Friday, January 11, 2008

Reports of Iran patrol boat incident may be bogus

A typical Iranian Tir Class patrol boat used in the Straits of Hormuz

The recent incident of Iran patrol boats allegedly harassing a US warship on patrol in the Gulf of Hormuz may be over-hyped - may in fact be completely bogus, according to a report on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!

Goodman interviewed Gareth Porter, an historian and national security specialist. Mr Porter raises serious questions about the accuracy of the video and sound bites released by the Pentagon. He claims that it was someone in the Pentagon disinformation office who called CBS, and other major media.

"So I think that the major thing to really keep in mind about this is that it was blown up into a semi-crisis by the Pentagon and that the media followed along very supinely. And I must say this is perhaps the worst—the most egregious case of sensationalist journalism in the service of the interests of the Pentagon, the Bush administration, that I have seen so far."


"And it seems very possible that indeed the Pentagon did splice into the recording, the audio recording of the incident, the two bits of messages from a mysterious voice in a way that made it appear to occur in response to the initial communication from the US ship to the Iranian boats. And it seems very possible that, in fact, those voices came at some other point during this twenty-minute incident."

The timing of the Pentagon's urgent call to the media it is suspicious, as it coincides with the departure of President Bush to the Middle East on his "peace" trip. Obviously, somebody in the Pentagon wanted to get the attention of the Gulf states about Iran's dangerous inability to navigate properly in international waters.

By the bye, standard operation procedure for all US warships is to maintain a minimum of 2,000 yards separation between themselves and all other ships, foreign or friendly, except for standard procedures, such as fueling, steaming in close formation, transferring personnel, or interdicting another vessel.

Vessels of the Soviet navy used to play dodge 'em with the US Navy all the time, and, yes, formal protests were lodged each and every time. Ultimately, the USSR & the US jointly signed the Agreement Between the Government of The United States of America and the Government of The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas. Ref:

We have no similar agreement with Iran.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Shrub to promote democracy and peace in Middle East. Right.

Shrub's destinations on his "peace" tour

The Shrub is on his way to the Middle East to engage certain parties in his efforts to "bring peace" to Israel / Palestine. And who is he going to be talking to? Well, his itinerary includes the heads of state of the following: Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Commenting on his upcoming attempt to leave a "legacy" by his "peace efforts," Mr Shrub said (and I quote):

"I hope they remember me as the guy who was willing to fight extremists who murdered the innocent to achieve political objectives, and at the same time had great faith in the average citizen of the Middle East to self-govern." Source: Voice of America

Ho, ho, is that a fact? How do you think the leaders of the above named countries are going to receive that bit about "average citizens governing themselves," not to mention the part about "extremists who murder innocents"? Have you seen the body count in Iraq lately?

Not to be outdone in hyperbole, Mr Shrub's mouthpiece, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley bloviated, "I think the main thing that the president can bring is a message of hope for the region, a commitment to finding a way towards supporting those who support freedom and democracy and justice in the region."

Do these "guys" even know what the hell they're talking about, much less to whom?

In the real world, here's who the Decider in Chief is going to be talking to - or more probably, at - in no particular order.

United Arab Emirates (pop.: 4,444,011): According to the CIA World Factbook, the UAE is a federation of seven emirates. From Webster: "emir·ate: the state or jurisdiction of an emir." And what is an 'emir'? Webster again: "emir: a ruler, chief, or commander in Islamic countries." As in tribal warlord, chief, head honcho, and almost always hereditary.

Is the UAE composed of self-governing people? Hardly. The Factbook tells us they have a unicameral Federal National Council (FNC) or Majlis al-Ittihad al-Watani with 40 seats; 20 members appointed by the rulers of the constituent states, 20 members elected to serve two-year terms.

Universal franchise? Nope. One half of the FNC are elected by a college of electors composed of a body of 6,689 Emiratis (including 1,189 women), who in turn are appointed by the rulers of the seven emirates and are the only eligible voters and candidates. And in case you're wondering, the FNC can "review legislation but cannot change or veto [laws]."

So much for self-governance in the UAE.

How about Saudi Arabia (pop. 27,601,038), home of that pesky video producer Osama Bin Laden?

Chief of state: King and Prime Minister Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud. Elections: none; the monarch is hereditary. And the legal system? Islamic Shari'a (religious) law, promulgated by royal decree, 1992.

So much for self-governance in Saudi Arabia. (By the way, that name translates as "Arabia, which all - oil included - belongs to me, King Saud.")

Kuwait (pop. 2,505,559), the place we liberated from badboy Saddam Hussein under Operation Desert Storm: Head of state: Amir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah; elections: none.

OK, OK, how about Bahrain (pop. 708,000), dammit?

Lookee here: Head dude, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa; elections - none. So much for self-governance in Bahrain.

Well, one last shot at legacy-building - and jackpot! - he's off to the land of the Pharaohs, the Sphinx, the romantically moonlit Nile River and the home of the oldest civilization on Earth.

Egypt (pop. 80,335,036) is an actual democracy ... sort of. It says here that their chief of state, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, has held office since 1981. That's 26 years, folks, which is waaay longer than 9/10s of the Pharaohs ever held the thrones of Upper and Lower Egypt. And he was popularly elected (depending on what what you mean by "elected") by 88%+ of the good fellahin of Egypt last go-around. Ditto for his ruling party, who hold 311 of the National Assembly's 454 seats (of which 10 - here we go again - are appointed by the preznident. The very definition of one-party rule.

So much for partners in the promotion of democracy in the Middle East.

Yes, Mr Shrub, history will recall your legacy, alright. One Decider in Chief talking to one kind-of-democratically elected despot who tortures people on your behalf and four hereditary, unelected, my-word-is-law tin pot sheiks about your "great faith in the average citizen of the Middle East to self-govern."

Good luck on that.