Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, October 26, 2005

wo weeks ago, I mentioned the case of a Chinese democracy activist who, while in the company of a Guardian journalist, had been brutally beaten by a mob of thugs (in the company of uniformed police), with links to two blogs which were following the story. Ten days ago I wanted to draw the attention of any readers who hadn't followed those links, to the fact that the activist had not been killed -- as had been claimed by the journalist, and then reported as such by many media outlets around the world. Well, I think that will be the last time I take anything with such origins of the Guardian persuasion at face value. I have steered clear of them on anything related to America, its president, Iraq, al Qaeda and terrorist Islamism, Israel and Palestine, Saddam, George Galloway, Oil for Food -- in fact almost everything. But I thought that this one eyewitness report concerning the tribulations of China's democracy workers would surely not be subject to any of their known agendas. Mea culpa, and I won't do that again.

Tim Blair spotted this little item in the Melbourne Age a few days ago (on a page of short "items" this one was at the bottom, presumably the least important of the lot):
While not quite as damaging as Jayson Blair, the reporter who brought scandal to The New York Times in 2003 for his fabricated stories, Guardian rookie foreign correspondent Benjamin Joffe-Walt managed to tarnish the credibility of the respected British broadsheet for his embellished story about a Chinese democracy activist. Turns out the newspaper's recently installed Shanghai correspondent exaggerated his first-hand account of Lu Banglie's savage beating by a uniformed mob outside Taishi village in southern Guangdong province, which ran on the front page of The Guardian and was picked up in other newspapers across the globe, including The Age.

Joffe-Walt, who had been travelling in a taxi with Lu and an interpreter, reported that Lu's head had been stomped on several times, "his eye (lay) out of its socket", and the ligaments in his neck were broken. When it later emerged that he did not sustain any serious injuries except some bruising, The Guardian recalled Joffe-Walt to London for a "please explain", issued a retraction and, after some investigation, discovered that their correspondent's journalism credentials amounted to not much more than a six-month stint on a defunct South African newspaper.
As Tim notes, this recalls another recent Guardian reporter that the paper knew little about, Dilpazier Aslam, who valued his membership in the Hizb ut Tahrir terrorism-supporting organisation more than his job as a Grauniad journalist. He also notes, and I repeat for my handful of readers here as well, that while The Age correction refers to a "respected British broadsheet," this is not correct either. Last month they converted to a tabloid format, but I guess it just doesn't have the same kick when one refers to a "respected British tabloid."


ere is a little more info on a story the MSM drummed up a few weeks ago according to their preferred script, in which a satellite-linked conversation between President Bush and some troops in Iraq was said to have been "rehearsed, choreographed and scripted." I pointed readers last week to a blog written by one of the participants, who gave his view of the exchanges. But none of the big media organs which hyped up the "it was all a staged farce" idea have seen fit to offer corrections, or to give the soldiers' side of things. The big boys like NYT and WaPo are obviously way to pre-occupied reporting leaks about leaks about leak investigations. But I did find this piece from the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
A Chattanooga soldier now in Iraq with the 278th Regimental Combat Team said soldiers used their own words during comments made last week in a satellite discussion with President Bush.

"We wanted to give President Bush a no-kidding assessment of what we have all been working 14- (to) 18-hour days on for the last 11 months," said Lt. Gregg Murphy, of Chattanooga. "We gave him the God's honest truth as we know it."

The dialogue was among President Bush and 10 U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq last Thursday on the eve of Iraq's constitutional referendum. Media outlets have called the event staged because the solders went through a rehearsal before talking live with President Bush.

"Staged infers that we were given scripts and that we followed those scripts," Lt. Murphy wrote in an e-mail to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "This is not true. None of the members on the panel used any words that were not their own."

Lt. Murphy said he was chosen to travel to Tikrit, Iraq, for the interview because he had spent the last three months leading an Iraqi army training program at a 278th base near the Iranian border. He said the soldiers got together before the interview and discussed what they wanted to say. "We shared our different experiences of working with the Iraqi army," he said. "We started brainstorming about what questions the president was sure to ask."

Lt. Murphy said White House officials later told the soldiers President Bush wanted to talk about the referendum and the Iraqi security force's role in Saturday's vote on a proposed Iraqi constitution. "They continuously told us that the president wanted us to explain the situation in our own words in a way that the American public could understand," Lt. Murphy said.

Chattanooga attorney Robin Flores served alongside Lt. Murphy when the two were members of another National Guard unit. "I'm a staunch Democrat, but if Gregg Murphy tells you it was his own words, then it was his own words," Mr. Flores said. "His word is as good as gold."

Lt. Murphy said time was limited for the interview, so the soldiers selected a mediator and organized who would field each question. He said the only guidance the solders received was to avoid using military jargon that would confuse the general public and to write out bullet points to keep their comments concise and clear. Lt. Murphy said writing out key points kept the soldiers from being nervous.

"We feared that if we didn't have organized thoughts to share with him we would look like bumbling fools on TV," Lt. Murphy said. He said the soldiers practiced passing around the microphone for a Defense Department employee in Washington moments before the interview. "She did not orchestrate the interview," Lt. Murphy said of the Defense Department employee. "We were nervous, and she put us at ease. Nothing more."

He said the military rehearses all the time. "We do that so that when we actually have to execute, there isn't any confusion," he said. "Rehearsing is why we are so good at what we do."
Sometimes I wonder how these soldiers can keep up their positive attitude. Not because of the difficulties they encounter in their efforts over there -- and there surely are many of those -- but because of the relentless negativity and doom mongering by the media in their home country. Occasionally we see glimpses of what some of them think of it, as when some network media star asked soldiers about the negative mood of the American public, and a soldier answered him that, if he had only the US media to rely on for his information, well he'd be damn depressed too. Instead, he was very positive because he knows what's going on first hand, and doesn't need the media to tell him.

Speaking of which, Michael Yon has just put up his latest dispatch, in which he recounts his experiences during the constitutional referendum. It's quite long, and contains some very good photos as well. It's loaded with some very perceptive insights and many accounts of the current determination of Iraq's people. Truly inspiring stuff almost totally ignored by the mass media, now in the grip of the grim milestone. LGF has been doing an ongoing "grim milestone watch" for the past few days, and it's really amazing how widely used that exact phrase has been in different outlets. Almost as though the same person was writing everything related to the 2000th dead soldier. I did actually hear a variation on it today though, as the execrable Matt Frei pontificated today on BBC about this "grimmest of milestones." Always one to one-up the competition, I guess, that's our British Broadcorping Castration correspondent, fresh from occupied New Orleans dodging white policemen as they blast their shotguns at hungry refugees. Somehow, the official announcement of the ratification of Iraq's new constitution was nearly lost amongst all the "grimness."


f there is one thing that I've detested all my life, from as far back as I can remember, it's bigotry in any form. Against anyone, for any reason -- race, religion, language or culture, I don't care what it is. Anti-Semitic attitudes are every bit as bad as Jim Crow segregationist attitudes, as is bigotry against Muslims, Sikhs, Gypsies, atheists or French. Well maybe not French (I'm joking!). This is why it was rather difficult for me to watch that pre-Millions More Movement seminar I mentioned last week, that was carried on C-SPAN. I know, I blamed the shrillness, and the whiny manner of complaining for the fact that I couldn't bring myself to watch it straight through for four hours, but really the underlying factor that I think creates this style of oratory, is just old fashioned bigotry. Now, many of these folks may have very good reasons in their lives to feel that a particular racial group (which is itself a fallacy for another day -- races don't actually exist, they are a pigment of your imagination) is inferior and beneath them. But it's simply too tiresome to listen for very long to strident, righteous-sounding anger when it's largely based on such foundations.

So, only now do I find out that I missed a star that day, whose bigotry would have actually had me glued to the set, I'm sure. A fellow by the name of Dr. Kamau Kambon, apparently until recently a professor at one of the respected institutes of academia, let fly with such as this:
Now how do I know that the white people know that we are going to come up with a solution to the problem? I know it because they have retina scans, they have what they call racial profiling, DNA banks, and they're monitoring our people to try to prevent the one person from coming up with the one idea. And the one idea is, how we are going to exterminate white people because that in my estimation is the only conclusion I have come to. We have to exterminate white people off the face of the planet to solve this problem. (tepid applause) Now I don't care whether you clap or not, but I'm saying to you that we need to solve this problem because they are going to kill us. And I will leave on that. So we just have to just set up our own system and stop playing and get very serious and not be diverted from coming up with a solution to the problem and the problem on the planet is white people.
Note: the tepid applause was not noted by my quoted source, but it's there. Even tepid applause at a call for genocide, should be a cause for shame. I don't care if the call would be for extermination of black people, white people, Jewish people, Muslim people or Republican people -- anybody who claps for that needs a serious sense of shame. Yet this "Professor" appears to be someone that a lot of American human beings evidently respect; this incident occurred at a widely publicised seminar on the "Movement's" strategies in advance of their big "Millions More" event on the Washington Mall.

Dr. Kambon's performance may be viewed by picking the video link from this page, but be warned: the program is four hours long. This guy comes on at around 3 1/2 hour mark. Audio only recordings can also be accessed in two parts: Part I and Part II (the above quote is in Part II). The activist's performance also earned him an episode in Protein Wisdom's interview series.

* * * *


eanwhile, lest we forget, a truly revolutionary figure passed away the other day at the age of 92.

The year was 1955, and racial segregation seemed like the immutable reality of the American south. Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama after her day's work was done, and took an empty seat. She was told to give it to a white man. She was tired of giving in to such treatment, and she declined to stand. "Why do you treat us this way?" she asked the policeman who came to arrest her (he answered that he didn't know, but that was the law).

The bravery of this gentle spirit inspired Montgomery's black population, led to a year long bus boycott, the involvement of a young minister named Martin Luther King, and onwards to Birmingham and Selma. A civil rights leader of those times whom I listened to on the Lehrer News Hour this morning, stated that all those roads and many others led directly back to this quiet, dignified lady who was simply tired of giving way -- Rosa Louise Parks. Every human being can learn something from her simple, transformative act -- but particularly those hate-filled faux revolutionaries such as the one mentioned earlier.

Rosa Parks was asked, in one of her last interviews, how she would like people to remember her after her passing. Her answer was simple, and powerful:

"I'd like people to say I'm a person who always wanted to be free and wanted it not only for myself; freedom is for all human beings."
Yes, and thank you Rosa Parks for who you were, and who you will continue to be. "Freedom is for all human beings," is something I've recently heard someone else say as well. But this isn't the place to get into that. Rest in Peace, gentle spirit.


he problem with being a famous firebrand, is frequently that his own mouth often gets him into the most trouble. That seems to be the case now with one very loud and belligerent Scotsman -- who practically owns the firebrand descriptor all to himself -- none other than gruesome George Galloway. The darling and undisputed champion of the "Iraqi resistance" admiring extremist left, seems to have gotten himself into a bit of a sticky wicket. The US Senate Subcommittee -- before which Galloway put on such a rude and combative show a few months back, leading to much triumphalist shouting from his partisans and more than a few extra opportunities to spew on BBC -- have said that they plan to charge him with lying under oath.

One of the things that were so perplexing about the Galloway hearing back in May, was the seeming passivity and non-combativeness on the part of the senators. However much Galloway baited and bellowed at them, they just calmly kept asking their questions without particularly challenging his narrative. At that time, as Belmont Club's Wretchard recalls yesterday in Playing to the Galloway (damn, how come he can think up such cool headlines?), he had noted this passivity with interest. Perhaps it was an indicator to the committee's intentions?
In the exchange above it is abundantly clear that both Coleman and Levin simply wanted to enter Galloway's denial of having discussed Oil for Food business with Tariq Aziz in the record. Levin immediately ends his questioning after eliciting Galloway's "Never". Coleman is content to merely establish that Aziz and Galloway were "friends" who had met "many times" before saying "I have no further questions of the witness".
It appears now that the senators, recognising the British MP's penchant for shooting off his mouth, were simply playing him like a fiddle and getting certain points on the record. The Senate now alleges that they have a paper trail showing payments from Fawaz Zureikat (a beneficiary of Saddam's oil voucher scam) to both Galloway's wife, and to his charity the Mariam Appeal. The evidence shows that Galloway asked for, and received from Tariq Aziz and others, allocations of 23 million barrels of oil. At the time of his performance, Galloway thundered, "I can assure you, Mr. Zureikat never gave me a penny from an oil deal, from a cake deal, from a bread deal, or from any deal." I recall finding it quite humourous that when he denied receiving any oil from the Saddam regime, he did so by claiming to have never received even one "barrel of oil." Not only that, but "I have never even seen a barrel of oil," or something to that effect.

Norwegian blogger SEIXON has done a lot of investigative work into the Mariam Appeal, and yesterday took a close look at the committee's findings -- in particular the bank statements. There is a total of close to half a million dollars that Mr. Zureikat transferred into the two accounts, of which the smallest possible amount which must have come from the corrupt oil voucher scam would have been over $270,000. That is if one makes every single possible assumption about the origin of the money, in Galloway's favour. At the time in question, Zureikat was playing with over $850,000 in his account. Check Seixon's arithmetic on the linked article, or download the subcommittee's investigation report right here (pdf file).

Wretchard has a subsequent article yesterday, in which he notes that Mr. Zureikat is once again doing business in Iraq. If Galloway is hoping to claim that his business partner deceived him, and that he actually knows "naaah-tink" about all that money, he may need to rely on Mr. Zureikat covering for him. One would expect Mr. Zureikat to be reluctant to take a fall, merely to save the bombastic politician, and would likely be cooperative for his own sake.

Galloway's nemesis Christopher Hitchens relates an interesting anecdote in his new Slate article. Last month, before the taping of a television show at which they both were guests, worried functionaries asked him if he planned to reiterate his challenge for Galloway to sign an affidavit, affirming that he'd never discussed the Oil for Food money scam with Tariq Aziz. Galloway was apparently worried that Hitchens would bring one on the set with him, and spring it upon him during the show. Hitchens replied that it wasn't any longer necessary, since his public denial had been broadcast, and that this confirmed the apparent perjury before the Senate committee. "I added that I wanted no further contact with Galloway until I could have the opportunity of reviewing his prison diaries."
But what has been established is breathtaking enough. A member of the British Parliament was in receipt of serious money originating from a homicidal dictatorship. That money was supposed to have been used to ameliorate the suffering of Iraqis living under sanctions. It was instead diverted to the purposes of enriching Saddam's toadies and of helping them propagandize in favor of the regime whose crimes and aggressions had necessitated the sanctions and created the suffering in the first place. This is something more than mere "corruption." It is the cynical theft of food and medicine from the desperate to pay for the palaces of a psychopath.
A psychopath, I can hear you ask? Isn't that a bit much? As an aside, some time ago while watching Washington Journal, a caller mentioned the name of an English author who had done a biography of Saddam. A quick search turned up this interview on NPR with Con Coughlin in November 2002. Hands up, anyone who knows that Saddam was raised by an uncle with Nazi connections, and who had a philosophy which held that the "Three Whom God Despises--Jews, Persians and Flies," -- and that "of all these three, flies were the most noble." I had read of the Ba'ath Party connection with Naziism, but hadn't realised that Saddam was practically weaned on it.

Hitchens also reminds us of the suit Galloway launched against the London Daily Telegraph, one which he won and collected money for. It's very probable that the Telegraph was correct, and Galloway lied under oath there as well. And all this during the week that a UN sponsored investigation into the assassination of Rafiq Hariri is pointing to the direct involvement of the Assad regime of Syria. Yes, the same regime Hitchens teased George about during their debate, when he noted that he had recently turned up in Damascus:
"The man's search for a tyrannical fatherland never ends. The Soviet Union's let him down. Albania's gone. The Red Army's out of Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia. The hunt persists! Saddam has been overthrown, and his criminal connections with him have been exposed -- but on to the next. On the 30th of July, in Damascus in Syria, appearing -- I've given it all to you on a piece of paper -- in front of Mr. Assad, whose death squads are cutting down the leaders of democracy in Lebanon as this is going on, to tell the Syrian people they're fortunate to have such a leader. The slobbering dauphin who they've got because he's the son of the slobbering tyrant who came before him. How anyone with a tincture of socialist principle can actually speak in this way, is beyond me and I hope ladies and gentlemen, far beyond you and far beneath your contempt. Thank you."
His search for a tyrannical fatherland never ends. What a perfect line. Where might it lead next, should baby Assad fall on hard times I wonder? George is running out of dictators to coddle with. Those who favour the Iraqi "resistance" have a kindred spirit here, but I just don't see what there is to be proud about. Trusting Galloway, or citing him as any sort of authority in anything but licking jackboots, is approximately on a par with citing Ward Churchill as an authority for anything other than being an academic fraud. But many of the committed will remain committed til the bitter end, I suppose. As a wise one once said, a mind is a difficult thing to change. Hitchens again, on Galloway: "I wonder if any of those who furnished him a platform will now have the grace to admit that they were hosting a man who is not just a pimp for fascism but one of its prostitutes as well." It is a nice thing to hope, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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