Monthly Archives: September 2003

A Fairy Tale for Our Times: Ahmad and the 40 Thieves


An internal assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that most of the information provided by Iraqi defectors who were made available by the Iraqi National Congress was of little or no value, according to federal officials briefed on the arrangement.

Ahmad (as he is spelling it now) Chalabi was a con-artist. Every intelligence agency on the planet knew it, from the CIA on down. Jordan actually convicted him of bank fraud. But they couldn’t arrest him–he was in the US under the protection of Neocon Wonder Boys Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Lewis Libby, and Paul Wolfowitz, all of whom, with a naivete which is almost touching, believed everything he said.

He told them he was innocent of all charges, and they believed him. He told them he had an army of dissidents and defectors that he could put at their disposal, and they believed him. He told them stories about how they should get the US to storm into Iraq and throw out that monster Saddam.

We can’t, they said. We’d love to but we can’t just start a war for no reason. We need an excuse.

So he told them about nuclear scientists who didn’t exist creating WMD’s that didn’t exist to fulfill plans by Hussein to attack the US which had never existed. Only he pretended they did exist. The Wonder Boys believed it all. They were overjoyed. Wait ’til we take him out, they told him. You’re our boy. We”ll make you a King. Ahmad didn’t want to be King–he wanted to be President, like Saddam, and have palaces and many secret Swiss bank accounts. Or failing that, Finance Minister.

But then the CIA told them that Ahmad was a crook, a fraud and a liar. The DIA told them that he was coaching the defectors on what to say, and that almost all of it was unreliable at best and untrue at worst. Interpol told them he was wanted on charges of stock-and-securities swindling. Jordan convicted him of bank fraud in absentia and tried to extradite him so he could serve his sentence. MI6 and the Surete confirmed it all. The NWB’s either didn’t believe any of it, or they didn’t care. Ahmad was their ticket to control of the 2nd biggest oil field in the world, and the song he sang to them was sweet and sentimental and full of promises. They were putty in his hands for 15 years, and they loved it.

So did he, except sometimes he wondered what was taking them so long to invade.

First they said, Poppy is a weenie. He won’t do it. Some claptrap about “unacceptable consequences” and “de-stabilizing the region” and “potentially igniting WWIII”. They were disgusted by his cowardice, but what could they do?

Then they said, We got a damn Democrat traitor running the show and he sold us out to the UN, that useless, good-for-nothing, debating society where idiots actually listen to the French, if you can believe it. Ahmad believed it. He remembered Algeria. But he kept his remembering to himself–the NWB’s wouldn’t have liked being reminded and he didn’t want to do anything that would get them off the track he’d so carefully set them on. Instead he asked, What are you going to do?

Oh, we’ll get rid of The Traitor, don’t you worry about that, they said. We’ve made plans. He won’t survive his first term.

And they did have plans, and they executed them all, paralyzing The Traitor’s Presidency by manufacturing rumors, innuendos, and pointless investigations of scandals that had never happened and crimes that had never taken place. They used their tame right-wing media-giants to pound away at the stories day-after-day to convince people that something real was being covered up when they knew it wasn’t, and they intimidated the media they didn’t control by influencing their mostly-right-wing advertising money to drop their accounts if the media said something they didn’t like. It was a well-planned operation and it went off like a well-oiled machine doing something it’s done a million times before and knows like the back of its hand and its perfection was a marvel to behold.

There was only one thing wrong: Despite their obvious success in painting The Traitor as a diseased maniac who should be taken out and shot for the good of society, the goddam people had the nerve to re-elect him!

The NWB’s were livid. All that work, all that time, all that money spent on buying testimony and coercing witnesses to make investigations of thin air seem as substantial as mud. All for nothing. They were frustrated. But they kept at it, even attempting to impeach The Traitor for adultery (which wasn’t, strictly speaking, a Constitutional issue at all, but what the hell? You go with what you’ve got).

Ahmad waited through all this, chomping at the bit. To pass the time, he trained a cadre of Iraqi “defectors” in what to say and how to say it, and then fed them to the NWB’s, who sucked it up with a silver spoon and whined for more.

In return, they fed him to a mole they’d placed at the NY Times named Judith Miller, and Judith dutifully printed all of his fascinating stories without, needless to say, doing any independent investigation of her own–this was Gospel, and you don’t question the Gospel. She was so credulous that Ahmad discovered he could tell her the most appalling lies, lies that anyone who knew the slightest bit of truth about Iraqi culture or history would know weren’t true, and she would simply gasp with awe and delight and then run off and write them down for posterity.

Interesting, he thought, looking at a paper one day; I say it here and it comes out there. Now he understood the definition of the American expression, “mouthpiece”.

Finally, in the fullness of time, The Traitor finished his 2 terms and had to be replaced. The NWB’s backed a born-again fundamentalist knucklehead with a C-average brain and no experience whatever. They did so chiefly because they knew him–he was Poppy’s kid, Junior–and they knew he would believe everything they told him.

The election was a real squeaker, and in the end had to be stolen by Junior’s bro in Florida and a right-wing Supreme Court willing to throw out all its previous commitment to stuff like “state’s rights” to swing it. But they won, and that’s all that mattered to them. Junior appointed them all to positions of power and they no longer had to persuade the govt to do what they wanted–they were the govt and they could damn well do what they wanted without asking anybody. Well, except Junior, of course, but with Dick “Halliburton” Cheney behind them (all they had to do was promise Dick that Halliburton would get the reconstruction contracts), that was just a formality.

They thought. So as soon as Junior was sworn in, they started planning the Iraqi invasion. They told Ahmad it would be any day now, and he was very happy.

Unfortunately, it turned out there was a fly in the soup: some guy named Karl Rove. Rove was in charge of the politicals, and Junior was enthralled with him, wouldn’t make a move without his say-so. And Karl wouldn’t OK the Iraq invasion.

We need an excuse, he said.

We’ve got an excuse, they said. Saddam’s planning to attack America with balsa-wood planes full of chemical and/or biological weapons.

Incredulous, Karl asked sarcastically, Where’d you hear that malarkey?

They pointed to Ahmad over in the corner. Him? Karl rolled his eyes and muttered, You’ve got to be kidding, but passed it and went on:

It doesn’t matter. That’s not enough. He has to actually do something. Plans aren’t enough, I can’t sell it on plans, we’re going to have to scare the people out of their shirts before they’ll buy this. Something has to happen. Something bad.

Well, before long, something bad did, and even though the perp was an old enemy of Saddam’s, Karl was able to sell fear to the American people wholesale, and they didn’t look too close at the lies he had Junior tell about the “proof” or the unsubstantiated assertions he had Junior make about how Saddam was behind 9/11. The NWB’s jumped on Rove’s fable like The Lone Ranger on his horse–at last they had the excuse they needed–and before you could say, “Hi-yo, Silver, away!”, Ahmad was flying in a USAF plane on the way to Baghdad with some of his “army” to tear down a statue of Saddam for FOXNews’ cameras, who obligingly shot it all in close-up to make him and his small band of dedicated followers look like the whole population of the city.

He was on his way.

Moral: If you tell him what he wants to hear, you can lead a Neocon to water and make him drink it, or drown in it, or spit it through his nose, and he won’t just thank you for it–he’ll give you your very own country to play with.

In the "No Shit, Sherlock" Dept t…

Item #1:

From the Boston Globe:

The interim Iraqi government, set up by the United States to advise its senior administrator in Baghdad, has surprised Washington recently with a series of increasingly contentious positions as it presses for self-rule, from a push for sweeping economic changes to a move toward normalizing trade relations with Syria and Iran, countries branded by US officials as exporters of terrorism.

Oops. What have we here? Insubordination? Rebellion in the ranks? The Governing Council wants to govern? How dare they….

The rapid push for self-rule, led by Achmed Chalabi, a prominent dissident during Saddam Hussein’s rule who is now the council’s president, is the latest sign that the 25-member panel is growing more independent-minded and could disrupt the work of L. Paul Bremer III, the top US civilian official in Iraq.

Comments Chalabi made before this week’s opening session of the UN General Assembly in New York followed other declarations by the council in recent weeks that challenge Bremer’s desire for gradual political development and economic change.

As mentioned previously on this blog, Achmed Chalabi, embezzler and master manipulator, the man who’s had Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz wrapped around his little finger since before the First Gulf War, has always had his own agenda. He has displayed real genius in the way he fed the Neocon Boys exactly what they wanted to hear while managing to keep his true goal–getting the Boys to install him as Iraq’s new ruler–under his hat, at least publicly.

Unfortunately, Paul Bremer wasn’t a member of the Holy Circle early on and apparently missed the memo, so when the dust of occupation settled, Chalabi, much to his chagrin, found himself not Iraq’s newest American-backed dictator but just another member of the Iraqi Governing Council. IOW, one of 2 dozen–not exactly the prominence of position he expected.

But you can’t keep a good man down. Chalabi, like all manipulators a very perceptive guy when it comes to reading the mood of the manipulatees (the Iraqi population in general and the members of the Council in particular), waited his turn for the Chair, meanwhile fomenting rebellion against the Occupiers every chance he got. Why would he turn against his old “friends”, the guys who flew him and his private army into Baghdad as soon as feasible so they could tear down Hussein’s statue while the real city-folk were hiding from the bombs and the shooting?

Because he’s pissed off, that’s why. There’s no way of knowing at this point exactly what promises had been made to Chalabi by the Neocon Boys over the years of their association, but it’s reasonable to suppose that if they didn’t expressly promise to put him on the throne, at least they led him to believe they would. And then they didn’t.

It must have been a shock for poor Achmed. All those years of playing the Boys like a violin and then at the last minute they weasel out from under him. But not to worry–our boy still had a few tricks up his sleeve.

So when it came time for Chalabi’s month as Council Prez, does he content himself like the CP’s before him with the humdrum day-to-day business of trying the get the Occupation Govt to get Halliburton to do something–anything–about the country’s infrastructural chaos, like getting their water running again or electricity for more than a few hours a day?

Nah. Our boy has much bigger fish to fry. He’s off to NY, representing the Council to the UN–just like a real ruler!–and crying about independence from the Oppressors just like he actually meant it–which, if they don’t live up to his expectations about their backing him, he probably will. In time.

What a slap in the face to the NB’s. But really, how did they think a monomaniacal manipulator would react when they pulled the Persian carpet out from underneath him? Did they really think he was just going to slink away into a dark corner with his tail between his legs and whine quietly to himself while The Prize went to someone else?

Another indication–if you needed one–that our leaders’ “depth” of forethought about their adventure lacked, um, depth. Any kind or species thereof.

What a shock.

Item #2:

This one doesn’t require much in the way of comment; it pretty much speaks for itself:

The White House office in charge of reviewing federal regulations has reported that the benefits of some major environmental rules appear to exceed the costs by several times and that the net benefits may be even larger than previously acknowledged.

In its annual review of the costs and benefits of regulations, the Office of Management and Budget examined a sampling of major rules and found that the total benefits, to the extent they can be measured, were at least triple the costs.


Nice to have it confirmed, I suppose….

In the "Give ‘Em An Inch And They’ll Take A Mile” Dept

To the surprise of PATRIOT Act defenders who have repeatedly said. “Never never NEVER!” (and the total lack of anything resembling astonishment or even mild eyebrow-raising from anyone else who’s given the subject 5 seconds worth of serious consideration), a recent Justice Dept report admits with no sense whatever of shame or embarassment that it has been brazenly using the PA to investigate ordinary criminals for months:

The Bush administration, which calls the USA Patriot Act perhaps its most essential tool in fighting terrorists, has begun using the law with increasing frequency in many criminal investigations that have little or no connection to terrorism.

The government is using its expanded authority under the far-reaching law to investigate suspected drug traffickers, white-collar criminals, blackmailers, child pornographers, money launderers, spies and even corrupt foreign leaders, federal officials said.

And they said it couldn’t happen here.

The Poverty Football

A recent report on the Bush economy tends to confirm our suspicion that while things are definitely improving for the likes of wealthy cockroach-killers like T. DeLay, the rest of us are hanging on by our fingernails. The Bushian economy is so skewed toward the coupon-clippers that it’s almost as if the rest of us don’t exist, especially if we happen to be Blues, viz.:

The number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.7 million last year, and the median household income declined by 1.1 percent, the Census Bureau reported today. The worsening economic conditions fell heaviest on Midwesterners and nonwhites.

It was the second straight year of adverse changes in both poverty and income, the first two-year downturn since the early 1990’s.

The data, results of the Census Bureau’s annual Current Population Survey, the official barometer for measuring income and poverty rates, showed that lingering negative effects of the recent recession cut across a broad swath of the population. (emphasis added)

So there are three issues here (as there often are):

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The Democratic Act: Lose

You know, there are a lot of reasons why the Democrats can’t seem to get their act together: they’re chicken, they’re almost as beholden to corporate contributions as the Pubs, and they’re still focused on pleasing (or at least connecting with) single-issue groups individually, effectively preventing themselves from putting together a unified coalition with an over-arching and inclusive General Goal (an every-man-for-himself philosophy pretty much shoots unity in the ass), to name a few. But one of their less-mentioned deficiencies was on parade at the Pace University Debate yesterday afternoon.

The lead in the NY Times said it all:

The Democratic presidential candidates squabbled intensely over tax cuts, health care and trade policy yesterday afternoon at a debate in Manhattan, trading often personal attacks. But the newest entrant to the race, Gen. Wesley K. Clark, stood on the sidelines and was largely ignored for much of the first debate of his political career. (emphasis added)

Howard Dean, the feisty ex-Governor of Vermont (right next door to me–practically), has had control of the Demo-race headlines for months, drawing only a little intermittent and ineffective fire from the candidates he was walloping like a wild boar with a nasty attitude wallops anything in its path. Only now, when they’ve already lost the battle, do the mainstream candidates finally get off their collective butts and take real aim. Only it’s just the teensiest bit too late.

So Gen. Clark enters the race, whips into frontrunner status with the speed of a hungry cheetah latching onto the neck of a passing gazelle, hogs a sizable share of the Demo-donation pool for the week, gets the cover of Newsweek and a raft of other coverage in every media going (at the minimum rate of 1-2 stories a day), and is instantly savaged by the right-wing, which may not be much good for anything else but has a real nose for threats to their main squeeze, the Smirking Chimp. And what do they do the first chance they’ve got? Put him in perspective? Attack his late arrival? Question his policies (to show how few he has, at least domestically)? Do they take advantage of this opportunity–which may not come again–to cut him down to size?

No, no, boys and girls, none of that. They ignore him. Pretend he’s not there–the Elephant (you should excuse the expression)-in-the-Living-Room Syndrome: “If we just don’t mention it, maybe it’ll go away.”

Proof–if you needed it–that one of the Demo’s biggest problems is that they’re constantly in denial of the realities marching around in front of them wearing big orange clown noses and playing tubas–very LOUD.


“Close your eyes and put your hands over your ears–if you can’t see it or hear it, it ain’t there.”

No wonder they lost the Congress.

Politicizing the Prosecutors

An editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times the other day reminded me that there are more players in the Bush Admin than the chickenhawks, and more issues to fear than Iraq.

Remember John Ashcroft, who was crossing the country a couple of weeks ago stumping for a new-and-improved PATRIOT II? Apparently Mr. A is not content with assaulting the Constitution; he wants to bring down the whole legal system, or at least force it to a crashing halt, and he wants to do it by increasing his personal control over the country’s prosecutors, and through them, the courts.

Ashcroft, in the latest step in what can only be described as a campaign to concentrate power in his hands, has ordered federal prosecutors to seek the most serious charges possible in nearly any case they handle. Those who don’t must first seek permission from the Justice Department. That sounds very tough on criminals. But what it actually is is tough on prosecutors. Our legal system is notoriously overburdened, and plea bargaining is the grease that allows the machinery to clank along in the slow, imperfect manner that it does now.

A whopping 96 percent of the 60,000 cases dealt with by federal prosecutors in 2001 ended in plea bargains — where criminals agree to plead guilty in return for reduced sentencing. Without a plea bargain, those cases would go to trial, and it is difficult to understand how the federal system could continue to function with a caseload of trials suddenly multiplied by 20. Even if permission were granted to plea-bargain in every case, just seeking approval would eat up valuable time better spent fighting crime.

As worrisome as the logistics are for what Ashcroft is trying to do, the implications for consolidation of power are even more ominous. Just last month, Ashcroft got Congress to grant him the authority to establish what amounts to a blacklist of federal judges who impose sentences that for some reason deviate beneath the legal maximum. Having tightened the reins on the federal judiciary, he is now seeking to turn a vital part of our criminal justice system — federal law enforcement operating with discretion on a local level — into volitionless puppets of Washington bureaucrats. (emphasis added)

See, the vast yearning for an American Empire doesn’t just belong to the rabid neocon chickenhawks, no no.

Johnny may not have a gun

but he’s going to have some fun


They’re putting the Empire together right under our noses. They’re not just trashing the Constitution for the hell of it; there’s a method to their madness, and while its muscle shows in Iraq, its underpinnings show in the changes they want for the legal system.

Empires require far more power than democracies, for obvious reasons. Few democracies have withstood the demands of Empire and survived. The Brits did it (barely) but only because the source of their political power in the 19th century didn’t have to come from a top-down organizational structure superimposed–by force, if necessary–on a heterogeneous society; they already had a top-down structure in place: a rigid class system that, with a few exceptions for extraordinary merit, centralized power in the hands of the aristocrats. Democracy in Britain didn’t exactly flourish in the 19th century, but it managed to survive.

The US has no such class system. If we are to embark on the formation of the Pax Americana Empire, our rulers are going to need a lot more raw power in their dainty white hands than they’ve got now. PATRIOT I was only a shot across the bow, or what the Brits would call “the thin end of the wedge”. It started the process of removing all those pesky Constitutional restraints that get in the way of removing any enemies (on the outside or the inside) who might manage to throw a monkey-wrench into our Imperial Machine with their whining dissent, their traitorous demonstrations, and their refusal to go along with our plans. Empires speak with one voice, not a thousand–that’s confusing. The extra voices must be silenced, or at least controlled (read: “repressed”) so the Empire can get on with business.

PATRIOT II is a consolidation and extension of the necessity to disembowel the Constitution, but it is Ashcroft’s bald power-play that brings the game into the light for what it is and simultaneously takes us to a new level. It is the first obvious move by any Bush Admin consigliere to bring what has always before been (and in a real democracy must be) a locally controlled govt service–Justice–directly into the hands of a single individual. This is a classic move toward Imperial Law, and a necessary move if the Empire is to be born.

It’s not enough, of course, but they’re smart enough not to try to do this all at once–if they tried to do it in a lump, the sleeping citizenry would wake up, horrified, and stop it. No, we’re using the well-known scientific principle called “adaptational acclimatization” illustrated by the hot-water frog you might remember from high-school. If you put a frog in a bowl of scalding-hot water, it’ll jump out screaming. So would you. But if you put the frog into a bowl of comfortably warm water and then slowly increase the water’s temperature, giving the frog time to adjust to it, it won’t jump out. In fact, it will stay there until it dies from heat prostration.

That’s what they’re doing. We’re the frog and they’re turning up the heat so slowly they hope we won’t notice it until it’s way too late.

Another Turn of the Screw

There is increasing evidence that these various actions are by no means isolated or accidental. Not even a week after Ashcroft’s dictum, George was adding fuel to the fire. From the Atlanta Constitution comes a report on Bush’s demand for broader subpoena power:

President Bush’s plan to boost the power of federal investigators to check out suspected terrorists is stirring new alarm among civil libertarians.

Bush wants to give federal investigators “administrative subpoena” authority to question witnesses and demand records in suspected terrorism cases. A federal investigator could ask an individual to appear for questioning without first consulting an attorney, without the oversight of a grand jury and without a stenographer to record the conversation.

Get what’s going on here? First we centralize the power of Federal prosecutors in the hands of the Justice Dept, then we move to eliminate from the process all the elements which might hamper the broad, unchecked, unquestioned power of the AG to detain, question, even charge anyone he might decide to label a “terrorist”; he doesn’t have to prove his claim in front of a grand jury, and the defendant’s position not only goes unrepresented but there’s no record of the conversation: it’s his word against theirs, and who do you think will win that match-up?

So we’re moving first to control the Federal Judiciary, and then to remove restrictions on its power. Neat, huh? Very slick. This is why the Jimmy Yee case is so troubling. Gitmo is bad enough, but this is a step down: Gitmo involves supposed combatants; Jimmy Yee was a visitor who was arrested, apparently, because he made some sketches of the cells and because he may have talked with someone the Admin thinks may be a spy. And for all these “maybe’s”, they felt perfectly free to arrest Jimmy and throw him in jail–no lawyer, no nothin’. He’s been there 3 or 4 days now, and last I checked they hadn’t charged him with anything! That’s the beauty of Imperial Justice: you can do anything you want to your own citizens and you don’t have to explain anything to anybody if you don’t want to. George likes that part of the job a lot; he said so.

So now we come to the question you’re all no doubt asking yourselves right now:

“Why does this stuff have to mean we’re slouching toward Imperialism? Why isn’t it just the standard, knee-jerk right-wing anal-retentive control-freak piecemeal response to what they perceive as a violent society?”

For one main reason:

Do you think for one second Tom DeLay, or Ashcroft himself for that matter, would sit quietly twiddling their thumbs while Janet Reno turned the Federal Courts into her own private kingdom? They’d be screaming their bloody heads off.

Of course, what is done by one executive order can be undone by another, but even if they assumed a Democratic AG would do that, they have set a precedent now: any future AG, of whichever party, could do the same, and they wouldn’t like it if it was coming from the other side. So why do it?

Because you don’t vote Empires out of office, that’s why. These guys don’t expect to be out of power for a long, long time and they’re setting up the conditions that will make that happen.

Think about it. It’s coming if we don’t stop it.

Bush’s UN Speech

I rarely watch Bush-speeches; listening to them is hard enough. The patently sly and by now infamous smirk that never seems to leave him these days; the air of pious self-righteousness while mouthing the most inane platitudes known to man; the thick layer of arrogance that drips like bad plastic surgery melting under a heat lamp; the pugnacious how-dare-you of privilege that’s never known a blocked desire or an unfulfilled wish and expects it to go on that way forever as if it were a right; the fierce mediocrity in the shifting gaze which never seems to be looking in the direction his head is pointing, as if there were some fundamental schizophrenia embedded in his very limbs; and of course the preening air of accomplishment shining from those narrow eyes whenever he tells what he thinks is a particularly persuasive lie. It’s all just too depressing.

But I watched the UN speech, can’t say why exactly. Maybe I was feeling masochistic, maybe I forgot for one short moment what watching him is like. I don’t know what it was, but I watched it. I watched it and even though I thought I knew what to expect, I was appalled by the reality. It was a new low, even for him, the man who invented “low”.

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In the "That Was Predictable" Dept.

President Junior has scheduled himself to tell the UN today that Jacques Chirac is guilty of being French and should therefore not be taken seriously by Real Men when he says that Iraq should be handed over to the Iraqis “immediately”.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

In fact, Bush intends in his speech to resist demands by French President Jacques Chirac that sovereignty be transferred immediately to the Iraqi people, followed by the gradual ceding of power to Iraqis over a period of six months to nine months.

Not so coincidentally, Achmed Chalabi, the Neocon’s Iraqi-Exile Pin-Up-Boy, just happens to be this month’s president of the Iraqi Governing Council.

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Omnium Is What Again?

Let’s start by saying that the idea here is to start a blog where widely scattered but interconnected data, events, personalities, news items, etc. can sit next to each other and schmooze, as they should, and we can start to see the Bigger Picture that all these little. disconnected pieces make when you put them together.