Saturday, July 02, 2005

Bush Speech, CIA Abduction, Internet

1) Riverbend / Baghdad Burning dissects Bush's speech from an Iraqi perspective:

“Not only can they not find WMD in Iraq,” I commented
to E. as we listened to the Bush speech, “But they
have disappeared from his speeches too!” I was
listening to the voiceover on Arabiya, translating his
speech to Arabic. He was recycling bits and pieces of
various speeches he used over two years.

E., a younger cousin, and I were sitting around in the
living room, sprawled on the relatively cool tiled
floor. The electricity had been out for 3 hours and we
couldn’t turn on the air conditioner with the
generator electricity we were getting. E. and I had
made a bet earlier about what the theme of tonight’s
speech would be. E. guessed Bush would dig up the
tired, old WMD theme from somewhere under the debris
of idiocy and lies coming out of the White House. I
told him he’d dredge up 9/11 yet again… tens of
thousands of lives later, we would have to bear the
burden of 9/11… again.

I won the bet. The theme was, naturally, terrorism-
the only mention of ‘weapon’ or ‘weapons’ was in
reference to Libya. He actually used the word
‘terrorist’ in the speech 23 times.

He was trying, throughout the speech, to paint a rosy
picture of the situation. According to him, Iraq was
flourishing under the occupation. In Bush’s Iraq,
there is reconstruction, there is freedom (in spite of
an occupation) and there is democracy.

“He’s describing a different country…” I commented to
E. and the cousin.

“Yes,” E. replied. “He’s talking about the *other*
Iraq… the one with the WMD.”

“So what’s the occasion? Why’s the idiot giving a
speech anyway?” The cousin asked, staring at the
ceiling fan clicking away above. I reminded him it was
the year anniversary marking the mythical handover of
power to Allawi’s Vichy government.

“Oh- Allawi… Is he still alive?” Came the indolent
reply from the cousin. “I’ve lost track… was he before
Al Yawir or after Al Yawir? Was he Prime Minister or
did they make him president at some point?”

9/11 and the dubious connection with Iraq came up
within less than a minute of the beginning of the
speech. The cousin wondered whether anyone in America
still believed Iraq had anything to do with September

Bush said:
“The troops here and across the world are fighting a
global war on terror. The war reached our shores on
September 11, 2001.”

Do people really still believe this? In spite of that
fact that no WMD were found in Iraq, in spite of the
fact that prior to the war, no American was ever
killed in Iraq and now almost 2000 are dead on Iraqi
soil? It’s difficult to comprehend that rational
people, after all of this, still actually accept the
claims of a link between 9/11 and Iraq. Or that they
could actually believe Iraq is less of a threat today
than it was in 2003.

We did not have Al-Qaeda in Iraq prior to the war. We
didn’t know that sort of extremism. We didn’t have
beheadings or the abduction of foreigners or religious
intolerance. We actually pitied America and Americans
when the Twin Towers went down and when news began
leaking out about it being Muslim fundamentalists-
possibly Arabs- we were outraged.

Now 9/11 is getting old. Now, 100,000+ Iraqi lives and
1700+ American lives later, it’s becoming difficult to
summon up the same sort of sympathy as before. How
does the death of 3,000 Americans and the fall of two
towers somehow justify the horrors in Iraq when not
one of the people involved with the attack was Iraqi?

Bush said:
“Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. … The
commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq,
who is also senior commander at this base, General
John Vines, put it well the other day. He said, "We
either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad,
or we deal with it when it comes to us."

He speaks of ‘abroad’ as if it is a vague desert-land
filled with heavily-bearded men and possibly camels.
‘Abroad’ in his speech seems to indicate a land of
inferior people- less deserving of peace, prosperity
and even life.

Don’t Americans know that this vast wasteland of
terror and terrorists otherwise known as ‘Abroad’ was
home to the first civilizations and is home now to
some of the most sophisticated, educated people in the

Don’t Americans realize that ‘abroad’ is a country
full of people- men, women and children who are dying
hourly? ‘Abroad’ is home for millions of us. It’s the
place we were raised and the place we hope to raise
our children- your field of war and terror.

The war was brought to us here, and now we have to
watch the country disintegrate before our very eyes.
We watch as towns are bombed and gunned down and
evacuated of their people. We watch as friends and
loved ones are detained, or killed or pressured out of
the country with fear and intimidation.

Bush said:
“We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who
exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in
Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the
nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide
bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul…”

Yes. And Bush is extremely concerned with the mosques.
He might ask the occupation forces in Iraq to quit
attacking mosques and detaining the worshipers inside-
to stop raiding them and bombing them and using them
as shelters for American snipers in places like
Falluja and Samarra. And the terrorists who sent a
suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul? Maybe
they got their cue from the American troops who
attacked the only functioning hospital in Falluja.

“We continued our efforts to help them rebuild their
country. Rebuilding a country after three decades of
tyranny is hard and rebuilding while a country is at
war is even harder."

Three decades of tyranny isn’t what bombed and burned
buildings to the ground. It isn’t three decades of
tyranny that destroyed the infrastructure with such
things as “Shock and Awe” and various other tactics.
Though he fails to mention it, prior to the war, we
didn’t have sewage overflowing in the streets like we
do now, and water cut off for days and days at a time.
We certainly had more than the 8 hours of electricity
daily. In several areas they aren’t even getting that

“They are doing that by building the institutions of a
free society, a society based on freedom of speech,
freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and equal
justice under law.”

We’re so free, we often find ourselves prisoners of
our homes, with roads cut off indefinitely and
complete areas made inaccessible. We are so free to
assemble that people now fear having gatherings
because a large number of friends or family members
may attract too much attention and provoke a raid by
American or Iraqi forces.

As to Iraqi forces…There was too much to quote on the
new Iraqi forces. He failed to mention that many of
their members were formerly part of militias, and that
many of them contributed to the looting and burning
that swept over Iraq after the war and continued for

“The new Iraqi security forces are proving their
courage every day.”

Indeed they are. The forte of the new Iraqi National
Guard? Raids and mass detentions. They have been
learning well from the coalition. They sweep into
areas, kick down doors, steal money, valuables, harass
the females in the household and detain the men. The
Iraqi security forces are so effective that a few
weeks ago, they managed to kill a high-ranking police
major in Falluja when he ran a red light, shooting him
in the head as his car drove away.

He kept babbling about a “free Iraq” but he mentioned
nothing about when the American forces might actually
depart and the occupation would end, leaving a “free

Why aren’t the Americans setting a timetable for
withdrawal? Iraqis are constantly wondering why
nothing is being done to accelerate the end of the

Do the Americans continue to believe such speeches? I
couldn’t help but wonder.

“They’ll believe anything.” E. sighed. “No matter what
sort of absurdity they are fed, they’ll believe it.
Think up the most outrageous lie… They have people
who’ll believe it.”

The cousin sat up at this, his interest piqued. “The
most outrageous lie? How about that Iraq was amassing
aliens from Mareekh [Mars] and training them in the
battle art of kung-fu to attack America in 2010!”

“They’d believe it.” E. nodded in the affirmative. “Or
that Iraq was developing a mutant breed of rabid,
man-eating bunnies to unleash upon the Western world.
They’d believe that too.”

2) This is a nicely written rant responding to Bush's speech the other day, by a DC resident:

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Respectable Murder and Pure Wind

Hoo boy, tonight George W. Bush delivered a major
policy speech on the "War on Terror" at Fort Bragg.

And, really, I don't give a shit.

Because now every time I hear Bush or one of his
apologists blathering away, I mentally superimpose a
caption in the Fox News graphical style under their
image containing one of George Orwell's more famous

Political language... is designed to make lies sound
truthful and murder respectable, and to give an
appearance of solidity to pure wind.

Sure, this could be the one time Bush says something
interesting, insightful, important and even, well,
let's go for the big one here, truthful. In fact, by
not really caring anymore what he says I might be
missing out on the moment when George W. Bush blinks
into the Teleprompter, hesitates and is suddenly awash
in a blinding moment of self-revelation:

"Um...err", he would say at this frat boy Siddartha
moment, "Uh, I just realized that I'm kind of an
asshole...and I haven't really make anything of myself
that wasn't handed to me...and I guess I got carried
away trying to actually be somebody and...well, fuck,
I sure did kill a whole lot of people who didn't
really need killing"....

3) Tom Engelhardt: The Immoral Relativism of the Bush Administration:

Tom Engelhardt: The Immoral Relativism of the Bush Administration

Tom Engelhardt, at (6-28-05):

[ Mr. Engelhardt is the author of The End of Victory Culture and co-editor of History Wars, the Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past.]

"At a breakfast meeting with reporters, Wolfowitz said he hasn't read the [Downing Street] memos because he doesn't want to be ‘distracted' by ‘history' from his new job as head of the world's leading development bank. He returned this weekend from a tour of four African nations.

"'There's a lot I could say about what you're asking about, if I were willing to get distracted from the main subject,' Wolfowitz said. ‘But I really think there's a price paid with the people I've just spent time with, people who are struggling with very real problems, to keep going back in history.'" (Jon Sawyer, Wolfowitz won't talk about war planning, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

For at least 30 years now, the right has fought against, the Republican Party has run against, and more recently, the Bush administration has claimed victory over the "moral relativism" of liberals, the permissive parenting of the let-them-do-anything-they-please era, and the self-indulgent, self-absorbed, make-your-own-world attitude of the Sixties. Since September 11th, we have been told again and again, we are in a different world... finally. In this new world, things are black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. You are for or you are against. The murky relativism of the recent past, of an America in a mood of defeat, is long gone. In the White House, we have a stand-up guy so unlike the last president, that draft dodger who was ready to parse the meaning of "is" and twist the world to his unnatural desires...

4) There's a great movie script in here somewhere, in addition to the gross violation of Italian sovereignty. Also, nice to know they were using regular cell phones and apparently real identities. That means they can be prosecuted for kidnapping like normal people:,12576,1519576,00.html

CIA methods exposed by kidnap inquiry

Agents' use of commercial mobiles gives Italian police detailed picture of how Muslim cleric was abducted

John Hooper in Rome
Saturday July 2, 2005
The Guardian

"I was walking down Via Guerzoni with my little girl and I saw a man with a long beard and a djellaba being stopped by two westerners with a mobile telephone. They were asking him, in Italian, for his documents, the way the police do," the witness said.
"At the junction with Via Croce Viola there was a pale-coloured van on the pavement," she continued. "Then, all I heard was a loud noise like a thud. The van suddenly shot backwards and then set off again, away from the mosque, passing me at high speed. And the three people I'd seen, they weren't there any longer."

One of them was Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, otherwise known as Abu Omar, a radical Muslim cleric living in Milan and under investigation by the Italian authorities on suspicion of involvement in Islamist terrorism.

His disappearance, in February 2003, caused an inquiry that attracted worldwide attention last month when a Milan judge ordered the arrest of 13 American secret service agents accused of the cleric's abduction.

Details from the inquiry have provided a unique glimpse of the way in which the CIA seizes its foes abroad. The prosecutors in charge of the inquiry claim that Abu Omar was the target of what the US terms an "extraordinary rendition", the seizure of a suspect by agents for dispatch to a third country, often one in which torture is common.

Washington says it obtains guarantees that suspects grabbed in this way will not be tortured. But, in a call to his wife last year after he was released and before he disappeared again, Abu Omar said he had almost died under torture in an Egyptian jail. His current whereabouts is unknown, though associates say he was rearrested last year.

By ploughing through hundreds of thousands of mobile phone records, tracing hotel registrations and bugging phone conversations, the Italian police have built up a picture of the CIA's operation that offers several surprises.

According to the police version of events, the CIA's special removal unit (SRU) can whistle up private jets to fly its captives unseen across international frontiers.

A Learjet allegedly took Abu Omar from the joint US base at Aviano in Italy to another US base at Ramstein, Germany, then a chartered Gulfstream V whisked him to Cairo. Yet barely a dollar was spent on making the team's communications secure.

The secret agents used ordinary mobile phones. Italian investigators put names to the abductors by matching their calls to the phone contracts they had signed. And they could be sure of the team's movements because they could see when the calls had been made and from which mobile phone.

In at least one case, calls were traced to a phone that was apparently returned to a US diplomatic pool. After a silence it was reactivated by an American citizen using the antenna 100 metres from the US embassy in Rome.

Investigators suspected Abu Omar was taken to Aviano, on discovering three calls made after the abduction by the apparent leader of the SRU to the mobile of the base's then security chief.

A second surprise is the numbers involved. The Italian investigators say they have identified 23 members of the operation, and have been able to put names to 20 of them. At least six were women and - a third surprise - there seem to have been intimate links between male and female colleagues.

SRU members made several, apparently recreational, trips within Italy as they waited to seize Abu Omar and, on at least two occasions, couples booked into double rooms.

Most of the names on their passports were false. But two are not, and one belongs to the man the Italian prosecutors claim was the coordinator of the operation.

The suspected operational leader of the SRU remains unidentified.

The inquiry showed that the biggest number of calls converged on the phone of someone identified in court papers merely as X.

On the day of the abduction, as the coordinator monitored events from his office at the consulate, X deployed his team.

Italian investigators concluded that the lookout was one of the women, a 33-year-old; and that a six-strong team actually carried out the abduction and delivered Abu Omar to the entrance to the A4 motorway where a second team of six was waiting to speed him to Aviano.

The last trace of X is a call the same day to Virginia, the state in which the CIA has its headquarters.

But the coordinator's Italian mobile sprang to life again on March 3 2003. And the company's records show that by then he, like Abu Omar, was in Egypt.

Yesterday, Mel Sembler, the US ambassador to Rome, who had been out of Italy, returned after being summoned to explain to the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, an operation about which the Italian government insists it was never informed.

Mr Berlusconi demanded that the US "fully respect Italian sovereignty".

The US embassy declined to comment on the kidnapping allegations, though it did say yesterday that relations would continue to be underpinned by "mutual respect".

5) Is it just me, or does it seem like there's more to this story than we know?:,12271,1519539,00.html

Bush administration to keep control of internet's central computers

Gary Younge in New York and agencies
Saturday July 2, 2005
The Guardian

The Bush administration has decided to retain control over the principal computers which control internet traffic in a move likely to prompt global opposition, it was claimed yesterday.
The US had pledged to turn control of the 13 computers known as root servers - which inform web browsers and email programs how to direct internet traffic - over to a private, international body.

But on Thursday the US reversed its position, announcing that it will maintain control of the computers because of growing security threats and the increased reliance on the internet for global communications. A Japanese government official yesterday criticised the move, claiming it will lend momentum to the debate about who controls the information flow online.

"When the internet is being increasingly utilised for private use, by business and so forth, there is a societal debate about whether it's befitting to have one country maintaining checks on that ... It's likely to fuel that debate," said Masahiko Fujimoto, of the ministry of internal affairs and communications' data communications division.
The computers serve as master directories that contain government-approved lists of the roughly 260 suffices used, such as .com or Anyone who uses the web interacts with them every day. But a policy decision by the US could, at a stroke, make all sites ending in a certain suffix unreachable.

Despite many doomsday scenarios, the most recent US decision will have little if any immediate effect on internet users, and given the internet's anarchic nature it may simply represent a desire to assert state control even when it is not possible to do so.

Claudia Bernett, 32, a digital design analyst in New York, said: "Scary as it seems, because of the nature of the internet, I think they'll be hardpressed to create a coherent system that is capable of the kind of monitoring they hope for ... Eventually, the people participating in the system will find the technological means to evade the watchful eye."

Experts say that in the worst-case scenario, countries that refused to accept US control of the main computers could establish their own separate domain name system, with addresses in some places that others would not be able to reach, making the world wide web give way to discrete, regional web domains.

Mr Fujimoto said that is also unlikely because of its complexity, but the US decision will raise serious concerns that will not be assuaged easily. The announcement comes just weeks before a UN panel is set to release a report on internet governance. Some nations want international oversight of the issue but historically the US has maintained the role because it was such a key player in the early years of the internet's development.

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