Saturday, July 17, 2004
Mystery solved -- about that naval deployment
I realized that the deployment was unusual, but had no more information on it. Now I know, thanks to Chalmers Johnson in the LA Times.
Quietly and with minimal coverage in the U.S. press, the Navy announced that from mid-July through August it would hold exercises dubbed Operation Summer Pulse '04 in waters off the China coast near Taiwan.
This will be the first time in U.S. naval history that seven of our 12 carrier strike groups deploy in one place at the same time. It will look like the peacetime equivalent of the Normandy landings and may well end in a disaster.
Operation Summer Pulse '04 was almost surely dreamed up at the Pearl Harbor headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Command and its commander, Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, and endorsed by neocons in the Pentagon. It is doubtful that Congress was consulted. This only goes to show that our foreign policy is increasingly made by the Pentagon.
Needless to say, the Chinese are not amused. They say that their naval and air forces, plus their land-based rockets, are capable of taking on one or two carrier strike groups but that combat with seven would overwhelm them. So even before a carrier reaches the Taiwan Strait, Beijing has announced it will embark on a crash project that will enable it to meet and defeat seven U.S. carrier strike groups within a decade. There's every chance the Chinese will succeed if they are not overtaken by war first. [Emphasis mine]
In another post, I wrote of the renewing arms race with the Russians. Cheney and Rumsfeld don't have enough on their plates; now they want a little Chinese action.
If this administration lasts much longer, it may be the end of the world after all. Four more months!
Friday, July 16, 2004
The Butler Report and "AQ Khan"
Abdul Qadeer Khan, known affectionately as "AQ," is identified as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program. In the early 70s he worked for a Dutch-German concern involved in uranium enrichment. When he was asked by Pakistan’s then leader General Zia to come home to work on Pakistan’s uranium-enrichment program, he agreed to do so, but not before first stopping by his old office to pick up as many plans as he could stuff into his suitcase.
But I’m here to write about the Butler Report, which gives a significant portion of text to AQ Khan. Let’s start with the Table of Contents.
COUNTRIES OF CONCERN OTHER THAN IRAQ AND GLOBAL TRADE
2.1 Introduction 60-63 17
2.2 AQ Khan 17
2.3 Libya 20
2.4 Iran 22
2.5 North Korea 24
2.6 General Conclusions 107-109 26
Do you notice anything strange about this list? That’s right. AQ Khan is not a country.
Now if the report had been written by a U.S. Senate staffperson, I would take it to be an honest mistake, but the Brits usually have their geography down pat by the time they make their O-levels. This is not a mistake. It is an effort to avoid the word "Pakistan."
So let’s leap to a conclusion at the outset: The Butler Report is deceptive and weaselly. But then what did we expect?
And why did they cover AQ Khan?
Our terms of reference require us:To investigate the intelligence coverage available on WMD programmes of countries of concern and on global trade in WMD, taking into account what is now known about these programmes
So here’s what they determined about the intelligence on “AQ Khan.” As you read, feel free to substitute the word “Pakistan” as appropriate, and take note of the dates.
65. During the 1990s, there were intermittent clues from intelligence that AQ Khan was discussing the sale of nuclear technology to countries of concern. By early 2000, intelligence revealed that these were not isolated incidents. It became clear that Khan was at the centre of an international proliferation network.
66. By April 2000, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) was noting that there was an evolving, and as yet incomplete, picture of the supply of uranium enrichment equipment to at least one customer in the Middle East, thought to be Libya, and evidence linking this activity to Khan. By September 2000, it was pointing out that the network was expanding to mass-produce components for large-scale centrifuge cascades.
67. During 2001, the JIC continued to track AQ Khan’s activities. An assessment in March 2002 pulled together all the strands of intelligence on AQ Khan then available. The conclusions showed the wide spread of Khan’s network and that he had moved his base outside Pakistan and was now controlling it through his associates in Dubai. At the same time, intelligence showed that he had now established his own production facilities, in Malaysia. He was being helped in his activities by a network of associates and suppliers, including BSA Tahir (a Sri Lankan businessman operating out of Dubai).
68. By July 2002, the JIC had concluded that AQ Khan’s network was central to all aspects of the Libyan nuclear weapons programme. Since Khan had access to nuclear weapon designs and had been involved in the development of Pakistani missiles, the Government feared that he might not only pass on the technology for enriching uranium but that he might also enable his customers to build nuclear warheads for missiles. As intelligence continued to build up, the JIC assessed that this was the first case of a private enterprise offering a complete range of services to enable a customer to acquire highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
69. ... By January 2003, the JIC was becoming particularly concerned at the progress Libya might be able to make as a result of the assistance it had received from the network.
70. Action to close down the network had until this stage been deferred to allow the intelligence agencies to continue their operations to gather further information on the full extent of the network. This was important to gain a better understanding of the nuclear programmes of other countries which Khan was supplying. But Khan’s activities had now reached the point where it would be dangerous to allow them to go on.
71. At the tactical level, action was taken to interdict supplies of components moving from Khan’s manufacturing facility in Malaysia to Libya.... In October 2003, the BBC China, a German-registered ship carrying centrifuge parts, was diverted to Italy as part of a carefully-planned intelligence operation in co-operation with the Italian and German authorities. On the basis of the material found on board the BBC China, in November 2003 the UK and US Governments approached the Malaysian authorities to investigate a Malaysian company run by BSA Tahir. According to the official Malaysian police report:His [Tahir’s] involvement . . . started in 1994/1995. That year the [Pakistani nuclear expert] had asked B S A Tahir to send two containers of used centrifuge units from Pakistan to Iran. B S A Tahir organised the transshipment of the two containers from Dubai to Iran using a merchant ship owned by a company in Iran. B S A Tahir said the payment for the two containers of centrifuge units, amounting to about US$3 million, was paid in UAE Dirham currency by the Iranians. The cash was brought in two briefcases.
72. At the strategic level, action was taken in co-operation with President Musharraf of Pakistan to stop Khan from continuing his activities. Khan subsequently appeared on national television on 4 February 2004 to:...offer my deepest regrets and unqualified apologies to a traumatised nation ...
and admitted that an investigation by the Pakistani government:...has established that many of the reported activities did occur, and that these were inevitably initiated at my behest.
So what did the Butler Report conclude about all this?
74. The uncovering and dismantlement of this network is a remarkable tribute to the work of the intelligence agencies. As we looked at the reasons behind this success, several key points became apparent. First, a team of experts worked together over a period of years, overcoming setbacks and patiently piecing together the parts of the jigsaw. Although an element of luck was important in providing a breakthrough, this was not a flash in the pan. It was the result of a clear strategy, meticulously implemented, which included the identification of key members of the network and sustained work against their business activities. Secondly, there was close co-operation between UK and US agencies, with both sides working to the same agenda. But most importantly of all, there was strong integration in the UK between all the agencies. A decision was taken early on that at working level all information, however sensitive, would be shared.
75. There was also a high degree of co-operation between the agencies and policy-makers in departments. This enabled swift and effective action to be taken at the right time. The action was intelligence-led. The agencies uncovered the activities of the network. The development of policy and action to close it down followed:by interdicting shipments; seeking co-operation from the Pakistani authorities;taking action with the recipients of AQ Khan’s products, most notably Libya; and by encouraging legal action, where possible, against members of the network.
High praise, indeed.
But to get some perspective, we may need to go to India, which has a somewhat more jaundiced view on Pakistan.
In March of this year, Rediff.com reported,
The US knew of a network of nuclear proliferation from Pakistan for at least seven years before it was exposed, according to a report.
American, British and UN investigators found that a company in Pakistan was prepared to sell everything needed to make a nuclear bomb -- plans, equipment and fuel -- for $50 million, with no questions asked about how it might be used, it said.
The package was even advertised at a Pakistani arms show in 2000, where the company handed out brochures to visitors, including a reporter for a defence weekly.
"The company gave out two very glossy brochures, inside of which they promised to provide all of the components needed for a uranium-enrichment facility," ABC News quoted reporter Andrew Koch as saying.
Hmmh. In 2000? This was when the JIC “was noting that there was an evolving, and as yet incomplete, picture of the supply of uranium enrichment equipment to at least one customer in the Middle East.”
You have to wonder how complete a picture they needed.
As for AQ Khan’s confession, Mr. B. Raman, a retired Indian bureaucrat and now employed in a thinktank, writes
Pakistani sources claim that there has been another bombshell in the admissions of guilt made by Khan's colleagues and juniors, who are still under custody and questioning. They are reported to have stated that during his over 40 visits to Dubai in the last three years, he had met Iraqi intelligence officials who sought his help in having some of the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) material of Iraq airlifted from Syria to Pakistan for being kept in safe custody there to prevent their falling into the hands of the UN inspectors. Khan allegedly agreed to their request. According to them, in October, 2002, Khan had a Pakistani aircraft, which had gone to Iran to deliver some equipment, stop in a Syrian airport on its way back. It picked up the Iraqi WMD "material" and brought it to Pakistan for safe custody on behalf of Iraq. It is not clear what did they mean by material---only documents or something more?
Monday: More on "AQ Khan" and just how exculpatory is the Butler ReportRelated post: The Butler Report - Bullet #1
Quote of the day
Martha down -- Shares up
Call your broker.
Nuns may be able to fly again
The name CAPPS II may be dead, but the process of creating an automated passenger pre-screening system to replace the current CAPPS will continue.Privacy groups are more optimistic.
Privacy activist Bill Scannell, who has fought the CAPPS II proposal for a year and a half, thinks yesterday's obituary notice was just that, despite what DHS [Dept. of Homeland Security] said Thursday.Did he really say that?
"This program is not going anywhere before the November elections," Scannell said. "We got rid of the program, and now we need to get rid of the administration that
NPR on Iraqi-Niger yellow cake uranium (updated)
The NPR story also notes the conclusion of the Senate report that, contrary to public statements by Joseph Wilson, his CIA wife Valerie Plame “did play a role in his assignment to Niger.” This is important in how the Bush administration may spin the news on any grand jury determinations concerning her “outing” in the press.
The BBC is reporting that the ex-prime minister of Niger is denying any Iraq link.
Mr Mayaki denies allegations in the Senate report that he admitted meeting a delegation from Iraq in 1999. The report says that he expected to discuss uranium with the Iraqi delegation but managed to steer the conversation in another direction.
But Mr Mayaki now says he has no recollection of such a meeting, while he was in government from 1999-2001.
"I think this could be easily verified by the Western intelligence services and by the authorities in Niger," he said.
His faith in the Western intelligence services is heartwarming.
Trouble for Blair
Thursday, July 15, 2004
The Butler Report - Bullet #1
A British investigation has found flaws in London's pre-war assessment of Iraqi's weapons threat, but the report has cleared Prime Minister Tony Blair of deceiving the nation into going to war.
But if you think the VoA is merely a government-sponsored right-wing propaganda mouthpiece and not representative of the news, let’s try some more.
In a week's time, two panels on either side of the Atlantic have concluded that intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was deeply flawed.
But as much as the findings of the reports by Lord Butler and Senate Intelligence Committee undermine the case for war, they may also weaken critics' cases against President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Prime Minister Tony Blair was cleared Wednesday of tricking Britain into invading Iraq but was criticized in a report for relying on deeply flawed pre-war intelligence.
NPR and the PBS NewsHour did little better. They brought in some Talking Heads to say the same thing.
So did you get the theme?
- Intelligence — bad
- Bush, Blair — good
The best (I’m tempted to write “only”) coverage is to be found in the Guardian, and Jonathan Freedland’s commentary best characterizes the report
When he had finished [delivering his conclusions], Butler's audience ... wondered what to make of it all. It was confusing: some thought the headline was "Blair slammed", others said it was "Whitewash II". It might take a while to sink in that Lord Butler had done neither. He did not play the assassin. Instead he handed the PM a bulletproof vest, and the public a set of live bullets. That at least will ensure fair play - and what could be more British than that?
Indeed, the public—or rather, the media—were handed a number of live bullets,2 and they promptly stuffed them back into the box. Some of those bullets had Blair’s name on them; others, the intelligence services’.
Here’s Bullet #1 — just how "deeply flawed" was British and American intelligence with respect to Iraq from 1990 to 1998.
Butler reviews the period 1990-1998, which is the period between the First Gulf War and the point that the UN inspectors left Iraq. Referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), Butler writes,
In Iraq between 1991 and 1998, in many ways they surpassed anything that national intelligence agencies could do, but since their work is carried out on behalf of the United Nations it can hardly be considered ‘intelligence’ by the definitions to which we are working. [BR 1.2(26)]Analysis: The UN agencies charged with overseeing Iraqi compliance with the UN resolution had better information than the British intelligence services, and by implication, the American intelligence services (since the two countries share intelligence). But we’ll give the services a pass by defining the information coming from IAEA and UNSCOM as not "intelligence."
We have chosen not to comment in as much detail in this Section [which covers the period 1990-1998] on the underpinning intelligence reports or on the sources. In part, this is because many of the JIC’s judgements changed in later years as new intelligence was received. In part, it is because the most authoritative information on the status of Iraq ’s nuclear, biological, chemical and ballistic missile programmes in this period came from reports produced by [UNSCOM] and by the [IAEA] derived from their inspection activities on the ground. [BR 5.2(155)]
How many billions did the British and American publics spend for the garbage their intelligence services produced? We’ll never know, of course, because their budgets are secret, but conservative estimates place the number in the billions. Meanwhile, the much-maligned UN agencies charged to monitor Iraq, on an open budget, were getting the job done.3
There is so much information in the Butler Report that this post will have to be only the first in a series.
Tomorrow: The AQ Khan network
U.N. arms inspectors are privately complaining about the quality of U.S. intelligence and accusing the United States of sending them on wild-goose chases. ...[back]
the U.S. claim that Iraq is developing missiles that could hit its neighbors – or U.S. troops in the region, or even Israel – is just one of the claims coming from Washington that inspectors here are finding increasingly unbelievable. The inspectors have become so frustrated trying to chase down unspecific or ambiguous U.S. leads that they've begun to express that anger privately in no uncertain terms.
U.N. sources have told CBS News that American tips have lead to one dead end after another.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
The Butler Report is out
I'm making my way through it this morning, and as always, I'll try to find those little gems that the media miss, ignore or mischaracterize. So I'll be back with you later today.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Preemptive patent infringement
Since the last AIDS conference in Barcelona in 2002, the number of people being treated ... has doubled in the developing world to 440,000. At the same time, 6 million people died from the virus and 10 million people became infected....
"By these measures of human life, the ones that really matter, we have failed. And we have failed miserably to do enough in the precious time that has passed since Barcelona," said Jim Kim, WHO's AIDS director.
There are now an estimated 38 million infections. So why aren’t these people being treated? Money, Silly.
And what was our Great Leader doing about it? Lying, as usual. In his State of the Union message of January 2003 he pledged $15 billion over the next 5 years to fight AIDS, then paused to smirk. The reason he was smirking was that he knew he’d get the political credit for such a generous gift, while the American public would hardly know or care if he followed through.
A year ago, according to the Financial Times,
The culprit for this shortfall [in AIDS-prevention funding] is not Congressional budget-cutting but the president's failure even to ask for the amounts needed to fulfil his pledge. His 2003 budget requested only $1.9bn - an increase of just $450m on what was spent in 2002 and a third less than the $3bn a year implied by the State of the Union promise.
Of course, many drugs now exist for AIDS treatment, but the pharmaceutical industry is no more inclined to lower its prices to fight AIDS than it is to lower its prices to fight illnesses of the elderly here at home. The industry does, after all, hold exclusive patents. And if there is one area of international law for which the U.S. shows boundless respect, it’s international patent protection.
The deal that was struck during the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar, enables countries ravaged by diseases like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis to side-step the rigid rules that had been laid down by the WTO on pharmaceutical patents.
It also affirms that when developing countries pursue this option -- of accessing cheaper generic drugs than the pricey versions marketed by the drug industry giants who have the patents for these medicines -- they will not face threats from the West, such as trade sanctions.
So the issue seemed to have been laid to rest in a sensible way.2 But a deal with the Bush administration is never what it seems. No.
Bush & Co. is making a move that parallels its efforts to escape war crime prosecutions—by forcing second- and third-world countries to sign bilateral agreements that exempt it from its international obligations.
France on Tuesday accused the United States of pressuring developing countries to give up their right to make cheap generic HIV drugs in return for free-trade agreements - with President Jacques Chirac calling the tactic "tantamount to blackmail."
World Trade Organization rules give developing countries the flexibility to ignore foreign patents and produce copies of expensive drugs in times of health crises. All WTO members including the United States have signed an agreement to respect that clause.
But there is nothing to prevent a country from imposing patent restrictions in a bilateral trade agreement, such as one Washington is negotiating with Thailand. [emphasis mine]
And what is the real Bush administration solution to the AIDS problem in Africa? Nothing less than the restoration of “blood purity.”
1 You would think that if the United States can "preemptively" invade a country to protect its own citizens on the basis that the other country might have weapons of mass destruction, it would be all right for other countries to copy drugs that would save their citizens from certain death. That was not the U.S. position. [back]
Monday, July 12, 2004
Where there's evil, we want to ... fight it
The proposed African Coastal Security Program is “to block pirates, smugglers and other criminals in the Gulf of Guinea and around Africa.” There’s an oil boomlet going on in West Africa, especially Nigeria, but the Nigerians have been plagued by “militants—many seeking a share of the country’s oil wealth.”
The U.S. gets 15% of its oil from the region, but with things as they are in the Middle East, who knows when we may need to turn up the African spigot.
Asked whether the United States was willing to help stem attacks against Nigeria's oil industry, Wald said, "Wherever there's evil, we want to get there and fight it."
A prediction concerning John McCain
Buzzflash selects John McCain as GOP Hypocrite of the Week and says “When you support Bush and declare he has ‘moral clarity,’ you've lost your integrity.” Actually McCain lost his integrity some time ago—by supporting the racism of the South Carolina flag1 and not fighting the Rove slanders harder. But that is beside the point. Losing your integrity is like losing your virginity. I’ve lost it at least three times myself. No. I think we need a more realpolitik view of McCain, which is to say that we need to ask, What is he up to?
What he is up to is this: A significant role in the next Bush administration. As Buzzflash suggests, one may speculate that should the Cheney resign, McCain could become the next running mate. Is throwing himself into the campaign just a warm-up for a more extensive Vice-Presidential role?
Personally, I think that McCain as a running mate would make Bush awfully uncomfortable, but so would impeachment or indictment, so he may prefer the lesser of two evils. But what do I know? Nothing. But I can read tea leaves, and this man McCain is up to something.
Other possibilities, which from the current vantage point are more probable, are roles as Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State. McCain has to be positively itching to get in and take charge—as though he were elected President in 2000. He knows what an absolute disaster Bush has been. He wants to fix it, both to save the party and to show what he can do.2 After all, there will be another election in four years—or at least that’s the theory.
So my prediction is that McCain’s support will come at a heavy price to Bush. If Bush should win, McCain is going to demand his pound of flesh, and whatever role he takes, he’s going to be a power center unto himself.
Having spent several months saying he sees both sides of the Confederate-flag issue raging in South Carolina, Sen. John McCain of Arizona has issued a statement echoing the language of white Southerners trying to keep the old battle flag flying over the Capitol in Columbia.[back]
The flag, he said in a statement distributed to South Carolina reporters on Monday and to the national press overnight, is "a symbol of heritage." The statement quickly was distributed by his South Carolina campaign to counter what aides said was a misstatement by McCain on Sunday, when he told a television interviewer that the flag was "offensive" and a "symbol of racism and slavery."
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Britain's Butler Report expected Wednesday
There were rumors that Prime Minister Blair almost stepped down last month. Meanwhile Britain is about to see the results of the Butler report, which investigated the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD.
The close timing of the release of the report of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee with the release of the Butler report wll invite comparisons of the reports and reactions to them. The Butler report’s release comes on the eve of what the BBC describes as two “key by-elections.”
The BBC drops two hints, which if true, will certainly contrast the Butler report with our homegrown version.
The roles of the Prime Minister Mr Blair, the Foreign Secretary Mr Straw and the defence Secretary Mr Hoon in accepting the intelligence are likely be examined.
It has also been reported that the Attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, who issued a legal ruling approving the war, will be mentioned.
The U.S. Senate report studiously avoided inquiry into the role of the Bush administration in shaping, interpreting and misusing CIA intelligence so as not to appear “political.”
As for the Butler report, some fear a whitewash, beginning with the constitution of the committee. In addition to Lord Butler, there is Sir John Chilcot, a Northern Irish top-level bureaucrat, Labour MP Ann Taylor, Conservative MP Michael Mates, and Field Marshal Lord Inge. Their biographies have been conveniently assembled here and include a listing of their clubs.
The Conservatives agreed to put Mates on the panel with the understanding that “Butler will look at the conduct of ministers,” but the actual instruction for the group was to
investigate the accuracy of intelligence on Iraqi WMD up to March 2003, and to examine any discrepancies between the intelligence gathered, evaluated and used by the government before the conflict, and between that intelligence and what has been discovered by the Iraq Survey Group since the end of the conflict.
With respect to whitewashing the role of the administration,1 the Butler report will be compared with that of Bush’s Intelligence Commission, which is not due to report until after the election.
“The intelligence services will be scapegoated, on both sides of the Atlantic,” predicted Prof Scott Lucas, an intelligence expert at Birmingham University. “It is too easy to lay the blame at their door. The question is whether the intelligence services will take that without a fight. I don’t think they will.”[back]