Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Two Explosive Books Tell the Inside Story of the Forged Iraq-Niger Docs That Helped Build the Case for War

Editor's note: I am moving to post at the secondary blog(also see new articles below).
Tuesday, April 10th, 2007


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In his January 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush declared the infamous sixteen words: “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” The claim was central to the administration’s claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking weapons of mass destruction and served as a basis for launching the Iraq invasion less than two months later. Bush’s declaration was based on an intelligence document that provided evidence about Iraq’s purchase of uranium from the African country of Niger. But there was one problem: the document was a fake. In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we speak with the authors of two explosive new books. Carlo Bonini is the Italian reporter who broke the Niger story. His new book is called “Collusion: International Espionage and the War on Terror.” Peter Eisner is a veteran foreign correspondent and is currently an editor at the Washington Post. His new book is “The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq.” [includes rush transcript - partial]
It was one of the key justifications for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
    President Bush: “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
President Bush made the statement in his January 2003 State of the Union. Those sixteen words were central to the administration’s claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking weapons of mass destruction and served as a basis for launching the Iraq invasion less than two months later. Bush’s declaration was based on an intelligence document that provided evidence about Iraq’s purchase of uranium from the African country of Niger. But there was one problem: the document was a fake.

Bush’s smoking gun evidence would quickly unravel and ignite a political firestorm that reached the highest levels of the US government. The story behind the forged document stretches from Italy to Niger to Iraq and deep into the corridors of the US intelligence community and the White House itself. The document played a key role in the chain of events that led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former Chief of Staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, in the CIA leak case.

And its effect continues to reverberate today. Congressmember Henry Waxman, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, recently formally requested Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to testify before a committee hearing next week regarding the false Iraq-Niger claims.

Today, a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive: two explosive new books. Carlo Bonini is the Italian reporter who broke the story. His new book is called “Collusion: International Espionage and the War on Terror.” He is an investigative journalist with La Repubblica newspaper of Rome, and he joins us in our firehouse studio. Peter Eisner is a veteran foreign correspondent and is currently an editor at the Washington Post. His new book is “The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq.” He joins us from Washington, D.C.

  • Peter Eisner. Veteran foreign correspondent. He is currently an editor at the Washington Post. He is co-author of “The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq.”

  • Carlo Bonini. Investigative journalist with La Repubblica newspaper of Rome. He is co-author of “Collusion: International Espionage and the War on Terror.”


AMY GOODMAN: It was one of the key justifications for the US invasion of Iraq.

    PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush made the statement in his January 2003 State of the Union address. Those sixteen words were central to the administration’s claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking weapons of mass destruction and served as the basis for launching the Iraq invasion less than two months later. Bush’s declaration was based on an intelligence document that provided evidence about Iraq's purchase of uranium from the African country of Niger.

But there was one problem: the document was fake.

Bush’s smoking gun evidence would quickly unravel and ignite a political firestorm that reached the highest levels of the US government. The story behind the forged document stretches from Italy to Niger to Iraq and deep into the corridors of the US intelligence community and the White House itself. The document played a key role in the chain of events that led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former Chief of Staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, in the CIA leak case.

And its effect continues to reverberate today. Congressmember Henry Waxman, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, recently formally requested Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to testify before a committee hearing next week regarding the false Iraq-Niger claims.

Today, in a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, two explosive new books. Carlo Bonini is the Italian reporter who broke the story. His new book is called Collusion: International Espionage and the War on Terror. He is an investigative journalist with La Repubblica newspaper of Rome. He joins us in our firehouse studio. Peter Eisner is a veteran foreign correspondent. He’s currently an editor at the Washington Post. His new book is called The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq. He joins us from Washington, D.C. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

I want to begin with Carlo Bonini. When did you first learn about this story?

CARLO BONINI: It was summer 2003, where there had been at the time few -- I mean, few reports from US that probably the smoking gun regarding the weapons of mass destruction was some way fabricated in Italy. And all of the sudden in the summer of 2003, we got these documents, these fake documents, and we found --

AMY GOODMAN: How did you get these fake documents?

CARLO BONINI: Well, a search gave us these documents. We had the chance to see how the documents were badly faked. And the most surprisingly thing was that we had the chance to identify the person who had a main role in faking the documents. And the name of this guy was Rocko Martino, a former Italian SISMI agent.


CARLO BONINI: SISMI is the Italian CIA. It’s the secret service, the counterintelligence service. And Rocco Martino made his way, and his documents made their way to the White House and to the sixteen words.

AMY GOODMAN: How? First, did you know him before?

CARLO BONINI: No. No. This guy came out of the blue. I mean, at least we never -- I mean, we didn't know the existence of him. But it was quite clear after a while that Rocco Martino didn't act by himself. I mean, the Italian job was not only by him. Rocco Martino could count on the complicity of the Italian SISMI. It was thanks to the Italian SISMI that at the beginning the content of the fake documents could be shared with the CIA, and it was because of Rocco Martino’s old friendship with an Italian reporter that the documents in the fall 2002 could be shipped to US through the US embassy in Rome.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Eisner, can you take it from there? And also place this in the context of when this happened in relation to President Bush uttering those sixteen words.

PETER EISNER: Well, in fact, Amy, the CIA and other members of the intelligence community had heard from SISMI in the first few days after 9/11, which was saying that there was information that they didn't specify about possible uranium purchases or attempts to buy uranium in Niger, and the CIA solicited more information from SISMI. And by early 2002, they actually had a version of one document saying that this had taken place.

Many parts of the CIA, from the outset, as early as September and October of 2001, simply did not believe that Iraq, for various reasons, was attempting to buy uranium or, in fact, trying to restart its nuclear program -- didn't need to buy uranium in Niger, because it already had uranium. Second of all, SISMI was not providing the source. It was not saying how it was getting the information. And third of all, they tended to doubt SISMI, in any case, because it's got a reliability problem among Western intelligence agencies. So, well before, more than a year before President Bush's State of the Union message, it was gravely doubted by key members of the intelligence community that it could have been that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you agree, Carlo Bonini, with this assessment of SISMI having a problem with credibility in Western intelligence?

CARLO BONINI: I do agree. I do agree, and I think that the Nigergate story, as well as other stories, can prove it. Also, what Peter was saying, the problem with SISMI was that also -- I mean, along this complicated story called Nigergate, SISMI played a very untrusty role. We heard before that Bush relied on British intelligence. The problem is that it was the same hand feeding different mouths. I mean, Rocco Martino was feeding the British, was feeding the Americans, was feeding the French. That is the problem. I mean, the SISMI didn't ring the bell when it was the time to ring the bell. SISMI simply let the story go ’til January 2003, when it was too late.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Eisner, talk more about who Rocco Martino was.

PETER EISNER: Rocco Martino was a failed former policeman, Italian policeman, a sometimes agent -- and that is, outside the house of SISMI -- who sometimes was able to provide nuggets of information to journalists and certainly was also working as a freelance for other intelligence agencies, even the French, or working for or providing them information for a stipend.

Rocco Martino approached a journalist named Elisabetta Burba at the Milan news magazine Panorama on October 7, 2002, and said he had some great material, a hot tip about Iraq and uranium, if she was interested. And that was how he first surfaced in this story. Elisabetta Burba and others at her magazine had heard of Martino before. They had gotten information from him before. They had paid him before. And she took a look at his documents, had immediate doubts, brought it into her editors, and started investigating.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break. When we come back, her response when President Bush gave that State of the Union address in 2003 and talked about Saddam Hussein trying to get uranium from Niger. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We'll be back with these two reporters who have both documented these stories in two explosive books: Peter Eisner’s The Italian Letter, Carlo Bonini’s The Collusion. Stay with us.


The role of Democratic consultants

Baer on Pelosi

I don't have much to say about the merits of Ken Baer's Syria-related Pelosi-bashing other than to note that the injunction to "put aside the argument over whether or not it’s good policy for us to talk with Syria" doesn't make much sense in this context. It's worth just noting the fact that a Democratic-aligned political consultant is harshly criticizing a Democratic Speaker of the House in exactly the terms which the Republican Party is currently deploying all throughout the media. One doesn't remark much upon things like this, because it actually happens quite frequently. But it's also quite remarkable. One might think consultants would live in fear of powerful Democratic Party politicians. Disagree with them from time to time, of course, or maybe even frequently. But disagree quietly, secretly; certainly not join the partisan opponents of the party's leaders in a high-profile political dispute.

And yet it happens all the time. That, in turn, tells you a lot about the relative distribution of power inside the Democratic Party. The consultants -- the important ones at least -- are more powerful than the people they nominally work for. Pelosi, obviously, isn't capable of being muscled-over by consultants the way a back-bencher who'll find his DCCC funds cut off if he doesn't hire the right people is. That said, any Democratic leader either in congress or running for a presidential nomination needs to curry favor with the consultant class lest the media landscape be filled with "Democratic strategists," anonymous or (as in this case) not, slamming them. The consultants, meanwhile, seem to have little fear of speaking out. And fearlessness is, of course, an admirable quality in a journalist or a blogger. It's not, however, really what one would expect from a political consultant -- they're supposed to be hack partisans.

The unresolved story of ABC News' false Saddam-anthrax reports

Monday April 9, 2007 10:53 EST

(updated below - updated again)

At the end of the post I wrote last week about ABC News and Brian Ross' new report that Iran could have nuclear weapons by 2009, I noted that ABC and Ross -- back in October and November 2001 -- were the driving force, really the exclusive force, behind news reports strongly suggesting that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were responsible for the anthrax attacks on the U.S. There are several very important issues arising from those events which I strongly believe merit real attention. This post is somewhat lengthy because it is vital to set forth the facts clearly.

Last week, I excerpted several of the Saddam-anthrax reports from ABC and Ross -- here and here -- but there are others. ABC aggressively promoted as its top story for days on end during that highly provocative period of time that -- and these are all quotes:

(a) "the anthrax in the tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was laced with bentonite";

(b) bentonite is "a troubling chemical additive that authorities consider their first significant clue yet";

(c) "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons";

(d) bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program"; and,

(e) "the anthrax found in a letter to Senator Daschle is nearly identical to samples they recovered in Iraq in 1994" and "the anthrax spores found in the letter to Senator Daschle are almost identical in appearance to those they recovered in Iraq in 1994 when viewed under an electron microscope."

At different times, Ross attributed these claims to "three well-placed but separate sources" and, alternatively, to "at least four well-placed sources."

All of those factual claims -- each and every one of them, separately -- were completely false, demonstrably and unquestionably so. There is now no question about that. Yet neither ABC nor Ross have ever retracted, corrected, clarified, or explained these fraudulent reports -- reports which, as documented below, had an extremely serious impact on the views formed by Americans in those early, critical days about the relationship between the 9/11 attacks, the anthrax attacks and Iraq. There are two vital questions that ABC News should answer:

(1) How can ABC News just let these Saddam-anthrax reports -- as false as they were consequential -- remain uncorrected and unexplained, even through today?

(2) More importantly, Ross claimed at the time, and there is no reason to doubt it, that these false reports -- clearly designed to blame Iraq for the anthrax attacks in the eyes of Americans -- were fed to him by "at least four well-placed sources." Who were the well-placed, multiple sources feeding ABC News completely fictitious claims linking Saddam Hussein to the anthrax attacks, including false claims about the results of government tests? What possible justification is there for concealing the identity of those who manipulated ABC to disseminate these fictitious claims?

ABC's linkage of Saddam and the anthrax attacks

As noted, many of the ABC/Ross reports were quoted in the links above, but it is hard to overstate how prominently ABC touted this story. Peter Jennings led off his October 26, 2001 World News Tonight program with this:

We're going to begin this evening with what we believe is a meaningful lead in the most sensitive anthrax case so far, despite a very recent denial by the White House.

ABC News has learned what made the anthrax so dangerous in the letter to Senator Tom Daschle was a particular additive which only one country, as far as we know, that's a very important caveat, only one country as far as we know, has used to produce biological weapons. We'll go to the White House in just a moment, but first with what we do know, ABC's Brian Ross. Brian.

Ross then said:
The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere. This is what bentonite looks like under a microscope, a substance which helps keep the tiny anthrax particles floating in the air by preventing them from sticking together. It's possible other countries may be using it, too, but it is a trademark of Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program.
Jennings then added at the end of the story -- remember this is October, 2001:
This news about bentonite as the additive is being a trademark of the Iraqi biological weapons program is very significant. Partly because there's been a lot of pressure on the Bush administration inside and out to go after Saddam Hussein. And some are going to be quick to pick up on this as a smoking gun. There is a battle about Iraq that's been raging in the administration.
Although Ross noted in that original report with Jennings that the finding of bentonite was from an "initial test," that qualifier was quickly eliminated over the next several days on ABC, as Ross and various ABC anchors claimed definitively that the anthrax "was laced with bentonite"; that "the anthrax found in a letter to Senator Daschle is nearly identical to samples they recovered in Iraq in 1994"; that "ABC News has learned that the anthrax in the letter mailed to the Senate contained an additive called bentonite," and on and on.

The impact of ABC's Saddam-anthrax reports

It is vital to recall how significant the anthrax attacks were in this country, and what a paramount role it played in how Americans viewed the terrorist threat generally and Saddam Hussein specifically. As Atrios has noted many times, the anthrax attacks seem to have been flushed down our collective memory hole, but other than 9/11 itself, that event -- and the media's coverage of it -- did more to spawn the next several years of Bush worship and support for his mindless militarism than anything else.

As but one very illustrative example, The Washington Post's liberal columnist, Richard Cohen, supported the invasion of Iraq, came to regret that support, and then explained what led him to do so, in a 2004 column entitled Our Forgotten Panic:

I'm not sure if panic is quite the right word, but it is close enough. Anthrax played a role in my decision to support the Bush administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein. I linked him to anthrax, which I linked to Sept. 11. I was not going to stand by and simply wait for another attack -- more attacks. I was going to go to the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war.
Really -- just contemplate that for a moment. One of the country's leading political pundits, writing in some of the most influential opinion-making space in this country, supported an invasion of Iraq because he believed that Saddam Hussein was connected to both the anthrax attacks and, by implication, the 9/11 attacks.

And why wouldn't Cohen -- along with millions and millions of Americans -- believe that, given that the venerable ABC News was leading off its Peter Jennings broadcast, in the aftermath of the attacks, claiming that they had strong evidence of a connection between Saddam and the anthrax attacks, and then repeating that claim, definitively, over the next several days, never to retract it?

While Andy Card infamously claimed that the "marketing product" for the Iraq invasion was not unveiled until September, 2002, the Bush White House and various war supporters had, in fact, been giving speeches and writing articles basically from the very first week after the 9/11 attacks which had, as their primary and clear purpose, convincing Americans of the need to invade Iraq. And anthrax was at the center of that campaign.

The Iraq/anthrax report from ABC was used by all sorts of warmongers throughout 2002 to suggest that Saddam was responsible for the anthrax attacks. The Weekly Standard (wherever there is a fraud on Americans designed to justify Middle East wars, Bill Kristol and friends are to be found somewhere nearby) published two lengthy articles attacking the FBI for focusing on a domestic culprit and -- relying almost exclusively on the ABC/Ross report -- insisted that Saddam was one of the most likely sources for those attacks.

In November, 2001, they published an article (via Lexis) which began:

On the critical issue of who sent the anthrax, it's time to give credit to the ABC website, ABCNews.com, for reporting rings around most other news organizations. Here's a bit from a comprehensive story filed late last week by Gary Matsumoto, lending further credence to the commonsensical theory (resisted by the White House) that al Qaeda or Iraq -- and not some domestic Ted Kaczynski type -- is behind the germ warfare.
The Weekly Standard published a much lengthier and more dogmatic article in April, 2002 again pushing the ABC "bentonite" claims and arguing: "There is purely circumstantial though highly suggestive evidence that might seem to link Iraq with last fall's anthrax terrorism." The American Enterprise Institute's Laurie Mylroie (who had an AEI article linking Saddam to 9/11 ready for publication at the AEI on September 13) expressly claimed in November, 2001 that "there is also tremendous evidence that subsequent anthrax attacks are connected to Iraq" and based that claim almost exclusively on the report from ABC and Ross.

And when President Bush named Iraq as a member of the "Axis of Evil" in his January, 2002 State of the Union speech -- just two months after ABC's report, when the anthrax attacks were still very vividly on the minds of Americans -- he specifically touted this claim: "The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade" -- the only reference in the State of the Union address to the unsolved anthrax attacks.

And even now -- because ABC has never retracted or corrected its false claims -- various war supporters from Michael Barone to The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page to Michelle Malkin and other generic war supporters continue to insist that the FBI is at fault for not focusing on a Middle East state sponsor, and, in the case of Malkin and others, that the FBI is ignoring "evidence" of Saddam's connection to those anthrax attacks -- the "evidence" being the still unretracted ABC/Ross reports.

The numerous false (and still uncorrected) claims from ABC and Ross

That the ABC/Ross reports are completely false is now beyond reasonable dispute. As Cernig noted several days ago, an FBI anthrax investigator, Douglas Beecher, published an August, 2006 article in Applied and Environmental Microbiology which expressly concluded that there were no additives found in the anthrax:

A widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production. This idea is usually the basis for implying that the powders were inordinately dangerous compared to spores alone (3, 6, 12; J. Kelly, Washington Times, 21 October 2003; G. Gugliotta and G. Matsumoto, The Washington Post, 28 October 2002).

The persistent credence given to this impression fosters erroneous preconceptions, which may misguide research and preparedness efforts and generally detract from the magnitude of hazards posed by simple spore preparations.

That led The New York Times reporter covering the anthrax case, William Broad, to report as follows (full Times Select article here):
Seeking to clear up public confusion, an FBI official has reiterated the bureau's judgment that the anthrax in the letter attacks five years ago bore no special coatings to increase its deadliness and no hallmarks of a military weapon.
The claim that the anthrax was laced with bentonite, and that government tests detected the presence of bentonite, was simply false -- a complete invention from Ross's sources, eager to link Saddam and anthrax attacks. And separately, it was a complete fiction that "the anthrax spores found in the letter to Senator Daschle are almost identical in appearance to those they recovered in Iraq in 1994 when viewed under an electron microscope." That just never happened.

Equally false, really completely frivolous, was the conclusion Ross's sources fed to him from this false premise -- namely, that even if bentonite -- which ABC referred to as a "troubling chemical additive" -- had been found in the anthrax, that would be some sort of compelling proof linking Iraq to the anthrax attacks.

The very idea that bentonite is "a troubling chemical additive," let alone that it is some sort of unique Iraqi hallmark, is inane. Bentonite is merely a common clay that is produced all over the world, including from volcanic eruptions. Over the weekend, I spoke via e-mail with M.A. Holmes, a Geologist in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who wrote:

Bentonite is mined and used for drilling mud (getting the rock chips out of a drill hole when drilling for oil or deep water) and now is mined for the clumping-type kitty litter ("swells when wet"). It's also used to draw cactus spines put of the skin (sold as a product called "Denver Mud"). It has lots of other uses, like lining pits for waste disposal (because it "swells when wet" it forms a pretty good seal).

Bentonite is mined extensively in Wyoming and oh, yes, SOUTH DAKOTA. It is not "a chemical additive" and it is not unique to Iraq. It is widespread and common, and readily available wherever you can get "drilling mud."

One ironic fact that illustrates just how commonplace is bentonite is this 2004 Washington Post profile of Dick Cheney, in which his wife, Lynne, fondly recalled the early years of their relationship: "I knew when he was digging ditches out at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Grounds. And I knew him when he was loading bentonite, hundred-pound bags of bentonite, onto railroad cars."

The best publicly available investigative work by far on the anthrax attacks and subsequent investigations is, unsurprisingly, not from a "credentialed journalist," but from someone named Edward G. Lake -- an American citizen, a non-journalist, who is a retired computer systems analyst in Racine, Wisconsin. To his credit, the Times' Broad quoted Lake in his article on the FBI's recent anthax findings, because Lake knows more about the anthrax investigations than any national journalist, by far.

Lake began following the anthrax reporting and noticed the endless series of misstatements and misperceptions being reported. On a website he created (and subsequently in a self-published book he wrote in 2005) he began chronicling and meticulously documenting the actual known facts relating to the anthrax attacks, and continues to do so with an amazingly relentless allegiance only to credible, established facts (and with appropriate disdain for speculation, fact-free assertions and conspiracy theories alike).

As Lake has also documented at length (long before the FBI confirmed it in August), virtually all of the credible, available evidence proves conclusively how false the ABC/Ross "bentonite" report was (see point 4 on Lake's main page, with multiple links).

The unresolved, critical issues

At one of the most critical times in American history -- the weeks following the 9/11 and anthrax attacks -- ABC News and Brian Ross published multiple, highly inflammatory reports, aggressively linking Iraq to the anthrax attacks, which turned out to be completely false. Accompanying those false anthrax reports, ABC News frequently linked Saddam to the 9/11 attacks as well -- such as when Cokie Roberts, during an interview with Donald Rumsfeld immediately following one of Ross's Saddam-anthrax stories, referenced "the confirmation that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official."

While ABC, from the beginning, noted that even the White House publicly denied the bentonite story, they have never retracted, corrected or even explained their false reports. When I spoke with ABC News Senior Vice President Brian Schneider last week, he repeatedly emphasized that ABC News' credibility rests with the fact that when they are wrong, they quickly and clearly correct their errors.

Yet -- more than five years later -- why do they continue to allow these extremely damaging Saddam-anthrax reports to go uncorrected? The New York Times published a lengthy examination of its own culpability in publishing false reports about Iraq's WMD program long after those reports were published. Why hasn't ABC done that with these anthrax reports?

But the most important issue is this: Someone clearly invented false stories about the anthrax investigation and fed them to Brian Ross, knowing he would run all over ABC News programs heaping blame on Saddam for those attacks. In fact, Ross said that there were at least four highly-placed, separate sources who told him that.

How can ABC and Ross justify continuing to conceal the identity of these sources -- some of whom, presumably, were and still are in the Bush administration -- when those sources concocted lies with the intent to manipulate Ross and the American public into believing that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the anthrax attacks?

There is a widely accepted journalistic principle that reporters are not required to conceal the identity of anonymous sources who feed them false information with the intent to induce the journalist to disseminate the falsehoods. In fact, in such a situation, there is an obligation on the part of the reporter to reveal who the sources are who passed on those lies.

Multiple people, in key positions, made numerous false statements to Brian Ross suggesting that Saddam was responsible for the anthrax attacks and made false claims about the results of government tests on anthrax. They did so with the clear intent to mislead the whole country on the most critical issue we faced -- a fraud which resulted in damage that is impossible to quantify but unquestionably significant. How can ABC News and Brian Ross justify continuing to protect the people were who led them to perpetuate that fraud? Shouldn't we know who invented those false stories and fed them to ABC?

UPDATE: Jonathan Schwarz has a highly relevant excerpt from Hubris, the book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, which reported:

In October 2001, [Bush terrorism official Gen. Wayne] Downing, [Paul] Wolfowitz, and other proponents of a war with Iraq thought they had yet more ammunition for the case against Saddam. A series of deadly anthrax-laced letters had been sent to the Capitol Hill offices of Senator Daschle and Senator Patrick Leahy and to several newsrooms. Mylroie asserted that Saddam was behind the mailings. An early forensic test of the anthrax letters (which was later disputed) appeared to show that the anthrax spores were highly refined and "weaponized."

To the Iraq hawks, the news was electric. "This is definitely Saddam!" Downing shouted to several White House aides. One of these aides later recalled overhearing Downing excitedly sharing the news over the phone with Wolfowitz and Feith. "I had the feeling they were high-five-ing each other," the White House official said.

The attempt to link Saddam to the anthrax attacks was just as fraudulent -- and just as significant -- as the attempt to link Saddam to 9/11, Al Qaeda and nuclear weapons. Brian Ross and ABC played a key role in that part of the fraud, yet have never accounted for their conduct.

UPDATE II: In Comments, Science Guy voices a couple of insightful objections to two of the points I made in this post. My response is here.

-- Glenn Greenwald

Coddling of terrorists continues...in the United States

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In the latest development in the case of Luis Posada Carriles, a judge has set bail to allow him to be freed in advance of his immigration trial in May. The U.S. continues to defy international law and various treaties it has signed, which obligate the U.S. to either extradite Posada to Venezuela, where he is wanted for the murder of 73 people in connection with the 1976 mid-air bombing of a Cubana airliner, or to try him themselves for that crime. It's worth remembering why they refuse to do so - because they claim Posada might be tortured in Venezuela. And why are they able to make that claim? Because at a preliminary hearing, Posada's lawyer and former partner (and fellow torturer) in the (old) Venezuelan secret police, Joaquin Chaffardet, testified that Posada might be tortured in Venezuela, and the U.S. government presented no testimony to counter that baseless claim, allowing it to stand unchallenged.

The news coverage of the latest development is infuriating. The Judge describes Posada as having ""a controversial past," and the Reuters reporter writes, "his past activities are viewed as terrorism by his opponents." Let's review, shall we? Posada is strongly implicated in the murder of 73 people in an airplane bombing. He admitted to a New York Times reporter that he was the mastermind behind a string of hotel bombings in Havana in the late 90's which killed one Italian tourist and injured many others. He was convicted of entering Panama in 2000 with 20 pounds of C-4 and a plan to blow up an auditorium where Fidel Castro was addressing hundreds of Panamanian students (and pardoned several months later by the outgoing Panamanian President who is now living, where else, in the United States). This is just part of the record of someone which Reuters thinks is "viewed as terrorism by his opponents," and the Judge thinks is "controversial." Do you really have to be an "opponent" of Luis Posada Carriles to think that blowing up an airplane in mid-flight is an act of terrorism? Is there really any "controversy" over how to characterize an attempt to blow up an auditorium full of people?

On May 11, Posada (if he hasn't fled the country by then or gone into hiding) will go on trial in El Paso. A demonstration demanding his extradition to stand trial in Venezuela will greet the trial - be there if you can.

Ex-AIPAC staffers say Condi leaked them classified info

Friday April 28, 2006

by ron kampeas

alexandria, va. | Two former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee say Condoleezza Rice was their informant on sensitive national security matters.

The claim, laid out in a courtroom Friday, April 21, intensified the drama surrounding a trial that could further roil a Washington political establishment already consumed by cases involving “official” and “unofficial” leaks.

The trial date, originally scheduled to begin April 25, has now been set for Aug. 7, even as the judge in the case continues to suggest the case might not go to trial at all.

In last week’s pretrial hearing, lawyers for Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s former foreign policy director, and Keith Weissman, its former Iran analyst, persuaded federal Judge T.S. Ellis III to allow a subpoena for the secretary of state and three other current and former Middle East policy officials.

Rosen and Weissman were indicted last August on charges that they relayed classified information to fellow AIPAC staffers, journalists and diplomats at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

The judge continued to express grave doubts about the government’s case, sympathizing with defense claims that it could impinge on free speech rights, and that it lacked precedent.

When Kevin DiGregory, the lead prosecutor, pointed out that the First Amendment had never been cited in a similar case, Ellis chided him, saying: “Well, no case has been like this one.”

Setting out a pretrial schedule, Ellis pointedly would not count out a dismissal before the start of the trial and several times qualified prospective dates, saying “if there is going to be a trial.”

Rosen’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said Rice had not merely been Rosen’s interlocutor, but had leaked information identical to and at times more sensitive than examples cited in the indictment.

In addition, Lowell said, the information Rice provided was more “volatile” than the information described in the indictment. Lowell would not elaborate on what information he was referring to.

Lowell asked for an additional meeting with the judge — with no prosecutors present — to further describe the testimony he anticipated from Rice and others. Ellis said he looked forward to “a lot of juicy information.”

Ellis had to rule on the request because the subpoenas fell under special rules of the district court in Alexandria, Va., that require subpoenas for Cabinet members, ambassadors and generals to be approved by the presiding judge.

Lowell said that another six subpoenas had already been sent to prospective witnesses.

Rice’s testimony is not yet guaranteed. The State Department must clear subpoenas to its staff, and witnesses have a right to ask subpoenas to be squashed. But Lowell made it clear he would not let the government off the hook, likening this case to the recent controversy over leaks on the Iraq war President Bush has defended as “authorized” and those he has attacked as illegal.

Also at the hearing, called on a few days’ notice, the judge sided with the defense’s claim that the case is unprecedented.

Government lawyers have striven to show that prosecution under a 1917 statute that criminalizes the receipt of classified information is not unprecedented. Lowell said the government had failed to show true precedent and had instead “cut and pasted” elements of four or five unrelated cases to establish precedent.

Ellis agreed, calling Lowell’s arguments “substantial.”

It was not all good news for the defense. Lowell wanted Ellis to order depositions from three Israeli diplomats who allegedly received information from Rosen and Weissman. The defense has been unable to persuade the diplomats to voluntarily comply.

Ellis refused, saying he did not see the point because his orders carried no weight in Israel, where the diplomats now reside.

Lowell acknowledged as much, but apparently hoped a formal order from the judge would embarrass the Israelis into volunteering; ever since the Jonathan Pollard spy case in the late 1980s, Israeli officials want to be seen as cooperative with American legal cases.


By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- King Rat, Henry Kissinger, is leaving the USS Shrub to save face. His departure underlines the willingness of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to continue sending young Americans to die in a venture they know has failed. Kissinger is an expert in that area.

Kissinger -- who helped chart the course for the disaster in Iraq -- is only abandoning ship in a desperate attempt to try to spare his already permanently stained reputation more disgrace. Kissinger kept the war in Vietnam going and sent more Americans to their deaths for political purposes.

Kissinger is pure cynicism. Amorality is his code. He has no soul. Thus, he always feels comfortable in the company of Bush and Cheney, whispering into their ears his perverted wisdom.

We learned from Bob Woodward's "State of Denial" that Kissinger made frequent trips to the White House to urge the invasion of Iraq and bolster Bush's reckless instincts. Bush was an easy mark for the clever and treacherous Dr. Kissinger.

Kissinger, a shameless flatterer of the powerful, would tell Bush how courageous he was and how his boldness and aggression would change history. It is easy to imagine Kissinger in his thick German accent telling Bush, "Mr. President, the world will be forever grateful to you. To go to war without direct provocation takes courage. Your leadership is imperative to protect America's strategic position in the Middle East. It has been an inspiration to see your fortitude in adversity and your willingness to walk alone." (Kissinger actually used that last line on President Nixon.)

Bush would lap up Kissinger's sycophantic performance, beaming as he heard the approbation of his virtue, and enjoying the blessing of the great Kissinger as he set out on the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

"I'm glad you're on board, Henry," you can hear Bush twang. "Our country is grateful for your service."

Kissinger has raked in millions of dollars helping shift American jobs to China and other nations on his client list. But power, not money, is Kissinger's aphrodisiac. The former secretary of state and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations has a colossal ego and relished his return to influence in the Oval Office. Wiser presidents kept Kissinger far away.

When the war sputtered and the fiasco in Iraq began unfolding, Woodward reports Kissinger told Bush and Cheney, "Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy."

Woodward said in an interview on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," "This is so fascinating. Kissinger's fighting the Vietnam War again, because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will."

It never seemed to bother Kissinger that millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians and more than 50,000 Americans lost their lives. In his view, what was important was trying out his grand theories and manipulating Nixon to support his experiments.

Kissinger's fondness for force as the principal tool in foreign policy was played out in Vietnam and now Iraq. And old Henry didn't mind having murder in his repertoire of diplomatic skills.

In 1973, Kissinger plotted to oust Chile's elected leftist president Salvador Allende. In the process, Kissinger ordered the CIA to assassinate a Chilean army general he believed might oppose the coup. Allende and 3,197 Chileans died in the overthrow, a death toll remarkably close to the number killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

But bloodshed never bothered Kissinger. His friend Augusto Pinochet was placed in power as dictator of Chile and carried out a two-decade long reign of terror, torture and murder. Kissinger is a repeat-offender war criminal. Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile and now Iraq top his rap sheet and represent only the tip of his treachery.

The timing of the always-cunning Kissinger's departure is telling. He hedged his bets until he heard the dirge of the surge and then abandoned ship. A new "meaningful exit strategy" will now do.

Kissinger told the Associated Press, "A 'military victory' in the sense of total control over the whole territory, imposed on the entire population, is not possible."

The nature of the insurgency in Iraq and the religious divisions between Sunnis and Shiites makes negotiating a peace more complex, Kissinger said.

No kidding, Henry. Either you didn't know that before urging the invasion, or you did and failed to caution your buddies in the White House. Or maybe you and your arrogant allies figured we could slap the Arabs around, and they would just roll over, and all your pals would make a lot of money.

L. Paul Bremer -- the disastrous American viceroy in Iraq who dismantled the Iraqi army, planted the seeds for the insurgency and watched billions of dollars disappear -- was a Kissinger protege.

Iraq is a "more complicated problem" than Vietnam, Kissinger admitted, adding, "I am basically sympathetic to President Bush. I am partly sympathetic because I have seen comparable situations."

Note that Kissinger's sympathy is for Bush, not the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans killed in the experiment.

That's typical of Kissinger, and we are now getting a new window into his sick mind. Robert Dallek's new book "Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power" is excerpted in the May issue of "Vanity Fair" magazine.

Dallek spent four years sifting through the Nixon administration's recently opened archives, which include 20,000 pages of verbatim transcripts of Kissinger's phone conversations. He had his aides listen in on his phone calls and write down every word. Of course, Kissinger never thought the conversations would be made public -- but thanks to Dallek, they are.

We learn that Nixon, disturbed as he was, considered Kissinger "psychopathic" and told his aide John Ehrlichman that Dr. K. "might need psychiatric help."

Nixon's chief of staff H.R. Haldeman kept a diary, which included a directive from Nixon that he make an "extensive memoranda about K's mental processes and so on, for his file."

"In Saigon the tendency is to fight the war to victory," Nixon told Kissinger, according to the transcript of a 1969 phone conversation. "But you and I know it is impossible."

But in Haldeman's unpublished diaries, Nixon is urging that Democratic war critics making the same point should be branded "the party of surrender."

Kissinger had no qualms playing politics with war. When someone suggested the war could cost Nixon the 1972 election, Kissinger boasted he could take care of matters because "anytime we want to get out of Vietnam, we can." Kissinger viewed war through the political calendar and advocated leaving Vietnam in the fall of 1972, "so that if any bad results follow, they will be too late to affect the election."

Dallek sees the ruthlessness of Kissinger's maneuvers: "He apparently had nothing to say about American lives that would be lost by deliberately prolonging the war."

Bush's dream that Iraq could be shaped into an imposed, western-style democracy, welcoming permanent American military bases and friendly to U.S. economic interests in the region, is fantasy.

But Bush and Cheney are willing to manufacture reality and let more people die for their dream. Whatever the ultimate outcome in Iraq, they know their beloved military contractors will make billions more -- and that's a good enough reason for them to keep the war going. Kissinger admires such cynicism.

His assessment of Nixon's UN ambassador was low. Kissinger dismissed George H.W. Bush, calling him "an idiot." Kissinger prefers the more malleable and machismo current president. The elder Bush would never buy into Kissinger's violent schemes or say, "Bring 'em on."

In 1999, George H.W. Bush told a gathering of veterans of the Gulf War why he didn't just march into Baghdad after driving Iraqi forces from Kuwait. He said, "Had we gone into Baghdad -- we could have done it, you guys could have done it, you could have been there in 48 hours -- and then what?"

Kissinger and the other warmongers George W. Bush sought for counsel before invading Iraq brushed off the "then what?" question. They were too busy plotting their next bellicose moves.

George H.W. Bush's conscience made him consider the consequences of seizing Iraq: "Whose life would be in my hands as commander in chief because I unilaterally went beyond international law, went beyond the stated mission and said we're going to show our macho?

"We're going to be an occupying power -- America in an Arab land -- with no allies at our side. It would be disastrous." Kissinger's "idiot" Bush had a grasp on reality. The delusional dunce Bush he admires doesn't.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@sbcglobal.net.
Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com April 10 2007

The Ethanol Hoax


[posted online on April 9, 2007]

The other day the French, who we Americans know cannot do anything right, sent one of their trains hurtling down a railroad track at 357 miles per hour. France has more than 1,000 miles of high-speed railroad track. The United States does not have one inch.

The United States sticks with its climate-warming, congested and inefficient Eisenhower-era transportation system. It was back then that the modern federal highway was begun and it was decided--perhaps by default--that cars and airplanes would be the nation's people carriers and choo-choos would chug off to the nearest transportation museum.

Americans, who seem to spend an ever greater percentage of their waking hours bragging about how much better they are than everybody else, have not noticed they are falling behind. It is, for example, the French, the Japanese and the Germans who are competing to sell a high-speed railroad system to the Chinese. Visiting American tourists will enjoy the ride.

Fewer of them are enjoying domestic air flight. Air travel in the United States has become a slow, exasperating, sometimes humiliating, sometimes painful and always uncomfortable experience. Even Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would classify what the airlines put children and older people through as torture.

Personal miseries aside, consider the contribution our transportation chaos makes to global warming. Actually, it is something we try not to consider or act on at all. Here we are after thirty years of warnings about what carbon dioxide is doing to life on the planet and the United States has no plan or program for curtailing its own magnificent donation to what Al Gore calls earth's "fever."

Hey, no Al Gore, please. Do not listen to that man. He's a politician. He's doing it to get elected even if he is not saying so. Listen to George Bush, who has gotten himself elected and is running the country on the premise that carbon dioxide is nothing but the bubbles in the beer he no longer drinks.

The Bush position is: Why should we do something if the Chinese are not doing anything? As long as they are ruining the earth, we must do it first and bigger. Bush is hardly by himself on this one. It seems almost every major industrial group in the country is as committed to inaction as he.

The global-warming naysayers would have us believe there is a one-shot, magic cure that will preserve the earth in a coolly livable form without our having to do anything or change our ways or spend any money. For the time being the magic cure is ethanol. Ethanol will stop global warming, and as an added plus, it will make the agribusiness interests richer and insure that the GOP carries the corn-growing states of the Midwest. Talk about living happily ever after!

In a few years the articles and books about the ethanol hoax will begin to appear, and we will learn who got rich while the earth got warmer and almost nobody--at least nobody important, nobody with influence and power--took note. The effects of global warming are all around us. Anybody with a backyard garden knows about them, but the garden lobby does not swing a heavy club.

So here we are, like the polar bear marooned on his little melting iceberg, snuffling here and there, looking out across the warming sea, hoping to God somebody throws him a fish. Well, bless us all, but are we truly too dumb and too selfish to save ourselves and our children?


April 9, 2007

By K Gajendra Singh

Iran pardons Blair's dozen and Jane Bond.

" U.K. has suspended boarding operations in the northern Persian Gulf while the Royal Navy reviewed its procedures "- First Sea Lord Admiral Jonathon Bond ( no relation of James Bond )

Iranian Chess masters choreograph the crisis end.

It was a virtuoso almost flawless choreography which ended the 2 week long Iran-UK crisis ( with USA lurking at the back and Europe not far behind ) following the James Bond like British intelligence intrusion into Iranian waters. Even the Times on line admitted "The captives, including Leading Seaman Faye Turney, 26, were released yesterday in a stunning piece of political theatre by President Ahmadinejad, who brought a bizarre but welcome end to a 13-day drama that held the possibility of violent escalation."

A similar incident had occurred in 2004 when eight British servicemen were seized after straying over the maritime border. Clearly there is a dispute over where the border actually runs.

Known for inventing the game of Shatranj (chess) Tehran is giving West daily lessons in the subtle art of asymmetric warfare in Iraq and elsewhere the region . But the beaming of the release episode to the centres of western theatre; London , Washington and New York was a masterpiece. When Ahmedinejad's press conference was announced , western TV channels tuned in expecting more of the same blunt talk , which they could then distort ( as they did when they alleged the extinction of the Jewish State of Israel , while he had only repeated what Ayatollah Khomeini had said about the disappearance of the communist regime in Russia and so of the Zionist regime.)

Prime Minister Tony Blair, after the release of Blair's dozen ( Bakers dozen plus one ) and Jane Bond, Faye Turney, insisted that there was no deal done to secure the release, but added that discussions with Tehran during the crisis had opened up channels of communication "that have not been available to us before" and which it would be sensible to pursue.

Iran, meanwhile, claimed that Blair had sent a "letter of apology" the day before the prisoners were released. Ha'aretz quoted , an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying that Iran had received a letter of apology from Britain before the release .Downing Street denied that any apology had ever been made .

In a story titled "Pawns in a losing game: Britain's policy ", UK's 'Independent 'newspaper of 8 April referring to the release of captives , at cost unknown , but with the death of six soldiers in Basra at the same time, wondered ; just what are our soldiers dying for? , because the return and rejoicing came with a dark shadow of Iraq , with dead British soldiers .Blair directly linked the Tehran regime to the killings of British soldiers in Iraq, saying: "There are elements at least of the Iranian regime that [are] backing, financing, arming, supporting terrorism in Iraq and I repeat that our forces are there specifically at the request of the Iraqi government and with the full authority of the UN." US and UK have been making allegations of Iran' involvement , but have produced no evidence so far. The tank armor bursting cylindrical device Tehran was allegedly supplying can be easily procured in Iraq as it was being milled for its oil industry.

Iran' Ambassador in London Rasoul Movahedian told the Financial Times that Iran had "showed our goodwill" by freeing the Britons. "Now it is up to the British government to proceed in a positive way." He added that "the prime issue for Iran" was recognition of its right to a nuclear power programme. But that was said before UK organized its counter show to neutralise the Tehran performance.

The Anglo-Saxon credibility lies tattered. Except for the so called Western 'international community', the core consisting of USA, UK ,Israel , Australia and a few others , worldwide ,few believe in what British and other Western leaders and its corporate propaganda machine or Government controlled BBC churn out, casting a blot on the noble profession of journalism.

Even the US public does not trust Bush and his claims on Iraq war and inflicted a stinging defeat on his Republican party last November, but apparently to little effect so far .The suave and elegant mother of five, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's talks in Damascus with President Bashar Assad , in teeth of the Administration's opposition heralds the beginning of Bush's lame duck period . Of course , she diplomatically claimed " Our message was President Bush's message."

After visiting Israel , Pelosi delivered a message to Bashar from Tel Aviv which was ready to hold peace talks with Damascus provided it stops arming Hezbollah in Lebanon. Syria denies that it does . After the Damascus meeting she declared "We were very pleased with the reassurances we received from (Bashar) that he was ready to resume the peace process." "He was ready to engage in negotiations ... with Israel," she added.

Pelosi then went on to the Saudi capital Riyadh to meet with King Abdullah, who recently shocked his staunch ally USA. The King described the US occupation of Iraq as "illegitimate" at a meeting of Arab leaders in Riyadh last week. "In beloved Iraq, blood is being shed among brothers in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation and ugly sectarianism threatens civil war," Abdullah said. Condi Rice telephoned Saudi Ambassador for clarifications. Abrasive John Bolton , the recently extinguished Ambassador to UN ( as the Senate refused to confirm him) said the US was in Iraq at the invitation of its government and its presence was further sanctioned by a U. N. Security Council resolution.

Everyone knows that the US led invasion of Iraq was in violation of the UN Charter , so affirmed by the Secretary General Kofi Annan himself. Since then quisling regimes in Baghdad have mostly consisted of exiles ,western intelligence assets , convicted embezzlers and others , who mostly live away from Baghdad or are ensconced in the Green Zone fortress .The Soviet Union used to say when its troops went into states like Hungary and Czechoslovakia that they were invited. When asked after some time by whom, the reply would be 'We are still looking for them." As for the UN, it is teetering like the League of Nations at the end .USA has destroyed its impartiality and credibility, and gravely undermined international law and Geneva and other Conventions. US along with four other nuclear armed ,also UN veto wielding powers have made mockery of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , as in the case of Iran.

Of course there was no quid pro quo (!) said Anglo-Saxons , but access was allowed to five Iranian consular personnel , who were abducted from their office in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. On 4 April , U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said an International Committee of the Red Cross delegation including one Iranian had visited the illegally held Iranian consular officials.

Also Jalal Sharafi, the second secretary at Iran's embassy in Baghdad was freed last week after being abducted in Iraq in February. Taken from his car by men in Iraqi army uniforms he was tortured by his captors, including CIA agents. The CIA officials' questions focused mainly on Iran's presence and influence in Iraq," he said. "When faced with my responses on Iran's official ties with the Iraqi government they increased the torture." Iran's Fars news agency reported, "He showed reporters the marks left by torture on his body that are now being treated by doctors."

The US military in Iraq said the coalition forces had not been involved in the abduction or any torture. Of course the CIA does not torture ! Some times they ask their friends to do so .Plausible deniability. Compare it how Tehran treated the British captives and how the Americans and the British have been treating suspects in Bagram in Afghanistan ,Gantanamo , Abu Gharaib and other black holes all over the world including in Europe. Human Rights organizations have compared these blots on humanity to Soviet era Gulags. Some European magistrates in Rome and Madrid have filed charges against CIA personnel who illegally abducted their innocent citizens for torture rendition in other countries .

During the 1991 US war on Iraq to liberate Kuwait ,US and allied troops apprehended in Iraq were treated humanely .This represents the clash of Christian and Muslim civilizations , but they are the branches from the same Abrahmic tree and are a continuation of the battle of the Gods as Karen Armstrong puts it .But unlike earlier Crusades and Jihads , this time the Jews have teamed up with the Western Christians .

James Bonds and Rambos ;

In a joint Five News and Sky News interview, recorded on 13 March but broadcast on 5 April after their release , captives leader Capt Chris Air acknowledged that he was operating close to the buffer zone between Iranian and Iraqi waters, adding: "It's good to gather intelligence on the Iranians." The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) said this was "all part of modern operations". James Bond stuff. The cover was interdicting smuggling of old Toyota cars in the Gulf.

Tehran somehow got wind off it and used it to confront the captives.Iran would not have taken the step unless it had proof of violation of its waters ( at least a couple of times ) .Perhaps the British boat had ventured too far into the enemy waters for the British ship Cornwall to intervene ,when the Iranians captured it.

The (MoD) confirmed that the Iranians had made the claim that they had become interested in Cornwall's activities after learning about it on British television interview, but denied the decision to allow the ship's crew to be interviewed while on active duty had jeopardised the mission.

According to the Guardian , the US had offered a list of military options to Britain, which remain top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran , including US combat aircraft mounting aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran. The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it. Reportedly UK also requested Washington to tone down military exercises that were already under way in the Gulf.

Colonel General Yury Solovyov , commander of Russia's Air Defense Forces Special Command told Novosti. "In line with my assessment, Iran's air defense system is strong enough." "Currently Iran has our [Russian] air defense missile systems, which are capable of tackling U.S. combat aircraft. Iran also has French and other countries' [defense] systems," he added.

It was widely believed in 1979 when US President Jimmy Carter mounted an air operation to rescue US Embassy personnel and others held as hostages in Tehran, that USSR had tipped the Iranians that something was afoot. The operation was a disaster and had to be aborted .It played a significant role in Carter's unsuccessful bid to be re-elected and brought in Ronald Regan , ushering in an era of rabid ultra neo-liberal conservative policies , which are now bringing up fruits adversely affecting the US polity .

Even this time round Moscow warned the West not to aggravate matters .It has been issuing warnings about US` naval build up in the Gulf , which many believe is a precursor to attack Iran. Russia would not standby if US and / or Israel try to destroy Iranian nuclear and military installations and even succeed partially . Nor will China be happy, which has a veto in UNSC , with its extensive energy interests and investments in Iran .

"Iranians clearly are a very uncivilised bunch"

As for the Western media now trying to milk the ordeals of their magnificent men and Mata Hari ( All that crap projected in "The bridge on river Kawai ' must be cooked up as Blair's dossiers and false accusations by Bush Administration prove ).The British lads and lass , who sang like canaries on Tehran TV and were genuinely happy at their unexpected release (the US Embassy hostages taken in 1979 stayed put in Tehran for 444 days ) are now busy selling to the British media their cooked up stories of valour and defiance , an accepted British calling , also exploited by paramours of the decadent British Royalty .

Reportedly the Royal Marines are planning to sell even the vases given as gifts to them in their 'goody bags' by the Iranians on eBay. The father of one of the hostages said the MoD had suggested the servicemen 'Go out there, tell the truth and make the money.'

The Blair's dozen and Jane Bond are expected to make around £250,000 between them. Faye Turney, mother of 3 year old child ,is likely to get the most profitable deal. She is said to have sold her story for £150,000 in a joint contract with a newspaper and ITV. Colonel Bob Stewart, a British commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia, told the Sunday Times that the MoD had turned a military disaster into a media circus. 'The released hostages are behaving like reality TV stars,' he said. 'I am appalled that the MoD is encouraging them to profit in this way.'

In 'The Guardian" ,Terry Jones wrote a sarcastic piece titled " No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings. These Iranians clearly are a very uncivilised bunch "

He said ,"I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment --It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes-- And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

" If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn't be able to talk at all. --And what's all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It's time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: --The inmates of Guantánamo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

" -- The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting "stress positions", which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It's all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

"-What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her (Turney )"unhappy and stressed". She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on--."

Released Britons relate stories of Iranian 'trickery'- International Herald Tribune

Can any one beat the 'Perfidious Albion', as Gen Charles de Gaulle once described the British, having suffered from their duplicity and hypocrisy? When the Brits crowed that the Sun never set on the British Empire , an admirer of cynic Diogenes .remarked that even God would not trust them in the dark .Now down and out and hanging on to US coat tails for crumbs from the world wide loot from the energy sector or from wars as after the 1991 war on Iraq . Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf kingdoms ,apart from Germany and Japan were made to shell out hundreds of billions of dollars to primarily protect US interests .One point of irritation for Baghdad was Kuwait's insistence that Iraq return $10 billion it had 'gifted ' brother Saddam Hussein ,the Sunni defender against the rising power of 'infidel' Shias of Iran . It turned out to be a costly deal with Kuwaitis shelling out more than 60 billion dollars and also suffered heavy damage during the Iraqi occupation and US led liberation war. But unlike in 1991 there is no one else to pay for this war.

Western counter show ;

So to counter the Tehran show , Captain Christopher Air of the Royal Marines and others except Faye , perhaps busy writing her memoires and to avoid inconvenient media questions ,were put on to Western TV channels a day after arrival to read out their scripted stories . Captain Air said they were kept in solitary confinement for much of the time. He added that they were subjected to ``psychological pressure'' and ``mind games,'' but none of them were physically harmed. The sailors and marines suffered ``aggressive questions and rough handling but it was no worse than that,'' said Lieutenant Felix Carman of the Royal Navy. ``Some of the tactics were an insult to our intelligence.'' But their treatment by the Iranian hosts was human.

Iran's foreign ministry said in a statement: "Such theatrical propaganda can not justify the soldiers' mistake. Such staged moves cannot cover up the mistake made by British military personnel who illegally entered Iran's territory. We are sorry that Britain has no knowledge about Islamic culture and Iranian civilisation to understand the reason Iran pardoned the British soldiers."

In his Tehran show , Ahmadinejad ha noted Easter's approach, together with the recent birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, and said that Iran was releasing the captives in the spirit of "forgiveness". It was a "gift "to the British people. The British personnel had appeared on Iranian television during captivity, insisting they had been well treated.

Why do M/S Tony Blair , Dick Cheney , George Bush et al refuse to comprehend that USA and UK have little credibility left in the world. Poodle Blair , so described even by the British media , before the invasion of Iraq went around the world to sell Western spins , half truths and lies about WMD and other accusations against Saddam Hussein and Iraq . In media conferences , Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister stated that Moscow did not trust the British dossiers. Cheney remains the leading exponent of Goebbels dictum of repeating lies to make them sound like truth , even when once Bush had denied any connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda .

In a Radio broadcast a few days ago Cheney again repeated the canard that Iraq and Al Qaeda had relations prior to 2003 , even after the Congress got the records declassified which clarified that no such relations existed .So what do you do.

With the CIA chief George Tenet sitting behind him Secretary of State Colin Powell told an unbelieving UN audience about the cooked up cock and bull story of WMDs before the invasion .Tenet was later awarded the highest decoration for his 'slam dunk ' certainty of Iraq getting Uranium ore from Niger .A conscientious retired US Ambassador who exposed this canard after visiting Niger had his wife's CIA cover blown off by the administration from the very highest level as the court proceedings are proving .Cheney's chief aid Scooter Libby has been convicted of perjury and other charges .

Home coming celebrations in UK ;

Western media celebrated the return of the captives with headlines like "Mid-air toasts, facing the media, and finally the family reunions", Homecoming 'dream come true' - crew et al.

According to a study by John Hopkins and Mustansiriya Universities published by the prestigious British Journal 'Lancet' 655,000 Iraqis have been killed as a result of the US invasion and occupation. That was in July 2006 . The deadly dance of violence under US watch continues unabated. Bush's new policy of 'Surge' ie increase in US troops has only surged the mayhem and deaths. When questioned at the end of last year ,George Bush did not find the figures of the dead in the Hopkins led study credible .He stuck to the figure of 30,000 or so he had declared a year earlier .

Moreover, there are more than 2 million Iraqi refugees living in neighboring Syria and Jordan in addition to 2 million more displaced inside Iraq .Cities like Fallujah , Haditha , Tel Afar lie devastated .How many refugees US and UK, the main perpetrators of this crime have accepted .Very few . So much for their Christian morality and charity! The civilized West !

So what about the homecoming for 3 million displaced Iraqis , from Syria and Jordan and from violence created by US led coalition in their own country .When!

Experts on the Crisis ;

"I do think that the Iranian leadership was looking for an opportunity to let those placing pressure on Iran ... know that they will not be pushed into positions the United States is trying to push them into," said Farideh Farhi, an Iran researcher at the University of Hawaii. "The incident and the subsequent taking charge of the issue and negotiations by the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, Ali Larijani, was a sign by Iran that the country is willing to push back."

"The key decision makers ... may also have calculated that holding on to the sailors was a two-edged sword that was helping to boost the American/British depiction of the Islamic Republic as an irrational/outlaw regime," said Dariush Zahedi, who teaches at the department of political economy and Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley.

"The release of the sailors, once Britain toned down its rhetoric and started negotiating with the Islamic Republic, was also a signal to the U.S. -- emulate their example and we will be more amenable to working with you," Zahedi said.

"It is safe to say that by pushing back in such a public fashion, Tehran has declared its intent to stand its ground," Farhi agreed. "At the same time, by releasing the British citizens in a relatively short and 'civilized' manner, it has also made a statement about how Iranian politics works for those interested in resolving outstanding issues through negotiations.

"Whether the other side takes the message as intended by Tehran is, of course, an entirely different matter."

The western reading was that" despite its conventional military weakness and diplomatic isolation, Iran retains the ability to strike at Western interests when it feels sufficiently provoked. But " when Western powers engage Iran with respect and as an equal, they are more likely to get what they want than when they take a confrontational path designed to bully or humiliate the regime. Neither message might be well received either at the White House or among the neo-conservative and other right-wing pundits who have tried hard to depict the incident as the latest sign of Islamic or Persian barbarism." Barbarism -some cheek !

But the release of the Iranian diplomat, as well as reports that Tehran received assurances that it will have consular access to five alleged Revolutionary Guards ,all these events were not just coincidence , although London and Washington, like Ahmadinejad, insist there were no quids pro quo.

"I personally believe that the US action [in Irbil] ... accounts for why Iran chose to stage its capture of the British sailors," said Prof Gary Sick of Columbia University and former aid to Jimmy Carter. "Iran appears to have gained something from its pressure tactics." This view was supported by Trita Parsi, president of the US National Iranian American Council. "By taking the [British] soft targets, the Iranians put pressure on the US."

Sick agreed: "It is a reminder that Iran has quite an array of asymmetrical options available to it to counter indirectly the actions of the US forces in Iraq and elsewhere."

At the same time, according to Sick, Tehran's behavior during much of the crisis - including both the seizure itself, the precise location of which remains a matter of dispute, and its use of "confessions" by the British captives and threats to put them on trial - will probably have cost it much-needed international support.

"I suspect that recognition of this fact accounts for Iran's desire to end this dispute as promptly as possible," said Sick. "For the same reason, I suspect that this ploy will not be repeated any time soon."

Prof William Beeman, of the University of Minnesota, said: "Iranians have been signaling repeatedly, and not just during this crisis, that they will engage diplomatically, but without preconditions and on the basis of equality. So now they say, 'You see, when we have the upper hand, you see how magnanimous we are; we are a charitable, civilized people. We are reasonable. You can talk with us.'"

Parsi stated : "I think the Iranians thought it was better to declare victory and put an end to the crisis before there was any further escalation." He concluded : "The Iranian message is that if you deal with us respectfully, through incentives, then things can get resolved rather quickly. If you only resort to force or impose sanctions at the UN Security Council, then you'll only get stuck, and Iran will respond in kind. They're hoping that the West gets the impression that that is the incentive structure through which it can make progress with Iran. Whether that will be understood in the West is obviously a complete different question."

The Bush administration's relative silence during the crisis may also have conveyed, inadvertently perhaps, another message - that, despite widespread speculation that its recent military buildup in the Persian Gulf is intended to prepare the grounds for an attack on Iran, it has no wish to do so, at least for the moment.

Prof Juan Cole on the crisis ;

According to Middle East expert Prof Juan Cole, who writes a very informative daily Blog on the Middle East ," Once the British sailors and marines were captured, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used the incident "to whip up Iranian nationalistic sentiments" and garner popular support for the relatively unpopular government. He believes that "the captives were released when Khamenei was satisfied that Iran would not lose face and he could ensure the situation would not "spiral out of control." He goes on to add that it is "not impossible" that Iran might agree to a nuclear enrichment suspension if a proper formula can be found.

He adds "Khamenei has the difficulty that he represents the ideology of Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, who founded the current Iranian state. Khomeini had developed the doctrine that the clerics should rule until the Islamic promised one, the Mahdi, returned. And Khamenei represents that ideology which is puritan in character, puts restrictions on individual liberties, and is fairly dictatorial. It isn't popular.

"Although Iranians by and large, as far as we can tell, don't much care for this ideology anymore, they are still very nationalistic. And so Khamenei played this capture of the British sailors as a national moment. You even had the medical students of Isfahan University issuing a communiqué demanding that the British sailors and marines not be released and be punished for their incursion into Iranian national sovereign waters."

"In seizing the Iranians ( in Irbil) , who, after all, had been invited by the Iraqi authorities, the Americans were seen as behaving aggressively," said Cole. "Now the Iranians have demonstrated that the Anglo-American forces are not in a strong enough position to afford to do these things. They can play tit-for-tat."

" Once the British complained to the United Nations, which issued a statement and other statements and actions followed which " caused Iran to lose face, --it made Khamenei dig in his heels." But on Sunday, the British Defense [Secretary Des Browne], announced that the British were engaged in direct bilateral talks behind the scenes with the Iranians. It's clear that the British were prepared to make representations to Iran, that they had no desire to enter their waters, that they would avoid doing so. So the direct bilateral talks and the pledge not to violate Iranian sovereignty were face-saving for Iran."

Prof Cole explains "Beginning with the first supreme jurisprudent Ayatollah Khomeini , his successor "Ali Khamenei has repeatedly said that nuclear weapons are incompatible with Islamic law, because war, of course, in Islam, is a ritual. It's incompatible with Islamic thinking on war that one would kill non-combatants. And nuclear weapons, obviously, would tend to mainly kill non-combatants."

This is perhaps too simplistic. It is true that the Ayatollahs' rule has not been very popular from the very beginning . Khomeini was a rallying point for all in 1979 , against the Shah (caricatured as the sultan or the caliph), the corroding corruption, the excesses of the Savak secret police and its backers, the CIA, the hopes and aspirations of the youth for social justice, the masses suffering from inflation and sudden oil wealth inequities during US ally Shah's regime.

Khomeini provided that unflinching moral and spiritual bulwark against the Shah's armed-to-the-teeth military machine and his mendacity to deny whatever concessions were demanded, and what was held out in the end was too little too late. Many Iranians who opposed the hardline clerics and their killjoy agenda were eliminated, forced to flee or went underground. Even in 1980, disenchanted, only one fourth of Iranians went to the parliamentary polls. Expectedly, many clerics, some even senior to Khomeini, like Shariatmadari, favored political parties and more freedoms. But by sheer force, the radical conservatives took over power, sometimes in spite of Khomeini.

Then the Iranians laid low and dissimulated. When the chance came in May 1997, they voted massively in favor of Syed Mohammed Khatami. He started slowly but surely implementing his agenda, like appointing a woman vice president. But the radical conservative elements would not give in.

All efforts by Khatami to normalize relations with USA failed as since the collapse of the Soviet Union, USA wanted to rule as supreme hyper power and never forgot the hostage crisis of 1979 . Washington wants to keep the Middle East strategic balance in favour of the its Sunni client regimes like Egypt , Saudi Arabia and other kingdoms in the Gulf , who along with the West had supported Iraq in its 1980-87 war to neutralise the rising menace of Shia revolutionary power . West throughout history has exploited the divide and rule policy , in this case between the Aryan Shia Iranians and Semitic Sunni Arabs , but the rise of Iran's Shia power strengthened impoverished and ill treated Shias all over the Arab states ; in Lebanon, Syria and made them more vocal in the Gulf states .The fear of the rising Shia crescent since then grips all Western client states in the region.

Then the world changed on 11 September 2001 .Iran provided help to USA in its war against Talebans and made another sincere and serious offer to normalize relations with USA . But the Neo-Cons who were crowing of 'making history' were not inclined as their 'American Century Project ' envisaged regime changes in Iraq, Iran , Syria and perhaps even in Pakistan with its nuclear bombs ( now under an uneasy alliance , with constant danger of fundamentalist elements in its armed forces and its all powerful intelligence services ISI taking over the country ) .It was a foolish dream which has turned into a nightmare in the region.

After the thoughtless ,if not stupid and ill planned and illegal invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein emerged a Shia ruling dispensation in Iraq, an extremely potent Shia Alawaite ruling regime in Syria , with Hezbollah on a roll in Lebanon.

After two terms for moderate Khatami , whose efforts to engage in a dialogue of civilisations with the US led West were rebuffed, Iranians elected conservative hard line tough talking Mahmud Ahmedinejad in the second round , preferring him over moderate bazari ( merchant leader ) former President Rafsanjani, Khatami having throw in the towel .But let there be no doubt about the strong nationalist feeling among Iranians of all regions, languages and races .Among expatriate Iranians , even Royalists ,the nationalistic fervour exists with no Ahmed Chelebis and Iyyad Allawis in sight yet .The country has survived millennia long rule by Turks , Tatars and Mongols and civilized them all ,as it had Alexander and his uncouth Macedonian hordes.


According to renowned journalist Patrick Cockburn , it was the botched US attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to north Iraq that triggered the Iran-UK crisis , with Iran seizing the British sailors and Marines.

On 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They only succeeded in capturing five relatively junior Iranian officials whom they now accuse of being intelligence agents .The US operation was carried out without knowledge of Kurdish government about which they had publicly protested .Did US Consul Paul Bremer not transfer sovereignty to Iraqis in June 2004!

The US objective was to 'seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment. Washington , who reportedly abducted an important Iranian in Istanbul " were after Jafari, who the Americans thought he [Jafari] was there. He was accompanied by a second, high-ranking Iranian official General Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of intelligence of the Pasdaran [Iranian Revolutionary Guard] . Jafari confirmed to the official Iranian news agency, IRNA, that he was in Erbil at the time of the raid. Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, told IRNA: "The objective of the Americans was to arrest Iranian security officials who had gone to Iraq to develop co-operation in the area of bilateral security."

Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq said on 7 April that the US forces which captured five Iranians , stationed for legitimate consular work, in the northern city of Erbil three months ago, were really after commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards who were visiting the region as the guests of Kurdish government .The Iranian guests had already called on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.

With US influence diminishing in the Middle East , the Kurds in a hostile environment are perhaps trying to make peace with Iran ,as Turkey is fiercely opposed to any autonomy to Iraqi Kurdistan and the forthcoming referendum by the Kurds to grab Kirkuk ,floating on oil like Kuwait ,after having carried out ethnic cleansing and manipulations.

Barzani also warned Ankara that if it intervened in the referendum, they will create problems in Turkey. Thousands of Turkish Kurdish guerillas are holed up in Iraqi Kurdistan . "Turkey is not allowed to intervene in the Kirkuk issue and if it does, we will interfere in Diyarbakir's issues and other cities in Turkey," Barzani threatened. Diyarbakir is the largest city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast.

Barzani has also declared that the independence and statehood for Kurds ( who live in Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq ) was a "legitimate and legal right". "But I am against the use of violence to reach this goal," he added. Does he have US approval who see an independent Kurdistan ( where a big US base is under construction ) with defence alliance as an option, as there appears little chance of subduing Iraq's Sunni or Shia Arabs , now engaged in a civil war. After all Iraqi Kurdistan is practically a US protectorate since the end of 1991 Gulf war.

Do not the Kurds know that even a powerful ally like Pakistan must obey US dictates as it did after 11/9 otherwise it was threatened of being bombed to the stone age .Islamabad is now paying the price of reversal of its policies with emerging massive violence along its borders with Afghanistan . It is going to get worse , even threatening Gen Pervez Musharraf's regime in Islamabad .

As for the British success in getting the EU to unreservedly back the UK position, which called for the unconditional release of the prisoners and backed by a commitment to take appropriate action if the Iranians refused , it is obvious that it was but typical EU toothless sabre-rattling. EU has become a collection of squabbling national entities , without any common foreign or defence policy , where petty states lecture Russia but would not surrender even a bit of their sovereignty for a united policy .Let us just take EU's energy requirements .It has choice of total reliance on Russia or get some of it from Iran. Its many leaders are upsetting both the suppliers .China ,India and others with galloping economic growth are waiting in the wings with their insatiable energy demand for their 2.4 billion people.

BBC's Pam O'Toole tried to decipher the decision making process in Tehran. She concluded "Iran has many different interlocking - and sometimes competing - centres of power. At best, the decision-making process there is opaque. It is often difficult to know who makes the decisions on some issues - something which causes immense headaches for Western countries trying to negotiate with Tehran.'

It is more equitable than in USA , where till the November trashing of Bush's Republican party , the legislative wing was in the pocket of the executive .And with Democrats not any different in their policies , it looked like a one party state .As for its judiciary , as the lawyers remain loyal to the party nominating them, even to the highest court , seen so clearly in 2000 Presidential elections and on the question of reduction of individual liberty in Bush era or White House's ability to appoint White House favoured Attorneys ,one wonders what kind of democracy US leaders and its subservient corporate media now talk about .In the last six years US political system has regressed towards a totalitarian system. And of course the shots are called by those who control arms manufacture and energy industry , leavened by pervasive Israeli Jewish influence in all branches of decision making . Aspirants for 2008 presidency stakes like Mrs Clinton and Obama are now being auctioned to the highest bidders . Yes , Ms O'Toole the decision making process in USA it is crystal clear.

There have been media reports about possible US attacks on Iran's nuclear sites and military installations , some even suggesting 6 April morning .The Iranian show came just before that deadline .Serious and clear headed Americans like Seymoor Hersh ,Scott Ritter and others have been warning the American lawmakers , that in a crazy move the Bush Administration might exercise that fearful one of 'all options are on the table '. And change the course of human civilization on planet Earth , for the worse.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail: Gajendrak@hotmail.com