Monthly Archives: July 2008

Science does not need to Oppose Religion—in Fact, the Two Go Hand in Hand

 http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/07/31/religion_science/print.html

 


What’s wrong with science as religion

Piercing a Communion wafer with a nail and throwing it in the garbage, as one crusading biologist recently did, does science no favors.

By Karl Giberson

Jul. 31, 2008 | PZ Myers is a true believer, a science crusader with the singled-minded enthusiasm of a televangelist. A biologist at the University of Minnesota at Morris and a columnist for Seed magazine, Myers has earned notoriety with his blog, Pharyngula, in which he reports on new developments in biology and indiscriminately excoriates those he views as hostile to science, a pantheon of straw men and women that includes theologians, journalists and churchgoers. He is Richard Dawkins without the fame or felicitous prose style.

Currently, Myers is under fire from his university and an army of righteous Catholics over his self-proclaimed “Great Desecration” caper. On July 24, he pierced a Communion wafer with a rusty nail (“I hope Jesus’ tetanus shots are up to date,” he quipped) and threw it in the trash with coffee grounds and a banana peel. The nail also cut through pages of the Quran and Dawkins’ “The God Delusion.” He featured a photo of the “desecration” on his blog, and wrote, “Nothing must be held sacred. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet.”

Religion is dangerous, he wrote; it breeds hatred and idiocy. It is our job to advance humanity’s knowledge “by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality.” There is no wisdom in our dogmas, Myers warned, just “self-satisfied ignorance.” We find truth only in science, looking at the world “with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.”

As a fellow scientist (I have a Ph.D. in physics), I share Myers’ enthusiasm for fresh eyes, questioning minds and the power of science. And I worry about dogmatism and the kind of zealotry that motivates the faithful to blow themselves up, shoot abortion doctors and persecute homosexuals. But I also worry about narrow exclusiveness that champions the scientific way of knowing to the exclusion of all else. I don’t like to see science turned into a club to bash religious believers.

Also, Myers doesn’t seem to like me.

When Salon interviewed me about my new book, “Saving Darwin,” I suggested that science doesn’t know everything, that there might be a reality beyond science, and that religion might be about God and not merely about the human quest for a nonexistent God. These remarks got me condemned to whatever hell Myers believes in.

Myers accused me of having “fantastic personal delusions” that could actually lead people astray. “I will have no truck with the perpetuation of fallacious illusions, whether honeyed or bitter,” Myers wrote, “and consider the Gibersons of this world to be corruptors of a better truth. That’s harsh, I know … but he is undermining the core of rationalism we ought to be building, and I find his beliefs pernicious.”

Myers’ confident condemnations put me in mind of that great American preacher, Jonathan Edwards, who waxed eloquent in his famous 1741 speech, “Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God,” about the miserable delusions that lead humans to reject the truth and spend eternity in hell. We still have preachers like Edwards today, of course; they can be found on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. But now we also have a new type of preacher, the Rev. PZ Myers.

Impressive scientific progress has spawned these new preachers in the centuries since crowds sat spellbound under the judgmental voice of Edwards. Like their traditional counterpart, the new preachers speak with great confidence that their religion — science — contains all the truth we need to know and all the truth that can be known. They call us to worship at the altar of science, a summons of which I am skeptical, to say the least.

The best-known men of scientific cloth are Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, but Dawkins’ Oxford colleague, chemist Peter Atkins, gets my vote for best preacher. Atkins’ provocative sermon, aptly titled “The Creation,” invites the reader on a journey back to the ultimate origins of everything. On this journey we learn that “there is nothing that cannot be explained, and that everything is extraordinarily simple.” Like the religious journeys Atkins invokes, it is a journey of faith, but not too much, since faith is like a tumor — the smaller the better. “The only faith we need for the journey is the belief that everything can be understood and, ultimately, that there is nothing to explain,” he writes.

After summarizing what we know about origins in elegant but breathtakingly speculative prose, Atkins borrows biblical language to address the deep question implied by his title: “In the beginning there was nothing. Absolute void, not merely empty space. There was no space; nor was there time, for this was before time. The universe was without form and void.”

Eventually, as we journey with Atkins, stuff happens — stars, planets, life, people, music, art, magazines. But how did it start? How did the universe go from being “without form and void” to this fascinating place we see today? “By chance” says Atkins, “there was a fluctuation.”

Excuse me, Rev. Atkins, but could you please be just a bit more specific? Can you tell me what you mean by “absolute void”? Is that an empirical, testable concept? It sounds suspiciously like a metaphor for something in which you want to believe. As a matter of fact, the suggestion that nothing can naturally fluctuate into everything sounds a lot like a faith statement on a par with belief in God.

Stories like those told by Atkins in “The Creation” are passed off as science, as if our best physics, chemistry and biology lead naturally to these conclusions. The new creation stories are reworded to make it clear that these new scientific stories are replacements for their religious predecessors. Rather than “In the beginning was the word,” where word, from the Greek logos, meaning “underlying rational structure,” is identified with God, Atkins gives us, “In the beginning there was nothing.”

Don’t get me wrong. Atkins tells a great story. And telling stories is the way we communicate meaning, whether it’s oracles making pronouncements or Carl Sagan explaining how the cosmos came to be. Sometimes these stories are true and sometimes they are not; sometimes we can’t tell. But our human tendency is to embed meaning in stories, and all great preachers have been great storytellers. Jesus spoke in parables, not theological discourses.

Our affinity for such stories, says evolutionary psychologist Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, is helped along by hard-wired religious impulses, created by millenniums of evolution. Wilson says our minds have “mythopoeic requirements” — a need for stories that provide meaning and purpose.

Wilson’s personal story testifies to the mythopoeic power of both religious and scientific stories. Raised Southern Baptist, he gave his heart to Jesus as a boy, and worshiped the biblical God — until his studies at the University of Alabama convinced him that his religious faith was incompatible with his emerging new scientific faith.

Like the so-called new atheists, with their out-of-the-confessional aversion to traditional religion, Wilson now argues that if we are serious about the salvation of our race, we had better turn to science. “The mythopoeic requirements of the mind,” he says in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “On Human Nature,” “must somehow be met by scientific materialism.” In “Three Scientists and Their Gods,” Wilson told Robert Wright that we must learn to “worship the evolutionary epic.”

Wilson, along with Atkins, Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and others, persuades us that science has, for thinking people, discredited religion. Nevertheless, they are quick to borrow from a religion they reject and take delight in using biblical metaphors. And as their science evolves to meet the “mythopoeic requirements” of their minds, it increasingly resembles religion.

During Wilson’s teenage crisis of faith, he didn’t just shrug his shoulders and bid his childhood Christian beliefs farewell, as he had done some years earlier with his belief in Santa Claus. Instead, he reconstituted his faith. He replaced the Genesis story with a modern scientific creation story; he replaced Christian ethical directives with ones derived from ecology; and he replaced the worship of God with the worship of the grand story of evolution. It was a new package, informed by better evidence and logic, and it appears to have worked well for him. But it does require faith that the study of nature can provide ethical directives, and not just descriptions of natural phenomena. Showing that species are going extinct faster now than in the past does not automatically obligate us to any particular behavior.

Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, a physicist at the University of Texas, concludes “The First Three Minutes” with these cheery words: “The more the universe is comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.” The universe that we optimistically call our “cosmic home” is nothing of the sort, says Weinberg. Our existence is a “more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents.” The human story is a tale told by idiots suffering from delusions of both purpose and grandeur, and we are all actors in this grand farce.

Yet even as gravity pulls Weinberg into the black hole of bleakness, he suggests that there is, perhaps, a ray of hope — a sliver of salvation — in science, which “lifts human life a little above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.” Weinberg, like poor Job in the Old Testament, finds the world troubling. But his response, like Job’s, suggests that the dreariness of the world has not completely extinguished his mythopoeic impulse.

Science, it would appear, has the raw material for a new religion. Trust traditionally placed in God can be relocated to science, which is reliable and faithful, as well as ennobling. Life can be oriented in a reverential way around the celebration and protection of the great diversity wrought by the evolutionary epic, a diversity that has produced creatures capable of reflecting on this grand mystery.

The grand creation story at the heart of this new religion of science inspires reverence among those invested in its exploration. The world disclosed in this story rests on a foundation of reliable and remarkable natural laws. These laws — gravity tethering our planet to the sun, fusion reactions producing sunlight, chemistry enabling our metabolism — possess the capacity to bring forth matter, galaxies, stars, planets and even life, all within a framework of natural processes that we can understand. And as we decipher these processes, their marvelous character only enlarges. No matter how well we understand them, they still evoke awe and surprise. The modern scientific creation story is so much more than a mere alternative to the traditional biblical myth of Adam and Eve; it is a genuinely religious myth with an astonishing depth and a proffered competence to meet the needs of the religious seeker — the needs that draw millions of Americans to their houses of worship every Sunday morning.

The other pieces of the new religion also fall naturally into place. Our existence is a gigantic miracle, billions of years in the making, and way more interesting than any magical conversion of water into wine. The atoms in our bodies were forged in the furnaces of ancient stars that exploded, seeding our galaxy with rich chemistry. Our planet and its life-sustaining sun formed from this recycled stellar debris. “We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion-year-old carbon.”

The scientific creation story, unlike the parochial accounts in our religious texts, belongs to all of humanity; it is the story of the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Jews, the Christians, the Confucians, the readers of PZ Myers’ blog. We share this story with otters, giraffes, hummingbirds and the stars overhead. Atheist theologian Loyal Rue sees in the universality of the scientific story hope that a fragmented and suspicious humanity might find common ground on which to build a global village of trust and cooperation. “We are, at the moment, in many different places, with many histories and hopes,” he writes in “Everybody’s Story: Wising Up to the Epic of Evolution.” “But we are now called together to one place, to a shared history and to a common vision of enduring promise. If there are saints enough among us, we shall survive.”

So there it is — a brand-new religion, courtesy of modern science. We have a creation myth, ethical directives and a meaningful place for humankind within the grand scheme of things. These are the ingredients that “constructive theologians” like Gordon Kaufman of Harvard Divinity School tell us are common to all religions. As a bonus, we have science to guide us into truth and assure us that we can find solutions to our problems. And we have inquisitors like Myers to ferret out heretics and martyr them on his Web site when they appear.

But is this going to work? Can a religion be built on nature and science, rather than God and sacred texts? And, if it could, would it be better than the old-fashioned religions it is replacing? If our present religions, like milk in our refrigerators, have all expired, we need a replacement to meet our mythopoeic needs. Can science do this for everyone, and not just the residents of ivory towers?

For starters, getting people to worship the new scientific creation story will be no easy task. A few dynamic speakers, like Brian Greene and, until recently, Stephen Hawking, can fill auditoriums with gee-whiz scientific stories of hidden dimensions and many universes. But most people prefer to watch sports and, perhaps not surprisingly, even more attend conventional religious services. Darwinism and big-bang cosmology have never been near and dear to human hearts, especially those filled with old-time religion. Sure, there are true believers who find these scientific ideas awesome in the most literal sense of that word. I am happy to place myself in this group. I can be moved to tears by the transcendent beauty of a math equation.

For science to become a true object of worship, it must elbow aside the reassuring and seductively simple belief that “God loves you.” This deeply personal faith statement would have to be replaced with one that says something like: “The cosmos worked really long and hard to create you and you should be really appreciative.”

But let’s assume for the moment that this is possible — that science can be canonized, moralized, transcendentalized and politicized into a replacement religion, with followers, codes of conduct, celebrated texts and sacred blogs, houses of worship, “saints” of some sort and inquisitors of another sort. And let’s suppose that it’s possible for this new religion to move out of the ivory towers of academia, where it lives now, to take its place alongside the other “world” religions, attracting hundreds of millions of adherents drawn from the main streets of the world and all walks of life. What would this new religion be like once it became institutionalized? After all, if religion fills a genuine human need, something has to fill the hole created by its passing — something that appeals to billions of people.

Could we be sure, for example, that this new scientific religion would not give rise to the extremism and aberrant behavior that plague conventional religions? Would concern for the diversity of life, for example, inspire vegetarians to blow up slaughterhouses, and run the local butcher through his or her own meat grinder? Would reverence for the cosmos reinvigorate astrology? Would appreciation for natural selection bring eugenics back out of the closet? In other words, if science dismantles the traditional religious content that people use to satisfy their impulses — many of which are quite passionate — will we really be better off?

There is also no compelling way to get ethical directives from science. To be sure, religion has a version of the same problem, but that simply points up the challenges they both face, not the superiority of science over religion. Even Stephen Jay Gould, the peacemaking agnostic, suggested that religion should make the ethical calls.

On a practical level — and I write as someone who works in the trenches at an evangelical college — I am worried that attempts to treat science as if it is a religion will only drive the big, abrasive wedge currently between science and religion even further into the chasm of misunderstanding. What we should hope, instead, is that science can become a more congenial guest in the house — church, temple, mosque — of religion and not be so determined to proselytize or even evict all of the current occupants. There is much in religion that need not trouble the scientist and much that the scientist can value. Scientists must learn to live with that.

In order for many of us to truly feel at home in the universe so grandly described by science, that science needs to coexist as peacefully as possible with the creation stories of our religious traditions. I share with Myers, Dawkins and Weinberg the conviction that we are the product of cosmic and biological evolution, that Einstein and Darwin got it right. But I want to believe that, through the eyes of my faith, this is how God created the world and that God cares about that world. Does this belief, shared by so many of our species, make me dangerous?

I am incredibly impressed with the achievements of science. But I don’t think science is omniscient and I am not convinced that science will ever know everything. I am not convinced that science is even capable of knowing everything. That we can know as much as we do seems rather miraculous, in fact. Is it so dangerous to believe that there is a bit more to the world than meets the scientific eye, that behind the blackboard filled with equations there is a rational, creative and even caring mind breathing fire into those equations?

 

— By Karl Giberson

Move over Radovan Karadzic, you’re just small potatoes: GWB is the REAL War Criminal who needs to be tried in the Hague…..

The World’s Foremost Terrorist –
The US Government
By Karl Schwarz
7-30-8

 
This article will explain to you why the Totally Screwed-Up US Strategic Plan for the Caspian Basin has backfired and created a “megatrend” against America that may well be the doom of our nation.
 
Any country willing to spend 30 years lying, conniving and scheming – and blow over $3 trillion (reported) on nothing –  is pretty damned stupid or desperate. In the  case of American policy, I submit, both apply…and we can, with no effort, add in DELUSIONAL.
 
There is nothing that George W Bush, McCain or Obama can do to change the tide now…for it has turned into a tsunami against America. The Grand Chessboard game is over, finished, and the US has lost in a rout. Our nation has blown through trillions of dollars (of new debt) with little to nothing accomplished to pursue a bogus, contrived war that was designed to take over in excess of $15 trillion in Caspian Basin oil and natural gas. The sheer cost of the failed ‘war’ and scheme to take over the Caspian Basin has ruined the value of the dollar, buried the US in debt and a myriad of ancillary problems, skyrocketed the cost of oil, utilities, food, and shredded the reputation of the United States around the world.  By any measure, it is a catastrophe.
 
They say greed makes people do stupid things. I guess we can all conclude that ‘really stupid greedy people’ do REALLY stupid things. This screw-up is colossal. Only an MBA president like the Great Decider, who bankrupted every company he ever ran, could do such a thorough job of wrecking the world’s largest economy and that of much of the rest of the world, too.
 
If Americans would learn math and factor these monumentally needless expenditures back into ‘the real US cost for a gallon of gasoline’, Americans would wig out completely. Every time you cringe while gassing up at the pump, multiple that by at least 25 and you are in the ball park of the real ‘net price’ for each gallon of gasoline today. That, of course, does not include the cost of blood, both foreign and American, which made it possible for you to pay these absurd prices for gasoline.
 
The checkmate went to Russia and the World directly due to the massive strategic blunders by the United States over the past 20 years. Yes, folks, the past 20 years, not just the Bush Administration. The administrations of George H W Bush, Clinton and the current Village Idiot in the Oval Office have predictably managed to put about 1,000 torpedoes into the USS Titanic and their moronic Grand Chessboard scheme.
 
The ship is going down and Americans need to focus their blame and anger on the idiotic, traitorous, terrorist warmongers in Washington, DC. Theses vampire goons have needed no help whatsoever from any outside ‘enemy’ to utterly destroy America. This was their idea and marketing plan, so let them all burn.
 
That is one of the basics of Sun Tzu’s classic ‘The Art of War’. Give the delusionally arrogant enough rope and they hang themselves without any outside help…every time. There is no need to wage war on arrogant morons; nobody can trounce them quite as thoroughly as they trounce themselves.
 
 
Past civilizations had the right idea in having the names of derelicts and traitors stricken from every book, every temple, building and palace. However, we shall not be that fortunate because the names of these creeps will be plastered to libraries, freeways, aircraft carriers, and university and federal buildings as a permanent reminder of monumental self-destruction and treason.  San Francisco had the right idea, name a sewage treatment plant ‘The George W Bush Wastewater Treatment Center.’  Garbage in is garbage out.
 
When I wrote “One-Way Ticket To Crawford Texas, A Conservative Republican Speaks Out” many things were uncovered during the research, investigations and interviews I conducted as deep background for the book. Much of that data could not be put into the book because of publishing deadlines or to protect the identities of certain sources.
 
The book had 837 pages and over 950 footnotes. Many enjoyed reading the footnotes as much as the book because they start to show the true ‘Ugly American’ face of the US government. It may wind up a minor ‘classic’ for it predicted what we are all seeing right now.
 
Many chapters of the book are about the same lunatic policies of our government and how insane ideas become idiotic national policies and even dumber ‘strategic plans.’  It explains how a brain-retarded ‘strategic vision’ evolves into a ‘shitforbrains national strategic plan’ based on a lust for money and power that came from the ‘geostrategic imperative’ of the Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski. 
 
When the DNC heard the title of the book, their Vice Chairman got in touch with me thinking that an “off the ranch Republican” would be their ‘best buddy’ for the 2004 elections.  However, they were horrified when they saw the book and how it exposed this lunatic scheme all the way back to Carter and moved forward through George H W Bush and Clinton, and then showed why Bush, Jr is the complete imbecile he has proven himself to be.
 
I could write a six volume set the equivalent of Carl Sandberg’s “Lincoln” just from the information that was put into my hands about what a total fraud Bush, Congress and the Global War on Terror are. I, and others, have known from day-one that the problems rest on both sides of the aisle in DC.
 
We do not have a ‘Dream Team’ in Washington, DC representing America, now, or will we have one in the foreseeable future. All of this euphoria about McCain or Obama (as if he is the Messiah) is a total waste of time and energy. Much ado about absolutely nothing.
 
What we have is an unmitigated nightmare leading America into the abyss while these lying thugs line their pockets at our expense. It is a deadly cancer and it is time for major surgery.
 
We have a ‘terrorist organization’ running America. 
 
I have no fear of ‘Al Qaeda’ which is a Jimmy Carter-CIA fabrication used to control the American Sheeple and keep them dead in their tracks, like deer in the headlights. The biggest enemy of the American people is the government of the United States. 
 
As explained below, ‘the world’s foremost terrorist organization’ is the United States government. Read on, and I will provide you some proof.
 
Barky Obama Black Bush does not have a plan and apparently John McBush does not have a damned clue. I would be more entertained if Daffy Duck Obama were running against Mr. John MaGoo…but we are stuck with the lousy theater DNC and RNC have scheduled for 2008.  There will be no meaningful ‘change’…none whatsoever.
 
I totally agree with Mike Gravel. Bush does not deserve impeachment; he deserves war criminal referral to the ICC at The Hague. However, the true list would be much longer than just Bush and would include Big Names from both sides of the aisle.
 
Somewhere between ‘point A’ and ‘point B’ we, as a nation, got lost. We trusted our government. We trusted that it would always do the right thing, the honorable thing, the just thing. We trusted its members to be better, and on a higher moral ground than any possible enemy. We trusted them to not become a tyranny… or worse, terrorists. We trusted that they would always speak the Truth…but the only thing that flows from their mouths are endless lies.
 
That should be the first clue to every American that something is amiss.  
 
We were wrong to have ever trusted them. What and who we trusted are the true enemy of every man, woman and child in America.
 
In the early years they did the right thing, but ultimately, they sold us out. Shit happens…and it is now way past time to fix it.
 
Most people I know in America have a deep sense of right versus wrong.  Most people I know will follow that which God and Jesus Christ desire rather than blindly accept orders from evil beings…such as the liar war criminal George W Bush and his co-conspirators in the US House and US Senate. 
 
As I was doing the research for “One-Way Ticket to Crawford Texas” I was contacted one day by a former US Special Forces soldier. He wanted to meet for coffee in a public place and tell me something that Americans needed to know. I drove for hours to get to that meeting.
 
A full eight weeks before Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, this US soldier was part of a special forces black ops team that was ordered to attack both Iranian and Iraqi positions to stir up tensions in that part of the Middle East. That was weeks before Iraq invaded Kuwait to set the stage for ‘Desert Shield’ and then ‘Desert Storm 1991’ and another completely fabricated war by the Bush Family. This former Special Forces soldier had the dates, operation names, targets, etc. Through other sources I was able to verify it all. 
 
It was just another third-rate, based-on-lies ‘Bush Show’ and if Americans are not tired yet of the ‘Bush Show’ they are a pretty sad lot…to the extent of being dead from the neck up.
 
Many Americans have heard the babbling fool George H W Bush mumble “if Americans only knew what we have done they would run us out of town.”
 
Well, we Americans cannot “only knew” when we have blatant liars as leaders and a gutless mainstream media that puts career promotions or ‘talking head status’ as being more important than the truth. Bill O’Reilly gets over $50 million a year to lie to and mislead America. The stakes are high for this criminal cabal.
 
Before Iraq invaded Kuwait there had been a dispute going on in the background. Reportedly, US oil contractors operating in Kuwait had used ‘directional drilling’ and ‘aided and abetted’ a major theft of Iraqi oil.  They were stealing oil from Iraq’s southernmost oil fields…which just happen to be very close to the Kuwait border.  It took serious planning and premeditation to pull off such a burglary….which went on for years.
 
Iraq was claiming that about $7 Billion of its oil had been stolen (at 1990 oil prices) and Iraq was demanding payment or Saddam would invade Kuwait and take payment. Of course, this was all heating up as US Special Forces were attacking and making Saddam think some of his neighbors were stirring up the mess.  Just for spite and good measure, George H W Bush had Special Forces playing ‘shits and giggles’ with Iran at the same time they were trying to goad Saddam Hussein into invadingKuwait.  George H W Bush created the mess so he could be a “war president” and appear to be something other than the babbling elitist fool he is. Remember well, Daddy Bush wrecked the US economy, too.
 
There was a 1990 conference call involving Washington, DC and the US ambassador in Iraq, April Glaspie, and Saddam Hussein. To this day she is under a ‘gag order’ so she cannot tell the world about what really happened on that conference call and what a liar George H W Bush is. The US told Saddam, unequivocally, that it did not care if he invaded Kuwait to collect what had been stolen from his country. Saddam was told the US had no interest whatsoever in the dispute. If the Kuwaitis owed Iraq money, sort it out with the Kuwaitis.
 
Remember what I wrote just above ­ a full 8 weeks before Iraq invaded Kuwait the US Special Forces, under order of President George H W Bush, started attacking to stir up a hornet’s nest. I will let you figure this out ­ they were not posing as “US soldiers”.
 
The US wanted Saddam to think the Kuwaitis were flaunting in his face that they were US allies, not Iraq, and could steal all the oil they wished because the Kuwaitis had a Big Bully as an ally. Now, carry that one-step forward as to how the controllers crafted and presented 9-11 to Americans.
 
They were trying to intentionally start a war – just like they did with Afghanistan, just like they have now done twice with Iraq, and just like they are trying to do with Iran.
 
Since I could not get confirmation from the ‘gagged’ former ambassador April Glaspie, I had to wait to see if I would get confirmation from other directions. Suddenly, such confirmation did show up from a retired US employee.
 
There were many on that conference call since it was planned to set off a Middle East shit storm, so the US could take the Iraqi oil and get rid of Saddam Hussein with “Desert Storm.’  They expected the hornet’s nest could quickly spread to the entire Middle East so they included the embassies all over that area of the world in their planning. Their goal was to sucker Saddam Hussein into invading Kuwait to collect what the Iraqi people were legitimately due.
 
A former US Foreign Service person contacted me and confirmed several things. Yes, he was on the conference call. Yes, the US already had Special Forces attacking to stir things up, and yes, they told Saddam that they had no interest in his dispute with Kuwait. The US also informed Saddam that they were not going to intervene on behalf of Iraq and help recover funds from Kuwait for the stolen oil.
 
So, Saddam invaded because Iraq had been robbed of billions by BushCo and their buddies. Then the GHWB forces swung into action to ‘save the world’ with 1990 Desert Shield and then 1991 Desert Storm. I remember his arrogant pontificating like it was yesterday, “Saddam, get out of Kuwait!”  What a vile performance.  What an utter betrayal of America and its people.
 
On January 12, 1991, Congress voted to declare war on Iraq. I have always wondered how many of these dolts knew GHWB had Special Forces over there in the summer of 1990 trying to get a war started and provoke Iraq to invade Kuwait. My bet is many of them.
 
 
They are liars, folks. Our leaders are blatant, outrageous, psychopathic, unrepentant liars.  
 
The Zionist Jew Neocon Edward Luttwak was asked in 1991 what the US was going to do to Iraq.
 
“Saddam is not like the Saudi Princes who spend the bulk of their lives outside of their country, and who fritter away the Kingdom’s oil profits on prostitutes and bottles of champagne in Paris. No, Saddam is building railways! Creating electrical networks! Highways and other important elements of a serious State infrastructure! After eights years of war against the Iranian regime of Khomeini, he desperately needs to demobilize his Republican Guard, which incorporates so many of this technical elite, in order to rebuild his war-devastated country. These people are his technicians, his engineers. If they are put to work in the way Saddam wishes, they will rapidly make Iraq the most advanced power in the region, and we cannot allow this to happen.”
 
Yeah, I can understand why George H W Bush would not want Americans to know that he started that Desert Storm war and intended to do just that. I can see where that fact does not ‘jive’ with the Presidential Legacy they keep trying to mold for him. Sort of like trying to create a ‘great monumental sculpture’ from countless tons amounts of bullshit rather than marble or clay.
 
Do you recall the Bush speech after Desert Storm? “Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order.”  Right.  One based on endless lies.
 
That is why everything has to be such a ‘big damned secret’; why they lie and they intend to keep on doing just that. That is part of selling their stupid strategic plan to control and dominate all things.
 
I do not know who can be credited with the quote “Like father, like son” but I think they probably knew the Bush Family pretty well.
 
The research continued and the more I did the more confirmation I received that we are led by evil agenda players, not to mention one of the sleaziest, murderous families in the history of the nation, if not the planet.
 
At dinner one night, I was meeting with a US Army major who was having a very deep battle of the conscience. Even someone trained to kill as a profession has a conscience and usually weighs the issues of right versus wrong, legal versus criminal, just versus evil, etc. 
 
That is most often the case until one meets the mercenary types employed by firms like Blackwater USA, which put money far above human life. Many of the Blackwater killers are on laced up on drugs to dull their senses for rampant, indiscriminate killing. I have met some of the former Blackwater USA employees.  Chronic, serious use of drugs, severe drinking problems and clinical psychosis are common issue among their employees. I could explain to them why they have a ‘bruised spirit’ but they would have to want that help for it to do any good.
 
America, at its core, is essentially still a nation of good people for the most part. Unfortunately, we are being riddled by the malignant affliction of being ruled, governed and societally-programmed by idiots, liars and arguably the most evil people on Earth.
 
At this particular dinner meeting, I was stunned to hear some of the details that were being conveyed to me across the table.  And I am not an easy person to shock. This person was stationed at Landstuhl, Germany at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. That is where our troops are mainly sent when they are injured in battle or require evacuation for medical attention. That is also where the ‘Official Morgue’ is located.
 
I was shocked to learn that many US troops have been delivered to Landstuhl on life-support due to a ‘mystery’ pneumonia. Many of them died at Landstuhl or were dead when they arrived (DOA)…still plugged into life support. They were not part of the official KIA stats in Iraq…by order of Bush and Rumsfeld.
 
I was shocked to learn that many US troops also have chronic problems with DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, after they were given ‘vaccines’ for CBW that they will not even encounter on the field of battle or in their Iraq or Afghanistan missions. Those injections are given, yet again, just to line the pockets of some of the DoD and BushCo insiders. Firms such as…BioPort and DynPort Vaccines, LLC, that hybrid of a biotech and a mercenary company that the FBI keeps overlooking as a suspect in the anthrax attacks in the US.
 
DVT causes huge blood clots if not treated. The NBC reporter David Bloom and MANY US troops have died or suffered major health setbacks due to heart attacks, strokes or pulmonary embolisms due to blood clots caused by DVT…resulting directly from the Anthrax ‘vaccine’ they are injecting into our young men and women. Our nanotechnology researchers have been on that matter for 4 years now, working on ways to block it or reverse it.
 
I was further shocked to learn that many of our troops are diagnosed at Landstuhl as having a rare disorder (only 1 per 500,000 in a normal population) that is abundantly common in our US troops after they have had the usual course of vaccine injections. It will take time to nail it down, but it currently appears that possibly as many as 25% of US soldiers have this rare disorder. That huge spike, as compared to a normal population, is too high not to be noticed as being tied to what the DoD and their pet contractors are injecting into our US troops. If that affliction rate holds up, it means from 250,000 to 500,000 US soldiers could now have it.
 
It’s called ‘amyloidosis’ and while it can be deadly, it is almost always debilitating. The doctors and nurses at Landstuhl were under orders to ‘diagnose’ this new disorder as sprains, fatigue, wear and tear due to physical exercise, carrying heavy army packs on their backs, and hard soldiering work in the desert heat, etc. I was told that some of the soldiers were in so much pain they could not even sit in a chair…but were still expected to serve and perhaps die for Emperor Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
It was little wonder to me that when I met some of the US soldiers with this nightmare, I found that they call themselves “the Walking Dead” because of how awful they feel and how ruined their lives are.  Amyloidosis is most likely a direct result of the ruthless barrage of dangerous, sometimes deadly, and ultimately useless ‘vaccines’ they are forced to take.  I have, by now, met several thousand soldiers…and about TWENTY-FIVE percent of them are said to be afflicted.
 
 
Amyloidosis causes the human body to produce amyloid proteins which the body cannot handle properly.  These proteins destroy joints and vital organs, and over time result in permanent disability and sometimes death.  This is the same crap Bush wanted to inject into all American citizens under his lunatic Project BioShield.
 
The biggest shock of all was learning that vast numbers of our troops are now confirmed as having been exposed to Depleted Uranium (DU) with often extremely heavy concentrations of it found in their blood and body organs. However, once again, the doctors and nurses were under direct orders to not disclose DU poisoning to the soldier, not to make any note of it in their medical records which would create a ‘criminal chain of evidence.’  They are, instead, instructed to take blood samples only, freeze them, and that the DoD will ‘check back on the soldiers’ in a few years to see how they’re doing.  Many, of course, will be dead or dying, or to have produced deformed children, or to have contaminated their spouses and families with it. 
 
 
You have probably already guessed…the DoD never bothers to check back on the soldiers at all.  
 
DU weapons were banned by the UN as a “weapon of indiscriminate harm” because after it kills, it just keeps right on killing civilians living in the area such weapons were used…like Bosnia, Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Afghanistan. That list does not include the many US military bases where they have been shooting DU weapons for years and polluting America, too.  In fact, DU contaminated sand was recently shipped from Kuwait to IDAHO…since the Kuwaities are our good buddies because they helped get rid of that evil Saddam after he caught them stealing billions of dollars of Iraq’s oil.
 
Two of the reasons I have had to fight the Bush Administration professionally (nanotechnology) are because we are trying to do something about the DVT/Anthrax vaccine problems and the DU. They do not want a chain of evidence to nail their asses to the wall, and we are building such a chain to do just that. ‘Indiscriminate harm’ and ‘genocide’ are accurate ways to sum up the entire Bush Administration, and those of Clinton and Daddy Bush.
 
If the United States government will not help our soldiers, I am, as a United States citizen, trying to find a way to help them.
 
Many are dying of other conditions and are experiencing major health problems. Of course, all ignored by DoD under the ‘Feres Doctrine’ that grants immunity to our DoD and defense contractors for such criminal negligence. Since DoD is immune, who is George Bush to really care about the well-being of our US troops?
 
Under Bush orders (and idiotic policies), millions of our soldiers now have ruined health and ruined lives. It is time for accountability for ‘knowingly harmful actions’ and to Hell with the Feres Doctrine.
 
I was also shocked to learn that those troops delivered to Landstuhl Germany on life-support (regardless of reason) are not declared dead until they reach Germany and are therefore not part of the KIA (killed in action) from Iraq or Afghanistan. Some of those people were dead when flown out of Iraq or Afghanistan but the ‘diagnosis’ was delayed until they reached Germany so they did not show up in the Official DoD Certified KIA for Iraq or Afghanistan.
 
Such “strategies” are to keep American citizens from knowing the true toll of carnage the US has suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan under the beyond stupid Bush Plan.
 
But, what really stunned me and broke my heart the most was something else this US Army major disclosed to me. By the time our dinner meeting was over, we went to the couple’s home to talk in private. I was fuming by that time, as you may well imagine.
 
Landstuhl, as the MSM told us, was receiving injured from the Iraq and Afghanistan “theater of operations” where the US was claiming so many successes.  However, it was ALSO receiving wounded from places like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan where our evil government was trying to carry out Special Forces Ops to target and kill those who were standing in the way of the BushCo regime and its Grand Chessboard, Fake Global ‘War on Terror’ scheme.
 
 
Standing in the way of their precious pipeline across Turkmenistan and Afghanistan! Standing in the way of their taking over huge amounts of oil and natural gas in theCaspian Basin! Standing in the way by siding with pipelines that were headed north into Russia or east to China! Standing in the way by signing up with non-US oil companies!
 
 
I asked “Are these medical need cases from the military bases Bush has put in the Caspian Basin area or combat related injuries?”
 
Response: “They are both…need for general medical treatment and combat related. Vehicle accidents, non-combat injuries, major illness, combat injuries, etc.”
 
I asked “Interesting, I do not seem to recall reading in ‘the news’ that the US is involved in combat operations in those nations. Are we talking about black ops?”
 
Response: “Yes, it is almost all black ops in those nations.”
 
I asked. “How did you know that these troops had been injured in those nations and not say in Afghanistan?”
 
Response: “Because they were angry at what they had been sent to do and they wanted someone to talk to about it. As their care providers, safe in the hospital late at night, they cried, they talked, they confessed to us what they had been sent to do. We are all under orders to shut up, not tell the truth, but soldier-to-soldier we talked a lot. I heard more than I was prepared to hear. Due to the horrid extent of the injuries, I saw more than I was prepared to see.” 
 
[This major showed me a DVD of photos from the triage, operating rooms and ICU. I have never in my life seen such horrible photos and I do not have a weak stomach.]
 
I asked. “Why would a tough special ops soldier be crying? Loss of a fellow soldier, loss of a leg or limb, or God-forbid his genitals, or face unrecognizable anymore?”
 
Response: “Because of what they were sent to do, once they figured out what the real mission was.”
 
I asked “Like what? What was enough to make the toughest US soldiers cry? Protecting the high and mighty Americans from the “terrorists”?
 
Response: “No, they were sent to be the terrorists and it is why they were sent that had them crying. Some of them were afraid that God would never forgive them, and, I think they might be right at times. There were some attacks on the US soldiers by people who do not want us there and some ‘pay back’ attacks after US forces had attacked them, but for the most part what I was being told about was the US conducting intimidation and terrorism operations against civilians. to get their oil and gas.”
 
I asked “Really? US? The honorable, truth-telling US of A being “terrorists” in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan.. and Tajikistan? Please explain.”
 
Response: “Many of the people in those areas do not like America, do not trust America. Many are competing to get control of areas of land that have, or are thought to have, vast amounts of oil or natural gas. Some of it is oil and gas leases, some of it pipeline right-of-way to get it to a port and ship it all over the world.”
 
I asked “I know, the Caspian Basin mother lode, the idiotic Grand Chessboard. That is why I have been reporting on and researching the Caspian Basin and the real reasons we attacked Afghanistan to steal a pipeline deal from an Argentina company. Have these soldiers been sent in to strong arm, threaten, terrorize, etc with these Big Oil thugs and things got too hot, shooting started?”
 
Response: “Some times yes, but that is not what had many of them upset unless they did lose a fellow soldier or yes, they lost a future because of their injuries. What had them upset was they were sent to kill entire families under the pretense of “hitting a terrorist base” and they found out later that it was not a terrorist base. It was the home of a father, mother, children, grandparents who would not roll over for Bush and his thugs and sign over their property or the oil and gas rights. They were uh, in the way of the “Big Mission”. These were people who refused to sign over their land and energy rights to US Big Oil. It was a ‘tract of land’ Big Oil wanted and these people were refusing.”
 
I asked. “So, it is true. Anyone daring to stand in the way of those trillions in oil and natural gas is classified as a “terrorist” and eliminated?  
 
Response: “Exactly, and that is exactly why I contacted you. Japan, China, Russia, and others are over there to sign up the oil and gas leases, but the US is the only one I know of that is going in there and terrorizing or killing people to get its way. They are using US soldiers to try to force people to sign a contract or kill them and take it from them anyway. The truth has to get out about what Bush has done and used 9-11 as the excuse to do it. These black ops started way before 9-11. They had to get oil and gas leases signed, then they had to get the pipeline under control.” 
 
“Many of our soldiers have already figured out that 9-11 was just to get the pipeline they need across Afghanistan. Many of these soldiers know they were ‘used’ to get the oil and gas leases nailed down so there would be something to put through that pipeline.”
 
“The US Army or Marines cannot tell you the truth, lest they want to face court martial and spend the rest of their life in Leavenworth. As for me, I am no longer concerned about making grade to colonel or general. I am resigning my commission and getting out of this web of lies and evil. I can no longer serve this nation and what it really stands for and what is does and will not tell America. I’m finished.” 
 
I asked “Were you able to determine from any of these special ops soldiers how long such covert operations had been going on prior to 9-11?”
 
Response: “Yes, according to some of them these operations had been going on for up to a year before 9-11 and possibly even longer. They had to nail down those oil and gas leases, pipeline right-of-ways because many other nations were after the same oil and gas deals.”
 
I continued. “The thought just occurred to me, how do they explain these injuries or KIA of these soldiers who are waging black ops against civilians in nations we supposedly have no ongoing military operations?  Afghanistan?
 
Response: “Afghanistan some times if after October 7, 2001, or they list them as ‘victims of terrorists’ without explaining that they were killed or injured conducting acts of terrorism against civilians and a fire fight broke out. Innocent humans except they were sitting on land with oil and gas under it. There were some attacks on US troops as ‘pay back”, but most of the attacks were terrorism by the US against those who were not cooperating with the US objectives in the region. If they cannot come up with an excuse, since the ops are black, they just ignore it ever happened.”
 
I cannot say what you are feeling right now as you just read through that, but I was sickened to my stomach that night and have been ever since that night. That meeting with the US Army Major was the day I stopped being a proud American.
 
The reason I was offended and angered is that those are all illegal orders. These were orders originated by a US war criminal at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
 
If such happened even once…it happened one time too many. This US Army Major confirmed that many discussions were held with many wounded US soldiers over a period spanning months.  There were many such black ops targeted at many people who were judged to be ‘in the way.’  This happened far more times than George Bush or Bill Clinton want anyone to know about.
 
What the Major was seeing in the hospital at Landstuhl was for the most part US soldiers who were injured by someone who was defending their rights and their property. This man had many heart-to-heart talks with these wounded soldiers. Few of them were angry at a Turkmen, or an Uzbek, or a Kazakh. They were angry at who sent them and why they were sent.
 
It did not take long for many of them to figure out that they had been sent under illegal orders to commit murder, not take out a terrorist. Some of the missions were literally to kidnap persons who had been labeled ‘terrorist’ but were really just resisters defending their property rights.
 
Most of our US soldiers have very strong sense of duty, but they also have very strong senses of right versus wrong and they have good instincts to see wrong for what it is. In their hands are matters of life and death, and they do not take that as lightly as the arrogant bastards in Washington, DC who don’t have the courage to stand on that front line…cowards that they are.
 
I asked “Did any of these soldiers admit to you how they figured out that someone had ordered them on an illegal mission, an illegal order, to go process a death warrant on civilians who would not sign a contract?”
 
Response: “Yes, because I had the same question. There was a targeted site, an alleged “terrorist camp”. and the team leader sent snipers as advance recon to get into position and closely watch a house. A smart soldier will always size up what he is about to lead his men into. While they were watching a vehicle pulls up, three men get out and there is a huge argument regarding a stack of papers the men were trying to get them to either take or sign. It was a US oil company truck and they were ordered off the property at gun point. They then went to another house about half-mile away that could be also be seen by the snipers, where a second group ordered them off the property at gun point, would not accept or sign the papers. That night they were ordered to ‘take out’ everyone at both houses. They had already been briefed on the ‘intel regarding the alleged terrorist camp’ and knew that both houses could not fit what the mission description was. That was when they realized that the orders were to remove “resisters” not ‘terrorists’. Most were women and children. The reason more than one of that team were at Landstuhl was the locals were more than prepared and repelled the attack that night. As one soldier of that team said, ‘those folks know how to deal with burglars. I am lucky to be alive’. 
 
I am not naïve enough to think that all such attacks were repelled.” 
 
What was being described to me pre-dated 9-11 in the Clinton and Bush Administrations and continued on as they launched their bogus, fraudulent Global War on Terror. As this US Army Major talked, I was remembering Operation Gladio where US, UK and NATO were conducting terrorist operations against innocent people in Europe to get their way. 
 
As I was driving back home, I thought about the Special Forces soldier who was involved prior to Desert Shield / Desert Storm and about what I was just told that predated 9-11 in the Caspian Basin nations. I had to resist the urge several times to pull over on the side of the road and throw up…over their description of what America had become.
 
I know exactly what these arrogant murderous bastards are after, and have been since they planned 9-11 so they could launch this hideous, murderous scheme…this ‘lunatic strategic plan.’  I did not know until that night that even before 9-11 they were attacking and taking out families in the Caspian Basin area who did not want to sign over their property or their oil and gas rights to the US thugs.
 
That was when I truly understood the level of evil that has taken control of our nation and our government. These are not legitimate “missions” in defense of America; they are death warrants to kill people who do not wish to roll over to US demands.
 
 
Anyone who would prefer to do business with others, were labeled “terrorists” and murdered or extorted into complying with US demands, or ‘disappeared’. If they would not sign the contracts with Big Oil, the ‘T” designation was hung on them, and elimination was next. Sign the contract or die.
 
 
I can well imagine that some were ‘tortured’ into signing the contracts. They may still be torturing some into signing the contracts. Think on that one.
 
Folks, these are the acts of desperate people who are wickedly sick in mind and heart.
 
Resisting is not ‘terrorism’ by a property owner.  It is, by legal definition, self-defense of family and property and what was rightfully theirs and not rightfully the property of Big Oil or BushCo. People have a legitimate right to get the best price for what they own…but not when they happen to be standing in the way of US hegemony and pipedreams of trillions and trillions and trillions of oil and natural gas. If they refuse to sign with BushCo, they are ‘terrorists’.
 
 
The GITMO fiasco has already proven many in our government are psychopathic liars and conducting illegal actions and violations of human rights against many people.
 
When some of the military started objecting to such orders, they were ‘relieved of duty’. The tasks were handed over to the mercenary firms, since they will do anything for money.
 
In my travels in the EU and elsewhere, I have noticed and met many people from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc. I started asking questions as to why they were no longer living in their homeland. They are afraid to live in their homeland. They are afraid of the US and their black ops killers who come in the night like the thugs, thieves and murderers they are.and the terrorists they are.
 
Countless people were targeted by George W Bush for execution as terrorists because they wanted to take a better business offer from others. Merely designate them as ‘terrorists’ and target them for elimination, entire families. It was that night that I had a totally clear picture of what some in the US will do for oil and natural gas and domination of anyone who gets in their way.
 
They were also targeted by Clinton as muscle for Big Oil, so I rest my case. Both sides of the aisle are corrupt and criminal.
 
I laugh when I think now of what a total failure their scheme has turned out to be. These people are past nuts, they are completely insane.
 
The Bush Family is all about “family values”? Do not believe that bullshit lie for even a nano-second. If you believe a word that comes out of the mouth of any Bush family member, you are a complete fool. They are family killers. And don’t forget it.
 
That, folks, is the mark of a war criminal and a terrorist. 
 
 
AND THEY FAILED – AND IT DOES NOT TAKE SHERLOCK HOLMES TO FIGURE OUT WHY!
 
I have no way to confirm this. but I am willing to bet that many of those persons being held by our government ­ reportedly up to 26,000 people ­ are not terrorists at all. My bet is many of them are “property owners” in the Caspian Basin who would not cooperate with the Grand Chessboard lunacy. My bet is they are being tortured (or punished) for not rolling over and handing their oil and gas over to the Thugs of BushCo.
 
I think often about the ‘Big Picture’ implications of how incredibly stupid this “Bush Strategery” has proven to be. No wonder the former Russian states are welcoming Russia back in. They want protection from BushCo.
 
I do have confirmation from two governments (and citizens of those nations) in that area, that they figured out what the US was up to and ordered them to ‘cease and desist’ or. get out of the Caspian Basin, period.
 
So, this is who we have sitting in the Oval Office:  a world terrorist, a liar, a murderer, and war criminal as our president. To the shame of America, Clinton did this same kind of evil, too, and so did Daddy Bush. Sadly, Bush Lite (McCain) and Bush Dark (Obama) would keep the same status quo in place like the unthinking, compromised, sock-puppet morons they are.
 
Great, one of them is going to be our next ‘Terrorist in Chief.’
 
They are ‘All American Terrorists.’  They are all liars and they are all war criminals and murderers and traitors to the very spirit of America. They are leaders of nothing but a pack of murderous thugs.
 
What has been interesting and infinitely predictable, is that most of the Caspian Basin is standing its ground and signing contracts with ANYONE BUT THE UNITED STATES or UNITED KINGDOM. They are not about to let the US have its way after what they have done.
 
It will take years to know the full damage of such policies, such senseless acts of US sponsored terrorism. Some day, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, etc, will publish who has the natural gas and oil leases and how much is being sold to what nations. When that happens, America will truly see how little of the oil and natural gas the US was able to control through commercially abusive business practices, threats and acts of terrorism. When those facts are known, the sheer lunacy of the Obama/Brzezinski continuing push for the Afghanistan pipeline will be known, too.  
 
Then we shall truly know how stupid this entire Grand Chessboard scheme has been from its inception. Folks, this has been the most colossal failure of thinking in the history of the United States. Their ‘strategic vision’ that they could do anything they wanted because the US was the only Superpower was a brain spasm of the magnitude of Krakatoa blowing up. 
 
Their ‘strategic plan’ that they could be terrorists and get the oil and gas and the money, and get away with it because they were shouting ‘terror’ and ‘terrorists’ more than anyone else, was incredibly stupid.
 
The main mission was to prevent the locals from signing with others and to force them to sign with the US oil companies under commercially abusive, unacceptable terms and conditions. Sign the contracts under duress, at gun point, at threat of death if they did not sign, or ‘kill those terrorists’ and take it any way.
 
I know some of the terms that Russia, China and Bridas have put forth and they are much more equitable than what BushCo thought it could cram down the throats of the Caspian Basin citizens who have oil and natural gas under their lands.
 
Remember the recent piece ‘What to do? What to do?”  http://www.rense.com/general82/whattodo.htm
 
<start insert>
 
“”He admitted to the pipeline ‘mission’ in Afghanistan and Rumsfeld quickly corrected him, the entire DC ‘spin cycle’ had to scramble to cover its tracks because this was PRIOR TO SEPTEMBER 11, 2001.
 
As they say, oops!
_____
 
“In April 2001, Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces in the Persian Gulf/South Asia area, testifies to Congress in April that his command’s key mission is “access to [the region’s] energy resources.” The next month US Central Command begins planning for war with Afghanistan, plans that are later used in the real war May 2001 (F)). Sydney Morning Herald, 12/26/02] Other little noticed but influential documents reflect similar thinking September 2000 and April 2001 (D)).” “
 
<end insert>
 
The black ops, the acts of intimidation and US terrorism and slaughter started well before 9-11. Here the commanding General Tommy Franks was admitting to Congress what the ‘key mission’ was of his command. The ‘region’ includes Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan as well as Afghanistan for the pipeline.
 
There were some soldiers there trying to build good-will and do the right thing. There were others sent there to do the unspeakable. Some times they even got their asses kicked by people defending their property, their family, their rights. Since they were ‘black ops’, not a word about their missions came from BushCo.  They just didn’t exist.
 
 
This is the sort of evil your taxpayer dollars are being used for, America. Wake the Hell up, especially you idiots over in the Christian community. You idiot Far Right Christian folks are aiding and abetting murder, terrorism, genocide and war crimes and the wiping out of entire families of innocent people by US acts of terrorism…who just happened to have oil and gas under their property.
 
Just so America could have gas for those Soccer Mom SUVs, and shopping, Christian retreats, and $20 million jets for Kenneth Copeland, and.
 
“One Nation under God?” Do not believe that lie for a nano-second. We are a nation led by a terrorist organization. That is why they lie so much and cannot utter a single word of truth.
 
I think Americans need to start demanding ‘full disclosure’ on four matters:
 
1.                  The name and country of origin, country of “extraordinary rendition” of each and every person ‘nabbed’ by the US government as an alleged terrorist, including total number of persons held, where held and why; and
 
2.                  The name of every person who owned property on any “oil and gas lease” tract in any Caspian basin nation, or pipeline right-of-way, and that oil and gas lease is signed with a US Oil company and the identity of that US Oil company; and
 
3.                  The identity of every oil and gas lease in the Caspian Basin held by any US oil company and the date they entered into that oil and gas lease, and the identity of the US and non-US parties on the contract for that oil and gas lease; and
 
4.                  The whereabouts of each and every such person who signed with the US on any tract of land, wherever in the Caspian Basin.
 
I would be willing to bet that some of those “oil and gas deals” are fake signatures on the non-US side of the contract. I also think many of those owners are among the 26,000 our government is holding as ‘alleged terrorists’ and still refusing to roll over for BushCo.
 
There is a simple moral to this entire US created fiasco: If one wants to take over an area of Oil and Natural Gas controlled by Islamic nations, the dumbest thing one can do is declare a Global War on Islam and really piss off the people that have what you want.
 
Their “Second Really Dumb Move” was to be the exact terrorists that they claim they are defending the world from.
 
Checkmate, the Grand Chessboard game is over.
 
Karl

Liberal Law Professors who Support Lawless Conservatives? I’m ashamed to say I studied with Cass Sunstein at the University of Chicago Law School….

WHAT CAN I SAY?  Back in Law School I was President of the Environmental Law Society and Cass Sunstein, who taught the basic courses in both Administrative and Environmental Law, never came to our meetings or showed any interest in the year-long seminar we put on about the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill and its consequences in 1990-1991, wherein we brought in speakers from all sides of the debate and broadened out to discuss the Amoco Cadiz Oil Spill in the Atlantic near France.  Cass Sunstein, a liberal who supported the most authoritarian measures any government could take, was always a bit of an enigma to me.  He published prolifically but his office was literally impossible to enter because there were mounds (not piles but sloping mounds) of disorganized paper in his office.  (I’m known for having piles of paper in every room of my house, but any mounds get “excavated” and stacked up fairly quickly).  Anyhow—it is with great sorrow but no particular Surprise that I see Cass Sunstein, a close ally of hypothetically liberal Obama, defending Bush’s most outrageous infractions of U.S. and International Law, and both Civil and Human Rights.  It hardens my anger at the University of Chicago for embracing Corporate Communist Globalism as the Hegelian “synthesis” that will resolve the “world split” between Communism and Capitalism.  I fear for America no matter who is elected in November—but I suppose I narrowly fear the hypocrisy of “Liberal” Obama—whose recent voting record suggests a willingness to suppress civil and human rights as vigorously as Bush has.  And the thought of Cass Sunstein on the Supreme Court is simply terrifying—he is unpredictable and non-transparent—as any “liberal” who supports repression must by definition be. 
Bruce Fein was another enigma who hung around Chicago—he was a conservative whom I could not understand, but I have come to respect him very highly—his early, 2005, demand for the impeachment of Bush was a “voice crying in the wilderness” which should have been heeded…. I will say that I think that Kenneth Starr’s preposterous hounding of President Clinton over the whole “Monica Lenguinski” (Lengua being tongue in Spanish) non-controversy really discredited the very concept of impeachment proceedings, and everything else connected with prosecutions of public officials for REAL wrongdoing.  And being a conspiracy theorist, I can’t help but wonder: was that the real purpose?  To make it appear that impeachment was so totally and purely a matter of “political manipulation” that it would be a very long-time before anyone could ever take it seriously again?  It’s just sad that by coincidence (or carefully thought out plan), the President to Succeed Clinton in office was destined to be the greatest war criminal (at least) since Adolph Hitler to hold the chief executive office of any major nation in the world.
Glenn Greenwald is one of my favorite writers at Salon.com—and I have several times included his articles here on my blog, but this may be the most important yet:

The parade of “shrill, unserious extremists” on display at today’s impeachment hearings

(updated below)
Former Reagan DOJ official, constitutional lawyer, and hard-core conservative Bruce Fein was one of the first prominent Americans to call for George Bush’s impeachment in the wake of the illegal NSA spying scandal. Back in late 2005 and 2006, when even safe-seat Democrats like Chuck Schumer were petrified even of uttering the words “broke the law” when speaking of the Bush administration — let alone taking meaningful action to investigate and putting a stop to the lawbreaking — Fein wrote a column in The Washington Times forcefully and eloquently arguing:

Volumes of war powers nonsense have been assembled to defend Mr. Bush’s defiance of the legislative branch and claim of wartime omnipotence so long as terrorism persists, i.e., in perpetuity. Congress should undertake a national inquest into his conduct and claims to determine whether impeachable usurpations are at hand.

In 2006, Russ Feingold called Fein as one of his witnesses in support of Feingold’s resolution to censure President Bush for his lawbreaking. Today, Fein is one of the witnesses who will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in favor of Dennis Kucinich’s impeachment resolutions (joined by Elizabeth Holtzman, Bob Barr and several others). As KagroX details here, that the House is holding hearings on Kucinich’s resolution is not, in any way, an indication that the Congress is prepared to take those resolutions seriously. Manifestly, they are not.
 
Yesterday, Jane Hamsher spoke with Bruce Fein on BloggingheadsTV about why the Democrats have, in general, failed to hold the Bush administration accountable for their multiple crimes (Slate yesterday detailed some of the many Bush crimes). Here is what Fein — echoing an argument I made a couple of weeks ago — said on that topic:

Jane also asked Fein about Obama adviser Cass Sunstein’s recent statements that Bush officials should not be prosecuted for their illegal detention, interrogation and spying programs. To get a sense for why this matters, National Journal this morning listed Sunstein as one of a small handful of likely Supreme Court appointees in an Obama administration. But — similar to Fein’s point regarding Jay Rockefeller, Jane Harman and comrades — Sunstein has long been one of the most vocal enablers of Bush radicalism and lawlessness, having continuously offered himself up over the last seven years to play the legal version of the TNR role of “even-liberal-Cass-Sunstein-agrees-with-Bush.”
During my Democracy Now debate with him, Sunstein said: “I’d be honored but surprised if the military commissions cite some of my academic articles.” But as Talk Left‘s Armando documented, Sunstein would be an ideal and highly likely “legal scholar” for the Bush administration to cite as part of its military tribunals, as Sunstein was an early and outspoken supporter of the theory that Bush had the authority to order military commissions (a theory which the Supreme Court rejected in Hamdan). Identically, while Sunstein now pretends to disagree with Bush’s theory as to why he had the power to spy on Americans in violation of the law (Sunstein said on Democracy Now: “while I agree with Senator Feingold that the President’s position is wrong”), Sunstein defended those theories as “very reasonable” when he was on right-wing talk radio with Hugh Hewitt in late 2005 during the height of the NSA controversy.
It’s really hard to imagine a worse person on whom Obama could be relying as a legal adviser, let alone a potential Supreme Court nominee, and here is what Fein had to say about Sunstein’s view of things:

The destruction of the CIA interrogation videos in 2005 that Fein referenced there seems particularly malicious — plainly criminal — in light of the new documents obtained yesterday from the CIA by the ACLU. One of those documents — an August 4, 2004 CIA memo (.pdf) — explicitly warns “of possible future judicial review of the Program and of these issues,” meaning the CIA’s interrogation methods and the legality of the Bush administration’s behavior. Destroying evidence relevant to a future criminal proceeding is the very definition of obstruction of justice — a crime for which ordinary people are regularly prosecuted and imprisoned — yet we have the Cass Sunsteins of the world, speaking on behalf of our political and media class, insisting that it would be terribly unfair and disruptive to treat any of this as a criminal matter (and — as is true for many of the episodes of Bush lawbreaking — key Congressional Democrats were briefed on the possible destruction of the interrogation videos as well).
Most revealingly of all, the Kucinich impeachment hearing today is like a parade of those whom the Beltway class mocks as Shrill, Unserious losers and Leftist radicals — people who actually use overly excitable words like “crimes” and “prosecutions” when talking about our leaders or who, like the ACLU, actually object that most of what our Government does occurs in total secrecy. Serious, responsible Beltway establishment leaders know that courtrooms and prosecutions are only for the common people and — for our own good — our leaders cannot, must not and should not be exposed to any of that, and must continue to be able to shield what they do from public scrutiny.
* * * * *
NPR this morning has a story, both radio and print, regarding the left/right Strange Bedfellows citizen coalition and Money Bomb campaign targeting those responsible for the erosion of civil liberties, constitutional protections and the rule of law. The NPR story includes this:

Earlier this month, Congress passed a rewrite of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. Opponents say it gives the president too much power to tap private communications without court oversight. That argument was made none too subtly by a TV ad that ran in the home district of Chris Carney, a Pennsylvania Democrat who supported the new FISA law.
 
“Chris Carney is surrendering to Bush and Cheney the same un-American spying powers they have in Russia and communist China,” the ad says.
Apparently, the ad hit a nerve. A Carney spokeswoman called the ad a “smear campaign” and said NPR should not do a story about it. But the ad was paid for by Carney’s fellow Democrats.
Blue America is a political action committee promoted by Democratic bloggers like Jane Hamsher. She is disappointed with Congress since it went Democratic.
“I’m very upset with my party right now,” Hamsher says. “They were given the majority, and they have a 9 percent approval rating right now for a reason.”

Apparently, NPR isn’t Comcast — at least not in this instance — and it thus ran the story despite Carney’s pleas.

UPDATE: To be clear, it’s far from certain, obviously, that Obama would appoint Cass Sunstein to anything, let alone to the Supreme Court. And as I’ve said before, the precarious 5-4 Supreme Court balance is reason enough, just standing alone, to strongly prefer an Obama administration to a McCain administration. But Sunstein — both due to his relationship to Obama and, independently, to his new marriage — is one of the most inside of Obama insiders. That he has simultaneously been such an unusually vocal defender of some of the worst Bush radicalism is obviously worth noting, and is self-evidently disturbing. Today, Matt Stoller reviews Sunstein’s latest book and several of the odd ideas in it.

PROSECUTIONS (OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION) THAT SHOULD ALREADY HAVE HAPPENED: OBAMA HAS ABANDONNED CIVIL LIBERTIES BUT MCCAIN WAS ALWAYS AGAINST THEM….

 http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/07/23/new_churchcomm/print.html


Exposing Bush’s historic abuse of power

Salon has uncovered new evidence of post-9/11 spying on Americans. Obtained documents point to a potential investigation of the White House that could rival Watergate.

 

By Tim Shorrock

Jul. 23, 2008 | The last several years have brought a parade of dark revelations about the George W. Bush administration, from the manipulation of intelligence to torture to extrajudicial spying inside the United States. But there are growing indications that these known abuses of power may only be the tip of the iceberg. Now, in the twilight of the Bush presidency, a movement is stirring in Washington for a sweeping new inquiry into White House malfeasance that would be modeled after the famous Church Committee congressional investigation of the 1970s.
While reporting on domestic surveillance under Bush, Salon obtained a detailed memo proposing such an inquiry, and spoke with several sources involved in recent discussions around it on Capitol Hill. The memo was written by a former senior member of the original Church Committee; the discussions have included aides to top House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, and until now have not been disclosed publicly.

Salon has also uncovered further indications of far-reaching and possibly illegal surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency inside the United States under President Bush. That includes the alleged use of a top-secret, sophisticated database system for monitoring people considered to be a threat to national security. It also includes signs of the NSA’s working closely with other U.S. government agencies to track financial transactions domestically as well as globally.

The proposal for a Church Committee-style investigation emerged from talks between civil liberties advocates and aides to Democratic leaders in Congress, according to sources involved. (Pelosi’s and Conyers’ offices both declined to comment.) Looking forward to 2009, when both Congress and the White House may well be controlled by Democrats, the idea is to have Congress appoint an investigative body to discover the full extent of what the Bush White House did in the war on terror to undermine the Constitution and U.S. and international laws. The goal would be to implement government reforms aimed at preventing future abuses — and perhaps to bring accountability for wrongdoing by Bush officials.

“If we know this much about torture, rendition, secret prisons and warrantless wiretapping despite the administration’s attempts to stonewall, then imagine what we don’t know,” says a senior Democratic congressional aide who is familiar with the proposal and has been involved in several high-profile congressional investigations.

“You have to go back to the McCarthy era to find this level of abuse,” says Barry Steinhardt, the director of the Program on Technology and Liberty for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Because the Bush administration has been so opaque, we don’t know [the extent of] what laws have been violated.”

The parameters for an investigation were outlined in a seven-page memo, written after the former member of the Church Committee met for discussions with the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Common Cause and other watchdog groups. Key issues to investigate, those involved say, would include the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance activities; the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of extraordinary rendition and torture against terrorist suspects; and the U.S. government’s extensive use of military assets — including satellites, Pentagon intelligence agencies and U2 surveillance planes — for a vast spying apparatus that could be used against the American people.

Specifically, the ACLU and other groups want to know how the NSA’s use of databases and data mining may have meshed with other domestic intelligence activities, such as the U.S. government’s extensive use of no-fly lists and the Treasury Department’s list of “specially designated global terrorists” to identify potential suspects. As of mid-July, says Steinhardt, the no-fly list includes more than 1 million records corresponding to more than 400,000 names. If those people really represent terrorist threats, he says, “our cities would be ablaze.” A deeper investigation into intelligence abuses should focus on how these lists feed on each other, Steinhardt says, as well as the government’s “inexorable trend towards treating everyone as a suspect.”

“It’s not just the ‘Terrorist Surveillance Program,'” agrees Gregory T. Nojeim from the Center for Democracy and Technology, referring to the Bush administration’s misleading name for the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. “We need a broad investigation on the way all the moving parts fit together. It seems like we’re always looking at little chunks and missing the big picture.”

A prime area of inquiry for a sweeping new investigation would be the Bush administration’s alleged use of a top-secret database to guide its domestic surveillance. Dating back to the 1980s and known to government insiders as “Main Core,” the database reportedly collects and stores — without warrants or court orders — the names and detailed data of Americans considered to be threats to national security.

According to several former U.S. government officials with extensive knowledge of intelligence operations, Main Core in its current incarnation apparently contains a vast amount of personal data on Americans, including NSA intercepts of bank and credit card transactions and the results of surveillance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and other agencies. One former intelligence official described Main Core as “an emergency internal security database system” designed for use by the military in the event of a national catastrophe, a suspension of the Constitution or the imposition of martial law. Its name, he says, is derived from the fact that it contains “copies of the ‘main core’ or essence of each item of intelligence information on Americans produced by the FBI and the other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community.”

Some of the former U.S. officials interviewed, although they have no direct knowledge of the issue, said they believe that Main Core may have been used by the NSA to determine who to spy on in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Moreover, the NSA’s use of the database, they say, may have triggered the now-famous March 2004 confrontation between the White House and the Justice Department that nearly led Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI director William Mueller and other top Justice officials to resign en masse.

The Justice Department officials who objected to the legal basis for the surveillance program — former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey and Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel — testified before Congress last year about the 2004 showdown with the White House. Although they refused to discuss the highly classified details behind their concerns, the New York Times later reported that they were objecting to a program that “involved computer searches through massive electronic databases” containing “records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans.”

According to William Hamilton, a former NSA intelligence officer who left the agency in the 1970s, that description sounded a lot like Main Core, which he first heard about in detail in 1992. Hamilton, who is the president of Inslaw Inc., a computer services firm with many clients in government and the private sector, says there are strong indications that the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance operations use Main Core.

Hamilton’s company Inslaw is widely respected in the law enforcement community for creating a program called the Prosecutors’ Management Information System, or PROMIS. It keeps track of criminal investigations through a powerful search engine that can quickly access all stored data components of a case, from the name of the initial investigators to the telephone numbers of key suspects. PROMIS, also widely used in the insurance industry, can also sort through other databases fast, with results showing up almost instantly. “It operates just like Google,” Hamilton told me in an interview in his Washington office in May.

Since the late 1980s, Inslaw has been involved in a legal dispute over its claim that Justice Department officials in the Reagan administration appropriated the PROMIS software. Hamilton claims that Reagan officials gave PROMIS to the NSA and the CIA, which then adapted the software — and its outstanding ability to search other databases — to manage intelligence operations and track financial transactions. Over the years, Hamilton has employed prominent lawyers to pursue the case, including Elliot Richardson, the former attorney general and secretary of defense who died in 1999, and C. Boyden Gray, the former White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush. The dispute has never been settled. But based on the long-running case, Hamilton says he believes U.S. intelligence uses PROMIS as the primary software for searching the Main Core database.

Hamilton was first told about the connection between PROMIS and Main Core in the spring of 1992 by a U.S. intelligence official, and again in 1995 by a former NSA official. In July 2001, Hamilton says, he discussed his case with retired Adm. Dan Murphy, a former military advisor to Elliot Richardson who later served under President George H.W. Bush as deputy director of the CIA. Murphy, who died shortly after his meeting with Hamilton, did not specifically mention Main Core. But he informed Hamilton that the NSA’s use of PROMIS involved something “so seriously wrong that money alone cannot cure the problem,” Hamilton told me. He added, “I believe in retrospect that Murphy was alluding to Main Core.” Hamilton also provided copies of letters that Richardson and Gray sent to U.S. intelligence officials and the Justice Department on Inslaw’s behalf alleging that the NSA and the CIA had appropriated PROMIS for intelligence use.

Hamilton says James B. Comey’s congressional testimony in May 2007, in which he described a hospitalized John Ashcroft’s dramatic standoff with senior Bush officials Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, was another illuminating moment. “It was then that we [at Inslaw] started hearing again about the Main Core derivative of PROMIS for spying on Americans,” he told me.

Through a former senior Justice Department official with more than 25 years of government experience, Salon has learned of a high-level former national security official who reportedly has firsthand knowledge of the U.S. government’s use of Main Core. The official worked as a senior intelligence analyst for a large domestic law enforcement agency inside the Bush White House. He would not agree to an interview. But according to the former Justice Department official, the former intelligence analyst told her that while stationed at the White House after the 9/11 attacks, one day he accidentally walked into a restricted room and came across a computer system that was logged on to what he recognized to be the Main Core database. When she mentioned the specific name of the top-secret system during their conversation, she recalled, “he turned white as a sheet.”

An article in Radar magazine in May, citing three unnamed former government officials, reported that “8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect” and, in the event of a national emergency, “could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and even detention.”

The alleged use of Main Core by the Bush administration for surveillance, if confirmed to be true, would indicate a much deeper level of secretive government intrusion into Americans’ lives than has been previously known. With respect to civil liberties, says the ACLU’s Steinhardt, it would be “pretty frightening stuff.”

The Inslaw case also points to what may be an extensive role played by the NSA in financial spying inside the United States. According to reports over the years in the U.S. and foreign press, Inslaw’s PROMIS software was embedded surreptitiously in systems sold to foreign and global banks as a way to give the NSA secret “backdoor” access to the electronic flow of money around the world.

In May, I interviewed Norman Bailey, a private financial consultant with years of government intelligence experience dating from the George W. Bush administration back to the Reagan administration. According to Bailey — who from 2006 to 2007 headed a special unit within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence focused on financial intelligence on Cuba and Venezuela — the NSA has been using its vast powers with signals intelligence to track financial transactions around the world since the early 1980s.

From 1982 to 1984, Bailey ran a top-secret program for President Reagan’s National Security Council, called “Follow the Money,” that used NSA signals intelligence to track loans from Western banks to the Soviet Union and its allies. PROMIS, he told me, was “the principal software element” used by the NSA and the Treasury Department then in their electronic surveillance programs tracking financial flows to the Soviet bloc, organized crime and terrorist groups. His admission is the first public acknowledgement by a former U.S. intelligence official that the NSA used the PROMIS software.

According to Bailey, the Reagan program marked a significant shift in resources from human spying to electronic surveillance, as a way to track money flows to suspected criminals and American enemies. “That was the beginning of the whole process,” he said.

After 9/11, this capability was instantly seen within the U.S. government as a critical tool in the war on terror — and apparently was deployed by the Bush administration inside the United States, in cases involving alleged terrorist supporters. One such case was that of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Oregon, which was accused of having terrorist ties after the NSA, at the request of the Treasury Department, eavesdropped on the phone calls of Al-Haramain officials and their American lawyers. The charges against Al-Haramain were based primarily on secret evidence that the Bush administration refused to disclose in legal proceedings; Al-Haramain’s lawyers argued in a lawsuit that was a violation of the defendants’ due process rights.

According to Bailey, the NSA also likely would have used its technological capabilities to track the charity’s financial activity. “The vast majority of financial movements of any significance take place electronically, so intercepts have become an extremely important element” in intelligence, he explained. “If the government suspects that a particular Muslim charitable organization is engaged in collecting funds to funnel to terrorists, the NSA would be asked to follow the money going into and out of the bank accounts of that charity.” (The now-defunct Al-Haramain Foundation, although affiliated with a Saudi Arabian-based global charity, was founded and based in Ashland, Ore.)

The use of a powerful database and extensive watch lists, Bailey said, would make the NSA’s job much easier. “The biggest problems with intercepts, quite frankly, is that the volumes of data, daily or even by the hour, are gigantic,” he said. “Unless you have a very precise idea of what it is you’re looking for, the NSA people or their counterparts [overseas] will just throw up their hands and say ‘forget it.'” Regarding domestic surveillance, Bailey said there’s a “whole gray area where the initiation of the transaction was in the United States and the final destination was outside, or vice versa. That’s something for the lawyers to figure out.”

Bailey’s information on the evolution of the Reagan intelligence program appears to corroborate and clarify an article published in March in the Wall Street Journal, which reported that the NSA was conducting domestic surveillance using “an ad-hoc collection of so-called ‘black programs’ whose existence is undisclosed.” Some of these programs began “years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach.” Among them, the article said, are a joint NSA-Treasury database on financial transactions that dates back “about 15 years” to 1993. That’s not quite right, Bailey clarified: “It started in the early ’80s, at least 10 years before.”

Main Core may be the contemporary incarnation of a government watch list system that was part of a highly classified “Continuity of Government” program created by the Reagan administration to keep the U.S. government functioning in the event of a nuclear attack. Under a 1982 presidential directive, the outbreak of war could trigger the proclamation of martial law nationwide, giving the military the authority to use its domestic database to round up citizens and residents considered to be threats to national security. The emergency measures for domestic security were to be carried out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army.

In the late 1980s, reports about a domestic database linked to FEMA and the Continuity of Government program began to appear in the press. For example, in 1986 the Austin American-Statesman uncovered evidence of a large database that authorities were proposing to use to intern Latino dissidents and refugees during a national emergency that might follow a potential U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. During the Iran-Contra congressional hearings in 1987, questions to Reagan aide Oliver North about the database were ruled out of order by the committee chairman, Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, because of the “highly sensitive and classified” nature of FEMA’s domestic security operations.

In September 2001, according to “The Rise of the Vulcans,” a 2004 book on Bush’s war cabinet by James Mann, a contemporary version of the Continuity of Government program was put into play in the hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Vice President Cheney and senior members of Congress were dispersed to “undisclosed locations” to maintain government functions. It was during this emergency period, Hamilton and other former government officials believe, that President Bush may have authorized the NSA to begin actively using the Main Core database for domestic surveillance. One indicator they cite is a statement by Bush in December 2005, after the New York Times had revealed the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping, in which he made a rare reference to the emergency program: The Justice Department’s legal reviews of the NSA activity, Bush said, were based on “fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government.”

It is noteworthy that two key players on Bush’s national security team, Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington, have been involved in the Continuity of Government program since its inception. Along with Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s first secretary of defense, both men took part in simulated drills for the program during the 1980s and early 1990s. Addington’s role was disclosed in “The Dark Side,” a book published this month about the Bush administration’s war on terror by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer. In the book, Mayer calls Addington “the father of the [NSA] eavesdropping program,” and reports that he was the key figure involved in the 2004 dispute between the White House and the Justice Department over the legality of the program. That would seem to make him a prime witness for a broader investigation.

Getting a full picture on Bush’s intelligence programs, however, will almost certainly require any sweeping new investigation to have a scope that would inoculate it against charges of partisanship. During one recent discussion on Capitol Hill, according to a participant, a senior aide to Speaker Pelosi was asked for Pelosi’s views on a proposal to expand the investigation to past administrations, including those of Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. “The question was, how far back in time would we have to go to make this credible?” the participant in the meeting recalled.

That question was answered in the seven-page memo. “The rise of the ‘surveillance state’ driven by new technologies and the demands of counter-terrorism did not begin with this Administration,” the author wrote. Even though he acknowledged in interviews with Salon that the scope of abuse under George W. Bush would likely be an order of magnitude greater than under preceding presidents, he recommended in the memo that any new investigation follow the precedent of the Church Committee and investigate the origins of Bush’s programs, going as far back as the Reagan administration.

The proposal has emerged in a political climate reminiscent of the Watergate era. The Church Committee was formed in 1975 in the wake of media reports about illegal spying against American antiwar activists and civil rights leaders, CIA assassination squads, and other dubious activities under Nixon and his predecessors. Chaired by Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, the committee interviewed more than 800 officials and held 21 public hearings. As a result of its work, Congress in 1978 passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which required warrants and court supervision for domestic wiretaps, and created intelligence oversight committees in the House and Senate.

So far, no lawmaker has openly endorsed a proposal for a new Church Committee-style investigation. A spokesman for Pelosi declined to say whether Pelosi herself would be in favor of a broader probe into U.S. intelligence. On the Senate side, the most logical supporters for a broader probe would be Democratic senators such as Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who led the failed fight against the recent Bush-backed changes to FISA. (Both Feingold and Leahy’s offices declined to comment on a broader intelligence inquiry.)

The Democrats’ reticence on such action ultimately may be rooted in congressional complicity with the Bush administration’s intelligence policies. Many of the war on terror programs, including the NSA’s warrantless surveillance and the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” were cleared with key congressional Democrats, including Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Rockefeller, and former House Intelligence chairwoman Jane Harman, among others.

The discussions about a broad investigation were jump-started among civil liberties advocates this spring, when it became clear that the Democrats didn’t have the votes to oppose the Bush-backed bill updating FISA. The new legislation could prevent the full story of the NSA surveillance programs from ever being uncovered; it included retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that may have violated FISA by collaborating with the NSA on warrantless wiretapping. Opponents of Bush’s policies were further angered when Democratic leaders stripped from their competing FISA bill a provision that would have established a national commission to investigate post-9/11 surveillance programs.

The next president obviously would play a key role in any decision to investigate intelligence abuses. Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate, is running as a champion of Bush’s national security policies and would be unlikely to embrace an investigation that would, foremost, embarrass his own party. (Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s spokesman on national security, declined to comment.)

Some see a brighter prospect in Barack Obama, should he be elected. The plus with Obama, says the former Church Committee staffer, is that as a proponent of open government, he could order the executive branch to be more cooperative with Congress, rolling back the obsessive secrecy and stonewalling of the Bush White House. That could open the door to greater congressional scrutiny and oversight of the intelligence community, since the legislative branch lacked any real teeth under Bush. (Obama’s spokesman on national security, Ben Rhodes, did not reply to telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment.)

But even that may be a lofty hope. “It may be the last thing a new president would want to do,” said a participant in the ongoing discussions. Unfortunately, he said, “some people see the Church Committee ideas as a substitute for prosecutions that should already have happened.”

 

 

 

— By Tim Shorrock

 

 

Mild Mainstream Media Musings on the Evils of Official Immunity (Glenn Greenwald from Salon.com)

Political harmony v. the rule of law: an easy choice for the political establishment

(updated below – Update II)

Former Congressman Harold Ford appeared at the Netroots Nation conference yesterday, argued that Bush officials shouldn’t be held accountable for crimes they committed while in office, and then insisted that Democrats shouldn’t be expected to defend civil liberties and Constitutional rights because — as one observer summarized Ford’s point — “the Constitution doesn’t poll very well.” In arguing against prosecutions for Bush lawbreaking, Ford said that Bush officials already have been subjected to accountability for their lawbreaking: “‘I think that accountability was brought in 2006 when [the GOP] lost in the House and the Senate,’ Ford said. ‘And we have only eight more months of George W. Bush . . .'”

Regarding Ford’s argument, casual_observer says in comments:

I think this is it, in crystallized form. “Accountability” equals loss of majority for one’s party. Majority — power — is all that matters. ‘Law’ comes in a distant second, if it is considered at all. 

Ford proudly terms himself a ‘centrist’ in the Democratic Party, but this position is radically un-democratic, and when viewed logically, is every bit as bad as the logic of Rove, Yoo, or Addington. It is anathema to a truly functioning democratic government.

That’s certainly true, but it’s hardly an uncommon view. Quite the contrary. I’d say that Ford’s view is as much a shared, Bipartisan Article of Faith among our political class as any other single idea. Here’s what The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer reported last week during her Washington Post chat:

Albany New York: I’ve already ordered your book from Amazon, but am very interested in your take on why there’s been no little effective political opposition to any of this Administration’s initiatives. Is it a question of limited public awareness or interest, or a more political calculation that one shouldn’t appear to be soft on terrorism? 

Jane Mayer: Since you’re in New York, let me tell you about a conversation I had with one of your senators, Chuck Schumer. When I asked him why, given his safe seat, and ostensible concern for civil liberties, he didn’t speak out more against the Bush Administration’s detention and interrogation programs, he said in essence that voters don’t care about these issues. So, he said, he wasn’t going to talk about them.

Writing from the Netroots Nation conference, The Nation‘s Ari Melber detailed what he calls “Bipartisan Attacks on the Rule of Law,” and specifically highlighted the fact that close Obama adviser, Professor Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago, “cautioned against prosecuting criminal conduct from the current Administration” during a Conference panel. As Melber wrote:

Prosecuting government officials risks a “cycle” of criminalizing public service, [Sunstein] argued, and Democrats should avoid replicating retributive efforts like the impeachment of President Clinton — or even the “slight appearance” of it.

As I documented last week, the idea that the Rule of Law is only for common people, but not for our political leaders and Washington elite, is pervasive among the political and pundit class, in both parties. While common Americans should be imprisoned in record numbers when they break the law, the worst that should happen to the political elite when they commit crimes is that they should be voted out of office. That’s the dominant mentality governing how our political system works. 

For all the talk about how radical and lawless the Bush administration has been, this widely-shared view that our political leaders should be immune from consequences for lawbreaking is the administration’s defining belief. After the 2004 election, President Bush held a news conference and was asked about the failures in Iraq, and this is what he said:

QUESTION: Why hasn’t anyone been held accountable, either through firings or demotions, for what some people see as mistakes or misjudgments? 

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 election.

On December 16, 2005 — the day after the NYT revealed that Bush was breaking the law in spying on Americans without warrants — Digby noted that exchange and wrote:

He, like Nixon, believes that the president has only one “accountability moment” while he is president. His re-election. Beyond that, he has been given a blank check. And that includes breaking the law since if the president does it, it’s not illegal, the president being the executive branch which is not subject to any other branch of government.

But it isn’t only the Bush administration that believes that. That was why Gerald Ford was widely praised for pardoning Nixon (Ford said “he acted to restore harmony and move on”). That’s the same argument used by Bush 41 to pardon Iran-contra lawbreakers, and it’s what the Washington Establishment said when — liberal and conservative pundits alike — they defended those pardons of Casper Weinberger and the other Iran-contra lawbreakers:

Another favored Republican was Reagan’s Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who like Shultz earned his insider spurs during the Nixon administration. Weinberger’s false Iran-contra testimony was even more blatant than Shultz’s, causing Walsh to indict Weinberger for perjury in 1992. 

The Washington elites rallied to Weinberger’s defense. In the salons of Georgetown, there was palpable relief in December 1992 when President Bush pardoned Weinberger and five other Iran-contra defendants, effectively ending the Iran-contra investigation.

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen spoke for many insiders. In a column, Cohen described how impressed he was that Weinberger would push his own shopping cart at the Georgetown Safeway, often called the “social Safeway” because so many members of Washington’s Establishment shopped there.

“Based on my Safeway encounters, I came to think of Weinberger as a basic sort of guy, candid and no nonsense — which is the way much of official Washington saw him,” Cohen wrote in praise of the pardon. “Cap, my Safeway buddy, walks, and that’s all right with me.” [WP, Dec. 30, 1992.]

As Atrios pointed out and documented, “This was the basic view of much of the establishment ‘liberal’ commentariat.” 

And this is exactly what we are now hearing from the likes of Harold Ford, Chuck Schumer, Cass Sunstein, David Broder, Tim Rutten, and on and on and on — criminal prosecutions for government lawbreakers are far too disruptive and politically untenable and unfair. The only fair reaction is just to vote them out of office or wait until they leave on their own accord. All of the Beltway platitudes are trotted out — we can’t look backwards, or “criminalize policy disputes,” or get caught up in unpleasant battles over prosecutions when we have too many other important problems too solve — all in order to argue that, no matter what happens, our glorious political leaders should never be held accountable in a court of law, like everyone else is, when they break the law.

Why would we expect political officials to do anything other than break the law if we continuously tell them — as we’ve been doing — that they are exempt from consequences? And how can Bush — or Nixon — be criticized for conceiving of the Presidency as being above the law when that’s how our political establishment, including many Democrats, explicitly conceive of it as well?

In today’s The New York Times, Charlie Savage reports that right-wing activists have already begun agitating for full-scale pardons for all parties involved in Bush’s illegal surveillance and torture programs:

As the administration wrestles with the cascade of petitions, some lawyers and law professors are raising a related question: Will Mr. Bush grant pre-emptive pardons to officials involved in controversial counterterrorism programs? 

Such a pardon would reduce the risk that a future administration might undertake a criminal investigation of operatives or policy makers involved in programs that administration lawyers have said were legal but that critics say violated laws regarding torture and surveillance. Some legal analysts said Mr. Bush might be reluctant to issue such pardons because they could be construed as an implicit admission of guilt.

But several members of the conservative legal community in Washington said in interviews that they hoped Mr. Bush would issue such pardons — whether or not anyone made a specific request for one. They said people who carried out the president’s orders should not be exposed even to the risk of an investigation and expensive legal bills.

“The president should pre-empt any long-term investigations,” said Victoria Toensing, who was a Justice Department counterterrorism official in the Reagan administration. “If we don’t protect these people who are proceeding in good faith, no one will ever take chances.”

Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, would not say whether the administration was considering pre-emptive pardons, nor whether it would rule them out.

Given the widespread consensus in our political class that criminal investigations and prosecutions for the crimes of political leaders are terribly uncouth and disruptive, it seems as though few things are more unnecessary than issuing pardons of this sort. But if Bush does end up issuing full-scale pardons for anyone involved in his illegal torture and surveillance programs, how can the Democratic leadership and pundit class object? They’re busy arguing now that the rule of law isn’t applicable to high government officials and that we should — once again — just overlook and forget about the rampant lawbreaking by our Government. 

Full-scale pardons are just the natural extension of this view — as is future presidential lawbreaking. We can pretend that Bush and Nixon had radical and fringe views of presidential lawbreaking but those views are far more accepted than such pretenses suggest.

UPDATE: About Harold Ford’s appearance at Netroots Nation, Ezra Klein says that because the netroots is so much more powerful and influential within the Democratic Party than the DLC is, it’s unnecessary for the netroots to battle against the likes of Harold Ford. It’s truly baffling how anyone could have watched the Bush-enabling Democrats over the last two years and claim that the DLC mentality is marginalized and the netroots mentality is predominant. If anything, the fading away of the DLC is a function of the fact that its worldview predominates in the Democratic Party and there’s thus no need for an organization like that to try to “reform” the Democrats by making them “centrist.” At Talk Left, Armando elaborates on that point.

UPDATE II: On a side (though not entirely unrelated) note, the aforementioned Obama friend, Cass Sunstein — protector of Bush lawbreakers, advocate of illegal Bush spying and radical presidential powers, and fierce critic of blogs as “anti-democratic” — earlier this month married beloved Obama foreign policy adviser Samantha Power. It’s amazing how these sorts of circles always end up being so cozily closed.

— Glenn Greenwald

Confusion on the Front: Obfuscation and a Mockery of Uninformed Constitutionalist/Patriotism Appearance can sometimes confuse the Courts to a Defendant’s Advantage, but is it worth the perversion of serious complaints?

Sometimes, a little knowledge is said to be a dangerous thing, or is it?  Does nonsense, if it works to confound the enemy, work as well or better than well-reasoned, logical argument?   Is insanity more terrifying than powerful thinking?  Perhaps it is….but as I’ve previously noted, I do not like the “fringe” arguments advanced by many people in the Patriotic/Constitutionalist movement.  They are too wacky.  It just gets depressing, sometimes, to hear about how applying admiralty rules in cases on dry land with no boats or interpreting every legal doctrine through the UCC will solve all our problems and reveal all truth.  On the one hand, I am happy whenever a defendant can fight back the heavy hand of the law, especially while proceeding pro se, because I agree that most defense lawyers, maybe close to 100%, are all lined up against the American People with the prosecutors, and that is why the criminal justice process is essentially a conveyor belt packaging the accused by the hundreds of thousands into jail.  Usually for nothing, that’s right NOTHING.  Most people in jail pose NO threat to society or themselves, and their presence in jail benefits society as a whole ONLY as part of a cynical government “make-work” project—i.e., a form of “welfare.”  The criminal justice system as it exists today in the United States is both offensive to the Constitution and to the universal ideals of freedom and individual integrity.   However, the myths of the patriotic/constitutionalist movement are in and of themselves nothing but a mockery of the real constitutional problems.  It is NOT just White Supremacists who oppose the subversion of the Original Constitution, and yes, a lot of perverted things DID happen around and after the American Civil War/War between the States. 

Kevin Carey, research and policy manager of Education Sector, an independent think tank in Washington, DC, wrote the folloiwng article “Too Weird for the Wire: How black Baltimore drug dealers are using white supremacist legal theories to confound the Feds” in the Washington Monthly, published at:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com:80/features/2008/0805.carey.html

On November 16, 2005, Willie “Bo” Mitchell and three co-defendants—Shelton “Little Rock” Harris, Shelly “Wayne” Martin, and Shawn Earl Gardner— appeared for a hearing in the modern federal courthouse in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. The four African American men were facing federal charges of racketeering, weapons possession, drug dealing, and five counts of first-degree murder. For nearly two years the prosecutors had been methodically building their case, with the aim of putting the defendants to death. In Baltimore, which has a murder rate eight times higher than that of New York City, such cases are depressingly commonplace.

A few minutes after 10 a.m., United States District Court Judge Andre M. Davis took his seat and began his introductory remarks. Suddenly, the leader of the defendants, Willie Mitchell, a short, unremarkable looking twenty-eight-yearold with close-cropped hair, leapt from his chair, grabbed a microphone, and launched into a bizarre soliloquy.

“I am not a defendant,” Mitchell declared. “I do not have attorneys.” The court “lacks territorial jurisdiction over me,” he argued, to the amazement of his lawyers. To support these contentions, he cited decades-old acts of Congress involving the abandonment of the gold standard and the creation of the Federal Reserve. Judge Davis, a Baltimore-born African American in his late fifties, tried to interrupt. “I object,” Mitchell repeated robotically. Shelly Martin and Shelton Harris followed Mitchell to the microphone, giving the same speech verbatim. Their attorneys tried to intervene, but when Harris’s lawyer leaned over to speak to him, Harris shoved him away.

Judge Davis ordered the three defendants to be removed from the court, and turned to Gardner, who had, until then, remained quiet. But Gardner, too, intoned the same strange speech. “I am Shawn Earl Gardner, live man, flesh and blood,” he proclaimed. Every time the judge referred to him as “the defendant” or “Mr. Gardner,” Gardner automatically interrupted: “My name is Shawn Earl Gardner, sir.” Davis tried to explain to Gardner that his behavior was putting his chances of acquittal or leniency at risk. “Don’t throw your life away,” Davis pleaded. But Gardner wouldn’t stop. Judge Davis concluded the hearing, determined to find out what was going on.

As it turned out, he wasn’t alone. In the previous year, nearly twenty defendants in other Baltimore cases had begun adopting what lawyers in the federal courthouse came to call “the flesh-and-blood defense.” The defense, such as it is, boils down to this: As officers of the court, all defense lawyers are really on the government’s side, having sworn an oath to uphold a vast, century-old conspiracy to conceal the fact that most aspects of the federal government are illegitimate, including the courts, which have no constitutional authority to bring people to trial. The defendants also believed that a legal distinction could be drawn between their name as written on their indictment and their true identity as a “flesh and blood man.”

Judge Davis and his law clerk pored over the case files, which led them to a series of strange Web sites. The fleshand- blood defense, they discovered, came from a place far from Baltimore, from people as different from Willie Mitchell as people could possibly be. Its antecedents stretched back decades, involving religious zealots, gun nuts, tax protestors, and violent separatists driven by theories that had fueled delusions of Aryan supremacy and race war in gun-loaded compounds in the wilds of Montana and Idaho. Although Mitchell and his peers didn’t know it, they were inheriting the intellectual legacy of white supremacists who believe that America was irrevocably broken when the 14th Amendment provided equal rights to former slaves. It was the ideology that inspired the Oklahoma City bombing, the biggest act of domestic terrorism in the nation’s history, and now, a decade later, it had somehow sprouted in the crime-ridden ghettos of Baltimore.

The series of events that led to the prosecution of Willie Mitchell et al are as convoluted, tragic and intermittently absurd as an episode of HBO’s acclaimed Baltimore crime drama, The Wire. Mitchell and company came of age on the streets of West Baltimore, a few miles and a world away from the rejuvenated inner harbor and the tourist attractions near the federal courthouse. According to prosecutors, the group began selling drugs together as teenagers in the mid-1990s, driving up I-95 to New York City, buying half kilos of cocaine in upper Manhattan and cooking it into crack to sell back home. They added heroin to their repertoire a few years later, as well as robbing and killing other drug dealers. By 2002, they were firmly established in what passes as normal enterprise in a hollowed-out economy like Baltimore, where the drug trade often provides more opportunity than legitimate work and the bedrock institutions of family and school have crumbled. They had children out of wedlock with multiple women. They were occasionally arrested, although they never served much time. It was an insular culture where a ruthless prohibition against “snitching” to the police was often more powerful than any law. Even as cities like New York saw the murder rate decline dramatically, drug killings in Baltimore continued at a steady clip.

According to the indictment, the end began on February 18, 2002, in a downtown Baltimore nightclub called Hammerjacks, where Mitchell got into a dispute and stabbed a fellow drug dealer in the back, seriously wounding him. If Mitchell had hoped to get away with this attempted murder, he was swiftly and brutally set straight by the drug dealer’s associates. When police on patrol found Mitchell later that evening, he was on a sidewalk with several men jumping on his head. Mitchell survived the assault, but he remained in serious trouble. The police had issued a warrant for his arrest; more ominously, his enemies had placed a $10,000 contract on his head.

Mitchell probably didn’t know exactly what his enemies had in mind, but he was seasoned enough to realize that they wanted him killed. Ten days after the club incident, prosecutors allege, he made a phone call to an associate of the men who had beaten him up. The associate was a drug dealer named Oliver “Woody” McCaffity. Mitchell proposed that the two men meet that evening for a drug deal.

Neither man came to the meeting alone. Mitchell brought a friend, Shelton Harris. McCaffity brought his sometime girlfriend, Lisa Brown. Brown was a pastor’s daughter, a computer systems analyst and mother of three. Her parents told reporters that she had broken up with McCaffity after learning of his involvement with drugs. But when he called and invited her to the movies, she decided to go along.

The two parties drove to the Park Heights section of Northwest Baltimore. It was a quick meeting. Mitchell and Harris climbed into the backseat of McCaffity’s Infiniti Q-45. Then they shot McCaffity through the head and fired through Brown’s raised right hand into her left temple, where police later found a .357 caliber bullet. The bodies of McCaffity and Brown were left in the car, which rolled downhill and rammed into a nearby tree at the dead-end of the street. Police found it two hours later. A palm print on the car window was later matched to Harris, and McCaffity’s cell phone records revealed calls that night to Mitchell’s phone. Mitchell, suspecting that McCaffity’s associates were going to try to kill him, had apparently decided to kill first. The murder would probably not have attracted much attention, except for the fact that McCaffity’s Infiniti was owned by Hasim Rahman, the recently dethroned heavyweight boxing champion of the world. McCaffity was a friend and business associate of Rahman, causing the ex-champ to quickly call a press conference denying any involvement in the crimes. (Police have never alleged otherwise.)

If the killing of McCaffity and Brown had been a successful preemptive strike, Mitchell was also prepared to kill for more mundane reasons. On March 24, a few weeks after the Mc- Caffity murder, Mitchell allegedly called a former high school classmate named Darryl Wyche and offered to buy some heroin and cocaine from him. Darryl, excited by the prospect of a big sale, agreed. The two made plans to meet in a nearby industrial park around midnight.

Again, neither party came alone. Wyche brought his younger brother Tony, who had reluctantly agreed to drive. Mitchell brought Harris again, as well as two more friends: Shelly Martin and Shawn Gardner.

The Wyche brothers opened the back door of their Honda to let Mitchell and his men into the back seat. Then each received a bullet in the side of the head. The next morning the police found the bodies, seat belts still on. (Mitchell appears to have seen Wyche as an easy source of drugs and cash.)

But Mitchell’s luck was about to end. When Baltimore homicide detectives found the bodies of the Wyche brothers, they assumed they had come across another hard-to-solve drug killing. Then they received an unexpected phone call. It was from Darryl Wyche’s mother-in-law, who reported finding a strange message on her phone. Recorded at 12:43 a.m., the message was four and a half minutes of a group of men with names like “Wayne” and “Shorty” saying things like “Bup-bup-bup-bup-bup, yo, they both fucked.” The call had come from the cellphone of Darryl Wyche.

Wyche’s family and the police soon figured out what had happened: One of the murderers had stolen Darryl Wyche’s phone and forgotten to turn it off. While the killers were driving away, one of them had accidentally pressed the phone’s speed dial button, calling Darryl’s mother-in-law and producing a most unusual piece of evidence: a voicemail confession. With considerable understatement, a lieutenant in the city homicide unit reflected on his good fortune to the Baltimore Sun. “We got lucky,” he said. Willie Mitchell and Shelly Martin were soon rounded up and put in jail.

What would become the fifth and final murder charge in the case of Willie Mitchell and his cohorts took place two months later. This time, only Mitchell’s friend Shawn Gardner was directly involved. It began with a man named Darius Spence, who had found out that his wife, Tanya, was cheating on him with a local drug dealer everyone called “Momma.”

Spence decided to have Momma beaten up severely. To accomplish this, he negotiated with another drug dealer named Willie Montgomery. Would Montgomery be willing to beat up Momma in exchange for money? But Montgomery had another proposition altogether. Beating Momma up didn’t make sense, Montgomery argued, because then Momma would undoubtedly try to kill Montgomery. It was better just to kill Momma outright, and for five thousand dollars, Montgomery would be glad to do the job. Spence said he’d think it over.

Unfortunately for Darius Spence, Montgomery wasn’t interested in waiting around for an answer. Instead, sensing opportunity, Montgomery decided to tell Momma about the hit. If I turn down the deal, Montgomery explained, then Spence will probably just hire someone else to kill you. Therefore, Montgomery reasoned, you should hire me to kill Spence first. Momma was persuaded. (As Montgomery later explained to the prosecutors, “I guess he like that idea better than Darius Spence’s idea.”)

To execute the hit on Spence, Montgomery recruited two associates, one of whom was Shawn Gardner. For the next two months, the three men staked out Spence’s apartment. The plan was for Shawn Gardner and his associate to invade from the basement and carry out the killing, and then run to a nearby getaway car, which was to be driven by Montgomery. Special care was to be taken not to harm Tanya, and they would cover her eyes with duct tape to prevent her from identifying them. Still, Montgomery warned Momma that he couldn’t guarantee Tanya’s safety. “If it’s up to me, she won’t be hurt,” Montgomery told Momma, “but some things could go wrong.” Momma’s reply was to the point: “Do what you do.”

On June 7, 2002, the three men drove to the Spence apartment, a worn red brick building at the end of a cul-de-sac a few miles from Baltimore city. But the hit didn’t go as planned. Darius Spence wasn’t in the apartment, and they didn’t manage to blindfold Tanya. As children played outside the Spence apartment, Tanya burst through the kitchen door on the third floor, screaming, “No! No!” Lifting one leg over the balcony, she tried to climb down to the floor below but lost her grip and fell fifteen feet to the ground, landing a few feet from the children. Gasping for breath, she motioned for them to run away before crawling under the first floor balcony. Moments later, the two killers emerged from the Spence apartment, ran down the steps and stopped a few feet from Tanya, now lying in the fetal position in the dirt and begging for her life. One pulled out a large caliber revolver and fired two shots into Tanya’s chest as the children watched. Then both men ran away.

Unfortunately for the killers, Montgomery wasn’t where they thought he’d be. Somehow the meeting place had gotten confused, and the getaway failed. Police quickly apprehended Shawn Gardner and his associate. Eventually, the law caught up to Montgomery, too.

Gardner was tried, convicted, and sentenced in state court to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of Tanya Spence. Meanwhile, Willie Mitchell and Shelly Martin were charged by the state with the Wyche brothers’ killings and sat in prison for the next year and a half as police and prosecutors assembled their case.

Then, on January 22, 2004—nearly two years after the first four murders—the word came down from the office of U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio: the Willie Mitchell case was going federal, and the government was seeking the death penalty. The Justice Department, DiBiagio explained, was going after “individuals responsible for making life hell in Baltimore.”

For Mitchell and company, this was bad news. Instead of jurors selected from the city pool, Mitchell would likely be judged by an all-white panel of citizens from places like Maryland’s westernmost rural counties or the far reaches of the Eastern Shore. He would face better-funded prosecutors, and was far more likely to get the death penalty. Maryland has only executed five people in the last thirty years, but in 2005, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was aggressively seeking death sentences. In fact, the Justice Department was even retrying cases in order to win death penalties for crimes like the Spence murder, for which Shawn Gardner was already serving life without parole.

DiBiagio’s office also added a raft of conspiracy charges to the indictment, filed under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. By alleging that the defendants were part of an organized conspiracy— the so-called “Willie Mitchell organization”—prosecutors could hold all four defendants responsible for any of the crimes the others had committed. That’s why Shelton Harris, who wasn’t originally arrested for the Wyche or the McCaffity and Brown murders, was pulled off the street and charged with the full slate of crimes. It’s also why Mitchell and Harris were charged with the Spence murder, although they were already in jail when Shawn Gardner committed it. RICO is normally applied to members of the mafia and organized crime, and its use sent a clear message: the government was coming at Mitchell and company with everything it had.

The prosecutors bolstered the conspiracy argument by noting that, unlike most Baltimore drug dealers, Mitchell and company had incorporated a legal entity for which they all worked and allegedly funneled proceeds of their drug business into: “Shake Down Entertainment, Ltd.” The group promoted rap CDs and concerts through the company, which even had its own record label, “Shystyville.” Soon, Shystyville CDs with titles like “Pure Shit” became evidence of not just the conspiracy but the crimes themselves, with prosecutors entering into the record lyrics like these:

I watch ya brains fly all over on the bitch next to you
Homeboy it’s up to you I could put this pup to you
Then to pumpin’ you up like a innertube
Send shots that’ll pump up the end of you
Leave you all fat and bloated you know I keep
the Mac loaded then I like ta clack rollin’
That’s why Bo and Weez on lock now and every day on lock down
Niggas getting shot down for runnin’ they mouth clown
Tell me how it feels with a gun in ya mouth now

Prosecutors alleged that the “bitch next to you” was Lisa Brown, who was sitting beside Oliver McCaffity when he was shot through the head, that a “pup” is slang for the largecaliber revolver used in the killing, that the “Bo” on “lock now” was the imprisoned Willie “Bo” Mitchell, and that the reference to “Niggas getting shot for runnin’ they mouth” amounted to witness intimidation. Faced with the prospect of an all-white jury hearing this music in the courtroom, the defense lawyers objected on the grounds that lots of songs have lyrics that “proudly refer to violent retaliation,” offering by way of example country star Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American).”

Nearly two years passed. The wheels of justice were turning, slowly but surely. Then came the memorable hearing in which the defendants debuted the flesh-and-blood defense. After that, everything changed.

A  month after the hearing, Judge Davis took the unusual step of issuing a written opinion denying all of the defendant’s “unusual—if not bizarre” arguments. “Perhaps they would even be humorous,” Davis wrote, “were the stakes not so high … It is truly ironic that four African- American defendants here apparently rely on an ideology derived from a famously discredited notion: the illegitimacy of the Fourteenth Amendment.” One can understand his incredulity that four Baltimore drug dealers might invoke a racist argument that dates back to the nineteenth century. But as it turns out, that’s when the seeds of the flesh-and-blood defense were sown.

In 1878, southern Democrats pushed legislation through Congress limiting the ability of the federal government to marshal troops on U.S. soil. Known as Posse Comitatus, (Latin for “power of the county”) the law’s authors hoped to constrain the government’s ability to protect black southerners from violence and discrimination. The act symbolically marked the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow.

For the next eight decades, black Americans lived under the yoke of institutional racism. But by the late 1950s, the civil rights movement was growing in strength. In 1957, President Eisenhower sent 1,200 troops from the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas, so that nine black students could safely enter a previously all-white high school. The landmark Civil Rights Act followed in 1964.

These developments horrified one William Gale, a World War II veteran, insurance salesman, self-styled minister of racist Christian Identity theology, and raving anti-Semite. In 1971, he launched a movement whose impact would reverberate through the radical fringes of American society for decades to come. He called it Posse Comitatus, named for the 1878 law he believed Eisenhower had violated by sending the troops to Little Rock. In a series of tapes and self-published pamphlets, Gale explained that county sheriffs were the supreme legal law enforcement officers in the land, and that county residents had the right to form a posse to enforce the Constitution—however they, as “sovereign citizens,” chose to interpret it. Public officials who interfered, instructed Gale, should be “hung by the neck” at high noon.

Gale’s racist beliefs were hardly unique. His singular innovation was to devise a “legal” philosophy that was enormously appealing to disaffected, alienated citizens. It was a promise of power, a means of asserting that they were the true inheritors of the founding fathers’ ideal, a dream they believed had been corrupted by a vast conspiracy that only they could see. Gale’s ideas gave people on the paranoid edge of society a collective identity. It told them what they desperately wanted to hear: that the federal government was illegitimate, and that the legal weapons the state used to oppress them could be turned against the state.

Soon, Posses were sprouting across the country, attracting veterans of the 1960s-era tax protest movement, Second Amendment absolutists, Christian Identity adherents, and ardent anti-communists who had abandoned the John Birch Society because they felt the organization wasn’t extreme enough. Local groups would meet to share literature, listen to tapes of Gale’s sermons, and discuss preparations for the approaching End Times. This extremist stew produced exotic amalgamations of paranoia, such as when Posse members would explain the need for local militias to stockpile weapons in order to defend white Christians from blacks in the coming race war sparked by the inevitable economic collapse caused by the income tax and a cabal of international Jewish bankers bent on global dominance through one world government, for Satan.

While local Posses would periodically confront law enforcement officials in the 1970s, (usually in property disputes), they were often incompetent, and few people were hurt. But things took a serious turn in 1978, when thousands of farmers rallied in Washington D.C. seeking relief from low commodity prices, high interest rates, and farm debt. When Congressional relief attempts failed, some farmers became susceptible to peddlers of the Posse ideology, which preached that the farm crisis had been brought on by the international Jewish banking conspiracy, abandonment of the gold standard and a malevolent Federal Reserve.

By 1982, Bill Gale had flown to Kansas to conduct paramilitary training and indoctrination for splinter groups of disaffected farmers. At night, a country music station in Dodge City broadcast tapes of Gale’s sermons. “You’re either going to get back to the Constitution of the United States in your government,” he intoned, “or officials are gonna hang by the neck until they’re dead … Arise and fight! If a Jew comes near you, run a sword through him.” As Posse ideology rippled across the distressed farm belt, violence followed. Several deadly confrontations between Posse adherents and law enforcement made national headlines; Geraldo Rivera descended on Nebraska to document the “Seeds of Hate” in America’s heartland. By 1987, Gale’s rhetoric had escalated further. He told his followers that “You’ve got an enemy government running around … its source and its location is Washington, D.C., and the federal buildings they’ve built with your tax money all over the cities in this land.”

Hucksters and charlatans prowled the Midwest as the farm crisis deepened, selling desperate farmers expensive seminars and prepackaged legal defenses “guaranteed” to cancel debts and forestall foreclosure. Since the gold standard had been abandoned in 1933, they argued, money had no inherent value, and so neither did their debts. All they had to do, farmers were told, was opt out of the system by sending a letter to the appropriate authorities renouncing their driver’s license, birth certificate, and social security number. That number was allegedly tied to a secret government account held in a secure subterranean facility in lower Manhattan, where citizens are used as collateral against international debts issued by the Fed and everyone’s name is on a master list, spelled in capital letters—the very same capital letters used in the official court documents detailing foreclosure and other actions against them. The capital letter name was nothing but an artificial construct, they were told, a legal “straw man.” It wasn’t them—natural, live, flesh and blood men.

Bill Gale died on April 28, 1988, three months after being sentenced in federal court for conspiracy, tax crimes, and mailing death threats to the Internal Revenue Service. By that time, the farm crisis had begun to recede. Posse ideology simmered for the next few years, morphing into the “Christian Patriot” movement, which sanded down some of the roughest racist and anti-Semitic edges while retaining the core beliefs of Constitutional fundamentalism. The patriots saw themselves as “sovereign citizens,” unlike the “federal citizens” who had been created by the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The deadly confrontations between federal agents and extremists at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and Waco, Texas in 1993 brought latent anger with the federal government back to a boil. The militia movement of the 1990s built on Posse tenets of county- based, self-organized paramilitary groups led by citizens expressing their basic Constitutional rights. Most groups stuck with conducting survivalist training camps and filing bogus liens against houses owned by local judges. But a few did much more.

In 1993, a Michigan farmer and survivalist named James Nichols was pulled over for speeding. Instead of simply paying the fine, he argued in court that his “sovereign citizen” status made him immune to prosecution. That same year, James’ brother Terry tried to pay off a $17,000 debt with a fake check issued by a radical “family farm preservation” group run by Posse adherents. Two years later, Terry Nichols helped to bring the Posse’s anti-government hatred to its ultimate fruition. On April 18, 1995, he and a friend named Timothy McVeigh loaded 108 fifty-pound bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer into a Ryder truck. The next day, McVeigh bombed the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people on the second anniversary of Waco.

After the attack, the Feds began cracking down on white supremacist groups, including one called the “Montana Freemen,” who were, in the words of hate-group expert Daniel Levitas, “the direct ideological descendants of the Posse Comitatus.” (Levitas’ book, The Terrorist Next Door, contains the definitive account of Bill Gale and the Posse.) The Freemen were arrested in their isolated compound after a threemonth standoff with the FBI. At trial, they filed an array of bizarre documents citing the Fed, the gold standard, the 14th Amendment, and the Uniform Commercial Code, but to no avail. They were sent to the maximum security “Supermax” federal prison in Florence, Colorado, where they remain today.

But the appeal of their anti-government dogma didn’t disappear. The Freemen continued to attract sympathizers outside Supermax walls. Some collected the documents the Freemen filed during their trial and began offering them for sale via adver tisements in “America’s Bulletin,” a newsletter espousing Posse- style anti-government theories that is widely distributed throughout the prison system by white supremacists.

In October 2004, a prisoner named Michael Burpee arrived at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in downtown Baltimore. Burpee had recently been convicted in Florida of trafficking PCP to Maryland. Hoping for leniency, he pled guilty, only to receive a twenty seven-year prison sentence dictated by harsh federal sentencing guidelines. Desperate for a way out, he began listening to someone—presumably a fellow prisoner—who explained how the charges were all part of a secret government conspiracy against him. Then Burpee was brought up on new federal drug charges in Maryland, and shipped north. He carried with him a pile of documents that were remarkably similar to those that had been filed by the Montana Freemen.

In Baltimore, Burpee found a group of inmates at the margins of society, people like Willie Mitchell and company who were staring at the full force of the federal government. As one defense attorney representing a flesh-and-blood defendant put it, they “saw a freight train coming and felt three feet tall.” Soon the unorthodox legal filings and courtroom outbursts began to multiply. It was, one public defender later explained, “like an infection that was invading our client population of pre-trial detainees.” Burpee appears to have been patient zero in the epidemic. For over a year, he harangued his lawyers and judge about the conspiracy and spread the word in the Baltimore lockup. Then, in a stroke of bad luck for the public defender’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s office decided to drop the charges against Burpee—perhaps reasoning that he wasn’t worth the hassle considering that he had already been sentenced to twenty-seven years. For Burpee’s peers, the decision imbued the flesh-and-blood defense with legitimacy and the hope of freedom.

Before long, the relatives of the defendants were scanning Web sites like http://www.redemptionservice.com, which offers maps showing how Satanic runes were secretly incorporated into the street plan of Washington, D.C., and a deluxe package of instructions for renouncing one’s social security number for only $3,900, payable by check or money order.

Like the Midwestern farmers before them, the Baltimore inmates were susceptible to the notion that the federal government was engaged in a massive, historic plot to deprive them of life, liberty, and property. Such suspicions are prevalent in certain pockets of the black community—that year, a study from the Rand Corporation found that over 25 percent of African Americans surveyed believed the AIDS virus was developed by the government, and 12 percent thought it was released into the population by the CIA. And black separatist groups like the Nation of Islam—also fond of conspiracy theories—have long cultivated members through the prison system; some of these groups have explicitly adopted the language of constitutional fundamentalists. Given these developments, Levitas told me, “I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner.”

This, then, was how Willie Mitchell came to draw on the accumulated layers of three decades of right-wing paranoia and demand that his case be dismissed “in accord with … House Joint Resolution 192, and Public Law 73-10”—laws that involved the abandonment of the gold standard and the Federal Reserve. And it explained why Shawn Gardner kept insisting that he be addressed as “Shawn-Earl: Gardner,” rather than the capital-letter SHAWN GARDNER printed on the indictment: he thought that if he could convince the court to call him by his “natural” name, it would be tantamount to admitting that the charges had been filed against someone else.

On the morning of January 10, 2006, two months after the first flesh-and-blood hearing, Gardner returned to Judge Davis’s courtroom. Moments after Davis arrived, Gardner stood up. “I object,” he said, over and over, until Judge Davis had finally had enough. “Do you know what you’re doing?” he asked Gardner. “You are committing suicide in broad daylight. There are public suicides in this country far too often. People jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge. People walk into their workplaces with a gun and put the gun up to their head and pull the trigger. People slash their wrists. I don’t want you to join that community, but that’s what you’re doing, sir.”

Gardner tried to argue that the court had no power over him under “common law.” “At common law,” Judge Davis replied, “you were property. You were bought and sold just like those Timberlands on your feet today can be bought and sold. That’s what your ancestors were, some of them, and that is what my ancestors were, some of them.”

“You have invoked ideas formulated and advanced by people who think less of you than they think of dirt,” Davis continued. “The extremists who have concocted these ideas that you are now advancing in this courtroom are laughing their heads off. You are giving them everything they ever wished for. They should be paying you to do what you are doing. They are going to make you the poster child for their movement. When you complete this suicide, they will honor you because you are doing their work, better and more effectively than any of them ever dreamed they could do. Some of them—” “I object,” said Gardner, interrupting. “The government wants to do the same thing anyway. So what’s the difference?”

Gardner, unrepentant, was escorted from the courtroom. And so the tenets of Posse Comitatus continued their long, strange journey, from the racist, hate-filled mind of William Gale to four black defendants on trial for their life in Baltimore federal court.

A  little more than a year after the November 2005 hearing, the flesh-and-blood phenomenon took another twist. A key part of the conspiracy indictment against Mitchell et al was the allegation that the defendants acted together in pursuit of criminal goals. The seemingly choreographed speeches and the identical filings, all submitted on the same day and mailed by the same person, suggested that the four defendants were going to great lengths to coordinate their actions, despite being housed in separate prison facilities and having no obvious means of communication. Ergo, evidence that the conspiracy was continuing in jail. The U.S. Attorney’s office also added new charges of felony obstruction of justice, citing the disruptive nature of the fleshand- blood defense. The prosecutors weren’t just rejecting the defense as an argument for innocence. They were saying that it was, itself, a crime.

Undaunted, Mitchell and company continued making courtroom speeches and filing more nonsensical motions. One, for instance, claimed that Judge Davis’ court only had jurisdiction over crimes committed in federally owned “forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and enclaves.”

None of these arguments had a prayer of overturning the charges. But they had an impact nonetheless. They made a long, complex trial longer and more complex still. Seeking the death penalty is rightfully arduous—it requires legal justifications for the penalty itself, enhanced scrutiny over jury selection, an additional penalty phase after a conviction, and so on. Conspiracy charges create further legal burdens. And the way Mitchell et al chose to deal with their attorneys— not dismissing them outright, but asking them to sign a peculiar “contract” that would essentially prohibit them from mounting a defense—created more problems. If the defendants weren’t dealt with carefully, they might be able to appeal by claiming that they had been inadequately represented. The last thing Judge Davis wanted was for an appellate court to throw out a verdict and send the case back to Baltimore to start all over again. According to a source close to the court, dealing with the flesh and blood defense has been “one of the greatest challenges Davis has faced in twenty years as a judge, by far.”

By mid-2007, the federal prosecutors were starting to run low on a vital resource: time. As years go by, memories fade, police officers retire or transfer, informants change their mind, and juries wonder, why, if the case is so straightforward, it took so long to make. On September 6, 2007, prosecutors withdrew the death penalty for all four defendants.

Nobody in the Baltimore federal courthouse is willing to state, or even speculate on the record, that Mitchell and his cohorts may have averted death with the flesh-and-blood defense. There are other possibilities involving evidence, witnesses, and Justice Department policy. But the elaborate processes of federal capital cases weren’t built to accommodate farcical pro se filings and challenges. Traffic offenses, tax cases—even farm foreclosures—are one thing. When the end goal is execution, even the most ludicrous defenses are taken seriously.

On January 8, 2008, the case of United States of America v. Willie Mitchell et al convened once again in the main courtroom of the federal courthouse. The lawyers arrived first, chatting in the manner of people who had spent nearly four years and counting on the odyssey of this case. The defendants came next. While Shawn Gardner wore the blue work shirt of a lifer in state prison, Willie Mitchell sported comfortable baggy jeans and a stylish black shirt. Mitchell sauntered to his table, and spied the lone spectator in the courtroom’s auditorium-style gallery of one hundred- plus seats, a slender black woman who looked to be in her late twenties. His eyes lit up as he smiled and mouthed “How are you?” “I’m good, I’m good” she murmured. “Your new lawyer—get his card!”

Judge Davis arrived last, emerging from a wooden door behind the bench, beneath oil portraits of judges from days gone by. The hearing will be short, he said; the purpose is to establish a schedule for future motions, and ultimately the trial. Davis and the lawyers spent the next twenty minutes trying find eight weeks of available courtroom time for ten busy lawyers plus the judge. Then, apropos of nothing, Shelton Harris stood up. “Good morning your honor,” he began. Davis saw where this was going and cut him off. “I haven’t recognized you yet, Mr. Harris. You’ll have time to talk later,” he said. “I accept your offer,” Harris replied softly, and sat down.

The scheduling discussion continued; Mitchell rested his head in his arms as though bored. Finally, Judge Davis allowed Harris to speak. Harris launched into the now familiar oration—”I request you, the judge, close the accounts…” He spoke rapidly in a low, gravelly voice, as if he’d worked hard to memorize the speech and didn’t want to leave anything out.

Harris finished, sat, and Judge Davis turned to the defendants. The speech you just gave has no legal meaning whatsoever, he said sternly. They were words in the English language, but they have no meaning as a matter of law. If, in future proceedings, you persist—even politely—in making these speeches, you face a severe risk of being expelled from the courtroom. The court also may conclude that you are waiving your right to appointed counsel, in which case you would have to represent yourself. That would be a sad day. “We are in recess,” Davis said. He turned back toward the door to leave.

Then several things happened at once. Shawn Gardner, handcuffed, slumped in the arms of the federal marshals, who seized him beneath his armpits and dragged him across the courtroom toward the door. Willie Mitchell raised his right hand to speak, intent on giving his version of Harris’ speech, but the marshals grabbed his arm and forced it down behind his back toward his left wrist, which was already cuffed. Mitchell struggled and yelled at his lawyer, “They got my arm in a chicken wing!” The marshals forcibly moved Martin and Harris toward the door. Judge Davis watched with consternation as they were dragged from his court.

Willie Mitchell and company won’t go on trial until September, if then, and they won’t face the death penalty, even though they probably deserve it if anyone does. But they will probably be convicted and spend the rest of their lives in federal prison, never to be heard from again, because in the end, the flesh-and-blood defense is no defense at all. The 14th Amendment didn’t revoke Shawn Gardner’s natural citizenship— it gave him protection under the law, and paved the way for another black man to judge his case. There’s no international cabal of Jewish bankers conspiring against him— one of his lawyers, a professor at Howard University Law School, is Jewish. The secret histories and grand conspiracies that have fueled decades of right-wing paranoia, morphing to accommodate one doomed cause after another until finding an unlikely temporary home in a Baltimore lockup, are lies and nothing more.

As the marshals shoved the four men toward the courtroom door, back to the prison they’ll never leave, they shook their heads and looked at each other smiling, as if to say right, right, isn’t it always just like this? One of them let out a chuckle that rose above the din. Judge Davis turned to the court reporter. “Let the record show,” he said, “that Mr. Harris is laughing.”

Attack Iran Again? How many times has the U.S. already attacked Iran?

 

The Shoot-Down of Iran Air Flight 655

by Sasan Fayazmanesh
by Sasan Fayazmanesh

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DIGG THIS

In a daily press briefing on July 2, 2008, the following set of questions and answers took place between an unidentified reporter and Department of State Spokesman Sean McCormack:

QUESTION: Tomorrow marks the 20 years since the U.S. Navy warship Vincennes gunned down the IR655 civilian airliner, killing all 300 people on board, 71 of whom were children. And while the United States Government settled the incident in the International Court of Justice in 1996 at $61.1 million in compensation to the families, they, till this day, refuse to apologize –

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: – as requested by the Iranian Government. And actually, officials in the Iranian Government said today that they’re planning on a commemoration tomorrow and it would, you know, show a sign of diplomatic reconciliation if the United States apologized for this incident.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you think it sends a positive message if, on the 20th anniversary of this incident, the United States Government apologized for (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, to be honest with you, I’ll have to look back and see the history of what we have said about this – about the issue. I honestly don’t know. Look, nobody wants to see – everybody mourns innocent life lost. But in terms of our official U.S. Government response to it, I can’t – I have to confess to you, I don’t know the history of it. I’d be happy to post you an answer over to your question.

QUESTION: Well, do you think it show – do you think it would show a positive message as – in the midst of all this war talk –

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, you know, you’ve asked the question. I’ve been trying to be – I’ve tried to be very up front with you. I don’t know the history. There’s obviously a long history to this issue. Let me understand the history to that issue before I provide you a response.
Yeah.

Mm-hmm. Could this be true? Could the spokesman for the State Department not know anything about the role that the US played in the Iran-Iraq war in general and Iranian Air Flight 655 in particular? Is it possible that the entire US Department of State is ignorant of that history? Is it conceivable that the current US policy towards Iran is being made by a host of ignoramuses? This is, indeed, a frightening prospect. At a time when the world is continuously rattled by the prospect of a US-Israeli attack on Iran and the resulting uncertainty in the oil market, escalating energy prices, possibility of a worldwide economic stagnation and spiraling inflation, it is terrifying to think that those who are beating the war drums are suffering from historical amnesia. The frightening prospect is not helped at all by the correction that appeared on the website of the US Department of State shortly after the above set of questions and answers took place. The correction read:

Iran Air Flight 655 (Taken Question)

Question: Does the State Department have anything to say on the 20th anniversary of the accidental downing of an Iran Air flight?

Answer: The accidental shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 was a terrible human tragedy, and U.S. officials at the time expressed our deep regret over the tragic loss of life. We would certainly renew our expression of sympathy and condolences to the families of the deceased who perished in the tragedy.

The “terrible human tragedy” was not exactly “accidental,” at least not from the perspective of many Iranians. Nor did the United States “at the time” express its “deep regret over the tragic loss of life.” Since even after some research the US policy makers could not get their facts straight, it might be helpful to refresh their memories about Iran Air Flight 655.

The shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by the cruiser U.S.S. Vincennes marked the end of an eight-year-war between Iran and Iraq, a war that in all probability started with the help of the US government and was certainly prolonged by the US and Israel as part of the policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq. As I have explained elsewhere, in the eight-year war the Reagan Administration tried to prevent Iran from winning the war against Saddam Hussein by providing him with intelligence, extension of credit and, indirectly, weapons (for a full discussion see The United States and Iran: Sanctions, Wars and the Policy of Dual Containment). The US also established full diplomatic relations with Hussein’s government, lifted trade sanctions against Iraq, and imposed economic sanctions against Iran. In addition, the US closed its eyes to the use of chemical weapons by Iraq in the war, and, indeed, supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical compounds that had multiple uses, including making poison gas.

In 1984 the US policy of helping Saddam Hussein in the war took on a new dimension. The United States started to escort the tankers carrying Iraq’s and its allies’ oil, particularly those of Kuwait, safely through the Persian Gulf but allowed Iraq to hit at will tankers carrying Iranian oil. Soon afterwards, the US also offered to re-flag Iraqi allies’ tankers. This situation continued until early 1986, when Iranian forces started to score military victories by capturing the Iraqi Faw peninsula. Iraq increased the intensity of its tanker war on Iran and Iran retaliated. Kuwait asked the UN Security Council in late 1986 for protection of its tankers in the Gulf. Shortly afterwards, the US started to re-flag Kuwaiti tankers with the American flag. This was the beginning of the US directly entering an undeclared war against Iran at the behest of Saddam Hussein.

In the undeclared war that followed the US started to attack Iranian ships. For example, The Washington Post reported on September 23, 1987, that two days earlier American helicopters had attacked an Iranian vessel on the pretext that it was laying mines. As a result of the attack, the report went on to say, a number of Iranian sailors were killed, injured, or missing. A day after the attack, according to the same report, US Navy commandos boarded and captured the Iranian ship, and then fired warning shots at an Iranian hovercraft that came toward the disabled vessel. A few days later, the US Navy blew up and sank the ship (Sunday Mail, September 27, 1987). The US actions were viewed not only by Iran but also by the US Congress as something akin to declaration of war against Iran by the Reagan Administration. On September 25, 1987, the COURIER-MAIL reported that the “Iranian President, Mr Khamenei, said yesterday he feared United States actions in the Persian Gulf would lead to an American invasion of his country.” The report further quoted Khamenei as saying that the “presence of the US in the Gulf is a sign of war. . . . All these battleships and the great armada there are not for defence, they are for invasion.” On September 23, 1987, The Washington Post reported that the US Congress had asked “for constraints on U.S. tanker-escort operations” and that some were considering invoking the “1973 War Powers Resolution,” which requires congressional approval for sustained US combat operations.

Engaging Iran at the behest of Saddam Hussein continued throughout the rest of 1987 and 1988. For example, on October 9, 1987, the Guardian reported the sinking of three Iranian gunboats by the US on the pretext that they had “hostile intent,” and on April 19, 1988, The Washington Post reported the sinking or crippling of six more Iranian ships by the US. Also in this period the US started to attack Iranian oil platforms. For example, according to the COURIER-MAIL of October 21, 1987, the US attacked two Iranian oil platforms two days earlier “in response to that country’s missile attacks on tankers flying the US flag.” According to the same source, “Mr Reagan was asked if the attack meant the two nations were at war,” and he responded by saying “No, we’re not going to have a war with Iran, they’re not that stupid.” Similarly, the Journal of Commerce reported on April 19, 1988 that a day earlier the US Navy destroyed two offshore Iranian oil platforms. In this same period (1987–8) the US also started to engage the Iranian air force. For example, according to the Financial Times of September 23, 1987, on August 8 of the same year “a carrier-borne F-14 Tomcat fighter unleashed two missiles at an Iranian jet spotted on its radar which had flown too close for comfort to an unarmed US surveillance aircraft.” Similarly, the Journal of Commerce reported on April 19, 1988, that a “U.S. warship fired missiles at two approaching Iranian jet fighters, but the fighters reversed course.”

By early 1988 it was clear that Iran could not win a war against the combined forces of Saddam Hussein and the US. Even the gains by Iranian forces in the eight-year war were now being lost. The coordinated and jointly planned actions between the US and Iraq in April of 1988, for example, resulted in Saddam Hussein’s government retaking the Faw peninsula. On April 19, 1988, The Washington Post reported the US attack on Iranian ships and oil platform. It also reported that, according to Iran, the retaking of Faw by the Iraqi forces was supported by US helicopters.

The time had come for Iran to take the bullet and accept a humiliating ceasefire offered by the US-dominated United Nations, the same institution that after eight years of war, and despite all evidence to the contrary, could not still determine which party was guilty of starting it.

The last major event that brought about the final capitulation of Iran occurred on July 3, 1988. On that day the American warship Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 passengers on board. True to its pattern of denying any role in the Iran-Iraq war, at first the United States government tried to deny culpability in the downing of the civilian airliner. On July 3 AP reported that the “Pentagon said U.S. Navy forces in the gulf sank two Iranian patrol boats and downed an F-14 fighter jet in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday during an exchange of fire.” The report also said that, according to Iran, the US shot down not an F-14 but a civilian airliner killing all passengers on board. “U.S. Navy officials in the gulf,” the report went on say, “denied the Iranian claim.”

Many similar reports were made by foreign journalists, particularly the Japan Economic Newswire, which also reported on July 3, 1988 that the “U.S. Defense Department issued a statement on the crash of an Iran air airbus Sunday and denied U.S. involvement in the incident as claimed by Iran.” However, once the charred bodies of passengers of the Iran Air Flight 655 were shown floating in the ocean, the US admitted that the plane brought down was not an F-14 but a civilian airliner. In what The New York Times of July 4, 1988, titled the “Quotation of the Day,” Admiral William J. Crowe Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated: “After receiving further data and evaluating information available from the Persian Gulf, we believe that the cruiser U.S.S. Vincennes, while actively engaged with threatening Iranian surface units and protecting itself from what was concluded to be a hostile aircraft, shot down an Iranian airliner over the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. Government deeply regrets this incident.”

Subsequently, the US claimed that the “Iranian airliner, in some ways, was not acting like a passenger plane . . . It was heading directly for the ship, appeared to be descending (as though it might be 40 The United States and Iran attacking) and was about four miles outside the usual commercial air corridor” (The Washington Post, July 4, 1988). The Pentagon further asserted that USS Vincennes was in international waters, i.e. outside the territorial waters of Iran, and that the passenger plane was emitting a military electronic code.

Slowly but surely, all the above claims were proved to be false. Vincennes was not in international waters, but in Iran’s territorial waters. The Iranian Airbus was not heading for the ship or even descending but ascending. The plane was not four miles outside of the usual commercial air corridor, but well within it. Moreover, Flight 655 was not emitting any military signals but regular transponder signals, which identified it as a commercial aircraft.

All these contradictions resurfaced four years later, when on July 1, 1992, the ABC News program Nightline broadcast a piece, investigated jointly with Newsweek magazine, entitled “The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War.” Newsweek magazine itself published on July 13, 1992, a separate article by John Barry and Roger Charles which appeared under the title “Sea of Lies.” Both pieces showed the contradictions in the US claims, four years earlier, concerning the downing of the Iranian civilian plane.

Indeed, with regard to the answers provided by the US government to the questions “Where, precisely, was the Vincennes at the time of the shoot-down?” and “What was she doing there?” ABC’s Nightline stated that the “official response to those two questions has been a tissue of lies, fabrications, half-truths and omissions.” For example, on the issue of the exact position of USS Vincennes when it shot the Iranian airliner, the following exchange between Ted Koppel of Nightline and Admiral William J. Crowe Jr. took place:

TED KOPPEL: But if I were to ask you today, was the Vincennes in international waters at the time that she shot down the Airbus –

WILLIAM J. CROWE JR.: Yes, she was.

TED KOPPEL: In international waters?

WILLIAM J. CROWE JR.: No, no, no. She was in Iran’s territorial waters.

TED KOPPEL: Let me ask you again. Where was the Vincennes at the time that she
shot down the Airbus?

WILLIAM J. CROWE JR.: She was in Iran’s territorial waters.

After showing more such contradictions in the official US account of the incident, the program concentrated on the second question: “What was USS Vincennes doing in Iran’s territorial waters?” The answer given by Nightline was that Vincennes, as well as other US naval forces in the Persian Gulf, was there as part of an “undeclared,” “covert,” or “secret war” against Iran. In this war USS Vincennes had entered Iran’s territorial waters provoking the Iranian navy to engage in a fight when it shot down Iran Air Flight 655.

“Sea of Lies” told the same story but in greater detail. It recounted how the “trigger happy” captain of USS Vincennes, Will Rogers III, had invaded the territorial waters of Iran looking for a fight under the pretext of rescuing a Liberian tanker, the Stoval, which in reality did not exist. Then, after creating a tense situation, the inevitable happened: it shot down a civilian airliner. What followed was a campaign of lies and fabrications at the highest levels of US government to “cover up” what had actually happened and the place of this incident within the broader US war against Iran. “The top Pentagon brass,” write John Barry and Roger Charles, “understood from the beginning that if the whole truth about the Vincennes came out, it would mean months of humiliating headlines. So the U.S. Navy did what all navies do after terrible blunders at sea: it told lies and handed out medals.”

If one knows the history of the US’s role in the Iran-Iraq war, then the USS Vincennes affair does not come as a big surprise. In the absence of such knowledge, however, the Nightline and the subsequent Newsweek magazine reports appeared to be revelations. Many newspapers wrote about what had been reported. The Washington Post of July 1, 1992, for example, called “Public War, Secret War” a “provocative report” with an “entirely different take on the story.” It further said that ABC News and Newsweek reporter John Barry and Nightline anchor Ted Koppel made “the persuasive – though not conclusive – case that the United States not only provoked the incident but also lied to cover it up.” But, The Washington Post went on to say, once the report claimed that the US was engaged in a “‘secret war’ against Iran on behalf of its erstwhile ally in the region, Iraq,” then it moved onto “shakier ground.” Obviously The Washington Post had no clue as to how deep, long, and extensive the “secret war” of the US against Iran was.

Even some US Congressmen appeared to be surprised by the reporting. For example, according to The Washington Post of July 7, 1992, following the Nightline and Newsweek reports, Senator Sam Nunn, then Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote to Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney to request “an expeditious inquiry into these serious allegations.” Needless to say, nothing came out of these inquiries. The New York Times reported on July 22, 1992, that Admiral Crowe appeared before the House Armed Services Committee, and delivered a 27-page response to the report, denying that “American military had cooperated with the Iraqi military as part of a secret war against the Iranians. ‘The accusations of a cover-up are preposterous and unfounded,’ Admiral Crowe said.” However, he “acknowledged that the Vincennes was in Iranian waters when she shot the airliner but asserted that the location did not have an important bearing on the investigation,” the report said.

From the perspective of many Iranians, who knew full well the US’s role in the Iran-Iraq war, the Vincennes affair was, even if an accident, the epitome of an undeclared war against Iran. Some Iranians even went beyond that and, as The Washington Post reported on July 4, 1988, accused the US of “deliberately shooting down an Iranian civilian airliner.” In turn, they asked for revenge. Yet, as stated earlier, the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 marked the end of the Iran-Iraq war, since it had now become clear that Iran was engaged in a direct war with the US, a war that Iran could not possibly win. Almost two weeks after the downing of the civilian airliner by the USS Vincennes Iran accepted UN Resolution 598, calling for a ceasefire. On July 21, 1988, The Washington Post reported that “Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the supreme leader of Iran, took personal responsibility today for the decision to accept a cease-fire with Iraq and, in words with the ring of defeat, called it worse than swallowing poison.” The actual quotation was: “Making this decision was deadlier than swallowing poison. I submit myself to God’s will and drank this drink for His satisfaction” (The New York Times, July 21, 1988).

Such history appears to be unknown to the US policy makers. It also appears to have been forgotten by the American news media. Indeed, not a single newspaper in the US mentioned the 20th anniversary of the downing of Iran Air Flight 655. Yet, people in Iran remembered it well. On July 2, 2006, Mehr News Agency commemorated the event with the headline: “U.S. downing of Flight 655 was state-sponsored terrorism.” It pointed out just about all the facts discussed above. It mentioned how the U.S. Navy’s guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes “shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf on July 3, 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew members, including 66 children.” It also mentioned how the “U.S. government refused to apologize for the incident, which was the seventh deadliest plane crash in aviation history, claiming that the crew had mistaken the Iranian Airbus A300 for an attacking F-14 Tomcat fighter.” It pointed out that “Iran condemned the incident as an international crime caused by the U.S. Navy’s ‘negligence and reckless behavior’.” It stated the “fact that the United States awarded the Commendation Medal to Vincennes air-warfare coordinator Lieutenant Commander Scott Lustig was an admission that the attack was deliberate.” It quoted an Iranian to say that this “event shows that the organizations responsible for maintaining global security not only refuse to defend the oppressed nations, they also cover up the major powers’ crimes.” Finally, it quoted another Iranian to say: “History will never forget the United States’ crimes against humanity.”

Twenty years after the downing of the Iranian civilian airliner the United States is once again on the verge of war with Iran, this time not in the company of Saddam Hussein and associates but in the presence of Ehud Olmert and friends. It is said that those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. Let us hope that the US policy makers, who seem to be suffering from a severe case of historical amnesia, don’t repeat the kind of tragic history that is associated with Iran Air Flight 655.

This article originally appeared on CounterPunch.

 

July 16, 2008

Sasan Fayazmanesh [send him mail] is chair of the Department of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He is the author of The United States and Iran (Routledge, 2008).

Copyright © 2008 Sasan Fayazmanesh