Saturday, November 10, 2007

Oh, now they care about minorities

Oh, now they care about minorities
By: Steve Benen

In September, PBS hosted a Republican presidential candidates’ debate at historically black college in Baltimore — and all of the top four GOP candidates decided to skip it. This followed close on the heels of a Univision-hosted Republican debate in Miami on Latino issues — which was cancelled when all but one candidate declined invitations. The National Council of La Raza asked Republican candidates to address its annual conference in July, but none showed up. The National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials extended similar invitations to the entire GOP field, but only Duncan Hunter agreed to attend.

Just two weeks ago, the entire Republican presidential field blew off the Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s debate, co-hosted by Fox News. A not-so-subtle pattern emerged — if you’re darker than a manila envelope, the GOP candidates aren’t interested in talking to you.
But now, I’m pleased to report that the Republicans have had
a change of heart.

Jilted by the GOP earlier this year, viewers of the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network will get a chance to see the Republican presidential candidates debate in Miami on Dec. 9.

Simon Rosenberg attributes the sudden turnaround to the GOP’s new-found understanding that the party’s strategy isn’t working.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

When Israel Was Apartheid's Open Ally

When Israel Was Apartheid's Open Ally

Lenni Brenner

Jimmy Carter's book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, has opened up much of the American public to serious discussion of Israel's realities. He's no experton Zionist history, but the Anti-Defamation League and other pro-Israel propagandists must now work 25 hours a day, 366 days a year, trying to discredit equating Israel and apartheid South Africa.
Curiously, Carter only mentions South African apartheid 3 times. He relates how, on his 1973 visit to Israel,"General Rabin described the close relationship that Israel had with South Africa in the diamond trade (he had returned from there a day or two early to greet us) but commented that the South African system of apartheid could not long survive."

He also tells us that:
"Israeli leaders have embarked on a series of unilateral decisions, bypassing both Washington and the Palestinians. Their presumption is that an encircling barrier will finally resolve the Palestinian problem. Utilizing their political and military dominance, they are imposing a system of partial withdrawal, encapsulation, and apartheid on the Muslim and Christian citizens of the occupied territories. The driving purpose for the forced separation of the two peoples is unlike that in South Africa -- not racism, but the acquisition of land. There has been a determined and remarkably effective effort to isolate settlers from Palestinians, so that a Jewish family can commute from Jerusalem to their highly subsidized home deep in the West Bank on roads from which others are excluded, without ever coming in contact with any facet of Arab life."
And he presents the 3 unattractive options in front of Israel's public. One is:
"A system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights. This is the policy now being followed, although many citizens of Israel deride the racist connotation of prescribing permanent second-class status for the Palestinians. As one prominent Israeli stated, 'I am afraid that we are moving toward a government like that of South Africa, with dual society of Jewish rulers and Arab subjects with few rights of citizenship. The West Bank is not worth it.'"
Beyond that, his only citation re post-apartheid South Africa is listing Nelson Mandela as supporting the "Geneva Initiative" Israel/Palestine peace plan that Carter was involved in drawing up.
In reality, Israeli and American Zionist ties to racist Pretoria were so close that there can be no doubt that Zionism's leaders were accomplices in apartheid's crimes, including murderous invasions of Angola and Namibia.
Israel denounced apartheid until the 1973 Yom Kippur war as it sought to diplomatically outflank the Arabs in the UN by courting Black Africa. But most Black states broke ties after the war, in solidarity with Egypt, trying to drive non-African Israel out of the Sinai, part of Africa. Jerusalem then turned towards South Africa.
During WW ll, Britain had John Vorster interned as a Nazi sympathizer. But in 1976 Israel invited South Africa's Prime Minister to Jerusalem. Yitzhak Rabin, then Israel's PM, hailed "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence." Both confronted "foreign-inspired instability and recklessness." Israel, alone in the world, allowed Bophuthatswana, SA's puppet 'black homeland,' to open an embassy.
In 1989, Ariel Sharon, with David Chanoff, wrote Warrior: An Autobiography. He told of his 1981 trip to Africa and the US as Israel's Defense Minister:
"From Zaire we went to South Africa, where Lily and I were taken to see the Angola border. There South Africans were fighting a continuing war against Cuban-led guerrilla groups infiltrating from the north. To land there our plane came in very high as helicopters circled, searching the area. When the helicopters were satisfied, we corkscrewed down toward the field in a tight spiral to avoid the danger of ground-to-air missiles, the Russian-supplied SAM 7 Strellas that I had gotten to know at the Canal.
On the ground I saw familiar scenes. Soldiers and their families lived in this border zone at constant risk, their children driven to school in convoys protected by high-built armored cars, which were less vulnerable to mines.
I went from unit to unit, and in each place I was briefed and tried to get a feel for the situation. It is not in any way possible to compare Israel with South Africa, and I don't believe that any Jew can support apartheid. But seeing these units trying to close their border against terrorist raids from Angola, you could not ignore their persistence and determination. So even though conditions in the two countries were so vastly different, in some ways life on the Angolan border looked not that much different from life on some of our own borders."
Sharon went to Washington to deal with a range of Middle Eastern questions.He also
"took the opportunity to discuss with Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinburger, and CIA Director William Casey other issues of mutual interest. I described what I had seen in Africa, including the problems facing the Central African Republic. I recommended to them that we should try to go into the vacuums that existed in the region and suggested that efforts of this sort would be ideally suited for American-Israeli cooperation."
By 1989 it was certain that apartheid was about to close down, hence Sharon's "I don't believe that any Jew can support apartheid." But a 12/14/81 NY Times article, "South Africa Needs More Arms, Israeli Says," gave a vivid picture of Israel's earlier zeal for its ally's cause:
"The military relationship between South Africa and Israel, never fully acknowledged by either country, has assumed a new significance with the recent 10 day visit by Israel's Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, to South African forces in Namibia along the border with Angola.
In an interview during his recent visit to the United States, Mr. Sharon made several points concerning the South African position.
First, he said that South Africa is one of the few countries in Africa and southwestern Asia that is trying to resist Soviet military infiltration in the area.
He added that there had been a steady flow of increasingly sophisticated Soviet weapons to Angola and other African nations, and that as a result of this, and Moscow's political and economic leverage, the Soviet Union was 'gaining ground daily' throughout the region.
Mr. Sharon, in company with many American and NATO military analysts, reported that South Africa needed more modern weapons if it is to fight successfully against Soviet-Supplied troops. The United Nations arms embargo, imposed in November 1977, cut off established weapons sources such as Britain, France and Israel, and forced South Africa into under-the-table deals....
Israel, which has a small but flourishing arms export industry, benefited from South African military trade before the 1977 embargo.
According to The Military Balance, the annual publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the South African Navy includes seven Israeli-built fast attack craft armed with Israeli missiles. The publication noted that seven more such vessels are under order. Presumably the order was placed before the 1977 embargo was imposed....
Mr. Sharon said Moscow and its allies had made sizable gains in Central Africa and had established 'corridors of power,' such as one connecting Libya and Chad. He said that Mozambique was under Soviet control and that Soviet influence was growing in Zimbabwe.
The Israeli official... saw the placement of Soviet weapons, particularly tanks, throughout the area as another danger.
South Africa's military policy of maintaining adequate reserves, Mr. Sharon said, will enable it to keep forces in the field in the foreseeable future but he warned that in time the country may be faced by more powerful weapons and be tter armed and trained soldiers."
American Zionists were equally committed to apartheid. The 5/86 ADL Bulletin ran "The African National Congress: A Closer Look." It revealed the organization's hatred of the movement leading the liberation struggle in South Africa. The ADL sent its tirade to every member of the US Congress!
It formally bowed to political correctness:
"Discussion of the political scene in South Africa properly begins with the self-evident stipulation that apartheid is racist and dehumanizing."
"this is not to suggest closing our eyes to what may emerge once apartheid is gone.... We must distinguish between those who will work for a humane, democratic, pro-western South Africa and those who are totalitarian, anti-humane, anti-democratic, anti-Israeli and anti-American.
It is in this context that the African National Congress (ANC), so frequently discussed as an alternative to the Botha government, merits a close, unsentimental look.... The ANC, which seeks to overthrow the South African government, is a 'national liberation movement' that, plainly said, is under heavy Communist influence. The ANC has been allied with the South African Communist Party (SACP) for 50 years.... The fall of South Africa to such a Soviet oriented and Communist influenced force would be a severe setback to the United States, whose defense industry relies heavily on South Africa's wealth of strategic minerals."
ADL spying on America's anti-apartheid movement, for BOSS, South Africa's secret police, became public in 1993 when San Francisco papers revealed that Tom Gerard, a local cop and ex-CIA man, illegally gave police information to Roy Bullock, ADL's man in SF.
Gerard pled no contest to illegal access to police computers. The ADL made a 'we didn't do it and won't do it again' deal with the DA. It agreed to an injunction not to use illegal methods in 'monitoring' the political universe. ADL National Director Abe Foxman said that, rather than go to trial, where – of course! -- they would certainly have been found innocent, ADL settled because "continuing with an investigation over your head for months and years leads some to believe there is something wrong."
Despite the slap-on-the-wrist deal, Bullock's activities were documented. The ADL claimed that he was a free-lance informer whose activities for the apartheid regime were unknown to them. But (FBI) FD-302, a 1993 FBI report on an interview with Bullock, takes up a letter found in his computer files, "prepared for transmission to the South Africans." It said that, "during an extended conversation with two FBI agents," in 1990, they asked
"'Why do you think South African agents are coming to the West Coast? Did I know any agents' they finally asked?.... I replied that a meeting had been arranged, in confidence, by the ADL which wanted information on radical right activities in SA and their American connections. To that end I met an agent at Rockefeller Center cafeteria."
The FBI said that "Bullock commented that the TRIP.DBX letter was a very 'damning' piece of evidence. He said he had forgotten it was in his computer." Of course he hastened to tell the FBI that "his statements to the FBI that the ADL had set up his relationship with the South Africans were untrue."
The ADL was so anti-ANC that only fools could think that they didn't know that Bullock was working with the South Africans. Isn't it more likely that he told the truth in 1990 and lied in 1993? The feds came on another matter in 1990, surprising him with questions re South Africans. They interviewed him in his lawyers' office in 1993. Be certain that they told him what not to say. He also knew that if he wanted ADL help in his FBI troubles concerning South Africa, he had to claim that they had nothing to do with his BOSS connection. In any case, the ADL continued to work with Bullock. And NY's 7/27/93 Village Voice reported that Irwin Suall, its Chief Fact-finder, i.e., head spy, told the FBI that "he didn't think dealing with South African intelligence was different than dealing with any other police agency."
Time hasn't been kind to the ADL. The ANC runs its country and is a model of ethnic and religious tolerance. It never was anti-Semitic and there are Jewish ANCers in the Pretoria parliament. But Foxman always has a cleanup for Israeli and ADL infamies. On October 11th, he spoke at a NY Barnes & Noble bookstore on his latest book, The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control. It has a chapter denouncing Carter. I was in his audience and challenged him:
"You brought up the fact that Jimmy Carter used the word apartheid in histitle. But I would remind you that of course that Israel was allied to apartheid South Africa. I'm looking at the December 14, 1981 New York Times, "South Africa needs more arms, Israeli says," Israeli meaning Ariel Sharon, the Minister of Defense, who was on a tour, as it were, with the South African army as it was invading Angola. And then, in May 1986,
Foxman: I get the point.
Brenner: Excuse me! The ADL sent this to every member of Congress, denouncing the African National Congress as pro-Soviet and wicked, yes, and anti-Semitic and so on and so forth.
I sat several rows from him. Two words on my tape are indistinct andtentatively printed here in caps. But they don't effect general understanding of his statement, even with its grammatical irregularities as he grappled with my surprise accusations:
"OK. The African National Congress during the fight for SUFFRAGE, the struggle for AFRICAN liberation, was anti-Semitic, it was pro-Communist, it was anti-Israel, it was, where ever it could, become friends and allies of Arab, Palestinian terrorism, etc.
I had the privilege, I had the privilege of flying to Geneva to meet President Mandela, before he was President, after he was freed and before he came to the United States on his 1st visit. I had the very, very special privilege of spending 5 hours with him and several American Jews who came to meet with him in advance of his visit, to better understand.
And he said to us, 'if,' he said,
'I understand why Israel made friends with apartheid South Africa. Because Israel was boycotted all over the world, Israel couldn't have relations with other countries in the world, Israel wasn't sold arms to defend itself, so I do not judge Israel, I understand why Israel, you need not to judge me, for the friends that I make. I make friends with the PLO, I make friends with those who supported our liberation movement, and if you don't make it as a prerequisite that your enemies have to be my enemies, I will not make it a prerequisite for me.'
So Mandela, who was a heroic fighter in the struggle for, understood, very well, that just like he had to make deals with the devil, he made deals for support with people that he didn't agree with, that he didn't like. You certainly know from his record, he was not a Communist, yet he took the support of Communists, because they were the only ones, he understood, and respected, that Israel was dealing with South Africa. South Africa was one of the few countries that sold it arms. Now these were the years that America wouldn't sell Israel arms. Those were the years that Europe wouldn't sell Israel arms. So he understood it. Was it pleasant for everybody? No. Did we send the stuff about the ANC then? Yes. And today things are changed, very dramatically changed."
How accurately did he recall Mandela's remarks? We know that the ANC made a deal with apartheid's leaders. Blacks got their rights and hearings were to be held on what repressive crimes actually happened during the racist era. But white military and other officials retained their posts under the new Black-led government. So if Mandela said what Foxman claims he said, it was in that reconciling spirit: 'You did what you thought you had to do, same with me, now lets move on.'
The ANC's generous peace didn't retrospectively make apartheid less criminal.If Mandela wanted relations between his new government and Israel to go to a friendlier level, that didn't make Israeli and ADL collaboration with racism even a speck less felonious. And of course ANCers still denounce Israeli crimes against Palestinians. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was emphatic at a Boston "End the Occupation" rally in 2002:
"You know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal. To criticize it is to be immediately dubbed anti-Semitic.... People are scared to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful -- very powerful. Well, so what?
For goodness sake, this is God's world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust."
Five years later, Israel is still very powerful. But in time it too shall be replaced by a democratic secular binational Palestinian/Israeli state. The model for that is today's South African constitution. Most whites there say that they as well as blacks are the better for it. And when secular binationalism finally wins, Israelis as well as Palestinians will likewise rejoice in their equality, peace and prosperity.
Lenni Brenner is the author of 4 books, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, The Iron Wall: Zionist Revisionism from Jabotinsky to Shamir, Jews in America Today, and The Lesser Evil, a study of the Democratic Party. They have been favorably reviewed in 11 languages by prominent publications, including the London Times, the London Review of Books, Moscow's Izvestia and the Jerusalem Post. In 2002 he edited 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis. It contains complete translations of many documents quoted in Zionism in the Age of the Dictators and The Iron Wall. In 2004 he edited Jefferson & Madison On Separation of Church and State: Writings on Religion and Secularism.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Little Music for Ya!

Hendryx Stays True to Her Experimental Roots
Nona Hendryx was part of Patti Labelle's trio, Labelle, when that group had the No. 1 disco hit, "Lady Marmalade." In the mid-70s, she launched a solo career and made genre-bending music that experimented with soul, funk, punk, and heavy metal. Hendryx talks about her new rock musical, "Skin Diver," and her three-decade career in edgy art, rock, and soul.

Patti Labelle - When you've been blessed
Soul legend Patti LaBelle turned down the chance to star in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple - because she thought the film would be too racy. The Lady Marmalade singer was approached to play blues singer Shug Avery in the classic 1985 film, but was turned off by the fact she'd have to perform a same-sex kiss during a nude scene and she passed. The role went to Margaret Avery.

Chic live! "Good Times" (last perfomance of Bernard Edwards)
Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards met in 1970. They formed a rock band called The Boys (later the Big Apple Band) and played numerous gigs around New York City, but despite interest in their demos, they could not get a record contract when the music companies discovered they were black; the discrimination of the day said black artists couldn't play "rock".

Chaka Khan pt2 recorded live
Khan was born Yvette Marie Stevens in Great Lakes, Illinois to Charles Stevens and Sandra Coleman. Her sister is dance music diva Taka Boom. She was raised on Chicago's South Side, and at the age of 11 formed her first group, the Crystalettes. While still in high school, she joined the Afro-Arts Theater, a group which toured with Motown great Mary Wells.

Sista To Sister: The value of the female

Sista To Sister: The value of the female
By Ashahed M. Muhammad Contributing Writer
Updated Sep 14, 2007, 09:51 am
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The Honorable Minister Louis FarrakhanCHICAGO (

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered a message of encouragement and empowerment to a largely female audience at Valley Kingdom Ministries International Church located in the southwest suburbs of Chicago on Aug. 31.

Minister Farrakhan addressed those gathered for the 8th Annual “Sista to Sister” event, which is the brainchild of the Reverend Maxine Walker, publisher of The Spiritual Perspective newspaper. “Sista to Sister” has as its primary goal, the empowerment of women and the removal of the masks that often cover up perceived inadequacies hiding the true beauty of the Black woman and preventing them from reaching their full potential.

Minister Farrakhan began his remarks by pointing out that over the years, Rev. Walker has consistently spearheaded the movement to bring several hundred Christian ministers to meet with him for important interfaith dialogue in the spirit of love, brotherhood and cooperation.
“Reverend Maxine Walker has been a very dear friend of mine for the last 25 years. I have always wanted to form a bond, a relationship with the Christian community and Christian clergy because I think we misunderstand each other, and by not dialoguing with each other, Satan makes us think we are all different, when in reality the root of all of us is the same,” he said. “I pray to Almighty God that He will give time and more life to our Sister that she may continue to do the good work that she does, which is bringing people together.”

Sisters united through a common bond

“Sista seems to be ebonic,” said Minister Farrakhan as the audience laughed. “This sort of represents a Black woman who is not quite what she should be. Sister is different from Sista, but Sista is moving to or towards becoming Sister. Now, how could you be a Sister if you did not recognize a common Father?” Minister Farrakhan asked.
“Sista lost her connection to The Father; Sister has a connection to The Father, but the Sista who has lost her way is moving towards her Sister who is reintroducing her to The Father,” he said to a thunderous applause.

Minister Farrakhan greets Rev. Maxine Walker. Photos: Kenneth MuhammadMinister Farrakhan then described the systematic degradation of the female in American society.
“This is a world that does not value the female. She’s looked upon more like a plaything than the serious creation that Almighty God intended for her to be, and the sad thing about Sista is that she doesn’t recognize her value, so she plays into Satan’s game of degenerating the female and making her to see herself only as an object of pleasure,” said Minister Farrakhan.
“The enemy undresses her. The enemy wants her to use the beauty of her form to attract the natural lust of the man to keep his mind focused below the navel in the underworld, so he can never see the value of her and climb to the heavenly part of his natural existence,” he added.
“The moment you lower the woman, you automatically lower the man; the moment you elevate the woman, you elevate the man,” said Minister Farrakhan, reminding the audience of the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad that the Black woman is the Mother of Civilization.
“You are direct descendants of Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and you are not Black because you are cursed, you are Black because you are the Original Creation of The Creator,” said Minister Farrakhan.

Songs and words of praise, empty actions

Minister Farrakhan decried the actions of those who claim religion, but fail to put them into practice by living according to religious principles.

“It’s wonderful to sing glorious songs of praise; it is wonderful to preach the words of praise,” he said. “Satan’s job is to disconnect the children from The Father so that the Wisdom, the Power, the Spirit of The Father won’t be seen in His children. Now, take a look at our people. Look at the condition of our people. See what we are doing to ourselves and to one another regardless of our songs of praise? We act contrary to what we sing about, and contrary to what we preach about. We are hypocritical to what we say because we are not living the life to bring The Kingdom into reality,” Minister Farrakhan said.

Roberta Coleman, a member at Valley Kingdom Ministries International Church, said she had heard excerpts of Minister Farrakhan’s speeches on television before, however, hearing him in person was a unique experience.

“This was a powerful word. It was a word for right now—I’m almost speechless,” said Ms. Coleman, adding that many she talked to had strong opinions of Minister Farrakhan. “What I heard about him didn’t really line up. When people are afraid of something and don’t understand it, they start judging it and saying things that aren’t right,” she added.

“To God be the glory for each of you in attendance and I just praise God for this opportunity,” said Rev. Walker, during her brief remarks. Rev. Walker is currently battling cancer, but that has not stopped her from working to bring others together.

“She has spent her entire life helping others; she has done so much for so many people,” said Pastor Ronnie Lee, who hosted the event. “She’s in a fight and she’s winning the fight because she has faith in a God Who can do anything but fail,” said Pastor Lee.

Rachelle Ferrell - Sista (live)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another Angle 12 - September - 2007

Rally in Jena on September 20th
On September 20th, Mychal Bell--the first of the Jena 6 to be convicted--is scheduled for sentencing. If the District Attorney has his way, Mychal will face 22 years in prison. It's a horrifying moment for Mychal, his parents, and the rest of the Jena 6 families. It's also a perfect time for those who can to come to Jena, in person, and stand with them. Thousands of people across the country have already signed up to come to Jena. Please join us on Sept. 20th

Part of 'Jena 6' conviction dropped; charges reduced

By Howard Witt

Chicago Tribune September 5, 2007HOUSTON
Ruling in a racially charged case that has drawn scrutiny from national civil rights leaders, a judge in the small central Louisiana town of Jena on Tuesday partially vacated the conviction of a black teenager accused in the beating of a white student while the district attorney reduced attempted murder charges against two other black co-defendants.Judge J.P. Mauffray threw out a conspiracy conviction against Mychal Bell, granting a defense motion that Bell's June trial was improperly held in adult court and should instead have been conducted as a juvenile proceeding.

A Little Music For Ya!

I have had a love affair with this musician for a lot of years and thanks to YouTube I have been able to find live performances that give a small glimpse into his talent. From Frank Zappa to backing his neice Rachelle Ferrell, he never disapoints. Here is one of my favorites George Duke. You see I am not just politics!

Brazilian Love Affair

George Duke Live at the NSJF 2001

Rachelle Ferrell - I can explain (live)
He is not playing on this one but
I had to include his niece. Enjoy! More from her later.

Clarke/Duke Project "Heroes"

george duke love reborn

Always there(Casino Lights Live)

The Myth of al-Qaeda in Iraq

The Myth of al-Qaeda in Iraq

Fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq is the last big argument for keeping U.S. troops in the country. But the military's estimation of the threat is alarmingly wrong.

By Andrew Tilghman
09/09/07 "
Washington Monthly"

In March 2007, a pair of truck bombs tore through the Shiite marketplace in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, killing more than 150 people. The blast reduced the ancient city center to rubble, leaving body parts and charred vegetables scattered amid pools of blood. It was among the most lethal attacks to date in the five-year-old Iraq War. Within hours, Iraqi officials in Baghdad had pinned the bombing on al-Qaeda, and news reports from Reuters, the BBC, MSNBC, and others carried those remarks around the world. An Internet posting by the terrorist group known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) took credit for the destruction. Within a few days, U.S. Army General David Petraeus publicly blamed AQI for the carnage, accusing the group of trying to foment sectarian violence and ignite a civil war. Back in Washington, pundits latched on to the attack with special interest, as President Bush had previously touted a period of calm in Tal Afar as evidence that the military's retooled counterinsurgency doctrine was working. For days, reporters and bloggers debated whether the attacks signaled a "resurgence" of al-Qaeda in the city.
Yet there's reason to doubt that AQI had any role in the bombing. In the weeks before the attack, sectarian tensions had been simmering after a local Sunni woman told Al Jazeera television that she had been gang-raped by a group of Shiite Iraqi army soldiers. Multiple insurgent groups called for violence to avenge the woman's honor. Immediately after the blast, some in uniform expressed doubts about al- Qaeda's alleged role and suggested that homegrown sectarian strife was more likely at work. "It's really not al-Qaeda who has infiltrated so much as the fact [of] what happened in 2003," said Ahmed Hashim, a professor at the Naval War College who served as an Army political adviser to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar until shortly before the bombing. "The formerly dominant Sunni Turkmen majority there," he told PBS's NewsHour With Jim Lehrer soon after the bombing, "suddenly ... felt themselves having been thrown out of power. And this is essentially their revenge."
A week later, Iraqi security forces raided a home outside Tal Afar andarrested two men suspected of orchestrating the bombing. Yet when the U.S. military issued a press release about the arrests, there was no mention of an al-Qaeda connection. The suspects were never formally charged, and nearly six months later neither the U.S. military nor Iraqi police are certain of the source of the attacks. In recent public statements, the military has backed off its former allegations that al-Qaeda was responsible, instead asserting, as Lieutenant Colonel Michael Donnelly wrote in response to an inquiry from the Washington Monthly, that "the tactics used in this attack are consistent with al-Qaeda."
This scenario has become common. After a strike, the military rushes to point the finger at al-Qaeda, even when the actual evidence remains hazy and an alternative explanation—raw hatred between local Sunnis and Shiites—might fit the circumstances just as well. The press blasts such dubious conclusions back to American citizens and policy makers in Washington, and the incidents get tallied and quantified in official reports, cited by the military in briefings in Baghdad. The White House then takes the reports and crafts sound bites depicting AQI as the number one threat to peace and stability in Iraq. (In July, for instance, at Charleston Air Force Base, the president gave a speech about Iraq that mentioned al-Qaeda ninety-five times.)
By now, many in Washington have learned to discount the president's rhetorical excesses when it comes to the war. But even some of his harshest critics take at face value the estimates provided by the military about AQI's presence. Politicians of both parties point to such figures when forming their positions on the war. All of the top three Democratic presidential candidates have argued for keeping some American forces in Iraq or the region, citing among other reasons the continued threat from al-Qaeda.
But what if official military estimates about the size and impact of al-Qaeda in Iraq are simply wrong? Indeed, interviews with numerous military and intelligence analysts, both inside and outside of government, suggest that the number of strikes the group has directed represent only a fraction of what official estimates claim. Further, al-Qaeda's presumed role in leading the violence through uniquely devastating attacks that catalyze further unrest may also be overstated.
Having been led astray by flawed prewar intelligence about WMDs, official Washington wants to believe it takes a more skeptical view of the administration's information now. Yet Beltway insiders seem to be making almost precisely the same mistakes in sizing up al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Despite President Bush's near-singular focus on al-Qaeda in Iraq, most in Washington understand that instability on the ground stems from multiple sources. Numerous attacks on both U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians have been the handiwork of Shiite militants, often connected to, or even part of, the Iraqi government. Opportunistic criminal gangs engage in some of the same heinous tactics.
The Sunni resistance is also comprised of multiple groups. The first consists of so-called "former regime elements." These include thousands of ex-officers from Saddam's old intelligence agency, the Mukabarat, and from the elite paramilitary unit Saddam Fedayeen. Their primary goal is to drive out the U.S. occupation and install a Sunni-led government hostile to Iranian influence. Some within this broad group support reconciliation with the current government or negotiations with the United States, under the condition that American forces set a timetable for a troop withdrawal.
The second category consists of homegrown Iraqi Sunni religious groups, such as the Mujahadeen Army of Iraq. These are native Iraqis who aim to install a religious-based government in Baghdad, similar to the regime in Tehran. These groups use religious rhetoric and terrorist tactics but are essentially nationalistic in their aims.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq comprises the third group. The terrorist network was founded in 2003 by the now-dead Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. (The extent of the group's organizational ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda is hotly debated, but the organizations share a worldview and set of objectives.) AQI is believed to have the most non-Iraqis in its ranks, particularly among its leadership. However, most recent assessments say the rank and file are mostly radicalized Iraqis. AQI, which calls itself the "Islamic State of Iraq," espouses the most radical form of Islam and calls for the imposition of strict sharia, or Islamic law. The group has no plans for a future Iraqi government and instead hopes to create a new Islamic caliphate with borders reaching far beyond Mesopotamia.
The essential questions are: How large is the presence of AQI, in terms of manpower and attacks instigated, and what role does the group play in catalyzing further violence? For the first question, the military has produced an estimate. In a background briefing this July in Baghdad, military officials said that during the first half of this year AQI accounted for 15 percent of attacks in Iraq. That figure was also cited in the military intelligence report during final preparations for a National Intelligence Estimate in July.
This is the number on which many military experts inside the Beltway rely. Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution who attended the Baghdad background briefing, explained that he thought the estimate derived from a comprehensive analysis by teams of local intelligence agents who examine the type and location of daily attacks, and their intended targets, and crosscheck that with reports from Iraqi informants and other data, such as intercepted phone calls. "It's a fairly detailed kind of assessment," O'Hanlon said. "Obviously you can't always know who is behind an attack, but there is a fairly systematic way of looking at the attacks where they can begin to make a pretty informed guess."
Yet those who have worked on estimates inside the system take a more circumspect view. Alex Rossmiller, who worked in Iraq as an intelligence officer for the Department of Defense, says that real uncertainties exist in assigning responsibility for attacks. "It was kind of a running joke in our office," he recalls. "We would sarcastically refer to everybody as al-Qaeda."
To describe AQI's presence, intelligence experts cite a spectrum of estimates, ranging from 8 percent to 15 percent. The fact that such "a big window" exists, says Vincent Cannistraro, former chief of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, indicates that "[those experts] really don't have a very good perception of what is going on."
It's notable that military intelligence reports have opted to cite a figure at the very top of that range. But even the low estimate of 8 percent may be an overstatement, if you consider some of the government's own statistics.
The first instructive set of data comes from the U.S.-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In March, the organization analyzed the online postings of eleven prominent Sunni insurgent groups, including AQI, tallying how many attacks each group claimed. AQI took credit for 10 percent of attacks on Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias (forty-three out of 439 attacks), and less than 4 percent of attacks on U.S. troops (seventeen out of 357). Although these Internet postings should not be taken as proof positive of the culprits, it's instructive to remember that PR-conscious al- Qaeda operatives are far more likely to overstate than understate their role.
When turning to the question of manpower, military officials told the New York Times in August that of the roughly 24,500 prisoners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq (nearly all of whom are Sunni), just 1,800—about 7 percent—claim allegiance to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Moreover, the composition of inmates does not support the assumption that large numbers of foreign terrorists, long believed to be the leaders and most hard-core elements of AQI, are operating inside Iraq. In August, American forces held in custody 280 foreign nationals—slightly more than 1 percent of total inmates.
The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), which arguably has the best track record for producing accurate intelligence assessments, last year estimated that AQI's membership was in a range of "more than 1,000." When compared with the military's estimate for the total size of the insurgency—between 20,000 and 30,000 full-time fighters—this figure puts AQI forces at around 5 percent. When compared with Iraqi intelligence's much larger estimates of the insurgency—200,000 fighters—INR's estimate would put AQI forces at less than 1 percent. This year, the State Department dropped even its base-level estimate, because, as an official explained, "the information is too disparate to come up with a consensus number."
How big, then, is AQI? The most persuasive estimate I've heard comes from Malcolm Nance, the author of The Terrorists of Iraq and a twenty-year intelligence veteran and Arabic speaker who has worked with military and intelligence units tracking al-Qaeda inside Iraq. He believes AQI includes about 850 full-time fighters, comprising 2 percent to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," according to Nance, "is a microscopic terrorist organization."
So how did the military come up with an estimate of 15 percent, when government data and many of the intelligence community's own analysts point to estimates a fraction of that size? The problem begins at the top. When the White House singles out al-Qaeda in Iraq for special attention, the bureaucracy responds by creating procedures that hunt down more evidence of the organization. The more manpower assigned to focus on the group, the more evidence is uncovered that points to it lurking in every shadow. "When you have something that is really hot, the leaders start tasking everyone to look into that," explains W. Patrick Lang, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former head of Middle East intelligence analysis for the Department of Defense. "Whoever is at the top of the pyramid says, 'Make me a briefing showing what al-Qaeda in Iraq is doing,' and then the decision maker says, 'Aha, I knew I was right.'"
With disproportionate resources dedicated to tracking AQI, the search has become a self-reinforcing loop. The Army has a Special Operations task force solely dedicated to tracking al-Qaeda in Iraq. The Defense Intelligence Agency tracks AQI through its Iraq office and its counterterrorism office. The result is more information culled, more PowerPoint slides created, and, ultimately, more attention drawn to AQI, which amplifies its significance in the minds of military and intelligence officers. "Once people look at everything through that lens, al-Qaeda is all they see," said Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer who also worked at the U.S. State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. "It sort of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Ground-level analysts in the field, facing pressures from superiors to document AQI's handiwork, might be able to question such assumptions if they had strong intelligence networks on the ground. Unfortunately, that's rarely the case. The intelligence community's efforts are hobbled by too few Arabic speakers in their ranks and too many unreliable informants in Iraqi communities, rendering a hazy picture that is open to interpretations.
Because uncertainty exists, the bar for labeling an attack the work of al-Qaeda can be very low. The fact that a detainee possesses al-Qaeda pamphlets or a laptop computer with cached jihadist Web sites, for example, is at times enough for analysts to link a detainee to al-Qaeda. "Sometimes it's as simple as an anonymous tip that al-Qaeda is active in a certain village, so they will go out on an operation and whoever they roll up, we call them al-Qaeda," says Alex Rossmiller. "People can get labeled al-Qaeda anywhere along in the chain of events, and it's really hard to unlabel them." Even when the military backs off explicit statements that AQI is responsible, as with the Tal Afar truck bombings, the perception that an attack is the work of al-Qaeda is rarely corrected.
The result can be baffling for the troops working on the ground, who hear the leadership characterizing the conflict in Iraq in ways that do not necessarily match what they see in the dusty and danger-laden villages. Michael Zacchea, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Reserves who was deployed to Iraq, said he was sometimes skeptical of upper-level analysis emphasizing al-Qaeda in Iraq rather than the insurgency's local roots. "It's very, very frustrating for everyone involved who is trying to do the right thing," he said. "That's not how anyone learned to play the game when we were officers coming up the ranks, and we were taught to provide clear battlefield analysis."
Even if the manpower and number of attacks attributed to AQI have been exaggerated—and they have—many observers maintain that what is uniquely dangerous about the group is not its numbers, but the spectacular nature of its strikes. While homegrown Sunni and Shiite militias engage for the most part in tit-for-tat violence to forward sectarian ends, AQI's methods are presumed to be different—more dramatic, more inflammatory, and having a greater ripple effect on the country's fragile political environment. "The effect of al-Qaeda has been far beyond the numbers that they field," explains Thomas Donnelly, resident fellow for defense and national security at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "The question is, What attacks are likely to have the most destabilizing political and strategic affects?" He points, as do many inside the administration, to the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara, a revered Shiite shrine, as a paramount example of AQI's outsize influence. President Bush has laid unqualified blame for the Samara bombing on al-Qaeda, and described the infamous incident—and ensuing sectarian violence—as a fatal tipping point toward the current unrest.
But is this view of AQI's vanguard role in destabilizing Iraq really true? There are three reasons to question that belief.
First, although spectacular attacks were a distinctive AQI hallmark early in the war, the group has since lost its monopoly on bloody fireworks. After five years of shifting alliances, cross-pollination of tactics, and copycat attacks, other insurgent groups now launch equally dramatic and politically charged attacks. For example, a second explosion at the Samara mosque in June 2007, which destroyed the shrine's minarets and sparked a wave of revenge attacks on Sunni mosques nationwide, may have been an inside job. U.S. military officials said fifteen uniformed men from the Shiite-run Iraqi Security Forces were arrested for suspected involvement in the attack.
Second, it remains unclear whether the original Samara bombing was itself the work of AQI. The group never took credit for the attack, as it has many other high-profile incidents. The man who the military believe orchestrated the bombing, an Iraqi named Haitham al-Badri, was both a Samara native and a former high-ranking government official under Saddam Hussein. (His right-hand man, Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi, was also a former military intelligence officer in Saddam Hussein's army.) Key features of the bombing did not conform to the profile of an AQI attack. For example, the bombers did not target civilians, or even kill the Shiite Iraqi army soldiers guarding the mosque, both of which are trademark tactics of AQI. The planners also employed sophisticated explosive devices, suggesting formal military training common among former regime officers, rather than the more bluntly destructive tactics typical of AQI. Finally, Samara was the heart of Saddam's power base, where former regime fighters keep tight control over the insurgency. Frank "Greg" Ford, a retired counterintelligence agent for the Army Reserves, who worked with the Army in Samara before the 2006 bombing, says that the evidence points away from AQI and toward a different conclusion: "The Baathists directed that attack," says Ford.
Third, while some analysts believe that AQI drafts Baathist insurgents to carry out its attacks, other intelligence experts think it is the other way around. In other words, they see evidence of native insurgent forces coopting the steady stream of delusional extremists seeking martyrdom that AQI brings into Iraq. "Al-Qaeda can't operate anywhere in Iraq without kissing the ring of the former regime," says Nance. "They can't move car bombs full of explosives and foreign suicide bombers through a city without everyone knowing who they are. They need to be facilitated." Thus new foreign fighters "come through and some local Iraqis will say, 'Okay, why don't you go down to the Ministry of Defense building downtown.'" AQI recruits often find themselves taking orders from a network of former regime insurgents, who assemble their car bombs and tell them what to blow up. They become, as Nance says, "puppets for the other insurgent groups."
The view that AQI is neither as big nor as lethal as commonly believed is widespread among working-level analysts and troops on the ground. A majority of those interviewed for this article believe that the military's AQI estimates are overblown to varying degrees. If such misgivings are common, why haven't doubts pricked the public debate? The reason is that alternate views are running up against an echo chamber of powerful players all with an interest in hyping AQI's role.
The first group that profits from an outsize focus on AQI are former regime elements, and the tribal chiefs with whom they are often allied. These forces are able to carry out attacks against Shiites and Americans, but also to shift the blame if it suits their purposes. While the U.S. military has recently touted "news" that Sunni insurgents have turned against the al-Qaeda terrorists in Anbar Province, there is little evidence of actual clashes between these two groups. Sunni insurgents in Anbar have largely ceased attacks on Americans, but some observers suggest that this development has less to do with vanquishing AQI than with the fact that U.S. troops now routinely deliver cash-filled duffle bags to tribal sheiks serving as "lead contractors" on "reconstruction projects." The excuse of fighting AQI comes in handy. "Remember, Iraq is an honor society," explains Juan Cole, an Iraq expert and professor of modern Middle Eastern studies at the University of Michigan. "But if you say it wasn't us—it was al-Qaeda—then you don't lose face."
The second benefactor is the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, often the first to blame specific attacks on AQI. Talking about "al-Qaeda" offers the government a politically correct way of talking about Sunni violence without seeming to blame the Sunnis themselves, to whom they are ostensibly trying to reach out in a unity government. On a deeper level, however, the al-Maliki regime has very limited popular support, and the government officials and ruling Islamic Dawa Party feel an imperative to include Iraqi troubles in the broader "global war in terrorism" in order to keep U.S. troops in the country. In June, when faced with increasingly uncomfortable pressure from the Americans for his failure to resolve key political issues, al-Maliki warned that Iraqi intelligence had found evidence of a "widespread and dangerous plan by the terrorist al-Qaeda organization" to mount attacks outside of Iraq.
Elsewhere within the Shiite bloc of Iraqi politics, Moqtada al-Sadr has his own reasons for playing up the idea of AQI. "The Sadrists want to overstate the role of al-Qaeda in a way to emphasize on the 'foreignness' of the current problem in Iraq; and this easily fits their anti-occupation ideology, which seems to gain more popularity among Shia Iraqis on a daily basis," said Babak Rahimi, a professor of Islamic Studies and expert in Shiite politics at the University of California at San Diego.
Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, remain eager to take credit for the violence in Iraq, despite the bad blood that existed between bin Laden and AQI's slain founder, al-Zarqawi. They've produced a long series of taped statements in recent years taunting U.S. leaders and attempting to conflate their operations with the Sunni resistance in Iraq. "They want to bring this all together as a motivating tool to encourage recruitment," said Farhana Ali, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.
The press has also been complicit in inflating the threat of AQI. Because of the danger on the ground, reporters struggle to do the kind of comprehensive field reporting that's necessary to check facts and question statements from military spokespersons and Iraqi politicians. Today, for example, U.S. reporters rarely travel independently outside central Baghdad. Few, if any, insurgents have ever given interviews to Western reporters. These limitations are understandable, if unfortunate. But news organizations are reluctant to admit their confines in obtaining information. Ambiguities are glossed over; allegations are presented as facts. Besides, it's undeniably in the reporter's own interest to keep "al- Qaeda attacks" in the headline, because it may move their story from A16 to A1.
Finally, no one has more incentive to overstate the threat of AQI than President Bush and those in the administration who argue for keeping a substantial military presence in Iraq. Insistent talk about AQI aims to place the Iraq War in the context of the broader war on terrorism. Pointing to al- Qaeda in Iraq helps the administration leverage Americans' fears about terrorism and residual anger over the attacks of September 11. It is perhaps one of the last rhetorical crutches the president has left to lean on.
This is not to say that al-Qaeda in Iraq doesn't pose a real danger, both to stability in Iraq and to security in the United States. Today multiple Iraqi insurgent groups target U.S. forces, with the aim of driving out the occupation. But once our troops withdraw, most Sunni resistance fighters will have no impetus to launch strikes on American soil. In that regard, al-Qaeda—and AQI, to the extent it is affiliated with bin Laden's network—is unique. The group's leadership consists largely of foreign fighters, and its ideology and ambitions are global. Al-Qaeda fighters trained in Baghdad may one day use those skills to plot strikes aimed at Boston.
Yet it's not clear that the best way to counter this threat is with military action in Iraq. AQI's presence is tolerated by the country's Sunni Arabs, historically among the most secular in the Middle East, because they have a common enemy in the United States. Absent this shared cause, it's not clear that native insurgents would still welcome AQI forces working to impose strict sharia. In Baghdad, any near-term functioning government will likely be an alliance of Shiites and Kurds, two groups unlikely to accept organized radical Sunni Arab militants within their borders. Yet while precisely predicting future political dynamics in Iraq is uncertain, one thing is clear now: the continued American occupation of Iraq is al-Qaeda's best recruitment tool, the lure to hook new recruits. As RAND's Ali said, "What inspires jihadis today is Iraq."
Five years ago, the American public was asked to support the invasion of Iraq based on the false claim that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to al-Qaeda. Today, the erroneous belief that al-Qaeda's franchise in Iraq is a driving force behind the chaos in that country may be setting us up for a similar mistake.
Andrew Tilghman was an Iraq correspondent for the Stars and Stripes newspaper in 2005 and 2006. He can be reached at

Friday, September 07, 2007

Late Night TV in my world...Cartoons and Funk

Yogi Bear 20: Daffy Daddy

George Clinton (Parliament-Funkadelic) Exclusive!

Greetings, America!

To quote The Onion's Jim Anchower, Hola, amigos. What up? I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya. If you've read any MSM today, (and fortunately for me, I know some Americans read nothing else) you may have heard that I'm going to be releasing a video next week on the anniversary of 9-11. First of all, let me say that I'm the first dead guy to ever release a new video. Pretty amazing stuff, eh? If you don't believe I'm dead, then you have to believe that the allegedly most powerful military force in the world has been unable to find me after 6 years, yet they say I'm still living in a cave! For those of you who think I'm alive, you'll just have to wait for the video. But I will offer a few of my thoughts. First of all, let me say that I have discovered a weapon of mass deception! ABC News is reporting that my beard is now black, unlike in past videos and pictures where my beard was streaked with gray. The answer is simple; my stylist, who does a wonderful job of making sure I have perfectly white pajamas to wear, (not easy when living in a cave!), turned me on to Just For Men. That stuff really works! The chicks are willingly lifting their veils for me and I don't even have to die to be with virgins!

Enough about me. I want to know how you Americans are doing. From what I've been hearing, things don't sound so good since 9-11-01. With the
record rate of home foreclosures and the subprime mortgage debacle, your economy looks to be headed downhill. The war in Iraq must be costing a pretty penny too, with US forces there at an all time high. Too bad your government has to spend all your tax money on bullets instead of insuring your children's health and feeding your homeless. Sounds like the land of the free isn't so free anymore either. I hear my buddy Bush signed the Military Commisions Act of 2006, thereby casting aside your Constitution and the principle of habeas corpus, which protects against unlawful and indefinite imprisonment. The MCA also gives the president absolute power to designate enemy combatants, and to set his own definitions for torture. Bush has perfected the examples set by some Middle East countries. It doesn't matter anymore what the majority of Americans want, Bush and his "elected representatives" press on with their agenda. I may be flattering myself, but maybe he and his Dad learned some things about governing people from me back when I used to get all that CIA money and support.

I don't want to give the whole video away, but let me just say that in the last six years, your Government has done more to opress and restrict you American people than I ever could have dreamed. Those planes flying into the WTC were nothing compared to what has happened to your country since, or what is yet to come. Be sure to see my video. I promised GW I'll be extra, extra scary. He needs all the help he can get.

Osama " The Bogeyman" Bin Laden

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another Angle 6 - September - 2007

Ron Paul Thunders NO!
Ron Paul @ Republican Fox Debate 9-5-07

Hannity Lies To Discredit Ron Paul After Debate

The REAL Rudy

Staging Nukes for Iran?
I called a old friend and retired B-52 pilot and asked him. What he told me offers one compelling case of circumstantial evidence. My buddy, let’s call him Jack D. Ripper, reminded me that the only times you put weapons on a plane is when they are on alert or if you are tasked to move the weapons to a specific site.
Then he told me something I had not heard before.
Barksdale Air Force Base is being used as a jumping off point for Middle East operations. Did someone at Barksdale try to indirectly warn the American people that the Bush Administration is staging nukes for Iran? I don’t know, but it is a question worth asking.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

“They wanted them poor niggers out of there.”

“They wanted them poor niggers out of there.
Published August 29th, 2007 in Articles
New Orleans two years afterby Greg Palast

[Thurs August 30] “They wanted them poor niggers out of there and they ain’t had no intention to allow it to be reopened to no poor niggers, you know? And that’s just the bottom line.”
It wasn’t a pretty statement. But I wasn’t looking for pretty. I’d taken my investigative team to New Orleans to meet with Malik Rahim. Pretty isn’t Malik’s concern.
We needed an answer to a weird, puzzling and horrific discovery. Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes. But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing “Blackwater” badges: “Try to go into your home and we’ll arrest you.”
These aren’t just any homes. They are the public housing projects of the city; the
Lafitte Houses and others. But unlike the cinder block monsters in the Bronx, these public units are beautiful townhouses, with wrought-iron porches and gardens right next to the tony French Quarter.
Raised up on high ground, with floors and walls of concrete, they were some of the only houses left salvageable after the Katrina flood.
Yet, two years later, there’s still bars on the windows, the doors are welded shut and the residents banned from returning. On the first anniversary of the flood, we were filming this odd scene when I saw a woman on the sidewalk, sobbing. Night was falling. What was wrong?
“They just messing all over us. Putting me out our own house. We come to go back to our own home and when we get there they got the police there putting us out. Oh, no, this is not right. I’m coming here from Texas seeing if I can get my house back. But they said they ain’t letting nobody in. But where we gonna go at?”
Idiot me, I asked, “Where are you going to go tonight?”
“That’s what I want to know, Mister. Where I’m going to go - me and my kids?”
With the help of Patricia Thomas, a Lafitte resident, we broke into an apartment. The place was gorgeous. The cereal boxes still dry. This was Patricia’s home. But we decided to get out before we got busted.
I wasn’t naïve. I had a good idea what this scam was all about: 89,000 poor and working class families stuck in Homeland Security’s trailer park gulag while their good homes were guarded against their return by mercenaries. Two decades ago, I worked for the Housing Authority of New Orleans. Even then, the plan was to evict poor folk out of this very valuable real estate. But it took the cover of a hurricane to do it.
Malik’s organization, Common Ground, wouldn’t wait for permission from the federal and local commissars to help folks return. They organized takeovers of public housing by the residents. And, in the face of threats and official displeasure, restored 350 apartments in a destroyed private development on the high ground across the Mississippi in the ward called, “Algiers.” The tenants rebuilt their own homes with their own sweat and their own scraps of cash based on a promise of the landlords to sell Common Ground the property in return for restoring it.
Why, I asked Malik, was there this strange lock-out from public housing?
Malik shook his dreds. “They didn’t want to open it up. They wanted them closed. They wanted them poor niggers out of there.”
For Malik, the emphasis is on “poor.” The racial politics of the Deep South is as ugly as it is in Philadelphia, Pa. But the New Orleans city establishment has no problem with Black folk per se. After all, Mayor Ray Nagin’s parents are African-American.
It’s the Black survivors without the cash that are a problem. So where New Orleans once stood, Mayor Nagin, in connivance with a Bush regime more than happy to keep a quarter million poor folk (i.e. Democrats) out of this swing state, is creating a new city: a tourist town with a French Quarter, loose-spending drunks, hot-sheets hotels and a few Black people to perform the modern version of minstrel shows.
Malik explained, “It’s two cities. You know? There’s the city for the white and the rich. And there’s another city for the poor and Blacks. You know, the city that’s for the white and rich has recovered. They had a Jazz Fest. They had a Mardi Gras. They’re going to have the Saints playing for those who have recovered. But for those who haven’t recovered, there’s nothing.”
So where are they now? The sobbing woman and her kids are gone: back to Texas, or wherever. But they will not be allowed back into Lafitte. Ever.
And Patricia Thomas? Patricia found work sweeping up tourists’ vomit and beer each morning at a French Quarter karioke joint. Not much pay, no health insurance, of course. A few months ago, Patricia died - in a city bereft of health care. New Orleans has closed all its public hospitals but for one “charity” make-shift emergency ward in an abandoned department store.
And the one bright star, Malik’s housing project? The tenants’ work was done this past December. By Christmastime, they received their eviction notices - and all were carried out of their rebuilt homes by marshals right after the New Year, including a paraplegic resident who’d lived in the Algiers building for decades.
Hurricane recovery is class war by other means. And in this war of the powerful against the powerless, Mr. Bush can rightly land his fighter plane in Louisiana and declare that, unlike the war in Iraq, it is, indeed, “Mission Accomplished.”

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Blood in the Water: Katrina and the Death of the Common Good

Blood in the Water: Katrina and the Death of the Common Good
Written by Chris Floyd

This week we remember the destruction of New Orleans: an "act of God" aided mightily by the perfidy of man. As Greg Palast revealed this week, the Bush White House knew that the levees were breaking -- and deliberately failed to inform emergency officials in the city and state. His source was Dr. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the LSU Hurrican Center, "the chief technician advising the state on saving lives during Katrina.

"Why would the Bush Regime keep mum as the flood waters were cracking the levees? The answer, says Palast, is simple: Money. Loot. Scratch. Long green. From Palast's piece on Buzzflash:

Why on earth would the White House not tell the state to get the remaining folks out of there? The answer: cost. Political and financial cost. A hurricane is an act of God -- but a catastrophic failure of the levees is an act of Bush. Under law dating back to 1935, a breech of the federal levee system makes the damage -- and the deaths -- a federal responsibility. That means, as van Heeden points out, "these people must be compensated.

"The federal government, by law, must build and maintain the Mississippi River levees to withstand known dangers -- or pay the price when they fail. Indeed, that was the rule applied in the storms that hit Westhampton Dunes, New York, in 1992. There, when federal sea barriers failed, the floodwaters wiped away 190 homes. The Feds rebuilt them from the public treasury. But these were not just any homes. They are worth an average of $3 million apiece -- the summer homes of movie stars and celebrity speculators.

There were no movie stars floating face down in the Lower Ninth Ward nor in Lakeview nor in St. Bernard Parish. For the 'luvvies' of Westhampton Dunes, the federal government even trucked in sand to replace the beaches. But for New Orleans' survivors, there's the aluminum gulag of FEMA trailer parks. Today, two years later, 89,000 families still live in this mobile home Guantanamo -- with no plan whatsoever for their return.

And what was the effect of the White House's self-serving delay? I spoke with van Heerden in his university office...He said, "Fifteen hundred people drowned. That's the bottom line.

"And the brutal beat goes on. Scott Horton at Harper's has some inside dirt on the gigantic boondoggle that has followed in the wake of the killer storm: the "reconstruction" effort that, just as in Iraq, Bush has turned into a massive trough of corruption for his swinish cronies. And none are more literally swinish than the fat-faced swill-master Haley Barbour, the longtime GOP bagman now serving as Mississippi's governor. As Horton notes, Barbour has managed to wangle a vastly disproportionate share of federal reconstruction aid for his state, which suffered far less damage than Louisiana:

Yes, why exactly was the recovery money so disproportionately funnelled to Mississippi? Might it, perhaps, have to do with the governor of Mississippi, former Republic National Committee chair Haley Barbour? Was he doing a good job for Mississippi, or was he doing a good job for Haley Barbour?

In any event, Haley Barbour played an impressively influential role throughout this process. About six months after Katrina, I was at a dinner party with a recently resigned Homeland Security official who told me that there were enormous corruption issues surrounding the contracting process. He said he what he had seen was so disconcerting and the attitude of his boss (who now figures as a candidate to be attorney general) was so permissive, he had decided to leave rather than be tarred with it. One name figured in that discussion: Haley Barbour. More recently, I have been dealing with some professionals down in the southeast who deal regularly with FEMA for contractors. “Word was, if you wanted work, you had to see one of Barbour’s nephews or Joe Allbaugh—they really run the show.” How could that be?

Timothy Burger at Bloomberg has been digging very deep into Barbour’s remarkable good fortune in the government contracts area.

Many Mississippians have benefited from Governor Haley Barbour’s efforts to rebuild the state’s devastated Gulf Coast in the two years since Hurricane Katrina. The $15 billion or more in federal aid the former Republican national chairman attracted has reopened casinos and helped residents move to new or repaired homes.

Among the beneficiaries are Barbour’s own family and friends, who have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from hurricane-related business. A nephew, one of two who are lobbyists, saw his fees more than double in the year after his uncle appointed him to a special reconstruction panel. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in June raided a company owned by the wife of a third nephew, which maintained federal emergency-management trailers.

Meanwhile, the governor’s own former lobbying firm, which he says is still making payments to him, has represented at least four clients with business linked to the recovery.

(Firedoglake has more on the cornucopia of corruption here.)

Bush himself returned to the scene of the crime this week, flying down to New Orleans to preen and prance and pose as the city's saviour. It was a sickening spectacle, but what else is new? And what else can you say? There were some who thought at the time that the destruction of New Orleans and the subsequent looting of the national treasury by Bush cronies making big bucks from the unrelieved suffering of the vulnerable would be some kind of turning point in American politics. But as with the recent resignation of Alberto Gonzales, and the election of 2006, and all the other such "turning points," the drowning of New Orleans had no real political effect. Bush has gone from strength to strength, extending his tyranny and his looting, and his re-ordering of American society for the benefit of a rapacious elite and the makers of war.

I will have more on Bush's triumph soon. In the meantime, below is an excerpt of the piece that I wrote after the levees broke. Nothing has changed from that day to this.

"The river rose all day,The river rose all night.Some people got lost in the flood,Some people got away all right.The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemine:Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline."Louisiana, Louisiana,They're trying to wash us away,They're trying to wash us away…."-- Randy Newman, Louisiana 1927.

The destruction of New Orleans represents a confluence of many of the most pernicious trends in American politics and culture: poverty, racism, militarism, elitist greed, environmental abuse, public corruption and the decay of democracy at every level.

Much of this is embodied in the odd phrasing that even the most circumspect mainstream media sources have been using to describe the hardest-hit victims of the storm and its devastating aftermath: "those who chose to stay behind." Instantly, the situation has been framed with language to flatter the prejudices of the comfortable and deny the reality of the most vulnerable.It is obvious that the vast majority of those who failed to evacuate are poor: they had nowhere else to go, no way to get there, no means to sustain themselves and their families on strange ground. While there were certainly people who stayed behind by choice, most stayed behind because they had no choice. They were trapped by their poverty - and many have paid the price with their lives.

Yet across the media spectrum, the faint hint of disapproval drips from the affluent observers, the clear implication that the victims were just too lazy and shiftless to get out of harm's way. There is simply no understanding - not even an attempt at understanding - the destitution, the isolation, the immobility of the poor and the sick and the broken among us.

This is from the "respectable" media; the great right-wing echo chamber was even less restrained, of course, leaping straight into giddy convulsions of racism at the first reports of looting in the devastated city. In the pinched-gonad squeals of Rush Limbaugh and his fellow hatemongers, the hard-right media immediately conjured up images of wild-eyed darkies rampaging through the streets in an orgy of violence and thievery.

Not that the mainstreamers ignored the racist angle. There was the already infamous juxtaposition of captions for wire service photos, where depictions of essentially the same scene - desperate people wading through flood waters, clutching plastic bags full of groceries - were given markedly different spins. In one picture, a white couple are described as struggling along after finding bread and soda at a grocery store. But beneath an almost identical photo of a young black man with a bag of groceries, we are told that a "looter" wades through the streets after robbing a grocery store.

Almost all of the early "looting" was like this: desperate people - of all colors - stranded by the floodwaters broke into abandoned stores and carried off food, clean water, medicine, clothes. Perhaps they should have left a check on the counter, but then again - what exactly was going to happen to all those perishables and consumer goods, sitting around in fetid, diseased water for weeks on end? (The mayor now says it could be up to 16 weeks before people can return to their homes and businesses.) Obviously, most if not all of it would have been thrown away or written off in any case. Later, of course, there was more organized looting by criminal gangs, the type of lawless element - of every hue, in every society - whose chief victims are, of course, the poor and vulnerable. These criminal operations were quickly conflated with the earlier pilferage to paint a single seamless picture of the American media's favorite horror story: Black Folk Gone Wild...

The whole piece can be found here: The Perfect Storm. I followed that with this piece in CounterPunch, No Direction Home:

Let's be clear about one thing. Nothing that has happened in the past week -- the mass destruction in the Mississippi Delta, the obliteration of the city of New Orleans, the murderous abandonment of thousands of people to death, chaos and disease ­ will change the Bush Administration or American politics at all. Not one whit. The Bush Administration will not reverse its brutal policies; its Congressional rubber-stamps will not revolt against the White House; the national Democrats will not suddenly grow a spine. There will be no real change, and the bitter corrosion of injustice, indifference and inhumanity that is consuming American society will go on as before....

Just as the media have always overhyped Bush's popularity, they are now overhyping the "political crisis" he is supposedly facing. There is no political crisis whatsoever, if by "political crisis" you mean something that will cause Bush to alter his policies....This is what you must understand: Bush and his faction do not care if they have "the consent of the governed" or not. They are not interested in governing at all, in responding to the needs and desires and will of the people. They are only interested in ruling, in using the power of the state to force their radical agenda of elitist aggrandizement and ideological crankery on the nation, and on the world....

None of this will change because of what happened in New Orleans. If these people could be touched by suffering and injustice, by death and destruction, by corruption and incompetence, then they would not be where they are today. If there was a viable opposition in the American Establishment to Bush's policies, it would have stood up long ago. Like the people left behind in New Orleans, we're all on our own, ­ "with no direction home.

"How does it feel?

Monday, August 27, 2007


Malcom Lagauche

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has not had a good month. Pressure is mounting daily for his ouster and also for the dismembering of Iraq.
U.S. politicians are openly calling for a change in the Iraqi leadership. They are not ambiguous. Democrat Senators Hilary Clinton and Carl Levin have been in the forefront of calling for al-Maliki’s ouster.
Al-Maliki has struck back. According to the article "Iraq PM Hits Out at Critics," published by Al-Jazeera News on August 26, 2007:
The Iraqi prime minister has replied to his U.S. and European critics by making criticisms of his own, including the ongoing killing of Iraqis by U.S. soldiers.
At a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday, Nuri al-Maliki singled out Hilary Rodham Clinton and Carl Levin, both Democratic senators, saying they should "come to their senses."
Al-Maliki said: "There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hilary Clinton and Carl Levin." …
… Al-Maliki appeared stung by the recent series of critical statements about the government, including one from George Bush, the U.S. president, who said he was frustrated that al-Maliki had failed to make progress on political benchmarks.
In addition to the daily calls for al-Maliki’s demise, many pundits are calling for the dismembering of Iraq. Senator Joseph Biden has advocated the partitioning for years. Lately, he has spoken even louder on the subject.
For years, Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, has been calling for the breakup of Iraq. In July 2003, he wrote: "The Iraq we’re trying to herd back together consists of three distinct nations caged under a single bloodstained flag."
It is in vogue for "experts" to knock the Iraqi people for not getting their act together in forming the "new democratic Iraq" that the U.S. supplied them. Now, everything is their fault. According to the sick and twisted logic of U.S. politicians, the U.S. did Iraq a favor and the Iraqis have not been forthcoming in thanking the Americans. "Our commitment is not open-ended" is the statement of the day.
The stooges in Baghdad who were put in power by the U.S. are now being threatened by their benefactors. It is unbelievable that they did not see this coming.
Prior to 2003, these quislings, mostly living outside Iraq, thought they would have a free ride in returning to their country of birth. How idiotic. All they had to do was look at the treatment of Iraq under Saddam to notice common themes: the U.S. treats all Iraqis as stupid, ignorant people who can not get along. No amount of counterattack is strong enough to change this ethnocentric behavior.
Subtle changes have occurred along the way, only to revert to the original assessment of Iraqis. Before March 2003, all Iraqis were bad. They were savage animals. Then, after the invasion, we started to see a few "good Iraqis" spring up.
For a while, there was propaganda that spoke of the differences between "good Iraqis" and "dead-enders." All that talk is gone now. To the U.S. government, and much of its citizenry, Iraqis are dysfunctional and ignorant. There is no longer a line dividing the good from the bad Iraqis.
Only a fool would not have seen the bigotry thrust on Iraq prior to the March 2003 invasion and not have concluded that this was Arabaphobia at its worst. The same cliches and statements used against Iraqis under the Ba’ath government are now used against Iraqis of all persuasions.
Even al-Maliki has seen that what was promised is not what was delivered. Despite all the bluster about Iraq now running its own affairs, the shots are called in Washington. If the U.S. administration wants al-Maliki out, he will be gone. There are many means available, including assassination. In the early 1960s, the president of South Vietnam was assassinated by CIA operatives. He had outlived his usefulness. Don’t count out assassination as a means of getting a new prime minister in Iraq.
A few months ago, al-Maliki publicly stated that U.S. troops were no longer needed in Iraq. Within 48 hours, he was in Washington, D.C. In front of the worldwide press corps, he emerged from a back room with George Bush. Al-Maliki’s head was pointing downward as he and Bush approached the podium. Bush then said there may have been a misunderstanding but all was well again. Al-Maliki was handed a piece of paper from which he read a statement in English proclaiming that U.S. troops should stay in Iraq indefinitely. He had experienced his trip to the woodshed.
Unless he is even a bigger fool than I thought, al-Maliki must realize that he and each and every Iraqi are nothing more than sand niggers to the U.S. government and public. He thought he was pulling a fast one on the people of Iraq, all the time assisting his new allies in Washington. In fact, he was used by the administration and is in the process of being chewed up and spit out.
The U.S. conned the Iraqi collaborators who assisted in bringing "democracy" and "freedom" to Iraq. Shortly before the bogus Iraqi elections of January 30, 2005, the American Forces Press Service published an article titled, "Upcoming Elections Represent 'Historic Moment,’ Iraqi Minister Says." According to the piece:
Iraq’s January 30 elections mark "the beginning of the end of miseries and difficulties that the people of Iraq have endured for so many decades," Iraq’s interim deputy prime minister told Pentagon reporters today during a videoconference from Baghdad.
Hindsight shows that the deputy prime minister (Barham Sali) was slightly off in his prediction.
Let me turn to a quote made by Dr. Abbas Khalaf, Saddam Hussein’s personal Russian/Arabic translator. On November 3, 2006, he was interviewed by CTV’s Moscow bureau. The subject of the interview was the current Iraq of violence and destruction compared to Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Khalaf stated:
You could agree or disagree with him, but now even those who were secretly against him are saying he understood us better than we understand ourselves.
Saddam Hussein had understood for years that the U.S. would eventually invade Iraq and try to destroy every aspect of the country that opposed U.S. hegemony. Al-Maliki should have taken notes when Saddam spoke. His assessment was not only for Ba’athist Iraq, but for any government Iraq would field in the future.