Monday, March 31, 2008
For starters: North Korea warn of pre-emptive nuclear strike against neighbour
Warm and fuzzy news as always.
Also, there's a documentary series on North Korea that's worth exploring. I'll be commenting as I get through the chapters.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
'Fitna' pulled from WebBy Ab Zagt
March 28, 2008RELATED: Muslim nations condemn film
Anti-Koran film goes live on Web
AMSTERDAM -- The controversial anti-Muslim film by Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders has been removed from the Web by its British Internet provider, which said its employees have been seriously threatened.
"Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature and some ill-informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, LiveLeak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove 'Fitna' from our servers," the company said.
The 15-minute short film was posted Thursday and taken down Friday and had been seen by some 3 million people. In the film, presented in Dutch- and English-language versions, Wilders claims that the Koran provokes violence, using Sept. 11, the attacks in Madrid and London and the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh as examples.
In the Netherlands, most local Muslim organizations appeared not to take the Wilders project seriously. There was no disturbances of the kind that occurred three years ago following the murder of van Gogh.
Meanwhile, Wilders can expect some copyright charges from Dutch media, whose material was used in "Fitna" without permission. Also, the infamous Danish cartoon of the prophet Muhammed being hit by a bomb was used without approval.
Wilders made another mistake. When trying to show the murderer of van Gogh, he instead showed a local rap artist, Salah Edin.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Jim McDermott: "We Don't Mind Being Used" by Saddam Hussein
Last night came the news that Saddam Hussein's regime paid for a high-profile trip taken by three congressional Democrats to Baghdad in the fall of 2002. The visit, by Democratic Representatives David Bonior, Jim Thompson, and Jim McDermott, was brokered by Muthanna al Hanooti, a Michigan resident with close ties to the Iraqi regime. Hanooti is being prosecuted for spying on behalf of Saddam's regime.
Reacting to the latest news, Mike DeCesare, a spokesman for Jim McDermott, one of the three congressmen, said his boss wasn't aware that the money came from Saddam Hussein's regime when he accepted it. He told me the same thing in 2004, when I asked him about the $5,000 McDermott had accepted for his legal defense fund from Shakir al Khafaji, one of Saddam Hussein's biggest U.S. boosters before the war. Khafaji, who accompanied the congressmen and made the arrangements for their visit, had run "expatriate" conferences in Baghdad for Saddam as recently as 2000. He also provided $400,000 to former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter for Ritter's propaganda film on behalf of the former Iraqi regime. In an interview back in 2001, Ritter told me that Khafaji was "openly sympathetic" with Saddam Hussein.
All of this was public record -- available to the lawmakers with a Google or Nexis search. But they went anyway. Reacting to the news yesterday, Jim Thompson pleaded ignorance.
"Obviously, had there been any question at all regarding the sponsor of the trip or the funding, I would not have participated."
Thompson and McDermott would have us believe that they visited a sworn enemy of the United States -- one who had tried to assassinate a former president and declared that the "Mother of all Battles" had never ended -- without doing even the most basic research about who was funding their trip? That's hard to believe. And Bonior, who was from Michigan and had taken money from al Khafaji before, had no idea that he was backed by Saddam Hussein? When I spent a week reporting in Michigan for a story on Iraqi exiles, virtually every Iraqi I spoke to told me about al Khafaji and his dirty money. Is is possible that nobody ever mentioned this to Bonior, who recently chaired John Edwards' presidential campaign, before he traveled to Iraq with al Khafaji? Again, hard to believe.
In any case, they knew well that they would be used as propaganda tools before they left. This is how we put it in a piece on the trip back in October 2002:
EVEN BEFORE the Baghdad boys left Iraq, media outlets throughout the Middle East gleefully highlighted divisions in the U.S. government and the travels by the "antiwar" congressmen. The Iraq Daily, for example, published by Saddam's Ministry of Information, printed daily updates of the trip and posted them in English on their website.
For example, a September 30 report says, "the members of the U.S. Congress delegation has underlined that this visit aims to get acquainted with the truth of Iraq's people sufferings due to ongoing embargo which caused shortage in food and medicine for all Iraqi people." (That article appeared next to a report on Saddam's continuing financial support for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers or, to use the paper's formulation, "intrepid Palestinian uprising martyrs." Also in that issue is an article by American white supremacist Matthew Hale, "Truth About 9-11: How Jewish Manipulation Killed Thousands.")...
So how does it feel to be used as a propaganda tool against your own country? McDermott, who was asked that question by CNN's Jane Arraf when he was still in Baghdad, said it feels fine. "If being used means that we're highlighting the suffering of Iraqi children, or any children, then, yes, we don't mind being used."
Once again? "We don't mind being used."
Posted by Stephen F. Hayes on March 27, 2008 11:43 AM | Permalink
Mar 26, 7:01 PM (ET)
By MATT APUZZO
WASHINGTON (AP) - Saddam Hussein's intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
An indictment unsealed in Detroit accuses Muthanna Al-Hanooti, a member of a Michigan nonprofit group, of arranging for three members of Congress to travel to Iraq in October 2002 at the behest of Saddam's regime. Prosecutors say Iraqi intelligence officials paid for the trip through an intermediary.
At the time, the Bush administration was trying to persuade Congress to authorize military action against Iraq.
The lawmakers are not named in the indictment but the dates correspond to a trip by Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California. None was charged and Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said investigators "have no information whatsoever" any of them knew the trip was underwritten by Saddam.
"Obviously we didn't know it at the time," McDermott spokesman Michael DeCesare said Wednesday. "The trip was to see the plight of the Iraqi children. That's the only reason we went."
During the trip, the lawmakers expressed skepticism about the Bush administration's claims that Saddam was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
"War is not the answer," Bonior, who is no longer in Congress, said at a news conference while on the trip. "There is a way to resolve this."
Though weapons of mass destruction ultimately were never found, the lawmakers drew criticism for their trip at the time.
Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles, the second-ranking Senate Republican at the time, said the Democrats "sound somewhat like spokespersons for the Iraqi government."
Al-Hanooti was arrested Tuesday night while returning to the U.S. from the Middle East, where he was looking for a job, his attorney, James Thomas, said. Al-Hanooti pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, illegally purchasing Iraqi oil and lying to authorities. He was being held on $100,000 bail.
Thomas said Al-Hanooti would "vigorously defend" himself against the charges but he could not discuss the specifics of the case since he had seen none of the evidence.
Al-Hanooti worked on and off from 1999 to 2006 as a public relations coordinator for Life for Relief and Development, a Michigan group formed after the first Gulf War to fund humanitarian work in Iraq. FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force agents raided the charity's headquarters in 2006 but charged nobody and allowed the agency to continue operating.
Prosecutors said Al-Hanooti was responsible for monitoring Congress for the Iraqi Intelligence Service. From 1999 to 2002, he allegedly provided Saddam's government with a list of U.S. lawmakers he believed favored lifting economic sanctions against Iraq.
In exchange for coordinating the congressional trip, Al-Hanooti allegedly received 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil, prosecutors said.
DeCesare said McDermott was invited to go to Iraq by a Seattle church group and was unaware of any other funding for the trip.