Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Last Confessions of E. Howard Hunt


He was the ultimate keeper of secrets, lurking in the shadows of American history. He toppled banana republics, planned the Bay of Pigs invasion and led the Watergate break-in. Now he would reveal what he'd always kept hidden: who killed JFK


Once, when the old spymaster thought he was dying, his eldest son came to visit him at his home in Miami. The scourges recently had been constant and terrible: lupus, pneumonia, cancers of the jaw and prostate, gangrene, the amputation of his left leg. It was like something was eating him up. Long past were his years of heroic service to the country. In the CIA, he'd helped mastermind the violent removal of a duly elected leftist president in Guatemala and assisted in subterfuges that led to the murder of Che Guevara. But no longer could you see in him the suave, pipe-smoking, cocktail-party-loving clandestine operative whose Cold War exploits he himself had, almost obsessively, turned into novels, one of which, East of Farewell, the New York Times once called "the best sea story" of World War II. Diminished too were the old bad memories, of the Bay of Pigs debacle that derailed his CIA career for good, of the Watergate Hotel fiasco, of his first wife's death, of thirty-three months in U.S. prisons -- of, in fact, a furious lifetime mainly of failure, disappointment and pain. But his firstborn son -- he named him St. John; Saint, for short -- was by his side now. And he still had a secret or two left to share before it was all over.

They were in the living room, him in his wheelchair, watching Fox News at full volume, because his hearing had failed too. After a while, he had St. John wheel him into his bedroom and hoist him onto his bed. It smelled foul in there; he was incontinent; a few bottles of urine under the bed needed to be emptied; but he was beyond caring. He asked St. John to get him a diet root beer, a pad of paper and a pen.

Saint had come to Miami from Eureka, California, borrowing money to fly because he was broke. Though clean now, he had been a meth addict for twenty years, a meth dealer for ten of those years and a source of frustration and anger to his father for much of his life. There were a couple of days back in 1972, after the Watergate job, when the boy, then eighteen, had risen to the occasion. The two of them, father and son, had wiped fingerprints off a bunch of spy gear, and Saint had helped in other ways, too. But as a man, he had two felony convictions to his name, and they were for drugs. The old spymaster was a convicted felon too, of course. But that was different. He was E. Howard Hunt, a true American patriot, and he had earned his while serving his country. That the country repaid him with almost three years in prison was something he could never understand, if only because the orders that got him in such trouble came right from the top; as he once said, "I had always assumed, working for the CIA for so many years, that anything the White House wanted done was the law of the land."

Years had gone by when he and St. John hardly spoke. But then St. John came to him wanting to know if he had any information about the assassination of President Kennedy. Despite almost universal skepticism, his father had always maintained that he didn't. He swore to this during two government investigations. "I didn't have anything to do with the assassination, didn't know anything about it," he said during one of them. "I did my time for Watergate. I shouldn't have to do additional time and suffer additional losses for something I had nothing to do with."

But now, in August 2003, propped up in his sickbed, paper on his lap, pen in hand and son sitting next to him, he began to write down the names of men who had indeed participated in a plot to kill the president. He had lied during those two federal investigations. He knew something after all. He told St. John about his own involvement, too. It was explosive stuff, with the potential to reconfigure the JFK-assassination-theory landscape. And then he got better and went on to live for four more years.

They sure don't make White House bad guys the way they used to. Today you've got flabby-faced half-men like Karl Rove, with weakling names like "Scooter" Libby, blandly hacking their way through the constraints of the U.S. Constitution, while back then, in addition to Hunt, you had out-and-out thugs like G. Gordon Liddy, his Watergate co-conspirator and Nixon's dirty-tricks chief, who would hold his own hand over an open flame to prove what a real tough guy he was. It all seems a little nutty now, but in 1972 it was serious business. These guys meant to take the powers of the presidency and run amok. Hunt, an ex-CIA man who loved operating in the shadows and joined Nixon's Special Investigations Unit (a.k.a. "the Plumbers") as a $100-a-day consultant in 1971, specialized in political sabotage. Among his first assignments: forging cables linking the Kennedy administration to the assassination of South Vietnam's president. After that, he began sniffing around Ted Kennedy's dirty laundry, to see what he could dig up there. Being a former CIA man, he had no problem contemplating the use of firebombs and once thought about slathering LSD on the steering wheel of an unfriendly newspaperman's car, hoping it would leach into his skin and cause a fatal accident. But of all his various plots and subterfuges, in the end, only one of them mattered: the failed burglary at the Watergate Hotel, in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1972.

The way it happened, Hunt enlisted some Cuban pals from his old Bay of Pigs days to fly up from Miami and bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters, which was located inside the Watergate. Also on the team were a couple of shady ex-government operators named James McCord and Frank Sturgis. The first attempt ended when the outfit's lock picker realized he'd brought the wrong tools. The next time, however, with Hunt stationed in a Howard Johnson's hotel room across the way, communicating with the burglars by walkie-talkie, the team gained entry into the office. Unfortunately, on the way into the building, they'd taped open an exit door to allow their escape, and when a night watchman found it, he called the cops. The burglars were arrested on the spot. One of them had E. Howard's phone number, at the White House, no less, in his address book. Following this lead, police arrested Hunt and charged him with burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping. Abandoned by his bosses at the White House, he soon began trying to extort money from them to help pay his mounting bills, as well as those of his fellow burglars, the deal being that if the White House paid, all those arrested would plead guilty and maintain silence about the extent of the White House's involvement.

That December, his wife, Dorothy, carrying $10,000 in $100 bills, was killed in a plane crash, foul play suspected but never proved. Two years later, impeachment imminent, Nixon resigned his presidency. And in 1973, E. Howard Hunt, the man who had unwittingly set all these events in motion, pleaded guilty and ultimately spent thirty-three months in prison. "I cannot escape feeling," he said at the time, "that the country I have served for my entire life and which directed me to carry out the Watergate entry is punishing me for doing the very things it trained and directed me to do."

After his release, Hunt moved to Miami, where he remarried, had two more children and spent three decades living a quiet, unexceptional life, steadfastly refusing to talk about Watergate, much less the Kennedy assassination. His connection to the JFK assassination came about almost serendipitously, when in 1974 a researcher stumbled across a photo of three tramps standing in Dallas' Dealey Plaza. It was taken on November 22nd, 1963, the day of Kennedy's shooting, and one of the tramps looked pretty much like E. Howard. In early inquiries, official and otherwise, he always denied any involvement. In later years, he'd offer a curt "No comment." And then, earlier this year, at the age of eighty-eight, he died -- though not before writing an autobiography, American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate & Beyond, published last month. Not surprisingly, those things he wrote down about JFK's death and gave to his eldest son don't make an appearance in the book, at least not in any definitive way. E. Howard had apparently decided to take them to the grave. But St. John still has the memo -- "It has all this stuff in it," he says, "the chain of command, names, people, places, dates. He wrote it out to me directly, in his own handwriting, starting with the initials 'LBJ' " -- and he's decided it's time his father's last secrets finally see some light, for better or for worse.

Out in eureka, a few days before his father's death, St. John is driving through town in a beat-up mottled-brown '88 Cutlass Sierra. He is fifty-two. His hair is dark, worn long, and despite his decades as a drug addict, he's still looking good. He has a Wiccan girlfriend named Mona. He's also an accomplished and soulful guitar player, leaning heavily toward Eric Clapton; he can often be found playing in local haunts during open-mike nights and is working on putting a band together, perhaps to be called Saint John and the Sinners or, though less likely, the Konspirators. He's got a good sense of humor and a large sentimental streak. The last time he saw his father, in Miami, was a week ago.

"I sat by his bedside holding his hand for about ten hours the first day," St. John says somberly. "He hadn't been out of bed in ten weeks, had pneumonia twenty-seven times in the last sixteen months. He's such a tough old motherfucker, that guy. But he had all this fluid in his lungs, a death rattle, and I thought, 'Any minute now, this is it, his last breath, I'm looking at it right here.' A couple of times my stepmom, Laura, would say, 'Howard, who is this?' He'd look at me and her, and he didn't have a clue. Other times, he would quietly say, 'St. John.' He said he loved me and was grateful I was there."

At the moment, Saint doesn't have a job; his felonies have gotten in the way. He has to borrow money to put gas in his Cutlass. Beach chairs substitute for furniture in the tiny apartment where, until recently, he lived with an ex-girlfriend, herself a reformed meth addict, and two kids, one hers, one theirs. "I would've loved to have lived a normal life," he says. "I'm happy with who I am. I don't have any regrets. But all the shit that happened, the whole thing, it really spun me over."

And not only him but his siblings, too -- a brother, David, who has had his own problems with drugs, and two older sisters, Kevan and Lisa, who still hold their father responsible for the tragedy of their mom's death. Dorothy Hunt was staunchly loyal to her husband and, after his arrest, helped him with his plans to blackmail the White House. On December 8th, 1972, carrying $10,000 in what's regarded as extorted hush money and, some say, evidence that could have gotten Nixon impeached, she boarded United Airlines Flight 553 from Washington to Chicago. The plane crashed, killing forty-three people onboard, including Dorothy. The official explanation was pilot error, but St. John doesn't believe it. He thinks that the Nixon White House wanted to both get rid of his mother and send a message to his father. Nonetheless, he says he tries not to place blame.

"She got on that plane willingly and lovingly, because that's the kind of woman she was," he says. "They had lots of marital problems, but when it came down to it, she had his back, and she could hang in there with the big dogs. She was really pissed at Nixon, Liddy, all those guys, and she was saying, 'We're not going to let them hang you out to dry. We're going to get them. Those motherfuckers are going to pay.' So I've never held what happened against him. I had bitterness and resentment, but I always knew he did what he had to do given the circumstances."

And at times, he even seems to think of his dad with pride: "Did you hear that the character that Tom Cruise plays in the Mission: Impossible movies is named after him? Instead of Everette Hunt, they named him Ethan Hunt. I know he's been portrayed as kind of an inept, third-rate burglar, but burglary wasn't really his bag. My dad was a really good spy, maybe a great spy."

But then he starts talking about what it was like growing up the eldest son of Everette Howard Hunt, and a different picture emerges. "He loved the glamorous life, cocktail parties, nightclubbing, flirting, all that," Saint says. "He was unfaithful to my mom, but she stayed with him. He was a swinger. He thought of himself as a cool dude, suave, sophisticated, intellectual. He was Mr. Smooth. A man of danger. He was perfect for the CIA. He never felt guilt about anything."

In the early days of the cold war, the CIA's mandate was simple: to contain the spread of communism by whatever means necessary; it was tacitly given permission to go about its dirty business unfettered by oversight of any kind. For much of the Cold War, it was answerable to no one. And if you were lucky enough to become one of its agents, you had every right to consider yourself a member of an elite corps, a big swinging all-American dick like no other.

The middle-class son of a Hamburg, New York, attorney, E. Howard Hunt graduated from Brown University in 1940 with a bachelor's in English, joined the Navy during World War II, served in the North Atlantic on the destroyer Mayo, slipped and fell, took a medical discharge and wound up in China working under "Wild" Bill Donovan in the newly formed Office of Strategic Services. When the OSS was transformed into the CIA, Hunt jumped onboard. He loved action as much as he hated communism, and he soon began operating with a level of arrogance entirely typical of the CIA. He was instrumental, for instance, in planning the 1954 coup in Guatemala that overthrew the left-leaning, democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, and ushered in forty years of military repression, which ultimately cost 200,000 Guatemalans their lives. Years later, when asked about the 200,000 deaths, E. Howard said, "Deaths? What deaths?" Like Saint says, he never felt guilt about anything: "He was a complete self-centered WASP who saw himself as this blue blood from upstate New York. 'I'm better than anybody because I'm white, Protestant and went to Brown, and since I'm in the CIA, I can do anything I want.' Jew, nigger, Polack, wop -- he used all those racial epithets. He was an elitist. He hated everybody."

In the early Fifties, his father could often be seen cruising around in a white Cadillac convertible; he loved that car. He also loved his cigars and his wine and his country clubs and being waited on by servants and having his children looked after by nannies. He was full of himself and full of the romantic, swashbuckling, freewheeling importance of his government mission. He had quite an imagination, too. When he wasn't off saving the world from Reds, he spent much of his time in front of a typewriter, hacking out espionage novels, some eighty in all, with titles such as The Violent Ones ("They killed by day, they loved by night") and I Came to Kill ("They wanted a tyrant liquidated, and cash could hire him to do it").

Wherever E. Howard was stationed -- he'd pop up Zelig-like in hot spots from Japan to Uruguay to Spain -- he and his family lived lavishly and well, all presumably to lend credence to his cover job as a high-ranking embassy official. One estate was as large as a city block, and one dining table as long as a telephone pole, with the parents sitting at distant opposite ends. Sadly, he treated his children the way he and the CIA treated the rest of the world. They were supposed to bend to his will and otherwise be invisible. God forbid during a meal one of them should speak or rattle a dish.

"Whenever I made a sound, he looked at me with those hateful, steely eyes of his, a look of utter contempt and disgust, like he could kill," St. John says. "He was a mean-spirited person and an extremely cruel father. I was his firstborn son, and I was born with a clubfoot and had to have operations. I suffered from petit-mal seizures. I was dyslexic and developed a stutter. For the superspy not to have a superson was the ultimate disappointment, like, 'Here's my idiot son with the clubfoot and glasses. Can we keep him in the closet, Dorothy?' "

Later, E. Howard moved the family to the last home it would ever occupy as a family, in Potomac, Maryland. It was called Witches Island. It was a rambling affair, with a horse paddock, a chicken coop, the Cold War bonus of a bomb shelter, and a fishing pond across the way. E. Howard wanted Saint to attend a top-flight prep school and one night took him to a dinner at St. Andrew's School, to try and get his son enrolled. In the middle of the meal, Saint leaned over to his dad and whispered, "Papa, I have to go to the bathroom." His father glared at him. Pretty soon Saint was banging his knees together under the table. "Sit still," his father hissed. Saint said, "Papa, I really have to go."

"I ended up pissing in my pants at the dinner," Saint says. "Can you imagine how humiliating that was? Unbelievable." He didn't get into St. Andrew's. He ended up settling for a lower-tier boarding school called St. James, near Hagerstown, Maryland. His second year there, in 1970, after being repeatedly molested by a teacher, he broke down and told his mother what was going on. She told his father. And rumor had it that E. Howard came up to St. James with a carload of guns to make the teacher disappear. "He was really, really pissed off," says Saint. "He wanted to kill." In any case, at the school, neither the teacher nor St. John was ever seen again.

That same year, his father retired from the CIA after being relegated to the backwaters for his role in the Bay of Pigs. He went to work as a writer for a PR firm. He was bored and missed the hands-on action of the CIA.The following year, however, his lawyer pal Chuck Colson, who was special counsel to Nixon, called him up with an invitation to join the president's Special Investigations Unit as a kind of dirty-tricks consultant. He signed on. He really thought he was going places.

Around the time of st. john's Miami visit in 2003 to talk to his ailing father about JFK, certain other people were also trying to get things out of E. Howard, including the actor Kevin Costner, who had played a JFK-assassination-obsessed DA in the Oliver Stone film JFK and had become somewhat obsessed himself. Costner said that he could arrange for E. Howard to make $5 million for telling the truth about what happened in Dallas. Unbeknown to St. John, however, Costner had already met with E. Howard once. That meeting didn't go very well. When Costner arrived at the house, he didn't ease into the subject. "So who killed Kennedy?" he blurted out. "I mean, who did shoot JFK, Mr. Hunt?"

E. Howard's mouth fell open, and he looked at his wife. "What did he say?"

"Howard," Laura said, "he wants to know who shot JFK."

And that ended that meeting, with E. Howard grumbling to himself about Costner, "What a numskull."

But then St. John got involved, and he knew better how to handle the situation. For one thing, he knew that his stepmother wanted to forget about the past. She didn't want to hear about Watergate or Kennedy. In fact, E. Howard swore to Laura that he knew nothing about JFK's assassination; it was one of her preconditions for marriage. Consequently, she and her sons often found themselves in conflict with St. John.

"Why can't you go back to California and leave well enough alone?" they asked him. "How can you do this? How dare you do this? He's in the last years of his life."

But Saint's attitude was, "This has nothing to do with you. This stuff is of historical significance and needs to come out, and if you're worried that it'll make him out to be a liar, everybody knows he's a liar already. Is this going to ruin the Hunt name? The Hunt name is already filled with ruination."

So when Saint arrived in Miami to talk to his dad, the two men spent a lot of time waiting for Laura to leave the house. Saint painted the living room and built a wheelchair ramp. In the mornings, he cooked breakfast. In the afternoons, he plopped a fishing hat on E. Howard's head and wheeled him around the neighborhood. They drank coffee together. And watched lots of Fox News. And when Laura finally left, they talked.

Afterward, another meeting was arranged with Costner, this time in Los Angeles, where the actor had fifty assassination-related questions all ready to go. (The actor declined comment for this article.) Though the $5 million figure was still floating around, all Costner wanted to pay E. Howard at this point was $100 a day for his time. There would be no advance. St. John called Costner.

"That's your offer? A hundred dollars? That's an insult. You're a cheapskate."

"Nobody calls me a cheapskate," said Costner. "What do you think I'm going to do, just hand over $5 million?"

"No. But the flight alone could kill him. He's deaf as a brick. He's pissing in a bag. He's got one leg. You want him to fly to Los Angeles and for $100 a day? Wow! What are we going to do with all that money?!"

"I can't talk to you anymore, St. John," Costner said. And that was the end of that, for good. It looked like what E. Howard had to say would never get out.

One evening in Eureka, over a barbecue meal, St. John explains how he first came to suspect that his father might somehow be involved in the Kennedy assassination. "Around 1975, I was in a phone booth in Maryland somewhere, when I saw a poster on a telephone pole about who killed JFK, and it had a picture of the three tramps. I saw that picture and I fucking -- like a cartoon character, my jaw dropped, my eyes popped out of my head, and smoke came out of my ears. It looks like my dad. There's nobody that has all those same facial features. People say it's not him. He's said it's not him. But I'm his son, and I've got a gut feeling."

He chews his sandwich. "And then, like an epiphany, I remember '63, and my dad being gone, and my mom telling me that he was on a business trip to Dallas. I've tried to convince myself that's some kind of false memory, that I'm just nuts, that it's something I heard years later. But, I mean, his alibi for that day is that he was at home with his family. I remember I was in the fifth grade. We were at recess. I was playing on the merry-go-round. We were called in and told to go home, because the president had been killed. And I remember going home. But I don't remember my dad being there. I have no recollection of him being there. And then he has this whole thing about shopping for Chinese food with my mother that day, so that they could cook a meal together." His father testified to this, in court, on more than one occasion, saying that he and his wife often cooked meals together.

St. John pauses and leans forward. "Well," he says, "I can tell you that's just the biggest load of crap in the fucking world. He was always looking at things like he was writing a novel; everything had to be just so glamorous and so exciting. He couldn't even be bothered with his children. That's not glamorous. James Bond doesn't have children. So my dad in the kitchen? Chopping vegetables with his wife? I'm so sorry, but that would never happen. Ever. That fucker never did jack-squat like that. Ever."

Not that it was all bad back then, in Potomac, at Witches Island. E. Howard played the trumpet, and his son was into music too, so sometimes the pair went down to Blues Alley, in Georgetown, to hear jazz. Back home, E. Howard would slap Benny Goodman's monster swing-jazz song "Sing, Sing, Sing" on the turntable, and the two would listen to it endlessly. And then, sometimes, during the stomping Harry James horn solo, E. Howard would jump to his feet, snapping his fingers like some cool cat, pull back his shirt sleeves, lick his lips and play the air trumpet for all he was worth. It was great stuff, and St. John loved it. "I would sit there in awe," he says. But the best was yet to come.

It was well past midnight on June 18th, 1972. Saint, eighteen years old, was asleep in his basement bedroom, surrounded by his Beatles and Playboy pinup posters, when he heard someone shouting, "You gotta wake up! You gotta wake up!"

When he opened his eyes, Saint saw his father as he'd never seen him before. E. Howard was dressed in his usual coat and tie, but everything was akimbo. He was a sweaty, disheveled mess. Saint didn't know what to think or what was going on.

"I don't need you to ask a lot of questions," his father said. "I need you to get your clothes on and come upstairs."

He disappeared into the darkness. Saint changed out of his pajamas. Upstairs, he found his father in the master bedroom, laboring over a big green suitcase jumble-filled with microphones, walkie-talkies, cameras, tripods, cords, wires, lots of weird stuff. His father started giving him instructions. Saint went to the kitchen and returned with Windex, paper towels and some rubber dishwashing gloves. Then, in silence, the two of them began wiping fingerprints off all the junk in the suitcase. After that, they loaded everything into E. Howard's Pontiac Firebird and drove over to a lock on the C&O Canal. E. Howard heaved the suitcase into the water, and it gurgled out of sight.

They didn't speak on the way home. St. John still didn't know what was going on. All he knew was that his dad had needed his help, and he'd given it, successfully.

The next day, dressed in one of his prep-school blazers, he drove to a Riggs Bank in Georgetown and met his father inside the safety-deposit-box cage. His father turned him around, lifted his blazer and shoved about $100,000 in cash down the back of his pants. The boy made it home without picking up a tail. Then his father had him get rid of a typewriter. Saint put the typewriter in a bag, hoofed it across the Witches Island property onto the neighboring spread and tossed it into the pond where he and his brother David used to go fishing.

"Don't ever tell anybody you've done these things," his father said later. "I could get in trouble. You could get in trouble. I'm sorry to have to put you in this position, but I really am grateful for your help."

"Of course, Papa," Saint said.

Everything he had done, he'd done because his father and his gang of pals had botched the break-in at the Watergate Hotel. Soon his mother would be killed in a plane crash, and his father would be sent to jail, and Nixon would resign, and his own life would fracture in unimaginable ways. But right now, standing there with his father and hearing those words of praise, he was the happiest he'd ever been.

Years later, when saint started trying to get his father to tell what he knew about JFK, he came to believe the information would be valuable. He both needed money and thought he was owed money, for what he'd been through. Also, like many a conspiracy nut before him, he was more than a little obsessed.

"After seeing that poster of the three tramps," he says, "I read two dozen books on the JFK assassination, and the more I read, the more I was unsure about what happened. I had all these questions and uncertainties. I mean, I was trying to sort out things that had touched me in a big way."

Touched him and turned him upside down, especially the death of his mother. He had been particularly close to her. She was part Native American and had sewed him a buckskin shirt that he used to wear like a badge of honor, along with a pair of moccasins. At the same time, Saint feels that he never got to know her. She told him that during World War II, she'd tracked Nazi money for the U.S. Treasury Department, and Saint believes that early in her marriage to his father, she may have been in the CIA herself, "a contract agent, not officially listed." But he isn't sure about any of it, really.

"In our family, everything was sort of like a mini-CIA," he says. "Nothing was ever talked about, so we grew up with all of these walls, walls around my father, walls around my mother, walls around us kids, to protect and insulate us. You grow up not knowing what really happened. Like, who was my mom, for Christ's sake? Was she a CIA agent? What was her life really like?" The one thing he does know is that when she died, so in large part did the Hunt family.

Once his father went to prison, Saint moved to Wisconsin, where he worked in a potato-processing plant and spent the rest of his time dropping acid. In 1975, he moved to the Oakland, California, area, started snorting coke and for five years drove a bakery truck. He was in a band and hoped to become a rock star, though touring alongside Buddy Guy was about the biggest thing that ever happened. Then he gave up coke and took up meth and a while later started dealing meth. Twenty years flew by. He had wild sexual escapades; he shacked up with two sisters -- "nymphs," he calls them. But mainly his life, like his father's, was a rolling series of misfortunes. He received insurance money after his mom died, and bought a house; a week later, it burned down in some drug-related fiasco. His brother David followed a similar path; leaving boarding school, he hooked up with Saint, and together they set about snorting and dealing away the years.

Finally, in 2001, on the heels of two drug busts, Saint decided to go straight. With his ex-girlfriend, their daughter and her son, he stayed in a series of shelters, then took them to live in Eureka, several hours north of Oakland. He's since earned a certificate in hotel management, but jobs don't last. And the questions and uncertainties about his father continue to circulate in his head.

"In some ways we turned out similarly," he says. "He was a spy, into secrets and covert activity. I became a drug dealer. What has to be more covert and secret than that? It's the same mind-set. We were just on opposite sides of the -- well, actually, in our case, I guess we weren't even on opposite sides of the law, were we?" That time in miami, with saint by his bed and disease eating away at him and him thinking he's six months away from death, E. Howard finally put pen to paper and started writing. Saint had been working toward this moment for a long while, and now it was going to happen. He got his father an A&W diet root beer, then sat down in the old man's wheelchair and waited.

E. Howard scribbled the initials "LBJ," standing for Kennedy's ambitious vice president, Lyndon Johnson. Under "LBJ," connected by a line, he wrote the name Cord Meyer. Meyer was a CIA agent whose wife had an affair with JFK; later she was murdered, a case that's never been solved. Next his father connected to Meyer's name the name Bill Harvey, another CIA agent; also connected to Meyer's name was the name David Morales, yet another CIA man and a well-known, particularly vicious black-op specialist. And then his father connected to Morales' name, with a line, the framed words "French Gunman Grassy Knoll."

So there it was, according to E. Howard Hunt. LBJ had Kennedy killed. It had long been speculated upon. But now E. Howard was saying that's the way it was. And that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the only shooter in Dallas. There was also, on the grassy knoll, a French gunman, presumably the Corsican Mafia assassin Lucien Sarti, who has figured prominently in other assassination theories.

"By the time he handed me the paper, I was in a state of shock," Saint says. "His whole life, to me and everybody else, he'd always professed to not know anything about any of it. But I knew this had to be the truth. If my dad was going to make anything up, he would have made something up about the Mafia, or Castro, or Khrushchev. He didn't like Johnson. But you don't falsely implicate your own country, for Christ's sake. My father is old-school, a dyed-in-the-wool patriot, and that's the last thing he would do."

Later that week, E. Howard also gave Saint two sheets of paper that contained a fuller narrative. It starts out with LBJ again, connecting him to Cord Meyer, then goes on: "Cord Meyer discusses a plot with [David Atlee] Phillips who brings in Wm. Harvey and Antonio Veciana. He meets with Oswald in Mexico City. . . . Then Veciana meets w/ Frank Sturgis in Miami and enlists David Morales in anticipation of killing JFK there. But LBJ changes itinerary to Dallas, citing personal reasons."

David Atlee Phillips, the CIA's Cuban operations chief in Miami at the time of JFK's death, knew E. Howard from the Guatemala-coup days. Veciana is a member of the Cuban exile community. Sturgis, like Saint's father, is supposed to have been one of the three tramps photographed in Dealey Plaza. Sturgis was also one of the Watergate plotters, and he is a man whom E. Howard, under oath, has repeatedly sworn to have not met until Watergate, so to Saint the mention of his name was big news.

In the next few paragraphs, E. Howard goes on to describe the extent of his own involvement. It revolves around a meeting he claims he attended, in 1963, with Morales and Sturgis. It takes place in a Miami hotel room. Here's what happens:

Morales leaves the room, at which point Sturgis makes reference to a "Big Event" and asks E. Howard, "Are you with us?"

E. Howard asks Sturgis what he's talking about.

Sturgis says, "Killing JFK."

E. Howard, "incredulous," says to Sturgis, "You seem to have everything you need. Why do you need me?" In the handwritten narrative, Sturgis' response is unclear, though what E. Howard says to Sturgis next isn't: He says he won't "get involved in anything involving Bill Harvey, who is an alcoholic psycho."

After that, the meeting ends. E. Howard goes back to his "normal" life and "like the rest of the country . . . is stunned by JFK's death and realizes how lucky he is not to have had a direct role."

After reading what his father had written, St. John was stunned too. His father had not only implicated LBJ, he'd also, with a few swift marks of a pen, put the lie to almost everything he'd sworn to, under oath, about his knowledge of the assassination. Saint had a million more questions. But his father was exhausted and needed to sleep, and then Saint had to leave town without finishing their talk, though a few weeks later he did receive in the mail a tape recording from his dad. E. Howard's voice on the cassette is weak and grasping, and he sometimes wanders down unrelated pathways. But he essentially remakes the same points he made in his handwritten narrative.

Shortly thereafter, Laura found out what had been going on, and with the help of E. Howard's attorney put an end to it. St. John and his father were kept apart. When they did see each other, they were never left alone. And they never got a chance to finish what they'd started. Instead, the old man set about writing his autobiography and turned his back on his son. He wrote him a letter in which he said that Saint's life had been nothing but "meaningless, self-serving instant gratification," that he had never amounted to anything and never would. He asked for his JFK memos back, and Saint returned them, though not before making copies.

There is no way to confirm Hunt's allegations -- all but one of the co-conspirators he named are long gone. St. John, for his part, believes his father. E. Howard was lucid when he made his confession. He was taking no serious medications, and he and his son were finally on good terms. If anything, St. John believes, his father was holding out on him, the old spy keeping a few secrets in reserve, just in case.

"Actually, there were probably dozens of plots to kill Kennedy, because everybody hated Kennedy but the public," Saint says. "The question is, which one of them worked? My dad has always said, 'Thank God one of them worked.' I think he knows a lot more than he told me. He claimed he backed out of the plot only so he could disclaim actual involvement. In a way, I feel like he only opened another can of worms." He takes a deep breath. "At a certain point, I'm just going to have to let it go."

Out in Eureka, Saint has been reading an advance copy of E. Howard's autobiography, American Spy. In it, his father looks at LBJ as only one possible person behind the JFK killing, and then only in the most halfhearted, couched-and-cloaked way. He brings up various other possibilities, too, then debunks each of them.

But of all the shadings and omissions in the book, the only one that truly upsets St. John has to do with the happiest moment in his life, that time in 1972, on the night of the Watergate burglary, when he helped his father dispose of the spy gear, then ran money for him and ditched the typewriter.

The way it unfolds in the book, St. John doesn't do anything for his dad. And it's E. Howard himself who dumps the typewriter.

"That's a complete lie," Saint says, almost shouting. "A total fabrication. I did that. I mean, he never took me aside and thanked me in any kind of deep emotional way. But I'm the one who helped him that night. Me! And he's robbing me of it. Why?"

Like so many other things, he will never know why, because the next day, on January 23rd, in the morning, in Miami, the old spymaster dies.

Later in the day, Saint started reading a few of the obituaries.

One starts off, "Sleazebag E. Howard Hunt is finally dead."

"Oh, God," Saint says and goes looking for how The New York Times handled his father's death. The obit reads, "Mr. Hunt was intelligent, erudite, suave and loyal to his friends. But the record shows that he mishandled many of the tasks he received from the CIA and the White House. He was 'totally self-absorbed, totally amoral and a danger to himself and anybody around him. . . .' "

"Wow," Saint says. "I don't know if I can read these things. I mean, that is one brutal obituary."

But the Times is right, of course. E. Howard was a danger to anybody around him, and any list of those in danger would always have to include, right at the top, his firstborn son, St. John.

>> Who assassinated JFK? The conversation continues in our politics blog, National Affairs Daily.

Posted Mar 21, 2007 1:15 PM

Rachel Corrie Play Censored in Florida

Apr 3, 2007

Though comments publicly solicited for and against "were running 85 percent for doing the play, 15 percent against", Plantation's Mosaic Theatre in South Florida has cancelled a planned run of the play My Name is Rachel Corrie. South Florida now joins New York and Toronto as locals that have had theaters cave to pressure not to permit audiences to see an unflattering portrayal of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

"I've been astonished at the attacks on me as a Jew'', said Mosaic's artistic director Richard Jay Simon.

More after the fold.

Actress Mindy Woodhead, who was to have portrayed Corrie at Mosaic, is grieving both the loss of a powerful role and the opportunity for connection with audiences.

''It was very shocking; it feels like the death of a creative child . . . It makes me sad that fear of the unknown is such a motivating factor,'' said Woodhead who, like Corrie, is trying to make a difference in the world via two years of Peace Corps service in Morocco starting in September. ``It demonstrated to me how little I knew about the political implications of a production in southeast Florida.''

Rachel Corrie was an American peace activist allegedly murdered according to the sworn affidavits of multiple eyewitnesses by the operator of an IDF bulldozer demolishing homes in Rafah in 2003. To this date, contrary to standard procedure, no United States investigation of the alleged murder has ever been conducted, despite the ongoing pleas of her family. Media stories and cultural events in North America that might portray Israel in an unflattering light vis-a-vis its ongoing occupation of Palestine remain a controversial and largely verboten aspect of American life.

The play, written by Katherine Viner and Alan Rickman, a hit in London and damned with faint praise in New York when it was finally shown, has recently met with success in Seattle where it has had its run extended.

Rachel Corrie interviewed before her death:

By Near Vanna

Soros Kicked AIPAC. - Obama Kicks Soros.- Let's Kick All Three

Board of Deputies of British Jews:
"Pragmatic" Nazi-Zionist Collaboration was OK
The Plot to Stigmatize "51 Documents" on Amazon.com
"In this world, the follies of the rich pass for wise sayings."

Soros Kicked AIPAC. -
Obama Kicks Soros. -
Let's Kick All Three
By Lenni Brenner

Author of "51 Documents"
(Zionist Collaberation with NAZIS)

It is a sign of the changing political times that the 3/12 American
Israel Public Affairs Committee Washington conference received
much more candid journalistic treatment than AIPAC events
have ever received. The NY Times 3/14 report,
"Clinton and Obama Court Jewish Vote," got right to the point:

"As Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama compete
for Jewish donors and voters,
Mrs. Clinton is following a tried-and-true rule of hers from New York -
- support Israel to the last -- while Mr. Obama is trying
a more delicate strategy that hit some bumps this week."

Clinton never stops pandering to New York's ultra-right Zionists.
In an age when most young educated Jews escape from Judaism
and marry gentiles,
the 'Feminist' candidate is constantly in Sex-Segregated
Orthodox Jewish Synagogues, telling them of her great love of Israel,
which of course comes from her heart, not from their check books.
Her same ol' same ol' speech was remarked on,
but Obama is the new comet in the Democratic sky
and the Times focused on what was different
in his "I am pro-Israel" speech.

"Several Jewish conference-goers said they were concerned
by Mr. Obama's remark Sunday in Iowa where ... he said,
'Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people'....
Obama put the blame on the stalled peace efforts with Israel
and on the refusal of the Palestinian Govt. to renounce terrorism."

Obama represents Illinois, "the land of Lincoln."
But he models himself after the state's other great philosopher,
Al Capone. Chicago's Mafia leader proclaimed and proved that
"Kind words and a machine gun
will get you more than kind words alone."
Obama has a history of telling Arab-Americans that he
'feels the pain' of the Palestinians -
- while he supports giving billions in weapons to their oppressors.

The Times coverage of Obama was distinctive for the paper,
in giving competition "for Jewish donors and voters"
as the purpose of both leading wannabe Democratic candidates.
Since Hitler, for good and bad reasons, writing about Jewish political
money has been the great 'no-no' of America's capitalist media.
In 1991, I interviewed Harold Seneker, editor of the "Forbes 400"
issue of the magazine, for an article in the 2/11 Nation.
I estimated that Jews, about 2.5% of Americans,
were consistently circa 20% of the 400 richest Americans.
He wanted to write a story on it.
"Its a success, both for the Jews and capitalism."
But publisher Malcolm Forbes wouldn't let him.
He remembered the period after Hitler's 1933 victory inspired
American anti-Semitic propaganda about 'Jewish money.'
He agreed with Seneker's thesis, but didn't want responsibility for
even a slight possible rise in anti-Semitism resulting from an article.

The taboo's negative has been mass media silence about the
impact of Zionist money on US domestic and foreign policy since
Harry Truman, wanting Jewish campaign contributions, supported
Israel's creation in the run up to the 1948 presidential election.
But today many journalists, Jew and gentile, are critical of Israel
re the Palestinians, zealotry for Bush staying in Iraq and threats
of bombing Iran. For them, not talking about Jewish money means
not dealing with capitalist America's massive political corruption.
Thus the March 2 Forward, New York's prestigious
'Jewish community' weekly, had no hesitation in running
"How Many, How Much?," a graph estimating Jews as 24%
of the current Forbes 400 listing of the "nation's richest."

Most Jews aren't rich. And among the rich, the most famous
political donor, George Soros, isn't a Zionist.
(but he is a scoundrel who buys Halliburton Stock.)
The 3/23 Forward declared that he just dropped a political bomb
of "near-nuclear force" on American Zionism. The billionaire's
article in the post-dated 4/12 New York Review of Books,
http://nybooks.com/articles/20030, argues that the
US does Israel a disservice in ritually backing it:

"While other problem areas of the Middle East are freely discussed,
criticism of our policies toward Israel is very muted indeed ....
One explanation is to be found in the pervasive influence of the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which strongly
affects both the Democratic and the Republican parties ....
Politicians challenge it at their peril because of
the lobby's ability to influence political contributions."

He long ago left Judaism behind, but he kept quiet about this
because he "did not want to provide fodder to the enemies of Israel."
But now its time for the American Jewish community
"to rein in the organization that claims to represent it."

Soros is a Tory reformist.
He funds narcotics law reformers and other worthy-issue groups.
But the Drug Policy Alliance, which got 30% of its funds from Soros,
welcomed Republican conventioneers to New York in 2004,
even as a massive anti-war march
protested against Bush and his party's war.
Now he wants Israel to negotiate with Hamas.
"Fortunately Saudi Arabia, whose position is also precarious,
has a genuine interest in promoting a settlement based on 2 states."
He wants the Saudis to lean on Hamas while the US pressures
Israel into negotiating itself out of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Never mind that Saudia is a vicious despotism.
Ignore US arms to it and Israel. Forget that the American people
have absolutely no interest in arming either criminal government.
If Soros got his wishes fulfilled, the result would be "Bantustine,"
guarded by Israel and America's Arab satraps.

Many Americans also want Israel to deal with Hamas,
concerned for horrific Palestinian living conditions,
without sharing the billionaire's naive imperial mentality.
But nuking AIPAC was too much for Obama.
His campaign immediately announced that

"Mr. Soros is entitled to his opinions.
But on this issue, he and Senator Obama disagree.
The US and our allies are right to insist that Hamas -
- a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel's destruction -
- meet very basic conditions before being treated as a legitimate actor.
AIPAC is one of many voices that share this view."

Soros is modern proof of Sancho Panza's proverb.
He told Don Quixote that -
"in this world, the follies of the rich pass for wise sayings,"
and Soros gave the Democrats $28 million in 2004,
knowing his party to be demagogues pandering after Zionist cash,
vainly hoping that they would beat Bush.
The 3/21 Sun, New York's Zionist daily, was 'right on the money'
when it explained Obama's problem. Even if we presume
that he really is troubled by the Palestinians' wretched conditions.

"The Soros article puts Democrats in the awkward position
of choosing between Mr. Soros, a major funder of their causes,
and the pro-Israel lobby, whose members
are also active in campaign fund-raising."

Soros cash would buy Obama media ads in Democratic primaries.
But taking it means AIPAC billionaires buying ads for Clinton.
On the other hand, denouncing Soros
doesn't mean him running ads against Obama.
And, if he gets nominated, he can reasonably expect
Soros to fund him against the Republican.
Soros's guileless reformism has ended him up with less,
not more, influence in inner circles of his lesser evil.

Democrats hustling Zionist money reaches surreal proportions.
Party leaders rage against Jimmy Carter -- their own ex-president! -
- for denouncing Israeli apartheid. Obama distances himself
from his party's biggest funder. But now the party may have to pay
a liberal price for its money chasing. Liberal Jews and gentiles
see Obama as anti-Iraq war. But many dislike Israeli policies.
If anti-war lefts Keep the AIPAC/Soros/Obama affair in front of their eyes,
Obama dumping on Soros can operate to make them suspicious
of their party as a real anti-war lesser evil. It doesn't take a high tech
crystal ball to see Obama's crisis as our opportunity.
If we get our own act together, the anti-war movement can move out
of the wings and into the center of the America's political stage.

Soros has more money than educated anti-war Democrats but they
don't have more brains than him.For now, they would still vote for any
hawk the Democrats pick in 08, as a lesser evil to any Republican.
But if we start an internet convention, ASAP, to pick a genuine
anti-war presidential candidate by the end of 2007, committed
to running against the bipartisan hawk-parties, many will sign on
as they come to understand that the US military isn't going
to get out of the Middle East, whether the Democrats win or lose.

In 2000 and 2004 they worried that voting for Nader meant electing
Bush. But now Democrats run Congress, and they aren't kicking
Bush out of Iraq. Working for a Democratic victory as a lesser
anti-war evil is no longer axiomatic for such types.
In fact, if a left party came to life and drew enough votes from
the Democrats to elect a Republican, every pundit, right to left,
would understand this to mean that the anti-war movement
was growing in number and determination to end
all of America's wars, once and for all and forever.

Liberals voted Democrat in 1968 and 1972, fantasizing
thattheir party would end the Vietnam war. It lost.
But Nixon's Attorney General stared out of the White House
at a gigantic march. While most demonstrators were liberal Democrats,
he knew the parade was called and organized by Trotskyists,
Stalinists, left Black nationalists, unions, pacifists and such:
"It looks like the Russian revolution."
Determined Marxist organizing cadre, only a few thousand at most,
not Democratic politicians, mobilized the hundreds of thousands
that forced "bipartisan" Washington out of Indochina.
Nixon read the handwriting on the wall: Get out -
- or get more radical explosions at home.

We have a better and worse situation. Bush is losing the confidence
of millions of Americans and the Democrats aren't gaining it.
But neither are the divided anti-war demonstrators.
Nevertheless, we have the same task in 2007 and forever more:
We must build a massive united street movement
to get US imperialism out of the Middle East
and everywhere else, from now to eternity.

Henceforth, no one can talk intelligently about US
Middle Eastern policy without discussing AIPAC, Obama and Soros.
We must shout from the rooftops about Zionist campaign contribs.
Anti-Semitism is "a fire that has burned itself out" in modern America.
It won't spring up from the ashes if we take care.
Lecture audiences laugh when I rhetorically defend our politicians:

"Rich Zionists can't just walk in on a Democrat and bribe him!
No way!! They must sit in his waiting room
with all the other bribe-givers until its their turn!!!"

US politics is the story of unending corruption since New York's
Tammany Hall and other 19th century political machines, when Jews,
rich or poor, were a minuscule percentage of the population,
and Zionists were non-existent.
We cannot seriously educate the public about the 'legalized bribery'
of Zionist campaign contributions to the modern Republicratic
Washington machine without putting it in its matrix of general grafting.
We won't persuade most Americans to end
Zionist buying of our rulers, alone. Nor should we try,
when we certainly can mobilize millions who already want abolition
of private election contributions, with publicly funded elections
taking their place.
In context, documented exposure of Zionism's perfidious role
is not only legitimate, it is a perfect educational example
of America's government
of the rich, by the rich, for the rich,
which must perish from the earth.

Lenni Brenner is the author of Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, and
editor of Jefferson & Madison On Separation of Church and State:
Writings on Religion and Secularism. He blogs at
and can be reached at BrennerL21@aol.com.

75 Democrats Gone, and Counting (Take That You Weasels)!

Friday, March 30, 2007

I Quit! A Movement of One, Or Maybe a Million

It's time to quit being a Democrat, and start being a democrat!

I’ve always been a registered Democrat. I think it has something to do with my having reached voting age in 1967, when there were actually some serious anti-war candidates challenging the party leadership, and being able to vote in the primaries really mattered, and because in 1972, there was a genuine choice between an honest peace candidate and a truly wretched war-monger, who was working to destroy the Constitution.

My party, the Democrats, eventually took a stand against President Richard Nixon, and together with some Republicans who also valued the Constitution above blind party loyalty, they brought him down, and ushered in a rare, albeit brief, roll-back in the national security state.

Now we have another wretched war-monger, George W. Bush, who like Nixon before him is also doing his best to undermine the Constitution, but the party I have always been registered as a member of is letting him get away with it.

Oh sure, they’re having hearings to embarrass him, and they’re playing games to make it look like they’re opposed to his war-mongering, but they are clearly not doing anything concrete to stop him, the way Democrats did in 1974 with Nixon.

In fact, the leadership of my party is doing worse than nothing. They are actively blocking efforts to bring President Bush to ground. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has is known to have threatened key members of Congress, notably Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, and other early backers of impeachment hearings, with punishment—the loss of key committee and subcommittee chairs or postings, problems with any bills they might submit, and the like--in order to keep them from submitting bills of impeachment.

She and other leading Democrats in Washington have also unconscionably interfered with efforts in state legislatures to pass resolutions which would demand that the House of Representatives take up impeachment.

The cynical motive behind these actions is to try and win bigger majorities in Congress in 2008 by doing nothing—the idea being that Bush and his cronies and their Republican backers in Congress have made such a hash of running the country, and of their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that Americans will abandon them and turn to the Democrats.

The problem with this strategy—even if it were to work, which is dubious--is that by 2008 there won’t be much left of the Constitution, or of tri-partite government, thanks to Democratic inaction and cowardice.

Only the impeachment of Bush and the other criminals in the current administration can restore the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the tradition of separation of powers that has provided the underpinning of American democracy for over two centuries.

So after watching this pathetic post-November Kobuki show by the Democrats in Congress, I’ve had it!

The Democrats need to know that they can no longer act in such an irresponsible, cynical manner. They need to know that they can no longer take my vote for granted, counting on me to stick with the party because the Republicans are so much worse.

If Democrats will not impeach this president, if they in fact actively undermine attempts to express the popular will of the party's grassroots membership, I quit.

I’m giving my party notice. Effective immediately, I’m going to my local voter registrar’s office and changing my registration to Green Party, and I won’t be back to vote for Democrats until they take a stand of principle and begin impeachment hearings to remove President George W. Bush from Office. I will be sending word of my resignation to the Democratic National Committee, and to Speaker Pelosi.

I urge every Democrat who cares about the future of the country and the survival of the Constitution to join me. It doesn't matter whether you join the Greens, the Socialists, the Populists, or just go unaffiliated. What matters is that you quit the Democratic Party.

Elections in the U.S. of late are being won and lost by narrow margins. If the Democratic leadership sees that hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions of us, are not going to play their game anymore, maybe they’ll finally start acting like real Democrats again, if only to win back the progressive voters, like me, who I’m suggesting here should abandon them.

If you do decide to quit, and to notify party leaders of your decision, please also send me an email with just “I quit” in the subject line (no messages please!) at: I_Quit_This_Party

I’ll be publishing the results here weekly, and if the numbers get large enough, I'll be going to the mainstream press and the DNC with them.

And please spread the word.

8:56 am pst

Gingrich: When I Said ‘Language Of Living In The Ghetto,’ I Meant Hebrew (Or Maybe Yiddish)

Newt Gingrich said this past weekend that the U.S. should abolish bilingual education so that people aren’t speaking “the language of living in a ghetto.”

But last night on Hannity & Colmes, Gingrich claimed his statement “did not refer to Spanish.” Gingrich insisted, “What I meant is very clear[],” but then wouldn’t say which language he was referring to.

Gingrich said, “Now, I’ll let you pick — frankly, ghetto, historically had referred as a Jewish reference originally. I did not mention Hispanics, and I certainly do not want anybody who speaks Spanish to think I’m in any way less than respectful of Spanish or any other language spoken by people who come to the United States.”

Gingrich made his comments in the context of bilingual education. Overwhelmingly, that means English/Spanish education. Peter Zamora, co-chair of the Hispanic Education Coalition, understood what Gingrich meant: “The tone of his comments was very hateful. Spanish is spoken by many individuals who do not live in the ghetto.”

UPDATE: Jeffrey Feldman notes that Gingrich got his history wrong.


COLMES: You spoke over the weekend to the National Federation of Republican Women. You’re quoted as having said, The American people believe English should be the official language. And then you went on to say that people should learn the language of the country and not the language of living in a ghetto, referring to Spanish. Is that your definitive comment or was that a misquote? Were you not properly quoted?

GINGRICH: Well, that did not refer to Spanish. The point I made was that we ought to have a program of intensive education so that every person who comes to America learns English as rapidly as possible. And I’ve talked to experts who believe that an intensive program, young people could learn to be relatively fluent in four to six months, and older people could learn in a year.

COLMES: What do you mean language in the ghetto?

GINGRICH: What I meant is very clearly, Alan. I’ll let you pick the right word for me. We should not have a program which traps people into not being able to speak English by failing to teach them the language that is the prominent language of prosperity, the dominant language of government, the dominant language of politics. Now, I’ll let you pick — frankly, ghetto, historically had referred as a Jewish reference originally. I did not mention Hispanics, and I certainly do not want anybody who speaks Spanish to think I’m in any way less than respectful of Spanish or any other language spoken by people who come to the United States.

Watch it:

Bush just lied in his press conference about Iraq; said our military commanders came up with the surge, in fact they opposed the surge, all of them

Tuesday, April 03, 2007
4/03/2007 10:38:00 AM ET

Bush just spoke to the nation, trying to convince the public to support his Iraq quagmire, and he claimed again that the surge, the escalation, was the idea of his commanders in the field, and he's just following their advice.

In fact, all of the Joint Chiefs, the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, ALL opposed the surge.
The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.
And our commanders in the field opposed the surge, so Bush fired them and replaced them with someone who would rubber stamp his surge plan.
In devising his new strategy, Bush again turned to the neoconservatives. The so-called surge strategy is the brainchild of Frederick Kagan, a military historian at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute who has never been to Iraq. And once again, President Bush dismissed the views of his military advisers. General George Casey and General John Abizaid, the commanders in the field, doubted that additional troops would make any difference in Iraq. They were replaced by surge advocates, including Lieutenant General David Petraeus, now the top commander in Iraq.
And remember, it was just a few months ago, that the commanders on the ground were SO opposed to the surge that Bush came out and said, for the first time, that he WOULDN'T listen to commanders on the ground anymore.

This all matters because once again Bush is lying to the American people in order to justify yet another failed extreme policy. He has lied about this war from the beginning, and he and his administration have lied about so many issue that it's impossible to trust anything they say. Bush lies. He doesn't trust the American people to know the truth. He doesn't have the courage or maturity to take responsibility for his own actions, so he blames the generals - you see, it's THEIR idea, not his, it's THEIR fault, not his. "Who me?" Bush can't ever be blamed for this infernal mess because he's just a bystander, you understand. Only problem? It's all one big lie.

The man is a ten year old child. It's time to take away the car keys.

by John Aravosis (DC)

Discuss this post here: Comment s (192)

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Orwell at Guantanamo

By Eugene Robinson

Tuesday, April 3, 2007; A23

Here's what the Bush administration has done to the values, traditions and honor of the United States of America: An accused terrorist claims he confessed to heinous crimes so that agents of the U.S. government would stop torturing him, and no one is shocked or even surprised. There's reason to believe, in fact, that what the suspect says about torture is probably true.

There's also reason to doubt that the suspect -- Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, held in U.S. custody without charges for more than four years -- is the Zelig-like innocent bystander he claims to be. But we can't be sure, because George W. Bush disgraced himself and his country by ordering extrajudicial kidnappings of suspects in the war on terror, indefinite secret detention and interrogation by "alternative" methods that the civilized world calls torture.

On Friday, the Defense Department released a heavily redacted transcript of a March 14 hearing, held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to determine whether Nashiri should be classified as an "enemy combatant." I apologize for resorting to cliche, but the only way to describe this amazing, infuriating document is to call it Orwellian. Reading it gives you the chills.

None of the members of the military tribunal sitting in judgment is named. The officer serving as Nashiri's "personal representative" likewise is not named. Unclassified evidence is presented in summary -- an unnamed "recorder" reads a document quoting statements by witnesses that attest to Nashiri's involvement in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, in which 224 people died, and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors. The witnesses are not present, so, of course, there is no opportunity to challenge their statements.

Nashiri's representative, a lieutenant commander in the Navy, presents a stunning response: "The Detainee states that he was tortured into confession and once he made a confession his captors were happy and they stopped torturing him. Also, the Detainee states that he made up stories during the torture in order to get it to stop."

The response states that Nashiri confessed under torture not only to the East Africa and USS Cole bombings but also to the 2002 bombing of the French oil tanker Limburg, some bombings and rocket attacks in Saudi Arabia, a plan to bomb American ships in the Persian Gulf, and "a plan to hijack a plane and crash it into a ship." Oh, and he also told investigators that Osama bin Laden had acquired a nuclear bomb.

"I just said those things to make the people happy," Nashiri tells the tribunal. "They were very happy when I told them those things."

One gets the sense that he would have confessed to the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls if that would have made his interrogators happy.

Nashiri denies having anything to do with terrorism, although he acknowledges taking money from bin Laden. He paints himself -- unconvincingly, in my view -- as a simple merchant who makes poor choices in friends and has a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Navy captain serving as president of the tribunal gets around to asking Nashiri about the alleged torture. Who did it? They were Americans, Nashiri says. When did it happen? "From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me."

Only George Orwell could have written what comes next in the transcript. The following is what we are allowed to know of Nashiri's response when asked how he was tortured:

"What else do I want to say? [REDACTED]. Many things happened. There were doing so many things. What else did they did? [REDACTED]. They do so many things. So so many things. What else did they did? [REDACTED]. After that another method of torture began. [REDACTED]. They used to ask me questions and the investigator after that used to laugh. And, I used to answer the answer that I knew. And, if I didn't reply what I heard, he used to [REDACTED]. So many things happened. I don't in summary, that's basically what happened."

I guess that's how the U.S. government extracts information from detainees: [REDACTED].

The Pentagon told reporters that Nashiri's claims were censored because of "national security concerns" about disclosing where detainees were held and how they were treated. But that would be unnecessary if Nashiri were lying, since no harm could come from disclosing a bunch of made-up stories. The censorship makes sense only if some or all of what Nashiri alleges is true.

But we're not permitted to know what he alleges.

Orwell had it figured out: "Ignorance is Strength."

U.S. could strike Iran but not win: Russian general

Tue Apr 3, 6:17 AM ET

The United States cannot inflict a military defeat on Iran and any attack would be a huge political mistake, Russia's top general said on Tuesday.

"It is possible to damage Iran's military and industrial potential, but it is impossible to win," Russian news agencies quoted General Yuri Baluyevsky, head of the Russian general staff, as saying.

"The United States has a contingent in the region capable of launching a strike on Iranian territory.

"However, such possible strikes would be a huge political mistake. Shockwaves from this attack could be felt around the world."

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of wanting to build nuclear bombs, a charge Tehran denies. Tensions have been further aggravated by Iran's capture of 15 British sailors and marines in the northern Gulf on March 23.

Russia sells weapons to the Iranian military and is helping Tehran build a nuclear power station on the Gulf although work there is on hold over a payment dispute.

Russian media late last month quoted unnamed sources in Russian military intelligence as saying the United States could launch a strike on Iran as early as April 6.

RIA news agency quoted a Russian security source as saying Moscow has military intelligence reports that the U.S. has already approved a list of Iranian targets for bomb and missile strikes. The source said a land operation could follow.

U.S. President George W. Bush has said he will pursue diplomatic means to persuade Iran to drop its uranium enrichment plan but he has refused to rule out the use of force.

Baluyevsky said military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan showed the United States would face a fiasco if it took on Iran as well.

"The Americans must think twice (about attacking Iran)," he said. "They have already got stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq."

US ready to strike Iran within days

The Guardian 4 April, 2007

Russian intelligence has information that the US Armed Forces have nearly completed preparations for a possible military operation against Iran, and will be ready to strike in early April, a security official said.

Official data says the US’s military presence in the region has reached the level of March 2003 when the US invaded Iraq.

The US has not excluded the military option in negotiations on Iran over its refusal to abandon its nuclear program. The UN Security Council passed a new resolution on Iran last Saturday, toughening economic sanctions against the country and accepting the possibility of a military solution to the crisis.

The security source said the Pentagon could, after assessing the damage done to the Iranian forces by its possible missile strikes and analysing the political situation there, decide to conduct ground operations as well.

A senior Russian security official said that the Pentagon hoped to bring Iran to its knees and had recently intensified training for air and ground operations.

Russian Col-Gen Leonid Ivashov, Vice-President of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week the Pentagon was planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran’s military infrastructure in the near future.

A new US carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf. The USS John C Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006. The US is also sending Patriot anti-missile systems to the region.

On the other hand Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "We are constantly working on how to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program and other conflicts peacefully. This policy is unchanged and we will pursue it in the future."

Acknowledgement to Russian Information Agency Novosti (March 30, 2007)



Supreme Court backs EPA pollution controls

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility News Release (www.peer.org)

For Immediate Release: April 3, 2007
Contact: Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337

CLIMATE AND OCEAN SCIENTISTS PUT UNDER NEW SPEECH RESTRAINTS — Any Scientific Statements “of Official Interest” Must be Pre-Approved

Washington, DC — Federal climate, weather and marine scientists will be subject to new restrictions as to what they can say to the media or in public, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Under rules posted last week, these federal scientists must obtain agency pre-approval to speak or write, whether on or off-duty, concerning any scientific topic deemed “of official interest.”

On March 29, 2007, the Commerce Department posted a new administrative order governing “Public Communications.” This new order covers the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which includes the National Weather Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Commerce’s new order will become effective in 45 days and would repeal a more liberal “open science” policy adopted by NOAA on February 14, 2006.

Although couched in rhetoric about the need for “broad and open dissemination of research results [and] open exchange of scientific ideas,” the new order forbids agency scientists from communicating any relevant information, even if prepared and delivered on their own time as private citizens, which has not been approved by the official chain-of-command:

  • Any “fundamental research communication” must “before the communication occurs” be submitted to and approved by the designated “head of the operating unit.” While the directive states that approval may not be withheld “based on policy, budget, or management implications of the research,” it does not define these terms and limits any appeal to within Commerce;
  • National Weather Service employees are allowed only “as part of their routine responsibilities to communicate information about the weather to the public”; and
  • Scientists must give the Commerce Department at least two weeks “advance notice” of any written, oral or audiovisual presentation prepared on their own time if it “is a matter of official interest to the Department because it relates to Department programs, policies or operations.”

“This ridiculous gag order ignores the First Amendment and disrespects the world-renowned professionals who work within Commerce agencies,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Under this policy, National Weather Service scientists can only give out name, rank, serial number and the temperature.”

The agency rejected a more open policy adopted last year by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The new policy also was rushed to print despite an ongoing Commerce Office of Inspector General review of communication policies that was undertaken at congressional request.

While claiming to provide clarity, the new Commerce order gives conflicting directives, on one hand telling scientists that if unsure whether a conclusion has been officially approved “then the researcher must make clear that he or she is representing his or her individual conclusion.” Yet, another part of the order states non-official communications “may not take place or be prepared during working hours.” This conflict means that every scientist who answers an unexpected question at a conference puts his or her career at risk by giving an honest answer.


See the new Commerce Public Communications Policy

Look at the agency justification (in the form of Frequently Asked Questions)

Read some of the objections from the National Weather Service Employees Organization

Contrast with the soon-to-be-rescinded NOAA “open science” policy

Compare the NASA policy

What do captured British sailors, fake water boundaries, a botched US raid in Iraq and a UK political corruption scandal have in common?

April 3, 2007

By Heather Wokusch

What do captured British sailors, fake water boundaries, a botched US raid in Iraq and a UK political corruption scandal have in common? Read on…

Tension mounts between Britain and Iran over the 15 British sailors seized on March 23. While many US media outlets dutifully repeat the claims that: 1) the sailors were in Iraqi waters at the time they were taken captive, and 2) the incident came completely out of nowhere, a closer examination of the facts indicates otherwise.

Here’s a quick overview of recent articles providing important context -

1. The map showing the captured sailors were in Iraqi waters is "fake" and "has no legal force."

Craig Murray was the Ambassador to the Central Republic of Uzbekistan from 2002-04 and "helped expose the vicious human rights abuses by the US-funded regime of Islam Karimov."

He also headed Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1989-92. In other words, Murray knows a thing or two about maritime borders.

Here’s an excerpt from Murray’s March 28, 2007 blog entitled "Fake Maritime Boundaries" (www.craigmurray.co.uk):

The British Government has published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker.

But there are two colossal problems.

A) The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.

B) Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one.

None of which changes the fact that the Iranians, having made their point, should have handed back the captives immediately. I pray they do so before this thing spirals out of control. But by producing a fake map of the Iran/Iraq boundary, notably unfavourable to Iran, we can only
harden the Iranian position.

2. According to the UK’s Independent, "A failed American attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to northern Iraq was the starting pistol for a crisis that 10 weeks later led to Iranians seizing 15 British sailors and Marines."

An excerpt from the Independent’s April 3 2007 article entitled "The botched US raid that led to the hostage crisis"

Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and
still holds.

In reality the US attack had a far more ambitious objective, The Independent has learned. The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment.

Better understanding of the seriousness of the US action in Arbil - and the angry Iranian response to it - should have led Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence to realise that Iran was likely to retaliate against American or British forces such as highly vulnerable Navy search
parties in the Gulf…

The attempt by the US to seize the two high-ranking Iranian security officers openly meeting with Iraqi leaders is somewhat as if Iran had tried to kidnap the heads of the CIA and MI6 while they were on an official visit to a country neighbouring Iran, such as Pakistan or

The raid in Arbil was a far more serious and aggressive act. It was not carried out by proxies but by US forces directly. The abortive Arbil raid provoked a dangerous escalation in the confrontation between the US and Iran which ultimately led to the capture of the 15 British sailors and Marines - apparently considered a more vulnerable coalition target
than their American comrades.

3. Headlines about the captured sailors have conveniently buried reports on Prime Minister Tony Blair’s role in a domestic political scandal, which had him threatening to resign as recently as last week.

The UK’s Sunday Telegraph reported on March 26th: "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 ... 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."

"Under caution" means that Blair would have been "treated as a suspect, rather than simply as a witness." That would be undesirable for Blair, because "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."

According to a Sunday Telegraph source, "Make no mistake, Scotland Yard was informed that Mr Blair would resign as Prime Minister if he was interviewed under caution."

The plot thickens

Allegations that Lord Levy is suffering anti-semitism divide British Jews
It’s Anti-Semitism, Stupid!