memoirs, Gates consistently tries to convey the impression that once he arrived at the NSC to work under Scowcroft in 1974, men in power (Brzezinski in 1976, CIA Director Stansfield Turner in 1979, Casey in 1981 and then Scowcroft in 1989) sought him out or were persuaded by others that Gates was the ideal man to serve as a close assistant. Gates never seems to lift a finger to advance his smooth ascent to ever higher positions from one Administration to another over nearly two decades.

All this seems quite disingenuous and in sharp contrast to his vaunting ambition to become someday the CIA Director, which he declared to seasoned Soviet analyst Mel Goodman on Gates's first day at work as a junior analyst at the CIA in Langley, Virginia.

Concerning his view of the neo-conservative critique of detente in the 1970s prior to working for Casey, Gates provides only a few clues since in his memoirs he never mentions the neo-conservatives or the Committee on the Present Danger by name.

He even avoids talking about the controversial decision of the older Bush when he capitulated to the neo-conservatives by inviting them to critique the internal CIA analysis of the Soviet strategic nuclear threat in 1976 -- the notorious Team B Affair. He merely notes that Bush as CIA Director signed off on a national intelligence estimate that reflected this more ominous neo-con view of Soviet capabilities.

Yet ultimately, Gates became Casey's Golden Boy whom many CIA analysts accused in the 1991 Gates confirmation hearings of having given Casey what he wanted or blocking analysis that Casey would not like. There is no doubt that Mann is correct that in this period Gates was a super hawk on relations with the Soviets, vigorously hyped the threat and consistently misread Gorbachev.

The complaint about this slanting intelligence also can be found in the memoirs of George Shultz, Reagan's Secretary of State, who described in his memoirs Turmoil and Triumph (1993) heated discussions with Gates. Even Baker in his memoirs describes a major confrontation with Gates shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 concerning policy toward the Soviets. Gates at the time was Scowcroft's NSC deputy.

Unlike Richard Perle and Frank Gaffney who were ousted at Defense when Reagan wanted to pursue arms control with Gorbachev in the late 1980s, Gates was able to hang on as CIA Deputy to Judge William Webster, Casey's replacement after Gates was forced to withdraw his own DCI nomination in early 1987 due to his own entanglement in the Iran-Contra scandal.

With nowhere to go inside the CIA, he engineered in 1989 a move back to the NSC to work for Scowcroft.

Basically Gates, the quiet staff man in the 1970s who became in the 1980s a super hawk to fly high with Casey, was able to morph into a moderate realist at the Bush 41 NSC staff during the end game with the Gorbachev regime and during the successful Gulf War in 1990-1991. For his part, Bush 41 in a bold move during Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh's Iran-Contra investigation, thought it a good thing in mid-1991 to get controversial Gates out at Langley to mind the store there.

But this nomination triggered the big outcry -- nearly 50 analysts came forward to express dismay to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) about Gates's game playing with intelligence analysis either directly or though his loyalists and proteges in senior management posts. This was in addition to lingering suspicions about Gates's role in the Iran-Contra affair. Essentially, Gates argued that he was largely "out of the loop" even though he was the number two man out at Langley.

Ultimately with the help of his supporters on the SSCI -- primarily Chairman David Boren and his Staff Director George Tenet -- Gates was able to beat down the sizable anti-Gates chorus. Gates took extra steps to give a personal reassurance to the wavering Senator John Glenn who was still unhappy about the manipulation of CIA intelligence concerning the Pakistani nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. Nonetheless, 31 Democratic Senators could not swallow Gates and voted against him.

Consummate Careerist?

What is Gates then? He was not an original card-carrying member of the Kissinger-Scowcroft-Eagleburger realist clique. Nor is there evidence that he was a hard-core neo-conservative in the 1970s who was just waiting for something like the Reagan Revolution to take place and offer him in 1980 the golden opportunity to bond with such a hard-core Cold Warrior like Will Bill Casey.

He appears to have been a political moderate in the 1970s who converted to the neo-con/Casey view of the USSR to advance his career in the 1980s. That conversion into a true-believer was essential in the CIA once it became totally captive of the notorious Casey. Gates knew that is what he had to do to advance further. Where else could he have gone in 1981? Get someone in the Carter camp to find him a position in a left/liberal think tank like the Carnegie Institute or Brookings?

He did not want that. He did not want to give up his government career or his undying ambition to be CIA Director. Thus, he became a super-hawk in order to advance under the watchful eye and patronage of the all-powerful CIA Director Casey. After the Iran-Contra scandal hit in 1986, Gates bided his time until he could find in early 1989 a path to hook backup with Scowcroft at the NSC to enter into the Bush camp, which prior to that time he had no connections.

These are extraordinarily slick career moves, especially for someone who had become by 1987 highly controversial. Gates's long and astonishing career path has a unique trajectory and reflects the skill and determination of a consummate careerist.

Those with all-consuming ambition know that, given the abrupt power shifts which are inevitable in Washington, for one to have a steady ascent into the upper echelon and then to stay there, one must shift -- make abrupt shifts in some cases -- and ultimately be a chameleon. Otherwise one has to languish for time in political exile as most senior foreign policy experts typically do such as Tony Lake and Sandy Berger did from 1980 to 1992. Kissinger left the government at the age of 53 and has never returned, at least not officially.

There is no reason to doubt that if Reagan had lost in 1980, Gates would have lobbied hard to become Deputy DCI or the DCI himself under a second Carter Administration. He had worked for Brzezinski and was Admiral Turner's Executive Assistant, so he might well have succeeded in that. He only became a neo-conservative super-hawk in the 1980s because it was necessary to survive and thrive in the CIA under Casey.

The price tag for that was inevitably that he had to give up the CIA Director's post in 1993 when Bill Clinton took office.

"The Secret Good Guy"?

Gates is bright, serious about substantive issues, and highly experienced in many areas within the government and knows the Intelligence Community as well as anyone -- though this is not the same has having long experience in the military sphere. Gates's past views concerning the challenge of the Soviet Union are not obviously relevant to how he views the challenge of Islamic fundamentalism and the terrorist threat.

There have been some hints in recent years that privately he was worried like Scowcroft that the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake, and that he thinks opening dialogue with Iran would make political sense. And in his written responses to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates questioned the way the US military effort in Iraq was managed under Rumsfeld.

Gates still has a long track record of speaking Power to Truth in keeping with the biases or desires of his immediate superior whomever that might be. However, it is possible that the danger that Gates actually will "cook the books," or slant the facts to defend the military effort to make it look better than it is, may not be very high.

The situation in Iraq has deteriorated too far for someone to pull that off given the widespread skepticism about success in a nation plunging toward a full-blown civil war and an equally widespread desire among the American voters to get out of Iraq as soon as possible.

Probably the more relevant question is that -- since President Bush in a sweeping statement while at the summit in Jordan ruled out troop withdrawals until the mission is accomplished -- will Gates be willing to resign if the situation makes that goal however it may be defined, look totally foolish? Or will he defend any policy position that the President wants no matter how hopeless out of blind loyalty to the Bush family?

Given that many would agree with Scowcroft that Gates seems "crazy" to have accepted this appointment, why exactly did he take this very high risk position which might entail presiding over a full-blown debacle? After all, he had turned down Bush over possible appointment to the Director of National Intelligence post (DNI) which was later given to John Negroponte.

In an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, White House Chief of Staff John Bolton stated that if Gates had turned Bush down on the Pentagon job, then Rumsfeld would have stayed -- a very revealing hint of what we now know: namely, that the President sees himself only replacing a cabinet officer and not making a fundamental shift in policy.

For his part, Gates probably owed the Bush family too much to say no twice, especially since what were the odds that Bush could find someone else on short notice just before the election or at any time after the big political hit that the President took? Slim to none.

Gates surely owes the Bush family a lot and not only for his government appointments. It hired him to be the Director of the George Bush School of Government at Texas A & M University and then helped him secure the post of president there. How many distinguished well-known colleges and universities do you know who would have been willing to accept a guy as politically tainted as was Gates (remember Iran-Contra and the controversial 1991 confirmation hearings) as their president? Not very many.

But this large debt does not mean that Gates necessarily has to swallow and defend anything. No one would hold it against him if he bailed out at some point on the White House. Thus, he is in a strong position in that the extended Bush family now needs him more than he needs it.

After all, if Gates feels pushed too far, even for his comfort, then perhaps in his own devious Machiavellian mind, he might calculate that a dramatic, heroic resignation would help set up a future assignment as CIA Director or Secretary of Defense after the 2008 elections if the Democrats take back the White House. Even Brzezinski might put in a good word for him.

More seriously, given the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq, the Democratic leaders in Congress have to decide whether, if in confirming Gates, they are falling into a clever trap set for them by the Bush White House as some have begun to speculate.

If they confirm Gates in a pro forma fashion -- especially if he gives no hint that he will make any significant effort to persuade the President to change policy -- then this would mean for many voters that the Democrats have been suckered into becoming shareholders in the current policy. Surely, the White House would interpret a rubber stamp confirmation of Gates as a clear vote of confidence in its Iraq policy, whatever that is now.

If Gates had been a different person with a less controversial career and more of a record for independence, then the dilemma would not be as great for the Democratic leadership. In 1991, 31 Democratic Senators erred on the side of caution and voted against Gates to become CIA Director. At that time, the Soviet Union was vanishing from history. Today the stakes in Iraq and the Middle East are much greater.

Although many Democratic senators want to get rid of Rumsfeld so badly, and may not press Gates in the confirmation hearings, some senators desiring a higher comfort level probably will seek from him strong, compelling reasons to confirm him given his past and the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq. Those Democratic senators with Presidential aspirations will have to ponder the Gates nomination, if they want to distance themselves from the President's apparent preference for "stay the course" in Iraq

For his part, the main challenge for Gates may become quite similar to that which Kissinger faced during the Vietnam War: namely, the need to give the Democrats, the media and the public at large the impression that he is some kind of "Secret Good Guy" who once back in on the inside, can carry the cause of those growing numbers of Americans who are now highly skeptical of, if not outright opposed to, the continuation of the war. That is a tall order, requires a lot of trust and is now a difficult task made more difficult by the President's sweeping statements at the Jordan Summit, especially the remark that there will be no withdrawals until the mission is accomplished and there will be "no graceful exit from Iraq".

Peter W. Dickson was a political-military analyst at the CIA on European Affairs and nuclear proliferation issues for more than 20 years.

No Bravery

James Blunt - No Bravery


Torture Destroyed Evidence in Padilla Case: Memory Damaged

Dec 4, 2006

Here's yet another reason that America should not torture prisoners being held as "enemy combatants." You can't try them for their crimes afterwards, and torture scrambles memories.

According to a report in the NYT, the Court is considering whether torture has so impaired the memory of accused "Dirty Bomb" plotter, Jose Padilla, that he is now unfit to stand trial.

If he's found to be incompetent, and his testimony tainted, then Padilla can't stand trial and be convicted. If he is tried, and his recollection is flawed, it is unlikely that the trial will add much to the public understanding of his case.

Either way, the interests of justice seem to have been thwarted.

This may be good news to anyone who doesn't want Padilla to testify about what really happened to him in Afghanistan and Pakistan before he flew back to Chicago in 2002, in the company of a planeload of U.S. intelligence agents who had been following him after he allegedly met with leading al-Qaeda figures who had also planned 9/11. These cases are cojoined in some interesting ways.

Experts say that Padilla's memory have been damaged by the extreme physical and psychological stress of his confinement and interrogation. According to a report in today's New York Times:

Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y., who examined Mr. Padilla for a total of 22 hours in June and September, said in an affidavit filed Friday that he "lacks the capacity to assist in his own defense."

"It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation," Dr. Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense.

Mr. Padilla is alleged to have been "damaged by his interrogations and prolonged isolation that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is unable to assist in his own defense. His interrogations, (his attorneys) say, included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of "truth serums."

The NYT article continues:

Mr. Padilla’s situation, as an American declared an enemy combatant and held without charges by his own government, was extraordinary and the conditions of his detention appear to have been unprecedented in the military justice system.

Philip D. Cave, a former judge advocate general for the Navy and now a lawyer specializing in military law, said, "There’s nothing comparable in terms of severity of confinement, in terms of how Padilla was held, especially considering that this was pretrial confinement."

Memories Erased, Evidence Destroyed?

Like Padilla, a number of "enemy combatants", are unlikely ever to reveal much beyond the official record of their interrogations. Waterboarding cuts off oxygen to the brain, destroying memory, permanently. The same effect can, of course, be achieved by the abusive administration of psychoactive drugs.

For reporters and researchers, that cuts off an important line of post-conviction inquiry.

In the Padilla case, along with several UK terrorism plots, there's a line of evidence that leads us back to safehouses in Lahore, Pakistan and madrasas in Afghanistan:

Another group known to London officials is Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT). After the collapse of the Taliban, LJ members became active in aiding other terrorists with safehouses, false identities, and protection in Pakistani cities, including Karachi, Peshawar, and Rawalpindi. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, is the armed wing of the Pakistan- based religious organization, Markaz-ud-Dawa- wal-Irshad (MDI)--a Sunni anti-US missionary organization formed in 1989. Based in Muridke (near Lahore) and Muzaffarabad. 6 Accused Dirty Bomb terrorist Jose Padilla is known to have gone to Lahore, Pakistan to learn about bomb making. Benjamin Ahmed Mohammed, an accomplice of Padilla was taken into custody in Pakistan after Padilla left there on a flight where U.S. agents on board watched him closely before his arrest upon arrival in the U.S. 8

A persistent theme through terrorism cases, like Padilla's, is that the suspects appear to have been monitored by western intelligence agencies before they entered the U.S. or U.K. The Flight 77 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid Al-Midhar, were observed by the CIA as they left an al-Qaeda planning session in Kuala Lumpur and flew into LAX on January 15, 2000. A distinguishing feature of the post-9/11 conspiracies was that no one seriously believed they were capable of carrying out the terrorist operations they became involved in. Padilla was never trained to handle nuclear materials. In fact, the al-Qaeda figures who managed and financed Padilla's activities had concluded he was incapable of carrying out a plot to explode radiological dirty bombs. He was viewed as a dull student, barely capable of carrying out conventional bombings. This is clear from the written statement of James Comey, the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case:

Padilla admits that after this specialized explosives training, he spent much of September of 2001, including after the attacks of September 11th, staying with Mohammed Atef at Atef's safe house near Kandahar. That was the same safe house were Atef was killed by American forces after it was bombed in November of 2001 in a military raid. Padilla's life was spared only because he happened that night to be staying at the safe house run by his explosives teacher. But he returned and dug his mentor Atef's body out of the rubble.

And then, according to Padilla, a decision was made that all Arab fighters had to be moved out of Afghanistan because the Americans were coming. Padilla, armed with his assault rifle, joined many other armed al Qaeda fighters in moving to the Pakistan border to escape the American forces. At that border, Padilla met Abu Zubaydah. Abu Zubaydah, one of the most important and powerful members of al Qaeda, was in charge at that border of sorting the fighters into two groups: those who should continue on and be relocated to Pakistan, and those who should be sent back into Afghanistan.

Padilla admits that after crossing into Pakistan he met Zubaydah again at a safe house in Lahore, Pakistan, and then met with him yet again at another house in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Padilla says it was at the place in Fasialabad that he and a new accomplice, a new partner, approached Abu Zubaydah with an operation in which they proposed to travel to the United States to detonate a nuclear improvised bomb that they had learned to make from research on the Internet. Padilla says that Zubaydah was skeptical about the idea of them building and deploying a nuclear bomb, but nonetheless, told them he would send them on to see Khalid Sheik Mohammed, also known as KSM, the operational leader of al Qaeda and the mastermind behind September the 11th.

We know separately that Zubaydah did think the nuclear bomb idea was not feasible, but he did think, as well, that another kind of radiological device was very feasible -- uranium wrapped with explosives to create a dirty bomb.

Zubaydah believed this was feasible, and encouraged Padilla and his accomplice to pursue it. He warned them, though, that it would not be as easy as they might think, but they seemed convinced that they could do it without getting caught.

Zubaydah's plan was to use Padilla and his accomplice for Zubaydah's own operations in the future. But they were so eager, so intent on carrying out an operation in the United States that in March of 2002 he sent them to see Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, even going so far as to write a reference letter to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed about Padilla, giving Padilla and his accomplice money, and urging them to seek out KSM about the dirty bomb plot. Zubaydah separately called Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, told him about the dirty bomb project, and also told him he didn't think it was practical, but he wanted Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to check it out himself and to evaluate it. He told Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that he was free to use Padilla in his operations in the United States if he wished.

Mohammed did meet with Padilla and his accomplice, and he was, as Zubaydah was, skeptical about the dirty bomb plot. Instead, he suggested to Padilla and his accomplice that they undertake the apartment building operation that had originally been conceived by the now-dead Mohammed Atef, the former military leader of al Qaeda. KSM suggested that they enter the United States by way of Mexico or by way of Puerto Rico, and that once in the country they locate high-rise apartment buildings that had natural gas supplied to all floors, that they rent two apartments in each building, seal those apartments, turn on the gas, and set timers to detonate and destroy the buildings simultaneously at a later time. This was precisely the mission that Padilla and Jafar had trained for, and now Padilla had a new accomplice.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave Padilla full authority to conduct an operation if he and his partner succeeded in entering the United States. I should note that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not himself sure which operation Padilla intended to carry out. By that I mean in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's mind, it was still possible that Padilla was going to pursue the dirty bomb plot. What KSM knew for sure, however, was that he had authorized this explosives-trained al Qaeda operative to mount an attack in the United States.

Many of the same figures who planned 9/11 are also central to the alleged plot in which Jose Padilla is implicated. Khalid Sheikh Mohamed (KSM)is commonly considered to have been the mastermind for the 9/11 attacks. Ramzi bin al-Shibh was Mohamed Atta's roommate in Hamburg, and was also present at an al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur where the 9/11 attacks were planned and discussed by the Flt. 77 hijackers while the CIA monitored the meeting in early January 2000.

Mohamed Atef, not to be confused with Atta, is a key figure in the Padilla case. A recently released videotape showed Mohamed Atef present at a later meeting in Afghanistan at which which Osama bin Laden and Ramzi bin al-Shibh discuss plans for the 9/11 attack.

According to reports, after their capture in Pakistan, KSM and Ramzi bin al-Shibh -- the two surviving 9/11 principal conspirators -- were tortured, including the use of waterboarding. Much of what has been related publicly about planning for events leading up to 9/11, was learned from their interrogations, we are told. Before the attacks, both KSM and al-Shibh have been known to western intelligence sources for a long time and the pair were inexplicably able to remain at large inside Pakistan for more than a year afterwards:

Mid-July 2000: Almihdhar Reports to KSM; Claims He and Alhazmi Were Followed to US According to a post-9/11 confession obtained from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), al-Qaeda operative Khallad bin Attash persuades hijacker Khalid Almihdhar to return to Afghanistan to meet with KSM. At the meeting, Almihdhar complains about life in the US but says he is confident he will be able to obtain another visa, as he left the US before his first one expired. He also tells Mohammed about the problems he and Nawaf Alhazmi have had enrolling in language schools and says they believe they were monitored when they flew from Bangkok to the US in January 2000 (see January 15, 2000). . . Supposedly, KSM is angry that Almihdhar left the US without permission and wishes to exclude Almihdhar from the mission, but bin Laden himself intervenes and keeps Almihdhar involved. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 237, 269; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 7/3/2006, pp. 20-21 ] Doubts have been raised about the reliability of KSM’s confession, as it was obtained using torture (see June 16, 2004). According to author Ron Suskind, at one point interrogators even threaten to hurt KSM’s children, a seven-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl, unless he provides more information. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 230]

June 16, 2004: 9/11 Commission Gives Account of Prisoner Interrogations The 9/11 Commission releases a new report on how the 9/11 plot developed. Most of their information appears to come from interrogations of prisoners Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), the 9/11 mastermind, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a key member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell. In this account, the idea for the attacks appears to have originated with KSM. In mid-1996, he met bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef in Afghanistan. He presented several ideas for attacking the US, including a version of the 9/11 plot using ten planes (presumably an update of Operation Bojinka’s second phase plot (see February-Early May1995)). Bin Laden does not commit himself. In 1999, bin Laden approves a scaled-back version of the idea, and provides four operatives to carry it out: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Khallad bin Attash, and Abu Bara al Taizi. Attash and al Taizi drop out when they fail to get US visas. Alhazmi and Almihdhar prove to be incompetent pilots, but the recruitment of Mohamed Atta and the others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell solves that problem. Bin Laden wants the attacks to take place between May and July 2001, but the attacks are ultimately delayed until September. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] However, information such as these accounts resulting from prisoner interrogations is seriously doubted by some experts, because it appears they only began cooperating after being coerced or tortured. For instance, it is said that KSM was "waterboarded" (see September 11, 2002) a technique in which his head is pushed under water until he nearly drowns. Information gained under such duress often is unreliable. Additionally, there is a serious risk that the prisoners might try to intentionally deceive. [New York Times, 6/17/2004] For instance, one CIA report of his interrogations is called, "Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s Threat Reporting—Precious Truths, Surrounded by a Bodyguard of Lies." [Los Angeles Times, 6/23/2004] The commission itself expresses worry that KSM could be trying to exaggerate the role of bin Laden in the plot to boost bin Laden’s reputation in the Muslim world. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] Most of what these prisoners have said is uncorroborated from other sources. [New York Times,6/17/2004]

Like the Padilla case, the so-called UK Liquid Bomb Plot, notorious for its complicating air travel this past summer, features a conspiracy involving naive western Muslims who travelled to Pakistan, one or more double-agents who directed their actions, and a post-9/11 plot that involved terrorist devices that most experts determined would never have worked. See,

Because of the damage to the memories of those who have been tortured during detention as enemy combatants, and Padilla is unlikely to be the only detainee who suffered irrevocable memory loss, we may never learn the full details.

--By Leveymg

War Criminal to Serve As Papal Adviser?

Kissinger to Serve As Papal Adviser?

Pope Benedict XVI has invited Henry Kissinger, former adviser to Richard Nixon, to be a political consultant and he accepted.


Register Correspondent

November 26-December 2, 2006 Issue

Posted 11/22/06 at 8:00 AM

VATICAN CITY — Over the course of his long and controversial career, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has had many titles. Now he reportedly has one more — adviser to the Pope.

According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Pope Benedict XVI has invited the 83-year-old former adviser to Richard Nixon to be a political consultant, and Kissinger has accepted.

Quoting an “authoritative” diplomatic source at the Holy See, the paper reported Nov. 4 that the Nobel laureate was asked at a recent private audience with the Holy Father to form part of a papal “advisory board” on foreign and political affairs.

As the Register went to press, Kissinger’s office was unable to confirm or deny the report. La Stampa stood by its story, although the Italian press is less rigorous in its authentication of stories as is the United States Press.

If true, there is speculation on which issues Kissinger would advise the Holy Father. Relations with Islam, Palestine and Israel, and Iraq — Kissinger has been critical of the conduct of the war but opposes a quick withdrawal — are likely to be high up on the agenda.

It has also been speculated that, in view of the Muslim hostility to Benedict’s recent Regensburg speech, Kissinger might provide advice on dealing with an increasingly fractious Islamic world.

Furthermore, like the Pope, Kissinger has analyzed the challenges of globalization and might provide advice in this area as well.

“The idea [of his appointment] sounds like a good one,” said veteran Vatican journalist Sandro Magister. “But so would it also be to consult other experts on geopolitics with different orientations.”

As possible expert advisers with different perspectives, Magister listed Catholic philosopher and former diplomat Michael Novak; Bernard Lewis, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University; and foreign policy experts such as Charles Kupchan and G. John Ikenberry.

Expert Advice

The recruitment of Kissinger would not be unprecedented. Experts from a variety of disciplines, including the realm of economics, politics and philosophy, are regularly invited to advise popes and Vatican officials on current affairs.

Pope John Paul II was close friends with Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Polish-born national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, partly because both had a common Polish heritage (though this caused the Soviets to suspect the Vatican of “fixing” the election of Karol Wojtyla, which occurred during the Carter presidency).

Similarly to John Paul and Brzezinski, Benedict and Kissinger are close in age and were both born in Bavaria (a Jew, Kissinger and his family fled Nazi Germany before World War II).

In recent years, other figures invited to share their expertise with the Holy See have included Paul Wolfowitz, a former President Bush adviser and now president of the World Bank; Michel Camdessus, the former director of the International Monetary Fund; American economist Jeffrey Sachs and Hans Tietmeyer, former governor of Germany’s central bank.

The pontifical academies also regularly call on academic luminaries as consultants, such as Nobel laureates Gary Becker, the successor to Milton Friedman at the Chicago School of Economics, and Italian medical researcher Rita Levi-Montalcini.

In comments to the Register, Novak said that “many, maybe most” of these experts are not Catholic, but that the Pope “can call in certain experts he wants to talk to, or hear a paper from, with discussion in a small group.”

Novak said this is true of both Benedict XVI and John Paul II, whom he described as having “very curious and searching minds.”

Any appointment of Kissinger is likely to cause some unease, however. One Iranian radio station is already reporting the news as a “papal-Jewish conspiracy,” while others object to the Pope consulting with someone who has been widely identified with the realpolitik school of political analysis, an approach that places practical considerations before morality.

‘Different Voices’

Yet like Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI is winning recognition for his intellectual ability and his capacity to discuss international issues with a diverse spectrum of world figures, ranging from the Dalai Lama to the late atheist polemicist Oriana Fallaci and to Mustapha Cherif, an Algerian Muslim philosopher whom he met this month.

“Such an appointment would really show Benedict XVI to be contrary to his media image, as someone who’s willing to listen to other voices not in accordance with his views,” said one Holy See diplomat about the reported enlistment of Kissinger as a papal adviser. “It’s always helpful to hear different voices offering different views.”

Edward Pentin

writes from Rome

Peace sign: Apostles to no nukes

Interpretations of symbol vary; Pagosa Springs dispute not first

December 3, 2006
| Herald Staff Writer

The just-concluded battle over a peace-sign wreath hung south of Pagosa Springs was hardly the first attempt to ban the peace symbol.

It has been banned at schools in several states over the years, and the dress code of the city of Odessa, Texas, banned both the peace symbol and the Star of David as Satanic symbols.

All these incidents are reminders of the unsettling and sometimes uncontrollable power of symbols.

While the group responsible for the creation of the peace symbol offers a specific, historically documented description of its origin and intended meaning, there have been a number of other, likely unintended, interpretations.

The first version of the peace symbol was designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer and artist, according to the Web site of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It was first used in the first major anti-nuclear march, which the campaign took from London to Aldermaston, England, in that year.

Holtom said the symbol incorporated the semaphore letters "N" and "D" to represent nuclear disarmament.

He also gave a more personal account of the meaning of the symbol in a letter to the editor of Peace News, reprinted on the British Campaign's Web site. "I was in despair. Deep despair," Holtom wrote. "I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya's peasant before the firing squad. I formalized the drawing into a line and put a circle round it."

While the design may or may not have been intended to contain Christian symbolism, the colors of the original buttons bearing the design at Aldermaston had a specifically Christian significance. Marchers were to wear black and white buttons on Good Friday and Saturday and switch to green and white on Easter Sunday.

But the very issues that led to the creation of the peace symbol doomed it to controversy. During the Cold War, as a symbol of the peace movement and the left, it was immediately defined by many as a symbol of communism. The geometrical similarity of the interior of the symbol to an upside-down cross was fodder for anti-communists who saw in the symbol a subliminal promotion of atheism. Others pointed out that a similar symbol appears on the tombstones of some Nazi bomber pilots.

One version of the anti-Christian interpretation begins with the alleged martyrdom of the apostle Peter, an early leader of the Catholic Church. According to traditions recorded in the apocryphal "Acts of Peter," the apostle was crucified upside-down at his own request during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero.

According to the tradition, Peter wanted the unusual crucifixion because he felt himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. The upside-down cross therefore was occasionally venerated as a symbol of Peter's martyrdom over the succeeding centuries, although rarely with "broken arms."

Gerry O'Sullivan, then at the University of Pennsylvania, traced the re-interpretation of the upside-down cross in his 1991 essay, "The Satanism Scare." According to O'Sullivan, the 1960 book The Morning of the Magicians, a mystical, occult text considered to be the first New Age book, introduced the ideas that the upside-down cross is Satanic, and that it was used mockingly by both the Romans and the Nazis.

Some religious groups disagree with O'Sullivan, saying these ideas reflect actual historical practices. The ultra-conservative John Birch Society popularized the idea of the peace symbol as a "broken cross" - the same term often used to describe the swastika.

Guides for law enforcement and schools during the satanic ritual murder scare of the 1980s warned that the peace sign could be an indicator of Satanist activity. Self-proclaimed Satanists and pagans deny the use of the upside-down cross in their rituals.

Pagosa Springs homeowners Lisa Jensen and Bill Trimarco hung the peace wreath Nov. 19. The homeowners association demanded they take it down, saying it was offensive to families with soldiers in Iraq and that it was anti-Christian. When publicized, the incident drew nationwide reaction, along with near-unanimous criticism of the homeowners association.

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How to survive a property market crash

How to survive a market crash

If house prices fall, first-time buyers could well be hit hardest of all

By Stephen Pritchard

Published: 29 November 2006

Last week, former Government adviser David Miles became the latest in a line of economists to warn that house price growth could go into reverse.

Professor Miles, now UK chief economist at Morgan Stanley, has suggested that there could be a house price crash within the next two year, although he cautions that it is almost impossible to say when prices might start to fall. But Prof Miles believes that confidence in the housing market could drop sharply, if house price rises start to tail off.

This will be a worrying prospect for the thousands of home owners - many of them young, first-time buyers - who have stretched themselves as far as they can in order to step on to the housing ladder. Home owners who have put down little or no deposits are the most exposed, because they have little or no equity in their properties to cushion them against a downturn.

According to Moneyfacts, the financial researchers, the number of lenders offering mortgages of 100 per cent or more has grown steadily. Five lenders offer mortgages of between 102 per cent and 125 per cent of a property's value. There are a staggering 200 loans on offer that will go up to 100 per cent.

Steadily rising house prices have forced more and more buyers to borrow up to the absolute limit in order to afford the property they want; most recently, the Nationwide predicted that house prices will rise between five and six per cent next year. Understandably, buyers who delay in order to save for a deposit worry that prices will move even further out of reach.

What could I do about it if I'm hit by negative equity?

The main risk to home buyers, as well as to home owners thinking about remortgaging, is that the predictions will come true, and that prices will start to fall. If that happens in the next two years, there will have been too little time for heavily mortgaged borrowers to have built up any equity.

"House prices have risen continually over the last 11 years but this does not been the future will hold the same fortune," warns Moneyfacts' mortgage analyst Julia Harris. "So you could be trapped in a 'negative equity' situation for years to come."

If prices fall, even by a small amount, home owners could find themselves in negative equity. And given the current levels of house prices, even a small percentage fall would equate to a large loss in cash terms.

A return to the negative equity of the early 1990s would leave home owners unable to move, unless they could cover the mortgage shortfall from savings or other reserves, or through moving to a cheaper property. They might also be unable to remortgage, if negative equity means that they would have to borrow more than even the most generous lender will offer. At best, home owners with negative equity would face a narrower choice of mortgages.

What can I do now to minimise the risk?

Although a 100 per cent mortgage carries risks, a larger mortgage need not be that much riskier.

One reason is that lenders are often quite selective about who qualifies for a higher mortgage. Scottish Widows and Accord limits some of their larger loans to professionals. Other lenders have deals specifically for graduates and others who expect their incomes to rise. The Portman only allows borrowers with large loans to value to take out repayment, rather than interest-only, mortgages.

A 100 per cent plus mortgage might not even mean that a borrower ends up owing more than someone who wants to borrow 100 per cent. Some mortgage companies levy higher lending charges for larger loans.

"If you take out a 100 per cent mortgage and then add a higher lending charge to the loan, you will be borrowing 103 per cent," says Ray Boulger, of mortgage brokers John Charcol. "If you had the cash, then it's likely that you would not need the 100 per cent mortgage. You would be no worse off opting for a 103 per cent mortgage that does not levy the fees."

And, he adds, there is no clear line to cross that makes a particular level of borrowing risky: even someone who puts down a small deposit is exposed to housing market falls, although they will have access to cheaper mortgages.

George Bush’s America

Posted on Dec 4, 2006
Sami Al-Arian
AP Photo / Chris O'Meara

Former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian smiles as he makes his way through the media with his wife Nahla, left, before entering the United States Courthouse Thursday afternoon Dec. 12, 2002 in Tampa, Fla. Al-Arian, who is accused of helping lead a terrorist group that has carried out suicide bombings against Israel, was acquitted on nearly half the charges against him Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005. The jury deadlocked on the rest of the charges.

By Chris Hedges

The Democrats may have taken control of the House and Senate, but we still live in George Bush’s America. It is an America the imprisoned Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian, who has spent over two years in isolation, knows intimately. Dr. Al-Arian, who was a tenured professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida until being fired, was given the maximum sentence earlier this year for what the judge, in a case that bordered on the farcical, said was his support of a radical Palestinian organization.

The imprisoned professor, who will be deported when he is released, was to have spent 57 months in prison. But his time now seems likely to be extended since, despite plea bargaining that should have exempted him from further testimony, he has been called to testify before a secret grand jury in Virginia investigating Islamic organizations in the state. It is the newest twist in a case that has become emblematic of the repression meted out to America’s Muslim minority.

Al-Arian endured a six-month show trial in Florida that saw the government’s case collapse in a mass of contradictions and innuendo. During the trial the government called 80 witnesses and subjected the jury to hundreds of hours of often inane phone transcriptions and recordings, made over a 10-year period, which the jury dismissed as “gossip.” Out of the 94 charges made against the four defendants there were no convictions. Of the 17 charges against Al-Arian—including “conspiracy to murder and maim persons abroad’’ --, the jury acquitted him of eight and was hung on the rest. The jurors disagreed on the remaining charges by a count of 10 to 2 favoring his full acquittal. Two others in the case, Ghassan Ballut and Sameeh Hammoudeh, were acquitted of all charges, dealing another body blow to the government’s case. The May sentencing of Al-Arian contradicted the basis of the jury’s acquittal and the reasoning behind the subsequent plea agreement.

Following the acquittal, a disaster for the government, especially since then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had announced the indictment, prosecutors threatened to retry Al-Arian. The Palestinian professor, under duress, accepted a plea bargain agreement that would spare him a second trial, saying in his agreement that he had helped people associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad with immigration matters. It was a tepid charge given the high profile of the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department agreed to recommend to the judge the minimum sentence of 46 months. But U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. sentenced Dr. Al-Arian to the maximum 57 months. In referring to Al-Arian’s contention that he had only raised money for Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s charity for widows and orphans, the judge said acidly to the professor that “your only connection to orphans and widows is that you create them.”

“The cards were stacked against us,” said the defendant’s daughter, Laila Al-Arian. “The prosecutors showed gruesome videos of suicide bombings in Israel and tried to tie my father to them. He had nothing to do with these attacks. He has always condemned the killing of Israeli and Palestinian civilians. The trial was Orwellian. The government prosecutors would take events and statements that had nothing to do with my father and attempt to connect them to him. This was all about silencing a Palestinian activist, not combating terrorism.”

But all this has not stopped the government from continuing its harassing of Al-Arian. Judge Moody recently ruled that compelling Al-Arian to testify in the grand jury investigation of the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Va., would not violate the plea agreement. Several people close to the case fear that the current attempt to make Al-Arian testify is part of an effort to charge him with perjury and set him up for a new trial. The assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia, Gordon Kromberg, like many involved in the case, has made derogatory and racist comments about Muslims. When Al-Arian’s lawyers asked Kromberg to delay the transfer of the professor to Virginia because of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan they were told “if they can kill each other during Ramadan they can appear before the grand jury.” Kromberg, according to an affidavit signed by Al-Arian’s attorney, Jack Fernandez, also said: “I am not going to put off Dr. Al-Arian’s grand jury appearance just to assist in what is becoming the Islamization of America.”

“Had he said this about any other ethnic or religious group it would have provoked widespread outrage,” said Laila Al-Arian.

And so, although Al-Arian is scheduled to be deported in April 2007, he could now be imprisoned for an additional 18 months. The federal government has placed him in contempt of court because he is refusing to answer questions before the Virginia grand jury.

This trial says legions about the place of Muslims in the United States following the attacks of 9/11. It is part of a ruthless campaign to strip Americans of fundamental rights because of their religious beliefs.

“The jury spoke a year ago when they acquitted my father and the other three defendants,” Laila Al-Arian said. “This is part of a government campaign to silence and intimidate all Muslims in America by persecuting their leaders. It is part of an effort to disenfranchise American Muslims.”

1 blog reaction

We've gotcher timetable for Iraq withdrawal right here (w/FREE hidden message inside!)

by occams hatchet,

Dec 04, 2006

"Timetable! Timetable! What's the TIMETABLE??!!

Calm. Down.

Oh, I've got your timetable, alright. But you have to promise to sit still long enough for me to explain a teeny bit to you, okay? Okay.

Speaking of "timetables," to better understand the schedule for withdrawing from Iraq, we first need to look at a bit of a timeline. So -

- come along with me now as we travel back in time [cue dreamy harp music] . . .

Hidden in this diary are all the clues you need to solve the mystery of Why We Went To War In Iraq! See if you can figure it out by carefully reading the whole diary – including between the lines! Good Luck!

(HINT: The words "weapons of mass destruction" and "spreading democracy" are NOT part of the answer!)

In June 1997, during the heart of the Clinton administration, Project for a New American Century (PNAC) was founded. Among those signing its founding Statement of Principles were Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Zalmay Khalilzad (current U.S. ambassador to Iraq), Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush and Elliot Abrams.

In January 1998, PNAC wrote a letter to then-President Bill Clinton advocating the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. The letter read, in part (emphases added):

if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction . . . a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard. [snip]

The only acceptable strategy is one that . . . [consists of taking] military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. [I]t means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.

We urge you to articulate this aim, and to turn your Administration's attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power.

That letter was signed by, among others, Donald Rumsfeld, Zalmay Khalilzad, John Bolton, Richard Armitage, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Bill Bennett and James Woolsey.

At the time, Iraq was a sovereign nation, with whom we were not at war, nor had we been for seven years.

In September 2000, PNAC came out with its seminal work, "Rebuilding America's Defenses," (PDF file) which contained, among much else, the following passages:

From an American perspective, the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene. Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region.


As a supplement to forces stationed abroad under long-term basing arrangements, the United States should seek to establish a network of "deployment bases" or "forward operating bases" to increase the reach of current and future forces. Not only will such an approach improve the ability to project force to outlying regions, it will help circumvent the political, practical and financial constraints on expanding the network of American bases overseas.


elements of U.S. Army Europe should be redeployed to Southeast Europe, while a permanent unit should be based in the Persian Gulf region [emphases added]

That study was signed by, among others, Paul Wolfowitz, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and William Kristol.

At the time, Iraq was a sovereign nation, with whom we were not at war, nor had we been for nine years.

"Rebuilding America's Defenses" also contains the following statement:

Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.

So - why all this background on PNAC? Well, PNAC's philosophies and core beliefs have come to play a huge role in the foreign policy practices of the Bush administration - and hence, in its course of action with regard to Iraq. Many members of and contributors to PNAC went on and continue to play important roles in that administration, as shown in this alphabetical chart from Wikipedia:

Elliott Abrams National Security Council Representative for Middle Eastern Affairs President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center
Richard Armitage Department of State (2001-2005) Deputy Secretary of State Leaked Valerie Plame's identity to Robert Novak in the Plamegate scandal.
John R. Bolton Department of State U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Previously served as Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs in the first administration of GWB.
Richard Cheney Bush Administration Vice President
Seth Cropsey Voice of America Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau
Paula Dobriansky Department of State Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs
Francis Fukuyama President's Council on Bioethics Council Member Professor of International Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University
Bruce Jackson U.S. Committee on NATO President Former Lockheed Martin VP for Strategy & Planning
Zalmay Khalilzad U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from November 2003 to June 2005
I. Lewis Libby Bush Administration (2001-2005) Chief of Staff for the Vice President Indicted by Grand Jury on charges of Obstruction of Justice, False Statements, and Perjury and resigned October 28, 2005.
Peter W. Rodman Department of Defense Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security
Donald Rumsfeld Department of Defense (2001-2006) Secretary of Defense Former Chairman of the Board of Gilead Sciences Developer of Tamiflu
Randy Scheunemann U.S. Committee on NATO, Project on Transitional Democracies, International Republican Institute Member Founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.
Paul Wolfowitz World Bank President Deputy Secretary of Defense, 2001-2005
Dov S. Zakheim Department of Defense Comptroller Former V.P. of System Planning Corporation
Robert B. Zoellick Department of State Deputy Secretary of State Office of the United States Trade Representative (2001-2005);

On January 21, 2001, President George Bush was inaugurated. On January 29, 2001, newly minted Vice President Dick Cheney (who just six months earlier had been CEO of Halliburton, one of the world's largest oil and gas exploration and construction companies), being well-known for his public decorum, had the courtesy to wait a full eight days after the last of the stragglers had been sent home from the last of the inauguration parties, the last of the confetti had been swept up and the last of the bunting had been taken down, before convening - behind closed doors, doors that would remain closed by the Supreme Court and appellate courts - what was called an "energy task force," (officially, the National Energy Policy Development Group). The task force's ostensible purpose, according to President Bush, was to

report back to me, and to the nation, how best to cope with high energy prices and how best to cope with reliance upon foreign oil; how best to encourage the development of pipelines and power-generating capacity in the country so that we can help our fellow citizens.

Curiously, the president did not specify in exactly which country the task force would seek to encourage the development of pipelines. Nor was it immediately clear how certain documents such as "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts," would help in determining "how best to cope with reliance upon foreign oil."

At the time, Iraq was a sovereign nation, with whom we were not at war, nor had we been for 10 years. Why was a domestic energy task force discussing potential suitors for Iraqi oilfield contracts?

Another puzzling document was a map of Iraq, with oilfields and pipelines called out, and most of the western desert region divvied up into "blocks."

At the time, Iraq was a sovereign nation, with whom we were not at war, nor had we been for 10 years. Why was a domestic energy task force circulating a map of Iraq's oilfields and pipelines?

The map and the documents are dated March 2001, two months after George Bush and Dick Cheney took office, six months before 9/11, and two years before the invasion of Iraq.

Never one to wait until the last minute, that Dick Cheney. From The New Yorker:

Additional evidence that Cheney played an early planning role is contained in a previously undisclosed National Security Council document, dated February 3, 2001. The top-secret document, written by a high-level N.S.C. official, concerned Cheney’s newly formed Energy Task Force. It directed the N.S.C. staff to coöperate fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the "melding" of two seemingly unrelated areas of policy: "the review of operational policies towards rogue states," such as Iraq, and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields." [emphases added]

At the time, Iraq was a sovereign nation, with whom we were not at war, nor had we been for 10 years. Why was the National Security Council talking about "the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields"?

On September 11, 2001 the PNAC neocons got the "new Pearl Harbor" they needed to implement their plans:

They did not lose any time. On September 20, 2001, using the terrorist attacks as a rationalization, PNAC wrote a letter to President Bush, exhorting him to attack Iraq. While some might object to tying Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, in fact, PNAC simply was doing what it had been doing for more than four years: pushing for military action against Iraq. The attacks of September 11 merely gave the organization another fulcrum with which to apply leverage.

But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

The Bush administration hardly needed the urging.

By March 2002, a full year before the invasion of Iraq, George Bush knew exactly what he was going to do about Saddam Hussein:

"F**k Saddam, we're taking him out."

At the time, Iraq was a sovereign nation, with whom we were not at war, nor had we been for 11 years.

The public rhetoric ratcheted up, to the point where the neocons' Iraqi-exile darling Ahmed Chalabi was able to say in September 2002, six months before the first bombs fell on Baghdad,

"American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil."

A big shot, indeed.

Prior to the 2003 invasion, the principal vehicle for planning the new post-war Iraq was the US State Department’s Future of Iraq project. This initiative, commencing as early as April 2002, involved meetings in Washington and London of 17 working groups, each comprised of 10-20 Iraqi exiles and international experts selected by the State Department.

The "Oil and Energy" working group met four times between December 2002 and April 2003. Although the full membership of the group has never been revealed, it is known that Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, the current Iraqi Oil Minister, was a member. The 15-strong oil working group concluded that Iraq "should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war" and that "the country should establish a conducive business environment to attract investment of oil and gas resources."

On March 20, 2003, the United States of America invaded Iraq, a sovereign nation. Saddam Hussein's government collapsed within three weeks. PNAC's long-sought dream of overthrowing Hussein's regime had been realized. In the chaos shortly after Saddam's fall, U.S. troops had the job of guarding just one government building: the Iraqi Oil Ministry. Looters, vandals and insurgents were given carte blanche to the country's museums and munitions dumps.

Construction of military bases began almost immediately after the invasion. For the first year or so after the invasion, hundreds of temporary bases were thrown together with the intent of supporting ongoing, relatively short-term operations. But that had changed by March 2004, when the Chicago Tribune could report this:

Now U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 "enduring bases," long-term encampments for the thousands of American troops expected to serve in Iraq for at least two years. The bases also would be key outposts for Bush administration policy advisers.

Those 14 bases were scattered about the country, seemingly at random, at least from a glance at this map:

Meantime, the U.S. had put in place a colonial viceroy of sorts in Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Under the temporary governance of the CPA, laws were enacted which essentially made Iraq an absolutely free-trade zone for foreign investors. Foreign companies could profit from Iraqi resources and take their profits out of the country, without any requirement to pay taxes, or to reinvest in Iraq. Those laws remain in place today, and have priority over any subsequent conflicting laws, including the Iraqi constitution.

But not to worry. Even the Iraqi constitution was very foreign-business friendly. It should be - it was written with the heavy hand of Iraq's U.S. occupiers all over it. As a result, the fledgling Iraqi government made sure that the final draft of the constitution, presented to the Iraqi people for their approval in August 2005, included provisions that would facilitate foreign investment in, and massive profit from, Iraq's oilfields.

In the last few days before that final draft of the constitution came out, a key change was made to it:

Another key article disappeared from the final (ie, today's) draft. It used to be Article 16, according to which:

1) It is forbidden for Iraq to be used as a base or corridor for foreign troops.
2) It is forbidden to have foreign military bases in Iraq.
3) The National Assembly can, when necessary, and with a majority of two thirds of its members, allow what is mentioned in 1 and 2 of this article.

Here's how Riverbend reported it in her "Baghdad Burning" blog:

The most interesting article in Chapter 1, however, was in the first draft of the constitution published on August 22 by some newspapers but it isn’t in the final draft (at least it’s not in the New York Times English version). It is numbered Article (16), in the version of the draft constitution it appeared in:

Article (16):

1. It is forbidden for Iraq to be used as a base or corridor for foreign troops.
2. It is forbidden to have foreign military bases in Iraq.
3. The National Assembly can, when necessary, and with a majority of two thirds of its members, allow what is mentioned in 1 and 2 of this article.

This one is amusing because in the first two parts of the article, foreign troops are forbidden and then in the third, they’re kind of allowed... well sometimes- when the puppets deem it necessary (to keep them in power). What is worrisome about this article, on seeing the final version of the draft constitution, is its mysterious disappearance- in spite of the fact that it leaves a lot of leeway for American bases in Iraq. Now, in the final version of the constitution, there is nothing about not having foreign troops in the country or foreign bases, at the very least. The ‘now you see it’/ ‘now you don’t’ magical effect of this article, especially, reinforces the feeling that this constitution is an ‘occupation constitution’.

Hmm . . . So the Iraqi constitution was changed at the last minute to allow for foreign military bases on Iraqi soil. And the Iraqi constitution makes it very easy for foreign companies to own the rights to, and profit from, Iraq's oil. Hmmm . . .

Several months after the mysterious last-minute editing of the Iraqi constitution, in June 2006, a conference committee of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives pulled the same disappearing act:

Thwarting the will of the majority, a joint House and Senate conference committee this week decided to delete language barring permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq from legislation pending in Congress. Meeting behind closed doors, negotiators from the conference committee dropped language that would ban permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, language that both chambers had approved in the emergency war supplemental spending bill.

In March 2006, the Associated Press filed this report from Iraq, about massive construction at four airbases in Iraq (all emphases added):

The move away from cities, perhaps eventually accompanied by U.S. force reductions, will lower the profile of U.S. troops, frequent targets of roadside bombs on city streets. Officers at al-Asad Air Base, 10 desert miles from the nearest town, say it hasn't been hit by insurgent mortar or rocket fire since October.

Al-Asad will become even more isolated. The proposed 2006 supplemental budget for Iraq operations would provide $7.4 million to extend the no-man's-land and build new security fencing around the base, which at 19 square miles is so large that many assigned there take the Yellow or Blue bus routes to get around the base, or buy bicycles at a PX jammed with customers. [snip]

Here at Balad, the former Iraqi air force academy 40 miles north of Baghdad, the two 12,000-foot runways have become the logistics hub for all U.S. military operations in Iraq, and major upgrades began last year.

Army engineers say 31,000 truckloads of sand and gravel fed nine concrete-mixing plants on Balad, as contractors laid a $16 million ramp to park the Air Force's huge C-5 cargo planes; an $18 million ramp for workhorse C-130 transports; and the vast, $28 million main helicopter ramp, the length of 13 football fields, filled with attack, transport and reconnaissance helicopters.


Away from the flight lines, among traffic jams and freshly planted palms, life improves on 14-square-mile Balad for its estimated 25,000 personnel, including several thousand Americans and other civilians.

They've inherited an Olympic-sized pool and a chandeliered cinema from the Iraqis. They can order their favorite Baskin-Robbins flavor at ice-cream counters in five dining halls, and cut-rate Fords, Chevys or Harley-Davidsons, for delivery at home, at a PX-run "dealership."

Fourteen square miles? Nineteen square miles? Two 12,000-foot runways? (Even Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta - the busiest airport in the world - doesn't have two 12,000-foot runways.) Burger King? Harley-Davidsons?

Sounds permanent to me. Evidently to the engineers building the place, too:

From the start, in 2003, the first Army engineers rolling into Balad took the long view, laying out a 10-year plan envisioning a move from tents to today's living quarters in air-conditioned trailers, to concrete-and-brick barracks by 2008.

So - all of this construction has kept Halliburton, and Parsons, and Fluor, and Bechtel, and a host of other administration cronies, busy making billions of dollars off the American taxpayer - and for what purpose?

Here's a map of the four "super bases" detailed in the Associate Press story:


Now, that's interesting

Oh, sorry - it's just that I noticed there's . . . something peculiar about the layout of those four bases. Let's see - what could it be . . . ?

Hey, I've got an idea! What if we were to take the map of these four large, permanent-seeming bases, and superimpose it on a map of the Iraqi oilfields and pipelines? (For the "oil map," though, let's use the map from the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration - it's a bit higher-quality than the March 2001 Energy Task Force version.)

(Diarist's note: Please forgive the crude "Photoshop for by Dummies" work on these - I'm a bit of a hacker.)

Wow! Those big new airbases sure will come in handy, being so close to the pipelines and oilfields and all!

Hmm - I wonder what the superimposed map would look like if we were to use the "14-base" map from the earlier article:

Yup, pretty much the same situation. I wonder if there's a connection . . .

Now, I am not a military strategist (IANAMS), but if I had to bet, I'd guess that in the United States, military bases are not laid out in such amazingly close correspondence to oilfields and oil lines.

Well, heck! That's easy enough to test! Let's take a map of military bases here in the contiguous United States (PDF file) -

- and combine it with a map of oil pipelines in the Lower 48 -

Sure enough - the location of the bases pretty much bears no relation to the location of the pipelines:

Huh. I wonder why our pipelines and oilfields here in the U.S. don't have huge military bases right next to them, but the Iraqi pipelines and oilfields do?

Hmmm . . .

And now, guess what? Longtime Bush family hatchet man James Baker has brought the PNAC plan full circle. With the Iraq Study Group's recommendation that U.S. troops be "redeployed" to "bases on the periphery", all Bush and Cheney have to do is strenuously object, wait until Halliburton et al. complete their work, and then "acquiesce" by "redeploying" to "bases on the periphery."

"Periphery" - heh. Yeah, that's rich. "Periphery" = NeoconSpeak for "close to the oil."

My guess is, that was the plan all along. But with James Baker and Lee Hamilton's imprimatur, the whole thing sounds like some big "withdrawal."

Ummm - NO. Not really. Just a fulfillment of the neocon oilmen's plan for Iraq. And we're truly staying until the mission of securing the oil is accomplished. (Hint: In NeoconSpeak, "stable democracy" = "secure oilfields and pipelines.")

President George W. Bush brushed aside talk of civil war in Iraq on Tuesday and insisted the United States would not withdraw its forces before its mission of building a stable democracy there was complete. [emphasis added]

Okay, we're getting warmer. How about this:

And the definition of success, by the way, is for there to be a country where the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten the democracy, and where Iraqi security forces can provide for the security of their people, and where Iraq is not a safe haven from which the terrorists -- al Qaeda and its affiliates -- can plot attacks against America.

I think that what the President means when he says we aren't leaving until the Iraqi government is stable enough to defend itself, is that we're not leaving until the Iraqi government is stable enough to defend these:

- otherwise, they'll look like this:

But actually, I think it's simpler than that.

Remember way back at the start of this diary, I promised you I'd share with you the Actual Timetable For Withdrawal Of American Troops From Iraq?

Ahh, yes, well, um, after all this, I must confess - I do not have the, uh, Actual Timetable For Withdrawal Of American Troops From Iraq. But if I did, if I did, I suspect it would look a lot like this:

This is a Gantt chart. Gantt charts are used to track the workflow of large and complicated projects - like construction projects, for instance.The Gantt chart allows you to plug in the various components of your project along a timeline, and to track the "critical path" of the particular components without which other components cannot be completed. Gantt charts are very familiar in the construction industry. (The Gantt chart above happens to be for the renovation of the city hall in Pasadena, California.)

Now, I don't have access to the actual Gantt charts for the construction of the huge bases at Balat, or al-Asad, or Tallil or al-Qayyarah, but rest assured, Halliburton, Bechtel, Parsons, Lockheed Martin, and all the other contractors building those projects do have them. And, until the last task on those Gantt charts - it might be installing the faucet handles in the kitchens of one of the five mess halls at Balat, for instance - is completed, our troops in Iraq aren't going anywhere. Which means, the big contractors - not Congress, not the Iraqis, not even the President of the United States - are in charge of the Actual Timetable For Withdrawal Of American Troops From Iraq.

Well, most of our troops, anyway.


The real reason we invaded Iraq was:

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