Thursday, November 11, 2004

Facts Matter

My prayers go with the friend of Kurt Staudert who has been mobilized for action in Iraq. Last week Kurt gave us a glimmer of his story and my sympathies also go to Kurt who feels this sacrifice so acutely. As is so often the case, though, I disagree with Kurt’s description of Operation Iraqi Freedom as “pointless”. Of course he’s not alone, most Vermonters agree with Kurt, as do most of mainstream media and, as usual, I am bound to disagree and respond.

Amy Goodman describes 200,000 dead East Timorese as “one of the worst genocides of the late twentieth century.” US Forces in Iraq are still finding mass graves and the body count before invasion exceeded 300,000. Milosevic killed less than 50,000 and was not threatening his neighboring countries. Saddam, at one time or another, attacked or threatened all abutting countries, but of course he didn’t have wmds or ties to Al Qaeda, so the war with Iraq was a “distraction from the war on terror” and “pointless”.

Some people have an agenda, others just have a belief-set. Sometimes that agenda or belief-set is challenged by facts. When that happens some people simply ignore the facts.

On Nov. 8th, at a National Press Club discussion on the election Carole Simpson, an ABC News correspondent, was on the panel was upset that “studies show 70 percent of the people of America still think that Saddam Hussein blew up the World Trade Center...and that’s why we’re at war..” I would think that as a reporter she would consider the disparity of belief worth investigating. If she had done her job instead of expressed her agenda she would have reported, as ABC News (her employer) did on Jan. 14, 1999, that “senior Sudanese officials acting on behalf of bin Laden asked if Saddam Hussein would grant him asylum. Iraq was indeed interested. ABC News has learned that in December and Iraqi intelligence chief made a secret trip to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden.”

Salman Pak was a training facility southeast of Baghdad with the fuselage of a Boeing 707 used to stage hijackings with knives. Abu Mohammed, a Colonel in the Fedayeen, served there. Major Ali Hawas told Mohammed that a group there was Osama bin Laden’s.

Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, a medical doctor specializing in poisons, ran an al- Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. When wounded in May 2002, he went to Baghdad for treatment and opened a training camp in northern Iraq. In Feb 2003 he met in Iran with al-Qaeda operative, Mohammed Ibrahim Makwai.

London’s Daily Telegraph reported on Iraqi Intelligence Center documents outlining the funding for a youth recruitment program for Allied Democratic Forces which is an al-Qaeda linked Ugandan terrorist organization.

Newsday reported on Mullah Melan Krekar in the custody of the Netherlands. His group Ansar al-Islam (organized specifically for suicide attacks on Americans) received $300,000 from three separate bin Laden agents and operated in northern Iraq striking against anti-Saddam Khurds. United Press International reported on Saddam’s funding for Ansar al-Islam. Krekar admits to meetings with bin Laden dating back to 1988.

The Independent of London reported on the al-Qaeda terrorist, Yusuf Galan, who was caught in Spain and charged as being “directly involved with the preparation and planning” of the attacks on Sept. 11. The Madrid Iraqi embassy invited Galan to a party using his “al Qaeda nom de guerre.”

Abbas al-Janabi defected from Iraq in 1998 and has confirmed direct Iraq-al Qaeda connections. His job in Iraq was as an aide to Uday, one of Saddam’s sons and chief Saddam lieutenant.

New Yorker magazine reported on the May 2000 arrest of Mohamed Mansour Shahab who was hired by Iraq to smuggle weapons to bin Laden.

Mohammad Atef, before his death in Afghanistan, talked to an al-Qaeda informant about the need for chemical weapons labs in Iraq, outside the Afghan war zone.

Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi recalls his “successful” relationship with the Hussein government during his trips to Iraq to buy poison gases for bin Laden between 1997 and 2000.

I could go on. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Carole Simpson noted, “of course our kids are not bright about these things because their parents aren’t...are children going to grow up stupid?” I’m trying to be nice in the wake of my guy winning, but frankly it’s Carole Simpson and people with an agenda or belief-system, like her, that are stupid. And worse than being simply stupid, these people insist that their ignorance is to be admired and become the basis for policy decisions as we see in Brattleboro.

Kyle Gilbert, a Brattleboro son, died on Aug. 6, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq. A grassroots movement moved the town government to dedicate the rebuilt Main Street Bridge in his name as the Kyle Charles Gilbert Memorial Bridge. Brattleboro is home to some of Vermont’s most radical anti-Bush and anti-war activists (and for Vermont, that’s saying quite a bit). These shamelessly ignorant people have made their minority voices heard, so his mission “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, the phrase “Freedom is not free”, and etchings of American flags and an eagle were all struck from the plaque. Critics complained that the dedication would endorse Bush and or the war. The plaque now reads, “Brattleboro remembers all the brave men and women who served our country or made the supreme sacrifice in Iraq.”

Kris McDermet had this to say, “I oppose the war, and I wouldn’t have wanted it referenced in any way on a bridge in Brattleboro,” and Ian Kiehle thinks, “it allows a person to interpret whether the supreme sacrifice was worth it.” Frank Wetherby, a Vietnam vet diagrees, “That’s the sort of thing that turns this into ‘them against us.’ Support your troops: I don’t care what your philosophy is.” Contrary to Mr. Kiehle, but the only person able to “interpret...the supreme sacrifice” of Kyle Gilbert is Kyle Gilbert. Kyle died in a war that has freed millions, removed a dictator, and is making the world safer. Mr. Kiehle’s contribution to society is selling hemp clothing.

Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, Sergeant USMC, phrased it eloquently, “...it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.”

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