Saturday, May 29, 2004

Area 51 calling

You know, it's not as if we don't have enough provable conspiracies, inanities, and cruelties to choose from. I don't see why we have to go looking for bogus ones. We know about the in-fighting, the deceptions, the double-talk, deceit, and disinformation, the CYA about WMD, leading up to the Iraq War. We know about the deliberate attempts to connect Saddam Hussein falsely to 9/11. We know about the torture of prisoners and that the White House was specifically warned about "abuses" at Abu Ghraib months before anything was done (and then done only because of a gutsy whistleblower); and we know that the methods used had to be approved at a Cabinet level (i.e., by Donald Rumsfeld). We know about the curtailment, confinement, and criminalization of dissent at home, about the increasing practice of "arrest first and investigate later." We know about the deaths, the murders, the bombings, the blood on our hands.

So why are we wasting our energy on fantasies?

First, there was Nick Berg, his murder drowning in "unanswered questions" and "contradictions" and OHMIGOD!! "facts" that are usually the currency of choice of the black-helicopter crowd. Now, there are indeed questions and confusions about his arrest by Iraqi? US? is there really a difference? forces with a string of officials going "not I" and referring inquiries to someone else. (My own suspicion, as I've said before, is that he was in some legalistic, technical sense in the custody of the Iraqis but at the behest of the US, giving each a way to say that they weren't the ones holding him.)

But the fact is, as I mentioned the other day, he was released, after which he not only contacted his family, he was seen by two friends and the staff of the hotel where he was staying. His arrest and his subsequent kidnapping were two separate events - but you'd be hard put to find a conspiracy claim that doesn't conflate them.

I simply have no time for that kind of nonsense.

But now there's a new one: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

In discussing the Berg conspiracists, I noted that one outfit called Zarqawi "a flimsy propaganda creation" who only came to light in January, 2004. I figured that reflected simple (but rather large-scale) ignorance of the issue, but apparently they're not the only ones casting a wary eye in his direction.

Hesiod, the person behind Counterspin, had this to say on Thursday:
Anyone notice who's missing from the United States' "Most Wanted Terrorist" list?

This is another piece of a puzzle that indicates to me that Zarqawi is in fact an American agent.

He's being pumped up as part of a disinformation campaign by the CIA in order to gather intelligence against terrorist operations. He's got to be given credibility in the eyes of terrorists, so he's credited with all sorts of evil deeds.

That would explain his "letter" to Bin Laden offering an alliance, and complaining about how successful the U.S. was in Iraq.

It would explain why his terrorist camp wasn't bombed before the Iraq war.

It would explain why his name was grafted onto the Nick Berg video, and why other people unaffiliated with Al Qaeda were arrested for the crime. (How did they even know who these people were?)

It explains why, despite his being terrorist bogeyman number one right now, he's not listed on the most wanted list. And it cannot be because he's dead. They still list Mohammed Atef, even though he was supposedly killed in Afghanistan.

I may be crazy, but this smells.
Oh my. Have we really come this far? This is the caption on the web page to which Hesiod links; it's a list of the FBI's "most wanted terrorists."
The alleged terrorists on this list have been indicted by sitting Federal Grand Juries in various jurisdictions in the United States for the crimes reflected on their wanted posters. Evidence was gathered and presented to the Grand Juries, which led to their being charged. The indictments currently listed on the posters allow them to be arrested and brought to justice. Future indictments may be handed down as various investigations proceed in connection to other terrorist incidents, for example, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

It is also important to note that these individuals will remain wanted in connection with their alleged crimes until such time as the charges are dropped or when credible physical evidence is obtained, which proves with 100% accuracy, that they are deceased.
Note first that it says those on the list have been indicted in the US, which Zarqawi, as far as I'm aware, has not. So there'd be no reason for him to be on the list. And it says that the name would only come off when they are absolutely sure the person is dead, which lets out the "supposedly" dead Atef. When the very evidence you cite flatly contradicts you, you've got a pretty damn weak case.

But just for the sake of completeness, let's glance at the rest of the arguments.

The letter to bin Laden: At the time, many among us, including Hesiod, suspected that it was a forgery (although, in fairness, he was less certain than some). He even linked to my analysis that expressed my own doubts about it. (Full disclosure: At the time, I concluded it was probably genuine but deliberately over the top in its descriptions of US successes, the better to argue for assistance.) Yet now it would have to be genuine for the argument to have any validity at all.

The terrorist camp: Another metamorphosis. It was widely noted that once journalists got to this supposed "camp" they could see that there really wasn't much of anything there. And since it was in Kurdish-controlled territory, bombing it could have angered people whose assistance we were counting on in the invasion.

The video: "Grafted on?" What the hell does that mean? Is he saying the video has been altered? That it's a fake? Are we back to that?

Other people arrested: There were four people arrested, two of who were quickly released. They are supposedly former members of Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen paramilitary - but
Iraqi sources would not say whether any of the four suspects in custody were among [those in the video], or whether the detainees were linked to the case in another way.
How that says anything at all about Zarqawi one way or another is quite beyond me.

People unaffiliated with Al Qaeda: Zarqawi is unaffiliated with al-Qaeda! He associates with bin Laden, sometimes has worked with bin Laden, but he's an independent agent who heads his own organization! Why is that so hard for us to get into our heads?

And all of this is supposed to show somehow that Zarqawi is a US agent. Hello? Do we think that terrorists operating now in Iraq have no contact with each other? That they would not very quickly smell a very big rat when all kinds of operations are connected to this Zarqawi fella which they know from their own sources were done by someone else?

I also can't help but note another aspect that always seems to arise with these kinds of speculations: the need for US spy agencies to be either Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Clouseau, either as devious as Machiavelli or as dumb as Ogrons, and to shift smoothly and instantly from one to the other, to whichever is required at any given moment for the conspiracy notions to hold up. In this case, we are to accept that the US set up someone as Zarqawi, in effect created a terrorist profile for him, had him in the field for years, tried to build his importance with a bunch of phony attributions of evil deeds (even though attention is the last thing any good spy would want to draw to themselves) - and then were so stupid as to leave him off a "most wanted" list.

This just won't fly. I admire Hesiod, read Counterspin regularly (I'm sure you've noticed it on my shortlist of links), but this is taking a running jump off the deep end. And I have no time for this kind of nonsense, either. Although I might later offer, at greater length than I did in discussing Nick Berg, some thoughts as to why we seem so intent on manufacturing deviousness when the real deviousness should be more than enough to keep us busy. We'll see.

Footnote: As relevant here as anywhere, I suppose. It seems the experts feel the same way I did about the blood during Nick Berg's decapitation. For example,
Dr John Simpson, executive director for surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, told Ritt Goldstein of the Asia Times, "I would have thought that all the people in the vicinity would have been covered in blood, in a matter of seconds ... if it [the video] was genuine".

Simpson agrees with other experts who find it highly probable that Berg had died before his decapitation.
Some are, bizarrely, trying to use this as evidence the video was faked. It seems to me it just supports the contention that Nick Berg was actually killed sometime during the 11-hour gap between segments of the tape and they were cutting off the head of a dead man.

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