Thursday, January 29, 2004

How to Read the News: Lesson 1

I ran across an article on CNN that has all the points I'd want to make about how to read disinformation. It was kind of them to think of me in this regard.

I am reprinting the entire article with my comments. I think that the educational value of this exercise will be clear, so there should be no copyright problems. Here is the original link: Afghanistan.

U.S. eyes spring offensive in Afghanistan
Hunt for bin Laden focuses on eastern Afghanistan

Hey, didn't we get him already? Oh, that was Saddam. Nevermind...on with the lesson.

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau
Thursday, January 29, 2004 Posted: 1:42 AM EST (0642 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military is planning a spring offensive against remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, a senior Defense Department official has said.

First off, I may be no Clausewitz, but is the U.S. the only country in the world that ANNOUNCES ITS MILITARY PLANS BEFORE THE ATTACK? Seems like that whole element of surprise thing might get lost with that strategy, no?

Clearly, there is no military advantage in making this announcement. Therefore, one must look for other reasons. It's speculation of course, but coming on the heels of David Kay saying "there ain't no weapons, folks" and mainstream media finally beginning to use the technical term "lie" when describing the Bush rationale for war, perhaps this announcement is a diversion.

Note, this does not mean I don't think there will be some military action (and as we shall see, it's not really even if Afghanistan so much as Pakistan itself that is their focus) it just means that this announcement has zero value in terms of predicting future events.

The second thing to notice is one that has become so common you might have overlooked it. Go back to the paragraph and find out who made this announcement. Who was it? Our old friend, "senior Defense Department official". I actually went to journalism school, for all the good it did me. (Annenberg bought it while I was there. Such irony in my life.) Using anonymous sources should be a RARE event. Why on earth can't they tell us the name of this official who is obviously not LEAKING these military plans. He's just putting them out there for everyone to see.

On with the story.

Authorities have ordered troops, supplies and logistics into place to carry out the operation, the official said Wednesday, without detailing whether the new offensive would require more troops.

The news comes amid increased violence in Afghanistan and on a day in which the U.S. military said it thinks it will find Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in eastern Afghanistan.

Okay, kids. You've spotted my next point already, haven't you? It's one thing to announce your war plans, but now they are telling Mr. bin Laden exactly where they expect to find him. (Well, not exactly...that comes further down.)

Assuming that they don't already have bin Laden sitting around waiting to be trotted out when it gets closer to election time, this story can only assure us that they aren't serious about capturing him.

"Uh....Osama? I read here on CNN that they know you're here. Maybe we should move to WESTERN Afghanistan for awhile."

Now, we all know that Osama was not only trained by the CIA but was (or at least his brothers were) in business with the Bushes. So all of this is a charade anyway. I'm just pointing out how the media plays along.

The manhunt for bin Laden is now in its third year but a military spokesman said confidence is high that he will be captured.

"I can say that Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar represent a threat to the world, and they need to be destroyed and we believe we will catch them in the next year," U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a coalition spokesman, said Wednesday.

As I time for the elections.

In December, the U.S. military said it was launching a major offensive against al Qaeda and the Taliban, sending troops into the southern and eastern parts of the country along the Pakistan border, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

Operation Avalanche was an attempt to catch Taliban and al Qaeda guerillas before they hunkered down for the winter, Hilferty said in December. (Full story) That offensive continues.

Nothing worse than a "hunkered down" terrorist.

The guerillas typically form small groups once warm weather arrives, the official said Wednesday. The new offensive is designed to keep opposition forces from regrouping after laying low during the winter, the official said.

The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the Taliban, which had provided haven for al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks.

About 8,500 Americans are among the 11,500 international troops that remain in Afghanistan. Separately, 5,000 troops under NATO command act as peacekeepers in the capital, Kabul.

The intelligence sources on bin Laden pointed to the tape made five years ago that was shot at a terrorist camp near the city of Khost and said he was thought to have revisited that area sometime recently.

Bin Laden's biographer, Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, told CNN he had heard similar information from Arab fighters he encountered in Afghanistan late last year.

"Those Arabs said he is roaming between southern Afghanistan and eastern Afghanistan. And according to them, he spent some time in Khost, he spent some time in Gardez, he spent some time in Kunar (province)," Mir said.

Mir said he believes the most recent videotape of bin Laden, which was released last September, was actually shot in the Gardez region of Afghanistan in the spring of 2003. (Full story)

Okay. Now they are telling us EXACTLY where they are going to look for him. Maybe they simply assume bin Laden doesn't read CNN?

Intelligence sources also have told CNN that they believe bin Laden's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was also seen on that video, is now often traveling separately from bin Laden. (Al-Zawahiri's taped message)

The Taliban has enjoyed a resurgence in areas of Afghanistan, along the rugged Pakistan border.

Second mention of the Pakistan border. Are you starting to get the picture?

In an interview last week with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said al Qaeda is operating on both sides of the border and was likely behind recent attempts to kill him. But he said he did not think that the Taliban was regaining strength. (Full story)

"The story is different to what is being told by the media," he said. "Attacks are on the wane, and they are tactical in nature. They are not strategic in nature. There is no strategic threat."

Musharraf has not publicly given permission for U.S. military operations in his country. CIA and special operations forces occasionally have entered Pakistan on classified missions. I'll bet they have. What's a border between friends?

U.S. officials said they will respect Pakistan sovereignty.

Well, maybe not. This is contradicted at the end of the story. Back in the old days, they used to have something called "editors" that would catch such things.

As for the assassination attempts on Musharraf...I, a lone nutcase with a free weblog, could give you my theory that the attacks were staged specifically in order to justify US military action in Pakistan, but let's let the Times of India make the case for me. Musharraf Faked Bid on Life (Note: The Times of India does not take orders from me. I have no connection with them. I like Indian food, but I don't think that counts.)

Surging violence has claimed more than 60 lives in the country this month.

In the latest violence, an explosion Wednesday in Kabul killed a British soldier and wounded four other soldiers -- all part of a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, the British Ministry of Defense confirmed. The blast occurred outside of a British base in the Afghan capital.

Yes, don't let's quarrel, Britain. Be a sport and use this bombing to justify more British troops. There's a good lad.

It was the second deadly bombing in two days. A suicide bomber struck a NATO truck convoy Tuesday in Kabul, killing a Canadian soldier and an Afghan civilian. Three other Canadian soldiers were hurt.

Hours after that attack, NATO's military commander told a U.S. Senate panel the organization will be ramping up operations and troop strength.

The bombings follow a Monday ceremony in which Afghanistan's first post-Taliban constitution went into effect.

The news of a spring offensive was first reported in Wednesday's Chicago Tribune. The newspaper said the U.S. military planned to enter Pakistan with the goal of destroying al Qaeda.

I thought you said they were going to respect Pakistan's borders. Oh, they are going to respect them as they CROSS them. Gotcha. See, there's two meanings of "respect" and I was making a joke that....oh nevermind.

The paper said the military was concerned about two recent assassination attempts on the Pakistan president as well as signs that al Qaeda and the Taliban are regrouping in Afghanistan.

All right, that's the lesson for today. I'm going to leave you with a quote from a reader about "conspiracy theorists." We have little in the way of hard evidence for much of what is going on, but we can look for patterns and make predictions based on those patterns. Here is how he put it:

And so I would liken our small band of theorists to cryptoanalysts. In the deciphering of code there appears to be such cut and dried explanations about the intended meaning in the signal traffic we intercept yet we are capable of disagreeing about its interpretation. For instance if this is WW2 and we are US naval personnel listening to Japanese Naval signals one of us may suggest the last signal was the go-ahead for Pearl Harbor and another may believe it was an order to return to port. Regardless of who is correct, there most certainly was a definite and specific intent behind that signal traffic. Such is the technique of our own government officials who relay their intentions in code (Project for a New American Century, The Grand Chessboard etc. in relation to 9/11). I suggest that theoretically a skilled code breaker could have read those policy planning guides as the directives/suggestions to colleagues/subordinates that they actually were.

Look for more from this reader. He has interesting thoughts and expresses them well.

Till next time, remember: The mainstream news may be lies, but often the lies point to the truth.


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