Backtalk, August 20, 2004

Abu Ghraib

I was shocked to see those sick photographs. When I enlisted in the U.S. Army I heard stories about atrocities committed by US soldiers in World War II and the Korean War, but we never saw any photos. Had I seen such pictures I would not have enlisted, underage, in 1959. I cannot believe the silence I am met with when I bring up this subject and find a once noisy place suddenly quiet and wonder if this is what the average German experienced in Hitler’s Germany. …

Why are US citizens rationalizing this behavior with what Saddam Hussein may have done? As a former soldier, I am sickened!

~ Sarge Booker

Who ‘Outed’ Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan?

“With the capture of the ‘treasure trove’ contained in Khan’s computers, and the flipping of Khan, for the first time since we let Al Qaeda get away from Afghanistan, the top terrorists, and even Bin Laden himself, were within our grasp….”

Maybe the CIA wanted to bust up this “sting operation” because it was catching al-Qaeda, who were still CIA assets? This Al Farooq training camp seems to hold the key to the missing pieces in many puzzles:

Al-Qaeda computer whizz was top terror planner“:

“Khan traveled to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan some time between 1998 and 2001 and underwent arms training at the Al-Farooq camp run by Arab Al-Qaeda fighters close to Kabul.”

The day Hicks met Osama bin Laden“: David Hicks, an “enemy combatant” in Guantanamo, worked for Bin Laden at the Al Farooq camp, translating “the training camp materials from Arabic to English.” Also “On or about May, 1999, Hicks traveled to Tirana, Albania, where he joined the Kosovo Liberation Army.” This is exactly when the CIA was training their KLA “freedom fighters.” Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) training camps in Albania were “run by Osama bin Laden, and various other foreign mujahedeen” and also by the “CIA and British intelligence… while the CIA seems to have provided monetary support….”

Alleged terror cell case quietly closing“: …

“Since January, Faysal Galab, 27, Shafal Mosed, 24, Sahim Alwan, 30, and Yahya Goba, 26, have pleaded guilty to charges of supporting Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida by training at its Al Farooq camp in Afghanistan in spring 2001. … Federal officials say the men were recruited by Kamal Derwish, a Yemeni-American who also lived in Lackawanna. Derwish was believed killed Nov. 3 in Yemen when an unmanned US Predator drone fired a missile that destroyed a carload of suspected al-Qaida operatives. ‘When these (recruiters) came to Lackawanna and talked about jihad, they talked about places like Chechnya. They talked about Afghanistan, Kosovo and other places like that where people of the Muslim faith were under attack, were being killed,’ said James Harrington, Alwan’s attorney….”

No Choice but Guilty“: The Buffalo defendants were pressured to accept plea deals. Two key recruiters would have been the star witnesses, but they were not able to testify about the defendants and Al Farooq. “Two men who were veterans of the war in Bosnia and alleged recruiters for al Qaeda had passed through Lackawanna: Juma al-Dosari and Kamal Derwish.” Derwish was killed when he was hit by a CIA predator missile in Yemen and “Al-Dosari is widely reported” to be a prisoner in Guantanamo.

According to this Newsweek report, “The Road to the Brig,” top Bush administration officials held a conference to consider the option of declaring these Buffalo defendants to be “enemy combatants,” which would eliminate requirements for a public trial with public records of the testimony. It seems that extraordinary measures were considered to avoid testimony on the defendants at that Al Farooq training camp, which involved training guerrillas to fight in US intelligence operations in the Balkans.

Keep up the good work at!

~ DS

Follies of the High and Mighty

Yes, Paul Craig Roberts, how any informed American can still believe that the present administration has any clue of what they are doing is beyond reason. Is the fact that our economy is every bit as bad as they say it is, that millions of quality jobs are being lost overseas, that oil prices have never been higher, the national debt is reaching terrifying levels, that we have been condemned by the world’s premier financial institutions for dangerous and irresponsible fiscal policies, that we have turned the Muslim world against us, that we attacked the wrong country and created a monstrous, bloody and unnecessary quagmire where there was none, not enough to convince Americans that the Bush administration has absolutely no idea of what it is doing? And my favorite example of all time as to the incompetence and blundering of the high and mighty is the never to be forgotten story of the wonder of all wonders, the Titanic.

~ Carl Mattioli

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

Fawcett and Thomsen have the Titanic story, too. The Titanic analogy is a good one for both our war and economic policies.


I‘m one of those letter writers Justin Raimondo excoriated for making the claim that Kerry’s foreign policy would be sufficiently more restrained than Bush’s to justify a vote for him in November. I have changed my mind. I had been chalking up Kerry’s hawkish talk to his need to cater to the undecideds – the Democratic complement to Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” not at all to be taken seriously. But Kerry’s morally – and politically – incoherent affirmation of support for an Iraqi invasion that he knows was based on fraudulent pretenses and executed with amazing incompetence genuinely puts him even further from an antiwar position than Bush. I was counting on Kerry to keep us out of disastrous immoral and imperialistic wars in the Middle East, but he’s shown that he is all for such. The argument that Bush, with his diplomatic and military bungling, might hinder the US empire from expanding as quickly as it could under Kerry now sounds increasingly legitimate. I might vote for the least effective warmonger.

~ Michael Z.

Kerry has now said he would still have voted to permit the president to go to war in Iraq knowing what he knows now. As a longtime Democrat, onetime Democratic organizer, and former Kerry campaign contributor and supporter, I am outraged by this statement. There is absolutely NO justification for this morally bankrupt stance (there was no threat, the inspections were working, Saddam was less of a danger to his people and the world than at any other time in his reign, and the world certainly would not have supported war with even less justification than before).

I ask the editors of to call on its readers to oppose the Kerry campaign. Voting for the lesser of two evils is one thing, but we must draw the line somewhere. I believe Kerry crossed that line with his recent statement, and he must suffer the consequences. A barbarian is a barbarian, whether he is a Democrat or a Republican. I plan to write in a candidate referred to as “Against The War” to send a message to our back-stabbing, belligerent Democratic nominee. I hope others will join me in this effort.

~ Aaron Hogue, Durham, NC

Reinventing the War Party

“Having dragged down the president by embroiling him in an unwinnable and increasingly expensive war, the neocons are not only getting ready to abandon Bush but also sending some sniper fire his way.”

It is sad that Justin keeps excusing President Bush by blaming the neocons for the war in Iraq. Is Bush a child or an imbecile who can be “dragged” by someone else? Bush gave the order to invade Iraq.

Birds of a feather flock together, and Bush is neocon NUMERO UNO.

~ Xiomara Zelaya

Democratic Party Platform Turns Toward the War Party

“Such language may be preparing the way for a President Kerry, like President Bush, to launch invasions or other military actions against foreign countries in defiance of international law by simply claiming that ‘our safety is at stake,’ just as Kerry did from the Senate floor in justifying his support for the US invasion of Iraq.”

Before you get too carried away with the dark possibilities:

Please remember that we’re in the midst of an extremely tight campaign. John Kerry has already publicly stated that had he had been faced with the decision of whether or not to invade Iraq, he would have appealed to the UN for support and he would have made sure he had a clear mandate from the people. Read between the lines. The UN, as all of us – including John Kerry – know, would not have supported it, nor would the American people. In short, under President Kerry’s leadership, we would not have invaded Iraq. Kerry’s simply trying to avoid falling into one of Bush’s sticky traps (Bush’s “challenge” to Kerry this week was vaguely pathetic, but dangerous nonetheless). In my opinion, Kerry’s doing a spectacular job of parrying Bush’s thrusts. His strategy has been subtle, fluid, persistent, and, frankly, quite brilliant. I believe, as President, Kerry will approach America’s foreign policy with the same attention to strategic detail. He plays the game extremely well, and I trust he’ll make an excellent President.

As a professor of politics, I’m sure you’re well aware of Jimmy Carter’s famous strategy during his second bid for governor of Georgia to run as a pro-George Wallace conservative segregationist. His campaign aides handed out photographs of Carter’s opponent, Carl Sanders, associating with black basketball players. On the stump, Carter pledged to reappoint an avowed racist to the State Board of Regents. He promised that one of his first official acts as Governor would be to invite Alabama Governor George Wallace to address the Georgia General Assembly. Old-line segregationists across the state fell for the ruse and endorsed Carter for Governor. Then, after easily defeating Sanders, Carter shocked and angered his segregationist supporters by proclaiming during his inaugural address that the time for segregation was over: “No poor, rural, weak, or black person should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity of an education, a job, or simple justice.” Instead of inviting Wallace to speak before the Assembly, Carter hung a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Georgia State House.

Let’s not forget John Kerry’s energetic activism in helping to bring about the end of the Vietnam war. This is “Hanoi John” Kerry we’re talking about here, remember? Does it make any sense at all that he would suddenly go through such a drastic change in personality? Does it make any sense at all that the Democratic Party would go through such a drastic change in personality? Or that they would bother to devote such unprecedented, coordinated energy to unseating George Bush if they essentially agree with his policies? It’s never wise to confuse policy and strategy. Kerry’s got to beat Bush or he won’t get to implement a single one of his policies. So far, his strategy has been working extremely well.

~ Mark Freeman, Portland, OR

Pledge Week

I love your website, in so many ways. You have really educated me – consequently also my teenage kids and their friends, and my friends too.

I have been clueless most of my life about government and especially US foreign policy. Maybe partly because I stopped paying attention when at 18 I went to Canada with my boyfriend and brother to avoid the draft. I believed that life was a gift, and that it was a stupid idea to participate in wars. The boys just wanted to be in the woods, getting high, not setting things on fire or killing or being killed.

I value your work with this website, tremendously. But now that I have made a (small) donation I want to give some feedback.

I hope you won’t reject it outright but will actually think about it.

It has to do with the tone of some of your editorials and some of the remarks in the Blog.

I ask you: how and why do you stand for Antiwar, yet generate little wars among yourselves and among those who are also striving for a better world?

When someone disses me, ridicules my words or what I think, I no longer want to listen to what they say. Rather than learn from them, I become more defensive of my own views.

It’s human nature to react this way. For your website’s purpose, this is a great loss on both sides. People who are against war ought to communicate better, learn from each other, not ridicule or criticize, minimize or be mean-spirited.

Although I distrust most politicians on principle, parts of the DNConvention moved me. It was because they were talking about hope. People believe in this; humanity is hungry for hope.

This element is missing from your website, I find, though there are exceptions among individual writers. There is more cynicism, negativity, and gratuitous criticism than is necessary to get your message across. I think it detracts from the overall value and appeal of the site.

I’m intentionally not talking about specific articles or writers. This really is a universal issue which is each of our own responsibility, to be our own editors. Understand that the language we use, and the tone with which we communicate, has the power to open another person’s mind and heart. It also has the power to alienate and enrage.

The sludge does need to be named and stirred up, excreted. There is a place for some righteous rage, some tearing down. But this is no time for alienation. There is way too much hate in the world. …

~ Ann Sosman

Sam Koritz’s reply to A Fan’s backtalk

“While it’s no doubt true that the majority of our readers are intelligent, not all of our readers are letter-writers, and not all intelligent readers’ letters are interesting, amusing or informative. If you’d like more communication with readers I suggest the Antiwar Forum.”

… [I]f you want my contribution you can start updating Backtalk on a daily basis, include some of the “uninteresting, unamusing” readers’ letters and include contributors’ email addresses with their articles. Please don’t bother to tell me about the Antiwar Forum. I have been there and done that.

~ Nolan K. Anderson

Sam Koritz replies:

Now yer talking. That’ll cost ya ten grand.

From Megatons to Megawatts

Thank you, Mr. Prather, on your brilliant and concise analysis of the “problem” we face with spent nuclear fuel. As you point out, most other nations with nuclear power reactors reprocess their spent fuel, thereby reducing the amount of waste that must be buried (and reducing the amount of very-long-lived waste considerably). It’s the ultimate in reduce-reuse-recycle that the greens are always rambling on about. If global warming turns out to be a real phenomenon (and I wouldn’t bet too heavily on it), the so-called environmentalists will be the ones who damned the Earth’s climate to its fate by fighting the ONLY non-fossil-fuel power generation method that can actually produce enough energy for an advanced economy. I guess we’ll all be living in the Dark Ages soon if they have their way.

Of course, that’s not to say that there are no risks, but if Three Mile Island proved anything, it’s that containment, as practiced in the West, works. New generations of nuclear power plants promise to be even more effective at preventing such accidents. Good for the Russians (and whoever else reprocesses our fuel) if they make money doing what US utilities should have been allowed to do the whole time.

The way things are going, pretty soon we’ll have to import our electricity, too: the California scenario writ large. Has anyone thought about how we’re going to pay for that?

~ Ike Hall

Gordon Prather replies:

Electricity for California? I did write a somewhat whimsical column on that subject about three years ago: “Row, row, row your boat.” Thanks for the kind words.

Are you serious? This is one of the stupidest arguments I have ever seen. Either you are joking or you failed junior high physics and are totally ignorant of current and past history. Are you familiar with hell on Earth now known as Chernobyl?

~ Tom Menomonie, WI

Gordon Prather replies:

Actually, I am something of an expert on the Chernobyl disaster. I was a US paid expert/ consultant during the largely unsuccessful attempt by the Ukrainian government to get the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to permanently entomb the nuclear power reactor at Chernobyl destroyed by a hydrogen-oxygen gas explosion – not a nuclear explosion, at all. Want to know more? Click on: “Chernobyl: Flying low and slow.”

A Fear of Free Speech

As the US offensive in Najaf resumed the reporters were ordered out of the city by the new “democratic” regime of Iraq. Very conveniently the USA forces of occupation “had no comment.”

After the al-Jazeera reporters were ordered out of Iraq this is a new ominous sign of the commitment of the new democratic Iraq to basic human rights. But after all this is a new era. Or, maybe, it is not such a new one in regard of its methods. I lived in a communist country (Romania) for 34 years and the new methods employed by the “democratic” regime of Iraq do not seem very new to me.

~ Alexandru Nemoianu

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