The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

Deconstructing Bush’s Iraq Speech

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has done in the New York Times website a fine job of deconstructing and refuting President George W. Bush’s manipulative and propagandistic Iraq speech of January 10, 2007.

Bush’s Iraq Plan, Between the Lines
Iraq Plan, Between the Lines (interactive)
Anthony Cordesman profile
Center for Strategic and International Studies
President’s Address to the Nation

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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19 January, 2007 Posted by | Bush, intelligence, Iraq, law, media, news, politics, scanlyze, war | 1 Comment

“Control Room” Delivers Some Bitterly Ironic Retrospection

Control Room
Delivers Some Bitterly Ironic Retrospection

by Henry Edward Hardy

If 2004 was The Year of the Documentary, then Control Room, Jehane Noujaim’s film on the independent Arab News channel, Al-Jazeera, ranks among the best. Control Room tells the story of the network and the early days of the Iraq War through the eyes of Jazeera reporter Hassan Ibrahim, senior producer Samir Khader and U.S. spokesperson Lieutenant Josh Rushing.

Khader makes penetrating points about the climate of fear perpetuated inside the U.S. by the Administration, and both he and Ibrahim express substantial (and warranted) skepticism about Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction.

“Pulverized. Dead bodies en masse — and why? We get these pictures and we show them. Unfortunately we get grief from the Americans who say we are inciting rebellion, instigating anti-American sentiments. They cannot have their cake and eat it,” says Ibrahim.

Lt. Rushing is a surprisingly appealing figure in the film, genuinely troubled by many of the inconsistencies between the war as he is told to present it and the feedback and questions presented by foreign press such as Jazeera.

The film shows powerfully how both Al-Jazeera and western coverage are manipulated by reporters, producers, governments and public opinion. We see how the iconic footage of the statue of Saddam being toppled was the result of a U.S. “Psyops” (psychological operations) battalion’s efforts and not a spontaneous uprising of the Iraqi people.

We see civilian casualties, simple homes of simple people. A woman stands in front of a house with its front blown off and shouts, “Welcome to my house, Mr. Bush. Look at this! Don’t you have any humanity? How can you accept a little girl crying for her mom and dad?”

We then cut to U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, explaining, “What they do is when a bomb goes down, they grab some children, and some women, and pretend that the bomb hit the women and the children,” Rumsfeld continues with a death’s-head, rictus-like grin. “To the extent that people lie, ultimately they are caught lying. They lose their credibility. And one would think that that wouldn’t take long dealing with people like this.”

Viewing the film now is informed by subsequent revelations. One cannot help a bitter smile at the irony and self-serving hypocrisy of Bush when he says he expects Iraq to treat U.S. captives humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, as he asserts, the U.S. treats its captives.

Control Room is available on DVD and VHS and for rental from local video stores.

A version of this article was previously published in Current Magazine and on Electric Current, .

Control Room (IMDB)
Control Room (Rotten Tomatoes)
Control Room (wikipedia)

Copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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19 January, 2007 Posted by | archives, Bush, covert operations, intelligence, Iraq, movies, news, politics, reviews, Rumsfeld, scanlyze, war | 2 Comments

The Manual for Military Commissions

The new Manual for Military Commissions published today by the Bush Administration today sets out to retroactively legalize and justify going forward some of their worst abuses of liberty over the last five years, including imprisonment without charges, imprisonment without recourse to habeas corpus, and the use of coerced testimony and hearsay. The Preamble follows, courtesy of BBC:

The Manual For Military Commissions

1. Structural provisions of the M.C.A.
The M.C.A. amends both Articles 21 and 36, Uniform Code of Military Justice
(U.C.M.J.) (10 U.S.C. §§ 821 and 836) to permit greater flexibility in constructing procedural and evidentiary rules for trials of alien unlawful enemy combatants by
military commission. Several key provisions of the M.C.A. demonstrate this
accommodation of military operational and national security considerations:
(a) While the M.C.A. is consistent with the U.C.M.J. in many respects, neither the
U.C.M.J. itself nor “[t]he judicial construction and application of that chapter” is binding
on trials by military commission (10 U.S.C. § 948b(c)).
(b) 10 U.S.C. §§ 810, 831(a), (b), & (d), and 832 do not apply to these military
commissions (10 U.S.C. § 948b(d)(1)).
(c) Other provisions of the U.C.M.J. apply only as specified in the M.C.A. (10 U.S.C.
§ 948b(d)(2)).
(d) The M.C.A. provides that the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Attorney
General, may prescribe rules of evidence and procedure, as well as elements and modes
of proof, for offenses tried by these military commissions (10 U.S.C. § 949a(a)), and that
if the Secretary promulgates regulations, he shall submit them to the Committees on
Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives (M.C.A. § 3(b)).
(e) Such rules “shall, so far as the Secretary considers practicable or consistent with
military or intelligence activities, apply the principles of law and the rules of evidence”
for trials by general court-martial, so long as the Secretary’s rules and procedures are not
contrary to or inconsistent with the M.C.A. (10 U.S.C. § 949a(a)).
(f) Implementing rules must be consistent with the M.C.A. and provide for the accused’s
rights to:
(1) be present at trial, examine and respond to evidence admitted against him,
cross-examine witnesses who testify against him, obtain and present evidence, and not be
required to testify against himself at a military commission proceeding (10 U.S.C.
§§ 948r(a), 949a(b)(1)(A) & (B), and 949j(a)); and
(2) assistance by counsel or self-representation (10 U.S.C. § 949a(b)(1)(C) &
(g) Statements obtained by torture are not admissible (10 U.S.C. § 948r(b)), but
statements “in which the degree of coercion is disputed” may be admitted if reliable,
probative, and the admission would best serve the interests of justice (10 U.S.C.
§ 948r(c)). In addition, for such statements obtained after December 30, 2005, the
methods used to obtain those statements must comply with the Detainee Treatment Act of
2005, enacted on that date (10 U.S.C. § 948r(d)(3)).
(h) In addition, rules may provide for:
(1) admission of evidence if determined to have “probative value to a reasonable
person” (10 U.S.C. § 949a(b)(2)(A));
(2) admission of evidence notwithstanding the absence of a search warrant or
other authorization (10 U.S.C. § 949a(b)(2)(B));
(3) admission of an accused’s allegedly coerced statements if they comport with
§ 948r (10 U.S.C. § 949a(b)(2)(C));
(4) authentication of evidence similar to Military Rule of Evidence (Mil. R. Evid.)
901 (10 U.S.C. § 949a(b)(2)(D));
(5) admission of hearsay evidence not meeting an exclusion or exception under
the Mil. R. Evid. if the proponent gives notice and the opposing party does not
demonstrate that the evidence lacks probative value or reliability (10 U.S.C.
§ 949a(b)(2)(E)); and
(6) exclusion of any evidence failing to meet the requirements of Mil. R. Evid.
403 (10 U.S.C. § 949a(b)(2)(F)).
2. Determinations of practicability and consistency with military and intelligence
The rules of evidence and procedure promulgated herein reflect the Secretary’s
determinations of practicability and consistency with military and intelligence activities.
Just as importantly, they provide procedural and evidentiary rules that not only comport
with the M.C.A. and ensure protection of classified information, but extend to the
accused all the “necessary judicial guarantees” as required by Common Article 3. In this
regard, these rules represent a delicate balance similar in concept, but different in detail
from those provided in the Manual for Courts-Martial.

full text at BBC:

Evidence gained under torture is not admissible BUT statements “in which the degree of coercion is disputed may be admitted if reliable, probative, and the admission would best serve the interests of justice.”

The Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Conventions, Hague Conventions, and for that matter, the US Constitution, are pretty much out the window here. This is another act of extreme cynicism and just plain evil by this demented US administration. Please call or fax your Congressmen and Senators today and tell them to repeal the Military Commissions Act.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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19 January, 2007 Posted by | Afghanistan, archives, Bush, covert operations, intelligence, Iraq, law, media, military, news, politics, scanlyze, torture, US Constitution, war | Leave a comment

The Power of Nightmares: Film-maker Adam Curtis Uncovers the Truth (and Lies) About Terrorism

The Power of Nightmares:
Film-maker Adam Curtis Uncovers the Truth (and Lies) About Terrorism

by Henry Edward Hardy

Americans are voicing growing concern over the progress of the war in Iraq. A 37-year Marine veteran and chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Representative John Murtha said in November 2005, “The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion.” British film-maker Adam Curtis explores the use of illusion and deception by American neo-conservatives and the Muslim extremist jihadi to inflate the threat of terrorism in The Power of Nightmares. This timely BBC documentary has not been widely distributed in the United States, but is currently available on the World Wide Web.

Curtis presents a startling thesis. Throughout the Cold War, politicians on both sides maintained their popularity and legitimacy through promises of a better life. Those promises failed, however, and leaders found their authority hampered by public mistrust and cynicism. In the post-9/11 climate, politicians revisited another way of powerfully motivating public attention and obedience: fear — terror from an invisible enemy, an “Al Qaeda network” whose operatives could be anywhere and everywhere. Curtis claims that this terrorist super-organization is a fantasy, an illusion deliberately manufactured and maintained.

Hebrew University Professor of Political Science and American Studies David Ricci currently (2006) teaches about American political conservatism at the University of Michigan, and he agrees with Curtis about this illusion. “There are some elements in the world of Islam who are extremists. There are people who are trying to revolutionize Islam, no less attack the United States. But I don’t see them as this enormous conspiracy. I am inclined to see them as particular groups which have some common interests and therefore cooperate with each other,” says Ricci. “For some publicity purposes, it helps to talk about ‘Al Qaeda’ as if it’s this enormous monster.”

Ricci suggests that the language used to frame the war is misleading. “The idea of talking about a ‘war on terror’ is unrealistic. The real war is against ‘terrorists,’ not ‘terrorism.'”

The Power of Nightmares was first shown on BBC television in the fall of 2004, and an edited version was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2005. It was also scheduled for New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival and on CBC television. Curtis says, “Something extraordinary has happened to American TV since September 11. A head of the leading networks who had better remain nameless said to me that there was no way they could show it …. He added, ‘We would get slaughtered if we put this out.'”

The three-part series traces the evolution of two groups which have manipulated the image of “Islamic terrorism” for their own ends. In Egypt followers of the Muslim Brotherhood thinker Sayyid Qutb were impressed by his revulsion of Western decadence. After series of attempted coups and assassinations failed to produce popular revolutions, Qutb and his followers decided that the infidel West and the decadent Muslim leaders weren’t the only ones who had fallen into jahaliyah, or a state like that of the world before Muhammad. The Arab masses had also become unsanctified and essentially non-Muslim, and they could now be killed. Among those influenced by Qutb were Islamic Jihad figure Ayman Al-Zawahiri and later, a financier of the U.S.-sponsored Afghan resistance, Usama bin Laden.

In the West, another influential figure was also revolted by the laxness, immorality and cynicism of liberal Western culture. At the University of Chicago in the 1950s and ’60s, philosopher Leo Strauss taught that sometimes a “noble lie” is justified in order to provide society with unifying myths.

“Strauss was a refugee from Nazi Germany,” says Ricci. “He, who had just fled from one of the worst manifestations in the modern world, was offering this view to his students. And they were very, very good students, and they went out into other universities and into the world of public affairs.” Among the followers of Strauss’s school of political philosophy are U.S. neo-conservatives such as Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, American Enterprise Institute Scholar Michael Ledeen, and Richard Pearle, former chair of the Defense Policy Review Board for President George W. Bush.

“Neo-conservatives are a very loosely knit group of people,” says Ricci. “They were being turned off by the counterculture of the 1960s and the early 1970s.” He says, “They wanted to conserve the American way of life.” They saw themselves more as revolutionaries than conservatives, however.

The series follows the origin of the neo-conservatives and the jihadi in the 1950s, their coalition in the CIA-supported resistance to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, and the subsequent breakup of the U.S.S.R. and events leading up to and following 9/11.

This thoroughly researched documentary uses authoritative primary sources. Curtis interviews at length the head of the Arab Afghan resistance. He also interviews several of the most prominent neo-conservatives. The editing is fast-paced and montage-like and contains a lot of oblique commentary in clips and stock footage presented in a light, sarcastic vein.

There has been considerable dissent within the U.S. military and bureaucracy against the undermining of traditional American values by the “neo-cons” in the administration. On October 19, 2005 first-term Bush State Department Chief of Staff and retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson said, “What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. And then when the bureaucracy was presented with the decision to carry them out, it was presented in a such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out.”

The Power of Nightmares does a fine job of laying bare the ideology, structure and history of this “cabal.” Where Curtis errs is in saying that before 9/11 there never was an organization called “Al Qaeda.”

Former U.K. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who died suddenly in August 2005, wrote in the July 8, 2005 Guardian that “Al Qaeda, literally ‘the database,’ was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahedeen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.” A key figure in the mujahedeen was Usama bin Laden. Cook observed, “It never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden’s organization would turn its attention to the West.” He also wrote, “So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail.”

The Power of Nightmares tears down walls of myth and obfuscation — myths which are used to sell products from “Homeland Security” to “home security.” No wonder commercial networks and the Republican-eviscerated PBS won’t show it. In explaining why the BBC has run this program, BBC Director of Factual and Learning John Willis reminds us of the words of former CBS News President (and Edward R. Murrow producer) Fred Friendly: “‘Our job is not to make up anyone’s mind but to make the agony of decision making so intense you can only escape by thinking.'”

The Adam Curtis documentary The Power of Nightmares has been available free as streaming or downloadable MP4 movie files at the Internet Archive’s Internet library at

A longer excerpt from the interview with Professor David Ricci will be available on the Web at .

A version of this article appeared previously in Current Magazine and on .

Copyright © 2006, 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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19 January, 2007 Posted by | Afghanistan, archives, covert operations, intelligence, Iraq, media, movies, Pakistan, politics, reviews, scanlyze, torture, war | 4 Comments