The Left Hook! Archive


Mon., March 31, 2003

War, Some More

March 23 (Sun.) -- The "war" is turning out to be the one-sided massacre everyone knew it would be. After some stalling, the Bush administration has, indeed, unleashed a variation on a tactic they'd been reported to have been considering before the war: a relentless, massive campaign of bombardment designed to demoralize the enemy. In the newly-minted lexicon of the laughably misnamed "Operation Iraqi Freedom," this is referred to as "shock-and-awe," apparently because those in the administration dislike associating themselves with the inventors of the tactic by employing the word those inventors used to describe it ("blitzkrieg").

At the Pentagon briefing yesterday, Major General Stanley McChrystal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff conceded that, though they've overrun most of Iraq, U.S. forces have found nary a trace of the alleged chemical or biological weapons over which the "President" dragged the U.S. into war. He also said there have been no proscribed missiles either used or found. A few days ago, the press had reported, very authoritatively (which is to say, they didn't question the matter), that Iraq had fired proscribed SCUD missiles at U.S. forces. McChrystal refuted those reports as erroneous.

Speaking of news reports, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, a few days ago, released the results of a new study of Iraq coverage by the three major U.S. news networks and PBS' Newshour. It really underscores the degree to which the corporate press has merely acted as an echo-chamber for administration propaganda. The study broke down every news story on Iraq in a two-week period during the lead-up to the conflict (1/30/03 to 2/12/03). In that time, there were 393 on-camera sources on the evening newscasts. Out of that, only 17% "represented skeptical or critical positions on the U.S.'s war policy." Among U.S. sources, 75% were "official sources"--current or former government or military officials--and, of these, only one expressed any skepticism of the Bush policy. Only 6% of total U.S. sources were skeptics, and, "of all 393 sources, only three (less than 1 percent) were identified with organized protests or anti-war groups."

Richard Perle, PNAC [*] alumnus and chairman of the Defense Policy Board, was positively ecstatic at what he saw as the decline of the UN into irrelevance as a result of the organization's unwillingness to act as a mere rubber stamp for the PNAC gang's/Bush administration's dreams of conquest. In a column Friday, he wrote:

"Saddam Hussein's reign of terror is about to end. He will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony, he will take the UN down with him. Well, not the whole UN. The 'good works' part will survive, the low-risk peacekeeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions."

Perle offered a glimpse at what he sees as the future, and, to students of history, it's a very bleak "future" indeed:

"The chronic failure of the security council to enforce its own resolutions is unmistakable: it is simply not up to the task. We are left with coalitions of the willing. Far from disparaging them as a threat to a new world order, we should recognise that they are, by default, the best hope for that order, and the true alternative to the anarchy of the abject failure of the UN."

In the name of avoiding "anarchy," Perle is straightforwardly suggesting a return to the genuine anarchy in international relations that characterized the early 20th century. The fruits of that period were, of course, the two most destructive wars in human history, and that was prior to the creation of the nuclear weapons that have now proliferated throughout the world.

Recent press reports, meanwhile, have been offering a more detailed glimpse at the fellow who would condemn us to such a bleak future.

Seymour Hersch, writing in the New Yorker (March 17th issue), revealed that Perle is "a managing partner in a venture-capital company called Trireme Partners L.P., which was registered in November, 2001, in Delaware"--two months after the terror attacks on the U.S. Its business? " invest in companies dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland security and defense." A letter sent by one of Trireme's representatives to arms merchant Adnan Khashoggi "argued that the fear of terrorism would increase the demand for such products in Europe and in countries like Saudi Arabia and Singapore." Perle, in other words, could be using his official position to advocate policies from which he stands to make a mint. Asked about this by Wolf Blitzer on CNN (03/09/03), Perle replied: "Look, Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist, frankly." Asked to explain this remark, he elaborated: "Because he sets out to do damage and he will do it by whatever innuendo, whatever distortion he can--look, he hasn't written a serious piece since My Lai." Asked about all of this at the March 13th press briefing, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer flatly refused to answer any question relating to the situation at all.

Friday brought a new revelation about Perle from the New York Times: "Even as he advises the Pentagon on war matters, [Perle] ...has been retained by the telecommunications company Global Crossing to help overcome Defense Department resistance to its proposed sale to a foreign firm," wrote Stephen Labaton. Apparently, "Mr. Perle is to be paid $725,000 by the company, including $600,000 if the government approves the sale of the company to a joint venture of Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, and Singapore Technologies Telemedia, a phone company controlled by the government of Singapore." The Defense Department and FBI have opposed the sale "because it would put Global Crossing's worldwide fiber optics network—one used by the United States government—under Chinese ownership." Perle claimed he wasn't using his public office for private gain because the Defense Policy Board has nothing to do with the approval process, but virtually his entire fee was made contingent upon government approval of the sale. For Global Crossing's bankruptcy proceedings, he'd crafted an affadavit which said "As the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, I have a unique perspective on and intimate knowledge of the national defense and security issues that will be raised by the CFIUS review process that is not and could not be available to the other CFIUS professionals." Labaton explains further:

"CFIUS refers to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a government group that includes representatives from the Defense Department and other agencies. It has been considering the deal and has the power to block it. 'CFIUS professionals' refers to the other lawyers and lobbyists who have been trying to get the committee to approve the deal."

A subsequent legal notice, also prepared by Perle and his lawyers, used the same language. Asked to explain, Perle denied any impropriety, and chalked up the quoted sections of the affadavit and legal notice to clerical error!


Editor's Note
[*] PNAC: the Project for a New American Century, a fringe right-wing organization espousing an utopian vision of a 21st century wherein the United States rules the world. Its leading lights are currently ensconced in high-ranking positions in the Bush administration and dictating its foreign policy. For more details, see Left Hook!, March 19.

March 26 (Wed.) -- In a move that has gone virtually unreported in the corporate press, the "President" yesterday signed a new executive order that will delay, for over three years, the release of millions of pages of classified documents which were scheduled to be released on April 17th. The order reverses a previous one by the Clinton administration that would have led to the spring declassification of the papers in question, which are all 25 years old or older. The administration has suggested, as the excuse for the delay, that agencies need more time to review the documents and prevent the release of any that could damage "national security." In other words to come up with excuses to keep more public records--in this case, decades-old public records--away from the prying eyes of the public. Information regarding foreign governments, reviewed, under the Clinton procedure, on a case-by-case basis, are, under the Bush order, to be presumed classified. The Bush order also guts the appeals process established by the Clinton policy. Under that previous policy, an agencies' refusal to release information could be appealed to a special panel--the Bush order leaves the panel in place, but authorizes the CIA to reject its decisions. Even more incredibly, the order uses the "national security" rationale to reclassify information that has already been declassified and made available to the public.

Left Hook! has noted, in the past, how the administration crafted a new policy with regard to Freedom of Information Act requests by the public, reversing the more open policy of the Clinton administration and encouraging federal agencies to resist releasing information. Agencies have been ordered to remove, from the internet, already-available public information, and libraries that serve as federal depositories have been ordered to physically destroy public records. The administration created an executive order that illegally circumvented the Presidential Records Act by unilaterally declaring that former or current presidents can veto the release of presidential records to the public after the 12-year timespan ordered by congress. And so on. By any reasonable reckoning, the Bush administration has been one of the most secretive in the history of the United States. Unfortunately, most of the corporate press couldn't seem to care less.

March 28 (Fri.) -- A U.S. soldier has died only days after receiving the smallpox vaccine the Bush administration has been trying to ram down America's collective throat--the third such known fatality from the program. The "President," of course, knew, when he inaugurated the vaccination program, that he would be murdering people with it, just as he knew there was no threat of smallpox to act as a counterbalance to those killed and crippled--smallpox hasn't existed anywhere on the face of the earth for nearly three decades, and the vaccination for adults is very dangerous, employing a live virus that can cripple, kill, and be spread to others. The important thing for the "President," though, was to keep the headlines generating anxiety leading up to his desert adventure, and it didn't matter that every expert said the vaccine was far more dangerous than any conceivable threat of a smallpox bio-attack. The initial goal announced by the "President" was to give the vaccine to 450,000 health workers, but, of course, health profesionals know what I've just said and don't particularly care to submit themselves to something that could cripple or kill them in order to combat a threat that doesn't exist. The program still managed to get 25,000 of them to go along--about 5% of the goal.  Yesterday, the Institute of Medicine panel that monitors the program suggested, in as diplomatic language as possible, stopping the program--"a pause would be useful," to quote the chairman of the panel. Yeah.

March 29 (Sat.) -- "Richard Perle has a deep understanding of our national security process and an abiding interest in preserving America's strength and freedom. He has been an excellent chairman and has led the Defense Policy board during an important time in our history...  I should add that I have known Richard Perle for many years and know him to be a man of integrity and honor."

The words of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and it certainly gives a glimpse of what Rumsfeld considers "a man of integrity and honor." Earlier this month, the New York Times revealed that telecommunications firm Global Crossing had a deal with Perle to pay him $600,000 if he could successfully use his influence to overcome Defense Department resistance to the sale of the company to a foreign firm. The sale had run into government opposition because it would have placed Global Crossing's worldwide fiber-optic network, which is used by the U.S. government, under control of the Chinese. Earlier, Seymour Hersch, writing in the New Yorker, had revealed that Perle is a managing partner in a venture-capital company established shortly after the 2001 terror attacks on the U.S. to, in Hersch's words, "invest in companies dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland security and defense." At the same time, Perle was the head of the Defense Policy Board which advises the Pentagon on these same matters, giving him the opportunity to use his position to press for policies that would financially benefit himself. For several days, Perle put on a show of being indignant at the Hersch article--said Hersch was "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist," that his article was "full of inaccuracies," that it was "all lies, from beginning to end." He suggested he was planning to sue Hersch for libel... in London! That last part drew some snickers; British libel law is heavily weighted in favor of the plaintiff. If the article was so outrageous, why not sue in the U.S. where it was actually written and published but where the laws are a bit more even-handed? As it turns out, it doesn't seem Perle is going to be suing for anything. The glowing praise heaped upon him by Rumsfeld above was in a press release wherein the Defense Secretary accepted Perle's resignation as chairman of the Defense Policy Board in the face of these scandals. It seems the Defense Secretary doesn't let this sort of ugly double-dealing get in the way when judging a fellow PNACers "honor and integrity." He even asked Perle to remain a member of the board, which, of course, allows Perle to keep doing what he was doing.

The Perle scandal is only a part of a larger story. The Center for Public Integrity has used it to shed some light on the nest of vipers called the Defense Policy Board. The board was established during the Reagan administration "to provide the Secretary of Defense 'with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning major matters of defense policy.'" Its members are picked by the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy--in this case, Douglas Feith, another "neo-conservative" with ties to Perle going back at least two decades--and approved by the Defense Secretary. Here's what CPI revealed about the Bush administration defense board:

"Of the 30 members of the Defense Policy Board, the government-appointed group that advises the Pentagon, at least nine have ties to companies that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002. Four members are registered lobbyists, one of whom represents two of the three largest defense contractors."

March 30 (Sun) -- The Washington Post reports today that "Ten days into a war fought under the flag of disarmament, U.S.-led troops have found no substantial sign of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction." Special operations teams have seized ten locations identified by U.S. intelligence as being of the highest priority by CENTCOM. "If equipped as suspected, they would have posed an immediate threat to U.S. forces," but, in a story that's becoming all too familiar in the Bush administration's dealings with Iraq, "'all the searches have turned up negative,' said a Joint Staff officer who is following field reports. 'The munitions that have been found have all been conventional.'"

March 31 (Mon.) -- The AP reported, today, the number of coalition casualties during the first 12 days of the Iraqi adventure, underscoring the one-sidedness of the affair. U.S. and British forces have managed to overrun most of Iraq while suffering only 70 casualties; U.S. total: 44 dead, British total: 26 dead. Even this is an outrageously inflated number; over half of these deaths were self-inflicted--accidents and "friendly fire" incidents, in which the Iraqis played no part at all. Reuters reported Saturday that only four of the British casualties were killed by the enemy, while at least 14 of the 44 Americans are listed as having died in accidents or by "friendly fire."


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