Saturday, June 26, 2004

Review: Farenheit 9/11

Michael Moore got his start in movies with muckraking pseudo-journalism, and he's only gotten better at this gig in the fifteen years since Roger and Me was released. In Farenheit 9/11 Moore has seemingly mastered the art of this type of story-telling, and has timed its release perfectly for the greatest effect in this years election cycle (late June, 1 month before the conventions).

Also of interest to viewers of this movie should be The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader by Michael Moore. This book presents all the fact-checking behind the movie. The movie, after all, is a non-stop whirwind of facts that were not well covered by the mainstream media. Much of the movies claims clearly are shocking to most of the audience, but to those of us who have been researching the truth for awhile none of the claims were at all outrageous.

The movie makes a series of assertions which will not be a surprise to readers of this web site. In fact the movie is pretty mild compared to the various assertions that were available for Moore to make in the film. On the other hand, a purely factual movie would not have been so gripping emotionally, and as we know the emotions are much stronger than the mind.

In this movie we witness the horror of the September 11, 2001 attack not directly through watching the airplanes hit the building, but indirectly through the eyes and anguish of the people on the scene. Their horror and overwhelm at watching people leaping to their deaths is very moving. And, as typical of the rest of the movie, the viewer is shifted from that horror to watching what President Bush was doing at that same moment. Namely, making a visit to a elementary school classroom, having just come off a month-long vacation during which he was briefed that al Qaeda was planning an attack using airplanes. Upon being told of airplanes hitting the World Trade Center did the President immediately leap into action? No, he sat there for many minutes listening to the teacher conducting the reading program. People were dying in the streets of Manhattan, and the President did "nothing" for several minutes. Of course, one wonders, what could he have done anyway?

Very emotionally moving and serves to underscore Moore's theme. That this President is a bufoon, that the wrong man was given the Presidency, and that this President's policies have led America greatly astray.

The entire movie is in this vein. Going back and forth between shocking images primarily of the fighting in Iraq, fact-telling, and humor. In one gross-out scene we see Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's favored grooming techniques. Moore must have excellent access to the camera-persons in the news media, for he shows dozens of short clips of the People of Power in moments of embarrasing humanity. Such as the makeup artistry in the moments before appearing on television (hence Wolfowitz's gross grooming techniques).

Some of the facts are interesting, so I will briefly recount them:

  • On September 13, 2001 a large number of private airplane flights were sent across the U.S. to collect high level Saudi's and ferry them out of the country. In the movie this point isn't carefully laid out, and many of the reviewers think that Moore is claiming all aviation was still canceled at the time these flights were ferrying Saudi's out of the country. Craig Unger, who is featured prominently in Moore's movie, is the source of this information and in his book House of Bush, House of Saud details that these flights happened while private aviation was still grounded. Most of these flights were on private aircraft, not commercial, and had to be approved by the White House. What's alarming is that many of these Saudi's were members of the bin Laden family, and in general many of them should have been of interest to the FBI for questioning. Yet none of them were detained for questioning, and the White House is complicit in ferrying them out of the country.
  • In the infamous flap over George W Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, he spent a year of that time AWOL. During that AWOL period he was suspended from service. The Bush Administration released his service records in an attempt to prove that George W had done his service, and on the sheet detailing Bush's suspension from service one name was blacked out of someone else who had been suspended at the same time. However Moore already had a copy of that document, and in his copy the name was not blacked out. That name? James R. Bath, who went on to become a financier, handling the investment activities of Saudi Royals in Texas, one of whom is Osama bin Ladens half-brother. Some of those investments were in the string of failed businesses which George W Bush ran into the ground before going into politics (just like his father). Moore claims the link between the Bush and bin Laden families was formed soley through the James R Bath connection.
  • George H W Bush's involvement in The Carlysle Group is detailed at some length. This company is a major world conglomerate, largely specializing in Defense Industries. It has on staff many former world leaders such as John Major and George H W Bush. George W Bush had worked briefly for this company as well. The bin Laden family had been a major investor in the Carlysle Group, and coincidentally the Carlysle Group was holding a meeting in Washington DC on September 11, 2001. The bin Laden family pulled out of the Group shortly after the attacks. This company is very secretive and steeped in controversy.

A question asked over and over again is Why are we attacking Iraq? The Iraqi's clearly had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001 attacks, yet on September 12, 2001 President Bush and others told Richard Clarke in no uncertain terms to find justification to attack Iraq (Against all Enemies). Moore proposes that it is the oil, of course, since Iraq has the second largest reserves of oil in the world (behind the Saudi's).

A little side story to the oil deal is the Oil Pipeline which had been proposed to go through Afghanistan. Central Asia has a large reserve of Oil, but there is no good way to get it to the ocean and thus on the world market. The straightest route is through Iran, but taking the pipeline through Iran would be dangerous to American interests and thus the pipeline has to take a different route. But none of the other routes were particularly interesting either. The agreement reached in the mid 1990's was to take the pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan, which meant that business negotiations were being conducted with the Taliban even while the Taliban was "harboring" Osama bin Laden who was known at that time to be conducting terrorist attacks against the U.S. such as the bombing of our embassies and of the U.S.S. Cole.

And who was placed into power in Afghanistan? Harmid Karzai, an advisor to the oil pipeline deal with Unocal which would have gone through Afghanistan. And what has been the major accomplishment of the Karzai government? Finalizing the agreements to route the pipeline through Afghanistan. And who else was involved with those negotiations? Why, a who's-who of the George W Bush Administration.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Hiding Dissent: Honesty in the Bush II Administration

The shuttering of dissent by the GW Bush administration, as discussed below, has only continued. Basically the attitude they are taking is that anybody who disagrees with them must be shouted down, shunned, rejected, and squashed.

An example today is the latest movie by Michael Moore. The movie is titled Fahrenheit 9/11 and covers an examination of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, and how they were created. It supposedly (I haven't seen it yet) makes a number of very alarming connections that should shake this country's belief and loyalty to GW Bush. These connections have been covered on this web site, particularly here, but to mainstream America that's been spoonfed a pack of lies, these connections are sure to be very alarming.

The movie has been taking a long strange trip to being shown to the public. First there was the funding, and subsequent refusal to release the movie. The movie was made under the direction of a movie studio owned by Disney, however when the movie was finished and ready to release (in the Spring of 2004, smack in the middle of the election campaign) Disney refused to release the movie to the public. The claim they made is that the movie is highly political, and therefore was not appropriate to release during a campaign cycle as it might skew the election. However, Michael Moore being who he is, he went public with this, and raised a ruckus. This is America, land of Free Speech is it not?

Second, Michael Moore went to the Cannes movie festival with his movie. At the festival he won the Palm D'Or, a highly respected prize.

Third, he managed to find a distributor other than Disney to distribute the movie. So much for the attempt at censorship by Disney.

Now there is a cohort of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" types making various attempts to quash this movie, even as it is being released ( article). The article details these smear campaigns

  • David Bossie head of Citizens United. Busily making and airing political advertisements smearing not only Michael Moore's film, but Bill Clinton's memoir which is being distributed this week as well.
  • Howard Kaloogian, whose Move America Forward launched a letter-writing campaign last week against a select number of theaters that planned to show "Fahrenheit." Kaloogian was part of a cabal that takes credit for recalling Gov. Gray Davis. Now they've set their sights on Moore.

While this may seem like a bit of a tempest in a teapot, it's part of a larger pattern. For example there is the case of Joseph Wilson and his wife. Wilson is a former ambassador, who under the previous Bush administration was co-chief of the Embassy in Iraq just before the first Gulf War, and was highly lauded by the previous Bush administration. He was sent by this Bush administration to do fact checking in Niger about possible sales of Uranium to Iraq, found the claims to be false, and said so to the administration, yet was shocked when the administration went on claiming the allegation to be true, and finally went public saying that he had told the administration this story was false. Ever since going public Wilson has been roundly denounced by the right wingers (whereas he had formerly been highly praised by them), and his wife's identity as a CIA agent was disclosed (this being an act of treason to disclose a secret agents identity). The Bush administrations response to the treason by one of their staff has been to stonewall the investigation. See The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity -- A Diplomat's Memoir

[2003 October 16]

In this year there is a lot to protest in what the Bush Administration is doing. There is a war in Iraq which I and many others didn't agree to, and which now appears to have been launched in a series of outright lies put forward as justification. The government is running a huge deficit, thanks to the tax cuts for the rich, and the costs of this war. The tax cuts were intended to incite "the economy" to recovery, but the recovery is still far away.

In short, times are hard, and the administration is failing its duty to the country.

Yet over and over, there are signs that the administration is ignoring dissent. This goes back to GW Bush's inauguration, under a cloud of controversy. Recall that the election was highly contested, and may well have been stolen (nobody was sure), and many protesters lined the Inaugural Parade route with signs reading "Hail To The Theif" and the like. But, were those signs broadcast on television? Nope.

Rather than face any criticisms, the administration engages in spin meistering to deflect the criticism, attacks on character, and the like. Further, one of the harshest criticisms, that the President (and other officials) were lieing when, to justify the war in Iraq, they claimed Iraq had been seeking Uranium. Somehow, coincidentally maybe, the identity of the critics wife, a CIA agent, was disclosed, along with the fact that she is a high level covert CIA operative. Disclosed and published in the column of a widely read newspaper columnist. Was this an accident, or was it an outright warning to other critics that "this could happen to you"?

In March 2003 I was protesting the imminent war, as is my duty as a citizen to voice my feelings about government policy. During the protest I watched as a group of peaceful protesters, who had been marching down the sidewalk, slightly noisily, were arrested by the police. (here) I followed news of following protests, having to read about them at and other similar non-mainstream web sites. Not only did the mainstream news organizations largely ignore the protests, they were actively shut down by police agencies.

In April 2003 a couple protests happened in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara CA. This is my neighborhood, in the heart of Silicon Valley. In one case President Bush arrived at Moffett Field and was whisked to a local Defense contractor to give a speech. People were prevented from departing on the light rail train along his route out of Moffett Field, and in the vicinity of the Defense contractor many (peaceful) protestors were arrested. On another day a large force of protestors converged on the Lockheed campus in Sunnyvale. They had cleared the protest, and their plans, with the police department, but on the day of the protest they were brutally rebuffed by a combination of private security and the Sunnyvale Police.

The following are a sampling of news articles

[Oct. 16, 2003; Salon;] Keeping dissent invisible When Bill Neel learned that President George W. Bush was making a Labor Day campaign visit to Pittsburgh last year to support local congressional candidates, the retired Pittsburgh steelworker decided that he would be on hand to protest the president's economic policies. Neel and his sister made a hand-lettered sign reading "The Bushes must love the poor -- they've made so many of us," and headed for a road where the motorcade would pass on the way from the airport to a Carpenters' Union training center.

He never got to display his sign for President Bush to see, though. As he stood among milling groups of Bush supporters, he was approached by a local police detective, who told him and his sister that because they were protesting, they had to move to a "free speech area," on orders of the U.S. Secret Service.

"He pointed out a relatively remote baseball diamond that was enclosed in a chain-link fence," Neel recalled in an interview with Salon. "I could see these people behind the fence, with their faces up against it, and their hands on the wire." (The ACLU posted photos of the demonstrators and supporters at that event on its Web site.) "It looked more like a concentration camp than a free speech area to me, so I said, 'I'm not going in there. I thought the whole country was a free speech area.'" The detective asked Neel, 66, to go to the area six or eight times, and when he politely refused, he handcuffed and arrested the retired steelworker on a charge of disorderly conduct. When Neel's sister argued against his arrest, she was cuffed and hauled off as well. The two spent the president's visit in a firehouse that was serving as Secret Service and police headquarters for the event.

The article goes on to say this act of fencing protestors off to a separate and distant area is not unique, for this administration, but that they instituted the policy even before the Sep 11, 2001 terror attacks. That the orders enforcing this banishing of protesters are made through the Secret Service. In a country which honors free speech, this policy is troubling, disturbing, and more.

The ACLU is involved and say there are two forms of segregating protestors:

  1. The protestors are kept far away.
  2. Anybody expressing any view are kept far away.

"We expect to see a lot more of this heading into a campaign season," says Chris Hansen, senior staff attorney at the ACLU

Hmm, and here I was hoping this is a Democracy I live in, where the Rule of Law is honored, and where elections are free and fair.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Weapon Proliferation: MANPAD

Obviously when someone goes to war, they need weapons. Humans are tool-creating and tool-using animals, and so when we go to war we think of the tools required to perform the war. Hence, weapons are the tools we use in war.

One type of weapon, man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), is of particular interest. They are relatively portable, relatively easy to train soldiers in their use, and very successful in bringing down aircraft. They are often called "shoulder-launched missiles".

In Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror Richard Clarke details how the U.S. coordinated shipping Stinger Missiles to the Mujahadeen fighting in Afghanistan against the Russian invasion. The U.S. could not put its own soldiers into Afghanistan, likely Russia would have taken that as a direct agression which would have turned their invasion in Afghanistan into a direct world-wide confrontation between the worlds super-powers. Instead the U.S. was supporting the Mujahadeen, and arranged for weapons shipments and training. The transfer point for this activity was Pakistan, and U.S. forces were working in Pakistan, fully in cooperation with the Pakistan Intelligence services, to safeguard the training and arming of the Mujahadeen.

It turns out that the leader of the Mujahadeen, chosen from the elite of the Saudi families, was one Osama bin Laden, who has since become infamous for other activities. The result of this activity by the U.S. to arm and train the Mujahadeen was to demonstrate to those fighters that they can fight, attack, and repulse a world super-power. The turning point in the Afghanistan invasion was the mid-1980's. As Clarke said, the Russians were winning and consolidating their control over Afghanistan, which alarmed the U.S. planners. This is what caused the U.S. to take the step of arming the Mujahadeen with Stinger missiles. Over the next few years the Mujahadeen were successful in routing the Russians, causing their withdrawal from Afghanistan, and shortly afterward the U.S.S.R. collapsed.

Obviously these are potent weapons indeed.

Fast forward to 2004, and we (the U.S.) finds MANPAD style weapons being used in Iraq against American forces. It just so happens that the Mujahadeen the U.S. had armed and trained morphed in the intervening years into the Taliban and al Qaeda. While the Taliban and al Qaeda had no contact or cooperation with the former Iraq government, they are active in Iraq today for exactly the same reason they were active in Afghanistan in the 1980's. Namely, the Arab/Islamic homeland has been invaded by outsiders (then it was Russia, today it is the U.S.) and they are fighting off that invasion. In addition the toppling of the former Iraqi government by the U.S. created a power vacuum, which al Qaeda no doubt wants to fill.

This is rich in Irony. The people we trained with those weapons, fight off our then enemy, contributing to the then enemy's collapse, and now those same people are using the same type of weapons to fight us off.

On June 3, 2004 the GAO released a report giving recommendations on the "proliferation" of these MANPAD weapons.

The U.S. has been selling the Stinger missiles to foreign governments, and then failing to adequately control what happens to them afterward. Legally the U.S. is to monitor the weapons, inventorying them every year, presumably to prevent those weapons from being resold. Just as obviously the forces in Iraq fighting the U.S. have these weapons, and are getting them from somewhere. The report talks of a black market.

Of concern also is their use against commercial aircraft. In 2002 a MANPAD was fired at a commercial jet leaving Kenya for Israel, but it missed.

MSNBC report, June 4, 2004:

GAO Report: Nonproliferation: Improvements Needed in Countering Threat for Man-Portable Air Defense Systems. GAO-04-519, May 13. Highlights

On Going to WAR

This is being written while the U.S. is in the midst of an undeclared war. As I've written elsewhere on this site I believe the U.S. administration has lied in order to call for this war, and deserves to be impeached over the creation of this war. I am speaking of course of the second war in Iraq, which has toppled Saaddam Hussein and his government from power. As I write a year afterward, it is hard to remember the toppling and the imagry, especially of U.S. soldiers pulling down the Saddam statue in the main square in Baghdad. In the year since there has been an unceasing grinding of death, destruction, and more.

Leading up to the launching of this war was a great Debate. The debate was high and mighty sounding, with the U.S. President taking moral stands, the Secretary of State giving a moving delivery of evidence to the World sitting in the main conference room of the United Nations. At the same time various countries were opposing the war, and protest rallies were held around the world. The effect of all that was a global debate on when it is appropriate to go to war, or innapropriate.

Since that high and mighty debate we've had a war, with all the grisly realties included in those activites. Accidental deaths from friendly fire, families killed by accident, people tortured, kidnappings, murder, theft, lootery, and more. War is Hell, and Hell has been unleashed. The idea I have gained is that those who would launch war should consider well before they do so, because they are going to unleash a bit of hell and brimstone. As the world tried to do just before this last war, the launchers of war should think about the causes, purposes, etc. But this war, like many, seems to have been launched for the basest of all possible purposes, megalomaniacal power over the world gained through ruling the center of the place where the worlds power comes from, namely the oil belt.

That's the purpose for this page, to look back over war in general, why, etc.

[2004-06-08] Weapon Proliferation: MANPAD: Shoulder launched missiles are being proliferated to "terrorists", and are seen as a grave threat. The irony is that the U.S. directly proliferated those same weapons to those same "terrorists" in the 1980's to aid their fight against the then-enemy, Russia, and their invasion of Afghanistan.

[2004-05-31] First to Fight Culture: This article illustrates what I am getting at above. It is written by a U.S. Marine, inspired by a discussion with his Marine buddy, about what Marine's are trained for. The author, Chris White, points out that Marines are trained for one thing, to locate enemies, infiltrate them, and destroy them. Their training does not include peace keeping, humanitarian aid, political correctness and all the rest. Their training would have them, when unleashed, go in and destroy a country so that we can achieve our military ends.

[2004-05-17] Torture in the Iraq War: Horrendous acts being perpetrated by U.S. Military. This cannot be fitting American values, but here it is being perpetrated by Americans acting in their official duties as American Soldiers and in the act of committing war in the name of us Americans.

Monday, June 7, 2004

Big Brother is watching YOU (using Total Information Awareness)

How Big Brother Is Watching, Listening and Misusing Information About You (By TERESA HAMPTON & DOUG THOMPSON
Jun 8, 2004, 08:19, Capitol Hill Blue

You’re on your way to work in the morning and place a call on your wireless phone. As your call is relayed by the wireless tower, it is also relayed by another series of towers to a microwave antenna on top of Mount Weather between Leesburg and Winchester, Virginia and then beamed to another antenna on top of an office building in Arlington where it is recorded on a computer hard drive.

The computer also records you phone digital serial number, which is used to identify you through your wireless company phone bill that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency already has on record as part of your permanent file.

A series of sophisticated computer programs listens to your phone conversation and looks for “keywords