Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 31, 2006

Export Of Democracy

Pat Lang posted a writing by Richard Sale, a former intelligence correspondent for UPI. It is about some neocon sentiment accusing Bush for leaving the "export of democracy" path.

I am shameless stealing some of the more general bits, of which I think that a lot of U.S. folks as well as others with imperialist tendencies, should glue them on their refrigerator doors.

Wilson believed that unless America actively spread its idea of democracy around the world, U.S. power might atrophy at home.
[...]
To me this is extremely dubious. There is little evidence that democracy is the most natural or foremost form of political association among human beings.
[...]

[D]emocracy is hardly a universal phenomenon.

For a great many of the world’s peoples, personal freedom has proved far less of a concern than economic security or material prosperity. Often, to secure these, people looked to authoritarian governments.
[...]
I do believe that the Bush administration’s automatic advocacy of democracy around the world does not fully take into consideration the vast array of cultural and political traditions of other countries and appears to be yet another species of the delusion that makes us believe that what we as Americans want is what other people want, a self-conceit that avoids examining our own beliefs, values and habits to determine if they are relevant to people so very different from ourselves.

DeGaulle once said of Franklin Roosevelt, “…he cloaks his will to power in idealism.”

I believe that this is what drives Pletka and the Bush war hawks.  America is, at bottom, only a country, not a glorious cause lying outside the stream of history. [..] There certainly have been times when we have been noble, morally generous and clear thinking.

But there have been others when we have been greedy, brutal and squalid.

No two societies are completely alike, and it is a mistake to think that the institutions, traditions, and cultures of other countries are not revered and prized by their inhabitants as much as we revere and prize our own.

The belief that each and every foreigner secretly hungers to be an American is to me one of the most ludicrous of ideas because it flatters our conceit, and, if widely believed, will prove to be a block to our moral growth as a nation.

Posted by b on May 31, 2006 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

OT 06-47

News & views threat ...

If you don´t comment, ...

Posted by b on May 31, 2006 at 01:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (97)

May 30, 2006

The Pope's Sorry Excuse

Pope Bendict recently visited Auschwitz and he made some statements which I regard as plain wrong.

He said he came there,

"as a son of the German people, a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation's honor, prominence and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation."

As a German, who's parents were young grown ups during that time, I recall their stories and tales about various people, and I got to know some of these too. These people supported Hitler and his deeds without being part of "a ring of criminals". They were probably not the majority, but they were those normal Germans who were not deceived, but supported the brutality of the regime out of their free personal will and mind.

The industialized genozide, the historic destinct character of the Shoa, was not just the rampage of a few people. To put the blame on a small criminal group is convinient. But it misses the historic facts.

The pope also failed to mention the agreeing silence at that time of most of his church's functionaries. He did not mention the 2000 year long history of christian motivated antisemitism. And being in Poland to recall the six million Polish death through World War II without reminding that half of these were Jews and were not killed for their nationality but because of their religious heritage also misses a point.

Some of some these were victims of their Polish neighbors, like in Jedwabne during the war and even after the war in Kielce. The current radical right Polish government and the associated cathofashist Radio Maryja prove, that this sentiment is not extinguished, but very much alive.

That he should have mentioned too.

Posted by b on May 30, 2006 at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (49)

May 29, 2006

The War Will Soon Be Won

Two current Washington Post pieces on Afghanistan are prototypes of balanced U.S. war reporting. One minimizes a huge U.S. loss in moral standing, the second exaggerates U.S. and coalition victories.

The first piece, by Washington Post staff, is: Anti-American Riots Erupt in Kabul After Traffic Accident.

A U.S. military cargo truck, driving a downhill road into Kabul, had a break failure, smashed 12 cars, killed one person and injuried six (other reports say some Humvees hit a traffic jam because of reckless driving). Angry people at the incident cite clashed with the police. Throughout the city there were  all day riots. Offices were sacked and embassy personal fled into bunkers.

The piece has some 20 paragraphs. The first one says the accident triggered rumors that American troops killed a number of Afghan civilians who gathered at the scene. The second graph reports the U.S. to deny such.

Then follow lots of words of various actions and official reactions and some boring old bits on Karzei.  Most of this is balderdash to drive readers away from finishing the piece.

Only in graph seventeen a U.S. spokesman says that U.S. forces fired into the air "as a show of force."

And in the next one we learn what really happened:

On the evening news, two TV stations showed what appeared to be U.S. troops in vehicles firing into crowds.

Most readers will never reach that paragraph and the following two which describe the worst damage. CARE's office did go up in flames and a big new luxery hotel lost all its windows to gun fire.

Those readers who read only up to 85% of the installation are left with an impression of unreasonable and unthankful Afghanis rioting with limited damage just because of a traffic accident. They will not learn the important fact that the U.S. troops did fire into the crowd, that because of this being on TV the incident is a huge public relation desaster and that the very example for Kabul development, the new Serena Hotel, was hit and is, for now, out of business.

What a way to inform the public.

The second piece, through Associated Press, is titled Coalition Aircraft Bomb Taliban Site. It is exaggerating enemy losses. The lead is:

Five Canadian soldiers were hurt and up to six militants killed in a gunbattle Monday, while U.S.-led coalition aircraft bombed Taliban militants meeting in remote southern Afghanistan, reportedly killing dozens, officials said.

Fact is, only one enemy body was found after the shoot out, and up to five other corpses were believed to have been taken away. One would think that insurgents, retreating under fire, have other priorities than to carry away dead bodies.

In the U.S. bombing, which took place elsewhere, some mud huts were flattened. The U.S. speaks of dozens of Taliban killed. A regional vice puppet, the "Provincial deputy governor", echoes an U.S. spokesman and says 50 were killed "including Taliban commanders".

There is only one problem. Nobody has reached the place yet to make such an assessment. The U.S. has had no people on the ground and the govenors police force still has to reach the site.

So how did they know the numbers? Point is, of course, they do not have any real numbers. Maybe they bombed a farm house, maybe they killed some chicken, maybe they killed some Taliban.

No one knows, but it is sold as a huge victory. The war is going well and it will soon be won.

Posted by b on May 29, 2006 at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

May 28, 2006

Various News

Various Sunday News Items:

Frank Rich endorses Gore. Parts of his Times Select column are liberated here

Mrs. Clinton does look like a weak candidate - not so much because of her marriage, her gender or her liberalism, but because of her eagerness to fudge her stands on anything and everything to appeal to any and all potential voters.
[...]

While a Gore candidacy could not single-handedly save the Democrats from themselves any more than his movie can vanquish "X-Men" at the multiplex, it might at least force the party powers that be to start facing some inconvenient but necessary truths.

I agree with that. Go Al.

NYT on Ahmadinejad: Iran Chief Eclipses Clerics as He Consolidates Power. Money quote:

He has evicted the former president, Mohammad Khatami, from his offices, ...

This is like saying "Bush has evicted Clinton from his office." Hey, the had an e_l_e_c_t_i_o_n! Deeper into the article there are some insights. Ahmadinejad is a socialist:

"Parliament and government should fight against wealthy officials," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a speech before Parliament on Saturday that again appeared aimed at upending pillars of the status quo. "Wealthy people should not have influence over senior officials because of their wealth. They should not impose their demands on the needs of the poor people."

and he is fighting for women rights:

Perhaps most surprising, the man who was rumored to want to segregate men and women on elevators and even sidewalks has emerged as a proponent of women's rights, challenging some of the nation's most powerful religious leaders.

Interesting fight within the coal industry - dirty versus very dirty coal power plants: 2 Industry Leaders Bet on Coal but Split on Cleaner Approach

WaPo: A gruesome Nir Rosen piece: Iraq Is the Republic of Fear

[T]he civil war started long before Samarra and long before the first uprisings. It started when U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad. It began when Sunnis discovered what they had lost, and Shiites learned what they had gained. And the worst is yet to come.

Robert Kagen has a revealing argument why in 2008 the Democrats should win. If Power Shifts In 2008. You see, if they don´t win, there is a chance that they would eventually become an anti-imperialistic party. Now we can`t have that, can we?

Independent: The children of Guantanamo Bay

Lawyers in London estimate that more than 60 detainees held at the terrorists' prison camp were boys under 18 when they were captured.

They include at least 10 detainees still held at the US base in Cuba who were 14 or 15 when they were seized - including child soldiers who were held in solitary confinement, repeatedly interrogated and allegedly tortured.

Telegraph: Blair as Bush spokesman: Blair beefed up his Iran speech to please Bush

The Prime Minister changed key passages on possible action against Iran, climate change, and a proposed shake-up of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Objections by President George W Bush's inner circle played a key role in the alterations, which were made just before Mr Blair delivered his landmark address at Georgetown University in Washington, on Friday, British sources have revealed.

Funny: The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time by PC World. Only IT products, so the headline is misleading. But having lived through all those hype products in the industry it's fun to remember.

Posted by b on May 28, 2006 at 04:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

May 27, 2006

Yugiri Is At It Again


by beq
20"x20"  - pastel and sumi ink
full view (100kb)

Posted by b on May 27, 2006 at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

May 26, 2006

WB: All's Well That Ends Well

Billmon:

It was at that point – when the results of all my worrying and frantic scampering around downtown Cairo were on the line – that I finally realized how silly I was being, acting like some cartoon stereotype of the Type A personality. If I was meant to ride the train to Luxor, I would: inshallah, if God willed it.

All's Well That Ends Well

Posted by b on May 26, 2006 at 05:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

Is Fakhravar A Fraud?

UPDATE (Oct 8, 2006): There are two follow up posts to this collection of materials about Amir-Abbas Fakhravar. The first continues the discussion on legitimate Iranian opposition that stated in the comments below, the second refers to the evolution of a Laura Rozen piece in Mother Jones.

The Mother Jones article establishes that Fakhravar is not a legitimate regime critic, but is an Ahmed Chalabi like neocon tool to manipulate an U.S. supported regime change in Iran. In the same piece two Iranian dissidents assert that Fakhravar has also been a spy for security forces while having been in prision in Iran.

You are welcome to follow the trail starting with my original post below.

---

A 30 year old Iranian "student" is currently making his circles in some conservative media.

Amir-Abbas Fakhr-Avar, sometimes also named Siyaavash or Siavash, had recent appearances in the New York Sun (May 9, 2006), the Telegraph (May 10, 2006) and the Sunday Times (May 21, 2006). Earlier, there were three National Review pieces about and interviews with him: July 18, 2005, December 5, 2005, February 13, 2006.

One can not deny a certain common tendency throughout these media outlets. So let me ask: Who is this guy?

From the Sunday Times:

Fakhravar, a 30-year-old writer and leader of the dissident Iranian student movement, who has been repeatedly jailed, emerged in Washington last week after spending 10 months on the run inside Iran. His sister was told by Revolutionary Guards that there were orders to shoot him on sight.

He surfaced at the end of last month in Dubai, where 24 hours later he was met by the leading American neoconservative, Richard Perle. Fakhravar was whisked to America last weekend and has already met congressmen and Bush officials. He said he was in Washington to spread one message only: "Regime change," he said, breaking from Farsi into English to deliver it.

Mr. Fakhravar claims about president Bush that, in Iran, "all the youngsters support him and love him" and that "people were buying pastries and cookies and candies in the streets of Tehran and going to each other to celebrate" when Iran was referred by the IAEA to the UN Security Council.

He had a website www.siavashonline.com which is not defunct, though parts can be still found in the Google cache. Since early 2006 his personal website is AmirAbbasFakhravar.com. It includes his bio which you may want to read.

According to it, he is a political activist since his last year in high school time in 1993 when he was also arrested for the first time. Since then he has been a regular in student protests and was arrested several times. He says to have written three books.

Mr. Fakhravar may well be what he claims to be. A legitimate struggler against the government of Iran who has been jailed and even tortured and who deserves support.

But the last time the prince of darkness pushed a "Regime Change" promoting exiles into prominence, there were some serious consequences.

Therefore this little attempt of web-research and of picking apart the information available on Mr. Fakhravar.

To get into the quite long story, I will try to build a timeline and will try to point out where the story may have changed or be inconclusive. If you know more, find stuff that I did not include, or if you see different aspects, please feel free to add to this effort in the comments.

The earliest web-accessible reports on Fakhravar are from 2001. They are coming from a Russian human rights news agency, PRIMA News which is financed by some US foundations.

On Jan. 5, 2001 PRIMA reports: Journalist disappears

IRAN, TEHRAN. Jan. 4-Amir-Abas Fakhr-Avar, a 25-year-old student and correspondent for the banned "Mosharekat" newspaper, was forced from his home on December 31 by five men in civilian clothing. Representatives of the Ministry of Information (the security service of the Islamic Republic of Iran) responded to relatives' inquiries that they know nothing of his being arrested.

According to a report by the Student Movement Coordinating Committee for Democracy in Iran, Fakhr-Avar is the author of the book "The Shah Is Not Here," which has been banned in Iran, and investigative reports on the murders of about 120 Iranian public and political figures between 1996 and 1999."Mosharekat" newspaper is an organ of the Iranian Front for Islamic Participation, a major political association that supports moderate Iranian president Mohammad Khatami. It is one of 17 newspapers closed on April 27 of last year by order of the Islamic Press Affairs Court.

In further PRIMA reports posted on January 12, 2001, February 12, 2001, March 7, 2001 and November 12, 2002 we are told:

  • Fakhravar was arrested on August 19, 2000 during a demonstration and released in late November 2000.
  • He was again arrested on December 31, 2000 supposedly for an "interview to Voice of Iran radio, based in the United States".
  • He was transferred to a hospital on January 11, 2001 after having been beaten.
  • He was again arrested on February 6, 2001.
  • Another arrest of him is reported to have happened on March 6, 2001, this time for taking part in a meeting of the "outlawed" Iranian People's Democratic Front.
  • The last report from November 2002 says he was sentenced to eight years in jail by the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

It also says:

According to the US-based Student Movement Coordinating Committee for Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI), the dissident was also incriminated with writing a book "The Shah Is Not Here" which has been banned in Iran.

All the above news agency items are sourced solely on reports from the Student Movement Coordinating Committee for Democracy in Iran, an organization seated in Addison, Texas. The Who We Are on the site reads:

The "Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran"  (SMCCDI) is completely independent of other groups and political affiliation as far as its administration and decision making is concerned.

Their history highlights activities like:

the invitation of top American officials and policy-makers such as Michael Ledeen to the Internet Q and A sessions and by this means providing major support for the advancement of friendship among the two nations in the hours that the Islamic Republic was trying to portray America as the enemy of the Iranian nation and the widespread reflection of this meeting through the mass media

Searching for "Voice of Iran Radio" brings up KRSI.net, Radio Sedaye Iran, an exile radio station in Los Angeles (currently on the front page: Bolton, Leeden, Rice). In the Financial Times Guy Dinmore wrote on December 5 2003 US lobbyists tune in for regime change in Iran (behind subscription wall - there is a copy on some forum in the Google cache here  (scroll down)):

With a touch of under-statement - "we are trying something a little out of the ordinary today" - one of America's most influential neo-conservative lobby groups this week started broadcasting a live radio chat-show out of its Washington headquarters and into Iran, featuring interviews with opposition activists in both countries.

The teaming-up of the well-funded and well-connected American Enterprise  Institute (AEI) with Los Angeles-based Radio Sedaye Iran (Voice of Iran) marks a new step in the efforts of the US right to influence regime change in the Islamic republic.
[...]
Most of the Los Angeles-based exile radio stations have monarchist leanings and several listeners reflected those views. While Mr Pahlavi, now a resident of Virginia, has the backing of some AEI members, the panel of exiled opposition activists assembled in Washington to go on air represented a broader spectrum.

Manda Zand Ervin, head of the International Alliance of Iranian Women, served under the Shah before the 1979 Islamic revolution and is regarded as close to the monarchists.
[...]

Those to the background of the PRIMA News stories.

Back to the timeline:

Iran va Jahan, a London based exile site reports on March 19 2003:

Amir Abbas Fakhravar, a political activist, was savagely beaten and sustained heavy knee injuries, upon his voluntary presentation to the judiciary in Tehran on March 18, 2003.

Transferred to Ghasr prison, without medical attention, Amir Abbas Fakhravar was incarcerated amongst criminals, bandits, rapists, and drug traffickers.

A follow up on March 22 has this:

One case is that of Amir Abbas(Siavash) Fakhravar a 27 year old Iranian writer and journalist, who previously worked in the now banned daily "Khordad." He was rearrested two days ago in Tehran.

Speaking from Iran, his father said that Amir who was recovering from a broken knee injury had been summoned by Seyed Madjid of the 26th branch of the Revolutionary Court to appear at a hearing for his appeal against the charge of "Offending the Rahbar.

This charge is based on writing one book and signing two statements. His book written in 2002 was entitled "This place is not a ditch" - Inja Chah nist.
[...]
Amir is currently being held in Ghasr prison, where non-political prisoners, including sex offenders and murderers are kept. According to his father, while being transported to Ghasr, he was subjected to severe beatings in the head and the broken knee and the abdomenal area.

Expressing his fear for Amir's safety, his father said that, "Ghasr is not a political prison. They are keeping my son with murderers and rapists. I am afraid that the authorities will order the other prisoners to hurt Amir."

Mr. Fakhravar continued, "I urge all Iranians who care to please help secure the release of my young son. He has sacrificed his life for Iran. Please help him!"

Another update on June 10 2003:

Amir Fakhravar, a pro-democracy activist and medical graduate has been sentenced to eight years in prison for his political activities by the revolutionary courts, but in order to further his suffering, he is kept in Qasr prison amongst common criminals.

This is the third assault on Fakhravar since he was first taken prisoner.

Fakhravar was first attacked by the notorious deranged revolutionary court secretary, Seyyed Madjid Hosseinian, during his court appearance in front of his parents which resulted in Fakhravar having a broken leg.

A few questions and remarks:

  • Is the book "This place is not a ditch" the same or a different one as "The Shah Is Not Here"?
  • What is the actual translation of "Inja Chah nist", the Persian title?
  • Could there be a marketing reason for a title change, i.e. to avoid the word Shah?
  • What is the Seyed Madjid of the 26th branch of the Revolutionary Court?
  • What does Rahbar mean and what is the meaning of "Offending the Rahbar"?
  • In the second report the interviewed and quoted father says that Fakhravar was reconvalesenting from a broken knee when he had to appear in court, in the third report that changes unsourced into a broken leg that resulted from the court appearance.
  • Also according to the quoted father, the beatings did not happen in front of the court, but on the way from the court to the prison.

(If you know Farsi, please help me with answers to the questions above.)

According to the May 9 2006 New York Sun report (behind subscriber wall, copy here) on Fakhravar intense contacts between the US neocon movement and Fakhravar started in early 2003:

Mr. Perle first got in contact with Mr. Fakhravar in 2003 through a contact in Los Angeles who asked that she only be referred to her by her first name, Manda. Manda, who emigrated to America from Iran in 2000, sought out Mr. Perle through contacts of her father, who served as a high official in the Shah's government toppled in the 1979 revolution.
[...]
"Whenever Amir Abbas wanted to talk to Richard, at 11 at night, at five in the morning, Richard was available every time," she said. Mr. Perle says he remembers these conversations with Mr. Fakhravar and one of the leaders of the 1999 Tehran University uprising, Ahmad Batebi. "I was reluctant to stay on the phone so long because I know about the technology," he said.

You will remember that the FT, linked above, had written on the AEI contacts with an Iranian expat monarchist women Manda Zand Ervin.

The London Pen Club has an undated entry on Fakhravar:

Profession: Writer, journalist for the now-banned pro-reform dailies Mosharekat and Khordad, and law student.
Date of arrest: 10 November 2002
Sentence: 8 years in prison
Expires: 9 November 2010
Details of trial:Sentenced by Bench 26 of the Revolutionary Court on or around 10 November 2002 to eight years in prison for criticizing the supreme leadership of Iran in his book Inja Chah Nist ('This Place is not a Ditch'), shortlisted for the 2001/2002 Paolo Coelho Literary Prize. Following a period of leave from Evin prison he was ordered to appear in court on 18 March for an appeal hearing. When he appeared he was denied representation by his lawyers. After an argument with the judge he was beaten in front of Bench 26 before being transferred to prison. It is thought that he may have been targeted for writing an open letter to the authorities on 4 February 2003 criticizing the Iranian government and demanding a referendum on the future government of Iran.

There are several questions/remarks on this entry:

  • Who gave this information to the Pen Club London?
  • Here Fakhravar is said to be a law student. In his own bio he was first a "medicine student" and was accepted by a law faculty only in 2004. The Pen entry must  have been made after this.
  • Sentenced on November 10, 2002 to eight years Fakhravar was on a period of leave in early 2003. I do find this extraordinary. But maybe the 8 year sentence was on probation? Or he was free on bail until the appeal on March 18, 2003?
  • There was an argument before the court about the admission of the lawyers. If this was an appeal to a sentences by a lower court, this could make sense as not all lawyer have accreditation to higher courts. But that is speculation. I have found no information on why the judge refused the lawyers.
  • The Pen entry claims that Fakhravar was "beaten in front of Bench 26 before being transferred to prison". The father said in an interview that the beating did take place not in front of the court, but during the transport from court to prison.
  • The Evin prison from which, as Pen says, Fakhravar "was on leave" seems to be a kind of political(?) jail (with leave?) while we know from the father that after the court dispute the son was put to Ghasr, a prison for criminals.
  • What happened in front of the court, that made the judge to take the decision for an immediate arrest in a prison for criminals? 
  • Even after intensive googling and reading through Paolo Coelho's long bio I fail to find any evidence for the existence of a "Paolo Coelho Literary Prize" or a similar award.
  • Note that the title of the book here is again not "The Shah Is Not Here" but "This Place is not a Ditch".
  • PRIMA News said the book was banned in Iran. Fakhravar in his bio says "“Inja chah nist” was   published in the US in 2002". I do not find any reference of the book, except in story about Fakhravar, with either title. Who might have "shortlisted" a book banned in Iran and impossible to find and to buy for this unknown literary price?

In September 2003 Canadian journalist Jane Kokan made a report from Iran on the Iranian student movement for PBS Frontline. It was aired on December 2 2003 by Channel 4 and January 4 2004 by PBS. A video sequence (at 5:10) includes Fakhravar arguing with his mother. From the transcript:

JANE KOKAN: [voice-over] Amir Fakhravar, arrested 17 times, is now serving 8 years in prison for student activism and calling for democracy in Iran. To the students, he’s both a leader and hero. This video of Fakhravar and his mother was filmed secretly just before he went to prison last year.
[...]
JANE KOKAN: The same day, I’ve arranged to meet my most important contact in Iran, a man we’ll call Arzhang. He’s been a political activist since the late ‘70s, when the shah was deposed, and now he’s helping the students take on the mullahs. It’s brave of him, like Kianoosh, to insist that I show his face. Arzhang has set up a telephone interview for me with the student leader Amir Fakhravar from jail.

[on camera] Do you think we’ll see a new democratic Iran sometime soon?

[voice-over] Amazingly, Fakhravar has gained access to a phone line inside one of Iran’s toughest prisons.

[on camera] Will you, the students, win? What do you think? Will you win the battle? OK, I’ll pass you back to Arzhang. OK.

[voice-over] Fakhravar’s English and my Farsi aren’t exactly perfect, so I ask Arzhang to act as our interpreter.

An Iranian opinion on the piece

Cold war mentality and this cloak and dagger attitude to journalism has killed enough legitimate stories. I hope the chronicle of Iranians struggle towards democracy and the different obstacles they face in that road is not fallen victim to fast cut, overly dramatic, sensationalist treatment Jane Kokan employed in this way-too-short documentary.

A comment on the opinion reads:

To me it was totally obvious that every thing was set up for the camera. Camera moved around the guy and at the end of the shot the camera moved towards the mother’s face showing her tears. What kind of "secretly shot is that? Why does the guy need to do a lecture for the camera before going to jail? and how has such a person have access to the phone in such a "police regime?"

and another:

One interesting thing was the claim that the student was at Ghasr prison. Am I the only one who read that the prison was shut down a couple months ago? They’re turning it into a park or museum or some such thing. And anyway I don’t think there ever were political prisoners there... Whatever. It sucked.

My questions/remarks:

  • "Arzhang. He’s been a political activist since the late ‘70s, when the shah was deposed"  - was this man an "activist" for the shah or against the shah? The first would put him into a certain political "monarchist" that is, as the FT piece shows, connected to the AEI.
  • I agree with the commentator that this was not a "secretly shoot video".
  • A phonecall from a harsh prison for criminals seems indeed extraordinary.
  • If as the Kokan report claims, this political activism in Iran is so very dangerous, why is everybody showing their face? That would not be heroic, but stupid.

There are several topics mentioning Fakhravar in a forum at a FREE IRAN Project site. An early entry from December 17 2003 sourced on an Iran activist in London reads:

Amir Abbas (Siavash) Fakhravar, jailed Iranian student and the subject of the recent Channel 4 documentary, Iran Uncovered, has been badly beaten up by other criminal inmates. The prison authorities have refused to provide him medical treatment. Fakhravar is kept in a cell with 25 other common criminals at the Qasr prison. All are dangerous prisoners jailed for serious offences. There are still 3000 prisoners kept at Qasr prison while the other 5000 have been moved to another prison.

The UK Amnesty International site has a page on Fakhravar posted on February 13 2004.

This is the first time that Amnesty International has documented evidence of the practice of "white torture" in Iran.

Amir Abbas Fakhravar has been in prison for over a year. In January 2004, he was taken from Qasr prison to a detention centre called 125 to be interrogated about his alleged links with a political organisation called Jonbesh-e Azadi-ye Iraniyan, which opposes the Iranian government. The centre is under the control of the Revolutionary Guards, a military force responsible for matters of national security.

His cell in the 125 detention centre reportedly had no windows, and was entirely coloured creamy white, as were his clothes. At meal times, he was reportedly given white rice on white, disposable paper plates and if he needed to use the toilet, he had to put a white slip of paper under the door of the cell to alert guards, who reportedly had footwear designed to muffle any sound. He was forbidden to speak to anyone.

Amnesty International has been told that the "silence is deafening" in the facility and that this technique of sensory deprivation is called "white torture" (shekanjeh-e sefid). Such conditions of extreme sensory deprivation appear to be designed to weaken the prisoner by causing persistent and unjustified suffering which amounts to torture.

On or around 8 February, Amir Abbas Fakhravar was reportedly allowed to leave the detention centre. However, two days later he was taken into custody again. This is a form of psychological torture, which keeps a prisoner in a permanent state of uncertainty and anxiety. While he was free he was able to tell others about what was being done to him. It is not clear whether he is now held at 125, Qasr or elsewhere.

Amir Abbas Fakhravar was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment on defamation charges in November 2002, because of comments on Iran's political leadership in his book Inja Chah Nist (This Place is Not a Ditch). In February 2003, he and imprisoned student demonstrator Ahmad Batebi signed an open letter which criticised the Iranian authorities.

The letter stated, "We wish to openly and overtly express our dedication to all universal covenants. We want to show our respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, universal peace, non-violence, environmental protection, permanent progress" and added that "violence has absolutely no place in our struggle, neither in our words nor in our deeds." Shortly afterwards, he was reportedly beaten in front of judges in the court room where his appeal was being heard.

Questions/Remarks:

  • The PBS piece including a phone interview with Fakhravar was aired December 2, 2003 and January 4, 2004. The prison change from Qasr (Ghasr?) to a detention center, according to Amnesty, also happens in January. This may well be connected.
  • All the "white torture" stuff seems to unverified by AI. They use qualifiers, "reportedly", "has been told", "reportedly" in those paragraphs, while the other paragraphs are unqualified. Who "told" AI about this? (In the recent Sunday Times piece and others AI is used as "proof" and "source" for this "white tourture" claim without mentioning AI's unusual qualifications.)
  • AI says he was questioned for "his alleged links with a political organization called Jonbesh-e Azadi-ye Iraniyan". His own bio says: "Fakhravar is the founder of the Movement for the freedom of Iran (Jonbeshe Azadye Iranian, JAI)". Alleged links?
  • According to the Pen entry Fakhravar was imprisoned in March 18, 2003 for an 8 year sentence. According to this AI entry he was freed on February 8 2004 and again arrested on February 10 2004.

Another AI entry reports:

On or around 21 March, Iran’s New Year or No Rouz, he was granted 19 days’ leave.

Fakhravar's bio says:

Once again his fathers tireless efforts got him transferred to Evin’s Political ward. In 2004 together with Ahmad Batebi and Mohammad Manouchehri he participated in the national university entrance exams and was accepted by the law faculty of Payyame Noor University.

The transfer from the prison to the ward must have happened sometime between early 2004 and September 2004, but I have no idea when exactly. Is the Evin’s Political ward  the "white torture" "detention center" AI mentions or is there a different third place?

Another post at the FREE IRAN Project forum on September 30 2004:

KRSI has reported the sad news of the death of Amir Abbas Fakhravar's (maverick student activist) father, Mohammad Bagher Fakhravar (former Iranian Air Force Officer), in a car accident, in which his brother has been seriously hurt and is in coma. The Jomhoriye Kasife Eslame has demanded a large sum of money for Amir Abbas to attend the funeral of his father.

In April 2005 the Paris based Iran journalist Safa Haeri for his Iran Press Service has a long interview with Fakhravar:

Speaking with the Iran Press Service from Tehran during a short leave from prison, Mr. Amir Abbas Fakhravar of the Confederation of Independent Iranian Students (CIIS) that fights for a secular, democratic system based on a freely elected Parliament expressed support for the proposal of boycotting the coming presidential elections and turning the occasion into a referendum for changing the present Iranian political system, as suggested recently by Mr. Abbas Amir Entezam.
[...]
Editor’s note: Born in 1975 and single, Mr. Amir Abbas Fakhravar is serving an eight years imprisonment, on charges of insulting the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i.

He experienced his first jail when 17 year old and was imprisoned 18 times since.

He has been exiled several times to remote areas in Iran, abducted and thrown in unknown prison in Oroumiyeh (north-eastern Iran) and tortured.

Students at law faculty, he was forced to abandon studies. Evin is my residency.

Has collaborated with several reformist newspapers, wrote three books, including “Here is Not a Ditch”. After newspapers in Iran reported that the book was presented to the Paulo Coelho Literary Award, security forces raided his house and office and took all the copies, but a diskette was saved, sent abroad, where the book was translated into English and published.

“Lost Prison Papers” is a collection of life and tortures in Iranian prisons.

Remarks:

  • The interview has a strong "Regime Change" tone. But as it does not further the timeline I will not try to wade into it for now.
  • This is the first time where I see a claim of "exiled several times to remote areas in Iran, abducted and thrown in unknown prison in Oroumiyeh (north-eastern Iran)".  According to his own bio: "In 1994 he was elected chairman to the student government body of the University of Medical Sciences in Uroomiye, [...] In 1996 [...] he was arrested on university campus and was incarcerated by the ministry of Information in Uroomiyeh". Exiled? Abducted? Unknown prison in dark north-eastern Iran?
  • You may be interested in Sala Haeri's interview with Amir-Entezam on the referendum. From what I have read, there are serious infights between various exile groups positioning themselves for  a unlikely referendum.
  • The law faculty, which has accepted him in 2004, somehow ditched him in 2005
  • "Evin is my residency." As Safa Haeri lives in Paris, this is of course not an "Editors Note". Has Fakhravar send in his bio and Haeri missed to change that part? If so, who came up with the "exiled" above?

As additional background: Wikipedia

Abbas Amir-Entezam was the spokesman and the secretary of the Interim Cabinet of Mehdi Bazargan in 1979. In 1981 when he was ambassador of Islamic Republic of Iran in Scandinavian countries, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, asked him to come back quickly to Tehran via an encrypted message. After coming back to Tehran he was arrested because of allegations based on some documents retrieved from U.S. embassy takeover and received life time prison from court.

According to Fakhravar's own bio there are three books: In 1997 "Sabztarin Cheshme zamin" ("the greenest eyes on earth") was published. In 2000 or 2001  "Inja Chah nist" (this place is not a ditch) was written while being in the political ward of Evin prison and "this novel was short listed for the Paulo Coelho literature price". In 2001/2002 he was again arrested and put into solitary confinement.

The memoirs of those days are summarized in the book; “still, Prisons lost papers” which was published in July 2005 by the American publication “Ketab”. This was his second book to get published in the USA (“Inja chah nist” was published in the US in 2002)

As said above, I do not find any trace on the internets of the first or second book at all nor of a Paulo Coelho literature price. 

The latest one, in English and Farsi was published in 2005 by Ketab Corp in Los Angeles, a company specialized on Persian media. The book has an ISBN number but a search through bookfinder and some other means does not find any other place where it is mentioned or where one could buy it.

The picture on the front of the book is one that Fakhravar also has on his website. It has the subtext "from left to right: Amir Abbas, Ahmad Batebi in Evin prison (Iran)". Telling from the picture, the photo studio in Envin prison (Iran) has some pretty good equipment.

From the bio:

Short while ago Amir Abbas received leave from prison to participate in university exams, after which he didn’t return to prison. As a consequence of this action an order to shoot on sight was issued in his name.

The Sunday Times writes in May 2006:

Fakhravar, a 30-year-old writer and leader of the dissident Iranian student movement, who has been repeatedly jailed, emerged in Washington last week after spending 10 months on the run inside Iran. His sister was told by Revolutionary Guards that there were orders to shoot him on sight.

He surfaced at the end of last month in Dubai, where 24 hours later he was met by the leading American neoconservative, Richard Perle.

In April 2005 in the Sala Haeri interview it is claimed that Fakhravar was ditched from the law studies, but some ten month ago, about Mai/June 2005, we was getting leave from the ward to participate in university exams. That definitely does not fit.

December 05, 2005 he has an telephone interview with Jason Lee Steorts of the National Review titled Message From Underground.

In May of this year, while on such a leave, he decided he had had enough, and ran.

As for "His sister was told by Revolutionary Guards that there were orders to shoot him on sight." The only source for this is the bio on Fahkravars website. He certainly didn´t behave like that danger was real.

In December 2005 Sahari Dastmalchi, an young Iranian woman grown up in the Netherlands has met Fakhrava in Iran. With four people they drive into the mountains for some kind of weekend camping. She has written a piece, ending in a quite a romantic scene, about this at Iranian.com. Therein she calls him and his friends "monarchist and republican". She describes him as charismatic:

Siavash is a very likable young man very sociable and down to earth, at the same time polite and gentlemanly like with remarkable green eyes. The color of the eyes is not what makes them remarkable, his eyes are unusually communicative. One look in this mans face and I couldn’t help feel like I was naked, with one handshake this man knew all my deepest darkest secrets. To be quite honest it felt like he knew things the rest of us had missed.

Oh, you want the romantic scene?

He put his arm around me and pulled me closer towards him “Well, start packing then, Jooje Hollandi (Dutch chick lit)” he said laughing “can I ..?” as he looked at the huge blanket I had dragged out with me.

I smiled and full of confidence answered, “Sure, we lefties don’t mind sharing” as I gave him a corner of my blanket. So he could cuddle up next to me.

He just laughed at me “wise ass” he said while he got himself settled. We sat there perfectly still smelling the sweet mountainous morning air.

“Siavash, I am glad I met you,” I said quietly.

Sahari Dastmalchi has written for The Iranian several times. The Iranian is a website marketed to young expats. She blogs and wants to become a journalist and she meets Fakhravar, as it seems from her piece, just by chance during a visit in Iran and has such a nice weekend with this charismatic men and another young ideal pair. This while "an order to shoot on sight" is issued against him.

Quite a story.

In January the domain name for Fakhravars website is registered through a provider in Teheran.

Domain Name:amirabbasfakhravar.com
Record last updated at 2006-01-24 00:04:11
Record created on 2006/1/2
Record expired on 2007/1/2

Domain servers in listed order:
ns2.zoneedit.com ns17.zoneedit.com

Administrator:
name: Amir solymani kashaniha
mail: info@amirabbasfakhravar.com tel: +98.9121916084
org: Amir solymani kashaniha

An February 13, 2006 interview on National Review Online with Fakhravar mentions a Manda from Los Angeles that appears again to be the monarchist Manda Zand Ervin that also appeared in the 2003 FT article above.

Through the help of an Iranian émigré living in California - who wishes to be identified only by her first name, Manda - Fakhravar recently phoned NR deputy managing editor Jason Lee Steorts to discuss Iran's nuclear program, the hopes of the Iranian people, and his life as a fugitive.
[...]
NRO: What do Iranians think of George W. Bush?
Fakhravar
: The people of Iran, especially the youth, are so admiring of Bush and his administration for siding with the people of Iran rather than the government of Iran. No other leader of any government, even the Europeans, took this stand. All the youngsters support him and love him, and we want to express our deepest gratitude for him and his administration and what they are doing to liberate us.
NRO
: Are you receiving any support from the U.S. government?
Fakhravar
: I cannot mention who, but I'm definitely communicating with some people in the U.S. government and have established contacts with people in the Bush administration.

According to the NY Sun and Sunday Times, April 29 2006 Fakhravar meets Richard Perle in Dubai and went from there to Washington DC. Since then, according to his picture gallery, he has been meeting Michael Ledeen and Senator Rick Santorum and, one may guess, a lot of other important people. He is making the rounds in the media.

A hero he is, or is he? Enough people have written that story.

To me this man seems to be something else. But I will write that story on another day.

Posted by b on May 26, 2006 at 03:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (93)

May 25, 2006

Transposed Ordinary Preoccupations?

by Noisette - (lifted from a comment)

I have just spent two hours or so reading the Iraqi blogs. And have come away more disturbed and puzzled than ever. (Besides fear sadness outrage at the carnage.)

These bloggers are educated. Several hold down jobs, are professionals, or were. Others are in school. All of them are smart. They are all pretty social - get around, talk to people. They read books. Thought Riot, for example, is 18 and quotes Churchill and Bismark. She is mystified at the amounts spent by the US on defense and the fact that they can't control thugs. She shows clean hands by stating that ‘she is not into conspiracy theories' and then goes on to wonder what or whose agenda is served by the 'Iraqi Swamp.' She has insight, as well: she calls Chalabi childish and funny, which is apt. She thinks Muqtada is as brainless as the melon she ate an hour ago.

But as a group, they are clueless.

Besides fresh horror stories not reported in the press (e.g. reported by Treasure of Baghdad: Health workers showing up a the door, questioning if any babies in the home, ordering it to be vaccinated against polio; two hours later the baby is dead (not an isolated case it seems...). They don't know what is going on in their country. They are mystified. They talk critically and coherently about the Government, mention (or not) that the Gvmt is itself implicated in killings (militias, etc.) and address or describe some of the problems in their work/expertise area, but in a very local, circumscribed way.

Of course the media is shit. And the newspapers must be terrible or non-existent, none of them mention any newspapers at all.

Some mention incidents like seeing policemen who seemed menacing (or even shot someone right in front of their eyes) and not knowing if they were 'real policemen' or not.

How is it possible that these people don't know who is fighting whom (besides the endless mention of 'sectarian killings') and for what? How come they don't tell us that there is an industry in police uniforms? How come they are not suspicious of health workers who show up at the door? Well those last two questions are a bit mean, I only intend to suggest that as a group they show little street smarts, and don't possess even the beginnings of a general framework that would serve to explain the events around them.

I'm not being critical of them, I'm worried sick.

Could this be a class thing? The bloggers are all middle or upper middle class, and the ones I read write at least partly in English. Are they all just imitating Riverbend, the very successful star blogger, latest in a long list of 'girls who write diaries while in a war situation'? Riverbend is very politically correct and careful - the genre does not in fact require it, but pushes towards it through its narrow focus that transmutes to universality through empathy (and thus guarantees its commercial success.)

My vague comparison standard is WW2 and stories from parents and relatives, reading, etc. On the ground, that was quite complicated in occupied countries, not the simple affair of goodies and baddies that the history books tell us. Yet, people knew which faction was what, who looked like what, who knew whom, who was going to do what, who wore fake uniforms or not, what different groups were trying to attain.

From what I have read about, say, Somalia, to take a contemporary example I believe (?) things there are more like WW2, and that the carnage on the ground is readily understood, interpreted by the people who are the victims of it. Were there to be Somalian bloggers, I think, the narrative would be different, as the various actors and protagonists would be identified, named, explained.

The murderous chaos of Iraq today has a quality that I can't grasp. It does have, at this distance, a definetly American shading, but that is perhaps natural, as the bloggers, when blogging in English, enter a US culturally dominated world. The best way I can describe it is that the ordinary preoccupations, disasters and attendant interpretations of Americans (or, more generally, people in 'developed' nations, but the Japanese are quite different from the French...) such as dogs that get run over, a child who has a high fever after a vaccination, a job lost, an unwelcome election result, a new ruling, a corruption scandal, etc. etc. and their various rationalisations and interpretations -some of them conspiratorial- have been transposed to explain the most barbarous behavior imaginable taking place on a day to day basis on the doorstep, in the backyard, the home, the traffic crossing, the local hospital...

That is really frightening.

What am I missing? What am I not reading right? Is this kind of chaos really new?

Posted by b on May 25, 2006 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

OT 06-45

If you don´t comment, ...

Posted by b on May 25, 2006 at 01:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (50)

May 24, 2006

An Inconvenient Candidate?

My native German equivalent of NPR today had some sound bites of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth". I was impressed. When it launches here, it will be a rallying cry -- but to whom to rally?

Having also read about the movie on several blogs the recent days, I do recommend to you to view it. And please post your review of the movie in the comments.

Gore also presented the case for a campaign against global warming in a series of speaches. A video of his presentation to moveon.org is available here.

As the theater movie itself is not on the web, yet, (why not?), that presentation is the one I base my further words on.

Gore is right. Global warming will turn this planet into something very different. The already inevitable changes coming, though he only hints lightly to this, will be the base for further wars and mass killings. Why does he avoid that very real issue?

The whole Sudan/Dafur conflict is a consequence of global warming. Goat shepherts need water for their animals (and themselfs) to make a living. If there is even less water in an already arid country, they, at some point, will have to start to fight the farmers who are near a reliable water source. This is an existential problem. To solve it through military means is not possible. Unless you are willing, like that liberal Kristof at the NYT, to take one side and thereby end up with genoziding the other.

In his presentation Gore shows that global warming is a very serious, proven fact. But in itself, he rightly says, it is only a symtom. He identifies three serious underlaying issues:

  1. World population growth
  2. The scientific and technical revolution and its consequences
  3. Our way of thinking in old habits even after the framework (see 1 and 2) has changed

He does not get into transfering these issues into policy recommendations in the video linked above. So I wonder what really ARE his recommendations on these insights.

But Gore does go into a very justifiable and grounded rant on the current administration's general money-versus-earth policies. The rant is very well received by the moveon.org public he speaks to in the filmed event, but it took a quite wooden hour to get him and the crowd into the rage needed to achieve some will.

I actually hope he will be a 2008 candidate, though he still has much to learn and to concede before I would ever endorse him. But he is at least lightyears ahead and above the usual (and deserved?) recent NYT Hillary orgasm count.

Posted by b on May 24, 2006 at 03:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (55)

May 23, 2006

Sanctions

Slothrop, on the Ahmadinajad Eats Children thread, writes:

my challenge here is to seriously ask whether iran's leadership deserves international sanction. if not, why not?

Given that Iran is under official sanctions from the US and under unofficial sanctions from European banks who have business in the US, my question is: "Why?"

Why sanction Iran and not other countries like Saudi Arabia, Brazil or Israel?

Is there any good reason to put these or even further sanctions on Iran at all?

If so, what sanctions do you prefer?

Posted by b on May 23, 2006 at 04:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

May 22, 2006

WB: Every Story Tells a Picture

Billmon:

At first I thought the "jolie ville" sign at the top was some kind of reference to noted Davos groupie Angelina Jolie, but later I found out that it was the name of the restaurant inside the center. Which actually had pretty good food, but I would have still preferred Angelina.

Every Story Tells a Picture

Posted by b on May 22, 2006 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

May 21, 2006

WB: Cooking With Gas

Billmon:

There is, of course, more than enough hypocrisy to go around here. Mubarak comes to Sharm and talks about building democratic societies, while his Mukhabarat thugs back in Cairo stomp on peaceful protestors and arrest election judges for daring to demand that they be allowed to judge elections. The Cheney administration gently chides the Teflon Pharoah for rigging the vote, then rolls out the red carpet for Pharoah's son -- the eventual beneficiary of all that rigging. Congress critters get to pose as defenders of human rights, then go home and brag to the voters about how they tried to throw the darkies off the dole.

Cooking With Gas

Posted by b on May 21, 2006 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Open Thread

Your news & views ...

Posted by b on May 21, 2006 at 02:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (65)

May 20, 2006

WB: Sharm El-Sheikh

Billmon:

I got to within maybe two feet of it, when I turned my head and was startled to find I was practically nose-to-nose with a fish – a blue-finned beauty with a bright yellow face and a squared off head, like a mullet (the fish, not the Joe Dirt hairdo).

As entranced as I was by nature’s handiwork, I still like my personal space, and the fish was infringing on it. I don’t know why it came so close – maybe it was looking for a handout, or maybe it just had never seen a white whale before. ...

Sharm El-Sheikh

Posted by b on May 20, 2006 at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Ahmadinejad Eats Children + WB: Protocols of the Elders of Persia

Updated:

Billmon:

Protocols of the Elders of Persia

---

Earlier post by b:

The Canadian National Post had a news story yesterday, alleging that the Iranian parliament approved a law that would require Jews to wear "yellow ribbons". The brain-dead in the blogsphere were up in flames over this with a collective "Nazis" scream.

The story was based on a column in the same paper by one Amir Taheri. He claims:

The law mandates the government to make sure that all Iranians wear "standard Islamic garments" designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions reflected in clothing, and to eliminate "the influence of the infidel" on the way Iranians, especially, the young dress. It also envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public

It is obvious where this comes from. Like Richard Perle, Michael Leeden and other fellow neocons, you can book Mr. Taheri for speeches through Benador Associates

As Juan Cole points out the story is false. The sole Jewish member of the Iranian parliament says:

"This report is a complete fabrication and is totally false," Maurice Motammed said in Tehran. "It is a lie, and the people who invented it wanted to make political gain" by doing so.
...
Mr Motammed said he had been present in parliament when a bill to promote "an Iranian and Islamic style of dress for women" was voted. "In the law, there is no mention of religious minorities," he added.

MPs representing Iran's Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian minorities sit on all parliamentary committees, particularly the cultural one, he said.

"This is an insult to the Iranian people and to religious minorities in Iran," he said.

The National Post has replaced the original piece with a kind of retraction. Anyhow, the intended damage is done. The moonies UPI picked it up. The New York Post puts it into a cover headline and we will see the lie returning again and again.

Next on the propaganda list is a story about religious food in Iran. Headline: "Ahmadinejad Eats Children".

Posted by b on May 20, 2006 at 09:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (69)

WB: Great Moments in Political Posturing

Billmon:

Great Moments in Political Posturing

Posted by b on May 20, 2006 at 04:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

May 19, 2006

Second

And Hayden, referring to Congress as "the second branch of government," punted all the interesting answers to a later, secret session.
Punting the Interesting Answers to the Secret Session, WaPo - Milbank, May 19, 2006

---

Article I - The Legislative Branch
Article II - The Executive Branch
Article III - The Judicial Branch
U.S. Constitution, March 04, 1789

Posted by b on May 19, 2006 at 03:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Raider Becomes Twix

Up to 1991, Twix, the candy bar by Mars Inc., was sold in Europe under the name Raider. When the name was globalized and changed to Twix, product sells fell dramatically and several chain stores delisted it. 

After some month into the debacle Mars launched a huge advertising campaign. The slogan for that campaign, Aus Raider wird Twix ... sonst ändert sich nix (Raider becomes Twix ... nothing else changes), has become a metaphore for somewhat botched introductions of "new" products by sole relabeling.

U.S. Moves to Weaken Iran, says the LA Times. The piece describes the State Department program run by Dick Cheney's daughter Elizabeth and David Denehy, a former deputy directory of the CPA’s Office of Democracy and Governance in Iraq. They work on Voice of America programing in Farsi, financial support for opposition groups and they send special "Iran watchers" diplomats to countries with Iranian expatriats.

Writes the LA Times:

officials emphasize that this time around, State Department diplomats rather than Pentagon war planners are in charge

So this looks new, but further down we read:

The administration's efforts are taking shape on the second floor of the State Department, where a new Office of Iranian Affairs has been charged with leading the push to back Iranian dissidents more aggressively, boost support to democracy broadcasters and strengthen ties with exiles.

Nearby at the Pentagon, an Iranian directorate will work with the State Department office to undercut the government in Tehran.
...
[T]he Pentagon's directorate began with six full-time staff members. But they can draw on expertise throughout the government, providing access to potentially hundreds of specialists.

This new Iranian directorate is indeed a very well known shop:

At the Pentagon, the new Iranian directorate has been set up inside its policy shop, which previously housed the Office of Special Plans.
...
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Venable declined to name the acting director of the new Iran office and would say only that the appointee was a "career civil servant." Among those staffing or advising the Iranian directorate are three veterans of the Office of Special Plans: Abram N. Shulsky, its former director; John Trigilio, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst; and Ladan Archin, an Iran specialist.

The Office of Special Plans was, as you well remember, the place where the false Iraq intelligence was prepared and stovepiped into Cheney's office.

Let's look up the people named.

Seymour Hersh on Shulsky:

The director of the Special Plans operation is Abram Shulsky, a scholarly expert in the works of the political philosopher Leo Strauss. Shulsky has been quietly working on intelligence and foreign-policy issues for three decades; he was on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the early nineteen-eighties and served in the Pentagon under Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle during the Reagan Administration, after which he joined the Rand Corporation.

Karen Kwiatkowski on Trigilo:

Trigilio and I had hallway debates, as friends. The one I remember most clearly was shortly after President Bush gave his famous "mushroom cloud" speech in Cincinnati in October 2002, asserting that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction as well as ties to "international terrorists," and was working feverishly to develop nuclear weapons with "nuclear holy warriors." I asked John who was feeding the president all the bull about Saddam and the threat he posed us in terms of WMD delivery and his links to terrorists, as none of this was in secret intelligence I had seen in the past years. John insisted that it wasn't an exaggeration, but when pressed to say which actual intelligence reports made these claims, he would only say, "Karen, we have sources that you don't have access to." It was widely felt by those of us in the office who were not in the neoconservatives' inner circle that these "sources" related to the chummy relationship that Ahmad Chalabi had with both the Office of Special Plans and the office of the vice president.

And Jeffrey Steinberg on Archin:

Ladan Archin, an Iraqi-American Wolfowitz protégé from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University, who came to the OSP from the International Financial Corp. of the World Bank, and reportedly serves as a liaison to Ahmed Chalabi and the INC.

These people, who have worked on the Iraq campaign in the Office of Special Plans, have now moved on to the "Iranian directorate". Conveniently, they did not even had to change their rooms, only the door plates.

Aus Raider wird Twix ... sonst ändert sich nix.

The former "WMD and terrorists" product was named Iraq and it sold quite well at its time. It has now been rebranded to Iran but it is prepared by the same people to the same recipe in the same old factory.

Now somehow I have the impression the traction for this new product seems to lack the enthusiasm and demand the old one had.

To a lot of people the old product did taste well at that time, but they still have this crappy stomach feeling. The serving was just a bit too big.

Even with the rebranding campaign underway, they just may not buy this product again.

Posted by b on May 19, 2006 at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

May 18, 2006

OT 06-43

If it doesn't fit elsewhere, please drop it here ...

Posted by b on May 18, 2006 at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (46)

WB: Land of Goshen

Billmon:

There is, of course, a slight, but not quite negligible, chance I will be the intentional or accidental target of a terrorist attack. Sharm el-Sheikh, you may recall, was bombed last July, and another resort just up the coast was hit a few weeks ago. However, I've always understood that my chances of getting killed on I-95 on my way to work each morning are vastly higher than the odds of falling victim to terrorism, even in the Middle East.

Land of Goshen

Posted by b on May 18, 2006 at 01:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

WB: The Wonders of Science

Billmon:

The Wonders of Science

Posted by b on May 18, 2006 at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

WB: In Cold Blood

Billmon:

There is a wiff of genocide in the air, and not just in Iraq. While the keyboard warriors still talk in slightly coded terms about waging war with the "ferocity" required to win, some of the real warriors aren't bothering to conceal what those terms really mean. A few days ago I came across a diary at Daily Kos (can't find it now) in which the diarist relayed the gist of his recent conversation with a Marine Corporal -- an MP, of all things, currently stationed at Quantico -- who was eager to get to Iraq so he could "kill some sand niggers."

In Cold Blood

Posted by b on May 18, 2006 at 07:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

May 17, 2006

WB: Rump States

Billmon:

"Only residents of Utah, Wyoming and Idaho view the president favorably."

Rump States

Posted by b on May 17, 2006 at 11:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

WB: Sixteen Steps and a Stumble

Billmon:

[I]f the commodity bubble and the housing bubble both deflate at the same time, and economic growth slows and the Fed takes too many quarter-point stutter steps (or has taken too many already) then things are probably about to go from bad to worse to really rotten, at least as far as the overwhelming majority of American consumers and workers are concerned. And if they're unhappy (I mean really unhappy) the stock market isn't likely to get much joy out of life either.

Sixteen Steps and a Stumble

Posted by b on May 17, 2006 at 11:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

WB: Lawyer Jokes

Billmon:

Lawyer Jokes

Posted by b on May 17, 2006 at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

New Video

The administration has released what is said to be two security camera's videos of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Says the Washington Post:

This is video released by the Pentagon of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Watch carefully as a plane enters the video from the right.

Watching carefully, I don´t see a plane entering the video. I don´t see a plane at all.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the group sought the videos to rebut conspiracy theories, which have circulated widely on the Internet, that the Pentagon was hit by a missile or a small plane.

That attempt was not successful.

So why exactly were these videos not released four and a half years ago?

Posted by b on May 17, 2006 at 01:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

May 16, 2006

WB: Non-Native Son

Billmon:

So the brown invaders crossing "our" border and daring to demonstrate in "our" streets have become the new Islamofascists -- the necessary enemy of the moment.

Non-Native Son

Posted by b on May 16, 2006 at 11:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

WB: Pretzel Logic

Billmon:

Pretzel Logic

Posted by b on May 16, 2006 at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

WB: Plumber's Helper

Billmon:

The real lesson of Watergate is that the two phenomena -- national security absolutism and good old-fashioned political ratfucking -- are joined at the skull, like inseparable Siamese twins. You can't have one without the other, particularly in a system that is otherwise designed to prevent the kind of radical accumulation of power the Nixon and Bush II White Houses represent.

Plumber's Helper

Posted by b on May 16, 2006 at 12:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

May 15, 2006

WB: Fools and Liars

Billmon:

If the House Dems are serious about fishing for impeachable offenses (assuming they get control of the fishing rod this November) they could pick a worse place to start -- for Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld, I mean. For Shrub, though, I think they're going to have look elsewhere. The problem is that in the end, no matter where they look, they're probably going to run up against the Nuremberg defense -- he was only following orders.

Fools and Liars

Posted by b on May 15, 2006 at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

May 14, 2006

WB: Main Course?

Billmon:

Main Course?

Posted by b on May 14, 2006 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Other Topics

If you don´t comment here Cheney wins.

Posted by b on May 14, 2006 at 01:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (72)

WB: Market Update

Billmon:

The Dems have an collective obligation to fight the coming campaign to the best of their ability, and, if they win, to use their victories to advance the policies that they believe are best for the country. If that means giving the Rovians a target, so be it.

Market Update

Posted by b on May 14, 2006 at 12:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (38)

May 13, 2006

WB: Vox Pollsteri

Billmon:

It defeats the purpose of having a 4th Amendment if its validiity is entirely dependent on breaking 50% in the latest poll.
...
What the government is doing is illegal and unamerican, and that would still be true if the polls showed 99% support -- in fact, it would be even more true.

Vox Pollsteri

Posted by b on May 13, 2006 at 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

WB: Leviathan

Billmon:

We can argue all we want that the deal is a sham, that any sense of security is an illusion, and that having gobbled up their privacy and some of their liberty, Leviathan will only come looking for more, because that’s all it knows how to do. But an awfully large number of our fellow citizens have already decided, or have been conditioned to believe, that it’s better to be subjects and let others make the hard decisions for them. After all, the organization must have its reasons.

Leviathan

Posted by b on May 13, 2006 at 03:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

Immigrant Terrorist Threat

The major papers report on Bush's new push on immigration, including the use of the National Guard beyond their local states to seal the southern borders.

The appropriate police training was completed during their time in Iraq. After a short run as border guards, they will be ready for their stind as campus police. We have seen that before.

Of course part of this is just a diversion from other issues. But I think Karl Rove is also playing a distinct card in the poker game of the coming election. It is called racism.

Fox news is already calling for more white babies. The fringe right will extend that theme, the evangelicals will join in and OpEd writers will rally the masses.

The endangered white men will take the up his burden, follow the repubs flag and fight this existential threat.

The arab terrorist boogie man has lost a bit of effectiveness. The immigrant terrorist threat is the choosen successor.

Watch your back.

Posted by b on May 13, 2006 at 02:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

May 12, 2006

WB: Ventriloquist Act

Billmon:

The dummy doesn't look very realistic, though.

Ventriloquist Act

Posted by b on May 12, 2006 at 11:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Phone Poll

ring, ring - ring, ring

Hello?

Good evening Mrs. Answer. We are conducting a very short poll for the Washington Post. It will only take 5 minutes of your time. Would you please have the courtesy to answer these few question?

Oh another poll, I just took my pills and was ready to go to bed.

Please Mrs. Answer, it is really very very short and you know it's for the very important Washington Post paper that did this Watergate investigation. I am sure you will remember that.

Oh yes, yes I do remember that one. They buged some party offices back then, didn´t they. Well, okay. I'm tired. Why don´t you just start.

Have you heard of todays reports about the National Security Agency collecting information about all phone calls inside the United States?

Oh no, I have not heared that. What paper is doing that again?

No, not a paper. The NSA. The National Security Agency is doing this phone call collection program.

You mean, they are listening to us on the phone? Right now?

No. Ahemm. No, that is - I don´t know. But why would they be interested in a poll call like this. So no Mrs. Answer, I don´t think they are listening to us.

Now, could I ask you the few questions right away?

Oh, oh, you mean you don´t know - ahh - ahem - ahh - Yes, I mean sure yes, s_u_ r_e, s_u_r_ e.

Okay. No 1,
The National Security Agency has a program to collect information on telephone calls made in the United States in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats.

Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with such a program.

I ahh I don´t know, I ahh, I agree I think, you know ahh yes ahem yes ahh I strongly agree - do you listen?  I strongly agree with that program.
...

Poll: Most Americans Support NSA's Efforts

---
TIA Automated Intercept Report - 05/12/06 11:23pm - detected keyword relevance level: high - keywords detected: "investigate", "National Security", "NSA", "pills", "terrorist", "threats", "Washington Post", "Watergate" - call attendees elevated to surveilence level 2 - end TIA

Posted by b on May 12, 2006 at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

May 11, 2006

A Useless Program

USA Today reports that three big telecommonication companies, AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, have delivered and are delivering all call detail records (CDRs) of domestic and international phonecalls to the NSA. Quest as the fourth biggest provider did not deliver such records, for doubts on the legality and fear of fines, even as it was pressured to do so.

CDRs include the callers telephone number, the number called, the start time and the end time of a call. They do not include the call content, i.e. the talk. The companies deny to have delivered additional information, like addresses or customer names. USA Today only reported on fixed phone lines. But we can reasonably assume that cell phone and voice over Internet call data is also used.

The NSA, as someone tells USA Today is, "to create a database of every call ever made". That can be done. But how useful might this attempt be?

I believe that that indentifying terrorist networks through this can not succeed and that the program thereby does not add to the security of the people. But history has shown that such datacollections can be and will be abused. The NSA program thereby decreses the security of the people and should be abolished.

The NSA is said to use the data to do "social network analysis" to identify terrorist networks. 

I have worked intensively with CDRs for billing purposes and to project usage behaviour  for international internet service and telco providers. Pure CDRs will give you interesting data on "social network analysis". But only in a statistical sense.

On a Sunday afternoon I did get an emergency call by an U.S. based online service. Their network folks thought their European access network had gone down when they saw a sudden and massive drop of online traffic. I, like many million others in Europe, was watching a Formula 1 race, so the reason was immediate clear to me, but I missed some race laps while explaining the importance of Formula 1 in Europe.

So the NSA may be able to group NASCAR loving households as their call volume will be low through a race and spike immediately when its over. It may be able to group the households with teenage girls as, except for vacation time, their line will light up shortly after school.

But pure CDR analysis will only get you down to social groups with ten-thousands of members, not to small terrorist groups. The NSA must add to that information which is easy as there are many address databases that include the phonenumbers. They will have those plus mortgage data, credit card information, tax-data and maybe medical and/or insurance records.

The NSA did, as Technology Review reported, take over Pointdexters Total Information Awareness Project which was planed for such dataprocessing.

Still, with all this information available, how far down can "social network analysis" go? What defines a "terrorist" social network? What identifies it? What is the minimum group size that is identifyable by this datamining?

The official report on the London bombing on July 7 2005 shows that there was only very, very little that could have enabled the identification of this small group of domestic suicide bombers before their deeds.

Four domestic folks, with no foreign connection, who had a few things in common and a lot of things not in common. They did not use the same hairdresser, did not buy their food at the same market and went to different doctors. The were a social network overlayed with other social networks they did not have in common. No datamining I can think of would have identified them as what they turned out to be.

Datamining is useless for finding small groups that behave normal except in one social issue. Datamining will deliver a lot of "suspect" behavior of small groups and individual people. But the sheer size of the possibilities will find ten-thousands or hundred-thousands of "suspects" without identifying any real terrorist other than by chance.

Indeed the FBI has complained about the trash of thousands of false tips that resulted from the program and that the NSA delivered to them.

The NSA datamining attempt is useless to find terrorist "social networks". Therefor the program should be buried.

Unless of course there are other "social networks" one wants to keep an ear on.

Posted by b on May 11, 2006 at 12:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

OT 06-41

If you don´t comment, Cambone will win!

Posted by b on May 11, 2006 at 06:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (53)

WB: When Liberals Attack

Billmon:

When Liberals Attack

Posted by b on May 11, 2006 at 02:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 10, 2006

WB: End of the Line

Billmon:

Some dynasties repeat their mistakes; others keep inventing new ones. The Bushes have demonstrated a real knack for doing both, which is why Jeb isn't ever likely to have the chance to prove he's the break in the pattern. He may be the smart Bush, but he's definitely not the lucky one.

End of the Line

Posted by b on May 10, 2006 at 05:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

WB: Hook, Line and Sinking

Billmon:

Of course, it may be that conning the simple minded -- i.e., holding the base -- is all the Pentagon propaganda technicians are trying to accomplish here, or all they think is reasonable to shoot for. If the Powerlie bundists are clutching at straws, so, too, is Donald Rumsfeld. It seems one of the hallmarks of a failing authoritarian regime is its ability to go on fooling itself, and its followers, long after the rest of the world has stopped even paying attention.

Hook, Line and Sinking

Posted by b on May 10, 2006 at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Nothing Left

by anna missed (lifted from a comment)

This report by Con Coughlin, "the Judy Miller of the UK", might be a harbinger of what is in store for the entire OIF:

A natural conclusion to be drawn from this latest flare-up in the delicate balance of relations between the British military and the local population it is seeking to protect is that Britain's continued presence in Iraq is no longer tenable, and that its forces should be withdrawn forthwith.

Certainly that is how the voluble anti-war brigade is seeking to portray the predicament of the British garrison in Basra, which now finds itself virtually confined to barracks, fearful that its presence on the streets will provoke further violent assaults.

And whats going on in the north has got to be more volitile. The jist of which I think is that during the 3 years of "Gravity's Rainbow", no apparent government period, is that the political reality has become so decentralized that it has become opaque to the occupation authority.

Throughout the various incarnations and attempts to stand up a central government -- beholden to U.S. interests -- have failed to inspire any confidence beyond the green zone. And so have subsequently been replaced by a governance of street culture, tribe, clan, gang, and militia. The communication, structure, and alliances between these factions have evolved at a pace that is beyond all attempts by the occupation to generate intellegence on it, so they are left with an ever diminishing circumstance of control or no control.

This has resulted in a situation where the so called puppet government has been given increasing latitude (power) in the hopes that it can formulate a counter-force or re-centralization of power back into a population that has grown increasingly sceptical of its alliances to the occupation force or its ability to counter the slide into sectarian stife.

The Iraqi government then is put into the position of serving two masters, its occupation hosts, and an increasingly hostile population well on its way to defacto self governance.

And because the occupation forces have restricted the use of the army and security forces it has trained to be loyal to them, this has forced the Iraqi government to rely exclusively upon its connection to the main religious militias for the enforcement of their will -- and this is what the occupation is now demanding to be dissolved, or at least incorporated into the army.

This of course leaves the government toothless, or as a tooth fairy, restricted to dolling out economic favors as a form of governance.

Which has had another effect as evidenced by the rise of Muqtada Sadr -- the only politician on the ground in Iraq. The only politician both working the street and the ministries to any effect -- who incidently, also pays more and offers better benifits than the Iraqi army to its militia members. And who also happens to be the most openly anti-occupation force, outside the insurgency. I hear today he openly and publically credited his militia with shooting down the British helicopter -- and is aimig to increase his ministry portfolio from 2 to 5.

It's just a matter of time, and not alot of it, before there's nothing left for the occupation.

Posted by b on May 10, 2006 at 07:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

WB: Finger to the Wind

Billmon:

No, I'm afraid the only connotation the nickname Nine Fingers raises in my mind comes from Tolkien, not Chester Gould, and it's Frodo the Nine Fingered, praised with great praise in too many stanzas of pseudo-Norse saga. But that would only work if Frodo had gone over to the Dark Lord and spent a career running death squads into Gondor -- before retiring to serve as staff director to one of the Nazgul. And J.R.R. still would have had to shoehorn those prostitute and poker parties in somewhere, maybe in that scene in the Orc fortress.

Finger to the Wind

Posted by b on May 10, 2006 at 02:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

May 09, 2006

WB: Roaring 20s

Billmon:

Yes, that's right: Hillary Clinton is now more popular than George W. Bush. And cholera and crab lice are moving up fast in the outside lanes.

Roaring 20s

Posted by b on May 9, 2006 at 11:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Spinnig Hayden

There is some serious spin going on in the Hayden nomination for CIA director.

House Speaker Hastert, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra and other Republicans have come out against this candidate. Hayden is happy to be endorsed by  the Democrat Senator Diana Feinstein.

The repubs argue that a military officer as the head of the civil spy agency would be bad at a time where the Pentagon, which already has 85% of all spying budgets, is trying to grab even more powers in this area.

They may have other reason to do so, like the need to oppose an unpopular president, but that argument has some weight.

The people spinned sofar against this reasoning are Steve Clemons of the Washington Note and Dana Priest at the Washington Post. We will see more tomorrow.

Clemons argues that the knowledge of Hayden of the military side of intelligence would allow him to check it and thereby help Negroponte in a perceived fight against a Rumsfeldian powergrab.

Priest reports on the basic of one "former senior intelligence official" (Tenet?) and one Mackubin T. Owens, professor of national security studies at the Naval War College, and a republican chiller.

Money quotes:

"Hayden seems to be one of those guys who will, without hesitation, stand up to anyone with whom he disagrees," said Mackubin T. Owens, professor of national security studies at the Naval War College. "He's out of Rumsfeld's reach."

and

"The concern about Hayden is not really about Hayden, it's about Rumsfeld and Cheney," said one former senior intelligence officer

This is nonsense. Can anybody point to any real policy differences between Cheney, Rumsfeld and Negroponte, all former parts of the Reagan administration? Why then is Rumsfeld defending this nomination?

Can an active 4-star General oppose the Secretary of Defense without getting fired?

These people all want to eliminate any capability at the CIA and push it all into DoD. "No more Niger leaks when we prep for Iran!"

Priest gets this a bit when she writes:

But the military's frustration with the CIA -- including not having enough terrorist targets identified for attack in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere -- is at least in part behind Rumsfeld's expansion of military intelligence capabilities. Rumsfeld has moved hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of troops into clandestine intelligence collection and analysis.

Translated Rumsfeld: "If you don´t find targets for us, we will make them up ourself."

While Negroponte makes his regular 3 hour lunches, Rumsfeld is busy to build his own Pentagon own spy service. Negroponte isn´t even moving a finger to fight this.

With Hayden in place, for sure a better organizer than Potter Goss, the few sane people left at the CIA would be under direct DoD, i.e. Cheney, control. No need for another stove pipe then if the "real" intelligence is ordered to fit your purpose.

Posted by b on May 9, 2006 at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

These Little Things Add Up

The "lefty" news aggregator RawStory currently has this snippet on its frontpage.

So Ahmadinejad bans women from soccer games? Didn´t I read the opposite just some days ago?

The link under "women" leads to an Associated Press snippet on the globeandmail.com website. The story says:

Iran bars women from soccer games

Tehran -- Iran's women will be barred from attending soccer games, a reversal by the President that comes a month before the national team plays in the World Cup.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ruled in April that he would allow women to go to soccer games and sit in a separate section of the stands. But Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- who under the constitution has the final say -- opposed the move.

Two issues:

  • The first graph by AP is wrong in attributing this to a "reversal" by the President. Ahmadinejad did not change his opinion, but was overruled by the mullahs. (I guess they called him a "liberal" - it seams to be the current to fashion) these days.
  • RawStory was sloppy and only read the first paragraph or it is an active part in the "Ahmadinejad is EVIL" propaganda campaign.

Don´t underestimate how these little things add up. People do not remember these later on, but they do form the public opinion.

Posted by b on May 9, 2006 at 11:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

 
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