Daily Archives: May 23, 2004

Israelis treat animals like Palestinians

Here’s an off-the-wall whacky idea for combating terrorism: Let’s stop supporting it. The brutal murderous heartless thugs who do this sort of thing can do so only because you and I pay for it.

Ask to be directed to the latest wave of Israeli destruction in Rafah’s al-Brazil neighbourhood and many fingers point towards the zoo.

Amid the rubble of dozens of homes that the Israeli army continued yesterday to deny demolishing, the wrecking of the tiny, but only, zoo in the Gaza Strip took on potent symbolism for many of the newly homeless.

The butchered ostrich, the petrified kangaroo cowering in a basement corner, the tortoises crushed under the tank treads – all were held up as evidence of the pitiless nature of the Israeli occupation.

“People are more important than animals,” said the zoo’s co-owner Mohammed Ahmed Juma, whose house was also demolished. “But the zoo is the only place in Rafah that children could escape the tense atmosphere. There were slides and games for children. We had a small swimming pool. I know it’s hard to believe, looking at it now, but it was beautiful. Why would they destroy that? Because they want to destroy everything about us.”

The army also initially denied that soldiers deliberately wrecked the zoo that provided Rafah’s children with virtually their only contact with live animals, even ordinary ones such as squirrels, goats and tortoises.

Among the zoo’s more popular exhibits were kangaroos, monkeys and ostriches, which children could sit on.

The destruction was comprehensive. The fountain and its tiles were a jumble of rubble in one corner. There was no sign of the swimming pool.

One of the ostriches lay half buried in the rubble. Guinea fowl and ducks were laid out in a row. Goats and a deer struggled with broken legs.

Some of the animals were still on the loose, if not buried under the debris. One of the two kangaroos was missing; the other was cowering in the basement. A snake and three monkeys were unaccounted for. Mr Juma accused Israeli soldiers of stealing valuable African parrots.

Women Blog, Too! 3

This week’s featured feamle blog is Roxanne’s Rox Populi, a raucous hodge-podge of quizzes, lists, travel tips, cold remedies, and ephemera from around the blogosphere. You can caption a picture, write an anti-Bush haiku, tell her about your favorite Alaskan mountain, or catch up with the latest Passion of the Christ parody. She has a ton of recurring features, including the Molly Ivins Quote of the Week, the Phileas Fogg Travel Tips, the Friday Random Ten, and–my personal favorite–the Deity ‘o’ the Week. This week–Gilgamesh!

In honor of the “mess” we’ve made of Mesopotamia (apologies to Jon Stewart), this week’s featured diety is Gilgamesh.

…He is the precursor of Heracles and other folk heroes. Gilgamesh is the son of Ninsun, a comparatively obscure goddess who had a palace-temple in Uruk. His father in the King-List is mysteriously described as ‘lillû’, which may mean ‘fool’ or a demon of the vampire kind, as well as being a high-priest of Kullab (part of Uruk) . On other occasions, he refers to Lugulbanda as his semi-divine ‘father’. Gilgamesh is fifth on the King-List and reigned in Uruk around 2700 BCE (or some hundred years or so later) for 126 years (his son reigned a mere 30 years). He was famous as a great builder and as a judge of the dead.

Roxanne doesn’t write funny but her choices betray a sly, even slippery wit that catches you off-guard, and she’s as likely to be serious as not. To another blogger’s suggestion that liberals close the Great Divide by taking a conservative to lunch, she replies:

Leave aside, for the moment, the notion that Kim’s Republican lunch date sounds like a broken record. I like the suggestion. Most of us live in silos. If we want to be effective agents of change, we’ve got to get out of these silos.

She has a point, though I doubt I could afford the kind of place Pubs like to eat, and I further doubt that the Pubs I know would care much for Fat Willie’s Grill.

Drop by Roxanne’s place and let yourself be taken for a short, surprising ride.

Quotes of the Day

There is only one word for a situation in which you cannot win and you cannot withdraw: Quagmire.–Larry Diamond, a former advisor to the U.S. occupation authority, on the situation in Iraq

If we cannot provide…clarity, we risk the loss of support of the American people, loss of potential contributions from our allies and the disillusionment of Iraqis.–Sen Richard Lugar

It is worse than I had thought it was going to be, worse than most people thought it was going to be.–Phebe Marr, an Iraq expert formerly at the National Defense University

We could not have screwed up more if we had set out to do it deliberately.–An active-duty officer who recently returned from Iraq and spoke on condition he not be identified

I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure.–Retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, a former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East

I think we’re on the brink of success here.–Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

‘To counter that spreading sense of disorder and shore up public support, Bush plans to give six…speeches.’

Clueless in Baghdad–Chalabi Unmasked

Seattle points out that Josh Marshall is ‘very skeptical’ that the Chalabi raid was a put-on.

I don’t doubt that some of Chalabi’s Washington supporters have encouraged him to take a more oppositional stand toward the occupation authorities to bolster his own popularity. But there are many US government players in Iraq right now. And many of them really are hostile to Chalabi.

True enough, but one of Josh’s reasons is silly:

Something quite that orchestrated would, I suspect, be far too difficult to pull-off. And are we dealing here with smooth operators? Answers itself, doesn’t it?

Josh, how tough do you think this would be? How much ‘orchestration’ would be needed, really? Feith tells Bremer, ‘Find a pretext. Shake him down but don’t arrest him.’ Bremer tells the Iraqi judge, ‘We think Chalabi’s involved in anti-American activities, or else somebody on his staff is. Issue a warrant to search his house. The Iraqi police will do the search. US Army troops will “advise” and stand backup.’ There. How hard was that?

In the aftermath, Chalabi’s busy trying to sell the story the raid set up–

Chalabi, once the darling of a Pentagon that groomed him as a possible successor to Saddam Hussein, is now embroiled in a public battle with the U.S.-run occupation authority. He has become a vociferous critic of Washington’s Iraq policies — a change of roles that has left him with little choice but to try and endear himself to the Iraqis he says he wants to serve.”I only act from an Iraqi national perspective,” he told a TV interviewer Friday, a day after Iraqi police backed by American soldiers raided his Baghdad home and offices. “I consider what happened to me (on Thursday) as a medal from the people of Iraq. It is the final piece of evidence that discredits rumors that I am with the Americans.” (emphasis added)

Meanwhile Richard Perle, the neocon Whizkid who got handed Chalabi on a plate and promptly passed him around to all his friends, has been using Chalabi’s ‘mistreatment’ in the service of his own agenda: undermining the CIA and State.

Even still, he remains a figure of hope among some neoconservatives both inside and outside the administration, some of whom go so far as to applaud Chalabi for strategically distancing himself from unpopular US occupiers and buffing up his own credibility as a future leader of an independent Iraq.”The CIA despises Chalabi; the State Department despises him,” said Richard Perle, a senior Pentagon adviser and key supporter of the war who has known Chalabi for 15 years. “They did everything they could to put him out of business. Now there is a deliberate effort to marginalize him.”

“He has devoted his life to freeing his country,” Perle added. “He is a man of enormous intelligence, and I believe the effort to marginalize him will fail. They will end up looking ridiculous.”

Perle, as always, defines ‘enormous intelligence’ by the number of times it agrees with him.

OK OK, so do I think it was a setup or not? Basically…yes and no.

Perle’s right about one thing: the IC has been out to get Chalabi for years. To their credit, they’ve been out to get him because they knew he was a fake.

U.S. intelligence analysts in some cases used information from now-discredited “foreign intelligence sources” to corroborate their own assessments of Hussein’s suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. Few of the CIA’s prewar judgments have been proved accurate so far.”We had a lot of sources, but it was all coming from the same pot,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They were all INC guys. And none of them panned out.”

The LA Times reports that Chalabi shopped his shopworn INC storytellers to every Western nation that would listen–

Because even friendly spy services rarely share the identities of their informants or let outsiders meet or debrief their sources, it has only in recent months become clear that Chalabi’s group sent defectors with inaccurate or misleading information to Denmark, England, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden, as well as to the United States, the officials said.

–before they landed in the gullible laps of the NWB’s Perle and Wolfowitz. Nobody else believed them. With reason.

A discredited INC defector to Germany who was code-named “Curveball” was the chief source of information on Iraq’s supposed fleet of mobile germ weapons factories. Another INC defector who provided similar information was deemed a liar. So was an INC defector who said he had helped build 20 underground germ weapons laboratories, a now-discredited claim that made headlines when the INC made him available to some reporters in December 2001.The CIA was unable to interview two other supposedly senior Iraqis who spied for British intelligence in Baghdad before the war and claimed to provide detailed information from within Hussein’s inner circle.

Information from both informants has now “fallen apart,” one U.S. official said. “Neither had direct knowledge of what they claimed. They were describing what they had heard.”

Or, in some cases, describing what they had made up to claim that they’d heard. The picture that’s emerging is susceptible of two explanations;

#1: Chalabi the con artist was running a massive con and sending out his shills to cast around for the right mark.

#2: Chalabi is a double agent and the hoax was masterminded by Iranian intelligence to put pressure on their old enemy, Saddam Hussein.

U.S. investigators are seeking to determine whether the effort — which one U.S. official likened to an attempt to “game the system” — was secretly supported by Iran’s intelligence service to help persuade the Bush administration to oust the regime in Baghdad, Tehran’s longtime enemy.Officials said other evidence indicated that Chalabi’s intelligence chief had furnished Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security with highly classified information on U.S. troop movements, top-secret communications, plans of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and other closely guarded material on U.S. operations in Iraq.

The U.S. investigation into the suspected spy operation was a key reason behind Thursday’s raids on Chalabi’s Baghdad house and the offices of his Iraqi National Congress. Several INC members were accused of kidnapping, robbery and corruption.

I think both of the explanations are true–and that neither of them is the whole truth.

The raid seems now to have been orchestrated, alright, but not by Chalabi and the NWB’s to distance fair-haired boy Ahmad from the filthy American occupiers; that all sounds like spin to me. They’re trying to make a situation that’s patently bad for them work to their advantage, something they’ve had plenty of practice doing this past year, albeit with limited success.

No, the original source would seem to be the IC who seized on Ahmad’s ill-timed approach to Iranian Intelligence to force the Administration’s hand. Not even deaf-and-dumb ‘I know NOTHING’ Junior could ignore contacts between an American ‘puppet’ and the intelligence service of one of the members of the ‘axis of evil’. There are limits even for him. Bringing down Chalabi would strengthen the IC’s hand immeasurably, which is good, but what’s better is it could turn the tide of power in the WH by arming the State Dept with powerful new weapons to use against the NWB cabal.

If that’s what happened, it was a masterstroke. I’ve been saying ever since the Plame Affair (which I still insist is sooo not over, and I’m laying $20 bucks at 3-1 that it will hit big time before the election; any takers?) that the IC was going to find a way to make the BA pay for what they did to her, and I think we’re seeing Stage One playing out now.

Which means, of course, that I’m suspicious of the ‘Iranian connection’. It’s too neat. Not that I don’t think he met with them; he almost certainly did. Chalabi has been getting nowhere plumping for political power in Iraq despite all the advantages we saddled him with–the support of the most powerful players in the BA; his possession of all the files of Saddam’s secret police (which we handed to him gift-wrapped); the USAF flying him and 200 heavily-armed INC fighters into Baghdad within hours of our taking the capital (it was Chalabi and his little ‘army’ who pulled down the statue of Saddam while ordinary Iraqis were hiding from the bombs); maneuvering to make sure it was Chalabi’s hand on the finances of the fledgling IGC (he’s ‘Finance Minister’); and paying out a cool $$33MILLION$$ to the INC over the last three years–

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States paid Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress at least $33 million since March 2000, according to a congressional report made public on Thursday.The report by the Government Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, found $33 million in funds from the State Department and did not include any funds from the Pentagon or other U.S. agencies, a congressional source told Reuters.

–or more (note the last sentence). Despite all that, he is disliked by the Iraqis (when they don’t hate him) and distrusted by everyone, including the Army and the CPA, and has so far been able to attract ZERO support from either the people or the IGC itself. The Washington Post reported an incident during the raid that tells the tale.

One of [Chalabi’s] guards said the American directed the Iraqi police, who they said kicked down doors and smashed a picture of Chalabi. Damaged picture frames, including one holding a photograph of Chalabi, were seen by a reporter in one of the ransacked offices.Haider Ridha Mohammed, a guard on duty at the time, said he asked the police officer why he had tossed the framed photograph on the ground. Mohammed said the officer responded, “He’s gone now, Ahmad Chalabi is finished.”

Not a supporter, you’d say. But then, nobody in Iraq is outside of Chalabi’s INC co-conspirators. Even his compadres on the Governing Council are less than thrilled. It seems he’s been stealing from them.

For several months, U.S. officials have been investigating people affiliated with the INC for possible ties to a scheme to defraud the Iraqi government during the transition to a new currency that took place from Oct. 15 last year to Jan. 15, according to a U.S. occupation authority official familiar with the case. The official said the raids were partly related to that investigation.At the center of the inquiry is Nouri, whom Chalabi picked as the top anti-corruption official in the new Iraqi Finance Ministry. Chalabi heads the Governing Council’s finance committee and has major influence in its staffing and operation.

When auditors early this year began counting the old Iraqi dinars brought in and the new Iraqi dinars given out in return, they discovered a shortfall of more than $22 million. Nouri, a German national, was arrested in April and faces 17 charges including extortion, fraud, embezzlement, theft of government property and abuse of authority. He is being held in a maximum security facility, according to three sources close to the investigation.

In recent weeks, several other Finance Ministry officials have been arrested as part of the investigation. A U.S. official familiar with the case said, “We are cracking down on corruption regardless of names involved.”

So what does a player like Chalabi do when the mark turns on him? Look for a new sponsor, of course. You go through your Rolodex for a likely target, someone who hates the Americans and is willing to pay handsomely for information that might damage them. I suspect we’ll discover in due time that Iran wasn’t the only unfriendly govt Chalabi approached, just as the US wasn’t the only one he approached when he was trying to sell his WMD fairy tales.

American conservatives are so hopelessly naive when it comes to dealing with the rest of the world that they never got this. Digby at Hullabaloo found this intriguing piece from Tapped. It’s two years old.

Almost to a man, Washington’s hawks lavishly praise Chalabi. “He’s a rare find,” says Max Singer, a trustee and co-founder of the Hudson Institute. “He’s deep in the Arab world and at the same time he is fundamentally a man of the West.”In Washington, Team Chalabi is led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, the neoconservative strategist who heads the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. Chalabi’s partisans run the gamut from far right to extremely far right, with key supporters in most of the Pentagon’s Middle-East policy offices — such as Peter Rodman, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Michael Rubin. Also included are key staffers in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, not to mention Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey.

In early October [2002], Perle and Chalabi shared a podium at an American Enterprise Institute conference called “The Day After: Planning for a Post-Saddam Iraq,” which was held, appropriately enough, in AEI’s 12th-floor Wohlstetter Conference Center. “The Iraqi National Congress has been the philosophical voice of free Iraq for a dozen years,” Perle told me.

This was five years after Chalabi’s 1997 conviction in absentia for bank fraud in Jordan. He hadn’t set foot in Iraq since 1954. Neither circumstance bothered Perle.

Dickie, baby, ask yourself this question: What do players do?

Answer: They play. This one against that one, that side against this side, both ends against the middle with both hands skinning as many pockets as they can reach. The Middle East is full of players like Chalabi–traders, merchants, thieves, govt agents–who go where the money or the power is, who float on it like a hawk floats on a tide of air, who change sides as easily and as often as they change clothes. Chalabi went to Iran because he wants to stay in the game and he’s run out his string with the dopey Americans. It’s that simple.

So now you’re the Iranian intelligence officer who wound up with this character sitting on your desk and offering to lay the secrets of the Americans at your feet–for a price. What do you do? You pay him and put him in play, that’s what you do. Why not? Chalabi’s been moving inside some of the heaviest power circles in the US govt for 15 years. He’s got A LOT to sell that’s undoubtedly worth buying. What’s even better, a bunch of those nitwit Americans, in spite of everything that’s come out about him, still believe in him. They’re still talking to him, for chrissake. Best of all, he’s been building a buraucracy in Iraq that’s loyal only to him and has its grubby little fingers in every Iraqi pie going. You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose by running him except a little money and a few worthless promises to support his fantasies about taking over Iraq.

All of which makes Ahmad just as dangerous on the outside as he was on the inside. The Iranians–familiar with Chalabi’s type–aren’t going to settle for pretty stories like our neocon naifs; they’re going to want the hard stuff–provable, accurate information and guaranteed use of his influence–or it’s Ahmad’s head and be quick about it. He’s in the game now and no mistake. If he doesn’t want to be found floating belly-up in the harbor at Tangier, he’d better deliver. And the thing is, he can do it.

“He has certain levers of power,” said [Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University who last month finished a three-month stint as a senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority]. “He’s a shrewd player, and much of that power comes from the ministries that he controls.”As head of the Iraqi Governing Council’s economic and finance committee, Chalabi has been able to install his relatives or friends as the minister of oil, the minister of finance, the central bank governor, the trade minister, the head of the trade bank and the managing director of Iraq’s largest commercial bank. These connections reportedly have allowed firms controlled by his allies to make millions in government contracts.

He was given control of the entire archive of the Hussein regime’s secret documents, as well as the so-called de-Baathification process. The powers of the De-Baathification Commission, which Chalabi chairs, are so wide-ranging that it is often called a government within the government.The commission singled out tens of thousands of former Baath Party members to be fired from their government jobs and has allowed Chalabi to replace them with his followers. It oversees educational reform, tracks down Hussein’s funds stashed in foreign banks and compiles lists of pro-Hussein businessmen who are then blacklisted and banned from government contracting.

His nephew Salem Chalabi is in charge of the war-crimes tribunal that is planning to try Hussein and other top former regime officials. His personal militia, paid for almost entirely with U.S. funds, has become the best- financed and best-armed Iraqi force in Baghdad.

Even mundane details show his power. To process the vast mountains of documents, the commission has 50 document scanners. There are only 20 other scanners in all the rest of the Iraqi government.

Oops. Imagine all that–and an Iranian agent, too.

If you think it’s nasty and complicated now, wait til Ahmad gets through with it. He can make such an unholy mess out of Iraq that it will make the situation in Israel look like a Memorial Day picnic by comparison.

My god, what these naive, fantasy-driven birdbrains have done to us. It just goes to show you should never let your idiot children have the keys to your car. It’ll wind up wrapped around a tree and they’ll swear they don’t have any idea how it got there. And they’ll be telling the truth.