"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Illegal War’

10 U.S. Sanctioned Chemical Weapons Attacks Washington Doesn’t Want You To Talk About

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2013 at 10:28 am
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Shaking Hands: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

Oldspeak: ““For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” –Noam Chomsky

By Wesley Messamore @ Policy Mic:

Washington doesn’t merely lack the legal authority for a military intervention in Syria. It lacks the moral authority. We’re talking about a government with a history of using chemical weapons against innocent people far more prolific and deadly than the mere accusations Assad faces from a trigger-happy Western military-industrial complex, bent on stifling further investigation before striking.

Here is a list of 10 chemical weapons attacks carried out by the U.S. government or its allies against civilians.

1. The U.S. Military Dumped 20 Million Gallons of Chemicals on Vietnam from 1962 – 1971
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Via: AP

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed 20 million gallons of chemicals, including the very toxic Agent Orange, on the forests and farmlands of Vietnam and neighboring countries, deliberately destroying food supplies, shattering the jungle ecology, and ravaging the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Vietnam estimates that as a result of the decade-long chemical attack, 400,000 people were killed or maimed, 500,000 babies have been born with birth defects, and 2 million have suffered from cancer or other illnesses. In 2012, the Red Cross estimated that one million people in Vietnam have disabilities or health problems related to Agent Orange.

2. Israel Attacked Palestinian Civilians with White Phosphorus in 2008 – 2009
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Via: AP

White phosphorus is a horrific incendiary chemical weapon that melts human flesh right down to the bone.

In 2009, multiple human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and International Red Cross reported that the Israeli government was attacking civilians in their own country with chemical weapons. An Amnesty International team claimed to find “indisputable evidence of the widespread use of white phosphorus” as a weapon in densely populated civilian areas. The Israeli military denied the allegations at first, but eventually admitted they were true.

After the string of allegations by these NGOs, the Israeli military even hit a UN headquarters(!) in Gaza with a chemical attack. How do you think all this evidence compares to the case against Syria? Why didn’t Obama try to bomb Israel?

3. Washington Attacked Iraqi Civilians with White Phosphorus in 2004
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Via: AP

In 2004, journalists embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq began reporting the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah against Iraqi insurgents. First the military lied and said that it was only using white phosphorus to create smokescreens or illuminate targets. Then it admitted to using the volatile chemical as an incendiary weapon. At the time, Italian television broadcaster RAI aired a documentary entitled, “Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre,” including grim video footage and photographs, as well as eyewitness interviews with Fallujah residents and U.S. soldiers revealing how the U.S. government indiscriminately rained white chemical fire down on the Iraqi city and melted women and children to death.

4. The CIA Helped Saddam Hussein Massacre Iranians and Kurds with Chemical Weapons in 1988
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CIA records now prove that Washington knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons (including sarin, nerve gas, and mustard gas) in the Iran-Iraq War, yet continued to pour intelligence into the hands of the Iraqi military, informing Hussein of Iranian troop movements while knowing that he would be using the information to launch chemical attacks. At one point in early 1988, Washington warned Hussein of an Iranian troop movement that would have ended the war in a decisive defeat for the Iraqi government. By March an emboldened Hussein with new friends in Washington struck a Kurdish village occupied by Iranian troops with multiple chemical agents, killing as many as 5,000 people and injuring as many as 10,000 more, most of them civilians. Thousands more died in the following years from complications, diseases, and birth defects.

5. The Army Tested Chemicals on Residents of Poor, Black St. Louis Neighborhoods in The 1950s
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In the early 1950s, the Army set up motorized blowers on top of residential high-rises in low-income, mostly black St. Louis neighborhoods, including areas where as much as 70% of the residents were children under 12. The government told residents that it was experimenting with a smokescreen to protect the city from Russian attacks, but it was actually pumping the air full of hundreds of pounds of finely powdered zinc cadmium sulfide. The government admits that there was a second ingredient in the chemical powder, but whether or not that ingredient was radioactive remains classified. Of course it does. Since the tests, an alarming number of the area’s residents have developed cancer. In 1955, Doris Spates was born in one of the buildings the Army used to fill the air with chemicals from 1953 – 1954. Her father died inexplicably that same year, she has seen four siblings die from cancer, and Doris herself is a survivor of cervical cancer.

6. Police Fired Tear Gas at Occupy Protesters in 2011
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The savage violence of the police against Occupy protesters in 2011 was well documented, and included the use of tear gas and other chemical irritants. Tear gas is prohibited for use against enemy soldiers in battle by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Can’t police give civilian protesters in Oakland, California the same courtesy and protection that international law requires for enemy soldiers on a battlefield?

7. The FBI Attacked Men, Women, and Children With Tear Gas in Waco in 1993
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At the infamous Waco siege of a peaceful community of Seventh Day Adventists, the FBI pumped tear gas into buildings knowing that women, children, and babies were inside. The tear gas was highly flammable and ignited, engulfing the buildings in flames and killing 49 men and women, and 27 children, including babies and toddlers. Remember, attacking an armed enemy soldier on a battlefield with tear gas is a war crime. What kind of crime is attacking a baby with tear gas?

8. The U.S. Military Littered Iraq with Toxic Depleted Uranium in 2003
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Via: AP

In Iraq, the U.S. military has littered the environment with thousands of tons of munitions made from depleted uranium, a toxic and radioactive nuclear waste product. As a result, more than half of babies born in Fallujah from 2007 – 2010 were born with birth defects. Some of these defects have never been seen before outside of textbooks with photos of babies born near nuclear tests in the Pacific. Cancer and infant mortality have also seen a dramatic rise in Iraq. According to Christopher Busby, the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, “These are weapons which have absolutely destroyed the genetic integrity of the population of Iraq.” After authoring two of four reports published in 2012 on the health crisis in Iraq, Busby described Fallujah as having, “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.”

9. The U.S. Military Killed Hundreds of Thousands of Japanese Civilians with Napalm from 1944 – 1945
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Napalm is a sticky and highly flammable gel which has been used as a weapon of terror by the U.S. military. In 1980, the UN declared the use of napalm on swaths of civilian population a war crime. That’s exactly what the U.S. military did in World War II, dropping enough napalm in one bombing raid on Tokyo to burn 100,000 people to death, injure a million more, and leave a million without homes in the single deadliest air raid of World War II.

10. The U.S. Government Dropped Nuclear Bombs on Two Japanese Cities in 1945
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Although nuclear bombs may not be considered chemical weapons, I believe we can agree they belong to the same category. They certainly disperse an awful lot of deadly radioactive chemicals. They are every bit as horrifying as chemical weapons if not more, and by their very nature, suitable for only one purpose: wiping out an entire city full of civilians. It seems odd that the only regime to ever use one of these weapons of terror on other human beings has busied itself with the pretense of keeping the world safe from dangerous weapons in the hands of dangerous governments.

How Intelligence Was Twisted To Support A U.S. Attack On Syria

In Uncategorized on September 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm
https://i0.wp.com/www.truth-out.org/images/images_2013_09/2013_0903sy_.jpg

In a White House handout photo, President Barack Obama meets with his national security staff to discuss the situation in Syria, in the Situation Room of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 31, 2013. (Photo: Pete Souza / The White House via The New York Times)

Oldspeak: “Disregard Obama Administration propaganda passing as an “intelligence estimate”. It’s bullshit. Very similar to the steaming pile of bullshit that was served up as justification for the illegal war of aggression in Iraq. Distorted, doctored, misleading and secret intelligence that cannot be publicly and independently verified. Nonsense visual evidence of chemical weapons use, in which victims exhibit none of the usual signs of exposure to chemical weapons. Physical evidence collected with no clear chain of custody by U.S. friendly “Syrian Opposition” groups. Open contempt for and attempts to discredit and curtail the investigations of U.N. weapons inspectors, pushing for an attack before independently collected and analyzed to determine what kind of chemical was used and who’s it was. We do not know much of anything for certain as our leaders are leading us to believe. Any so-called “definitive” intelligence is classified. So we’re supposed to trust that our leaders, who’ve repeatedly lied through their teeth on a whole host of issues, are sure “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Syria used chemical weapons?! RIIIIIIGHT…. My thing is, this has ZERO to do with the U.S., it is as Representative Alan Grayson said:

Our responsibilities are not to ignore the United Nations. Our responsibilities are not to ignore NATO or the Arab League. Our responsibility is not to ignore the international court of The Hague. Our responsibility is not to make vague remarks about red lines and to follow them up with equally vague remarks about violating international norms, which is a cover for saying that they have—that the Syrians have not violated international laws.

I’m very disturbed by this general idea, this notion, that every time we see something bad in the world, we should bomb it. And, in fact, the president himself has criticized that mindset, and now he’s adopted it. It’s simply not our responsibility to act alone and punish this. I’ll give you an example. There is substantial evidence right now, which the Russians have chosen to actually present to the United Nations, unlike the United States at this point, of the rebels using poison gas. Are we going to bomb both sides?

The Daily Caller reported in great detail that the report that the administration relied upon, in which the administration said that the Assad government must have been involved in this attack and ordered this attack because afterward one of the Assad generals commented on it, well, according to The Daily Caller, the comment was “We didn’t do this,” or words to that effect. And the administration has—if that’s the case, if that was the comment, the administration has completely mischaracterized it.

And, in fact, as far as I can tell, not a single member of Congress has actually seen the underlying document. What’s been provided to us so far is a four-page unclassified document and, if we bother to go down to the bowels of the congressional facility here, a 12-page classified document. But that classified document cites 300 underlying intelligence reports, none of which have been released to any member of Congress, despite the fact that we all have classified clearance. And I indicated that if there is some possibility that the administration is misleading the public regarding any of those 300 documents, then that has to be dispelled. We can’t go to war by mistake again.

We are three weeks away from the government shutting down. We are five weeks away from the government running out of money. And we’ve already spent two weeks engaged in a subject where almost everyone feels it’s simply not our responsibility. I said on MSNBC recently that the entire U.S. government, both Democratic and Republican, seems to be suffering from a very bad case of attention deficit disorder. We’re not showing any ability to focus on the things that actually matter in the lives of our constituents. And it’s not getting better; it’s getting worse.

Getting worse is Iran vowing to support Syria “to the end”. This situation can very quickly escalate from the proxy war it currently is to a regional firestorm. Do we really want to risk wider death and destruction on a war we can’t afford based on unverified evidence to “send a message”? -OSJ

Related Stories:

To Some, U.S. Case For Syrian Gas Attack Has Too Many Holes

Rep. Alan Grayson on Syria: Congress Should Reject “Warmongering” and Focus on Problems at Home

Russia Says it’s Compiled A 100 Page Report Blaming Syrian Rebels For A Chemical Weapons Attack

By Gareth Porter @ Truthout:

Secretary of State John Kerry assured the public that the Obama administration’s summary of the intelligence on which it is basing the case for military action to punish the Assad regime for an alleged use of chemical weapons was put together with an acute awareness of the fiasco of the 2002 Iraq WMD intelligence estimate.

Nevertheless, the unclassified summary of the intelligence assessment made public August 30, 2013, utilizes misleading language evocative of the infamous Iraq estimate’s deceptive phrasing. The summary cites signals, geospatial and human source intelligence that purportedly show that the Syrian government prepared, carried out and “confirmed” a chemical weapons attack on August 21. And it claims visual evidence “consistent with” a nerve gas attack.

But a careful examination of those claims reveals a series of convolutedly worded characterizations of the intelligence that don’t really mean what they appear to say at first glance.

The document displays multiple indications that the integrity of the assessment process was seriously compromised by using language that distorted the intelligence in ways that would justify an attack on Syria.

Spinning the Secret Intelligence

That pattern was particularly clear in the case of the intelligence gathered by covert means. The summary claims, “We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence.”

That seems to indicate that U.S. intelligence intercepted such communiations. But former British Ambassador Craig Murray has pointed out on his blog August 31 that the Mount Troodos listening post in Cyprus is used by British and U.S. intelligence to monitor “all radio, satellite and microwave traffic across the Middle East … ” and that “almost all landline telephone communications in this region is routed through microwave links at some stage [and] picked up on Troodos.”

All intelligence picked by the Troodos listening post is shared between the U.S. and British intelligence, Murray wrote, but no commmunictions such as the ones described in the U.S. intelligence summary were shared with the British Joint Intelligence Organisation.  Murray said a personal contact in U.S. intelligence had told him the reason was that the purported intercept came from the Israelis. The Israeli origin of the intelligence was reported in the U.S. press as well, because an Israeli source apparently leaked it to a German magazine.

The clumsy attempt to pass off intelligence claimed dubiously by the Israelis as a U.S. intercept raises a major question about the integrity of the entire document. The Israelis have an interest in promoting a U.S. attack on Syria, and the authenticity of the alleged intercept cannot be assumed. Murray believes that it is fraudulent.

But even if the intercept is authentic, the description of it in the intelligence summary appears to be misleading. Another description of the same intercept leaked to The Cable by an administration official suggests that the summary’s description is extremely tendentious. The story described those same communications as an exchange of “panicked phone calls” between a Syrian Defense Ministry official and someone in a chemical weapons unit in which the defense ministry official was “demanding answers for [about?] a nerve agent strike.” That description clearly suggests that the Syrian senior official’s questions were prompted by the charges being made on August 21 by opposition sources in Ghouta. The use of the word “panicked”, which slants the interpretation made by readers of the document, may have been added later by an official eager to make the story more compatible with the administration’s policy.

But the main problem with the description is that it doesn’t answer the most obvious and important question about the conversation: Did the purported chemical weapons officer at the other end of the line say that the regime had used chemical weapons or not? If the officer said that such weapons had been used, that would obviously have been the primary point of the report of the intercept. But the summary assessment does not say that, so the reader can reasonably infer that the officer did not make any such admission. The significance of the intercept is, therefore, that an admission of chemicals weapons use was not made.

The carefully chosen wording of the summary – the ministry official was “concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence” – suggests that the official wanted to make sure that UN inspectors would not find evidence of a nerve gas attack. But it could also mean precisely the opposite – that the official wanted the inspectors to be able ascertain that there was no use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in eastern Ghouta. The latter possibility is bolstered by the fact that the regime agreed within 24 hours of the first formal request on August 24 from UN envoy Angela Kane for unimpeded access to eastern Ghouta. As late as Friday, August 23, the UN Department of Safety and Security had not yet decided to give permission to the UN investigators to go into the area because of uncertainties about their safety.

The intelligence summary makes no effort to explain why the regime promptly granted access to the investigators. Another anomaly: the fact that the UN investigators were already present in Damascus, having been initially requested by the Assad regime to look into a gas attack the regime had charged was carried out by the rebels on March 19. The two-page assessment by the British Joint Intelligence Organisation released August 29, pointed to this question:”There is no obvious political or military trigger,” it said, “for regime use of Chemical War on an apparently larger scale now, particularly given the current presence of the UN investigating team.”

Another obvious case of a misleading description of intelligence in the summary involves information from US geospatial and signals intelligence purporting to show that the Assad regime was preparing for a chemical attack in the three days prior to August 21. The intelligence summary describes the intelligence as follows: “Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin.”

That seems like damning evidence at first glance. However, despite the use of the term “operating,” the US intelligence had no information about the actual activities of the individual or individuals being tracked through geospatial and signals intelligence. When administration officials leaked the information to CBS news last week, they conceded that the presence of the individual being tracked in the area in question had been viewed at the time as “nothing out of the ordinary.”

Yet, after the August 21 event, the same information was suddenly transformed into “evidence” that supports the official line. The summary refers to “streams of human signals and geospatial intelligence that revealed regime activities that we assessed were associated with preparations for a chemical attack.” Thus the same information that provided no indication of “preparations” was now presented as though it included knowledge of some “activities” somehow related to getting ready for chemical warfare.

A third piece of intelligence cited in the summary – unsourced but presumably from an intelligence agent – might seem to denote the intent to carry out a chemical weapons attack. However, the wording is slippery. “On August 21,” the document says, “a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks.” That intelligence, if accurate, doesn’t establish an intent by the government to carry out an attack; it could conversely suggest the government’s anticipation of a chemical attack by the rebels. The intelligence’s language is ambiguous; it contains no certainty that the chemical weapons attack for which the regime was preparing was one it intended to initiate itself.

Behind the Uncertainty on “Nerve Gas”

The intelligence summary includes a notable indication that the intelligence community was far from convinced that nerve gas had been used August 21.

The summary said the intelligence community had “high confidence” that the government had carried out a “chemical weapons attack,” and added, “We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack.” The fact that a separate sentence was used to characterize the assessment of the nerve agent issue and that it did not indicate any level of confidence is a signal that the intelligence community does not have much confidence in the assessment that nerve gas was used, according to a former senior US intelligence official who insisted on anonymity. The former official told Truthout that the choice of wording actually means the intelligence analysts “do not know” if nerve gas was used.

The summary includes yet another sign of the analysts’ lack of confidence that nerve gas was used, which was equally well-disguised. “We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack,” it said, “many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure.” Unless it is read carefully, the use of the word “bodies” – meaning corpses – instead of “victims” might be missed. But why would the intelligence community be focused on how many “bodies” – meaning corpses – exhibit particular “physical signs” when the far more relevant indicator of nerve gas would the number of “victims” exhibiting certain symptoms?

That strange choice averts acknowledgement of a fundamental problem for the intelligence community: Most of the alleged victims being shown in the videos posted online do not show symptoms associated with exposure to nerve agent. Corpses without any sign of wounds, on the other hand, would be “consistent” with a nerve agent attack.

The symptoms of a nerve agent attack are clear-cut: Soon after initial symptoms of tightness of chest, pinpoint pupils and running nose, the victim begins to vomit and to defecate and urinate uncontrollably, followed by twitching and jerking. Ultimately, the victim becomes comatose and suffocates in a series of convulsive spasms. The symptoms shown in dozens of videos of victims being treated in medical centers in Ghouta, however, are quite different. In an interview with Truthout, Dan Kaszeta, a specialist on chemical, biological and radiological weapons who has advised the White House on those issues, pointed out that a nerve gas attack would have been accompanied by a pattern of symptoms that are not shown in the videos posted online. “There should be more or less universal vomiting,” Kaszeta said. But he did not see any vomiting or evidence of such vomiting on the clothing or on the floor in any of the videos he saw. Stephen G. Johnson, a chemical weapons forensics expert at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, noticed the same thing. “Why aren’t more people vomiting?” he asked Truthout in an interview.

A number of specialists, including Kaszeta and Johnson, also noticed that personnel were shown handling the victims without any special protective clothing but not exhibiting any symptoms themselves. Paula Vanninen, director of the Finnish Institute for Verification of Chemical Weapons, and Gwynn Winfield, the editor of CBRNe World, a magazine specializing in chemical weapons, made the same point in interviews with AFP on August 21. The only evidence of such effects is secondhand at best: Statements issued the following day by both the spokesman for the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, Khaled Saleh, and the spokesman for its Washington, DC, arm, the Syrian Support Group, said that doctors and “first responders” had reported that they were suffering symptoms of neurotoxic poisoning. Saleh claimed that at least six doctors had died.

Experts noticed yet another anomaly: The number of those treated who survived far outnumbered the dead, contrary to what would be expected in a nerve gas attack. Dr. Ghazwan Bwidany told CBS news August 24 that his mobile medical unit had treated 900 people after the attack and that 70 had died. Medecins Sans Frontieres reported that 3,600 patients had been treated at hospitals in the area of the attack and that 355 had died. Such ratios of survivors to dead were the opposite of what chemical weapons specialists would have expected from a nerve gas attack. Kaszeta told Truthout that the “most nagging doubt” he had about the assumption that a nerve gas attack had taken place is the roughly 10-to-1 ratio of total number treated to the dead. “The proportions are all wrong,” he said. “There should be more dead people.” Johnson agreed. In an actual nerve gas attack, he said, “You’d get some survivors, but it would be very low. This [is] a very low level of lethality.”

These multiple anomalies prompted some specialists to come up with the theory that the government had somehow diluted the nerve gas to make it less detectable and thus made it less lethal. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of the chemical biological and nuclear terrorism unit in the UK Ministry of Defense, told USA Today August 23 that the absence of symptoms associated with nerve gas attack might be explainable by a “low dose” chemical weapons attack.

Three days later, Winfield wrote in an article for CNN that the symptoms seen in the videos indicated “lower toxicity” than was associated with nerve agents. Winfield suggested that nerve agent might have been mixed with other substances that were likely to remain in the environment longer than a nerve agent such as sarin.

But Kaszeta cast doubt on the idea of a “low dose” nerve agent being used. In an interview with blogger Eliot Higgins, who specializes in weapons associated with the Syrian conflict under the name Brown Moses, he said, “There’s not much leeway between the incapacitating doses and lethal doses with Sarin.” The concentration causing any symptoms at all, he said, “would quickly lead to absorption of a lethal dose.”

Case Not Closed

If it wasn’t a nerve gas attack, then, what other chemical weapon could have produced the symptoms exhibited in the videos? In an analysis on the Strongpoint Security website, Kaszeta considered each known type of chemical weapon in turn and concluded that the symptoms exhibited in the videos were not consistent with those associated with any of them. And as Kaszeta told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, the fact that none of the people treating casualties were suffering obvious symptoms “would seem to rule out most types of military-grade chemical weapons. … ”

Instead of addressing the issue, the intelligence community opted to accept information about the numbers and the cause of death provided by sources that were presumably subject to the influence of opposition forces in the area. The intelligence summary cites a “preliminary U.S. government assessment” that 1,429 people were killed by chemical weapons, including “at least 426 children.” It provides no indication of how the analysts arrived at such a precise estimate, which is highly unusual for an intelligence assessment. The normal practice in arriving at such an estimate is to give a range of figures reflecting different data sources as well as assumptions.

The intelligence community’s main center for analyzing all issues relating to weapons of mass destruction is the CIA’s Office of Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC) Center. It is the same center that tilted the 2002 Iraq estimate toward conclusions that were not supported by technical facts. As the Robb-Silverman report on the Iraq WMD intelligence fiasco pointed out, intelligence analysts at WINPAC explained to the staff privately that they had reversed the normal intelligence analysis burden of proof and operated on the assumption that Iraq did have WMD programs.

That dynamic seems to have re-emerged in the case of Syrian chemical weapons, especially with the appearance of hundreds of videos containing highly emotive scenes of children suffering and, in many cases, already having died. The contradiction between the emotionally charged visual evidence and the technical analysis by chemical weapons specialists, however, poses an unresolved issue. The uncertainty about what actually happened on August 21 can be resolved only on the basis of actual blood samples from victims who have been gathered by the UN inspectors and are now being analyzed in European laboratories.

Both Médecins Sans Frontières and Human Rights Watch issued statements citing statistics and descriptions of symptoms provided by local medical personnel and, in the case of Human Rights Watch, local activists and other contacts. However Human Rights Watch acting Middle East Director Joe Stork stated, “The only way to find out what really happened in Ghouta is let the UN inspectors in.”

Médecins Sans Frontières made it clear in its original August 24 statement that it could not confirm the figure of 3,600 patients with “neurotoxic symptoms,” because its own staff did not have access to the medical facilities in question. And in an August 28 statement, the organization said scientific confirmation of the toxic agent was required, and that the data it had been given could not be a “substitute for the [UN] investigation.”

But the advocates of an attack on Syria within the Obama administration have not demonstrated a willingness to rely on the definitive evidence from the UN investigators. Instead, they have evinced a strong hostility toward the UN investigation ever since the Syrian government agreed to allow it unimpeded access to the locations where chemical attacks were alleged. National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent an e-mail to key officials August 25 asserting that the UN investigation was pointless.

Since then, administration officials have dismissed the UN investigation as representing a Syrian political tactic. Kerry claimed in his statement Friday that when the UN inspections were “finally given access, that access – as we now know – was restricted and controlled.”

But Farhan Haq, the associate spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who has been getting regular reports from the UN team on its work in Syria, told Truthout that he was unaware of any restrictions on the team’s work.

The Obama administration has made it clear it does not intend to rely on the UN investigation’s findings. Kerry declared on Sunday that samples of blood and hair from medical personnel in eastern Ghouta had been found to contain traces of sarin nerve gas.

However, those samples did not go through the UN investigators, but were smuggled out of Syria by opposition activists. The spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme National Council, Khaled Saleh, had announced August 22 that “activists” had collected their own hair, blood and soil samples and were smuggling them out of the country.

The Obama administration had obtained physiological samples related to previous alleged nerve gas attacks, which had tested positive for sarin, but administration officials had insisted that, without being certain of the chain of custody, “they couldn’t be sure who had handled those samples,” as one official put it.

Despite the knowledge that samples lacking a clear chain of custody could have been tampered with, however, the administration began to disregard that key factor in June. It adopted a policy of accepting such samples as evidence of government guilt, on the argument, as one official explained, “It’s impossible that the opposition is faking the stuff in so many instances in so many locations.”

That policy shift is part of the undeclared framework in which the intelligence assessment was carried out.

Regardless of what evidence emerges in coming weeks, we would do well to note the inconsistencies and misleading language contained in the assessment, bearing in mind the consequences of utilizing ambiguous intelligence to justify an act of war.

Secretary of State John Kerry assured the public that the Obama administration’s summary of the intelligence on which it is basing the case for military action to punish the Assad regime for an alleged use of chemical weapons was put together with an acute awareness of the fiasco of the 2002 Iraq WMD intelligence estimate.  

Nevertheless, the unclassified summary of the intelligence assessment made public August 30, 2013, utilizes misleading language evocative of the infamous Iraq estimate’s deceptive phrasing. The summary cites signals, geospatial and human source intelligence that purportedly show that the Syrian government prepared, carried out and “confirmed” a chemical weapons attack on August 21. And it claims visual evidence “consistent with” a nerve gas attack.  

But a careful examination of those claims reveals a series of convolutedly worded characterizations of the intelligence that don’t really mean what they appear to say at first glance.  

The document displays multiple indications that the integrity of the assessment process was seriously compromised by using language that distorted the intelligence in ways that would justify an attack on Syria.

Spinning the Secret Intelligence

That pattern was particularly clear in the case of the intelligence gathered by covert means. The summary claims, “We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence.”

That seems to indicate that U.S. intelligence intercepted such communiations. But former British Ambassador Craig Murray has pointed out on his blog August 31 that the Mount Troodos listening post in Cyprus is used by British and U.S. intelligence to monitor “all radio, satellite and microwave traffic across the Middle East … ” and that “almost all landline telephone communications in this region is routed through microwave links at some stage [and] picked up on Troodos.”

All intelligence picked by the Troodos listening post is shared between the U.S. and British intelligence, Murray wrote, but no commmunictions such as the ones described in the U.S. intelligence summary were shared with the British Joint Intelligence Organisation.  Murray said a personal contact in U.S. intelligence had told him the reason was that the purported intercept came from the Israelis. The Israeli origin of the intelligence was reported in the U.S. press as well, because an Israeli source apparently leaked it to a German magazine.

The clumsy attempt to pass off intelligence claimed dubiously by the Israelis as a U.S. intercept raises a major question about the integrity of the entire document. The Israelis have an interest in promoting a U.S. attack on Syria, and the authenticity of the alleged intercept cannot be assumed. Murray believes that it is fraudulent.

But even if the intercept is authentic, the description of it in the intelligence summary appears to be misleading. Another description of the same intercept leaked to The Cable by an administration official suggests that the summary’s description is extremely tendentious. The story described those same communications as an exchange of “panicked phone calls” between a Syrian Defense Ministry official and someone in a chemical weapons unit in which the defense ministry official was “demanding answers for [about?] a nerve agent strike.” That description clearly suggests that the Syrian senior official’s questions were prompted by the charges being made on August 21 by opposition sources in Ghouta. The use of the word “panicked”, which slants the interpretation made by readers of the document, may have been added later by an official eager to make the story more compatible with the administration’s policy.

But the main problem with the description is that it doesn’t answer the most obvious and important question about the conversation: Did the purported chemical weapons officer at the other end of the line say that the regime had used chemical weapons or not? If the officer said that such weapons had been used, that would obviously have been the primary point of the report of the intercept. But the summary assessment does not say that, so the reader can reasonably infer that the officer did not make any such admission. The significance of the intercept is, therefore, that an admission of chemicals weapons use was not made.

The carefully chosen wording of the summary – the ministry official was “concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence” – suggests that the official wanted to make sure that UN inspectors would not find evidence of a nerve gas attack. But it could also mean precisely the opposite – that the official wanted the inspectors to be able ascertain that there was no use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in eastern Ghouta. The latter possibility is bolstered by the fact that the regime agreed within 24 hours of the first formal request on August 24 from UN envoy Angela Kane for unimpeded access to eastern Ghouta. As late as Friday, August 23, the UN Department of Safety and Security had not yet decided to give permission to the UN investigators to go into the area because of uncertainties about their safety.

The intelligence summary makes no effort to explain why the regime promptly granted access to the investigators. Another anomaly: the fact that the UN investigators were already present in Damascus, having been initially requested by the Assad regime to look into a gas attack the regime had charged was carried out by the rebels on March 19. The two-page assessment by the British Joint Intelligence Organisation released August 29, pointed to this question:”There is no obvious political or military trigger,” it said, “for regime use of Chemical War on an apparently larger scale now, particularly given the current presence of the UN investigating team.”

Another obvious case of a misleading description of intelligence in the summary involves information from US geospatial and signals intelligence purporting to show that the Assad regime was preparing for a chemical attack in the three days prior to August 21. The intelligence summary describes the intelligence as follows: “Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin.”  

That seems like damning evidence at first glance. However, despite the use of the term “operating,” the US intelligence had no information about the actual activities of the individual or individuals being tracked through geospatial and signals intelligence. When administration officials leaked the information to CBS news last week, they conceded that the presence of the individual being tracked in the area in question had been viewed at the time as “nothing out of the ordinary.

Yet, after the August 21 event, the same information was suddenly transformed into “evidence” that supports the official line. The summary refers to “streams of human signals and geospatial intelligence that revealed regime activities that we assessed were associated with preparations for a chemical attack.” Thus the same information that provided no indication of “preparations” was now presented as though it included knowledge of some “activities” somehow related to getting ready for chemical warfare.  

A third piece of intelligence cited in the summary – unsourced but presumably from an intelligence agent – might seem to denote the intent to carry out a chemical weapons attack. However, the wording is slippery. “On August 21,” the document says, “a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks.” That intelligence, if accurate, doesn’t establish an intent by the government to carry out an attack; it could conversely suggest the government’s anticipation of a chemical attack by the rebels. The intelligence’s language is ambiguous; it contains no certainty that the chemical weapons attack for which the regime was preparing was one it intended to initiate itself.

Behind the Uncertainty on “Nerve Gas” 

The intelligence summary includes a notable indication that the intelligence community was far from convinced that nerve gas had been used August 21.  

The summary said the intelligence community had “high confidence” that the government had carried out a “chemical weapons attack,” and added, “We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack.” The fact that a separate sentence was used to characterize the assessment of the nerve agent issue and that it did not indicate any level of confidence is a signal that the intelligence community does not have much confidence in the assessment that nerve gas was used, according to a former senior US intelligence official who insisted on anonymity. The former official told Truthout that the choice of wording actually means the intelligence analysts “do not know” if nerve gas was used.  

The summary includes yet another sign of the analysts’ lack of confidence that nerve gas was used, which was equally well-disguised. “We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack,” it said, “many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure.” Unless it is read carefully, the use of the word “bodies” – meaning corpses – instead of “victims” might be missed. But why would the intelligence community be focused on how many “bodies” – meaning corpses – exhibit particular “physical signs” when the far more relevant indicator of nerve gas would the number of “victims” exhibiting certain symptoms?  

That strange choice averts acknowledgement of a fundamental problem for the intelligence community: Most of the alleged victims being shown in the videos posted online do not show symptoms associated with exposure to nerve agent. Corpses without any sign of wounds, on the other hand, would be “consistent” with a nerve agent attack.  

The symptoms of a nerve agent attack are clear-cut: Soon after initial symptoms of tightness of chest, pinpoint pupils and running nose, the victim begins to vomit and to defecate and urinate uncontrollably, followed by twitching and jerking. Ultimately, the victim becomes comatose and suffocates in a series of convulsive spasms. The symptoms shown in dozens of videos of victims being treated in medical centers in Ghouta, however, are quite different. In an interview with Truthout, Dan Kaszeta, a specialist on chemical, biological and radiological weapons who has advised the White House on those issues, pointed out that a nerve gas attack would have been accompanied by a pattern of symptoms that are not shown in the videos posted online. “There should be more or less universal vomiting,” Kaszeta said. But he did not see any vomiting or evidence of such vomiting on the clothing or on the floor in any of the videos he saw. Stephen G. Johnson, a chemical weapons forensics expert at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, noticed the same thing. “Why aren’t more people vomiting?” he asked Truthout in an interview.  

A number of specialists, including Kaszeta and Johnson, also noticed that personnel were shown handling the victims without any special protective clothing but not exhibiting any symptoms themselves. Paula Vanninen, director of the Finnish Institute for Verification of Chemical Weapons, and Gwynn Winfield, the editor of CBRNe World, a magazine specializing in chemical weapons, made the same point in interviews with AFP on August 21. The only evidence of such effects is secondhand at best: Statements issued the following day by both the spokesman for the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, Khaled Saleh, and the spokesman for its Washington, DC, arm, the Syrian Support Group, said that doctors and “first responders” had reported that they were suffering symptoms of neurotoxic poisoning. Saleh claimed that at least six doctors had died. 

Experts noticed yet another anomaly: The number of those treated who survived far outnumbered the dead, contrary to what would be expected in a nerve gas attack. Dr. Ghazwan Bwidany told CBS news August 24 that his mobile medical unit had treated 900 people after the attack and that 70 had died. Medecins Sans Frontieres reported that 3,600 patients had been treated at hospitals in the area of the attack and that 355 had died. Such ratios of survivors to dead were the opposite of what chemical weapons specialists would have expected from a nerve gas attack. Kaszeta told Truthout that the “most nagging doubt” he had about the assumption that a nerve gas attack had taken place is the roughly 10-to-1 ratio of total number treated to the dead. “The proportions are all wrong,” he said. “There should be more dead people.” Johnson agreed. In an actual nerve gas attack, he said, “You’d get some survivors, but it would be very low. This [is] a very low level of lethality.”

These multiple anomalies prompted some specialists to come up with the theory that the government had somehow diluted the nerve gas to make it less detectable and thus made it less lethal. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of the chemical biological and nuclear terrorism unit in the UK Ministry of Defense, told USA Today August 23 that the absence of symptoms associated with nerve gas attack might be explainable by a “low dose” chemical weapons attack.  

Three days later, Winfield wrote in an article for CNN that the symptoms seen in the videos indicated “lower toxicity” than was associated with nerve agents. Winfield suggested that nerve agent might have been mixed with other substances that were likely to remain in the environment longer than a nerve agent such as sarin. 

But Kaszeta cast doubt on the idea of a “low dose” nerve agent being used. In an interview with blogger Eliot Higgins, who specializes in weapons associated with the Syrian conflict under the name Brown Moses, he said, “There’s not much leeway between the incapacitating doses and lethal doses with Sarin.” The concentration causing any symptoms at all, he said, “would quickly lead to absorption of a lethal dose.” 

Case Not Closed 

If it wasn’t a nerve gas attack, then, what other chemical weapon could have produced the symptoms exhibited in the videos? In an analysis on the Strongpoint Security website, Kaszeta considered each known type of chemical weapon in turn and concluded that the symptoms exhibited in the videos were not consistent with those associated with any of them. And as Kaszeta told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, the fact that none of the people treating casualties were suffering obvious symptoms “would seem to rule out most types of military-grade chemical weapons. … “ 

Instead of addressing the issue, the intelligence community opted to accept information about the numbers and the cause of death provided by sources that were presumably subject to the influence of opposition forces in the area. The intelligence summary cites a “preliminary U.S. government assessment” that 1,429 people were killed by chemical weapons, including “at least 426 children.” It provides no indication of how the analysts arrived at such a precise estimate, which is highly unusual for an intelligence assessment. The normal practice in arriving at such an estimate is to give a range of figures reflecting different data sources as well as assumptions.

The intelligence community’s main center for analyzing all issues relating to weapons of mass destruction is the CIA’s Office of Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC) Center. It is the same center that tilted the 2002 Iraq estimate toward conclusions that were not supported by technical facts. As the Robb-Silverman report on the Iraq WMD intelligence fiasco pointed out, intelligence analysts at WINPAC explained to the staff privately that they had reversed the normal intelligence analysis burden of proof and operated on the assumption that Iraq did have WMD programs.

That dynamic seems to have re-emerged in the case of Syrian chemical weapons, especially with the appearance of hundreds of videos containing highly emotive scenes of children suffering and, in many cases, already having died. The contradiction between the emotionally charged visual evidence and the technical analysis by chemical weapons specialists, however, poses an unresolved issue. The uncertainty about what actually happened on August 21 can be resolved only on the basis of actual blood samples from victims who have been gathered by the UN inspectors and are now being analyzed in European laboratories.

Both Médecins Sans Frontières and Human Rights Watch issued statements citing statistics and descriptions of symptoms provided by local medical personnel and, in the case of Human Rights Watch, local activists and other contacts. However Human Rights Watch acting Middle East Director Joe Stork stated, “The only way to find out what really happened in Ghouta is let the UN inspectors in.”

Médecins Sans Frontières made it clear in its original August 24 statement that it could not confirm the figure of 3,600 patients with “neurotoxic symptoms,” because its own staff did not have access to the medical facilities in question. And in an August 28 statement, the organization said scientific confirmation of the toxic agent was required, and that the data it had been given could not be a “substitute for the [UN] investigation.”

But the advocates of an attack on Syria within the Obama administration have not demonstrated a willingness to rely on the definitive evidence from the UN investigators. Instead, they have evinced a strong hostility toward the UN investigation ever since the Syrian government agreed to allow it unimpeded access to the locations where chemical attacks were alleged. National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent an e-mail to key officials August 25 asserting that the UN investigation was pointless.

Since then, administration officials have dismissed the UN investigation as representing a Syrian political tactic. Kerry claimed in his statement Friday that when the UN inspections were “finally given access, that access – as we now know – was restricted and controlled.”  

But Farhan Haq, the associate spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who has been getting regular reports from the UN team on its work in Syria, told Truthout that he was unaware of any restrictions on the team’s work.

The Obama administration has made it clear it does not intend to rely on the UN investigation’s findings. Kerry declared on Sunday that samples of blood and hair from medical personnel in eastern Ghouta had been found to contain traces of sarin nerve gas.

However, those samples did not go through the UN investigators, but were smuggled out of Syria by opposition activists. The spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme National Council, Khaled Saleh, had announced August 22 that “activists” had collected their own hair, blood and soil samples and were smuggling them out of the country.

The Obama administration had obtained physiological samples related to previous alleged nerve gas attacks, which had tested positive for sarin, but administration officials had insisted that, without being certain of the chain of custody, “they couldn’t be sure who had handled those samples,” as one official put it.

Despite the knowledge that samples lacking a clear chain of custody could have been tampered with, however, the administration began to disregard that key factor in June. It adopted a policy of accepting such samples as evidence of government guilt, on the argument, as one official explained, “It’s impossible that the opposition is faking the stuff in so many instances in so many locations.”

That policy shift is part of the undeclared framework in which the intelligence assessment was carried out.

Regardless of what evidence emerges in coming weeks, we would do well to note the inconsistencies and misleading language contained in the assessment, bearing in mind the consequences of utilizing ambiguous intelligence to justify an act of war.

“Bradley Manning Has Become a Martyr”–WikiLeaks’ Publisher Julian Assange On Guilty Verdict

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2013 at 4:52 pm

https://i1.wp.com/www.havanatimes.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/julian-assange.jpgOldspeak: “The verdict is clearly an attempt to crush whistleblowers. It’s not going to crush whistleblowers. The problems that exist in the security state in the West, and a few other countries, as well,  are as bad as they have ever been, they’re rapidly accelerating. We now have a state within a state in the United States. There are more than five million people with security clearances, more than one million people with top-secret security clearances. The majority of those one million people with top-secret security clearances work for firms like Booz Allen Hamilton and so on, where they are out of the Freedom of Information Act, where they are out of the inspector general of intelligence’s eye. That is creating a new system, a new system of information apartheid, a new asymmetry of information between different groups of people. That’s relating to extensive power inequalities with the—if you like, the essence of the state, the deep state, the intelligence community, lifting off from the rest of the population, developing its own society and going its own way.

And we have a situation now where young people, like Edward Snowden, who have been exposed to the Internet, who have seen the world, who have a perspective, who have seen our work, the work of—allegedly of Bradley Manning and others, don’t like that. They do not accept that. They do not accept that the U.S. Constitution can be violated, that international human rights law norms can be conspicuously violated, that this information apartheid exists. That system cannot continue. We even saw Michael Hayden acknowledge that in an interview in Australia recently, that in order to function, the National Security Agency, the CIA, and so on, has to recruit people between the ages of 20 and 30. Those people, if they’re technical and they’re exposed to the Internet, they have a certain view about what is just. And they find that they’re—in their jobs, the agencies that they work for do not behave in a legal, ethical or moral manner. So the writing is on the wall for these agencies.” -Jullian Assange

“The writing is indeed on the wall for the gargantuan surveillance state and its controllers. It’s simple physics really. There are infinitely more people who want the internet open and free, than those who want it closed, sureveiled and exclusively used for profit and control. The people who want to control it have to hire people who want it open and free to work at their surveillance agencies.  It’s only a matter of time before the people who want it open and free, outnumber the people who want it closed and controlled at these agencies.  Thomas Drake, William Binney, John Kiriakou, Sibel Edmonds, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Glenn Grunwald, Laura Poitras, are just the latest in a long line brave souls who’ve defiantly declared “we don’t need no thought control.…” Exposing the truth, lies, corruption, waste, fraud, abuse, unconstitutionality, murder, torture, violence, intimidation, censorship, that our government engages in in our name, with our tax dollars (granted significantly less so, increasingly funded by the corporatocracy). Knowing all we know we can no longer act surprised and appalled when some dude that just saw his family killed in a drone strike tries to blow up times square. Or when two disillusioned kids who’d previously attended CIA workshops, blow up a pressure cooker at the Boston Marathon. Meanwhile our selected officials vote to continue funding our nations extra-legal attrocities. Our government is making us less safe, with its secret panopticon equipped war machine. But it is as Mr. Assange said the writing is on the wall.  The apparatus is too large to hide from view now. The time of soma induced control is coming to an end.  .” -OSJ

By Amy Goodman &  Nermeen Shaikh @ Democracy Now:

The sentencing hearing for Army whistleblower Bradley Manning begins today following his acquittal on the most serious charge he faced, aiding the enemy, but conviction on 20 other counts. On Tuesday, Manning was found guilty of violating the Espionage Act and other charges for leaking hundreds of thousands of government documents to WikiLeaks. In beating the “aiding the enemy” charge, Manning avoids an automatic life sentence, but he still faces a maximum of 136 years in prison on the remaining counts. In his first U.S. television interview since the verdict, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange discusses the Manning “show trial,” the plight of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, and the verdict’s impact on WikiLeaks. “Bradley Manning is now a martyr,” Assange says. “He didn’t choose to be a martyr. I don’t think it’s a proper way for activists to behave to choose to be martyrs, but these young men — allegedly in the case of Bradley Manning and clearly in the case of Edward Snowden — have risked their freedom, risked their lives, for all of us. That makes them heroes.” According to numerous press reports, the conviction of Manning makes it increasingly likely that the U.S. will prosecute Assange as a co-conspirator. During the trial, military prosecutors portrayed Assange as an “information anarchist” who encouraged Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: The sentencing hearing for jailed Army Private Bradley Manning begins today, one day after he was convicted of six counts of violating the Espionage Act and over a dozen other charges for giving WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, raw intelligence reports and videos from the Iraqi and Afghan battlefields and elsewhere. Military judge Colonel Denise Lind found Manning not guilty on the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, which carried a potential life sentence without parole. Reporters who were in the courtroom say Manning showed no emotion as he stood to hear Judge Lind read the verdict. The sentencing phase of his trial is expected to last at least a week with more than 20 witnesses set to appear. The 25-year-old Manning faces a maximum of 136 years in prison.

AMY GOODMAN: In a statement to The Guardian, Manning’s family expressed thanks to his civilian lawyer, David Coombs, who worked on the case, which has now lasted three years. An unnamed aunt of Manning said, quote, “While we’re obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we’re happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way. Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform,” she wrote.

Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, responded to the verdict Tuesday saying, quote, “It seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”

Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers and Democratic Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger issued a joint statement that, quote, “justice has been served,” adding, “There is still much work to be done to reduce the ability of criminals like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden to harm our national security.”

Well, today we spend the hour on the Manning verdict and its implications. We begin with Julian Assange, founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, which published the secret cables obtained by Bradley Manning. According to numerous press reports, the conviction of Manning makes it increasingly likely that the United States will prosecute Assange as a co-conspirator. During the trial, military prosecutors portrayed Assange as an information anarchist who encouraged Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

Julian Assange joins us via Democracy Now! video stream from the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He took refugee in the embassy in June of 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he’s wanted for questioning around sex assault allegations but has never been charged. He remains in the embassy there because the British government promises to arrest him if he steps foot on British soil. This is his first interview with a U.S. TV show since the Manning verdict.

We welcome you back to Democracy Now!, Julian Assange. What is your response to the verdict?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Thank you, Amy. First of all, I must correct you. I have been given political asylum in this embassy in relationship to the case that is in progress in the United States. It’s a common media myth that’s put about that my asylum here is in relation to Sweden. It is not. Here I am.

My reaction to the verdict yesterday, well, first of all, really one of surprise in relation to the timing. This is a case that has been going for three years, two months at trial, over 18 months of interlocutory motions, at least 40,000 pages of judgments and evidence that the judge was required to read. But she has made her decision on 21 separate counts over the weekend. We said at the very beginning of this process that this was a show trial. This is not a trial where any justice can come about, because the framing of what was possible to debate was set from the very beginning. It was not possible for Bradley Manning’s team to say that he was well-intentioned. Motive was taken out of the case. The prosecution has not alleged that a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning’s alleged actions, not a single person. And, in fact, no evidence was presented that anyone was indeed harmed. The defense is not allowed to argue that that means that these charges should be thrown out.

And so what we are left with here is 20 convictions for Bradley Manning. Five of those are for espionage. This is a case where everyone agrees that Bradley Manning provided the media information about war crimes and politics, some of which was published by the media. There is no allegation that he worked with a foreign power, that he accepted any personal benefit for the disclosures that he engaged in. And yet, we see him being convicted for five charges of espionage. It is completely absurd. It cannot possibly be the case that a journalistic source, who is not communicating with a foreign power, who is simply working for the American public, can be convicted of five counts of espionage. That is a abuse, not merely of Bradley Manning’s human rights, but it is an abuse of language, it’s abuse of the U.S. Constitution, which says very clearly the Congress will make no law abridging the freedom of the press or of the right to speech. That’s clearly been subjugated here.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Julian Assange, you said yesterday that the aiding the enemy charge for which Bradley Manning was acquitted was absurd, and it was put forward, quote, “as a red herring,” you said. Could you explain what you mean by that?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, you will have seen the way WikiLeaks has made its statements today. We have Bradley Manning, right now, despite having been acquitted of effectively being a traitor, aiding the enemy—he was acquitted of that—but he faces 136 years in prison, which is more than a life sentence. So, this aiding the enemy charge, while it has attracted a lot of people’s attention, because it has a possible life sentence or death penalty, really, it was just part of the extent of overcharging in this case. You know, at the very minimum, perhaps Bradley Manning could have been charged, say, with mishandling classified information. Of course, I think he should be acquitted of such a charge, because under the First Amendment and a number of other obligations we all have, he should be free to break one obligation to fulfill another: the higher obligations of exposing crimes and satisfying the Constitution. But where we have a aiding the enemy charge soaking up our public attention and many people going, “Oh, well, look, the justice system is just, because it’s taken this one out,” actually, this is one charge out of 21 different offenses. He’s still up for 136 years. The substantive aspect that a alleged journalistic source, pure in their motives, as far as there are any allegations for, and who received no financial payment, has been now convicted of five counts of espionage, that is absurd.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break, but we’re going to come back to this discussion. We’re speaking to Julian Assange, our exclusive interview with him inside the Ecuadorean embassy. He’s been granted political asylum by the country of Ecuador but can’t leave the embassy for fear of the British government arresting him. Julian Assange is the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. We’ll continue with him in a moment.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. This is the broadcast on the day after the Bradley Manning verdict was announced, that he was acquitted of aiding the enemy but found guilty on a number of espionage-related and other charges. He faces 136 years in prison. The sentencing phase of the trial begins today 9:30 Eastern time at Fort Meade, where the court-martial has taken place. Just after the Bradley Manning verdict was announced Tuesday, Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki to comment on the verdict. Let’s go to a clip of their exchange.

MATTHEW LEE: What is the State Department’s reaction to the verdict in the Manning trial?

JEN PSAKI: Well, Matt, we have seen the verdict, which I know just came out right before I stepped out here. I would—beyond that, I would refer you to the Department of Defense.

MATTHEW LEE: Well, for the—

JEN PSAKI: No further comment from here.

MATTHEW LEE: For the entire trial, this building had said that it wouldn’t comment because it was pending, it was a pending case. And now that it’s over, you say you’re still not going to comment?

JEN PSAKI: That’s correct. I would refer you to the Department of Defense.

MATTHEW LEE: Can I—OK, can I just ask why?

JEN PSAKI: Because the Department of Defense has been the point agency through this process.

MATTHEW LEE: Well, these were State Department cables, exactly. They were your property.

UNIDENTIFIED: State Department employees were [inaudible].

JEN PSAKI: We don’t—we just don’t have any further comment. I know the verdict just came out. I don’t have anything more for you at the time.

MATTHEW LEE: Well, does that mean—are you working on a comment?

JEN PSAKI: I don’t—

MATTHEW LEE: Are you gratified that this theft of your material was—

JEN PSAKI: I don’t expect so, Matt, but if we have anything more to say, I promise everybody in this room and then some will have it.

MATTHEW LEE: OK. I’m a little bit surprised that you don’t have any comment, considering the amount of energy and time this building expended on assisting the prosecution.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Associated Press reporter Matt Lee questioning State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki right after the verdict came down. Our interview continues with Julian Assange, founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. Your response to the government’s, U.S. government’s, lack of response and what this means also, Julian, in your own case?

JULIAN ASSANGE: It’s quite interesting to see the State Department doing that. The State Department has made many comments about this affair over the past three years, saying—Secretary Clinton, for example, saying that this was—once again, an absurd piece of rhetoric—an attack on the entire international community by our publishing organization and, I assume, by proxy, by our source, she would say.

Well, look, this investigation against our organization is the largest investigation and prosecution against a publisher in United States history and, arguably, anywhere in—anywhere in the world. It involves over a dozen different government departments. The tender for the DOJ to manage the documents related to the prosecution—the broader prosecution against WikiLeaks and myself, and not just the Manning case—is $1 [million] to $2 million per year just to maintain the computer system that manages the prosecution’s documents. So I assume those sort of statements by the State Department are a mechanism to reduce the perception of their involvement, which has been extensive over the last three years.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to comments made by Trevor Timm, who’s the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, regarding your likely prosecutions or the consequences of Manning’s verdict for you. He said—although he agreed that the verdict brings the government closer to prosecuting you, he said, quote, “Charging a publisher of information under the Espionage Act would be completely unprecedented and put every decent national security reporter in America at risk of jail, because they also regularly publish national security information.” Julian Assange, your response?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah, I agree. We’ve been saying this for three years now. It’s nice to see, finally, that in the past three months or so the mainstream press in the United States, at least McClatchy and The New York TimesWashington Post has been a bit more problematic—have woken up to the reality of what this case means for all national security reporters and, even more broadly, for publishers.

You know, the approach here has been to smash the insider and the outsider, as it was only one name on the table for an insider, and that was Bradley Manning; it was only one organization as the publisher, the outside force, that’s WikiLeaks, and most prominently represented by me. So in order to regain a sense of authority, the United States government has tried to, rather conspicuously, smash Bradley Manning and also the WikiLeaks organization. At least for WikiLeaks, the organization, it has not succeeded. It will not succeed. It is bringing great discredit on itself. Its desire for authority or perception of authority is such that it is willing to be seen as an immoral actor that breaches the rule of law, that breaches its own laws, that engages in torture against its youngest and brightest. In the case of Bradley Manning, the U.N. formally found against the United States, special rapporteur formally finding that the United States government had engaged in cruel and abusive treatment—cruel and inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, I also want to ask you about BSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who remains, as you know, at the Moscow airport, who you’re deeply involved with helping to try to find a place of asylum. In a letter sent last week to the Russian minister of justice, the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, assured Russia that Snowden will not be executed or tortured if he’s sent back to the United States. Holder wrote, quote, “Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.” He went on to say, “If he returns to the United States, Mr. Snowden would promptly be brought before a civilian court convened under Article III of the United States Constitution and supervised by a United States District Judge.” Holder also added, quote, “We believe [that] these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr. Snowden’s claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise.” Can you tell us what you understand to be the latest situation for Snowden and what your involvement with Edward Snowden is, why he is so significant to you, what his actions have been?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Edward Snowden’s freedom is a very important symbol. Bradley Manning’s incarceration is also an important symbol. Bradley Manning is now a martyr. He didn’t choose to be a martyr. I don’t think it’s a proper way for activists to behave, to choose to be martyrs. But these young men—allegedly in the case of Bradley Manning and clearly in the case of Edward Snowden—have risked their freedom, risked their lives for all of us. That makes them heroes. Now, Bradley Manning has been put into a position, quite unjustly, where he is facing 136 years. That brings disrepute upon the United States government and upon its system of justice. Edward Snowden has seen what has happened to Bradley Manning. The Ecuadorean government, in their asylum assessment of me, looked at what happened to Bradley Manning.

U.S. guarantees about torture mean nothing. We all know that the United States government simply redefines its torturous and abusive treatment of prisoners—stress positions, restriction on diet, extreme heat, extreme cold, deprivation of basic things needed for living like glasses or the company of others—it simply redefines that as not being torture. So, its word is worth nothing, in this particular case. In relation to the death penalty, guarantees about the death penalty have more credence, but we wouldn’t want Edward Snowden to be in a Jack Ruby-type situation. That’s quite a possibility for him, that if he ended up in the United States prison system, that given the level of vitriol that exists against him by the administration, that he would not be safe from police, he would not be safe from prison guards, and he would not be safe from other prisoners. There’s no question that he would not—there’s no question that he would not receive a fair trial.

Similarly, the charges against him are political. There’s only allegations on the table at the moment that he acted for a political purpose: to educate all of us. Those are the only allegations that exist. It is incorrect that extraditions should take place for a political purpose. He’s clearly been exercising his political opinion. But we have seen amazing statements by the White House in relation to Edward Snowden’s meeting with Human Rights Watch, based in New York, Amnesty International, based in London, that that should not have happened, that that was a propaganda platform for Edward Snowden. I mean, this is incredible to see Jay Carney, a White House spokesperson, denouncing Edward Snowden for speaking to human rights groups. Edward Snowden cannot possibly receive a fair judicial process in the United States. Under that basis, he has applied for asylum in a number of different countries. I believe that Russia will afford him asylum in this case, or at least on a temporary or interim basis. And a number of other countries have offered him asylum.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian, what—Julian, what is the problem? Last week, there was breaking news that the Russian—that Russia had granted him temporary asylum, but now it is said that he has never been given those papers, so he can’t leave the—what, the airport lounge.

JULIAN ASSANGE: This is just the media. This is a case where there’s a lot of demand for information, so people just invent it, or they amplify some particular rumor.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Julian Assange, very quickly, before we conclude, the U.S. government now classifies 92 million documents a year—this is an unprecedented number—with over four million people cleared for security clearance. Can you explain what you think the significance of this is and has been for whistleblowers, and what the Manning verdict says to future potential whistleblowers?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, the verdict is clearly an attempt to crush whistleblowers. It’s not going to crush whistleblowers. The problems that exist in the security state in the West, and a few other countries, as well, as bad as they have ever been, they’re rapidly accelerating. We now have a state within a state in the United States. There are more than five million people with security clearances, more than one million people with top-secret security clearances. The majority of those one million people with top-secret security clearances work for firms like Booz Allen Hamilton and so on, where they are out of the Freedom of Information Act, where they are out of the inspector general of intelligence’s eye. That is creating a new system, a new system of information apartheid, a new asymmetry of information between different groups of people. That’s relating to extensive power inequalities with the—if you like, the essence of the state, the deep state, the intelligence community, lifting off from the rest of the population, developing its own society and going its own way.

And we have a situation now where young people, like Edward Snowden, who have been exposed to the Internet, who have seen the world, who have a perspective, who have seen our work, the work of—allegedly of Bradley Manning and others, don’t like that. They do not accept that. They do not accept that the U.S. Constitution can be violated, that international human rights law norms can be conspicuously violated, that this information apartheid exists. That system cannot continue. We even saw Michael Hayden acknowledge that in an interview in Australia recently, that in order to function, the National Security Agency, the CIA, and so on, has to recruit people between the ages of 20 and 30. Those people, if they’re technical and they’re exposed to the Internet, they have a certain view about what is just. And they find that they’re—in their jobs, the agencies that they work for do not behave in a legal, ethical or moral manner. So the writing is on the wall for these agencies.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian, I know you have to go, but I want to quickly ask one more time: What does the verdict in the Bradley Manning case—faces 136 years in prison—mean for you? Your name and WikiLeaks came up repeatedly throughout the trial. We know of a grand jury investigation of you and WikiLeaks in Virginia. Do you in fact know that there is a sealed indictment for you? And what does this mean for your time at the Ecuadorean embassy and your chance of getting out?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Based on conversations with the DOJ between my U.S. lawyers and the DOJ spokespersons, we know a lot. We know that Neil MacBride, the Virginia DA, has the grand jury process. My U.S. lawyers believe that it is more probable than not that there is a sealed indictment. It’s the only explanation for the DA behavior. The DOJ has admitted that the investigation against me and WikiLeaks proceeds.

In relation to the Manning verdict, we will continue to fight that. We have a lot of people now in his coalition. Bradley Manning’s support team has been great. The Center for Constitutional Rights also have been excellent, Michael Ratner, who’s been on your own program. That team understands what is going on; has been deployed, to a degree, to defend Mr. Snowden in public; and presumably, when the time comes, will also defend us. I am completely confident that the U.S. will not succeed in extraditing me, because I have asylum at this embassy. In relation to the broader attack on the rest of our staff, that’s still very much in the fight, but we’re not going to go down easy.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have this breaking news, which says that the Obama administration will make public a previously classified order that directed Verizon Communications to turn over a vast number of Americans’ phone records, according to senior U.S. officials. The formerly secret order will be unveiled before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that’s scheduled to begin in 20 minutes from our broadcast time right now. The order was issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to a subsidiary of Verizon in April. Your response to that, finally, Julian? And then we’ll let you go.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, Edward Snowden already made the order public, so, I mean, this is absurd. This is like our release of Guantánamo Bay documents and other documents. These have already been made public, and now the administration is going to apparently wave some magical pixie dust to remove the contaminant of it being formerly classified by the administration. So, I mean, here we have an example that there’s actually no disclosure before the public, until there is unauthorized disclosure before the public. If I’m incorrect, and this is not the document that Snowden has already revealed—

AMY GOODMAN: It is. It is the document.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah, so, I mean, it’s—there’s some magical-like process going on here where there’s holy documents and unholy documents. Holy documents are documents that this classification state within a state, five million people with security clearances, have somehow done something, to sprinkle some absurd holy water on. These are just pieces of paper with bits of information on them and bureaucrats putting a stamp on them. That’s the reality. We’ve got to remove this religious national security extremism. It is a new religion in the United States and in some other countries. It’s absurd. It’s ridiculous. It needs to go.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, we want to thank you for being with us, founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, granted political asylum by Ecuador last year and sought refuge over a year ago at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

The Secret History Of The War Over Oil In Iraq: The Real Reason For The Iraq War

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Oldspeak: “Oil men, whether James Baker or George Bush or Dick Cheney, are not in the business of producing oil. They are in the business of producing profits. And that’s how George Bush won the war in Iraq. The invasion was not about “blood for oil”, but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward. And they’ve succeeded. Iraq, capable of producing six to 12 million barrels of oil a day, still exports well under its old OPEC quota of three million barrels.” Behold! Grand Area Doctrine par excellence. “Military intervention at will…  it declared that the US has the right to use military force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” and must maintain huge military forces “forward deployed” in Europe and Asia “in order to shape people’s opinions about us” and “to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security.” –Noam Chomsky. When you see the full length and breadth of the depraved and anti-human logic profit-hungry corporocrats concoct to serve their anti-democratic ends, all you can do is shake your head and sigh. Why? Why were over 100,ooo poor, working and middle class Americans killed and maimed? Why have 1,ooo,ooo Iraqi men women and children been killed, with untold numbers on of Americans & Iraqis poisoned and permanently disfigured via the rain of depleted uranium bullets and shells rained on Iraq? Artificially imposed scarcity to generate exorbitant profits, or in a word: Greed. They believe wholeheartedly in the immortal words of Gordon Gekko “Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA” They see the world as a “college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business“. They see the USA as a failing corporation, and they’re looting it before it goes bankrupt. Buying and selling everything that isn’t nailed down, including people. We the people are not really people in their eyes. We’re employees. Unsecured creditors. Revenue streams. All expendable, as evidenced by the breathtaking misadventures in Iraq. The ironic thing is this diabolical plan and illegal war, will help the planet as whole. 10 million less barrels of oil have been burned. The profits accumulated and trillions of dollars wasted are artificial. The real costs in lives and resources have been unacceptably and unnecessarily high. If things remain as they are, conditions will deteriorate. These resource wars will become more more frequent, when there isn’t enough to go around.  Sadly this secret history will not become public, I don’t expect corporate media to pick up on what this intrepid journalist has reported. The official stories and counter-stories have been inculcated. War crimes will continue to go unpunished. Could we expect anything else from a civilization that organizes itself around entities like  sociopathic multinational energy corporations?

By Greg Palast @ Vice Magazine:

Greg Palast is a New York Times bestselling author and fearless investigative journalist whose reports appear on BBC Television Newsnight and in The Guardian. Palast eats the rich and spits them out. Catch his reports and films at www.GregPalast.com, where you can also securely send him your documents marked, “confidential”.

Because it was marked “confidential” on each page, the oil industry stooge couldn’t believe the US State Department had given me a complete copy of their secret plans for the oil fields of Iraq.

Actually, the State Department had done no such thing. But my line of bullshit had been so well-practiced and the set-up on my mark had so thoroughly established my fake identity, that I almost began to believe my own lies.

I closed in. I said I wanted to make sure she and I were working from the same State Department draft. Could she tell me the official name, date and number of pages? She did.

Bingo! I’d just beaten the Military-Petroleum Complex in a lying contest, so I had a right to be chuffed.

After phoning numbers from California to Kazakhstan to trick my mark, my next calls were to the State Department and Pentagon. Now that I had the specs on the scheme for Iraq’s oil – that State and Defense Department swore, in writing, did not exist – I told them I’d appreciate their handing over a copy (no expurgations, please) or there would be a very embarrassing story on BBC Newsnight.

Within days, our chief of investigations, Ms Badpenny, delivered to my shack in the woods outside New York a 323-page, three-volume programme for Iraq’s oil crafted by George Bush’s State Department and petroleum insiders meeting secretly in Houston, Texas.

I cracked open the pile of paper – and I was blown away.

Like most lefty journalists, I assumed that George Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq to buy up its oil fields, cheap and at gun-point, and cart off the oil. We thought we knew the neo-cons true casus belli: Blood for oil.

But the truth in the Options for Iraqi Oil Industry was worse than “Blood for Oil”. Much, much worse.

The key was in the flow chart on page 15, Iraq Oil Regime Timeline & Scenario Analysis:

“…A single state-owned company …enhances a government’s relationship with OPEC.”

https://i1.wp.com/assets.vice.com/content-images/contentimage/no-slug/c2e001a56cbf6658dfc45f72dcf71b55.jpg
An infographic produced by the author presenting the Iraq war’s secret history. Click to enlarge.

Let me explain why these words rocked my casbah.

I’d already had in my hands a 101-page document, another State Department secret scheme, first uncovered by Wall Street Journal reporter Neil King, that called for the privatisation, the complete sell-off of every single government-owned asset and industry. And in case anyone missed the point, the sales would include every derrick, pipe and barrel of oil, or, as the document put it, “especially the oil”.

That plan was created by a gaggle of corporate lobbyists and neo-cons working for the Heritage Foundation. In 2004, the plan’s authenticity was confirmed by Washington power player Grover Norquist. (It’s hard to erase the ill memory of Grover excitedly waving around his soft little hands as he boasted about turning Iraq into a free-market Disneyland, recreating Chile in Mesopotamia, complete with the Pinochet-style dictatorship necessary to lock up the assets – while behind Norquist, Richard Nixon snarled at me from a gargantuan portrait.)

The neo-con idea was to break up and sell off Iraq’s oil fields, ramp up production, flood the world oil market – and thereby smash OPEC and with it, the political dominance of Saudi Arabia.

General Jay Garner also confirmed the plan to grab the oil. Indeed, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld fired Garner, when the General, who had lived in Iraq, complained the neo-con grab would set off a civil war. It did. Nevertheless, Rumsfeld replaced Garner with a new American viceroy, Paul Bremer, a partner in Henry Kissinger’s firm, to complete the corporate takeover of Iraq’s assets – “especially the oil”.

But that was not to be. While Bremer oversaw the wall-to-wall transfer of Iraqi industries to foreign corporations, he was stopped cold at the edge of the oil fields.

How? I knew there was only one man who could swat away the entire neo-con army: James Baker, former Secretary of State, Bush family consiglieri and most important, counsel to Exxon-Mobil Corporation and the House of Saud.

(One unwitting source was industry oil-trading maven Edward Morse of Lehman/Credit Suisse, who threatened to sue Harper’s Magazine for my quoting him. Morse denied I ever spoke with him. But when I played the tape from my hidden recorder, his memory cleared and he scampered away.)

There was no way in hell that Baker’s clients, from Exxon to Abdullah, were going to let a gaggle of neo-con freaks smash up Iraq’s oil industry, break OPEC production quotas, flood the market with six million bbd of Iraqi oil and thereby knock the price of oil back down to $13 a barrel where it was in 1998.


The author.

Big Oil could not allow Iraq’s oil fields to be privatised and taken from state control. That would make it impossible to keep Iraq within OPEC (an avowed goal of the neo-cons) as the state could no longer limit production in accordance with the cartel’s quota system. The US oil industry was using its full political mojo to prevent their being handed ownership of Iraq’s oil fields.

That’s right: The oil companies didn’t want to own the oil fields – and they sure as hell didn’t want the oil. Just the opposite. They wanted to make sure there would be a limit on the amount of oil that would come out of Iraq.

Saddam wasn’t trying to stop the flow of oil – he was trying to sell more. The price of oil had been boosted 300 percent by sanctions and an embargo cutting Iraq’s sales to two million barrels a day from four. With Saddam gone, the only way to keep the damn oil in the ground was to leave it locked up inside the busted state oil company which would remain under OPEC (i.e. Saudi) quotas.

The James Baker Institute quickly and secretly started in on drafting the 323-page plan for the State Department. With authority granted from the top (i.e. Dick Cheney), ex-Shell Oil USA CEO Phil Carroll was rushed to Baghdad in May 2003 to take charge of Iraq’s oil. He told Bremer, “There will be no privatisation of oil – END OF STATEMENT.” Carroll then passed off control of Iraq’s oil to Bob McKee of Halliburton, Cheney’s old oil-services company, who implemented the Baker “enhance OPEC” option anchored in state ownership.

Some oil could be released, mainly to China, through limited, but lucrative, “production sharing agreements”.

And that’s how George Bush won the war in Iraq. The invasion was not about “blood for oil”, but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward.

Oil men, whether James Baker or George Bush or Dick Cheney, are not in the business of producing oil. They are in the business of producing profits.

And they’ve succeeded. Iraq, capable of producing six to 12 million barrels of oil a day, still exports well under its old OPEC quota of three million barrels.

The result: As we mark the tenth anniversary of the invasion this month, we also mark the fifth year of crude at $100 a barrel.

As George Bush could proudly say to James Baker: Mission Accomplished!

Follow Greg on Twitter: @Greg_Palast