The Lens is Mightier than the Penn, Who Supplied Saddam’s Weapons? George H. W. Bush Did! Does Bin Laden Have a Guardian Angel? Billions Given to Missile Boondoggle, and much more
December 27, 2002

The Lens is Mightier than the Penn
A strange thing happens when American critics of US foreign policy trek to Baghdad. When their travels are reported in the US media, the accompanying photos invariably show them standing in front of portraits of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (see below).

Is this an unavoidable coincidence occasioned by the fact that portraits of the Iraqi strongman are omnipresent in Iraq? Or is the US media playing a propagandistic game of guilt-by-image-association?

The-Edge surveyed reports on Penn’s trip in the foreign press and found that these stories did not show the actor caught in compromising proximity to pictures of the Iraqi strongman. Instead, these photos showed Penn visiting children’s hospitals, talking with officials, and puffing innumerable cigarettes. In a story covering Penn’s visit to a water-purification plant, the actor is even shown standing near a framed photo of Mahatma Gandhi.

In the US media, the “Saddam Shot” has been used to visually discredit other critics of US policy toward Iraq, most notably, former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter.

(In fairness, it should be noted that the US media also delighted in framing photos of uptight Attorney General John Ashcroft to show a bare-breasted statue of the Spirit of Justice looming over his shoulder. Ashcroft’s solution was emblematic of the Bush team’s management style: Ashcroft ordered the statue covered up.)

Who Supplied Saddam’s Weapons? George H. W. Bush Did!
When Iraq handed over the 12-000-page document disclosing its history of dealing with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the US rushed to seize one of the two known copies. The next thing the US did was to “sanitize” the document to hide the identities of the companies that supplied Iraq with its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons components.

As the Berlin-based newspaper Die Tageszeitung reported, “all information about the supplies from — and the support of — foreign companies, research labs, and governments from the mid-1970’s on, related to Iraqi arms programs, have been deleted” and only the five permanent members of the UN Security Council “the USA, Russia, China, France and Great Britain, are aware of this censorship.”

By the time the US finished “redacting” Iraq’s documents, Die Tageszeitung claimed, the original 12,000 pages had been reduced to 3,000 pages. The reason for the censorship was clear. As Die Tageszeitung reported “it was the USA that stood out by giving the strongest support to Saddam Hussein’s regime by arming it with the means of mass destruction.” Much of this aid was authorized by George W. Bush’s father, President George H. W. Bush.

The cover-up was ripped apart when Andreas Zumach, a reporter for the Berlin-based Die Tageszeitung [], announced plans to publish a full list of all the companies and countries that helped Iraq to stockpile WMDs. Zumach made his initial findings public during a December 18 radio interview on the US-based Democracy Now! [].

“We have 24 major US companies listed… who gave very substantial support, especially to the biological weapons program, but also to the missile and nuclear weapons program,” Zumach declared. “Pretty much everything was illegal in the case of nuclear and biological weapons. Every form of cooperation and supplies was outlawed in the 1970s.”

The list of US firms who supplied Saddam includes: Hewlett Packard, DuPont, Honeywell, Rockwell, Tectronics, Bechtel, International Computer Systems, Unisys, Sperry, Spectra Physics, Semetex, Leybold Vacuum Systems, Cerebrus, Eastman Kodak, American Type Culture Collection, Consarc, Carl Zeiss, EZ Logic Data Systems, Canberra Industrics, Eaxel Electronics, TI Coating, Finnigan-MAT-US, Alcolac International and Electronic Associates.

Iraq’s records also show that the US Departments of Defense, Commerce and Agriculture helped Iraq acquire WMDs during Iraq’s war against neighboring Iran. Die Tageszeitung also reveals that the government’s Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia nuclear weapons labs all quietly helped tutor Iraqi scientists and even provided “non-fissile material for construction of a nuclear bomb.”

Does Bin Laden Have a Guardian Angel?
If I were a religious zealot who believed in divine miracles, I would be forced to conclude that God must be watching over Osama bin Laden.

How else, other than “miraculous,” can one explain the fact that bin Laden survived the most intensive military and bombing campaign ever directed against the life of a single individual?

Typically in such situations, when reporters step forward to ask such survivors to speculate on why they survived while so many others around them died, the inevitable response is: “I guess God decided it just was not my time to go.” Or, “I guess God has a plan for me here on Earth. That must be why I was spared.” What, then, is God’s plan for Osama? Perhaps Jerry Falwell can enlighten us.

May the Force Be with Them?
Under the new National Security Strategy, the US has proclaimed its imperial intent to rule the entire world as the dominant superpower and to destroy any other nations that threaten to rival US dominance.

We are the new empire. But (to invoke the terminology of the Star Wars Trilogy) if we are the Empire, who are the Rebel Forces? According to Bush/Cheney, it’s the Mujahadeen and Al Qaeda. But if the Rebel Forces are the Mujahadeen and Al Qaeda, that means that Osama bin Laden is Luke Skywalker.

The mind boggles.

“We Will Allow No Rivals”
The new National Security Strategy (a.k.a. the Bush Doctrine) openly vows that the US will not permit the existence of any other power that could rival America’s global dominance or threaten US interests.

It is chilling to reflect that the Bush Doctrine most likely also applies to domestic enemies. Is this unelected government really prepared do “whatever it takes” to destroy any political party, social force or individual that threatens the control of the Republican Right?

In the aftermath of Sen. Paul Wellstone’s death in a mysterious plane crash, a shaken Sen. Hilary Clinton confided to friends at a private gathering that the men in the Bush administration were “ruthless.”

Does the Bush White House feel justified in using “any means necessary” to defend its control – including pre-emptive first strikes to immobilize all “potential” or “suspected” political threats — domestic and foreign? [See “Around the Bend” in this issue of The-Edge]

Such a totalitarian mindset would rush introduce a broad system of political surveillance to identify suspected enemies and monitor anyone who might pose a hidden threat. Is that the reason the IranContragate criminal John Poindexter was tapped to head the Orwellian Office of Total Information Awareness?

Billions Given to Missile Boondoggle
On December 17, George W. Bush ordered the Pentagon to start building Ronald Reagan’s discredited Star Wars missile defense system. No matter that the Pentagon still hasn’t been able to build a missile defense system that actually works.

Outgoing Armed Services Committee Chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) joined the Union of Concerned Scientists and other critics to point out that “neither the interceptor nor the radar to be used with the new national missile defense system have ever been tested against any ballistic missile target at all.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted that the flawed system would, at best, provide only “modest protection” from attack but stubbornly argued that building a costly, unproven system would provide “a testing and learning” opportunity. “You have to put something in place,” Rumsfeld said, “and get knowledge about it… and then to add to it over time.”

Missile defense program director Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish offered an even less compelling argument for the Pentagon’s let’s-build-it-as-we-go approach. “Test, fix. Test, fix. Test, fix is what we’re doing,” Kadish cadenced.

Imagine if this argument were applied to a profoundly risky technology like genetic engineering! (Come to think of it, that is the argument that currently guides genetic engineering research.)

Explaining why he was resurrecting Reagan’s 20th Century Cold War relic, Bush declared: “The new strategic realities of the 21st century require us to think differently.”

This paranoid relapse into Cold War thinking was defended by the aptly surnamed Assistant Defense Secretary J. D. Crouch who insisted that building missiles to fight missiles would not only have a “deterrent effect” but would also have a “dissuasive effect.” Perhaps that is the nuance that distinguishes the Bush Boondoggle from the Reagan Boondoggle. We seem to have gone from an era of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) to the brink of Belligerently Assured Dissuassion (BAD).

Bush announced he was giving the Pentagon and major defense contractors $8.75 billion a year to install six of these unproven “kill vehicles” at Fort Greely and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base by 2004.

Billions for Weapons: Chilblains for Millions
While Star Wars technology has never been shown to work, there are many government programs with a demonstrated history of success. These include federal programs for job training, public housing and home-heating assistance for the poor. Ironically, the same day the White House announced that it was giving billions to aerospace campaign contributors to build dubious missile-seeking-missiles, the Republican-controlled Congress announced plans to cut $3 billion from job training, housing and energy programs for the poor.

Bush has called for cuts in spending on energy, food and shelter programs, aid to refugees and rural housing. Once consequence: half-a-million poor people stand to face winter without heat in their homes.

The poor could be excused for wondering if they shouldn’t invest in a Missile Defense System to protect their homes from attacks from the White House.

A rightwing website salutes George W. with a racist update of a movie poster for "The Terminator."
George “OO7” Bush
The Bush administration now asserts that it has the right to kill American citizens at will. If the Attorney General determines that a citizen is an “enemy combatant,” the US government now claims that this makes them eligible for assassination.

This was the post-hoc justification for the CIA’s murder of a US citizen in Yemin. The gentleman was killed while traveling in the same car as an Al Qaeda leader. Everyone in the car was killed by a missile fired by a Predator – a flying robot aircraft armed with spy cameras and weapons.

Washington originally stated that it did not know the US citizen was in the car. His murder was subsequently justified by claiming that he was an Al Qaeda fellow-traveler.

So far, this license to kill Americans only applies to “enemy combatants” encountered abroad. Assassinations inside the US have not yet been deemed politically permissible.

Unfortunately, the US is not issuing lists of names of people identified as “enemy combatants.” This could pose a problem since it is conceivable that John Ashcroft, acting on incomplete or erroneous data, could place an innocent person on the government’s “elimination list.”

Granting George W. Bush a “license to kill” will certainly give pause to opponents of the Bush administration. Some may rightly wonder whether deciding to travel abroad could bring about their demise.

Happily, another branch of the US government is working to assure that Green Party members and peace activists won’t be placed in the crosshairs of US assassination teams overseas. Thanks to a federal “watch-list,” prominent activists and members of the Green Party are no longer being permitted to routinely board airplanes to travel abroad.

Unfortunately, as the ACLU has discovered, it is impossible to know precisely who to thank for this program since no government agency has been willing or able to explain who it is that compiles and administers the Watch List.

Those Lovable Assassins
On December 2, San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service Reporter Danielle Haas treated readers to a rather light-hearted review of the Mossad, Israel’s secret service (“Mossad’s Escapades Legendary,” read the headline).

In Haas’ oddly chosen phrases, the Mossad and “its vaunted Special Operations unit” are to be applauded for a “legendary” career of “covert kidnappings and assassinations.”

In Haas’ lexicon, these violations of international law constituted mere “escapades.” The Mossad’s retaliation against the Black September terrorists was characterized as “a famed assassination campaign.”

When the Mossad mistakenly murders an innocent Moroccan waiter in Norway, Haas invokes the phrase “embarrassing failure.” Haas calls it a “botched…attempt” when the Mossad fails in its attempt “to inject poison into the ear of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal.” But had the poison-in-the-ear attack succeeded, Haas seems to suggest, it would have marked another example of the sort of daring-do that makes the Mossad “synonymous with James Bond-style secret agents.”

Arguably, the Mossad’s greatest achievement was the successful kidnapping of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. Haas correctly notes that this stunt demonstrated how “doggedly determined and effective the Mossad can be.” But in this case, the Mossad’s moxie was applauded because Eichmann’s abduction culminated in a court trial open to the world’s press. Somehow, Haas seems to miss the fundamental distinction that distances a public tribunal from a “covert assassination.”

Of course, we Americans can’t draw too fine a line. The CIA’s own career of “legendary escapades” includes toppled governments, murdered elected presidents, bloodstained dictators and the deaths of millions of civilians from Indonesia to South America.

The CIA’s “legendary” attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro with exploding cigars, poison-powered wet-suits and a booby-trapped seashell planted in his favorite snorkeling lagoon are so familiar that they have become standard laugh-lines in late-night comedy routines.

The problem is that none of these black-ops exploits are harmless sit-com frat pranks. On the other end of every exploding clamshell, poison-tipped umbrella or bomb-rigged cellphone, people are killed suddenly, hideously – and anonymously.

When murderers are allowed to operate beyond the bounds of civil accountability, the blood-hot recoil of rage and revenge can only be channeled in one direction – back at the countries that employed the assassins.

A Tax-Break for the Unemployed
Dear US Senators and Dear Representatives: George W. Bush has introduced a massive tax-break for the rich. How about a tax-break for the poor?

Here’s a proposal for a new tax break to stimulate the economy: pass a law waiving income tax payments for everyone who lost their job in 2002 due to the collapse of the economy under the Bush administration’s tax-cuts and military spending increases.

Instead of sending much-needed cash to Washington, the unemployed could spend the money on food and rent, benefiting the local economy. Without such a break, even greater numbers of the unemployed will be forced to seek state and federal assistance.

For more information contact:
Please contact the websites and resources in the above article.

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