Saturday, May 31, 2008

Radar, Star Wars, & the Czech Republic

Two views of the proposed European "missile shield," the official view, top, as a defense against the (nonexistent) Iranian "threat" and, below, against a Russian "threat"

On March 1 the Czech Republic experienced the wrath of extra- tropical cyclone Emma passing through its territory at almost 180 kilometers per hour, disrupting infrastructure, killing two people, and leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity. One of the worst hit areas was around the city of Pilsen, known for its industry and beer.

That same day groups of neo-Nazis screaming "Nenavidim" ("I hate") besieged Pilsen's train station. Defying the wind and security forces, they marched in front of an enormous synagogue shouting racist slogans. They were immediately squeezed between the riot police and those who came to protest against their show of force, including the city mayor, as well as a sizeable group of anarchists.

by Andre Vltchek

While the cyclone and neo-Nazis were busy on the homefront, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was meeting George Bush in Washington. The two heads of state were trying to conclude negotiations about the construction of the U.S. radar base in West Bohemia, against the will of the great majority of Czech people (two-thirds according to the latest poll). Talks failed, but apparently only because of a Czech demand for stricter environmental rules. Both sides expressed hope that the dispute could be settled quickly.

The United States plans to build the radar base in the Brdy military district, some 90 kilometers southwest of Prague and 30 kilometers from Pilsen, along with a base for 10 defense missiles in Poland, as elements of what Washington calls a "missile defense shield." The Czech center-right government has been negotiating with the United States over the radar base for about a year and plans to end the talks in late spring. The project is sharply criticized by Russia, several European Union states, and the majority of Czech citizens.

Filip Pospisil, deputy chief-editor of A2 (a Prague-based weekly magazine) and independent representative for Prague-1 District, explained, "No chance the issue will be resolved through a national democratic consensus of the citizens—through the referendum.... An argument used against the referendum by the government is that the issue is very complex and should be decided by experts. Another argument is that it is difficult to even define the question itself."

But in the villages everybody understands the issue very well. Brdy Highlands may be a remote and, by Czech standards, poor area, but people there, like everywhere else in the country, are passionate followers of political trends and international developments. And they have strong opinions about the military superpower that is planning to build its base very near their homes.

Lubomir Fiala is mayor of Visky, one of the smallest villages in the country with only 42 permanent residents and just one grocery store—run by the mayor. Gentle rolling hills and fields surround Visky, but Kota 718 is just a couple of miles away. This is where "the American radar" is supposed to be built.

"We decided to run our own referendum last year," explained Fiala. "The result happened to be very straightforward: 100 percent against. Citizens of Visky don't want to have any radar or any foreign troops. And we believe that our country as a whole doesn't need any foreign soldiers on its soil either. But our government is making decisions without consulting the people from this area."

Fiala recounted the area's history: "We are at the edge of an enormous military area. Brdy [Highlands] were given to the army in 1925. Then Hitler built bases here and, later on, during the Cold War, there were Soviet missiles in the ground between the villages of Borovno and Misov.... We've had enough of foreign troops on our land and this time we are going to fight to the last drop of blood to prevent it from happening. To me it is very simple: I am representing this village. People of this village are against the bases. I am against the bases. Therefore, there should be no American bases here.

"We understand that the Bush administration wants to conclude talks and begin building the radar before the presidential elections. The Russians are against it and that will be a tremendous problem. On top of it, we are told lies. They say that the base will be safe. But we know that it will be dangerous, hazardous to our health. There are plenty of experts who can testify to that. There will be radiation and it can be already defined where the rays will be directed."

Villagers of Visky and neighboring Trokavec explain that the naturally pristine Brdy Highlands are the source of drinking water for the entire Western part of the Czech Republic. One villager, talking through a fence, tells me, "Our little villages were always getting a little money from the government because they are right next to the military zone. It was calculated for decades that if there would be a military conflict, if enemy missiles would hit the military installations, our villages would be either annihilated or evacuated. We are sick of living next to a pile of weapons belonging to foreign powers. The majority of people were forced to leave in the 1950s, when the Soviets decided to employ their weapons in nearby forests. We love this land. All we are asking for is tranquility and peace and no foreign troops. But the Americans are already here; they are surveying the area, periodically and secretly. "

No To The Radar—No To The Foreign Bases" reads the sign on the window of the local pub in Trokavec village. Across the road begins a depressed agricultural area with deep puddles in front of the rustic houses, rotting tractors, and other farm equipment. Prague—with its hotels, opera houses, and galleries, cafes, and museums—seems to be on another planet.

As I photographed the countryside, an old woman approached me. "I am afraid," she said. "Here we are all afraid. We suspect that they are going to build something terrible around here; something much worse than what the Russians built decades ago. Please help us stop it."

Mayor Fiala remarks: "It is all done to satisfy the interest of American multinational companies, isn't it? These games that cost trillions of dollars and countless human lives. I have nothing against the American people, but I can't stomach American expansionism. My grandmother lived in America decades ago and even then she was complaining about the same things. Czechs have to be finally on their own. We were for too long under the military boots of others."

In Prague Pospisil attempted to put the issue into perspective: "In 2002 the former Minister of Defense (Social Democrat) Jaroslav Tvrdik visited the U.S. and agreed to accept the radar or even the missiles. For several years negotiations were done in secrecy—a fact that I consider extremely serious, the government's failure. Only in the second half of 2006 did the Czech public receive more detailed information about the project, which triggered a bitter political battle.... The government has already invested several millions in a PR campaign, which is supposed to convince Czech citizens that the base will be good for the country. It also published a report that concludes there is no significant health hazard connected with the future base; this report was immediately ridiculed by other experts.... Another unknown is against whom should this base protect the U.S., Czechs, and their allies? From the beginning, the line was that it should be a shield against the danger from the Middle East—concretely Iran. But recently the Minister of Foreign Affairs suggested that the radar can be used as surveillance against Russia."

Two views of the proposed European "missile shield," the official view, top, as a defense against
the (nonexistent) Iranian "threat" and, below, against a Russian "threat"

In the meantime, commentary by the U.S. media has been remarkable. Typical was an Associated Press piece by Monika Scislowska that was broadcast by North American television networks, including NBC News: "The Czechs generally have been receptive to the idea of the U.S. installing missile-tracking radar southwest of Prague."

"Generally receptive" means that two-thirds of Czechs were opposed to the foreign bases on their territory. The Czech media, even mainstream newspapers, have not been silent. Milos Cermak from the center-right Lidove noviny (LN) concluded: "Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has made a fatal mistake by neglecting public opinion in the case of U.S. radar on Czech soil, so the radar will become ‘his grave.'"

Czechs are facing their first serious test in a new chapter of history. Are they going to act, once again, as a pragmatic and cynical nation, accepting something most of them consider evil, in exchange for certain perks that include visa-free travel to the United States and a chummy relationship with the latest superpower?

What will soon be decided in cities and tiny villages near Kota 718 is the direction of the Czech political system. It will also measure the extent to which the free will of the citizens in one country can resist the hegemonic ambitions of empire.


Andre Vltchek is a journalist, filmmaker, co-founder of Mainstay Press and senior fellow at the Oakland Institute.

From: Z Magazine - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives

U.S. Military Officers Challenge 9/11: Pakistan Daily

USA Military Officers Challenge Official Account of September 11
Thursday, 22 May 2008
Pakistan Daily

Twenty-five former U.S. military officers have severely criticized the official account of 9/11 and called for a new investigation. They include former commander of U.S. Army Intelligence, Major General Albert Stubblebine, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Col. Ronald D. Ray, two former staff members of the Director of the National Security Agency; Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, PhD, and Major John M. Newman, PhD, and many others. They are among the rapidly growing number of military and intelligence service veterans, scientists, engineers, and architects challenging the government’s story. The officers’ statements appear below, listed alphabetically.

Lt. Col. Robert Bowman, PhD “A lot of these pieces of information, taken together, prove that the official story, the official conspiracy theory of 9/11 is a bunch of hogwash. It’s impossible,” said Lt. Col. Robert Bowman, PhD, U.S. Air Force (ret). With doctoral degrees in Aeronautics and Nuclear Engineering, Col. Bowman served as Director of Advanced Space Programs Development under Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

“There’s a second group of facts having to do with the cover up,” continued Col. Bowman. “Taken together these things prove that high levels of our government don’t want us to know what happened and who’s responsible. Who gained from 9/11? Who covered up crucial information about 9/11? And who put out the patently false stories about 9/11 in the first place? When you take those three things together, I think the case is pretty clear that it’s highly placed individuals in the administration with all roads passing through Dick Cheney.”

Regarding the failure of NORAD to intercept the four hijacked planes on 9/11, Col. Bowman said, “I'm an old interceptor pilot. I know the drill. I've done it. I know how long it takes. I know the rules. … Critics of the government story on 9/11 have said: ‘Well, they knew about this, and they did nothing’. That's not true. If our government had done nothing that day and let normal procedure be followed, those planes, wherever they were, would have been intercepted, the Twin Towers would still be standing and thousands of dead Americans would still be alive.”

During his 22-year Air Force career, Col. Bowman also served as the Head of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering and Assistant Dean at the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. He also flew over 100 combat missions in Viet Nam as a fighter pilot.

Lt. Jeff Dahlstrom Former U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Jeff Dahlstrom wrote in a 2007 statement to this author, “When 9/11 occurred I bought the entire government and mainstream media story line. I was a lifelong conservative Republican that voted for Bush/Cheney, twice. Curiosity about JFK’s death, after a late night TV re-run of Oliver Stone’s movie, got me started researching and digging for the truth about his assassins.

“My research led me to a much more important and timely question: the mystery of what really did happen on 9/11. Everything that seemed real, turned out to be false. The US government and the news media, once again, were lying to the world about the real terrorists and the public murder of 2,972 innocents on 9/11.
“The ‘Patriot Act’ was actually written prior to 9/11 with the intention of destroying the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. It was passed by Congress, based upon the government's myth of 9/11, which was in reality a staged hoax. 9/11 was scripted and executed by rogue elements of the military, FAA, intelligence, and private contractors working for the US government.

“In addition to severely curtailing fundamental rights of Americans, the 9/11 crime was then used by this administration, the one I originally voted for and supported, to justify waging two preemptive wars (and most likely a third war), killing over 4,500 American soldiers, and killing over one million innocent Afghan and Iraqi people.

“It was all premeditated. Treason, a false flag military operation, and betrayal of the trust of the American people were committed on 9/11 by the highest levels of the US government and not one person responsible for the crimes, or the cover-up, has been held accountable for the last six years.

“After reading fifteen well-researched books, studying eight or nine DVD documentaries, and devoting months of personal research and investigation, I have arrived at one ultimate conclusion: The American government and the US Constitution have been hijacked and subverted by a group of criminals that today are the real terrorists. They are in control of the US government and they have all violated their oaths of office and committed treason against their own citizens.”

Capt. Daniel Davis Capt. Daniel Davis is a former U.S. Army Air Defense Officer and NORAD Tac Director. After his military service, Capt. Davis served for 15 years as a Senior Manager at General Electric Turbine (jet) Engine Division and then devoted an additional 15 years as founder and CEO of Turbine Technology Services Corp., a turbine (jet engine) services and maintenance company.

In a statement to this author, Capt. Davis wrote, “As a former General Electric Turbine engineering specialist and manager and then CEO of a turbine engineering company, I can guarantee that none of the high tech, high temperature alloy engines on any of the four planes that crashed on 9/11 would be completely destroyed, burned, shattered or melted in any crash or fire. Wrecked, yes, but not destroyed. Where are all of those engines, particularly at the Pentagon? If jet powered aircraft crashed on 9/11, those engines, plus wings and tail assembly, would be there.”
Decorated with the Bronze Star and the Soldiers Medal for bravery under fire and the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Viet Nam, Capt. Davis also served in the Army Air Defense Command as Nike Missile Battery Control Officer for the Chicago-Milwaukee Defense Area.

Capt. Davis continued, “Additionally, in my experience as an officer in NORAD as a Tactical Director for the Chicago-Milwaukee Air Defense and as a current private pilot, there is no way that an aircraft on instrument flight plans (all commercial flights are IFR) would not be intercepted when they deviate from their flight plan, turn off their transponders, or stop communication with Air Traffic Control. No way! With very bad luck, perhaps one could slip by, but no there's no way all four of them could!

“Finally, going over the hill and highway and crashing into the Pentagon right at the wall/ground interface is difficult for even a small slow single engine airplane and no way for a 757. Maybe the best pilot in the world could accomplish that but not these unskilled ‘terrorists’. Attempts to obscure facts by calling them a ‘Conspiracy Theory’ does not change the truth. It seems, ‘Something is rotten in the State’.”

Major Jon I. Fox is a former U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot and a retired commercial airline pilot for Continental Airlines with a 35-year commercial aviation career. In 2007, in support of the Architects and Engineers[3] petition to reinvestigate 9/11, he wrote, “On hearing the military (NORAD/NEAD) excuses for no intercepts on 9/11/2001, I knew from personal experience that they were lying. I then began re-checking other evidence and found mostly more lies from the ‘official spokesmen’. Jet fuel fires at atmospheric pressure do not get hot enough to weaken steel. Structures do not collapse through themselves in free fall time with only gravity as the powering force.”

Commander Ralph Kolstad Retired U.S. Navy ‘Top Gun’ pilot Commander Ralph Kolstad started questioning the official account of 9/11 within days of the event. In a statement to this author, he wrote, “It just didn’t make any sense to me,” he said. And now six years after 9/11 he says, “When one starts using his own mind, and not what one was told, there is very little to believe in the official story.”

Commander Kolstad was a top-rated fighter pilot during his 20-year Navy career. Early in his career, he was accorded the honor of being selected to participate in the Navy’s ‘Top Gun’ air combat school, officially known as the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School. The Tom Cruise movie “Top Gun” reflects the experience of the young Navy pilots at the school. Eleven years later, Commander Kolstad was further honored by being selected to become a ‘Top Gun’ adversary instructor.
Commander Kolstad had a second career after his 20 years of Navy active and reserve service and served as a commercial airline pilot for 27 years, flying for American Airlines and other domestic and international careers. He flew Boeing 727, 757 and 767, McDonnell Douglas MD-80, and Fokker F-100 airliners. He has flown a total of over 23,000 hours in his career.

Commander Kolstad is especially critical of the account of American Airlines Flight 77 that allegedly crashed into the Pentagon. He says, “At the Pentagon, the pilot of the Boeing 757 did quite a feat of flying. I have 6,000 hours of flight time in Boeing 757’s and 767’s and I could not have flown it the way the flight path was described.”

Commander Kolstad adds, “I was also a Navy fighter pilot and Air Combat Instructor and have experience flying low altitude, high speed aircraft. I could not have done what these beginners did. Something stinks to high heaven!”

He points to the physical evidence at the Pentagon impact site and asks in exasperation, “Where is the damage to the wall of the Pentagon from the wings? Where are the big pieces that always break away in an accident? Where is all the luggage? Where are the miles and miles of wire, cable, and lines that are part and parcel of any large aircraft? Where are the steel engine parts? Where is the steel landing gear? Where is the tail section that would have broken into large pieces?”

But no major element of the official account of 9/11 is spared from Commander Kolstad’s criticism. Regarding the alleged impact site of United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, PA, he asks, “Where is any of the wreckage? Of all the pictures I have seen, there is only a hole! Where is any piece of a crashed airplane? Why was the area cordoned off, and no inspection allowed by the normal accident personnel? Where is any evidence at all?”

Commander Kolstad also questions many aspects of the attack on the World Trade Center. “How could a steel and concrete building collapse after being hit by a Boeing 767? Didn’t the engineers design it to withstand a direct hit from a Boeing 707, approximately the same size and weight of the 767? The evidence just doesn’t add up.”

“Why did the second building collapse before the first one, which had been burning for 20 minutes longer after a direct hit, especially when the second one hit was just a glancing blow? If the fire was so hot, then why were people looking out the windows and in the destroyed areas? Why have so many members of the New York Fire Department reported seeing or hearing many ‘explosions’ before the buildings collapsed?”

Commander Kolstad summarized his frustration with the investigation and disbelief of the official account of 9/11, “If one were to act as an accident investigator, one would look at the evidence, and then construct a plausible scenario as to what led to the accident. In this case, we were told the story and then the evidence was built to support the story. What happened to any intelligent investigation? Every question leads to another question that has not been answered by anyone in authority. This is just the beginning as to why I don’t believe the official ‘story’ and why I want the truth to be told.”

Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski A Pentagon eye-witness and a former member of the staff of the Director of the National Security Agency, Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, PhD, U.S. Air Force (ret), is a severe critic of the official account of 9/11. A contributing author to the 2006 book 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, she wrote, “I believe the [9/11] Commission failed to deeply examine the topic at hand, failed to apply scientific rigor to its assessment of events leading up to and including 9/11, failed to produce a believable and unbiased summary of what happened, failed to fully examine why it happened, and even failed to include a set of unanswered questions for future research.”

She continued, “It is as a scientist that I have the most trouble with the official government conspiracy theory, mainly because it does not satisfy the rules of probability or physics. The collapses of the World Trade Center buildings clearly violate the laws of probability and physics.”
Col. Kwiatkowski was working in the Pentagon on 9/11 in her capacity as Political-Military Affairs Officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense when Flight 77 allegedly hit the Pentagon. She wrote, “There was a dearth of visible debris on the relatively unmarked lawn, where I stood only minutes after the impact. Beyond this strange absence of airliner debris, there was no sign of the kind of damage to the Pentagon structure one would expect from the impact of a large airliner. This visible evidence or lack thereof may also have been apparent to the Secretary of Defense [Donald Rumsfeld], who in an unfortunate slip of the tongue referred to the aircraft that slammed into the Pentagon as a ‘missile.’ [Secretary Rumsfeld also publicly referred to Flight 93 as the plane that was "shot down" over Pennsylvania.]

“I saw nothing of significance at the point of impact - no airplane metal or cargo debris was blowing on the lawn in front of the damaged building as smoke billowed from within the Pentagon. ... [A]ll of us staring at the Pentagon that morning were indeed looking for such debris, but what we expected to see was not evident.

“The same is true with regard to the kind of damage we expected. ... But I did not see this kind of damage. Rather, the facade had a rather small hole, no larger than 20 feet in diameter. Although this facade later collapsed, it remained standing for 30 or 40 minutes, with the roof line remaining relatively straight.

“The scene, in short, was not what I would have expected from a strike by a large jetliner. It was, however, exactly what one would expect if a missile had struck the Pentagon. ... More information is certainly needed regarding the events of 9/11 and the events leading up to that terrible day.”

The improbability of the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 is a major concern of these officers and a growing number of scientists, engineers and architects. The building was 610 feet tall, 47 stories, and would have been the tallest building in 33 states. Although it was not hit by an airplane, it completely collapsed into a pile of rubble in less than 7 seconds at 5:20 p.m. on 9/11. In the 6 years since 9/11, the Federal government has failed to provide any explanation for the collapse. In addition to the failure to provide an explanation, absolutely no mention of Building 7’s collapse appears in the 9/11 Commission's “full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”

Lt. Col. Shelton Lankford Lt. Col. Shelton Lankford, U.S. Marine Corps (ret), an attack pilot with over 300 combat missions, wrote in 2007 to the Michigan Daily, “Our government has been hijacked by means of a ‘new Pearl Harbor’ and a lot of otherwise good and decent people who are gullible enough to think that the first three steel-framed buildings in history fall down because they have some fires that the fire fighter on the scene said could be knocked down with a couple of hoses and through which people walked before they were photographed looking out the holes where the plane hit. One of these, Building 7, was never hit by a plane and even NIST is ashamed to advance a reason for its collapse. And, miracle of miracles, these three buildings just happened to be leased and insured by the same guy who is on tape saying they decided to ‘PULL’ the last one to fall.”
During his 20 year military career, Col. Lankford's decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, and 32 awards of the Air Medal.

In a statement to this author, Col. Lankford wrote, “September 11, 2001 seems destined to be the watershed event of our lives and the greatest test for our democracy in our lifetimes. The evidence of government complicity in the lead-up to the events, the failure to respond during the event, and the astounding lack of any meaningful investigation afterwards, as well as the ignoring of evidence turned up by others that renders the official explanation impossible, may signal the end of the American experiment. It has been used to justify all manners of measures to legalize repression at home and as a pretext for behaving as an aggressive empire abroad. Until we demand an independent, honest, and thorough investigation and accountability for those whose action and inaction led to those events and the cover-up, our republic and our Constitution remain in the gravest danger.”

Lt. Col. Jeff Latas Another harsh critic of the official account of 9/11 is Lt. Col. Jeff Latas, U.S. Air Force (ret). A former combat fighter pilot, Col. Latas is currently a commercial airline pilot.

Col. Latas is a member of Pilots for 9/11 Truth. In 2007 he was interviewed by the group’s founder, commercial airline pilot, Rob Balsamo, regarding the group’s documentary video, Pandora's Black Box, Chapter 2, Flight of American 77, which focuses on the 9/11 Commission's account of the impact of Flight 77 at the Pentagon and discrepancies with the data from the Flight Data Recorder alleged by the NTSB to be from Flight 77.
In the interview, Col. Latas said, “After I did my own analysis of it, it's obvious that there's discrepancies between the two stories; between the 9/11 Commission and the flight data recorder information. And I think that's where we really need to focus a lot of our attention to get the help that we need in order to put pressure on government agencies to actually do a real investigation of 9/11. And not just from a security standpoint, but from even an aviation standpoint, like any accident investigation would actually help the aviators out by finding reasons for things happening.”

A highly decorated fighter pilot, Col. Latas was awarded the Distinguish Flying Cross for Heroism, four Air Medals, four Meritorious Service Medals, and nine Aerial Achievement Medals. His combat experience includes Desert Storm and four tours of duty in Northern and Southern Watch. During his 20-year Air Force career, he also served as Pentagon Weapons Requirement Officer, as a member of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, and as President, U.S. Air Force Accident Investigation Board.

Col. Latas concluded, “And I think that we Americans need to demand further investigation just to clarify the discrepancies that you've [Pilots for 9/11 Truth] found. And I think that we need to be getting on the phone with our Congressmen and women and letting them know that we don't accept the excuses that we're hearing now, that we want true investigators to do a true investigation.”

Capt. Eric H. May

Commander Ted Muga

Capt. Eric H. May, U.S. Army (ret), is a former Army Intelligence Officer who also served as an inspector and interpreter for the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty team. He is one of many signers of a petition requesting a reinvestigation of 9/11. In 2005, he wrote: “As a former Army officer, my tendency immediately after 911 was to rally 'round the colors and defend the country against what I then thought was an insidious, malicious all-Arab entity called Al-Qaida. In fact, in April of 2002, I attempted to reactivate my then-retired commission to return to serve my country in its time of peril. ...

Now I view the 911 event as Professor David Griffin, author of The New Pearl Harbor, views it: as a matter that implies either

A) passive participation by the Bush White House through a deliberate stand-down of proper defense procedures that (if followed) would have led US air assets to a quick identification and confrontation of the passenger aircraft that impacted WTC 1 and WTC 2, or worse ...

B) active execution of a plot by rogue elements of government, starting with the White House itself, in creating a spectacle of destruction that would lead the United States into an invasion of the Middle East ...”

Commander Ted Muga, U.S. Navy (ret), is a Navy aviator, who, after retirement, had a second career as a commercial airline pilot for Pan-Am.
In a 2007 interview on the Alex Jones Show, Commander Muga stated, “The maneuver at the Pentagon was just a tight spiral coming down out of 7,000 feet. And a commercial aircraft, while they can in fact structurally somewhat handle that maneuver, they are very, very, very difficult. And it would take considerable training. In other words, commercial aircraft are designed for a particular purpose and that is for comfort and for passengers and it's not for military maneuvers. And while they are structurally capable of doing them, it takes some very, very talented pilots to do that. ... I just can't imagine an amateur even being able to come close to performing a maneuver of that nature.
“And as far as hijacking the airplanes, once again getting back to the nature of pilots and airplanes, there is no way that a pilot would give up an airplane to hijackers. ... I mean, hell, a guy doesn't give up a TV remote control much less a complicated 757. And so to think that pilots would allow a plane to be taken over by a couple of 5 foot 7, 150 pound guys with a one-inch blade boxcutter is ridiculous.

“And also in all four planes, if you remember, none of the planes ever switched on their transponder to the hijack code. There's a very, very simple code that you put in if you suspect that your plane is being hijacked. It takes literally just a split-second for you to put your hand down on the center console and flip it over. And not one of the four planes ever transponded a hijack code, which is most, most unusual. ...

“Commercial airplanes are very, very complex pieces of machines. And they're designed for two pilots up there, not just two amateur pilots, but two qualified commercial pilots up there. And to think that you're going to get an amateur up into the cockpit and fly, much less navigate, it to a designated target, the probability is so low, that it's bordering on impossible.”

Col. George Nelson

“In all my years of direct and indirect participation, I never witnessed nor even heard of an aircraft loss, where the wreckage was accessible, that prevented investigators from finding enough hard evidence to positively identify the make, model, and specific registration number of the aircraft -- and in most cases the precise cause of the accident,” wrote Col. George Nelson, MBA, U.S. Air Force (ret), a former U.S. Air Force aircraft accident investigator and airplane parts authority.

“The government alleges that four wide-body airliners crashed on the morning of September 11 2001, resulting in the deaths of more than 3,000 human beings, yet not one piece of hard aircraft evidence has been produced in an attempt to positively identify any of the four aircraft. On the contrary, it seems only that all potential evidence was deliberately kept hidden from public view,” continued Col. Nelson, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force War College and a 34-year Air Force veteran.
“With all the evidence readily available at the Pentagon crash site, any unbiased rational investigator could only conclude that a Boeing 757 did not fly into the Pentagon as alleged. Similarly, with all the evidence available at the Pennsylvania crash site, it was most doubtful that a passenger airliner caused the obvious hole in the ground and certainly not the Boeing 757 as alleged. …

“As painful and heartbreaking as was the loss of innocent lives and the lingering health problems of thousands more, a most troublesome and nightmarish probability remains that so many Americans appear to be involved in the most heinous conspiracy in our country's history.”

Maj. John M. Newman, PhD

Capt. Omar Pradhan

Col. Ronald D. Ray Maj. John M. Newman, PhD, U.S. Army (ret), is the former Executive Assistant to the Director of the National Security Agency. In testimony before a 2005 Congressional briefing, he said, “It falls to me this morning to bring to your attention the story of Saeed Sheikh, whose full name is Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and his astonishing rise to power in Al Qaeda, his crucial role in 9/11, which is completely, utterly, missing from the 9/11 Commission report…

“The 9/11 Commission which studied US intelligence and law enforcement community performance in great detail, (maybe not so much great detail, but they did), neglected to cover the community’s performance during the weeks following the attacks to determine who was responsible for them, not a word about that in the Report.

“The Report does discuss the immediate US responses but the immediate investigation is never addressed, and anyone who has closely studied the post-9/11 investigation knows that the first breakthrough came two weeks into the investigation when the money transfers from the United Arab Emirates to the hijackers were uncovered.

“Furthermore, if you have studied that investigation, you know there is no disputing that while investigators may have struggled with the identity of the paymaster, they were clear about one thing, he was Al Qaeda’s finance chief. For this reason alone you have to ask why the 9/11 Commission Report never mentions the finance chief’s role as the 9/11 paymaster.”

Capt. Omar Pradhan, U.S. Air Force, is a former AWACS command pilot and Flight Instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. In a 2007 statement to this author, Capt. Pradhan wrote, “As a proud American, as a distinguished USAF E-3 AWACS Aircraft Commander (with 350+ hours of combat time logged over Afghanistan and Iraq), and as a former U.S. Air Force Academy Flight Instructor, I warmly endorse the professional inquiry and pursuit of comprehensive truth sought by the Pilots for 911 Truth organization and the PatriotsQuestion911 website.”

Another senior officer questioning the official account of 9/11 is Col. Ronald D. Ray, U.S. Marine Corps (ret), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan. A highly decorated Vietnam veteran (two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart), he was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to serve on the American Battle Monuments Commission (1990 – 1994), and the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces. He was Military Historian and Deputy Director of Field Operations for the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Center, Washington, D.C. (1990 – 1994).

In an interview on Alex Jones’ radio show on June 30, 2006, Col. Ray described the official account of 9/11 as “the dog that doesn’t hunt”, meaning it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. In response to Alex Jones’ question, “Is it safe to say or is the statement accurate that you smell something rotten in the state of Denmark when it comes to 9/11?” Col. Ray replied,“I'm astounded that the conspiracy theory advanced by the administration could in fact be true and the evidence does not seem to suggest that that's accurate. That's true.”
“After 4+ years of research since retirement in 2002, I am 100% convinced that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were planned, organized, and committed by treasonous perpetrators that have infiltrated the highest levels of our government. It is now time to take our country back,” wrote Lt. Col. Guy S. Razer, MS, U.S. Air Force (ret), in a statement to this author.

A retired fighter pilot, Col. Razer served as an instructor at the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School and NATO’s Tactical Leadership Program and flew combat missions over Iraq. He continued, “The ‘collapse’ of WTC Building 7 shows beyond any doubt that the demolitions were pre-planned. There is simply no way to demolish a 47-story building (on fire) over a coffee break. It is also impossible to report the building’s collapse before it happened, as BBC News did, unless it was pre-planned. Further damning evidence is Larry Silverstein's video taped confession in which he states ‘they made that decision to pull [WTC 7] and we watched the building collapse.’

“We cannot let the pursuit of justice fail. Those of us in the military took an oath to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic’. Just because we have retired does not make that oath invalid, so it is not just our responsibility, it is our duty to expose the real perpetrators of 9/11 and bring them to justice, no matter how hard it is, how long it takes, or how much we have to suffer to do it,” he concluded.

Maj. Scott Ritter

Maj. Douglas Rokke, PhD

Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer

Maj. Scott Ritter, U.S. Marine Corps, is a former Marine Corps Intelligence Officer who also served as Chief Weapons Inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq 1991 - 1998. In 2005, he said: “I, like the others, are frustrated by the 9/11 Commission Report, by the lack of transparency on the part of the United States government, both in terms of the executive branch and the legislative branch when it comes to putting out on the table all facts known to the 9/11 case.”

Maj. Douglas Rokke, PhD, U.S. Army (ret), former Director of the U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Project and 30-year veteran, had this to say about the explosion at the Pentagon on 9/11, “When you look at the whole thing, especially the crash site void of airplane parts, the size of the hole left in the building and the fact the projectile's impact penetrated numerous concrete walls, it looks like the work of a missile. And when you look at the damage, it was obviously a missile.”

The 9/11 Commission Report asserts that only three of the alleged hijackers were known to U.S. intelligence agencies prior to 9/11: Nawaf al-Hazmi, Salem al-Hazmi, and Khalid al-Mihdar. There is no mention in the Report that the names and photographs of alleged hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi and alleged ring-leader Mohamed Atta had been identified by the Department of Defense anti-terrorist program known as Able Danger more than a year prior to 9/11 and that they were known to be affiliates of al-Qaida. Able Danger also identified Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdar.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in 2006, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, U.S. Army Reserve, former Chief of the Army’s Controlled HUMINT (Human Intelligence) Program, overseeing Army Intelligence and Security Command’s global controlled HUMINT efforts, stated: “[B]asic law enforcement investigative techniques, with 21st Century data mining and analytical tools ... resulted in the establishment of a new form of intelligence collection – and the identification of Mohammed Atta and several other of the 9-11 terrorists as having links to Al Qaeda leadership a full year in advance of the attacks. ...

“After contact by two separate members of the ABLE DANGER team, … the 9-11 [Commission] staff refused to perform any in-depth review or investigation of the issues that were identified to them. … It was their job to do a thorough investigation of these claims – to not simply dismiss them based on what many now believe was a ‘preconceived’ conclusion to the 9-11 story they wished to tell. … I consider this a failure of the 9-11 staff – a failure that the 9-11 Commissioners themselves were victimized by – and continue to have perpetrated on them by the staff as is evidenced by their recent, groundless conclusion that ABLE DANGER’s findings were ‘urban legend’.”
A 23-year military intelligence veteran, Col. Shaffer was recently awarded the Bronze Star for bravery in Afghanistan. In a 2005 interview on Fox News, Col Shaffer asked, “Why did this operation, which was created in '99 to target Al Qaeda globally, offensively, why was that turned off in the Spring of 2001, four months before we were attacked? I can't answer that, either. I can tell you I was ordered out of the operation directly by a two-star general.”

Supporting Col. Shaffer’s statement, Capt. Scott J. Phillpott, U.S. Navy, currently Commanding Officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and former head of the Able Danger data mining program, stated in 2005: “I will not discuss this outside of my chain of command. I have briefed the Department of the Army, the Special Operations Command and the office of (Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence) Dr. Cambone as well as the 9/11 Commission. My story has remained consistent. Atta was identified by Able Danger in January/February 2000.” Capt. Phillpott is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, who during his 23 years of Navy service has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Navy Commendation Medals, and the Navy Achievement Medal.

Joel Skousen

Gen. Albert Stubblebine Former U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot Joel M. Skousen also questions the official account of 9/11. After his military service, Mr. Skousen served as Chairman of the Conservative National Committee in Washington DC and Executive Editor of Conservative Digest.

“In the March 2005 issue, PM [Popular Mechanics] magazine singled out 16 issues or claims of the 9/11 skeptics that point to government collusion and systematically attempted to debunk each one. Of the 16, most missed the mark and almost half were straw men arguments - either ridiculous arguments that few conspiracists believed or restatements of the arguments that were highly distorted so as to make them look weaker than they really were. ...

“I am one of those who claim there are factual arguments pointing to conspiracy, and that truth is not served by taking cheap shots at those who see gaping flaws in the government story ... There is significant evidence that the aircraft impacts did not cause the collapse [of the Twin Towers] ...

The issues of the penetration hole [at the Pentagon] and the lack of large pieces of debris simply do not jive with the official story, but they are explainable if you include the parking lot video evidence that shows a huge white explosion at impact. This cannot happen with an aircraft laden only with fuel. It can only happen in the presence of high explosives.”

Major General Albert Stubblebine, U.S. Army (ret), former Commanding General of U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), is a strong critic of the official account of 9/11. In a 2006 video documentary he said, “One of my experiences in the Army was being in charge of the Army’s Imagery Interpretation for Scientific and Technical Intelligence during the Cold War. I measured pieces of Soviet equipment from photographs. It was my job. I look at the hole in the Pentagon and I look at the size of an airplane that was supposed to have hit the Pentagon. And I said, ‘The plane does not fit in that hole’. So what did hit the Pentagon? What hit it? Where is it? What's going on?”

During his 32-year Army career, Gen. Stubblebine also commanded the U.S. Army’s Electronic Research and Development Command and the U.S. Army’s Intelligence School and Center. Gen. Stubblebine is one of the inductees into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.
“There is a well-organized cover-up of the events of 11 Sep 2001. The 9/11 Commission was a white-washed farce. There is evidence that US Government officials had advance knowledge of and are probably implicated in the events of 9/11,” wrote retired military physician, Col. James R. Uhl, MD, U.S. Army (ret), in a statement to this author.

“A huge body of physical evidence has been ignored, suppressed, and ridiculed by the media and by our Government. Why did WTC 7 collapse? It was never hit by an airplane and was apparently brought down by explosives. How could Al-Qaida terrorists have had access and time to plant bombs in a top secret installation? Why did the 9/11 Commission fail to seek the reason for the WTC 7 collapse?” continued Col. Uhl, a 38-year Army veteran, who served in several theaters of operations, from Viet Nam through Iraq.

Capt. Russ Wittenberg Capt. Russ Wittenberg, U.S. Air Force, is a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot with over 100 combat missions and a retired commercial pilot, who flew for Pan Am and United Airlines for 35 years.

According to Capt. Wittenberg, “The government story they handed us about 9/11 is total B.S., plain and simple.

In the 2007 documentary video, 9/11 Ripple Effect,he said “I flew the two actual aircraft which were involved in 9/11; the Fight number 175 and Flight 93, the 757 that allegedly went down in Shanksville and Flight 175 is the aircraft that's alleged to have hit the South Tower.
“I don't believe it's possible for, like I said, for a terrorist, a so-called terrorist, to train on a [Cessna] 172, then jump in a cockpit of a 757-767 class cockpit, and vertical navigate the aircraft, lateral navigate the aircraft, and fly the airplane at speeds exceeding its design limit speed by well over 100 knots, make high-speed high-banked turns, exceeding -- pulling probably 5, 6, 7 G's. And the aircraft would literally fall out of the sky. I couldn't do it and I'm absolutely positive they couldn't do it.” Regarding Flight 77, which allegedly hit the Pentagon, Capt. Wittenberg said, ”The airplane could not have flown at those speeds which they said it did without going into what they call a high speed stall. The airplane won’t go that fast if you start pulling those high G maneuvers at those bank angles. … To expect this alleged airplane to run these maneuvers with a total amateur at the controls is simply ludicrous ... It’s roughly a 100 ton airplane. And an airplane that weighs 100 tons all assembled is still going to have 100 tons of disassembled trash and parts after it hits a building. There was no wreckage from a 757 at the Pentagon. … The vehicle that hit the Pentagon was not Flight 77. We think, as you may have heard before, it was a cruise missile.”

Col. Ann Wright

Capt. Gregory Zeigler Another senior officer questioning the official account of 9/11 is Col. Ann Wright, U.S. Army (ret), who said in a 2007 interview with Richard Greene on the Air America Radio Network, “It's incredible some of these things that still are unanswered. The 9/11 Report -- that was totally inadequate. I mean the questions that anybody has after reading that.”

Col. Wright is one of three U.S. State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003. She served for 13 years on active duty and 16 additional years on reserve duty in the U.S. Army. She joined the Foreign Service in 1987 and served for 16 years as a U.S. Diplomat. She served as Deputy Chief of Mission of U.S. Embassies in Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Afghanistan and she helped reopen the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in December, 2001.

She continued in her interview: “How could our national intelligence and defense operations be so inept that they could not communicate; that they could not scramble jets; that they could not take defensive action? And I totally agree. I always thought the Pentagon had all sorts of air defense sort of equipment around it; that they could take out anything that was coming at it. And for a plane to be able to just fly low right over Washington and slam into that thing is just -- I mean, you still just shake your head. How in the world could that happen?”

Capt. Gregory M. Zeigler, PhD, is a former U.S. Army Intelligence Officer. In a 2006 statement to this author, Capt. Zeigler wrote, “I knew from September 18, 2001, that the official story about 9/11 was false. That was when I realized that the perpetrators had made a colossal blunder in collapsing the South Tower first, rather than the North Tower, which had been hit more directly and earlier.

“Other anomalies poured in rapidly: the hijackers' names appearing in none of the published flight passenger lists, BBC reports of stolen identities of the alleged hijackers or the alleged hijackers being found alive, the obvious demolitions of WTC 1 and 2 and WTC 7, the lack of identifiable Boeing 757 wreckage at the Pentagon, the impossibility of ordinary cell phone (as opposed to Airfone) calls being made consistently from passenger aircraft at cruising altitude, etc., etc., etc.”

Shortly after the release of the 9/11 Commission Report, a group of over 100 prominent Americans signed a petition urging Congress to immediately reinvestigate 9/11. In addition to two former senior CIA officials and several U.S. State Department veterans, the signers included Lt. Col. Robert Bowman and Capt. Eric H. May, both mentioned above.

The petition stated, in part, “We want truthful answers to questions such as:

1. Why were standard operating procedures for dealing with hijacked airliners not followed that day?

2. Why were the extensive missile batteries and air defenses reportedly deployed around the Pentagon not activated during the attack?

3. Why did the Secret Service allow Bush to complete his elementary school visit, apparently unconcerned about his safety or that of the schoolchildren?

4. Why hasn't a single person been fired, penalized, or reprimanded for the gross incompetence we witnessed that day?

5. Why haven't authorities in the U.S. and abroad published the results of multiple investigations into trading that strongly suggested foreknowledge of specific details of the 9/11 attacks, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of traceable gains?”

These questions and many others still remain unanswered three years after the petition was submitted and six years after the terrible events of 9/11. As the statements of these twenty-five former U.S. military officers demonstrate, the need for a new thorough, and independent investigation of 9/11 is not a matter of partisan politics, nor the demand of irresponsible, deranged, or disloyal Americans. It is instead a matter of the utmost importance for America’s security and the future of the entire world.

Bringing in Rove

What Karl Rove Fears Most

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Friday, May 2, 2008; 1:18 PM

Former White House political guru Karl Rove may be the reigning champion when it comes to the Bush administration's practice of giving the superficial impression of answering a question, while in fact dodging, weaving and spinning to the point of misdirection.

When he's in situations where he knows his statements won't be challenged -- lectures, op-eds, appearances on Fox News -- the alleged master of political dirty tricks is happy to deny various accusations that have been made against him. On the subject of the possibly politically-motivated prosecution of a former Democratic official, for instance, he's been all over the media, vaguely denying involvement.

There is, however, one thing that Rove avoids at all cost: being forced to answer a direct question -- especially under oath. So it's not surprising that he refuses to do so before the Congressional committee investigating what actually happened to that Democratic official.

But things could be coming to a head.

Ben Evans writes for the Associated Press: "The House Judiciary Committee threatened Thursday to subpoena former White House adviser Karl Rove if he does not agree by May 12 to testify about former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman's corruption case.

"In a letter to Rove's attorney, committee Democrats called it 'completely unacceptable' that the Republican political strategist has rejected the panel's request for sworn testimony even as he discusses the matter publicly through the media.

"'We can see no justification for his refusal to speak on the record to the committee,' the letter states. 'We urge you and your client to reconsider . . . or we will have no choice but to consider the use of compulsory process.'

"Committee Democrats are investigating whether Rove and Republican appointees at the Justice Department influenced Siegelman's prosecution to kill his chances for re-election. It is part of a broader inquiry into whether U.S. attorneys were fired for not aggressively pursuing cases against Democrats."

This, of course, is only the latest development in a long standoff between Bush and Congress over testimony from current and former White House staffers. See my Mar. 11 column, Playing Constitutional Chicken, and Tuesday's column, Cheney's Total Impunity.

Here's yesterday's announcement from House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers.

On April 7, MSNBC anchor Dan Abrams reported that Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said Rove would agree to testify if Congress issues a subpoena to him as part of an investigation into the Siegelman case.

Ten days later, committee members invited Rove to appear, citing among other things Rove's interview with GQ magazine. In that interview, Rove hurled insults at CBS News for airing a 60 Minutes segment on the Siegelman case, called his chief accuser a "lunatic" -- but didn't specifically deny any of the accusations.

In an April 29 letter back to the committee, Luskin wrote that Rove would only appear under the following conditions: "Mr. Rove is prepared to make himself available for an interview on this specific issue with Committee staff. Mr. Rove would speak candidly and truthfully about this matter, but the interview would not be transcribed nor would Mr. Rove be under oath."

Yesterday, Conyers and three colleagues fired back: "[A]n interview conducted without a transcript and not under oath would frustrate a full and fair inquiry. An interview without a transcript is an invitation to confusion and will not permit us to obtain a straightforward and clear record, as several of us have explained in response to a similar offer by White House counsel Fred Fielding in the U.S. Attorney matter. . . .

"We simply do not understand why anyone who is prepared to tell the truth would object to an oath and a record of what is said. This is particularly true in this case, where Mr. Rove has already spoken on the record on this subject."

As I wrote in my April 22 column, a letter Rove himself sent to MSBNC's Dan Abrams -- the only network anchor who's devoted substantial time to the Siegelman case -- was a classic.

Rove likes questions as long as he's asking them -- he raised 59 of them, most of them argumentative, about Abrams's coverage. But at the same time, he answered none of the obvious questions about his own conduct. The closest he came to an actual denial was this carefully phrased declaration: "I certainly didn't meet with anyone at the Justice Department or either of the two U.S. Attorneys in Alabama about investigating or indicting Siegelman." But did he talk to anyone, or e-mail them? Did any of his subordinates? Did he express interest in prosecuting Siegelman to anyone, in any way?

Abrams wrote back, appropriately enough: "Your letter poses questions that you believe I should have asked as part of our coverage, but many of the most significant ones only you can answer. . . . You accuse me of 'diminishing the search for facts and evidence,' yet thus far you have refused to answer any questions under oath or even from me that would aid in that very search."

Another Rove Mention

Andrew Stern writes for Reuters: "A witness at the trial of political fundraiser Antoin Rezko testified on Thursday that then-White House aide Karl Rove was asked to replace the federal prosecutor in Chicago to abort a probe of Illinois corruption.

"Rove has denied knowledge of any discussion to replace Patrick Fitzgerald, the widely respected U.S. attorney in Chicago, when Rove was one of President George W. Bush's top advisers."

Prosecution witness Ali Ata "said Rezko told him in 2004 when the FBI's investigation of Rezko became public, that 'there will be a change in the U.S. attorney's office' and the probe would end. . . .

"Robert Kjellander, a leading Illinois Republican and former treasurer of the Republican National Committee, is a friend of Rove's. . . .

"Asked by the prosecutor how Ata imagined Rezko could engineer the change, Ata said Rezko told him, 'Mr. Kjellander will talk to Karl Rove and make a change in the U.S. attorney's office.' . . .

"When prosecutors revealed that Ata would testify about the supposed plot to remove Fitzgerald, Kjellander and Rove both denied the allegation, saying there was nothing to it."

I don't know exactly when in 2004 this allegedly happened, but as I chronicled in my Mar. 16, 2007, column, The Politics of Distraction, we do know that in January 2005, Rove stopped by the White House counsel's office to float the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys.



by Harsha Walia

Recently the Conservative government introduced amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, buried in the Budget Implementation Bill C-50. By making it a matter of confidence, the government forced opposition parties to accept them or call an election.

Despite being opposed to the Bill, the Liberals chose to safeguard their own electoral interests over the principles of justice and fairness. Immigration Minister Diane Finley has attempted to downplay Bill C-50's significance by characterizing it as "small changes to modernize the system"; while launching an unprecedented multimillion dollar advertisement campaign, largely running in 'ethnic' media only and containing very few substantive details. The ads are the first time that Citizenship and Immigration Canada has launched an ad campaign to promote legislation that Parliament has not yet passed.

Under the proposed changes, even if someone meets the necessary - already stringent criteria for a visa (such as a permanent resident visa), the ministry can arbitrarily reject the application. Humanitarian and Compassionate applications no longer have to be examined if the applicant is outside Canada. The ministry will have the power to decide the order in which applications are processed, regardless of when they are filed.

The minister will also have the power to issue quotas and restrictions on the country of origin and category of person. This modification would sanction racism similar to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act or the 1911 Order in Council prohibiting the landing of "any immigrant belonging to the Negro race."

The government says there will be no discrimination as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will be respected; however the Charter does not apply to potential immigrants. Furthermore, the government says the instructions will be transparent; however this publication will occur after the Bill comes into effect and will not be subject to any consultation or approval process.

The government says these amendments will not give them power to intervene in individual cases. However, the very nature of these changes is to allow for discretion in rejecting or discarding applications that meet the existing criteria.

The government has said that the changes will not affect family reunification. However, the bill includes the power to issue restrictions in the Family Class category and overseas Humanitarian and Compassionate claims.

The government says these changes will not impact refugees. However, refugees will be affected by the withdrawal of the legal right to permanent residence if they meet the requirements of the law and the elimination of the right to have an overseas Humanitarian and Compassionate application examined.

The main justification the government is providing for Bill C-50 is that it will fix the backlog. However, instead of getting rid of the inexcusably long waiting list by easing immigration bureaucratic controls, their solution is to give themselves the power to simply kick people off the list.

An array of organizations have expressed their opposition, including the Canadian Bar Association, Canadian Council for Refugees, Canadian Arab Federation, Canadian Labour Congress, African Canadian Legal Clinic, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Chinese Canadian National Council.

The major lobby for Bill C-50 comes from business organizations who want immigration policy to meet labour market needs, meaning immigrants are disposable other than their value as labour. The Conservative government says they are "welcoming record numbers of newcomers" but the reality is that migrants are not welcome unless they are wealthy, super-professional, or are willing to work as temporary workers without basic legal protection. In Canada today, the number of people admitted each year on temporary worker visas is greater than the number admitted as permanent residents.

What motivates the Canadian government and businesses to recruit temporary workers is that they are essentially indentured servants. A 2006 North-South Institute study documented systemic abuse amongst migrant workers, including low wages, long hours with no overtime pay, unsafe working conditions, discrimination, and being tied to the "importing" employer.

Bill C-50 and the Safe Third Country Agreement creates a "Fortress Canada" by disallowing up to 40 per cent of asylum seekers, and the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership sanction the favouring of migrant workers as labour market commodities while creating an increasingly hostile climate to family class immigrants, refugees, and displaced migrants.

At the same time, the Conservative government has hypocritically and opportunistically made announcements to acknowledge the Komagata Maru tragedy and allocated money to commemorate the Ukrainian-Canadian internment and the Chinese Head Tax. Yet these historical injustices are being perpetuated through racist, exploitative, and restrictive policies such as Bill C-50.

Harsha Walia is a member of No One Is Illegal.

(This article is from the June 1-15, 2008, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited.)


Friday, May 30, 2008

The Unwelcome Jew: Israel Bans Finkelstein

Israel imposes a 10-year ban on American critic of Israeli policies
(updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV)

On Friday, Israeli security forces, Shin Bet, detained Norman Finkelstein when he tried to enter Israel, kept him in an airport holding cell for 24 hours, ordered him deported from the country, and then imposed a 10-year ban on his entry. Finkelstein, the son of a Holocaust survivor, is a Jewish-American author and academic who has frequently criticized the Israeli Government and provoked extreme animosity among right-wing factions in the U.S. He had flown to Israel 15 times previously without incident and was never charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime.

This morning, I interviewed Finkelstein regarding this episode and related issues (the audio for which is here). I also interviewed Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, whose animosity towards Finkelstein is intense and long-standing. Dershowitz, to his credit (and, given the below-described events, somewhat ironically) was quite critical of Israel's exclusion of Finkelstein. The full interview with Dershowitz can be heard here.

This morning, the Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz, published an Editorial emphatically criticizing the government's exclusion of Finkelstein, rejecting the notion that Finkelstein posed any remote security threat and noting: "Considering his unusual and extremely critical views, one cannot avoid the suspicion that refusing to allow him to enter Israel was a punishment rather than a precaution." Haaretz further highlighted the danger of allowing the Government to suppress viewpoints it dislikes:

[T]he right of Israeli citizens to hear unusual views is one that should be fought for. It is not for the government to decide which views should be heard here and which ones should not.

The decision to ban Finkelstein hurts us more than it hurts him.

Beyond the obvious significance of the story itself (one which has been written about extensively in the foreign press, including Europe, but which is missing almost completely from the American media), this episode is part of a very disturbing trend whereby advocates of right-wing Israeli policies try to suppress viewpoints that deviate from their orthodoxies.

Finkelstein -- a Ph.D from Princeton and the author of numerous books -- was himself the subject of an extraordinary (and ultimately successful) campaign (with the enthusiastic leadership of "free speech advocate" Dershowitz, people like Marty Peretz and other neocons who dislike his views) to have him denied tenure by DePaul University, where he had taught for seven years. He was denied tenure even though the Political Science Department (by a 9-3 vote) and the Personnel Committee (unanimously) recommended him for tenure.

As The Chicago Tribune reported: "The American Association of University Professors had previously complained to the university that Finkelstein's summary discharge violated standards of academic freedom." Since then, no other university has been willing to risk the controversy that would be inevitably provoked if it hired Finkelstein, who has therefore been unemployed since leaving DePaul.

That campaign against Finkelstein was similar to the (also successful) one spearheaded by various American neoconservatives to block Yale University from extending a tenure position to University of Michigan Professor (and critic of Israeli policies) Juan Cole -- who stood accused (falsely) of harboring a "deep and abiding hatred of Israel"; that "if it were up to Mr. Cole, the country wouldn't exist at all"; and being "best known for disparaging the participation of prominent American Jews in government." Despite being approved for tenure by the Yale departments he was to join, Professor Cole's appointment was rejected by a Yale appointments committee in the wake of the neoconservative campaign against him. As Inside Higher Ed reported at the time, in an article entitled "Blackballed at Yale":

[NYU Professor of Middle East Studies Zachary] Lockman said that Cole is "one of the preeminent historians of the modern Middle East and he's been attacked on political grounds -- because he's critical of the Bush administration and Israel." Given Cole's reputation and the departmental backing for his appointment, Lockman said of the decision to reject Cole: "Universities seem to be willing to kowtow to pressure from outside interest groups" . . . .

"These vicious attacks on my character and my views were riddled with with wild inaccuracies," [Cole] said, adding that the criticism was "motivated by a desire to punish me for daring to stand up for Palestinian rights, criticize Israeli policy, criticize Bush administration policies and, in general being a liberal Democrat."

Over the past several years, the U.S. has itself refused entry to those espousing views on Israel disagreeable to neocons. In 2004, Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Muslim scholar from Switzerland who was to teach a course at the University of Notre Dame, was granted an entrance visa only to have it revoked by Homeland Security based on vague accusations that he posed a security threat. As The Guardian's Richard Silverstein noted, the visa revocation occurred after Ramadan was continuously attacked by neocons like Daniel Pipes with "false claims about Ramadan's sympathy for terrorism." Independent of Israel-related issues, there are numerous other cases of journalists, authors and others being refused entrance to the U.S. on the most dubious grounds that simply do not exist anywhere else in the free world.

In fact, the problem of right-wing attacks on free speech when it comes to Israel is -- as Finkelstein himself in my interview with him noted -- far worse in the U.S. than it is in Israel. As the Haaretz Editorial reflects, Israel is a pluralistic society that tolerates a much broader range of debate over Israeli actions than is permissible in the U.S. Indeed, just yesterday, Marty Peretz lamented that Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt are lecturing this month at Hebrew University in Jerusalem on "The Israel Lobby." While suggestions of negotiations with Hamas is a taboo topic for American politicians, a majority of Israelis support that option. Views that are routinely castigated by neocons in the U.S. as "anti-Israeli" and even "anti-Semitic" are freely expressed in Israel, by Israelis, with regularity.

Still, Israel's 10-year exclusion of Finkelstein is disturbing and warrants real criticism. As Finkelstein noted in my interview with him, he was not intending to stay in Israel, but rather, to visit friends in the Occupied Territory. Thus, the issue extends beyond Israel's attempt to bar those with dissenting views from entering that country to Israel's attempt to deny Palestinians the ability to meet with those who are critical of Israel's occupation. Right-wing, Israel-centric factions in the U.S. have conclusively demonstrated that they oppose free debate and don't believe in free expression. It can't be good for Israel -- and, either way, it's certainly not justifiable -- for Israel to follow in their pernicious footsteps.

UPDATE: The interview with Finkelstein can be heard here. It's roughly 20 minutes. The interview with Dershowitz (roughly 6 minutes) can be heard here.

UPDATE II: The Jerusalem Post reports that Finkelstein's exclusion was, in fact, based on the government's dislike of his political views:

American political scientist and fierce critic of Israel, Prof. Norman Finkelstein, was denied entry to Israel and deported from the country early Saturday morning. Officials said that the decision to deport Finkelstein was connected to his anti-Zionist opinions and fierce public criticism of Israel around the world. . . .

Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard was active in campaigning against Finkelstein. His most recent book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, is largely an attack on Dershowitz's The Case for Israel. In his book, Finkelstein argues that Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-Semitism as a weapon to stifle criticism.

It's unclear what "anti-Zionist" in that context is supposed to mean, since Finkelstein has long advocated for a two-state solution based on Israel's 1967 borders -- the position that can, more or less, be described as an international consensus -- but what matters here is the acknowledgment that the exclusion was viewpoint-based. Some in comments had baselessly speculated that the exclusion was due to Finkelstein's having met with Hezbollah officials -- a fact which even the extremely anti-Hezbollah Dershowitz (as well as the Haaretz Editorial) agreed would not be a basis for exclusion, but clearly, not even Israeli government officials are invoking that pretext.

UPDATE III: Philip Weiss points to this article in The Telegraph, in which former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski complained that "the slur of anti-Semitism was too readily used" against critics of the Israeli government and its right-wing supporters in the U.S.:
Mr. Brzezinski has been accused of being "anti-Israel" by some Jewish academics, writers and bloggers after criticising Israel for excessive use of force and unwillingness to compromise. . . .

Mr Brzezinski said "it's not unique to the Jewish community -- but there is a McCarthyite tendency among some people in the Jewish community", referring to the Republican senator who led the anti-Communist witch hunt in the 1950s.

"They operate not by arguing but by slandering, vilifying, demonising. They very promptly wheel out anti-Semitism. There is an element of paranoia in this inclination to view any serious attempt at a compromised peace as somehow directed against Israel."

These sorts of debate-suppressive tactics -- aside from being inherently wrong -- never advance the cause on behalf of which they're invoked. Coincidentally, Brzezinksi has a superb Op-Ed in today's Washington Post, co-authored with the equally superb retired Gen. William Odom, on creating a sensible American policy towards Iran.

UPDATE IV: One of the points which the Haaretz Editorial made in opposing the exclusion of Finkelstein is that right-wing Jewish-American extremists who, unlike Finkelstein, do pose a real security threat, are regularly allowed entry into Israel: "the decision is all the more surprising when one recalls the ease with which right-wing activists from the Meir Kahane camp -- the kind whose activities pose a security threat that no longer requires further proof -- are able to enter the country."

At Open Left, Paul Rosenberg examines an analogous inequity: while even the mildest critics of Israel on the Left are routinely demonized by neocons as "anti-Israeli" or "anti-Semitic," truly extreme hatemongers on the Right -- such as John Hagee -- are not only tolerated but embraced. Thus, Joe Lieberman, who previously compared Hagee to "Moses" in the midst of bathing Hagee with lavish praise, still refuses to repudiate Hagee or cancel his scheduled appearance at a Hagee event even in the wake of Hagee's comments that Hitler and the Holocaust were "God's will" to drive Jews back to Israel. Few things are more destructive than those like Lieberman who transparently exploit "anti-Israel" and "anti-Semitism" accusations to silence debate and for their own political gain.

-- Glenn Greenwald


Thursday, May 29, 2008

WB and Friends Circle Poor with Promise of Loans and Grants

Liberia: World Bank Pledges Us $10 Million to Country At TICAD
The Analyst (Monrovia)
29 May 2008 Posted to the web 29 May 2008


World Bank Boosts Aid To Fight Hunger
By VOA News
29 May 2008

The World Bank says it is boosting its efforts to fight the global food crisis by providing an extra $1.2 billion in grants and loans.

Thursday's announcement says the aid includes $200 million in grants to help vulnerable people in the poorest nations.

The poverty-fighting agency also says it is raising its support for agriculture and food aid next year by $2 billion, to a total of $6 billion.

The increase means agricultural lending in Africa will almost double to $800 million, and Latin America will also get a major boost.

Earlier, a report from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization said high food prices may continue for years.

The report says grain and other food costs may move downward from recent record-highs, but are not likely to reach their previous low levels any time soon.

The report, which was jointly published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation, says 862 million people already suffer from hunger, and high prices make the situation worse.

The report urges food-producing nations to stop limiting exports, and says developed countries should reexamine policies that shift food crops to biofuel production.

The FAO says farmers in poor nations need help getting seeds, fertilizer, animal feed, and other materials. It also urges more investment in agriculture and rural infrastructure to stimulate productivity.

The report was released ahead of a global conference on food problems scheduled for next week in Rome.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

The World Bank has announced that it will provide US $10 million dollars to assist Liberia in tackling the sharp increases in the price of food.

The funds, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said, would be used to support agriculture production in the country. World Bank Board Executives, he said, are meeting this week to work out the details.

The Bank's announcement, an Executive Mansion dispatch says, came Thursday during high level panel discussions on the challenges and opportunities of high food prices.

World Bank President Zoellick was responding to an intervention by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for speedy action by financial institutions and the international community to tackle the food crisis.

Timing, the Liberian leader pleaded, is of essence, as she warned that any delays by the international community to respond quickly to the food crisis could have adverse consequences on countries, particularly post-conflict nations like Liberia.

The discussions are part of deliberations at the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development currently convening in Yokohama, Japan. The conference ends Friday, with a pledge by Japan to train one hundred thousand local medical workers over the next five years in Africa.

Tokyo will also aim to double the production of rice in Africa to 28 million tons over the next 10 years to help stabilize food supplies. Measures will include building irrigation facilities, improving rice varieties and training agricultural instructors, Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda revealed Wednesday.

Mr. Zoellick said the assistance being provided Liberia is intended to help boost agricultural production in the country, by providing farmers all the requisite support they need to grow more food. Haiti, the World Bank President announced, will also receive similar support.

Mr. Zoellick disclosed that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other international institutions are drawing up a comprehensive program to determine an efficient and effective approach in dealing with the situation.

At Thursday's discussions, panelists agreed that an immediate robust and comprehensive approach is crucial in tackling the food crisis. Executives of the WFP, the Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the African Development Bank (ADB) have spoken of medium and long term initiatives to mitigate the impact of high food prices.

Saudi Arabia has meanwhile been lauded for a contribution of US $500 million dollars to the WFP. The Program's Executive Director, Ms. Josette Sheeran, described the contribution as significant. The amount, she said, represents the single largest contribution to the WFP and will fill in a spending gap created as a result of the sharp rise in the price of food.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fakuda, who also participated in the high level panel discussions, said the issue will be taken up at the G-8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit in July. Mr. Fukuda said the international community needs to unite its efforts to address the threat the sharp food price increases poses.

In another development, the European Union Commission has announced that a decision has been reached by the Commission to provide 25 million Euros (US $35 million) to support Liberia's County Development Projects.

Making the disclosure Thursday during a meeting with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, European Union Commissioner Louis Michel informed the President that the Commission is also working out programs to support the development of the country's infrastructure, including roads, electricity as well as the health sector.

The Commission, Mr. Michel said, is working out plans to open a local office in Monrovia to facilitate its activities. "We need to show the peace dividend now so that the venerable young population does not fall back into problems anymore," Mr. Michel assured the President. The EC, he said, will also provide support for the General Auditing Commission (GAC).

President Johnson Sirleaf has meanwhile held discussions with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. During Thursday's meeting, both leaders shared post-conflict experiences of national development in their respective countries.

The leaders expressed hope for a systematic and coordinated approach in tackling the food crisis. Like Rwanda, Liberia experienced a devastating civil conflict which ended over five years ago.