Saturday, April 01, 2006

AlterNet: Throwing Stones at Venezuela

By Onnesha Roychoudhuri, AlterNet
Posted on April 1, 2006, Printed on April 1, 2006

It's certainly no surprise. Even over a year ago, journalists were remarking at the "left turn" that so many Latin American countries were making. Of late, however, we only hear about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela. The South American country has taken the place of Cuba as the new whipping boy of alternative political models. But the targeted arguments -- coming mainly from the United States -- that depict Chavez as a tyrannical despot do little more than make the United States look the defensive paranoid for so mischaracterizing Venezuela's politics.

From Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Pat Robertson, absurd public comparisons of President Hugo Chavez to Hitler and calls for assassination, it's clear that U.S. public figures love to vilify Chavez. The defamations have now been firmly established in mainstream politics -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues to allege that Venezuela poses the greatest threat to Latin America. Why? Rice accuses Chavez of leading a "Latin brand of populism that has taken countries down the drain."

AlterNet spoke to Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's ambassador to the United States, during his recent trip through California to meet with civil society groups and Latino leaders. When asked why he thought Chavez and Venezuela were so vilified, Alvarez stated, "For the first time, people are taking seriously that the major problems in the world are poverty and social exclusion -- not terrorism. These allegations are simply to avoid discussing these true problems; they are an attempt to undermine and divert from true economic development."

Whether or not this is the true motivation behind this administration's reluctance to engage in dialogue is up for debate. One thing, however, is clear: The press has spent far more energy exploring largely unsubstantiated allegations of fraud and corruption targeting Chavez than exploring the reality of his agenda.

After getting the obligatory controversial questions out of the way -- is Chavez planning to run for president in 2013? Are the United States and Venezuela too ideologically different to have meaningful discussions? What do you say to the allegations that Venezuela is becoming a dictatorship akin to Castro's Cuba? -- a common thread emerged in Alvarez's oft-repeated answers. Strung together, it goes something like this:

Chavez is not an accident. His election expresses a new awakening of people and participation. Chavez and Venezuela are not an anomaly in an otherwise "normal" world. We're talking about the entire hemisphere, here. These are societies trying to find alternative ways of dealing with the same problems. It is better that they understand what is happening in Venezuela as part of a broader process.

Alvarez is obviously quite good at responding to questions that start with "How do you respond to the allegations that." He has learned to (sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly) work in details of Chavez's agenda amidst these usual suspect questions. Without asking, I learned that Chavez has extended health care to 10 million Venezuelans, defeated illiteracy in two years, given three million Venezuelans ID cards so that they can access social programs and vote, and worked to rebuild oil refineries and guarantee security of supply and accessible prices.

Members of the media, trying to substantiate the obsessive fixation on Chavez-as-tyrant, have let the wild accusations frame our dialogue about Venezuela. You won't read much about Chavez's focus on the eradication of poverty -- extended even to the United States through the heating oil program that is bringing over 40 million gallons of discounted and free oil to low-income Americans in eight states. Rather, you'll get an earful of the Texas congressman Joe Barton seeking an investigation into the program. You have to read academic publications like Political Affairs Magazine to get to the irony behind the facts:

The only change in Venezuelan oil supply to the U.S. in the past three years has been this year's program to provide 40 percent discounts on 49 million gallons of heating fuel for poor people in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and soon Vermont and Connecticut. How bizarre that Texas Republican congressman Joe Barton has launched an investigation into this humanitarian offering, instead of investigating the U.S, multinational oil companies that posted over $100 billion in corporate profits last year due to soaring gasoline prices.

There are components of Chavez's agenda that merit skepticism, but the cheap oil program hardly qualifies. Critics have raised Venezuela's record of human rights violations. And while police violence against protesters has attracted rebukes from human rights organizations like Amnesty International, AI make clear that the weak record of human rights preceded Chavez: "President Chavez's administration introduced several important improvements in the 1999 Constitution to protect civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights." The problem is that many of these measures have yet to implemented.

Perhaps the meatiest and most interesting issue that Ambassador Alvarez touched upon was whether Chavez's agenda to eradicate poverty can be achieved through democratic means. When asked about the difference between Cuba's form of socialism and Venezuela's "new socialism," Alvarez noted,

Our revolution was made in peace, following a democratic path. But, we are looking for social justice. There is no real democracy if there is no social justice. We have to go beyond representative democracy to a participatory social system. If you don't fight poverty, you will have a very weak democracy.

So what if the kind of social justice that Chavez is seeking is at odds with the brand of democracy that currently exists in Venezuela? This is an interesting tension to explore especially in light of Alvarez's emphasis on Chavez's current intent to consolidate the infrastructure that will enable a "cultural transformation" before he leaves office: "From the very beginning," said Alvarez, "we understood that we were there not only to be another government, but that we were elected because we represented the desire and expectations of a whole transformation of society."

That's quite a charge. But, instead of reading about the ins and outs of Chavez's methodology, we consistently get sensationalized non-news. A recent article from The Economist, "Mission Impossible," reads, "Poverty is at last falling under Hugo Chavez, but not nearly as much as it should have "

No one seems to think that poverty is abating. "If only there were 50 Chavezes in the country,"sighs Minerva, a middle-aged woman from the outskirts of Caracas. "But he's all on his own. End poverty? That will take 50 years."

Better to quote Minerva than cite economic stats of a per capita growth rate of 17.9 percent in 2004 and 9 percent last year -- making it one of the fastest-growing countries in the region. Or independent polls that put Venezuelan approval of Chavez at 70 percent (an approval rating that President Bush only saw immediately following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.)

We are led to think that Chavez is bad because his plans to turn the formerly elitist Venezuelan political structure on its head and end poverty just aren't happening fast enough. Similarly, in a recent Foreign Policy article, Javier Corrales writes:

Civil society has not disappeared, as it did in Cuba after the 1959 revolution. There is no systematic, state-sponsored terror … there is certainly no efficiently repressive and meddlesome bureaucracy … In fact, in Venezuela, one can still find an active and vociferous opposition, elections, a feisty press and a vibrant and organized civil society. Venezuela, in other words, appears almost democratic … Undeniably, Chavez has brought innovative social programs to neighborhoods that the private sector and the Venezuelan state had all but abandoned … He also launched one of the most dramatic increases in state spending in the developing world.

Difficult to tell from this excerpt that the thrust of the article is to depict Chavez as a modern tyrant. Corrales gets one thing right -- trashing the United States is an effective way for many Latin American leaders to gain populist support. And the United States is playing right into this political tactic by posing so trashable a target. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has officially announced an "inoculation strategy" that involves trying to isolate Venezuela by organizing other countries against Chavez.

As Rice works the isolation strategy, using the mainstream media as a pulpit for her fulminations, Chavez continues to build alliances with other Latin American governments and political leaders around the world. While both Chavez and Rice have employed fairly vacuous public talking points and rhetoric, the differing strategies make all the difference. As the Bush administration works to slander Chavez and allege that his government consorts with terrorists, Chavez is sending poor Americans oil. It just sets up a scenario in which Ambassador Alvarez can say things like this:

Some people ask why we are helping the U.S. poor. Why not? Are they a different kind of poor people? Those are the kinds of things that people should do. We do it with energy because that's what we have. Other countries should do it with what they have. It's part of our philosophy. We're talking about an alternative model here, and we have to demonstrate what that is.

Ambassador Alvarez continues to meet with civil society groups and the media, confidently asserting that the Venezuelan government is committed to developing real instruments for participatory democracy -- starting at the grassroots.

There's always a place for criticism and cynicism, especially when it comes to politicians who claim to be developing a new political ideology, but the Bush administration's tactic of slandering a democratic and reform-minded government that has an approval rating this president can only envy is a guaranteed losing battle. The more members of the Bush administration chastise Chavez's democracy, the more embarrassing the hypocrisy becomes.

Rice told students at Johns Hopkins that she hoped Chavez will "recognize the importance of democratic values for real, not just claiming that because you're elected you are exercising democratic values. When people are elected, they have a responsibility to follow democratic values, and we have to call it for what we see."

If only our administration could heed its own advice.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri is an assistant editor at AlterNet.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Founder of Conservative Magazine Calls Iraq a Failure


"The neoconservative hubris, which sort of assigns to America some kind of geo-strategic responsibility for maximizing democracy, overstretches the resources of a free country," Buckley said.

Buckley Says Bush Will Be Judged on Iraq War, Now a "Failure"
Friday 31 March 2006

William F. Buckley Jr., the longtime conservative writer and leader, said George W. Bush's presidency will be judged entirely by the outcome of a war in Iraq that is now a failure.

"Mr. Bush is in the hands of a fortune that will be unremitting on the point of Iraq," Buckley said in an interview that will air on Bloomberg Television this weekend. "If he'd invented the Bill of Rights it wouldn't get him out of his jam."

Buckley said he doesn't have a formula for getting out of Iraq, though he said "it's important that we acknowledge in the inner councils of state that it (the war) has failed, so that we should look for opportunities to cope with that failure."

The 80-year-old Buckley is among a handful of prominent conservatives who are criticizing the war. Asked who is to blame for what he deems a failure, Buckley said, "the president," adding that "he doesn't hesitate to accept responsibility."

Buckley called Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a longtime friend, "a failed executor" of the war. And Vice President Dick Cheney "was flatly misled," Buckley said. "He believed the business about the weapons of mass destruction."

National Review

Buckley, often called the father of contemporary conservatism in America, articulated his beliefs in National Review magazine, which he founded in 1955. His conservatism calls for small government, low taxes and a strong defense. Both Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater said they got their inspiration from the magazine.

In the interview, Buckley criticized the so-called neo- conservatives who enthusiastically embraced the Iraq invasion and the spreading of American values around the world.

"The neoconservative hubris, which sort of assigns to America some kind of geo-strategic responsibility for maximizing democracy, overstretches the resources of a free country," Buckley said.

While praising Bush as "really a conservative," he was critical of the president for allowing expansion of the federal government and never vetoing a spending bill.

The president's "concern has been so completely on the international scope that he can be said to have neglected conservatism" on the fiscal level, Buckley said.

Appraising Presidents

Buckley also offered his perspectives on other recent presidents:

* Richard Nixon "was one of the brightest people who ever occupied the White House," he said, "but he suffered from basic derangements," which precipitated his own downfall.

* Ronald Reagan "confounded the intellectual class, which disdained him." Every year though, Buckley said, "there is more and more evidence of his ingenuity, of his historical intelligence."

* Bill Clinton "is the most gifted politician of, certainly my time," Buckley said. "He generates a kind of a vibrant goodwill with a capacity for mischief which is very, very American." He doubted that "anyone could begin to write a textbook that explicates his (Clinton's) political philosophy because he doesn't really have one."

Buckley exalted in what he sees as the conservative success stemming from his call a half century ago in the National Review to "stand athwart history and yell stop."

That, he remembered, was when Marxism was widely considered "an absolute irreversible call of history." The folly of that notion was demonstrated by the demise of communism a decade and a half ago, he said.

Buckley said he had a few regrets, most notably his magazine's opposition to civil rights legislation in the 1960s. "I think that the impact of that bill should have been welcomed by us," he said.


Israel steps up Gaza shelling


JERUSALEM, April 1 (UPI) -- Israeli defense forces -- bolstered by air and naval support -- Saturday continued pounding sites in Gaza believed to be firing Kassam rockets, a report said.

Israeli air attacks flattened a northern Gaza building Israelis say was a terrorist hideout in addition to being a Kassam launch site. No one was injured, Palestinian sources told the Jerusalem Post.

Israeli artillery and naval forces also shelled open areas and access routes to Kassam launch sites, the report said.

Israel's military distributed fliers in Gaza saying, "How long will you let terrorists control your lives," Palestinians reported.

Despite Israel's response, two Kassam rockets were launched late Friday or early Saturday. One landed in an open area of Negev, Israel, and the other landed in Palestinian territory.

Capitol Hill Blue - My values can trump your values

April 1, 2006 02:53 AM / Opinion .

With all the ink these days about "values" and so-called "values voters," it might be worthwhile to take a moment and consider what exactly these values are that we're talking about.

After all, as liberal and Democratic strategists try to refashion their message with an eye to recapturing Congress and the White House, they claim that conservatives have no monopoly on values. They too have "values."

And, of course, liberals do indeed have values.

However, we need to be clear about the difference between what conservatives and liberals mean by the term "values."

Moreover, understanding this distinction sheds light on why the profound social problems in inner-city black populations go beyond just being a black problem, but reflect a national moral crisis.

When I talk about values I am talking about right and wrong in an absolute sense. And I am talking about right and wrong that we know because we learn them from our Bible and tradition that have been handed down through the ages. This isn't information that a university professor discovered in research or the laboratory. We're taught it.

Needless to say, claims of absolutes make Americans nervous. I can hear the free spirits saying that Star wants to bring in the Taliban.

But, of course that's not the case at all. My claim is that we've lost perspective that behind the political freedom that we so dearly love, there will always be a sense of the values that we believe to be absolutely true that holds it all together. The issue remains: What are those values that we hold absolute, and where do they come from?

Conservatives, as I stated above, are clear about this. Traditional values we learn from the Bible. We can simply point to the Ten Commandments. And liberal values? The absolute here is that there are no absolutes. Everything is relative, and the only absolute is to welcome and tolerate everything.

If conservatives learn values from the Bible, where do liberals learn theirs?

I guess you can call it this: Make it up as you go along, do what you feel like, and get grants to fund university research to justify what you want to be true. Materialism. Relativism. Hedonism. Life as grass-roots activism. Anything you can muster enough votes for must be true.

Why does the values debate stir up black conservatives?

Consider two new studies published by the Urban Institute about black men that have received a lot of press attention.

"Black Males Left Behind" and "Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men" provide a new round of dismal statistics regarding inner-city black men. Fifty percent high-school dropout rates, with almost three-quarters of these dropouts in their 20s unemployed. Sixty percent of them had spent time in jail by the time they reached their 30s.

The behavior of these young men is defined by crime, drugs and promiscuity.

Unfortunately, these types of statistics about young black men are no longer news.

However, what I do find revealing is the common ground between how these men behave and how academics view them.

For the academics, the inner city is a laboratory. Do research on how condition A produces behavior B. And what can be done do create condition C to produce behavior D.

Except for allusions here and there to issues of building character, there is no hint that this human tragedy reflects a moral crisis.

It's not an accident that when the inner city became a laboratory for politics and university research in the '60s and '70s, the black family collapsed. Single-parent black households have almost quadrupled since then.

Today, inner-city black children grow up in broken families, go to public schools where traditional values are off-limits, and consume popular American culture that celebrates the relativism that has destroyed these communities.

In an article about the state of affairs of marriage in the black community, Joy Jones wrote recently in The Washington Post: "I was stunned to learn that a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today. ..."

Black conservatives understand that the social collapse in our own communities cannot be viewed in isolation. It reflects an American problem every bit as much as a black American problem.

Academics may do research to shed light on history and where we've been. But it is a huge mistake to think that they can produce guidelines for how to behave tomorrow.

Only traditional values can provide this direction, and the extent to which they are getting marginalized is a crisis for all Americans of all backgrounds.

(Star Parker is president of CURE, Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education ( and author of the new book "White Ghetto: How Middle Class America Reflects Urban Decay.")

© Copyright 2006 by Capitol Hill Blue

Iran Test-Fires Missile Able to Duck Radar

Associated Press Writer
March 31, 2006, 9:27 PM EST
TEHRAN, Iran --

Iran's military said Friday it successfully test-fired a missile not detectable by radar that can use multiple warheads to hit several targets simultaneously, a development that raised concerns in the United States and Israel.

The Fajr-3, which means "victory" in Farsi, can reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East, Iranian state media indicated. The announcement of the test-firing is likely to stoke regional tensions and feed suspicion about Tehran's military intentions and nuclear ambitions.

"I think it demonstrates that Iran has a very active and aggressive military program under way," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said in Washington. "I think Iran's military posture, military development effort, is of concern to the international community."

Gen. Hossein Salami, the air force chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, did not specify the missile's range, saying how far it can travel depends on the weight of its warheads.

But state-run television described the weapon as "ballistic" -- suggesting it is of comparable range to Iran's existing ballistic rocket, which can travel about 1,200 miles and reach arch-foe Israel and U.S. bases in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region.

"Today, a remarkable goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran's defense forces was realized with the successful test-firing of a new missile with greater technical and tactical capabilities than those previously produced," Salami said on television, which showed a brief clip of the missile's launch.

"It can avoid anti-missile missiles and strike the target," the general said.

He said the missile would carry a multiple warhead, and each warhead would be capable of hitting its target precisely.

"This news causes much concern, and that concern is shared by many countries in the international community, about Iran's aggressive nuclear weapons program and her parallel efforts to develop delivery systems, both in the field of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.

"The combination of extremist jihadist ideology, together with nuclear weapons and delivery systems, is a combination that no one in the international community can be complacent about," Regev said.

Yossi Alpher, an Israeli consultant on the Mideast peace process, said the news "escalates the arms race between Iran and all those who are concerned about Iran's aggressive intentions and nuclear potential."

"Clearly it's escalation, and also an attempt by Iran to flex its muscles as it goes into a new phase of the diplomatic struggle with the U.N. Security Council."

Andy Oppenheimer, a weapons expert at Jane's Information Group, said the missile test could be an indication that Iran has MIRV capability. MIRV refers to multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, which are intercontinental ballistic missiles with several warheads, each of which could be directed to a different target.

"From the description, it could be a MIRV. If you are saying that from a single missile, separate warheads can be independently targeted then yes, this is significant," he said.

"But we don't know how accurate the Iranians are able to make their missiles yet, and this is a crucial point," Oppenheimer said.

"If the missile is adaptable for nuclear warheads, then they are well on the way," he added. "But they have not made a nuclear warhead yet. The current estimates are it could take five years."

Iran's existing ballistic rocket is called Shahab-3, which means "shooting star." It is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Israel and the United States have jointly developed the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system in response to the Shahab-3.

Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane.

Last year, former Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Tehran had successfully tested a solid fuel motor for the Shahab-3, a technological breakthrough in Iran's military.

Salami, the Revolutionary Guards general, said Friday the Iranian-made missile was test-fired as large military maneuvers began in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. The maneuvers are to last a week and will involve 17,000 Revolutionary Guards as well as boats, fighter jets and helicopter gunships.

The tests come amid growing concern over Iran's nuclear program. The United States and its allies believe Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran denies that, saying its nuclear program is for generating electricity.

The U.N. Security Council is demanding that Iran halt its uranium enrichment activities. But an Iranian envoy said its activities are "not reversible."

Copyright © 2006, The Associated Press

Purge at White House Likely

More White House Staff Changes Coming
By Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei
The Washington Post

Saturday 01 April 2006

Bolten plans overhaul to widen Bush's circle, tighten west wing operations.

The White House is planning additional staff changes that could come as early as next week as part of a broader effort to repair relations with Congress and revive the Bush presidency, according to several Republicans familiar with the emerging strategy.

Joshua B. Bolten, who takes over April 15 as White House chief of staff, is developing a proposal to overhaul West Wing operations with the twin aims of bringing more voices into the policymaking process and avoiding staff breakdowns such as the slow response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Republicans inside and outside the White House said President Bush is under pressure to do more to reshuffle his staff than simply move Bolten over from the budget office to replace Andrew H. Card Jr. As he prepares to assume the top staff job, Bolten has focused heavily on rebuilding ties with Congress, telephoning 30 key lawmakers in the first 24 hours after his appointment. And Republicans said he may bring in a new ambassador to Capitol Hill, possibly former representative Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.).

Bolten is focused on "making sure there's clear lines of authority and responsibility on issues" and "making sure the president is provided with stimulating debate on the big issues," said a senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging Bolten. "He has a very open mind about looking outside the family."

That by itself could indicate a significant shift for a White House known for a tight -- critics say insular -- circle that often does not seem open to outsiders or their advice. While welcomed by Republicans, Bolten's promotion from director of the Office of Management and Budget did not bring in new blood, as congressional leaders have urged. "The White House has heard a loud and clear message from friends: They need bigger changes than the ones so far," said one GOP strategist.

But even if Bolten does enlist Washington veterans from outside the traditional Bush orbit, Republicans close to the process cautioned against expecting wholesale upheaval. "There's nothing that suggests there's going to be blood on the wall," said a Republican lobbyist with ties to the White House.

Most attention has centered on the administration's congressional liaison, economic and communications teams. The most prominent name discussed for possible replacement is Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, who has often been rumored to be on the way out. Two Republican strategists said the White House decided even before Bolten's appointment to bring in a new Treasury secretary but has had trouble finding a high-profile candidate to take the job. Other Cabinet changes may be in the offing as well.

But those may wait until after Bolten has shaken up the White House staff. A colleague said Bolten is moving aggressively to have a plan in place by the time he officially takes over from Card. "He doesn't want to miss a beat," the colleague said.

For starters, Bolten needs to find a replacement for himself at OMB and for former domestic policy adviser Claude Allen, who resigned after being accused of defrauding retail stores. Other officials may leave for their own reasons as well. White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin may be ready to move on, according to one strategist. White House communications director Nicolle Wallace's husband moved to New York for a new job this week, and colleagues assume she will join him at some point. Some officials at the deputy assistant level have been shopping résumés around town.

At the OMB, Deputy Director Joel Kaplan is the favorite of insiders, well liked by both career and political officials, but Bolten may want someone with more stature, according to several aides. Another deputy director, Clay Johnson, who followed Bush from Texas, has told friends he does not want the job. A dark horse mentioned by some Republicans is Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

To reach out to Congress, Bush had been advised to tap someone such as Paxon, former representative Vin Weber (R-Minn.) or former senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) for a more prestigious assignment such as senior adviser. It is unclear whether Candida Wolff, the current head of legislative affairs, would be reassigned. At least one top adviser is counseling the White House to pick a House Republican from a safe district to replace her.

Wolff is highly regarded internally but some lawmakers complain her leadership style is not hands-on enough and she has been undercut because so many top White House officials, including Bolten, Karl Rove and others, do their own negotiating on Capitol Hill.

White House aides have made clear Bush wants the changes to look like the logical result of Bolten's promotion -- not a shake-up in response to his critics.

But the staff changes come as the White House is considering how to pull Bush out of his political slump. At or near all-time lows in the polls and amid growing disillusionment over the Iraq war, Bush has never had less clout in Congress or faced so many questions about his leadership. As part of the effort to woo back disaffected allies, Bush this week met with 10 House Republicans in the White House residence for a what's-on-your-mind session before he left for Mexico.

Bush's options for turning things around, though, are limited, advisers say. The White House is trying to repackage the president by having him focus extensively on Iraq while taking more questions from the public, lawmakers and media to reverse growing public doubts about his trustworthiness. And aides said Bush has vowed to focus heavily on the 2006 elections, raising more money than ever for GOP candidates on the theory that victory in November would breathe new life into his presidency.


The news from Iraq - Bush blames the media, despite our propaganda

The US Propaganda Machine: Oh, What a Lovely War
By Andrew Buncombe
The Independent UK

Thursday 30 March 2006

The Lincoln Group was tasked with presenting the US version of events in Iraq to counter adverse media coverage. Here we present examples of its work, and the reality behind its headlines.

This is the news from Iraq according to Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration.

A week after the US Defense Secretary criticized the media for " exaggerating" reports of violence in Iraq, The Independent has obtained examples of newspaper reports the Bush administration want Iraqis to read.

They were prepared by specially trained American "psy-ops" troops who paid thousands of dollars to Iraqi newspaper editors to run these un-attributed reports in their publications. In order to hide its involvement, the Pentagon hired the Lincoln Group to act as a liaison between troops and journalists. The Lincoln Group was at the centre of controversy last year when it was revealed the company was being paid more than $100m (£58m) for various contracts, including the planting of such stories.

The Pentagon - which recently announced that an internal investigation had cleared the Lincoln Group of breaching military rules by planting these stories - has claimed these new reports did not constitute propaganda because they were factually correct. But a military specialist has questioned some of the information contained within their reports while describing their rhetorical style as "comical". Furthermore, it has been alleged that quotations contained within these reports and others - attributed to anonymous Iraqi officials or citizens - were routinely made up by US troops who never went beyond the perimeter of the Green Zone.

What seems clear is that, taken by themselves, these reports would provide an unbalanced picture of the situation inside Iraq where ongoing violence wreaks daily chaos and horror. Three years since US and UK troops invaded, more than 2,500 coalition troops have been killed. How many Iraqi civilians have died is unclear. The Iraqi Body Count puts the minimum at 33,773, but this figure is based on media reports and the group admits "it is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media". An extrapolation published in The Lancet 18 months ago said more than 100,000 had been killed.

A former employee of the Lincoln Group, who spent last summer in Baghdad acting as a link between US troops who were part of the Information Operations Task Force and Iraqis contracted by the company to establish contact with Iraqi journalists, said his job was to ensure "there were no finger-prints".

"The Iraqis did not know who was writing the stories and the US troops did not know who the Iraqis were," said the former employee, who declined to be named. It is not known whether the stories included here were ever printed or simply prepared for publication, but he said it was normal for around 10 stories a week to be printed. He said US troops routinely fabricated their quotations.

The former employee said the Lincoln Group paid up to $2,000 for the publication of each article - a sum that had risen from when he started working, suggesting the Iraqi editors realized who was behind the articles and knew there was plenty of money. The Lincoln Group was paid $80,000 a week by the military to plant these stories.

The former employee said the stories - which often feature phrases such as " brave warriors" and "eager troops" - were designed to bolster the image and purported efficiency of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and their involvement in operations. The Bush administration says the ability of Iraqi security forces to deal with insurgents remains the key to a withdrawal of US troops.

In reality, while one article describes the ISF as a "potent fighting force", the training of Iraqi forces has been a slow and troubled process. The Pentagon recently said the only Iraqi battalion judged capable of fighting without US support had been downgraded, requiring it to fight with American troops.

John Pike, the director of, a Washington-based defense think-tank, who reviewed some of the Lincoln Group stories, said he found them unconvincing. "Anybody who knows about propaganda knows the first rule of propaganda is that it should not look like propaganda," he said. "It's embarrassing enough that [the US military] got caught ... but then for their product to be so cheesy ... It's just embarrassing."

He added: "Some of the vignettes are cartoonish. The ISF? Many of them are surely brave. But a potent fighting force? I think that's a little clearer than the truth. It's propaganda."

Another story mentions the Iraqi oil industry and calls it "unique in that it is the only sector in which every dollar invested, either directly or indirectly, provides direct revenue to Iraq for future reconstruction" .

Yet a report published last November by a group of aid agencies and NGOs claimed that production-sharing agreements (PSAs) proposed by the US State Department before the invasion and adopted by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), could see Iraqis lose $200bn in revenue if the plan comes into effect.

Data collated by the Brookings Institution says oil production in Iraq remains below the estimated pre-invasion levels. At the moment, Iraq annually spends $6bn to import oil.

The Lincoln Group is headed by Christian Bailey, a Briton with no experience in PR, and a former US Marine, Paige Craig. The company failed to respond to a call seeking comment yesterday. A spokesman for the US military in Iraq, Lieut-Col Barry Johnson, said last night: "The results of the investigation have not yet been made public while the report undergoes final review by Multinational Force leadership. I am unable to comment on unsubstantiated allegations."

While the Lincoln Group has been cleared by one Pentagon inquiry, it remains the subject of a separate inquiry being conducted by the Pentagon's Office of the Inspector General (OIG). A spokesman, Gary Comerford, said that the OIG had been asked by the Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy to review how the company had won its contract.

Criticizing the media last week, Mr. Rumsfeld said: "Much of the reporting in the US and abroad has exaggerated the situation... Interestingly, all of the exaggerations seem to be on one side.... The steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists."

'Al-Qa'ida Threatens All Iraqis'
24 October 2005

The Lincoln Version

The chief murderer of al-Qa'ida in Iraq has declared war against all Iraqis. They have also lamely attempted to justify the murder of civilians. Some websites featured the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's praise of his heathen deeds. The people of Iraq have had enough.

"These thugs clearly hate us; they do not share in our national pride or our belief in a unified Iraq," said one Iraqi. "They only wish to kill our women, our children, our future. We must not and will not let them."

Horror stories are told in homes and shops of friends and family members casually murdered while going about their daily business. These ... are simple folk trying to make the best of their lives. How many more suicide bombs have to go off before al-Qa'ida realises that there is no room for them in the land of the two rivers? In one particular attack, terrorists murdered a young boy and stuffed his body full of explosives in an attempt to lure security forces into an ambush. Is this the only future terrorism has to offer?

The Reality Check

At least 20 people were killed and 42 others injured when three suicide bombers targeted Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, used by media and contractors. A dozen construction laborers were killed in an attack on al-Musayyab, south of Baghdad. Muhammad Ali Nu'aymi, secretary of the director-general of al-Mansur municipality, was killed by gunmen. Bodies of six Iraqi citizens were found in al-Mahmudiyah, southern Baghdad.

'Iraqi Army Defeats Terrosism'
26 October 2005

The Lincoln Version

With the people's approval of the constitution, Iraq is well on its way to forming a permanent government. Meanwhile, the underhanded forces of al-Qa'ida remain bent on halting progress and inciting civil war. The honest citizens of Iraq, however, need not fear these criminals and terrorists. The brave warriors of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are hard at work stopping al-Qa'ida's attacks before they occur.

On 24 October, soldiers near Taji received a report that terrorists were stockpiling dangerous weapons. The soldiers found over 150 tank and artillery rounds. These munitions are similar to the ones that al-Qa'ida bomb-makers often use to construct their deadly bombs. The troops destroyed every last round, ensuring they will never be used against the Iraqi people.

Three al-Qa'ida mercenaries in Baqubah were planning to conduct a suicide vest attack. Officers of the Iraqi Police Service (IPS) spotted them as they drove towards their target. But then something happened. The would-be murderer lost his faith and leapt from the moving vehicle. One of the other suicide bombers panicked and detonated his vest while still inside the car, instantly killing himself and another accomplice.

The Reality Check

At least five Iraqis killed by suicide bomber on bus in Baqubah, north-east of Baghdad. Bodies of nine Iraqi border guards, who were shot dead, found previous day. Joint US-Iraqi convoy targeted by car bomb in al-Ma'mun area of Baghdad.

'Quick Reaction Captures Bomber'
12 November 2005

The Lincoln Version

In conjunction with operation El-Sitar Elfulathi in Husaybah and Karabilah, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are sweeping across Iraq in a series of continuous operations aimed at disrupting insurgent activity. Through diligent patrols, organized raids and searches, vehicle checkpoints and interaction with the Iraqi people, Iraqi Army (IA) units have taken down terror cells and removed dangerous criminals from Iraq's streets.

In Baghdad, a quick response to a terror attack led to the arrest of the culprit. On 10 November, terrorists detonated a car bomb in eastern Baghdad wounding three Iraqi women. Immediately the ISF responded, securing the area and treating and evacuating the injured. The soldiers quickly examined the site of the bombing, discovering evidence that led them to the arrest of the suspected bomber. Because of their quick reaction, there was no loss of innocent life and another terrorist is in prison and awaiting his trial.

The ISF has quickly developed into a viable fighting force capable of defending the people of Iraq against the cowards who launch their attacks on innocent people.

The Reality Check

Ten people were killed when a car bomb exploded at a market in Baghdad. Bodies of three men tortured to death discovered in Shula. Coalition troops killed four alleged insurgents in "safe house" near Ramadi. On November 10, 7 Iraqis killed 30 wounded by car bomb near al-Shuruqi Mosque, north of Baghdad.

'Training Prepares Iraqi Marines'
13 November 2005

The Lincoln Version

Terrorist attacks often result in damage to Iraq's infrastructure, but the Ministry of Defense is determined to keep that from continuing. The brave men of the Iraqi Marines are one step closer to taking charge of the security mission at the al Basrah and Khawr al Amaya Oil Terminals.

Recently, soldiers from the 6th Platoon Iraqi Marines completed the oil platform defense training at the al Basrah Oil Terminal.

Their main focus was to acquire the necessary skills to effectively protect the oil terminals. The students trained up to three to four times a day, working closely with the instructors. The intense training they received included how to stand a proper watch, how to work and fight as a team, and how to defend against terrorist attacks on the terminals. When these soldiers assume control of security on the terminal, they will ensure the safety and stability of the maritime environment.

These operations complement counter-terrorism and security efforts as well as deny international terrorists use of the waterways as an avenue of attack.

The Reality Check

Deputy health minister, Jalil al-Shammari, and his bodyguards are killed north of Baghdad. Amir al-Saldi, Baghdad municipal official, is killed in Ghazaliya. Clashes in al-Qadiyah district of Samarra leave three dead. An Iraqi soldier is killed and six others wounded, three seriously, in a roadside bomb explosion in Kirkuk.


Friday, March 31, 2006

Boston Business Journal: Raytheon missile, airborne divisions win major defense contracts - 2006-03-31


Raytheon missile, airborne divisions win major defense contracts
Boston Business Journal - 2:59 PM EST Friday

Raytheon Co. business units landed two significant deals Thursday, including $36.9 million to make radar warning systems for the F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighter and a $76.9 million deal for rolling airframe missiles.

The defense department announced that Raytheon's (NYSE: RTN) Missile Systems division in Tucson, Ariz. will make 90 rolling airframe missiles and related parts for anti-ship missile defense. Missile Systems is scheduled to finish that contract for the Naval Sea System Command in Washington, D.C., by March 2009.

In a separate deal, the electronic systems business division of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems landed a deal to make 30 radar warning receiver systems for the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md. The $36.9 million deal calls for the division to make receivers that provide visual and audio warning about ground-based, ship-based or airborne threats to F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft crew. The contract is due by September 2008.

The Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon earned $871 million on sales of $21.9 billion in 2005. -- The X-37 Spaceplane to Fly At Mojave Spaceport -- The X-37 Spaceplane to Fly At Mojave Spaceport

The X-37 Spaceplane to Fly At Mojave Spaceport
By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
posted: 31 March 2006
06:54 am ET

Yet another experimental spaceplane may soon fly the skies over the Mojave, California inland spaceport.

The work pace appears to be accelerating in readying the unpiloted X-37 vehicle for a drop test high above the desert. Taking the craft to altitude for release will be the White Knight mothership, designed and operated by Scaled Composites of Mojave, California.

It was the White Knight that toted SpaceShipOne skyward for release, with that piloted rocketplane making repeated suborbital flights in 2004—bagging the $10 million Ansari X Prize in the process.

The White Knight/X-37 combination has undergone numbers of taxi and flight hops in preparation for the first release of the vehicle. But the drop test has been plagued several times by bad weather in the area, as well as telemetry issues between the vehicle and ground controllers. This week, according to sources, a new data link tower was installed to help solve the problem.

The X-37 test program is being carried out by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Space and Intelligence division of the Boeing Company, with some support from NASA.

Regarding the likelihood of any near-term, drop test of the vehicle, DARPA spokesperson, Jan Walker, told that they do not announce test dates in advance. Only until after the test occurs will confirmation be provided.

Autonomous flight mode

When the X-37 was under NASA’s wing in the late 1990s, it was to be the first of a planned series of flight demonstrators dubbed Future X.

The Boeing-built X-37 was billed at the time as an unpiloted, autonomously operated vehicle designed to conduct on-orbit operations and collect test data in the Mach 25 (reentry) region of flight.

Those early plans for the X-37 called for it to be ferried to orbit by the space shuttle or an expendable launch vehicle where it would be deployed in Earth orbit. The vehicle would then remain in space for up to 21 days and perform a variety of experiments before reentering the atmosphere and landing on a conventional runway.

But those plans were scrapped, with NASA transferring its X-37 technology demonstration program to DARPA in late 2004.

The robotic space plane is dubbed by DARPA as the Approach and Landing Test Vehicle (ALTV). The craft has been at the Mojave airport since mid-April of last year and has been modified to fit underneath the White Knight carrier plane.

Little detail has been publicly offered as to the overall objectives of the vehicle today. However, a key action item is showcasing the ability of the X-37 to glide down to a landing and full-stop at a predetermined point in autonomous mode.

After air launch, touch down of the craft is expected to occur at the neighboring Edwards Air Force Base.

Israel suspects journalists of spreading bird flu : Mail & Guardian Online


**a way to a) justify shooting more journalists, and b) further the military censorship that already pervades Israel...EG:)

Israel suspects journalists of spreading bird flu
Jerusalem, Israel
31 March 2006 01:30

Israel suspects journalists, particularly press photographers, of being behind the spread of deadly bird flu in the Jewish state, an agriculture ministry official told Agence France-Presse.

"It's one of our working hypotheses," the official said, asking not be identified.

"Bird flu can be transmitted on clothing, footwear, the wheels of cars and even on cameras," the official added.

"The journalists who came to cover the outbreak then went back to homes and offices across the country.

"Even if the required protective measures were taken, it is impossible to disinfect photographic equipment without damaging it."

The appearance of bird flu on a string of farms across Israel during March forced the culling of 1,2-million poultry, at a total cost, including compensation, of some $5-million.

The agriculture ministry had declared the all-clear last Sunday after that initial flurry of attacks.

But two more cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu have been confirmed in the past three days -- one at Maale Hamsha near Jerusalem and one at Kerem Shalom near the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians have confirmed the deadly strain in poultry in the territory too.

The World Health Organization issued an urgent appeal earlier this month for Israel and the international community to provide the Palestinians with assistance in fighting it, but the issue has been complicated by the swearing-in on Wednesday of a first-ever government led by Islamic militants.

Israel has halted all exports of poultry in the face of the bird-flu outbreak. The European Union has placed a ban on imports from Israel. -- AFP

Rice Admits "Thousands" of Errors in Iraq

By Gideon Long and Sue Pleming
Friday 31 March 2006
Blackburn -

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted on Friday the United States had probably made thousands of errors in Iraq but defended the overall strategy of removing Saddam Hussein.

Local Muslims and anti-war activists told Rice to "Go Home" when counterpart Jack Straw earlier led her on a tour of his home town of Blackburn in the industrial northwest, an area which rarely plays host to overseas politicians.

"Yes, I know we have made tactical errors, thousands of them," she said in answer to a question over whether lessons had been learnt since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"I believe strongly that it was the right strategic decision, that Saddam had been a threat to the international community long enough," she added.

Earlier, about 250 protesters gathered outside a school which Rice visited, waving placards urging her to go home and shouting as her motorcade arrived.

Many of them were locals from Straw's constituency of Blackburn, a former cotton town with a 20 percent Muslim population. Straw invited Rice to the area after he toured her home state of Alabama last year.

Protesters had already persuaded a mosque in the town to withdraw its invitation to her.

"The Muslim population is very angry. She's not welcome in Blackburn," said Suliman, one of the demonstrators outside Pleckgate school, where Rice met young pupils.

"How many lives per gallon?" asked one of the placards held aloft, in reference to the US invasion of oil-rich Iraq which many Britons opposed.

During a visit to a Student Council meeting at the school, Rice was asked whether she was upset by the demonstrators.

"Oh, it's OK, people have a right to protest and a right to make their views known," Rice told the teenage student.

"Each individual all over the world has the God-given right to express themselves. I'm not just going to visit places where people agree with me. That would be really unfortunate."

Sympathy For Earthquake Victims

Rice delivered her speech alongside Straw in the somewhat incongruous setting of Blackburn Rovers' stadium, where she was given a Number 10 jersey.

She arrived in Britain late on Thursday from Paris and, before that, Berlin, where she discussed the next steps in dealing with Iran's nuclear program with officials from Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China.

Rice said she supported Straw's view that sanctions should be considered against Iran if it does not comply with calls to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

"Iran is going to have to make a choice... accept a way to the development of civil nuclear power... or face deeper isolation," said Rice.

While Rice and Straw both had tough words to say about Iran, they expressed sympathy for the victims of an earthquake which killed at least 66 people in the west of the country.

"(It's) very shocking, with what seems to be a large loss of life," Straw said during a visit to a Britain Aerospace factory where the United States and Britain are involved in a joint project for fighter aircraft.

Rice's trip is expected to be heavy on photo opportunities and light on discussion, as was Straw's trip to the American south in October.

It will give Rice a chance to indulge her passion for The Beatles. She was due later to travel to Liverpool where she will attend a concert and visit a performing arts centre founded by former Beatle Paul McCartney.

Murray Waas | Insulating Bush

The National Journal

Thursday 30 March 2006

Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address - that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon - might not be true, according to government records and interviews.

Hadley was particularly concerned that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

Three months after receiving that assessment, the president stated without qualification in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."

The previously undisclosed review by Hadley was part of a damage-control effort launched after former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV alleged that Bush's claims regarding the uranium were not true. The CIA had sent Wilson to the African nation of Niger in 2002 to investigate the purported procurement efforts by Iraq; he reported that they were most likely a hoax.

The White House was largely successful in defusing the Niger controversy because there was no evidence that Bush was aware that his claims about the uranium were based on faulty intelligence. Then-CIA Director George Tenet swiftly and publicly took the blame for the entire episode, saying that he and the CIA were at fault for not warning Bush and his aides that the information might be untrue.

But Hadley and other administration officials realized that it would be much more difficult to shield Bush from criticism for his statements regarding the aluminum tubes, for several reasons.

For one, Hadley's review concluded that Bush had been directly and repeatedly apprised of the deep rift within the intelligence community over whether Iraq wanted the high-strength aluminum tubes for a nuclear weapons program or for conventional weapons.

For another, the president and others in the administration had cited the aluminum tubes as the most compelling evidence that Saddam was determined to build a nuclear weapon - even more than the allegations that he was attempting to purchase uranium.

And finally, full disclosure of the internal dissent over the importance of the tubes would have almost certainly raised broader questions about the administration's conduct in the months leading up to war.

"Presidential knowledge was the ball game," says a former senior government official outside the White House who was personally familiar with the damage-control effort. "The mission was to insulate the president. It was about making it appear that he wasn't in the know. You could do that on Niger. You couldn't do that with the tubes." A Republican political appointee involved in the process, who thought the Bush administration had a constitutional obligation to be more open with Congress, said: "This was about getting past the election."

The President's Summary
Most troublesome to those leading the damage-control effort was documentary evidence - albeit in highly classified government records that they might be able to keep secret - that the president had been advised that many in the intelligence community believed that the tubes were meant for conventional weapons.

The one-page documents known as the "President's Summary" are distilled from the much lengthier National Intelligence Estimates, which combine the analysis of as many as six intelligence agencies regarding major national security issues. Bush's knowledge of the State and Energy departments' dissent over the tubes was disclosed in a March 4, 2006, National Journal story - more than three years after the intelligence assessment was provided to the president, and some 16 months after the 2004 presidential election.

The President's Summary was only one of several high-level warnings given to Bush and other senior administration officials that serious doubts existed about the intended use of the tubes, according to government records and interviews with former and current officials.

In mid-September 2002, two weeks before Bush received the October 2002 President's Summary, Tenet informed him that both State and Energy had doubts about the aluminum tubes and that even some within the CIA weren't certain that the tubes were meant for nuclear weapons, according to government records and interviews with two former senior officials.

Official records and interviews with current and former officials also reveal that the president was told that even then-Secretary of State Colin Powell had doubts that the tubes might be used for nuclear weapons.

When U.S. inspectors entered Iraq after the fall of Saddam's regime, they determined that Iraq's nuclear program had been dormant for more than a decade and that the aluminum tubes had been used only for conventional weapons.

In the end, the White House's damage control was largely successful, because the public did not learn until after the 2004 elections the full extent of the president's knowledge that the assessment linking the aluminum tubes to a nuclear weapons program might not be true. The most crucial information was kept under wraps until long after Bush's re-election.


The new disclosures regarding the tubes may also shed light on why officials so vigorously attempted to discredit Wilson's allegations regarding Niger, including by leaking information to the media that his wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA. Administration officials hoped that the suggestion that Plame had played a role in the agency's choice of Wilson for the Niger trip might cast doubt on his allegations.

I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, then chief of staff and national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, was indicted on October 28 on five counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice in attempting to conceal his role in outing Plame as an undercover CIA operative. Signaling a possible defense strategy, Libby's attorneys filed papers in federal court on March 17 asserting that he had not intentionally deceived FBI agents and a federal grand jury while answering questions about Plame because her role was only "peripheral" to potentially more serious questions regarding the Bush administration's use of intelligence in the prewar debate. "The media conflagration ignited by the failure to find [weapons of mass destruction] in Iraq and in part by Mr. Wilson's criticism of the administration, led officials within the White House, the State Department, and the CIA to blame each other, publicly and in private, for faulty prewar intelligence about Iraq's WMD capabilities," Libby's attorneys said in court papers.

Plame's identity was disclosed during "a period of increasing bureaucratic infighting, when certain officials at the CIA, the White House, and the State Department each sought to avoid or assign blame for intelligence failures relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability," the attorneys said. "The White House and the CIA were widely regarded to be at war."

Only two months before Wilson went public with his allegations, the Iraq war was being viewed as one of the greatest achievements of Bush's presidency. Rove, whom Bush would later call the "architect" of his re-election campaign, was determined to exploit the war for the president's electoral success. On May 1, 2003, Bush made a dramatic landing on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to announce to the nation the cessation of major combat operations in Iraq. Dressed in a military flight suit, the president emerged from a four-seat Navy S-3B Viking with the words "George W. Bush Commander-in-Chief" painted just below the cockpit window.

The New York Times later reported that White House aides "had choreographed every aspect of the event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush's right shoulder and the 'Mission Accomplished' banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot."

On May 6, in a column in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof quoted an unnamed former ambassador as saying that allegations that Saddam had attempted to procure uranium from Africa were "unequivocally wrong" and that "documents had been forged." But the column drew little notice.

A month later, on June 5, the president made a triumphant visit to Camp As Sayliyah, the regional headquarters of Central Command just outside Qatar's capital, where he spoke to 1,000 troops who were in camouflage fatigues. Afterward, Rove took out a camera and began snapping pictures of service personnel with various presidential advisers. "Step right up! Get your photo with Ari Fleischer - get 'em while they're hot. Get your Condi Rice," Rove said, according to press accounts of the trip. On the trip home, as Air Force One flew at 31,000 feet over Iraqi airspace, escorted by pairs of F-18 fighters off each wing, the plane's pilots dipped the wings as a sign, an administration spokesperson explained, "that Iraq is now free."

There were few hints of what lay ahead: that sectarian violence would engulf Iraq to the point where some fear civil war and that more than 2,440 American troops and contractors would lose their lives in Iraq and an additional 17,260 servicemen and -women would be wounded.

Blame the CIA

The pre-election damage-control effort in response to Wilson's allegations and the broader issue of whether the Bush administration might have misrepresented intelligence information to make the case for war had three major components, according to government records and interviews with current and former officials: blame the CIA for the use of the Niger information in the president's State of the Union address; discredit and undermine Wilson; and make sure that the public did not learn that the president had been personally warned that the intelligence assessments he was citing about the aluminum tubes might be wrong.

On July 8, 2003, two days after Wilson challenged the Niger-uranium claim in an op-ed article in The New York Times, Libby met with Judith Miller, then a Times reporter, for breakfast at the St. Regis hotel in Washington. Libby told Miller that Wilson's wife, Plame, worked for the CIA, and he suggested that Wilson could not be trusted because his wife may have played a role in selecting him for the Niger mission. Also during that meeting, according to accounts given by both Miller and Libby, Libby provided the reporter with details of a then-classified National Intelligence Estimate. The NIE contained detailed information that Iraq had been attempting to procure uranium from Niger and perhaps two other African nations. Libby and other administration officials believed that the NIE showed that Bush's statements reflected the consensus view of the intelligence community at the time.

According to Miller's account of that meeting in The Times, Libby told her that "the assessments of the classified estimate" that Iraq had attempted to get uranium from Africa and was attempting to develop a nuclear weapons program "were even stronger" than a declassified White Paper on Iraq that the administration had made public to make the case for war.

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has said that he considers the selective disclosure of elements of the NIE to be "inextricably intertwined" with the outing of Plame. Papers filed in federal court by Libby's attorneys on March 17 stated that Libby "believed his actions were authorized" and that he had "testified before the grand jury that this disclosure was authorized," a reference to the NIE details he gave to Miller.

In the same filings, Libby's attorneys said that Hadley played a key role in attempting to have the NIE declassified and made available to reporters: "Mr. Hadley was active in discussions about the need to declassify and disseminate the NIE and [also] had numerous conversations during [this] critical early-July period with Mr. Tenet about the 16 words [the Niger claim in the State of the Union address] and Mr. Tenet's public statements about that issue."

Three days later, on July 11, while on a visit to Africa, Bush and his top aides intensified their efforts to counter the damage done by Wilson's Niger allegations.

Aboard Air Force One, en route to Entebbe, Uganda, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave a background briefing for reporters. A reporter pointed out that when Secretary Powell had addressed the United Nations on February 5, 2003, he - unlike others in the Bush administration - had noted that some in the U.S. government did not believe that Iraq's procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes was for nuclear weapons.

Responding, Rice said: "I'm saying that when we put [Powell's speech] together ... the secretary decided that he would caveat the aluminum tubes, which he did.... The secretary also has an intelligence arm that happened to hold that view." Rice added, "Now, if there were any doubts about the underlying intelligence to that NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president, or me."

In fact, contrary to Rice's statement, the president was indeed informed of such doubts when he received the October 2002 President's Summary of the NIE. Both Cheney and Rice also got copies of the summary, as well as a number of other intelligence reports about the State and Energy departments' doubts that the tubes were meant for a nuclear weapons program.

Discrediting Wilson

After Air Force One landed in Entebbe, the president placed the blame squarely on the CIA for the Niger information in the State of the Union: "I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services." Within hours, Tenet accepted full responsibility. The intelligence information on Niger, Tenet said in a prepared statement, "did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and the CIA should have ensured that it was removed." Tenet went on to say, "I am responsible for the approval process in my agency. The president had every reason to believe that the text presented to him was sound. These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president."

Behind the scenes, the White House and Tenet had coordinated their statements for maximum effect. Hadley, Libby, and Rove had reviewed drafts of Tenet's statement days in advance. And Hadley and Rove even suggested changes in the draft, according to government records and interviews.

Meanwhile, as the president, Rice, and White House advisers worked to contain the damage from overseas, Rove and Libby, who had remained in Washington, moved forward with their effort to discredit Wilson. That same day, July 11, the two spoke privately at the close of a White House senior staff meeting.

According to grand jury testimony from both men, Rove told Libby that he had spoken to columnist Robert Novak on July 9 and that Novak had said he would soon be writing a column about Valerie Plame. On July 12, the day after Rice's briefing, the president's and Tenet's comments, and the conversation between Rove and Libby regarding Novak, the issue of discrediting Wilson through his wife was still high on the agenda. According to the indictment of Libby: "Libby flew with the vice president and others to and from Norfolk, Virginia on Air Force Two." On the return trip, "Libby discussed with other officials aboard the plane what Libby should say in response to certain pending media inquiries" regarding Wilson's allegations.

Later that day, Libby spoke on the phone with Time magazine's Matthew Cooper. Cooper had been told days earlier that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA. During this conversation, according to Libby's indictment, "Libby confirmed to Cooper, without elaboration or qualification, that he had heard this information, too." Also that day, Libby's indictment charged, "Libby spoke by telephone with Judith Miller ... and discussed Wilson's wife, and that she worked at the CIA."

On July 14, Novak published his now-famous column identifying Plame as a CIA "operative" and reporting that she had been responsible for sending her husband to Niger.

On July 18, the Bush administration declassified a relatively small portion of the NIE and held a press briefing to discuss it, in a further effort to show that the president had used the Niger information only because the intelligence community had vouched for it. Reporters noted that an "alternate view" box in the NIE stated that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (known as INR) believed that claims of Iraqi purchases of uranium from Africa were "highly dubious" and that State and DOE also believed that the aluminum tubes were "most likely for the production of artillery shells."

But White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett suggested that both the president and Rice had been unaware of this information: "They did not read footnotes in a 90-page document." Later, addressing the same issue, Bartlett said, "The president of the United States is not a fact-checker."

Because the Bush administration was able to control what information would remain classified, however, reporters did not know that Bush had received the President's Summary that informed him that both State's INR and the Energy Department doubted that the aluminum tubes were to be used for a nuclear-related purpose.

(Ironically, at one point, before he had reviewed the one-page summary, Hadley considered declassifying it because it said nothing about the Niger intelligence information being untrue. However, after reviewing the summary and realizing that it would have disclosed presidential knowledge that INR and DOE had doubts about the tubes, senior Bush administration officials became preoccupied with ensuring that the text of the document remained classified, according to an account provided by an administration official.)

On July 22, the White House arranged yet another briefing for reporters regarding the Niger controversy. Hadley, when asked whether there was any reason that the president should have hesitated in citing Iraq's procurement of aluminum tubes as evidence of Saddam's nuclear ambitions, answered, "It is an assessment in which the director and the CIA stand by to this day. And, therefore, we have every reason to be confident."

Later that summer, the Senate Intelligence Committee launched an investigation of intelligence agencies to determine why they failed to accurately assess that Saddam had no viable programs to develop chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons at the time of the U.S. invasion.

As National Journal first disclosed on its Web site on October 27, 2005, Cheney, Libby, and Cheney's current chief of staff, David Addington, rejected advice given to them by other White House officials and decided to withhold from the committee crucial documents that might have shown that administration claims about Saddam's capabilities often went beyond information provided by the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Among those documents was the President's Summary of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.

In July 2004, when the Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on its investigation of prewar intelligence by the CIA and other agencies, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said in his own "Additional Views" to the report, "Concurrent with the production of a National Intelligence Estimate is the production of a one-page President's Summary of the NIE. A one-page President's Summary was completed and disseminated for the October 2002 NIE ... though there is no mention of this fact in [this] report. These one-page NIE summaries are ... written exclusively for the president and senior policy makers and are therefore tailored for that audience."

Durbin concluded, "In determining what the president was told about the contents of the NIE dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - qualifiers and all - there is nothing clearer than this single page."


Previous coverage of pre-war intelligence and the CIA leak investigation from Murray Waas. Brian Beutler provided research assistance for this report.

The Ground Zero Grassy Knoll - A New Generation of Conspiracy Theorists are at Work on the Secret History of 9/11 -- New York Magazine


The Ground Zero Grassy Knoll
A new generation of conspiracy theorists is at work on a secret history of New York’s most terrible day.

* By Mark Jacobson

Free fall: The speed at which the towers came down—they were almost in free fall—suggests controlled demolition rather than catastrophic collapse.

1. 11/22 and 9/11
They keep telling us 9/11 changed everything. But even in this Photoshopped age of unreliable narrators, much remains the same. The assassination of President John Kennedy, the Crime of the Last Century, occurred in plain sight, in front of thousands—yet exactly what happened remains in dispute. The Warren Commission found that Lee Harvey Oswald, fellow traveler of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, shot Kennedy with a cheap Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. The commission found that Oswald, who two days later would be murdered by nightclub owner Jack Ruby, acted alone.

Yet, as with so many such events, there is the sanctioned history and the secret history—players hidden from view. In the Kennedy murder, the involvement of shadowy organizations like the Mafia and the CIA came into question. This way of thinking came to challenge the official narrative put forth by the Warren Commission. It is not exactly clear when the grassy knoll supplanted the sixth-floor window in the popular mind-set. But now, four decades after Dallas, it is difficult to find anyone who believes Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman.

But if Oswald didn’t kill the president, who did? So 11/22 remains an open case, an open wound.

Now here we are again, contemplating the seemingly unthinkable events of September 11. An official explanation has been offered up: The nation was attacked by the forces of radical Islam led by Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda jihadists. Again, this narrative has been accepted by many.

But not all.

2.War Without End
“Just your average wild-eyed, foaming-at-the-mouth conspiracy nuts,” Father Frank Morales told me as he surveyed the 200 or so graying beatniks and neighborhood anarchist punks sporting IS IT FASCISM YET? buttons who had assembled in the basement of St. Mark’s Church for the weekly Sunday-night meeting of the New York 9/11 Truth Movement to hear a lecture by Webster Tarpley, author of 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.

Saying he was in New York “to debunk the outrageous myth . . . the absurd fairy tale” that the tragic events of September 11, 2001, were the work of nineteen fanatics with box cutters sent by a bearded man in a cave, the 60-year-old Tarpley projected a slide designated “State-Sponsored False Flag Terrorism,” depicting a Venn diagram of three interconnected circles.

Circle one was labeled patsies, comprising “dupes,” “useful idiots,” “fanatics,” “provocateurs,” and “Oswalds.” Included here were the demonized bin Laden and alleged lead hijacker Mohammad Atta. The second ring, marked MOLES, contained “government officials loyal to the invisible government,” such as Paul Wolfowitz, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and, of course, George W. Bush. The third circle, PROFESSIONAL KILLERS, encompassed “technicians,” “CIA special forces,” “old boys”—the unnamed ones who did the dirty work and kept their mouths shut.

September 11 was the true face of corporatized terror, said Tarpley, graduate of Flushing High School, class of 1962 (also Princeton), and author of an “unauthorized” biography of George Herbert Walker Bush. The book paints the Bush-family patriarch, Senator Prescott Bush, as knowingly profiting from Hitler’s Third Reich in his role as a director of the Union Banking Corporation, where, Tarpley’s book says, the Nazis kept their money.

According to Tarpley, this, roughly, is how it went down on September 11: Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the Pet Goat–engrossed president played their assigned roles enabling the strange events of the day, including the wholesale “stand-down” of the multi-trillion-dollar American air-defense system. Cued by fellow mole Richard Clarke, the main players made sure the CIA-owned-and-operated Osama and his alleged 72-virgin-craving crew got the blame, the towers collapsing not from fire, as reported by the brainwashed mainstream media, but thanks to a well-planned “controlled demolition.”

Laying out his scenario, Tarpley touched on many of the “unanswered questions” that make up the core of the 9/11 Truth critique of the so-called Official Story.

Like: How, if no steel-frame building had ever collapsed from fire, did three such edifices fall that day, including 7 World Trade Center, which was not hit by any airplane?

And why, if hydrocarbon-fueled fire maxes out at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and steel melts at 2,700 degrees, did the towers weaken sufficiently to fall in such a short time—only 56 minutes in the case of the South Tower?

And why, if the impact destroyed the planes’ supposedly crash-proof flight-recorder black boxes, was the FBI able to find, in perfect condition, the passport of Satam al Suqami, one of the alleged American Airlines Flight 11 hijackers?

And how to explain the nonperformance of the FAA and NORAD?

How could they, an hour after the first World Trade Center crash, allow an obviously hostile airplane to smash into the Pentagon, headquarters of the entire military-industrial complex, for chrissakes? And why did the Defense Department choose to stage an extraordinary number of military exercises on 9/11—occupying matériel and spreading confusion about who was who on that day?

Sky commander: The fact that Bush spent much of 9/11 in the air while Cheney was in de facto control in the White House leads some to suggest the VP was ringleader.

And why was it so important, as decreed by Mayor Giuliani, to clear away the debris, before all the bodies were recovered?

And what about the short-selling spree on American and United airlines stock in the days before the attacks? Betting on the stocks to go down—was this real sicko Wall Street insider trading?

There were so many questions. But when it came to the big “why” of 9/11, there was only the classic conspiratorial query: “Who benefits?”

For Tarpley and others, this was a slam dunk: September 11 was a holocaust-as-ordered by the neocon cabal Project for the New American Century, which, like its Svengali, Leo Strauss, recognized the U.S. masses to be meth-addled, postliterate, post-logical lard-asses, a race of “sheeple” that would never rise to inherit the mantle of post–Cold War world-dominators without “some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” In other words, a new Pearl Harbor like the old Pearl Harbor, which Roosevelt was supposed to have known about and used as an excuse to get us into World War II.

Pearl Harbor, the Reichstag fire, take your pick. What mattered was that 3,000 human beings were dead, freeing Manchurian Candidate Bush to decree his fraudulent War on Terror, a Social Darwinian/Hobbesian/with-us-or-against-us struggle to corner the planet’s dwindling bounty—a global conflict without end in which only the strong, the white, and the Republican would survive.

3.Your “HOP” Level
In his paper “What Is Your ‘HOP’ Level?” Nick Levis, who co-coordinates the N.Y. 9/11 Truth meetings with Father Morales and Les Jamieson, categorizes the basic narrative theories about September 11. The options essentially boil down to four.

(A) The Official Story (a.k.a. “The Official Conspiracy Theory”). The received Bushian line: Osama, nineteen freedom-haters with box cutters, etc. As White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, there was “no warning.”

(B) The Incompetence Theory (also the Stupidity, Arrogance, “Reno Wall” Theory). Accepts the Official Story, adds failure by the White House, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. to heed ample warnings. This line was advanced, with much ass-covering compensation, in The 9/11 Commission Report.

(C) LIHOP (or “Let It Happen on Purpose”). Many variations, but primarily that elements of the U.S. government and the private sector were aware of the hijackers’ plans and, recognizing that 9/11 suited their policy goals, did nothing to stop it.

(D) MIHOP (“Made It Happen on Purpose”). The U.S. government or private forces planned and executed the attacks.

Tarpley’s conception of a far-flung, supragovernmental alliance of intelligence agencies (he reserves a key spot for Britain’s MI6) and military forces is only one of many MIHOPs floating around 9/11 Truth circles. Popular are various configurations of a Cheney-Bush MIHOP, with most asserting that the vice-president, who appeared to be in charge on 9/11, was the main actor in the plot. Also ambient is the ecodoomsday Peak Oil MIHOP, the idea that the “peaking” of petroleum reserves required a false provocation to start an “oil war” in the Middle East.

More controversial is Mossad MIHOP: the conjecture that Israeli intelligence (and kowtowing by the U.S. to the “Israel lobby”) played a crucial role, attempting to draw the U.S. into a prolonged struggle with Israel’s enemies. Notable in this is the “white van” story: Five men observed filming the attacks from Liberty State Park were later pulled over by cops near Giants Stadium. One man was found to have $4,700 in his sock. “We are Israelis,” the men reportedly told the cops. “We are not your problem.” The men were quickly deported to Israel, after which the Forward claimed that the company that owned the van, Urban Moving Systems, was a Mossad front.

Mossad MIHOP dovetails with the baseless rumor, widely believed in Arab countries, that 4,000 Jewish World Trade Center workers were told to stay home that day, showing that conspiracy theory can be tricky terrain. Mossad MIHOP easily morphs into Zionist MIHOP or Jewish MIHOP, leading to the charges of anti-Semitism that have dogged the 9/11 Truth movement. “Do I believe Israel has undue influence over U.S. foreign policy?” asks one activist. “Absolutely. But there are people in this movement who are fucking Nazis. You have to draw the line at Holocaust denial.”

Deeper into late-night-talk-radio, Da Vinci Code territory are numerous incarnations of the New World Order MIHOP, defined by Nick Levis as the work of “a global ruling elite seeking greater control of the world Zeitgeist.” Ever elastic, NWO MIHOPs often date back to secret societies like the Knights Templar, founded in 1118 during the First Crusade. (Bush’s alleged slip of calling the terror war a “crusade” was a key hint to the real, if surreal, agenda.) The continuity is clear to any student of the hidden history. The Templars begat the Freemasons (look at the pyramid-meeting-the-eye on every dollar in your pocket, fool!), from whom emerged the nefarious Illuminati, and onward to current standard-bearers like Yale’s Skull and Bones society (both Bushes are Bonesmen; John Kerry, too), the Council on Foreign Relations, and the blue-helmeted armies of the United Nations.

Cave man: Fundamental to the theorists’ worldview is that bin Laden, living in primitive conditions half a world away, could not have orchestrated such a complex plot.

Less-cited scenarios include Sino MIHOP, claiming the attack was a first strike in the inevitable conflict between China and the West. Scientologists have suggested a Shrink MIHOP, imagining evil Thetan psychologists as culprits. In the postmodern battle of paranoid narratives, we get to choose our terror dream, identify our own evil genius.

4.Inevitable MIHOP
“For me, MIHOP was inevitable, because the more you know, the more you know,” says Les Jamieson, a friendly, eminently reasonable 51-year-old from Brooklyn who remembers the moment the scales of Official Story hallucination fell from his eyes.

“I read a story in Newsweek, which said these generals were told earlier that week not to fly. Obviously, someone knew. My reaction was, ‘Holy shit.’ This process has been one holy shit after another.”

Father Frank Morales’s conversion was more dramatic. Raised in the Jacob Riis Projects, Morales, who if not for his priest collar could be mistaken for an East Village hipster, is a longtime Lower East Side hero, primarily for his work with local squatter communities. The day after 9/11, the diocese asked if he’d go to ground zero to perform last rites. “They said be prepared, because ‘we’re not talking bodies, Frank, we’re talking body parts.’ ”

“I could feel myself getting madder and madder, not the way a priest is supposed to feel,” says Morales. Sitting with a fireman, Morales called out, “If I had somebody in this mess, I’d wanna get those motherfuckers.” It was then, Morales says, that the fireman whispered, “Hey, that’s not it. You wanna know something? Bush and bin Laden have the same banker.”

It was everything that happened afterward, the Patriot Act and Iraq, that turned him into a 9/11 Truth activist, says Morales, who likewise sees little alternative to MIHOP.

“To me,” Morales says, “this is about history. History and truth, the nature of truth in a not particularly truthful age.”

“We’re like the minutemen of Revolutionary times, prosecutors in the discovery phase for a trial that is sure to come,” says Jamieson, who on Saturday afternoons can often be found at ground zero holding up a banner proclaiming that 9/11 was AN INSIDE JOB.

As 9/11 Truth advocates know well, the veracity they seek is unlikely to meet the ontological standards of Saint Anselm. They’ve got people on their side like the “WebFairy,” who runs a site “proving” the towers were not hit by planes but holograms, or “ghost planes.” Still, the truth movement wields one irrefutably puissant weapon in its struggle. As Nick Levis says, “Would you believe anything George W. Bush told you?”

5.A Fast-Moving Meme
Google “911 conspiracy” and the bytes bury you. The first great conspiracy theory of the Internet Age—imagine JFK assassinationology with the Web!—9/11 Truth is a fast-moving meme. The thicket of “truth” sites is myriad. There is “,”,” “,” “,” “,” “,” “,” “,” and hundreds more.

It can be argued that a whole new kind of politics is being waged in the 9/11 Truth assault. Apocalyptical survivalists and extreme Bush-haters are equally attracted to the movement’s blanket J’accuse. Be you a Starbucks-window breaker or John Bircher, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way Thomas L. Friedman and his globalist windbaggery blows.

This is not a movement that takes its Nagra tape recorders to document Dealey Plaza acoustics to ascertain which bullet came from what angle. When 9/11 Truth “researchers” cite “the physical evidence,” they usually mean the referred reality of photographs or videos posted on the Net. Paul Thompson, whose 9/11 timeline has become the undisputed gold standard of Truth research, does all his work on the Net. “I don’t have to be any particular place to do this,” says Thompson, who for a while moved to New Zealand so it would be easier for him to concentrate.

Yet it is difficult to deny the allure of this movement. The conspiracist has always relied on a degree of magical thinking. As Marshall McLuhan would swear if he weren’t dead, there has never been a more conspiracy-ready medium than the Net. It is an exhilarating serendipity that every surfer has felt: the glorious synchronicity in the way one link handshakes the next, the sensation of not knowing how you got there but being sure this is the right place. Such miraculous methodology cannot simply be random. For the moment, it feels like Truth.

Coincidences are rife. What is to be made of reports that prior to September 11, parties unknown purchased the domain names “,” “,” and “” Was this Mohammad Atta’s idea of a cyberjoke?

Consider Pammy Wynant, protagonist of the novel Players, by Don DeLillo. Published in 1977, the book describes how Pammy, working for a firm called Grief Management Council, which has its offices in the World Trade Center, at first thought the WTC was “an unlikely headquarters for an outfit such as this. But she changed her mind as time passed. Where else would you stack all this grief?” Later, DeLillo writes, “to Pammy the towers didn’t seem permanent. They remained concepts, no less transient for all their bulk than some routine distortion of light.”

Mystery Plane: The plane that hit the Pentagon isn’t seen in any photographs. Some ask if it existed at all.

Even dismissing numerological smut—like how 9+1+1=11 and there are eleven letters in both George W. Bush and The Pentagon, for which ground was broken September 11, 1941, exactly 155 (=11) years after the Masonic-dominated Founding Fathers opened the Constitutional Convention on September 11, 1786, not to mention, for CIA MIHOP fans, that Kissinger and the Langley boys chose September 11, 1973, to overthrow Chilean socialist president Salvador Allende—we appear to have entered the realm of the precognitively strange.

Does it matter that the pilot for the conspiracy-themed Lone Gunmen (a short-lived Fox knockoff of The X-Files), which aired on March 4, 2001, tells the story of a U.S. government agency’s plot to crash a remote-controlled 727 into the World Trade Center as an excuse to raise the military budget and then blame the attack on a “tin-pot dictator” who was “begging to be smart-bombed”?

And why does every 9-year-old know how to fold a $20 bill so it forms a likeness of the burning Pentagon on one side and the Trade Center on the back? (See

German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen may have been roundly chastised for calling 9/11 “the greatest work of art ever.” Yet what is the conspiracist’s obsessive attempt to make sense where there is no sense but a kind of (paranoid) art? No wonder Jungian shrinks, who churn out copious papers on the topic, are so crazy about 9/11. It’s got so much archetype. Perhaps one of these learned men will pen a monograph on mandala-like smoke patterns ( in the burning South Tower, which seem to form a likeness of Lucifer?

6.Inside the Truth Vacuum
“People are always coming up with stuff about holograms and planes shooting pods. That’s what happens when the truth is systematically suppressed,” says Monica Gabrielle, whose husband, Richard, was killed in the attacks.

Monica, who describes herself as being “a completely normal housewife paying my taxes, raising my children” before 9/11 and who now lives on Long Island “with my dog, my alarm, and some plants,” testified before the 9/11 Commission. She ended her statement saying she hoped “this commission understands the need to leave a legacy of truth, accountability, and reform as a tribute to all of the innocent victims . . . We look to you for leadership.”

Asked if she ever expected to get a “legacy of truth,” Monica, who manifests an endearingly New Yorkish manner, laughs. “I must be an idiot because, yeah, I did. I was brought up to believe in things like the U.S. government. But we got screwed. The commission was whitewash, a stonewall. Maybe 3,000 people dead wasn’t enough to do the right thing. Did they need 5,000, or 10,000?

“They had these people come in, made them promise to do better next time, and gave them medals. Rich was dead, and nobody was at fault. To me, that’s a sin . . . With them, everything is fake. The government gave out ceremonial urns to the victims’ families. It had beach sand inside. From Coney Island or somewhere. They could have at least used the dust from the Trade Center. Something real.”

Asked about 9/11 Truth, Monica laughs again. “You want tinfoil-hat-wearing nutters? I get these e-mails from this woman. She’s nice, supportive. Then she says to be careful because ‘our thoughts, feelings, and bodily functions are being controlled 100,000 percent by electromagnetic waves.’ But I write back. I know she means well. Everyone needs a friend.”

“Conspiracy theories,” says Lorie Van Auken with a sigh. She’s one of the “Jersey girls” who pushed the Bush administration to convene the 9/11 Commission. Her husband, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee, was killed in the North Tower. She says, “That’s why we demanded the commission, so there wouldn’t be any conspiracy theories.

“Now, when I hear Philip Zelikow [the 9/11 Commission’s executive director] wrote a book with Condi Rice or was seen with Karl Rove, it drives me crazy. I feel like I’m trapped in a truth vacuum.”

One thing that has changed over Lorie’s “career as a 9/11 widow” is that she’s come to appreciate “these conspiracy nuts, or whatever you want to call them.

“At first, we widows didn’t want to be seen with conspiracy people. But they kept showing up. They cared more than those supposedly doing the investigating. If you ask me, they’re just Americans, looking for the truth, which is supposed to be our right.”

7.Why 7 WTC Fell
Talking to these women was not unlike watching the Zapruder film, I thought. The famous 8-mm. movie shot by ladies’-garment manufacturer Abraham Zapruder has been used to justify any number of Kennedy-assassination theories. Think the driver of the limo was the actual shooter, as a few nutbags have postulated? It’s in the Zapruder film, if you’re stoned and squint enough.

Hot Zone: The fact that people, like the woman in this picture, could survive near the impact zone suggests the fires weren’t hot enough to melt structural steel.

However, you always get to the part where the president’s head explodes in a flash and shower of blood. It remains a horrible, frozen moment. One look and I am back in geometry class at Francis Lewis High School, the principal’s voice on the loudspeaker saying that the president had been shot, that he was “dead.”

Speaking with the widows, or simply walking by a firehouse, was a teleportation back to the raw unspun brutality of the Day. This isn’t as much of a stretch as it sounds, since I was there on September 11.

I’d just walked right into what would come to be called ground zero. No one stopped me. I knew the towers had fallen, seen it on TV. Still, I didn’t expect things that big to totally disappear, as if the ground had swallowed them up.

“Where are the towers?” I asked a fireman. “Under your foot” was the reply.

Hours later, I sat down beside another, impossibly weary firefighter. Covered with dust, he was drinking a bottle of Poland Spring water. Half his squad was missing. They’d gone into the South Tower and never come out. Then, almost as a non sequitur, the fireman indicated the building in front of us, maybe 400 yards away.

“That building is coming down,” he said with a drained casualness.

“Really?” I asked. At 47 stories, it would be a skyscraper in most cities, centerpiece of the horizon. But in New York, it was nothing but a nondescript box with fire coming out of the windows. “When?”

“Tonight . . . Maybe tomorrow morning.”

This was around 5:15 p.m. I know because five minutes later, at 5:20, the building, 7 World Trade Center, crumbled.

“Shit!” I screamed, unsure which way to run, because who knows which way these things fall. As it turned out, I wasn’t in any danger, since 7 WTC appeared to drop straight down. I still have dreams about the moment. Even then, the event is oddly undramatic, just a building falling.

Now the 9/11 Truth movement tells me I saw much more. According to Jim Hoffman, a software engineer and physicist from Alameda, California, where he authors the site, what I saw was a “classic controlled demolition.” This was why, Hoffman contends, 7 WTC dropped so rapidly (in about 6.6 seconds, or almost at the speed of a free-falling object) and so neatly, into its “own footprint.”

For 7 WTC to collapse unaided at that speed, Hoffman says, would mean “its 58 perimeter columns and 25 central columns of structural steel would have to have been shattered at almost the same instant, so unlikely as to be impossible.”

What happened at 7 WTC might be the key to the entire mystery of September 11, contends Hoffman. The $500 million insurance profit made by Larry Silverstein is a garden-variety motive, but the list of 7 WTC tenants sets conspiracy heads spinning.

To wit: The IRS, the Department of Defense, and the CIA kept offices on the 25th floor. The Secret Service occupied the ninth and tenth. The Securities and Exchange Commission (home to vast records of bank transactions) was on floors 11 through 13. The 23rd floor was home to Rudy Giuliani’s Office of Emergency Management, his crisis center. If this wasn’t enough, the mortgage of 7 WTC was held by the Blackstone Group, headed by Pete Peterson, chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, stalwart players in any NWO MIHOP.

In the 9/11 Truth cosmology, the destruction of 7 World Trade Center is akin to Jack Ruby’s shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. Seven WTC was the home of secrets. It had to go. Central to the scenario is a comment made by Silverstein in a 2002 PBS documentary.

“We’ve had such a terrible loss of life,” he quotes himself as saying on 9/11. “Maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.”

“Pull it,” as Truth people never tire of repeating, is the term usually used for controlled demolition.

These were vexing questions, especially since 7 WTC is not even mentioned in The 9/11 Commission Report. Nor is the building given much shrift in the subsequent “Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Towers,” compiled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

And there I was, thinking all I saw was a building falling down.

8.The Magician and the Expert
A few days after the St. Mark’s meeting, I went to a Community Board No. 1 forum where the NIST report would be discussed. The meeting was in the Woolworth Building, the world’s tallest structure when it was completed in 1913. Since it was still standing, it seemed a good place to talk about the only former world’s tallest building(s) to fall down. I was with William Rodriguez, who, as he always does, brought along his video camera, “so they know I’m watching them.”

Smoke Bomb: Could this puff of smoke be evidence of an internal explosion consistent with controlled demolition?

As a boy shining shoes in Puerto Rico, William dreamed of being wrapped in a straitjacket and suspended upside down from a flaming rope. “That was going to be my big trick. It was my goal to become a magician, the greatest illusionist in the Caribbean basin.”

Later, Rodriguez met James Randi, a.k.a. the Amazing Randi, the magician best known as a debunker of supernatural claims, offering the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge to anyone able to demonstrate verifiable evidence of psychic powers.

“Randi was my mentor,” said William. “I admired him for his tricks but also because he never said they were anything but tricks. He separated the truth from the phony.”

William moved to New York, but beyond some gigs at Mostly Magic, his career did not take off. He started working for a cleaning company in the World Trade Center. He’d stay there twenty years.

On 9/11, William was late. Instead of mopping the stairwells on the 110th floor, where he almost certainly would have died, he was chatting with the maintenance crew on level B-1 in the basement. “I heard this massive explosion below, on level B-2 or 3. I saw this guy come up the stairs. The skin on his arms was peeled away . . . hanging. Then I heard another explosion, from above. That was the first plane, hitting the building.”

In possession of one of the few master keys in the building, William led firemen up the stairwells. He was responsible for getting at least a dozen people out of the towers. Trying to escape as the North Tower fell, he found himself beneath a half-buried fire engine.

“I told myself this is going to be a slow death, but I should make it last as long as I could. My training as an escape artist helped me. I knew to be calm. They found me just in time. I understood my whole life had been pointing to this moment.”

Acclaimed as “the last man pulled from the rubble,” William became a hero of 9/11. “I was at the White House. They took my picture with President Bush.”

Four years later, after repeatedly being rebuffed in his attempts to tell officials his story about the basement explosion, William is suing the U.S. government under the rico statute, legislation drafted to prosecute Mafia families. The suit reads like an Air America wet dream, with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft, George Tenet, Karl Rove, and others (the Diebold Company is thrown in for good measure) listed as defendants.

“They say I’m a conspiracy theorist; I call them conspirators, too,” William says.

“It is like Randi said. There’s reality, and there’s illusion. When illusion becomes reality, that’s a problem. Nine-eleven is a giant illusion. Besides, what can they do to me? I’m a national hero, Bush told me so himself.”

“That’s him, the NIST guy,” William said, indicating Dr. S. Shyam Sunder, head of the institute’s Trade Center report.

An elegantly attired man in his fifties, Dr. Sunder, holder of degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and MIT, took his seat beside Carl Galioto, a partner at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, architects of the new $700 million replacement for 7 WTC. Behind them was a slide of “the new downtown skyline,” dominated by another Skidmore project, the Freedom Tower, which, at an iconic 1,776 feet, is next in line to be the world’s tallest building. Like the new 7 WTC, which Galioto said featured a “two-foot-thick vertical core encasing the elevators, utility infrastructure, and exit stairs,” the Freedom Tower will be “among the safest buildings ever built.” This was important, the architect said, because “constantly building and rebuilding” was what New York was all about.

After Dr. Sunder’s presentation (planes and fire did it), a woman from N.Y. 9/11 Truth stood up and said she hadn’t been able “to sleep at night” since her best friend had died at the WTC. She had hoped NIST would clear up doubts, but this was not the case. “I have here a report which contradicts much of what you say.”

The woman put a paper by Steven E. Jones, a physics professor from Brigham Young University, in front of Dr. Sunder. Jones makes the case for controlled demolition, claiming the persistence of “molten metal” at ground zero indicates the likely presence of “high-temperature cutter-charges . . . routinely used to melt/cut/demolish steel.”

“I hope you read this; perhaps it will enable you to see things a different way,” the woman said.

“Actually, I have read it,” Dr. Sunder said with a sigh.

Later, asked if such outbursts were common, Dr. Sunder said, “Yes. I am sympathetic. But our report . . . it is extensive. We consulted 80 public-sector experts and 125 private-sector experts. It is a Who’s Who of experts. People look for other solutions. As scientists, we can’t worry about that. Facts are facts.”

Brother Act: One of many eerie 9/11 coincidences is that Marvin Bush, the president’s brother, worked for a firm that handled security for the WTC, and United and American airlines.

I asked Dr. Sunder about 7 WTC. Why was the fate of the building barely mentioned in the final report?

This was a matter of staffing and budget, Sunder said. He hoped to release something on 7 WTC by the end of the year.

NIST did have some “preliminary hypotheses” on 7 WTC, Dr. Sunder said. “We are studying the horizontal movement east to west, internal to the structure, on the fifth to seventh floors.”

Then Dr. Sunder paused. “But truthfully, I don’t really know. We’ve had trouble getting a handle on building No. 7.”

9.Can 49.3 Percent of the People Be Crazy?
Late in the summer of 2004, as the Republicans in Madison Square Garden extolled George Bush’s staunch protection of the homeland, a Zogby poll asked New Yorkers if they believed that “some of our leaders knew in advance attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and consciously failed to act.”

Of city residents, 49.3 percent said yes.

A year and a half later, doubt had increased, at least according to my own informal canvassing. Per Nick Levis’s “HOP” paper, I offered four choices: (A) the Official Story; (B) the Official Story plus incompetence; (C) LIHOP; (D) MIHOP.

Of the 56 respondents, 28 said C, 23 picked B, with 4 (including two Muslim cabdrivers) opting for MIHOP.

Almost every white person with a straight job said B. Many disliked Bush but said they couldn’t bring themselves to believe the U.S. government would take part in the death of 3,000 of its countrymen.

Typical was the opinion offered by an investment banker at a downtown bar. “I can see them wishing it would happen, secretly happy it did. But on purpose? Look at the way they’ve managed Iraq. They’re boobs. They couldn’t have pulled off 9/11 without getting caught. Not possible.”

Uptown, responses were different. “Yeah, they knew,” said a retired transit worker on 116th Street, one of the 17 of 22 black people questioned who picked C. He said he’d heard Marvin Bush, the president’s younger brother, was a director of Securacom, a firm that on 9/11 was in charge of security not only at the World Trade Center but also for United and American airlines as well as at Dulles airport, where Flight 77 took off.

“That true?” he asked.

Yeah, I said. That’s what I heard.

“There anywhere he ain’t got no brother?”

“Bush’s cousin, Wirt Walker III, worked there, too.”

“Wirt? The third? You’re shitting me.”

This was pretty much the opinion. If Katrina proved the government was willing to let people die, right there on TV, why should 9/11 have been any different? Only one person picked A, the official story. This was a fireman, who was smoking a cigarette outside a downtown engine company. Truth be told, I wasn’t keen on quizzing firemen about 9/11 Truth, but I knew the guy’s brother from high school.

“Not answering that,” he said, warning not to ask others in the company, which had lost men on 9/11. This didn’t mean he wasn’t of the opinion that if he lived to be a million he’d never “see anything as corrupt, bullshit, and sad as what happened at the WTC.

“They got their gold and shipped us to Fresh Kills,” he said. Call it one more conspiracy theory, but many uniformed firefighters believe the powers that be cared more about finding the gold reserves held in vaults beneath the Trade Center than the bodies of their fallen brothers.

Still, the fireman said, if he had to pick a letter in my poll, it would be A.

“Osama fucking bin Laden, like Bush says. If I thought it was someone else, then I’d have to do something about it. And I don’t want to think about what I’d do.”

It weighs on you, thinking about 9/11, the day and the unremitting aftermath. Being a supposedly unflappable New Yorker offers little solace. The wound remains unhealed, emotions close to the surface.

Certainly there was an urgency as activists gathered at the Veselka restaurant after the Tarpley meeting.

With all the saber-rattling about Iran, this was no time to decrease vigilance, said Nick Levis, proposing a toast: “That in 2006, we will crack the Official Story so we can stop being 9/11-heads and return to normality.” A classically hermetic New York conversation ensued, quickly moving from snickers about bin Laden’s supposed CIA code name, “Tim Osmond . . . as in Donny and Marie,” to speculation about the role of Jerry Hauer, Giuliani’s former OEM guy, in the post-9/11 anthrax threats.

Talk came to a halt, however, with the mention of whether it was American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon on 9/11.

For New York Magazine)

Broached in 2002 by Thierry Meyssan in his French best-seller L’Effroyable Imposture (The Appalling Fraud), the idea that the Pentagon was struck by a missile instead of a 757 is the most controversial tenet of 9/11 Truth–iana. The claim is based on Meyssan’s reading of photographs (“Hunt the Boeing” at supposedly showing the hole in the building to be no more than fifteen to eighteen feet wide—far too small to fit a plane with a 125-foot wingspan.

But there are problems, such as the many eyewitnesses who saw a plane flying low near the Pentagon shortly before impact. Disputing the no-crash theory, Jim Hoffman has argued, “This is just the sort of wackiness defenders of the Official Story harp on to show how gullible and incompetent we conspiracy theorists are supposed to be.” In other words, Meyssan and other no-plane believers were either wrong, unknowing dupes or spreaders of disinformation.

The D-word is nothing to take lightly in conspiracy circles. For, as Thomas Pynchon notes in his “Proverbs for Paranoids,” if they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.

At Veselka, the question was, if Flight 77 did not crash, what happened to the 56 people on the plane? This query did not sit well with Nico Haupt, a thin, black-clad man from Cologne, Germany, compiler of the 9/11 Encyclopedia (

“Gassed,” he hissed. “Have you ever heard of gassing? It is very easy. You open the door of the plane, and it spreads.”

“You think they gassed them?” Would even the Illuminati stoop this low?

Haupt cast a withering look. “That, or some other method of murder. Assholes!”

“Nico, calm down,” said Tarpley. “This is tactics. There’s no reason to make an enormous moral issue out of everything.”

But Haupt was past consoling. “You are motherfuckers. Stupid motherfuckers.” Slamming the tabletop, he gathered his things and stormed out.

“Nico is so emotional,” said one activist, returning to her plate of pierogi.

11. 250 Greenwich Street
After dinner, I stopped at ground zero. Before the towers were built, my father took me here when the area was called Radio Row and sold tubes cheap. After 9/11, I spent many nights watching the great plume of water, shining in the vapor lamps, raining onto the smoking pit.

Now I was in front of the replacement for 7 WTC, Silverstein’s $700 million baby, a nifty parallelogram with a stainless-steel finish like a Viking stove in a Soho loft. According to the Web brochure, 7 WTC collapsed “probably” as a result of “the ignition of Con Edison diesel stored in the base.” To “avoid this hazard in the new building, the diesel is stored under the new plaza across from the reopened Greenwich Street.”

Another change is the offering of an alternative address, 250 Greenwich Street. Apparently, Silverstein felt this would play better in “the trendy Tribeca neighborhood.” Call it real-estate MIHOP.

When the new 7 WTC opens, N.Y. 9/11 Truth plans a demonstration here. Now, however, it being late Sunday night, the place looked like a neutron-bomb landscape, lights on in the finished lobby, gleaming card-reading security gates in place, but no sign of humanity anywhere.

A giant LCD screen scrolled various alphabetical fonts, one after another. It was numbing watching this, thinking that time was moving on, new fortunes would be made here, and like 11/22, it would never be known who did what on 9/11.

A cop car pulled up. They wanted me to move on. Cops always want you to move on. Not that I was in any hurry. Larry Silverstein didn’t own the sidewalk. I had as much right to the disaster as anyone.

Then I remembered one more factoid. David Cohen, who headed the CIA office at 7 WTC on September 11, was the same guy hired by Ray Kelly as deputy commissioner of Intelligence. It was Cohen who instituted the subway bag search, one more chimera of security in the post-9/11 world. Who knew what a guy like that might be up to? So I moved on. Can’t trust anyone nowadays.

The Plane Truth
9/11 conspiracy theories, from nuts to soup.

Mossad Did It
A common theory, especially in the Arab world, holds that Israel orchestrated the attacks in order to bring the U.S. into conflict with Israel’s enemies. Evidence cited ranges from the arly spurious and deeply anti-Semitic (the oft-heard, oft-refuted canard that Jews were told to leave the towers before the attacks) to the apparently true but unexplainable. (Five men who were seen filming the attacks in Liberty Park were later apprehended and found by the Forward to have ties to Mossad.)

Oilmen Did It
A theory based on the idea that worldwide oil production, having reached its peak, is beginning a long decline, leading to surging energy prices and global economic collapse. The 9/11 attacks, goes this scenario, were orchestrated by Cheney, Bush, and their friends in the oil industry and government, in order to begin a process that would secure further reserves in Iraq and increase the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf.

Bush and Cheney Did it
The most basic of conspiracy theories. Bush and Cheney orchestrated the attacks, for much the same reason Roosevelt was sometimes said to have orchestrated Pearl Harbor: in order to begin the conflict that would allow them to realize their global ambitions.

The New World Order Did It
After winning a long struggle against the old Kissingerian pragmatists and balance-of-power devotees, neocon idealists centered at the Council on Foreign Relations initiated the conflict in order to establish the United States as the sole global power.

A Rogue Network Did It
A secret government used Bush and Cheney as patsies in carrying out the attacks. Bush was kept on the run in Air Force One (code-named “Angel”) by an anonymous call saying, “Angel is next.” Bin Laden and his henchmen were CIA plants and double agents. Britain’s MI6 intelligence service was involved. The towers were blown up from inside, by teams of secret government assassins. Even Bush and Cheney are in the dark about why the attacks took place.

Shrinks Did It
Scientologists believe that psychiatry (through a mechanism that remains murky) helped give birth to the suicide attackers “through drugs and psycho-political methods.”

–Reported by Janelle Nanos