Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Barbecue Republic Revisited

Every week I read out of the way, oddly related stories that remind me what an abject barbecue republic America has become under young Mr. Bush's stewardship. Here are a few of the latest ones.

First up is an item that apparently only James Gordon Meek of the New York Daily News and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann cared enough about to report. On August 2 Meek wrote "In the immediate aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks, White House officials repeatedly pressed FBI Director Robert Mueller to prove it was a second-wave assault by Al Qaeda, but investigators ruled that out."

After New York Sun photo editor Robert Stevens died from anthrax exposure in October 2001, Mueller was "beaten up" during Bush's morning intelligence briefs for not manufacturing proof that bin Laden was behind the attack of the killer spores. Meek's source, a retired senior FBI official, said, "They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East."

By the time Bush was bullying Mueller to cook the evidence on the Anthrax scare, according to the ex-FBI man, the Bureau already knew that the anthrax concealed in mail to media figures and a U.S. Senator was a military strain of the bio-weapon. The ex-official said, "They couldn't go from box cutters one week to weapons-grade anthrax the next."

No, and they couldn't go from box cutters to city buster nuclear weapons very quickly either, but that didn't stop the administration from planting visions of mushroom clouds in our heads to justify their Iraq invasion.

The Daily News gave this story 220 words on a Saturday evening. Olbermann mentioned it the next Monday evening. The rest of the print and broadcast media didn't touch it.

He Drove bin Laden to Terror

Seven years after the anthrax affair the administration is still trying to nail al Qaeda for something. Anything. The tallest Arab ever wanted dead or alive by a sitting U.S. president is still at large, but by jingo, we got the drop on his chauffer.

The military trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan convened in a secret session at Guantanamo Bay on July 31 to hear "highly classified" testimony from two witnesses. Critics of the military tribunals being held in Guantanamo contend that allowing classified testimony is part of a system rigged to produce a guilty verdict. Guantanamo tribunals like Hamdan's also allow hearsay evidence and evidence derived through "coercive interrogation methods," critics protest.

Some of the most damaging testimony against Hamdan was unclassified. Naval Criminal Investigative Service Agent Robert McFadden said that Hamdan told him in a 2003 interrogation that he had sworn allegiance to bin Laden, and quoted Hamdan as saying he has dedicated himself to bin Laden's "jihad" against the west.

During the course of my 21-year career as a naval officer, I had many, many, many dealings with and observations of agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Not a single one of those cowboys could find their keyster with a map and a seeing-eye dog to read it for them. As a squadron skipper I once complained to an NCIS district supervisor about the slug he had working on a case involving someone in my command. The supervisor shrugged and said he was having trouble finding good agents those days. I said I guessed he would be, what with all the top talent getting snapped up by Miami Vice and Hawaii 5-O.

They used to call themselves the Naval Investigative Service until in the early '90s. After the Tailhook scandal, they had to insert the word "criminal" into their name because they committed so many crimes in the course of the investigation. A colleague at the time told me they threatened him with an IRS audit every year for the rest of his life if he didn't tell them the dirt they wanted to hear about how a buddy of his acted in Vegas during the naval aviators' convention.

So you can imagine the gravity of the oaths I hurled toward the heavens when I read that the NCIS agent who had interrogated Hamdan was the prosecution's closing witness. I can't stop asking myself what string of events could possibly have led to the decision to have Hamdan interrogated by an NCIS agent in the first place. Were Doctor Evil and Dog the Bounty Hunter both out of town? More incredibly, why in the wide world of sports, arts and sciences did the prosecutor choose to make the NCIS buffoon his closing witness? He couldn't get his secret dudes to tell enough lies?

At the end of the day, all this hoo-haw, all this illegal tapping of telephones and Patriot Acts and running roughshod over the Constitution and treaty law so we can nab and nail terrorists resulted in the conviction of a forty-year old Bedouin who can drive a car and put gas in it on a charge of "providing material support for terrorism." The specifications for which Hamdan was convicted included driving bin Laden around, serving as his bodyguard and knowing his goals, which were the things NCIS Agent McFadden "coaxed" him into admitting to. Hamdan was found not guilty of the main charge of conspiring to commit terror, which was the only charge against him until McFadden's interrogation in 2003.

For being bin Laden's chauffer, Hamdan could receive life imprisonment. Hitler's chauffer didn’t get anything. He wasn’t even put on trial. Don’t feel too bad for Hamdan, though. Remember, the U.S. Supreme Court said he could appeal his conviction in the Federal Court system, and there they don't allow evidence gained through "coercive interrogation methods." Plus no self-respecting prosecutor is likely to use put an NCIS agent as a witness in a real trial.

The Bush administration never should have pushed the Hamdan case this far. If they'd really wanted to do a number on the guy, they should have released him in Pakistan, then waited for him to attend a wedding, and bombed the wedding with a fistful of cruise missiles launched from a nuclear submarine. If they couldn't get intelligence good enough to know which wedding Hamdan might show up to, they could just bomb every wedding. Odds are he'd show up at one eventually, and he didn't show up, some other "top" terrorist would. Or they could just bomb a wedding and say they got him. Who'd know the difference?

Top Gun?

"Al-Qaida Admits Death of Top Commander" read the August 4 headline of an Associated Press story at No, we didn't get bin Laden. The top al Qaeda commander in question was actually a top al Qaeda commander named Abu Khabab al-Masri.

Al Masri had been accused by the U.S. Justice Department—the same Justice Department that charged Hamdan with but did not manage to convict him of conspiracy to commit terror—of training the suicide bombers who killed 17 sailors on the USS Cole. According to AP, Masri "is believed to have been killed in an airstrike apparently launched by the U.S. in Pakistan last week." (Apparently launched by the U.S.? Great. Caesar's. Ghost. Who else would have launched an airstrike in Pakistan last week? Barundi?)

Masri is believed to have been killed because al Qaeda posted a statement on the internet saying he had been killed, along with three other "top figures" and their children. Pakistani authorities say they "believe" Masri is "one of six people killed in an airstrike on July 28 on a compound in South Waziristan." The Pakistani "authorities" are, apparently, "two Pakistani intelligence officials."

One has to wonder if these two Pakistani intelligence officials are among the Pakistani intelligence officials believed to be in league with al Qaeda and/or the Taliban and/or believed to be involved with the attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan. One also has to wonder if the Justice Department got the evidence it based its accusations against Masri on from Pakastini intelligence officials. It sure didn't get the evidence from U.S. intelligence officials. Our intelligence officials don't even know if we killed the guy or not. Our intelligence officials are about as competent as, well, NCIS agents.

And based on the recent report by the Rand Corporation that says the Bush administration's strategy against al Qaeda has apparently made the terrorist group stronger, one also has to wonder if the people in charge of America's anti-terror strategy have done anything in the last seven years other than sit in a circle and pull on their potty wands.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.


  1. Anonymous3:21 AM

    Thanks for another brilliant commentary.

    In the case of the Ivin's suicide - since when does the FBI/DOJ offer play-by-play "we're about to indict you" notification to his lawyer? Geez, if you've got a case, draw up an arrest warrant, knock on his door or pick him up as he's retrieving his newspaper. So he commits suicide - case closed. There's more to this "story."

    Cmdr. Huber, as for your NCIC remarks, you're causing me to have, ah, how can I put this delicately - sphincter spasms. There's a few of them that think a TV show about them is from real NCIS accounts!

    Left Coast

  2. LC,

    Trust me on this one, my comments about NCIS are kind.


  3. Anonymous8:31 AM

    Hi Jeff,
    Got here via Rense. Ooops Kook alert!
    USA is putting on a show, burning its volunteer armed forces, many from Nat Gd units, for many purposes.
    The admin may not even know why they have been told to do this. They are beginning to realize, with the help of the astute and brave, take a bow, Jeff, and you Dick, and it is causing increasing disturbance in the force within USA. In the long run it is all good. Either the USA is well run and is the world's cop or is badly run, not immune from War crime prosecutions, and provokes such a force, "controlled" under the cover of the UN.

    The NWO is inevitable, and will come about to prevent inefficiencies, barring disaster. Culling the aggressive, gullible young by having human waves and using DU, may then become a thing of the past.
    These things will pass.

    What we should be more concerned about is the lack of accountability as this process is hijacked by secret society types. The secret policies and how they are implemented may be good in the sense of easing us faster into a more peaceful efficient future, or not.

    We may only find out when it is too late. Check out the coming Great Depression. Collateral damage anyone?

    To remind them that we are all accountable, a suitable riposte should be developed. A secret one has been recently delivered to the Air Force.

    Any one want to take on the job?

    Fungus FitzJuggler

  4. Fitz,

    I'm hoping everyone took warning from the USAF's shock treatment. I somehow doubt it, though.


  5. Another fine post Jeff :)
    Bbbbut, I like the show NCIS, especially the mythical Mossad agent.


    Eh sure, why not?


  6. Don't laugh about Barundi. They spend a larger percent of their GDP on defense than we do. Give them too much of a hard time and watch out!

  7. okay, I lied.

    This one I didn' t google, it showed up in my e-mail box.

    On OBL's driver. Did they give him 5-1/2 months --- for being a terrorist --- or 5-1/2 years? I've read accounts that state one or the other.

    On the "showed up in my e-mail."

    The USS New York. I guess it was recently commissioned. It is classed an LPD-21. Fifth in a series of a new class of warship, designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors, and 700 combat ready marines, to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft. What makes this one "special" is that is was supposedly constructed of 24 tons of scrap steel, from one of the WTC buildings.

    On the NCIS tv thing. JAG was a good series. The spin-off sucks.

    My question on this ship is this: Why do we need these? If we are going to be forever bogged down in the sands of the MidEast? How we gonna land marines by assault craft?

    Just curious --- as usual.

    Nice boat. Pictures, website, memorabilia for sale, all that stuff.

  8. wkmaier8:37 AM

    Good stuff Jeff (sorry, been out of the loop with family issues).

    Hey, how about that Georgia-Russia shootin' match? What a world...

  9. EL,

    That class of ship has been a procurement nightmare, cost overruns galore. Hamdan got 5.5 years, he'll get credit for time served and serve 5.5 more months, or something like that.


    Sorry to hear about your tribulations. I'm still catching up to the Russia/Georgia thing. Wondering how long its been brewing.


  10. Well who cares if NCIS is not based on 'real events'? Isn't the point Mark Harmon? I'm biased though..[g]
    on a more serious note, I'm puzzled as to why 'only' Olbermann (I don't know this Meek gentleman) seems to be bringing things up that most of the media does not touch? I'm early 40s now and when I was a teenager growing up in Holland, the general commentary re. American media was that it was 'soft' and very biased.. not that it isn't in Holland but you knew if one newspaper was slanted, left right or center. At least you had delineations of sorts.. all seems to fall under a very general treatment that does not ask the hard questions or fails to bring uncomfortable issues to the foreground..
    why oh why are there just a few? Olbermann is not the only man working for his employers.. are they just giving him slack just to cover all their target audiences?
    It's frustrating AND mindboggling still, after all these years of living here..

  11. EEngineer3:08 AM

    Jeff, any insight into the Georgia chaos?

    I found this website
    interesting but I don't have enough background on the situation to know shit from shinola.

  12. Ingrid,

    My best guess re Olbermann is that he gets away with some things because he's seen as MSNBC's answer to John Stewart. He's a bit tabloidy and a bit comedian, hence not taken as seriously as he really ought to be.


    I'm still trying to catch up to the Georgia situation. I highly recommend catching anything my friend Larisa Alexandrovna writes about it, both at Raw Story and at her blog At Largely.


  13. Uh-oh.

    Good, bad, ugly? False alarm?

  14. Not sure, JP. This is the Jerusalem Post, so there's a good chance they're making this deployment sound more sinister than it really is.


  15. JP,

    Took another look a the JPo story; it could well be a sensational way of describing what's really the normal carrier deployment rotation.

    Then again, whenever Dick Cheney's involved, you can't be complacent.


  16. Well, I won't break out the Rosary and start the Hail Marys until there are at least four carriers on station (if I remember right, there were five at the start of the Iraq fracas).

    Yeah, knowing Dick's on the job is enough to keep you in stitches. And then there's the Bush "lame duck with nothing to lose" factor. Interesting times, as they say.

  17. On the Georgian/Ossetia war.

    (a) According to Georgia "A state of War" exists.

    (b) Al Jazeera is reporting that the port of Poti, on the black sea, which transports "energy sources" from the Caspian Sea, has been attacked by Russian planes. The port is near the Baku-Supsa pipeline, and Supsa Oil terminal.

    (c) The UK Guardian has a photo journal of the war. Included is a picture of the former President of Russia, Vladimar Putin, and current president of the United States at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. It's a "deer in the headlights" Kodak moment, for young Mr. Bush.

    (d) How smart is it to start a war, when you don't have enough troops to fight? Georgia is asking the U.S. for two things - transport home for their 2,000 troops now fighting in Iraq, and to get ourselves, and our military, involved in their very own preemptive war.

    All these people have been living peacefully together, since about 1990 - right?

    Does anybody know where Ossetia is? I don't. But, I'm sure I'll find out in the coming days. And, I'd bet my house that oil is involved.

    Ingrid, the reason we read Jeff, and other selected blogs and websites on the internet, and foreign papers, is that we have discovered long ago, the corporate
    media in America has its own agenda. That agenda is make as much money as they can for their shareholders, by selling us a bunch of stuff we don't need. Journalism, and investigative reporting was gone a long time ago.

  18. Reading more this morning about Osettia/Georgia conflict. Naval Blockades, all kinds of stuff.

    I'm going to go first thing, and fill up my car -- while gas prices are still down.

  19. EL,

    I just filled my tank too.

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