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The real “Axis of Evil” is Washington
Jun 29th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

The Past, Endlessly Repeating: This Is What They Want. Many of you have probably already read the latest Seymour Hersh: "Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush administration steps up its secret moves against Iran." Interesting reading, in conjunction with this. I suppose "interesting" is one word for it.

I think we might distill the article down to a few key excerpts.

First:

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country's religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of "high-value targets" in the President's war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

...

Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and "there was a significant amount of high-level discussion" about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party's presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.

Next:

None of the four Democrats in the Gang of Eight—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, and House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes—would comment on the Finding, with some noting that it was highly classified. An aide to one member of the Democratic leadership responded, on his behalf, by pointing to the limitations of the Gang of Eight process. The notification of a Finding, the aide said, "is just that—notification, and not a sign-off on activities. Proper oversight of ongoing intelligence activities is done by fully briefing the members of the intelligence committee." However, Congress does have the means to challenge the White House once it has been sent a Finding. It has the power to withhold funding for any government operation. The members of the House and Senate Democratic leadership who have access to the Finding can also, if they choose to do so, and if they have shared concerns, come up with ways to exert their influence on Administration policy. (A spokesman for the C.I.A. said, "As a rule, we don't comment one way or the other on allegations of covert activities or purported findings." The White House also declined to comment.)

A member of the House Appropriations Committee acknowledged that, even with a Democratic victory in November, "it will take another year before we get the intelligence activities under control." He went on, "We control the money and they can't do anything without the money. Money is what it's all about. But I'm very leery of this Administration." He added, "This Administration has been so secretive."

Brave Democrats, with significant change in government policy always just over the horizon, when the light appears beyond the curve of the tunnel after the mountain has been climbed, once a multitude of unicorns and ponies have appeared on every doorstep, after...oh, to hell with it. But cutting off money now, to stop the horrific progress of utterly insane actions...nope, don't want to do that.

Beyond these points, none of this matters in the least, first, because intelligence is entirely irrelevant with regard to the conventional arguments about its central importance (read lies for "conventional arguments"), and second, because the Democrats favor, in fundamental terms, the exactly identical foreign policy. Huzzah!

Saved my favorite Hersh bit for last:

Many of the activities may be being carried out by dissidents in Iran, and not by Americans in the field. One problem with "passing money" (to use the term of the person familiar with the Finding) in a covert setting is that it is hard to control where the money goes and whom it benefits. Nonetheless, the former senior intelligence official said, "We've got exposure, because of the transfer of our weapons and our communications gear. The Iranians will be able to make the argument that the opposition was inspired by the Americans. How many times have we tried this without asking the right questions? Is the risk worth it?" One possible consequence of these operations would be a violent Iranian crackdown on one of the dissident groups, which could give the Bush Administration a reason to intervene.

...

The Administration may have been willing to rely on dissident organizations in Iran even when there was reason to believe that the groups had operated against American interests in the past. The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. "The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda," Baer told me. "These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers—in this case, it's Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we're once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties." Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.

Just like Afghanistan in the 1980s! Because that worked out so well.

Time to reprise some excerpts from Robert Dreyfuss's Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (I offered them once before, in the second half of "It's Much Later than We Think: Why It Is Not 'Our War'").

I excerpted Dreyfuss's observations as a demonstration of a principle I identified several years ago, concerning "The Folly of Intervention":

Intervention always leads to more intervention: the first intervention leads to unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences, which are then used as the justification for still further intervention. That intervention in turn leads to still more unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences, which are then used as yet another justification for still further intervention. The process can go on indefinitely, and the ultimate consequences are always disastrous in the extreme.

Here is Dreyfuss:

There is an unwritten chapter in the history of the Cold War and the New World Order that followed. It is the story of how the United States--sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly--funded and encouraged right-wing Islamist activism. Devil's Game attempts to fill in that vital missing link.

Vital because this little-known policy, conducted over six decades, is partly to blame for the emergence of Islamist terrorism as a worldwide phenomenon. Indeed, America's would-be empire in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central and South Asia was designed to rest in part on the bedrock of political Islam. At least that is what its architects hoped. But it proved to be a devil's game. Only too late, after September 11, 2001, did Washington begin to discover its strategic miscalculation.

The United States spent decades cultivating Islamists, manipulating and double-crossing them, cynically using and misusing them as Cold War allies, only to find that it spawned a force that turned against its sponsor, and with a vengeance. Like monsters imbued with artificial life, radical imams, mullahs, and ayatollahs stalk the landscape, thundering not only against the United States but against freedom of thought, against secular science, against nationalism and the left, against women's rights. Some are terrorists, but far more are just medieval-minded religious fanatics who want to turn the calendar back to the seventh century.

...

The United States found political Islam to be a convenient partner during each stage of America's empire-building project in the Middle East, from its early entry into the region to its gradual military encroachment, to its expansion into an on-the-ground military presence, and finally to the emergence of the United States as an army of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

,,.

From FDR on, leading U.S. politicians were prisoners of misguided stereotypes. They seemed entranced by the almost other-worldly appearance of their Arab interlocutors. FDR, after meeting Ibn Saud, returned to Washington and "could not shake the image of the hawk-like Saudi monarch, ensconced in a gold chair and surrounded by six slaves." Harry Truman, two years later, described a leading Saudi official as a "real old biblical Arab with chin whiskers, a white gown, gold braid, and everything." And Eisenhower dismissed the Arabs as "a very uncertain quantity, explosive and full of prejudices." The official record is full of such uninformed stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims by U.S. officials. For the next sixty years, the handful of American Arabists who actually knew something about the Middle East would try to combat those stereotypes. But they would fail.

The American attachment to a romanticized fantasy of Arab life and a racist-fed, religious disdain for the Arabs' supposed heathenism proved a deadly combination when the time came for America to engage itself politically and militarily in the Middle East. Perhaps those stereotypes led American policy makers to see Muslims as fierce warriors. Perhaps they believed that the fanaticism of their religious tenets would lead them to resist atheistic communism. Perhaps it was the notion that in southwest Asia the traditional religious establishment was a bulwark of the status quo. But it never dawned on U.S. officials that Islamist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood were a qualitatively different phenomenon from the comprador clerical establishment. Certainly, as the Cold War progressed, the big enemy, the USSR, and its alleged accomplice, Arab nationalism, seemed to have a common enemy: Islam.

More from Dreyfuss will be found in the earlier essay.

And even now -- even now -- the United States government does all this again, with the acquiescence and support of the Democrats. At this point, if you are at all honest, you must give up the pathetic grasping for explanations, excuses and justifications: that the Democrats act as they do because they are weak, or cowardly, or being blackmailed. (Honestly, will you grow the fuck up?)

This is what they want. When an individual or a government repeats the same actions over and over and over again, even when those actions appear to lead to disaster, you must conclude that they pursue those actions because they want to.

Robert Higgs, for the umpteenth time:

As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.

When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the "peace process" never gets far from square one, etc., etc. – none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.

The ruling class is doing just fine, thank you. And none of this will change with a Democratic president, and with the Democrats having large majorities in both houses of Congress. None of it, not in any significant manner.

So, do we all understand now? Good. [Once Upon a Time...]

I agree. When the government is supporting terrorist groups and directly engaging in kidnapping, torture, and murder, and the Democrats not only know all this but actively approve and support it, it's much too late to pretend that voting for Democrats will in any way change things. What's more, most of the people in the United States either don't care about what their government is doing, are actively in denial, or are actively supporting it. All the voters really care about is "Amerika über alles."

WordPress
Jun 28th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

In response to the gen­er­al inad­e­qua­cy and unpleas­ant­ness of Mov­able Type, I’m look­ing at Word­Press again. I had orig­i­nal­ly reject­ed it in favor of Mov­able Type when I was look­ing for a Radio User­land replace­ment, but that was in 2006. That’s plen­ty of time for it to have improved sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

Per­haps it would even be able to import my old Radio posts–something I could nev­er get Mov­able Type to do.

If it’s not encrypted, it’s not private
Jun 27th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

A com­pa­ny com­put­er and ques­tions about e-mail pri­va­cy.

A com­pa­ny com­put­er and ques­tions about e-mail pri­va­cy — Via Pri­va­cy : Tech news from CNET :

When he was fired, Scott Sidell was angry enough. Then he found out that his for­mer employ­er was read­ing his per­son­al Yahoo e-mail mes­sages, after he had left the com­pa­ny.

In a law­suit that he filed in May against Struc­tured Set­tle­ment Invest­ments, the finance com­pa­ny he used to run, Sidell claims that exec­u­tives at the com­pa­ny went so far as to read e-mail mes­sages that he had sent to his lawyers dis­cussing his strat­e­gy for win­ning an arbi­tra­tion claim over his lost job.

It’s kind of like the oth­er side gets your play­book, or they’re spy­ing on your lock­er room,” said Rus­sell Green, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing Sidell. He said his client was now using a new e-mail address.  read more »

[Pri­va­cy Digest: Pri­va­cy News (Civ­il Rights, Encryp­tion, Free Speech, Cryp­tog­ra­phy)]

This hap­pened because Sidell and his lawyers were igno­rant. It’s no secret that email is very easy to inter­cept by pret­ty much any­one with the incli­na­tion to do so–and not just gov­ern­ments, but com­pa­nies and even hack­ers. This has been men­tioned repeat­ed­ly even in the main­stream media, so they cer­tain­ly should have known bet­ter. It’s real­ly quite sim­ple: if you don’t want any­body else read­ing your, email encrypt it.

Missing an important detail
Jun 27th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Fire­fox 3 Already Rules the Roost. Barence writes in with a data point on Fire­fox 3 adop­tion: it’s been avail­able for 10 days, and already one site is see­ing 55% of its Firefox-using vis­i­tors on ver­sion 3. “Microsoft still has three out of ten peo­ple run­ning an old ver­sion of its brows­er more than 18 months after Inter­net Explor­er 7 launched, while Fire­fox has con­vert­ed more than half of its users to the lat­est ver­sion in just over a week. That should set a few alarm bells ring­ing in Red­mond.”

Read more of this sto­ry at Slash­dot.

[Slash­dot]

This analy­sis over­looks some­thing impor­tant: peo­ple use Fire­fox because they want to use Fire­fox. Regard­less of what ver­sion they’re using, they’ve made a con­scious deci­sion to down­load and install it. Peo­ple use Inter­net Explor­er because they don’t know any bet­ter, or because they’re using a cor­po­rate machine that won’t let them install any­thing else. It’s hard­ly sur­pris­ing that Fire­fox users would upgrade their ver­sion more quick­ly than IE users.

More “upgrade” problems
Jun 27th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

The “upgrade” to Mov­able Type 4.12 seems to have killed style I was using, and made it impos­si­ble to put back–at least for me. I’ve been try­ing to find a solu­tion, but Mov­able Type has very lit­tle doc­u­men­ta­tion and its inter­face is a tan­gled mess.

My orig­i­nal motive for chang­ing ver­sions was to use that iPod Touch plu­g­in, which does seem to be work­ing, but in ret­ro­spect it def­i­nite­ly wasn’t worth­while.

Per­son­al­ly, I’d much rather use Con­ver­sant, but unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s not some­thing I could get my web host­ing com­pa­ny to install.

Another predictable ruling
Jun 26th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

There’s a bit of fuss today about the rul­ing by the Nazgûl in the Heller case. As I expect­ed, they took the same posi­tion that Ashcroft did sev­er­al years ago, which is (short­ened con­sid­er­ably):

The Sec­ond Amend­ment means what it says, just like the rest of the Bill of Rights, and we’ll ignore it when­ev­er we want to, just like the rest of the Bill of Rights.”

The out­come is entire­ly pre­dictable, of course; so much so that I just copied and past­ed the above quote from a pre­dic­tion I had made on a web forum yes­ter­day.

iPhone security improvement
Jun 25th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

iPhone 2.0 to fea­ture extra data-wipe secu­ri­ty?. Wip­ing data off an iPhone should become more secure with the v2.0 firmware than in the cur­rent release, say sources using the most recent beta. Although both the v1.x and 2.0 releas­es present users with an “Erase All Con­tents and Set­tings” option, v1.x only per­forms a reg­u­lar dele­tion; v2.0 should mim­ic the “Secure Emp­ty Trash” option of Mac OS X,… [The Mac­in­tosh News Net­work]

The arti­cle men­tions that it takes “about an hour,” so you’d have to know well ahead of time that the phone would need to be wiped. This would make it use­ful for any­one with an iPhone who is enter­ing the Evil Empire, though–they could wipe the phone short­ly before the plane lands so that when the Gestapo tries to steal their data there won’t be any­thing left for them.

iPod Touch test
Jun 24th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

As an exper­i­ment, this post was writ­ten on an iPod Touch. It works pret­ty well, but tap­ping away on a tiny key­board isn’t very com­fort­able.

Cultural differences
Jun 24th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Mex­i­co police fired over stam­pede. Mex­i­co City author­i­ties sack 17 police offi­cers after a night­club raid caused a stam­pede that killed 12 peo­ple. [BBC News]

No doubt if this hap­pened in Amer­i­ca, the cops would have been com­mend­ed.

Movable Type upgrade
Jun 24th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

I’ve upgrad­ed the soft­ware behind this weblog to Mov­able Type 4.12. The process remains high­ly unpleas­ant, very slow, and with inad­e­quate and incor­rect doc­u­men­ta­tion.

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