Zero Dark Thirty and Terrorist Attacks Part One

rant6This blog is about how a movie helped perpetuate one of the single most disgusting of the right wing Big Lies, the lie that torture gets actionable intelligence. In fact, what torture has done is damage the image of the America around the world, made us less safe and resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans.

I saw the film, Zero Dark Thirty the other night. I really loved the movie. It may not be right to root for the killing of any individual but I cheered for Osama Bin Laden to be killed and enjoyed seeing it happen.   Nevertheless, the film had a serious problem. It has revived an issue that seems to have slipped from the national attention- waterboarding. The film suggests that Osama Bin Laden was found through information obtained by torturing captured terrorists, perpetuating a right wing Big Lie.

Here’s what Ali H. Soufan, an FBI agent actually involved in interrogating prisoners told the New York Times about the movie:

” I watched “Zero Dark Thirty” not as a former F.B.I. special agent who spent a decade chasing, interrogating and prosecuting top members of Al Qaeda but as someone who enjoys Hollywood movies. As a movie, I enjoyed it. As history, it’s bunk.”

“Ammar is a composite character who bears a strong resemblance to a real-life terrorist, Ammar al-Baluchi. In both the film and real life he was a relative of Bin Laden’s lieutenant, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. But the C.I.A. has repeatedly said that only three detainees were ever waterboarded. The real Mr. Baluchi was not among them, and he didn’t give up information that led to Bin Laden.”

The CIA has vigorously protested, and rightly so, even though this is just a movie. The Atlantic Wire quotes  acting CIA director Michael Morell:

“…the film creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding bin Laden.  That impression is false.”

I personally heard the previous Director, Leon Panetta, tell a reporter that not one single piece of actionable intelligence was every obtained through enhanced interrogation. I heard the same from Robert Mueller. And it wasn’t just the CIA. The San Francisco Chronicle has an article about Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Diane Feinstein, Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Carl Levin and Senator John McCain sending a letter to Sony Pictures which stated:

“As you know, the film graphically depicts CIA officers repeatedly torturing detainees and then credits these detainees with providing critical lead information on the courier that led to the Osama bin Laden. Regardless of what message the filmmakers intended to convey, the movie clearly implies that the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques were effective in eliciting important information related to a courier for Osama bin Laden. We have reviewed CIA records and know that this is incorrect.”

John McCain said in a speech on the Senate floor:

“Not only did the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed, it actually produced false and misleading information.”

He was referring to the fact that, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was tortured, he told his inquisitors that the courier, Abu Ahmed was no longer working for Osama bin Laden. This misinformation resulted in Abu Ahmed being ignored for years until, under a new administration, the whole idea of waterboarding was thrown out and the information obtained through waterboarding came into question. New people looking at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s confession realized that his statements weren’t necessarily true, that they were given under torture. Efforts were made to track Abu Ahmed down which eventually succeeded. He was followed and led the CIA to Osama bin Laden’s hideout. These are the facts. Many, if not most people, know these facts.

Let’s go over some of the other facts, facts that no one seems willing to discuss. First of all, the source of waterboarding was the Inquisition which lasted from1184 to 1860. Waterboarding was used on somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 poor women who, after they ‘confessed,’ were burned at the stake. Let’s put these facts another way: it was used for over five hundred years on tens of thousands of people and, in almost every single case, produced a false confession. No, during that time period, women were not flying around Europe on broomsticks and having meetings with the devil incarnate. They simply told that story to their inquisitors because they were tortured. When the right wing adopted waterboarding it wasn’t an untried methodology being used for the first time. It was extremely well know that the method didn’t work when the neocons decided to use it on terrorists.

The United States signed a treaty agreeing that the US would not use waterboarding specifically, as well as other torture, on prisoners of war. The US also executed Japanese prisoners of war for using waterboarding against American prisoners during WWII. Finally, sheriffs in Texas were arrested, tried, convicted and sent to jail for waterboarding. There was never any doubt that the procedures were illegal.

Here’s a quote from the Denver Post:

“For instance, the United Nations Convention against Torture was signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by Congress in 1994. The relevant articles are:

“Article 2, Section 2: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

“Article 4, Section 1: “Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.”

“Additionally, U.S. Code prohibits torture ordered by officials or carried out by employees of the U.S. government.”

Torture is a war crime. The Conventions against Torture are the bedrock of international law. At the Tokyo war crimes trial in 1946, an American-led tribunal executed Japanese leaders for failing to prevent war crimes. This is the legal doctrine of command responsibility. And yet, Bush ordered such crimes.

The next item is how the practice of waterboarding was put into practice. The group that was brought in to implement the program was a “psychology firm” consisting of two men, Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. ABC News ran a story on them. These men had no experience in questioning suspects whatsoever. Both of them had worked for many years in the military. Their job had been working with pilots, teaching them SERE- Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Essentially, their job was to work with pilots on what to do should their planes be shot down over enemy territory, including how to best lie while being tortured. The program was originally set up because of the ridiculous confessions being made by pilots shot down in Viet Nam who were waterboarded. They confessed to all kinds of war crimes and the confessions were false. What Jim Mitchel and Bruce Jessen taught the pilots to do was to make better false confessions, confessions that wouldn’t make the US look as bad. A wonderful example of a false confession gotten by torture occurred when John McCain was tortured by the Viet Cong. They wanted the names of the men in his company. What they got was the starting line of the Dallas Cowboys. Perfect. What the Viet Cong didn’t get was the truth. And these two men, Jim Mitchel and Bruce Jessen, knew absolutely nothing about getting the truth from prisoners. All they knew about was lies produced through torture.

After Jim Mitchel and Bruce Jessen were brought onboard, they trained a bunch of neophytes in how to waterboard detainees to get information from them, in spite of the fact that they knew nothing about how to get true information from suspects. The CIA Inspector General produced a report in 2004. McClatchy’s published a summary:

“The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any “specific imminent attacks,” according to recently declassified Justice Department memos.

“That undercuts assertions by former vice president Dick Cheney and other former Bush administration officials that the use of harsh interrogation tactics including waterboarding, which is widely considered torture, was justified because it headed off “terrorist attacks.”

The risks and effectiveness of waterboarding and other enhanced techniques are at the center of an increasingly heated debate over how thoroughly to investigate the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation programs.

Steven G. Bradbury, then the Justice Department’s principal deputy assistant attorney general, wrote in a May 30, 2005, memo to CIA General Counsel John Rizzo, one of four released last week by the Obama administration:

“It is difficult to quantify with confidence and precision the effectiveness of the program,” “As the IG Report notes, it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks. And because the CIA has used enhanced techniques sparingly, ‘there is limited data on which to assess their individual effectiveness’,” Bradbury wrote, quoting the IG report.”

“Nevertheless, Bradbury concluded in his May 2005 memos that the program had been effective; that conclusion relied largely on memos written after the still secret report by Inspector General John Helgerson.”

“Helgerson also concluded that waterboarding was riskier than officials claimed and reported that the CIA’s Office of Medical Services thought that the risk to the health of some prisoners outweighed any potential intelligence benefit, according to the memos.”

“The IG’s report is among several indications that the Bush administration’s use of abusive interrogation methods was less productive than some former administration officials have claimed.

“Even some of those in the military who developed the techniques warned that the information they produced was “less reliable” than that gained by traditional psychological measures, and that using them would produce an “intolerable public and political backlash when discovered,” according to a Senate Armed Services Committee report released on Tuesday.

“President Bush told a September 2006 news conference that one plot, to attack a Los Angeles office tower, was “derailed” in early 2002 — before the harsh CIA interrogation measures were approved, contrary to those who claim that waterboarding revealed it.

Last December, FBI Director Robert Mueller told Vanity Fair magazine that he didn’t believe that” intelligence gleaned from abusive interrogation techniques had disrupted any attacks on America.”
These are the facts. Those who have followed this issue are familiar with these facts. They are contained in most of the articles written about the issue of waterboarding. The reason that I am starting up this blog is because, everywhere I have read, the writer stops here. No one points out the obvious: before Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen began their training, the neocons responsible knew all this. They were very much aware that torture in general and waterboarding in particular, produced false confessions. In fact, as I pointed out, the two men were specialists in false confessions and new nothing at all about getting the truth out of a suspect. It is impossible to believe that the people in the Bush administration were unaware of the Inquisition. It is impossible to believe that they didn’t know what had happened to pilots in Vietnam. It is impossible to believe that they thought that the two men they hired to train neophytes at the CIA to waterborard trainees would train them to actually get actionable intelligence. They knew all this and they approved waterboarding anyway. This is what no one is willing to discuss. No one talks about it. Well, I am.

The CIA and the FBI had people that were very, very good at questioning suspects and getting information out of them. I heard one of those people who had worked at Abu Ghraib on a radio talk show discussing that very fact and complaining that those people were replaced by what he called “knuckle draggers,” brutes who carried out inhumane treatment of prisoners without the sophistication to actually get information from them. Even he stopped short of saying it was done deliberately. He also stated that, after he gave up on torture, he questioned detainees more conversationally. One of the questions that he asked every single terrorist suspect was why they joined al Qaeda and went to Iraq. Every single one of them, without fail, said they did it because of what Americans were doing to Muslims at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. They pointed out that the Koran compelled them to do so. Torture didn’t prevent terrorist attacks, torture caused them. What’s more, the neocons knew all this.

Now we come to a truly disgusting right wing “Big Lie,” the ticking time bomb scenario. talks about this “scenario:”

“The war on terror torture debate didn’t end with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Several of the men who would like to be the next president of the United States have said that they would definitely condone torture in a ticking time bomb scenario. We’ve all heard versions of that scenario: an attack is imminent and officials are holding a suspect who may have crucial information. Should he be tortured for the information?

“Candidates Rudy Giuliani Mitt Romney Sam Brownback and Duncan Hunter enthusiastically said Yes to what Georgetown University law professor David Luban called “torture for intelligence gathering” in 2005.”

The Republican leadership was totally behind using torture to get false confessions from suspects. Well, there it is. I’m saying it. The neocons deliberately implemented an interrogation method that they knew would produce false results. They did it knowing full well that, without the program, they would have gotten the truth out of prisoners, at least some of the time, and they decided to use torture instead.

Once we get to this point, the rest is easy. Clearly, if they knew that the approach they were adopting didn’t produce the truth, then we know that the neocons didn’t want the truth. They set up a system designed to prevent the CIA and the FBI from getting actionable intelligence and they did it deliberately. Now, we’ve got to guess: why did they do it? Here’s my guess- the neocons thought that terrorist attacks were beneficial to the Republican Party and they had no interest in preventing them. The right wing of the Republican Party is not on the side of the American people. They are solely interested in their own short term gain. They believed that terrorist attacks moved their agenda and they stood aside and let the terrorists proceed.

Another way to look at the Neocon desire to promote terrorist attacks is their concept of “Permanent War.” Shadia Drury is a writer specializing in the neocons, particularly one of their philosophers- Leo Strauss. She talks about one of his concepts ‘perpetual war.” Information Clearing House: quotes her as saying:

“Francis Fukuyama’s  The End of History and the Last Man, is a popularization of this viewpoint. It sees the coming catastrophe of American global power as inevitable, and seeks to make the best of a bad situation. It is far from a celebration of American dominance.  On this perverse view of the world, if America fails to achieve her “national destiny”, and is mired in perpetual war, then all is well. Man’s humanity, defined in terms of struggle to the death, is rescued from extinction.”

David Brody, of CBN news, describes Rand Paul talking about the neocon ideal of Permanent War:

“In a veiled shot at influential neoconservatives within the Republican Party, Sen. Rand Paul tells The Brody File the following: ‘There are people who will do or say anything who are your enemies,’ Paul said. ‘Those who believe in perpetual war are some of the most dangerous to our country, and I think they will do everything they can to try and vilify people who are trying to find a more reasoned approach where war is the last resort not the first resort.’

“While he didn’t mention any names, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Paul is pushing back against neoconservatives like Bill Kristol and others who haven’t had too many kind words for the senator from Kentucky.”

Waterboarding prisoners to prevent terrorist attacks was a Big Lie. It was a Big Lie designed to make the War On Terror a permanent war. Consequently, they promoted the Big Lie. And, boy, did they promote it.

Let’s look at one of the promotional tools- “24.” The entire concept of that weekly show was that terrorists were trying to carry out an attack and Jack Bauer tortured them until he found out where the ticking time bomb was located. He did it in time to stop the attack. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the show and didn’t miss a single episode. The point is, torture has been tried, literally hundreds of thousands of times, and it does not produce actionable intelligence.

Let’s look at three situations. In all three, a terrorist is involved in planting a weapon of mass destruction (unlike those discovered in Iraq, these WMD’s would actually kill people) in New York City and he is caught. The first difference between “24” and reality is that the number of law of enforcement personnel involved  would far outweigh the number of terrorists. New York City has 35,000 police officers. A significant number would be made available to counteract a major threat. That’s not to mention the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, National Guard, etc. One of the things that made the show so riveting was that Jack Bauer was often on his own. Let’s compare the different approaches.

First, the prisoner is waterboarded and lies about the location of the implanted device. Let’s say it’s a complicated lie, he can’t say exactly but it’s in the sewer system. Or the water system or some parking garage, or… whatever. This information, although false, is acted on and large numbers of law enforcement personnel are immediately sent out to search. All of their efforts are wasted because they are searching in the wrong places and the bomb goes off.

Second scenario. The prisoner is killed in the attempt to capture him. No information, obviously, can be gotten from him. In the very act of finding and killing the terrorist, some information must have been obtained. How did they come to suspect him? Where did they find him, etc. Each little detail leads to ideas about where the weapon might be hidden but no single idea would take precedence they way it would in the false confession. There would be a chance that the ticking time bomb would be found.

Third scenario. The suspect is captured alive. Other interrogation techniques are used. There are interrogators in law enforcement that are very, very good at getting people to talk. Certain officers, particularly in the Secret Service, are very good at being able to tell when someone is lying. By asking questions, knowing the answer is a lie can often give a clue as to what the truth is. Other experts are very good at making friends with suspects. This approach would have a much better chance of success than the other two. Finally, there are passive interrogation techniques that don’t require the suspect to cooperate and can’t be falsified. One is to place the suspect in an MRI which monitors brain function. The suspect is then shown pictures. If the suspect recognizes the person, place, or thing, particular areas of the brain are more active than when unknown pictures are shown to him. Through this procedure, certain information is revealed. Of the three approaches, this is, by far, the most likely to discover the ticking time bomb. Nevertheless, the right wing continually promotes the Big Lie.

And promote it they did. Is there anyone in the country who didn’t hear a right wing politician begin a discussion with “Well, you know, in a ticking time bomb situation…” and then go on to recommend torture?

And, let’s take another look at “24.” The shows executive producers Robert Cochran, Joel Surnow, and Howard Gordon were all right wingers. points out that they are good friends of Rush Limbaugh and they meet often. Surnow, who has jokingly called himself a “right-wing nut job,” shares his show’s hard-line perspective. Speaking of torture, he said, “Isn’t it obvious that if there was a nuke in New York City that was about to blow—or any other city in this country—that, even if you were going to go to jail, it would be the right thing to do?”

The Washington Post wrote about a meeting at the Heritage Foundation:

“On June 23, 2006, the politically conservative US think tank The Heritage Foundation held an unusual panel event to discuss “24” and America’s Image in Fighting Terrorism”. The panel event, which was first conceived by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Ginni, was moderated by talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. In addition to “24” executive producers Robert Cochran, Joel Surnow, and Howard Gordon, and “24” cast members Gregory Itzin, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Carlos Bernard, the panel included Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, and leading Homeland Security experts James Jay Carafano and David Heyman.

“During the event, Limbaugh, a fan of the show himself, commented that “Everybody I’ve met in the government that I tell I watch this show, they are huge fans.” He specifically identified former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Republican political strategist Mary Matalin as enthusiastic fans. The event audience also included Justice Thomas and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.”

The event was organized by Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas’s wife who went on to found and become president of the conservative advocacy group Liberty Central. I’m sure that all present were big fans. The show was designed to promote the neocon Big Lie and was extremely successful at doing so. It greatly furthered the neocon adgenda.

Now we come to the absolutely stunning part of the story: when “24” was developed. Wikipedia describes the conception of the show:

The idea for the series first came from executive producer Joel Surnow, who initially had the idea of a TV show with 24 episodes in a season. Each episode would be an hour long, taking place over the course of a single day. He discussed the idea over the phone with producer Robert Cochran, whose initial response was “Forget it, that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard, it will never work and it’s too hard”. They met the next day at the International House of Pancakes in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, to discuss the idea of this action-espionage series that used the format of real time to create dramatic tension with a race against the clock.

The pilot for “24” was pitched to Fox who immediately bought it, saying they felt that the idea for the series was one that would “move the form of television forward.” The episode had a $4 million budget with filming in March 2001.

All I can say is wow. The right wing was working on convincing the public that torture worked six months to a year before 9/11. Maybe this is a good way to put the whole thing in perspective. Imagine that a Hollywood friend of Barack Obama put out a TV series designed to convince Americans that all terrorist attacks were the result of a major insult to the Koran. Imagine, if you will, that the right wing discovered that work went into producing this TV series six months before the attack on Benghazi. I can promise you that the right wing would discuss this fact every day for the next thousand years.

Fortunately, the rest of us aren’t conspiracy theorists. Still, the very fact that the right wing pushed a method for dealing with terrorists that didn’t produced actionable results and helped al Qaeda recruit proves that the neocons, in the war on terror, are not on the side of the American people. It’s about time that we started discussing this.

Last night, I watched another movie that involved torture: Olympus has Fallen. It was nowhere as good as “24,” but it also involved torture. This time, the people being tortured were senior government officials up to and including the President. Once again, torture worked. Apparently, these senior officials didn’t get the simple fact discovered by most people that have been tortured to get information. It’s embarrassing that I have to point this out. If torturers are torturing you to get information that they don’t have, you don’t have to tell the truth. You can lie. Your interrogator won’t know it’s a lie because they don’t know what the truth is. Muslim terrorists already know this, which is why we didn’t get any actionable intelligence from them. According to the movie, the president and his cabinet weren’t as smart as terrorists. It seems bizarre to me that everyone doesn’t understand this.

The neocons who promoted all this aren’t your friends. Get them out of office.

This is what I have to say about torture but I don’t spend all of my time on politics. I’m also a Celtic artists (the border is my work.) If you would like to see some of more my art work, go to my website or that of my good friend, the author Doug Page.

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On August 6, 2013, Ted Yoho, Republican representative from Florida, told followers that he would support a bill to investigate President Obama’s place of birth. ( HuffingtonPost.)  ThinkProgress reported that the Republican Congressman from South Carolina, Jeff Duncan, came out as a birther. (You can see the tape with Chris Mathew on MSNBC.)  The HuffingtonPost reports that on August 8, tea party protesters stood outside the Hilton Orlando as President Obama’s motorcade pulled in with signs like “Kenyan go home.” There are literally thousands and thousands of events like this going on all over the country and even more discussions in the right wing media.

On August 12th  (Washington Post) Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) told supporters at an open house that there were probably enough votes in the House of Representatives to impeach President Obama but the Senate wouldn’t support it. The whole birther movement just hasn’t gone away. If anything, it’s getting worse.

Let me tell you what I did when I heard, for the first time, the clamoring for Barrack Obama to release his birth certificate. It was simple enough. I went on line and Googled “Obama’s birth certificate.” One of the sites that came up was Barack Obama’s site. I clicked on the site, looked it over and found that he had posted his birth certificate. This was before the election. Nevertheless, I had to listen to the demand, repeated over and over, for him to release his birth certificate. For years, I had to listen to this crap. I had to listen to it all the way into his re-election campaign. After the first couple of months, never once, in all that time, did I hear a single person in the media reply to the request that President Obama release his birth certificate: “Ah, actually? He did release his birth certificate.”

Of course, releasing his birth certificate convinced no one. Including me. As I looked at it on line back in 2008, my thought was that even I could have produced a fake birth certificate. All I would have needed was a copy from someone born in Hawaii. Certainly, being from Hawaii, he should have been able to pick one up pretty easily. Back then, I had never heard of Barack Obama. I had no particular reason to believe him and started thinking about how to determine whether or not the birth certificate was valid. My thought was that the place where the interest was probably the most intense was Hawaii. I Googled Hawaiian newspapers, found out the largest two and went to their websites.

The largest, the Honolulu Advertiser, had the headline “State Department of Health declares Obama birth certificate legal” on the article that appeared on October 28, 2008. (Subsequently, the Honolulu Advertiser merged with the Star Bulletin and they became the Star Advertiser.) Click here (Star Advertiser) to see the posting. Apparently, the pressure got so bad that the Governor sent the commissioner of health to check it out. The Governor, at that time was Linda Lingle. She was a Republican and helped campaign for John McCain. The commissioner, called Director in Hawaii, was Director Chiyome Fukino, M.D. Governor Lingle sent the Director over to Kapi’olani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital to determine whether or not Barrack Obama had been born there. I worked for a commissioner and I know that when the governor sends a request like that, the Director brought the State’s foremost experts with him when he went. The Health Department’s website has this statement:

“There have been numerous requests for Sen. Barack Hussein Obama’s official birth certificate. State law (Hawai‘i Revised Statutes §338-18) prohibits the release of a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record.

“Therefore, I as Director of Health for the State of Hawai‘i, along with the Registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawai‘i State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.”

“No state official, including Governor Linda Lingle, has ever instructed that this vital record be handled in a manner different from any other vital record in the possession of the State of Hawai‘i.”

The Department of Health Website addresses a number of other issues related to President Obama’s birth certificate. This whole issue has been a real problem in Hawaii, where those who are determined to throw mud at president go to get it. The Hawaiian Health Department actually had to put in effect a policy saying that the hospital didn’t have to talk to the people who call asking about President Obama’s birth certificate. You see, the Hospital has patients to treat.

A few days later, the Honolulu Advertiser had a follow up story. The head line was “Officials verify birth certificate of Obama” And the story was “The state health director said yesterday she has personally seen and verified Sen. Barack Obama’s original birth certificate in an effort to address numerous requests for the document.”

Let’s review. The Hawaiian Governor, who campaigned for John McCain, sent her appointee along with the world’s foremost expert on Kapi’olani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital medical records to examine Barack Obama’s birth certificate “in suti.” She pronounced it genuine. Maybe, if this was done after Barack Obama had been sworn into office, after he gave the CIA the assignment to go into the hospital in the middle of the night and modify the records, they could have been fooled but I doubt it. Certainly, there was no way in hell for Barack Obama himself  to have done anything that would have fooled these experts.

In all of the media discussion, I have never heard anyone talk about this issue. The real experts, the experts on what is going on at the hospital Barack Obama was born in, saw and pronounced judgment. Basically, its case closed. Nevertheless this had no impact whatsoever on the birther movement.

What I didn’t do at the time, but many others did, was to go to They ran an article on August 21, 2008 called: Born in the U.S.A.:

“In June, the Obama campaign released a digitally scanned image of his birth certificate to quell speculative charges that he might not be a natural-born citizen. But the image prompted more blog-based skepticism about the document’s authenticity. And recently, author Jerome Corsi, whose book attacks Obama, said in a TV interview that the birth certificate the campaign has is “fake.”

“We beg to differ. staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as “supporting documents” to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.”

FactCheck ran pictures, from the front, the back, the side, close up and from a distance, leaving no doubts. They compared the original to the then current lies and refuted them. Here’s how the lies got started. It’s embarrassing that I have to say this. Barack Obama didn’t actually post his birth certificate on line. No one can post a document on line. Documents can’t travel through wires. All that anyone can post on line is an image. Images can travel through wires. The image is acquired by scanning the document. The document has properties that the image doesn’t have- like embossing. Likewise, the image has properties that the document doesn’t have. FactCheck went through all this and explained it. In detail.

Another totally trivial argument hinges on the difference between “Certificate of Live Birth” and “Birth Certificate.” Again, the Honolulu Star Advertiser  covered the difference quite succinctly: “Some states call their ‘Birth Certificates’ certificates of live birth while other states call their ‘Certificates of Live Birth’ birth certificates.”

On and on it goes, lie after lie and it works. A YouGov Poll (Page 26, Question 64), completed in May, 2012, showed that 63% of the Republican Party base believe this particular lie.

In the January/ February edition, Mother Jones magazine had an article on the various right wing lies about President Obama. They list 46 separate lies. Foremost among the lies, of course, is the lie that he wasn’t born in the United States. Another lie is that President Obama personally caused Hurricane Sandy. Seriously, that’s what Alex Jones has said. Another, equally as bizarre, is that President Obama is actually the Antichrist. Google shows over 2,300,000 hits on that one. See beforeitsnews. They have a recording of a CNN story about it. Alternatively, if you believe that he is the antichrist, go to Snopes. He takes the time to refute the notion. Public Policy Polling found that 20% of Republicans believe that President Obama is the Anti-Christ. PRNewsWire quotes a poll by Newsweek that 40% of all Americans believe in the antichrist but, apparently, only half of them are convinced that he is President Obama.

The Republican Party has devolved into the party of lies. Rush Limbaugh is the Prince of Lies but Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are just as bad. Michael Savage, Alex Jones and Glenn Beck are worse. The right wing is given information by a propaganda machine. The rest of us get our information through news organizations. There is a huge differences. One difference is that a propaganda machine repeats lies over and over until their audience accepts them. News organizations tell the news once. After that, it just isn’t news anymore. The repetition, apparently, is helpful. Say it often enough and listeners begin to believe that President Obama is in control of the weather.

The liars themselves, in the case of Obama’s birth certificate- Jerome Corsi, Andy Martin, Joseph Farah, Orly Taitz, Nick Walsh, Larry Johnson, Mickey Mathis, Ronald J. Poland, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Mario Apuzzo, Craig McMillan Jack Kelly, and Larry Klayman- they know that they are lying. The base may not know, but those who invent the lies, they know. I discovered all this information in a couple of hours. It isn’t possible that these people have been spending five years on the topic don’t know it.

Here’s another way to view what they are saying. Orly Taitz claimed to have found the ‘smoking gun’ in the birther movement: Barack Obama’s actual birth certificate from Kenya. It’s actually a photo shopped copy of an Australian man’s birth certificate from Australia (Salon.)  Is it conceivable that Orly Taitz took her case, based on this phony birth certificate all the way to the Supreme Court without knowing it was fake? Or this. Salon sent a copy of the forged birth certificate to a member of the Kenya government. Here’s his response: “It’s a forgery. Kenya only became a Republic in December, 1964. Other arguments could also be marshaled, but they are not needed.” Is it possible that Orly Taitz didn’t look it up? Didn’t know that Kenya wasn’t a country at the time?

In any case, the liars have been quite successful. We have people in this country like Mon Valley Republican Party Chair Brent Kovac. He hung flags upside down on inauguration day because:

“…our president hasn’t proven himself a natural born citizen, satisfactorily to anyone yet, and is thumbing his nose at us by producing that laughable birth certificate that he came up with…”

I think the best way to describe his position is just plain stupid. “Satisfactorily to anyone?” How about to the Republican Governor of Hawaii? How about the foremost expert in the world on Hawaiian birth certificates?

Meanwhile, the whole issue is without significance. Barack Obama ran against John McCain for president. The right wing was screaming about Obama’s birth place the entire time. John McCain, on the other hand, was definitely not born in the US. No one even said he was. The New York Times has an interesting article on it but FactCheck has the complete answer. They show a Congressional bill, passed in 1790: Congress: “And the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens.” This is what the so-called left has to say about John McCain’s eligibility.

Anyone on the outside can clearly see what is happening: the right wing leadership makes up lie after lie to deceive their base. What the base doesn’t know is the purpose. Lying by the right wing leadership is relentless and purposeful. They lie all the time.  They deliberately fill the minds of their followers with lies in order to fill the hearts of their followers with fear, anger, and hatred. It has been very successful. Speaking to right wingers, you see that they come across as angry all the time. Here’s an example of how this is useful. It allows the right wing leadership to get them all fired up over reducing government regulation to help the economy. The anger that the base feels keeps them from remembering that this was a policy that Ronald Regan ran on. They forget that he de-regulated the savings and loan industry and it cost the American tax payer 500 billion dollars. George W. Bush ran on the same platform, deregulated the banking industry and then spent 5 trillion dollars bailing the banks out. The right wing talks all the time about big spending liberals and the base never remembers that George W. Bush spent nine trillion dollars in one year. President Obama never spent half that much in one year. It doesn’t matter. The hearts of the right wingers are so filled with hatred that they can’t think.

Here’s another- putting money in the hands of the “job creators.” Ronald Regan did that and caused the second worst recession since the Great Depression. George W. Bush ran on the same policy, implemented the tax cut to the rich and created the greatest recession since the Great Depression. The base doesn’t learn. What happened to all that money? Here’s an example: the right wing talks about the Koch brothers as a ‘small business.’ That’s a small business in that the number of owners is small. Rachel Maddow ran a piece on the company and pointed out how many jobs these ‘job creators’ created when they got their tens of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Actually? They laid off thousands of employees. And yet they own the Tea Party. The net effect of putting money in the hands of the ‘job creators’ was that the country was losing 750,000 jobs a month when President George W. Bush left office. So, what do the ‘job creators’ do with the money? They put it in off shore accounts. See the Huffington Post. There is at least $32 Trillion. How much is from Americans and American companies isn’t yet known. What is known is that Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney had millions in off-shore accounts. ABC estimated the amount at between $13 million and $30 million. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Republicans voted for him anyway.

There is something else going on. The rest of us do one of two things. Either we ignore the endless lies or we make up excuses for them. Over and over, I hear people in the mainstream talk about things that the right wing leadership says as though the statements reflected the speaker’s opinion. A lie is not an opinion, it’s a lie and we have to start calling it what it is. We also have to accept that these are not people with good intentions. In fact, the leadership of the right wing is endlessly evil. Their only motivation is the greed of those who pay them. And the right wing base likes hearing lies. The right wing base has listened to so many lies for so long that they are damaged goods. The lies help them accept the fact that their income is not going to go up and their benefits are going to go down. I call them the mindless minions of evil. Well, this is just one of the right wing Big Lies. We’ll be looking at others.

Just as I was posting this, Ted Cruz posted his Canadian birth certificate on line. He admitted that he wasn’t born in the US and he is a darling of the far right. Perhaps this will end the birther movement. Perhaps not. The right wing will have to convince the base that Republican candidates for president don’t have to be born in the USA, only Democratic candidates. Shouldn’t be that hard, the right wing base will believe absolutely anything.

This is what I have to say about the birther issue but I don’t spend all of my time on politics. I’m also a Celtic artists (the border is my work.) If you would like to see some of more my art work, go to my website or that of my good friend, the author Doug Page.

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Iraq and WMD’s

Rant3On  February 19th, MSNBC ran a special called Hubris about WMD’s in Iraq. It was an excellent documentary which discussed, in detail, the evidence presented by the Bush administration for WMD’s in Iraq. The video may no longer be available at MSNBC on line but it is available at You-Tube.  Or, click on “Transcript” to read a transcript of the show.

Hubris walked through the major pieces of ‘evidence’ that were used to justify the invasion: Curveball, the defector questioned by the Germans who talked about biological weapons; the aluminum tubes supposedly for purifying uranium; the memo supposedly about an Iraqi attempt to purchase Niger yellow cake uranium ore; the supposed meeting between Muhammad Atta with Iraq security and a couple of others. Hubris did a good job of showing how none of these pieces of evidence were the slightest bit believable. There seemed to be a lot more that could have been said but it was a one hour show. A five hour show couldn’t have covered all of the issues.

One very serious problem was that the show never discussed the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. But before beginning that discussion, it is extremely important to point out that the reason for the invasion of Iraq was never solely that Iraq had WMD’s. Generally, that is what those on the right say now but that was not what was said at the time. The case that was presented was that Iraq represented an imminent threat. That was why the US had to invade Iraq. Because the threat was imminent, the US couldn’t wait for the weapons inspectors to finish their job.

The threat was composed of two parts. The first, certainly, was that Iraq had WMD’s. The second part, though, was the danger that Iraq would either use these weapons on the US or turn those weapons over to terrorists who would use them on the United States. Since Iraq had no weapons delivery system that could take a WMD from Iraq to the US, it was the terrorism connection that was important. Hubris recognized and discussed this fact. Here’s a bit from the show:

MADDOW: In a PBS interview on “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer”, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice reveals with certainty more evidence of Saddam`s supposed terrorist link:

RICE: We know too that several of the detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development.

Hubris also had a scene from after the war with Matt Lauer interviewing Dick Cheney:

LAUER: We sit here some eight years later, 4,000 Americans lost their lives, maybe 100,000 Iraqis lost their lives. It cost about $1 trillion. Was it worth it? Did you give the right advice?

CHENEY: I think I did. If you look back at the proposition we faced after 9/11, with respect to Saddam Hussein, we were very concerned about the prospects of terrorists like the 9/11 crowd acquiring weapons of mass destruction, biological agents or nuclear weapon that they could use on the United States.

That was the point: the United States could not take a chance that nuclear, chemical and biological weapons would end up in the hands of terrorists. Iraq constituted an imminent threat to the United States, a threat to our very existence. The Center for American Progress has a selection of 65 similar quotes regarding the imminent threat from the President Bush administration, quotes like:

“There are many dangers in the world, but the threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place. Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.”
President Bush, 10/7/02

This is a quote from Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Speech to the United Nations on Iraq on Feb 5, 2003, as reported in the Washington Post:

”But what I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder. Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida lieutenants.”

In his April 22, 2002 column in The Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer wrote:

“Saddam survived, rearmed, defeated the inspections regime, and is now back building weapons of mass destruction.” He added “Time is running short. Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. He is working on nuclear weapons. And he has every incentive to pass them on to terrorists who will use them against us.”

Or this quote from Fred Barnes:

“The president made the argument, successfully I believe, that attacking Iraq, deposing Saddam Hussein, is a part of the war on terrorism. Because after September 11th, we realized that all of a sudden, despite the lack of intercontinental missiles on part of a country like Iraq that does have weapons of mass destruction, there is a delivery vehicle, and it’s called terrorists, it’s called al Qaeda.”

It was also covered in the authorization to use force against Iraq, H.J.RES.114 — Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002:

“Whereas Iraq’s demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself;”

In summary, the Bush Administration convinced the country that there was a severe risk that WMD’s from Iraq might fall into the hands of terrorists and then be used against Americans. That possibility represented a threat to our very existence. This was presented as the reason for the invasion.

This brings us to the major issue of the war, what I described as the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room, something that no one seems to talk about and I don’t know why. It is absolutely essential to understanding the war in Iraq. What I am referring to is a report prepared by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and titled GAO-07-444.

During the run-up to the 2004 election, John Kerry brought up the fact that weapons sites in Iraq were not secured following the American invasion in 2003, specifically, the Al Qaqaa weapons depot. He said that U.S. troops “are being shot at” with “weapons stolen from the ammo dumps that this president didn’t think were important enough to guard.” (See the Washington Post) President Bush responded by saying: “A political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as commander in chief.” President Bush went on to say that he commissioned the GAO to investigate.

The GAO did investigate, in fact, they conducted a very thorough investigation. What they found out was that U.S. and coalition forces were unable to adequately secure conventional munitions storage sites in Iraq. This resulted in widespread looting of munitions depots. They found that this was because Coalition Forces had insufficient troop levels to secure the sites. Here is a quote from t the GAO Repot:

“The overwhelming size and number of conventional munitions storage sites in Iraq, combined with certain prewar planning assumptions that proved to be invalid, resulted in U.S. forces not adequately securing these sites and widespread looting, according to field unit, lessons learned, and intelligence reports. Pre-OIF estimates of Iraq’s conventional munitions varied significantly, with the higher estimate being five times greater than the lower estimate. Conventional munitions storage sites were looted after major combat operations and some remained vulnerable as of October 2006. According to lessons learned reports and senior-level DOD officials, the widespread looting occurred because DOD had insufficient troop levels to secure conventional munitions storage sites due to several OIF planning priorities and assumptions.”

One caveat needs to be made: all through the report, the term “conventional munitions storage sites” is invariably used to describe the sites that were left unsecured. Obviously, this was a response to pressure from the Bush administration and was correct to the extent that no WMD’s were actually found in any depots so all sites must have been conventional sites. The misdirection is exposed for what it is in some of its conclusions. For example, it refers to future operations and makes suggestions like “conventional munitions storage sites” must be secured to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of insurgents. Obviously, it is even more important to prevent WMD’s from getting into the hands of insurgents. Clearly, ‘unconventional’ was inserted before every instance of ‘munitions storage sites,’ whether it made sense or not.

Another way to explore this caveat in the report is to look at the weapons depots described by the Bush administration as potential WMD sites then look at sites actually searched by coalition forces. While the expeditionary force didn’t have the troops to secure the weapons depots, there was an effort made to try to find WMD’s. A group called the “75th Exploitation Task Force” started racing around Iraq trying to find WMD’s.

Its role was described by the Washington Post as follows:

“The 75th Exploitation Task Force, as the group is formally known, has been described from the start as the principal component of the U.S. plan to discover and display forbidden Iraqi weapons.”

Notice that the article said “display.” It did not say “secure”. The weapons depot mentioned by John Kerry- Al Qaqaa had over a hundred warehouses. It was the size of a small city. According to a paper by the Carnegie Endowment for Peace (page 5) the 75th Exploitation Task Force had no more than 25-120 staff actively searching. Clearly, the 75th Exploitation Task Force did not have the resources to even thoroughly search such a weapons depot. They certainly couldn’t secure even one weapons depot. Additionally, they went from one to the next. The article continues:

“By far the greatest impediment to the weapons hunt, participants said, was widespread looting of Iraq’s government and industrial facilities. At nearly every top-tier “sensitive site” the searchers reached, intruders had sacked and burned the evidence that weapons hunters had counted on sifting. As recently as last Tuesday, nearly a month after Hussein’s fall from power, soldiers under the Army’s V Corps command had secured only 44 of the 85 top potential weapons sites…”

Note that the article calls them “intruders.” In short, ‘terrorists’ as we would later find out. This was the team going around to the sites that they thought most likely to contain WMD’s. When they got there, the sites had already been visited by terrorists who had “sacked” the evidence the team was looking for. The evidence they were looking for was WMD’s. Do I even need to say  this? We invaded Iraq to keep WMD’s out of the hands of terrorists. Then, we left the same weapons depots unguarded that we thought were chock a block full of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and allowed terrorists to loot them. This did not advance the cause of keeping WMD’s out of the hands of terrorists.

All of the sites discussed in the press as potential locations of WMD’s are also mentioned in the articles about weapons depots that were looted. At the beginning of the war they were thought to be WMD storage locations. Only years later could they all be described as “conventional munitions storage sites.”

Here are more articles about the looting of weapons depots:

The Seattle Times:

“Aid worker tells troops about the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area being looted.”

US News & World Reports:

“It came out of nowhere to dominate the final week of the presidential campaign. But the disclosure that tons of advanced explosives had somehow vanished from an Iraqi weapons dump came as no surprise to David Kay. The former chief U.S. weapons inspector says there has been looting at scores of unguarded Iraqi weapon dumps since the American invasion.”

The Boston Globe:

“Iraqi officials reported that thieves looted 377 tons of powerful explosives from an unguarded site after the US-led invasion last year, the top UN nuclear official said yesterday. And a former weapons inspector said he had counted about 100 other unguarded weapons sites that may have been stripped of munitions.”

BBC News:

“Employees at one of Iraq’s main nuclear sites, Al Tuwaitha, have appealed for help after the facility was looted.”


“Dozens of ballistic missiles are missing in Iraq. Vials of dangerous microbes are unaccounted for. Sensitive sites, once under U.N. seal, stand gutted today, their arms-making gear hauled off by looters, or by arms-makers.”

There can be no doubt whatsoever that the weapons depots all over were left unguarded or, in a few instances, guarded by a force too small to protect the site. There can be no doubt that they were looted. Not only that, the sites that were looted were, in many instances, exactly those sites that the Bush administration had declared as those most likely to contain WMD’s. Had those depots contained WMD’s, terrorists would have gotten them.

Going back to the GAO report the report states:

“Despite war plan and intelligence estimates of large quantities of munitions in Iraq, knowledgeable DOD officials reported that DOD did not plan for or set up a program to centrally manage and destroy enemy munitions until August 2003, well after the completion of major combat operations in May 2003. The costs of not securing these conventional munitions storage sites have been high, as explosives and ammunition from these sites used in the construction of IEDs that have killed and maimed people. Furthermore, estimates indicate such munitions are likely to continue to support terrorist attacks in the region.”

“Furthermore, the sites remained vulnerable from April 2003 through the time of our review. (note: the review was conducted in March, 2006- three years later.) For example, an assessment conducted from April 2003 through June 2003 indicated that most military garrisons associated with Iraq’s former republican guard had been extensively looted and vandalized after the military campaign phase of OIF ended. It concluded that the most prized areas for looting were the depots or storage areas. The assessment further concluded that the thorough nature of the looting and the seemingly targeted concentration on storage areas suggested that much of the looting was conducted by organized elements that were likely aided or spearheaded by Iraqi military personnel.”

The report points out that the cost of not securing the weapons depots was that fully half of the casualties were soldiers killed or wounded by improvised explosive devices made out of weapons looted from the unsecure weapons depots. The suggestion that the looting was done by Iraqi military personnel means that the looters, in many instances, were people that new exactly what the facilities contained and where it was stored.

First, let’s point out what would have been involved in securing these depots. They were huge, covering acres and acres with hundreds of buildings. I can’t imagine, given the description of some of them, that they could have been guarded by fewer than thirty men. That’s one shift. They’d need three, so figure 90 per site. Throw in a commander, a messenger, a cook… say a hundred total. There were 2,400 sites. That’s two hundred and forty thousand troops. Just for comparison sake, the total number of US troops involved in the invasion was 148,000. Just to secure the weapons depots would have required almost double the number of troops. That’s just on-site. A large number of troops would also have been needed to be available to back up the troops on site in case of attacks.

Below is a NY Times article about the looting of Al Qaqaa and other sites. Here’s an assessment from the article:

“One senior official noted that the Qaqaa complex where the explosives were stored was listed as a “medium priority” site on the Central Intelligence Agency’s list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion. ‘Should we have gone there? Definitely,’ said one senior administration official.”

In the chaos that followed the invasion, however, many of those sites, even some considered a higher priority, were never secured.”

Also in that article is a description of the al Qaqaa complex:

“It’s like Mars on Earth,” said Maj. Dan Whisnant, an intelligence officer for the Second Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. “It would take probably 10 battalions 10 years to clear that out.”

A battalion is composed of between 300 and 1200 troops. Multiplied by 10 that’s 3,000 to 12,000 in total. That’s one site. For all of Iraq, that would be between 720,000 and 2,800,000. AND they would have had to work for ten years. Clearly, there weren’t sufficient troops in Iraq to secure the sites and dispose of the weapons.

Hubris tore apart the argument that Saddam might give WMD’s to al Quaeda. In fact, the idea made about as much sense as suggesting that Mossad might give WMD’s to Hamas. On the other hand, no one disputes that, after Saddam was deposed, Iraq was crawling with al Qaeda terrorists, who went to Iraq to help their Sunni brethren fight the Americans. At the time when the weapons depots were being looted. The only reason that al Qaeda didn’t end up with hundreds of tons of WMD’s is that the Bush Administration was wrong. There just weren’t any for them to loot.

Now, let’s stop right here. As the war progressed and the search for WMD’s progressed, the argument on whether or not the war was justified devolved into an argument over whether or not there were WMD’s in Iraq. As I said we did not invade Iraq because we thought there were WMD’s in Iraq. That was only half of the reason. The other half of the reason was the danger that Iraq might turn over these weapons to terrorists. Whether or not, in retrospect, this argument was sound is beside the point. Without the argument, the war would never have been approved. Even with the argument, the war probably would not have been approved without 9/11. Terrorist attacks were on people’s minds. Another event, also probably crucial to the approval, was the anthrax scare. A bunch of Democratic congressmen got letters containing anthrax spores in the mail. Neither the congress nor the people of America wanted to have to deal with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons attacks on American cities.

Remember the talks from Homeland Security about what to do if a dirty bomb was to blow up over a city? The use of duck tape to seal up windows? The idea of terrorist attacks with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons was frightening. That’s what the war in Iraq was designed to prevent: Saddam Hussein giving WMD’s to terrorists and those terrorists using them against Americans.

So, when the invasion was launched, the American forces only had about a third the troops needed to complete both of the goals of the war. There simply was no plan to secure the 2,400 weapons depots starting with the invasion. The GAO report gives a number of excuses about how this happened. One was that it was surprising how large the weapons depots were. Are you kidding me? An American, David Kay, was the chief UN weapons inspector. The US was involved in the inspections. Americans went to the weapons depots and inspected them. They walked around inside them. We knew where the inspections were taking place. We had aerial and satellite photos of the places. Satellite photos were presented in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Speech to the United Nations on Iraq. If those planning the attack didn’t know, they could have asked.

Another excuse was that the Defense Department planned on having Iraqi forces secure them until it was possible to secure them ourselves. Incredible. On April 22, 2003 General Jay Garner of the Coalition Provisional Authority assumed command of Iraq. He lasted a couple of months and was let go for being too nice to the Iraqi army. His replacement, Paul Bremer, was in office for a week and a half when he issued his second order-  he discharged the Iraqi military. The Iraqi military that was supposed to guard the weapons depots. Thomas Ricks, a military writer, wrote a book about the Iraq war entitled Fiasco. It had two chapters devoted to the incredible things done by those in charge of the invasion. The two chapters were entitled “How to Create and Insurgency 1” and “How to Create an Insurgency 2.” One chapter couldn’t cover all the mistakes. Of course, the failure to guard the weapons depots was certainly covered. Also included were things like the complete failure to develop a plan to restore order. The army acted in a hands off manner and didn’t stop looting. The first man in charge, General Garner, didn’t get along with Ahmed Chalabi so he was fired and replaced with Paul Brenner. Paul Brenner was on the job for just a few days when he issued an executive order firing the 300,000 top governmental leaders because they were Baathists, leaving a totally non functioning government. His next order of business was to discharge the entire Iraq army. He did this after the US Army had told the Iraq Army before and during the war that they would be kept on. This left them with no jobs, no income, a minority in a country they had controlled. They had a complete hatred towards the US and complete knowledge of where arms were stored. So much for depending on the Iraqi Army to guard the weapons depots.

That covers the first big problem with Hubris. It didn’t deal with the fact that US government failed to secure the weapons depots in Iraq. Here’s the second problem with Hubris. It implied that the neocons in the Bush administration were lying when they said that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. They implied that the Bush administration was lying when it said that Iraq had hundreds of tons of WMD’s on hand. For Hubris to say this was wrong.

Clearly, the things that the Bush administration said about WMDs in Iraq weren’t just untrue, they were blatantly untrue. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the Bush administration didn’t believe that Iraq had WMD’s. But this is what Hubris said or, at least, implied. Here’s a sample:

Rachael Maddow:

“But what we did with “Hubris” was not tell the story of the Iraq war, but rather the story of what made us start that war. So, we didn`t peg it to the 10-year anniversary of the invasion, we pegged it earlier than that. We pegged it to the lying to us by our own government that made that invasion possible.”

It was wrong of them to have implied that the Bush administration didn’t believe there were WMD’s in Iraq. First of all, it is impossible to know for sure just what is in someone else’s mind. Second, there is good reason to think that the Bush administration really did think that the weapons depots they left unguarded were full of WMD’s. The reason has to do with a right wing think tank called the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). It was located in the building that houses the American Enterprise Institute, another right wing think tank. There were a few things about this organization that are critical to understanding the Iraq War. The first thing is that this organization was promoting a war with Iraq for years. In 1998, they sent and open letter to newspapers all over the country. The letter was addressed to then President Bill Clinton and it claimed that Iraq was developing WMD’s once again. This was done by people who were not actively employed by the government at the time and, therefore, not privy to information from government agencies keeping track of Iraq.

The second thing that needs to be understood is that for a number of years, they were working closely with a Shiite Muslim named Ahmed Chalabi. There is reason to believe that Chalabi convinced those at the PNAC that Saddam had re-constituted the WMD program in Iraq. Here are a couple of articles that discuss the connection:

Seymour M. Hersh, in New Yorker Magazine writes about them back in 2003:

“They (the group from PNAC) call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal—a small cluster of policy advisers and analysts now based in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. In the past year, according to former and present Bush Administration officials, their operation, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. These advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after September 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, or I.N.C., the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi. By last fall, the operation rivaled both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon’s own Defense Intelligence Agency, the D.I.A., as President Bush’s main source of intelligence regarding Iraq’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al Qaeda.”


“Chalabi is a controversial figure, especially in the United States, for many reasons. In the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), with the assistance of lobbying powerhouse BKSH & Associates,provided a major portion of the information on which U.S. Intelligence based its condemnation of the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, including reports of weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Most, if not all, of this information has turned out to be false and Chalabi a fabricator.That, combined with the fact that Chalabi subsequently boasted, in an interview with the British Sunday Telegraph, about the impact that their alleged falsifications had on American policy, led to a falling out between him and the U.S. government. Furthermore, Chalabi has been found guilty of the Petra banking scandal in Jordan. In January 2012, a French intelligence official stated that they believed Chalabi to be an Iranian agent.”

The Guardian:

“An urgent investigation has been launched in Washington into whether Iran played a role in manipulating the US into the Iraq war by passing on bogus intelligence through Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, it emerged yesterday.”

“Some intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the hawks in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighbour, and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq.”

The Bush administration put together a plan that involved invading Iraq without sufficient forces or a plan to secure the weapons depots. They say they thought that the weapons depots had hundreds of tons of WMD’s in them. They say they thought there were terrorists in Iraq. It certainly looks like they deliberately tried to put WMD’s in the hands of terrorists. The Democrats say, “Oh, the Bush Administration was lying when they said that Saddam had WMD’s and might give them to terrorists.” When they do that, they are making up an excuse for the Bush administration. If the Bush administration didn’t believe the things they were saying, let them say so. The outcome is that most Democrats believe that the Bush administration was lying. Meanwhile, 63% of the Republican base believes that the Bush administration was telling the truth and that the war was justified because WMD’s were discovered in Iraq. (YouGov Poll, spring 2012, Page 26, question 63)

OK, why?  Why invade Iraq in the belief that there were WMD’s in large quantities and terrorists running around the country and then stand aside and let terrorists loot them? I’ve only seen one news report that might account for why the Bush administration might want that. God help me, I saw the article in NewsMax which has about the same journalistic standards as the National Enquirer. NewsMax no longer keeps an archive of their ‘publication’ so there is no link but this article helps.

The Village Voice,

“This morning, the big right-wing website, published an interview with Tommy Franks, the former chief of the Central Command who led the war against Iraq, under the headline, “Gen. Franks Doubts Constitution Will Survive WMD Attack.” In an interview with Cigar Aficionado magazine, the general, now living in Tampa, argues that in the event of a WMD hit on the U.S., our form of government would go out the window. “The Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.”

Here are some additional sites that quote the same article:,  Free Republic, Information Clearing House, Tranceaddict, DemocraticUnderground,

Well, there it is, the possibility that the Bush administration invaded Iraq, and allowed terrorists to loot the weapons depots that they thought were loaded with WMD’s. The plan was to suspend the constitution and install a military dictatorship. Was that actually the plan of the Bush Administration? I doubt it. Still, it is up to them to tell us why they invaded Iraq with no plan for securing weapons depots that they said were filled with WMD’s. The assumption that the Bush administration lied about WMD’s protects them from having to answer the tough questions. Like when President Bush told a reporter that the biggest disappointment of his presidency was that no WMD’s were found in Iraq. The reporter was thinking ‘Liar.’ What the reporter should have done was ask: “Mr. President, the invasion of Iraq included neither a plan nor staffing to secure the weapons depots that you said were filled with tons of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Terrorists looted them. Are you saying that the biggest disappointment of your presidency was that those terrorists didn’t get stocks of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons?”

Then there is the right wing base. They believe that WMD’s were found. They are referring to about 500 warheads that were buried near the Iran border and were believed to pre-date the Gulf War. Here are two articles about the use of those warheads:

NBC News:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — “A roadside bomb thought to contain deadly sarin nerve agent exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said Monday. It was believed to be the first confirmed discovery of any of the banned weapons that the United States cited in making its case for the Iraq war.”

“Two members of a military bomb squad were treated for “minor exposure,” but no serious injuries were reported.”

“The chemicals were inside an artillery shell dating to the Saddam Hussein era that had been rigged as a bomb in Baghdad, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief military spokesman in Iraq”

Washington Post:

“An artillery shell containing the nerve agent sarin exploded near a U.S. military convoy in Baghdad recently, releasing a small amount of the deadly chemical and slightly injuring two ordnance disposal experts, a top U.S. military official in Iraq said yesterday.”

“The discovery of the nerve agent, reported yesterday by a team that has been searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq since shortly after last year’s U.S.-led invasion, marked the first time the team has found one of the types of weapons that the Bush administration cited as initial justification for toppling the government of Saddam Hussein.”

“But weapons experts cautioned that the shell appeared to predate the 1991 Persian Gulf War and did not necessarily mean that Hussein possessed hidden stockpiles of chemical munitions.”

“Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, told reporters in Baghdad that a roadside bomb made from an artillery shell containing small amounts of sarin was “virtually ineffective as a chemical weapon.”

The right wing latched upon this development to tout their “victory:”

Washington Post:

“Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told reporters yesterday that weapons of mass destruction had in fact been found in Iraq, despite acknowledgments by the White House and the insistence of the intelligence community that no such weapons had been discovered.”

“We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons,” Santorum said.

“The lawmakers pointed to an unclassified summary from a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center regarding 500 chemical munitions shells that had been buried near the Iranian border, and then long forgotten, by Iraqi troops during their eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988”.

“The U.S. military announced in 2004 in Iraq that several crates of the old shells had been uncovered and that they contained a blister agent that was no longer active. Neither the military nor the White House nor the CIA considered the shells to be evidence of what was alleged by the Bush administration to be a current Iraqi program to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.”

“Last night, intelligence officials reaffirmed that the shells were old and were not the suspected weapons of mass destruction sought in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.”

Between 1991 and 1997 Carl Rolf Ekéus was director of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq, the United Nations disarmament observers in Iraq after the Gulf War. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on WMDs. Here’s what he had to say about them:

Washington Post

“During its war against Iran, Iraq found that chemical warfare agents, especially nerve agents such as sarin, soman, tabun, and later VX, deteriorated after just a couple weeks’ storage in drums or in filled chemical warfare munitions. The reason was that the Iraqi chemists, lacking access to high-quality laboratory and production equipment, were unable to make the agents pure enough.”  (UNSCOM found in 1991 that the large quantities of nerve agents discovered in storage in Iraq had lost most of their lethal property and were not suitable for warfare.)  . . .The rather bizarre political focus on the search for rusting drums and pieces of munitions containing low-quality chemicals has tended to distort the important question of WMD in Iraq…”

And this was from a man who supported the invasion. Clearly, there was absolutely no chance that these scraps constituted a weapon.

That’s what the mainstream media said, the White House, the intelligence community and everyone who knew anything about WMD’s. But that wasn’t the end of it. Rick Santorum and Pete Hoekstra went on FoxNews and proclaimed that WMD’s had, in fact, been found in Iraq. Really, it was just a matter of definition. The right wing base was in real pain so the right wing leadership proclaimed a pile of junk to be WMD’s and the right wing base grabbed it like a drowning man would grasp at straws. Just a change in definition that’s all. A rule change, so to speak. Media Matters has a terrific description of all the FoxNews shows that proclaimed the wonderful news that WMD’s had, in fact, been found. This is a section from Bill O’Reilly:

“Host Bill O’Reilly repeatedly chided his guest Rev. Al Sharpton for being “a ‘Bush lied’ [about Iraqi WMD capabilities] guy” and asked if Sharpton was going to “write an apology letter to Bush.” O’Reilly asserted that the discovery “is the real deal” and again reminded Sharpton: “I’m happy you’re going to apologize for the [remarks on the lack of] weapons of mass destruction. … Can’t wait for the WMD apology.” Also on The O’Reilly Factor, former speaker of the House and current Fox News analyst Newt Gingrich remarked that “those people who claimed there were no weapons of mass murder, in this case, are just plain wrong. … For all the people who were so confident that George W. Bush lied and so confident that there were no weapons of mass destruction, 500 chemical weapons should at least make them slow down … and rethink.”

Therefore the war was justified. The rest of us say no, the shells were no longer functional and, therefore, can’t be considered WMD’s. The terrorists in Iraq were pragmatists and didn’t take either position. They remembered where they had buried the junk weapons out in the desert near the Iranian border, took one, turned it into an IED and blew it up as a column of American troops went by. No one was hurt, although a few of the soldiers claimed that their eyes were tearing and got some eyewash. The terrorists were more interested in death and destruction so they abandoned the weapons they dug up and went back to conventional weapons which delivered much more massive destruction. They abandoned the warheads and only then did the Polish unit in the coalition forces discover them.

What I facetiously refer to a ‘rule change’ is what, in the study of propaganda. is referred to as a Big lie. The neocons referrer to it as a Nobel lie . Sometimes, the right wing base simply can’t see the big picture and needs to be given a reason to accept some situation. Hence, calling the junk dug up in the desert WMD’s. At first glance, calling weapons discarded back in the eighties because they didn’t work and then buried in the desert where they rusted away to poor husks of their former nonfunctional selves seems dumb. On closer inspection, though, it is really, really stupid.

Here’s why it is so incredibly stupid. I know I’m wasting my time, The Republican base has come to like the lies that they are told. I’m certain that, at some level they understand that they are being lied to but they like it. Believing the lies makes it possible for them to feel like they are part of the ‘in group.’ It allows them to say “Yeah! Our team is winning!” Just this once, I’m going to try. Let me address the lie head on. Let me remind you once again, that we did not invade Iraq because Iraq had WMD’s. We invaded Iraq because it represented an imminent threat. The threat was that Saddam Hussein would allow terrorist to get their hands on those WMD’s and use them on Americans, either American citizens or American soldiers. Well, Saddam Hussein was overthrow, convicted of a bunch of crimes and hanged. Not once, in his entire life, did he allow a single one of those weapons to get into the hands of terrorists to use on Americans. What I say is that if the right wing considers them to be WMD’s, fine. Then, what happened in Iraq was that the US invaded in order to prevent WMD’s from falling into the hands of terrorists. Then, they stood aside, allowed terrorists to loot the warehouses. The terrorists found WMD’s and used at least one on American soldiers.

So, who was more evil? Saddam Hussein, who we thought was going to give WMD’s to terrorists, or the Bush Administration who did put WMD’s in the hands of terrorists?

And that isn’t even the worst of it. The right wing believes that the war in Iraq was justified. They believe that it was worthwhile to spend three trillion dollars, suffer 36,000 American casualties, and a million Iraqi casualties in order to create hundreds of thousands of al Qaeda linked terrorists and allow them to loot the weapons depots in Iraq. The only reason there wasn’t a mushroom-shaped cloud over an American city was that the Bush Administration was wrong about there being nuclear weapons. The only reason there weren’t tens of millions of Americans dying from small pox and other diseases from biological weapons was that the Bush administration was wrong about biological weapons. Finally, even if Saddam Hussein had allowed chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists the way the Bush Administration did, at least he would have done it for free and, given the conditions of the poison gas shells, no one would have died.

Well, I don’t spend all my time on politics. Check out my art work at The Irish Wedding Toast or that of my good friend, the author Doug Page.

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This piece isn’t as complex as my first but it is something that I just have to say. Over and over, I have to listen to people on the news talking about “entitlements,” mostly meaning Social Security and Medicare. It started with the right wing but has spread so much that it is a nearly universal reference by people talking about the budget. Every time I hear it said, my blood starts to boil. The basic concept behind the phrase works something like this: “You know, these ‘takers’ that make up half of the country? They think that they’re ‘entitled’ to have the government take care of them.” I can hear the sneer in their voices when they say it.

Really? Let’s take a look at one of these ‘takers,’ a minimum wage worker named Joe. He didn’t do well in school, didn’t like it. He ended up quitting when he was fifteen. He got a job, a job paying minimum wage. He didn’t stay in that job but went from that one to the next, all similar. Now, he’s sixty-five years old. He’s got a little arthritis and is in pain most of the time. The worst pain is in his hip. If he went to a doctor, he’d be told that he needed hip replacement. But he doesn’t go to the doctor. He has no insurance and no sick time. He’s been working for fifty years. Fifty years cleaning toilets, scrubbing floors, unloading trucks, washing pots or taking out the trash. For fifty hears, he’s had the worst jobs in the country and is the lowest paid worker. He’s starting to think that he can’t do it anymore. The pain is getting to be too much. He’s getting these looks from the boss. He knows what the looks mean, he’s seen these looks before. It won’t be the first time he’s been fired. He’s thinking that the boss wants someone younger. The job’s not going to last. Worse, this is the job he’s held the longest. He knows that men his age have a lot of trouble finding work these days. He’s got just one hope. Social Security. He doesn’t know too much about it, but he’s seen the deduction on his pay check every week for the past fifty years. For fifty years, the government has been deducting Social security payments from his pay check. It wasn’t his idea, mind you, not his decision. It wasn’t anything that he asked for. That’s the way the paycheck came and frankly, the accountants who make out the checks haven’t been real interested in talking to him about it.

Right now, he’s making $290 dollars a week, gross. That’s for forty hours of work a week, no overtime, no vacation, no sick time and the take home is only $224. The government keeps the rest, which is 22%. Fifty years, he’s been paying for Social Security. Now, he can’t work anymore and thinks, maybe, it’s his turn. It won’t be as much money as he’s been making, not by a long shot. He’s talked with his roommate- they share a small two bed room apartment. On social security, the only way they can afford the place is if they take in another roommate, possibly two. They’ll take turns sleeping on the couch. It won’t be much, but they’ll have a roof over their heads and food to eat.

Yeah, after paying for social security for fifty years, he thinks that he’s “entitled” to it, now that it’s his turn. You know what? He is. I understand that the right wing has a plan for him, not one that will go into effect immediately, but they’ve got a long term plan. Over time, they’ll kill Social Security. Eventually, people like him will all be sleeping in doorways and going through trash cans for food. Well, that’s not my plan. I hope it’s not yours.

The Republicans talk about shared sacrifice. What they mean is our sixty-five year old working friend should share that sacrifice with Mitt Romney. One approach would be to have our friend wait a couple of years before getting his social security. His sacrifice would be losing his job because he can’t work fast enough to suit his boss. He is unlikely to get another at his age in this economy. His sacrifice will mean that, next winter, he’ll be spending his time standing in doorways trying to stay warm and thinking about his last meal which he got yesterday while rummaging through a trash can. It was about a third of a McDonald’s Big Mac. It was cold and had coffee spilled all over it but, at least, it took the edge off his hunger.

Mitt Romney will be sharing the pain. His income is about $20 million a year and his tax rate had been thirteen percent. Mitt’s sacrifice was to see his tax rate go up three percent. Fortunately, he has excellent tax accountants and they’ll be able to mitigate most of it. Still, it goes up one percent. So, next winter when our friend is rummaging through trash cans, there is going to come a day when Mitt gets his financial statements from his accountants. Now, think about it. Mitt Romney has an elevator for his car. There isn’t a lot that he wants but hasn’t been able to buy. He isn’t hoping to buy a 72” flat screen TV with his tax refund. What he’s looking to do is increase his net worth. He was hoping that the total increase in his Cayman Island account was going to be ten million, but no. It was actually only increased by $9,800,000. Remember, Mitt sets goals for himself. He plans things out. This was his plan and Mitt Romney is accustomed to achieving his goals. He planned on getting an extra $10 million deposited but it’s only $9,800,000. Can you just imagine Mitt’s pain? Yeah, me neither. Nor do I care.

The latest “entitlement” quote was from the Supreme Court. The latest ‘entitlement’ they’re talking about is black people thinking that they’re ‘entitled’ to vote. Oh yeah? Well guess what. They are. It’s in the constitution which doesn’t just cover guns.

There are lots of entitlements that really do need to be gotten rid of, though. Mitt Romney had one that got a lot of talk. He thinks he’s ‘entitled’ to pay only 13% to the government, a lower percentage than our minimum wage friend. Well, he’s not. Another one was brought up by President Obama. He talked about the one-percenter’s who don’t want to have to associate with the rest of us at airports so they buy their own jets. They think that their ‘entitled’ to have the government pay for their planes through tax cuts. Well, they’re not.

Here’s another. Back in 2003, Moody’s did a study on the Standard and Poor index. They found that 20% of the stock in the S&P 500 had started out as stock options. In other words, the top management of corporations decided to help themselves to the corporate stock without the pesky problem of having to actually buy it, like everyone else. Over time, the value of the stock has been diluted down by more than twenty percent. They think that they’re entitled to it. Well, they’re not.

Here’s another recent entitlement from the Supreme Court. The Court said that congress couldn’t limit campaign contributions. So, Sheldon Adelson donated $21 million to the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC “Winning Our Future” then another $10 million to Newt Gingrich later in the campaign. The Supreme Court said that billionaires are ‘entitled’ to buy presidents. Well, they’re not.

One particular Republican ‘entitlement’ is truly disgusting. They think that gun dealers are ‘entitled’ to go to gun shows and sell automatic weapons to deranged killers to use to murder children in schools. Well, they’re not.

Recently, a bill to place a transfer tax on Wall Street was defeated. It would have been a .3% transaction tax. That’s three cents on a hundred dollar transaction. Right now, the rest of us are paying a 7-8% transaction tax. We call it a sales tax. It’s 8 dollars on a hundred dollar transaction. Billionaires don’t think 8 dollars isn’t too much for us to pay on $100 but three cents is too much for them to pay. While we pay 8%, the 1% of us that control the right wing think that they’re ‘entitled’ to pay nothing. Well, they’re not.

Back in 1982, the average CEO was making 50 times as much as the average worker.
Since that time, automation has lowered costs and income at corporations has gone way up. Now, CEOs are making 550 times as much as their average worker if you include stock options. Top management thinks that they are “entitled” to keep all of the money. Well, they’re not.

And, maybe, the biggest of all. During 2011 and 2012, as the economy improved, the top 1% had their income go up while, in the aggregate, the rest of us saw our income go down. The top 1% got 121% of the increase in income. In short, the top 1% thinks that they are now ‘entitled’ to all the additional wealth that the country produces. And more. Well, they’re not. It’s about time that the rest of us go after the Republican entitlements. Although they think that they are, they are not actually entitled to our last dime.

All of the republican positions on economics have one thing in common. Every last one of them is an attempt to move money from the 95% to the .1%. This is what they’re paid to do by a .1% motivated solely by blind, endless greed. The national goal is to enable the richest .1% to look at a bigger number in the “Net Worth’ line on their balance sheet at the end of the year. It isn’t about people or standard of living or the future of the country, our place in the world, or our children. Nope. It’s just about a bigger number on a balance sheet.

The right wing keeps telling us that giving money to the 1% will help the economy. It isn’t that they’re wrong. They know better. They’re lying. They know it’s about greed. Greed without limit, greed without end. We’re entitled to do something about it. The truly disgusting thing here is that almost half the country actually cheer them on while they’re trying to take money away from 95% of us and give it to the .1% who own them. It’s time to wake up.

This is what I have to say about “entitlements” but I don’t spend all of my time on politics. I’m also a Celtic artists (the border is my work.) If you would like to see some of more my art work, go to my website or that of my good friend, the author Doug Page.

Below are the calculations I used, should you like to check them yourself.

Federal Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 (17 states higher)

Calculating Payroll Deductions

Weekly Gross                                                                $290.00

Federal income tax withheld                                            $28.57

SSI withheld                                                                     $17.98

Medicare                                                                            $4.21

State Income tax withheld                                                $14.53

Total deductions federal                                                   $50.76

Net pay                                                                           $224.71


Annual SSI $934/year

Annual income 15,080

Apartment $700/mo 2 bedroom

The article in

Journal of Economic Perspectiues

is about stock options. Click on it to learn more.

Increase in CEO pay compared to company worker’s pay

1982 about 50 times as much

By 2000 about 570 times as much (including stock options)

Why stock options? Transfers of wealth from shareholders to greedy executives camouflage pay to mitigate external scrutiny and criticism.

Striking It Richer:  Top 1% incomes grew by 11.2% while bottom 99% incomes shrunk by 0.4%. Hence, the top 1% captured 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the recovery.

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