Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Cult falls apart






Today on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show -- after the unplanned bluegrass moment (for approximatly five minutes of the show "Some Morning Soon" is playing over the guests during today's show) -- Iraq was noted by Diane and her guests Youchi J. Dreazen (Wall St. Journal), Tom Gjelten (NPR) and Farah Stockman (Boston Globe)..

Diane Rehm: Youchi Dreazen of the Wall St. Journal and you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show and, Youchi, tell us about this software breach involving US drones in Iraq.

Youchi Dreazen: Yeah, what it is is that that the video feeds from the drones that are used and, frankly, from other aircraft as well but particularly the drones, the video feeds are not encrypted. Which means that if you're an insurgent nearby and you have a laptop and you have -- one of the programs you can use is called SkyGrabber which costs about $26 and you can download it off the web, you could then watch in real time and download and store the feeds of any Predator nearby which is significant for two reasons. One, the US often uses Predators over its own forces so that if there's a US operation, they have Predators overhead, so somebody who's watching that feed could be able to see our personnel. It's also significant because it shows somebody watching what we're looking for -- so Predators would be over a given highway, a given series of buildings, a lot of them are used along the Iraq-Iran border to try to cut down on weapon smuggling from Iran and this would show somebody watching those feeds theoretically what's being watched, when we're watching it, etc. What's somehow more surprising is that this has been known about for so long. It's been talked about in the Pentagon for so long and no one's done anything about it. This was an issue in Bosnia. And we reported today that in 2004 there was a concern about -- in 2004, it wasn't insurgents intercepting it, it was what if Russia and China basically use a James Cameron-style special effect so that somebody's watching a drone feed, they don't see anything and suddenly there's a tank? Or they do see something, but it's not actually there? So this has been known about, it's been discussed but no action's been taken --

Diane Rehm: Tom?

Youchi Dreazen: -- at least until now.

Tom Gjelten: Well, Diane, this is a really important story and we should point out that Youchi and his Wall St. Journal colleagues [Sibohan Gorman and August Cole] broke this story this week so, you know, credit where it's due. I think one of the complicating factors here is that ground troops, soldiers and marines are increasingly make use of use from drones and other-other aircraft. Now a lot of the time the troops on the ground don't have as high technology available to them, you know, as the drone operators do. So you have more simplified technology on the ground trying to make use of these feeds and the feeds are providing extremely important information to them to help chart their ground operations but the technology has to be to oversimplify it, it has to be simplified for the ground troops to make use of it. They may not have the decryption technology that is necessary so you can't have really highly encrypted signals coming from above if the soldiers and marines on the ground don't have the technology to decode it. That's one of the issues that complicates the solution of this problem.

Diane Rehm: So somebody got hold of this. What use was made of the information?

Youchi Dreazen: That's the open question. I mean, the way that this was discovered was a sort of interesting, cloak and dagger kind of case where US troops arrested a Shi'ite militant, took his laptop and started going through it and on the laptop found video files. Then, in July, arrested other militants elsewhere in Iraq, actually from another group as it turned out, went through their laptops and found an even wider array of drone video files so this is kind of interesting sort of spy versus spy, this power was discovered.The military continues to insist that no missions were compromised, nobody was hurt. In fairness, it's a hard thing to prove, one way or another, but that has been -- the military has been adament from the beginning till now that, yes, these were intercepted, yes, they could be used but they didn't see any evidence so far that they had been used.

Diane Rehm: How embarrassing is this, Tom?

Tom Gjelten: Well it is embarrassing and it's all the more embarrassing because it's coming at a time when this administration is really proposing a much broader uh use of these drone aircraft, the Predators in particular. I mean, yesterday -- between yesterday and today, there were ten drone strikes in Pakistan. Now I think that's the most in any two day period in a long, long time. And this fits into the broader counter-terrorism strategy that this administration is proposing for Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, you know, to-to-to highlight the vulnerability of this approach at the very time when you're really proposing an expansion of this approach is, as you say, embarrassing.

Diane Rehm: Farah?

Farah Stockman: It also just shows that these insurgents are a lot more technology savy than anybody ever imagined they would be and I think that's the -- that's the new world we're living in.

NPR sidebar: Today on NPR's Fresh Air Nellie McKay was a guest. Fresh Air is played on various NPR stations during the day and some NPR stations repeat that day's broadcast also at night and, in addition, the segment can be streamed online. Her new album is Normal As Blueberry Pie and this is a plug for Nellie because she stood up to all kinds of pressure in 2008 when she supported Ralph Nader. It took guts and, along with huge artistic talents, she has tremendous strength. Much more so than Ralph's 2000 'friends' who showed what cowards they really were. Excuse me, cowards and bullies since so many of them not only refused to stand with Ralph but actively tore down others who did. I voted for Ralph or Cynthia McKinney (I'm not saying which -- now or ever -- nor is Ava saying which she voted for). Either was a strong vote. This community endorsed Ralph. When Oklahoma members discovered they only had the choice of voting for War Hawk Barack or War Hawk John McCain, they went with with McCain because they knew there would be a strong push back on each of McCain's War Crimes as opposed to the limp response offerd by so much of the 'left' for Barack's. John R. MacArthur (Harper's magazine) notes the limp response from Frank Rich (a bad 'drama' 'critic' trying to masquerade as a 'thinker'), Hendrick Hertzberg, and others. We'll note his section on Tom-Tom Hayden:

Then there's Tom Hayden, the former radical and author of the Students for A Democratic Society's Port Huron Statement, who was a belligerent booster of Obama during last year's campaign. Hayden, too, is upset about Afghanistan, but not enough to cast aside his self-delusion about Obama. Claiming to speak for "the antiwar movement," he laments that the "costs in human lives and tax dollars are simply unsustainable" and, worse, that "Obama is squandering any hope for his progressive domestic agenda by this tragic escalation of the war."
Unsustainable? Tragic? There's no evidence that Obama and his chief of staff see any limit to their ability to print dollars, sell Treasury bonds and send working-class kids to die in distant lands. And what "progressive" agenda is Hayden talking about? So far, Obama's big domestic goals have been compulsory, government-subsidized insurance policies that will further enrich the private health-care business, huge increases in Pentagon spending and purely symbolic regulation of Wall Street.
While Obama was speaking to the unfortunate cadets, I couldn't help thinking of Richard Nixon and his "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War, a plan that entailed a long and pointless continuation of the fighting. Most liberals would agree that Nixon was a terrible president. Yet, for all his vicious mendacity, I think the sage of San Clemente had a bad conscience about the harm he did, about all he caused to die and be crippled.
Instead of shoring up Obama's image of goodness, liberals really should be asking, "Does the president have a conscience?" Because if he does, he's really no better than Nixon.

I always knew Tom-Tom would spend his faded years as Tricky Dick's mistress. Also noting Tom-Tom, is Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report -- link has text and audio) who explains Tommy and Bill Fletcher's organization "Progressives For Barack" has -- like Blackwater -- became an embarrassment so -- like Blackwater -- Tommy and Billy are trying for a clean slate by changing the organization's name to "Progressives For America":

The left-wing Obamites were the nastiest of all. They viciously libeled anyone that advanced a Left critique of their hero, calling them enemies of a new "people's movement," when in fact it was they who were shutting the movement down in favor of a fan club and cheering section for Obama. Amiri Baraka spit poison at all who failed to pledge allegiance to the Great Obama, calling us infantile ultra-leftists and just plain "rascals." Bill Fletcher and Tom Hayden stuck with Obama like little sorcerer's apprentices as the president methodically savaged virtually every item on the progressive agenda. What else could they do? To break with Obama would amount to an admission that they were wrong about the progressive "potential" of their candidate; that he had always been a thoroughly corporate politician who would lurch to the Right as soon as he took office; and that, by failing to criticize Obama early in the campaign, they were guaranteeing that he would disrespect and ignore Blacks and progressives, once in office.
Tom Hayden now declares it's finally "time to strip the Obama sticker" off his car. Well, whoopee. Back in the day, Hayden would have been expected to engage in some serious self-criticism for misleading so many people about Obama. The same goes for Bill Fletcher, who appeared on a Pacifica radio show last week sounding like he'd never been an Obama fan. Fletcher said it was inappropriate for the Nobel committee to award Obama the Peace Prize when the president had done nothing to cause a "fundamental shift" in U.S. foreign policy. You can't influence a president of the United States to do the right thing, Fletcher said, by giving him awards in hopes that he will earn them. But that's exactly what Fletcher and his fellow Obama fanatics tried to pull off when they endorsed candidate Obama on a wish and a prayer when there was no reason to believe he would undertake any "fundamental shift" in U.S. foreign or domestic policy. As a result, the Left played no role whatsoever in the 2008 election. They just blew kisses at Obama, hoping he'd kiss them back after the inauguration.

Actually, it was worse than that. Throughout 2008, Barack repeatedly HIT the left and the response was to get starry-eyed and sing, "He hit me and it felt like a kiss." Especially true of Tom Hayden who was repeatedly used by Barack as a public punching bag (not limited to but including the sneer at "Tom Hayden Democrats"). As we noted January 1, 2009: "That sort of behavior is a sickness. 2008 saw that sickness over and over as Barack repeatedly tossed population segments under the bus, repeatedly caved and sold out and was never, ever held accountable. But, hey!, he might have a liaison to the 'progressive' community! [. . .] Likewise, the Barack groupies will have to grow up at some point. Whether they do so in 2009 or after he's on his way out of office will determine whether the people force the change they need or spend the next years cheerleading blindly out of fear that they might hurt their Dream Lover. "

People need to get real. That includes grasping that a "draw-down" is what's promised in 2010, not a "withdrawal" from Iraq. Admiral Mike Mullens spoke of the "draw-down" today and yet notice all the sloppy so-called journalists calling it a "withdrawal." There is no talk of an Iraq withdrawal in 2010. The White House has been very clear that they plan a draw-down for 2010. Whether that will come to be, the world will have to wait and see. But a draw-down is not a withdrawal -- unless you're an ignorant fool.

A real demand for withdrawal -- not draw-down -- is in the news. Iraq's requesting that Iran withdraw. Caroline Alexander and Margot Habiby (Bloomberg News) report, "Iraq's National Security Council said today that Iran violated their shared border and Iraq's 'territorial integrity' and called on the Islamic republic to withdraw its forces from the region." Timothy Williams and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) add, "The Iraqi government said Friday that Iranian troops had crossed the border and occupied a portion of an oil field situated on disputed land between the two countries, but Iranian officials immediately and vehemently disputed the account." Dow Jones Newswires states they were told that by a Missan Oil Compnay official that "Iranian forces took hold of an Iraqi well in a disputed section of the border after opening fire against Iraqi oil workers"; however, the official tells Dow Jones this action took place "two weeks ago." Suadad al-Salhy, Missy Ryan and Ralph Boulton (Reuters) quote Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji, Deputy Interior Minister, stating, "At 3:30 this afternoon, 11 Iranian [soldiers] infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well. They raised the Iranian flag, and they are still there until this moment." Gulf Daily News adds, "Officials have summoned Tehran's envoy in Iraq to discuss the matter, he said. Iraqi officials said the soldiers crossed into Iraqi territory yesterday and raised the Iranian flag at Fakka." Mosab Jasim (Al Jazeera) states, "The Iraqi president called for an emergency session to discuss what they describe as a violation from Iran, but nothing came out of the meeting and whatever actions they are going to take are still not clear." The President of Iraq is Jalal Talabani. However, the report indicates Jasim was referring to Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) offers this context, "Reports of the incident aggravated long-standing tensions between the countries, which fought a 1980-88 war that claimed as many as a million lives. Although Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government and Shiite Iran have grown closer since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ousted Iraq's Sunni Muslim dictator, Saddam Hussein, border issues remain thorny, with sporadic posturing from both sides." If it's been seized, what's been seized? Alice Fordham (Times of London) explains, "The well is one of several in the Fakka oil field, which was part of a group offered to foreign investors in June, but no contract was awarded." She also notes that Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani went on state television to insist, "Iraq will not give up its oil wealth" today. Adam Arnold (Sky News) offers US military reaction: "A spokesman for the US military confirmed the soldiers had taken control of the oil well but added it was in 'disputed territory' near the border and happened fairly frequently. 'There has been no violence related to this incident and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the governments of Iraq and Iran,' he said." While that source is unnamed US Col Peter Newell is on the record offering Arnold context. What really happened? Who knows? It will slowly emerge over the weekend, most likely. What is known is that the talk/rumors/incident had one result. Nick Godt (MarketWatch) reports that the rumors led to an initial rise in the price of oil per barrel today.

On the subject of oil, there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding US interests. We'll leave out the partisans on the right (to avoid mocking anyone) and instead note that the same talking point Jim Jubak (MoneyShow) which is boiled down to: The US is shut out of Iraq oil money. (A number of right-wingers are expanding and stating, "See the war wasn't about oil." Oil was part of it, oil wasn't the only thing.) Jubak laments America's lack of success in winning Iraq oil fields and points to "Royal Dutch Shell" and its success. Excuse me? What's that supposed to mean? "Royal Dutch Shell"? We think the Dutch are the only ones raking it in at Shell? Check their board of directors. 14 members of the board, 5 are British, 1 is American (Lawrence Ricciardi). 'Foreign company'? In this day and age are we that stupid? It's not "nationals," it's multi-nationals today. Jubank also notes Total's success. Total bills itself as "the fifth largest publicly-traded integrated international oil and gas company in the world" -- international. And we're not even looking at major shareholders in these companies. Again, these are "multi-nationals." That's the key word and this silly nonsense that some on the right are offering is nonsense. WQhat is British Petroleum (another winning bid)? Those not in the know would think, "State owned company in the United Kingdom." Uh, no, kids. BP was privatized sometime ago. And it absorged Standard Oil and Amoco. US companies. It's an international congolomerate, a multi-national at this point. George David sits on BP's board. George David is an American citizen. I'm not sure whether the right-wingers are that stupid or if they think we are but this idea that the US is shut out from the oil fields demonstrates (at best) a highly simplistic view of today's economic playing field and (at worst) a desire to knowingly deceive the public.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Tony Blair, Iraq Inquiry, dizzy war porn from NYT"
"Security, injuries"
"I Hate The War"
"Vegetarian Casserole in the Kitchen"
"Chilcot's Cage Rattled"
"Hillary Is 44 makes a list"
"The Big Give Away needs to be stopped"
"me? the tech guru?"
"christmas iii"
"Nativo tells the truth"
"Maggie calls to tell me to listen to KPFA Flashpoints "
"Adding the numbers?"
"All the undone work"
"Burn pits made EZ"
"Why does it surprise us? "
"Was Jerry Lewis ever funny?"
"Forced purchasing of insurance"
"Tom Hayden and other fools"
"Trojans, worms, KHS"
"The political jokes (Edwards and 'health reform')"
"Reuters shows how to waste time"

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