Why Let Facts Stop a Good War?


CounterPunch hears that the top 2,500 Iraqis have been getting calls on their cellphones from US intelligence officers telling them that if they lay down their arms when D-day comes they may escape trial for war crimes. One seasoned Iraqi hand tells us the US did the same thing in 1991, but that often the calls got screwed up.

Few predict prolonged resistance. Estimates of the duration of any war range from 5 minutes to three weeks. But one CounterPuncher recalls Kim Philby, the KGB’s double agent inside MI6, remembering that when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union upper-class buffers in Philby’s London club all opined that it would be over in a week or so. Only one grizzled old clubman said it might take “three weeks or more”. Philby added, “The silly old fool was right.”

Meanwhile we hear indirectly from a Pakistani high-up that the calculation from Taliban-symps in Islamabad is that when US attention is entirely deflected to Iraq and North Korea, the low level conflict currently ongoing in Afghanistan will amp up, with the Taliban reasserting itself more and more openly. This source said US forces were sustaining regular losses.

On this last point we recall Charlie Clements once saying that the way the Pentagon played losses in Vietnam at one period was not to lie outright about casualties, but simply to trickle them out. Suppose you had 300 in one battle. You wouldn’t announce that, but dole out 100 casualties a month in a low-key way.

To our mind the most significant story of the season was the one by John Barry in a recent Newsweek. On February 24, Newsweek’s issue dated March 3 reported that the Iraqi weapons chief who defected from the regime in 1995 told U.N. inspectors that Iraq had destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles, exactly as Iraq claims. Gen. Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s former son in law who defected and who was killed shortly after returning to Iraq in 1996, was debriefed by officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the U.N.inspections team, UNSCOM.

Barry got hold of the transcript of that debriefing. Kemal told the inspectors, in Barry’s words in Newsweek, “that after the Gulf War, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them. “All that remained were “hidden blueprints, computer disks, microfiches” and production molds. The weapons were destroyed secretly, in order to hide their existence from inspectors, in the hopes of someday resuming production after inspections had finished. The CIA and MI6 were told the same story, Barry reported, and “a military aide who defected with Kamel… backed Kamel’s assertions about the destruction of WMD stocks.”

But these statements were “hushed up by the U.N. inspectors” in order to “bluff Saddam into disclosing still more.” On February 26, FAIR reports, a complete copy of the Kamel transcript- an internal UNSCOM/IAEA document stamped “sensitive”– was obtained by Glen Rangwala, the Cambridge University analyst who in early February revealed Tony Blair’s “intelligence dossier” was plagiarized from a student thesis. Rangwala has posted the Kamel transcript on the Web: http://casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf.

In other words Bush, Blair and rest have them have known perfectly well all along that there are no chemical and biological war stocks to be found. No one seriously maintains that Iraq has any nuclear capability.

Barry’s tremendous scoop in Newsweek was ignored by the mainstream press. Why let facts get in the way of a good war?

When Jeffrey Goldberg Did Brazil

Jeffrey Goldberg is the New Yorker fantasist whose work on Al Qaeda, so succulent to the Bush crowd I discussed here last week. No continent is safe from his inventive pen.

On Oct 28, 2002, The New Yorker published a Jeffrey Goldberg piece called “The Party of God: Hezbollah Sets Up Operations in South America and the United States”. It “confirmed” — in his mind, NPR’s mind, and all of the right wing pundits’ minds that Hezbollah had long set up shop in the “Triple Frontier” of Argentina, Paraguay, and Parana state, Brazil,

A journalist and Friend of CounterPunch who lives in that region part of the year who read Goldberg’s story at the time and who wrote a letter of protest to the New Yorker, recalls:

“It is incredible that one journalist, who has as his mainstay the theme that Arabs are plotting to kill Jews and destroy America’s ‘interests’, could come and visit Brasil just to see if Hezbollah is operating here, and voila, he found’ em running rampant. It was an impressive feat of research actually. Not only did Goldberg come up with what many here thought was a far-fetched hypothesis — could the Hezbollah be funding anti-Israel/US operations from the Triple Frontier — but he proved that they are doing just that, all by himself. No reporter in this part of the world has been able to find the slightest bit of evidence along those lines. I’m fairly convinced that his claim is irresponsible, and a slap in the face to the peaceful communities that exist here. Even the police, who monitor narco-trafficking, don’t see the link.

The CounterPuncher phoned the Ministry of Justice in Brasilia in November and talked to the Justice Minister’s assistant who confirmed that joint Brazilian, Paraguayan and Argentine federal police, including undercover forces, had not found any evidence that Arabs involved in narco-trafficking were laundering money into terrorist operations. There WERE some arrests made in these Arab communities along the triple frontier, for CD piracy. But all of the arrests that were made post-Sept 11 were minor charges, and the Arabs that were held were let go.

The Jampot File (Just Another Middle-Aged Porker of the Right)


Hitchens and Booze: Waiter! Another Round

Dear CounterPunch

I’m a recovering alcoholic, a veteran of 2,000 serious hangovers. On the peaks of the boozekriegs that preceded the hangovers, I did 99 of the 101 genuinely dumb things I’ve done in my 37-year life. Usually, these 99 big errors entailed idiotic unreasoned blurts and betrayals. I’ve always suspected that Hitchens’ take on the 9/11 attacks were both written and sent off to publishers in the middle of one of his all-time benders, which probably spanned the first several post-attack days. Go back and look, for instance, at his self-pitying blind dull rage at seeing the wreckage. How many belts had Hitch popped back on the train up to Manhattan?

Wild, solipsistic statements and damnations over my capital-A Angers as I flailed about in a hooch-enflamed mind: Been there, done that, oh, so many times. I wonder if Alex Cockburn could look back on Hitchens’ earliest post-9/11 columns and corroborate this.

Hitchens, alas, apparently isn’t likely ever to avail himself of the 9th AA step, which is apologizing and making amends to those you’ve harmed while liquored up.

Peace, Michael Dawson Portland, Oregon

Michael, ONLY a hundred and one dumb things? You’ve lived a careful life, bro. Our recollection of his early post-9/11 columns, with demented outbursts about Chomsky, fits with your theory.

Dear (very dear) CounterPunch,

Just a point or two about the Hitchens thing. He’s fair (and fun) game because he ludicrously believes himself to be, as we used to say in high school, better than everybody else, and this all is reinforced by getting handsomely rewarded for being a pain in the ass. It doesn’t really need to be any more highfalutin than that. Some of America’s weird mix of hedonism and Puritanism has shown up in the reactions to Hitchens’s idiocies, but I can’t help but think that it boils down to this: he lavishly defends boozing only because HE does it. He’ll be just as off the mark about the joys and benefits and superiorities of abstemiousness when his Doctor gives him the word that it’s either him or the gin.

Another small point or two, people flatter Hitchens when they call him a “contrarian”, a much more accurate term is negative conformist, which is really just the bad-tempered manifestation of conformity. Suggesting he has Korsakoff’s Syndrome implies that, alas, he used to be brilliant. Hard to swallow (harhar) about a guy who wrote in the early nineties that political correctness would be one of the worst problems facing the world in the future – quite the prognosticator.

Cheers Jill Abson Montreal, Quebec

Re “contrarian”, I always thought that word had the staginess of the school debating society. I write as one who toured Scottish schools in the late 1950s with my friend Freddy Fitzpayne, offering as our debating motion, “Britain Should Leave NATO Now”. Our opponents would have their own, different topics, and so our fiery speeches flew past each other without touching. We got to the quarterfinals, before suffering defeat at the hands of a duo from Dollar Academy, defending some controversial form of pig breeding. My next debating speech was at Keble College, Oxford, in 1961 where I could find no seconder in the Junior Common room to my motion, condemning the UN for its sabotage of Patrice Lumumba.

Dear Messrs. Cockburn and St. Clair,

Having followed Christopher Hitchens’s attempts to shame the left en masse over Afghanistan and Iraq and the ripostes offered by both CounterPunch and others, many of which have seen fit to make his drinking an issue, I venture this opinion: Regardless of whether Hitchens has finally joined Nebuchanezzar in loony-land or not, it would be nice if some of those correspondents who’ve written him off because of the bottle would cite the sources of their essentially medical diagnoses.

Perhaps Martin Maloney is a doctor and space prohibited CounterPunch from disclosing that fact. If not, why didn’t Maloney disclose the source of his pronouncements on the relationship between alcohol, sleep, dreaming and mental salubrity. I suspect there’s a lot of truth in what Maloney says (as it happens, I once served Hitchens when I worked room service at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco, and his order for booze gave Hunter Thompson a run for the money), but if what Maloney says is common knowledge, I haven’t seen it and I read the occasional issue of Lancet at the library. Would CounterPunch accept a layman’s uncorroborated word on St. John’s Wort? Viagra? It’s not like neurologists aren’t in the phone book.

I agreed with Hitchens on the bombing of Afghanistan and in general agree with him that Islamofascism isn’t all in Charles Krauthammers’ head. That didn’t prevent me from feeling disgust at the ad hominem lobs he hurled at people who have offered intelligent reasons for opposing Bush on Iraq. And yes, Hitchens’ drinking is a public issue and newsworthy. Please don’t incite the same disgust with armchair MD diagnoses of Hitchens’ likely disconnect with reality. That should be beneath you.

Cordially, Douglas Presler Oakland, California

We don’t know when Martin Maloney is an MD or a doctor of medieval philosophy, or a guy who quit high school to run a pool hall. Would we have felt his interesting letter to be more credible if it had had the initials MD after it, or if he disclosed he’d studied at the Pavlov Institute? Not particularly.. These days applied psychology is mostly an outlier of the pharmaceutical industry.

“In the 1990s, youth psychotropic drug treatment rates nearly reached adult rates, with two to three times more children receiving psychotropic medication of all types, promoted by pharmaceutical companies, prescribed by medical doctors, dispensed during the school year by parents and public school personnel.” That’s Christine TenBarge in the next issue of our CounterPunch newsletter, exclusive to subscribers, on the surge in psychotropic dosing of kids in the 90s.

We Built the Plant, We Built the Planes That Bombed The Plant

Dear CounterPunch

I just wanted to add to your info regarding US support for Iraq in the 1980s. I was working then as a machinist in the GE Steam Turbine Dept. in Lynn, MA. (I was later laid off as GE licensed its turbine mfr. to Japan and Korea; the only turbine work left in Lynn today is marine propulsion for US Navy ships and submarines.)

Sometime in the mid-1980’s one of our last civilian projects was a power plant for Iraq. I don’t know the details of exactly where it was installed. I only built it. But I suppose it was bombed and destroyed in the first Gulf war — no doubt by F-18 Navy fighters, among others, whose engines were built in another part of the same GE plant . . .

Jeff Klein


Jeff Klein is a writer and speaker on Middle East issues who travels frequently to the region.  An earlier version of this piece, with illustrations, can be found in his occasional blog: “At a Slight Angle to the Universe.” He can be reached at jjklein123@gmail.com