Saturday, March 10, 2007

Doug Feith, Flimflam Man

Editor's note: I am moving to the other blog to post(also see new articles below).
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chatterbox

In Washington, there are no outcomes. There is only process.

By Timothy Noah
Posted Friday, March 9, 2007, at 12:42 AM ET

Like a vampire shielding himself from daylight, a government official publicly identified with a failed policy will do everything he can to avoid accepting responsibility. The vampire raises his cloak against the sun. The government official steers discussion away from the outcome and defends the process by which decisions got made. The current master is Douglas J. Feith.

Feith is former undersecretary of defense for policy, and today, despite Gen. Tommy Franks' famous assertion (in Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack) that he's "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth," Feith is "visiting professor and distinguished practitioner in national security policy" at Georgetown. About the U.S. decision to invade Iraq, Feith is magnificently unrepentant. "I'm not going to be making some Oprah-like confessions," he told The New Yorker's Jeffrey Goldberg two years ago on the eve of his retirement. More recently, Feith has been speaking out defiantly against a Pentagon inspector general's finding that Feith's pre-war intelligence briefings alleging a link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein were "inappropriate." Feith is archiving this self-defense on a Web page established for this sole purpose.

The inspector general and especially Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who is Feith's chief nemesis on Capitol Hill, have made Feith's job easier than it should be by searching for improprieties and illegalities rather than incompetence, which appears to have been Feith's true failing. In his book Fiasco, Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post reports that at a meeting during the summer of 2001, a proliferation specialist and longtime Pentagon employee named Lisa Bronson stood up and complained, "This is the worst-run policy office I've ever seen." Ricks also quotes Gary Schmitt, executive director of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century, saying of Feith: "He can't manage anything, and he doesn't trust anyone else's judgment."

Feith may or may not be evil, but the salient point is that he was wrong. Iraq and al-Qaida weren't collaborating against their common enemy, the United States. Like his hero, Winston Churchill, Feith sounded the klaxons when others were silent. But today Churchill is lionized not because he was a lonely voice, but because he was right. Churchill was right to believe that war against Hitler was necessary. Feith was wrong to believe that war against Saddam was necessary. That's his true crime, and it's left blood on his hands.

Feith successfully obscures this vulnerability again and again by arguing that he was following proper procedures for a serious-minded policy-maker. Was his office hawking weak intelligence alleging a link between Saddam and Osama? Absolutely not, Feith says. He was merely critiquing the CIA's analysis, and "professional criticism of intelligence by policy officials is a good thing." (Slate contributor Daniel Benjamin demolishes this defense here.) Did Feith's Pentagon office trump up al-Qaida's purported alliance with Iraq? No, it was merely following the lead of Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet, who in a 2002 letter to the Senate cited several points of contact. (This sounds pretty good until you click on the link Feith provides to that letter and notice that Tenet prefaced his examples with the disclaimer, "Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability.")

Feith's Web site links to a transcript of a Feb. 11 interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, hardly a hostile forum. Yet Feith's resolute refusal to answer Wallace's outcome-based questions reduces the exchange to a latter-day version of Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First?" Wallace quotes a PowerPoint briefing unambiguously titled, "Iraq and al-Qaida: Making the Case." One slide said: "Intelligence indicates cooperation in all categories, mature symbiotic relationship." Another said: "Some indications of possible Iraq coordination with al-Qaida specifically related to 9/11." In addition, Wallace notes that Feith said the 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague in April 2001.

"Mr. Feith, all of that—all of that was wrong, wasn't it?"

"No, not at all. There was substantial intelligence. I mean, evidence is a legal term, not really appropriate here. There was a lot of information out there. …[T]he people in the Pentagon were giving a critical review. They were not presenting alternative conclusions. They were presenting a challenge to the way the CIA was looking at things and filtering its own information."

"I have to tell you, I mean, when I—I mean, I read these as 'mature symbiotic relationship,' 'known contact'—that sure sounds like conclusions."

"You're plucking language out of a briefing. … It was a criticism. It's healthy to criticize the CIA's intelligence. What the people in the Pentagon was doing was right. It was good government."

Again and again, Wallace tries to yank the subject away from Feith's First Amendment right to question CIA intelligence, from the good-government virtue of skeptical rethinking—from process—to the obvious fact that Feith was in error. But Feith won't have it. This is government. We follow procedures. We address the topics at hand. And, apparently, there are no conclusions and no outcome. Government is a Mobius strip. There is only process, and process never reaches an end point.

With a wave of his hand, Doug Feith can make the big, dumb questions like, "Weren't you wrong to push your country into a tragic failure of a war?" go away. Then it's just a matter of parrying the small, subtle ones. The "stupidest guy on the face of the earth"? I'd say Feith is a genius.

Timothy Noah is a senior writer at Slate.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2161445/

Copyright 2006 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

Regional conference will not solve Iraq crisis

By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, March 8, 2007

So long as Washington and the government allied to it think their way of dealing with Iraq crisis is correct, the forthcoming regional conference will be a waste of time and blood.

The conference to be held in Baghdad comes three weeks after the start of the Baghdad security plan which many in Iraq do not see as fair and balanced. Nonetheless, the government says the plan has been successful.

If the security plan has succeeded, what do we need the regional conference for?

The answer is simple. The campaign to subdue Baghdad was the climax of government efforts to drum up support for its policies and unify the disparate political factions behind it.

But unfortunately the campaign is now in its fourth week and the political scene is as divisive as ever.

U.S. troops are more cautious and knowledgeable than the government they support. Their ceiling for the achievements the campaign has made so far is much lower than that of the government.

We believe the regional conference will be the death nail to already troubled political process. The conference is not bringing Iraqis together. It is a gathering of the powers who are taking good advantage of the status quo.

Iraq is not in need of countries delivering speeches in closed door meetings in its capital at a time the government has closed its ears and eyes to the real needs of the Iraqi people.

The conference will not criticize the political process that started with the fall of Baghdad to U.S. troops in 2003.

It will not have the courage to say that the whole political process was a big blunder for which Iraqis have paid in rivers of blood.

It will not say that the democratic track was undemocratic altogether and the Americans themselves are now aware of this fact.

This is the kind of conference whose organizers would like Iraqis to believe that elephants fly.

Hypocrisy

The Empire of Lies: Killings In Iraq Have Parallel in U.K. and U.S.

March 10, 2007

Bush’s Crimes in Baghdad Have Parallel in U.S., U.K.

By Sherwood Ross

What’s left of what passes for law in America is eroding rapidly. The latest scandal in Totalitarianville is the admission by Robert S. Mueller III March 9th his FBI had improperly used the Patriot Act to spy on individuals and businesses. Three days earlier, I. Lewis Libby Jr., a top aide of Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying to the FBI and a grand jury in compliance with his White House masters’ orders to defame the opponents of their illegal war of aggression against Iraq.

See how it works? High government officials break the law by lying to the FBI and the FBI breaks the law by misusing the Patriot Act. Is there anybody at the top in D.C. who’s not a criminal? Asked for comment on Libby’s conviction, President Bush, replied, “I was sad for a man who had worked in my administration, and particularly sad for his family.” So that’s the word from the biggest law-breaker of them all, regret for the terrible suffering Mr. Libby’s family will have to endure. When the verdict was announced, Liddy’s wife broke down in the court room.

Yet, how does her “suffering” compare with that endured by the people of Iraq, 650,000 or more of whom have been slaughtered with the help of her war-making husband with the innocent nickname “Scooter” at the behest of his bosses Cheney and Bush? On the same day as the Liddy verdict, the New York Times reported suicide bombers and gunmen killed at least 109 Shiite pilgrims and wounded more than 200 as they traveled to a religious festival. Will Mr. Bush apologize for that massacre, an outcome of the war he started? Or will he apologize to Ikhlas Thulsiqar as she sobs in a Sadr City hospital March 9th because U.S. troops as part of his “surge” opened fire on her car, killing her husband and two young daughters and wounding her son?
Of course, the military may claim it was all a mistake but there’s no mistake the U.S. is in Iraq because Bush lied to the American people the way his loyal Scooter lied to the grand jury. Meanwhile, back home, The Times reports a surge of another kind: “Violent Crime in Cities Shows Sharp Surge, Reversing Trend.” Seems violent crime “rose by double-digit percentages in cities across the country over the last two years,” the paper reported, particularly in “murder, robbery and gun assaults.”

“There are pockets of crime in this country that are astounding,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, is quoted as saying. His report indicts the spread of drugs, gangs, high poverty, and “easy access to guns and a willingness, even an eagerness, to settle disputes with them, particularly among young people.” Yes, in a nation whose president sets an infamous example for settling disputes with radioactive ammunition, napalm, bunker busters, cluster bombs, and white phosphorus, don’t be surprised if America’s belligerent youth also take the law into their own hands.

In some very odd ways, crimes in Baghdad have their parallel in USA. Chris Magnus, chief of police of Richmond, Calif., said, “I go to meetings, and you start talking to some of the people in the neighborhoods about who’s been a victim of violence, and people can start reciting: ‘One of my sons was killed, one of my nephews,’” he said. Magnus added, “It’s hard to find people who haven’t been touched by this kind of violence.” Yes, and you can knock on any door in Baghdad and hear the same litany.

In Rochester, N.Y., Mayor Robert Duffy, a former police chief, opined, “There’s a direct correlation between the kids who drop out of our high schools and who get involved in selling drugs and who end up in homicides.” Which begs the question: “Why is USA pouring billions into building schools, etc., in Iraq when millions of American children, including not a few in Rochester, are dropping out and getting into trouble with the law?” Why has the U.S. built secret prisons in Poland and around the world when it has 2-million prisoners of its own it can’t control, can’t educate, and can’t rehabilitate?

Things are no better, either, in America’s Coalition ally Great Britain. The Times reports life in Wythenshaw, UK, is characterized by “a breakdown in families, an absence of respect for authority, the prevalence of drugs, drunkenness, truancy, vandalism and petty criminality” and that this ailment is “common across Britain.” A million Londoners may have taken to the streets to protest Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to make war on Iraq, but he was too clever by half to heed them. Instead, he began pouring their tax dollars into Iraq in 2003, the same year 35% of British children aged 10 to 15 reportedly were victims of crime. Indeed, why should one criminal care what other criminals do?

Back in 1962, Whitney Young of the National Urban League called for a “Marshall Plan” to rehabilitate America’s ghettoes. That plea, as all subsequent pleas since then, went unheeded, and Mr. Blair, too, has also found better places than in depressed UK to spend his taxpayer’s dollars. The result is that green gold pours into the coffers of military-related contractors who build weapons while the public, desperately in need of good jobs, good schools, good housing, and honest opportunities to earn a buck, wallows in a sea of red ink, being bled alive for a war they don’t want. That’s true in America and it’s true in UK. In both countries, the rule of law is being violated from the highest levels on down.

The Anglo-American Empire is sliding into a dark valley of spreading lawlessness as it attempts to crush its heel on the faces of the inhabitants nations that refuse to surrender their oil wealth at bargain-basement prices. Bush’s indifference to the suffering of the people of New Orleans is akin to his response to the suffering of the people of Iraq. He can’t get it right at home and he can’t get it right abroad.

Everywhere, on his watch, whether in Rochester, N.Y., or Baghdad, Iraq, there is a spreading underclass of miserable humanity being destroyed by pillage and theft, by a White House that steals their taxes and kills their children. And the pity of it all is that it doesn’t have to be. Yeah, I feel bad for Liddy’s family; I feel worse, though, for millions of others, for the victims being killed, and the victims being robbed to kill them. But that's how it is in the Empire of Lies.


Sherwood Ross is a Miami, FL-based reporter and columnist. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com)

Will Congress continue pimping for the White House?

(Ben Heine © Cartoons)
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08-03-07

Nothing seems to have changed under the Capitol’s dome. Last November’s election results, although producing a small majority for Democrats in the House – but leaving the Senate at the merci of a hawkish Likudian, Joe Lieberman – were not a mandate to institute change; maybe some light investigative opportunities to keep legislators busy and in the public eye, but definitely not change. Not on the mess in Iraq; or the one in Afghanistan; or on a foreign policy that has set the United States too often apart from the community of nations, putting a country once liked and respected in great disfavor.

If the 107th Congress proved to be a true bipartisan whoremonger for Bush’s White House back in October of 2002, the 108th and 109th congresses didn’t bring any form of redemption, remorse or sanity to the legislature in Washington; not even suggestions for the Decider to carry on his bad decisions more efficiently. And, to date, all appearances indicate that the 110th wears the same red, yellow and blue colors that the others did. A bright canary yellow for cowardice replacing the white – mythically ascribed for purity – that alternates with red in Old Glory.

But why would anyone expect anything else when 90 percent of the legislators in the 107th were renewing their vows in the 110th exercising what they apparently believe to be their birthright to life tenure in politics? Just in case anyone has forgotten and needs a cheat sheet, in American politics citizens may cast the ballots but it is money, at times combined with public apathy, which ends up electing politicians to office.

Americans’ confidence and pride in their government have always emanated from the trust imputed to just one thing: the existence of a system of checks and balances. That has been the source of reliable strength for the Republic, and without it the workability of the Constitution would be questionable at best. And that system of checks and balances has failed, clearly failed, leaving many of us to question whether such system can ever be made to work again in a political environment of self-perpetuation.

Our Republic’s form of government with its three divisions is not that much different from that of the other republic of two millennia before: Rome. But after what has happened to this nation under George W. Bush, one is tempted to conclude that maybe the Romans’ collegial system – requiring at least two people for every office – might have worked better for America. At least the Romans had two consuls as chief civil and military magistrates to run the show – and they weren’t beholden to any party or group – who only during times of extreme emergency would appoint a Dictator, a veritable commander-in-chief (with just 6 months tenure) to cope with the existing crisis. Recent history seems to indicate that if Congress continues relinquishing its responsibilities to the Executive; America could easily be electing dictators from now on with tenures of 4 years a pop. As we have recently done… twice!

Of course, we could resort to impeachment to get these dictators ousted. But we don’t. No better time than the present for Congress to prove to the nation that they are in control, respectful of the duties and responsibilities assigned to them in the Constitution. But since the citizenry at large is filled with apathy, or resigned to wait until next election, Congress prefers not to act – as if in solidarity with a spiritual brotherhood of politicians that keeps this corrupt duopoly playing musical chairs. Why rock the boat when Democrats and Republicans hold the monopoly of the nation’s politics?

What’s happening in Congress, or rather what is not happening in Congress, defies the most basic political sense. It’s not just Democrats in Congress who should be asking for the political heads of the malicious-duo, Bush and Cheney, but Republicans as well. It is not a political or ideological duel that is being fought; nothing that resembles right against left, conservatism against liberalism… it’s something far, far different from that. True fiscal conservatives and other traditionalists must be turning in their graves when they see their ideas and legacy being held hostage by an inept group of neocons whose objective is solely a redistribution of wealth from the working poor to the rich, doing so not just through unjust taxation but also war. A reality that comes home to roost: mixing money and politics, at the level reached in the United States, is a recipe for disaster.

There won’t be any punishment for this nation’s Scoundrel-in-Chief living in the White House or for his villainous consul-mentor. At least for now, Bush and Cheney appear to be safe from any possible impeachment by Congress… or any citizen-multitudes rushing after them with pitchforks. Americans have become civilized to the point of total indifference, absorbed by the apparent essence to their lives: consumerism.

Meantime Congress is already giving us a few candidates to the presidency for 2008, people who were derelict in their duties back in October 2002 when they shamelessly surrendered their votes and their souls giving their “ayes” on the Iraq war resolution to the most deceitful administration this nation has ever seen; people like:

Sen. Joseph R. “Joe” Biden, Jr. (D – Delaware)
Sen. Sam D. Brownback (R – Kansas)
Sen. John S. McCain, III (R – Arizona)
Sen. Hillary R. Clinton (D – New York)
Sen. Christopher J. “Chris” Dodd (D – Connecticut)
Rep. Duncan L. Hunter (R – California)
Rep. Thomas G. “Tom” Tancredo (R – Colorado)

The longer Bush remains in the White House the more convinced I am that it hasn’t been just Congress pimping for the president and his administration, but even those of us who knew better from the moment he was inaugurated but refused to set our speakers loud enough to really help make a difference... our voices drowned in our own courteous but misguided moderation.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Why I fled George Bush’s war?

10. March 2007

keys_familyJoshua Key, 28, was a poor, uneducated Oklahoma country boy who saw the U.S. army and its promised benefits — from free health care to career training — as the ticket to a better life. In 2002, not yet 24 but already married and the father of two , Key enlisted. He says his recruiting officer promised he’d never be deployed abroad, but a year later he was in Iraq. Only 24 hours after arriving, as Key recounts in The Deserter’s Tale (Anansi), he experienced his first doubts about what he and his fellow soldiers were doing there:

I was scared out of my wits that first day in Ramadi. Our own air force had just finished bombing these people, but as soon as we got out of our vehicles we began patrolling their streets, on foot. With nearly 100 lb. of weaponry, equipment and clothing on my back, I was about as mobile as a cow. It was just my platoon, 20 guys, walking single file through streets full of Iraqis. I could not stop thinking that anywhere, at any time, some half-starved sniper on a roof could have taken me out in no time flat. Iraqi kids surrounded me in swarms, hands out, asking for water and food. I kept hearing the last words [my wife] Brandi said to me before I flew out: “Don’t you let those terrorists near you, Josh. Even if they are kids. Get them before they get you.”

I was awakened at 3 a.m. that first night and told to get my ass up quickly because in one hour we were going to raid a house full of terrorists. Capt. Conde and some sergeants showed me and my squad mates a satellite photo of a house and a drawing of the layout of the inside. Our assignment was to blow off the door, burst into the house, raid it fast and raid it good — looking for contraband, caches of weapons, signs of terrorists or terrorist activity, then rounding up the men and getting out damn fast. The longer we stayed in any one location, the longer somebody would have to put us in the sights of a rocket-propelled grenade or lob mortars at us.

I had no idea what to expect. Would I charge through the door, only to be blown to bits by a grenade? Would somebody with an AK-47 knock my Oklahoman ass right back out that door? Would some six-year-old terrorist with two days of gun training be waiting to put me in his crosshairs? The minutes ticked on, and I wanted the hour to speed forward so we could get on with it. One or two guys did push-ups to pump themselves up. I borrowed Mason’s portable CD player and bombed out my eardrums to the beat of Ozzy Osbourne. It got me going. High and ready for action. I checked my watch, wished it would accelerate, and stuck some dip — Copenhagen, bourbon flavor — behind my lip. You can’t manage a cigarette when you’ve got an M-249 automatic weapon on your arm. So dip was best. Makes your mouth black as sin, and rots the roots right out of your gums, but dip was my nicotine hit of choice going into that raid.

I committed our instructions to memory. I knew the angles of the house, what door I would help blow down, how many floors were in the house, and who would do what when we busted inside. I would be third in the door, which means I was the second most likely to get shot if anybody had a mind to take us down, and I’d head to the left. Always, for every raid, I would be third in, heading left. I gripped my M-249. Yes, it could belt out 2,000 rounds a minute but only in theory. You couldn’t really hold your finger down that long. When you were blazing away like that, the bullets turned the barrel as hot as Hades. And if you held your finger down too long, it would warp the barrel.

It took thirty seconds for Jones and me to put the charge of C-4 plastic explosive on the door. Then we dashed around to the side of the house so we wouldn’t blow ourselves up. You’d be fried meat if you were anywhere near the explosion. I set off the blast, and then the six of us charged in. Jones went first — that skinny, red-haired Ohio boy was always hot to trot. With Jones leading the way we burst into the house, armed to the hilt. Kevlar helmets, flak jackets, machine guns, combat boots, the whole nine yards.

I’d never been inside an Iraqi’s house before. We charged through a kitchen. I had been told by squad leader Padilla to check everything, so I even opened the fridge. Perhaps, I thought, I would find guns or grenades hidden inside. No such luck. In the fridge, all I saw was a bit of food. In the freezer I found big slabs of meat, uncovered. No wrapping. No plastic. Frozen, just like that. We ran into a living room with long couches, one along each wall. In this room with the couches we found two children, a teenager, and a woman. We also found two young men in the house. One looked like a teenager and the other was perhaps in his early 20s — brothers.

We hollered and cussed. I spat dip on the floor and screamed along with the other soldiers at the top of my lungs. I knew they didn’t understand, but I hollered anyway.

“Get down,” I shouted. “Get the f–k down. Shut the f–k up.”

They didn’t know what “get down” meant, so we knocked the two brothers to the floor, face down. We put our knees on their backs, pulled their hands behind them, and faster than you can bat an eye we zipcuffed them. Zipcuffs are plastic handcuffs that lock on tight. They must have bit something fierce into those young men’s skin. There was no key, nothing — the only way to get them off was to slice them with cutters.

We pushed the brothers outside, where 12 other soldiers from our platoon were waiting. The Iraqi brothers were taken away to an American detention facility for interrogation. I don’t know what it was called, and I don’t know where it was. All I know is that we sent away every man — pretty well every male over five feet tall — that we found in our house raids, and I never saw one of them return to the neighbourhoods we patrolled regularly.

Inside, we kept on ransacking the house. The more obvious it became that we would find no weapons or contraband, the more we kicked the stuffing out of the house. We knocked over dressers, sliced into mattresses with knives, kicked our way through doors, raiding the three bedrooms on the second floor, then raced up to the third floor. We turned over everything we could and broke furniture at random, searching for contraband, weapons, proof of terrorist activity, or signs of weapons of mass destruction. We found nothing but a CD. Soldiers initially said it showed proof of terrorist activity, but it turned out to have nothing on it but a bunch of speeches by Saddam Hussein.

Once we had everybody outside the house and had done our initial job of ransacking, another squad took over inside. They kept raising hell in there, breaking and turning over more furniture, looking for weapons that we might have missed. Outside, under a carport, I was assigned to watch the women and children. We weren’t arresting them, but we weren’t allowing them to go anywhere either. The family members couldn’t go back inside, and they couldn’t wander off into the neighbourhood. They had to stay right there while we tore the hell out of their house.

A girl in the family — a teenager — started staring at me. I tried to ignore her. Then she began speaking to me. Inside, when we had been screaming at her and the others, I’d assumed that nobody understood a word of English. But this young girl spoke to me in English, and her eyes bored holes right through me. She was skin and bones, not even 100 lb., not yet a full-grown woman, but something about her seemed powerful and disturbing. I feared that girl, and I wanted to get away from her as fast as I could, but it was my job to stay right there and make sure she didn’t move. I had my weapon ready. She was wearing a blue nightgown and had a white scarf covering her hair. She had no veil, so I could see her face perfectly. Her eyes were coal black and full of hatred.

In English, she asked me, “Where are you taking my brothers?”

“I don’t know, Miss,” I said.

“Why are you taking them away?”

“I’m afraid I can’t say.”

“When are you bringing them back?”

“Couldn’t tell you that either.”

“Why are you doing this to us?”

I couldn’t answer that.

I hoped she would not raise a fuss. I didn’t want her to start screaming, which could attract the attention of my squad mates. One or two, I feared, would be more than happy to use a rifle butt to knock out her teeth.

I hadn’t been in Iraq more than 24 hours and already I was having strange feelings. First, I was vulnerable, and I didn’t like it. Even with all these soldiers and all this equipment, I knew that anywhere, at any time, any Iraqi with a gun, a wall to hide behind, and one decent eye could pick me off faster than a hawk nabs a mouse. Second, with hardly one foot into the war, I was also uneasy about what we were doing there. Something was amiss. We hadn’t found anything in this girl’s house, but we had busted it up pretty well in 30 minutes and had taken away her brothers. Inside, another squad was still ransacking the house. I didn’t enjoy being stuck guarding this girl under the carport, in the cool April air before dawn in Ramadi. Her questions haunted me, and I didn’t like not being able to answer them — even to myself.

Busting into and ransacking homes remained one of my most common duties in Iraq. Before my time was up, I took part in about 200 raids. We never found weapons or indications of terrorism. I never found a thing that seemed to justify the terror we inflicted every time we blasted through the door of a civilian home, broke everything in sight, punched and zipcuffed the men, and sent them away. One raid was far worse.

It was a handsome two-storey house and quite isolated. As usual, I put the charge of C-4 explosives on the door and we blew it in. As we rushed into the house, women were staggering out of their rooms. Three teenage girls screamed when they saw us. Some of my squad mates grabbed them and held them at gunpoint, and the rest of us ran through the house. We found no men at all, just six more women in their 20s and 30s. The guys in my squad couldn’t find a thing, not even any guns — and it seemed that the more incapable they were of locating contraband, the more destructive they became. They smashed dressers, ripped mattresses, broke cabinets, and threw shelves to the floor.

Outside I found Pte. 1st Class Hayes with a woman under an empty carport. He pointed his M-16 at her head but she would not stop screaming.

“What are you doing this for?” she said.

Hayes told her to shut up.

“We have done nothing to you,” she went on.

Hayes was starting to lose it. I told her that we were there on orders and that we couldn’t speak to her, but on and on and on she bawled at Hayes and me.

“You Americans are disgusting! Who do you think you are, to do this to us?”

Hayes slammed her in the face with the stock of his M-16. She fell face down into the dirt, bleeding and silent. The woman lay still on the ground. I pushed Hayes away.

“What are you doing, man?” I said to him. “You have a wife and two kids! Don’t be hitting her like that.”

He looked at me with eyes full of hatred, as if he was ready to kill me for saying those words, but he did not touch the woman again. I found this incident with Hayes particularly disturbing because during other times I had seen him in action in Iraq, he had showed himself to be one of the most level-headed and calm soldiers in my company. I had the sense that if he could lose it and hit a woman the way he had, any of us could lose it too.

Then something happened that haunts my dreams to this day. All the women were led back inside the house and our entire platoon was ordered to stand guard outside it. Four U.S. military men entered the house with the women. They closed the doors. We couldn’t see anything through the windows. I don’t know who the military men were, or what unit they were from, but I can only conclude that they outranked us and were at least at the level of first lieutenant or above. That’s because our own second lieutenant Joyce was there, and his presence did not deter them.

Normally, when we conducted a raid, we were in and out in 30 minutes or less. You never wanted to stay in one place for too long for fear of exposing yourself to mortar attacks. But our platoon was made to stand guard outside that house for about an hour. The women started shouting and screaming. The men stayed in there with them, behind closed doors. It went on and on and on.

Finally, the men came out and told us to get the hell out of there.

It struck me then that we, the American soldiers, were the terrorists. We were terrorizing Iraqis. Intimidating them. Beating them. Destroying their homes. Probably raping them. The ones we didn’t kill had all the reasons in the world to become terrorists themselves. Given what we were doing to them, who could blame them for wanting to kill us, and all Americans? A sick realization lodged like a cancer in my gut. It grew and festered, and troubled me more with every passing day. We, the Americans, had become the terrorists in Iraq. [Via: macleans]

In December 2003, Key went home on a two-week leave. He never returned to Iraq. Instead, Key went into hiding. The following March, he and his family crossed the Canadian border at Niagara Falls.

“All we want is to find a home so our kids can grow up in a stable environment and go to school and make friends,” Brandi Key says as she towels off her six-month-old baby in the front seat of the Dodge Caravan which has recently become the family’s temporary home. Brandi is the wife of Joshua Key, a 27-year-old former soldier who deserted the U.S. Army. The pair, in Nelson last week, are driving across Canada with their four kids in search of a home, and Canadian refugee status.

Part of Haitham's adventure in Iraq, USA, War

Video: Interview with wounded son of man killed in Nablus Invasion

Video, Research Journalism Initiative and A-Films, 9 March 2007

On 26 February 2007, the second day of the Israeli invasion, Anan Tibi was shot and wounded while on the rood of the the family's home in the Old City of Nablus. Only seconds before, Tibi's son Ashraf was also shot and wounded. From his hospital bed Tibi describes what happened: "When I went down the stairs that lead from the roof to our home I was shot in the arm. I told my father I was shot. ... I sent my brother downstairs to get an ambulance. I reached our home and heard a second shot. When I looked up I saw my father lying on the stairs." This video-interview was produced by the Research Journalism Initiative and the Anarchist Film Collective "A-Films".


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  • BY TOPIC: Israel Attacks Nablus: "Operation Hot Winter" (25 February 2007)
  • Halliburton: In the Company of Thieves

    This Week in Babylon

    Over the past few years, information has been dripping out about a scheme in which an international consortium led by a Halliburton subsidiary apparently bribed Nigerian officials to win construction contracts worth $5.3 billion. The four-member consortium, called TSKJ, beat out a bid from another group headed by Bechtel Corporation, and it now seems possible that Bechtel may be dragged into the scandal as well. In addition, there are questions about whether Vice President Dick Cheney, the former head of Halliburton, had knowledge (or chose not to have knowledge) of the illegal payments.

    The story dates to 1995, when TSKJ was awarded an initial contract for $2.2 billion by the notorious regime of General Sani Abacha. It subsequently emerged that the consortium's agent in Nigeria, a British lawyer named Jeffrey Tesler, had created a firm in Gibraltar to manage the consortium's Nigerian business, and it seems that the Gibraltar company made $176 million in mysterious payments related to the project, with much of that money believed to be kickbacks to Nigerian officials.

    When the original deal was signed in 1995, TSKJ was headed by an American firm called M.W. Kellogg. Halliburton got involved in 1998 (when Cheney was CEO) and it purchased Kellogg's parent firm. Kellogg was then merged with Brown & Root, a Halliburton unit, to form KBR, which continued to manage the firm's business in Nigeria. In March 1999, with Cheney still at the helm, TSKJ won a second contract worth $1.4 billion, and three years later, when Cheney was already V.P., the consortium won a third contract worth $1.7 billion.

    Ever since these accusations first saw light, Halliburton has claimed that any dirty deals that took place occurred almost entirely before it became a partner in the consortium. But the series of agreements that TSKJ signed with Tesler to manage the deal includes several agreements that were made after Halliburton got involved, as well as one signed when Cheney was CEO. A few years ago, I interviewed Olivier Schnerb, an attorney for a former executive with another TSKJ member, the French firm Technip, and he affirmed Tesler made questionable payments well after Halliburton joined the project. “The plan,” he explained, “was to corrupt Nigerian officials.”

    Meanwhile, Le Figaro has reported that Tesler deposited several million dollars in a Swiss bank account controlled by A. Jack Stanley, whom Cheney had picked to head KBR and oversee the company's interests in Nigeria. Tesler acknowledged making payments to Stanley, but he claims they were only to obtain local Nigerian currency for the project. This seemed far-fetched even to Halliburton, which subsequently severed all ties with Stanley on the grounds that he had violated the company's “codes of business conduct.”

    That's the recap. But Halliburton's newly filed 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission includes some interesting new revelations and hints that more damaging information will be coming down the pike. According to the filing there are ongoing probes into the matter in the United States (by the SEC and the Justice Department), in Nigeria, in France, and in Switzerland. “We also believe,” reports the filing, “that the Serious Frauds Office in the United Kingdom is conducting an investigation.” According to the filing the SEC has issued a subpoena to Stanley, “and to others, including certain of our and KBR's current and former employees, former executive officers of KBR, and at least one subcontractor of KBR.”

    After becoming the target of multiple international investigations, Halliburton says that it believes that payments were in fact made to Nigerian officials. In fact, the 10-K states that information uncovered by the company last summer indicates that, “prior to 1998, plans may have been made by employees of The M.W. Kellogg Company to make payments to government officials in connection with the pursuit of a number of other projects in countries outside of Nigeria.”

    A well-placed source has been telling me for years that TSKJ and the Bechtel consortium secretly coordinated their bids on the Nigerian contract, and that a loser's pot was created to compensate the also-ran bidder. I'd never been able to confirm that, but the Halliburton filing suggests that there may be something to the allegation: “Information has been uncovered suggesting that Mr. Stanley and other former employees may have engaged in coordinated bidding with one or more competitors on certain foreign construction projects.”

    Antony Goldman, a London-based political-risk consultant specializing in West Africa, wonders how Halliburton managed to uncover all of this troubling information only after investigations were launched on three continents. “The filing suggests that Halliburton's due diligence in acquiring Kellogg and its efforts to understand how its subsidiary had obtained this exceptionally lucrative business in Nigeria couldn't have been terribly rigorous,” he told me. “It looks like it could have done far more to explore the matter and to protect shareholders from this type of exposure.”

    Iran Pushback

    For months the Bush Administration has been claiming that it has the goods on Iran's meddling in Iraq and on its dirty doings in other parts of the world. In a series of press briefings and statements, officials have trotted out a host of evidence, including pictures of weapons captured in Iraq that have serial numbers “proving” that they were made in and supplied by Iran. But for some mysterious reason, these claims by the White House have encountered some skepticism, even (of all places) on Capitol Hill, according to an article (not online) by Laura Rozen in National Journal.

    Rozen says that the case against Iran appears to be “murkier and less decisive than the thrust of recent administration statements suggests,” and that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is “moving aggressively to vet” a series of past National Intelligence Estimates on Iran. She identified three NIEs that are being reviewed:

    One from May 2005 entitled “Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program”; a second from the same month that includes a look at Iran's foreign relations; and a third from three months earlier that focuses on Iran and terrorism.

    According to Rozen's story, members of the Intelligence Committee are demanding to see the raw data that purports to back up the NIEs—because of what a congressional source described to Rozen as “the debacle of October 2002.” The source was referring to an NIE from that month in which it was claimed that Iraq was sitting atop stockpiles of WMDs. “Up to that point, we took the documents from the intelligence community at face value,” Rozen quotes this person as saying. “There's no way to tell there's anything wrong with the October 2002 NIE until one reads the source documents. The key part to understand is that there's not enough evidence to support key judgments they had in there.”

    Hopefully the source was not exaggerating when he told Rozen that the intelligence community and the administration would no longer “get the benefit of the doubt . . . . This committee is not walking into another debate without performing due diligence on these documents.”

    Comfort Women Make Abe Uncomfortable

    I wrote last fall about Japan's lavishly financed Washington lobbying campaign to block a congressional resolution that would urge Japan to accept responsibility for forcing women and girls from other Asian countries into sexual slavery during the World War II era. Now there's a new effort in Congress on the “Comfort Women” issue that looks to be gaining momentum.

    There's a good (and not just because it cited my old story) roundup on new developments by Tom Zeller Jr. at the New York Times website. Zeller cited the recent congressional testimony of Koon Ja Kim, who said that in 1942, when she was 16, she and a group of other Korean girls were loaded on to a freight train and taken to occupied China. “The next evening, a Japanese officer came to the house [where she was held],” she said. “He spoke Japanese, which I did not understand. I did not know what he was saying or what he wanted until he raped me. When I refused and fought back, he punched me in the face and the blow split my eardrum. That was the first of many days and nights that I was raped. On a daily basis, I was raped by Japanese soldiers, and it was common to be raped by 20 different soldiers a day.”

    Despite such testimony and a mountain of other evidence, Japanese officials continue to deny the abuses against the Comfort Women. And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the BBC that “Even if the [congressional] resolution passes, that doesn't mean we will apologize.”

    By Ken Silverstein

    This is This Week in Babylon by Ken Silverstein, published Friday, March 9, 2007. It is part of Washington Babylon, which is part of Harpers.org.

    Afghanistan's 'Hard Mission' Slips Away

    Canadian lawmakers have written an Afghanistan version of the Iraq Study Group report, reaching a conclusion that the conditions on that original battlefront in the “war on terror” are grave and deteriorating.

    The 16-page Canadian Senate report, entitled “Taking a Hard Look at a Hard Mission,” foresees a conflict that could drag on for generations and might well fail unless NATO significantly increases its commitment of money and troops.

    “It is in our view doubtful that this mission can be accomplished given the limited resources that NATO is currently investing in Afghanistan,” said the report by the Standing Committee on National Security and Defence. “The current NATO contingent doesn’t have enough troops to go toe-to-toe with the Taliban.”

    Former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander told the committee that it would take five generations to “make a difference in Afghanistan,” while Land Forces Commander Andrew Leslie estimated that it would take at least two decades to complete the mission.

    NATO has roughly 32,000 troops in Afghanistan, including 15,000 Americans and 2,500 Canadians. Another 12,000 American troops under U.S. command conduct missions ranging from counter-terrorism to training Afghan forces.

    In 2001 after the 9/11 attacks were blamed on al-Qaeda operatives based in Afghanistan, the United States led an invasion of the rugged country, toppling its Taliban government and trapping many al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, in the mountains of Tora Bora along the Pakistani border.

    At that crucial moment in December 2001, however, President George W. Bush failed to deploy adequate U.S. military forces to capture bin Laden, who managed to escape on horseback with some of his key lieutenants into Pakistan.

    Bush then redirected the attention of the U.S. military and intelligence services toward Iraq in preparation for the invasion on March 19, 2003. Since then, the conflict in Iraq has absorbed the bulk of U.S. military resources and political attention.

    Al-Qaeda Resurgence

    Over those past five years, al-Qaeda has regrouped in the mountains of Pakistan and the Taliban has reemerged as a potent force inside Afghanistan, where NATO forces are anticipating a fierce spring offensive by Taliban fighters. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Bush Is Losing the War on Terror."]

    The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has ratcheted up political and military pressure on America’s NATO allies who had expected their Afghan deployments to concentrate mostly on peacekeeping and reconstruction, not fighting a major counterinsurgency war.

    U.S. aerial assaults also have killed substantial numbers of civilians and thus deepened Afghani resentment of Westerners. That local anger and the broader fury in the Muslim world over the Iraq War have attracted a flow of Islamic militants to Afghanistan as well as to Iraq.

    When Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting a U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Feb. 27, a Taliban fighter blew himself apart at the gate of the base, killing 23 people but not directly endangering Cheney. The attack, however, was a reminder of the Taliban’s determination to challenge the presence of Westerners on Afghan territory.

    “The Afghans are holding elections in their own minds as to whether or not the Westerners can provide the wherewithal to make life better or let the Taliban come back; at least they are predictable,” Canadian Committee Chairman Colin Kenny told me. “We have a very short window of time in which to show them we can assist them.”

    Dawn Black, a member of the House of Commons and the New Democratic Party’s voice on defense and security issues, also expressed doubts about assurances from Canada’s Conservative government regarding what it calls generally positive trends in the conflict.

    “The government says things are improving,” Black told me. “I was there last month. The security situation is such that they didn’t feel it was safe enough for us to leave the air base” at Kandahar.

    When the Canadian delegation did visit an encampment of Afghans “just beyond the wire, the people are starving,” Black said.

    Black also complained that heavy-handed military tactics have alienated the Afghani population and set back the goal of winning hearts and minds.

    “How are you winning the hearts and minds of these people when you drive a tank through their farms?” Black said. “The NDP would like to see Canada withdraw from the combat mission.”

    Election Chances

    Canada’s Senate national security committee is dominated by Liberals and Conservatives, but the NDP could play a pivotal role in future Canadian policy in Afghanistan, especially if the Conservative minority government of Stephen Harper is forced into a new election.

    Harper, a staunch ally of President Bush, is struggling in opinion polls, dragged down in part by the increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan. If neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals can win a clear electoral victory, the NDP could be the power broker deciding who will form the next Canadian government. [For more on the politics, see Consortiumnews.com's "Bush's Canadian Clone in Jeopardy."]

    Harper has proposed an additional $200 million aid package that would go to the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai despite concerns over widespread corruption. Sen. Kenny, a Liberal, questioned the wisdom of pouring money into that black hole.

    “Canadians will not be able to see how their tax dollars are being spent,” Kenny told me. “I think there will be a lot of money going to a number of people to enhance their Swiss bank accounts. Perhaps some of it will get through to the Afghan people.”

    The committee report, released in February, recommended redirecting aid through the military to ensure that more of the money actually reaches the population.

    Overall, the report saw few bright spots.

    “Anyone expecting to see the emergence in Afghanistan within the next several decades of a recognizable modern democracy capable of delivering justice and amenities to its people is dreaming in Technicolor,” the report said.

    “The three primary forces in Afghan politics [are] armed power, tribal loyalties and corruption,” the report said. “Eliminating corruption in a place like Afghanistan is probably a pipe dream. …

    “Any attempts to centralize control are complicated by the fact that Afghanistan’s economy is almost totally dependent on the sale of opium, and the opium marketplace is controlled by the warlords and, increasingly, the Taliban.”

    The Canadian senators made little effort to sugarcoat the challenges ahead.

    “The Taliban have time and geography on their side,” the report said. “Afghanistan is considerably more backward than other difficult areas like Iraq, Iran and Palestine. Whatever changes are made here are going to take many generations to effect and any early reforms are unlikely to present Canadians with the kinds of successes that might easily be seen to justify our involvement in Afghanistan.”

    The report summed up the local situation by saying, “People outside Kabul are generally far more dependent on their traditional Sharia courts and systems of government than they are on the central government. …While NATO is proud of the fact that national elections have taken place, these elections have proven to be all but irrelevant to Afghans in places like Kandahar.”

    The committee also took the Canadian International Development Agency to task for insisting “that it has a number of development projects underway in the province, but no one was able to show us.”

    Beyond the lack of proof that Canada’s commitment was improving the lives of Afghans, the report noted that “life is clearly more perilous because we are there. That doesn’t mean that Canada shouldn’t be there…but it does mean that the ordinary citizen of Kandahar is living in a war zone that he or she wouldn’t be living in if NATO troops weren’t there.

    Pastor Strangelove

    Texan John Hagee may not have his “perfect red heifer” yet. But he does have a huge following, the ear of the White House -- and a theory that an invasion of Iran was foretold in the Book of Esther.

    Issue Date: 06.06.06

    On Purim, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the day Queen Esther saved the Jews from annihilation, Trinity Broadcasting Network’s flagship talk show, Praise the Lord, featured an appearance by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. A politically conservative Orthodox rabbi, Lapin is best known for crusading with the Christian right against “anti-religion bigotry” and, more recently, for his close association with the convicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But he was not invited to a nationwide telecast to discuss such topics as the trumped-up war against religion or the better nature of his fallen friend. He had been asked to explain the significance of Purim to Christians, and particularly how the Old Testament’s Book of Esther “serves as a roadmap to reality,” which pinpoints where the next world “hot spot” will be.

    That soon-to-be-flaming location is where the Book of Esther was set: namely Persia, or in modern parlance, Iran.

    Seated beside Lapin in the ornately gilded Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) studio was Pastor John Hagee, the author of an incendiary new book purporting to show that the Bible predicts a military confrontation with Iran. By then, Hagee’s book, Jerusalem Countdown, had sold nearly 500,000 copies. It had occupied the No. 1 position on the Wal-Mart inspirational best-seller list, showed up on Wal-Mart’s list of top 10 best sellers for seven weeks, and made the USA Today top 50 best-seller list for six weeks.

    Hagee, who serves as head pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, hosts his own television program that is seen twice a day on TBN. He argues that the United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West. Shortly after the release of his book last January, he launched Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a lobbying organization intended, he says, to be a Christian version of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee. With CUFI, which Hagee has said will cause a “political earthquake,” the televangelist aims to put the political organizing muscle of the conservative evangelical movement behind his grand plan for a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.

    While Washington insiders wonder and worry whether President Bush really is bent on a military strike against Iran, Hagee already has spent months mobilizing the shock troops in support of another war. As diplomats, experts, and pundits debate how many years Iran will need to develop a viable nuclear weapon, Hagee says the mullahs already possess the means to destroy Israel and America. And although Bush insists that diplomatic options are still on the table, Hagee has dismissed pussyfooting diplomacy and primed his followers for a conflagration.

    Indeed, Hagee wields “a very large megaphone” that reaches “a very large group of people,” said Rabbi James Rudin of the American Jewish Committee, who has studied the Christian right for 30 years. With CUFI, the Texas pastor has exponentially expanded the reach of his megaphone beyond his television audience. Thanks to the viral marketing made possible by the hundreds of evangelical leaders who have signed on to his new organization, his warmongering has rippled through mega-churches across America for months.

    Hagee calls pastors “the spiritual generals of America,” an appropriate phrase given his reliance on them to rally their troops behind his message. The CUFI board of directors includes the Reverend Jerry Falwell, former Republican presidential candidate and religious right activist Gary Bauer, and George Morrison, pastor to the 8,000-member Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, Colorado, and chairman of the board of Promise Keepers. Rod Parsley, the Ohio televangelist who is rapidly becoming a major political figure in the Christian right, signed on as a regional director. Among CUFI’s other supporters are nationally syndicated Christian right talk show host Janet Parshall, who serves on its board of advisers, and Ron Wexler, an Orthodox Jew and president of the theocratic Ten Commandments Commission, which has the backing of nearly every prominent conservative evangelical in the country. Many popular TBN televangelists, among them the controversial faith healer Benny Hinn and the best-selling author of self-improvement books, Joyce Meyer, have also offered their support. Meyer was named one of the country’s 25 most influential evangelicals in an oft-cited 2005 Time magazine article -- as was Stephen Strang, CEO of Strang Communications, which published Jerusalem Countdown. Long before his launch of CUFI, Hagee had sought to influence American policy toward the Middle East. For 25 years, he has hosted a “Night to Honor Israel” at his church, an event that showcased Tom DeLay as the keynote speaker in 2002, and that has attracted leaders of the Israeli government as well as American politicians.

    * * *

    Now 66 years old, the ambitious preacher divorced his first wife 30 years ago when their children were ages 3 and 6, and less than six months later married his second wife, who happened to be 12 years his junior. Despite this apparent moral lapse, other evangelicals have long looked to him for guidance. The Christian pollster George Barna recently reported that Hagee is ranked in the top 10 spokesmen for Christianity among other Pentecostals. Morrison, who has been friends with Hagee for more than 20 years and whose ministry has likewise “always seen Israel in God’s plan for the future,” says that Hagee “has proven himself as a spiritual leader in the country. And he has the platform, his TV ministry … he has the great respect of a lot of other leaders, so certainly, he’s in that position … [of] spiritual leadership and authority to lead the evangelical churches and help unite them.” (Hagee himself, as well as Falwell and Bauer, declined to be interviewed for this article.)

    David Brog, a former chief of staff to Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican, serves on CUFI’s board of advisers. Standing With Israel, his book urging Jews to embrace the support of evangelical Christians, has just been published by Strang Communications. Brog believes that CUFI “can have an enormous influence. It can really create a player where there isn’t currently one.” As to whether Hagee has the organizational skills to pull off such a project, Brog added that the pastor is a “great administrator” and a “great leader,” and was able to build his church and TV ministry because “he’s a good businessman, he’s a good organizer.”

    But Hagee the businessman -- along with friends like Hinn, Meyer, Parsley, and other TBN televangelists, including the network’s top executives, Paul and Jan Crouch -- has come under fire for excessive compensation derived from his nonprofit ministries. According to his organization’s tax returns, Hagee has earned more than $1 million annually since 1999 in salary and deferred compensation from his nonprofit Global Evangelism Television and Cornerstone Church. In 2004, the San Antonio News Express reported that he was the highest-paid nonprofit executive in that city; his pay was nearly twice that of the next best-paid executive.

    TBN is the largest Christian television network in the world, claiming to reach more than 92 million households in the United States alone, and since 9-11 has expanded its worldwide reach into Muslim countries, including Iran. Despite TBN’s claim to represent the whole of Christianity, however, many Christians might not recognize their religion in TBN’s “Word of Faith” programming. Word of Faith is a nondenominational Pentecostal movement, based on the power of the spoken word to claim one’s spiritual and material desires and to purge devils from one’s life. The movement’s other central tenet, which critics say leads to the excessive compensation of its leaders, is the notion that “sowing a seed” -- contributing to the ministry -- will result in the donor’s “harvest” of personal prosperity. Like the televangelists’ individual ministries, TBN is operated by a nonprofit entity, so contributions are tax-deductible to the donor and tax free to the ministry. While TBN reaps more than $100 million of revenue per year, mostly from viewer donations, Hagee’s organization reports annual revenues of about $15 million.

    OlĂ© Anthony is president of the Trinity Foundation, an independent watchdog of TBN and its televangelists. He says that the ministries increase donations through “sophisticated direct-mail campaigns,” using mailing lists compiled as a result of viewers calling the “prayer lines” advertised on television programs. He regards the abuse of the prayer lines to get callers’ names and addresses as “one of the many scandals of the religious world of television.”

    * * *

    Although many Christians consider the money-centered word of faith theology to be a form of heresy, the Republican Party has embraced TBN’s audience as a valuable constituency. Rabbi Lapin, who himself has met personally with President Bush, told the Prospect that Hagee “without question, yes, absolutely” has the ear of the White House. But he declined to identify any officials by name, claiming “there’s a lot of sensitivity in government circles about the so-called religious right.” TBN has made much of its own Republican connections, touting network founder Paul Crouch’s relationship with John Ashcroft (they attended the same church as children) -- and the Republicans have returned the compliment.

    In his 1999 campaign memoir, Bush recalls feeling “spellbound” by the preaching of Dallas-based TBN televangelist T.D. Jakes, whom he has since invited to participate in official White House events. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has lauded TBN’s efforts to expand its broadcasting into China. TBN’s lawyer is Colby May, who also serves as counsel to the American Center for Law and Justice, a group founded by Pat Robertson, whose president Jay Sekulow, a converted Jew, advised Bush on his Supreme Court nominees. May also represents certain members of Congress on legislative initiatives and helped draft the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, which, if passed, would lift the ban on electioneering from the pulpit. Its chief sponsor, Congressman Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, has appeared on Praise the Lord to promote the bill. Other guests on TBN programming have included Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican; Texas gop co-chairman David Barton; and Oliver North, the radio host and Iran-Contra scandal celebrity.

    Several years ago, after Crouch interviewed California Congressman Duke Cunningham, he wrote in TBN’s newsletter: “What a soul-winner he is! Every time he shares his powerful testimony, lives are touched, and our SOULS TOTAL soars!” That was long before Cunningham pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy, and fell under suspicion of providing favors to a defense contractor who sent him prostitutes via limousine.

    * * *

    For Hagee’s new project, his influence in washington is probably less important than his influence over his audience. With the clout of his listeners, he can serve Bush administration hawks by firing up grass-roots support for a military strike against Iran. TBN has provided several opportunities for Hagee to promote his book on Praise the Lord, several installments of his own program, and a two-day appearance on Benny Hinn’s show. Through the marketing efforts of Strang Communications, which placed national radio advertising spots for Jerusalem Countdown on The Sean Hannity Show, The O’Reilly Factor, and Janet Parshall’s America, Hagee brought his Armageddon message to a wider conservative audience. His end-times theology is nothing new; countless numbers of self-proclaimed prophets of the end of the world have demanded attention since the beginning of time. The difference now is that TBN’s relentless fund raising -- along with advances in digital and satellite broadcasting technology -- has permitted worldwide dissemination of his ominous predictions. Through TBN, other religious and conservative media, and the growing mega-churches, Hagee has turned his Bible-thumping not only into a multi-million dollar business, but into a pro-war movement as well.

    While pundits and politicians in Washington debate the merits of confrontation with Tehran, Hagee and other evangelical leaders plan to activate hundreds of congregations across the country -- many of which boast tens of thousands of members -- to flood congressional inboxes with e-mails at the touch of a button. The message from the heartland, beyond the ken of elites who cannot quite imagine such a decision, will be to strike Iran before it is too late.

    The pages of Jerusalem Countdown provide a peculiar mix of biblical prophecy, purported inside information from Israeli government officials, and a mixed-up, pared-down lesson in nuclear physics. “I wrote this book in April 2005, and when people read it, they will think I wrote it late last night after the FOX News report,” says the author without a trace of irony. “It’s that close to where we are and beyond.” Oddly enough he predicted, allegedly relying on information from a “reliable” Israeli source, that Iran would have a nuclear weapon ready by April 2006 -- the month during which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had enriched uranium, although apparently not nearly enough to make a bomb.

    The particulars of Iran’s nuclear program, however, do not seem to interest Hagee. In many of his appearances last winter, before the Iranian president’s announcement, he glossed over the obstacles faced by Tehran in creating a viable nuclear weapon, arguing that “once you have enriched uranium, the genie is out of the bottle.” (His command of politics in Islamic countries is similarly flawed; he repeatedly has called Iranian religious fundamentalists “Wahabbists,” even though Wahabbism is a form of Sunni Islam, and the overwhelming majority of Iranians are Shiites.) Last March, he claimed that within a month, “Iran will have the nuclear -- the enriched uranium to make the -- have the nuclear capability to make a bomb, a suitcase bomb, a missile head, or anything they want to do with it.” That statement is blatantly false, even according to the most pessimistic assessments of Iran’s nuclear prowess, but Hagee’s purpose is to frighten his listeners, not to inform them.

    * * *

    He speaks simultaneously to two audiences about Iran’s nuclear capabilities: one that fears a terrorist attack by Iran and another that embraces a biblically mandated apocalypse. To impress the fearful, he mimics Bush’s deceptions about Iraq’s capacity to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction, Condoleezza Rice’s warnings of mushroom clouds, and Dick Cheney’s dissembling about an alliance between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Comparing Ahmadinejad to Hitler, Hagee argues that Iran’s development of nuclear weapons must be stopped to protect America and Israel from a nuclear attack. Preying on legitimate worries about terrorism, and invoking 9-11, he vividly describes a supposed Iranian-led plan to simultaneously explode nuclear suitcase bombs in seven American cities, or to use an electromagnetic pulse device to create “an American Hiroshima.”

    When addressing audiences receptive to Scriptural prophecy, however, Hagee welcomes the coming confrontation. He argues that a strike against Iran will cause Arab nations to unite under Russia’s leadership, as outlined in chapters 38 and 39 of the Book of Ezekiel, leading to an “inferno [that] will explode across the Middle East, plunging the world toward Armageddon.” During his appearance on Hinn’s program at the end of last March, for example, the host enthused, “We are living in the last days. These are the most exciting days in church history,” but then went on to add, “We are facing now [the] most dangerous moment for America.” At one point, Hinn clapped his hands in delight and shouted, “Yes! Glory!” and then urged his viewers to donate money faster because he is running out of time to preach the gospel.

    The rhetoric in Hagee’s book, and his discussion of it in Christian media outlets, is absolutist. He speaks not only of good against evil, believer against nonbeliever, Judeo-Christian civilization against Islamic civilization, but of an American-Israeli alliance against the rest of the world. He plays on conservative disdain for anything European, while promoting the Bush unilateralist mentality that has had catastrophic results in Iraq. Naturally, he expresses contempt for the possibilities offered by diplomacy, calling the U.N. Security Council “a joke.” Lapin says, “Pastor Hagee has a very realistic understanding of the United Nations … and recognizes it as unlikely to be any more helpful in this looming tension than it has been in any other in the past.” He paints Russia and China -- two members of the Security Council resisting sanctions on Iran -- as America’s enemies, adding that Russia has helped Iran build long-range missiles that could reach New York City. (Those don’t exist, either.)

    In Hagee’s telling, Israel has no choice but to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities, with or without America’s help. The strike will provoke Russia -- which wants Persian Gulf oil -- to lead an army of Arab nations against Israel. Then God will wipe out all but one-sixth of the Russian-led army, as the world watches “with shock and awe,” he says, lending either a divine quality to the Bush administration phrase or a Bush-like quality to God’s wrath.

    But Hagee doesn’t stop there. He adds that Ezekiel predicts fire “‘upon those who live in security in the coastlands.’” From this sentence he concludes that there will be judgment upon all who stood by while the Russian-led force invaded Israel, and issues a stark warning to the United States to intervene: “Could it be that America, who refuses to defend Israel from the Russian invasion, will experience nuclear warfare on our east and west coasts?” He says yes, citing Genesis 12:3, in which God said to Israel: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.”

    To fill the power vacuum left by God’s decimation of the Russian army, the Antichrist -- identified by Hagee as the head of the European Union -- will rule “a one-world government, a one-world currency and a one-world religion” for three and a half years. (He adds that “one need only be a casual observer of current events to see that all three of these things are coming into reality.”) The “demonic world leader” will then be confronted by a false prophet, identified by Hagee as China, at Armageddon, the Mount of Megiddo in Israel. As they prepare for the final battle, Jesus will return on a white horse and cast both villains -- and presumably any nonbelievers -- into a “lake of fire burning with brimstone,” thus marking the beginning of his millennial reign.

    Now that’s entertainment.

    * * *

    Notwithstanding Hagee’s bizarre narrative of the future, certain Jewish leaders value what they call his support for Israel, and appreciate his pledge not to actively proselytize Jews -- a promise that sets him apart from other evangelicals. Rudin says that while he welcomes Hagee’s support for Israel, he is uneasy “with what I feel is placing Jews and Judaism and the state of Israel into somebody else’s divine play.”

    Hagee’s divine play is based, in part, on Genesis 12:3. The same verse he uses to argue that America should unconditionally back Israel (“I will curse him who curses you.”), he also cites to explain why Christians should love the Jewish people (“I will bless those who bless you.”). During TBN’s April “Praise-a-Thon,” he invoked that verse for yet a third reason: to urge viewers to give their money to the network. Hagee told his viewers that “[g]iving is the only proof you have that the cancer of greed has not consumed your soul.”

    Besides his million-dollar compensation package, Hagee has a portfolio of other ventures, including a cattle ranch in south Texas that may have religious significance. Many evangelicals believe that the arrival of a “perfect red heifer” will signal the end times. In the Old Testament, burning a red heifer and sprinkling its ashes is described as a purification ritual for priests entering the temple. Ultra-orthodox Jews believe that the birth of a modern perfect red heifer will herald the arrival of the messiah, leading to a confrontation with Muslims over the Temple Mount, where Jews believe the Temple will be rebuilt. Some evangelicals likewise regard the red heifer as a harbinger of the ultimate showdown at the Temple Mount, which they believe will be the site of the Second Coming. And they believe that time is near.

    To many other observers, the advent of the red heifer threatens to provoke a violent struggle for control of the Temple Mount, with worldwide repercussions. In the late 1990s, a group of unidentified Texas ranchers reportedly bred a perfect red heifer, which generated excitement in evangelical circles until the animal sprouted some black hairs.

    Six years ago, the John C. Hagee Royalty Trust paid more than $5.5 million for a 7,600-acre ranch in Brackettville, Texas, where cattle are raised in a venture with the Texas Israel Agricultural Research Foundation, a nonprofit outfit operated by the pastor. (Another part of the property is a resort hunting facility, where guests paying up to $250 for a night’s stay can also land their planes at the ranch’s private airstrip.) Last year, Hagee hired one of the top lobbyists in San Antonio, David Earl, to urge the state Legislature to exempt Hagee’s foundation from water-use regulations. A spokeswoman for the bill’s sponsor, Representative Frank Corte, whose district includes Hagee’s church, said that he introduced it on behalf of a constituent, but added that she was not authorized to divulge the identity of that constituent. (The bill stalled in committee.) Earl said that Hagee wants to “share information” to “improve” the “production of livestock,” particularly cattle, with an Israeli research project, but otherwise claimed to be unsure of the particulars. Dr. Scott Farhart, an obstetrician and trustee of the John C. Hagee Royalty Trust (and an elder at Hagee’s church), did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the director of the ranch.

    Esther is a favorite Old Testament figure of many evangelicals, a heroine who saved her people from a genocidal plot masterminded by the evil vizier Haman through her influence as the wife of the King of Persia. When she and her cousin Mordecai discussed whether she should risk death by intervening with the king, he encouraged her by suggesting that she had a divine role; perhaps she had come to the kingdom, he said, “for such a time as this.” Evangelicals often invoke that phrase to elevate the relevance of modern-day figures. In 2004, Laura Bush repeated a story about a woman she met on the campaign trail who told her that the President “was born for such a time as this.” In a recent message sent by e-mail to CUFI supporters, Hagee wrote that his organization “is exactly in the position of Esther. Israel is in a time of crisis. A 21st-century Hitler (the president of Iran) has put in place a plan to exterminate the Jews with nuclear warfare. If we remain completely silent at this time, God’s punishment will come to us also.”

    Hagee doesn’t fear a nuclear conflagration, but rather God’s wrath for standing by as Iran executes its supposed plot to destroy Israel. A nuclear confrontation between America and Iran, which he says is foretold in the Book of Jeremiah, will not lead to the end of the world, but rather to God’s renewal of the Garden of Eden. But he also reveals that he is ultimately less concerned with the fate of Israel or the Jews than with a theocratic Christian right agenda. When Jesus returns for his millennial reign, “the righteous are going to rule the nations of the earth … When Jesus Christ comes back, he’s not going to ask the ACLU if it’s alright to pray, he’s not going to ask the churches if they can ordain pedophile bishops and priests, he’s not going to ask if it’s all right to put the Ten Commandments in the statehouses, he’s not going to endorse abortion, he’s going to run the world by the word of God … The world will never end. It’s going to become a Garden of Eden, and Christ is going to rule it.”

    By Sarah Posner

    Sarah Posner’s profile of TBN televangelist Rod Parsley, “With God on His Side,” appeared in the November 2005 issue of the Prospect.

    The War Against the Third World: What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy

    The War Against the Third World: What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy
    CIA covert operations and US military interventions since World War II. A video compilation of footage and speeches recorded in the 1980s

    Cheney's still dangerous

    ROBERT KUTTNER

    ONE BUMPER STICKER proposes: Impeach Cheney First.

    Vice President Dick Cheney has now suffered back-to-back humiliations, with the conviction of his former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, and the wresting of key foreign policy decisions by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But if anything, he is even more dangerous wounded.

    The Bush administration keeps handing the opposition party loaded guns, the latest being the clumsy, politically motivated firings of eight US attorneys, a rare oasis of professionalism. These prosecutors are appointed by the president, but, unlike ordinary presidential appointees, they are not normally removed except for cause. In every case, the purpose seems to have been either to punish a prosecutor who did not capitulate to political pressure or to open up a slot for up-and-coming politicians. All this will now be laid bare in congressional investigations.

    In another new case of lawlessness, the Justice Department's own inspector general issued a withering report on how the FBI has issued thousands of "administrative" subpoenas, fishing for information without the knowledge of the target. These are permitted under the Patriot Act, subject to narrow guidelines and special "exigencies," but the FBI has not been following its own internal rules.

    With Democrats now in the congressional majority, the administration has lately been running on two tracks. On one track, grown-ups seem to have regained a measure of control. Rice was able to negotiate a long-delayed deal with the North Koreans to limit that nation's nuclear ambitions in exchange for the beginning of normalized relations. The deal has been available for six years. Rice was able to win its approval only by keeping Cheney out of the loop and requesting National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to take the agreement directly to President Bush.

    This weekend's regional diplomatic conference on Iraq, with representatives of the Iranian government sitting with US envoys, also represents a victory of pragmatists over extremists. The US line, dictated by Cheney and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, had been that we can't talk directly to Iranians as long as they are pursuing nuclear weapons. That strategy had produced a stalemate, and US threats to bomb Iran -- which mainly frightened the Europeans and our few remaining Middle East allies. Bush has pulled back from that course, and is now willing to try direct diplomacy -- another setback for Cheney.

    Yet, at the same time, the contempt for law continues, such as the firing of US attorneys. And Cheney may be down but he is far from out.

    --MORE--

    'Anti-Semitism is blamed for furore over Lord Levy'

    Commit crimes. Yell 'anti-semitism'. Get away with it. Works for Israel.
    ---
    By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor
    Published: 10 March 2007

    As the man at the centre of the most high-profile political scandal for years, Lord Levy has enjoyed precious few public expressions of support in recent weeks.

    But yesterday the peer found comfort in the form of his many allies in London's Jewish community as a succession of voices claimed that a witchhunt against him was being fuelled partly by anti-Semitism.

    Sir Alan Sugar, the Amstrad tycoon and hard-hitting star of the reality television series The Apprentice, said he feared that Lord Levy would be made a "scapegoat" in the police investigation into the cash-for-honours affair.

    The famously outspoken businessman claimed that some attacks were being made in newspapers with a record of being "negative" about Jews and Asians. "I think they rub it in when either the Asian or the Jewish community get themselves into some form of trouble," he said.

    Lord Levy's rabbi, Yitzchak Schochet, writing in The Jewish Chronicle, denounced "the blatant nastiness in some of the tabloids and the recent seeming trial by media". Rabbi Schochet, of Mill Hill synagogue in north-west London, where the embattled peer is a congregant, earlier accused "sinister corners" for the leaks, and claimed: "The Jewish community is becoming increasingly more sensitive that there is one Jew, who has been called the most dynamic Jew in Anglo-Jewry, seemingly being hung out to dry here."

    The Jewish community in north London, where Lord Levy lives and has raised millions of pounds for charity, has praised him in the Chronicle for the work he has done for good causes in their community. Louise Ellman, a Labour MP and member of the all-party Parliamentary group on anti-Semitism, said he had "attracted tremendous jealousy". Asked whether anti-Semitism was behind the smears, she said: "I don't think it is possible to be certain about it, but the whole matter does create a great deal of uneasiness."

    Sir Alan, a friend of Lord Levy, mounted an attack on Tony Blair on BBC Radio for failing to do more to protect the fundraiser from damaging leaks which reached fever pitch this week over his arrest on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in the cash-for-honours affair.

    Downing Street denied being behind leaks that Lord Levy "bullied" Ruth Turner, the Prime Minister's "gatekeeper" to change her version of events about the nomination of Labour donors for peerages. But some observers said the impression was left that Lord Levy was being made the fall guy.

    Sir Alan said Lord Levy had a "blind devotion to Tony Blair who claims to be his friend; looking at the newspaper reports and television reports now, with friends like him, you don't need any enemies.

    "I have a lot of respect for Blair. I think he is a decent man. But he will go down in my estimation if he allows this nonsense to continue in respect to Levy. Levy has raised a lot of money for his party and assisted him to get elected. It looks like he's the scapegoat, particularly this last week with allegedly some woman he's been allegedly bullying."

    Sir Alan said he hoped the police "don't come up with some trumped-up charge to make it look like they are doing their job".

    He added: "When you think about it, what's in it for Levy? This is not a man who has lined his pockets. This is a man who got blind devotion to Tony Blair and blagged people for money for the Labour Party; that to me is his worst crime."

    Lord Levy is still officially the Prime Minister's envoy to the Middle East, for which he is not paid. He has been arrested twice in connection with Scotland Yard's high-profile inquiry, the second time on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He has been at the centre of a series of allegations about the affair this week, but he has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.