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Weapons of Mass Distraction:  Where?   Find?   Plant?
David MacMichael and Ray McGovern
April 26, 2003
MEMORANDUM
FROM:
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: The Stakes in the Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction
The Bush administration's refusal to allow UN inspectors to join the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in U.S.-occupied Iraq has elicited high interest in foreign news media.   The most widely accepted interpretation is that the U.S. is well aware that evidence regarding the existence and location of such weapons is "shaky" (the adjective now favored by UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix), and that the last thing the Pentagon wants is to have Blix' inspectors looking over the shoulders of U.S. forces as they continue their daunting quest.
Guatemala.   Cuba.   El Salvador.   Gulf War I.   The U.S. has a long history of fabricating evidence to justify foreign adventures.
Administration leaders will not soon forgive Blix or Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, for exposing to ridicule the two main pieces of "evidence" adduced by Washington late last year to support its contention that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons development program: (1) the forged documents purporting to show that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Niger, and (2) the high strength aluminum rods sought by Iraq that the U.S. insisted were to be used in a nuclear application.   That contention was roundly debunked not only by IAEA scientists but also by the international engineering community.
The normally taciturn Blix now finds it "conspicuous" that a month after the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. search for weapons of mass destruction had turned up nothing.   He expressed eagerness to send UN inspectors back into Iraq, but also served notice that he would not allow them to be led "like dogs on a leash" by U.S. forces there.
The media have raised the possibility that the U.S. might "plant" weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that this may be another reason to keep UN inspectors out.   This is a charge of such seriousness that we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have been conducting an informal colloquium on the issue.   As one might expect, there is no unanimity among us on the likelihood of such planting, but most believe that Washington would consider it far too risky.   Those holding this view add that recent polls suggest most Americans will not be very critical of the Bush administration even if no weapons of mass destruction are found.
Others, taken aback by the in the in-your-face attitude with which Secretary of State Colin Powell reacted both to the exposure of the Niger forgery and to the requiem for the argument from aluminum rods, see in that attitude a sign that the Bush administration would not necessarily let the risk of disclosure deter it from planting weapons.   They also point to the predicament facing the Blair government in Great Britain and other coalition partners, if no such weapons are found in Iraq.   They note that the press in the U.K. has been more independent and vigilant than its U.S. counterpart, and thus the British people are generally better informed and more skeptical of their government than U.S. citizens tend to be.   While the odds of such planting seem less than even, speculation on the possibility drove us down memory lane.   Likely or not in present circumstances, there is ample precedent for such covert action operations.
VIPS member David MacMichael authored this short case-study paper to throw light on this little known subject.   What leaps out of his review is a reminder that, were the Bush administration to decide in favor of a planting or similar operation, it would not have to start from scratch as far as experience is concerned.   Moreover, many of the historical examples that follow bear an uncanny resemblance to factors and circumstances in play today.
1.   Faked evidence was a hallmark of post-World War II U.S. covert operations in Latin America.   In 1954, for example, it was instrumental in overthrowing the Arbenz government in Guatemala.   Arbenz, who was suspected of having Communist leanings, had tried to make the United Fruit Company comply with Guatemalan law.   At President Dwight D. Eisenhower's direction, the CIA organized and armed a force of malcontent Guatemalans living in Nicaragua to invade their home country.
The invasion was explained and "justified" when a cache of Soviet-made weapons planted by the CIA was "discovered" on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast.   Washington alleged that the weapons were intended to support an attempt by Arbenz to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.
2.   One of the more egregious and embarrassing uses of fake material evidence occurred on the eve of the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, when Alabama National Guard B-26 bombers attacked a Cuban Air Force base in Havana.   When Cuba's UN ambassador protested, US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson (himself misinformed by the White House) insisted that the attacking planes were those of defecting Cuban Air Force pilots.
Two of the aircraft were shot down in Cuba, however, and others were forced to land in Miami where they could be examined.   When it became clear that the planes were not Cuban, Washington's hand was shown and Stevenson was in high dudgeon.
Legends, however, seem to die more slowly than dudgeon.   The U.S. government clung unconscionably long to "plausible denial" regarding the B-26s.   Four Alabama National Guardsmen had been killed in the incident and Cuba kept trying to get the US to accept their bodies.   Not until 1978 did Washington agree to receive the remains and give them to the families of the deceased.
3.   The war in Vietnam is replete with examples of fabrication and/or misrepresentation of intelligence to justify U.S. government policies and actions.   The best-known case, of course, is the infamous Tonkin Gulf incident‹the one that did not happen but was used by President Lyndon Johnson to strong-arm Congress into giving him carte blanche for the war.   Adding insult to injury, CIA current intelligence analysts were forbidden to report accurately on what had happened (and not happened) in the Tonkin Gulf in their daily publication the next morning, on grounds that the President had already decided to use the non-incident to justify launching the air war that very day.   The analysts were aghast when their seniors explained that they had decided that they did not want to "wear out their welcome at the White House."
More directly relevant to the current search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is the following incident, which was related to the author at the time by one of the main participants.   US officials running the war in Vietnam believed that North Vietnamese Communist troops operating in South Vietnam were supported by large, secret supply dumps across the border in Cambodia.   In 1968, the US military in Saigon drew up plans to raid one of those suspected supply bases.
The colonel in charge of logistics for the raid surprised other members of the raiding party by loading up large amounts of North Vietnamese uniforms, weapons, communications equipment, and so forth.   He clearly had supplementary orders.   He explained to the members of his team that, since it would be necessary to discover North Vietnamese supplies to justify the incursion into neutral Cambodia, it behooved them to be prepared to carry some back.
4.   With William Casey at the helm of the CIA during the Reagan presidency, the planting of evidence to demonstrate that opponents of governments in Central America were sponsored by the USSR reached new heights‹or depths.   The following are representative examples:
(a) In January 1981 four dugout canoes were "discovered" on a Salvadoran beach.   The U.S. claimed that the boats had carried 100 armed Sandinista guerrillas from Nicaragua to support leftist insurgents in El Salvador.   Neither weapons nor Nicaraguans traceable to the boats were ever found, but Washington drew attention to the fact that the wood from which the boats were made was not native to El Salvador.
This kind of "proof" might at first seem laughable but this was no trivial matter.   The Reagan administration successfully used the incident to justify lifting the embargo on US arms to El Salvador that President Carter had imposed after members of the Salvadoran National Guard raped and murdered three U.S. nuns and their lay assistant.   The names of those four women now sit atop a long list of Americans and Salvadorans subsequently murdered by US weapons in the hands of the National Guard in El Salvador.
(b) In February 1981, the State Department issued a sensational "White Paper" based on alleged Salvadoran rebel documents.   Authored by a young, eager-to-please Foreign Service officer named John Glassman, the paper depicted damning links between the insurgents, Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Soviet Union.   A smoking gun.
Unfortunately for Glassman and the Reagan administration, Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitny got access to the same documents and found little resemblance to what was contained in Glassman's paper.   Glassman admitted to Kwitny that he had made up quotes and guessed at figures for the Soviet weapons supposedly coming to the Salvadoran insurgents.
(c) Certainly among the most extraordinary attempts to plant evidence was the Barry Seal affair‹a complicated operation designed to incriminate the Nicaraguan Sandinista government for international drug trafficking.   The operation began in 1982, when CIA Director Casey created the position of National Intelligence Officer for Narcotics.   Casey's handpicked NIO wasted no time telling representatives of other agencies that high priority was to be given to finding evidence linking both Castro and the Sandinistas to the burgeoning cocaine trade.
Coast Guard and Drug Enforcement Agency officers protested that this might be counterproductive since Cuba was the most cooperative government in the Caribbean in the fight against drugs and there was no evidence showing that the Nicaraguan government played any significant role.   Never mind, said the NIO, the task was to put black hats on our enemies.
In 1986 Barry Seal , a former TWA pilot who had trained Nicaraguan Contra pilots in the early eighties, was facing a long sentence after a federal drug conviction in Florida.   Seal made his way to the White House's National Security Council to make the following proposition to officials there.   He would fly his own plane to Colombia and take delivery of cocaine.   He would then make an "emergency landing" in Nicaragua and make it appear that Sandinista officials were aiding him in drug trafficking.
Seal made it clear that he would expect help with his legal problems.
The Reagan White House jumped at the offer.   Seal's plane was flown to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it was fitted with secret cameras to enable Seal to photograph Nicaraguan officials in the act of assisting him with the boxes of cocaine.
The operation went as planned.   Seal flew to Colombia and then to Nicaragua where he landed at a commercial airfield.   There he was met by a Nicaraguan named Federico Vaughan, who helped with the offloading and reloading of boxes of cocaine and was duly photographed‹not very well, it turned out, because the special cameras malfunctioned.   Though blurred and grainy, the photos were delivered to the White House, and a triumphant Ronald Reagan went on national TV to show that the Sandinistas were not only Communists but also criminals intent on addicting America's youth.   What more justification was needed for the Contra war against the Sandinistas!
Again, the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Kwitny played the role of skunk at the picnic, pointing out substantial flaws in the concocted story.   Vaughan, who according to the script was an assistant to Nicaraguan Interior Minister Tomas Borge, was shown not to be what he claimed.   Indeed, congressional investigators found that the telephone number called by Seal to contact Vaughn belonged to the U.S. embassy in Managua.   It was yet another fiasco, and Seal paid for it with his life.   His Colombian drug suppliers were not amused when the Reagan administration identified him publicly as a US undercover agent.   As he awaited trial on other narcotics charges in Louisiana, Seal was ambushed and killed by four gunmen who left his body riddled with 140 bullets.
5.   Fabricated evidence also played an important role in the first President Bush's attempt to secure congressional and UN approval for the 1991 Gulf War.
(a) Few will forget the heart-rending testimony before a congressional committee by the sobbing 15 year-old Kuwaiti girl called Nayirah on October 10, 1990:
"I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where 15 babies were in incubators.   They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die."
No congressperson, no journalist took the trouble to probe the identity of "Nayirah," who was said to be an escapee from Kuwait but was later revealed to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington.   With consummate skill, the story had been manufactured out of whole cloth and the 15 year-old coached by the PR firm Hill & Knowlton, which has a rich history of being "imbedded" in Republican administrations.   Similar unsubstantiated yarns made their debut several weeks later at the UN, where a team of seven "witnesses," also coached by Hill & Knowlton, testified about atrocities in Iraq.   (It was later learned that the seven had used false names.)   And in an unprecedented move, the UN Security Council allowed the U.S. to show a video created by Hill & Knowlton.
All to good effect.   The PR campaign had the desired impact, and Congress voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq on January 12, 1991.   (The UN did so on November 29, 1990.)   "Nayirah's" true identity did not become known until two years later.   And Hill & Knowlton's coffers bulged when the proceeds arrived from its billing of Kuwait.
Interestingly, the General Manager of Hill & Knowlton's Washington, DC office at the time was a woman named Victoria Clarke.   She turned out to be less successful in her next job, as Press Secretary for the re-election campaign of President George Bush in 1992.   But she is now back in her element as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.
(b) There was a corollary fabrication that proved equally effective in garnering support in Congress for the war resolution in 1991.   The White House claimed there were satellite photos showing Iraqi tanks and troops massing on the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, threatening to invade Saudi Arabia.   This fueled the campaign for war and frightened the Saudis into agreeing to cooperate fully with U.S. military forces.
On September 11, 1990, President George H. W. Bush, addressing a joint session of Congress, claimed "120,000 Iraqi troops with 850 tanks have poured into Kuwait and moved south to threaten Saudi Arabia."   But an enterprising journalist, Jean Heller, reported in the St. Petersburg Times on January 6, 1991 (a bare ten days before the Gulf War began) that commercial satellite photos taken on September 11, the day the president spoke, showed no sign of a massive buildup of Iraqi forces in Kuwait.   When the Pentagon was asked to provide evidence to support the president's claim, it refused to do so and continues to refuse to this day.
Interestingly, the national media in the U.S. chose to ignore Heller's story. Heller's explanation:
"I think part of the reason the story was ignored was that it was published too close to the start of the war.   Second, and more importantly, I do not think that people wanted to hear that we might have been deceived.   A lot of the reporters who have seen the story think it is dynamite, but the editors seem to have the attitude, ŒAt this point, who cares?'"
Does some of this have a familiar ring?
********
Richard Beske, San Diego
Kathleen McGrath Christison, Santa Fe
William Christison, Santa Fe
Patrick Eddington, Alexandria, VA
Raymond McGovern, Arlington, VA
Steering Group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is a coast-to-coast enterprise; mostly intelligence officers from analysis side of CIA.   Ray McGovern () worked as a CIA analyst for 27 years.   He co-authored this article with David MacMichael, who can be seen in GNN tv's latest production, AfterMath.
Copyright (c) Scoop Media
Unspeakable grief and horror
                        ...and the circus of deception continues...
Most recent Kewe blog   click here
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Circus of Torture   2003 — now
He says, "You are quite mad, Kewe"
And of course I am.
Why, I don't believe any of it — not the bloody body, not the bloody mind, not even the bloody Universe, or is it bloody multiverse.
"It's all illusion," I say.   "Don't you know, my lad, my lassie.   The game!   The game, me girl, me boy!   Takes on interest, don't you know.   T'is me sport, till doest find a better!"
Pssssst — but all this stuff is happening down here
Let's change it!
          
Weapons of Mass Deception
Monday 25 April 2005
By Christian Hendersonn
 
Schechter analysed the US mainstream media for his film
In the prelude to the war, the Bush administration hinted at the existence of a link between Iraq and the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
However, intelligence investigations commissioned by the White House and Congress have since determined the suggested links were false.
According to Danny Schechter, a media veteran of almost 40 years who nicknamed himself the News Dissector, the 70% figure suggests US media failed their public and led them to believe a baseless claim.
As the invasion played out on television screens around the world, Schechter "self-embedded" in his living room and examined US media coverage of the war.
He turned his conclusions into Weapons of Mass Deception www.wmdthefilm.com, a documentary film that examines how the media covered the war.
In the post-September 11 nationalistic ardour, the film concludes the US mainstream media failed to challenge Washington over its reasons for going to war, shut out anti-war voices and blurred the lines between commentary and journalism.
Aljazeera.net spoke to Schechter on the sidelines of last week's Aljazeera Television Productions Festival in the Qatari capital, Doha, where Weapons of Mass Deception was shown.
Aljazeera.net:  Why did you make this film?
Danny Schechter:  I have been a journalist since the 1960s.  And in some ways, this project grew out of a lifetime of work. I worked in radio; I worked in local television; I worked in cable news; I worked in ABC; I worked in mainstream and I worked in independent [media] so I think I had a wide range of experience.
I have also written six books about media issues, so I have had a chance to think about it more deeply; I think all that uniquely qualified me to take on this project.
Aljazeera.net:  What are you trying to do in this film?
Danny Schechter:  I try to offer some fresh insights.  I also try to speak to journalists about what this means in terms of our responsibilities to challenge and what this means in terms of democracy.
In the film, I make the suggestion that the Bush administration practices deception as part of its strategy and military strategy.
WMD accuses the US media of group think 
We know that everything they were saying about WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)and the link with Usama [bin Laden] were not true and many of us knew it then and we said so, but everyone was saying something different.
Now, with study after study they say it was "group think" in the intelligence community.  That's why they screwed up.
If there was group think in the intelligence community, what about the journalistic community?  There was group think there, too.
Aljazeera.net:  Are you influenced by Noam Chomsky and his theory of manufacturing consent?
Danny Schechter:  Noam Chomsky doesn't watch television; he is more of an analyst of the New York Times and elite journalism so I didn't go to him for an interview.
I was more interested in journalists who covered the war and how they were debating it.  So I feel that Chomsky had a brilliant analysis of media, but more of it is oriented toward print.  It doesn't always take into account the techniques of the media.
Aljazeera.net:  What do you think of Chomsky's critics who accuse him of overestimating the sophistication of media control, and that - in reality - it is more to do with day-to-day decisions and market forces?
Danny Schechter:  I don't buy the conspiracy theories of media.  I remember a group of Syrians came to our office and they said:  'We agree with you because we really know the Jews run everything.'  This was their analysis.  I said, excuse me, Rupert Murdoch is not Jewish the last time I looked.
You know the problem is corporate media and corporate-controlled media and how they operate within their framework.
Aljazeera.net:  What do you mean when you use the term post-journalism era?
Danny Schechter:  Journalism is at a crossroads.  There are many journalists today who still believe in the values of journalism but who are frustrated by the difficulty of practicing it because the companies they work for do not really respect journalistic principles.  What they are there to do is satisfy their bottom line concerns, they have closed bureau after bureau.
 
The film accuses the media of shutting out anti-war voices
There has been a pattern of dumbing down, and by dumbing it down it means people inside media are dumbing themselves down.  They are not asking good questions, they are not challenging official narratives the way they should be.
If you look at Fox News, there is very little journalism, very little reporting.  Mostly it is talk shows posing as news programmes and [they are] opinion driven, you have three times more pundits on air as opposed to journalists.  That's another sign of the post-journalism era.
Aljazeera.net:  Are blogs an alternative to mainstream media sources?
There are now 10 million blogs.  Of those, maybe 10% claim to be journalistic.  Some of the bloggers are very responsible, really challenging and doing investigative digging that mainstream media are not.

Some are motivated just by ideological concerns. Recently, for example, Eason Jordan, the former chief of news at CNN - when he said at Davos 12 journalists had been killed by US soldiers there was a big shock and he was forced to resign.  In that case, a blogger took an off-the-record meeting and just blasted it out there with out having a full record of what was said.
I think a lot of blogging can be very irresponsible and some of it is sponsored by political forces by the Republican party or the Democrat party and the like, so it has a political and ideological not a journalistic function.
But in my blog www.mediachannel.org what I try to do every day is take the top stories and report what is not being reported by comparing and contrasting.
Aljazeera.net:  You credit American journalists who helped you make this film.  Do you think many in the US media are sympathetic to your message?
Journalists review copies of the 9/11 Commission report
 
Danny Schechter:  Whenever I talk to people in the media off the record, including anchormen, people are very supportive, people slip me footage from various networks.  People are very helpful, but a lot of them are living in a lot of fear.  Everybody feels vulnerable, people have mortgages; they have families - it's difficult to be courageous.
Many American media people feel vulnerable and as if they are being bullied, they feel totally insecure.  In the culture of the newsroom, if you put your head up, it will get chopped off.  Everybody is getting along by going along and that's a dangerous kind of conformity.
Aljazeera.net:  If the US is involved in another war, how do you think it will be reported in the US media?  Do you think the media have learned from some of the mistakes of the Iraq war.
Danny Schechter:  The institutional practices have not changed.  I feel like the coverage of the elections was very similar to the coverage of the war.  The same templates are being used, the same approach, the lack of political scrutiny, the lack of other voices, the way things are being framed, the lack of investigative checking.
The American media reported the Iraqi elections as a great victory for democracy.  Everyone else reported them and asked Iraqis why they were voting and they said to get the Americans out and to end the occupation.  Their reasons are very different from the way it was presented on American televisions.  So we still have this propaganda system, in effect, but its credibility is starting to be questioned.  And I hope my film will contribute to that.
What I want to see is more journalists taking more responsibility for what they do and showing more solidarity when other journalists are shot and killed.
How many people in the American media protested the killing of Tariq Ayub [Aljazeera's correspondent slain in Baghdad by US fire on 8 April 2003]?  That was blatant, a completely blatant assassination and yet nobody said a word.  We need to challenge that and show more solidarity with other media workers.
          Aljazeera - Features
 
 































































































The stovepipe — instructions [were sent] from the Top Man [Saddam]—“give them everything.”




       Civilian Death Toll in Iraq May Top 1 Million     
            —  ORB, a British polling agency, September 2007          





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Faith Fippinger









The Book of Merlyn




The beating of the drum




 
 





 
For archives, these articles are being stored on TheWE.cc website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.