"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Saddam Trial –Another Western Kangaroo Court

“It's all about justifying the US invasion"- A top Swiss legal expert

The charade trial of illegally toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by yet another Western organized Kangroo court finally opened under a veil of secrecy on 19 October and was adjourned to 28 November. Saddam Hussein was defiant and claimed that he was the legitimate President of Iraq as he had done when he was first charged in July, 2004. (TRIAL OF SADDAM HUSSEIN & THE RULE OF LAW www.saag.org/papers11/paper1046.html ). He and six co-defendants are accused of killing 143 people after an unsuccessful assassination attempt on him in 1982. Western media was miffed at the show of defiance by the combative and aggressive former Iraqi leader.

Saddam is not the first eastern leader nor would he be the last to be so demonized and humiliated. It is an old western technique against its opponents. Others are North Irish leaders, humiliated by the British and CIA’s once own man in Panama, dictator Noriega and Slobodan Milosevic with whom the West did business. Captive western media gave full coverage when Milosevic was being charged but once he started hitting back at his accusers, the coverage vanished.

Before the December 1971 war of liberation of Bangladesh, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Indians were called “old witch “ and “ bastards and a slippery, treacherous people” by US President Richard Nixon and his aide Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office , because USA sided with its ally Gen. Yahya Khan of Pakistan who had let loose a reign of terror on Bengalis; their leaders Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman had won the elections and wanted to form a government.

Saddam Hussein was a secular leader and a staunch friend of India , who consistently supported India on Kashmir and other issues .

US corporate and British government media outlets have already tried to convict Saddam by playing up the Halabja massacres and other accusations which are not even part of this trial. When unsubstantiated allegations were made that Iraq was behind the plot to kill former US President George H.W Bush in Kuwait , father of the current US President in 1993 , President Bill Clinton had hit Iraq with missiles. Why no charges against him!

The current Iraqi interim government was installed by the US Occupation forces and is composed of former CIA and MI5 intelligence agents , convicted embezzlers , foreign passport holders and other quislings and Iranian supporters. Billions of dollars of revenue from sale of Iraqi oil has been looted by US authorities and its Iraqi collaborators. The trial has aroused little interest among the Iraqis except among some who were prosecuted by him. But the world knows how US leadership and its policies are disliked and hated in Arab and Muslim world and elsewhere.

Most Iraqis are worried about lack of security , lack of electric power and water , still un-repaired sewage disposal , medical and other infra-structure 30 months after US invasion destroyed it , over 50% unemployment , kidnappings for ransoms , daily random killings and almost a raging civil war .

It is just another diversionary tactic by US Administration faced with its occupation turned into a horrible quagmire , which has shaken even the neo-cons citadels in Washington , Katrina hurricane after math which exposed the ugly underbelly of US corporate distorted polity and other policies , which have made George W. Bush the most unpopular President in recent history , so early in his second term , with polls going up even for his impeachment ,if he misled the US people in his War on Iraq.

Saddam’s chief lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi, an Iraqi with little experience of major cases, including crimes against humanity, challenged the legitimacy of the court. He asked for 3 months adjournment for preparations of the defence .The legal team backing Dulaimi from London had said earlier that he would present a 122-point document seeking to show that the court, whose judges were chosen under US occupation, does not have the jurisdiction.

The chief investigative judge, only 34 years old , has prepared the charges. His team sifted through tonnes of documents and interviewed hundreds of witnesses. He says the trial could help establish the rule of law[!] in Iraq. Names of the judges were not disclosed except the chief judge, a Kurd , natural enemies of Sunni Arabs to which community Saddam belongs. Western experts and media said that this case was taken up because it is the easiest to prove. But an Arab expert on Arab law interviewed by BBC said that the Arab law under which the trial would take place would make it difficult to convict him as it would recognize Saddam Hussein as the President , who enjoyed the immunity .BBC anchor looked dismayed as generally Western friendly experts are called for comments..

“Wonderful material for a US television series but nothing to do with a fair trial,” Swiss legal expert

Marc Henzelin , Professor of international law at Geneva University told Swiss Sonntags Zeitung newspaper why he declined to defend Saddam Hussein, who was removed by US led invasion of Iraq , described illegal by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, as it was against the wishes of the international body.

Prof Marc Henzelin, who was asked by Mrs Hussein to defend her husband in Iraq’s special tribunal declined because assurances that his defence was a legal and not a political matter, guarantees to talk to other lawyers to coordinate the defence and that the trial was not turned into a circus show were refused .” Under such circumstances a trial risks becoming nothing more than a show, “he said .

Asked if Saddam trial was similar to the Nuremberg tribunals after the Second World War , he said ,” In both cases it is the victors holding court over the losers. But the difference is that the trials of Nuremberg had a historic goal. They wanted to get as close as possible to the truth about the Nazi crimes.” But in this case ,” It is the exact opposite. The trial focuses on a small part of the criminal record of the Iraqi regime, and the Iraqi population feels highly emotional about it.”

“I think it is all about justifying the United States' invasion of Iraq and to string Saddam Hussein up sooner rather than later without asking too many questions.”

Prof Henzelin who has 20 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer and visited Baghdad 12 times over the past two years added that investigating magistrates were killed, as well as witnesses and evidence was destroyed during the war. He said that 90 per cent of what was actually going on would not be decided in the courtroom, but during the investigation.

He added ,”What's the point of a trial if the defence has not been able to take part in the investigations? Or if it is not possible to call witnesses to the stand because they were executed or have to fear for their lives?”

”The trial of Saddam might provide wonderful material for a US television series with a lawyer and a prosecutor crossing swords. But this has got nothing to do with a fair trial.”

The Special tribunals set up were completely against international law. According to the Geneva and the Hague Conventions [on international law for humanitarian concern and the protection of cultural property in armed conflicts] this court is clearly illegal. Occupying powers have no right to change the legal system of a country. This is precisely what the US has done.

”What's more, the judges were not elected but appointed by the occupying powers. They flew in a nephew of Mr Chalabi [Salem Chalabi's uncle Ahmed led the foremost Iraqi opposition movement, the US-backed Iraqi National Congress]. He was a lawyer in London specialising in commercial law. Later he was appointed president of the Iraqi special tribunal.”[Ahmed Chalabi is a convicted embezzler in Jordan. As Seymour Hersh revealed Bush had asked King Abdullah of Jordan during a visit to Washington that he should pardon Chalabi. One wonders what the King’s reaction was to this outrageous suggestion. ]

“Compared to this at the Nuremberg trial the four victorious powers at least assigned their best judges to the task,” said Marc Henzelin

“Grave concerns .. no fair trial guarantees” Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch said that the trial and those that follow could present ... an unprecedented opportunity to provide some measure of truth and justice for hundreds of thousands of victims of human rights violations that occurred in Iraq between 1979 and 2003," but it was open to serious doubt. The tribunal's procedures would prove to be neither impartial nor independent, defence lawyers were at a crippling disadvantage, and the outcome had already been grossly prejudiced by Iraqi and US politicians and media.

Richard Dicker ,director of Human Rights Watch's international justice program in his piece “Give Iraq justice, not vengeance” in the International Herald Tribune wrote .”There are several significant human rights shortcomings in the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal law. If these are not addressed, they could undercut internationally guaranteed rights and jeopardize the legitimacy of the proceedings. “

Jalal Talabani, now Iraq's president, has already said on TV "Saddam Hussein is a war criminal and he deserves to be executed 20 times a day for his crimes against humanity," Talabani heads one of the two Kurdish formations , mostly at odds with each other .Since the end of 1991 war in March , Iraqi Kurdistan has remained almost defacto US protectorate . The Iraqi forces could not assert its sovereignty over the region before the US led invasion .What justice would you expect? Such statements are as credible as those of communist party rulers in East Europe under Soviet control. But then even US and UK leaders have made similar statements and allowed such statements by Iraq’s quisling leadership when visiting.

Sonya Sceats, a legal expert at Chatham House in London, said: "The politics surrounding the establishment of the court have raised particular concerns about the level of American influence." "Irrespective of its veracity, the perception of the court as a disguised vehicle for US retribution is likely to colour Saddam's defence," Ms Sceats said. "He has already insisted that [it] will be a political show trial. 'I do not want to make you feel uneasy,' he told the judge during proceedings in July 2004, 'but you know this is all theatre by Bush.'"

USA has granted $128 m (£73 m) for investigations and prosecutions of Ba'athist officials.” The US-established regime crimes liaison office has played a leading role in interviewing "high-value detainees" and preparing evidence.” UK has provided £1.3m.

It is public knowledge that because USA is a major donor how it arm twists UN when it does not comply with its dictates , some times even because of USA’s internal party politics . It even refused to pay its share and Kofi Annan had literally to beg and cajole the US congress to pay up its obligations . It even withdrew from UNESCO for not bowing to its dictates.

Europe Union countries refused partly on the plea of the tribunal's likely resort to the death penalty. Turkey had to remove the death penalty from its statutes last year before EU would agree to a date for entry negotiations .Many US states have death penalty , including Texas, where as governor , George Bush got carried out many death sentences. It comes naturally to USA.

Coalition officials point out that the postwar Iraqi justice system was incapable of mounting trials of this magnitude without outside assistance. Then why the immediacy. Most experts believe that an international tribunal on a neutral ground would have been a better option because of Saddam's alleged crimes against humanity were essentially international in nature, they argue, including attacks on Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Israel (!), as well as native Kurds and Shias.

Like Iraq other so-called hybrid processes were adopted for Kosovo and East Timor. The UN's international criminal court cannot try crimes committed before July 2002, when it was formally constituted ,but in any case USA is vehemently opposed to the Court. The Bush administration is opposed to the idea of supranational justice based on global treaties and the UN system.

Saddam and US Policy on Assassinations;

It will remain a matter of speculation why the US decided to ‘capture’ Saddam Hussein December 2003 and not kill him or had him assassinated as they had tried earlier many times. After all his sons Uday and Qusay could have been captured by waiting out but were killed in north Iraq city of Mosul after a 6 hour fierce battle. The last to go down fighting against almost impossible odds was Saddam Hussein’s grandson Mustafa Hussein, not yet accused of any crimes.

Before the war the US government spokesman had publicly suggested assassination of Saddam Hussein saying that “one bullet would do”. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said "People who are in charge of fighting the war to kill United States troops cannot assume that they will be safe," thus making it clear that Saddam Hussein was included. USA targeted Saddam Hussein many times, based on intelligence reports, but failed to assassinate him. It only brought destruction and death – some more collateral damage.

In theory, pursuing with intent to kill violates a long-standing US policy banning political assassination. It was President Ford who had put a ban on assassinations in a 1976 executive order. It was reinforced by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and made no distinction between wartime and peacetime. There are no loop holes. How ever bad the leader might be, he could not be targeted by US directly or by a hired gun. But winking at assassination or murder seems to have become a normal policy when it suits USA.

The ban was placed after a Senate committee had disclosed a series of US assassination attempts abroad for many years, and not all successful .There were as many as eight attempts on the life of Cuban president Fidel Castro. Patrice Lumumba of the Congo in 1961 and Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam in 1963 were both assassinated, with suspicions about the hand of US agencies. There are many other examples .Assassination was also a weapon of retaliation, like against Libya when its agents allegedly killed US soldiers in a disco in Germany in 1986 and the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 in which 270 persons, mostly American, were killed.

When asked if the 1986 bombing of Moammar Gadhafi's residence in 1986 was an effort to kill him, President Reagan said ,"I don't think any of us would have shed tears if that had happened." Recent U.S. assassination attempts have included Osama bin Laden, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic among others.

Abraham Sofaer, a former State Department legal adviser theorized that, "If a leader ... is responsible for killing Americans, and is planning to kill more Americans ... it would be perfectly proper to kill him rather than to wait until more Americans were killed." Then why quibble about equally illegal ways of Al Qaeda and its copy cats. Never mind that a White House spokesman said just before the war on Iraq, "There's an executive order that prohibits the assassination of foreign leaders, and that remains in place."

Amnesty wants Rumsfeld and others tried for Human right violations;

In its annual report in May on "The State of the World's Human Rights," Amnesty International (AI) described the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “ the gulag of our times" and accused U.S. officials of flouting international law in their treatment of detainees.

AI also called on foreign governments to use international law to investigate Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other alleged American "architects of torture" at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and other prisons where detainees suspected of ties to terrorist groups have been interrogated for violations of the Geneva and torture conventions.

"If those investigations support prosecution, the governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and begin legal proceedings against them," said William Shulz, executive director of the U.S. branch of the international human rights agency.

There is no statute of limitations on crimes such as torture, Shulz added. "The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998," warned Shulz. Gen Pinochet was arrested on an international warrant issued by a Spanish judge.

If the United States "continues to shirk its responsibility" of investigating allegations of abuse to the top of the chain of command, Shulz said, foreign governments should uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior U.S. officials involved. In addition to Rumsfeld and Gonzales, the list covered former CIA Director George Tenet; Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq; Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo; and Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy.

Shulz said the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment legally bind the countries that have signed them to exercise "universal jurisdiction" on people suspected of violations. Certain crimes, including torture, amount to offenses against all of humanity so all countries have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute people responsible for such crimes, he said.

Of course led by US President Bush , his Vice-President Dick Cheny and others , the AI accusations were labeled as absurd .

"It is also worth noting," stressed Schulz, "that this administration never finds it 'absurd' when we criticize Cuba or China, or when we condemned the violations in Iraq under Saddam Hussein."

Servile western media and the theatre of jungle law;

Even before the trial the corporate news networks in USA and British government mouthpiece BBC (its coverage of anti war and hence anti UK government view has not improved much beyond 2% , worst in the western TV channels ) are carrying out a mistrial by media by focusing on Halabja massacre. Blithely former US politicians like Madeline Albright and others , who could be charged for illegal attacks on Serbia were fielded . Justice should be seen to be fair with everyone equal before it.

CNN went around Saddam‘s stronghold and despite its selective approach , the views showed wider range of opinion than one sees on CNN and most of US channels or print media about misguided and illegal US policies.

After all there is the Patriot Act in place in USA and soon UK will have equally retrograde curbs on freedom of expression. After only over 3000 deaths in US on 11 September and over 50 on 7 July in London , the two self declared champions and promoters of liberty and freedom are fast regressing to pre Habeas Corpus era .Some resilience of the oldest and richest democracies ?

What if they had lost over 50,000 as India did to terror groups attacks , most of whom were originally financed , trained and armed by US led West , China and most Muslim countries or the loss of nearly 40, 000 in Turkey in the Kurdish rebellion . In spite of pious talk Anglo-Saxons have not taken real serious measures against the groups acting against India and Turkey, the first in Pakistan , ironically USA ‘s non Nato ally in its war on terror and in the second case in north Iraq under US control since 1991, where Turkish Kurdish rebels are now ensconced..

A leader in the Guardian said ,”Iraqis have a lot to worry about, getting through daily lives beset by occupation, bloody insurgency, shortages and fear. But the trial of Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity, beginning in Baghdad today, is a very important moment in their country's troubled history. [ What about UK support for an invasion of Iraq ,illegal as many leaks have now confirmed.]

“But history also records that he invaded Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990, gassed Kurds at Halabja and suppressed a Shia uprising. Saddam's victims died in torture chambers and are buried in unmarked mass graves.[but this trial is not about Halabja and what about abuse of Iraqis by British troops and police in Iraq. Shias and Kurds rose because George H.W.Bush had asked them to revolt and then did nothing .Shias and Kurds killed many thousands of Bathists , they were then brutally suppressed by the Saddam regime. What if New Mexico or Scotland revolted.]

“Saddam's counsel plan to deploy the doctrine of sovereign immunity - used unsuccessfully by the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet - to defend his signature on death warrants. Loyal members of the Sunni community complain he is being subject to a "show trial" - though this is inevitable in that any trial would seek to demonstrate what he did. But that cuts both ways: given half the chance, especially in front of TV cameras, he is likely to try to emulate Slobodan Milosevic and turn the tables on his accusers, suggesting they, not he, are criminals. That should help lessen any sense that he is getting rough justice. [Western nations almost all of them provided arms , loans , poison gases and technology during his war against Iran , so all of them are accomplices in the alleged crimes of Saddam Hussein]

“Special pleading about this extraordinary case could only have been avoided if Saddam had ended his life like another unlamented tyrant, Romania's Nicolae Ceaucescu, in a hail of bullets at the moment of his demise. It is important for ordinary Iraqis and the wider Arab world to see and hear him and his henchmen being tried. It is right that he be called to account for terrible crimes committed both against his own people and others - whether or not he was then a friend of the west, or indeed whether the US-led war that overthrew him was itself legal. But even the end of a nightmare has to stand up to international scrutiny. Justice, as ever, must be seen to be done.[ Would those responsible for the death of half a million Iraqis because of UN sanctions and more than 100,00 killed since US led invasion of Iraq , would ever be tried?]

Even respectable Guardian recalls how he was found in a hole, when the US team leader who took credit for the capture denied the story . Saddam was betrayed for money as were his sons and his grandson,

“ Gassing of Kurds at Halabja”

One of the charges repeated ad nauseum is the gassing of the Kurds. In a Jan. 31, 2003 New York Times article “ A War Crime or an Act of War? Stephen C. Pelletiere stated that “ the truth is, all we know for certain is that Kurds were bombarded with poison gas that day at Halabja. We cannot say with any certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds. This is not the only distortion in the Halabja story.

”I am in a position to know because, as the Central Intelligence Agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and as a professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000, I was privy to much of the classified material that flowed through Washington having to do with the Persian Gulf. In addition, I headed a 1991 Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war against the United States; the classified version of the report went into great detail on the Halabja affair. --- immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.

”The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent - that is, a cyanide-based gas - which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.

These facts have long been in the public domain but, extraordinarily, as often as the Halabja affair is cited, they are rarely mentioned.

The trial adds impetus to US provoked and encouraged civil war.

Saddam Hussein’s supporters have ordered guerrillas in Iraq to launch a wave of attacks on US and Iraqi forces .The call to arms, posted on the internet, came as Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraq’s Shia interim Prime Minister, criticised the length of time that it has taken to bring Sadam to court.

“Salute the leader once he makes a public appearance at the trial by firing bullets and mortars of death at the occupier, its men, equipment and bases, as well as agents in the army and the symbols of treason,” exhorted a statement addressed to the “Baathist resistance”, “resistance fighters” and the “Fedayeen Saddam”, the former President’s irregular militia, said the website

“This illegal trial will turn a new page for the jihad of the Iraqi armed resistance . . . which was organised, launched and prepared for the long run by our companion and leader Saddam Hussein,” it added. “The occupier and its agents in power will never be able to make any political or security benefit from this trial.” [Saddam Hussein knew how irrational US leadership could be and had prepared for armed resistance ].

This was confirmed by former Chief UN weapons inspector Scot Ritter , when by chance he gate crashed into a building , where he found detailed preparations for Iraqi resistance if invaded. With Neo-cons and Israelis in cahoots , other irrational actions like attack on Syria and Iran can be launched ( All options including attack on Iran are on the table, says Bush ).That will truly see a totally changed wasteland ,which will only favour of China and Russia .This is a most incompetent set of people ever to head a US Administration . Litany of their blunders is too long to be enumerated .

Recently well known journalist Pepe Escobar wrote ,”Iraqis desperately need security, electricity, water, food rations, health care, education, jobs. Instead they get a referendum on a constitution few of Iraq's theoretical 15.7 million voters have debated and fewer still have even seen. Why? Because the occupying power said so. So forget about the real priorities needed to make life liveable. No constitution will be able to rule over a battlefield.”

Whether the constitution is rejected or not, nothing will change, as far as Iraqis are concerned. Other diversions like parliamentary elections in December would make no difference either .Nor will this sham trial . “The resistance will become even bloodier.” Said Globe and Mail that experts fear prosecution of Saddam Hussein could exacerbate tensions in the country.

(K Gajendra Singh, served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan in 1992-96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the 1990-91 Gulf war), Romania and Senegal . He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies, in Bucharest .- Email-Gajendrak@hotmail.com)

Rise of the 'Patriotic Journalist'

"While the Plame case has become a major embarrassment for the Bush administration – and now for the New York Times – it has not stopped many of Miller’s colleagues from continuing their old roles as “patriotic” journalists opposing the disclosure of too many secrets to the American people".

The apex for the “skeptical journalists” came in the mid-1970s when the press followed up exposure of Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal and disclosure of the Vietnam War’s Pentagon Papers with revelations of CIA abuses, such as illegal spying on Americans and helping Chile’s army oust an elected government.

There were reasons for this new press aggressiveness. After some 57,000 U.S. soldiers had died in Vietnam during a long war fought for murky reasons, many reporters no longer gave the government the benefit of the doubt.

The press corps’ new rallying cry was the public’s right to know, even when the wrongdoing occurred in the secretive world of national security.

But this journalistic skepticism represented an affront to government officials who had long enjoyed a relatively free hand in the conduct of foreign policy. The Wise Men and the Old Boys – the stewards of the post-World War II era – now faced a harder time lining up public consensus behind any action.

This national security elite, including then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush, viewed the post-Vietnam journalism as a threat to America’s ability to strike at its perceived enemies around the world.

Yet, it was from these ruins of distrust – the rubble of suspicion left behind by Watergate and Vietnam – that the conservative-leaning national security elite began its climb back, eventually coming full circle, gaining effective control of what a more “patriotic” press would tell the people, before stumbling into another disastrous war in Iraq.

Pike Report

One early turning point in the switch from “skeptical” journalism to “patriotic” journalism occurred in 1976 with the blocking of Rep. Otis Pike’s congressional report on CIA misdeeds. CIA Director Bush had lobbied behind the scenes to convince Congress that suppressing the report was important for national security.

But CBS news correspondent Daniel Schorr got hold of the full document and decided that he couldn’t join in keeping the facts from the public. He leaked the report to the Village Voice – and was fired by CBS amid charges of reckless journalism.

“The media’s shift in attention from the report’s charges to their premature disclosure was skillfully encouraged by the Executive Branch,” wrote Kathryn Olmstead in her book on the media battles of the 1970s, Challenging the Secret Government.

“[Mitchell] Rogovin, the CIA’s counsel, later admitted that the Executive Branch’s ‘concern’ over the report’s damage to national security was less than genuine,” Olmstead wrote. But the Schorr case had laid down an important marker.

The counterattack against the “skeptical journalists” had begun.

In the late 1970s, conservative leaders began a concerted drive to finance a media infrastructure of their own along with attack groups that would target mainstream reporters who were viewed as too liberal or insufficiently patriotic.

Richard Nixon’s former Treasury Secretary Bill Simon took the lead. Simon, who headed the conservative Olin Foundation, rallied like-minded foundations – associated with Lynde and Harry Bradley, Smith Richardson, the Scaife family and the Coors family – to invest their resources in advancing the conservative cause.

Money went to fund conservative magazines taking the fight to the liberals and to attack groups, like Accuracy in Media, that hammered away at the supposed “liberal bias” of the national news media.

Reagan-Bush Years

This strategy gained momentum in the early 1980s with the arrival of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

Spearheaded by intellectual policymakers now known as the neoconservatives, the government developed a sophisticated approach – described internally as “perception management” – that included targeting journalists who wouldn’t fall into line. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege or Lost History.]

So, when New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner reported from El Salvador about right-wing death squads, his accounts were criticized and his patriotism challenged. Bonner then infuriated the White House in early 1982 when he disclosed a massacre by the U.S.-backed Salvadoran army around the town of El Mozote. The story appeared just as Reagan was praising the army’s human rights progress.

Like other journalists who were viewed as overly critical of Reagan’s foreign policy, Bonner faced both public attacks on his reputation and private lobbying of his editors, seeking his removal. Bonner soon found his career cut short. After being pulled out of Central America, he resigned from the Times.

Bonner’s ouster was another powerful message to the national news media about the fate that awaited reporters who challenged Ronald Reagan’s White House. (Years later, after a forensic investigation confirmed the El Mozote massacre, the Times rehired Bonner.)

Though conservative activists routinely bemoaned what they called the “liberal media” at the big newspapers and TV networks, the Reagan administration actually found many willing collaborators at senior levels of U.S. news organizations.

At the New York Times, executive editor Abe Rosenthal followed a generally neoconservative line of intense anticommunism and strong support for Israel. Under new owner Martin Peretz, the supposedly leftist New Republic slid into a similar set of positions, including enthusiastic backing for the Nicaraguan contra rebels.

Where I worked at the Associated Press, general manager Keith Fuller – the company's top executive – was considered a staunch supporter of Reagan’s foreign policy and a fierce critic of recent social change. In 1982, Fuller gave a speech condemning the 1960s and praising Reagan’s election.

“As we look back on the turbulent Sixties, we shudder with the memory of a time that seemed to tear at the very sinews of this country,” Fuller said during a speech in Worcester, Mass., adding that Reagan’s election a year earlier had represented a nation “crying, ‘Enough.’ …

“We don’t believe that the union of Adam and Bruce is really the same as Adam and Eve in the eyes of Creation. We don’t believe that people should cash welfare checks and spend them on booze and narcotics. We don’t really believe that a simple prayer or a pledge of allegiance is against the national interest in the classroom. We’re sick of your social engineering. We’re fed up with your tolerance of crime, drugs and pornography. But most of all, we’re sick of your self-perpetuating, burdening bureaucracy weighing ever more heavily on our backs.”

Fuller’s sentiments were common in the executive suites of major news organizations, where Reagan’s reassertion of an aggressive U.S. foreign policy mostly was welcomed. Working journalists who didn’t sense the change in the air were headed for danger.

By the time of Reagan’s landslide reelection in 1984, the conservatives had come up with catchy slogans for any journalist or politician who still criticized excesses in U.S. foreign policy. They were known as the “blame America firsters” or – in the case of the Nicaragua conflict – “Sandinista sympathizers.”

The practical effect of these slurs on the patriotism of journalists was to discourage skeptical reporting on Reagan’s foreign policy and to give the administration a freer hand for conducting operations in Central America and the Middle East outside public view.

Gradually, a new generation of journalists began to fill key reporting jobs, bringing with them an understanding that too much skepticism on national security issues could be hazardous to one’s career.

Intuitively, these reporters knew there was little or no upside to breaking even important stories that made Reagan’s foreign policy look bad. That would just make you a target of the expanding conservative attack machine. You would be “controversialized,” another term that Reagan operatives used to describe their anti-reporter strategies.


Often I am asked why it took so long for the U.S. news media to uncover the secret operations that later became known as the Iran-Contra Affair, clandestine arms sales to the Islamic fundamentalist government of Iran with some of the profits – and other secret funds – funneled into the contra war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.

Though the AP was not known as a leading investigative news organization – and my superiors weren’t eager supporters – we were able to get ahead on the story in 1984, 1985 and 1986 because the New York Times, the Washington Post and other top news outlets mostly looked the other way.

It took two external events – the shooting down of a supply plane over Nicaragua in October 1986 and the disclosure of the Iran initiative by a Lebanese newspaper in November 1986 – to bring the scandal into focus.

In late 1986 and early 1987, there was a flurry of Iran-Contra coverage, but the Reagan administration largely succeeded in protecting top officials, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

The growing conservative news media, led by Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times, lashed out at journalists and government investigators who dared push the edges of the envelope or closed in on Reagan and Bush.

But resistance to the Iran-Contra scandal also penetrated mainstream news outlets. At Newsweek, where I went to work in early 1987, Editor Maynard Parker was hostile to the possibility that Reagan might be implicated.

During one Newsweek dinner/interview with retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft and then-Rep. Dick Cheney, Parker expressed support for the notion that Reagan’s role should be protected even if that required perjury. “Sometimes you have to do what’s good the country,” Parker said. [For details, see Lost History.]

When Iran-Contra conspirator Oliver North went on trial in 1989, Parker and other news executives ordered that Newsweek’s Washington bureau not even cover the trial, presumably because Parker just wanted the scandal to go away.

(When the North trial became a major story anyway, I was left scrambling to arrange daily transcripts so we could keep abreast of the trial’s developments. Because of these and other differences over the Iran-Contra scandal, I left Newsweek in 1990.)

Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, a Republican, also encountered press hostility when his investigation finally broke through the White House cover-up in 1991. Moon’s Washington Times routinely lambasted Walsh and his staff over minor issues, such as the elderly Walsh flying first class on airplanes or ordering room-service meals. [See Walsh’s Firewall.]

But the attacks on Walsh were not coming only from the conservative news media. Toward the end of 12 years of Republican rule, mainstream journalists also realized their careers were far better served by staying on the good side of the Reagan-Bush crowd.

So, when President George H.W. Bush sabotaged Walsh’s probe by issuing six Iran-Contra pardons on Christmas Eve 1992, prominent journalists praised Bush’s actions. They brushed aside Walsh’s complaint that the move was the final act in a long-running cover-up that protected a secret history of criminal behavior and Bush’s personal role.

“Liberal” Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen spoke for many of his colleagues when he defended Bush’s fatal blow against the Iran-Contra investigation. Cohen especially liked Bush’s pardon of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who had been indicted for obstruction of justice but was popular around Washington.

In a Dec. 30, 1992, column, Cohen said his view was colored by how impressed he was when he would see Weinberger in the Georgetown Safeway store, pushing his own shopping cart.

“Based on my Safeway encounters, I came to think of Weinberger as a basic sort of guy, candid and no nonsense – which is the way much of official Washington saw him,” Cohen wrote. “Cap, my Safeway buddy, walks, and that’s all right with me.”

For fighting too hard for the truth, Walsh drew derision as a kind of Captain Ahab obsessively pursuing the White Whale. Writer Marjorie Williams delivered this damning judgment against Walsh in a Washington Post magazine article, which read:

“In the utilitarian political universe of Washington, consistency like Walsh’s is distinctly suspect. It began to seem … rigid of him to care so much. So un-Washington. Hence the gathering critique of his efforts as vindictive, extreme. Ideological. … But the truth is that when Walsh finally goes home, he will leave a perceived loser.”

By the time the Reagan-Bush era ended in January 1993, the era of the “skeptical journalist” was dead, too, at least on issues of national security.

The Webb Case

Even years later, when historical facts surfaced suggesting that serious abuses had been missed around the Iran-Contra Affair, mainstream news outlets took the lead in rallying to the Reagan-Bush defense.

When a controversy over contra-drug trafficking reemerged in 1996, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times went on the attack – against Gary Webb, the reporter who revived interest in the scandal. Even admissions of guilt by the CIA’s inspector general in 1998 didn’t shake the largely dismissive treatment of the issue by the major newspapers. [For details, see Lost History.]

(For Webb’s courageous reporting, he was pushed out of his job at the San Jose Mercury News, his career was ruined, his marriage collapsed and – in December 2004 – he killed himself with his father’s revolver.) [See Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Debt to Journalist Gary Webb.”]

When Republican rule was restored in 2001 with George W. Bush’s controversial “victory,” major news executives and many rank-and-file journalists understood that their careers could best be protected by wrapping themselves in the old red-white-and-blue. “Patriotic” journalism was in; “skeptical” journalism was definitely out.

That tendency deepened even more after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as many journalists took to wearing American flag lapels and avoided critical reporting about Bush’s sometimes shaky handling of the crisis.

For instance, Bush’s seven-minute freeze in a second-grade classroom – after being told “the nation is under attack” – was hidden from the public even though it was filmed and witnessed by White House pool reporters. (Millions of Americans were shocked when they finally saw the footage two years later in Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”)

In November 2001, to avoid other questions about Bush’s legitimacy, the results of a media recount of the Florida vote were misrepresented to obscure the finding that Al Gore would have carried the state – and thus the White House – if all legally cast votes were counted. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “So Bush Did Steal the White House.”]

Iraq War

In 2002, as Bush shifted focus from Osama bin-Laden and Afghanistan to Saddam Hussein and Iraq, the “patriotic” journalists moved with him.

Some of the few remaining “skeptical” media personalities were silenced, such as MSNBC’s host Phil Donahue whose show was canceled because he invited on too many war opponents.

In most newspapers, the occasional critical articles were buried deep inside, while credulous stories accepting the administration’s claims about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction were bannered on Page One.

New York Times reporter Judith Miller was in her element as she tapped into her friendly administration sources to produce WMD stories, like the one about how Iraq’s purchase of aluminum tubes was proof that it was building a nuclear bomb. The article gave rise to the White House warning that Americans couldn’t risk the “smoking gun” on Iraq’s WMD being “a mushroom cloud.”

In February 2003, when Secretary of State Colin Powell made his United Nations speech accusing Iraq of possessing WMD stockpiles, the national news media swooned at his feet. The Washington Post’s op-ed page was filled with glowing tributes to his supposedly air-tight case, which would later be exposed as a mix of exaggerations and outright lies. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Powell’s Widening Credibility Gap.”]

The rout of “skeptical” journalism was so complete – driven to the fringes of the Internet and to a few brave souls in Knight-Ridder’s Washington bureau – that the “patriotic” reporters often saw no problem casting aside even the pretense of objectivity.

In the rush to war, news organizations joined in ridiculing the French and other longtime allies who urged caution. Those countries became the “axis of weasels” and cable TV devoted hours of coverage to diners that renamed “French fries” as “Freedom fries.”

Once the invasion began, the coverage on MSNBC, CNN and the major networks was barely discernable from the patriotic fervor on Fox. Like Fox News, MSNBC produced promotional segments, packaging heroic footage of American soldiers, often surrounded by thankful Iraqis and underscored with stirring music. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Empire vs. Republic.”]

“Embedded” reporters often behaved like excited advocates for the American side of the war. But objectivity also was missing back at the studios where anchors voiced outrage about Geneva Convention violations when Iraqi TV aired pictures of captured American soldiers, but the U.S. media saw nothing wrong with broadcasting images of captured Iraqis. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “International Law a la Carte.”]

As Judith Miller would later remark unabashedly, she saw her beat as “what I’ve always covered – threats to our country.” Referring to her time “embedded” with a U.S. military unit searching for WMD, she claimed that she had received a government “security clearance.” [NYT, Oct. 16, 2005]

While the 57-year-old Miller may be an extreme case of mixing patriotism and journalism, she is far from alone as a member of her generation who absorbed the lessons of the 1980s, that skeptical journalism on national security issues was a fast way to put yourself in the unemployment line.

Only gradually, over the past two years as Iraq’s WMD never materialized but a stubborn insurgency did, the bloody consequences of “patriotic” journalism have begun to dawn on the American people. By not asking tough questions, journalists contributed to a mess that has now cost the lives of nearly 2,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, a top military intelligence official under Ronald Reagan, has predicted that the Iraq invasion “will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history.”

Plame Case

At the core of this disaster were the cozy relationships between the “patriotic” journalists and their sources.

In her Oct. 16, 2005, account of her interviews with Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, Miller gave the public an inadvertent look into that closed world of shared secrets and mutual trust.

Libby talked with Miller in two face-to-face meetings and one phone call in 2003, as the Bush administration tried to beat back post-invasion questions about how the president made his case for war, according to Miller’s story.

As Miller agreed to let Libby hide behind a misleading identification as a “former Hill staffer,” Libby unleashed a harsh attack on one whistleblower, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was challenging Bush’s claims that Iraq had sought enriched uranium from the African nation of Niger.

The Miller/Libby interviews included Libby’s references to Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, who was an undercover CIA officer working on proliferation issues.

On July 14, 2003, right-wing columnist Robert Novak, claiming to have been briefed by two administration officials, outed Plame in a column that denigrated Wilson with the suggestion that Plame may have arranged the trip to Niger for her husband.

Eventually, the outing of a covert CIA agent prompted a criminal investigation headed by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who is examining a possible administration conspiracy to punish Wilson for his criticism. When Miller refused to testify about her meetings with Libby, Fitzgerald had her jailed for 85 days.

Miller finally relented after Libby encouraged her to do so. “Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning,” Libby wrote in a folksy letter. “They turn in clusters because their roots are connected.”

While the Plame case has become a major embarrassment for the Bush administration – and now for the New York Times – it has not stopped many of Miller’s colleagues from continuing their old roles as “patriotic” journalists opposing the disclosure of too many secrets to the American people.

For instance, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen – who hailed George H.W. Bush’s pardons that destroyed the Iran-Contra investigation in 1992 – adopted a similar stance against Fitzgerald’s investigation.

“The best thing Patrick Fitzgerald could do for his country is get out of Washington, return to Chicago and prosecute some real criminals,” Cohen wrote in a column entitled “Let This Leak Go.”

“As it is, all he has done so far is send Judith Miller of the New York Times to jail and repeatedly haul this or that administration high official before a grand jury, investigating a crime that probably wasn’t one in the first place but that now, as is often the case, might have metastasized into some sort of cover-up – but again, of nothing much,” Cohen wrote. “Go home, Pat.” [Washington Post, Oct. 13, 2005]

If Fitzgerald does as Cohen wishes and closes down the investigation without indictments, the result could well be the continuation of the status quo in Washington. The Bush administration would get to keep control of the secrets and reward friendly “patriotic” journalists with selective leaks – and protected careers.

It is that cozy status quo that is now endangered by the Plame case. But the stakes of the case are even bigger than that, going to the future of American democracy and to two questions in particular:

Will journalists return to the standard of an earlier time when disclosing important facts to the electorate was the goal, rather than Cohen’s notion of putting the comfortable relationships between Washington journalists and government officials first?

Put differently, will journalists decide that confronting the powerful with tough questions is the true patriotic test of a journalist?

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Robert Parry
October 20, 2005

The Fake Niger Documents

"It is now clear that Italy’s intelligence service, SISME, had a hand in producing the forged documents delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Rome in early October 2003 that purported to show a deal with Niger to buy uranium. Many in the intelligence community are convinced that a prominent neocon with longstanding ties to SISME played a role in the forgery. The truth of that proposition remains to be proven. This much is certain: Either SISME or someone with ties to SISME helped forge and circulate those documents, which some tried to use to bolster the case to go to war with Iraq".

Dick Cheney's Covert Action

Face it, America. You’ve been punk'd.

It is now quite clear that the outing of Valerie Plame was part of a broader White House effort to mislead and manipulate U.S. public opinion as part of an orchestrated effort to take us to war. The unraveling of the Valerie Plame affair has exposed their scam—and it extends well beyond compromising the identity of a CIA officer. In short, the Bush administration organized and executed a classic “covert action” program against the citizens of the United States.

Covert action refers to behind-the-scenes efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies to plant stories, manipulate information and shape public opinion. In other words, you write stories that reporters will publish as their own, you create media events that tout a particular theme, and you demonize your opponent. Traditionally, this activity was directed against foreign governments. For example, the U.S. used covert action extensively in Greece in the 1960s to help fend off communists. Covert action also played a major role in rallying world support for the Afghanistan mujahideen following the Soviet invasion in 1979.

Revelations during the past week about the Plame affair make it clear that the Bush administration used covert action against its own citizens. Consider, for example, the charge that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger. The key event in this disinformation campaign was the intelligence manufactured by the Italians. The Italian intelligence service, SISME, provided the CIA with three separate intelligence reports that Iraq had reached an agreement with Niger to buy 500 tons of yellowcake uranium (October 15, 2001; February 5, 2002; and March 25, 2002). The second report, from February, was the subsequent basis for a DIA analysis, which led Vice President Cheney to ask the CIA for more information on the matter. That request led to the CIA asking Ambassador Joe Wilson to go check out the story in Niger.

We learned last May that in the summer of 2002, the Bush administration told our British allies that they would "fix the facts" around the intelligence. In other words, the United States sought to manufacture a case that Iraq was trying to build a nuclear capability. Note, not only did bogus intelligence reports and fabricated documents surface, but senior administration officials—Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney—went to great lengths to try to convince Americans that the United States would soon face the wrath of Iraqi attacks. Remember the smoking mushroom cloud?

Despite repeated attempts by the Italian intelligence service to help us cook the books, the senior CIA intelligence analysts resisted the administration’s effort to sell the bogus notion that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Niger. Even in the much-maligned October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, the entire intelligence community remained split on the reliability of the Iraq/Niger claim. During briefings subsequent to the publication of the NIE, senior CIA officials repeatedly debunked the claim that Iraq was trying to buy uranium. They also dismissed as unreliable reports from Great Britain, which also were derived from the faulty Italian intelligence reports.

It is now clear that Italy’s intelligence service, SISME, had a hand in producing the forged documents delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Rome in early October 2003 that purported to show a deal with Niger to buy uranium. Many in the intelligence community are convinced that a prominent neocon with longstanding ties to SISME played a role in the forgery. The truth of that proposition remains to be proven. This much is certain: Either SISME or someone with ties to SISME helped forge and circulate those documents, which some tried to use to bolster the case to go to war with Iraq.

Although some in the intelligence community, specifically analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Energy, believed the report, the intelligence community as a whole did not put much stock in the reports and forged documents, and repeatedly told policy makers that these reports were not reliable. Yet the Bush administration ignored the intelligence community on these questions, and senior policymakers—like Vice President Cheney—persisted in trying to make the fraudulent case.

Two weeks before President Bush spoke the infamous 16 words in the January 2003 State of the Union speech, the Department of Defense was fanning the flames about Iraq’s alleged Nigerien uranium shopping trip. Starting in late 2001, senior Department of Defense officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith, provided favored military talking heads with talking points and briefings to reinforce messages the administration wanted the public to remember.

One of those who frequently attended these affairs, Robert Maginnis, a former Army officer and now a commentator for Fox News and the Washington Times , published an op-ed on January 15, 2003, for United Press International, subsequent to one of the briefings. In writing about the case for attacking Iraq, Maginnis affirmed that Saddam, “failed to explain why Iraq manufactures fuels suited only for a class of missile that it does not admit to having and why it sought to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger.”

Notwithstanding repeated efforts by intelligence analysts to downplay these intelligence reports as unreliable, DOD officials fanned the flames. This, my friends, is one example of “cooking intelligence.” These facts further expose as farce the Bush administration’s effort to blame the CIA for the misadventure in Iraq. We did not go to war in Iraq primarily because of bad intelligence and bad analysis by the CIA. The Bush administration started a war of choice.

While CIA did make mistakes, and while some key members of the National Intelligence Council were willing to drink the neocon Kool-Aid and go along with the White House, when it came to questions of whether Iraq was buying uranium in Niger or if Saddam was working with bin Laden, CIA and INR analysts consistently got it right and told the administration what they did not want to hear. It was policymakers, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, NSC Chief Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who ignored what the analysts were saying and writing.

The evidence of the White House effort to manipulate and shape U.S. public opinion is now overwhelming. Just last week, President Bush appeared in a pathetic scripted “dialogue” with hand-selected U.S. troops. We also know that male escort Jeff Gannon Guckert was granted special access to White House press briefings and that pundits like Armstrong Williams sold themselves to the White House. The Bush administration had an organized campaign to manipulate the U.S. media to get its message out. Unfortunately, the corporate media played along.

The attack on Valerie Plame Wilson was not an isolated incident. It was part of a broader pattern of manipulation and deceit. But this was not done for the welfare of U.S. national security. Instead, we find ourselves confronted by an unprecedented level of terrorist attacks and a deteriorating military situation in Iraq. At the same time, we now know that the Bush administration gladly sacrificed an undercover intelligence officer in order to keep up the pretense that the war in Iraq was all about weapons of mass destruction.

Americans have died because of the Bush deceit. The unmasking of Valerie Plame was not an odd occurrence. It was part of a pattern of deliberate manipulation and disinformation. At the end of the day, American men and women have died because of this lie. It is up to the American people to hold the Bush administration accountable for these actions.

Larry C. Johnson
October 19, 2005

Larry Johnson worked as a CIA intelligence analyst and State Department counter-terrorism official. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).


Ex-Reagan CIA Head: Source Of Fake Niger Document Is Michael Ledeen

In an interview with the former CIA head of counterterrorism operations and intelligence director at the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan, Vincent Cannistaro, he was asked if the documents on Iraq's purchase of uranium from Niger came from Italian intelligence to which he answered in the affirmative.

However according to Cannistaro "When we're talking about acquiring information on Iraq. It isn't that anyone had a good source on Iraq - there weren't any good sources. The Italian intelligence service, the military intelligence service, was acquiring information that was really being hand-fed to them by very dubious sources. The Niger documents, for example, which apparently were produced in the United States, yet were funneled through the Italians."

When the former CIA head of counter-terrorism was asked if a Michael Ledeen had been the one who produced the Iraq documents he said "You'd be very close."

This is consistent with the theory that the documents are the work of Iraqi dissidents associated with Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress.

The documents would have flowed from Chalabi to Ledeen to SISME, and thus would have been laundered to make them appear as legitimate products discovered by a legitimate intelligence agency.

This sophistication in the use of foreign intelligence agencies appears to be part of the modus operandi of the neocons, and may derive from the particular expertise of Ledeen and Richard Perle, developed in various shenanigans going back to the 1970's in particular the Iran-Contra affair.

Intelligence agencies in Britain, France, and Germany were also used in the same campaigns of lies which led to the attack on Iraq. One of the strategies was to feed some nonsense to one intelligence agency, and then have that nonsense distributed to other intelligence agencies. Then the claim would be that the information must be true, as it came from multiple sources..

The handling of the source of the main lies used to justify the attack, the aptly named 'Curveball', also displays the same sophistication in technique. Curveball was too obviously undependable to be sent directly to the CIA. As Joseph Cannon writes:

". . . the [Office of Special Plans] could feed lies directly into the Oval Office - but they needed more. They needed to find a way to make the CIA bestow its imprimatur onto this silliness. Thus, the neo-cons somehow arranged for Curveball to be routed through German intelligence - we don't yet know how it happened, but it happened. Why give this alky German minders? If the CIA had dealt with Curveball directly, they would have seen through his deceptions rather easily.

But since the information came by way of the BND, the CIA tended to trust it. By the time the agency decided to take a closer look at the sourcing, war was already a done deal.

Furthermore, this little scheme offered a bonus: Since Tenet and McLaughlin had bought into the BND's information if it all went haywire responsibility could be laid to rest at the feet of the CIA. Not the OSP, not the INC, not the BND, not Mossad, not the neocon ideologues.

Once again, we see use of a bold tactic: The use of a foreign spy shop as a go-between, in order to legitimise and circulate bogus (but ideologically useful) data within the U.S. intelligence community."

If you feed Curveball's shoddy information through German intelligence, with no CIA experts allowed to see him, and ignore the German protestations that he could not be trusted, you can have the lies fed into the American system without any caveats about reliability. The added bonus is that by using the CIA to convey the information, you can then blame the CIA when trouble erupts.

The common thread in the forged Niger documents, the use of Curveball, and the British intelligence manipulations which ended up getting David Kelly killed, is a very clever use of multiple intelligence agencies to disguise the source of a collection of rather obvious lies which were used to justify the attack on Iraq.

Whoever was behind this had to have had a long history of involvement in American government and involvement with multiple foreign intelligence agencies. There aren't that many people with that kind of experience. Who was: 1) a neocon in favor of an attack on Iraq; with 2) connections to Feith's Office of Special Plans; and with 3) ties to Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress; and with 4) long-standing documented relationships with foreign intelligence agencies, particularly SISME?



Karl Rove's only full-time foreign-policy advisor is Michael Ledeen, a rabid anti-Arab, pro-Israel activist. The FBI is investigating Ledeen for procuring forged documents on nonexistent WMD, which George Bush used to justify his war on Iraq. When Joseph Wilson exposed the farce, Rove helped "out" Wilson's CIA wife. Did Ledeen procure the documents for Rove, and how might he have done that? The story includes multinational stool pigeon Rocco Martino, Italian spy Francesco Pazienza, wanted CIA spy Robert Seldon Lady, and Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, who's under charges of giving US secrets to Israel. http://bellaciao.org/en/article.php3?id_article=7256

Karl Rove's foreign-policy advisor, Michael Ledeen, proclaimed "the rightness of the fascist cause" in 1972. In 1984 he got George Bush Sr to appoint Iranian arms merchant and Iranian/Israeli double-agent Manucher Ghorbanifar as a middleman in the scandalous Iran-Contra affair. Ledeen has been a fixture in Washington and Israel ever since, advocating a modern version of the Crusades against Islamic nations. Based on what he has said and written, I believe Ledeen is insane.

Michael Ledeen, Rove's "brain," is one of the leading advocates for a US attack on Iran. The Washington Post quoted Ledeen as saying that Rove told him, "Anytime you have a good idea, tell me." I guess that means we can look forward to the Bush team drumming up a war with Iran. [For more, see articles by Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post -- the main man of the mainstream media pursuing the Rove Scandal.]

George Bush Jr., when he assumed the Presidency at the start of 2001, already knew that he was going to settle the family score with Saddam Hussein. His "brain," Rove, quickly enlisted Ledeen to trump up a causus belli.


Rocco Martino is a 66-year-old Italian gentleman who worked on and off for the Italian SISMI (analogous to the CIA) for many years and who also peddled the same information to various spy organizations and publications -- a convicted felon and international stool pigeon, just the kind of person Ledeen's associates needed.

After being fired by SISMI (for receiving stolen checks, among other things), he convinced the French intelligence in 2000 that he knew all about Africa and the trafficking of conventional and nonconventional arms. To avoid stepping on the toes of Italian intelligence, the French gave him a contact, or handler, in Brussels. Martino's handler in Brussels asked him to obtain every type of news or reference to contraband uranium from Niger ("NYE-jer") -- a former French colony in the Sahara desert (not to be confused with ex-British Nigeria in W. Africa), where mining was under the jurisdiction of two companies controlled by the gigantic French mining company Cogema.


Martino soon was knocking at the door of the embassy of Niger in Rome, where he met an Italian functionary (a "lady," by most reports -- but this was no lady, as we shall see). Martino provided the French with documents showing that Iraq may have been planning to expand trade with Niger. In fact, the first set of documents did not refer to uranium, and the trade plans were probably the typical sort of relationship Arab oil states had with a whole range of third-world countries.

Martino was surprised when he saw that the French immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion and thought that the documents indicated an Iraqi interest in uranium. (We now know that Iraq had no nuclear program.) "We need additional confirmation and more detailed information," said the French secret service. Martino set out to satisfy his French patrons with additional documents.


At night, between the first and second of the January 2001, a mysterious thief came to the embassy of Niger in Rome and into the residence of the counselor in charge. It turned out that some letterhead and seals were missing. A second dossier on Niger-Iraq trade soon came into Martino's hands, one that included references to uranium trafficking. Martino claims he got it from embassy personnel and that he thought it was authentic.

Martino passed it on to the French secret service, who had paid for it, and also to Panorama [a magazine owned by Bush ally and Italian president Silvio Berlusconi], which assessed it by dispatching a female reporter to Niger. Panorama also turned the file over to the US Embassy in Rome for cross-checking in the US.

The female journalist soon told Martino that the trip to Niger had not produced any real confirmation, and also the French confirmed to Martino that the reports he had passed on to them were groundless. In other words, Bush's war rationale was debunked way back in 2001 by amateur and professional sleuths.

Furthermore, it was a very amateurish forgery, not likely produced through official channels by any state intelligence agency with their vast resources. However, it was soon resuscitated as the Bush administration, in its first year, ramped up its public relations campaign for war.


Michael Ledeen organized a meeting in Rome to gather evidence to support the planned war. Present were:

1. Michael Ledeen, Karl Rove's foreign policy advisor and organizer of the meeting

2. Nicolo Pollari, head of the the Italian equivalent of the CIA, the SISMI

3. Italy's Minister of Defense, Antonio Martino (no relation apparently to the spy Rocco Martino), Pollari's boss

4. Larry Franklin, an American who presently is being prosecuted in the US for giving classified information to an Israeli front group, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) -- which some would call "spying," even though he has not been charged with espionage

5. Harold Rhode: member of Dick Cheney's Office of Special Plans, protege of Ledeen, go-between with Iraqi exile and CIA asset (at the time) Ahmed Chalabi.

Ledeen already had a longstanding friendship with Francesco Pazienza, an Italian felon and forger who had been kicked out of the official Italian intelligence organization SISMI but who had found a new home in the renegade intelligence agency P-2 (Propaganda Due). Pazienza apparently was not present but definitely was known to Italian intelligence agents, including Rocco Martino, as well as to Ledeen.

Ledeen also was a personal friend of Pollari, who, like Ledeen, is a master of the card game bridge (Ledeen writes columns on it). There are close ties between Pollari's official intelligence organization, SISMI, and Pazienza's unnofficial one, P-2. In fact, P-2 recruits from SISMI.

This little group dusted off Martino's discredited second dossier on Iraq-Niger trade, with the uranium references. The Bush administration now had its causus belli.



The accompanying figure shows a bit of the cobbled-up intelligence report on stolen letterheads, forged by amateurs -- most likely Ledeen's friend, Francesco Panzienza. This document, which can be viewed at the Israeli site http://www.4law.co.il/Le838k.html, is the "evidence" on which George Bush sent almost two thousand young Americans and untold thousands of Iraqi civilians to their deaths.


Former US Ambassador (to Gabon) Joseph Wilson made the trip, apparently at the behest of the CIA, to determine the authenticity of the charges in Martino's documents, even though the CIA already could see they were forgeries. Even the Panorama reporter could have saved him the trouble. Wilson reported back to the CIA that there was no proof that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger. The US government knew there was no proof.


In London, Tony Blair spoke on September 24, 2002, for the first time on the attempts of Saddam Hussein to obtain uranium from Africa. Bush soon began to drive in the nail using the same argument. Remember, Martino had delivered the phony dossier this was based on to the US embassy in Rome over a year before. The US State Department and CIA rejected it and even Panorama had debunked it. The Pentagon, too, knew it was false, of course, but the Wolfowitz-Feith-Perle Defense Policy Board axis plus Bush and Cheney and their respective aides, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby (both now subjects of interest to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and his grand jury in Washington, DC), went with it anyway.

THE REST IS HISTORY: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein...

...recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Sixteen little words in Bush's January 2003 State of the Union message that will be remembered in history with more honorable presidential words like, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" (FDR). Bush was going on the forged documents procured by Rocco Martino, debunked by all pertinent experts, and debunked by Joseph Wilson. The US overcame Iraqi opposition -- temporarily (resistance became "suicide," now wonders, for whom?) -- mainly by bombing civilian structures rather than fighting, beginning on March 19, 2003

Wilson's outraged response to using, for murder, evidence he had debunked got his family, or at least his wife, targeted by that amoral husk of a man, Karl Rove, who, along with I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby (Cheney's chief aide) outed Valerie Wilson to Robert Novak, Judith Miller (the jailed New York Times reporter and pro-war hawk), Matthew Cooper (Time's reporter who has jeopardized Rove in a criminal investigation), and numerous other journalists. Most, like Miller and Cooper, wisely resisted Rove's bait.



The war is not just about oil, Israel's fears/ambitions, or US hegemony.. There are contracts and contractors in Iraq. Modern-day carpetbaggers with briefcases descended like a plague of scorpions on the poor, bloodied, bombed-out, grieving people of Iraq. They included the daughter of the war's chief banshee -- Simone Ledeen, Michael's young daughter -- shown in the photo, greeting with an impish smile another occupier at the Baghdad airport -- getting ready to lord it over the Iraqis as she tries out her new MBA in working for the CPA. Caption: "The creatures step out of the tripods." Maybe it'll help to pay off those student loans -- huh, Michael?


At Ledeen's (Rove's brain) meeting with Italian intelligence in December 2001 was one Larry Franklin.

The FBI caught Franklin, 58 -- a Pentagon analyst on Iran and an Air Force Reserve colonel -- meeting two agents of AIPAC, Israel's US "lobby," in an Alexandria, VA, restaurant in June 2003. AIPAC employees -- including AIPAC agents at the meeting, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman -- had been under FBI surveillance for a couple of years. The FBI was surprised by Franklin showing up and began investigating him, too. The FBI arrested Franklin, on May 4, 2005, for illegally disclosing highly classified information to AIPAC -- spying for AIPAC, in other words. He is free on bond and is expected to plead innocent at his trial.

Why hasn't the FBI arrested anyone at the AIPAC? Who in the Bush administration is blocking justice in this case?

For that matter, why hasn't the FBI interviewed Rocco Martino, the acknowledged and admitted procurer of the phony Niger uranium documents? They are known to be investigating the phony documents.

The United States has had no qualms about getting audacious in Italy by having the CIA abduct an Egyptian cleric, Abu Omar, off the streets of Milan in February 2003, for "extraordinary rendition," aka "torture," in Egypt. This open violation of Italian sovereignty was supervised by the CIA's station chief in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, formerly of the New Orleans area.


It is my belief that the "Italian functionary," or "a lady," that Martino referred to was actually a Lady, Robert Seldon Lady Sr, the same man who headed up the torture abduction of Abu Omar.

Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro has just obtained arrrest warrants for 6 more CIA spies in addition to the original 13 that included Robert Lady, in connection with the abduction.

Robert Seldon Lady, 51, lived in Abita Springs, Lousiana, until 2001, when he left for the Milan post. He still has an address in New Orleans, according to Cryptome http://cryptome.org/lady-eyeball.htm. He and his wife Martha own a villa in the Italian countryside near Penango (Asti) and Turin, where they hoped to retire before he went on the lam. Born in Honduras, he was an affable New York City cop in the 80s who infiltrated leftist groups. He is something of an electronics hacker (at least of cell phones). And now he is a wanted felon in Europe.

During the operation, Lady apparently worked directly with the commander of the 31st Security Police Squadron, Lt. Col. Joseph Romano, USAF, at the Aviano Air Base in Italy. Lt. Col. Romano, who currently works at the Pentagon, also is sought for interviewing by Italian prosecutors. At the time, Romano worked under Brig Gen R. Michael Worden, commander of the 31st Fighter Wing, who also should have to answer some questions.
The Italian prosecutor could release the photographs of the American kidnap-torture perps at any time. This case -- Robert Lady's kidnapping of Abu Omar -- could become a very big story because of its possible effects on relations between nations.

Clayton Hallmark
Friday July 29, 2005 at 01:49 PM
© 2000-2005 Arizona Indymedia.