Document Sample


 DO YOU remember the famous
 2001 trophy photo of John Walker
 Lindh – the American Taliban –
 the most prominent prisoner of
 the Afghan war? Although he
 was seriously wounded, starving,
 freezing, and exhausted, U.S.
 soldiers handcuffed him naked,
 scrawled “shithead” across the
 blindfold, duct-taped him to a stretcher in an unheated
 and unlit shipping container, threatened him with death,
 and posed with him for pictures. Parts of his ordeal were
 captured on videotape. Sound familiar? – SEE PAGE 22

                              3. BEHIND THE MASK OF THE EXECUTIONER
                                 By Mara Verheyden-Hilliard

                              11. EXECUTION IN THE NAME OF FREEDOM
                                 By Felicity Arbuthnot

                              15. AMERICA’S HOLY WARRIORS
                                 By Chris Hedges

                              19. FOOTBALL AND VIOLENCE GO TOGETHER
                                 By Robert Fisk
    ISSUE 11 | FEBUARY 2007
                              22. COVER STORY – SHOOT THE MESSENGER
    Editor:                      By Jesselyn Radack
    Tony Sutton
                              27. SHOW ME THE INTELLIGENCE
    For a free subscription      By Ray McGovern
    to the ColdType Reader,
    email Julia Sutton        31. LOOKING FOR AN EXTREME MAKEOVER
    at        By Bill Berkowitz
    Please type
    “SUBSCRIBE” in the
    subject line              34. RAPTORS, ROBOTS AND RODS FROM GOD
                                 By Frida Berrigan

                              41. JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN
                                 By William Blum

                              48. BUSH ANTI-TERROR SUCCESSES ARE ALL FICTION
                                 By David Swanson

                              51. MONEY VERSUS THE MONSOON
                                 By Stan Cox

                              57. KILLING JOURNALISTS IS A WAR CRIME
                                 By Amy Goodman

                              59. WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS LEARNS ITS LESSON
                                 By David Walsh

2 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                             VICTOR’S JUSTICE


On Dec. 26, 2006, the Appellate Court of the Iraqi Special Tribunal announced that           The issue for
Judge Awad Hamad al-Bandar, along with Saddam Hussein, was to be put to death.               Bush is not
With an initial filing made immediately that night and over the next two weeks,              really the
the writer and Carl Messineo of the Partnership for Civil Justice, working with former       hangings,
US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, sought emergency relief to stop the US                     but rather the
government from transferring Judge Bandar to what was an extra-judicial killing.             reality of the
Judge Bandar was sentenced to death in a show trial, along with Hussein, in the              hangings that
absence of a competent tribunal or due process of law. The federal courts, including         was revealed
the US Supreme Court, refused to prohibit the transfer of Bandar, who was                    to the world
undisputedly in US physical custody, based on the US government’s argument that its
operations are beyond the reach of US courts when acting as, or as in this case
renaming itself to be, a multi-national force. Judge Bandar was hanged in the early
Monday morning of January 15, 2007

         resident Bush has announced         hangings, but rather the reality of the
         he is “disappointed” with the       hangings that was revealed to the
         hangings of Saddam Hussein,         world. The government was concerned
         Judge Awad Hamad al-Bandar          that protest and even rebellion could
and Barzan Ibrahim, adding that it           spread in Iraq and throughout the Arab
“looked like kind of a revenge killing.”     world. But the Bush Administration
This might be seen as strange from the       was also worried about the dynami-
man who hung them. Bush added that           cally evolving domestic political scene.
the real problem with the hangings was       The people of the United States, hav-
the appearance, that it made it harder       ing seen something other than the ed-
for him to “make the case to the Amer-       ited and packaged presentation of the
ican people.” This part was true.            hangings, may question the US’s fic-
   The issue for Bush is not really the      tional story of the situation in Iraq and

                                                                                         February 2007 | TheREADER 3

The US war               rightly hold the US government re-              That assertion may be news even to
machine, which           sponsible. Condoleezza Rice clarified        General George W. Casey, Jr., identified
has already              the government’s displeasure with the        as the commander of MNF-I who has
sought to                situation, calling for punishment of         said repeatedly that he is subject to the
exempt itself            those who made and released unau-            authority, direction, and control of the
from restraint or        thorized video images.                       Commander, US Central Command
accountability              First one hanging, and then two           (CENTCOM) and that the MNF-I is “a
worldwide, has           more, and the press has filled columns       subordinate command to CENTCOM.”
now untethered           with the US government’s self-serving        Asked in his Senate confirmation hear-
itself from the          protestations. The media dutifully re-       ing whether there would be any limits
one last legal           ports this fiction of concerns, regret and   on CENTCOM’s authority due to the
hold on it, the          criticisms. To read these protestations      international nature of the MNF-I, he
US courts                was remarkable to us, as we were si-         replied that there were “none at all.”
                         multaneously reading the US govern-          He added, there is “no reporting chain
                         ment’s briefs filed in federal court         that goes back to the United Nations.
                         opposing our emergency attempts to           … My chain of command is through
                         obtain due process for our client Judge      the secretary of defense and the Presi-
                         Bandar, who was to be hung.                  dent.”
                            Judge Bandar, a civilian, was being          The US war machine, which has al-
                         held in the exclusive physical custody       ready sought to exempt itself from re-
                         of the US government at Camp Crop-           straint or accountability worldwide,
                         per. The US government controlled his        has now untethered itself from the one
                         fate, whether he lived or died. Had it       last legal hold on it, the US courts. By
                         really any concerns about the hangings,      so doing, it asserts that the US courts
                         the fact that the federal court system in    do not have jurisdiction to address
                         the United States was being presented        claims lodged against it. It can take up
                         with such matters was easily enough to       arms anywhere against any civilians,
                         stave off execution. But, the US gov-        capture, hold them, torture them, have
                         ernment actually wanted them dead.           them killed, and merely by renaming it-
                         Further, it is adamantly opposed to          self can eliminate any threat of judicial
                         there being any restraint on its lawless     oversight or intervention.
                         conduct in Iraq.                                The US government also simultane-
                            The US government in its military         ously argued that any stay in the ren-
                         operations has sought to neutralize it-      dition to death of Judge Bandar would
                         self from the authority of the US courts     interfere with the “exclusive authority”
                         simply by renaming itself as the Multi-      of the President as Commander in
                         National Force-Iraq (MNF-I). It pre-         Chief and “unitary chief executive.”
                         sented this fiction to the court claiming    Maintaining its open rejection of any
                         that the US government did not con-          check or balance against imperial au-
                         trol military operations in Iraq. This       thority, the government argued this
                         may be news to you, news to most of          was a matter of foreign affairs and mil-
                         the world; especially news to the Iraqis.    itary operations exclusively for Presi-

4 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                             VICTOR’S JUSTICE

dent Bush to determine with no over-            News of the hangings was fed to and           Had things gone
sight.                                       reprinted by the press, mostly lies ex-          according to
                                             cept the fact of death – all reported            plan, minus the
US puppets and propaganda                    with just as little responsibility as the        all-revealing
Continuing his fiction spun to the peo-      war and the show trial that preceded             video of the
ple of the United States, Bush has           them. The carefully packaged and ed-             execution, all
launched a component campaign of his         ited news of the first hanging was be-           three men would
decision to inflict deeper death and de-     trayed by the cell phone video, its grisly       have been
struction on Iraq and US servicepeople.      appeal overwriting the accepted con-             strung up by the
He has begun to publicly criticize his       structed news story.                             US government,
puppet, Prime Minister Maliki. This is          Because of a reporting quirk, the             and it would
to ensure that any failure of the pup-       plan of the official propaganda machine          have been
peteer’s actions and plans, and result-      was exposed. The initial news stories            reported as
ing public outcry, can be laid at the feet   on the date of Saddam Hussein’s death,           a sovereign
of the puppet. Thus, his critique of the     broadcast throughout the US media in             act of their
hangings.                                    orderly fashion, contained so much               puppet Iraqi
   Scapegoating their own puppet is          “truth” as to report that there were             government
not an unfamiliar program to the             three hangings at first. This proves that        carried out
White House and Pentagon. The US             the coverage was not coverage at all             with appropriate
government supported its puppet Fer-         but rather another example of re-                gravitas and
dinand Marcos in the Philippines until       porters delivering a script obviously            “dignity”
the people rose up and drove him out.        written in advance and handed to
The United States supported its pup-         them earlier by government agencies.
pet Jean Claude Duvalier in Haiti until      Our client, Judge Bandar, was reported
the people rose up and drove him out.        to have been killed on Dec. 30 along
A little repudiation of the failing          with Saddam Hussein. This was re-
regime, at the stage of its dethrone-        ported as a fact by virtually all the
ment, is a tactic borne of practicality.     media outlets. But the plan had
   Had things gone according to plan in      changed at the last minute and the re-
Iraq, minus the all-revealing video of       porters in the propaganda machine
the execution, all three men would           were not informed so they all reported
have been strung up by the US govern-        his death as a fact.
ment, and it would have been reported           But Judge Bandar was kept alive
as a sovereign act of their puppet Iraqi     only to be brutally killedon the morn-
government and asserted to have been         ing of january 15 instead. The timing of
carried out with appropriate gravitas        the execution was a political calcula-
and “dignity.” We would have been            tion just as the whole trial that led to
spoonfed the fiction of the conquerors’      his conviction was pure political calcu-
honorable execution of the captured          lation. Political executions should
head of state – a romantic notion of         never be confused with justice.
barbaric “victor’s justice,” harkening          When it comes to Iraq the Bush Ad-
back to the Roman Empire.                    ministration has a serious credibility

                                                                                          February 2007 | TheREADER 5

The Iraqi Special        problem. The show trial followed by          intervention of the Prime Minister, act-
Tribunal (IST)           the grisly executions has compounded         ing to serve the occupying powers.”
itself was a             the problem for the White House. The
creation of the          fictional story fed to the American peo-     The show trial
US government,           ple has run into serious problems.           Judge Bandar was forced to wear a
a violation                  The administration largely suc-          Guantanamo style prison jumpsuit
of the Geneva            ceeded with its fictional trial story in     when he was put to death on January
Convention that          the corporate media. Major newspa-           16. He was convicted of the “crime” of
prohibits an             pers and television shows have re-           having been the presiding judge over a
occupying power          peated the government-approved               two-year-long trial against those ac-
from altering            mantra that there was due process in         cused in the assassination attempt on
an existing court        Iraq, that the “trial” was a major act for   Saddam Hussein at Dujail in 1982, dur-
system.                  a fledgling democracy. Where there was       ing the Iran-Iraq war. That was his ac-
It is not legal,         international outcry, the propaganda of      cused crime, being the judge at the trial.
legally                  the United States was firm. On the day       Yet, the Court refused to allow Judge
competent or             we filed an emergency appeal in the US       Bandar to access or present the record
independent              Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit,       of the underlying trial. He repeatedly
and it is                the Washington Post announced by ed-         pled, “Give me the records of the trial
financed by the          itorial that while “the trial was imper-     and I’ll prove that it was fair.” He was
US government            fect,” the resulting deaths would “still     not allowed to have them, nor was the
                         be justice,” adding that there was           prosecution required to present them.
                         “something unreal about the cries of         The US government was acknowl-
                         foul from human rights groups.”              edged to possess those records.
                             The fact that there was no apparent         At the start of invasion of Iraq in
                         competent tribunal or trial that re-         2003 the Pentagon released its infa-
                         sulted in the conviction and execution       mous “deck of cards” with the name
                         of these men was of little concern. The      and picture of the top 52 Baathist gov-
                         Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) itself was a    ernment officials that it was deter-
                         creation of the US government, a vio-        mined to capture or kill or both. Judge
                         lation of the Geneva Convention that         Bandar was not included in this list. He
                         prohibits an occupying power from al-        was targeted and killed for one reason.
                         tering an existing court system. It is not   He was deemed by US “legal” author-
                         legal, legally competent or independent      ities as a necessary conduit for the
                         and it is financed by the US govern-         killing of the primary target, Saddam
                         ment. As written in our brief to the         Hussein. The only “evidence” pre-
                         Court, “There is nothing juridical about     sented against Hussein about the exe-
                         the proceedings to which Al-Bandar           cutions from the Dujail assassination
                         has been subjected except the fact that      attempt was that he signed 148 death
                         it has taken place in a courtroom. It has    warrants after a three-year-long trial
                         been a political proceeding with a pre-      and review process. The signing of
                         determined outcome that has been en-         death warrants, an executive function
                         forced by the repeated pressure and          carried out by George Bush himself 152

6 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                              VICTOR’S JUSTICE

times as governor of Texas, was not           terior. He was found the next day. He         This
enough “show” in the show trial as a          had holes drilled in his head. But this       “independent”
base for execution. Thus, Judge Bandar        was asserted to be no impediment to a         and “sovereign”
was put on trial for the two-year trial       fair trial. Defense witnesses were re-        trial took place
that led to the death sentences. He was       portedly tortured and killed. The IST         in the Green
himself accused of presiding over a           ordered that such allegations not be          Zone, the US
show trial.Making it clear that the Iraqi     raised at the proceedings and threat-         government’s
Special Tribunal possessed the best           ened surviving defense counsel with           garrisoned
knowledge of the form and function of         their own arrests.                            mini-state
a show trial, the defense was not ad-            The current puppet leadership of           carved out of
vised what charges were actually being        Iraq is drawn from the Dawa Party. The        the middle of
leveled against their clients until after     Dawa Party was the political force that       Baghdad.
the prosecution had called witnesses          organized and carried out the 1982 as-        All participants
for seven months. They were then              sassination attempt against Saddam            had to rely
given a few minutes to begin their case.      Hussein in Dujail. During the trial, the      on the US
   In the midst of the defense trial, after   judges were replaced repeatedly by the        government
receiving a written note passed to him        executive branch if they felt their state-    for their security
from American officials outside the           ments were not sufficiently harsh to-         – in other words,
courtroom, the Chief Judge suddenly           ward the defendants. Others were told         to stay alive
announced that the defense would be           that they would be fired and that they
barred from calling any more witnesses        and their families would be “put out-
and that its case was closed. “You’ve         side of the Green Zone” if they didn’t
presented 26 witnesses. If that is not        take a hard enough line against the de-
enough to present your case, then 100         fendants. Placement outside the Green
won’t work.” The defense had pre-             Zone under these conditions would
sented less than 20. The prosecution          amount to a virtual death sentence for
had called more than 50 witnesses. The        the wayward judges. Certainly, the
court then announced its verdict, sen-        hallmark of a competent tribunal is
tencing three of the defendants to            that it be part of an independent judi-
death, on Nov. 4, 2006.                       ciary.
   This “independent” and “sovereign”            The United States acknowledged
trial took place in the Green Zone, the       that it had the defendants, including
US government’s garrisoned mini-state         Judge Bandar in their exclusive physi-
carved out of the middle of Baghdad.          cal custody at Camp Cropper. Only the
All participants had to rely on the US        US military personnel had control over
government for their security – in other      him. The prisoners could not be visited,
words, to stay alive. As such, three de-      touched, spoken to or seen – let alone
fense lawyers were murdered in the            murdered – without the direction and
course of the trial, the first killed the     agreement of the United States.
night after the first day of trial. Another
attorney was taken by men who said            Legal struggle in US court
they were from the Ministry of the In-        On Dec. 26, 2006, the appellate panel of

                                                                                       February 2007 | TheREADER 7

How the United           the Iraqi Special Tribunal upheld the       ferent. That there have been nearly 60
States could             convictions with a bloodthirsty state-      years of intervening legal developments
agree not to             ment, demanding even that more be           and pertinent case law, and also the
send Judge               killed than these three men.                binding Geneva Conventions that came
Bandar to his                Working with former US Attorney         into force after those cases, was not of
death when it            General Ramsey Clark, we immediately        moment.
said it did not          turned to file an emergency Petition for        We then went to file a Motion for a
have the ability         a Writ of Habeas Corpus and a Motion        Stay or Injunction Enjoining Transfer of
to control his           for a Temporary Restraining Order           Petitioner Outside US Custody in the
being sent to            (TRO) by that evening in the US Dis-        US Court of Appeals. The District
death while he           trict Court for the District of Columbia,   Court judge gave us until close of busi-
was in US                seeking to keep the US from transfer-       ness two days later to file with the ap-
custody was              ring custody of Judge Bandar to his cer-    pellate court, requiring the US
apparently               tain death. We had an emergency TRO         government to agree that it would not
of no legal              hearing the next day in which the           send Judge Bandar to his death before
moment either            United States acknowledged that it          5 p.m. on Friday.
                         possessed custody of Judge Bandar.              How the United States could agree
                             But the government claimed it could     not to send Judge Bandar to his death
                         not be bound by the US courts because       when it said it did not have the ability
                         it did not possess legal custody. The US    to control his being sent to death while
                         government was not in control of the        he was in US custody was apparently
                         military operations in Iraq, according to   of no legal moment either.
                         the representations of government at-           The temporary stay defied the fic-
                         torneys. Also, they asserted that the US    tion that the US government’s opera-
                         government was loath to interfere in        tions in Iraq are not under the control
                         the sovereign affairs of the Iraqi state.   of the US court. But this fiction, like the
                         US law is accustomed to fictions that       rest of the Iraq story spun for the peo-
                         allow it to proceed in protecting inter-    ple of the United States for the past
                         ests as needed – such as the fiction that   four years – and the twelve years of
                         corporations are the same as people         genocidal sanctions that proceeded the
                         and therefore have constitutional           war – relies on others’ active support.
                         rights.                                     It is a false logic based upon false facts
                             The judge accepted the US govern-       and can only be sustained if the media
                         ment’s assertions. Citing only two          and the courts and the people accept
                         cases, those from World War II victor’s     the fictions at face value.
                         trials, the judge denied the relief we
                         sought. The composition, authority, re-     Extrajudicial murder
                         lationships and function of the Allied      At about 6 p.m. on January 15, the ap-
                         Forces in the Pacific Theater of World      pellate court too ordered the United
                         War II and the forces in Iraq, the cir-     States not to hand Judge Bandar to his
                         cumstances of custody, and the nature       death for another hour. Then, after 7
                         of the courts involved were vastly dif-     p.m. the same day, the court an-

8 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                            VICTOR’S JUSTICE

nounced that Judge Bandar had not           then denied.                                  When they
met the stringent standards for a stay         Then we waited. Again we read that         hung Judge
pending appeal.                             Judge Bandar was to be killed. But he         Bandar they
    These standards include the             was not. The delay created a space for        did so suddenly
“prospect of irreparable injury to plain-   protest. The international outcry be-         without notice
tiff if relief is withheld” – in other      came louder and louder calling for the        to his family
words, what harm will be caused if the      execution of Bandar not to take place.        or to his
relief is not granted pending a determi-    The U.N. Secretary General, the Secre-        lawyers.
nation on the merits. The harm caused       tariat and U.N. human rights agencies         He was just
to Judge Bandar was his life being          opposed the surrender of the defen-           taken out
ended. To most observers, this would        dants. This is the same U.N. that the         and killed
seem to be a great harm. It is difficult    US government asserted to the court
to imagine a greater harm.                  was the supreme authority over mili-
    However, the US government as-          tary actions in Iraq, including the trans-
serted a greater harm: were the court       fer of Judge Bandar to death.
to order a temporary stay to keep Judge        Simultaneously, all the protestations
Bandar from being killed while his          from the US government appeared,
rights were sorted out in court, it would   served up for the US public’s consump-
undermine Bush’s authority. Further,        tion. We learned from the media how
keeping Judge Bandar from being killed,     distressed the US government was; its
even temporarily, would undermine the       hour by hour struggle and wrangling
US efforts to provide, “the Iraqi gov-      over the hangings; its public relations
ernment with critical support at a time     campaign at distancing themselves
when it is fending off attacks both         from responsibility. All of which ac-
physical and ideological.”                  knowledged that the US government
    We learned that night that Judge        fully controlled the condemned men’s
Bandar had been hung when it was            custody.
morning in Iraq. The “free press” told         When they hung Judge Bandar they
us so. The next morning, we learned         did so suddenly without notice to his
that the press was wrong, having been       family or to his lawyers. He was just
fed a pre-prepared hanging scenario         taken out and killed. On the morning
and description, which was obediently       that we learned he had been killed, we
reported as news.                           opened the New York Times to read an
    We then filed a request for an en       article that had been fed to the press. It
banc review in the appellate court.         declared again the concerns and
That was denied with one line. We           protestations of the US government,
sought relief from the Supreme Court.       stating that the government was avoid-
That was denied by Chief Justice            ing handing over the men for death ab-
Roberts. We exercised the right to          sent assurances. They were already
make a second petition to the Supreme       dead when it was being printed, per-
Court, which was referred by Justice        haps even written.
Stevens to the Court as a whole and            The Times created the image of the

                                                                                     February 2007 | TheREADER 9
          V ICTOR’S J USTICE

History may              besieged jailers with the mob calling for     States leaves. This is the malignancy
never know               hangings and the jailers negotiating to       that is destroying the lives of the Iraqi
who was behind           ensure that the stringing up would con-       people.
the                      form to the best tales of honor in the            History may never know who was
executioner’s            Old West. Or the Roman Empire.                behind the executioner’s mask, but we
mask, but                   The truth is that had the interna-         need not lift the balaclava to know who
we need not lift         tional outcry succeeded in stopping           really carried out these executions. If
the balaclava            these hangings it would have been a           the US government and the Pentagon
to know who              significant setback for the United            cannot be stopped by the courts from
really carried           States and would have opened up all           carrying out extrajudicial murder, what
out these                the questions over the illegality of the      is the supreme authority that will con-
executions               underlying proceedings, the US gov-           strain them? There is only one, and it is
                         ernment’s puppeteering, and, at its core,     the very concern that Bush has ex-
                         the overwhelming and ever-present lies        pressed in his ruminations over the
                         about the US occupation of Iraq. This         hangings gone wrong. The people of
                         needed to end for the US government           the United States, once they have be-
                         as soon as possible. The United States        come convinced that the government is
                         captured them, it gave them a show            lying to them, can awaken and become
                         trial; it hung them.                          the most powerful force in the political
                            The end hasn’t come yet, however.          equation. This is the government’s
                         The lives of hundreds of thousands of         greatest fear, and rightly so.        CT
                         Iraqis have ended because of the US in-
                         vasion. The lives of over 3,000 soldiers      Verheyden-Hilliard is the co-founder of
                         have ended and tens of thousands              the Partnership for Civil Justice and co-
                         more devastatingly altered.                   chair of the National Lawyers Guild
                            With each “milestone” we are told          Mass Defense Committee. For more
                         that the end of trouble is here. With the     information on the Habeas and TRO
                         invasion, it was to be over. With the         filings and on the IST, go to
                         capture of Saddam Hussein, it was to
                         be over. With the trial, it was to be over.   This essay first appeared on the web site
                         With the hangings, it was to be over.         of the Party for Socialism and
                         But it will not be over until the United      Liberation,

                       Visit the ColdType Archives for books,
                             essays and photojournalism
10 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                           VICTOR’S JUSTICE


“You angels,                               are, ironically, it seems, made by pris-     Britain, as ever,
Pure ones,                                 oners at Fort Worth jail, in George W.       has a hand in
Liberators,                                Bush’s Texas. Britain, as ever, has a        this obscenity.
Leaders ...                                hand in this obscenity. Hiatt and            Hiatt and
                                           Company of Birmingham, in the Mid-           Company of
At this moment all I ask of you is a       lands of England, has been proudly           Birmingham,
miracle,                                   making shackles, since they made             in the Midlands
Just for you to know how to say Goodbye,   “nigger collars” for the slave trade         of England,
GOODBYE,                                   and now supply the shackles for the          has been
Just a miracle: a Goodbye.”                lost souls of Guantanamo Bay.                proudly making
                                               On Wednesday, 10th January, the          shackles,
– Adonis (Ali Ahmed Said) “Victims of      fifth anniversary of the opening of          since they made
a Map”, Saqi Books.                        this “gulag of our times”, protests          “nigger collars”
                                           were held across the globe – and out-        for the slave
                                           side Hiatt where former detainees of         trade and now

         ll wars (and invasions) have      this abomination, relations of those         supply the
         one image which is forever        held and campaigners demonstrated            shackles for
         the blood-soaked whole.           – in orange jump suits.                      the lost souls of
         The naked child, trauma-              Renowned human rights lawyer,            Guantanamo Bay
tised to beyond terror, fleeing in Viet    Clive Stafford Smith, M.P. Clare
Nam; Robert Capa’s 1936, “Falling          Short, Dr. Adnan Siddiqui of Caged
Soldier”, in the Spanish civil war,        Prisoners and author and arms ac-
taken at Cerro Muriano. Guan-              tivist, Mark Thomas had written in a
tanamo Bay’s orange jump-suited,           letter to the (London) Observer (7th
shackled victims, will surely be how       January) explaining the forthcoming
history depicts US policy and com-         actions, and concluding: “As the abo-
mittment to humanity, in the second        litionist William Wilberforce put it: ‘If
millenium. The infamous jump suits         to be feelingly alive to the sufferings

11 TheREADER | January 2007                                                       February 2007 | TheREADER 11

The real fanatics        of my fellow creatures is to be a fa-            And American values, from which
in Guantanamo            natic, I am one of the most incurable         Iraq, Afghanistan and now Somalia –
Bay, it                  fanatics ever permitted to be at large.’      bombing nomadic herdsmen there
transpires,              To this we will also plead guilty –           seems to have become popular – are
have been                outside the Hiatt factory.” They also         spreading rapidly. Within days of the
dressing up              cite a further 100 secret prisons glob-       hanging of Iraq’s legitimate President,
as priests and           ally and 14,000 prisoners unaccounted         after a trial which made the Spanish
“baptizing”              for. ( )                 Inquisition look benign, eight children
Muslim                      Further, the real fanatics in Guan-        across the globe had hung them-
detainees,               tanamo Bay, it transpires, have been          selves, emulating the grizzly, shame-
deprived of all          dressing up as priests and “baptizing”        ful spectacle, which heralded the New
normality                Muslim detainees, deprived of all nor-        Year. One was a 10-year-old in the US
– and wrapping           mality – and wrapping them in the             oil capitol, Houston, Texas, geograph-
them in the              Israeli flag.                                 ically just up the road from Crawford,
Israeli flag                                                           home to the President and former
                         ‘Liberated’ blood and gore                    State Governor, who invaded Iraq for
                         Iraq’s ongoing, ‘liberated’ blood and         oil. What an irony.
                         gore, continues to flow through the              In Algeria, a group of schoolchild-
                         haunting, ancient, spiritual land. Is Iraq    ren hung a 12-year-old, in a “game”.
                         under occupation, the image of the tiny       The US Army is mooting taking on
                         blood spattered child in Tel Afar, wit-       non-nationals, since recruitment is
                         ness to the massacre of her entire fam-       plunging. These kids clearly have at-
                         ily by America’s finest? Is it the wistful,   tributes which should fit well, in a
                         beautiful face of the five-year-old Abeer     few years.
                         Qassim Al Janabi, raped at 14, then              A 15-year-old in India, could not
                         burned, with her family, at Mahmudiya         eat for two days in her distress at
                         in June, by retards in US uniforms? Re-       Saddam’s hanging, saying she wanted
                         portedly the ring leader, Pfc., Steven D.     to feel his pain. “We didn’t take her
                         Green had been diagnosed with an              seriously”, said her distraught father,
                         “anti-social personality disorder” (you       after she did just that. Her heart-
                         could say that again) but clearly his         rending empathy is in stark contrast
                         four colleagues cannot have been too          to Britain’s dour Prime Minister in
                         well bolted down on all four corners.         waiting, Gordon Brown (forget
                         Perhaps US Army recruiting screening          democracy, voting for a new Prime
                         needs a bit of an overhaul. Such crazies      Minister, even Iraq style, we are to
                         would surely be on death row in the           have him and that is that) com-
                         “land of the free”.                           mented eventually, that the method
                            “Any animal in the West lives bet-         of the hanging, was “deplorable”. Is
                         ter than any Iraqi under occupation”,         such mediaeval barbarism ever other?
                         an Iraqi who had fled to Amman told              Lord Blair of Kut Al Amara – 1917
                         the BBC, on “Guantanamo Wednes-               site of “the most humiliating defeat in
                         day”.                                         British military history” (they went

12 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                              VICTOR’S JUSTICE

there to protect the oilfields) as            And again: “We are determined to rid          Baghdad’s
dubbed by the Independent’s Robert            Iraq of foreign fighters”. Duh? And           gracious
Fisk, busy in Florida, with his tan,          yet again, defeat “is not an option”.         Haifa Street
said nothing for some days, finally re-       Indeed. It is a certainty.                    has become
gretting; “the manner of his execu-              There is a relevant and memorable          a “hotbed”
tion”, by the US/UK’s “coalition’s”           quote from a Viet Nam veteran.                and is being
appointed low-life thugs in the “New          Thomas Hastie: “One day while I was           bombed
Iraq”. Apart from the shameful,               in a bunker in Vietnam, a sniper              mercilessly.
malevolent savagery itself, it appears        round went over my head. The per-             It was never
Saddam Hussein’s throat was cut im-           son who fired that weapon was not a           a “hotbed”,
mediately afterwards, which seems to          terrorist, a rebel, an extremist, or a so-    pre-invasion,
have passed Blair by. Perhaps when a          called insurgent. The Vietnamese in-          when, as in
being has slaughter on such an                dividual who tried to kill me was a           the rest of the
unimaginable scale on their hands,            citizen of Vietnam, who did not want          great, ancient
further horrors fail to register.             me in his country. This truth escapes         capitol, visitors
                                              millions.”                                    and residents
Texas justice?                                   Meanwhile, Tony Blair lectured ex-         drove and
President Bush, never a man to be             perienced military and naval experts          walked, at all
squeamish when it comes to signing a          on H.M.S. Albion, based in Plymouth,          hours, in this
death warrant, said the hanging could         from where Sir Francis Drake (1540-           formerly late
have been done, “ a more dignified       1596) an early “privateer”, set off to        night city,
way”, but “nevertheless he was given          plunder the Andes silver. He got away         without a
justice”. Texas justice, maybe? There         with that, defeated the Spanish, tried        glance over
will, he says, be a “full investigation”. A   to ferment an uprising in Portugal,           the shoulder
bit late. Oh, and is not the Iraqi gov-       failed, was disgraced by a furious
ernment “sovereign” and “indepen-             Queen and died of yellow fever, in an-
dent” of the US?                              other failed plunder in Panama.
   Now the world is to be treated to             “Albion” was the early name for
another “new strategy” in Iraq, a final       Britain, ever immortalised by Nap-
“surge” to clear “insurgents”, home           oleon Bonarparte’s scathing: “Perfide
by home, street by street, district by        Albion”. (“Perfidious Albion” – “per-
district. Baghdad’s gracious Haifa            fidious”: Dict: treacherous or deceit-
Street has become a “hotbed” and is           ful.) History also records an earlier
being bombed mercilessly. It was              quote from Bossuet (1627-1704) “L’An-
never a “hotbed”, pre-invasion, when,         gleterre, ah! La perfide Angleterre”.
as in the rest of the great, ancient          Symbolism stalks Tony Blair, as delu-
capitol, visitors and residents drove         sion, it seems. It was the first in a se-
and walked, at all hours, in this for-        ries of addresses Downing Street call
merly late night city, without a glance       his “big picture”, prior to departure,
over the shoulder. Districts are to be,       talks. Given the glazed, slumped de-
chillingly: “cleansed”. Bush’s “surge”        meanor of his distinguished audience,
sounds more like: “the final solution”.       it appeared anything but.

                                                                                      February 2007 | TheREADER 13

And for Blair               March, the fourth anniversary of        thony Blair QC., seek to walk in sun-
the final                the apocalyptic disaster of the illegal    set, anywhere, as they scuttle from
confirmation             invasion of Iraq, heralds the 90th an-     their disgraced tenures, their image
of the utterly           niversary of British General Stanley       will be forever a lynched legitimate
delusional:              Maude’s “Declaration of Baghdad”           leader, at the end of a noose. And for
he sees his              (11th March 1917.) “Our armies do not      Blair the final confirmation of the ut-
future as                come in to your cities and lands as        terly delusional: he sees his future as
being a                  conquerors or enemies, but as libera-      being a global “envoy for peace”.
global “envoy            tors.” He lies in Baghdad’s North Gate        Time for men in white coats. CT
for peace”               Cemetery, along with his invader’s am-
                         bitions. 29th April 2007, marks 91 years   Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist and
                         since the defeat of the British at Kut.    activist who has visited the Arab and
                         28th April 2007, marks the 70th birth-     Muslim world on numerous occasions.
                         day of a legal and assassinated elderly    She has written and broadcast on Iraq,
                         Iraqi President, hung in perfidy; he had   her coverage of which was nominated
                         to be disposed of before the New Year,     for several awards. She was also senior
                         a clean start, the world was told, in      researcher for John Pilger’s award-
                         “independent” largely Muslim Iraq.         winning documentary “Paying the
                         The Islamic New Year is 20th January.      Price: Killing the Children of Iraq”; and
                         Prime Minister Maliki’s decision?          author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of
                         Never. A puppet on a string, or per-       “Baghdad” in the “Great Cities” series,
                         haps, later, a noose.                      for World Almanac Books (2006.)
                            And as President Bush and An- 

                                  READ JOHN PILGER
        Download all of his political essays and
        columns, all in pdf format, at
14 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                    RADICAL CHRISTIAN ITY


         he engine that drives the radi-     warm embrace of a community to re-            Those in despair
         cal Christian Right in the          place the one they lost, a sense of pur-      are the most
         United States, the most dan-        pose and meaning in life, the assurance       easily
         gerous mass movement in             they are protected, loved and worth-          manipulated
American history, is not religiosity, but    while.                                        by demagogues,
despair. It is a movement built on the          During the past two years of work          who promise a
growing personal and economic de-            on the book American Fascists: The            fantastic utopia,
spair of tens of millions of Americans,      Christian Right and the War on America,       whether
who watched helplessly as their com-         I kept encountering this deadly despair.      it is a worker’s
munities were plunged into poverty by        Driving down a highway lined with gas         paradise,
the flight of manufacturing jobs, their      stations, fast food restaurants and dol-      fraternite-
families and neighborhoods torn apart        lar stores I often got vertigo, forgetting    egalite-liberte,
by neglect and indifference, and who         for a moment if I was in Detroit or           or the second
eventually lost hope that America was        Kansas City or Cleveland. There are           coming of
a place where they had a future.             parts of the United States, including         Jesus Christ
   This despair crosses economic             whole sections of former manufactur-
boundaries, of course, enveloping many       ing centers such as Ohio, that resemble
in the middle class who live trapped in      the developing world, with boarded up
huge, soulless exurbs where, lacking         storefronts, dilapidated houses, pot-
any form of community rituals or cen-        holed streets and crumbling schools.
ters, they also feel deeply isolated, vul-   The end of the world is no longer an
nerable and lonely. Those in despair are     abstraction to many Americans.
the most easily manipulated by dema-
gogues, who promise a fantastic utopia,      Small gold crosses
whether it is a worker’s paradise, fra-      Jeniece Learned is typical of many in
ternite-egalite-liberte, or the second       the movement. She stood, when I met
coming of Jesus Christ. Those in despair     her, amid a crowd of earnest-looking
search desperately for a solution, the       men and women, many with small gold

                                                                                     February 2007 | TheREADER 15

Her life, before         crosses in the lapels of their jackets or   woman who had the abortions, accus-
she was saved,           around their necks, in a hotel lobby in     ing them of committing murder, and
was, like many           Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. She had an      promising redemption and atonement
in this mass             easy smile and a thick mane of black,       in the “Christian” struggle to make
movement,                shoulder length hair. She was carrying      abortion illegal, in the fight for life
chaotic and              a booklet called “Ringing in a Culture      against “the culture of death.”
painful.                 of Life.” The booklet had the schedule          Her life, before she was saved, was,
Her childhood            of the two day event she is attending       like many in this mass movement,
was stolen from          organized by The Pennsylvania Pro-          chaotic and painful. Her childhood was
her. She was             Life Federation. The event was “dedi-       stolen from her. She was sexually
sexually abused          cated to the 46 million children who        abused by a close family member. Her
by a close family        have died from legal abortions since        mother periodically woke Learned and
member                   1973 and the mothers and fathers who        her younger sister and two younger
                         mourn their loss.”                          brothers in the middle of the night to
                            Learned, who drove five hours from       flee landlords who wanted back rent.
                         a town outside of Youngstown, Ohio          The children were bundled into the car
                         was raised Jewish. She wore a gold Star     and driven in darkness to a strange
                         of David around her neck with a Chris-      apartment in another town. Her
                         tian cross inserted in the middle of the    mother worked nights and weekends
                         design. She stood up in one of the          as a bartender. Learned, the oldest,
                         morning sessions, attended by about         often had to run the home. Her
                         300 people, most of them women,             younger sister, who was sexually
                         when the speaker, Alveda King, niece of     abused by another member of the fam-
                         Dr. Martin Luther King, asked if there      ily, eventually committed suicide as an
                         were any “post-abortive” women pres-        adult, something Learned also consid-
                         ent.                                        ered. As a teenager she had an abor-
                            Learned ran a small pregnancy            tion.
                         counseling clinic called Pregnancy Serv-        She was taking classes at Pacific
                         ices of Western Pennsylvania in Sharon,     Christian College several years later
                         where she attempted to talk young           when she saw an anti-abortion film
                         girls and women, most of them poor,         called The Silent Scream.
                         out of abortions. She spoke in local            “You see in this movie this baby
                         public schools, promoting sexual absti-     backing up trying to get away from this
                         nence, rather than birth control, as the    suction tube,” she said. “And, its mouth
                         only acceptable form of contraception.      is open and it is like this baby is
                         And she had found in the fight against      screaming. I flipped out. It was at that
                         abortion, and in her conversion, a          moment that God just took this veil
                         structure, purpose and meaning that         that I had over my eyes for the lasteight
                         previously eluded her. The battle           years. I couldn’t breathe. I was hyper-
                         against abortion is one of the Christian    ventilating. I ran outside. One of the
                         Rights’s most effective recruiting tools.   girls followed me from Living Alterna-
                         It plays on the guilt and shame of          tive. And she said, ‘Did you commit

16 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                      RADICAL CHRISTIAN ITY

your life to Christ?’ And I said, ‘I did.’    cious assault on the middle class. Any-        Anything that
And she said, ‘Did you ask for your for-      thing that can be put on software, from        can be put on
giveness of sins?’ And I said, ‘I did.’ And   architecture to engineering to finance,        software, from
she goes, ‘Does that mean all your sins,      will soon be handed to workers over-           architecture to
or does that mean some of them?’ And          seas who will be paid a third what their       engineering to
I said, ‘I guess it means all of them.’ So    American counterparts receive and              finance, will
she said, ‘Basically, you are thinking        who will, like some 45 million Ameri-          soon be handed
God hasn’t forgiven you for your abor-        cans, have no access to health insur-          to workers
tion because that is a worse sin than         ance or benefits. There has been, along        overseas who
any of your other sins that you have          with the creation of an American oli-          will be paid a
done.’“                                       garchy, a steady Weimarization of the          third what their
   The film brought her into the fight        American working class. The top 1 per-         American
to make abortion illegal. Her activism        cent of American households have               counterparts
became atonement for her own abor-            more wealth than the bottom 90 per-            receive and who
tion.She struggled with depression            cent combined.This figure alone should         will, like some
after she gave birth to her daughter          terrify all who care about our democ-          45 million
Rachel. When she came home from the           racy. As Plutarch reminded us “an im-          Americans,
hospital she was unable to care for her       balance between the rich and poor is           have no access
infant. She thought she saw an 8-year-        the oldest and most fatal ailment of all       to health
old boy standing next to her bed. It          republics.”                                    insurance
was, she is sure, the image of the son           The stories believers such as Learned       or benefits
she had murdered.                             told me of their lives before they found
   “I started crying and asking God           Christ were heartbreaking. These
over and over again to forgive me,” she       chronicles were about terrible pain, se-
says. “I had murdered His child. I asked      vere financial difficulties, struggles with
Him to forgive me over and over again.        addictions or childhood sexual or phys-
It was just incredible. I was possessed.      ical abuse, profound alienation and
On the fourth day I remember hearing          often thoughts about suicide. They
God’s voice. ‘I have your baby, now get       were chronicles without hope. The real
up!’ It was the most incredibly freeing       world, the world of facts and dispas-
and peaceful moment. I got up and I           sionate intellectual inquiry, the world
showered and I ate. I just knew it was        where all events, news and information
God’s voice.”                                 were not filtered through this comfort-
                                              ing ideological prism, the world where
Pernicious assault                            they were left out to dry, abandoned by
In the United States we have turned           a government hostage to corporations
our backs on the working class, with          and willing to tolerate obscene corpo-
much of the worst assaults, such as           rate profits, betrayed them.
NAFTA and welfare reform, pushed                 They hated this world. And they
though during President Clinton’s             willingly walked out on this world for
Democratic administration. We stand           the mythical world offered by these
passively and watch an equally perni-         radical preachers, a world of magic, a

                                                                                       February 2007 | TheREADER 17

Believers, of            world where God had a divine plan for         to the movement, from liberals, to “sec-
course, clinging         them and intervened on a daily basis to       ular humanists,” to “nominal Chris-
to this magical          protect them and perform miracles in          tians,” to intellectuals, to gays and
belief, which is a       their lives. The rage many expressed to       lesbians, to Muslims. These radicals,
bizarre form of          me towards those who challenge this           from James Dobson to Pat Robertson,
spiritual                belief system, to those of us who do not      call for a theocratic state that will, if it
Darwinism, will          accept that everything in the world           comes to pass, bear within it many of
be raptured              came into being during a single week          the traits of classical fascism.
upwards while            6,000 years ago because it says so in the        All radical movements need a crisis
the rest of us           Bible, was a rage born of fear, the fear of   or a prolonged period of instability to
will be                  being plunged back into a reality-based       achieve power. And we are not in a pe-
tormented with           world where these magical props               riod of crisis now. But another cata-
horrors by a             would no longer exist, where they             strophic terrorist attack on American
warrior Christ           would once again be adrift, abandoned         soil, a series of huge environmental dis-
and finally              and alone.                                    asters or an economic meltdown will
extinguished                                                           hand to these radicals the opening they
                         Dangerous theology                            seek.
                         The danger of this theology of despair           Manipulating our fear and anxiety,
                         is that it says that nothing in the world     promising to make us safe and secure,
                         is worth saving. It rejoices in cata-         giving us the assurance that they can
                         clysmic destruction. It welcomes the          vanquish the forces that mean to do us
                         frightening advance of global warming,        harm, these radicals, many of whom
                         the spiraling wars and violence in the        have achieved powerful positions in the
                         Middle East and the poverty and neg-          Executive and legislative branches of
                         lect that have blighted American urban        government, as well as the military, will
                         and rural landscapes as encouraging           ask us only to surrender our rights, to
                         signs that the end of the world is close      pass them the unlimited power they
                         at hand.                                      need to battle the forces of darkness.
                             Believers, of course, clinging to this    They will have behind them tens of
                         magical belief, which is a bizarre form       millions of angry, disenfranchised
                         of spiritual Darwinism, will be raptured      Americans longing for revenge and
                         upwards while the rest of us will be tor-     yearning for a mythical utopia, Ameri-
                         mented with horrors by a warrior              cans who embraced a theology of de-
                         Christ and finally extinguished. This         spair because we offered them nothing
                         obsession with apocalyptic violence is        else.                                   CT
                         an obsession with revenge. It is what
                         the world, and we who still believe it is     Chris Hedges, a graduate of Harvard
                         worth saving, deserve.                        Divinity School and former Pulitzer-
                             Those who lead the movement give          prize winning foreign correspondent for
                         their followers a moral license to direct     The New York Times, is the author of
                         this rage and yearning for violence           American Fascists: The Christian Right
                         against all those who refuse to submit        and the War on America.

18 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                       THE SPORTING LIFE


               hen I was at school, I     World. It confirmed for me what I have      Arkan drove a
               was once beaten by a       always suspected: that football and vi-     pink Cadillac
               prefect for reading a      olence are intimately linked in cause       and sported
               book on Czech history at   and effect and that – far from the first    a football wife
a football match. Sutton Valence was –    being an outlet to avoid the second –       – the gorgeous
and remains – a minor public school       they are mutually interchangeable.          retro singer
whose straw boaters and long-distance        Foer wades in at the deep end with       Ceca – whom
runs along snow-covered roads and         a visit to Belgrade’s top-scoring Red       he married
brutal punishments were supposed to       Star, a team nurtured by Serbia’s           in full Serb
mimic those wealthier but even more       equally top war criminal Arkan, who         uniform
sadistic character-building sweatshops    took his well-armed footballers down
such as Rugby and Eton. Sutton Va-        the Drina Valley in 1992 on an orgy of
lence has since moderated its ways.       killing, plunder and mass rape. Arkan
   But back in 1960, screaming “Come      drove a pink Cadillac and sported a
on, Sutton!” at a bunch of grunting,      football wife – the gorgeous retro
muddied idiots in blue, black and white   singer Ceca – whom he married in full
shirts was deemed more important          Serb uniform. Red Star’s pre-war match
than the 1948 defenestration of Jan       against the Croatian Partizans –
Masaryk in Prague. A prefect later        beloved of its fascist president Franjo
lashed me with a cane on the orders of    Tudjman who had adorned the team
a spectacularly cruel housemaster         he once led with wartime Ustashe
whose unwillingness to prevent the        icons – ended in a pitched battle.
most vicious beatings almost equalled        It was Margaret Thatcher who fa-
his love of soccer and rugby football.    mously described football hooligans as
   His memory returned to me as I read    “a disgrace to civilised society” – the
the first sports book of my life over     very words we later used about the
Christmas, Franklin Foer’s American       murderers of Serbia. In Glasgow,
best-seller How Soccer Explains the       Protestant supporters of Rangers

                                                                                February 2007 | TheREADER 19

“Right there,            would sit in separate stands – “We’re         ies between Serb and Croatian armies
in front of the          up to our knees in Fenian blood,” they        near the city of Mostar.
Croats who had           would roar in unison – from fans of the          “Both sides brought their corpses in
brought along            Catholic Celtic football club.                sacks on lorries and they backed them
their Serbian               I well remember, covering the beat in      up to a small field. But when the Serbs
corpses, the             Belfast in the early Seventies, how dur-      emptied the sacks, it was evident that
Serbs began              ing Rangers or Celtic matches I would         the heads of their Croatian bodies had
playing football         see more RUC cops patrolling the              been chopped off. I didn’t believe what
with the heads           bridge over the Lagan than I would            I would see. Right there, in front of the
of the dead              ever come across in a weekday sectar-         Croats who had brought along their
Croatians.               ian riot.                                     Serbian corpses, the Serbs began play-
They were                   Come to think of it, the first time I      ing football with the heads of the dead
laughing                 ever saw a uniformed British policeman        Croatians. They were laughing because
because they             in France was from the window of the          they knew how much this would en-
knew how much            Eurostar; he was patrolling the plat-         rage the Croats.”
this would               form at Lille station before an England-         Odd, isn’t it, how football gets mud-
enrage the               France match.                                 died by armies. Whenever an Iraqi sol-
Croats”                     Vandalism, assault and murder have         dier or a Druze militiaman or an
                         now become so much a part of Euro-            Egyptian Islamist wants to hold out the
                         pean football that it has become a            hand of friendship to me in the Middle
                         habit. “Football fan shot dead after          East, he will always announce that he is
                         racist mob attack,” read a headline as I      a fan of Manchester United. In Leb-
                         passed through Paris the other day.           anon, needless to say, teams represent
                         Typically, the story – of an off-duty         the Shia, Sunni and Christian sects;
                         French cop who killed a white sup-            murdered ex-prime minister Rafiq
                         porter of the Paris Saint-Germain team        Hariri was the backer of one, just as
                         as he screamed anti-Semitic insults           Berlusconi became the owner of Milan
                         while trying to murder a French Jewish        and just as the Russian oligarchs
                         fan of Israel’s Tel-Aviv’s Hapoel – was       branched out into football ownership –
                         printed on page 27. It is quite normal,       including British football ownership –
                         you see, for racist football fans to try to   as a symbol of their power.
                         kill their opponents – and for the po-           Individual players could disgrace
                         lice to open fire.                            themselves – George Best could sink
                                                                       into alcoholism, Zidane could headbutt
                         Creepy connections                            his opponent for insulting his sister –
                         The connections between football and          but the team went on for ever. The im-
                         violence – and, by extension, sadism –        mense wealth accrued by football’s
                         are truly creepy. An Irish friend who         stars – £10m in sponsorship reportedly
                         was a member of the European Union            picked up by the Brazilian Pelé – is re-
                         monitoring team in the Balkans re-            garded by the poorest of the poor as a
                         counted to me during the Bosnian war          tribute to the human worth of Edson
                         how he witnessed an exchange of bod-          Arantes do Nascimento (the future

20 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                            THE SPORTING LIFE

Pelé) who grew up in the dirt-poor          brutality by British soldiers against           “Before they
town of Tres Coracoes west of Rio.          Iraqi prisoners. In a Basra hospital, I lis-    assaulted us,
   It’s not all bad, I know. I remember     tened to a badly wounded ex-prisoner            your soldiers
flying into Tehran with the Iranian soc-    of the British Army as he described             gave us
cer team in 1997 after they had beaten      how his tormentors had entered the              all names
Australia in a World Cup qualifier and      room in which he and his friends were           – the names of
the outburst of joy which greeted them      being held.                                     world-famous
– the thousands of Iranian women who           “Before they assaulted us, your sol-         footballers.
poured illegally into the Azadi stadium     diers gave us all names – the names of          Then they
afterwards, the political support the       world-famous footballers,” he said.             started beating
team gave to the reforming but tragi-       “Then they started beating and kicking          and kicking us
cally impotent president, Mohamed           us until we screamed and begged for             until we
Khatami – constituted what Franklin         mercy. Why would they do that?”                 screamed and
Foer calls the Middle East “football rev-      I suspect I know.                     CT     begged for
olution”.                                                                                   mercy”
   Maybe. But I remember a more dis-        Robert Fisk is the author of The Great
turbing moment in the Middle East           War For Civilsation.
when I was investigating one of the         This article originally appeared in
many – and all too true – incidents of      The Independent newspaper of London

                                            ROBERT FISK
                                            RETURN TO KANDAHAR
                                            To mark the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001
                                            attacks on the World Trade Center and
                                            Pentagon and US-led ‘war on terror,’
                                            Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent of
                                            London’s Independent returned to
                                            Afghanistan where he wrote scathing
                                            essays on a bombing offensive to rid the
                                            country of its Taliban rulers and Bin Laden’s
                                            al-Qa’ida leaders.
                                            Download your FREE copy at

                                                                                      February 2007 | TheREADER 21


That was our             This book excerpt is Chapter 1 of         unheated and unlit shipping con-
first glimpse            the book, Canary in the Coalmine, by      tainer, threatened him with death,
of American-led          Jesselyn Radack, available from the       and posed with him for pictures.
torture and              website      Parts of his ordeal were captured on
we didn’t even           – cost is $16, plus postage               videotape. Sound familiar?
flinch. Lindh                                                         The Lindh case foreshadowed

was found                     am the Justice Department attor-     what would occur on a much larger
barely alive,                ney who blew the whistle on gov-      scale at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.
shot in the leg,             ernment misconduct in the case        Like an aggressive, contagious and
and suffering                of John Walker Lindh, the “Amer-      deadly virus, this first outbreak of
from                     ican Taliban.”                            lawless behavior was spread by the
dehydration,                You remember the famous Decem-         CIA and Army intelligence teams to
hypothermia              ber 2001 trophy photo of John Walker      the entire archipelago of American-
and frostbite            Lindh – one of the most prominent         controlled detention centers through-
                         prisoners of the Afghan war – naked,      out the world.
                         blindfolded, tied up and bound to a          The scandal is not, in President
                         board. That was our first glimpse of      George W. Bush’s words, the “dis-
                         American-led torture and we didn’t        graceful conduct by a few American
                         even flinch. Lindh was found barely       troops” at Abu Ghraib, or in Rums-
                         alive, shot in the leg, and suffering     feld’s words, “grievous and brutal
                         from dehydration, hypothermia and         abuse and cruelty.” It’s that theBush
                         frostbite.                                Administration thought it could tor-
                            Although Lindh was seriously           ture people and get away with it.
                         wounded, starving, freezing, and ex-         When I, a 30-year-old Justice De-
                         hausted, US soldiers blindfolded and      partment lawyer and legal ethics ad-
                         handcuffed him naked, scrawled            visor, recommended against inter-
                         “shithead” across the blindfold, duct-    rogating “American Taliban” John
                         taped him to a stretcher for days in an   Walker Lindh without his lawyer, and

22 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                             BOOK EXCERPT

                                          blurred, particularly as society chan-     One of this
                                          ges its expectations about how gov-        Administration’s
                                          ernment employees should serve the         favorite tactics
                                          public.                                    is to paint any
                                             Our nation’s top leaders pay lip        sort of dissent
                                          service to the importance of whistle-      or criticism
                                          blowers, but the conscientious em-         – whether it
                                          ployee is not welcome in the Bush          comes from
                                          Administration. Few paths are more         whistleblowers,
                                          treacherous than the one that chal-        anti-war
                                          lenges abuse of power and tries to         protesters,
                                          make a meaningful difference. The          or advocates of
          THE CANARY IN                   conscientious employees who take           the politically
          THE COALMINE                    career risks to address problems are       unpopular
   Blowing the Whistle in the Case of     precisely the kind of people who best      – as disloyal
 ‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh     serve the public, but they are invari-     at best and
        By Jesselyn Radack                ably the first casualties.                 unpatriotic
              Order from                     Our country has a love-hate rela-       at worst         tionship with whistleblowers. When
                $16                       one thinks of a “whistleblower,” im-
                                          ages from movies like “The Insider”
                                          or “Erin Brockavich” spring to mind.
later blew the whistle when evidence      Or more recently, Colleen Rowley of
of my advice was destroyed and with-      the FBI, Sherron Watkins of Enron,
held from the court, the Justice De-      and Cynthia Cooper of Worldcom,
partment forced me out of my job,         Time Magazine’s “Persons of the
put me under criminal investigation,      Year” in 2002.
got me fired from my next job, re-           One has visions of determined in-
ported me to the state bars in which      dividuals risking it all to make explo-
I am licensed, and put me on the “no-     sive disclosures before Congress or on
fly” list.                                “60 Minutes.” The media glorifies
   I don’t wear the label “whistle-       those who risk everything to expose
blower” comfortably. Why should I         corruption and illegal activity. And
get some special moniker for doing        these lionized individuals deserve
what I would have done anyway?            every ounce of praise they get. But
The vast majority of civil servants la-   their happy outcomes are not typical.
beled as “whistleblowers” never           For every success story, there are a
thought of themselves in that role. In    hundred stories of professional mar-
their minds, they were simply doing       tyrdom. Mine is one of them.
their jobs. Increasingly, the line be-       Whistleblowers often find that
tween simply doing what is right and      they have become the subject of the
being a whistleblower has become          story. Any personal vulnerability or

                                                                               February 2007 | TheREADER 23

Ashcroft has             peccadillo they possess can, and will,    ered exhor- tations have a very real
made clear               be used against them. Through this        chilling effect on the exercise of basic
that forgiveness,        contortion, the whistleblower’s char-     freedom of speech.
while perfectly          ges become a subsidiary issue. The            Although my story is different in its
appropriate in           Bush Administration is expert at this     details, it shares many of the same el-
religion, has            subterfuge.                               ements with the experiences of other
no place at                                                        whistleblowers: abuse of government
the Justice              Incendiary descriptions                   power, lack of due process (or any
Department               The conscientious employee is often       process at all), secrecy and silence, po-
(except at his           portrayed as vengeful, unstable, or       litical overkill, and base vengefulness.
morning prayer           out for attention. I have not been        The Administration’s vindictive re-
meetings,                completely immune from these accu-        sponse to its critics goes beyond
of course)               sations, but the terms that have been     questioning their truthfulness, com-
                         used by what the press cites as           petence and motives: it seeks to de-
                         “anonymous Justice Department offi-       stroy them.
                         cials” to describe me are far more in-        In most cases of whistleblowing,
                         cendiary: “traitor,” “terrorist sym-      the Executive Branch attacks the per-
                         pathizer,” “turn- coat,” and “unpatri-    son rather than the substance of his
                         otic.” Never mind that in debate cir-     or her complaint. It shoots the mes-
                         cles, the lowest form of argumenta-       senger rather than addressing the
                         tion is name-calling. For an Adminis-     message. It silences the critic rather
                         tration attempting to quell opposition    than answering the criticism. It en-
                         through a campaign of secrecy and si-     gages in intimidation, character as-
                         lence, neither the Bush White House       sassination and professional destruc-
                         nor the Ashcroft Justice Department       tion of those who break the code of
                         were short of words.                      silence.
                            One of this Administration’s fa-           And it will not let go. As Jerome
                         vorite tactics is to paint any sort of    Doolittle, novelist and former White
                         dissent or criticism – whether it         House speechwriter, characterized
                         comes from whistleblowers, anti-war       the Justice Department’s venomous
                         protesters, or advocates of the politi-   attacks on me: “There is something
                         cally unpopular – as disloyal at best     primordial about Team Bush’s reac-
                         and unpatriotic at worst.                 tion to dissent, something reptilian.
                            With a Crusader’s fervor, Ashcroft     They’re like the gila monster, its jaws
                         warned in stark terms that critics who    holding their poisonous grip even
                         “scare peace-loving people with           after its head is severed.”
                         phantoms of lost liberty only aid ter-        “You are either with us or against
                         rorists, for they erode our national      us” – Bush’s Procrustean mantra dur-
                         unity and diminish our resolve.” In a     ing his inexorable march to war in
                         ham-handed way, he tried to portray       Iraq – applies with equal or greater
                         the expression of civil liberties con-    force to those who cross him, and
                         cerns as treasonous. Such ill-consid-     more broadly, to anyone he perceives

24 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                              BOOK EXCERPT

as an “enemy.”                            a lot of pent up things to say. Also, I     If I were a crank
   Ashcroft shares Bush’s us-or-them      feel a moral imperative to say them         making wild
mentality, and their categorical think-   because if a person like me who en-         allegations
ing is reflected in the increasingly      joys relative privilege – being white, a    about the Lindh
deep division between “Red America”       US citizen, educated, and comfort-          case, I would
and “Blue America,” a synecdoche          ably middle-class – can so easily lose      be ignored.
that pollsters and political consult-     her freedom, then maybe people in           But when the
ants use as shorthand for the US pop-     this country can more easily under-         Assistant
ulation that is Republican and            stand the plight of those in post-9/11      Attorney General
Democratic, respectively. Bush and        America who are Arab or Muslim,             starts throwing
Ashcroft also share a limitless capac-    who are immigrants, who are poor, or        his weight
ity to nurse incandescent grudges.        who don’t speak English.                    around to keep
Ashcroft has made clear that forgive-                                                 me quiet, you
ness, while perfectly appropriate in      “Ashcroft Justice’                          have to wonder
religion, has no place at the Justice     A lot of commentators saw the John          what I know
Department (except at his morning         Walker Lindh case as an example of
prayer meetings, of course). “The law     the government going after a minnow
is not about forgiveness,” he said. “It   with a sledgehammer. The same
is oftentimes about vengeance, often-     thing can be said of my case writ
times about revenge.”                     small. This modus operandi has been
                                          dubbed “Ashcroft justice.” Attorney
Not isolated                              General Ashcroft did not get the ver-
One of the most disturbing things         dict he wanted against Lindh, in some
about my story is that it’s not an iso-   measure, because of my actions.
lated incident. As bizarre, unbeliev-        As CBS commentator Andrew
able and outrageous as it sounds, it is   Cohen noted in writing about my
not uncommon. These vicissitudes          role, “It was clear, although the gov-
have happened to everyone from mil-       ernment never explicitly conceded so,
itary officers to Muslim guys playing     that prosecutors were open to a [plea
paintball. It has even happened to        bargain] deal with Lindh because of
other Justice Department attorneys.       the brutal way in which he was
   I’ve decided to tell my story be-      treated by his military captors in
cause I vowed that if I could ever        Afghanistan and the spurious way in
speak safely again, I would not re-       which federal law enforcement offi-
main silent out of some sort of mis-      cials had observed Lindh’s constitu-
placed gratitude that I was no longer     tional rights. It is no coincidence that
being threatened with termination,        the Lindh deal came about on the eve
criminal prosecution, disbarment or       of a scheduled week-long [suppres-
ostracization.                            sion] hearing that was going to bring
   My ordeal should have ended at         into the open the specifics of how
many points along the trajectory. I       Lindh was treated and by whom.”
was muzzled for over a year, so I have       In a classic case of “the lady doth

                                                                                February 2007 | TheREADER 25

I’m here to tell         protest to much,” top officials at Jus-    neutral when what I have experi-
you that the             tice took time out of their busy sched-    enced has been so personal and so
emperor has              ules to call Cohen after his article ran   driven by emotion, surmise, and par-
no clothes,              to try to convince him that he was         tisan politics? I therefore confess up
and that those           wrong; specifically, that I had not        front that I have an axe to grind, and
who expose               caused the Lindh case to tank. They        nearly $100,000 in legal bills to show
the nakedness            minimized me and downplayed my             for it.
of this                  role in Lindh’s surprise plea bargain.        I’m here to tell you that the em-
Administration’s            If I really had nothing to do with      peror has no clothes, and that those
policies and             the unraveling of the Lindh case (in       who expose the nakedness of this
practices                the words of The New Yorker’s Jane         Administration’s policies and prac-
should be                Mayer, “the prosecution collapsed”),       tices should be applauded, not anni-
applauded,               then query why Ashcroft and his            hilated.
not annihilated          functionaries are wasting so much             Public service does not mean blind
                         time, energy and taxpayer money get-       obedience to one’s supervisor or sub-
                         ting back at me. If I were a crank         servience to an agency agenda that
                         making wild allegations about the          subverts the law and the public inter-
                         Lindh case, I would be ignored. But        est. Deciding to blow the whistle can
                         when the Assistant Attorney General        be the single most important decision
                         starts throwing his weight around to       an individual ever makes. It should
                         keep me quiet, you have to wonder          not be a question of whether to blow
                         what I know.                               the whistle, but of how loudly to
                            Whether I played a large role or        blow it. And in doing so, public ser-
                         none at all, the government severely       vants should not be forced to choose
                         damaged my reputation and my psy-          between their conscience and their
                         che. It’s hard to un-ring the bell. One    career.
                         person against an entire agency or            The past three years have been the
                         government is a David versus Goliath       most difficult of my life, but they have
                         struggle.                                  also been a cataclysmic growth period
                            In terms of raw power, the govern-      that has cemented my commitment
                         ment holds all the cards. To sic the in-   to civil rights and liberties. I realize
                         finite resources of the American           that there are many stories like mine,
                         government on someone is more than         and that I am just a footnote in a seis-
                         a mismatched contest – it is tyranny.      mic shift that is occurring in our
                         It is also a waste of, what we are re-     country. But I promised myself that if
                         minded time and again are, precious        I could ever speak freely again, then I
                         and limited government resources.          would use my voice to try to prevent
                            It has been hard for me to write        this sort of political revenge from
                         this memoir because I suffer from the      happening to anyone else.
                         cult of objectivity – the mistaken be-        My saga began on September 11,
                         lief that impartiality will lend legiti-   2001, as did the life-altering journeys
                         macy to my story. But how can I be         of so many others.                    CT

26 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                                          OFF TO WAR


            ave you noticed? Neither        been difficult enough whipping its             The White House
            President George W. Bush        fickle but ultimately malleable generals       clearly prefers
            nor Vice President Dick Ch-     into line. The civilian intelligence chiefs    no NIE to one
            eney have cited any US in-      have proven more resistant. So the             that would
telligence assessments to support their     White House is playing it safe, avoid-         inevitably
fateful decision to send 21,500 more        ing like the plague any estimate that          highlight the
troops to referee the civil war in Iraq.    would raise doubts about the wisdom            fecklessness
This is a far cry from October 2002,        of the decision to surge. And that is          of throwing
when a formal National Intelligence         precisely what an honest estimate              21,5000 more
Estimate (NIE) was rushed through in        would do. With “sham-dunk” former              troops into
order to trick Congress into giving its     CIA director George Tenet and his ac-          harm’s way
nihil obstat for the attack on Iraq.        complices no longer in place as intelli-       for the dubious
   Why no intelligence justification this   gence enablers, the White House                purpose of
time around? Because there is none.         clearly prefers no NIE to one that             holding off
   Having successfully cooked intelli-      would inevitably highlight the feckless-       defeat for two
gence four years ago to get authoriza-      ness of throwing 21,5000 more troops           more years
tion for war, the Bush administration       into harm’s way for the dubious pur-
has zero incentive to try a repeat per-     pose of holding off defeat for two more
formance. Nor is there any sign that the    years.
new Democratic chairmen of the Sen-
ate and House intelligence committees       From mushroom cloud
will even think to ask the intelligence     to lead balloon
community to state its views on the         The NIE, which leaned so far forward
likely effect of the planned “surge” in     to support the White House’s warnings
troop strength. This, even though an        of a made-in-Iraq “mushroom cloud,”
NIE on Iraq has been “almost ready”         remains the negative example par ex-
for months.                                 cellence of corrupted intelligence. The
   For the Bush administration, it has      good news is that Tenet and his lack-

                                                                                      Febuary 2007 | TheREADER 27

An NIE produced          eys were replaced by officers who, by       impending strike-three – this one an
in April ‘06 on          all indications, take their job of speak-   NIE assessing the future in Iraq and ap-
global terrorism         ing truth to power seriously. Deputy        parently casting doubt on the advisa-
concluded that           Director of National Intelligence for       bility of US escalation. In a classic
the invasion of          Analysis, Tom Fingar, is a State De-        Cheneyesque pre-emptive strike, the
Iraq led to a            partment professional not given to pro-     estimate was put on hold; Negroponte
marked increase          fessionally selling out. And his boss,      was given a pink slip and assigned back
in terrorism,            John Negroponte, is too smart to end        to the State Department. There are ru-
belying                  his government career by following the      mors that Fingar is clearing out his
administration           example of his servile predecessors in      desk as well.
claims that the          conjuring up “intelligence” to please
invasion and             the president – not even for a Presi-       NIEs can be important
occupation had           dential Medal of Freedom.                   National Intelligence Estimates are the
made us “safer”             Unvarnished NIEs sent to the White       most authoritative genre of analytical
                         House by the Negroponte/Fingar team         product, embodying substantive judg-
                         have not shied away from unwelcome          ments on key national security issues.
                         conclusions undercutting administra-        They are coordinated throughout the
                         tion claims, and have gone over like        16-agency intelligence community and
                         proverbial lead balloons. An estimate       then signed by the Director of National
                         on Iran completed in early 2005, for ex-    Intelligence in his statutory capacity as
                         ample, concluded that the Iranians will     chief intelligence adviser to the presi-
                         not be able to produce a nuclear            dent. In times past, presidents and
                         weapon before “early to mid-next            their senior advisers actually read them
                         decade,” exposing Cheney’s fanciful         and often took their judgments into ac-
                         claims of more proximate danger. And        count in the decision making process.
                         an NIE produced in April ‘06 on global         There have been good estimates,
                         terrorism concluded that the invasion       and bad ones. In the latter category, an
                         of Iraq led to a marked increase in ter-    NIE of Sept. 19, 1962, entitled “The Mil-
                         rorism, belying administration claims       itary Build-Up in Cuba” estimated that
                         that the invasion and occupation had        the Soviet Union would not introduce
                         made us “safer.”                            strategic offensive missiles into Cuba
                            Worse still from the administration’s    (even while such missiles were en
                         point of view, patriotic truth-tellers      route). Embarrassing, but an honest
                         (aka leakers) inside the government ap-     mistake.
                         parently decided that administration           The NIE issued on Oct. 1, 2002, 10
                         rhetoric on both of these key issues had    days before the congressional vote on
                         deliberately misled the American peo-       the war, was dishonest from the get-go.
                         ple, who were entitled to know the          It was prepared by spineless func-
                         truth.                                      tionaries eager to please their boss
                            The two unwelcome estimates              (Tenet) and his boss (Bush) by parrot-
                         meant two strikes on Negroponte.            ing the faith-based analysis of senior
                         Then the White House learned of an          analyst Dick Cheney. It is by far the

28 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                                           OFF TO WAR

worst NIE ever produced by the US in-       dictating that we give it to policymak-         With Fingar
telligence community. But, hey, it          ers straight, without fear or favor. We         and Negroponte
achieved its primary purpose of scaring     had career protection for doing that.           and their
Congress into approving a war of ag-        And – truth be told – we often took a           benighted
gression.                                   perverse delight in it.                         ideas about
   In the wake of that debacle, few of         Our judgments (the unwelcome                 fact-based,
us intelligence alumni harbored much        ones, anyway) were pooh-poohed as               rather than
hope that honesty could be re-intro-        negativism; and policymakers, of                faith-based,
duced into the estimative process any       course, were in no way obliged to take          intelligence
time soon. Former CIA Director Stans-       them into account. The point is that            analysis,
field Turner went so far as to tell a TV    they continued to be sought. Not even           it is far
host that he thought the CIA should be      Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon                 better
“dismantled.” Thus, it was a very wel-      would be likely to decide on a signifi-         to duck
come surprise to learn, thanks to patri-    cant escalation without seeking our             the issue
otic truth-tellers, of the gutsy judg-      best guess as to how US adversaries             altogether
ments of more recent NIEs – and to          would likely react to this or that esca-
discover that a remnant of analysts of      latory step
the old truth-to-power school have
been able to ply their trade unencum-       What about now?
bered under Fingar and Negroponte.          As noted above, an intelligence esti-
                                            mate on Iraq has been in process for
Some history: Estimates                     months – and months – and months.
on Vietnam                                  It is not that the analysts are slower
As one of the intelligence analysts         these days; it is that the White House
watching Vietnam in the sixties and         has decided that, for political reasons,
seventies, I worked on several of the       no estimate at all is better than an un-
NIEs produced before and during the         welcome one. The White House
war. All too many bore this title: “Prob-   thought process seems to be this:
able Reactions to Various Courses of           With Fingar and Negroponte and
Action With Respect to North Viet-          their benighted ideas about fact-based,
nam.” Typical of the kinds of question      rather than faith-based, intelligence
the president and his advisers wanted       analysis, it is far better to duck the issue
addressed: Can we seal off the Ho Chi       altogether – at least for as long as the
Minh Trail by bombing it? If the US         congressional oversight committees
were to introduce X thousand addi-          continue to slumber. Besides, if
tional troops into South Vietnam, will      Cheneyesque pressure were again to be
Hanoi quit? Okay, how about XX              applied to intelligence analysts, there is
thousand?                                   a growing risk that this might turn
   Our answers regularly earned us          some of them into patriotic truth-
brickbats from the White House for not      tellers. Besides, we already have the
being “good team players.” But in those     needed authorization – and even
days we labored under a strong ethos        enough funding to send 21,500 addi-

                                                                                     February 2007 | TheREADER 29

It seems quite           tional troops.                            that he is “unaware” of the existence of
clear that the              It seems quite clear that the addi-    an NIE draft on prospects for Iraq. Sen.
additional               tional troop decision was made with-      John Warner, R-Va., raised the subject
troop decision           out any formal input from the             with Gates, saying that Negroponte
was made                 intelligence community. There would       had assured him the NIE would be is-
without any              be no NIE on “Probable Reactions to       sued at the end of the month.
formal input             Various Courses of Action With Re-          Don’t hold your breath.            CT
from the                 spect to Iraq” – no formal paper that
intelligence             could make the president’s decision ap-   Ray McGovern chaired NIEs and
community                pear highly questionable. Let the on-     prepared the President’s Daily Brief
                         again-off-again NIE on prospects for      during his 27-year career as a CIA
                         Iraq languish.                            analyst. He now works with Tell the
                            And let former CIA director, now       Word, the publishing arm of the
                         Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pre-    ecumenical Church of the Saviour in
                         tend, as he did on Jan. 12 before the     Washington, D.C. This essaay originally
                         Senate Armed Services Committee,          appeared on the web site

              Download and read his political and
              humorous essays, all in pdf format, at:
30 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                                A N ATION’S IMAGE


     t hasn’t been the best of times for       ton Times, Israel is turning to “the wis-       “When the
     Israel. There was last summer’s           dom of Madison Avenue”.                         word ‘Israel’
     widely condemned attack on Leb-              Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni         is said outside
     anon and the recent disclosure by         has “met with public relations execu-           its borders,
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert             tives, branding specialists and diplo-          we want it
that his country has a nuclear arsenal,        mats in Tel Aviv to brainstorm about            to invoke not
not to mention the ongoing death and           improving the country’s image by using          fighting or
destruction resulting from the Israeli-        the marketing insights first developed          soldiers, but
Palestinian conflict.                          to sell peanut butter and Pontiacs,” the        a place that
   Former US President Jimmy Carter’s          newspaper reported                              is desirable to
strongly criticised Israel in his new             “When the word ‘Israel’ is said out-         visit and invest
bestselling book Palestine: Peace Not          side its borders, we want it to invoke          in, a place
Apartheid, and a recent international          not fighting or soldiers, but a place that      that preserves
consumer survey found that Israel has          is desirable to visit and invest in, a place    democratic
the worst “brand name” of any coun-            that preserves democratic ideals while          ideals while
try in the world. Finally, The Sunday          struggling to exist,” Livni was quoted as       struggling
Times of London reported at the be-            saying by Reuters.                              to exist”
ginning of this year that the Israeli Air         John Stauber, executive director of
Force may be preparing to use low              the Centre for Media and Democracy,
grade, tactical nuclear weapons to             whose website has been
strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities. So per-   tracking developments in the public re-
haps it is not surprising that Israel –        lations world for several years, told IPS,
whose international image is of a coun-        “These days branding, which has most
try in continuous conflict – would en-         frequently been associated with creat-
gage in a serious long-term effort to          ing a feel-good, positive impression for
reshape global perceptions of itself.          a product, service, or a company, is now
   As part of its “re-branding” strategy,      being used more and more by coun-
according to a report in the Washing-          tries.

                                                                                         February 2007 | TheREADER 31

“If Israel’s                “Branding campaigns by nations are          searcher and an adviser to govern-
intention                a type of propaganda designed to man-          ments on branding, who is also the
is to promote            age and manipulate the perception of           founding editor of “Place Branding,” a
itself as a              in-country citizens or foreigners toward       quarterly British journal devoted to the
desirable place          a government,” he said. “Countries en-         relatively new practice of place brand-
to live and              gaged in controversies, just like compa-       ing.
invest in, the           nies, will turn to branding methods as            The Anholt Nation Brand Index re-
challenge                a crisis management technique to man-          cently polled 25,903 online consumers
appears to be            age and manipulate public opinion and          from 35 countries in North America,
a steep one”             press coverage.                                Europe, Asia and Latin America and
                            “Often nations with serious PR or           found that Israel finished dead last in
                         image problems involving social justice        the survey, behind Estonia, Indonesia
                         issues are engaging in branding efforts.       and Turkey.
                         For instance, after 9/11 the United               Among the factors considered in a
                         States launched a branding campaign            nation’s “brand” are the quality of the
                         that has spent hundreds of millions of         country’s government, its culture, its
                         dollars in a failed effort to improve the      people, its business and investment cli-
                         image of the US in Arab and Muslim             mate, and its desirability as a tourist
                         countries.”                                    destination.
                            “Given recent developments involv-             “A nation’s brand is a deep-seated
                         ing Israel, it is not at all surprising that   perception that does not change a great
                         it would ratchet up its spending on            deal,” Anholt pointed out. “There is no
                         public relations and branding,” added          evidence that re-branding campaigns
                         Stauber.                                       change people’s minds.
                                                                           “If Israel’s intention is to promote it-
                         Long-term perception                           self as a desirable place to live and in-
                         Although the new public relations ef-          vest in, the challenge appears to be a
                         fort is still in its formative stages, and a   steep one,” Anholt concluded.
                         budget for it has yet to be developed, a          David Saranga, the counsel for
                         staff person with the London-based             media and public affairs at the Israeli
                         global advertising firm Saatchi and            Consulate in New York, told PR Week
                         Saatchi acknowledged that it is already        that the government was in consulta-
                         working with the Israelis free of charge       tion with a number of public relations
                         on the re-branding effort.                     and advertising firms and had not yet
                            Unlike public relations campaigns           decided what the re-branding cam-
                         that are more immediately targeted             paign would focus on. Saranga did
                         and less durable, branding aims at             point out that two important groups
                         changing long-term perceptions. The            that the government wanted to reach
                         Anholt Nation Brands Index is an ana-          are “liberals” and people aged 16 to 30.
                         lytical ranking of the world’s nations as         Ambassador Gideon Meir, deputy
                         brands developed by author Simon               director general for media and public
                         Anholt, an independent British re-             affairs at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, re-

32 TheREADER | February 2007                                                               January 2007 | TheREADER 32
                                                                               A N ATION’S IMAGE

cently spent time in the US meeting             Kahn, who recently wrote a piece on          Meir told
with media professionals working in         nation branding for Foreign Policy               Haaretz’s
the various Israeli consulates across       magazine, pointed out that “In the ab-           chief US
North America. Meir told Haaretz’s          sence of political transformation, nation        correspondent
chief US correspondent that he would        branding often amounts to nothing                that he would
“rather have a Style section item on Is-    more than misdirection.                          “rather have a
rael, then a front page story.”                 “The transformation of a country’s           Style section
    In a paper titled “The Israel Brand –   image can only come after the country            item on Israel,
Policy Paper Proposal,” Rommey Has-         is transformed. Throwing millions at             then a front
sman, a marketing communications            public relations firms, hiring marketing         page story”
strategist and consultant to leading of-    consultants, creating snappy slogans or
ficials, corporations and organisations     cool logos is basically a monumental
in Israel’s government, non-govern-         waste of time, money and energy,” he
ment and business sectors, pointed out      said.
that “Nation-branding is still in its in-       “Israel also recently spent three
fancy; scholars have yet to conceive a      years and millions of dollars develop-
theoretical basis for it.”                  ing and test marketing an advertising
    There have been successes and fail-     campaign,” Kahn noted. “And yes, Is-
ures, Hassman, who heads Tel Aviv           rael does indeed ‘start with I’, as the
University’s Nation Branding Project,       country’s new tag line helpfully points
notes: “Spain presented the MIRO-           out. But so does Intifada – and it will
based national logo at the Barcelona        take more than a new marketing cam-
Olympics in 1992, to much acclaimà          paign to get potential investors and
[while] in contrast, the United King-       tourists to forget Israel’s ongoing con-
dom’s controversial ‘COOL Britannia’        flict with the Palestinians. In fact, it
campaign was abandoned as a failure         might require something beyond the
four years after its 1997 inception.”       abilities of even the most talented mar-
    Jeremy Kahn, former managing edi-       keting consultant: peace.”             CT
tor at the New Republic and a former
writer at Fortune magazine, recently        Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of
told American Public Media’s ‘Market-       the conservative movement. His
place’ that countries are “not a cereal     WorkingForChange column
box that can be retooled quickly. To        “Conservative Watch” documents the
transform a country’s image, first you      strategies, players, institutions, victories
have to transform the country. “            and defeats of the US Right.

                         Visit the ColdType Archives for books,
                               essays and photojournalism
                                                                                       February 2007 | TheREADER 33


The same Army                            e are not winning the       about half his or her body weight in
that can’t                               war on terrorism (and       gear and suffers the resulting back pain.
provide such                             would not be even if we     Body armor, weapon(s), ammunition,
basics of                                knew what victory           water, first aid kit – it adds up in the 120
modern war is            looked like) or the war in Iraq. Our        degree heat of Basra or Baghdad.
now promising            track record in Afghanistan, as well as        Ask soldiers in Iraq what they need
the Future               in the allied “war” on drugs, is hardly     most and answers may include: well-
Combat Systems           better. Yet the Pentagon is hard at         armored Humvees (many soldiers are
network (FCS),           work, spending your money, planning         jerry-rigging their own homemade
a “family of             and preparing for future conflicts of       Humvee armor); more body armor (an
systems” that            every imaginable sort. From wars in         unofficial 2004 Army study found that
will enable              space to sci-fi battlescapes without sol-   one in four casualties in Iraq was the
soldiers to              diers, scenarios are being scripted and     result of inadequate protective gear), or
“perceive,               weaponry prepared, largely out of pub-      even silly string (Marcelle Shriver found
comprehend,              lic view, which ensures not future vic-     out that her son was squirting the goo
shape, and               tories, but limitless spending that         into a room as he and his squad
dominate                 Americans can ill-afford now or 20          searched buildings to detect trip wires
the future               years from now.                             around bombs).
battlefield at               Even though today the Armed                The same Army that can’t provide
unprecedented            Forces can’t recruit enough soldiers or     such basics of modern war is now
levels”                  adequately equip those already in uni-      promising the Future Combat Systems
                         form, the Pentagon is committing itself     network (FCS), a “family of systems”
                         to massive corporate contracts for new      that will enable soldiers to “perceive,
                         high-tech weapons systems slated to         comprehend, shape, and dominate the
                         come on-line years, even decades, from      future battlefield at unprecedented lev-
                         now, guaranteed only to enrich their        els.” The FCS network will consist of a
                         makers.                                     “family” of 18 manned and unmanned
                             The typical soldier in Iraq carries     ground vehicles, air vehicles, sensors,

34 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                     ROAD TO ARMAGEDDON

and munitions, including:                     agile, networked force capable of ma-         Pentagon
         * eight new, super-armored,          neuver in the third dimension” in the         planners
      super-strong ground vehicles to         words last March of retired Major Gen-        prefer the
      replace current tanks, infantry         eral Robert H. Scales in a Boeing Pow-        military they,
      carriers, and self-propelled how-       erPoint presentation entitled “FCS: Its       or their
      itzers                                  Origin and Op Concept.”                       blue-sky
         * four different planes and             Defense Secretary Rumsfeld once fa-        dreamers, wish
      drones that soldiers can fly by re-     mously asserted, ‘’You go to war with         to have for the
      mote control;                           the Army you have, not the Army you           kinds of wars
         * several “unmanned” ground          might want or wish to have.” Pentagon         they dream
      vehicles.                               planners seem to have taken the oppo-         about fighting
   Put together these are supposed to         site tack. They prefer the military they,
plunge soldiers into a video-game-like        or their blue-sky dreamers, wish to
version of warfighting. The FCS will          have for the kinds of wars they dream
theoretically allow them to act as            about fighting. And it won’t be cheap. A
though they are in the midst of enemy         March 2005 GAO report found that the
territory – taking out “high value” tar-      total program cost of Future Combat
gets, blowing up “insurgent safe              Systems alone “is expected to be at
houses,” monitoring the movements of          least $107.9 billion.” In 2005, the Penta-
“un-friendlies”– all the while remain-        gon had already allocated $2.8 billion
ing at a safe distance from the bloody        in research and development funds to
action.                                       FCS and, in fiscal year 2006, that was
   To grasp the futuristic ambitions          expected to increase to $3.4 billion.
(and staggering future costs) of FCS,         (Keep in mind, that all such complex,
consider this: The Government Ac-             high-tech, weapons-oriented systems
counting Office (GAO) notes that “an          almost invariably go far over initial cost
estimated 34 million lines of software        estimates by the time they come on
code will need to be generated” for the       line.)
project, “double that of the Joint Strike
Fighter, which had been the largest de-       “The Maserati of the skies”
fense undertaking in terms of software        In 2006, the F-22 Raptor began rolling
to be developed.”                             off the assembly line. The Air Force
   In charge of this ambitious sci-fi style   plans to buy 183 of these high-tech,
fantasy version of war are Boeing and         radar-evading stealth planes, each at a
SAIC (Science Applications Interna-           price tag of $130 million, being manu-
tional Corporation). They are the “Lead       factured in a joint venture between
Systems Integrators” of this extraordi-       Lockheed Martin and Boeing. But it
narily complex undertaking, but they          turns out that the $130 million per
are working with as many as 535 more          plane cost is just one-third of the total
companies across 40 states. They pro-         price, once development costs are fac-
mise future forces the ability to break       tored in. The whole program is slated
“free of the tyranny of terrain” and “an      to cost the Pentagon 65 billion big ones.

                                                                                      February 2007 | TheREADER 35

In 2007, the             In July 2006, the Government Account-       $46.67 a share – and began 2007 at a
only reason the          ability Office asserted. “The F-22 ac-      celebratory $92.07.
military might           quisition history is a case study in
need such a              increased cost and schedule inefficien-     The next generation fighter
plane is to              cies.”                                      Of course, the lesson drawn from this
outfight its                Even if it were a bargain, however, it   is to produce yet more futuristic planes.
predecessor,             is a classic case of future-planning run    The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, built by a
the F-16, which          amok. The plane was originally con-         team led (yet again!) by Lockheed Mar-
Lockheed Martin          ceived to counter Soviet fighter planes,    tin, made its initial flight on December
has sold to              which haven’t menaced the US for            15, 2006. The total program could sur-
numerous                 more than 15 years. The plane itself is     pass $275 billion, making it the most
countries that           technologically awe-inspiring, report-      expensive weapons program in US his-
benefited from           edly having a twice-the-speed-of-           tory. Prime contractor Lockheed Mar-
the corporation’s        sound cruising speed of Mach 2. (The        tin is sharing the work and profits with
vociferous               Pentagon jealously guards its maxi-         partners Northrop Grumman and BAE
lobbying for new         mum speed as top secret.)                   Systems (not to speak of scads of sub-
markets and our             In 2007, the only reason the military    contractors).
government’s             might need such a plane is to outfight          The Air Force already hails the F-35s
lax enforcement          its predecessor, the F-16, which Lock-      “transformational sensor capability”
of arms-export           heed Martin has sold to numerous            and “low-observable characteristics”
controls                 countries that benefited from the cor-      that will “enable persistent combat air
                         poration’s vociferous lobbying for new      support over the future battlefield. Fur-
                         markets and our government’s lax en-        thermore, [the] F-35 will help enable
                         forcement of arms-export controls.          the negation of advanced enemy air de-
                            In this classic case of boomeranging     fenses because it will possess the ability
                         weaponry, Lockheed Martin has tri-          to perform unrestricted operations
                         umphed three times: First, General Dy-      within heavily defended airspace.”
                         namics sold F-16 fighters to the Air            Somewhere in there it is implied
                         Force beginning in 1976; second, Lock-      that this plane launches missiles that
                         heed (which bought General Dynam-           kill people, but it is very deeply embed-
                         ics) sold the planes to Turkey, United      ded. Nowhere does it say that its op-
                         Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and other         ponent in the skies could be the F-22
                         nations from the 1980s to the present       Raptor, once it is sold to all those na-
                         moment; and third, Lockheed Martin          tions who find their F-16s woefully out
                         (having merged with Martin Marietta         of date.
                         in 1995 and adjusted its name accord-
                         ingly) now gets to produce an even          What’s next next next next?
                         higher tech plane for a US Air Force        Even with such spiraling, mind-bog-
                         that fears it might be outclassed by for-   gling investments in advanced weapons
                         eign military hardware that once was        systems, the aerospace industry is
                         our own. The Bethesda-based com-            never satisfied. The quest for new justi-
                         pany ended 2001 with a stock price of       fications for ever “better” versions of al-

36 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                     ROAD TO ARMAGEDDON

ready advanced weapons systems is the        ments” which, sadly, cannot be carried         Air Force
holy grail of the business. These justifi-   out by tomorrow’s F-22 and F-35 fighter        planners
cations pile up in industry magazines        planes. (They “may not have enough             envisioned a
like Aerospace America, the organ of         range to attack critical ground targets        world with the
the American Institute of Aeronautics        far inside enemy territory, repeatedly,        United States
and Astronautics.                            and under all circumstances.”)                 even more
   In a typical article in that magazine,       Not surprisingly, Lockheed Martin           embattled and
the industry makes much of a com-            tried to knock two birds out of the sky        unpopular than
ment then-Air Force Vice Chief of Staff      with one stone, responding to criticism        it was at that
Gen. T. Michael Moseley made to Con-         that the F-22 was irrelevant and too ex-       moment, and
gress in March 2004. In charge of the        pensive, while rushing to meet the Air         where we
US air campaign over Iraq, he observed       Force’s perceived need for a new long-         lacked all
that most of the sorties originated from     range bomber by suggesting yet an-             powers of
neighboring countries that were allies       other plane: the F/B (for fighter-             persuasion to
in Operation Enduring Freedom. But           bomber)-22. As they described it, in a         entice other
what if, he wondered, you wanted to          vision of a kind of high artistry of death,    nations to join
go to war and there were no local allies     this wonder of modern air war would            future
willing to offer basing facilities. On the   even be capable of changing color to           “coalitions of
classic Boy Scout theory, be prepared,       match the sky.                                 the willing”
he promptly warned in written testi-            A January 2005 article in the Atlanta
mony to the House Armed Services             Journal Constitution gave Lockheed
Committee, “In the future, we will re-       Martin visionaries a chance to share
quire deep-strike capabilities to pene-      their chameleon of a “high-speed, high-
trate and engage high-value targets          altitude bomber” which could also
during the first minutes of hostilities      change shape, becoming “slimmer and
anywhere in the battlespace.”                more aerodynamic as its fuel tanks
   And he was only making a public           drain on long-distance flights. It would
point of already popular Air Force doc-      be invisible to radar, carry precision
trine. The 176-page Air Force Transfor-      bombs and missiles, and fly fast enough
mation Flight Plan was issued in all its     to outrun most fighters.” Sounds cool,
glittering verbosity in November 2003,       right? This might be one instance
bristling with a dismal, hyper-milita-       where the weapons designers and
rized view of the future.                    imagineers took a few steps too far into
   In it, Air Force planners envisioned a    fantasy land. There has not been any
world with the United States even            progress on the idea since 2005, but
more embattled and unpopular than it         don’t be surprised if the chameleon
was at that moment, and where we             fighter-bomber changes color and
lacked all powers of persuasion to en-       shape and soars again in the race for fu-
tice other nations to join future “coali-    ture weapons funding.
tions of the willing.”                          Even without the magical fighter-
     The solution: new bombers that          bomber, over the next eight years or so
could fulfill those “deep-strike require-    the Air Force imagines fielding systems

                                                                                      February 2007 | TheREADER 37

The Air Force            like the Common Aero Vehicle– “a rap-       KDD(X) program could end up total-
and the Army             idly responsive, highly maneuverable,       ing $100 billion for some 70 warships in-
are not alone in         hypersonic glide vehicle that would be      cluding destroyers, cruisers, and a
imagining                rocket-launched into space” according       seagoing high-tech killer called LCS
fabulously wild          to the Air Force documents. The CAV         (Littoral Combat Ship).
wars of the              would be equipped with sensors and             Generously, the Pentagon decided to
future and the           bristle with weapons it could launch        give the project to two different ship
multi-billion            from space against fixed and moving         building companies – Northrop-Grum-
dollar weapons           targets on land, and that could be de-      man Ship Systems (Ingalls, Mississippi)
systems they             livered anywhere on earth within two        and General Dynamics (Bath Iron
can build to             hours.                                      Works, Maine). According to the Pen-
fight them. The             As John Pike, a weapons expert and       tagon’s “Program Acquisition Cost by
Navy has its own         director of, told the    Weapons System,” the DD(X) will in-
gold-plated              Washington Post in March 2005, CAV          clude “full-spectrum signature reduc-
crystal ball             programs will allow the US “to crush        tion, active and passive self-defense
                         someone anywhere in world on 30             systems and cutting-edge survivability
                         minutes’ notice with no need for a          features.” At $3.3 billion for two ships
                         nearby air base.”                           in 2007, it better.
                            Looking beyond 2015, the Air Force          Building one ship in each location
                         sees systems like the B-X Bomber;           with each contractor raised the cost by
                         space-based Hypervelocity Rod Bun-          $300 million per ship, according to
                         dles (nicknamed “rods from God”), a         GlobalSecurity.Org, but to members of
                         mystical sounding system that prom-         Congress representing each district that
                         ises “to strike ground targets anywhere     is a small price to pay for maintaining
                         in the world”; the Guardian Urban           “flexibility.” In this business, one be-
                         Combat Weapon, an “air-launched lurk        comes accustomed to flexibility’s mag-
                         and loiter reconnaissance, rotary           ical spending properties. In its 2006
                         winged, unmanned, combat air vehicle        report, the White House’s Office of
                         designed for urban warfare”; and the        Budget and Management commented
                         High Powered Microwave Airborne             that the Littoral Combat Ship and
                         Electronic Attack, an “anti-electronics     other systems mentioned above have a
                         high powered microwave weapon               “high potential to meet current and fu-
                         against ‘soft’ electronic-containing tar-   ture threats.”
                         gets” that would be operated “from an          Congress, where so much of the
                         airborne platform at military significant   game is bringing the bacon (i.e. ship-
                         ranges.”                                    building contracts) back to the Baths of
                            The Air Force and the Army are not       the nation, wholeheartedly concurred.
                         alone in imagining fabulously wild          That was just about the sum total of
                         wars of the future and the multi-billion    the debate about these multi-billion-
                         dollar weapons systems they can build       dollar ship systems, multi-million-
                         to fight them. The Navy has its own         dollar boons for a few companies, and
                         gold-plated crystal ball. Their new         the dark specter of the future threats

38 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                     ROAD TO ARMAGEDDON

these ships will theoretically protect us     gressional Budget Office projects that       “I know we’ve
against.                                      annual missile-defense costs will, in        spent a lot of
                                              fact, increase to $15 billion by 2016.)      money on
Missile Defense: The great                        And it is not just in the Pentagon       developing
misnomer in the sky                           where such blue-sky spending for an          missile defense,
While many of the systems described           overarmed world is underway.                 but I have
so far are, at least, futures that, in some       Hidden in the innocuous sounding         believed since
heated imagination, exist, the mis-           Department of Energy is the National         the Reagan
named Ballistic Missile Defense System        Nuclear Security Administration,             administration
is moving full steam ahead despite            which has big plans laid through 2030.       that if we can
being irrelevant, unworkable, and ob-         Their Complex 2030 vision, released in       develop that
scenely expensive in our less-than-           April 2006, sees a “responsive nuclear       kind of
futuristic present moment.                    infrastructure” that can continuously        capability,
   The BMD program got another                dismantle and rebuild nuclear wea-           it would be
boost recently when incoming Defense          pons, reducing their numbers and in-         a mistake
Secretary Robert Gates gave it his full       creasing their potency, while ensuring       for us not to”
support, telling the Senate Armed Serv-       that, at any moment an American
ices Committee: “I know we’ve spent a         leader might want to destroy the
lot of money on developing missile de-        planet many times over, nuclear pro-
fense, but I have believed since the          duction rates can be rapidly increased.
Reagan administration that if we can              The Department of Energy estimates
develop that kind of capability, it would     that Complex 2030 will require a mere
be a mistake for us not to.”                  capital investment of $150 billion, but
   The mistake is wasting one more            the Government Accountability Office
dime on decades-worth of failure and          suggests that, as with so many initial
bombast that have cost an estimated           estimates for future weapons systems,
$200 billion so far without producing a       that number was far too low. Even if
single workable system to shoot down          the program cost only a dollar, it is but
an enemy missile or even the sitting-         another typically dangerous and pro-
duck targets that have taken the place        vocative step by the military-industrial
of such missiles in half-baked tests of       complex that threatens, in this case, to
the woeful project.                           encourage yet more global nuclear pro-
   Missile defense funding is set to soak     liferation.
up another $9.4 billion in fiscal 2007 –          Complex 2030 would, in fact, plunge
part of the Pentagon’s ongoing corpo-         us back into a Cold War atmosphere,
rate welfare system – and the Defense         but with far more nuclear-armed ad-
Department’s Future Years Defense             versaries. It even promises a return to
Program report proposes that funding          the underground testing of nuclear
averaging $10 billion annually be con-        weapons and could require upping the
tinued for research and development of        production of new plutonium pits (the
the system through… (this is not a            fissile heart of nuclear weapons).
misprint) 2024. (The nonpartisan Con-             As engineers and physicists at Lock-

                                                                                     February 2007 | TheREADER 39

Only the                 heed Martin and the Air Force dream        Frida Berrigan
money –                  up new weapons – shaping bombers           ( is a Senior
billions and             out of polymer and pixels – politicians    Research Associate at the World Policy
billions of              and Pentagoneers imagine the threats       Institute’s Arms Trade Resource Center.
dollars                  those super-bombers of the future will     Her primary research areas with the
– is real…               blast to bits.                             project include nuclear-weapons policy,
                            Only the money – billions and bil-      war profiteering and corporate crimes,
                         lions of dollars – is real… But as those   weapons sales to areas of conflict, and
                         billions are sucked away, what happens     military-training programs. She is the
                         to our dreams of clear skies, cures for    author of a number of Institute reports,
                         pandemics, solutions to global warm-       including Weapons at War 2005:
                         ing and energy depletion? To make          Promoting Freedom or Fueling Conflict.
                         more human dreams our future reality,
                         we have to stop feeding the military’s     This essay first appeared on the web site
                         nightmare monsters.                   CT

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40 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                      ANTI-EM PIRE REPORT


     n the past year Iran has issued sev-   structive in this regard. A report of the    As if American
     eral warnings to the United States     US Congress in 1994 informed us that:        leaders have
     about the consequences of an               Approximately 60,000 military per-       been deeply
     American or Israeli attack. One        sonnel were used as human subjects in        stabbed by pain
statement, issued in November by a          the 1940s to test two chemical agents,       about throwing
high Iranian military official, declared:   mustard gas and lewisite [blister gas].      youthful
“If America attacks Iran, its 200,000       Most of these subjects were not in-          American bodies
troops and 33 bases in the region will      formed of the nature of the experi-          into the
be extremely vulnerable, and both           ments and never received medical             bottomless
American politicians and military com-      followup after their participation in the    snakepit called
manders are aware of it.”[1]                research. Additionally, some of these        Iraq, or were
   Iran apparently believes that Amer-      human subjects were threatened with          restrained by
ican leaders would be so deeply dis-        imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth if          fear of
tressed by the prospect of their young      they discussed these experiments with        retaliation
men and women being endangered              anyone, including their wives, parents,      or by moral
and possibly killed that they would for-    and family doctors. For decades, the         qualms while
swear any reckless attacks on Iran.         Pentagon denied that the research had        feeding 58,000
   As if American leaders have been         taken place, resulting in decades of suf-    young lives
deeply stabbed by pain about throw-         fering for many veterans who became          to the Vietnam
ing youthful American bodies into the       ill after the secret testing.[2]             beast
bottomless snakepit called Iraq, or were        In the decades between the 1940s
restrained by fear of retaliation or by     and 1990s, we find a remarkable variety
moral qualms while feeding 58,000           of government programs, either for-
young lives to the Vietnam beast. As if     mally, or in effect, using soldiers as
American leaders, like all world leaders,   guinea pigs – marched to nuclear ex-
have ever had such concerns.                plosion sites, with pilots sent through
   Let’s have a short look at some mod-     the mushroom clouds; subjected to
ern American history, which may be in-      chemical and biological weapons ex-

                                                                                   February 2007 | TheREADER 41

If the Pentagon          periments; radiation experiments; be-        more forthcoming from the outset
had been much            havior modification experiments that         about what it knew all along about
more                     washed their brains with LSD; wide-          these various substances and weapons,
forthcoming              spread exposure to the highly toxic          the soldiers might have had a proper
from the outset          dioxin of Agent Orange in Korea and          diagnosis early on and received appro-
about what               Vietnam ... the list goes on ... literally   priate care sooner. The cost in terms of
it knew all along        millions of experimental subjects, sel-      human suffering has been incalculable.
about these              dom given a choice or adequate infor-           Soldiers have also been forced to
various                  mation, often with disastrous effects to     take vaccines against anthrax and
substances               their physical and/or mental health,         nerve gas not approved by the FDA as
and weapons,             rarely with proper medical care or even      safe and effective; and punished, some-
the soldiers             monitoring.[3]                               times treated like criminals, if they re-
might have                  In the 1990s, many thousands of           fused. (During World War II, soldiers
had a proper             American soldiers came home from the         were forced to take a yellow fever vac-
diagnosis early          Gulf War with unusual, debilitating ail-     cine, with the result that some 330,000
on and received          ments. Exposure to harmful chemical          of them were infected with the hepati-
appropriate              or biological agents was suspected, but      tis B virus.[5])
care sooner              the Pentagon denied that this had oc-           And through all the recent wars,
                         curred. Years went by while the veter-       countless American soldiers have been
                         ans suffered terribly: neurological          put in close proximity to the radioac-
                         problems, chronic fatigue, skin prob-        tive dust of exploded depleted ura-
                         lems, scarred lungs, memory loss, mus-       nium-tipped shells and missiles on the
                         cle and joint pain, severe headaches,        battlefield; depleted uranium has been
                         personality changes, passing out, and        associated with a long list of rare and
                         much more.                                   terrible illnesses and birth defects. It
                            Eventually, the Pentagon, inch by         poisons the air, the soil, the water, the
                         inch, was forced to move away from its       lungs, the blood, and the genes. (The
                         denials and admit that, yes, chemical        widespread dissemination of depleted
                         weapon depots had been bombed;               uranium by American warfare – from
                         then, yes, there probably were releases      Serbia to Afghanistan to Iraq – should
                         of deadly poisons; then, yes, American       be an international scandal and crisis,
                         soldiers were indeed in the vicinity of      like AIDS, and would be in a world not
                         these poisonous releases, 400 soldiers;      so intimidated by the United States.)
                         then, it might have been 5,000; then, “a        The catalogue of Pentagon abuses of
                         very large number”, probably more            American soldiers goes on ... Troops
                         than 15,000; then, finally, a precise num-   serving in Iraq or their families have re-
                         ber – 20,867; then, “The Pentagon an-        ported purchasing with their own
                         nounced that a long-awaited computer         funds bullet-proof vests, better armor
                         model estimates that nearly 100,000 US       for their vehicles, medical supplies, and
                         soldiers could have been exposed to          global positioning devices, all for their
                         trace amounts of sarin gas.”[4]              own safety, which were not provided to
                            If the Pentagon had been much             them by the army ... Continuous com-

42 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                         ANTI-EM PIRE REPORT

plaints by servicewomen of sexual as-         Panama in December 1989, which killed        When asked by
sault and rape at the hands of their          anywhere from 500 to a few thousand          a reporter:
male counterparts are routinely played        totally innocent people, guilty of no        “Was it really
down or ignored by the military brass         harm to any American, the first Presi-       worth it to send
... Numerous injured and disabled vets        dent George Bush declared that his           people to their
from all wars have to engage in an on-        “heart goes out to the families of those     death for this?
going struggle to get the medical care        who have died in Panama”.[7]                 To get
they were promised ... One should read            When asked by a reporter: “Was it        Noriega?”,
“Army Acts to Curb Abuses of Injured          really worth it to send people to their      Bush replied:
Recruits” (New York Times, May 12,            death for this? To get Noriega?”, Bush       “Every human
2006) for accounts of the callous, bor-       replied: “Every human life is precious,      life is precious,
dering on sadistic, treatment of soldiers     and yet I have to answer, yes, it has        and yet I have
in bases in the United States ... Re-         been worth it.”[8]                           to answer, yes,
peated tours of duty, which fracture              Speaking in November 1990 of his         it has been
family life and increase the chance not       imminent invasion of Iraq, Bush, Sr.         worth it”
only of death or injury but of post-trau-     said: “People say to me: ‘How many
matic stress disorder (PTSD).[6]              lives? How many lives can you ex-
    National Public Radio’s “All Things       pend?’ Each one is precious.”[9]
Considered”, on December 4 and other              While his killing of thousands of
days, ran a series on· Army mistreat-         Iraqis was proceeding merrily along in
ment of soldiers home from Iraq and           2003, the second President George
suffering serious PTSD.                       Bush was moved to say: “We believe in
    At Colorado’s Ft. Carson these af-        the value and dignity of every human
flicted soldiers are receiving a variety of   life.”[10]
abuse and punishment much more                    In December 2006, the White House
than the help they need, as officers ha-      spokesman for Bush, Jr., commenting
rass and punish them for being emo-           about American deaths reaching 3,000
tionally “weak.”                              in Iraq, said President Bush “believes
    Keep the above in mind the next           that every life is precious and grieves
time you hear a president or a general        for each one that is lost.”[11]
speaking on Memorial Day about                    Both father and son are on record
“honor” and “duty” and about how              expressing their deep concern for God
much we “owe to the brave young men           and prayer both before and during
and women who have made the ulti-             their mass slaughters. “I trust God
mate sacrifice in the cause of freedom        speaks through me,” said Bush the
and democracy.”                               younger in 2004. “Without that, I
    And read “Johnny Got His Gun” by          couldn’t do my job.”[12]
Dalton Trumbo for the ultimate abuse              After his devastation of Iraq and its
of soldiers by leaders of nations.            people, Bush the elder said: “I think
                                              that, like a lot of others who had posi-
The conscience of our leaders                 tions of responsibility in sending some-
After he ordered the bombing of               one else’s kids to war, we realize that in

                                                                                     February 2007 | TheREADER 43

Is it not                prayer what mattered is how it might           later, Indonesia invaded East Timor.
remarkable that          have seemed to God.”[13]                       The invasion was launched the day
in the numerous             God, one surmises, might have               after US President Gerald Ford and
articles in the          asked George Bush, father and son,             Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had
American daily           about the kids of Iraq. And the adults.        left Indonesia after giving President
press following          And, in a testy, rather ungodlike man-         Suharto permission to use American
President Ford’s         ner, might have snapped: “So stop              arms, which, under US law, could not
death last               wasting all the precious lives already!”       be used for aggression.
month, there                In the now-famous exchange on TV            But Indonesia was Washington’s most
was not a single         in 1996 between Madeleine Albright             valuable ally in Southeast Asia and, in
mention of his           and reporter Lesley Stahl, the latter          any event, the United States was not
role in the              was speaking of US sanctions against           inclined to look kindly on any govern-
East Timor               Iraq, and asked the then-US ambassa-           ment of the left.
massacre?                dor to the UN, and Secretary of State-            Indonesia soon achieved complete
                         to-be: “We have heard that a half              control over East Timor, with the help
                         million children have died. I mean,            of the American arms and other mili-
                         that’s more children than died in Hi-          tary aid, as well as diplomatic support
                         roshima. And – and you know, is the            at the UN. Amnesty International esti-
                         price worth it?” Replied Albright: “I          mated that by 1989, Indonesian troops
                         think this is a very hard choice, but the      had killed 200,000 people out of a pop-
                         price – we think the price is worth it.”[14]   ulation of between 600,000 and
                            Ten years later, Secretary of State         700,000, a death rate which is probably
                         Condoleezza Rice, continuing the fine          one of the highest in the entire history
                         tradition of female Secretaries of State       of wars.[16]
                         and the equally noble heritage of the             Is it not remarkable that in the nu-
                         Bush family, declared that the current         merous articles in the American daily
                         horror in Iraq is “worth the invest-           press following President Ford’s death
                         ment” in American lives and dollars.[15]       last month, there was not a single men-
                            And don’t forget that we can’t pull         tion of his role in the East Timor mas-
                         out of Iraq now because it would dis-          sacre?
                         honor the troops who haven’t died yet.            A search of the extensive Lexis-
                                                                        Nexis and other media databases finds
                         The American media as the                      mention of this only in a few letters to
                         Berlin Wall                                    the editor from readers; not a word
                         In December 1975, while East Timor,            even in the reports of any of the news
                         which lies at the eastern end of the In-       agencies, like the Associated Press,
                         donesian archipelago, was undergoing           which generally shy away from contro-
                         a process of decolonization from Por-          versy less than the newspapers they
                         tugal, a struggle for power took place. A      serve; nor a single mention in the main-
                         movement of the left, Fretilin, prevailed      stream broadcast news programs.
                         and then declared East Timor’s inde-              Imagine if following the recent death
                         pendence from Portugal. Nine days              of Augusto Pinochet the media made

44 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                         ANTI-EM PIRE REPORT

no mention of his overthrow of the Al-       lief that capitalism defeated socialism        Tony Snow
lende government in Chile, or the mass       in the Cold War. A victory for a supe-         would have
murder and torture which followed.           rior idea. The boys of Capital chortle in      us believe that
Ironically, the recent articles about Ford   their martinis about the death of so-          the government
also failed to mention his remark a year     cialism. The word has been banned              is no match
after Pinochet’s coup. President Ford        from polite conversation. And they             for the private
declared that what the United States         hope that no one will notice that every        sector in
had done in Chile was “in the best in-       socialist experiment of any significance       efficiently
terest of the people in Chile and cer-       in the past century has either been cor-       getting large
tainly in our own best interest.”[17]        rupted, subverted, perverted, or desta-        and important
   During the Cold War, the American         bilized ... or crushed, overthrown,            things done.
government and media never missed            bombed, or invaded ... or otherwise            But is that
an opportunity to point out the news         had life made impossible for it, by the        really true?
events embarrassing to the Soviet            United States.
Union which became non-events in the            Not one socialist government or
communist media.                             movement – from the Russian Revolu-
                                             tion to Cuba, the Sandinistas in
Man shall never fly                          Nicaragua and the FMLN in Salvador,
The Cold War is still with us. Because       from Communist China to Grenada,
the ideological conflict that was the        Chile and Vietnam – not one was per-
basis for it has not gone away. Because      mitted to rise or fall solely on its own
it can’t go away. As long as capitalism      merits; not one was left secure enough
exists, as long as it puts profit before     to drop its guard against the all-pow-
people, as it must, as long as it puts       erful enemy abroad and freely and fully
profit before the environment, as it         relax control at home.
must, those on the receiving end of its         Even many plain old social democ-
sharp pointed stick must look for a bet-     racies – such as in Guatemala, Iran,
ter way.                                     British Guiana, Serbia and Haiti, which
   Thus it is that when Venezuelan           were not in love with capitalism and
President Hugo Chávez announced a            were looking for another path – even
few days ago that he plans to national-      these too were made to bite the dust by
ize telephone and electric utility com-      Uncle Sam.
panies to accelerate his “socialist             It’s as if the Wright brothers’ first ex-
revolution”, the spokesperson for Cap-       periments with flying machines all
italism Central, White House press sec-      failed because the automobile interests
retary Tony Snow, was quick to the           sabotaged each test flight. And then
attack: “Nationalization has a long and      the good and god-fearing folk of Amer-
inglorious history of failure around the     ica looked upon this, took notice of the
world,” Snow declared. “We support           consequences, nodded their collective
the Venezuelan people and think this is      heads wisely, and intoned solemnly:
an unhappy day for them.”[18]                Man shall never fly.
   Snow presumably buys into the be-            Tony Snow would have us believe

                                                                                      February 2007 | TheREADER 45

And by the way,          that the government is no match for         – that they don’t want more govern-
Tony, the great          the private sector in efficiently getting   ment, or less government; they don’t
majority of              large and important things done. But is     want big government, or small govern-
the population           that really true?                           ment; they want government on their
in the last years            Let’s clear our minds for a moment,     side.
of the Soviet            push our upbringing to one side, and           And by the way, Tony, the great ma-
Union had a              remember that the American govern-          jority of the population in the last years
much better              ment has landed men on the moon,            of the Soviet Union had a much better
quality of life,         created great dams, marvelous national      quality of life, including a longer life,
including a              parks, an interstate highway system,        under their “failed nationalized” econ-
longer life,             the peace corps, built up an incredible     omy, than they have had under unbri-
under their              military machine (ignoring for the mo-      dled capitalism.
“failed                  ment what it’s used for), student loans,       None of the above, of course, will
nationalized”            social security, Medicare, insurance for    deter The World’s Only Superpower
economy, than            bank deposits, protection of pension        from continuing its jihad to impose
they have had            funds against corporate misuse, the En-     capitalist fundamentalism upon the
under unbridled          vironmental Protection Agency, the          world.
capitalism               National Institutes of Health, the
                         Smithsonian, the G.I. Bill, and much,       Unwelcome guests at the table
                         much more.                                  of the respectable folk
                             In short, the government has been       Sen. Joseph Biden, Democrat from
                         quite good at doing what it wanted to       Delaware, the new chairman of the
                         do, or what labor and other move-           Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
                         ments have made it do, like establishing    has announced four weeks of hearings
                         worker health and safety standards          focused on every aspect of US policy in
                         and requiring food manufacturers to         Iraq. He really wants to get to the bot-
                         list detailed information about ingredi-    tom of things, find out how and why
                         ents.                                       things went so wrong, who are the
                             When George W. took office one of       ones responsible, hold them account-
                         his chief goals was to examine whether      able, and what can be done now. The
                         jobs done by federal employees could        committee will hear the testimony of
                         be performed more efficiently by pri-       top political, economic and intelligence
                         vate contractors. Bush called it his top    experts, foreign diplomats, and former
                         management priority. By the end of          and current senior US officials, like
                         2005, 50,000 government jobs had been       Condoleezza Rice, Brent Scowcroft,
                         studied. And federal workers had won        Samuel Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski,
                         the job competitions more than 80 per-      Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright
                         cent of the time.[19]                       and George Shultz.[20] All the usual sus-
                             We have to remind the American          pects.
                         people of what they’ve instinctively           But why not call upon some unusual
                         learned but tend to forget when faced       suspects? Why do congressional com-
                         with statements like that of Tony Snow      mittees and committees appointed by

46 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                      ANTI-EM PIRE REPORT

the White House typically not call ex-         [7] New York Times, December 22,         People who called
perts who dissent from the official ex-     1989, p.17                                  the war illegal
planations? Why not hear from people           [8] New York Times, December 22,         and immoral,
who had the wisdom to protest the in-       1989, p.16                                  said we should
vasion of Iraq and condemn it in writ-         [9] Los Angeles Times, December 1,       never start it,
ing before it even began? People who        1990, p.1                                   and predicted
called the war illegal and immoral, said       [10] Washington Post, May 28, 2003       much of the
we should never start it, and predicted        [11] Washington Post, January 1, 2007,   horrible outcome.
much of the horrible outcome. Surely        p.1                                         Surely they may
they may have some insights and                [12] Washington Post, July 20, 2004,     have some
analyses that will not be heard from        p.15, statement attributed to President     insights and
the mouths of the usual suspects.           Bush in the Lancaster (Pa.) New Era         analyses that
    Likewise, why didn’t the September      newspaper from a private meeting with       will not be heard
11 Committee, or any of the congres-        Amish families on July 9. The White         from the mouths
sional committees dealing with the ter-     House later said Bush said no such          of the usual
rorist attack, call upon any of the         thing. Yes, we know how the Amish lie.      suspects
numerous 9-11 experts who have done            [13] Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1991,
extensive research and who question         p.1
various aspects of the official story?         [14] CBS “60 Minutes”, May 12, 1996
    Traditionally, of course, such com-        [15] Associated Press, December 22,
mittees have been formed to put a           2006
damper on dissident questioning of of-         [16] National Security Archive –
ficial stories, to ridicule them as “con- – Search
spiracy theorists”, not to give the         <Ford Timor>; William Blum, Rogue
dissidents a larger audience.          CT   State, p.188-9
                                               [17] New York Times, September 17,
NOTES                                       1974, p.22
   [1] Fars News Agency, November 21,          [18] Washington Post, January 10,
2006                                        2007, p.7
   [2] Senate Committee on Veterans’           [19] Washington Post, March 23,
Affairs, “Is Military Research Haz-         2006, p.21
ardous to Veterans’ Health? Lessons            [20] Washington Post, January 5,
Spanning Half a Century”, December 8,       2007
1994, p.5
   [3] Ibid., passim                        William Blum is the author of:
   [4] Washington Post, October 2 and       Killing Hope: US Military and CIA
23, 1996 and July 31, 1997 for the esti-    Interventions Since World War 2
mated numbers of affected soldiers.         Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s
   [5] “Journal of the American Medical     Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident:
Association”, September 1, 1999, p.82       A Cold War Memoir; Freeing the World
   [6] Washington Post, December 20,        to Death: Essays on the American
2006, p.19                                  Empire

                                                                                   February 2007 | TheREADER 47


In other words,                  resident Bush claimed in his        operational aspects of the war on ter-
a regime that                    State of the Union speech to        rorism,” who said that “the Library
appears to be                    have prevented four terrorist       Tower plot was one of many Al Qaeda
barely holding                   plots. Phew! It’s a good thing to   operations that had not gone much
on to its power          know that we tossed out our Bill of         past the conceptual stage….The official
is being                 Rights for some actual REASON – I           spoke on the condition of anonymity,
supported                mean other than turning Iraq into a         saying that those familiar with the plot
with unabashed           training ground for terrorism.              feared political retaliation for providing
US military                 Except that we didn’t.                   a different characterization of the plan
power – to                                                           that that of the president.”
the tune of              1.“We stopped an al Qaeda plot                 Michael Scheuer, an al Qaeda expert
approximately            to fly a hijacked airplane into             in the CIA’s counter-terrorism center,
180 million              the tallest building on the West            told the Voice of America: “This doesn’t
dollars per day          Coast.”                                     sound like anything that I would recall
                         An October 8, 2005, LA Times story,         as a major threat, or as a major success
                         headlined “Scope of Plots Bush Says         in stopping it….My impression [was
                         Were Foiled Is Questioned,” cited “sev-     that the National Security Council]
                         eral counter-terrorism officials” as say-   culled through information to look for
                         ing that “the plot never progressed past    something that resembled a serious
                         the planning stages.... ‘To take that and   threat in 2002. It doesn’t strike me, ei-
                         make it into a disrupted plot is just lu-   ther as someone who was there or as
                         dicrous,’ said one senior FBI official …    someone who has followed al Qaeda
                         At most it was a plan that was stopped      pretty closely, that this was really a se-
                         in its initial stages and was not an op-    rious sort of effort.”
                         erational plot that had been disrupted         A February 10, 2006 Washington
                         by authorities.”                            Post story cited “several U.S. intelli-
                            On Feb. 10, 2006, the LA Times           gence officials” who “said there is deep
                         quoted a “US official familiar with the     disagreement within the intelligence

48 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                            PLOTS UNCOV ERED

community over the seriousness of the                                                    Instead of the
Library Tower scheme and whether it         3.-“Just last August, British                emergency
was ever much more than talk.”              authorities uncovered a plot to              requests
   A February 10, 2006, New York Daily      blow up passenger planes bound               Messrs. Bush
News story cited one senior countert-       for America over the Atlantic                and Cheney tend
errorism official who said: “There was      Ocean.”                                      to prefer, the
no definitive plot. It never materialized                                                Democrats want
or got past the thought stage.”             Well, the British “authorities” did arrest   the war funding
   Back on June 17, 2004, the New York      two dozen people at the insistence of        requests to be
Daily News quoted John Pistole, the         the Bush Administration, but numer-          included in the
FBI’s counterterrorism director. Asked      ous reports found consensus among            annual budget
to comment on a CIA agent’s statement       experts that those arrested could not
that “I think we’ve probably prevented      have possibly mixed together on an air-
a few aviation attacks against both the     plane the liquid explosives they al-
East and West coasts,”                      legedly planned to use. And common
   Pistole at first said he was “not sure   sense suggested that if they had man-
what [the CIA] was referring to.” The       aged such a sophisticated plot, it was
Daily News reported that “Even after        unlikely anyone else was working on
consulting CIA officials, Pistole still     the same thing (the assumption that
would not call the alleged threat un-       prevents us all from traveling with
covered in the summer of 2003 an ad-        toothpaste and deodorant unless
vanced plot.”                               sealed in a proper protective plastic
                                            bag, and leads to government employ-
2.-“We uncovered an al Qaeda                ees carelessly tossing deadly dangerous
cell developing anthrax to be               toothpaste tubes into trashcans in the
used in attacks against                     middle of unsuspecting crowds).
America.”                                      Craig Murray, former British Ambas-
An October 31, 2006, Washington Post        sador to Uzbekistan, summed this case
article describes al Qaeda’s efforts as     up well:
well short of “developing” and the             “None of the alleged terrorists had
case to tie them to the anthrax at-         made a bomb. None had bought a
tacks in the United States as leading       plane ticket. Many did not even have
nowhere. A September 25, 2006,              passports, which given the efficiency of
Washington Post article describes the       the UK Passport Agency would mean
FBI’s investigation of the anthrax at-      they couldn’t be a plane bomber for
tacks in the United States as still         quite some time. In the absence of
open, but just barely active. If that in-   bombs and airline tickets, and in many
vestigation has reached any conclu-         cases passports, it could be pretty diffi-
sion, or if Bush has discovered a plot      cult to convince a jury beyond reason-
of some other attacks that were pre-        able doubt that individuals intended to
vented, he should produce evidence          go through with suicide bombings,
of such.                                    whatever rash stuff they may have

                                                                                   February 2007 | TheREADER 49

If we recall             bragged in internet chat rooms.              of our Bill of Rights intact? Is this the
the protests                “What is more, many of those ar-          “tallest building on the West Coast”
in Seattle in            rested had been under surveillance for       story by another name in order to ex-
1999 against             over a year - like thousands of other        pand the list? I’ve seen a lot of reports
the WTO,                 British Muslims. And not just Muslims.       on Bush’s speech, but no explanation
we will                  Like me. Nothing from that surveillance      of what he’s talking about here.
remember how             had indicated the need for early arrests.       Of course, such claims are not new:
effective they           Then an interrogation in Pakistan re-        They follow the pattern of the Padilla
were in raising          vealed the details of this amazing plot      radiation bomb claim. The announce-
the level of             to blow up multiple planes – which,          ment of that supposed success was
awareness                rather extraordinarily, had not turned       made at a time when Bush needed a
and opposition           up in a year of surveillance. Of course,     boost in the media, even though the
to the aims              the interrogators of the Pakistani dic-      man had been locked up for a month
of global                tator have their ways of making people       already; and then the charges were
capitalism               sing like canaries. As I witnessed in        later dropped.
                         Uzbekistan, you can get the most ex-            Keith Olbermann once ran a seg-
                         traordinary information this way. Trou-      ment highlighting the suspicious tim-
                         ble is it always tends to give the           ing of ten such announcements, each
                         interrogators all they might want, and       one of which ended up amounting to
                         more, in a desperate effort to stop or       nothing at all. Olbermann’s story left
                         avert torture. What it doesn’t give is the   out plenty of more recent examples,
                         truth.”                                      but then, so did Bush’s speech. Have we
                                                                      forgotten the heroic way in which he
                         4.-“We broke up a Southeast                  saved the Sears Tower already?         CT
                         Asian terror cell grooming
                         operatives for attacks inside the            Richard Matthews provided research
                         United States.”                              assistance for this article.
                         Was this the one broken up in 1995,          First published at
                         before Bush, when we still had much

                      Visit the ColdType Archives for books,
                            essays and photojournalism

50 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                            GLOBAL DIMMING


           ou probably haven’t noticed,     cally drought-stricken district of Anan-     Continued
           but days aren’t as bright as     tapur here at the southern end of the        dimming over
           they used to be. Sunlight in-    Indian state of Andhra Pradesh may           Asia could well
           tensity, averaged across hun-    provide a grim preview of South Asia’s       mean more
dreds of locations on all continents,       future. Lying between Hyderabad and          erratic monsoon
decreased by 1.5 to 3% per decade from      Bangalore – the country’s two great          rains and less
the 1950s to 1990s. The dulling of the      traffic-choked foreign-investment cap-       food for
sky can be traced largely to the burn-      itals and major sources of the brown         2 billion people
ing of fuels, which releases soot, sul-     haze that blankets the subcontinent
fates, nitrates, and other substances       every year from November to April –
that absorb and reflect a portion of the    this impoverished rural region never
sunlight that normally would reach the      sees a very good monsoon. The area
Earth’s surface.                            lies in a “rain shadow” from India’s
    When reported a few years ago [1],      southeastern mountains, and as a re-
these findings were controversial, but      sult, its average annual rainfall is only
subsequent research has helped con-         about 20 inches, often concentrated in a
firm the reality of “global dimming.”       few downpours between June and Sep-
However, to paraphrase the old saying       tember. And even that meager mon-
about politics, all global climate change   soon is increasingly undependable: Of
is local. Over the past decade, clean-air   the nine years since 1930 that saw rain-
laws and export of dirty industries have    fall below 16 inches, six have occurred
halted dimming and even led to some         since 1980 and two since 2002.
brightening (and warming) in the US            A recent study by India’s National
and Europe. Meanwhile, as we shall          Climate Center showed that over the
see, continued dimming over Asia            past century, 12 of 36 regions in India,
could well mean more erratic monsoon        including the region that includes
rains and less food for 2 billion people.   Anantapur, have seen decreasing an-
    If that indeed happens, the chroni-     nual rainfall. But despite living in the

                                                                                   February 2007 | TheREADER 51

Some analysts            driest part of southern India, the 3.6      ago, sulfates from industrial Europe
now say the              million people of Anantapur district –      and North America weakened atmos-
sudden                   2.7 million of them in small villages –     pheric circulation in the intertropical
onslaught of             continue to rely on agriculture as the      convergence zone, causing rains to fail
hot years over           foundation of their economy, indeed         in Africa’s Sahel region, south of the Sa-
much of the              their existence. Now, immense, drifting     hara desert [3]. The resulting Sahelian
world since              brown clouds produced by the boom-          drought of the 1970s and 80s ended up
since 1990               ing, mostly urban, demand for electric      killing more than a million people.
actually                 appliances, automobiles, and other fos-         Now, food production in South Asia
represents               sil-fuel-guzzling features of twenty-       is imperiled by phenomena known as
a longer, more           first-century Indian life could under-      “atmospheric brown clouds.” Rapidly
gradual                  mine Anantapur’s survival in way that       industrializing areas of Asia and the
warming trend            centuries of persistent “natural”           surrounding oceans have seen contin-
that was                 droughts have not.                          ued darkening, associated with the
masked back                                                          emergence of extensive, murky clouds
in the 60s, 70s,         Playing with the dimmer switch              with lifetimes measured in weeks. Fed
and 80s by a             The deepest dimming during the past         increasingly by combustion of coal,
shady layer              half-century occurred in the Northern       diesel, and gasoline, brown clouds have
of soot and              Hemisphere, most intensely in the           been returning, darker and larger each
sulfates                 most heavily populated regions [2], and     winter, over South Asia and the north-
                         especially in the United States, with its   ern Indian Ocean [3].
                         voracious energy consumption. Anti-             The brown clouds have cut the
                         pollution efforts in the industrialized     amount of sunlight reaching the land
                         West, along with the 1990s economic         and ocean surfaces by approximately
                         crash in the former Soviet Union and        8% between 1930 and 2000 [4]. While
                         Eastern Europe and the large-scale re-      shading and thereby cooling the sur-
                         location of manufacturing to Asia,          face, the brown clouds absorb heat and
                         curbed the release of pollutants in the     warm the atmospheric layer in which
                         West, and that appears to have led to       they hover. That has several nasty con-
                         overall global brightening in the last      sequences: reduced evaporation from
                         decade or so. Some analysts now say         the ocean surface (which means less
                         the sudden onslaught of hot years over      moisture available for rain); warmer-
                         much of the world since since 1990 ac-      than-normal clouds that contain more
                         tually represents a longer, more grad-      fine particles of pollution and can hold
                         ual warming trend that was masked           more moisture without releasing it as
                         back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s by a shady    rain; and perhaps most ominously, a
                         layer of soot and sulfates.                 potential weakening of the climatic en-
                            But dimming continues across large       gine that drives the monsoon rains [4,5].
                         parts of the globe, and history shows       That could mean lower crop yields
                         that the result can be severe drought       across much of India, Pakistan, and
                         and plummeting crop production. Re-         Bangladesh, and it could tip already
                         cent research has shown that decades        drought-afflicted areas like Anantapur

52 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                                  GLOBAL DIMMING

District into ecological and humanitar-       assisted by the nonprofit group Acción          The water table
ian crisis.                                   Fraterna, are using water-harvesting            has dropped as
                                              methods, a more diverse array of crops,         much as 15 feet
Living with drought                           and natural pest control in an effort to        in some places,
Traditionally, Anantapur’s farmers have       sustain their communities and food              and more wells
dealt with their bad draw in the cli-         supplies over the long haul. There, and         are being drilled
matic lottery by growing tough subsis-        in other villages in the district, it’s clear   ever-more
tence crops: pearl millet, finger millet,     that communities accustomed to sur-             deeply to get at
deep-rooted legumes like pigeonpea,           viving hard times are not going to give         ever-less water.
and, on better soils, chickpea. Over the      up without a fight.                             It’s also reported
past two decades, cash-crop peanut               With the help of engineers, hydrolo-         that 10 to 15% of
mania swept the district, eventually          gists, agronomists, and local laborers,         farmers have
covering its arable land in a near-           and organizing themselves into teams            fled the crisis to
monoculture. But drought, soil exhaus-        of 15 farm families (of various low castes      look for work in
tion, and a plant virus have driven           and non-castes, but none of them well-          urban areas
peanut yields down and reduced the            to-do), people in Velikonda and a host
typical seed’s oil content from almost        of other villages are planning and
50% down to 36%. Because the crop is          building large water-conservation net-
grown mainly for cooking oil produc-          works. Using mostly hand labor, they
tion, farmers are getting lower prices        have built thick, chest-high earthen
for smaller crops.                            berms around the downhill edges of
    Fully 80% of the district’s rural peo-    fields to trap precious rainwater that
ple are small farmers, not fat-cat land-      would otherwise run off into gullies
lords or landless laborers, but that          during storms. More than 100,000 acres
relatively well-balanced farm economy         in the district are now protected by
is getting harder to maintain. Economic       such berms.
pressures, coming on top of increas-             In the same way, they are hand-dig-
ingly erratic rainfall and depletion of       ging ponds of 40,000-gallon capacity
groundwater supplies, have helped             that can hold rainwater to be hand-car-
push Anantapur toward the top of the          ried to new orchards of mango or cus-
list of districts for numbers of farmer       tard-apple trees. Farmers pay a percen-
suicides, which are reported to number        tage of the cost of berms, drainage out-
in the thousands. The water table has         lets, and ponds on a sliding scale (with
dropped as much as 15 feet in some            the rest coming from Acción Fraterna,
places, and more wells are being drilled      which is a part of India’s Rural Devel-
ever-more deeply to get at ever-less          opment Trust. Indian government pro-
water. It’s also reported that 10 to 15% of   grams are now also helping fund such
farmers have fled the crisis to look for      projects.)
work in urban areas.                             They also are moving away from a
    I recently visited farmlands around       food economy based on selling peanuts
the village of Velikonda, one of 54 wa-       and buying nutrient-poor, government-
tersheds in the district where farmers,       subsidized rice. In an effort led largely

                                                                                        February 2007 | TheREADER 53

India’s captains         by women, they are re-diversifying          cheaper merchandise and services for
of industry are          their cropping system with nutritious       Western consumers and greater wealth
achieving                crops they can both consume and sell:       for an upper slice of India’s urban mi-
prosperity the           millets, sorghum, pigeonpea, broad          nority. But India’s captains of industry
same way the             beans, cluster beans, chilis, coriander,    are achieving prosperity the same way
powerhouse               and many more. They have stopped            the powerhouse economies of the West
economies of             buying costly pesticides, turning in-       were built: with products and tech-
the West were            stead to natural products like neem         nologies that burn every kilogram of
built: with              seed extract. They are growing non-         fossil fuel that comes within reach.
products and             crop plants like milkweed to trap in-          If the boom continues to darken and
technologies             sects instead of trapping themselves in     thicken the atmospheric brown clouds
that burn every          debt to buy chemicals. They are grow-       that, in turn, are threatening to disrupt
kilogram of              ing large leguminous plant species on       the monsoon, it could destroy every-
fossil fuel that         the water-holding berms, to be cut and      thing that the resolute farm communi-
comes within             spread back on the land to add organic      ties of Anantapur have managed to
reach                    matter and nutrients.                       accomplish. Moreover, it could under-
                            Where these self-organized commu-        cut the livelihood and food supply of
                         nity efforts have taken root, individual    the rural majority all across the coun-
                         despair under the brutal logic of the na-   try.
                         tional and international economy has           Computer models predict that na-
                         withered. The work is on a colossal         tionwide monsoon droughts, which
                         scale and no doubt exhausting, but the      historically occur an average of two to
                         atmosphere in the villages is electric.     three years per decade, could rise to as
                         Velikonda and the other places where I      many as six years per decade under the
                         saw such cooperative work happening         influence of brown clouds [4]. If Anan-
                         are not the places that continue to be      tapur is affected as badly as the nation
                         plagued by farmer suicides.                 as a whole (and the models appear
                                                                     very uncertain about local variations),
                         Darkness on the horizon                     agriculture might just become impossi-
                         But even if the people of Velikonda and     ble. People there say they already
                         thousands other villages make every         count on drought at least six years in
                         right move within their local, water-       ten; brown clouds conceivably could
                         limited means, the global economy           make that a perfect ten out of ten.
                         may not be finished with Anantapur.            Foreign investment and production
                         India’s rapid industrialization has         for export in India have not come close
                         added 50% on top of the pollutant           to the levels they have reached in
                         emissions that have come with popu-         China, but they have played an indis-
                         lation growth since 1930 [4]. That foul     pensable role in creating the country’s
                         output has accelerated with the open-       urban economic explosion (and they
                         ing of the nation’s economy over the        have dwarfed by orders of magnitude
                         past decade and a half. India’s integra-    the foreign funds that have come in to
                         tion into the world market has meant        support rural nonprofits like Acción

54 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                              GLOBAL DIMMING

Fraterna). Such upheavals never come        States to take the lead in slashing con-       With the
without surprises. And no sudden,           sumption.                                      average
human-made climatic change in a ran-           Instead of that, scientists and policy-     American using
dom direction has, as one might expect,     makers are focusing on technological           10 times as
an equal chance of being either harmful     fixes like carbon sequestration, stratos-      much energy as
of beneficial. Because life on Earth        pheric sulfur seeding [7], and colossal,       the average
evolves toward equilibrium with its         space-based mirrors [8]. Growth-depen-         person in China,
current environment – and on a long         dent economies were built around the           and 24 times as
time scale – and because industrial civ-    fossil-fuel power bonanza and have no          much as the
ilization has become so complicated,        way to handle the consequences of the          average Indian,
fragile, and vulnerable, any rapid cli-     deep energy cuts that are necessary.           it’s the clear
matic change, including dimming, is al-     Global capitalism will not – indeed,           duty of the
most guaranteed to prove a disaster         cannot – give up the easy exploitation         United States to
with no silver lining.                      of concentrated energy that need only          take the lead in
    No one knows, for example, how the      be mined or pumped. And with its               slashing
complex tug-of-war between global           global reach, it will probably entrap          consumption
warming and local dimming will turn         even communities like Velikonda that
out. But the results for South Asia are     seem determined to wriggle free. Over-
unlikely to be pleasant. The leader of      all, it makes for some pretty dim
the Atmospheric Brown Clouds Project,       prospects.                              CT
Dr. V. Ramanathan of the Scripps Insti-
tution of Oceanography, has said,           Stan Cox is a plant breeder and writer
“Some years the aerosols [i.e., the pol-    in Salina, Kansas. Write him at
lutants causing dimming] might win
and in some years the greenhouse ef-        You can visit Acción Fraterna’s website at
fect may win. So we are concerned that
in coming decades the variability be-
tween the two will become large and it      Notes
will be difficult to cope with rapid           1. Stanhill, G. and S. Cohen. 2001.
changes from year to year.” [6]             Global dimming: a review of the evi-
    The straightforward approach to         dence for a widespread and significant
both warming and dimming is, of             reduction in global radiation with dis-
course, to make deep cuts in energy         cussion of its probable causes and
consumption planet-wide. The rapidly        possible agricultural consequences.
industrializing nations of the South will   Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
have to find their own ways to get the      107:255-278.
energy they need without ecological            2. Alpert, P., P. Kishcha, Y.J. Kauf-
devastation. But with the average           man, and R. Schwartzbard. Global
American using 10 times as much en-         dimming or local dimming?: Effects of
ergy as the average person in China,        urbanization on sunlight availability.
and 24 times as much as the average         Geophysical Research Letters 32: [web
Indian, it’s the clear duty of the United   reference] L17802,

                                                                                     February 2007 | TheREADER 55

                         DOI:10.1029/2005GL023320.                   (
                            3. Rotstayn, L.D. and U. Lohmann.        /impactstudy/index.cfm)
                         2002. Tropical rainfall trends and the         6. Scripps Institution of Oceanogra-
                         indirect aerosol effect. Journal of Cli-    phy press release (http://scripp-
                         mate 15:2103-2116.                
                            4. Ramanathan, V., C. Chung, D.          icle_num=731)
                         Kim, T. Bettge, L. Buja, J.T. Kiehl, W.M.      7. Crutzen, P. 2006. Albedo en-
                         Washington, Q. Fu, D.R. Sikka, and M.       hancement by stratospheric sulfur in-
                         Wild. 2005. Atmospheric brown               jections: A contribution to resolve a
                         clouds: Impacts on South Asian cli-         policy dilemma? Climatic Change:
                         mate and hydrologic cycle. Proceed-         [web reference] DOI 10.1007/s10584-
                         ings of the National Academy of             006-9101-y
                         Sciences 102:5326                              8. Govindasamy, B., and K.
                            5. United Nations Environment            Caldeira. 2000. Geoengineering Earth’s
                         Program, “The atmospheric brown             radiation balance to mitigate CO2 -in-
                         cloud: climate and other environmen-        duced climate change. Geophysical
                         tal impacts”                                Research Letters 27:2141.

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56 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                    ENDAN GERED SPECIES


          he Committee to Protect           filming from the balcony below. He         While in this
          Journalists recently released     was also killed.                           country there
          its 2006 report on threats to        The difference between the re-          was hardly a
          journalists. Iraq is by far the   sponses by the mainstream media in         peep of protest,
deadliest place for the fourth year in a    the United States versus Europe was        Spanish
row, with 32 journalists killed this        stunning. While in this country there      journalists
year. Sad to say, the violence follows a    was hardly a peep of protest, Spanish      engaged in a
trend that started with the US inva-        journalists engaged in a one-day           one-day strike.
sion of Iraq.                               strike. From the elite journalists down    They refused to
   When you step off the elevator at        to the technicians, they laid down         record the words
the Reuters news offices in Washing-        their cables, cameras and pens. They       of then-Spanish
ton, D.C., you see a large book sitting     refused to record the words of then-       Prime Minister
on a wooden stand. Each entry de-           Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria          Jose Maria
scribes a Reuters journalist killed in      Aznar, who joined British Prime Min-       Aznar, who
the line of duty. Such as Taras Prot-       ister Tony Blair and President Bush in     joined British
syuk. The veteran Ukrainian camera-         supporting the war.                        Prime Minister
man was killed on April 8, 2003, the           When Aznar came into parliament,        Tony Blair and
day before the US seized Baghdad.           they piled their equipment at the          President Bush
Protsyuk was on the balcony of the          front of the room and turned their         in supporting
Palestine Hotel when a US tank posi-        backs on him. Photographers refused        the war
tioned itself on the al-Jumhuriyah          to take his picture and instead held
bridge and, as people watched in hor-       up a photo of their slain colleague.
ror, unleashed a round into the side           At a news conference in Madrid
of the building. The hotel was known        with British Foreign Secretary Jack
for housing hundreds of unembedded          Straw, Spanish reporters walked out
reporters. Protsyuk was killed in-          in protest. Later, hundreds of journal-
stantly. Jose Couso, a cameraman for        ists, camera people and technicians
the Spanish network Telecinco, was          marched on the US embassy in

                                                                                 February 2007 | TheREADER 57

Pentagon                 Madrid, chanting “Murderer, mur-          to be shot at willy-nilly, not to be ha-
spokeswoman              derer.”                                   rassed in doing their professional
Victoria “Torie”            About four hours before the US         jobs.”
Clarke, who has          military opened fire on the Palestine         The U.N. Security Council agrees.
since become a           Hotel, a US warplane strafed Al-          On Dec. 23, it passed a unanimous
news consultant          Jazeera’s Baghdad office. Reporter        resolution insisting on the protection
for CNN and              Tareq Ayyoub was on the roof. He          of journalists in conflict zones.
ABC, said                died almost instantly.                        More than 120 reporters and other
at the time that            When interviewed after his death,      media workers have been killed in
Baghdad “is not          Ayyoub’s wife, Dima, said: “Hate          Iraq since the invasion. In August
a safe place.            breeds hate. The United States said       2003, Reuters cameraman Mazen
They should not          they were doing this to rout out ter-     Dana was filming outside Abu Ghraib
be there”                rorism. Who is engaged in terrorism       prison when a machine-gun bullet
                         now?” This summer, she sued the US        tore through his chest. The Pentagon
                         government.                               said the soldiers had “engaged a cam-
                            The family of Jose Couso has also      eraman.”
                         taken action. They know the names             Not long before his death, Dana
                         of the three US servicemen who fired      won the International Press Freedom
                         on the Palestine Hotel. On Dec. 5,        Award. “We carry a gift,” he said. “We
                         2006, the Spanish Supreme Court said      film and we show the world what is
                         the men could be tried in Spanish         going on. We are not part of the con-
                         courts, opening the possibility for in-   flict.” In receiving his award, Dana re-
                         dictments against the US soldiers.        flected, “Words and images are a
                         The military response to the journal-     public trust, and for this reason I will
                         ists’ deaths?                             continue with my work regardless of
                            Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria          the hardships and even if it costs me
                         “Torie” Clarke, who has since become      my life.”
                         a news consultant for CNN and ABC,            But it shouldn’t have. The Penta-
                         said at the time that Baghdad “is not     gon should adopt the U.N. standard
                         a safe place. They should not be          and send a clear message to its ranks:
                         there.”                                   Shooting the messenger is a war
                            David Schlesinger, global managing     crime that will not be tolerated. CT
                         editor of Reuters, said: “It seems in
                         my interactions with the US military      Amy Goodman hosts the radio news
                         – to paraphrase, basically – if you are   program “Democracy Now!” Her latest
                         not embedded, we cannot do any-           book, co-written with her brother David,
                         thing to protect you. Journalists need    is Static, Government Liars, media
                         to be accorded the rights under the       Cheerleaders and The People Who Fight
                         Geneva Convention, of civilians not       back.

58 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                                 AF TER COLBERT


            he decision by the White         right, he declaimed: “We’re not so dif-      His monologue
            House Correspondents’ Asso-      ferent, he and I. We get it. We’re not       received no
            ciation to invite impersonator   brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We’re not      mention from
            Rich Little to provide enter-    members of the factinista. We go             the New York
tainment at its annual dinner in April       straight from the gut, right sir?”           Times in its first
captures something essential about the          And: “I stand by this man. I stand by     article and the
American media.                              this man because he stands for things.       Washington Post
    Last year’s event was dominated by       Not only for things, he stands on            buried his
the appearance of comic Stephen Col-         things. Things like aircraft carriers and    commentary,
bert, who skewered George W. Bush            rubble and recently flooded city             leaving out the
and his administration, as well as the       squares. And that sends a strong mes-        most pointed
Washington press corps. The latter,          sage: that no matter what happens to         jokes. The
along with the White House, was not          America, she will always reboundwith         performance
amused. Initially, the media attempted       the most powerfully staged photo ops         only became
to conceal Colbert’s comments from the       in the world.” The comic rejected the        widely known
public. His monologue received no            claims of those who were suggesting          through a video
mention from the New York Times in           that a personnel shakeup at the White        that appeared
its first article and the Washington Post    House was merely rearranging deck            on the Internet
buried his commentary, leaving out the       chairs on the Titanic. “This administra-
most pointed jokes. The performance          tion is not sinking. This administration
only became widely known through a           is soaring. If anything, they are rear-
video that appeared on the Internet,         ranging the deck chairs on the Hinden-
which was downloaded millions of             burg!”
times within the first 48 hours.                Colbert reserved one of his sharpest
    At the dinner, Colbert, assuming his     barbs for the White House press corps
persona of a right-wing buffoon, ironi-      itself, whose leading lights were in at-
cally mocked Bush. Referring to the          tendance: “Over the last five years you
president, seated only a few feet to his     people were so good – over tax cuts,

                                                                                    February 2007 | TheREADER 59

Having learned           WMD intelligence, the effect of global         On January 17, the Las Vegas Re-
its lesson, the          warming. We Americans didn’t want to       view-Journal ran an article on Little’s
spineless White          know, and you had the courtesy not to      appearance at the correspondents’ din-
House                    try to find out. Those were good times,    ner. It noted that Little wouldn’t “be
Correspondents’          as far as we knew.                         mentioning Iraq or ratings when he ad-
Association                 “But, listen, let’s review the rules.   dresses the White House Correspon-
(WHCA) decided           Here’s how it works: the president         dents’ Dinner April 21. Little said
to avoid                 makes decisions. He’s the Decider. The     organizers of the event made it clear
controversy in           press secretary announces those deci-      they don’t want a repeat of last year’s
2007 by inviting         sions, and you people of the press type    controversial appearance by Stephen
the 68-year-old          those decisions down. Make, announce,      Colbert, whose searing satire of Presi-
Little, whose            type. Just put them through a spell        dent Bush and the White House press
impersonation            check and go home. Get to know your        corps fell flat and apparently touched
of Richard Nixon         family again. Make love to your wife.      too many nerves. ‘They got a lot of let-
in the early             Write that novel you’ve got kicking        ters,’ Little said Tuesday. ‘I won’t even
1970s                    around in your head. You know, the         mention the word “Iraq.”‘ Little, who
represented the          one about the intrepid Washington re-      hasn’t been to the White House since
height of his            porter with the courage to stand up to     he was a favorite of the Reagan admin-
contribution to          the administration. You know – fic-        istration, said he’ll stick with his usual
political humor          tion!”                                     schtick – the impersonations of the
                            Having learned its lesson, the spine-   past six presidents. ‘They don’t want
                         less White House Correspondents’ As-       anyone knocking the president. He’s re-
                         sociation (WHCA) decided to avoid          ally over the coals right now, and he’s
                         controversy in 2007 by inviting the 68-    worried about his legacy,’ added Little,
                         year-old Little, whose impersonation of    a longtime Las Vegas resident.”
                         Richard Nixon in the early 1970s repre-        Steve Scully, a producer at C-Span
                         sented the height of his contribution to   and the current WHCA president, de-
                         political humor.                           nied putting pressure on Little: “I can-
                            Little dropped out of the limelight     not be more clear that we never
                         some time in the 1980s. He lives in Las    mentioned Iraq, we never gave him any
                         Vegas and continues to tour his act. His   guidelines. The only thing we told him
                         schedule for January and February in-      is that we want to follow the policy of
                         cludes shows at the Suncoast Casino        the Gridiron Dinner, which is ‘singe,
                         and Hotel in Las Vegas; the Soboba         don’t burn.’“
                         Casino in San Jacinto, California; the         After Little denied having even made
                         North Iowa Community Auditorium in         the remarks to the Las Vegas newspa-
                         Mason City, Iowa; Youkey Theatre at        per, its reporter commented: “Let’s go
                         the Lakeland Center, Lakeland, Florida;    to the replay. Early in the interview, Lit-
                         the Cumberland County Civic Center         tle said, ‘I won’t even mention the word
                         Crown Theatre in Fayetteville, North       Iraq. It’s not appropriate. You just want
                         Carolina; and the Central Auditorium       to be entertaining.... I won’t do any-
                         in Findlay, Ohio.                          thing close to over the line.’ He added,

60 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                                AF TER COLBERT

‘They said, from ...,’ he paused, without   then, after he ran through about a           “One of the
finishing the sentence. ‘They thought       dozen voices, I finally had to say, ‘Can     reasons they
my approach was more appropriate for        you imitate anybody’s who’s alive?’ Mr.      picked me is
their kind of thing. They don’t want Bill   Little was not amused.”                      because I’m not
Maher or a comedian who’s going to be           Exemplifying the American media’s        controversial....
biting and perhaps knock the president      spirit of self-censorship and all-round      They did get
in any way.’“                               philistinism, Scully remarked to the         some flak about
   In an interview with the Washington      press, “My approach is to try to make it     the guy they had
Post’s Paul Farhi, Little made the same     [the annual dinner] a comfortable            last year. I don’t
point: “One of the reasons they picked      venue that is enjoyable, funny and in-       think they
me is because I’m not controversial....     teresting.... But you don’t want to of-      wanted
They did get some flak about the guy        fend anyone.” According to Editor &          someone
they had last year. I don’t think they      Publisher, he “contends that Colbert’s       political or
wanted someone political or controver-      appearance was a success and played          controversial
sial again.”                                no part in the choice of Little. ‘I think    again”
   Little seems a safe choice. On his       some of the criticism of Colbert was
personal web site, he includes an ex-       overblown,’ he said. ‘We didn’t hear
tended and heartfelt tribute to the late    anything from the White House.’ ...
Ronald Reagan, which includes these         Scully added that getting the hottest,
gems: “He was unlike any celebrity I        hippest entertainer is not always the
have ever known. When talking with          best thing for the Washington crowd,
him, you became unaware of the fact         whose participants span many differ-
that you were talking with the Presi-       ent decades. ‘There are some people
dent of the United States. The quickest     who think if you don’t know Stephen
way to become Ronald Reagan’s friend        Colbert, you don’t get his brand of
was to tell him a great joke. He would      humor,’ Scully said. ‘You want someone
then come right back at you with a joke     who appeals to the [right-wing colum-
of his own. You could then tell him an-     nist] Bob Novaks and the bloggers of
other joke, and he’d have another story     the world.’“ In another comment,
to tell you. This could go on endlessly,    Scully suggested that the correspon-
even if there was a war on. ...             dents didn’t want to make Bush a “po-
   “He was nice to everyone and al-         litical piñata.”
ways appeared interested in anything            No one with a brain in his or her
you had to say. I think he was a great      head will believe that the WHCA did-
President because everyone liked him,       n’t hear from the White House about
even if they were opposed to his poli-      Colbert’s performance, directly or indi-
tics.... I will miss Ronald Reagan ... to   rectly. Bush was obviously livid, as was
me he was a lovable grandfather.”           his wife. One top Bush aide was quoted
   Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-       as saying, “Colbert crossed the line.”
Times noted in a recent column that         Several aides and supporters walked
Little “was a guest on a radio show I       out before the comic had finished.
hosted about 10 years ago, and even             Ron Hutcheson, a McClatchy News-

                                                                                   February 2007 | TheREADER 61

These are                papers reporter and former correspon-         the White House, Capitol Hill and
individuals who          dents’ association president, acknowl-        through seven presidential campaigns.
fly on Air Force         edged that Colbert’s impact had played        She is the National correspondent for
One, who joke            a role in the choice of Little. “It is cer-   ABC News Radio, based [in] Washing-
around with              tainly a safe choice, which might be          ton, DC. On September 11, 2001, Ms.
Bush and his             nice,” he said. “My personal feeling is       Compton was the only broadcast re-
cohorts, whose           that this [the selection of Little] is        porter allowed to remain onboard Air
careers depend           about ENOUGH.... We don’t need to             Force One during the dramatic hours
on their ability         have a blogfest and a partisan slugfest       when President Bush was unable to re-
to be intimate           after the dinner. We don’t need that.”        turn to Washington.”
with the                    What can one say? The media and               Another WHCA officer, its treasurer,
president                political establishment is impervious to      is Jennifer Loven of Associated Press.
                         the sentiments of the population. The         Her husband, Roger Ballentine, was a
                         war in Iraq is a disaster, the adminis-       senior adviser to the John Kerry cam-
                         tration’s policies have been rejected by      paign in 2004 and is currently president
                         the population, Bush is widely de-            of Green Strategies Inc, an environ-
                         spised. Colbert spoke for millions last       mental lobbying firm.
                         year, telling the president of the United        Ballentine was a senior member of
                         States what a scoundrel he was.               the Clinton White House staff, serving
                            The media, on the other hand, lives        as chairman of the White House Cli-
                         and breathes in Bush’s universe. They         mate Change Task Force and deputy
                         felt Colbert had been too harsh, unfair,      assistant to the president for Environ-
                         bullying.                                     mental Initiatives. Prior to being named
                            In the case of the White House cor-        deputy assistant to the president, Bal-
                         respondents, they literally breathe the       lentine was special assistant to the
                         same air. These are individuals who fly       president for Legislative Affairs, where
                         on Air Force One, who joke around             he focused on energy and environment
                         with Bush and his cohorts, whose ca-          issues.
                         reers depend on their ability to be inti-        WHCA secretary Peter Maer of
                         mate with the president. They may be          “CBS News”, according to the net-
                         Republicans or Democrats, it hardly           work’s biography, “has covered the
                         matters, but they are part of Washing-        White House since 1986.... A frequent
                         ton’s well-heeled, incestuous in-crowd.       flyer on Air Force One, Maer has trav-
                            In addition to Scully, who worked as       eled to nearly 40 countries and every
                         a teenager on Jimmy Carter’s presiden-        State of the Union with Presidents
                         tial campaign, the WHCA includes              George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George
                         among its officers Ann Compton of             H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy
                         ABC News (she serves as the organiza-         Carter.”
                         tion’s vice president). Her official biog-       WHCA board member Steve Hol-
                         raphy reveals that Compton “is now            land of Reuters was cited in a USA
                         covering a sixth President for ABC            Today article in 2001 on Bush’s “West-
                         News in a career that has taken her to        ern White House” in Crawford, Texas.

62 TheREADER | February 2007
                                                                                     AF TER COLBERT

“Holland, who started covering the           Bush administration, truths which the          By their
White House when Bush’s father was           mass media knows but never repeats.            ridiculous
in charge, is wistful when he recalls        By their ridiculous actions, the mem-          actions, the
cooler summer sojourns in Kenneb-            bers of the White House press corps            members of the
unkport, Maine. ‘If only he had his fa-      only confirm the point the comic was           White House
ther’s preference for vacation spots,’       making about their toadying. Indeed,           press corps only
Holland says. Despite fond memories          by bending over backward so far with           confirm the
of Kennebunkport and President Bill          their choice of the anodyne, Reagan-           point the comic
Clinton’s trips to chic Jackson Hole,        loving, all-but-forgotten Little, the          was making
Wyo. ... and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.,       White House correspondents have                about their
Holland says he’s content at the West-       demonstrated their subservience and            toadying
ern White House.”                            cowardice more graphically than Col-
   It comes as no surprise that these        bert could possibly have done.     CT
people were made unhappy by the per-
formance of Colbert, who committed           This essay was first published on the
the fatal error of telling certain elemen-   World Socialist Web Site at
tary, indisputable truths about the

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                                                                                      February 2007 | TheREADER 63