Sunday, March 25, 2007

Republican support for Gonzales erodes

Editor's note: I am moving to post at another blog(also see new articles below).
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MSNBC.com

Senators question his truthfulness; firing of prosecutor in GOP case is eyed
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 1:15 p.m. MT March 25, 2007

WASHINGTON - Republican support for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales eroded Sunday as three key senators sharply questioned his truthfulness and a Democrat joined the list of lawmakers who want him to resign over the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Gonzales would have to step down if he did not tell the truth when he told Congress that he was not involved in discussions about a group of fired U.S. prosecutors at the center of the Washington controversy.

“We have to have an attorney general who is candid, truthful and if we find that he has not been candid and truthful, that’s a very compelling reason for him not to stay on,” Specter said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Specter said he would wait until Gonzales’ scheduled testimony next month to the committee on the dismissals before deciding whether he could continue to support the attorney general. He called it a “make or break” appearance.

Specter also suggested Bush compromise over the issue of Karl Rove, Bush’s chief political strategist, and other aides providing testimony to Congress.

To Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., Gonzales “does have a credibility problem. ... We govern with one currency, and that’s trust. And that trust is all important. And when you lose or debase that currency, then you can’t govern. And I think he’s going to have some difficulties.”

Hagel cited changing stories from the Justice Department about the circumstances for firing the eight U.S. attorneys. “I don’t know if he got bad advice or if he was not involved in the day-to-day management. I don’t know what the problem is, but he’s got a problem. You cannot have the nation’s chief law enforcement officer with a cloud hanging over his credibility,” Hagel said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Gonzales has been “wounded” by the firings. ‘He has said some things that just don’t add up,” said Graham, who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

‘The nation is not well served by this’
Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for Gonzales to step down over his conflicting statements on how involved he was in the dismissals last fall. Democrats contend the prosecutors’ firings were politically motivated.

Feinstein, whose state lost two U.S. attorneys in the purge—in San Diego and San Francisco—joined a growing number of Democrats and Republicans in calling for Gonzales’ ouster. She said she now believes Gonzales has not told the truth about the firings.

“I believe he should step down,” said Feinstein, also on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “And I don’t like saying this. This is not my natural personality at all. But I think the nation is not well served by this. I think we need to get at the bottom of why these resignations were made, who ordered them, and what the strategy was.”

Gonzales has said he participated in no discussions and saw no memos about plans to carry out the firings on Dec. 7 that Democrats contend were politically motivated.

His schedule, however, shows he attended at least one hourlong meeting, on Nov. 27, where he approved a detailed plan to execute the prosecutors’ firings.

The White House has stood by Gonzales, saying the documents do not conflict with Gonzales’ earlier statements. “The president continues to have confidence in the attorney general,” a spokesman said Saturday.

Feinstein spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” and Hagel was on “This Week” on ABC.


Coast Guard's Purchasing Raises Conflict-of-Interest Flags

By Spencer S. Hsu and Renae Merle

Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 25, 2007; A09

Four of the seven top U.S. Coast Guard officers who retired since 1998 took positions with private firms involved in the Coast Guard's troubled $24 billion fleet replacement program, an effort that government investigators have criticized for putting contractors' interests ahead of taxpayers'.

They weren't the only officials to oversee one of the federal government's most complex experiments at privatization, known as Deepwater, who had past or subsequent business ties to the contract consortium led by industry giants Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

The secretary of transportation, Norman Y. Mineta, whose department included the Coast Guard when the contract was awarded in 2002, was a former Lockheed executive. Two deputy secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, which the Coast Guard became part of in 2003, were former Lockheed executives, and a third later served on its board.

Washington's revolving-door laws have long allowed officials from industry giants such as Lockheed, the nation's largest defense contractor, to spend parts of their careers working for U.S. security agencies that make huge purchases from those companies, though there are limits.

But Deepwater dramatizes a new concern, current and former U.S. officials said: how dwindling competition in the private sector, mushrooming federal defense spending and the government's diminished contract management skills raise the stakes for potential conflicts of interest.

Deepwater also illustrates how federal ethics rules carve out loopholes for senior policymakers to oversee decisions that may benefit former or prospective employers. These include outsourcing strategies under which taxpayers bear most of the risks for failure, analysts said.

There is no sign that any of the retired admirals or former Lockheed officials did anything illegal.

But the connections between the agencies and the contractors have drawn the attention of the DHS inspector general, Richard L. Skinner. "That is on our radar screen," he said. "It's something we are very sensitive to."

Skinner told House members last month that the Coast Guard -- acting "under the dominant influence" of haste and inadequate staffing -- signed a Deepwater contract in June 2002 that improperly turned over key design and oversight decisions to contractors.

The Coast Guard failed to hold them accountable and left its own commanders "reluctant . . . to exercise a sufficient degree of authority to influence the design and production" of its vessels, Skinner said.

So far, four major classes of ships planned or produced for Deepwater have design flaws that have limited their performance, raised costs or delayed production. The tab for eight dry-docked 123-foot patrol boats alone is $100 million and climbing, the Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Thad W. Allen, has said.

"The Treasury is being looted here. The taxpayer is being fleeced," Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) said in a House hearing into Deepwater earlier this year.

Led by the Pentagon and the DHS, spending on federal contracts has soared in recent years. The DHS staff that oversees outside contracts is the most overwhelmed of any in government, officials said.

An expert panel appointed by the White House and Congress found this winter that increased reliance on contractors threatens to "undermine the integrity of the government's decision making processes." Handing off traditional governmental duties -- such as designing major systems and managing huge contracts -- coupled with defense industry consolidation, "increased the potential for organizational conflicts of interest," the panel found.

Even for those sympathetic to the purpose of allowing the revolving door, Deepwater is troubling. Steven L. Schooner, procurement expert at George Washington University Law School, said "cross-fertilizing" defense and homeland security experts generally makes the private sector a more responsive seller and government a smarter buyer. But he warned that job-switching has expanded beyond mid-level experts to top U.S. decision makers, and competition among a handful of defense giants is at an ebb.

"The most significant pathology we face today is the lack of a robust competitive marketplace" for large weapons systems, Schooner said. "If I know there's really only one contractor that might want my experience when I retire from the government," he said, "the remainder of my career might be reduced to positioning myself to step in to that company in a certain way."

In dealings with former private-sector colleagues, senior U.S. officials may be too willing to yield "the benefit of the doubt, rather than look . . . with skepticism or even with a watchful eye," added Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group.

In interviews or through spokesmen, Mineta; Michael P. Jackson, Mineta's deputy in 2002 and now deputy secretary at the DHS; Philip J. Perry, a former Lockheed Martin lobbyist who was the department's general counsel until last month; and other officials said they had complied with all federal ethics requirements. All said they had no involvement in procurement decisions, gave up Lockheed-related assets, recused themselves from activities involving the firm or performed their duties more than one year after ending their Lockheed roles.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. James M. Loy, who helped formulate Deepwater as the Coast Guard's commandant, said that to his knowledge "that array of players, either in their political positions, or civilian commercial positions, or in retired Coast Guard positions" has never been linked "to undue influence." Loy served two years as DHS deputy secretary, then joined Lockheed's board of directors in August 2005.

Asked whether he ever faced improper influence on Deepwater decisions, Loy said: "The question is almost insulting. I will pass on giving you any kind of answer."

Key leaders of the Coast Guard and its parent departments were among the biggest backers of the Deepwater concept. When Jackson announced the Deepwater award at the Transportation Department in 2002, he called it a model for tapping industry's best ideas by giving contractors free rein to decide how agencies complete their missions.

As chief operating officer for the departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, Jackson has championed some of the government's largest outsourcing efforts, including the creation of the Transportation Security Administration. He has come under fire for some of its costliest missteps involving windfall contracts to hire airport screeners as well as technically flawed efforts to improve border security.

Given the number of companies involved in Deepwater and Lockheed's giant presence in the national security market, some amount of crossover is probably difficult to avoid, experts said.

For instance, Lockheed bought a firm last year whose board of directors included former DHS secretary Tom Ridge. Ridge joined the company shortly after leaving office in 2005, so the purchase yielded him a stock windfall. Ridge declined to comment, but he told the Philadelphia Inquirer in December that he and the company had followed ethics guidelines. When DHS Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson stepped down in March 2005, he joined Washington law and lobbying firm Venable LLP, whose clients include Lockheed.

Private analysts said the government has balked at investing the years, money and legislative effort it would take to strengthen contract management, or to expand the one-year "cooling-off" period that generally limits activities by officials moving between the private and public sectors.

Nevertheless, government investigators said Deepwater went too far in empowering the Lockheed-Northrop consortium to award business to subsidiaries, self-certify the planes and ships it produced, and disregard Coast Guard experts.

Police told Blair would resign if cautioned

By Andrew Alderson and Patrick Hennessy, Sunday Telegraph

Last Updated: 12:53am GMT 25/03/2007

Police officers investigating the cash-for-honours scandal wanted to interview Tony Blair under caution but backed off after being warned that it could lead to his resignation, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.


Tony Blair was interviewed twice in six weeks

Allies of Mr Blair indicated to Scotland Yard that his position as Prime Minister would become untenable if he were treated as a suspect, rather than simply as a witness.

Detectives had hoped to question the Prime Minister under caution during the second of two interviews at No 10. It is understood that they wanted Mr Blair to clarify comments he had made during his first interview about an alleged cover-up by his senior aides.

Sources close to the inquiry said that there were difficult discussions before a political intermediary made senior detectives aware of the serious implications of treating the Prime Minister as a suspect.

"Make no mistake, Scotland Yard was informed that Mr Blair would resign as Prime Minister if he was interviewed under caution," said a source. "They were placed in a very difficult position indeed."

Eventually, Downing Street won the battle of wills: when two officers saw the Prime Minister for a second time, on January 26, he was again not interviewed under caution. A news black-out was placed on the interview for "operational reasons" at the request of the police, but this was lifted after six days.

Scotland Yard has, however, not ruled out interviewing Mr Blair for a third time if there is important new evidence to put to him. It is even possible that, as the inquiry drags on, Mr Blair could be interviewed - possibly as a suspect - after he steps down as Prime Minister in some three months.

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Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who heads the cash-for-honours inquiry, told MPs this month that it would be "unrealistic" to set a deadline for completing the investigation. He said that he could not be rushed because some evidence raised "complex and challenging legal issues".

It can also be revealed that relations between Scotland Yard and Downing Street remain deeply strained. There were tensions over the first police interview with Mr Blair on December 14, which - unusually for a meeting not under caution - was tape recorded. Some days later, detectives sent minutes of the interview to Mr Blair's office to be "signed off" - for Downing Street to agree the typed notes were an accurate reflection of what had taken place.

Downing Street refused to sign them off even when detectives reminded political aides that the interview had been recorded and they were merely supplying a transcript of events. More than three months after the interview, the issue remains unresolved.

The restricted conditions of Mr Blair's second interview enabled No 10 to play down the significance of the police seeing him for the second time in only six weeks. A spokesman said at the time: "The Prime Minister has been interviewed briefly to clarify points emerging from the ongoing investigation. He was interviewed as a witness, not as a suspect and co-operated fully."

The fact that Mr Blair has not been interviewed under caution means it is unlikely any of the answers he has given so far could be used against him to bring charges. Legal experts say any solicitor is likely to argue that evidence from a routine interview - not treating someone as a suspect - should be declared inadmissible by a judge.

Detectives have spent a year looking into allegations that Labour promised peerages in return for £14 million in secret loans to fight the 2005 general election. The inquiry has widened to investigate claims that senior aides were involved in a cover-up in which they sought to pervert the course of justice.

Officers have interviewed more than 100 people and arrested four, including two senior party aides: Lord Levy, Labour's chief fund-raiser, and Ruth Turner, the head of government relations.

The Sunday Telegraph has also learnt that the police are "highly surprised" that neither Miss Turner, 36, nor Lord Levy, 62, has been suspended from their positions given the seriousness of the cover-up accusations against them - even though they deny any wrongdoing, and no charges have been brought.

Last night a spokesman for Mr Blair denied that he had been "going around saying he will resign if that happened [being interviewed under caution]. It is not true that such a message was conveyed to the police." He said of the delay in No 10's "signing off" the minutes of Mr Blair's interview: "Witness statements are being drawn up in the usual way."

Thousands die in Thai shadow war

From
March 25, 2007

IT IS the shoes of the murdered bus passengers that everyone remembers. Nine corpses, nine sets of footwear — a girl’s plastic sandals, a boy’s trainers and clean white socks, a woman’s sensible casuals — all lined up by the jungle roadside.

The scene marked another grim milestone in an insurgency that has torn apart Thailand’s three majority Muslim provinces for the past three years.

First, the attackers threw a grenade to stop the minibus. Then they shot dead the passengers, one by one. Only the driver survived. The executioners heard him gabbling to Allah for forgiveness, realised he was not a Buddhist and spared him.

After that, communal passions erupted. Crowds of Muslims and Buddhists took to the streets to demand protection. Since the ambush a string of killings claiming victims of both faiths has taken the death toll to more than 2,100.

The insurgency is now the bloodiest conflict in southeast Asia. Yet it is a war of shadows. The militants issue no communi-qu├ęs. They have no known leaders. They have made no precise demands. If they are connected to the worldwide network of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates there is no proof.

There is a sense of siege over the hushed towns and quiet fishing villages in the palmy jungles of the far south of Thailand.

Nearly 100 years ago Siam absorbed the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, then Islamic sultanates, in a treaty brokered by the British colonial rulers of Malaya. Sporadic resistance has broken out ever since.

The latest insurgents borrow political and military techniques from Iraq and Lebanon. Their favoured method is the drive-by assassination by a pillion-riding gunman on a motorbike. They also slit throats and cut off heads as examples.

One officer in Thai military intelligence shows visitors photographs recording the eviscerated bodies of Buddhist monks, images so stark that they have been kept out of the Thai press for fear of igniting a pogrom.

De facto ethnic cleansing is already in progress. When the Thai-Chinese community celebrated the year of the pig, a feast calculated to incite loathing for the infidels, militants unleashed 50 bomb and arson attacks on their businesses. The targets included a large rubber factory that lost more than £5m of stock.

Many Chinese are planning to sell up and go. But Ah Seng, an elderly Chinese herbalist living with his wizened wife in an open-fronted wooden shop-house, laughed at the thought that he would ever leave.

“Children, grandchildren, all here, this is always our home,” he said, sweeping his hand around an array of family photographs and altars to assorted deities, over which there reigned a portrait of Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

His neighbours were Muslims who were counting their stocks in a cool wooden warehouse where sheets of raw rubber were stacked just as they were a century ago.

“Who wants fighting? Only the troublemakers,” said the owner, who did not want to be identified. “Thank God it is quiet here.”

Quiet it was. But moored by the customs house were two Thai gunboats whose crews had strewn their bedding on the foredecks so as to sleep around the .50calibre machineguns.

Thai officials scurry around in armoured vehicles. Sandbags and barbed wire protect key locations. Troops and police run patrols to try to reassure people, without success.

“Even a Muslim like me is better off back in the city and off the roads by 3pm,” said the manager of a hotel in which I was the only guest. “And I do not advise you as a foreigner to go out after dark.”

Yet statistics show that almost half the victims are Muslim. This is also a war within a war to dominate the Islamic community. Moderates risk threats and ostracism. Informers and collaborators with the Thai state are doomed.

Three schoolboys died the other week when grenades were thrown into their playground. The message, say analysts, is: Muslim youth should get out of schools run by the Thai government and attend private Islamic foundations often run by Thais trained in the Middle East.

Then there are the government’s “dirty war” tactics that have claimed Muslim victims. Somchai Neelaphaijit, a prominent lawyer, vanished at the hands of the police and is believed to be dead. This month Human Rights Watch said the security forces were implicated in 22 disappearances.

Surayud Chulanont, the prime minister, has pledged no more abuses and promised more rights to Thailand’s 4m Muslims, out of its 65m population. But the rate of killing has tripled to about four deaths a day since his junta seized power in Bangkok last year, pledging a “new start” in the south.

The government has not only lost control of the political agenda. It is also failing to keep the initiative on the battlefield, despite deploying 30,000 troops.

One example: in striving to stop the use of roadside bombs triggered by mobile phones, the security forces blocked the networks. Only Thais who have registered their ID cards with the military can use a mobile.

The insurgents quickly switched to digital watches or infrared devices to detonate the bombs. They also increased the average size of their explosive devices from 4½lb to more than 9lb. Some bombs pack 33lb. Not one bomb-maker has been identified by army forensic teams.

“The coup leaders continue to ask the wrong questions and refuse to take the conflict for what it is — an Islamic insurgency,” said Professor Zachary Abuza of Simmons College, Boston, the leading foreign expert on the struggle. “Many Thais think it’s only about poverty and social justice,” he added.

Abuza says that two well established separatist groups, the National Revolutionary Front and the Pattani Islamic Mujaheddin Movement, are the prime movers.

Intelligence officers from Thailand and its allies are not wholly convinced. Interrogations have produced stories of tall, hooded terrorist trainers who are not Thai. Eavesdroppers have picked up radio chatter in Indonesian.

There remains little or no documentary evidence of global links, although a lone Arabic website has made its debut extolling the jihad in southern Thailand. Perhaps the greatest mystery is why the militants have stayed on their home ground, refraining from attacks on Thailand’s multi-billion-pound tourist industry.

In an ominous development, however, military intelligence officers recently disclosed that they had picked up two surveillance teams of suspected extremists in Bangkok and Phuket within the past 18 months.

“This is a downward spiral,” said Abuza, “and it could be just a matter of time.”

Report: US State Dept. official to meet Haniyeh

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

As US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conducts meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials this week, another senior official in the US State Department is expected to meet secretly with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the Saudi newspaper Al-Biyan reported Saturday.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia initiated the meeting together with a Hamas official in the PA.

Sean Penn: An Open Letter to the President...Four and a Half Years Later (117 comments )

03.24.2007

Sean Penn

Four and a half years ago, I addressed the issue of war in an open letter to our President. Today I would like to again speak to him and his, directly. Mr. President, Mr. Cheney, Ms. Rice et al: Indeed America has a rich history of greatness -indeed, America is still today a devastating military superpower.

And because, in the absence of a competent or brave Congress, of a mobilized citizenry, that level of power lies in your hands, it is you who have misused it to become our country's and our constitution's most devastating enemy. You have broken our country and our hearts. The needless blood on your hands, and therefore, on our own, is drowning the freedom, the security, and the dream that America might have been, once healed of and awakened by, the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

But now, we are encouraged to self-censor any words that might be perceived as inflammatory - if our belief is that this war should stop today. We cower as you point fingers telling us to "support our troops." Well, you and the smarmy pundits in your pocket, those who bathe in the moisture of your soiled and bloodstained underwear, can take that noise and shove it. We will be snowed no more. Let's make this crystal clear. We do support our troops in our stand, while you exploit them and their families. The verdict is in. You lied, connived, and exploited your own countrymen and most of all, our troops.

You Misters Bush and Cheney; you Ms. Rice are villainously and criminally obscene people, obscene human beings, incompetent even to fulfill your own self-serving agenda, while tragically neglectful and destructive of ours and our country's. And I got a question for your daughters Mr. Bush. They're not children anymore. Do they support your policy in Iraq? If they do, how dare they not be in uniform, while the children of the poor; black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and all the other American working men and women are slaughtered, maimed and flown back into this country under cover of darkness.

Now, because I've been on the streets of Baghdad during this occupational war, outside the Green Zone, without security, and you haven't; I've met children there. In that country of 25 million, these children have now suffered minimally, a rainstorm of civilian death around and among them totaling the equivalent of two hundred September 11ths in just four years of war. Two hundred 9/11s. Two hundred 9/11s.

You want to rattle sabers toward Iran now? Let me tell you something about Iran, because I've been there and you haven't. Iran is a great country. A great country. Does it have its haters? You bet. Just like the United States has its haters. Does it have a corrupt regime? You bet. Just like the United States has a corrupt regime. Does it want a nuclear weapon? Maybe. Do we have one? You bet. But the people of Iran are great people. And if we give that corrupt leadership, (by attacking Iran militarily) the opportunity to unify that great country in hatred against us, we'll have been giving up one of our most promising future allies in decades. If you really know anything about Iran, you know exactly what I'm referring to. Of course your administration belittles diplomatic potential there, as those options rely on a credibility and geopolitical influence that you have aggressively squandered worldwide.

Speaking of squandering, how about the billion and a half dollars a day our Iraq-focused military is spending, where three weeks of that kind of spending, would pay the tab on a visionary levy-building project in New Orleans and relieve the entire continent of Africa from starvation and the spread of disease. Not to mention the continued funds now necessary, to not only rebuild our education and healthcare systems, but also, to give care and aid to the veterans of this war, both American and our Iraqi allies and friends who have lost everything.

You say we've kept the war on terror off our shores by responding to a criminal act of terror through state sponsored unilateral aggression in a country that took no part in that initial crime. That this war would be fought in Iraq or fought here. They are not our toilet. They are a country of human beings whose lives, while once oppressed by Saddam, are now lived in Dante's inferno.

My 15-year-old daughter was working on a comparative essay this week (you can ask Condi what a comparative essay is, as academic exercises fit the limits of her political expertise.) My daughter's essay, which understood substance over theory, discusses the strengths of the Nuremberg trial justice beside the alternate strategy of truth and reconciliation in South Africa, and I quote: "When we observe distinctions between one power and another, one justice and another, we consider the divide between retribution and reconciliation, of closure and disclosure." I can't do her essay justice in this forum, but at its core, it asks how, when, and why we compromise toward peace, punish for war, or balance both for something more.

This may focus another soft spot in the rhetoric of both sides. We're told not to engage in the "politics of attack." To "keep away from the negative"...Well, Mr. Bush, when speaking of your administration, that would leave us silent, and impotent indeed.

So, in conclusion, I address my remaining remarks to the choir: We all played nice recently at the sad passing of former President Ford. Pundits and players on all sides re-visited his pardoning of Richard Nixon with praise, stating that a divided nation found unity. But what of that precedent on deterrence now? Where is justice now? Let's unite, not only in stopping this war, but holding this administration accountable as well. Without impeachment, justice cannot prevail. In our time, or our children's. And let's make it clear to democrats and republicans alike that we are not willing to wait on '08 to hear them say again: "If I'd known then, what I know now."

Even in a so-called victory, what we saw yesterday was a House of Representatives that couldn't bring itself to represent either conscience or constituents. It's a tragedy that the Democratic Party's leadership in Congress refuses to allow the House to vote on Barbara Lee's amendment for a fully funded, orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year. Elites circled the war wagons against this proposal, and postponed the day of reckoning that must come as soon as possible - a complete pullout of U.S. military forces from Iraq.

There are presidential candidates who understand this. We do have candidates of conscience. As things stand today, I will be voting for Dennis Kucinich, who has fought this war from the beginning. You might say Kucinich can't win. Well, we have an opportunity to re-establish the credibility of democracy as viewed by the world at large.

We can fire our current president. We can choose the next president. You and me, the farmer in Wisconsin, the boys at Google, and Bill Gates.

It's up to us to choose. Why don't we choose?!


From remarks at Congresswoman Barbara Lee's March 24 Town Hall Meeting on the 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

READ MORE: Iran, United States, Sean Penn, Iraq, Dick Cheney, South Africa

Academy Award winner Sean Penn has become an American film icon in a career spanning nearly three decades. He has been nominated four times for the Academy Award as Best Actor: in DEAD MAN WALKING, SWEET AND LOWDOWN, I AM SAM and most recently won the Oscar in 2003 for his searing performance in Clint Eastwood's MYSTIC RIVER.

Penn has appeared in over thirty films including TAPS, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN, AT CLOSE RANGE, COLORS, RACING WITH THE MOON, CASUALTIES OF WAR, WE'RE NO ANGELS, STATE OF GRACE, CARLITO'S WAY, U-TURN, THE THIN RED LINE, DEAD MAN WALKING (Winner Best Actor /1995 Berlin Film Festival), SHE'S SO LOVELY (Winner Best Actor / 1997 Cannes Film Festival), HURLYBURLY (Winner Best Actor / 1998 Venice Film Festival), 21 GRAMS (Winner Best Actor / 2003 Venice Film Festival), THE INTERPRETER, and most recently ALL THE KING'S MEN.

Penn's feature film directorial debut came with 1991's THE INDIAN RUNNER, which he also wrote and produced. In 1995, he directed THE CROSSING GUARD, which he also wrote and produced. His third film as director/producer was 2001's THE PLEDGE starring Jack Nicholson and was named in the Top Ten Films of 2001 by The National Board of Review. Since then, Penn wrote and directed the United States' contribution to the compilation film 11'09"01. This important project gathered 11 acclaimed directors from around the world to create short films in response to the horrific events of September 11, 2001. In 2003 the film was nominated for a French Cesar in the best European Union Film category and received a special recognition award from the National Board of Review.

Penn has appeared on stage in productions including Alfred Hayes' GIRL ON THE VIA FLAMINIA and Albert Innaurato's EARTHWORMS IN LOS ANGELES. On Broadway, Penn performed in Kevin Heelan's HEARTLAND and John Byrne's SLAB BOYS. He appeared in David Rabe's HURLYBURLY, at the Westwood Playhouse, and GOOSE AND TOM TOM, at Lincoln Center, both productions directed by the author. Most recently, Penn starred opposite Nick Nolte and Woody Harrelson in THE LATE HENRY MOSS, written and directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Sam Shepard.

In 2002, Sean Penn was presented with the Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and in 2003, became the youngest ever recipient of the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Sebastian Film Festival. Additionally, in 2004, he received the John Steinbeck Award for outspoken torch-bearers in the creative arts.

As journalist, Penn has written for Time, Interview, and Rolling Stone magazines. In 2004, Penn wrote a two-part feature in The San Francisco Chronicle after a second visit to the war-torn Iraq. In 2005, he wrote a five-part feature in the same paper, reporting from Iran during the election, which led to the Ahmadinejad regime.

Penn is currently in production on INTO THE WILD based on the book by Jon Krakauer.

Dahr Jamail gives an Iraq update with exclusive video from Iraq

March 25, 2007

Dahr Jamail on Free Speech TV "SouceCode" Gives Iraq Update with Exclusive Video from Baghdad

March, 2007 - Dahr Jamail on Free Speech TV Show "SourceCode"

In this 10 minute piece, Dahr Jamail gives an Iraq update with exclusive video from Iraq. He describes some of the origins of the "sectarianism" that the US corporate media is so apt to point to when discussing the violence in Iraq, and shows how the US has been involved in fueling the sectarian tensions.

See the streaming WMV file
(30 megs)

Download the high-res file
(100 megs mpeg)

View the Streaming Flash file (30 megs)

Posted by Dahr_Jamail at 05:34 PM

Peaceful Protests in Iraq - Against the Occupation

Peaceful Protests in Iraq

Iraq solution can't ignore choices behind war

Andy Butfoy
March 26, 2007

Last week's prime ministerial statement on Iraq naturally focused on the current crisis. One message was that doubters should move on from their critique of the invasion and embrace today's efforts. Many won't: 2003 casts a shadow over 2007 that John Howard, Tony Blair and George Bush cannot get away from.

There are six reasons for this. The first is that the invasion is often viewed as epitomising political manipulation and deception. For a lot of people this means today's efforts have very shonky foundations.

Second, the series of half-truths surrounding the invasion continued afterwards, and it's not clear when, if ever, this all finished. Even after the first missiles were launched, otherwise justifiable wartime propaganda was employed to reinforce dubious political posturing. Today it is still difficult to say where one ends and the other begins. The bad smell just won't go away.

Third, calls for divorcing 2003 from 2007 come from the same people who caused the smell. It is not as if we have a new team with a clean slate.

To compound the problem, the old firm has a poor record when it comes to making strategic choices and predictions, especially regarding Iraq. The enterprise has unfolded as a precarious experiment.

As part of the experimentation the advocates of the surge earlier brought you shock-and-awe, and then the Coalition Provisional Authority to oversee the occupation. Shock-and-awe tried to make war look like a fireworks display and the provisional authority seems to have been a kind of dysfunctional workshop.

The leader of this band of brothers, George Bush, has acquired a reputation for bad judgement. Turning the idea that Iraq was part of the battle against terrorism into a self-fulfilling prophecy was just one example of this.

The invasion was part of a broader package of moves designed by neo-conservatives. Starting the war was also supposed to be about bolstering American prestige and sending a sharp message to Iran and North Korea. In each case, the plan has backfired.

The credibility and standing of the US are in question, Iran doesn't look cowed and North Korea has tested a nuclear bomb. The stretching and pulling of the meaning of the war on terror to suit the broader neo-con agenda seemed clever at the time, but now it makes those responsible look scheming and only superficially smart.

Fourth, apologies have been thin on the ground. Any errors are said to have been marginal and tactical, not profound and strategic. The dreadful mess is said to be the result of a few little mistakes that have simply added up. This evasion makes it seem that the lesson has not been learnt. Where there should be humility, there is too often sneering and bluster.

(In the US, the give-war-a-chance crowd even wants more, not less, conflict; it encouraged the Israeli attack on Lebanon last year, and it still wants a crack at Syria and Iran.)

Fifth, claims by Howard, Bush and Blair to be searching for a solution for Iraqis, while no doubt true, also look like something else. It might be unfair, but the image is of the three trying to protect their place in the history books, even if this means digging deeper into the wrong hole.

Today, the three leaders have to deal with terribly difficult issues in Iraq. Whatever they do now, however, they cannot dispel a sense that it is other people who will pay the price for their decisions and another team that will probably have to do the cleaning-up. This is not the sort of going-away present most people want.

The sixth reason has more to do with psychology and emotion than political analysis. Many opponents of the invasion cannot forget the way they felt treated in 2002-3. Peaceful protesters were referred to as the mob, specialists who doubted the phoney claims about the war's legality had their expertise questioned. Dissenters were sometimes criticised as supporting genocide and lacking principle, guts, patriotism or common sense.

On one memorable occasion during a serious television news program, it was implied that a guest, who had said that coalition policy on Iraq was wrong-headed and could turn into a bloodbath, was in need of psychiatric medication.

Yes, all this appears back-ward looking. But it goes to the heart of today's dilemma. It is directly linked to the thinness of support for current policy.

Ultimately, only time will tell whether the invasion was a spectacular display of strategic stupidity or a stroke of geopolitical genius. But today every option being considered for Iraq, from across the political spectrum, carries a risk that Iraq, the wider Middle East, the West, and the international system generally, will end up worse off.

The process and policies that brought us to this state of affairs meet the main criterion for world's worst practice in diplomacy and national security decision-making.
(In the US, the give-war-a-chance crowd even wants more, not less, conflict; it encouraged the Israeli attack on Lebanon last year, and it still wants a crack at Syria and Iran.)

Fifth, claims by Howard, Bush and Blair to be searching for a solution for Iraqis, while no doubt true, also look like something else. It might be unfair, but the image is of the three trying to protect their place in the history books, even if this means digging deeper into the wrong hole.

Today, the three leaders have to deal with terribly difficult issues in Iraq. Whatever they do now, however, they cannot dispel a sense that it is other people who will pay the price for their decisions and another team that will probably have to do the cleaning-up. This is not the sort of going-away present most people want.

The sixth reason has more to do with psychology and emotion than political analysis. Many opponents of the invasion cannot forget the way they felt treated in 2002-3. Peaceful protesters were referred to as the mob, specialists who doubted the phoney claims about the war's legality had their expertise questioned. Dissenters were sometimes criticised as supporting genocide and lacking principle, guts, patriotism or common sense.

On one memorable occasion during a serious television news program, it was implied that a guest, who had said that coalition policy on Iraq was wrong-headed and could turn into a bloodbath, was in need of psychiatric medication.

Yes, all this appears back-ward looking. But it goes to the heart of today's dilemma. It is directly linked to the thinness of support for current policy.

Ultimately, only time will tell whether the invasion was a spectacular display of strategic stupidity or a stroke of geopolitical genius. But today every option being considered for Iraq, from across the political spectrum, carries a risk that Iraq, the wider Middle East, the West, and the international system generally, will end up worse off.

The process and policies that brought us to this state of affairs meet the main criterion for world's worst practice in diplomacy and national security decision-making.

Andy Butfoy is a lecturer in international relations at Monash University.

Beware the Ides of March

William Bowles • Sunday, 25 March, 2007

“Inspired” “Engineered” “Involvement” “Intelligence” “Circumstantial” “Link” The BBC hedging its bets on alleged Iranian involvement in the ‘insurgency’ in Iraq

“There is intelligence about this [Iranian involvement], but no hard proof” BBC 6pm News, 23/3/07

Well we all know what ‘intelligence’ means but this didn’t stop the same ‘news’ broadcast leading with the misleading statement of “Iranian involvement in the insurgency”, quoting a British army officer in Basra. It went even further—but again without offering a shred of proof—that the Iranians were up to their necks in the ‘insurgency’ in Basra.

“‘Iran link’ to violence in Basra”, BBC News Website 7 March, 2007

The story leads with

“Most of the violence against UK forces in Basra is being engineered by Iranian elements, a British Army colonel based in the southern Iraqi city says.”

The story goes on to quote a certain Col Justin Masherevski who told the BBC that

“local information” indicated that “the vast majority of the violence against us is inspired from outside Iraq”.

“Inspired”? “Engineered”? “Involvement?” “Intelligence”? “Circumstantial”? “Link?”? But not one iota of actual proof. What does this mean? By any definition inspired is a loaded word, for it could apply to almost anything, including the fact that the American Constitution could have been an inspiration. Unless one carefully notes the choice of words, the impression is that the violence in Iraq has an external source (not the occupation mark you!).

But this is how sophisticated propaganda works, utilising words and phrases that are both emotive and yet vague enough not to be an outright lie. Thus Col. Masherevski’s use of the word “inspired” avoids being directly challenged, let the BBC take any heat instead as we learn that rather than being an “inspiration”, the violence is due to “Iranian involvement” and of “engineering” the violence.

What’s it to be BBC, it is after all, the most respected ‘news’ organisation on the planet? Write your letters of protest for sure, but be assured that you’ll get the usual anodyne response that says nothing of import, let alone an acknowledgement of spreading fear and loathing of all things Iranian.

“All the circumstantial evidence points to Iranian involvement in the violence here in Basra which is disrupting the city to a great extent.”

“The people here very much believe that is [sic] Iran,” [Col Justin Masherevski] said.”

Now what people believe is neither here nor there, let alone the basis for a ‘news’ story and as to the “circumstantial evidence”, well what is it based on? Nothing other than the assertion that Iraqis are incapable of building sophisticated weapons thus they must be getting ‘outside help’. Oh, and a photo of an RPG and some scraps left over after weapons have exploded. It’s all pure supposition and supposition based upon unnamed US government sources.

“The “machining” on the weapons could only have been completed in Iran.”
‘Iranian’ RPG?

It’s a pity that the BBC didn’t bother to research the story for if that had been done they would have learnt that a workshop making these “sophisticated devices” was discovered very recently in Baghdad.

“Michael Knights, chief of analysis for the Olive Group, a private security consulting firm, presented evidence in Jane’s Intelligence Review that Iraqi Shiites have manufactured both the components for EFPs [explosively formed penetrators] and the complete EFPs.” Media Lens

I often wonder what goes on in the editorial offices of the BBC. How does the ‘instruction’ get delivered by the Editor to his minions, for clearly there won’t be an explicit instruction but if there were it might read something like ‘Iraq is an absolute fucking disaster so let’s make it appear to be all Iran’s fault’, but the end product is the same.

One imagines the daily editorial meeting sitting and ‘deciding’ that this week Iraq is ‘news’ as is Iran, time to haul out those well paid journos ‘embedded’ with British troops in southern Iraq, so we’ve had long, daily reports with BBC reporters positively gushing over the weapons being used against the Iraqi people.

For the past two weeks not only the BBC but also Channel 4 and ITV news programmes have been carrying endless accounts on ‘our boys over there’ and how difficult their job is in ‘reconstructing Iraq’.

And inbetween the relentless propaganda on the good job ‘our boys’ are doing in Iraq, we’ve had the relentless propaganda campaign building against Iran, softening us up for the ‘coming war’.

And as a Medialens piece reveals, the ‘coming war’ has its inevitable cheerleaders, urging on the imperium to take out the “mad Mullahs of Iran.”

“Now the mad mullahs of Iran will soon have nuclear bombs, are we all doomed?… Do something, someone! But what and who?” (Polly Toynbee, ‘No more fantasy diplomacy: cut a deal with the mullahs,’ The Guardian, February 7, 2006)

How about a selfless gesture for the Empire Polly? Perhaps a suicide mission to Tehran as you’re so gung ho on the idea of “do[ing] something”? What is really scary about people like Polly Toynbee is firstly that they get such prime coverage in the media and secondly, that her hysterical rantings reveal the fundamental racism that pervades virtually all coverage of anywhere west of Bucharest (or thereabouts). Would Ms Toynbee consider that the ‘mad managers of US capitalism’ development of so-called tactical nuclear weapons or their stated threat of actually using them is doom-laden? Do something Polly, anything!

So perhaps the alleged intrusion of 15 British navy personnel into Iranian territory is the first step in “doing something” and isn’t the timing is just ‘perfect’ coming as it did just before the UNSEC meeting on sanctions? After all, the evidence (and we’re not talking here about what people think) points to a collusion between the British and US governments prior to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq and the need for some kind of provocation as both governments knew that Iraq didn’t possess any WMD.

“[T]he president is cited as saying he is concerned that there may not be weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, and that there must be some consideration given to finding a different basis for undertaking the action.… I’ll just read you what this memo allegedly says, according to the New York Times: ‘The memo states that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation.” — ‘Ex-national security adviser warns that Bush is seeking a pretext to attack Iran’, By Barry Grey, 2 February 2007. World Socialist WebSite

“The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach” — ‘The White House memo’ By Gary Gibbon, 02/02/06, Channel 4 News

Can anyone with an ounce of good sense deny the clearly provocative nature of mainstream media coverage of the situation? And although it’s pissing in the wind, the BBC and other mainstream media outlets still need to be called to task for their central role in whipping up war hysteria around the ‘mad Mullahs’.

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The Falling Man

Why Dick and Nancy Will Never be President via Impeachment

Sunday, March 25, 2007

One argument I hear over and over when I talk about the need to impeach President Bush for high crimes against the Constitution is that it can never happen because "then we'd have Dick Cheney for president."

A second argument is that impeachment could never happen because even if Bush and Cheney were removed, it would mean Nancy Pelosi would become president, and Republicans would never allow this to happen.

Some who raise these issues may be genuinely horrified at the prospect of a Cheney presidency (though we really already have that), and may also be genuine in thinking that there could never be an impeachement that would change control of the White House from one party to the other. But I get the feeling that many of those who raise these objections to impeachment simply don't want to deal with impeaching the president. Certainly the Cheney canard has been quietly raised by many in the Democratic leadership to explain their shameful inaction in defense of the Constitution in the face of Bush's many grave crimes and abuses of power.

So let me knock these two bogus concerns down once and for all.

First Cheney. There is a precedent here. Richard Nixon, as he faced impeachment, also had what many said was a kind of impeachment insurance: Spiro Agnew. Agnew was in some ways like Cheney--a hard-right, money-grubbing, small-minded proto-fascist. He was also different in that Cheney is embedded in the highest reaches of the corporate petro-war machine, while Agnew was a political light-weight. Cheney also seems to have a Machevellian cleverness that Agnew never had. That said, both have in common that they are profoundly disliked by the vast majority of Americans--Cheney even more so than Agnew, who at least had a robust following among the yahoo, know-nothing crowd (that's pre-Yahoo yahoo usage).

In any event, when it became clear that Nixon was going to go down, Republican Party leaders looked aghast at the prospect of facing the voters with Agnew as the face of the Republican Party. They found a way out, by having the Justice Department indict Agnew on bribery charges. He was gone in a flash, and thus they were able, with Democratic Congressional support, to put a safe, uncontroversial place-holder into the vice president's office, Gerald Ford, who was at the time the minority leader of the House. It made a certain sense given that had Republicans been in control of the House, Ford would have been the next in line for the presidency.

If impeachment hearings made it clear that Bush's days in office were numbered, as I believe would certainly be the case, Republicans would be at least as concerned about being stuck with Cheney as their party leader heading into 2008 as their forebears were of having Agnew in that position. I have no doubt but that they would push him or threaten him or drive him out of office in the same way that they eliminated Agnew. They'd have several ways to do that. Cheney, who has myriad health problems, including a bionic heart and thrombosis, could simply push a little emergency escape button on his life-support system and claim he was having some heart problems and had to leave for health reasons. If he didn't do that, there is no doubt a file lodged in the FBI somewhere with enough serious dirt on Cheney's financial chicanery to pull him down with an indictment. He knows that, and so would almost certainly cut a deal that would allow him to skate away free. In any event, he'd be gone.

In the unlikely event that he chose to ignore the pressure, and managed to intimidate his party colleagues and the attorney general's office into not indicting him, the other problem for Cheney is that he is so intricately involved in all of Bush's impeachable offenses that he would surely be impeached along with the president or more likely indicted by a special prosecutor long before the president resigned or was thrown out of office.

As for Pelosi becoming president, I think it is impossible for two reasons. Firstly, if Democrats ever develop the courage and sense of principle to initiate impeachment hearings into Bush's crimes, they, like their predecessors in 1974, will want to gain at least some Republican backing, and they could never do this if Republicans thought they might be handing the White House over early to them. Clearly they would want to make it plain that they had no intention of installing Pelosi in the White House via impeachment. I suspect that the same kind of arrangement would be made in Bush's case as was made in Nixon's: Republicans would be able to pick an uncontroversial, lackluster replacement for Cheney--probably someone like House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH)--to take over from Cheney. (Boehner is in many ways a Gerald Ford clone--undistinguished politically and intellectually, and unlikely to win should he run for president on his own right. There is also the delightful way that his official bio is so quick to explain that his name is pronounced "Bay-nor," and not the way one might expect it to be pronounced, which would be certain to make him the butt of late-night TV jokes the same way Ford was.)

The main thing is that it is simply not correct that the fear of a Cheney or a Pelosi presidency provides Bush with some kind of insurance against impeachment.

The only insurance Bush has against the impeachment he so richly deserves, and that a majority of Americans devoutly wish to see him receive, is a craven Democratic Party leadership, which because of a profound lack of principle, an excess of self-interested political calculation, and an astonishing misreading of the popular will, is going to any lengths to avoid doing what the Constitution demands it to do: impeach a president who poses a clear and present danger to the survival of Constitutional government and the rule of law in America.

7:44 am pst

Hagel: Some See Impeachment As Option

By HOPE YEN

The Associated Press
Sunday, March 25, 2007; 2:04 PM

WASHINGTON -- With his go-it-alone approach on Iraq, President Bush is flouting Congress and the public, so angering lawmakers that some consider impeachment an option over his war policy, a senator from Bush's own party said Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Senate's No. 2 Republican leader harshly criticized House Democrats for setting an "artificial date" for withdrawing troops from Iraq and said he believes Republicans have enough votes to prevent passage of a similar bill in the Senate.

"We need to put that kind of decision in the hands of our commanders who are there on the ground with the men and women," said Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss. "For Congress to impose an artificial date of any kind is totally irresponsible."

GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a frequent critic of the war, stopped short of calling for Bush's impeachment. But he made clear that some lawmakers viewed that as an option should Bush choose to push ahead despite public sentiment against the war.

"Any president who says, I don't care, or I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else, or I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed _ if a president really believes that, then there are _ what I was pointing out, there are ways to deal with that," said Hagel, who is considering a 2008 presidential run.

The Senate planned to begin debate Monday on a war spending bill that would set a nonbinding goal of March 31, 2008, for the removal of combat troops.

That comes after the House narrowly passed a bill Friday that would pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year but would require that combat troops come home from Iraq before September 2008 _ or earlier if the Iraqi government did not meet certain requirements.

On Sunday, Hagel said he was bothered by Bush's apparent disregard of congressional sentiment on Iraq, such as his decision to send additional troops. He said lawmakers now stood ready to stand up to the president when necessary.

In the April edition of Esquire magazine, Hagel described Bush as someone who doesn't believe he's accountable to anyone. "He's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends on how this goes," Hagel told the magazine.

In his weekly address Saturday, Bush accused Democrats of partisanship in the House vote and said it would cut the number of troops below a level that U.S. military commanders say they need. Vice President Dick Cheney also accused Democrats of undermining U.S. troops in Iraq and of sending a message to terrorists that America will retreat in the face danger.

"We have clearly a situation where the president has lost the confidence of the American people in his war effort," Hagel said. "It is now time, going into the fifth year of that effort, for the Congress to step forward and be part of setting some boundaries and some conditions as to our involvement."

"This is not a monarchy," he added, referring to the possibility that some lawmakers may seek impeachment. "There are ways to deal with it. And I would hope the president understands that."

Lott said setting withdrawal dates is a futile and potentially dangerous exercise because Bush has made clear he will veto any such legislation.

"There are members in the Senate in both parties that are not comfortable with how things have gone in Iraq," Lott said. "But they understand that artificial timetables, even as goals, are a problem. ...We will try to take out the arbitrary dates."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the Senate bill seeks to heed the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group by setting a goal of withdrawing some troops while leaving others behind to train the Iraqi army for border patrol and other missions.

"That, combined with a very aggressive, diplomatic effort in the region is what we're going to need to have," he said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she believed that setting a timetable was appropriate but declined to predict whether it would garner enough Senate votes to pass.

"People of this country have spoken overwhelmingly. It's been constant now," Feinstein said. "They want us out. It is time for the Senate to weigh in. I hope we will have the votes."

Hagel spoke on ABC's "This Week," Feinstein and Lott appeared on "Fox News Sunday," and Nelson was on CNN's "Late Edition."

Hagel: Some See Impeachment As Option

By HOPE YEN

The Associated Press
Sunday, March 25, 2007; 2:04 PM

WASHINGTON -- With his go-it-alone approach on Iraq, President Bush is flouting Congress and the public, so angering lawmakers that some consider impeachment an option over his war policy, a senator from Bush's own party said Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Senate's No. 2 Republican leader harshly criticized House Democrats for setting an "artificial date" for withdrawing troops from Iraq and said he believes Republicans have enough votes to prevent passage of a similar bill in the Senate.

"We need to put that kind of decision in the hands of our commanders who are there on the ground with the men and women," said Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss. "For Congress to impose an artificial date of any kind is totally irresponsible."

GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a frequent critic of the war, stopped short of calling for Bush's impeachment. But he made clear that some lawmakers viewed that as an option should Bush choose to push ahead despite public sentiment against the war.

"Any president who says, I don't care, or I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else, or I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed _ if a president really believes that, then there are _ what I was pointing out, there are ways to deal with that," said Hagel, who is considering a 2008 presidential run.

The Senate planned to begin debate Monday on a war spending bill that would set a nonbinding goal of March 31, 2008, for the removal of combat troops.

That comes after the House narrowly passed a bill Friday that would pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year but would require that combat troops come home from Iraq before September 2008 _ or earlier if the Iraqi government did not meet certain requirements.

On Sunday, Hagel said he was bothered by Bush's apparent disregard of congressional sentiment on Iraq, such as his decision to send additional troops. He said lawmakers now stood ready to stand up to the president when necessary.

In the April edition of Esquire magazine, Hagel described Bush as someone who doesn't believe he's accountable to anyone. "He's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends on how this goes," Hagel told the magazine.

In his weekly address Saturday, Bush accused Democrats of partisanship in the House vote and said it would cut the number of troops below a level that U.S. military commanders say they need. Vice President Dick Cheney also accused Democrats of undermining U.S. troops in Iraq and of sending a message to terrorists that America will retreat in the face danger.

"We have clearly a situation where the president has lost the confidence of the American people in his war effort," Hagel said. "It is now time, going into the fifth year of that effort, for the Congress to step forward and be part of setting some boundaries and some conditions as to our involvement."

"This is not a monarchy," he added, referring to the possibility that some lawmakers may seek impeachment. "There are ways to deal with it. And I would hope the president understands that."

Lott said setting withdrawal dates is a futile and potentially dangerous exercise because Bush has made clear he will veto any such legislation.

"There are members in the Senate in both parties that are not comfortable with how things have gone in Iraq," Lott said. "But they understand that artificial timetables, even as goals, are a problem. ...We will try to take out the arbitrary dates."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the Senate bill seeks to heed the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group by setting a goal of withdrawing some troops while leaving others behind to train the Iraqi army for border patrol and other missions.

"That, combined with a very aggressive, diplomatic effort in the region is what we're going to need to have," he said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she believed that setting a timetable was appropriate but declined to predict whether it would garner enough Senate votes to pass.

"People of this country have spoken overwhelmingly. It's been constant now," Feinstein said. "They want us out. It is time for the Senate to weigh in. I hope we will have the votes."

Hagel spoke on ABC's "This Week," Feinstein and Lott appeared on "Fox News Sunday," and Nelson was on CNN's "Late Edition."

Hydrocarbon Law for Dummies

Posted on March 24, 2007

by Anwaar Hussain

warposter5-r.jpg

Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who was in Japan last week for a four-day official visit, says U.S.-led coalition forces should be able to withdraw from his country in a year and half at the latest, a Japanese newspaper reported on Saturday.

“Personally, I think Iraqi security forces will complete reforms and training in a year or a year and a half. After that, the coalition troops will no longer be needed.” Hashemi was quoted as saying.

No longer needed, huh! Personally, I think that the Iraqi Vice President’s IQ and shoe size are about the same.

One hates to puncture the heartwarming, optimistic naivete of the Iraqi Vice President but the truth is that the U.S.-led coalition forces are not going any where, not for the next about 30 years at the minimum.

How, pray, has the scribe arrived at this conclusion, one may ask.

That, sirs, is a no-brainer. Read on.

Invisible in the smoke screen of civil war in Iraq, the current US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad has been working feverishly on Iraq’s first post-invasion Hydrocarbon Law.

The fancy name not withstanding, the law is simply about Iraq’s 112 billion barrels of proven, close to the surface and easily extractable oil reserves, the second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia, along with roughly 220 billion barrels of other probable and possible resources. Add to this another fact of equal importance. Iraq’s true potential is said to be far greater than this as the country has remained relatively unexplored due to years of war and sanctions.

The above mentioned two facts alone require an on-station presence of decades of some if not all four of the western oil giants i.e. Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP.

Simple thus far, eh? Let us proceed onwards.

Khalilzad’s untiring efforts were rewarded recently by the passing of the proposed law by the puppet Iraqi government. The lolly in the law is hidden in some of its provisions that are said to be a “radical departure from the norm for developing countries”. And that is that under the new law oil majors such as BP and Shell in Britain, and Exxon and Chevron in the US, would be able to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq’s oil, a kind of contract which other oil producing countries do not want to touch by a mile long pole.

Zalmay Khalilzad is an interesting character. One recalls that Khalilzad was once an advisor to Unocal (Union Oil Company of California). A diehard Neocon, he keeps getting sent to places where the oil scent is up in the air. He was appointed as a special envoy to Afghanistan immediately after the invasion and occupation of that country along with another ex-employee of Unocal, Hamid Karzai. Karzai, though, made it to the President of that same country.

Together they drew up a risk analysis of a proposed gas pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. Previously too Khalilzad had participated in similar talks between Unocal and Taliban officials in 1997. What is relatively unknown is that while that project remained a ‘pipe dream’, Unocal quietly merged with Chevron Corporation on August 10, 2005, and became a wholly owned subsidiary.

So the gist of the story so far is that Iraq’s Hydrocarbon Law, passed recently by a weak Iraqi government, gives long term concessions to Western oil giants, among them not just Khalilzad’s but many Neocons’ former employers. These oil giants, however, cannot operate on their own in Iraq and need protection from ‘overzealous’ national and regional forces that tend to unbalance the gravy train.

That brings us to Anwaar’s First Universal Law of Hydrocarbon. It states, “Hydrocarbon at rest tends to stay at rest and Hydrocarbon in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by unbalancing forces.”

Something clearly needed to be done regarding the unbalancing forces.

Now here is a map of Iraq oil fields turned over by the Commerce Department, under a March 5, 2002 court order as a result of Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit concerning the activities of the Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force. (Click here for another map if the earlier link does not work).

And here is an interactive map of the dozen or so permanent American military bases coming up in Iraq with billions of dollars of US tax payers’ money. As of mid-2005, the U.S. military had 106 forward operating bases in Iraq, including what the Pentagon calls 14 “enduring” bases (twelve of which are located on the map) – all of which are to be consolidated into four mega-bases.

Please juxtapose Iraq’s oil map with that of the upcoming permanent American military bases, keep in mind the 30 years provision of Iraq’s Hydrocarbon law, tie it in with the other little fact of these bases being called ‘enduring’ military bases by Pentagon and try calculating a time frame for American forces’ withdrawal from Iraq.

Still not there? Ok here is one more modest piece of information that would surely lead the reader in the correct direction. And that is the little matter of the construction of the largest embassy of any country in any country the world has ever seen.

America’s largest existing embassy, covering 10 acres and consisting of five buildings, is in the world’s most populous nation China. With a population of around 25 million, Iraq’s headcount is just twice that of the state of Illinois. However, this fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River will be the largest of its kind in the world, “the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq’s turbulent future.”

The designs aren’t publicly available, but the embassy is rumored to be a self-sufficient and “hardened” domain able to house a staff of 8000 people, having its own water wells, electricity plant, wastewater-treatment facility, twenty-one buildings including two major diplomatic office buildings, homes for the ambassador and his deputy, apartment buildings for staff, a swimming pool, gym, commissary, food court and an American Club.

The embassy’s 104-acre parcel is “six times larger than the United Nations’ compound in New York and two-thirds the acreage of the Mall in Washington. Protected by 15ft thick walls, its security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary with setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit.”

Doesn’t look like the Americans are going any where any time too soon…not to the scribe at least.

The Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi needs to be reminded of Anwaar’s First Universal Law of Hydrocarbon. The invaders knew that all along but chose not to inform the gullible Iraqi Veep.

Thirty years are the minimum that are required to ensure that most of Iraq’s Hydrocarbon, if not to the last drop, stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction wherefrom came the invasion without being acted upon by unbalancing forces. The Barak Obamas, the Kucinichs, and the Nancy Pelosis of this world can climb the nearest trees, their public chest beating on the issue not withstanding. They all work for the same employers any way.

Any one out there that thinks otherwise?

Filed Under Politics, GeoPolitics, American Empire, War, Iraq, Afghanistan, Neocolonialism & Neoliberalism |

Ground Zero - The First 15 min. of 9/11

Former Air Traffic Controller Robin Hordon speaks out on 9/11, NORAD and what should have happened on 9/11.

This interview by Jeremy Baker is one of the most important articles I've read about 9/11.

If ever there was a "Ground Zero" for the investigation of what happened on 9/11 it has to be the first fifteen minutes after the flights were discovered to have been hijacked.

If we learn the truth about what happened in those first fifteen minutes everything else will fall into place.

Within three hours of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Robin Hordon knew it was an inside job. He had been an Air Traffic Controller (ATC) for eleven years before Reagan fired him and hundreds of his colleagues after they went on strike in the eighties. Having handled in-flight emergencies and two actual hijackings in his career, he is well qualified to comment on what NORAD should have been able to achieve in its response to the near simultaneous hijacking of four domestic passenger carriers on the morning of September 11th, 2001.

“There had to be something huge to explain why those aircraft weren’t shot down out of the sky. We have fighters on the ready to handle these situations twenty-four-seven. We have NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) monitors monitoring our skies twenty-four-seven. We have a lot of human beings, civilian and military, who care about doing their jobs.”

I spoke to Mr. Hordon one afternoon at a coffee shop in Bremerton, Washington.

“You have to understand the emotions, the duty, the job of an ATC. We are paid to watch aircraft go across the country.”

It’s clear that Hordon is passionate about the subject. A lot of people are. The dark questions that the attacks have left lingering in the national psyche have been recorded. 49% of New Yorkers believe that the government had something to do with 9/11. Following an interview with Charlie Sheen, a CNN poll revealed that 82% of respondents believed that there was “a government cover-up of 9/11.” Jay Leno asked Bill Maher on The Tonight Show about the fact that 37% of Americans (according to Scribbs-Howard) believe that the government was involved in some way with the attacks (Maher was definitely not one of them).

As far as the “emotions, the duty, the job” of an ATC is concerned, Hordon puts it this way:

“Imagine yourself at a circus, a fair, a crowded sports event. You have in your hand your little child of five or six, you’re amongst hundreds of people and you turn around and see that your child is gone. How do you feel at that moment? You feel panicked. You feel that this is the worst thing possible, so what you do is you engage. When ATCs lose an aircraft, all hell breaks loose. They flip right into motion. We take action and do not wait for other things to happen.”

As a former member of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization), Hordon’s years as an ATC are particularly relevent to 9/11 researchers.

“I was a certified ATC in Boston west-bound departures, the routing that AA11 and UA175 followed on 9/11. I know it like the back of my hand.”

He even received a letter of commendation for his role in dealing with an actual hijacking. When it became clear that there hadn’t been a systems failure of any kind on the morning of September 11th, Hordon was certain that something had gone terribly wrong within the upper echelons of authority. A pilot (third level air carrier) as well as an ATC, he is well versed on in-flight emergency protocol. He is also adamant that if these procedures had been followed on 9/11 not one of the hijacked planes would have reached their targets.

“I’m sorry but American 11 should have been intercepted over southwest Connecticut—bang, done deal.”

According to Hordon, air emergencies requiring scrambles, or “flushes,” from fighter jets occur 50 to 150 times a year.

“It’s routine. At Otis AFB we would have practice exercises two or three times a year. We’d flush aircraft, get the B-52’s up, get the tankers up, get the fighters up. Just out of Otis there’d be twenty, thirty fighter jets. And on 9/11 there were plenty of fighters as well. They were just diverted over the ocean, tied up in drills, etc.”

The vast majority of air incidents are simple communications or routing failures, common mishaps that are easily remedied. Nonetheless, when a problem does arise, it is treated as an emergency and interceptors are scrambled.

“This is exactly what’s written in our manuals. We alert our immediate supervisors, we get another set of eyes on the scope. We have, two feet away from us, a little button that says ADC, Air Defense Command [nowadays NEADS (Northeast Air Defense Sector)]. Bing, hit the button. ‘Hey, this is me at the Boston Center air space. I just lost a target or I have an erratic target. He is twenty-five miles west of Keene, last reported at such-and-such location.’”

Pilots use similar checklists when responding to problems with their airplanes:

“If I lose an engine in a multi-engine aircraft I know exactly what to do. I start to control the aircraft to fly with one engine, I’ll shut the ailing engine down, I’ll get the aircraft trimmed up. It’s check, check, check.”

Hordon is not persuaded by those who make excuses for the lack of military response on 9/11. U.S. air defenses have been on hair-trigger alert to defend the nation from attack since the early sixties. The idea that, on the morning of 9/11, there was an inexplicable wave of incompetence on the part of his former FAA “brothers in arms” offends him deeply.

“The pilots are in their ready rooms, the planes are in open-ended hangars. You have frontline players, pilots and controllers. I’m there, I’m watching. The pilot is there, he’s flying. We have direct air defense command communications. That’s the way it’s been for fifty years.”

The unfathomable delays seen in military action on 9/11 are inconceivable to those who have painstakingly investigated the matter—and for a man who worked for years keeping air travel over the U.S. safe.

“Military pilots would have their asses off the ground faster than you could imagine. I know how quickly our systems can respond. Why would you design a system that responds slowly to an emergency?”

Claims by authorities that, once a hijacked aircraft’s transponders have been turned off, the plane becomes virtually invisible to radar, is another sore point for Hordon.

“Bottom line, these aircraft were always radar monitored, we were always in communication with them, even if they were hijacked. The only way you can lose an aircraft these days is for the plane to flat out blow up.”

Since any genuine air attack would not likely announce itself as such, NORAD radar has to be able to detect anything. But there’s nothing stealthy about an enormous Boeing passenger liner, whether its transponder is operating properly or not.

“That aircraft is represented on their radar scope from the time it takes off to the time it lands. Even little puddle-jumpers out of our local airports. NORAD tracks all these aircraft. They have the world’s most sophisticated radar.”

After eleven eventful years as an ATC, Hordon naturally reacted with shock when he first heard that fifty years of tried and true in-flight emergency protocol was abruptly altered in June of 2001, just two months before the attacks.

“Rumsfeld put a third party in between the ATC and the Air Defense Controller responsible for scrambling interceptors — the Pentagon.”

He speculates that “the phone calls went from the FAA to the Pentagon and were not answered. Therefore the Pentagon never reached down to the ADC base to release the aircraft. The Boston Center’s ATCs got so frustrated with the non-answer from the military that they finally said, ‘get these guys going anyways.’ That’s the way it’s been for fifty years. We scramble aircraft. We don’t wait for OK’s from third or fourth parties.”

The no-show status of the U.S. military on the morning of September 11th, 2001, has understandably become the single most compelling point that 9/11 researchers, writers and activists use to support their claims of complicity on the part of the U.S government (and its military and intelligence apparatus) in the attacks. When even those who condemn “conspiracy theory” in regard to 9/11 have questioned the military’s conduct that morning, it’s clear that this anomaly is worthy of intense concern and diligent investigation. Whatever the case may be, there are no doubts that history’s largest and most technologically advanced military was apparently caught completely off guard by four huge hijacked passenger jets that were in the air for almost two hours on the crystal clear morning of 9/11.

9/11 researchers have spent years speculating about what exactly did happen in the cockpits of the hijacked jets on 9/11. Theories run the gamut, from duplicate aircraft taking over the flight plans of the hijacked planes to passenger jets being remotely commandeered in mid-air. Naturally, the technical complexities involved in operating a huge commercial passenger jet can only be fully conveyed by someone with extensive aviation training and experience.

“For years, they have been improving what the common person will call an autopilot. The modern term is a flight director. You can program a flight director basically for your entire flight, before and after you take off.”

Flight directors—high-tech navigational computers—are used in commercial aircraft because they are always sensing every factor that affects an aircraft’s flight (wind speed and direction, fuel weight, atmospheric conditions, etc.) and instantly make the adjustments necessary to sustain the most efficient and economic operation of the plane.

“The Boeing 707 Series, I believe, were the last series of aircraft built where you actually controlled the plane using wires or cables. There are no cables anymore. What we have now are electronic or hydraulic sensors that transmit information to servos and other control devices that apply pressure to the control surfaces.”

The fact that the operation of modern aircraft is primarily computerized essentially makes the controls hackable, either from onboard or, if the proper receivers are installed in the plane, from a remote location.

“Internally the aircraft had to have a separate receiver unit built into it; separate windows of access into the flight director and an ability to disengage the manual controls in the aircraft and take it over with all of the pre-determined information.”

Hordon adds an important caveat: if a flight director was redirected during a flight, the new flight-plan would not necessarily be communicated to those on the ground.

Obviously, the training required to alter a flight director’s routing is substantial. But, as a student pilot learns to operate increasingly sophisticated aircraft, this knowledge becomes available as needed. Hordon believes that if the hijackers really did take control of the cockpits this may well have been what they were studying in the flight schools they attended.

Much has been made by 9/11 researchers about the seemingly limitless incompetence of the 9/11 hijackers as pilots—amateur aviators who could barely operate light aircraft. This odd fact has led many conspiracy advocates to speculate that the nineteen alleged hijackers may have been merely a gang of patsies or “Oswalds,” groomed by their handlers to take the fall for the attacks without their knowledge or involvement.

Some researchers even speculate that these “terrorists” never actually boarded the planes at all. Although this theory may sound outlandish to many, it is however supported by the astonishing fact that none of the hijackers’ names appear on any of the published passenger manifests. But Hordon believes that, if the hijackers really were on the planes and did indeed take over the cockpits as reported, their ability to actually fly the aircraft to their targets is a distinct possibility.

“If anybody thinks that these flight directors weren’t sophisticated enough to be programmed to go to these exact, specific coordinates—WTC One and Two—they’re wrong. It has nothing to do with pilot competence.”

Hordon believes that it would be relatively easy for the hijackers to reroute a commercial jet’s flight director to hit any location with great accuracy, as long as they had acquired the proper training. This is apparently one of the few accurate scenarios portrayed in the Hollywood movie Flight 93, a film Hordon otherwise dismisses as elaborate propaganda designed to deceive the public and sell the official story.

This point is intriguing when you consider the fact that a book recently published by the editors of Popular Mechanics magazine—Debunking 9/11 Myths—specifically claims that the hijackers of UA Flight 93 stormed the cockpit, took over the controls and drove the plane by sight, a method that PM and its army of expert technicians and specialists have nicknamed “point and go.”

Besides representing a bizarre departure from Hordon’s expert analysis, PM’s “point and go” theory also contradicts the scenario dramatized in Flight 93. Although it’s difficult for many people to believe that such a lack of consensus exists among the “experts” who support the official story, this is really just one of many examples where this kind of unfathomable contradiction has occurred.

Some theorists have speculated that homing beacons may have been transmitting signals to Flights 11 and 175 from within the Twin Towers—all the hijacked planes had to do was follow these signals to their destinations. Although he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to this theory, Hordon elaborates on it as a possibility:

“When a commercial jet approaches its destination, the flight director interfaces with transmitters located at the end of a runway and makes the adjustments. All the pilots have to do is sit back, monitor the controls and watch the airplane land itself, even in “zero-zero” conditions [no ceiling height or visibility].”

This combination of computerized onboard controls and what is essentially a homing signal from the flight’s destination is called “coupling,” a technological dance performed by aircraft thousands of times a day at airports all around the world.

Often criticized by detractors for speculating about the use of “Buck Rogers”-style aviation technology in the attacks, 9/11 researchers are nonetheless vindicated by Hordon who believes that such speculation may not be so outlandish after all. Referring to elaborate experiments done by the military decades ago that involved the remote control commandeering of aircraft, Hordon responds:

“In the seventies, they were extremely sophisticated with aircraft. Could they commandeer an aircraft in mid-flight right now? Absolutely, in a heartbeat. Clearly the technology is there. It’s been there for a long time.”

It only seems reasonable that if this technology were the most efficient, reliable and discrete means to guarantee the success of such an elaborate operation, the conspirators wouldn’t hesitate to make full use of it.

The question of whether or not the hijackers piloted the planes themselves or if control of the aircraft was taken completely out of their hands by operatives from a remote location has always been central to 9/11 researchers. But, to Robin Hordon, it’s, at best, a moot point:

“My answer to you is it’s irrelevant. It’s irrelevant whether the hijackers were real and were actually in the aircraft or whether the aircraft was commandeered by external forces. It could have been either one. One way or another, somebody other than U.S. certified airline pilots took over that aircraft, whether it be a terrorist sitting in the cockpit or someone outside the cockpit.”

Whatever scenarios Hordon may consider in regard to Flights 11, 175 and 93, he is adamant that 9/11 researchers shouldn’t rest until they’ve gotten to the bottom of the alleged crash of Flight 77 into the Pentagon. To many, the idea that a military jet or missile—not Flight 77—actually struck the Pentagon is a bizarre and almost inconceivable assertion. But for many 9/11 researchers, it is a central and compelling focus.

“The particular maneuver that was called upon for this huge Boeing aircraft, OK, it’s highly suspicious that a flight director could pull that one off. We also know that it’s highly suspicious that if it were the pilot that people say was operating the aircraft, we know that that guy couldn’t pull that off. That was completely impossible.”

A common notion to which many defenders of the official account cling (including such notables as Noam Chomsky) is the idea that any conspiracy as vast as 9/11 would have had to involve hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, all in-the-know and willing to go to the grave with their secrets. But well researched claims—that many sizable covert operations have indeed been kept from the public in the past; that state of the art technology can drastically reduce the number of people required for any given “op,” and that systemic “compartmentalization” of duties can effectively exploit many people’s involvement without their knowledge—have convincingly refuted this assertion. In addition, the ability of higher-ups to intimidate and silence potential whistleblowers after the fact is formidable. Naturally, Mr. Hordon has a thing or two to say on the subject.

“I think we all have to agree that, one way or another, the U.S. military was involved in the attacks. The advantage that Rumsfeld had is that he can classify, reshape, make available, make unavailable any information that he wants, at any time and deny that information to the public for any reason, especially national security.”

Hordon believes that one facet of the plan that the conspirators could not control was the individual integrity of the civilians in the FAA—dedicated professionals who would not likely remain silent if they had witnessed something unusual during the attacks.

Number one on Hordon’s list are the air traffic controllers: “What part of this whole thing is missing? Is it not the voice tapes from the civilian ATC’s? They had to devise a way to take the loose lips group, the civilian guys, and disengage them. If they are allowed to testify exactly as to their normal protocol behavior, they’re going to prove that the military were the culpable ones.”

When he was in the FAA, Hordon was certified as the operator in his facility tasked to secure relevant data after an air emergency; if not entirely because of public safety concerns, certainly for liability reasons.

“Whenever we had an incident, an emergency, on-air trouble, some type of a near ‘mid-air’ or a breakdown in aviation rules, we would immediately take the voice tapes and secure them. We would immediately take the radar data on that controller’s scope that day and secure them. Whenever there was an incident, all of the information, all of it was secured. Period.”

Despite this rigid protocol, there have been shocking accounts of ATC records being seized shortly after the attacks and kept far from public scrutiny. Hordon believes that these ATC recordings have either been destroyed or mutilated.

“The reason that they’re not giving us this early-on information is because they want to paint a picture of confusion, and they had to somehow get the civilian eye-witnesses out of it.”

Although the 9/11 Commission, desperate to deflect the public’s attention away from official quarters, scapegoated the FAA for incompetence in regard to the attacks, Hordon believes that the real confusion originated in the Pentagon, a theory that jibes well with the timely and suspicious change in air defense protocol mentioned above.

“The FAA has given us the computerized information about the aircraft being tracked. What the FAA has not given us is the internal tapes from the sectors in the Boston Center who were controlling this aircraft.”

If there were one point Robin Hordon would like to impress most upon 9/11 Truth researchers and activists it would be that the truth about the non-performance of U.S. air defenses on 9/11 lies in a careful examination of the first few minutes after the planes were known to have been hijacked.

“The first fifteen minutes are the key. I have done the math. If we had scrambled some aircraft five or six minutes after we saw this huge deviation, the fighters from Otis would have intercepted American 11 over southwestern Connecticut or just south of Albany, NY. The federal government and the military, for extremely serious reasons, are keeping the public focused on after American 11 hits the tower. But the real focus for 9/11 researchers should be what NORAD was doing five minutes after American 11 lost its transponder and went off course.”

Whatever criticism Hordon may have for NORAD and the Pentagon, it certainly doesn’t extend to the individuals on the frontlines of our nation’s civil defense:

“These are military fighter pilots. These are good guys. They figure stuff out. What do you think the pilots are doing? Ordering coffee and donuts? No. They are up there, their blood is pumping, they are thinking one thing: ‘My country is being invaded. This is why I stand on the ready in the waiting room down at Otis AFB; so that I can get up and defend my country.’ Do you think they’re going to get on the tail of American 11 when it was heading straight for the WTC and let it hit? No. What they’re going to do is say ‘OK, there’s going to be some bodies and shrapnel…boom.’ They’re going to take that risk.”

One of Hordon’s more ambitious proposals for the 9/11 Truth movement is that a support network be developed for the aid and protection of its single most important resource, whistleblowers.

“What the 9/11 movement should do is band together and develop safe lives for whistleblowers.” Legal counsel, moral support, even physical protection could do much to inspire those who are considering stepping forward with potentially explosive insider testimony about the attacks.

Hordon would also like to see young people being told the truth about politics, history and the world in their schools.

“The people who are our greatest assets are the kids in high school. If the military is taking advantage of the susceptibility of high school kids to seduce them to kill people, the peace movement needs to offer alternatives. We need to make available, at the end of the high school years, alternatives of thought in regard to the world’s economy and control apparatus.”

Hordon’s plan, though idealistic, is not without a certain opportunism:

“I want to go to high school kids because it’s a two for one proposition. First, their ears are wide open. They’re skeptical about this government right now and they’re plugged into the internet. Second, if we give them material to bring home, it winds up on the kitchen table. And what happens when parents find contraband that’s come into the house? They read it. It’s two for one.”

Many 9/11 activists believe that their work on issues related to the attacks has greater potential for true social transformation than any other single issue, and Hordon emphatically agrees.

“I think that this 9/11 thing is the quintessential opportunity to expose all of the infecting poisons; more than Iran Contra weapons for hostages, more than rampant militarism, more than Watergate, more than Enron, more than the dark side of the world’s financial institutions, more than any other similar kind of thing. I think that this is pretty much their last gasp, and the reason is very simple; the internet. We’re going to catch’em.”

Activists with a sense of humor are always a breath of fresh air. After his stint as an ATC, Hordon worked for years at the comedy club Catch a Rising Star in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Something must have rubbed off:

“We have two parties in this country; we have republicans and we have republicans dressed up in blue drag. And when we get the blue outer clothing off of the fake democrats, they stand there in their red Armani underwear.”

Hordon respects humor as a formidable weapon for activists. As an artistic coordinator for up and coming comedians, he once worked with some of the most talented and successful comics of our time including Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Some of the political comics he once coached are regulars on Air America Radio. Of the reigning powers-that-be, he has this to say:

“They know they’re done with 9/11. They know they’re cooked. They’re just throwing boxes of nails in the road behind their car as it speeds away and they’re hoping that all our tires get flattened. But it’s not happening. They know they’re pretty much done.”

Grounded and well informed, Robin Hordon is not a typical pie-in-the-sky progressive, and he likes what he sees happening around him.

“There’s so much good work being done. There’s such a cool pattern now and there’s so many kids coming up who know not to believe the stories they’re being told.”

His greatest hope is that these young movers and shakers shun the roads previously taken by their less politically savvy forebears.

“Sixty percent of our elected officials are millionaires. Until we change that, we are going to struggle to make our democracy better. And I think that, you [know], democracies are OK. I think it’s a pretty good plan. I think we should try to get one.”

Posted in Submitted by qrswave on Sun, 2007-03-25 04:36. qrswave's blog