Saturday, August 26, 2006

The coming war with Iran: The fix is in.

I don't know about anyone else but I think the release of House Intelligence Committee report, which slammed the US intelligence community's lack of enthusiasm for finding a compelling reason for a war with Iran, is still a big story. Lefty bloggers moved on pretty quickly to the next big thing in their zeal to keep up with the news cycle, but everyone apparently missed the fact that the author of the report was involved in digging up the information that Scooter Libby used to out Valerie Plame and is the unnamed senior CIA official mentioned in Libby's indictment. [Rawstory] I think there's more here than meets the eye. To me this is evidence that the push for a war with Iran is moving into high gear.

Sure, it's probably a safe bet that for the moment most sane people in Washington are seeing this document for what it is; a cynical attempt orchestrated by a bunch of fringe nut-jobs to intimidate already gun-shy intelligence analysts into going along with the neocon/Israel agenda. I wouldn't just assume, however, that just because this one report is being greeted with skepticism that this means we're out of the woods yet. The same people who brought you the Iraq war remain in their positions of power. Once again they're attempting to manipulate the evidence, bully the opposition and define the debate.

In the aftermath of the Lebanese war and Hezbollah's ascendancy to mythic status in the Middle East the neocon's relentless message on the imminent danger of an Iran has only been strengthened. It's not too far fetched to think that perhaps a year from now the most ridiculous assertions made by these provocateurs won't wind up being faithfully repeated again and again as gospel by the media.

Getting suckered into another war?

At the moment, it appears the military is resisting the idea of a strike on Iran's nuclear infrastructure, but as the neocon message machine ramps up its pressure tactics this will likely change. If a small group of Iraqi exiles led by a charlatan like Ahmad Chalabi could convince the United States to launch a war against a country that most Americans couldn't find on a map, imagine what the Israel Lobby in league with former members of the Shah's regime, including his son, can do.

The FT had a story back in May about an Iranian exile, Amir Taheri, who wrote in an opinion piece that the Iranian government was going to pass a law that would "require Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians to wear colored badges to identify themselves as non-Muslims." AIPAC immediately jumped on this and circulated "this truly disturbing report" to reporters as did Iranian ex-pat opposition groups. Of course, the story was totally bogus, but they'll just keep throwing this stuff up on the wall and see what sticks.

We've already seen the power of the Lobby to mobilize rallies at a moments notice around the country in support of Israel. Congress has fallen right into line passing a resolution 345-8 in support for Israel and if anyone doubts what all this warmongering for Israel is really all about one need look no further than the Intelligence Committee report itself. The cover page of the report has a picture of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad standing at a podium that says "A World Without Zionism." Page three lists several quotes from Ahmadinejad including the most infamous one, "Israel must be wiped off the map." I wonder who is Iran more of threat to, the US or Israel?

Don't ignore the neocon behind the curtain:

To me the really significant part of this story is who was behind it. The WaPo reported that "Jamal Ware, a spokesman for the committee, said three staff members wrote the report, but he did not dispute that the principle author was Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA officer and special assistant to John R. Bolton." Fleitz, needless to say, is a rabid neocon who worked at Foggy Bottom with Bolton strong-arming and intimidating State Department employees not on board with the phony Iraq threat into drinking the Kool-Aid. At the same time he was also working at the CIA's Weapons Intelligence Proliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC) office, which provided some of the worse intelligence about Iraqi's WMD. Fleitz is also known manufacturing the bogus report on Cuba's WMD factories, his strong backing of Ahmad Chalabi's drunken fabricator "Curveball" and his involvement in digging up information on Joe Wilson's trip to Niger, which Libby leaked to Robert Novak. Fleitz' position made him one of a very few who would have known Plames name, according to the Last Hurrah.

Fleitz is right at home as a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, where the inmates run the asylum. The subcommittee's chairman Peter Hoekstra is a good buddy of crazy rep. Curt Weldon (R. Pa.), recently in the news for the "Able Danger" flap that went nowhere. Weldon convinced Hoekstra to accompany him on a tax-payer funded trip to Paris to meet his "source" for many of his more outlandish conspiracy theories, an Iranian ex-pat codenamed "Ali." Ali is really Fereidoun Mahdavi, formerly the shah's minister of commerce, who according to The American Prospect is a "cipher for Manucher Ghorbanifar, the notorious Iranian arms dealer and accused intelligence fabricator -- and the potential instrument of another potentially dangerous manipulation of American policy in the Persian Gulf region. "

Boy, with former Iran/Contra types doing business with neocons and Israel, this war is a no-brainer.

US arrests man for showing Al-Manar in NYC:

I found this little piece of information in the fourteenth paragraph of an AP story about Hezbollah's TV network al-Manar. "On Wednesday a Pakistani businessman in New York was arrested and charged with providing satellite broadcasts of Al-Manar to his customers."

Since when is it a crime in this country to show or watch a satellite channel from any where in the world? I understand that the US government considers Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization, no doubt it is, but it's now a crime to watch their TV station? Who knew? What other things are we not allowed to watch or read anymore?

I thought that in countries like Iran and Cuba the government put people behind bars for watching proscribed foreign broadcasts, not in the United States. I guess we really can't condemn Fidel for locking Cubans up for watching TV Marti or listening to Radio Marti anymore can we? (As if any of them do.)

Israel under investigation for cluster bomb use:

The NYT reported this week that, "the State Department is investigating whether Israel's use of US-made cluster bombs in southern Lebanon during the recent fighting violated accords with the United States that restrict when Israel can employ such weapons, two officials said. The inquiry by the department's Office of Defense Trade Controls began this week, after reports that three types of U.S.- made cluster munitions -- anti-personnel weapons that spray bombs over a wide area -- have been found in areas of southern Lebanon and were responsible for civilian deaths."

I'm sure that inquiry will go far. The WaPo reports today that:

"In 1978, 1979 and 1981, the State Department notified Congress that Israel 'may have violated' U.S-Israeli agreements by using U.S. weapons for purposes other than defense, according to the Congressional Research Service. But the probes did not result in any penalties against Israel."

See, what's the point? Someone ought to let Condi know we're fighting a war here. We've got no time for quaint pre-9/11 niceties about turning entire towns into mine fields. Israel dropped leaflets what else do you want them to do?

Since these so-called accords we have with Israel over how they can use our weapons are secret we'll probably never know if they actually violated them. I'm sure the next time Israel feels the need to shower half of Lebanon with thousands of little bomblets they'll know we're really serious about them showing "restraint." If hasn't worked so well since 1982 but I'm sure they'll understand this time around.

NPR steps lightly around Israel's cluster bomb problem:

Another related issue to the cluster bomb story is the lack of a story the media thinks it is. I found it interesting that a report on NPR's Morning Edition by Jamie Tarabay on the 24th did report on the cluster bombs but failed to mention who was responsible for them being there. If you hadn't been much paying attention to the cluster bomb issue you might have assumed form the report that both sides were responsible for the dangerous conditions the people of southern Lebanon are now living under due to the threat of stepping on one of these things are having one fall out of a tree right next to them.

Maybe I missed it, but I really don't remember the word "Israel" ever passing through Tarabay's lips during the piece. I don't have the ability to re-listen to it on-line so if anyone care to listen to it and let me know for sure, that would be great.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fleitz outed Plame?

Here we go again. The WaPo reports today that the House Intelligence Committee (there's an oxymoron if I ever heard one!) has issued a 29-page report attacking US intelligence on Iran and the intelligence community's reluctance to issue ominous warnings about the danger that country represents to the US. Apparently, the denizens of the neocon looney bin are outraged that the CIA and other intelligence agencies haven't found sufficient evidence to start a war with the Islamic Republic.

Did I just use the word evidence? The NYT quotes a "senior United States official" who explains, "we’re not in a court of law. When they say there is ‘no evidence,’ you have to ask them what they mean, what is the meaning of the term ‘evidence?’" We can always manufacture evidence later, we need are spys who will show the appropriate amount of nationalist ardor to fic the evidence around the policy. If Israel says Iran is going to have the bomb in six months that's good enough for me. (If there's a one percent chance. . .)

The report says: "Intelligence community managers and analysts must provide their best analytical judgments about Iranian W.M.D. programs and not shy away from provocative conclusions or bury disagreements in consensus assessments." Yes, because in that piece of crap NIE that George Tenet foisted on Congress and the public there was a whole bunch of "disagreements in concensus assessments" right out there in the open for everyone to see right?

What is most interesting abotu this report is its primary author, Frederick Fleitz. Fleitz worked for John Bolton when he had a real job as under secretary of State. Among other interesting facts about Fleitz is; he worked at the CIA's Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation (WINPAC), [the next hurrah] he was responsible for the flawed intelligence on Cuba's chemical weapons stocks (which didn't exist. more provocative conclusions) and apparently he had a hand in leaking Valerie Plame's name to Robert Novak.

According to RAWSTORY, "Libby had. . . first contacted Bolton to dig up the information on Joe Wilson's Niger trip. Bolton tasked his chief of staff, Fleitz, to dig up the info. Attorneys involved in the Fitzgerald indictment of "Scooter" Libby, say Fleitz:

"Supplied Bolton with Plame's identity. Bolton, they added, passed this to his aide, [David]Wurmser, who in turn supplied the information to [John]Hannah. Upon receiving this information, Libby asked Bolton for a report on Wilson's trip to Niger, which Wilson presented orally to the CIA upon his return. Fleitz was one of a handful of officials who was in a position to know Plame's maiden name, the sources said. "

Isn't that intersting?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The rich want their foie gras. Could our children be next?

The WaPo reports today on the "rebellion" going on in Chi Town over the City Council's ban of foie gras, which goes into effect today. The rich and those resturaunteurs who cater to them are not happy. Last night "high-end restaurants had special foie gras tastings to protest the ban, and even a few down-home sandwich and pizza joints added it to their menus for the occasion." That'll show em'!

Robert Gadsby, chef at 676 Restaurant & Bar, asks "what's next? They'll outlaw truffles, then lobster, beluga caviar, oysters. [Heavens forfend!] There are diners who eat to fill a hunger urge, and there are diners who eat to be dazzled. If you take away the luxury ingredients, how can you dazzle them?" Yes, what is the world coming to when people can't be dazzled when they eat?

Of course, many people in the world would just like to be able to eat. . . anything. But we don't care about them. Being able to eat whatever you want and never having to know what it means to be hungry isn't enough for the well-healed. No, the rich need their food not only dazzling but also tortured. And pity the poor rich man who told NPR that his 4-year old would now be deprived of having foie gras, which she eats once a week. (Who the hell would give a 4-year old foie gras?)

Maybe, the way foie gras is made doesn't disturb these people, but anyone else with an ounce of humanity in them would have to react the way some members of the City Council did when they were shown "a video by the Animal Protection & Rescue League that depicts the treatment of ducks and geese used to make the appetizer. Among other things the the video showed: fowl so bloated from being force-fed from a tube that they couldn't walk, a bird whose body ruptured, and generally unhealthy and unsanitary conditions." [CBS2]

Alderman Joe Moore says "This isn't telling people what to eat; this is basically a statement against cruelty to animals. It doesn't need to be on menus in Chicago." Hear! Hear!

But what is foie gras you ask? It is the fattened livers of gesse and sometimes ducks. Infoplease describes foie gras like thi"The birds, kept in close coops to prevent exercise, are systematically fed to the limit of their capacity. Under this treatment the livers are brought to weigh 2 or 3 lb (1.0–1.5 kg) or more. The pâté is made by cooking fresh livers, reducing them to a paste delicately seasoned with wine and aromatics and combining it with truffles and finely chopped veal." (Boy, you get a two-fer there, with the veal!)


The APRL happily reports that now, "following in the Windy City's footsteps, Philadelphia may be the next American metropolis to ban foie gras. City Councilman Jack Kelly introduced legislation last week that would prohibit the sale of 'fatty liver' in the City of Brotherly Love and provide penalties for violations under certain terms and conditions. 'Force feeding birds to make an expensive appetizer is cruel and unnecessary, and it should not be condoned in our society," said Kelly in support of the measure.'"

I support you Councilman Kelly and I'll spread the word.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Israel has some nerve!

The WaPo reports:

"Israel on Sunday objected to including countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the Jewish state in the nascent peacekeeping force for Lebanon, even as a U.N. envoy said the Lebanese army had fielded only 3,000 troops, about one-fifth of the force it plans to enforce the cease-fire in the south. . . The list would include the Muslim countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh, which are among the few nations that have pledged troops to the international force that is supposed to work with the Lebanese army to enforce the truce put in place after the five-week war."

Isn't this like the prisoner choosing his own prison guard or something? The international force is designed to keep Israel and Hezbollah from fighting eachother right? Since when does Israel get to decide who it will who it won't tolerate in this force?

Talk about hutzpuh!

That's ok, just keep delaying that force getting into Lebanon until we're ready...

Am I a neocon?

It looks like Chucky Krauthammmer and me are on the same page! I wrote last week that this shaky cease-fire in Lebanon was just a big show: "I think Israel's generals are going back to the blackboard while they wait for the next big shipment of jet fuel and brand new super bombs for Lebanon Smackdown: Shock and Awe, Part II."

In an op-ed today Krauthammer writes: "everything remains in place awaiting the order to restart the war when the time is right. . .By the now inevitable Round Two, Israel will have rejected the Olmert-led exercise in hesitancy and will have new leadership, new tactics and new equipment. . ."

I wrote: "But not before the midterm elections! A full scale war in the Middle East would most likely be a loser for the GOP. So better to bide their time and who knows, in the interim maybe Kadima will be tossed out of office and Netanyahu will take over. Now there's a guy who's got the guts to wage a biblical conflagration!"

And wage it they will. Krauthammer is of the mind that if Israel had been "permitted to proceed with the expanded offensive it began two days before the cease-fire, [it] would have eventually destroyed Hezbollah in the south, albeit at great cost to itself, Lebanon and Israel's patron, the United States." (Yes, if only we hadn't tied Israel's hands. . .) This is an existential fight against terror and "in the end Israel will take care of itself."

Nice to know that after all the diplomatic capital we've expended in Israel's interest and all the damage it's done to our international reputation, they're going to go ahead and do what ever the hell the they feel like doing anyway.

Soon enough Israel will resume its mission of, as Richard Perle put it in the NYT on July 22, dealing a "blow of such magnitude that its earlier policy of acquiescence is over. This means precise military action against Hezbollah and its infrastructure in Lebanon and Syria, for as long as it takes and without regard to mindless diplomatic blather about proportionality."

So stay tuned, there's more to come.

Meet the new crisis, same as the old crisis: Iran!

What the hell, we might as well throw Iran in there for some "precise military action" as well.
It looks like we're about to have another crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions soon. A few months ago, the US and Europeans offered Iran a pretty decent package of economic incentives, direct US/Iranian talks and even the possibility of a limited civilian nuclear program. This surprisingly level-headed approach by the US was quite a radical departure from the usual resistance-is-futile line coming from the administration up until then. Condi Rice supposedly convinced W. that perhaps a few carrots thrown in with all those big sticks might get the job done. And it might have worked. Unfortunately, Condi took one step forward and ten steps backward by adding the precondition that Iran must suspend its nuclear enrichment program before anything could begin to happen. The Iranians naturally rejected this as a nonstarter.

The entire notion that Iran had to suspend enrichment before we would start to talk to them about suspending enrichment was a completely counter intuitive and sunk the whole plan before it even got off the ground. Now there's no doubt that we're headed toward a show-down in the Security Council and shortly after that all hell should break loose.

We're still hearing the 'we want diplomacy' line from the administration, but something tells me Cheney & Co. are now hunkered down in the bunker pouring over maps of Iran's oil wells. Condi's credibility is pretty much shot at this point and the neocons are climbing back into the saddle. Just last month Danielle Pletka was morning the passing of the administration's "cowboy years," when "assertive leadership, a no-nonsense national security policy and gratuitous rudeness to America's allies" had American "reaching for its holster," instead of dealing with the challenge of Iran with endless meetings. [FT] After the drubbing Israel took in southern Lebanon it's a fair bet those good old days are going to be returning for an encore.
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