Saturday, May 27, 2006

Powerline Lie of the Day

Glenn Greenwald:
The war-mongers who are pining for the next phase of their Glorious War of Civilizations -- regime change in Iran -- thought they hit the jackpot last week when the pro-War, Israel-centric National Post of Canada published a column by neoconservative Amir Teheri which claimed that the Iranian parliament had passed a new law mandating "separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public." The warmonger pundits immediately began screeching how they found definitive proof that Iran is the New Nazi Germany -- a new law requiring that Jews wear yellow identifying strips on their clothing.

But the story was a complete scam, total fiction, and everyone -- including the National Post and the pro-Israeli groups which were promoting the story --now acknowledge that the story was false. Everyone, that is, except for the fact-proof fanatics at Powerline, who continue to insist that it's true.

As CNN reports, National Post has now categorically retracted the story and admitted that it's false:

A Canadian newspaper apologized Wednesday for an article that said Iran planned to force Jews and other religious minorities to wear distinctive clothing to distinguish themselves from Muslims. . . .

But the National Post, a longtime supporter of Israel and critic of Tehran, admitted Wednesday it had not checked the piece thoroughly enough before running it.

"It is now clear the story is not true," Douglas Kelly, the National Post's editor in chief, wrote in a long editorial on Page 2. "We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story."

This article from Jewish Week -- headlined: "Anatomy of a Hoax: False story alleging special yellow insignia for Iranian Jews spurred by Wiesenthal Center's flawed confirmation" -- details how many pro-Israeli organizations (including AIPAC and the Simon Wiesenthal Center) pushed the story as hard as possible, while some exercised more caution. But the publication of the story by National Post, combined with the mindless and reflexive support of scores of neoconservative organizations and pundits intensely yearning for removal of the anti-Israeli regime in Iran, caused the false story to explode into the public dialogue. The Jewish Week article details the predictable fallout:

The ensuing media blaze was like a match thrown onto a tinderbox, starting with the National Post page one banner, headlined: "IRAN EYES BADGES FOR JEWS?" - followed within hours by blogs, wire services, radio reports, Rush Limbaugh and outraged press statements issued by Jewish groups carrying the news to millions.

And any doubt about the circles that spat up this false story are dispelled by this paragraph in that article:

Benador Associates, the public relations agency that placed the story with The National Post, is a boutique firm specializing in promoting neoconservative figures such as Taheri, Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer and others who supported the Iraq war and "regime change" in Iran now.

The same people who conjured up the cakewalks, Saddam's chemical stockpiles and mushroom clouds that led us into the Iraq disaster are now trying the same fraudulent tactics to induce Americans to get rid of the regime in Iran. But as the article details, all of those groups now recognize that the story was false. Indeed, the original newspaper publishing the story has not just retracted it, but said expressly that it is false.

But just as they continue to insist that Iraq had WMDs and elaborate contacts with Al Qaeda, Powerline is not going to abandon this claim just because every fact makes indisputably clear that it is false. No - they have a war to deceive people into, and nothing will take precedence over that. In an amazing post to which both Scott "Big Trunk" Johnson and John "Rocket" Hinderaker contribute, they insist that the crux of the story is true, and they even trot out their standard line by excoriating the "MSM" for covering up the story. Scott, for instance, says:

I am struck, however, by the lack of interest in the undisputed component of the law on which Taheri focused. Taheri reported that the the (sic) Iranian Majlis had adopted legislation that prescribed the clothing to be worn by Muslims . . .

Taheri also reported that the law "envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians." It is the latter element of the law that generated the furor, but I have not seen any report taking issue with Taheri's account of the pending imposition of an Islamic dress code. If such a dress code were to become effective, religiously based noncompliance (assuming it is permitted) would identify the offenders as non-Muslims or infidels. Along with Reuters and the Daily News, the mainstream media have overlooked this apparently troubling consideration.

Displaying his only talent, Rocket then takes the deceit one dishonest step further and adds this:

As Scott notes, it is hard to see how Iran can regulate the clothing worn by Muslims without also regulating the clothing worn by non-Muslims, either explicitly or implicitly.

There simply is no law in Iran that has anything to do with mandating what non-Muslims should wear. It does not exist. And it never did. And everyone acknowledges that except for Powerline. From Jewish Week:

[Israeli expert on Iran, Meir] Javedanfar told The Jewish Week he spent "about 40 minutes" talking to sources in and outside of Iran and, more importantly, getting the text of the legislation off the Internet. His review of the extensive parliamentary debate of the bill, also available online, showed that such a proposal was not even part of the discussion.

Indeed, the law's text and parliamentary debate, available in English from the BBC Service, discloses no provision mandating that any Iranians will have to wear any kind of prescribed dress. It instead focuses on promoting "traditional clothing designs" using Iranian and Islamic patterns by Iran's domestic fashion industry and preventing "the import of clothes incompatible with cultural Islamic and national values." The law is meant to develop and protect Iran's clothing industry, Javedanfar said.

At this point, the only way to claim that Iran has passed a law regulating the clothing which non-Muslims must wear is by lying. But that's exactly what Powerline is claiming. And four months from now, and six months from now, when the debate intensifies over whether the American military should forcibly change Iran's government, Big Trunk and Rocket will be writing posts insisting that Iran has a law requiring Jews and Christians to wear identifying clothing, and they will link to the post they wrote today setting forth the "rationale" which proves that, and scores of other warmonger pundits and bloggers will link to that post when arguing, with increasing urgency, that Iran is the new Nazi Germany and that those who oppose an attack on it are a bunch of appeasers who never learned the mistake of Neville Chamberlain and who don't care if another Holocaust occurs.

Even the extremists who peddled this story now admit that it's false. Only Powerline continues to claim that it's true. Isn't that fairly definitively proof of the complete lack of credibility, integrity and honesty of TIME's Blog of the Year? There is no limit on what they are willing to fabricate in order to justify their defense of the administration and to push the country to war with Iran. But if this patently dishonest insistence on clinging to a plainly false story isn't enough to compel their removal from mainstream respectability, what would be?

UPDATE: Taylor Marsh, who has done some substantial original reporting on this story from her blog, has a detailed and very interesting post today exploring the question of who bears original and ultimate responsibility for the manufacture and distribution of this false story. Be sure to follow the links to Taylor's other posts where you can see the chronology of her impressive journalistic involvement in this story.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Get Your NeoCon Anti-Iran Disinformation Here

Jim Lobe, InterAsia Times:
Washington - A story authored by a prominent US neo-conservative regarding new legislation in Iran allegedly requiring Jews and other religious minorities to wear distinctive colored badges circulated around the world last weekend before it was exposed as extremely dubious.

The article by a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Iranian-American Amir Taheri, was initially published in last Friday's edition of Canada's National Post, which ran alongside the story a 1935 photograph of a Jewish businessman in Berlin with a yellow six-pointed star sewn on his overcoat, as required by Nazi legislation at the time. The Post subsequently noted denials of the story.

Taheri's story, however, was reprinted by the New York Post, which is owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch, and picked up by the Jerusalem Post, which also featured a photo of a yellow star from the Nazi era over a photo of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Another neo-conservative publication, the New York Sun, also noted the story on Monday, claiming that the specific report that special badges were required by the legislation had been "incorrect". At the same time, however, the Sun quoted two Iranian-American foes of the Islamic Republic as suggesting that dress requirements for religious minorities were still being considered by Iran's ruling circles. It offered no evidence to support that assertion.

The story, which was also noted in the Australian press, comes at a moment of rising tensions between Iran and both Israel and the United States over Tehran's nuclear program, which, according to the latter two, is designed to produce nuclear weapons. Both the US and Israel have suggested that they may take military action against nuclear-related targets in Iran unless ongoing diplomatic efforts to freeze Tehran's program bear fruit.

Juan Cole, president of the US Middle East Studies Association (MESA), described the Taheri article and its appearance first in Canada's Post as "typical of black psychological operations campaigns", particularly in its origin in an "out-of-the-way newspaper that is then picked up by the mainstream press" - in this case, the Jerusalem Post and the New York Post. A former US intelligence official described the article's relatively obscure provenance as a "real sign of [a] disinformation operation".

Taheri's original article, "A color code for Iran's 'infidels'", dealt primarily with new legislation that it said was designed to ensure that Iranians wear "standard Islamic garments" that removed ethnic and class distinctions and that eliminated "the influence of the infidel" - presumably meaning the West - "on the way Iranians, especially the young, dress".

But it also noted in passing that it would "envisage" separate dress codes for religious minorities - Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians - who would be required to adopt distinct color schemes to make them identifiable in public "so that [Muslims] can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus [become] najis" (unclean).

In particular, he explained, religious minorities will "have to wear special insignia, known as zonnar, to indicate their non-Islamic faiths. Jews will be marked out with a yellow strip of cloth sewn in front of their clothes, while Christians will be assigned the color red. Zoroastrians end up with Persian blue as the color of their zonnar," he wrote.

While Taheri did not evoke the Nazi precedent in his column, the National Post asked its readers at the end of the piece, "Is Iran turning into the new Nazi Germany? Share your opinion online at national"

That was compounded by the Post's publication of a front-page article by Chris Wattie that quoted unidentified "human-rights groups" as "raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear colored badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims".

"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," Wattie quoted Rabbi Marvin Heir, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, as telling him. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."

The story also quoted one Iranian exile living in Toronto as confirming the story, as well as Canadian Jewish leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper as denouncing the legislation and suggesting that it was consistent with other recent moves made by Tehran.

Similarly, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, who, however, denied any specific knowledge about the alleged measure, called it "despicable" and reminiscent of "Germany under Hitler".

In fact, however, the legislation contained "absolutely no mention of religious minorities", according to Hadi Ghaemi, the chief Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch, who said it included "only generalities with regard to promoting a national dress code and fashion industry that should be subsidized and supported by the government".

The article - and especially its attribution to "human-rights groups" - was particularly unfortunate, he said, because "it plays into the hands of the Iranian government that wants to discredit human-rights issues that are raised at the international level".

The actual legislation was indeed "a troubling development", but not for the reasons cited by the Post, he said, because "its main target is most probably Iranian women".

Other denunciations were quick to follow. One Jewish representative in the Iranian parliament, Maurice Motamed, insisted that color requirements for ethnic minorities had "never been proposed or discussed in parliament", let alone approved. "Such news," he told the Associated Press, "is an insult to religious minorities here.

"This report is a complete fabrication and is totally false," he told The Australian newspaper. "It is a lie ..."

Two Israel-based Iran experts, Menashe Amir and Meir Javedanfar, also denounced the original reports about the legislation, suggesting in a follow-up article in the Jerusalem Post on Monday that they were based on outdated speculation about the impact on non-Muslims of the adoption of Islamic dress standards.

Nonetheless, the Sun, without endorsing the specific contents of the National Post articles, refused to drop the story, quoting "a leading spokesman for Iranian Jews", the secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation in Los Angeles, Sam Kermanian, as thanking "the world for its outcry" over the original reports and praising Taheri as "someone with fantastic credibility".

Taheri is a member of Benador Associates, a public relations firm that lists a large number of leading neo-conservatives, including American Enterprise Institute associates Richard Perle, David Frum, Michael Ledeen, Michael Rubin and Joshua Muravchik, among its clients.

Major boosters of the war with Iraq, Benador clients, who also include former Central Intelligence Agency chief James Woolsey and former Israeli minister Natan Sharansky, have also called for the US administration to take a hard line against Iran.

The newspapers that so far have run the story are similarly identified with a hard line against Tehran. The National Post, which was bought by CanWest Global Communications from Conrad Black, a close associate of Perle's, is controlled by David and Leonard Asper, who have accused the Canadian Broadcasting Corp of being anti-Israel, according to Marsha Cohen of Florida International University, who has closely followed the badges story.

Similarly, the Sun has taken positions consistent with the right-wing Likud Party in Israel on Middle East issues, while Murdoch owns the strongly pro-Israel Weekly Standard and Fox News, in addition to the New York Post.

"I think the way these stories played - particularly the references to the Holocaust - was designed to arouse and play upon concerns and accusations that Ahmadinejad is another Hitler who needs to be dealt with accordingly," noted Cohen, who added that the Iranian president's questioning of the Holocaust and aggressive statements about Israel had made such stories more credible.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Technorati Profile

Technorati Profile

John Hinderaker Carries the White Man's Burden

In John Hinderaker's devastatingly critical response to Bush's Monday night speech on immigration (now apparently the "the failure to build a wall" speech in rightist circles), He Had His Chance, he shares more than simply his views on the speech:

I rode home from the airport in a taxi a few minutes ago. My driver, as is almost always the case in Minnesota, was an African immigrant. No sooner had I gotten into the cab than he began talking about the speech and railing against Bush on the theory that the President is anti-immigrant. I patiently tried to explain that President Bush is in trouble because he is not just pro-immigrant, but pro-illegal immigrant. I explained that he has argued for a guest worker program and a path to citizenship, and has said repeatedly that it would be impossible to deport all the illegals.

My cab driver was completely disoriented by this. I could tell he didn't believe it. Like nearly all African cab drivers, he listens to public radio all day long. Twenty minutes with me wasn't enough to overcome years of liberal indoctrination. He simply wasn't able to absorb the idea that President Bush might not be a racist who hates immigrants. I'm sure he'd forgotten everything I said by the time he left my driveway.

Being a fellow resident of the Twin Cities area, I can verify that many cab drivers in Minneapolis are recent immigrants from Africa. They are almost all from Somalia, to be precise.. To Hinderaker, however, they are simply "African." This distinction might seem subtle until you consider the consequences of Hinderaker's failure to understand who he was talking to.There are many religions and many political stripes in Africa. There is one effective religion in Somalia from which almost 100% of the Minneapolis cab drivers of African extraction hail--they are almost universally Muslim.

They know what Bush policies have meant for fellow Muslims in the US (massive government generated violations of civil rights), and in the Middle East (that would be bloody catastrophe, not liberation). They have probably had friends or acquaintances interrogated for contributing to a legitimate charity while Muslim, charities they've contributed to locked down, their assets frozen for fruitless, years-long Bushco witchhunts while children starve in Northern Africa. Friends across the country legally abused and/or deported and potentially subject to torture when they get off the plane the Bush administration forced them to get on.

The idea that Hinderaker imagines one of them might not be a Bush supporter as a consequence of being brainwashed by public radio(!) (which is mostly milquetoast, pro-Republicanism here, anyway) is such a profound confession of ignorance--so surreal--it's almost amusing.

Muslim Civil Rights Report, 2002

Data gathered for this report demonstrate that Muslims in the United States are more apprehensive than ever about discrimination and intolerance. U.S. Government actions after September 11, 2001, alone impacted more than 60,000 individuals. Muslims have charged that the government's actions violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution because they included ethnically and religiously-based interrogations, detentions, raids, and closures of charities...Unlike any other past crisis, the post-September 11 anti-Muslim backlash has been the most violent, as it included several murders...
...Excluding the September backlash incidents, this year's normal reporting period contains 525 valid complaints, up from 366 in 2000/2001--a 43 percent increase...
...Two particularly encouraging developments are noteworthy. First, on April 3, 2002, a federal judge in Detroit, Michigan ruled that the Bush administration's policy of closed immigration hearings was unconstitutional. The ruling came in the case of Rabih Haddad, who had overstayed his immigration visa. In another case involving a hate crime, a Dallas, Texas jury convicted Mark Stroman for the murder of Vasudev Patel last October. Storman thought the Hindu man looked Middle Eastern and killed him to avenge the attacks on New York and Washington.

Damn public radio...

Glenn Greenwald has more on Hinderaker's response here.
Firedoglake on whitemen's bloviating on immigration for the cameras.

Monday, May 15, 2006

George W. Calls Out the Cavalry!

Extended PressThink Comment:

I'm generally persuaded by your refinement of the thesis, "they're still experimenting." My reservation is that when I hear Bush give a public speech (for as long as I can stand it, usually about 60-90 seconds at a time, which means I generally have to read a transcript for the sake of my sanity), I still don't hear persuasion. I hear many things: clanging, incoherent stereotypes, geographically and historically impossible fantasies, etc.

Above all, I hear the sound of a vacuum. They hate us for our freedom? I just feel insulted. I hear plenty of bully and I hear plenty of pulpit, but I have yet to hear the barest hint of rational persuasion. Tomorrow's announcement of a "plan" will ultimately be the lead-in to a several hundered mile long photo-op designed to avoid having to resolve the glaring contradiction between his corporate-friendly guest-worker proposal and the militant anti-brown, lock-down fantasies of about a third of those who voted for him in the last electio--in favor of the image of the latter and simple stall tactics on the substance of the former. Of course, in the meantime he has refused to fully fund the border patrol! But this is a photo-op most essentially designed to distract from the likely indictment of his political godfather, Karl Rove, and the excrement hitting the fan over the discovery that the name of "Big Brother" is in fact, George W. Bush.

Ultimately, I'm forced to modify the opposition Jay seems to have drawn between Theodore Roosevelt and Bush. It's true Roosevelt was a pioneer in mass media persuasion, but I think we need to recall his contribution as the founding of a cult of presidential personality in many cases precisely at the expense of the art of rational, democratic persuasion. TR certainly could do the latter when he was so inclined. But he pioneered an approach with which he didn't necessarily have to.

Beyond media strategy, T. R. was a pioneer of jingoistic unilateral US imperialism. Conservative luminaries such as Max Boot hold up the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine as a fine upstanding precedent for the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. Rove aspires to be Mark Hanna to George W's T.R.. Before they gave up on him, PNAC conservatives like Bill Kristol dreamed that the Bush administration would take up the notion of a civilizing mission in the TR mold, raising up the natives and making the world safe for capitalism by moving from a Thomas Friedmann style "globalization as fate" to a Paul Wolfowitz-style "imperial globalization."

T.R. was the man who could say it loud and say it proud. Imperialism is our friend, he would say. US imperialism is a good deed. Why? Because white Americans are a master race destined to rule the world and the expansion of our power is an act of benevolence. In many ways, George W. Bush is that man and yet that is precisely why even a speech from him is anything but rational persuasion.

I see Jay's point: TR was a PR genius, an author, and a charismatic, very complex man (after all, he busted trusts as well as busting heads in the Philippines (about 400,000 of them to the death at last count. When was the last time W busted a trust?)).

My point is that when TR took to the bully-pulpit, he was talking politics. When Bush takes to the bully-pulpit, he makes threats with a messianic zeal instead of talking politics.

In other words, I'm ultimately saying that even when the Bush team tries to do exactly what you and Jay understand them to be trying to do, experimenting with both rollback and persuasion, for me, even the Bushco idea of persuasion is still ultimately another version of rollback. They just can't afford to talk about the real world.

Even the bully pulpit becomes rollback when George W. steps into it, whether that was the intention or not.

What odds will any of you give that President Bush's speech tomorrow will address the fundamental political and logical contradiction between his guest worker plan, his right wing supporters' ethnic cleansing proclivities, and the "temporary" fix he has conjured up to beg the question with images that imply the ethnic cleansing route? As policy, this form of begging the question from the bully pulpit even further undermines the already beleaguered National Guard, thus solving an imaginary problem by creating yet another real world problem. Whither rational persuasion?
(Of course, I haven't read his speech yet. We'll see just how far off I am.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

George W. Bush, Carl Schmitt, and Hannah Arendt

I have consistently argued for a deep resonance between tenets in the work of Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, and Bush Doctrine police-state neoconservatism. I do not say the Bush regime is fascist, but I do say that you have to study fascism to understand a lot of what they do. There are profound agreements and significant disagreements between the way Bushco runs things and the way the two fantasied enemies of the administration, WWII era German Nazis and Japanese militarists, ran their programs.

The official GOP understanding of judges who interpret law with an eye toward social welfare and distributive justice as dictatorial activist legislators was a case Carl Schmitt had already made in the twenties (it should be noted Schmitt himself was hardly an unqualified representative of Nazi doctrine). Schmitt argued that distributive justice was opposed to democracy in principle. Both Leo Srauss and F.A. Hayek, the icons of GOP movement conservatism, share this view. The conclusion that Schmitt drew from this belief was that true democracy was a function of assent rather than formal legal process that could be sidetracked by the letter of the law. Distributive justice was liberalism. Assent to the authority of the leader by the people was true democracy. I think this attitude is quite strong in the GOP. This is a connection Jay Rosen of PressThink appears to have implicitly moved closer to in his more recent, more critical posts regarding McClellan-era Bush administraton PR assumptions of assent to authority and contempt for persuasion.

Hannah Arendt argues that Nazism was a movement that was opposed to party and state structure and hierarchy. Generating an image of infallibility and actively creating a world that backed up the organizing ideological fiction--in this case that the GOP is faced with a liberal conspiracy they must conspiratorially organize against to overcome, manifested most profoundly in the liberal bias of journalists individually and mass media organizations generically--were top priorities.

As for differences, while the Fox/Limbaugh axis has done an impressive job of keeping the organizing ideological fiction of the movement going the last five years in the face of all facts to the contrary, actively refusing to adjust the ideology to the well-known liberal bias of reality, Rove and Bush's consistently demonstrated concern to return value for cash on the barrelhead stakeholders such as Big Oil, Big pharma, transnational bankers, and transnational contractors like Halliburton and the Dubai port management group show a patent failure to stick to the "crusading nationalists versus sell-out atheist liberal traitor" script. As dangerously incompetent as Bushco is, in this sense (at least so far) they still seem to be much more reality-based than the Nazi party.

Regarding Bush administration militarization of US foreign policy, the distinctions between Bush, Nazi, and Japanese militarist policy are much more subtle and difficult to discern. If the last two official US "defense" strategy papers were not doctrines of global military domination, it's hard to imagine what might qualify.

I'll leave you with a quote from Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism that seems particularly appropriate to more recent developments over the last few weeks:

Practically speaking, the paradox of totalitarianism in power is that the possession of all instruments of governmental power and violence in one country is not an unmixed blessing for a totalitarian movement. Its disregard for facts, its strict adherence to the rules of a fictitious world, becomes steadily more difficult to maintain, yet remains as essential as it was before. Power means a direct confrontation with reality, and totalitarianism is constantly concerned with overcoming this challenge. Propaganda and organization no longer suffice to assert that the impossible is possible, that the incredible is true, that an insane consistency rules the world; the chief psychological support of totalitarian fiction—the active resentment of the status quo, which the masses refuse to accept as the only possible world—is no longer there; every bit of factual information that leaks through the iron curtain, set up against the ever-threatening flood of reality from the other, nontotalitarian side, is a greater menace to totalitarian domination than counterpropaganda has been to totalitarian movements.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Iran Strike Already En Route?

Larisa Alexandrovna:
Concern is building among the military and the intelligence community that the US may be preparing for a military strike on Iran, as military assets in key positions are approaching readiness, RAW STORY has learned.

According to military and intelligence sources, an air strike on Iran could be doable in June of this year, with military assets in key positions ready to go and a possible plan already on the table.

Speculation has been growing on a possible air strike against Iran. But with the failure of the Bush administration to present a convincing case to the UN Security Council and to secure political backing domestically, some experts say the march toward war with Iran is on pause barring an "immediate need."

"In March/April of this year [the US] was pushing for quick closure, a thirty day window," says a source close to the UN Security Council, describing efforts by the Administration to "shore up enough support" to get a UN Chapter 7 resolution.

A UN Chapter 7 resolution makes it possible for sanctions to be imposed against an uncooperative nation and leaves the door open to military action.

The UN source also says that a military analysis suggests that no military action should be undertaken in Iran until spring of 2007, but that things remain volatile given this administration’s penchant for having "their own way."

Strike could come earlier than thought

Other military and intelligence sources are expressing concern both privately and publicly that air strikes on Iran could come earlier than believed.

Retired Air Force Colonel and former faculty member at the National War College Sam Gardiner has heard some military suggestions of a possible air campaign in the near future, and although he has no intimate knowledge of such plans, he says recent aircraft carrier activity and current operations on the ground in Iran have raised red flags.

Gardiner says his concerns have kept him busy attempting to create the most likely scenario should such an attack occur.

"I would expect two or three aircraft carriers would be moved into the area," Gardner said, describing what he thinks is the best way air strikes could be carried out without disengaging assets from US fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Two air-craft carriers are already en route to the region, RAW STORY has found. The USS Abraham Lincoln, which recently made a port call in Singapore, and the USS Enterprise which left Norfolk, Virginia earlier this month, are headed for the Western Pacific and Middle East. The USS Ronald Reagan is already operating in the Gulf.

In addition to aircraft carrier activity, Gardiner says, B-2 bombers would be critical.

"I would expect the B-2's, the main firepower asset, to be flown on missions directly from the United States," Gardiner explained. "I would expect B-52's to be flown in strikes from the UK and Diego Garcia."

"Finally," he added, "a large number of cruise missiles would be fired from the carrier support ships."

Steven Aftergood, senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, says that the B-2 bomber is capable of such long range activity.

"The B2 bomber was designed, with the Soviet Union in mind, for intercontinental operations," Aftergood said. "With aerial refueling, it has a range of up to 10,000 miles."

Like Gardiner, Aftergood has heard similar claims with regard to a June strike, but has not been able to confirm them independently.

Intelligence sources confirm hearing the allegations of a June attack, but have been unable to fully confirm that such an attack is in the works. Both the New Yorker and the Washington Post have previously reported that the Pentagon is studying military options on Iran.

All sources, however, agree that given the administration’s interest in regime change, an attack on Iran is likely, regardless of international support or UN backing. Furthermore, all sources agree that Gardiner’s scenario is the most probable, including an estimated duration and "pause" assessment.

Gardiner believes that the entire initial operation could run quickly, roughly 24-72 hours. "Most of the strikes would be at night," he said. "The Iranian nuclear facilities will be targeted; more important however, a major effort would focus on Iran's capability to retaliate. The US will target missile facilities, air bases and naval assets."

"After the initial effort, there will be a pause during which time the Iranians will be told that if they retaliate, the air strikes would continue," he added.

The Pentagon did not return calls for comment.

Advance teams under way; Congress ‘bypassed’

As previously reported by Raw Story, a terrorist organization known as Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) is being used on the ground in Iran by the Pentegon, bypassing US intelligence channels. The report was subsequently covered by the Asia Times (Article).

Military and intelligence sources now say no Presidential finding exists on MEK ops. Without a presidential finding, the operation circumvents the oversight of the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

Congressional aides for the relevant oversight committees would not confirm or deny allegations that no Presidential finding had been done. One Democratic aide, however, wishing to remain anonymous for this article, did say that any use of the MEK would be illegal.

In addition, sources say that a March attack that killed 22 Iranian officials in the province of Sistan va Baluchistan was carried out by the MEK.

According to a report by Iran Focus filed Mar. 23, the twenty-two people killed in the ambush included high ranking officials, including the governor of Zahedan.

"Hours after the attack took place, Ahmadi-Moqaddam announced there was evidence the assailants had held meetings with British intelligence officers," the Iranian news service reported.

"Radical Shiite cleric Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi also claimed the people behind the attack were the same as those behind a spate of bombings in Iran’s south-western province of Khuzestan earlier this year and in 2005," it added.

Military and intelligence sources say that MEK assets were responsible for this attack, but did not know if the US military was involved or if US military assets were part of the ambush.

One former high ranking US intelligence official described the use of MEK as more of a "Cambone" operation than a "Department of Defense operation."

Undersecretary of Defense Intelligence Stephen Cambone, a stalwart neo-conservative, is considered by many to be Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s right-hand man.

During a White House briefing in early May, outgoing press secretary Scott McClellan denied that the administration was using MEK, among several other terrorist organizations named, for ground activity in Iran.

"There are numerous reports about low-intensity operations ongoing in Iran from three different places -- PKK going over the border into Iraq, the MEK southern border of Iraq into Iran, and also certain operations from Balochistan involving also the Pakistanis," a reporter asked. "Does the U.S. have a policy, given also reports which I know you won't comment on, on possible special forces operations in Iran?"

"Our policies haven't changed on those organizations," McClellan said. "They remain the same. And you're bringing up organizations that we view as terrorist organizations."

"We would never cooperate with them, in terms of—" the questioner continued.

"Our policy hasn't changed," McClellan replied.

Military, intelligence community alarmed

According to a New Yorker article by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, other activities aimed at intimidating and agitating Iranian leadership are also underway.

"One military planner told me that White House criticisms of Iran and the high tempo of planning and clandestine activities amount to a campaign of ‘coercion’ aimed at Iran," Hersh wrote.

The increase in violence on the southern border of Iran, the movement of aircraft carriers into the region, the insistence of Iran’s leadership that they intend to be a player on the nuclear stage and the Bush Administration’s focus on regime change make military and intelligence sources nervous.

"[President] Bush thinks that history will judge him as a great leader, not unlike Winston Churchill," one former high-ranking military intelligence official remarked.

For now, Gardiner and others remain on the sidelines as the Administration plots their next move.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mark Kleiman: Knights in White Satin

Mark Kleiman has a post up defending Ana Marie Cox from Atrios and Digby at The Reality-Based Community, Atrios and Digby on Cox on Colbert. He characterizes Cox's column as "trenchant, sensible, and well-written." That is his characterization of the following lines:

Ana Marie Cox
The blogospheric debate — whining, really — about the mainstream media's "silence" on Colbert rumbled into existence with a post by Peter Daou.
This is surely "trenchant, sensible, and well-written" if you are a producer for Fox news. Cox's dimissal of widespread outrage over the MSM's news blackout of Colbert's Washington Correspondents Dinner Speech, the most cogent critique of Washington press malfeasance in the last five years, as simply another case of misguided, ill-informed liberals gratuitously getting their panties all in a bunch could easily have come from Phyllis Schlafly.

Kleiman's paternalistic "white knight to the rescue of the helpless social-climbing sorority girl without principles" act is major clowning in its own right. As he suggests, truly a lesson in grrl power for us all.

Cox's performance of the official GOP delegitimation of liberalism, her recitation of the reflexively "pro-GOP contempt for anyone else" common wisdom of the Washington bubble relentlessly promoted by the dominant press and broadcast media with a breathlessly "new" blogospheric enthusiasm is no doubt a public service. Kleiman's playing Sancho Panza to Cox's Don Quixote? I'm speechless.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Unitary Executive="Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Democracy

If we think through the logic of the unitary executive theory promoted by the Bush II administration, we are forced to arrive at the conclusion that this is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" democracy. They claim that they represent the people as they were elected and successful election shows that the people approve of their policies. But the theory of the unitary executive means that the administration thinks it never really needs to tell the people what has been done in it's name and further, that for representatives of the people to inquire what policies have been instituted, what actions the state has taken that they were supposed to approve or disapprove in the last election, is not properly the people's business.

In fact, they claim that during a time of war it is an act of treason for any employee of the executive branch to inform the people what it is doing. In other words, according to the unitary theory of the executive, the will of the people prevails, just as long as we the people don't have the temerity to ask what they are doing, and just as long as the members of the executive branch don't deign to tell us what has been done.

But as was the case with "don't ask, don't tell" as a strategy for reforming military policy, it quickly becomes clear that DADT is not a strategy for action, it is a strategy of avoidance.

In other words, the Bush administration's theory of the unitary executive essentially tells us that the most successful and effective way to ensure that the will of the people is done is to absolutely avoid the question of what the executive does.

From the perspective of the theory of the unitary executive, democracy= blind faith. The more blind our faith in the state is, the more we may rest assured that our will is being done! Lack of transparency is thus the key to effective democracy. Now do you understand?

Bush's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty

This post is a response to a comment by Steve Lovelady over at Jay Rosen's PressThink.

Considering Steve Lovelady's comment on WingnutThink and Jay Rosen's post on Tony Snow has led me to realize that the prevailing legal theory of the unitary executive so dear to the darkside of the Bush II administration, the claim that they are representatives of the people so they are in charge and can do anything they want, but they aren't at liberaty to tell the people exactly what it is they are doing in the name of the people can be summarized quite succinctly: the unitary theory of the executive is a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" theory of popular sovereignty. The will of the people continues to rule, just as long as the people don't violate monarchical protocol so grievously as to actually ask the government what it is doing, and just so long as the government doesn't depart from its monarchical perquisites so far as to deign to inform the people of what form their will currently takes in the world.

Steve Lovelady:

As a correspondent of mine observed, "If he found a broken arrow at the site of the Little Big Horn, he'd wave it around in the air, declaring that it's proof that Custer won.
And he wouldn't care if the president's former press secretary, the president's former CIA director, the president's current Secretary of State and the president himself all acknowledged, 'No, actually, Custer lost.'

Your correspondent has really pulled a lot together here. The fact that the publicly stated opinion of the president's former press secretary, the president's former CIA director, the president's current Secretary of Stte and the president himself don't even slow this narrative down never fails to astonish me. Whatever happened to cognitive dissonance? How does a mind following this line of thought make that entire boxcar full of contradictions just go pfft!?

It reminds me of Japanese army officers in the 1930s who were constantly organizing coups and assassinations of corrupt civilian politicians in the name of reclaiming the Imperial Way from the forces of evil, in the name of the emperor, but frequently in explicit opposition to the stated position and preference of the emperor himself!

In both cases, the appeal to obedience, authority, and tradition as a source of legitimacy is belied by interpretations of the principles and causes at stake that are so radical they patently contradict the claim to obedience and traditional authority they ritually claim for themselves.

Perhaps this is one of the lesser understood inflections of the term "neo-conservative." An avowedly conservative individual who routinely violates all known precedent in the name of adherence to and revival of "tradition." Neoconservatives are more accurately described as anarchists in "traditional values" drag.

This has everything to do with the translation of democracy from explicit sufferage to the presumption of popular assent, the "don't ask, don't tell" doctrine of popular sovereignty. The "rule of law" in the liberal sense is too corrupt (i.e., insufficiently authoritarian and unilateralist) to capture the "purity" of the anarchist's vision of the cause.

I've spent quite a few years trying to figure out how people as intelligent as Okawa Shumei or Leo Strauss and his followers can seriously believe the nonsense they spout, but I've really hit a dead end. The more information I have on the subject, the more mysterious it becomes. I've almost started to think of the requirement to trust authority and force (vs. law) implicitly as an existential inclination like a lack of tolerance for spicy food--it just doesn't seem to be something that is up for negotation.

But finally, the most impressive trick of all--like Colbert's Cirque de-Soleil guy pulling himself up by his bootstraps--is the fantasy that trusting authority and force implicitly is a form of anti-authoritarian rebellion. This loses me every time.

The tyranny of the majority as rebellion--WTF? Did your correspondent have an anecdote for that one?