The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Chemical Weapons for Breakfast? No Thanks

On most mornings, I let the BBC wake me up. Some of the presenters on their morning show "The World Today" are loud and entertaining, but what usually gets me going is their praise for English football and much more importantly, their slant. I know that the Beeb is holy to some folks, but like the New York Times they have recently, and very openly, been left wanting. And before then, it's not like editorializing was absent from their news reporting. But that's a whole other debate. They are still worthy sources of record.

This morning, the cheerful voices highlighted the 'documentary' that Italian state TV, RAI , had offered up on its own breakfast program. This Reuters piece in the NYT provides the necessary links (some of the footage is rumored to be very gruesome.) And this Christian Science Monitor dispatch provides some perspective.

The gist was that the US military had supposedly used 'chemical weapons' during the November 2004 siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Take it from me, this claim will fall flat on its conspiratorial face. Not even the usually gung-ho German media has (so far) given it much attention. It conveniently comes out as Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi steps up him campaign to win reelection next spring. If he loses, his immunity may be waived. And since Mr. Berlusconi is one politician whose legal problems are very real, this does not bode well for him.

The Iraq War is not popular among the Italian population and, unlike his infinitely more principled Spanish counterpart former Prime Minister José-Maria Aznar, Berlusconi has now decided to change his tune. It really began when US soldiers accidentally killed an Italian intelligence agent who had just helped secure the release of the hostage Giuliana Sgrena. Accusations about assassinations and ransom paying ensued, and the Prime Minister did little to dissuade people from believing patent lies. And since he controls the media, including RAI, the puppermaster just has to pull his strings. Last week, ahead of his trip to Washington DC, Berlusconi used his media platform to suddenly claim he had been misled about Iraq and that he had tried to 'warn' President George W. Bush. During his DC visit, this populism worthy of soon former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder cost him the usual press conference with the President. This routine event was NEVER denied to even the staunchest Iraq War opponents, Schroeder or French President Jacques Chirac.

The reality behind Italy and Iraq is likely far more nefarious and goes to the heart of the Yellowcake story. It turns out that Italian intelligence forged documents that they then peddled to MI6 who in turn passed it on to the CIA. Faulty intelligence indeed, but with Berlusconi's fingerprints all over it. In the famous 16 words of the 2003 State of the Union speech, President Bush only claimed that 'British intelligence has learned...' about the yellowcake uranium and to interpret that as willfull lying - when Berlusconi's lackeys were behind it all - is nothing but partisan wishful thinking. Sorry folks.
Besides, given Iraq and Saddam's history, the notion that he would TRY to acquire fissionable material was not terribly outrageous. And considering the sanctions regime, such an attempt would be for a second-grade material like Yellowcake. Even former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix would sign on to that.
And now this latest attempt to discredit the US with ludicrous assertions that the military intentionally used white phosphorus on civilians. Please. As was the case during the Saddam years, and post invasion, many see fit to still downplay the nature of his regime. Some, only some, people will grant that the real users of chemical weapons, Saddam and his thugs, fired them on Iranian troops and later killed thousands of Kurds in Hallabjah with Sarin nerve gas. The RAI story was aired this morning on the VERY day that the first democratically elected President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd!!!, began his five day visit to Italy. Talk about tasteless, cheap politics.

And like 'Gorgeous' George Galloway, most never mention mass graves, wholesale slaughter, the police state and the REAL torture that occurred in Abu Ghraib pre-2003.
By getting RAI to broadcast these claims, a sick attempt is made to equate US Forces with Saddam. A well-known tactic to those who follow the Israel-Palestine conflict closely, where the extremists just love to portray the young conscript soldiers of Israel and their democratically elected leaders as the heirs of the SS and Hitler. Now, that's not just malicious but historically dumb.

Ask yourself, why would the US use an illuminating agent/smoke screener as a chemical weapon? This photo, published in the NYT and International Herald Tribune, tells a different story.

Original caption: U.S. marines scurried for cover Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2004 to avoid being burned by "white phosphorus," which was fired as a smoke screen for U.S. tanks but landed on their own positions. From the Photographer: "Have to be really quick, filing photos now under fire, and been in what is definitely the worst battle of my entire life. Nine guys of 40 were injured on a gantlet we had to run. This is really hard, and been on our feet for 36 hours with 100-pound packs." (c) Ashley Gilbertson, New York Times

By all accounts, it is a simpler and more banal story, and in accordance with ol' Occam's Razor, the likelier one. A savage, bloody battle in a controversial war. No more but certainly no less. But I suspect after being led to believe that Abu Ghraib is now run by the modern-day Torquemada, that Guantanamo is a vision of hell and that Cheney is part of a 'cabal,' people might believe anything. The conspiracy consumption of Europeans and some Americans now seems to match that of the infamous Egyptian media. To me this speaks volumes about an odd need to believe anything just because you were against the invasion of Iraq. The latter was an honorable position to take, one that I continue to disagree with, but swallowing the likes of this RAI propaganda drags you half-way to Wonderland.

Update: click here

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Anonymous Ian Vännman said...

"In the famous 16 words of the 2003 State of the Union speech, President Bush only claimed that 'British intelligence has learned...' about the yellowcake uranium and to interpret that aswillfull lying - when Berlusconi's lackeys were behind it all - is nothing but partisan wishful thinking. Sorry folks."

Fact checking Charles, both you and Bush have heard of it have you not?

State of the Union is no forum for "shooting from the hip", in fact you should be on solid ground when talking the talk there. With all of the USA intelligence below him, NSA and CIA, he should have been able to check the facts better than trust a report of Berlusconi's henchmen forwarded by M16's best to the CIA.

It seems clear that Bush and his folks read the tea leafs the way the wanted. See Powell with his pretty pictures from the sky in the UN.

Or did I miss something?

Then it is obvious Silvio is a bad politician and possibly man, but that does not save Dubya from reality.


5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like the BEEB has finally picked up the story and the US has admitted the fact.


12:46 PM  

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