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Jim Hoffman: Another Booby Trap for Serious 9/11 Researchers
SOTT
March 8, 2005

9-11 researchers seem to be a dime a dozen these days. After investigating Mike Ruppert and Daniel Hopsicker's motives and methods, we happened to come across an article by another 9-11 researcher, Jim Hoffman. Like Hopsicker, Hoffman seems to believe that the "no 757 at the Pentagon" crowd are disinfo artists.

We found Hoffman's arguments and conclusions in the following article to be based on anything but facts or reason. In fact, in making his case, Hoffman even resorts to using the same twisted logic employed by the Bush administration to justify the war on terror.

From magical disintegrating airplanes to mysterious "detonation waves", it seems CoIntelPro is in full swing when it comes to the 9-11 Truth Movement...

The Pentagon No-757-Crash Theory:
Booby Trap for 9/11 Skeptics

by Jim Hoffman
first published: October 7, 2004
revised: November 15, 2004

The idea that no 757 crashed at the Pentagon is easily the most controversial and divisive issue among researchers of the 9/11/01 attacks. Effectively promoted since early 2002, this idea has enjoyed an increasing acceptance in the 9/11 Truth Movement, despite its blatant incompatibility with the extensive body of eyewitness evidence that a 757-like twin-engine jetliner flew into the Pentagon and exploded.

Comment: Mr Hoffman is correct in asserting that the idea that no 757 crashed at the Pentagon is the most divisive issue among 9/11 researchers. The divisiveness is a deliberate ploy by CoIntelPro agents to attempt to rob genuine 9/11 truth seekers of the singularly strongest piece of evidence pointing to US government complicity in the attacks. Mr Hoffman is however incorrect in his assertion that the "no plane at the pentagon" theory is incompatible with eyewitness accounts of the event. Indeed, the fact that many of the eyewitness reports in question suggest that something akin to a missile struck the Pentagon on 9/11, and that Mr Hoffman studiously ignores them, suggests that he should be counted among the conscious agents of CoIntelPro. Hoffman continues:

Many researchers have ignored or dismissed this eyewitness evidence in favor of a seemingly overwhelming physical evidence case that no 757 crashed at the Pentagon, based on photographs of the crash site. As I show below, however, each of the pieces of evidence adduced in favor of the no-757-crash theory can be reconciled with the crash of a 757.

Comment: Some researchers may indeed have ignored or dismissed the eyewitness evidence. The problem is that the reports are so conflicting that their usefulness as evidence is largely negated. That said, if we all agree that the government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks and attempted to cover up that complicity, then those "eyewitnesses" whose testimony tends to back the official version of events become much more suspect than the testimony of eyewitnesses whose claims of having seen a "missile" or "small jet" are unlikely to be part of any disinformation campaign - unless of course one wants to suggest that some shadowy group of conspiracy theorists had foreknowledge that Arab terrorists were going to attack the Pentagon with a 757 and decided to place their operatives at the Pentagon on the morning of 9/11 and have them falsely testify that they saw a missile in order to unjustly implicate the US government.

Kind of far fetched...

Leaving aside the fact that Donald Rumsfeld himself has corroborated the "missile theory", to sort out the disparity between eyewitness reports we must ask ourselves a question: Which is more likely, that someone would mistake a 757 for a missile or that a drone craft with a wingspan of 117 feet could be altered in such a way as to successfully fool an eyewitness into thinking it was a commercial passenger plane?

Global Hawk dressed up as AA. On that terrifying September morning, if you had seen this plane rocketing along at over 400 mph, would you be a little confused?

The controversy over this issue has eclipsed the many documented facts linking the 9/11/01 attacks to insiders. Defenders of the official story have seized on this issue as representative of the gullibility and incompetence of 9/11 "conspiracy theorists."

Comment: Is Hoffman really making the point that because "defenders of the official story" (the White House) are attempting to ridicule the "no plane at the Pentagon" people that we should therefore drop the issue? Let's get this straight. The US government dismisses allegations of a conspiracy on 9/11, highlighting the "conspiratorial nature" of any allegation that a 757 plane did not hit the Pentagon as a way to ridicule the "conspiracy theorists", and Hoffman thinks that this provides grounds for dropping the whole issue?

The Allure of the Unsolved Mystery

The question of what hit the Pentagon has remained a source of intense interest and debate for almost three years now, overshadowing many other issues of the 9/11/01 attack. The controversy has thrived in the evidence vacuum created by official actions in the wake of the attack, which included the following:

  • Minutes after the attack, the FBI seized from businesses adjacent to the Pentagon videos that likely recorded the event.
  • On the day of the attack, Pentagon personnel participated in a rapid mop-up of the crime scene, moving and removing evidence before it could be documented.
  • In the weeks following the attack, authorities controlled the crime scene, destroying or suppressing nearly all the physical evidence inside the building.

This left primarily two kinds of evidence: eyewitness reports consistent with the crash of a 757, and post-crash photographs taken by passers-by showing neither large aircraft debris nor an impact damage pattern expected from such a crash. The ambiguous and seemingly contradictory evidence made the event a kind of Rorschach, spawning many competing theories but offering no basis for definitive conclusions.

Comment: Again, all eyewitness reports were NOT consistent with the crash of a 757. If Hoffman is unaware of the reports consistent with something other than a 757, then he is a very poor researcher. If he IS aware, then he is attempting to con his readers. Despite what Hoffman claims, there is therefore no ambiguity between eyewitness reports and the physical evidence (or lack thereof) at the Pentagon. The simple fact is that the impact damage and debris along with the eyewitness reports of either a "missile" or a "small jet" lend credence to the "no plane at the Pentagon" theory.

The mystery of the attack has lured researchers into endless debates, much to the detriment of public outreach around easily proved issues. Such issues include aspects of the Pentagon attack other than the question of what hit it. For example:

* The portion of the Pentagon targeted was mostly unoccupied due to a renovation program.
* The attack plane executed an extreme spiral dive maneuver to hit that portion of the building rather than the part housing high-level officials.
* The alleged pilot of Flight 77 was not competent to pilot a Cessna, let alone pilot a 757 through a maneuver that may have exceeded the skills of even the best test pilot.

Comment: These above questions are fully compatible, and even dependent upon, the idea that something other than a plane hit the Pentagon. It is highly likely that a drone craft or "missile" was used and targetted an unoccupied part of the Pentagon specifically because the damage from a 757 was not controllable. The nature of the approach and "attack dive" itself is consistent with something other than a 757 as the air traffic controller stated:

"We started moving the planes as quickly as we could," she told ABC's Brian Ross. "Then I noticed the aircraft. It was an unidentified plane to the southwest of Dulles, moving at a very high rate of speed... I had literally a blip (on my radar screen) and nothing more."

O'Brien brought the unidenitified blip to the attention of her Dulles colleague, Tom Howell.

He recalled the moment for ABC News.

"Oh my God, it looks like he's headed to the White House," Howells remembers yelling. "We've got a target headed right for the White House!"

At 500 miles per hour, Flight 77 was rocketing toward what is known as P-56, protected air space 56, which covers the White House and the Capitol.

"The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane," O'Brien said. "You don't fly a 757 in that manner. It's unsafe."

History of the Issue

The Pentagon no-757-crash theory first came to prominence in early 2002 when French author Thierry Meyssan published "The Frightening Fraud," which theorized that a truck bomb was responsible for the damage to the Pentagon, and then "Le Pentagate," which held that the damage was produced by a missile. These well-marketed books sold millions of copies in Europe. Meyssan's analysis is notable for wild inaccuracies in characterizing the damage to the Pentagon's facade. He suggests the impact hole was 15-18 feet in diameter, and that there was no damage on either side of that hole. That description completely ignores the first floor damage, in which walls were punctured over a width of about 90 feet, a fact that is easily determined from analysis of photographs available on the web in early 2002.

Comment: For Hoffman to dismiss Meyssan's sterling investigative work in exposing the obvious holes in the official Pentagon story by citing that Meyssan understated the hole in the Pentagon facade is utterly disingenuous of Hoffman. It is no less unbelievable for a 757 to have completely disappeared into a 90 foot hole, than a 16 foot hole. The fact is that the main impact hole at the Pentagon WAS 16 feet wide, and a close examination of the damage either side of that hole is NOT consistent with aircraft the size of a 757. The government commissioned "Pentagon Building Performance Report" itself acknowledges that there is no damage to the building from either the wings or the tail of the plane, which would have reached up to the fourth floor of the building. The Pentagon report subtly suggests that the wings and tail somehow "folded up" and followed the nose and fuselage of the plane into the building.

Meyssan also states that the piece of hull photographed by Mark Faram does not correspond to any part of a Boeing 757, when in fact it matches the hull just aft of the forward starboard door, as shown by Dick Eastman.

Comment: Let's have a look at the "piece of hull" to which Hoffman is referring:

This is the ONLY identifiable piece of the fuselage of the alleged 757. As you can see it lies some distance from the building. The US government and Hoffman would have us believe that this piece miraculously escaped the fate of the entire mass of the rest of the body of the plane, which we are told either entered the Pentagon and was destroyed in the fire, or "disintegrated" on impact.

Meyssan's "Le Pentagate" was published shortly after five frames of video from a Pentagon security camera were leaked. Meyssan and other theorists jumped on the fact that the first frame seems to show a much smaller plane than a 757 approaching the Pentagon, without asking if the video frames were authentic. In fact they bear clear signs of forgery.

Comment: Indeed. There is clear evidence that the only video that the US government released of the "757" appears to be missing frames, but who are the forgers? Did the US government, which insists that a 757 hit the Pentagon, deliberately remove footage of the 757 in order to fuel conspiracy theories and thereby undermine its own argument??

Meyssan's conclusions were echoed by Gerard Holmgren, who published the lengthy Physical and Mathematical Analysis of the Pentagon Crash in October of 2002. Like Meyssan, Holmgren relied on photographs in which obstructions hide large regions of first-floor damage. Holmgren's unwieldy manifesto-sized analysis was widely embraced by no-757-crash theorists.

Comment: Again Hoffman seeks to con his readers. Holmgren's argument does not rest on "photographs in which obstructions hide large regions of first-floor damage" but rather, in his own words, on the fact that:

"the object which penetrated the Pentagon went in at about a 45-degree angle, punching a neat circular hole of about a 12-foot diameter through three rings (six walls). A little later a section of wall about 65 ft wide collapsed in the outer ring. Since the plane which the conspiracy theorists claim to be responsible for the impact had a wing span of 125 ft and a length of 155 ft, and there was no wreckage of the plane, either inside or outside the building, and the lawns outside were still smooth and green enough to play golf on..."

The sloppy analysis of Meyssan and certain other Pentagon researchers (such as their reliance on photographs in which jets of fire retardant foam and smoke obscure damaged areas) leaves these researchers, and by association the entire 9/11 Truth Movement, open to attack by detractors.

Comment: See our previous comment. There is nothing sloppy about the analysis of Meyssan or Holmgren. They, like so many others, can see clearly that the claim that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon is the weakest link in the official version of the events of 9/11.

Other work by skeptics of the 757 crash was far more careful. In mid-2002, an anonymous author produced a detailed damage assessment in an article concluding that the damage was consistent with the crash of a large plane, but not of a 757.

In early 2003 Dick Eastman developed a "two plane" theory, which holds that the damage to the Pentagon was done by a small killer jet, such as an F-16, while Flight 77 merely appeared to crash, clearing the facade behind a pyrotechnic display and overflying the Pentagon in a kind of magician's trick. Eastman was unique among the no-757-crash theorists in at least attempting to accommodate much of the eyewitness evidence.

Comment: We fail to see Hoffman's point. The evidence is so extensive that there are many ways to prove almost conclusively that a 757 did not hit the Pentagon. The bottom line is, however, the same.

In September of 2003, I assisted Jeff Strahl in developing a slide presentation which concluded that "whatever struck the Pentagon was not a Boeing 757." This talk, which borrowed from the work of Eric Hufschmid and said anonymous author, further popularized the notion that a 757 was not involved in the attack.

In early 2004, Richard Stanley and Jerry Russell added yet another variation to the mix of no-757-crash theories in The Five-Sided Fantasy Island, advancing a scenario that combines Eastman's Flight 77 overflight theory with the idea that demolition charges were used to produce the damage to the Pentagon.

In late 2004 two new videos promoting no-757-crash theory appeared. Both combine slick production values with highly selective presentations of evidence. In Plane Site, a DVD, advances the no-757-impact along with the Building 6 explosion myth and highly dubious theories that the towers were hit by objects other than Flights 11 and 175. The obvious propagandistic quality of these pieces was one factor in persuading me to re-examine my own endorsement of the no-757-crash theory.

Comment: Hoffman is obviously referring to our own Pentagon Strike Flash presentation here. While there are certainly some problems with the "In Plane Site" DVD, specifically the idea that Flight 11 and Flight 175 were not the planes that hit the WTC (when they most likely were) our Pentagon Strike video simply presented the available evidence which pointed to something other Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon. As we have stated before, it is not our job to prove that Flight 77 DID hit the Pentagon; that task lies squarely with those members of the US government who insist on the official version of events.

Ignoring the Eyewitness Evidence

Proponents of the no-757-crash theory have tended to minimize the many eyewitness accounts that a 757-like aircraft flew into the Pentagon and exploded. Many simply cherry-pick one or two accounts that seem to indicate a much smaller plane, and ignore the larger body of eyewitness evidence.

This selective presentation of witness accounts is exemplified by a tendency to quote only a single phrase from a single witness: Mike Walter's use of "a cruise missile with wings." In context, it's clear that Walter was only using the cruise missile description metaphorically:

"I looked out my window and I saw this plane, this jet, an American Airlines jet, coming. And I thought, 'This doesn't add up, it's really low'. I mean it was like a cruise missile with wings."

Comment: It is natural for eyewitnesses to refer to the aircraft that they saw hitting the Pentagon as "an American Airlines jet" or even "Flight 77" because we have all been repeatedly exposed to endless news reports and government officials talking about "Flight 77" hitting the Pentagon (with the exception of Rumsfeld of course). The crucial point here is the fact that Mike Walter defined a massive Boeing 757 as a "cruise missile with wings"!

Another eyewitness account frequently cited as evidence that the attack plane was not an airliner is that of air traffic controller Danielle O'Brien:

"The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air-traffic controllers, that that was a military plane."

That the controllers observed a plane being flown in a manner not normal for jetliner does not mean the plane was not a jetliner. Simple calculations show that the spiral dive attack maneuver was well within the capabilities of a Boeing 757. In fact, the body of eyewitness evidence provides almost no support for the no-757 theories, but does indicate that the event involved more than a simple plane crash, such as a sharp detonation wave not explainable by the crash of a jetliner. Once again, such substantial evidence that contradicts the official story has been eclipsed by the no-757-crash theory.

Comment: We wonder what "simple calculations" Hoffman is speaking of? For Hoffman, the complicated subject of "detonation waves" consitutes much more "substantial evidence" than the fact that a massive 757 plane completely dissapeared into a 16 foot hole in the Pentagon leaving NO TRACE other than a mangled but otherwise pristine piece of metal.

The "Physical Evidence" Case

Many apparent features of the crash that are documented by the photographs of the crash site -- and especially by photos taken before the overhanging section collapsed -- seem to support an overwhelming case against the crash of a 757. These features include the following.

1. The lawn shows no signs of gouging from a 757's low-hanging engines, despite eyewitness claims that the plane hit the ground before the facade.
2. The impact hole dimensions are not large enough to accommodate the entire profile of a 757.
3. The lawn shows almost no signs of crash debris immediately following the crash.
4. Photos from inside and outside the building during the recovery operation show very little aircraft debris.
5. Damaged columns remain standing where dense parts of the plane, such as the starboard engine, would have hit.
6. Unscored limestone and unbroken windows are visible in areas of the facade where the outer wings and vertical tail section of a 757 would have hit.
7. There are obstacles in the plane's alleged flight path, such as cable spools.

This list is far from exhaustive. Many other features are often cited as evidence against a 757 crash, such as the positions of downed lamp-posts, the orientation of the damaged generator, and the position and shape of the C-ring punch-out hole. The number of no-757-crash arguments based on these features, and the logical independence of many of them, seem to many to constitute an overwhelming cumulative case against the crash of a 757. Whereas a deductive case is only as strong as its weakest argument, a cumulative case is as strong as the sum of its arguments. However, a cumulative case may appear strong without actually being so if it is composed entirely of arguments that evaporate under scrutiny. Let's examine four of the more persuasive arguments, which I've given the following labels:

* The missing wings and tail
* The vanishing jetliner
* The incorrect impact imprint
* The obstacle dodge

The Missing Wings and Tail

This argument, based on features 1, 2, and 3, holds that since the outer expanses of the wings and most of the vertical tail section of a 757 could not have fit through the facade's impact punctures, they should have been visible in the post-crash photographs of the building's exterior.

The argument makes the error of assuming that large pieces of the wings and tail should have remained intact. A crash study suggests that the over-300-mph impact of a jetliner with the Pentagon's heavy masonry facade would have reduced the entire aircraft -- and certainly its relatively light wings and tail -- to confetti.

Comment: We were wondering when he would pull this one out of the bag. Hoffman has joined the deluded masses of obedient Americans in attempting to counter the damning evidence that he himself outlines in points 1-7 above with the assertion that the entire plane (minus the pristine mangled piece of metal on the lawn) simply "disintegrated" on impact. Most readers will have at some time in their lives seen the results of a head on car crash. Imagine that two cars, each traveling at 80 mph, hit each other head on at a combined speed of 160 mph. The likely result is that much of the body of both cars will be crumpled beyond recognition. It is not unlikely, however, that the back ends of both cars will be relatively unscathed. There is a reason for this. The kinetic energy of the cars is transferred to the initial point of impact - the fronts. After the initial impact the kinetic energy is progressively reduced, which is reflected in the lessening damage to the rest of the car, until finally all of it has been absorbed by the bodies of the cars and is exhausted. This is the reason for the relative lack of damage to the backs of cars in a controlled head-on collision.

We can apply the same logic to the Pentagon crash. The bulk of the kinetic energy of the fast moving plane is absorbed both by the front of the building and the nose of the plane. It is reasonable to suggest then that the impact point at the Pentagon and the nose, and some of the fuselage of the plane, would have disintegrated, but to suggest that all of the plane would be subjected to the same forces as that experienced by the part of the plane that makes initial contact with the Pentagon wall is to suggest that when we throw a steel rod at a wall, the damage at the end that impacts the wall should be the same all along the length of the rod. Clearly, such a suggestion contradicts elementary laws of physics.

Another error in this argument is its implicit assumption that the photographs of the Pentagon's lawn show it to be debris-free. In fact, the photographs have pronounced foreshortening of regions near the building, which, together with variations in the terrain, may hide significant debris fields.

Comment: "May hide significant debris"? Is Hoffman really presenting this as an argument as to why we should dispense with the "no plane" argument? Should we also wait for the US government to allow us access to this "debris" so that we can prove that the offcial story that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon is true? We won't hold our breath.

The Vanishing Jetliner

This argument, based on features 3 and 4, holds that since there are no photographs showing large aircraft debris at the Pentagon, no jetliner could have crashed there. Recognizable pieces that were photographed, such as landing gear and engine parts, are few enough that they could have been planted.

Comment: Not only could they have been planted, but the circular rim of the landing gear wheel that is presented as evidence by the US government is too small to be part of the landing gear of a Boeing 757, but bears a startling likeness to the rim of the wheel of the landing gear of a Global Hawk.

This argument makes the error of the negative proof: the lack of evidence showing something's existence is taken as proof of its non-existence. The seeming disappearance of the 80-ton plane becomes much less mysterious when one considers two facts.

  • As noted above, in similar crashes, the entire aircraft is converted to small confetti, most of which would be unrecognizable.
  • There are few publicly available photographs of the interior of the building shortly after the crash. FEMA's investigative team was not allowed on the site until after all the debris had been removed.

Comment: So the fact that there is no evidence of a 757 having crashed at the Pentagon is by no means proof that no 757 hit the Pentagon.

So what would Mr Hoffman accept as evidence?

It is rather curious that the "error of the negative proof" is exactly the argument used by Bush and the Neocons before the invasion of Iraq. Administration officials argued that the lack of evidence of WMD's in Iraq cannot be used as proof that those weapons don't exist.

As another example, Bush can declare someone an enemy combatant and throw that person in jail even if there is no evidence proving the individual's involvement in terrorist activity, because the lack of evidence doesn't necessarily prove innocence.

The Incorrect Impact Imprint

This argument, based on features 5 and 6, holds that, since there is no impact imprint of a 757 on the Pentagon's facade, no such plane could have crashed there. In a crash at such a speed (over 300 mph) the wings and tail had too much momentum to deviate much from their trajectory even as the plane crashed into the facade. Therefore, even these relatively light parts should have at least scored the facade's rather soft limestone facing, and perhaps broken windows.

Even admitting that there are uncertainties about just how much damage the wing ends and tail of a 757 should have done to the Pentagon's facade, this argument is difficult to reconcile with the simple crash of a 757 -- at least of an intact 757. However, if the wing ends and tail were destroyed before impact, they might not have left impact impressions. That possibility is explored in the Unexamined Explanations section.

Comment: Hoffman is forced to resort to ever more fantastic hypotheses to deny the evidence that is before his eyes. Now we are asked to contemplate that somehow Flight 77's wings and tail were "disintegrated" before the plane actually hit the building and then presumably blew away in the breeze.

The Obstacle Dodge

This argument, based on feature 7, holds that the flightpath determined by downed light poles and eyewitness accounts takes the plane too low to have cleared obstacles near the building, such as several cable spools.

The spool that appears most problematic for the plane's supposed flightpath is the large upright one nearest the building. In most photographs it appears to be just a few feet from the building. However, appearances are deceiving given the foreshortening in the photographs. One article supporting the no-757-crash theory estimates that the large spool is about 28 feet from the facade. It also states that the diameter of the spool is 6 feet, 6 inches.

Given those coordinates and dimensions, and assuming the plane's trajectory was such that it was losing one foot of altitude for every ten feet of distance traveled, then the bottom of the plane's fuselage could have cleared the spool by a foot and crashed into the facade at an elevation of five feet, placing the bottoms of the engines at ground level. Contentions that turbulence from such a near miss would have toppled the spool are difficult to evaluate without knowing the weight of the spool, whether it was secured to the ground, and whether the spools rolled following the crash.

Comment: Hoffman is happy to dismiss the strongest evidence showing that Flight 77 did not hit the Pentagon and argue "significant" details about whether or not a Boeing 757 was able to clear a metal spool or not.

Unexamined Explanations

The last two arguments in the previous section illustrate just how easy it is to accept a pre-conceived conclusion from evidence while failing to consider other equally plausible explanations. I became convinced that the attack plane was not a 757 based primarily on those two arguments, and only later re-evaluated my conclusions in light of other possibilities.

An alternative explanation for the incorrect impact imprint consistent with the crash of a 757 was proposed by French researcher Eric Bart. He suggests that the jetliner was progressively shredded by explosives starting just as its nose was beginning to impact the wall. This theory explains the lack of impact impressions of the jetliner's extremities, since they would have been reduced to confetti before impact. It also accounts for the large punctures in the facade, since the remains of the plane's heaviest portions could have retained enough momentum to breach the walls and enter the building.

Comment: Again, the strength of the evidence that Hoffman is attempting to refute requires that he resort to increasingly outlandish theories to make his point.

Bart's theory may sound far-fetched, and some detractors have compared it to the aggressively promoted idea that the South Tower was hit by a pod-equipped cargo jet that fired a missile just before impact. However, the comparison is not deserved. Whereas the pod-plane idea is based on imaginative interpretations of artifacts in blurry video images, Bart's theory reconciles the lack of imprint of the tail and wing ends with the overwhelming eyewitness evidence that a jetliner flew into the Pentagon and exploded. Several eyewitnesses even recalled details that seem to be explainable only by the plane being shredded before impact.

Comment: Again, the strength of the evidence that Hoffman is attempting to refute requires that he resort to increasingly outlandish theories to make his point.

Bart's theory is consistent with the crash of Flight 77 at the Pentagon, but not with the official story that it was hijacked by Muslim terrorists, since it assumes the plane was prepared prior to the attack.

Other researchers, such as Stanley and Russell, have proposed that the Pentagon attack was engineered to make it appear that a 757 crashed when none had. Bart's theory reverses this, suggesting that the crash of a 757 was engineered to make it appear that no such plane had crashed.

Comment: Now Hoffman wants us to believe that the perpetrators of 9/11 deliberately inserted the embryo of the conspiracy theory into their planning of the Pentagon attack for the purpose of...

The apparent motive for such a deception will likely escape 9/11 skeptics on both sides of the controversy about what hit the Pentagon. Most adherents to no-757-crash theories have ignored Bart's theory and the body of eyewitness evidence supporting it. Most opponents of no-757-crash theories have not looked closely enough at the impact damage pattern to see a problem reconciling it with the simple crash of a 757. This is exactly the conflict that the engineered crash may have been designed to create. Experts at psychological operations, the perpetrators could have anticipated that skeptics would divide into two groups: those persuaded by eyewitness evidence that a 757 had crashed, and those persuaded by physical evidence that one had not. The ongoing controversy could then be exploited by the perpetrators to several ends:

  • to keep the skeptics divided
  • to divert skeptics' resources from other more productive lines of inquiry
  • to provide a bizarre-sounding theory with which to tar the entire 9/11 Truth Movement

Comment: And here we get to the core of Hoffman's argument. The idea that Flight 77 did not hit the Pentagon was seeded by the conspirators themselves in order to confuse the issue and keep conspiracy theorists divided. Yet we notice that rather than refusing to succumb to such manipulation and cutting through the lies and sticking to the facts, Hoffman is adding his voice to the cacophony and loudly arguing against the core evidence which strongly suggests that Flight 77 did not hit the Pentagon.

If you accept the premise that the crash of a 757 was engineered to create seemingly contradictory bodies of evidence in order to seed truth-obfuscating conflicts, it is easy to explain crash-site anomalies beyond the facade impact imprint. For example, the spool that is arguably a problem for the plane's approach could have been stood up immediately after the crash to bolster the anticipated no-757-crash theory. While this may seem far-fetched, it is much less far-fetched than suppositions of no-757-crash theorists, such as that the downing of the highway lamp-posts was engineered independent of the attack plane.

Comment: Even if the Pentagon attack was set up to create seemingly contradictory bodies of evidence in order to confuse truth seekers, the fact still remains that something hit the Pentagon on the morning of 9/11, and evidence exists to prove more or less conclusively what it was. At present that evidence suggests that Flight 77 was not involved. It is indeed far-fetched to think that the conspirators would deliberately attempt to sow the seeds of the argument that a Boeing 757 did not hit the Pentagon when the US government's entire "war on terror" is predicated upon the argument that Arab terrorists hijacked four planes and crashed them into American landmarks on 9/11.

Propaganda

In 2004 two videos promoting the no-757-crash theory were released: the Pentagon Strike Flash animation by Darren Williams, and the In Plane Site DVD by David von Kleist. While different in format, both share the following characteristics:

  • Both cherry-pick and de-contextualize eyewitness statements while ignoring the eyewitness consensus that a jetliner crashed.
  • Both advance several of the faulty interpretations of photographic evidence that I debunk in the Pentagon Attack Errors section of 911review.com.
  • Both use a kind of shock-and-awe presentation style to engage people emotionally rather than critically.

Comment: Darren Williams Pentagon Strike video, produced by Signs of the Times, did not "de-contextualise" the events of that day. It simply drew on available evidence to show that it was highly unlikely that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon and presented "the case for the prosecution" as it were. If the US government as the defendant wants to make a counter case, then all that is required is that it release the confiscated video tapes that would prove conclusively that the official story is correct.

Whereas the much shorter Pentagon Strike functions primarily by selective and misleading presentation of evidence, In Plane Site presents patently ludicrous claims as fact. For example, von Kleist quotes a supposed expert from the Environmental Assessment Association as saying:

"Looking at the total weight of this aircraft in conjunction with its velocity, the Pentagon should have been reduced to the thickness of a pancake."

The logical fallacies, misrepresentations of evidence, and propagandistic style of In Plane Site and Pentagon Strike contrast with a far more rational approach by other videos, websites, and books by 9/11 skeptics that use physical evidence to refute elements of the official story. Yet the no-757-crash videos have enjoyed a wider exposure than the other far more credible efforts. Snopes.com, an urban-legend debunking website, provides four links to the Pentagon Strike animation on its Hunt the Boeing! page. Why are apologists for the official story promoting this video (if in a backhanded way)? Perhaps because the no-757-crash theory is more effective at bolstering the official story than undermining it.

Comment: Here we have Hoffman doing exactly that which he accuses others of doing. Snopes.com links to our Pentagon Strike Flash presentation only after attempting to completely debunk the arguments therein. As such, the link is hardly a "promotion".

An Opening For Attackers

Before 2004, the mainstream and alternative media were virtually free of any mention of the existence of a community of skeptics challenging the core tenets of official story of '9/11'. While there were numerous reports of warnings of the attacks, there was only minimal coverage of the spectacular failures of the air defense network, and there was virtually no mention of the physical evidence of the demolition of Building 7 and the Twin Towers. That changed on May 26, 2004, when Amy Goodman interviewed David Ray Griffin on Democracy Now about his book The New Pearl Harbor on the show The New Pearl Harbor: A Debate On A New Book That Alleges The Bush Administration Was Behind The 9/11 Attacks. Although Griffin mentions an array of compelling evidence that the attack was an inside job, the majority of the interview revolves around the issue of what hit the Pentagon, as Chip Berlet, whom Goodman invited on the program to debate Griffin, zeroes in on the weakest part of The New Pearl Harbor. As a result, almost no time is spent discussing the much stronger parts of Griffin's argument.

On September 13, The Nation magazine published Executive Secrecy: Conspiracy or Failure? by CIA agent Robert Baer. Baer ridicules "conspiracy theories" that 9/11/01 was an inside job, suggesting that this "monstrous proposition" and Griffin's choice to "recycle some of the wilder conspiracy theories" is driven by the evasions and lies of the Bush administration. First on Baer's list of these wilder theories is "that the Pentagon was hit by a missile rather than by American Airlines Flight 77."

On October 7, The Washington Post published Conspiracy Theories Flourish on the Internet, which describes Pentagon Strike and its popularization in some detail, and then uses it to deride 9/11 "conspiracy theories." The article makes no mention of other areas of research by skeptics of the official story. Instead, it implies that the idea that "something other than a commercial airliner hit the Pentagon" is the only proposition advanced by skeptics to challenge the official story.

Comment: Perhaps there is some "sour grapes" on the part of Hoffman here that the editors of this page were interviewed by the Washington Post and not 9/11review.com. The simple fact is that, if it were not for the initiative that we took in creating the "Pentagon Strike" Flash presentation, there would have been NO coverage of 9/11 "conspiracy theories" at all. Thanks to the efforts of Darren Williams, an estimated 300 million people around the world, most of them previously unaware of the truth of 9/11, have been given the opportunity to consider the truth of our reality and the people that control it.

On November 8, The New York Times published A Hidden Story Behind Sept. 11? One Man's Ad Campaign Says So, to describe the campaign of millionaire Jimmy Walter to publicize skepticism about the official story of '9/11'. The second sentence of the article introduces Walter's suggestion that "no plane flew into the Pentagon," and the third sentence that Building 7 was "detonated from within." While the striking similarity of the implosion of Building 7 to other building implosions produced by controlled demolition is one of the most compelling pieces of physical evidence that the 9/11/01 attack was an inside job, the juxtaposition of the idea that Building 7 was detonated next to the idea that no plane crashed into the Pentagon is an effective tool for discrediting the former. The New York Times article provides no links to the video evidence of the demolition of Building 7, such as that on wtc7.net, but it gives an explanation for the collapse by fire science professor Glenn P. Corbett -- an explanation that people who have not seen the videos are likely to accept.

On November 10, Air America broadcast a segment featuring David Von Kleist, producer of In Plane Site, which promoted the two central memes of his video: the Pentagon no-757-crash idea and the South Tower pod-plane idea. Because the no-757-crash idea is taken seriously by a substantial portion of serious 9/11 researchers -- an acceptance not shared by the pod-plane idea -- disinformationists can use the Pentagon no-jetliner idea to leverage the more ridiculous WTC crash theories, such as pod-planes, missile attacks, holograms, etc.

Comment: We do not agree with Hoffman's claim that seriously considering the "no plane at the Pentagon" theory opens the door to joining the "pod people". The important difference between the Pentagon attack and the WTC attacks is that a reasonable argument backed by clear evidence can be made for the "no plane at the Pentagon" theory. This is not true of the "pod" theory.

With these and other articles and broadcasts, millions of people are being introduced to the idea that the attack was an inside job via theories that have no support in evidence, sound ludicrous, and are easily discredited. Unfortunately, first impressions are difficult to reverse.

Comment: See the last comment above. There is nothing "ludicrous" about the fact that there is no trace of a 757 at the Pentagon.

How the Issue Plays

I frequently encounter the opinion that, regardless of the errors underlying the Pentagon no-757-crash theory, its recent popularization and press attention can only be helpful to the cause of truth exposure because it gets more people to question the official story and explore evidence contradicting other facets of that story. Indeed, many active skeptics were introduced to the issue through material on the Pentagon crash.

However, it is more likely that the prominence of the no-757-crash theory will damage the cause, particularly as it reaches a wider audience less inclined to research the issue. People introduced to 9/11 skepticism through the no-757-crash theory will either be stimulated to examine evidence that the attack was an inside job, or will continue to ignore such ideas as the delusions of conspiracy theorists. The vast majority of such people will likely fall into the second group for several reasons.

  • The mainstream press is casting the no-757-crash theory as a loony construct of conspiracy theorists, and representative of all 9/11 skepticism.
  • The theory sounds ludicrous to most people who encounter it for the first time.
  • The videos promoting it use faulty analysis and manipulative techniques that will alienate the discerning viewer.
  • The popular videos and supporting websites are dead-ends, providing no links to responsible 9/11 research sites.

Comment: Hoffman clearly does not understand the controlled nature of the mainstream media which dictates what the average person believes as truth. The fact is that the mainstream press would cast ANY evidence of government complicity in the 9/11 attacks as a "loony construct of conspiracy theorists", and as a result ANY evidence of government complicity in the 9/11 attacks would sound ludicrous to most people who encounter it for the first time. As we have already stated, we do not use "faulty analysis or manipulative techniques", we simply present the evidence in a manner that best conveys the message. As for Hoffman's statement that: "the popular videos and supporting web sites are dead-ends, providing no links to responsible 9/11 research sites", we can only take this to mean that Hoffman does not approve of the information on "Signs of the Times", which is linked at the end of the "Pentagon Strike" Flash Presentation or any of its affiliated sites. He is, of course, entitled to his opinion. We shall let history decide who was "responsible" in their efforts to bring the truth to those seeking it.

My conclusion is borne out by the evidence. According to the Washington Post article, millions of people have viewed Pentagon Strike. Yet the visits to investigative websites, such as those listed on 911truth.org, have not skyrocketed into hundreds of thousands of visits per day.

Comment: The 300 million people who viewed the "Pentagon Strike" Flash Presentation were mostly average citizens who received the video in their email from friends. Such people are not inclined to change their entire world view in an instant.

Some have suggested that, regardless of the relative factual merits, similar dynamics would be in play if the Twin Towers' demolition was being promoted with the same vigor as the Pentagon no-757-crash theory. Isn't the idea that the Twin Towers were demolished with explosives as incredible as the idea that no jetliner crashed at the Pentagon? Yes and no. There is a huge psychological barrier to accepting the conclusion that controlled demolition brought down the towers, and that conclusion supposes a conspiracy far beyond the 19 hijackers. However, there are fundamental qualitative differences.

  • The no-757-crash theory supposes that something asserted by the official story and witnessed by hundreds of people (the crash of a jetliner) didn't happen; whereas the towers' demolition supposes that something beyond the official story and supported by witness accounts (explosive detonations) did happen. Using the JFK assassination as an analogy, the no-757-crash theory is like saying that Kennedy was not shot at all, whereas the towers' demolition is like saying that there were additional gunmen beyond Lee Harvey Oswald.
  • The no-757-crash theory requires accounting for a missing Flight 77 and the fates of its passengers and crew; whereas the towers' demolition requires no additional theories to account for the fates of Flights 11 and 175.
  • Millions of people are aware, if subconsciously, of evidence of the demolition of the Twin Towers, such as the fine dust that blanketed lower Manhattan, and the explosive nature of the collapses; whereas no one has direct evidence that something other than a 757 crashed into the Pentagon. The lack of photographic evidence that a 757 crashed into the Pentagon should not be construed as evidence that none did.

Comment: Hoffman comments again belie his lack of awareness of the true magnitude of what we are dealing with and the extent of the control exerted by government over what the population believes. The psychological barrier is not found in the details of the conspiracy but in the very idea of conspiracy itself. It would be as difficult for the average citizen to believe that no plane hit the Pentagon as to believe that the US government demolished the WTC towers. Both scenarios require an acceptance that their government would willingly involve itself in the murder of American citizens. Both scenarios involve the opening of flood gates that cannot be closed afterwards.

Conclusion

The idea that no 757-sized airliner crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11/01 is attractive to many skeptics because it contradicts a fundamental tenet of the official story, is supported by common-sense interpretations of photographs of the crash scene, and provides an explanation for the suspicious lack of physical evidence supporting the official account. Additionally, there is a substantial body of literature by no-757-crash theorists that appears to thoroughly examine the evidence. The complexity of some of this analysis may discourage other skeptics from evaluating the evidence for themselves.

As I show in this essay, many common errors in no-757-crash theories are easily exposed. Most of the no-757-crash arguments evaporate when scrutinized with attention to empirical data about the behavior of airframes in high-speed crashes, and the geometry of the Pentagon crash scene and vantage points of post-crash photographs. The remaining arguments are easily disposed of by assuming the crash was engineered, consistent with the presumed motives of the perpetrators to discredit the skeptics. Conversely, the abundant eyewitness accounts provide strong evidence for the crash of a 757 or similar aircraft.

In recent high-profile attacks on the work of 9/11 skeptics, defenders of the official story have consistently focused on the no-757-crash theory as indicative of the gullibility and incompetence of the 9/11 "conspiracy theorists." Researchers including myself have contributed to this vulnerability by endorsing this theory without either weighing all the available evidence (such as the eyewitness accounts) or considering less obvious interpretations for the paucity of physical evidence of a 757 crash. The Pentagon crash is an intriguing area of research because of its many unresolved mysteries. The promotion of theories about what hit the Pentagon in highly visible media do not advance that research but instead provide our detractors with ammunition with which to discredit us, and eclipse easily established and highly incriminating facts such as where the Pentagon was hit, the astounding failures to defend the 9/11 targets, and the obvious controlled demolition of Building 7.

Comment: The evidence that Flight 77 did not hit the Pentagon remains the strongest aspect of the 9/11 conspiracy argument. There is little or no doubt that both Flight 11 and Flight 175 hit the WTC. Government officials have already presented the plausible lie that WTC 7 was so badly damaged that they had to "pull it". Government and military commanders can and have presented the plausible lie that there was simply a catastrophic failure of intelligence and communication that lead to the events of 9/11 and the failure to protect America from the "terrorists". All of these arguments can be presented by real live people to an audience that is only too willing to believe the official story, and that their leaders don't lie and that they have nothing to fear from the people that are entrusted with their welfare. The crucial point about the Pentagon attack is that missing planes cannot talk and no one can stand up and explain away a missing plane.

Despite Hoffman's claim to being an honest 9/11 researcher and his apparent interest in getting to the "real truth" of 9/11, we see that the final result of his efforts is to lead people away from the idea that a Boeing 757 did not hit the Pentagon. We are under no illusions about the manipulative skills of CoIntelPro. After all, they have had many decades of real time experience to learn the intricacies of how best to deceive the public. Having spent considerable time and resources in researching the matter, we have become convinced that, regardless of appearances, the agenda of CoIntelPro is ultimately always served. As such, we can only conclude that the success of the efforts to divert attention away from investigation of the "missing Boeing" is serving the agenda of The Powers That Be.

It is truly interesting that since our Pentagon Strike video was released in September 2004, several high profile 9/11 researchers have mounted a campaign to convince their "comrades" that we should all reject the "no Boeing at the Pentagon" argument. We have already commented on people such as Mike Ruppert and Daniel Hopsicker who form the backbone of this movement, despite their infighting. Now Hoffman has joined their ranks. Who will be next, we wonder? The entire operation stinks of "damage control", and damage control is only conducted because damage has been done.

In fact, we shall take it as a compliment that our work has provoked such a strong reaction from those who use lies and manipulation to control the masses and allow it to motivate us to redouble our efforts to expose the truth for all those who seek it.

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A Corrupted Election
Steve Freeman and Josh Mitteldorf
In These Times

Recall the Election Day exit polls that suggested John Kerry had won a convincing victory? The media readily dismissed those polls and little has been heard about them since.

Many Americans, however, were suspicious. Although President Bush prevailed by 3 million votes in the official, tallied vote count, exit polls had projected a margin of victory of 5 million votes for Kerry. This unexplained 8 million vote discrepancy between the election night exit polls and the official count should raise a Chinese May Day of red flags.

The U.S. voting system is more vulnerable to manipulation than most Americans realize. Technologies such as electronic voting machines provide no confirmation that votes are counted as cast, and highly partisan election officials have the power to suppress votes and otherwise distort the count.

Exit polls are highly accurate. They remove most of the sources of potential polling error by identifying actual voters and asking them immediately afterward who they had voted for.

The reliability of exit polls is so generally accepted that the Bush administration helped pay for them during recent elections in Georgia, Belarus and Ukraine. Testifying before the House Committee on International Relations Dec. 7, John Tefft, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, explained that the Bush administration funded exit polls because they were one of the "ways that would help to expose large-scale fraud." Tefft pointed to the discrepancy between exit polls and the official vote count to argue that the Nov. 22 Ukraine election was stolen.

Grasping at explanations

Last November in the United States, as in Ukraine, the discrepancy between the presidential exit polls and the tallied count was far beyond the margin for error. At the time, Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, the two companies hired to do the polling for the National Election Pool (a consortium of the nation's five major broadcasters and the Associated Press), didn't provide an explanation for how this happened. They promised, however, that a full explanation would be forthcoming.

On Jan. 19, on the eve of the inauguration, Edison and Mitofsky released their report, "Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004," which generated headlines such as MSNBC's "Exit Polls Prove That Bush Won." But, the report does nothing of the sort. [...]

The report states that the difference between exit polls and official tallies was far too great to be explained by chance ("sampling error"), and that a systematic bias is implicated. [...]

The exit polls were based on more than 70,000 confidential questionnaires completed by randomly selected voters as they exited the polling place. The overall margin of error should have been under 1 percent. But the official result deviated from the poll projections by more than 5 percent—a statistical impossibility.

The pollsters report that the precincts were appropriately chosen for sampling, in that the aggregated official results from the sampled precincts accurately reflected the official statewide ballot counts.

In saying this, Mitofsky and Edison vindicate a key piece of their methodology—the representativeness of their samples. If the fault indeed lies with the exit polls, the range of possibilities for error is therefore narrowed. [...]

On average, across the country, the President did 6.5 percent better in the official vote count, relative to Kerry, than the exit polls projected.

This admission further narrows the range of possibilities. If the polling data are accurate, the only remaining possibilities are "non-response bias" (i.e., Bush voters disproportionately did not participate in the exit polls) and/or errors in the official tally.[...]

[T]hey say, "precincts with touch screen and optical voting have essentially the same error rates as those using punch-card systems."

Indeed, they do. But this fact merely suggests that all three of these systems may have been corrupted. Indeed, there is little question about problems associated with both punch card systems (recall the Florida debacle in 2000) and mechanical voting machines, which are generally unreliable, vulnerable to tinkering and leave no paper trail. [...]

Notably, Mitofsky and Edison unsucessfully try to explain away the fact that, according to their data, only in precincts that used old-fashioned, hand-counted paper ballots did the official count and the exit polls fall within the normal sampling margin of error.

Further, data that are underplayed in the report provide support for the hypothesis that the election was stolen. [...]

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The Majority of Lebanese Want the Syrians to Stay: If Bush Has His Way, It Will Lead to Civil War
Sam Hamod, Ph.D.
March 7, 2005

Thanks to Mr. Bush's meddling in Lebanon, and his financial support of the "opposition party" in Beirut, made up mainly of Falangist Maronites and a few dissident Druze, there may be a return to civil sectarian war.

What Mr. Bush and the U.S. media is not telling you, nor are the Falangists who are constantly being interviewed on American TV, is that the majority of Lebanese (who are Shi'a) want the Syrians to stay in Lebanon. They know the Syrians helped stop the disastrous civil war that wrecked Lebanon and they do not want a return to that sectarian strife.

The Syrian presence helped to mollify those, and to stop those, who wanted this internecine strife to begin again between the Maronites (who would be supported by Israel, again as in 1982), the Muslims (especially the Shi'a who are the majority of Lebanese), the Sunni, the Orthodox, the Catholics and the Druze.

The Shi'a, who live primarily in the South, do not want the Syrians to leave because this would open the door to another Israeli invasion or the Israeli support of a Maronite minority that wishes again to take over Lebanon (as the Gemeyal family did in the 1980s). [...]

Interestingly, because they are under the influence of Washington and Bush, the Saudi government has joined in the chorus asking the Syrians to leave Lebanon. [...]

There is more going on under the curtain than on top; with Bush being the chief meddler in world affairs. Bush is up to his old tricks, making more enemies for America so that the can say, "We are in danger."

It's true, we are in danger, but who put us there?

None other than King George and his neo-cons who would not understand another culture if it hit them in the face; but just think of it, plain Iraqi citizens are hitting us in the face and Bush still doesn't get it, but our thousands of killed and wounded troops got it and understand this is a losing war in Iraq. It will be a losing war in Lebanon as well, for America and for Israel if they are not careful.

To add to this complicated situation, Hezbollah, which is a respected part of the Lebanese government, but is constantly under attack by Bush and his lying friends as being "a terrorist organization" - is now saying that they prefer the Syrians stay in Lebanon for the sake of national stability. In fact, the Hezbollah leaders, under Dr. Nasrullah, are calling for a pro-Syrian rally to counter those who want the Syrians out. [...]

We must also remember that the "opposition party" demonstrators had all their signs made in English - obviously playing to the American and Israeli audiences. One must ask how these people can stay home from work for days at a time, take to the streets - who is paying their bills, who is feeding them, who is providing them with toilet facilities - just who is supporting them with all this financial and political infrastructure. I am of the opinion, as are other Middle Eastern observers, that this is not a "spontaneous demonstration" at all, but a well-planned attempted at a putsch against the legitimate Lebanese government - orchestrated in Washington, DC and Tel Aviv. [...]

If the Falangists and their Israeli allies take over in Lebanon, you will have a civil war, with the Falangist/Israeli faction introducing Israeli torture techniques and brutality beyond what the Syrians may have done. Just ask the prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanmo who suffered under the Israeli advising of the Americans in these prisons. [...]

Dr. Sam Hamod is an expert on the Middle East; he has written extensively on Lebanon, the Shi'a of Lebanon and Iraq and on Israel under Sharon for various newspapers, ezines, websites and has appeared on TV and radio to bring out the truth of the region. Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he predicted the U.S. would be mired down in Iraq, worse than in Viet Nam; it has all come to pass. His fears of a civil war in Lebanon are real, and supported by other experts such as Robert Fisk (UK) and members of the U.S. State Department (past and present). Dr. Hamod edits, www.todaysalternativenews.com .

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Young dying fast in Middle East
Sunday, March 6, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.
By Lara Sukhtian and Josef Federman
The Associated Press

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip - With the deafening explosion of a tank shell in a strawberry patch, Maryam and Kamel Ghaben, a Palestinian farming couple, lost three of their sons, a grandson and a nephew - all children and young teenagers.

Israeli soldiers had aimed at a Palestinian rocket squad, but witnesses say the militants were gone by the time the shell hit the youngsters, ages 10 to 16, who were helping with the harvest. "Sadness will never leave our hearts," says the Ghabens' oldest son, Ghassan, 35, who was first on the scene and found his boy Rajeh, 10, among the dead.

Some 65 miles away, in Jerusalem, Arnold Roth wrestles with the death of his daughter Malka, 15, killed by a suicide bomber in a Sbarro pizza parlor, and tries to help his other six children through the trauma. "The children have a deep sadness, all of them," he says.

The Ghaben boys died in the Gaza Strip in January, shortly before Israel and the Palestinians declared a truce. Malka Roth was one of seven children, ages 2 to 16, killed in the August 2001 bombing.

They are among 514 Palestinians and 97 Israelis 16 or younger killed during the bloody 4 1⁄2 years since the latest flare-up of violence between Palestinians and Israelis began in September 2000, according to an Associated Press count. [...]

Working from interviews with hospital officials, victim support groups, human-rights monitors and its own daily coverage of the fighting, AP found about one-third of the Palestinian youngsters were killed by Israeli gunfire in stone-throwing incidents. The others were hit by stray bullets at homes, on their way to and from school or while hanging around gunmen, or died in Israeli air strikes. [...]

The Palestinians accuse the Israeli army of using excessive force, including random shooting in densely populated areas and firing on stone-throwers who don't endanger soldiers' lives. The army says Palestinian militants launch attacks from densely populated areas, inviting retaliation, and put children in the line of fire as pawns in the battle for public opinion.

"We do not fire on children," said Lt. Col. Dotan Razili, deputy commander of the Israeli army's southern brigade. "This is not a classic war where two armies battle it out in some no man's land. We engage them in civilian populated areas. When children are getting killed, it's because they are caught in the crossfire." [...]

Comment: Horse hockey. How many Palestinian children have been shot in the head at long range? And how many of the "Palestinian suicide attacks" happen at just the right moment so as to prevent Sharon's peace plan from proceeding? Who benefits??

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Report: Afghan opium production surges
By GEORGE GEDDA
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Saturday, March 5, 2005

WASHINGTON -- More than three years after installing a pro-U.S. government, Afghanistan has been unable to contain opium poppy production and is on the verge of becoming a narcotics state, a presidential report said Friday.

The report said the area in Afghanistan devoted to poppy cultivation last year set a record of more than 510,000 acres, more than triple the figure for 2003. Opium poppy is the raw material for heroin.

The Afghan narcotics situation "represents an enormous threat to world stability," the report said.

It listed opium production at 5,445 tons, 17 times more than second-place Myanmar. [...]

Comment: Gee, we wonder if there could be any correlation between record opium production in Afghanistan and the installation of "a pro-U.S. government"? Under former Taliban rule, opium farming was outlawed and penalties were strictly enforced. It is well known that the CIA is notorious for controlling drug-running operations around the world. "Black Ops" groups need lots of funding, and they certainly won't get enough from US taxpayers. Tax money has gone straight into the Neocon War Machine.

So it is logical that rather than "going after Bin Laden" as the government alleges, one of the real reasons for the Afghan invasion was to restart and secure worldwide heroin trafficking. Think about that. One of the reasons that elements within the American government murdered 3,000 of their own people on September 11th was to control the Afghan drug trade - and the operation paid for itself.

Meanwhile, the US economy is barely hanging on...

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Is America going broke?
STEVE MAICH

Record deficits, colossal debt and no clear plan for digging itself out. If the U.S. sinks, it will take Canada down with it.

David Walker can see the future, and it scares the hell out of him.

[...] Walker isn't a lobbyist or an activist, he's an accountant. His title is comptroller general of the United States, which makes him the head auditor for the most important and powerful government in the world. And he's desperately trying to get a message out to anyone who'll listen: the United States of America's public finances are a shambles. They're getting rapidly worse. And if something major isn't done soon to solve the country's intractable budget problems, the world will face an economic shakeup unlike anything ever seen before.  

Seated in his wood-panelled office in downtown Washington, Walker measures his words, trying to walk the fine line between raising an alarm and fostering panic. He cringes when he hears prominent economists warning about a financial "Armageddon," but he makes no bones about the fact the situation is dire. "I don't like using words that are overly inflammatory," he says, leaning forward in his chair. "At the same time, I think it is critically important that the American people, as well as their elected representatives, get a better understanding of just how serious our situation is."

THE NUMBERS are staggering -- a US$43-trillion hole in America's public finances that's getting worse every day. And the stakes are almost inconceivable for a generation of politicians and voters raised in relative prosperity, who've never known severe economic hardship. But that plush North American lifestyle to which we've all grown accustomed has been bought on credit, and the bill is rapidly nearing its due date. If the United States can't find a way to pay up, the results will spill beyond national borders, spreading economic misery far and wide. [...]

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Major Israeli bank implicated in money laundering
07 March 2005 0103 hrs - AFP

JERUSALEM : Nearly two dozen employees of one of Israel's biggest banks have been arrested following a police investigation into alleged money laundering worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Police announced the arrests after an undercover operation of more than a year into a Tel Aviv branch of Hapoalim bank, one of the wealthiest financial institutions in the Jewish state. [...]

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How Much of a Threat is Bioterrorism?
01.03.2005 - DW

Bioterrorism is seen as a real threat in today's world. But for an attack to cause significant damage, pathogens are needed that are effective even when spread over a large area. That requirement is hard to meet.
 
Experts warn that bioterrorism could be an efficient and deadly weapon in the hands of terrorists, who could potentially use small amounts of bacteria or viruses to kill many people over a large area. But Professor Sucharit Bhakdi, head of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the University of Mainz, casts a critical eye on talk of a serious, imminent threat from biological agents.
 
"A bioweapon would need to have a lot of penetrating power, psychologically as well as economically and militarily," he said. "And it simply doesn't."
 
He points out that the dangers of bioweapons are often played up by a sensation-hungry media and that the threats such weapons pose are often referred to as "potential." He backs up his thesis with an example from the United States, where letters laced with anthrax were sent through the mail in 2001.
 
Five people died then from respiratory anthrax, while 12 or 13 of those infected survived. Though 20 to 30 additional people suffered skin infections, they were not fatal. Another 50 to 100 people caught the anthrax virus, but did not become ill. Those numbers are too small for a "serious threat," according to the researcher.
 
Another view
 
However, the international police organization Interpol is of a different opinion.
 
"Since the anthrax attacks in the US we know that even a small amount of biological material can have global effects, even beyond the target area," said Interpol General Secretary Ronald Noble. The organization has established a bioterror unit and is holding an international conference on bioterrorism on March 1 and 2 in Lyon, France. More than 400 delegates from 120 countries are taking part, mostly high-ranking police officers.
 
Interpol has also planned three workshops in the next few years, in South Africa, Chile and China, where police and medical personnel will be trained on how to react to a bioterrorist attack.
 
"We should allow our imaginations to run wild and be ready for anything possible," Noble said. [...]

Comment: Why? Wouldn't it better to stick to the facts? Apparently, facts are no longer important, and imagination and emotion runs the world's law enforcement agencies. The only way to even attempt to "be ready for anything possible" is to completely eliminate all civil liberties - and even that drastic action guarantees nothing. Either the people charged with protecting us have completely lost their minds, or they are being driven by an agenda that is very different from what they state.

Large amounts are needed
 
The kind of durable, highly infectious pathogens necessary for a bioweapon, which spread quickly and induce deadly physical reactions, are difficult to obtain. In their natural states, most are not suitable for use in weapons, including anthrax. "Upgrading" these pathogens for possible use in weapons, is not a task for weekend scientists working in garage labs.
 
"Creating weapons-grade anthrax demands the knowledge of a specialist and special equipment,
most of which is only available in American laboratories," Bhakdi said. [...]
 
How serious is the danger?
 
One of the largest problems around the manufacturing of bioweapons is integrating the pathogens into an actual weapon.
For example, with anthrax, the dose needed in order to infect someone's lungs is relatively high, somewhere between 8,000 and 50,000 bacteria.
 
"Anthrax is, in comparison to chemical weapons, a blunt weapon," said Bhakdi.
 
If the bacteria are spread among a large area, a single gust of wind could destroy months of planning by terrorists.
 
The most serious threat currently is the small pox virus, since it is the only virus that has ever been largely eliminated. [...]
 
Third place
 
Despite all the talk about danger and the fears that the anthrax cases in the US raised, among many professionals bioweapons only place third in a ranking of the globe's most serious medical threats. 
 
In first place are flu epidemics or AIDS (which have killed millions worldwide so far). A similar threat is posed by highly infections diseases that periodically make comebacks, such as Ebola or the West Nile virus. Other dangers include industrial sabotage or lab accidents that could release large amounts of pathogens as well as the growing global resistance to antibiotics.

Comment: As this article points out, the technology and complexity of manufacturing a biological weapon is so difficult that it makes any potential threat from these kinds of weapons "falling into the hands of terrorists" as being slim to none. What one can gather from this information is twofold: First, that the dire threat constantly hyped by the government and media is for the purpose of manufacturing fear in the minds of the public; and second, that if there is such an attack against U.S. civilians, it is likely the government itself that is behind it, because only they possess the technology and knowledge to actually make it happen.

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'My truth'
By Giuliana Sgrena
Sunday, March 6, 2005 Posted: 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)

Editor's Note [CNN]: The following is a translation of a March 6, 2005, article by journalist Giuliana Sgrena, reprinted here with permission from the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto. Sgrena was shot and wounded by U.S. forces in Iraq shortly after being freed from captors. A security agent protecting her was killed.

I'm still in the dark. Friday was the most dramatic day of my life. I had been in captivity for many days. I had just spoken with my captors. It had been days they were telling me I would be released. I was living in waiting for this moment. They were speaking about things that only later I would have understood the importance of. They were speaking about problems "related to transfers."

I learned to understand what was going on by the behavior of my two guards, the two guards that had me under custody every day. One in particular showed much attention to my desires. He was incredibly cheerful. To understand exactly what was going on I provocatively asked him if he was happy because I was going or because I was staying. I was shocked and happy when for the first time he said, "I only know that you will go, but I don't know when." To confirm the fact that something new was happening both of them came into my room and started comforting me and kidding: "Congratulations they said you are leaving for Rome." For Rome, that's exactly what they said.

I experienced a strange sensation because that word evoked in me freedom but also projected in me an immense sense of emptiness. I understood that it was the most difficult moment of my kidnapping and that if everything I had just experienced until then was "certain," now a huge vacuum of uncertainty was opening, one heavier than the other. I changed my clothes. They came back: "We'll take you and don't give any signals of your presence with us otherwise the Americans could intervene." It was confirmation that I didn't want to hear; it was altogether the most happy and most dangerous moment. If we bumped into someone, meaning American military, there would have been an exchange of fire. My captors were ready and would have answered. My eyes had to be covered. I was already getting used to momentary blindness. What was happening outside? I only knew that it had rained in Baghdad. The car was proceeding securely in a mud zone. There was a driver plus the two captors. I immediately heard something I didn't want to hear. A helicopter was hovering at low altitude right in the area that we had stopped. "Be calm, they will come and look for you...in 10 minutes they will come looking for." They spoke in Arabic the whole time, a little bit of French, and a lot in bad English. Even this time they were speaking that way.

Then they got out of the car. I remained in the condition of immobility and blindness. My eyes were padded with cotton, and I had sunglasses on. I was sitting still. I thought what should I do. I start counting the seconds that go by between now and the next condition, that of liberty? I had just started mentally counting when a friendly voice came to my ears "Giuliana, Giuliana. I am Nicola, don't worry I spoke to Gabriele Polo (editor in chief of Il Manifesto). Stay calm. You are free." They made me take my cotton bandage off, and the dark glasses. I felt relieved, not for what was happening and I couldn't understand but for the words of this "Nicola." He kept on talking and talking, you couldn't contain him, an avalanche of friendly phrases and jokes. I finally felt an almost physical consolation, warmth that I had forgotten for some time.

The car kept on the road, going under an underpass full of puddles and almost losing control to avoid them. We all incredibly laughed. It was liberating. Losing control of the car in a street full of water in Baghdad and maybe wind up in a bad car accident after all I had been through would really be a tale I would not be able to tell. Nicola Calipari sat next to me. The driver twice called the embassy and in Italy that we were heading towards the airport that I knew was heavily patrolled by U.S. troops. They told me that we were less than a kilometer away...when...I only remember fire. At that point, a rain of fire and bullets hit us, shutting up forever the cheerful voices of a few minutes earlier.

The driver started yelling that we were Italians. "We are Italians, we are Italians." Nicola Calipari threw himself on me to protect me and immediately, I repeat, immediately I heard his last breath as he was dying on me. I must have felt physical pain. I didn't know why. But then I realized my mind went immediately to the things the captors had told me. They declared that they were committed to the fullest to freeing me but I had to be careful, "the Americans don't want you to go back." Then when they had told me I considered those words superfluous and ideological. At that moment they risked acquiring the flavor of the bitterest of truths, at this time I cannot tell you the rest.

This was the most dramatic day. But the months that I spent in captivity probably changed forever my existence. One month alone with myself, prisoner of my profound certainties. Every hour was an impious verification of my work, sometimes they made fun of me, and they even stretch as far as asking why I wanted to leave, asking me stay. They insisted on personal relationships. It was them that made me think of the priorities that too often we cast aside. They were pointing to family. "Ask your husband for help," they would say. And I also said in the first video that I think you all saw, "My life has changed." As Iraqi engineer Ra'ad Ali Abdulaziz of the organization A Bridge For [Baghdad], who had been kidnapped with the two Simones had told me "my life is not the same anymore." I didn't understand. Now I know what he meant. Because I experienced the harshness of truth, it's difficult proposition (of truth) and the fragility of those who attempt it.

In the first days of my kidnapping I did not shed a tear. I was simply furious. I would say in the face of my captors: "But why do you kidnap me, I'm against the war." And at that point they would start a ferocious dialogue. "Yes because you go speak to the people, we would never kidnap a journalist that remains closed in a hotel and because the fact that you say you're against the war could be a decoy." And I would answer almost to provoke them: "It's easy to kidnap a weak woman like me, why don't you try with the American military." I insisted on the fact that they could not ask the Italian government to withdraw the troops. Their political go-between could not be the government but the Italian people, who were and are against the war.

It was a month on a see-saw shifting between strong hope and moments of great depression. Like when it was a first Sunday after the Friday they kidnapped me, in the house in Baghdad where I was kept, and on top of which was a satellite dish they showed me the Euronews Newscast. There I saw a huge picture of me hanging from Rome City Hall. I felt relieved. Right after though the claim by the Jihad that announced my execution if Italy did not withdraw the troops arrived. I was terrified. But I immediately felt reassured that it wasn't them. I didn't have to believe these announcements, they were "provocative." Often I asked the captor that from his face I could identify a good disposition but whom like his colleagues resembled a soldier: "Tell me the truth. Do you want to kill me?" Although many times there have been windows of communications with them. "Come watch a movie on TV" they would say while a Wahabi roamed around the house and took care of me. The captors seemed to me a very religious group, in continuous prayer on the Koran. But Friday, at the time of the release, the one that looked the most religious and who woke up every morning at 5 a.m. to pray incredibly congratulated me shaking my hand, a behavior unusual for an Islamic fundamentalist -- and he would add "if you behave yourself you will leave immediately." Then an almost funny incident. One of the two captors came to me surprised both because the TV was showing big posters of me in European cities and also for Totti. Yes Totti. He declared he was a fan of the Roma soccer team and he was shocked that his favorite player went to play with the writing "Liberate Giuliana" on his T-shirt.

I lived in an enclave in which I had no more certainties. I found myself profoundly weak. I failed in my certainties; I said that we had to tell about that dirty war. And I found myself in the alternative either to stay in the hotel and wait or to end up kidnapped because of my work. We don't want anyone else anymore. The kidnappers would tell me. But I wanted to tell about the bloodbath in Fallujah from the words of the refugees. And that morning the refugees, or some of their leaders would not listen to me. I had in front of me the accurate confirmation of the analysis of what the Iraqi society had become as a result of the war and they would throw their truth in my face: "We don't want anybody why didn't you stay in your home. What can this interview do for us?" The worse collateral effect, the war that kills communication was falling on me. To me, I who had risked everything, challenging the Italian government who didn't want journalists to reach Iraq and the Americans who don't want our work to be witnessed of what really became of that country with the war and notwithstanding that which they call elections. Now I ask myself. Is their refusal a failure?

Comment: Members of the US media (see below) are telling their public that one shouldn't believe anything that Giuliana Sgrena tells them because, after all, she's a commie. We humbly suggest that they go back and read Sgrena articles on the situation in Iraq and compare them with the fairy tales coming out of the US media via embedded reporters and US military censors. Compare her work with the speeches of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bremer, and other US leaders for accuracy and see who should be trusted on their accounts of what is happening in the occupied country, whose writing reflects the horror and grief of the people of Iraq.

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Italians honour Iraq hostage go-between
John Hooper in Rome and Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Tuesday March 8, 2005
The Guardian

Italians bade an emotional farewell yesterday to the senior intelligence officer killed by US troops in Iraq last week as officials in Rome and Washington tried to dampen smouldering resentment over his death. [...]

On Sunday, Ms Sgrena said that she did not discount the possibility that the car carrying them to Baghdad airport had been targeted by the Americans because of their opposition to negotiating with kidnappers.

The White House rejected Ms Sgrena's claims. "I think it's absurd to make any such suggestion that our men and women in uniform deliberately targeted innocent civil ians. "That's just absurd," said spokesman Scott McClellan.

However the Third Infantry Division, whose troops include those that fired on the Italians' car last Friday, came under investigation in April last year for opening fire on carloads of Iraqi women and children at checkpoints, according to US army documents obtained by the Guardian.

"The order was given to shoot anything that moves, but it wasn't meant to be taken literally," one soldier told the US army investigator.

One soldier described shooting women and children in cars "if they didn't respond to the signs, the presence of troops or warning shots". [...]

Prosecutors in Rome, who have opened an inquiry into Calipari's death, announced last night that Italian officials in Iraq had taken possession of the car in which he was travelling with Ms Sgrena when he was killed.

They said that it would be flown back to Italy for a forensic examination. Their investigation continues to be classified as a murder inquiry.

Comment: Soldiers, who have gone through basic training with the express purpose of losing their humanity and learning to become killing machines who follow orders without question were told to "shoot anything that moves", but they weren't to take it literally.

Yeah, right.

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Rift over Italian death deepens
BBC
Italy's foreign minister has demanded the US "identify and punish" those responsible for the death of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq.

Gianfranco Fini said the US and Italy had different versions of what happened to Nicola Calipari, who died under US fire while escorting a freed hostage.

The US says shots were fired because the vehicle was speeding and did not heed troops' warnings for it to stop.

But Mr Fini said the car was travelling at no more than 40km per hour.

Calipari had also made "all the necessary contacts" with US and Italian officials about the hostage's release and the journey to the airport, he added.

The incident has intensified the already strong Italian opposition to the country's military presence in Iraq and put intense pressure on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government to find answers.

The BBC's Tamsin Smith in Rome says Mr Fini's comments, which have pre-empted an investigation into the incident, were very much for domestic consumption.

Political observers in Rome say there is a serious problem of jurisdiction in any attempt to bring criminal proceedings, as the shooting took place in an area under US military control in a third country.

Calipari has become a national hero in Italy, and thousands came out onto the streets on Monday to applaud the funeral cortege.

'Truth and justice'

Mr Fini said the vehicle carrying the released hostage and agents was well-lit to facilitate checks.

However, it stopped after a powerful light was shone on it from the roadside and the shooting began immediately, without warning, he said.

A volley of shots from automatic weapons followed, lasting 10-15 seconds, the foreign minister added.

The occupants of the vehicle were only identified by a second agent who was pulled from the car alive, he said.

Mr Fini did, however, reject the allegation made by freed hostage Giuliana Sgrena that the car was deliberately targeted as "groundless".

"We ask for truth and justice," he said. "We hope that within the next few hours this affirmed wish for loyal co-operation will yield its first major concrete result."

"We hope that this is not an opportunity to whip up political campaigns and to sow anti-American sentiment in public opinion, which certainly have no reason to exist."

Tuesday's Washington Times newspaper quoted a Pentagon memo as saying the Italian security forces appeared to have made no prior arrangement for Mr Sgrena's transfer to the airport.

It added that US troops are trained to fire on erratic speeding vehicles, a description which corresponds to the US version of events.

"This is war," the memo was quoted as saying. "About 500 American service members have been killed by hostile fire while operating on Iraqi streets and highways."

Comment: The "commie journalist's" story is now being accepted by members of the Italian government, perhaps because Sgrena's story matches that of the other surviving members of the ambush, agents of the Italian special services. Of course, the government, which is a partner to US crimes in Iraq, is doing everything in its power to control the situation. To this end, they need to act as if they are going to hold Washington accountable while doing nothing to upset the alliance; they need to speak to the crowd in Italy in the same way the politicians in the US play to the crowd in the US.

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US media wary of shooting account
BBC
The US media have treated with care allegations by freed Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena that the American military deliberately shot at her.

But they have used the incident, in which Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari was killed, to highlight the frequency of shootings at checkpoints in Iraq and the anger that it has incited among average Iraqis.

Human rights groups have described the US military rules of engagement at checkpoints as too permissive.

But the US military defends its policies, saying that troops must be able to protect themselves in the face of widespread suicide bombings.

CNN reported that there was no advance warning that Ms Sgrena and Mr Calipari would be travelling down the dangerous road to the airport in Baghdad.

But questions remained as to whether there was some co-ordination between higher-level Italian and US officials that had not been communicated to the troops in the area.

CNN's Rome bureau chief Alessio Vinci said: "[Ms Sgrena] was not ruling out the possibility that the Americans may have targeted her on purpose, because the US opposed negotiating with kidnappers."

But he said she could not provide evidence to support her claims.

Retired US Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, an MSNBC military analyst, expressed great scepticism with respect to Ms Sgrena's claims that no warning was giving.

"It's hard to believe the Italian journalist," he said, and he added: "Without getting too political here, she works for a Communist newspaper."

And he said that no matter the rules of the engagement the driver of the car should have stopped when armed troops ordered it.

"At the end of the day, when armed troops tell you to stop, you are supposed to stop, or else they're going to shoot you up," he said.

Comment: The trouble is, the Italians in the car say that no warning was given. Therefore, the account given in the US is incorrect. The other point is that they were fired upon not at a checkpoint, but by a patrol.

R Jeffrey Smith and Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington Post wrote that the shooting was "one of many incidents in which civilians have been killed by mistake at checkpoints in Iraq, including local police officers, women and children, according to military records, US officials and human rights groups."

In many cases, it has emerged after the incidents that Iraqis who had been fired on were not suicide bombers or others involved in the insurgency.

And the US troops "did so while operating under rules of engagement that the military has classified and under a legal doctrine that grants US troops immunity from civil liability for misjudgement," the Post said.

Human rights groups have accused the US military of taking inadequate steps to protect the safety of civilians.

'Widespread anger'

John Burns of the New York Times said that the killing of Mr Calipari and the wounding of Ms Sgrena highlighted one of the most contentious aspects of the US military presence in Iraq.

"Next to the scandal of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, no other aspect of the American military presence in Iraq has caused such widespread dismay and anger among Iraqis, judging by their frequent outbursts on the subject," Mr Burns wrote.

The rules of engagement allow for US forces to open fire whenever they believe "their unit may be at risk of suicide bombings or other insurgent attacks", he added.

Average Iraqis say it is not clear to them what constitutes threatening behaviour - and they have called on the US military to launch a public information campaign to help cut down on the incidents.

US and Iraqi officials have no figures on the casualties, but there are several incidents at US checkpoints every day, according to reports compiled by Western security companies.

As in the case of Ms Sgrena, accounts vary widely in most of the checkpoint incidents.

However, unlike the politically sensitive incident involving the Italian journalist, few of the incidents involving Iraqi civilians are ever formally investigated, Mr Burns noted.

"The American soldiers know that circumstances erupt in which a second's hesitation can mean death, and say civilian deaths are a regrettable but inevitable consequence of a war in which suicide bombers have been the insurgents' most deadly weapon," Mr Burns wrote.

Comment: It is "regrettable" that soldiers who are in the country illegally are killing civilians in order to protect themselves. Might not the solution be to get the soldiers out?

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Iraq suicide bombing campaign: a reactionary diversion from the political struggle against imperialism
By the WSWS International Editorial Board
4 March 2005

The suicide car bomb attack in the Iraqi town of Hilla on Monday has produced the greatest death toll from a single such incident since the US invasion toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein nearly two years ago. Those targeted in the blast were young men seeking medical tests needed to join the US-organized Iraqi police and military. The victims, who numbered as many as 125 dead and at least 130 more wounded, included passers-by and people shopping in a nearby market.

The attack in Hilla - a predominantly Shiite city - is only the latest and bloodiest in a string of terrorist attacks that have continued to escalate over the past two months. According to a count provided by the Associated Press, 234 people were killed and 429 wounded in some 55 separate attacks in January. The death toll rose to 311 while the number of injured increased to 433 as a result of 38 such attacks in February.

This slaughter of Iraqi non-combatants - including working class youth lured into joining the police and army by the prospect of a job and salary in a country where the majority is jobless and destitute - is a political atrocity and deserves to be condemned.

Comment: If the dire economic situation in the U.S. is any indication, the working class American youth will soon have a great deal in common with their Iraqi counterparts. When the dollar tanks in the near future, the only way many middle and lower class families will be able to eat is by offering up their young ones as sacrificial lambs to the insatiable Bush war machine.

This is not a question of mere moral outrage. These are political crimes. Far from undermining the illegal American occupation of Iraq, the principal outcome of such attacks is deeper political confusion among the masses, which can lead to debilitating sectarian conflicts.

The opposition of the World Socialist Web Site to terrorist bombings has nothing in common with the hypocritical denunciations of the Hilla bombing and similar attacks by the Bush administration and the big business media, whose sole aim is to justify US imperialism's crimes in Iraq.

Few bother recalling that Hilla is no stranger to mass carnage, having suffered one of the bloodiest attacks at the beginning of the US war on Iraq. On April 1, 2003, the US military targeted the town with cluster bombs, killing at least 60 people, many of them children, and leaving hundreds more wounded. The use of this weapon constituted another war crime in a continuing criminal war.

Washington is ultimately responsible not just for the killing conducted by its own military forces - which accounts for the bulk of the tens of thousands who have died since the US invasion - but for all of the bloodshed in Iraq. This is indisputably true from the standpoint of international law, as the US is an occupying power. But more fundamentally, the American war and occupation, coming on top of a decade of devastating economic sanctions, have decimated Iraqi society, provoking resistance while reducing Iraq to a state of social and economic disintegration.

The crimes of US imperialism, however, in no way justify tactics that result in the pointless slaughter of Iraqis - including many who undoubtedly are opponents of the American occupation.

While armed struggle is a legitimate and inevitable tactic in the struggle against foreign military occupation, it is not an end in itself and cannot take the place of a political program that educates, guides and inspires masses of people. There is, moreover, a profound link between ends and means. Just as the utterly predatory objectives of the Iraqi occupation find expression in the sadistic practices carried out by the United States at Abu Ghraib, the mass killings of Iraqis expose the essentially reactionary perspective of the political forces responsible for the suicide bombings. It is noteworthy that these attacks are conducted without even a suggestion that they are aimed at winning the population to a particular political platform or galvanizing popular opposition to the US colonialist presence in Iraq.

Comment: Although there may be some suicide attacks that are carried out by legitimately angry Iraqi Muslim fundamentalists, it seems that many of the more technically complicated suicide bombings, resulting in a high number of casualties, were likely planned and carried out by such "political forces" as the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services, perhaps using brainwashed and programmed Arabs as their Manchurian Candidate-type patsy.

The struggles of the anti-colonial movements in an earlier epoch were unquestionably accompanied by violence, including, as in the case of Algeria, the utilization of terrorist bombings. But these actions were carried out by movements that advanced political programs or demands that - with all the limitations and illusions of bourgeois nationalism - were presented to the masses to win their support.

The organizers of these atrocities make no pretense of appealing to widespread discontent and political unrest, or attempting to tap into the broad opposition to US imperialism that predominates throughout the region as a whole. Rather, they cynically exploit the anger, spirit of self-sacrifice, and genuine hatred of oppression of young men and women by using them as cannon fodder in an ignoble venture.

These tactics are not based on a struggle to defeat imperialism. They are conducted in contempt of the Iraqi masses and the deep historical traditions of working class struggle in Iraq. They serve to undermine social consciousness and sow political confusion.

An Islamist web site reported that a group calling itself the Al Qaeda Organization for Holy War in Iraq had claimed responsibility for the Hilla bombing. Whether the group even exists as more than a name is far from clear.

Comment: Regular readers of the Signs page are well aware that any group using or affiliated with the name "al-Qaeda" are very likely being financed, supported and directed by the Mossad and/or CIA.

It cannot be excluded that forces loyal to pro-American stooges like Ahmed Chalabi and Iyad Allawi would carry out such provocations in order to foment internecine violence, with the aim of preventing the ascension of a government from which they are excluded, as well as to provide a continued justification for the US military occupation upon which they depend.

It is in the nature of such terrorist bombings that the precise identity of their organizers and the character of their political aims are not entirely discernible. Bombings can be carried out in the name of a non-existent organization to further hidden agendas, including those of the CIA itself.

But these tactics are by no means foreign to either the Islamist forces or the remnants of the Iraqi Baathist regime. Both have played a significant role in misdirecting a broad resistance to US occupation that has won the support of not only many Iraqis, but peoples throughout the Middle East.

Neither Baathists nor Islamists represent the interests of the working class and oppressed. The Baathist regime, like secular bourgeois nationalism throughout the Arab world, sacrificed the social needs and basic democratic rights of the Iraqi people to further the interests of a ruling elite. It fell victim to the imperialist power that it previously looked to for support.

The Islamists owe their rise primarily to this historic failure of bourgeois nationalism. They were supported by Washington in attacking the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and they continue to enjoy at least tacit support from elements within the Saudi elite and other regimes in the region, which are loath to see the emergence of a Shiite-dominated state in Iraq. Both the Baathists and Islamists would be prepared to do a deal with imperialism if it furthered their own narrow interests.

These are the retrograde social ends that are pursued through the criminal means of suicide bombings against Iraqi civilians. Neither of these forces is capable of winning mass support - either for the restoration of the Baathist regime or the imposition of a reactionary Islamic utopia like that of the Taliban in Afghanistan or the Mullahs in Iran.

Underlying these methods - to the extent that they are not the result of an imperialist provocation or a deliberate attempt to provoke an ethnic civil war - is a profound pessimism that pervades both these forces and their political apologists. They categorically reject the possibility of a unified struggle against imperialism based on the conscious political mobilization of the Iraqi masses. [...]

The perverse effect of the bombing campaign is that even the possibility of mass mobilizations is undermined by the ever-present threat that they will be met with anonymous violence.

The emergence of a genuinely independent movement of Iraqi working people can take place only through an irreconcilable struggle against the forces that have historically held the Iraqi working class back. These include the gangsters of the Baathist regime, the religious-based movements that foster extreme political backwardness, and the Iraqi Communist Party, which bears a particular responsibility for the present dilemma confronting the workers of Iraq. [...]

A new political party of the Iraqi working class must be built based upon the historic and often tragic experiences of the international socialist and anti-imperialist struggles of the twentieth century. There is no alternative to the construction of a revolutionary political party of the working class, based on an internationalist perspective.

Comment: While the author of the World Socialist Web Site can be forgiven for framing his bias from a working class perspective, the editors at Signs of Times are not at all as optimistic about the fate of the Iraqi people. As long as the U.S. remains as an occupying force and sham elections produce puppet governments sympathetic and under the control of their occupiers, there will be neither freedom nor revolution for the common Iraqi, whose future looks grim indeed.

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'I just want to survive and go home with all my body parts'
Rory Carroll
The Guardian
Friday March 4, 2005

The city was quiet but the soldiers sitting and swaying inside the Stryker were animated by their favourite debate: was it better to be five metres or 20 metres from an explosion?

The front gunner belonged to the 20-metre school, figuring the greater distance reduced your chances of losing limbs to the blast. The two rear gunners scoffed and said that would increase the odds of being hit by shrapnel, which fanned upwards and outwards.

Five months of patrolling Mosul had furnished evidence for both views and the discussion was as well-worn as the Stryker's tyres.

Sergeant David Phillips, 23, sighed and patted his flak jacket. "I just want to stay alive and go home with all my body parts." He spoke for 150,000 American soldiers in Iraq.

Yesterday the number of US military deaths since the March 2003 invasion crept over 1,500. [...]

The daily drip of US casualties passes almost unnoticed now, a footnote to the wider slaughter of Iraqis: five policemen killed in two car bombs yesterday, 13 soldiers killed on Wednesday, a judge on Tuesday, at least 115 police and army recruits and civilians on Monday. Some 18,000 civilians are estimated to have died.

Yesterday's headlines were about the renewal of Iraq's state of emergency, fresh attacks on oil pipelines, and deadlock between Shias and Kurds over forming a new government.

The men of Bravo company, an infantry unit which rides in the armoured Stryker vehicles of 321 Battalion in Mosul, did not care that since George Bush's re-election the artificial limbs and flag-draped coffins of US troops have faded in political significance. For them, it was personal.

"I don't tell my mom or my wife that we drive up and down streets getting blown up every day. They'd just worry all the time. I tell them we sit in the base and do the odd mission," said Sgt Nathan Purdy, who is 23.

A week embedded with Bravo company, midway through a year-long stint in an insurgent stronghold, showed a group of men with good morale and determination to catch "bad guys" but divided over the war and frustrated by an elusive enemy. [...]

The Iraqi army was improving thanks to joint operations and would soon take half of the responsibility of securing the city. Asked about the police force he rolled his eyes, but speculated that there was enough progress for US forces to leave within three years. His desk had tomes on Islam and a "Don't mess with Texas" sticker. [...]

Drive-by shootings have wounded several in the unit but the big fear is roadside bombs which according to the Pentagon accounted for 56% of all US battle deaths in the first two months of this year. They are hidden in rubbish bags, animal carcasses, holes, rubble, cars and carts, turning every object into a potential killer.

A suicide car bomber rammed and immolated one of the battalion's Strykers but all the occupants survived, prompting reverence for the eight-wheel, 23-tonne monsters.

A tip about weapons caches this week led to a midnight mission to dig up a lawn. It yielded nothing.

"F*cking gardeners - what are we doing here?" asked one private. "And tomorrow we're giving out candy to kids again," replied his friend. "We didn't train for this."

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Final three French prisoners return home from Guantanamo
AFP
Mon Mar 7, 4:07 PM ET

PARIS - The last three French nationals held prisoner by US authorities at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba were returned to France and detained, the Paris prosecutors' office said.

An agreement in principle on the release of Mustaq Ali Patel, Ridouane Khalid and Khaled Ben Mustafa, was reached last month during the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Paris.

Upon their return, the three men were taken into custody on the orders of anti-terrorism magistrates Jean-Louis Brugiere and Jean-Francois Ricard as part of "investigations into criminal association relating to terrorist activities," said a statement from the prosecutors' office.

The three arrived on a French military plane on Monday evening, according to a source familiar with the case.

Comment: Another reason why Franco-American relations seemed to improve so dramatically during Condi's visit...?

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Girl, 5, survives suicide leap by father
Canadian Press
Mar. 7, 2005 07:00 AM

TORONTO - Police and drivers could only watch Sunday night as a father killed himself and his 5-year-old daughter was injured in a plunge from a busy highway overpass.

"The fact that the little girl wasn't hit by a car is a miracle," officer Brian O'Connor said at a news conference.

"It does not appear that she has any broken bones. She was talkative at the hospital."

The girl has some internal bleeding but that has stopped, he added.
Police said it was not immediately clear whether the man threw the girl off the overpass or had her in his arms when he jumped. [...]

"This guy was a loaded missile. He was going to kill himself and he was going to take his daughter to punish his wife for whatever he thought she had done wrong in the relationship. [...]

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Chemical spill forces mass evacuation
March 6, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A railcar leaking toxic chemicals sent plumes of gas into the air Sunday and forced the evacuation of more than 6,000 people.

Authorities evacuated a one-kilometre-square area and closed at least nine roads after the leak was discovered by crews loading chemicals into a parked railcar in South Salt Lake.

"We're speculating that the liner in the railcar must have failed," Union Pacific spokesman John Bromley said.

No injuries were reported.

The chemicals involved - hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid and nitric acid - can cause severe burns if they come into direct contact with skin or eyes.

Cleanup crews were working to transfer the chemicals to tankers.

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Summer swings from cold to hot
NZ Herald
06.03.05 5.30pm

(New Zealand) - Temperatures swung between extremes during the three months of summer, with the country experiencing the coldest December since 1945 but the eighth warmest February on record. [...]

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Gases making seas warmer, scientists say
By Dennis O'Brien
The Baltimore Sun
Sunday, March 6, 2005

Greenhouse gases are warming our oceans, changing their chemistry and threatening rainfall patterns that provide the planet with its fresh water, scientists say.

The gases that cause global warming sometimes are given as factors in problems ranging from the strength of hurricanes to altered wildlife habitats. But in what may be the most comprehensive look yet at the oceans, a group of researchers recently told a scientific conference that the marine effect is just as severe.

"In terms of global warming, the oceans are where the action is," said Tim Barnett, an oceanographer at the Scripps Oceanographic Institution. "The oceans are sort of a canary in the coal mine."

The 1990s turned out to be the warmest decade in the past 1,000 years, experts say. [...]

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Cassiopaean materials Copyright ©1994-2014 Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk. All rights reserved. "Cassiopaea, Cassiopaean, Cassiopaeans," is a registered trademark of Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.
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