“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, January 02, 2004

Notes

Readers of LI are urged to check out my friend H.’s new weblog, the Brooding Persian. If there was a truth-in-weblogging titles act, H. would be going by the letter of the law – he is a brooder among brooders, the Leonardo da Vinci of brooding. The first entries have a lot of nice impressions of life in Teheran, the city H. recently returned to – the American action movie, shown on late night tv, that preserves every shotgun blast and censors the shapely gams of an ice skater in a short skirt, the pharmacist who comes up with some wildly inventive geopolitical excuses for not having what H. wants on his shelves. Etc. Of course, right now, H. is all about the earthquake in Bam.
Check it out, here.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Bollettino


In the past four posts, we have mentioned the Washington Post editorial obsessively. Even to ourselves, LI is beginning to sound like the Spike Jones imitation of Peter Lorre. We return to it one more time, simply to underline another aspect that this editorial, carrying water for a disreputable agency, passes over in silence: the question of what to do about justices who collude in grossly unethical behavior before they become justices. The three men implicated in the verdict in Houston are:

Stanley Sporkin, retired, Federal Court, Washington, D.C.

D. Lowell Jensen, U.S. district judge, San Francisco

Stephen Trott, associate justice, ninth circuit.



Who are these vigilantes posing as officials of the U.S. government? A little research turns up three ripe bios. In the last year, the Dems blocked a few of Bush’s appointees, and that became a big deal, at least for the GOP. But if you look at the bios of the people who are already on the court, another question comes to mind: why doesn’t the Congress block more justices? Maybe all of them?

Start with Jensen. He came to D.C. as part of Meese’s “Alameda mafia” back in the 80s. He’d made a name for himself in California by prosecuting, in the sixties, various black radicals and student radicals. Everything about him seems like a caricature out of Philip Dick, or Thomas Pynchon. A user of informers, a breaker of dissent, a regular Politburo type of guy, plus a nice burnish of racism on the side. We were particularly interested in the case that gave him his start. It was the case of the Port Chicago mutiny. We’d never heard of it before we started delving into Jensen’s background. Interesting and symptomatic bit of American history. An explosion occurred at Port Chicago navy base in California that killed 300 some people in 1944. Most of the haulers and handlers for these ships were black. Being black, the soldiers weren’t expected to object to returning to an obviously dangerous situation in which safety precautions were not put in place on any scale to meet the obvious material dangers of the work. The site devoted to the incident explains:
“The black ammunition handlers, many of whom had quietly voiced concerns about safety, feared loading ammunition again. Fifty enlisted black men, including one with a broken arm, were tried for mutiny. The men stated they were willing to follow orders, but were afraid to handle ammunition under unchanged circumstances. They stated they had never been ordered to load ammunition, only asked "if they wanted to load ammunition."

All 50 were found guilty of "mutiny," and sentenced to 15 years. Review of the sentence brought reductions for 40 of the men to sentences of 8 to 12 years. Joe Small, who acted at foreman for his group of loaders and others who were willing to criticize the operation had their original sentence upheld. An appeal by Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP was denied. In 1944 the Navy announced that blacks at ammunition depots would be limited to 30% of the total. In 1945 the Navy officially desegregated.

In January 1946 the 50 "mutineers" were released from prison, but had to remain in the Navy. They were sent to the South Pacific in small groups for a "probationary period," and gradually released.”

Jensen’s beginnings prefigure his whole illustrious career. It is reminiscent of the way Gloucester’s hump prefigures the death of the little princes in the tower in Richard III. Enough of that klutz.

Sporkin is a more interesting and important character. Moreover, he’s a D.C. character. He was William Casey’s associate on the SEC in the seventies. When Reagan appointed Casey head of the CIA, he brought Sporkin with him. Much was made in the papers, at the time, about Sporkin’s supposed liberal and Democratic leanings. Being a liberal and a Democrat has never gotten in the way of obstructing justice in the service of some obscurely nasty anti-communist plan that the Pentagon or the CIA or the Executive office wants performed, something in which innocents in a foreign land will die, and D.C. clubmen, later, will chuckle. Sporkin was just right for the job. He became a 5th district judge in 1985, which was excellent timing. Because in 1986 the first indications of Iran-Contra came out. And Sporkin was intimately involved with all players in that scandal.

There’s a site devoted to Iran-Contra on which is assembled a sheaf of newspaper stories from the Post at the time, all concerned with Sporkin’s actions. During the Iran-Contra hearings, he was questioned about a document he backdated authorizing the illegal Iran end of the operation, and his answer tells us a lot about Sporkin’s view of the legal process. This is from a Mary McGrorey column in the WP..

“The committee lawyer who questioned him, Tim Woodcock, pointed out that the Hughes-Ryan law, which even spies are supposed to observe, calls for presidential approval of a covert action before it actually occurs.
Sporkin, who spoke in the loudest voice yet heard in the hearing room, obviously thought that the counsel was being picky and just a little bit unrealistic: `Well, I think it is important, obviously, in the perfect world. . . . to have the president authorize it, everything, in writing beforehand.'
But he didn't `flyspeck' it, and he retroactively authorized the third shipment, which had occurred within hours of his decision on the finding.
Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Maine) said that he had backdated the ratification of something that occurred without a presidential finding.
Said Sporkin, showing the cavalier spirit that informed the North-Casey orbit: `You can't straitjacket the president. . . . Someone can go out and do it, and later on you can do the paperwork.' Strains of Fawn Hall's seminal declaration that `sometimes you have to go above the written law.' “

Indeed. LI sees, in Sporkin’s actions and defenses of those actions, a startling similarity to the production of the fraudulent affadavit in Wilson’s trial. Is Sporkin a serial misleader?

It should be noted -- Wilson's habitual collaborators, and the people who prosecuted Wilson, all seemed to get drawn in, later, to the Iran-Contra Scandal. Jensen, too, was involved in that affair.

Our third villain provides the comic relief. All rise for the right Dishonorable Stephen Trott.

Trott has a background that cannot be introduced, at a lawyer's smoker, without some reference to his role as a sixties folksinger with Highwaymen. They had a modest hit. That is the extent of Trott's qualification for being a judge, actually. That and the kind of intellectual capacity he recently revealed in a speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Fran. The speech is a doozy, offering Trott’s ideas on torture:



“It's for these obvious reasons that we've asked our law enforcement and intelligence operations to focus more on the prevention of crimes that have not yet happened rather than on just solving the ones that have. One's instincts for survival would be in question if we did not endorse this preventative approach. But as is always the question, especially in a nation governed by the rule of law, is, How do we do it? And the second question is, To what extent, and for how long, do we have to recalibrate our notion of our civil liberties?”

“Suppose you are the head of the FBI and your chief special agent reports that he has intercepted a terrorist over the telephone talking to another terrorist in Washington, D.C., and the person you have just arrested has ordered the detonation of a dirty nuclear bomb in our nation's capital. Your chief agent tells you the problem is we don't know who this person we have arrested was talking to or where that person is. We don't know where the bomb is; all we know is that it's going to go off within 24 hours. Your agent tells you that there is an exception to the Miranda rule for circumstances like this, and you don't have to tell this terrorist before you talk to him that he has the right to remain silent or to consult with an attorney. He asks for permission to torture the terrorist until the terrorist tells you who the bomber is and where this nuclear weapon is. Do you tell your chief agent to prevent the extinction of Washington, D.C.? Or do you remember what the Supreme Court said in Rochin v. California, that any method that shocks the conscience violates due process and cannot be used in law enforcement? This is a hypothetical, but it takes on a certain air of reality after September 11, 2001.

Interestingly, Alan Dershowitz, the great civil libertarian, has suggested not only that torture in a ticking-bomb case would be constitutionally appropriate, but that we should also authorize federal judges where appropriate to entertain applications for torture warrants. Dershowitz believes that the FBI shouldn't make the decision by itself; it should go to a federal judge and apply for official permission to torture the terrorist to find out where the bomb is. He says, "An application for a torture warrant would have to be based on an absolute need to obtain immediate information in order to save lives, coupled with probable cause that the suspect had such information and is unwilling to reveal it. The suspect would be given immunity from prosecution based on information elicited by the torturer. The warrant would limit the torture to non-lethal means such as sterile needles stuck under his fingernails, inserted to cause excruciating pain without endangering life." Some people think this sounds wacky. If you were the head of the FBI, it might not sound wacky to you in a worst-case scenario.”

And so on. The sterile needles bit is good. Trott, remember, is actually a federal judge. As for the recalibration of our civil liberties -- well, they made the experiment in the trial of Edwin Wilson. Let us hope that the papers pick up on this obvious trail -- but let's not hope too much. The newspapers have been helpfully recalibrating our civil liberties for years. They've perfected the right not to know.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Bollettino

LI must start out with a disclaimer. Unfortunately, this post is going to have to mention the late Theodore Shackley.

Those of you fortunate enough to miss the eighties will not recall that Shackley was at the center of a conspiracy cult in the 80s. The eighties were a time of irrational fads – Reagan’s voodoo economics, satanic cult murders, MTV, and the liberal ghost dance of conspiracy, organized by something called the Christic institute, and dedicated to the proposition that some counter-government, headed by the CIA, or elements in the CIA, had done all the bad stuff: October surprised Carter out of office, killed Kennedy, and invented crack. Messianic movements are usually symptomatic of deeper discontents. In the case of the conspiracy ghost dance, there were two dilemmas facing a good lefty (like myself): how to cope with the evident malignity of the powers that be, i.e. Reagan, and how to transition from Vietnam War era criticisms of the American empire into a sort of patriotism. The latter eventually found an outlet in the numerous admirers of the Clinton administration – in fact, we’d guess that the left ghost dance was a key transitional movement for many to come back to the Democratic party. The party, remember, that gave us the Vietnam war.

Now, we felt then, and we feel now, that the conspiracy theories are: a., a lot of fun, and b., a load of shit. Not that conspiracy can’t happen. Brutus knifing Caesar and the 1905 St. Petersburg massacre are some evidences that they can, and do. But conspiracy, over the long term, is a piss poor explanation of political attitudes and events.

Ted Shackley was a CIA agent who was involved in, and often responsible for, some of the Agency’s most awful policies: he worked with the anti-Castro Cubans, he directed operations In the secret war in Laos, and he was involved in Latin America during the Pinochet years. His good friends, Tom Clines and Richard Secord, were also involved in most of these things, and achieved greater fame, in 1986, when their connections with Oliver North were revealed in public. By this time, Shackley had resigned from the CIA and was supposedly out of the loop. In his bio, Blonde Ghost, David Corn shows that he was probably not as out of the loop as he made himself out to be.

And then there was Edwin Wilson.

Every account of Edwin Wilson shows him to be a CIA “cowboy” – that’s the phrase that pops up again and again. Big, gregarious, brutal, with that fierce loyalty to power itself, making it so easy to turn him. An authoritarian personality, in short. Secret police, in Moscow or Miami, are drawn from a pool of character traits that don’t differ over cultures. Wilson was born poor, went into the Navy, was recruited by the CIA, advanced entrepreneurially through the organization, and became an expert at setting up cut-out businesses – businesses that served as fronts for things the CIA wanted to do, whether that meant transferring weapons against U.S. law or gaining information. In our last post, we made fun of the WP editorial that gave us a choice between rouge and patriot – as if they were mutually exclusive categories. The excluded tertium quid, here, is the idea that an institution of the government can be, itself, a rogue institution. Every pathology evolves a bureaucracy. Wilson’s particular complexes were as perfectly adapted to the CIA’s ecology as the joker is to a deck of playing cards.

Perhaps this is why, when his ties with Khadaffi were being exposed in the papers in 1981, he became the target of so much vitriol from defenders of the old boy network in the Agency. Edward Jay Epstein, for instance, who practically made himself a p.r. man for James Angleton – another alcoholic, paranoid secret policeman with a constitutional aversion to democracy – wrote about him as a rogue, stating, for instance, that he had been ‘fired” from the CIA. He was released. However, he was not released with prejudice. He was even sold the cut out company he had created for the CIA on below market terms. Nothing that he had done up to then was in violation of the CIA's bylaws. Peter Maas’s book about Wilson is obviously dependent on agency insiders who are on the same track. Joseph Goulden’s book follows, unabashedly, the line that Wilson betrayed the Agency. He did -- by getting caught. The Washington Post editorial takes up the same tired. threads. Assassination, including that of character, always benefits somebody. In this case, it clearly benefits the agency. Alas, protecting the CIA seems to have been taken on as a household task by the Washngton Post.

When Wilson was put on trial in 1983 in Houston, he was charged with illegally running arms to Libya in the seventies. A good, compressed account of the issue in the trial is on Michael Ruppert’s site (although be warned that Ruppert is definitely very biased towards Wilson’s story):

"Ed Wilson stood accused of shipping 42,000 pounds of the plastic explosive C-4 directly to Libyan dictator Moammar Qadaffy in 1977, and then hiring U.S. experts - former U.S. Army Green Berets - to teach Qadaffy's people how to make bombs shaped like lamps, ashtrays and radios. Bombs were actually made, and foes of Qadaffy were actually murdered. This was the ongoing crime that had made Wilson, and his still-missing accomplice, former CIA employee Frank Terpil, the most infamous desperadoes in the world. C-4, according to some experts, is the most powerful non-nuclear explosive made. Two pounds in the right places can bring down a jumbo jet. Hence, 42,000 pounds would be enough to bring down 21,000 jumbo jets. C-4 is highly prized on the world's black markets and is much in demand. It is supposedly very tightly controlled where it is manufactured - in the U.S.

At the time it was shipped from Houston International Airport, in 1977, the 42,000 pounds of C-4 represented almost the entire United States domestic supply. It had been collected for Wilson by one California explosives distributor who collected it from a number of manufacturers around the country. Surprisingly, no one had officially noticed. Wilson had, in earlier and subsequent deals, also sold a number of handguns to Qadaffy, and several had been used in assassinations of Libyan dissidents in a number of countries, including the United States. It was these and other firearms violations by Wilson, including a scheme to ship more than a thousand M16 rifles to Qadaffy, that had put the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and Larry Barcella on Wilson's trail back in late 1977."

The court didn’t investigate Wilson’s recruitment of a little army for Khadaffi. In the seventies, Khadaffi invaded Chad, using Green Berets that Wilson had delivered to fly helicopters and direct artillery operations. In 1980, Philip Taubman, the NYT reporter who, along with Seymour Hersch, wrote the most detailed and interesting reports about Wilson and the CIA network in which he was embedded, called his headquarters and actually talked to one of his mercenaries, a Robert Hitchman:

“Yesterday, however, a man answered his phone and identified himself as Robert Hitchman. Mr. Hitchman is Mr. Wilson's deputy. He threatened the reporter who called him and issued a stream of invectives and profanities.

He accused The New York Times of ''printing lies'' and called the reporters working on the story ''whores.'' ''You Jewish (expletive) are trying to destroy the C.I.A.,'' he said.”

Interesting side note: this Hitchman, like many of Wilson’s associates, suffered no black marks from his Libya gig. Far from it. IN 1992, the same Robert Hitchman’s name pops up again. He was one of three Dyncorps employees killed when a helicopter he was flying crashed in Ecuador: Ken Silverstein, who has written about private military service providers, is quoted by Alex Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair about this incident:

“… in 1992, one of those helicopters crashed in the jungle. On board were three DynCorp employees, including a man named Robert Hitchman. As Silverstein notes, "Hitchman was not in Peru to repair helicopters." He was a covert-ops specialist, who had worked for the CIA's Air America in the war on Laos and ran former CIA agent Edward Wilson's Libyan operation for Muammar Qaddafy. The State Department said that the helicopter simply crashed due to "crew fatigue." But Hitchman's son told Silverstein that in fact it had been shot down by Shining Path guerrillas and that then-Secretary of State James Baker asked him to keep quiet about the true nature of his father's death. Hitchman said that far from fixing planes, his father was flying DEA agents and Peruvians on missions into guerrilla territory to destroy cocaine labs, bomb coca, and coordinate the herbicide spraying program. He said his father was also training Peruvian pilots to fly combat missions.”

Wilson’s defense was that he was working with the full knowledge of the CIA. “Full knowledge’ is of course a misnomer, since the CIA tries hard not to know what it knows, compartmentalizing information, concealing operations, and generally going under the assumption that intelligence goes together with a schizophrenic organizational flow chart. The CIA produced an affadavit falsely stating that Wilson had not been in contact with the agency since 1971. After this was given to the prosecutors, the agency had second thoughts, and warned the prosecutors that the affidavit was untrue. Thye used it anyway. What Wilson did for Libya in the seventies was known to the CIA's top people, partly because it was done right in front of their noses. Wilson discussed sending explosives to Libya in front of Shackley, who did nothing. Wilson also used two active CIA agents to recruit technicians for him for Libya. It wasn't until this activity reached the papers that these agents were fired. So what was the Agency doing? At issue in the case was Barella’s question: “…what kind of logic would have to be employed to assume that the CIA would authorize the shipment of 40,000 pounds, 20 tons, of C-4, to the guy that was then the biggest terrorist in the world?"

The problem with that question is, of course, the unthinking substitution of a description for a proper name. The biggest terrorist in the world does not equal Khadaffi. In reality, he was the head of a country with which, during Wilson’s run, the U.S. had plenty to do. It wasn’t until the end of 1981 that the Reagan administration banned oil companies from doing business in Libya. To go back to the seventies, the situation in North Africa was in flux. Egypt went from being a Soviet client to being an American ally. Libya, under Khadaffi, must have looked like a tempting target. After all, the American strategy, back then, was to encourage Islamicists as a counter-force to godless communism. Who better than Khadaffi to help with this project? Plus, he was definitely a troublemaker, and had exchanged bitter words with Arafat about the direction of the PLO.

So, from a loopy point of view, helping Libya might return dividends. This was the kind of thing “cowboys” did – after all, the CIA was practically given Laos, behind the back of any American publicity about the deal, in the early sixties. And Shackley, Secord, Clines et al had been there for Laos. They thought the war there could have been won. This revanchisme ran through the whole Defense establishment at the time. It was intertwined with an instinctive repulsion for Carter, with his human rights gestures and his weakness, at least in their eyes.

As we know now, the answer to Barella’s question was not presented at the trial. Perhaps, now,it is lost. We know that, instead, the prosecutor’s lied about Wilson’s contacts with the CIA. And Shackley lied about his contacts with Wilson. And the man was buried in prison. But his ideas for using cut outs to contact apparent American enemies bloomed in the minds of his associates, and became the form in which the Iran-Contra network operated. Ironically, when Wilson was captured, in the Dominican Republic, he was trying to get himself into the good graces of the Reagan administration by setting up a dummy company in Central America, through which the Reagan people could operate against Nicarauga. This was reported in 1981, when it seemed like a cockeyed idea only omeone of Wilson's criminality would dream up . In 1986, Wilson was forgotten, the cockeyed idea was being examined by several congressional committees. It had become the secret policy of the executive branch.

There remains, only, the names of the people who colluded to falsify testimony against Wilson. Three of the prosecutorial team went on to become judges. Let’s look, in our next post, at this group of dishonorable honorables.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Bollettino

"If the accused says that she is innocent and falsely accused, and that she wishes to see and hear her accusers, then it is a sign that she is asking to defend herself. But it is an open question whether the Judge is bound to make the deponents known to her and bring them to confront her face to face. For here let the Judge take note that he is not bound either to publish the names of the deponents or to bring them before the accused, unless they themselves should freely and willingly offer to come before the accused and lay their depositions in her presence And it is by reason of the danger incurred by the deponents that the Judge is not bound to do this. For although different Popes have had different opinions on this matter, none of them has ever said that in such a case the Judge is bound to make known to the accused the names of the informers or accusers (but here we are not dealing with the case of an accuser). On the contrary, some have thought that in no case ought he to do so, while others have thought that he should in certain circumstances.
But, finally, Bonifice VIII decreed as follows: If in a case of heresy it appear to the Bishop or Inquisitor that grave danger would be incurred by the witnesses of informers on account of the powers of the persons against whom they lay their depositions, should their names be published, he shall not publish them. But if there is no danger, their names shall be published just as in other cases. -- Malleus Maleficarum, "The Hammer of Witches"

Badly formed categories create deformed acts.

As we wrote in the last post, the motive for Libyan acquiescence in purging itself of WMD has been much discussed,. Either the Iraqi invasion scared Khadaffi, or Khadaffi was already at the negotiating table, forced to it by the sanctions. Libya had already made moves to conciliate the West over Lockerbie before the invasion of Iraq, so there’s a lot to be said for the latter position. On the other hand, there’s nothing like a crude show of force to make an aging dictator wet his pants. And so on.

However, there’s an air of unreality about the whole discussion. Libya doesn’t need an atom bomb at the moment, but it would like, awfully, an influx of a couple billion dollars worth of “conventional” weaponry. The insistence on distinguishing between WMD and other weapons has the effect of allowing other weapons to be sold. These other weapons have been, overwhelmingly, the cause of mass destruction since Hiroshima. The casualty list is in the tens of millions. There’s been no mention at all of Libya’s recent history in all the reports about Libya’s offer. Naturally – how dare a country like Libya even have a history! But, in spite of the American idea that the rest of the world’s history is like tv – it only happens when we turn it on – history is going on even when the screen is dark and our studios are asleep. Libya has every reason at the moment to prefer the buying of tanks to the creating of an atom bomb. There is the non-report, in this country, of Libya’s aggression in Mauritania; Libya has caused trouble with its neighbors before, invading Chad, defeating an Egyptian army, etc., etc. Again, one would think that an administration that has pretended to be concerned about guarding Iraq’s neighbors from an aggression that wasn’t even on the horizon, in the case of Saddam H., would be alert to the aggression that is actually happening in Libya. But that would be to put too much faith in the propagandists who run the Pentagon. Still, this, one would think, would come up, be part of the news discussion at some point. Our bet is that it will … in two or three years from now. On page E, in some Sunday section of some paper, pigeonholed jovially as just one of those unexpected consequences.

And that’s an old history in itself. Paper’s are definitely not for connecting.

Right before Christmas, part of the Libya story, and part of our own history itself, became detached from the lock of the status quo. That’s always interesting. Edwin Wilson, who, with much fanfare, took a fifty year sentence for selling Khadaffi weapons in 1982, was partly vindicated in an appeals court in Houston in November, with the judge making particularly nasty comments about the prosecutorial team that withheld from Wilson the knowledge that an affadavit they had procured from the CIA stating that Wilson had no contact with the agency after he left it in 1971 was fraudulent, and had been found to be so by the CIA itself, and had been known to be so by the prosecutors themselves, whose willful concealment of this knowledge put a man in prison for thirty years.

It is a sign of the times that this decision was greeted by an editorial in the Washington Post that had the craftsmanship of the kind of thing Pravda used to spin out for Brezhnev. In other words, it was intellectually vacuous, morally vicious, and terminally silly. It isn’t surprising that the WP is now a fairly conservative paper. The D.C. establishment has been Republican since the Reagan years. It would be as odd for the W.P. to be out of synch with the Industry as it would be for the Los Angeles Times to diss the Oscars. However, the WP has a record of investigating the ways of power, and that is something it has to preserve, since the core of its identity is wrapped up in the various myths of Watergate and such. However, the Wilson case has always stuck in the WP’s craw. We’ve gone back and read what the papers said at the time of Wilson’s arrest and trial, in 1981 and 1982. The NYT was surprisingly hard hitting about the evidence for a CIA-Libya connection – while the WP confined itself to a few articles that did not, as they say, move the story along. It was obviously a story that, even at the time, the Post did not want to see moved along. This editorial exhibits that spirit of inertia and face-saving:

Thursday, November 13, 2003; Page A30


FOR THE PAST two decades, Edwin Paul Wilson has been a kind of prototype of a rogue intelligence operative. The former CIA officer was convicted in a series of trials in the 1980s of illegally selling arms and explosives to Libya -- and, after he was lured back to face trial, of seeking to have prosecutors and key witnesses killed. Mr. Wilson's defense on the arms-dealing crimes was simple: He was still working for the agency, he claimed, and the deals were a means of securing intelligence, which he then passed on. His high living and cozying up to Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi were merely cover. He was no rogue but a patriot.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Wilson's success in marketing this theory to judges and juries has been limited, because the evidence is overwhelming that he is, as the government alleges, a vicious, self-serving thug. But recently a federal judge in Texas threw out one of Mr. Wilson's convictions in particularly animated and angry language. In the main, the decision by U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes seems a justified response to astonishing prosecutorial misconduct that cries out for investigation. But Judge Hughes does not stop there. He seems as well to validate the substance of the former spy's trial defense and even compares him to Japanese Americans interned during World War II. Such victimhood Mr. Wilson's history will not bear."

Etc. Etc.

The toady's distinction between a rogue and a patriot -- as if they were mutually exclusive categories -- comes right out of the era of Joseph McCarthy. What is suprising about the WP editorial is that it doesn't at all grapple with the consequences of Wilson's trial -- consequences that are very D.C.-centric. After all, Lynn Hughes has all but accused a retired federal judge on the most prestigious federal court, the DC Federal District court, of colluding in a felony. One would think that this would stir even the lizard like blood that flows in the veins of the Post Editorial staff. Well, it doesn't. From this editorial, you would never know that the 'one" of the convictions thrown out by the court was the main one, and that it has the effect of freeing him. The DoJ quietly folded, December 23rd, announcing that they wouldn't appeal the case. It is, eminently, the type of case that could burn too many fingers, now, if it is fully disputed in another trial. But not to worry -- in our next post, LI will engage with this and other issues. Where the Post fears to tread, we will tread -- with spike healed boots.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Bollettino

'But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. – Matthew 6.3

268. Why can't my right hand give my left hand money? -- My right hand can put it into my left hand. My right hand can write a deed of gift and my left hand a receipt. -- But the further practical consequences would not be those of a gift. When the left hand has taken the money from the right, etc., we shall ask: "Well, and what of it?" And the same could be asked if a person had given himself a private definition of a word; I mean, if he has said the word to himself and at the same time has directed his attention to a sensation. – Wittgenstein

The philosopher treats a question like an illness. – Wittgenstein.

The disarmament of Libya is the latest episode in the preposterous policies generated by the bogus classification, “weapons of mass destruction.” The moniker applies, ironically, to weapons that have very rarely been implicated in mass destruction. The Uzi, the tank, the bomber – these very vendable items, of course, aren’t weapons of mass destruction. Rather, with its right hand, the West has stocked every country that could afford it with a supply of such things. That right hand has been busy, as even a cursory look at the arms sales totals could tell you. It is here, especially, that the 9/11 lie – the lie that 9/11 ‘changed everything’ – is stripped of its plausibility. While political factions in America throw charges of lying at each other, they both are comfortable with the structural lie, the one that kept Bush 1 and Clinton in the arms sales business, and that keeps Bush 2 there too. And the Swedes, Brits, French, Germans … let’s not leave out anybody. The Russians, of course, primus inter pares.

Ah, but then we have the sweep of the punitive left hand, disarming rock n roll tyrants like Khaddafi and putting all the editorial writers of the NYT to sleep with sweet dreams. Wittgenstein once advised that the philosopher’s method for solving his problems should be to go out and look. So let’s go out and look at this curious phenomena. What was behind the news from Libya?

There was hardly any reporting about the recent summit between EU countries and the Maghrebian Union – which ideally consists of Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Libya and Tunisia – that was held to discuss illegal immigration and the strengthening of economic ties between the EU and the MU in early December. L’humanite – the commie newspaper with the greatest slogan in the world – covered it and emphasized that here, as elsewhere, economic competition is foreshadowing political: the MU is considering a proposal by the United States for the creation of a free trade zone there:

“ For the EU, it’s a question of accelerating the European ties of the Maghreb by way of the Maghrebian Arab Union, which is currently out of order due to the conflict in Western Sahara. And it is doubtless not a coincidence that Colin Powell is undertaking a trip in these three countries on the eve of the opening of the 5+5 summit. America has proposed to the three countries of the Maghreb a project tied to a free trade zone that is being called Esenstat, with an inaugural injection of seven billion dollars, which is more than is being proposed by the EU in the framework of the euromediterranian partnership for the dozen countries of the South Mediterranean. Morroco, sweetened by the American offer, was on the point of making a step before France applied pressure to dissuade it. “

As we pointed out in our last post, Powell’s trip also had to do with securing a truce in Sudan – one that will allow the IMF to finance the building of an oil producing infrastructure.

In this framework, Libya giving up its laughable nuclear capacity is being taken as a sign of disarmament. We suspect that, long term, this is really a move to re-arm – to buy all the conventional weapons that Khaddafi longs for, and that the EU and the US longs to sell him. It has, after all, been a moneymaker in the past. Libya’s interest is not to regain some international stature – it is to keep up with its neighbors, to which it has been hostile in the past. In fact, recently Khaddafi has been stirring up coups in Mauretania. This, of course, without using the weapons of mass destruction – weapons of conventional destruction will do very nicely, thank you very much. So much for the tie between WMD and aggressive behavior.

As the news of the Libyan disarmament scheme came out, to the heartening of the short term memory loss Bushie crowd (the usual suspects: Christopher Hitchens, the Washington Post, etc. etc.), another news item, also reported by Humanite, was lost in the shuffle: on Christmas eve, the expected summit of the five Maghrabian nations was cancelled. Ostensibly, this was due to further disputes between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara. It was also due to Khaddafi’s recent coupmongering in Mauretania -- the kind of aggressive behavior that we are supposedly punishing. But also, the kind of behavior that requires conventional arms. To go to arms Kandyland, you have to promise Daddy not to, never to, no no no to develop nuclear weapons. And then, being a good little boy, you get your pick of tanks and fighters. It is a good deal, and just look at the mass destruction it causes! Why, it is better than those silly old Hiroshima era weapons anyway!

The current situation with regards to arms sales is that they are up, very up. This is due to the right hand. World Policy institute, which tracks the international arming, issued a report last year from which we take these grafs:

“Eager to reward and reinforce America’s allies in the war on terrorism, the U.S. has stepped up military assistance to allies old and new. The State Department and International Affairs budget request for FY 2003 is $25.4 billion, up $1.4 billion from last year. While the numbers pale in comparison to the Pentagon budget, security assistance has increased substantially. Furthermore, restrictions on military aid and arms transfers to regimes involved in human rights abuses, support for terrorism, or nuclear proliferation were lifted for a number of countries in exchange for their support in the administration’s war on terrorism.
Economic Support Fund (ESF) allocations are provided on a grant basis and are available for a variety of economic purposes, like infrastructure and development projects. Although not intended for military expenditure, these grants allow the recipient government to free up its own money for military programs. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants and loans must be used by the recipient nation to purchase U.S. defense-related items--a nice boost for U.S. defense contractors. International Military Education and Training grants are given to foreign governments to pay for professional education in military management and technical training on U.S. weapons systems.”

Of course, no reporter worth his place at the table was going to refer to such things when Bush was making his speech in praise of democracy this fall. The American left, of course, has adopted a rather silly rhetorical program of pointing out other dangerous, hostile regimes whose countries we haven’t invaded – such as North Korea. Actually, we have positively invaded, with our grants and our weaponry, many places, like Pakistan and Morocco, in the hopes of reinforcing the anti-democratic forces with which we are allied. The American left’s inexplicable whipping up of indignation over our sins of omission has pretty much abandoned the internal curbs on our numerous sins of commission. Such are the victories for the bad guys.

In another post, we want to continue with Libya’s arming – and in particular the nice coincidence of two news stories – one, the Khadaffi announcement, and two, the less noticed freeing of Edwin Wilson, the supposedly rouge CIA operator who did his best to arm Libya in the seventies and eighties, and was imprisoned for it, despite his claim that it was a CIA approved operation.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Bollettino

A peace agreement in Sudan was quietly heralded in Western presses this week. The Financial Times reported it like this on Friday:

"People would like to go back. So we are waiting now for peace." The speaker is Wol Amuk Guot, acknowledged chief of a sector of Wad al-Bashir, a camp for internally displaced persons outside Khartoum. He comes from southern Sudan, where six of his children live. He has not watched them grow up, and has not seen his mother for 14 years

An end to Sudan's 20-year war between the Arab Muslim government in Khartoum and rebels from the mostly animist and Christian south is now tantalisingly close. How many of these long-term refugees will be on the move again nobody can tell.

The war, one of the longest and costliest in African history, is reckoned to have claimed 2m lives and to have uprooted 4m people like these, making Sudan's population of IDPs - or internally displaced persons - the largest in the world. Fighting this year in a separate conflict in the western Darfur region, bordering Chad, is thought to have displaced at least another 600,000 people. More than 500,000 others are refugees in neighbouring countries.”

Nowhere has the curse of oil been as horrible as Sudan. It is the curse that is behind this peace – the main southern Sudanese militia, Sudan People's Liberation Movement, wants to share in the oil wealth with the Islamicist government. This curious workmanship of this agreement is the result of a number of different pressures. There is, as the major factor, oil. The oil comes from the South, which is Christian and animist, and goes to an elite in the North, which is military and Islamicist. That elite also condones the slave trade that sells Southerners to households in Khartoum. In the South, there’s a rebel authority that is as handy with the tools of massacre and torture as any Northern army. Between the two of them, an agreement has been jimmied up and blessed by the International Monetary Fund.
These are shadows and portents of something bad under the surface, a sharing of booty among various violent oligarchs, who attach as accepted costs to the sucking up of petrol by the giant American, European and, now, Chinese and Indian concerns. That tiers-mondialisme that was supposed to operate as a third force? Forget it. The Indians and Chinese are as willing as the Americans and the French to press oil profits out of African flesh and blood.

From Lord of the flies we go to a democracy of flies, a globalisation of flies. Of course, the slaving goes on; the impoverishment of the already impoverished goes on; the pushing of Africa into ever deeper pits goes on; and the engines in a million cars turn over morning after morning.

The latest deal is for a new constitution, power sharing between Garang and the Northern government, and a referendum, six years from now, on succession for the South. It isn’t hard to see that this deal is going to be violated. One diplomat interviewed by the FT calls it more like a prolonged truce. One does wonder whether the truce will be animated by a coalition force directed against the rebels on the Chad border. Truces are only stages to further violence in Sudan’s post-colonial history.

The World Today has a nice backgrounder on the whole thing by Jemera Rone, who is attached to the Human Rights Watch. She points to the role of Christian pressure groups on the Bush people, who sent John Danforth as an envoy to Sudan to try to negotiate this settlement. The Troika of the U.S., Norway and Norway have been persistent about getting the talks going, and hammering out some agreement. But as Rone points out,

“One of the main controversies is that only the main two fighting forces are party to the talks; neither was chosen in free and fair elections. Northern political parties, which repeatedly won elections in democratic times, and southern militia leaders threaten that as long as they are excluded, the agreement will be no more than a pact between 'two dictators' - which they are not obliged to recognise.”

This dovetails with the peace treaty’s central problem:

“Also controversial is the absence of any provision for human rights accountability. The Troika has not made serious accountability or truth proposals, and the parties - which have terrible human rights records - do not want to end up in jail. But this would be a big step backward from other recent African agreements providing some form of justice at war's end, or at the very least, disclosure.

Indeed, one of the chief causes of the war's persistence and spread beyond the south - to central Sudan in the 1980s, the east in the 1990s, and the west this year - is that the ruling Islamist-military party does not respect diversity among Muslims and Arabs, much less the country's African majority. There are gross abuses of the rights of the majority. If the government could abandon its central programme of Islamising and Arabising the people and agree to real multi-party democracy and human rights, peace might have a chance.”

The whole depressing saga of the poisonous alliance between oil and the Sudanese government’s policy of massacre as a twisted sort of land reform is detailed on the Human Rights Watch site, here.