Osama Bin Lyin?

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Washington’s Blog
July 27, 2010

Everyone knows that Osama Bin Laden confessed to 9/11 on videotape.

Admittedly, German experts say (rough English translation here) that the Bin Laden confession tape was mistranslated. But what do the Germans know, other than how to make beer?

Sure, an American computer expert says that a Bin Laden video released in 2007 was spliced together from earlier footage, and that:

There are so many splices that I cannot help but wonder if someone spliced words and phrases together. I also cannot rule out a vocal imitator during the frozen-frame audio. The only way to prove that the audio is really bin Laden is to see him talking in the video….

But he’s just a pencil-neck computer geek, so why should we listen to him?

Yeah, Swiss scientists are 95% certain that an early post-9/11 Bin Laden tape was a fake. They conclude that all of the later Bin Laden tapes are probably fakes as well. But what do the Swiss know, besides banking and milk chocolate?

Okay, one of the world’s top experts on Bin Laden – Bruce Lawrence of Duke University – saysthat recent Bin Laden tapes are fake. He also says that the tape in which Bin Laden confessed to 9/11 is a fake, and that the top Bin Laden experts in the Department of Homeland Security agree. But he must be a communist or something.

Bin Laden Makeover-A

No FBI propaganda in above photo

And it is interesting that – as confirmed by the Washington Post’s Spy Talk columnist – the CIA admitted to faking a Bin Laden videotape using CIA personnel:

The agency actually did make a video purporting to show Osama bin Laden and his cronies sitting around a campfire swigging bottles of liquor and savoring their conquests with boys, one of the former CIA officers recalled, chuckling at the memory. The actors were drawn from “some of us darker-skinned employees,” he said.

But that is obviously just an isolated incident which doesn’t mean that any other Bin Laden tapes are fake.

Because everyone knows that America doesn’t engage in propaganda.

Note: This essay does not have anything to do with 9/11 itself or Bin Laden’s role in 9/11. It doesn’t have to do with the war in Afghanistan. It focuses solely on the question of whether or not America ever engages in propaganda and disinformation.

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Bin Laden "confession video" should be translated incorrectly

According to a Hamburg orientalist and translator of two independent is by the U.S. government released video showing a quasi-confession of Osama Bin Laden Topterroristen decisive points tampering. This report, the political magazine "Monitor".

Bin-Laden-Video: Was sagte Bin Laden und was wurde ihm in den Mund gelegt?

AP,Bin Laden Video: What did Bin Laden and what was put in his mouth?

Cologne – "Monitor will" claims to have found errors in translation of the U.S. Department of Defense in the latest Osama Bin Laden video. The amateur video that shows bin Laden in a circle of followers, was from U.S. President George W. Bush a few days "damning admission of guilt" Bin Laden called and was released for worldwide distribution.According to "monitor" the tape is manipulated, and even contains errors. The editors had ordered claims to be a band in the original Arabic version of the State Department.

The Hamburg Orientalist Gernot Rotter, and two independent certified translators are consistently solid, according to Monitor: In the Pentagon, published by the English translation of the "confession" are serious points to hineinformuliert references from which a clear bin Laden’s guilt can be derived. Thus, time references were made about which his foreknowledge evidence alleged in the original Arabic version does not emerge.

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The Arabist Abdel El M. Husseini called on the show three bad translations.According to the U.S. government is to be heard in the video: "We have calculated the number of dead in advance." The words "in advance" (in advance) are not included, according to Husseini on the tape. Second example: In the sentence "We had received a message on the previous Thursday" missing on the tape, the word "previous" (previous). The official version of "We asked each of them on to America to go" was given incorrectly in the translation. Correctly it should read: "It was required of them …." – What follows is the original incomprehensible.

The research presented according to "monitor" the probative force of the Pentagon distributed to and from most Western media accepted version of question: "The American translators who listened and tapes transcribed who have, obviously many places things written into, it wanted to hear, but so – after repeated listening – can not be heard, too, "Rotter said in the show. According to Rotter can be constructed from the "Monitor" this volume is no evidence against Bin Laden. The video was of very poor quality and in parts incomprehensible. In absence of acoustic vocal passages often the connection.

Swiss scientists 95% sure that Bin Laden recording was fake

Scientists in Switzerland say they are almost certain that a recent audio tape attributed to Osama bin Laden is a fake.

The tape, delivered to the Arab satellite television channel al-Jazeera earlier this month, appeared to provide the first concrete evidence that Bin Laden is still alive because it mentioned recent attacks on western targets.

American experts initially concluded that the voice on the tape was probably Bin Laden, though it is unlikely ever to be fully authenticated because of the recording’s poor quality.

The Swiss findings conflict with other research published by the French news magazine L’Express last week.

In that study, Bernard Gautheron, director of the phonetic testing laboratory at the Institute of Linguistics and Phonetics in Paris, concluded there was a "very strong probability" that the al-Jazeera tape was genuine.

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But researchers at the Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Artificial Intelligence, in Lausanne, believe the message was recorded by an impostor.

In a study commissioned by France 2 television, researchers built a computer model of Bin Laden’s voice, based on an hour of genuine recordings.

Using voice recognition systems being developed for banking security, they tested the model against 20 known recordings of Bin Laden. The system correctly identified his voice in 19 of them.

This meant there was only a 5% risk of error in their conclusion that the latest tape is a fake, Professor Hervé Bourlard, the institute’s director, told the Guardian yesterday. "It’s an automatic system but it’s very sensitive," he said. "It picks up things the human ear doesn’t pick up."

He agreed that the sound quality of the recent tape was poor but added: "Many of our 20 [test] recordings were also of poor quality. Some were very good, some very bad, but our results were all positive except in one case."

Prof Bourlard, a voice recognition expert, is the author or joint author of 150 research papers and two books, and has worked extensively with the International Computer Science Institute at Berkeley, California.

 

Osama bin Elvis

By Angelo M. Codevilla from the March 2009 issue

All the evidence suggests Elvis Presley is more alive today than Osama bin Laden. But tell that to the CIA and all the other misconceptualizers of the War on Terror.

Seven years after Osama bin Laden’s last verifiable appearance among the living, there is more evidence for Elvis’s presence among us than for his. Hence there is reason to ask whether the paradigm of Osama bin Laden as terrorism’s deus ex machina and of al Qaeda as the prototype of terrorism may be an artifact of our Best and Brightest’s imagination, and whether investment in this paradigm has kept our national security establishment from thinking seriously about our troubles’ sources. So let us take a fresh look at the fundamentals.

Dead or Alive?

Negative evidence alone compels the conclusion that Osama is long since dead. Since October 2001, when Al Jazeera’s Tayseer Alouni interviewed him, no reputable person reports having seen him—not even after multiple-blind journeys through intermediaries. The audio and video tapes alleged to be Osama’s never convinced impartial observers. The guy just does not look like Osama. Some videos show him with a Semitic aquiline nose, while others show him with a shorter, broader one. Next to that, differences between colors and styles of beard are small stuff.

Nor does the tapes’ Osama sound like Osama. In 2007 Switzerland’s Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which does computer voice recognition for bank security, compared the voices on 15 undisputed recordings of Osama with the voices on 15 subsequent ones attributed to Osama, to which they added two by native Arab speakers who had trained to imitate him and were reading his writings. All of the purported Osama recordings (with one falling into a gray area) differed clearly from one another as well as from the genuine ones. By contrast, the CIA found all the recordings authentic. It is hard to imagine what methodology might support this conclusion.

 

Also in 2007, Professor Bruce Lawrence, who heads Duke University’s religious studies program, argued in a book on Osama’s messages that their increasingly secular language is inconsistent with Osama’s Wahhabism. Lawrence noted as well that the Osama figure in the December 2001 video, which many have taken as his assumption of responsibility for 9/11, wears golden rings—decidedly un-Wahhabi. He also writes with the wrong hand. Lawrence concluded that the messages are fakes, and not very good ones. The CIA has judged them all good.

Above all, whereas Elvis impersonators at least sing the King’s signature song, "You ain’t nutin’ but a hound dawg," the words on the Osama tapes differ substantively from what the real Osama used to say—especially about the most important matter. On September 16, 2001, on Al Jazeera, Osama said of 9/11: "I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation." Again, in the October interview with Tayseer Alouni, he limited his connection with 9/11 to ideology: "If they mean, or if you mean, that there is a link as a result of our incitement, then it is true. We incite…" But in the so-called "confession video" that the CIA found in December, the Osama figure acts like the chief conspirator. The fact that the video had been made for no self-evident purpose except perhaps to be found by the Americans should have raised suspicion. Its substance, the celebratory affirmation of a responsibility for 9/11 that Osama had denied, should also have weighed against the video’s authenticity. Why would he wait to indict himself until after U.S. forces and allies had secured Afghanistan? But the CIA acted as if it had caught Osama red-handed.

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The CIA should also have taken seriously the accounts of Osama’s death. On December 26, 2001, Fox News interviewed a Taliban source who claimed that he had attended Osama’s funeral, along with some 30 associates. The cause of death, he said, had been pulmonary infection. The New York Times on July 11, 2002, reported the consensus of a story widespread in Pakistan that Osama had succumbed the previous year to his long-standing nephritis. Then, Benazir Bhutto(video below)—as well connected as anyone with sources of information on the Afghan-Pakistani border—mentioned casually in a BBC interview that Osama had been murdered by his associates. Murder is as likely as natural death. Osama’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is said to have murdered his own predecessor, Abdullah Azzam, Osama’s original mentor. Also, because Osama’s capture by the Americans would have endangered everyone with whom he had ever associated, any and all intelligence services who had ever worked with him had an interest in his death.

New Osama, Real Osama

We do not know what happened to Osama. But whatever happened, the original one, the guy who looked and sounded like a spoiled Saudi kid turned ideologue, is no more. The one who exists in the tapes is different: he is the world’s terror master, endowed with inexplicable influence. In short, whoever is making the post-November 2001 Osama tapes is pretending to far greater power than Osama ever claimed, much less exercised.

The real Osama bin Laden, like the real al Qaeda over which he presided, was never as important as reports from Arab (especially Saudi) intelligence services led the CIA to believe. Osama’s (late) role in Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet resistance was to bring in a little money. Arab fighters in general, and particularly the few Osama brought, fought rarely and badly. In war, one Afghan is worth many Arabs. In 1990 Osama told Saudi regent Abdullah that his mujahideen could stop Saddam’s invasion of the kingdom. When Abdullah waved him away in favor of a half-million U.S. troops, Osama turned dissident, enough to have to move to Sudan, where he stayed until 1996 hatching sterile anti-Saudi plots until forced to move his forlorn band to Afghanistan.

There is a good reason why neither Osama nor al Qaeda appeared on U.S. intelligence screens until 1998. They had done nothing noteworthy. Since the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, however, and especially after director of Central Intelligence George Tenet imputed responsibility for 9/11 to Osama "game, set, and match," the CIA described him as terrorism’s prime mover. It refused to countenance the possibility that Osama’s associates might have been using him and his organization as a flag of convenience. As U.S. forces were taking over Afghanistan in 2001, the CIA was telling Timeand Newsweek that it expected to find the high-tech headquarters from which Osama controlled terrorist activities in 50 countries. None existed. In November 2008, without factual basis and contrary to reason, the CIA continued to describe him and his organization as "the most clear and present danger to the United States." It did not try to explain how this could be while, it said, Osama is "largely isolated from the day to day operations of the organization he nominally heads." What organization?

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Axiom and Opposite

Why such a focus on an organization that was never large, most of whose known associates have long since been killed or captured, and whose assets the CIA does not even try to catalogue? The CIA’s official explanation, that al Qaeda has "metastasized" by spreading its expertise, is an empty metaphor. But pursuant to it, the U.S. government accepted the self-designation as "al Qaeda" of persons fighting for Sunni-Baathist interests in Iraq, and has pinned the label gratuitously on sundry high-profile terrorists while acknowledging that their connection to Osama and Co. may be emotional at most. But why such gymnastics in the face of Osama’s incontrovertible irrelevance? Because focusing on Osama and al Qaeda affirms a CIA axiom dating from the Cold War, an axiom challenged during the Reagan years but that has been U.S. policy since 1993, namely: terrorism is the work of "rogue individuals and groups" that operate despite state authority. According to this axiom, the likes of Osama run rings around the intelligence services of Arab states—just like the Cold War terrorists who came through Eastern Europe to bomb in Germany and Italy and to shoot Pope John Paul II supposedly acted despite Bulgarian intelligence, despite East Germany’s Stasi, despite the KGB. This axiom is dear to many in the U.S. government because it leads logically to working with the countries whence terrorists come rather than to treating them as enemies.

But what if terrorism were (as Thomas Friedman put it) "what states want to happen or let happen"? What if, in the real world, infiltrators from intelligence services—the professionals—use the amateur terrorists rather than the other way around? What is the logical consequence of noting the fact that the terrorist groups that make a difference on planet Earth—such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the PLO, Colombia’s FARC—are extensions of, respectively, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and Venezuela? It is the negation of the U.S. government’s favorite axiom. It means that when George W. Bush spoke, and when Barack Obama speaks, of America being "at war" against "extremism" or "extremists" they are either being stupid or acting stupid to avoid dealing with the nasty fact that many governments wage indirect warfare.

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In short, insisting on Osama’s supposed mastery of al Qaeda, and on equating terrorism with al Qaeda, is official U.S. policy because it forecloses questions about the role of states, and makes it possible to indict as warmongers whoever raises such questions. Osama’s de facto irrelevance for seven years, however, has undermined that policy’s intellectual legitimacy. How much longer can presidents or directors of the CIA wave the spectra of Osama and al Qaeda before people laugh at them?

An Intellectual House of Cards

Questioning osama’s relevance to today’s terrorism leads naturally to asking how relevant he ever was, and who might be more relevant. That in turn quickly shows how flimsy are the factual foundations on which rest the U.S. government’s axioms about the "war on terror." Consider: We know that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) planned and carried out 9/11. But there is no independent support for KSM’s claim that he acted at Osama’s direction and under his supervision. On the contrary, we know for sure that the expertise and the financing for 9/11 came from KSM’s own group (the U.S. government has accepted but to my knowledge not verified that the group’s core is a biological family of Baluchs). This group carried out the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa and every other act for which al Qaeda became known. The KSM group included the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings Abdul Rahman Yasin, who came from, returned to, and vanished in Iraq, as well as Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of that bombing, who came to the U.S. from Iraq on an Iraqi passport and was known to his New York collaborators as "Rashid the Iraqi." This group had planned the bombing of U.S. airliners over the Pacific in 1995. The core members are non-Arabs. They had no history of religiosity (and the religiosity they now display is unconvincing). They were not creatures of Osama. Only in 1996 did the group come to Osama’s no-account band, and make it count.

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In life, as in math, you must judge the function |of a factor in any equation by factoring it out and seeing if the equation still works. Factor out Osama. Chances are, 9/11 still happens. Factor out al Qaeda too. Maybe 9/11 still happens. The other bombing plots sure happened without it. But if you factor out the KSM group, surely there is no 9/11, and without the KSM group, there is no way al Qaeda would have become a household word.

Who, precisely, are KSM and his reputed nephews? That is an interesting question to which we do not know the answer, and are not about to find out. Ramzi Yousef was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing after a trial that focused on his guilt and that abstracted from his associations. Were our military tribunal to accede to KSM’s plea of guilty, he would avoid any trial at all. Moreover, the sort of trial that would take place before the tribunal would focus on proving guilt rather than on getting at the whole truth. It would not feature the cross-examination of witnesses, the substantive proving and impeachment of evidence, and the exploration of alternative explanations of events. But real trials try all sides. Do we need such things given that KSM confessed? Yes. There is no excuse for confusing confessions with truth, especially confessions in which the prisoners confirm our agencies’ prejudices.

The excuse for limiting the public scrutiny of evidence is the alleged need to protect intelligence sources. But my experience, as well as that of others who have been in a position to probe such claims, is that almost invariably they protect our intelligence agencies’ incompetence and bureaucratic interests. Anyhow, the public’s interest in understanding what it’s up against should override all others.

Understanding the Past, Dealing With the Future

Focusing on Osama bin Elvis is dangerous to America’s security precisely because it continues to substitute in our collective mind the soft myth that terrorism is the work of romantic rogues for the hard reality that it can happen only because certain states want it to happen or let it happen. KSM and company may not have started their careers as agents of Iraqi intelligence, or they may have quit the Iraqis and worked for others, or maybe they just worked for themselves. But surely they were a body unto themselves. As such they fit Osama’s description of those responsible for 9/11 as "individuals with their own motivation" far better than they fit the CIA’s description of them as Osama’s tools.

More important, focusing on Osama and al Qaeda distorts our understanding of what is happening in Afghanistan. The latter-day Taliban are fielding forces better paid and armed than any in the region except America’s. Does anyone suggest seriously that Osama or al-Zawahiri are providing the equipment, the money, or the moral incentives? Such amounts of money can come only from the super wealthy of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The equipment can come only through dealers who work at the sufferance of states, and can reach the front only through Pakistan by leave of Pakistani authorities. Moreover, the moral incentives for large-scale fighting in Pushtunistan can come only as part of the politics of Pushtun identity. Hence sending troops to Afghanistan to fight Pushtuns financed by Saudis, supported by Pakistanis, and disposing of equipment purchased throughout the world, with the objective of "building an Afghan nation" capable of preventing Osama and al Qaeda from messing up the world from their mountain caves, is an errand built on intellectual self-indulgence.

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Intellectual Authority

The CIA had as much basis for deeming Osama the world’s terror master "game, set, and match" in 2001 as it had in 2003 for verifying as a "slam dunk" the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and as it had in 2007 for determining that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program. Mutatis mutandis, it was on such bases that the CIA determined in 1962 that the Soviets would not put missiles in Cuba; that the CIA was certain from 1963 to 1978 that the USSR would not build the first strike missile force that it was building before its very eyes; that the CIA convinced Bush 41 that the Soviet Union was not falling apart and that he should help hold it together; that the CIA assured the U.S. government in 1990 that Iraq would not invade Kuwait, and in 1996 that neither India nor Pakistan would test nuclear weapons. In these and countless other instances, the CIA has provided the US government and the media with authoritative bases for denying realities over which America was tripping.

The force of the CIA’s judgments, its authority, has always come from the congruence between its prejudices and those of America’s ruling class. When you tell people what they want to hear, you don’t have to be too careful about premises, facts, and conclusions. Our problem, in short, is not the CIA’s mentality so much as the unwillingness of persons in government and the "attentive public" to exercise intellectual due diligence about international affairs. Osama bin Laden’s role may be as good a place as any to start.

 

Duke Professor Skeptical of bin Laden Tape

Thursday, January 19, 2006

By Amber Rupinta

(01/19/06 — DURHAM) (WTVD) — A Duke professor says he is doubtful about Thursday’s audiotape from Osama bin Laden.

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Bruce Lawrence has just published ?Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden,? a book translating bin Laden?s writing. He is skeptical of Thursday?s message.

?It was like a voice from the grave,? Lawrence said.

He thinks bin Laden is dead and has doubts about the tape. Lawrence recently analyzed more than 20 complete speeches and interviews of the al Qaida leader for his book. He says the new message is missing several key elements.

?There?s nothing in this from the Koran. He?s, by his own standards, a faithful Muslim,? Lawrence said. ?He quotes scripture in defense of his actions. There?s no quotation from the Koran in the excerpts we got, no reference to specific events, no reference to past atrocities.?

While the CIA confirms the voice on the tape is bin Laden?s, Lawrence questions when it was recorded. He says the timing of its release could be to divert attention from last week?s U.S. air strike in Pakistan. The strike targeted bin Laden?s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, and killed four leading al Qaeda figures along with civilians.

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Lawrence believes faulty Pakistani intelligence led to the strike and the civilian deaths, and the tape was leaked by Pakistani authorities to divert attention from their mistake.

?It led to a failed military operation where America got blamed, but they people who are really to blame are the ones who provided the intelligence,? Lawrence said. ?I think this is an effort to say were not going look at this terrible incident that happened.?

Another element that Lawrence takes issue with in bin Laden?s latest message is it?s length – – only 10 minutes. Previously, the shortest was 18 minutes.

 

CIA unit’s wacky idea: Depict Saddam as gay

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During planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group kicked around a number of ideas for discrediting Saddam Hussein in the eyes of his people.

One was to create a video purporting to show the Iraqi dictator having sex with a teenage boy, according to two former CIA officials familiar with the project.

“It would look like it was taken by a hidden camera,” said one of the former officials. “Very grainy, like it was a secret videotaping of a sex session.”

The idea was to then “flood Iraq with the videos,” the former official said.

Another idea was to interrupt Iraqi television programming with a fake special news bulletin. An actor playing Hussein would announce that he was stepping down in favor of his (much-reviled) son Uday.

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“I’m sure you will throw your support behind His Excellency Uday,” the fake Hussein would intone.

The spy agency’s Office of Technical Services collaborated on the ideas, which also included inserting fake “crawls” — messages at the bottom of the screen — into Iraqi newscasts.

The agency actually did make a video purporting to show Osama bin Laden and his cronies sitting around a campfire swigging bottles of liquor and savoring their conquests with boys, one of the former CIA officers recalled, chuckling at the memory. The actors were drawn from “some of us darker-skinned employees,” he said.

Eventually, “things ground to a halt,” the other former officer said, because no one could come to agreement on the projects.

They also faced strong opposition from James Pavitt, then head of the agency’s Operations Division, and his deputy, Hugh Turner, who “kept throwing darts at it.”

The ideas were patently ridiculous, said the other former agency officer.

“They came from people whose careers were spent in Latin America or East Asia” and didn’t understand the cultural nuances of the region.

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“Saddam playing with boys would have no resonance in the Middle East — nobody cares,” agreed a third former CIA official with extensive experience in the region. “Trying to mount such a campaign would show a total misunderstanding of the target. We always mistake our own taboos as universal when, in fact, they are just our taboos.”

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to confirm the accounts, or deny them.

"While I can’t confirm these accounts, if these ideas were ever floated by anyone at any time, they clearly didn’t go anywhere," the official said.

The reality, the former officials said, was that the agency really didn’t have enough money and expertise to carry out the projects.

“The military took them over,” said one. “They had assets in psy-war down at Ft. Bragg,” at the army’s special warfare center.

“The agency got rid of most of its non-paramilitary covert action in the 1980s, after Bill Casey died,” said the third former official. “He was a big fan of covert action, but neither Bob Gates, who succeeded him as acting [CIA] director, or any after him, wanted anything to do with it.”

“There was a flurry of activity during the first Gulf War,” the official added, “but [Gen. Norman] Schwarzkopf made it clear he had to approve everything, and he basically approved nothing, except, reluctantly at first, surrender leaflets. By the late ’90s there were very few people left who knew anything about covert action or how to do it. “

The leaflets also had “unintended consequences,” the former official added.

“In the perverted logic of Iraq, the Iraqi soldiers decided they had to have a leaflet to surrender, so they fought us to get one."

According to histories of the 2003 invasion, the single most effective “information warfare” project, which originated in the Pentagon, was to send faxes and e-mails to Iraqi unit commanders as the fighting began, telling them their situation was hopeless, to round up their tanks, artillery and men, and go home.

Many did.

 

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2009

Herding the Sheep

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Financial insider and commentator Yves Smith wrote an essay last week entitled "MSM Reporting as Propaganda" arguing that the government has been using propaganda to make people think that things are getting better, no one is angry, and – therefore – no one should get upset:

The message, quite overtly, is: if you are pissed, you are in a minority. The country has moved on. Things are getting better, get with the program…

Per the social psychology research, this “you are in a minority, you are wrong” message DOES dissuade a lot of people. It is remarkably poisonous. And it discourages people from taking concrete action.

Is Smith right? And even if she is, isn’t "propaganda" too strong a word?
Think Positive

Sure, William K. Black – professor of economics and law, and the senior regulator during the S & L crisis – says that that the government’s entire strategy now – as during the S&L crisis – is to cover up how bad things are ("the entire strategy is to keep people from getting the facts").

Admittedly, 7 out of the 8 giant, money center banks went bankrupt in the 1980’s during the "Latin American Crisis", and the government’s response was to cover uptheir insolvency.
It’s true that Business Week wrote on May 23, 2006:

President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations.

Ican’t deny that the Tarp Inspector General said that Paulson and Bernanke falsely stated that the big banks receiving Tarp money were healthy, when they were not.
Okay, the government and Wall Street have traditionally tried to dispense happy talk when there is an economic crash, and Arianna Huffington recently pointed out:

There is something in the current DC/NY culture that equates a lack of unthinking boosterism with a lack of patriotism. As if not being drunk on the latest Dow gains is somehow un-American.

And I’ll give you that a recent Pew Research Center study on the coverage of the crisis found that the media has largely parroted what the White House and Wall Street were saying.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/why-wall-street-reform-is_b_330105.html

But that’s not propaganda . . . its just positive thinking, right?
The Other Guy

WWII_Nazi_Propaganda_-_Waffen-SS

And the whole word propaganda is a Nazi, communist kind of thing which has no place in the same sentence as America. Right?

Granted, famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says the CIA has already bought and paid for many successful journalists.

And sure, the New York Times discusses in a matter-of-fact way the use of mainstream writers by the CIA to spread messages.

True, a 4-part BBC documentary called the "Century of the Self" shows that an American – Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays – created the modern field of manipulation of public perceptions, and the U.S. government has extensively used his techniques (but the BBC isn’t American, so it doesn’t count).

I won’t deny that the Independent discusses allegations of American propaganda (but that’s a British paper, doesn’t count).

And (ho hum) one of the premier writers on journalism says the U.S. has used widespread propaganda.

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And (are we still talking about this?) an expert on propaganda testified under oath during trial that the CIA employs THOUSANDS of reporters and OWNS its own media organizations (the expert has an impressive background).

And (I can’t believe we’re still talking about this) while the U.S. government has repeatedly claimed that it was launching propaganda programs solely at foreignenemies, it has actually used them against American citizens. For example:

  • Raw Story confirmed yesterday the use of propaganda on Americans
  • As revealed by an official Pentagon report signed by Rumsfeld called "Information Operations Roadmap":
  • hey_soldier_new

The roadmap [contains an] acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military’s psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.

"Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience," it reads.

"Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public," it goes on.***

"Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will ‘fight the net’ as it would an enemy weapons system".

And (when’s the next episode of American Idol on?) CENTCOM announced in 2008 that a team of employees would be "[engaging] bloggers who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information."

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And (who do you think will win the playoffs?) the Air Force is also engaging bloggers. Indeed, an Air Force spokesman said:

"We obviously have many more concerns regarding cyberspace than a typical Social Media user," Capt. Faggard says. "I am concerned with how insurgents or potential enemies can use Social Media to their advantage. It’s our role to provide a clear and accurate, completely truthful and transparent picture for any audience."

And (did you see that crazy photo?) it is well known that certain governments use software to automatically vote stories questioning their interests down and to send letters favorable to their view to politicians and media (see – as just one example –this, this, this, this and this). The U.S. government is very large and well-funded, and could substantially influence voting on social news sites with very little effort, if it wished.

The Bottom Line

Yeah yeah, people say this or that, whatever, I’m too busy to think about it.

Even if true, propaganda is too strong a word for attempts to convince people that important issues are boring, that no one else is angry about them, and that everything is normal.

Perhaps "herding the wayward sheep" would be better . . .

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 2010

Why Are We Still in Afghanistan?

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Congress voted down a resolution to pull out of Afghanistan today.

"Conventional wisdom" among many Americans – and congress members – is that we need to be in Afghanistan to protect our national security.

Is it true?
A Little History
Before we discuss whether it is necessary for the U.S. to stay in Afghanistan, a little history might be instructive.
As I pointed out in December:

The Taliban offered [in October 2001] to hand over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country if the US halted bombing … [the U.S. refused.]
The government apparently planned the Afghanistan war before 9/11 (seethis and this).

And the government apparently could have killed Bin Laden in 2001 and AGAIN in 2007, but failed to do so.

In fact, starting right after 9/11 — at the latest — the goal has always been to create "regime change" and instability in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and other countries. As American historian, investigative journalist and policy analyst Gareth Porter writes in the Asia Times:

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Three weeks after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of not only removing the Saddam Hussein regime by force but overturning the regime in Iran, as well as in Syria and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted extensively in then-under secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith’s recently published account of the Iraq war decisions. Feith’s account further indicates that this aggressive aim of remaking the map of the Middle East by military force and the threat of force was supported explicitly by the country’s top military leaders.

Feith’s book, War and Decision, released last month, provides excerpts of the paper Rumsfeld sent to President George W Bush on September 30, 2001, calling for the administration to focus not on taking down Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network but on the aim of establishing "new regimes" in a series of states…

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General Wesley Clark, who commanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign in the Kosovo war, recalls in his 2003 book Winning Modern Wars being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list of states that Rumsfeld and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz wanted to take down included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Somalia [and Lebanon].

***

When this writer asked Feith . . . which of the six regimes on the Clark list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, he replied, "All of them."

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The Defense Department guidance document made it clear that US military aims in regard to those states would go well beyond any ties to terrorism. The document said the Defense Department would also seek to isolate and weaken those states and to "disrupt, damage or destroy" their military capacities – not necessarily limited to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Indeed, the goal seems to have more to do with being a superpower (i.e. an empire) than stopping terrorism.

As Porter writes:

After the bombing of two US embassies in East Africa [in 1988] by al-Qaeda operatives, State Department counter-terrorism official Michael Sheehan proposed supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against bin Laden’s sponsor, the Taliban regime. However, senior US military leaders "refused to consider it", according to a 2004 account by Richard H Shultz, Junior, a military specialist at Tufts University.

A senior officer on the Joint Staff told State Department counter-terrorism director Sheehan he had heard terrorist strikes characterized more than once by colleagues as a "small price to pay for being a superpower".

And recall that former U.S. National Security Adviser (and top foreign policy advisor) Zbigniew Brzezinski told the Senate that the war on terror is "a mythical historical narrative".

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Indeed, one of the country’s top counter-terrorism experts, former number 2 counter-terrorism expert at the State Department (Terry Arnold – who I’ve interviewed twice), has repeatedly pointed out that bombing civilians in Afghanistan is creating many more terrorists than it is removing.

In other words, America’s original stated reasons for invading Afghanistan don’t hold much water.
If We Didn’t Need to Be There for National Security Purposes, We Wouldn’t Be There

Most who realize that America’s Afghan strategy has been poor still think we’re stuck there until we clean up the mess and stabilize the region.

In fact, however, Obama has never really given a reason for continuing the Afghan war.

Psychologists and sociologists show us that people will rationalize what their leaders are doing, even when it makes no sense. For example, as I pointed out in November:

Sociologists from four major research institutions investigated why so many Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it became obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
The researchers found, as described in an article in the journal Sociological Inquiry (and re-printed by Newsweek):

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  • Many Americans felt an urgent need to seek justification for a war already in progress
  • Rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.
  • "For the most part people completely ignore contrary information."
  • "The study demonstrates voters’ ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information"
  • People get deeply attached to their beliefs, and form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter.
  • "We refer to this as ‘inferred justification, because for these voters, the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war.
  • "People were basically making up justifications for the fact that we were at war"
  • "They wanted to believe in the link [between 9/11 and Iraq] because it helped them make sense of a current reality. So voters’ ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information, whether we think that is good or bad for democratic practice, does at least demonstrate an impressive form of creativity.

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An article yesterday in Alternet discussing the Sociological Inquiry article helps us to understand that the key to people’s active participation in searching for excuses for actions by the big boys is fear:

Subjects were presented during one-on-one interviews with a newspaper clip of this Bush quote: "This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al-Qaeda."

The Sept. 11 Commission, too, found no such link, the subjects were told.

"Well, I bet they say that the commission didn’t have any proof of it," one subject responded, "but I guess we still can have our opinions and feel that way even though they say that."

Reasoned another: "Saddam, I can’t judge if he did what he’s being accused of, but if Bush thinks he did it, then he did it."

Others declined to engage the information at all. Most curious to the researchers were the respondents who reasoned that Saddam must have been connected to Sept. 11, because why else would the Bush Administration have gone to war in Iraq?

The desire to believe this was more powerful, according to the researchers, than any active campaign to plant the idea.

Such a campaign did exist in the run-up to the war…

He won’t credit [politicians spouting misinformation] alone for the phenomenon, though.

"That kind of puts the idea out there, but what people then do with the idea … " he said. "Our argument is that people aren’t just empty vessels. You don’t just sort of open up their brains and dump false information in and they regurgitate it. They’re actually active processing cognitive agents"…

The alternate explanation raises queasy questions for the rest of society.

"I think we’d all like to believe that when people come across disconfirming evidence, what they tend to do is to update their opinions," said Andrew Perrin, an associate professor at UNC and another author of the study…

"The implications for how democracy works are quite profound, there’s no question in my mind about that," Perrin said. "What it means is that we have to think about the emotional states in which citizens find themselves that then lead them to reason and deliberate in particular ways."

Evidence suggests people are more likely to pay attention to facts within certain emotional states and social situations.Some may never change their minds. For others, policy-makers could better identify those states, for example minimizing the fear that often clouds a person’s ability to assess facts …

The Alternet article links to a must-read interview with psychology professor Sheldon Solomon, who explains:

A large body of evidence shows that momentarily [raising fear of death], typically by asking people to think about themselves dying, intensifies people’s strivings to protect and bolster aspects of their worldviews, and to bolster their self-esteem. The most common finding is that [fear of death] increases positive reactions to those who share cherished aspects of one’s cultural worldview, and negative reactions toward those who violate cherished cultural values or are merely different.

The same is true for Afghanistan. People tend to rationalize justifications for the war, even though Obama has not given any.

But Don’t We Have to Clean Up the Mess Now?

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Americans assume that we need to continue the Afghan war to stop terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But newly-declassified government documents show that the Taliban might not have supported Bin Laden or Al Qaeda’s terorrorist activities.

And as I pointed out in October, the rational for a large-scale war in Afghanistan doesn’t make sense:

The U.S. admits there are only a small handful of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. As ABC notes:

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.
With 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at an estimated yearly cost of $30 billion, it means that for every one al Qaeda fighter, the U.S. will commit 1,000 troops and $300 million a year…

Indeed, a leading advisor to the U.S. military – the very hawkish Rand Corporation – released a study in 2008 called "How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida". The report confirms what experts have been saying for years: the war on terror is actually weakening national security.
As a press release about the study states:

Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism.

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But if you want a military solution anyway, Andrew J. Bacevich has an answer.
Bacevich is no dove. Graduating from West Point in 1969, he served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He then held posts in Germany, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the United States, and the Persian Gulf up to his retirement from the service with the rank of Colonel in the early 1990s. Bacevich holds a Ph.D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University prior to joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998. Bacevich’s is a military family. On May 13, 2007, Bacevich’s son, was killed in action while serving in Iraq.
Last year, Bacevich wrote in an article in Newsweek:

Meanwhile, the chief effect of allied military operations there so far has been not to defeat the radical Islamists but to push them across the Pakistani border. As a result, efforts to stabilize Afghanistan are contributing to the destabilization of Pakistan, with potentially devastating implications. September’s bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad suggests that the extremists are growing emboldened. Today and for the foreseeable future, no country poses a greater potential threat to U.S. national security than does Pakistan. To risk the stability of that nuclear-armed state in the vain hope of salvaging Afghanistan would be a terrible mistake.
All this means that the proper U.S. priority for Afghanistan should be not to try harder but to change course. The war in Afghanistan (like the Iraq War) won’t be won militarily. It can be settled—however imperfectly—only through politics.
The new U.S. president needs to realize that America’s real political objective in Afghanistan is actually quite modest: to ensure that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda can’t use it as a safe haven for launching attacks against the West. Accomplishing that won’t require creating a modern, cohesive nation-state. U.S. officials tend to assume that power in Afghanistan ought to be exercised from Kabul. Yet the real influence in Afghanistan has traditionally rested with tribal leaders and warlords. Rather than challenge that tradition, Washington should work with it. Offered the right incentives, warlords can accomplish U.S. objectives more effectively and more cheaply than Western combat battalions. The basis of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan should therefore become decentralization and outsourcing, offering cash and other emoluments to local leaders who will collaborate with the United States in excluding terrorists from their territory.
This doesn’t mean Washington should blindly trust that warlords will become America’s loyal partners. U.S. intelligence agencies should continue to watch Afghanistan closely, and the Pentagon should crush any jihadist activities that local powers fail to stop themselves. As with the Israelis in Gaza, periodic airstrikes may well be required to pre-empt brewing plots before they mature.
Were U.S. resources unlimited and U.S. interests in Afghanistan more important, upping the ante with additional combat forces might make sense. But U.S. power — especially military power — is quite limited these days, and U.S. priorities lie elsewhere.
Rather than committing more troops, therefore, the new president should withdraw them while devising a more realistic — and more affordable — strategy for Afghanistan

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In other words, America’s war strategy is increasing instability in Pakistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. So the surge could very well decrease not only American national security but the security of the entire world.
I think that diplomatic rather than military means should be used to kill or contain the 100 bad guys in Afghanistan. But if we are going to remain engaged militarily, Bacevich’s approach is a lot smarter than a surge of boots on the ground.

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