Innocents Abroad

The Brooding Persian has some reflections on Simone Ledeen and other junior Messiahs currently interning in Iraq:

    Don’t get me wrong now. I am all for on the job trainings. I don’t believe in the cult of expertise. But seriously, shouldn’t the family team so intent on saving all of us be able to at least speak some Arabic or Persian? Especially when formulating or promoting tendentious policies affecting millions? Aren’t they in the least bit curious? For goodness sake, even Jane Goodall managed to communicate with the creatures she intended to save in a language other than English.

Yeah, but Jane Goodall cared about her patients’ wishes.

The Terror President

Occupation made world less safe, pro-war institute says.

The US and British occupation of Iraq has accelerated recruitment to the ranks of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and made the world a less safe place, according to a leading London-based think-tank.

The assessment, by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), states that the occupation has become “a potent global recruitment pretext” for al-Qa’ida, which now has more than 18,000 militants ready to strike Western targets.

More Treasury agents track Castro than Bin Laden

April 30, 2004 | WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track Osama bin Laden’s and Saddam Hussein’s money, documents show. … Since 1994 it has collected just $9,425 in fines for terrorism financing violations.

INTERVIEW: Former FBI Translator Sibel Edmonds Calls Current 9/11 Investigation Inadequate

The most significant information that we were receiving did not come from counter-terrorism investigations, and I want to emphasize this. It came from counter-intelligence, and certain criminal investigations, and issues that have to do with money laundering operations.

You get to a point where it gets very complex, where you have money laundering activities, drug related activities, and terrorist support activities converging at certain points and becoming one. In certain points – and they [the intelligence community] are separating those portions from just the terrorist activities. And, as I said, they are citing “foreign relations” which is not the case, because we are not talking about only governmental levels. And I keep underlining semi-legit organizations and following the money. When you do that the picture gets grim. It gets really ugly.

…if, and when this issue gets to be, under real terms, investigated, you will be seeing certain people that we know from this country standing trial; and they will be prosecuted criminally.

…I have seen several, several top targets for these investigations of these terrorist activities that were allowed to leave the country–I’m not talking about weeks, I’m talking about months after 9/11.

… When you think of al-Qaeda, you are not thinking of al-Qaeda in terms of one particular country, or one particular organization. You are looking at this massive movement that stretches to tens and tens of countries. And it involves a lot of sub-organizations and sub-sub-organizations and branches and it’s extremely complicated. So to just narrow it down and say al-Qaeda and the Saudis, or to say it’s what they had at the camp in Afghanistan, is extremely misleading. And we don’t hear the extent of the penetration that this organization and the sub-organizations have throughout the world, throughout their networks and throughout their various activities. It’s extremely sophisticated. And then you involve a significant amount of money into this equation. Then things start getting a lot of overlap — money laundering, and drugs and terrorist activities and their support networks converging in several points. That’s what I’m trying to convey without being too specific. And this money travels. And you start trying to go to the root of it and it’s getting into somebody’s political campaign, and somebody’s lobbying. And people don’t want to be traced back to this money.

…I’m very disappointed with Senator Grassley’s office and his staff members. They initially were very supportive. But what I am getting from their office every time I call is, “Well this issue is under the Inspector General,” and that their hands are tied. And then I press further and ask, “Well, what do you mean, ‘our hands are tied’? Who’s tying your hands? Untie it. Let’s get it untied.” They don’t have any response. They say, “Well, this issue is very complex, and as you know, it is being investigated.” And I’m not seeing any issue being investigated. What I’m seeing is that this issue is being covered up, and relentlessly being covered up, in consideration of “state privilege,” which people are calling “the neutron bomb of all privilege.”

Bank fined $25 million over Saudi accounts

Federal regulators fined Riggs Bank a record $25 million on Thursday for allegedly violating anti-money laundering laws in its handling of tens of millions in cash transactions in Saudi-controlled accounts under investigation for possible links to terrorism financing.

The civil fine against the midsize Washington bank with a near-exclusive franchise on business with the capital’s diplomatic community is the largest ever imposed on a financial institution for such violations, experts said. …

The FBI and regulators have investigated, for possible connections to terrorism financing, large cash transactions in Riggs accounts controlled by Saudi diplomats.

The Senate Finance Committee chairman, Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa, recently asked the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks to examine Saudi transactions totaling tens of millions at Riggs and FleetBoston Financial Corp.

“Riggs Bank deserves every penny of this huge fine,” Grassley said in a statement Thursday. “Banks have a patriotic duty, not to mention legal requirement, to report suspicious activity. When banks look the other way, they put our national security at risk. Whether it’s through incompetence, negligence or greed, they are allowing terrorists to funnel their blood money through the system.”

Grassley said members of the bank’s board of directors should be held to account for failing to exercise their watchdog role over Riggs’s operations.

Riggs previously was accused by Treasury regulators of failing to comply with a law requiring banks to notify the government of suspicious transactions.

Web Site Cites Bush-Riggs Link

A political Web site written by a Democratic operative drew attention yesterday to the fact that President Bush’s uncle, Jonathan J. Bush, is a top executive at Riggs Bank, which this week agreed to pay a record $25 million in civil fines for violations of law intended to thwart money laundering. Jonathan Bush, who is a major fundraiser for his nephew, was appointed in 2000 to run Riggs Investment Management Co.

Report assails U.S. nuclear security effort — Sense of urgency missing, study sponsor says

Less fissile material was secured in the two years after Sept. 11, 2001, than in the two years just before, according to the Harvard report. Half the equipment dispatched to Russia nearly four years ago as a fast, interim solution remains in warehouses, uninstalled because of bureaucratic disputes. …

Basic security improvements have not been made at dozens of facilities in Russia, where more than 60 percent of the country’s plutonium and weapons- grade uranium is kept, the General Accounting Office has warned. In a more recent report, the GAO said U.S. government facilities are also vulnerable to an increased risk of terrorism.

Al-Qaeda almost ready to attack United States, Ashcroft says


A San Francisco composer, Bryant Kong, has put the found poetry of Donald Rumsfeld to music.

The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.

— Donald Rumsfeld from a Dept. of Defense briefing in Feb. 2002

Kong explains: “A lot of the poems have to do with information and control of information. They’re running the war like a public relations campaign, and then they run into trouble when the facts don’t match the story that they’re trying to sell.”


Crown Prince Alexander II is trying to drum up US investment for Serbia. He visited San Francisco a few days ago and was interviewed by Mark Simon of the Chronicle (Warning: contains inaccuracies and propaganda):

Prince sees double standard in foreign policy — He says U.S. left Serbia for lack of oil

… [Serbia is] unable to shake itself free from a succession of international demands that the current democratic government turn over war criminals to a tribunal, demands largely backed by the United States, Crown Prince Alexander II said in an interview at The Chronicle.

Similar requirements were not made of the fledgling democracies in Afghanistan or Iraq, he said, and now Serbia is struggling to gain international attention and support for an economy ravaged by 40 percent unemployment and a depleted infrastructure that cannot rebuild the nation.

“There is more money for war than peace. We don’t have oil. Oil is becoming more important than people,” said Alexander….

Serbia was burdened with “bad management, poor leadership, sanctions, isolation and bombings. You put all that together and on the fifth of October, the bank was broke,” Prince Alexander said.

“Then Sept. 11 happens, just as we’re trying to put our ship in order, and everybody rushes off to Afghanistan and, then, eventually, Iraq, and we’re sort of left to fend on our own.”

There are “dual standards” being applied, he said. When Serbian leadership tried to hold an international conference to seek help for its problems, they were told they first had to turn over Milosevic to an international court.

“Why wasn’t this standard applied to Afghanistan in handing over Taliban and al Qaeda leaders? Why did aid go to Iraq when Saddam Hussein hadn’t been caught yet?

“These are dual standards, and this is flawed foreign policy,” he said.

Alexander, 60, was born in London, where his family had taken refuge during World War II. He wants to revive his title as king in a constitutional monarchy, like England or Spain, where the king serves as a nonpolitical, unifying symbol.

The crown prince, educated in American and English schools and fluent in five languages, served as a captain in an English military unit, seeing duty in the Middle East, Italy and Germany.

With his military background, he said he understood the United States would need only three weeks to complete its invasion of Iraq, “and then the problems would start.” Previous U.S. sanctions against Iraq helped unify the nation behind the Hussein regime. The post-invasion presence of U.S. military “the people of Iraq feel is an occupation. …

Across the page was the hilariously titled article, “Pentagon to flood Iraq with vast supply of guns” — no chance that will go wrong. Unfortunately, the only online version of this article I can find has is boringly titled, “U.S. arms bound for Iraq — Shipments will include tens of thousands of guns.”

On the NYT’s “apology”

I’ve been scanning the blogs for the best post on the NYT’s lukewarm mea culpa article because I didn’t want to write yet another scathing Judith Miller post.

So, here it is – Swopa at needlenose,who actually clicked through all the links the Times provided in their Botched Article list and checked the bylines. Best on the warbot reaction, Jesse Taylor at Pandagon. Most outraged, Tom Tomorrow. Jim Henley is exasperatedly cynical. He checked for Miller’s byline, too. Digby is outraged plus he gets bonus points for adding the Mylroie connection into his Miller indictment.

Is Shahristani another Curveball?

Eli at Left I has some devastating info on Shahristani, the name apparently being hyped by Washington for new Iraqi PM, much to Brahimi’s irritation. First, the hype:

When Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy in Iraq, appeared on Iraqia, the US-run local television station on Monday night, he sought to reassure viewers that the caretaker government he was selecting would be truly sovereign, even if its powers were limited.

It was part of a series of interviews with the local media aimed at highlighting the leading role played by the UN and lending legitimacy to the transition process. In the interviews, Mr Brahimi has been stressing that he is trying to find a consensus among Iraqis but that he had not yet reached a decision.

Within hours of his appearance on Iraqia, however, Mr Brahimi’s central message was undercut by US officials’ suggestion that Hussein Shahristani, a well-respected nuclear scientist who had been jailed at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison under Saddam Hussein, was the leading candidate for prime minister. For the past year, Mr Shahristani has been living in Karbala, the Shia holy city.

UN officials and the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad on Wednesday rushed to deny the reports, insisting that the decision was in the hands of the UN, not the US State Department in Washington.

From Eli’s post he sounds like another Curveball. Here’s a bit:

“I have information from inside Iraq that Saddam plans to distribute his chemical weapons in particular in major Shiite towns in southern Iraq. He plans to remotely detonate them and expose the population to nerve agents and cause very large scale civilian deaths.”

And a couple days ago he said they were being moved around:

“I believe these are still in Iraq and being moved around to avoid detection by the UN inspection team,” Hussein Shahristani said in Manilla.

Read the rest.

No wonder the White House likes him.

Stupid quote of the week

Surely there can’t be anything more idiotic out there:
“…today, in Iraq as in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, we’ve tied ourselves to Muslim people. We’re helping them. In the long run, they’ll understand that and appreciate that.”
– Rich Tucker, The Heritage Foundation, writing on