From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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WikiLeaks fun has only just begun
249,992 documents still to go

14 December 2010

To hear some people tell it, the diplomatic WikiLeaks are just a damp squib – just backroom gossip fed to Washington from its listening posts around the world. “So diplomats tell bitchy stories about the folks running other countries … who would have thought?’ these critics carp. I doubt if Mark Arbib would dismiss the big document dump in the same glib way. 

Typically, the detractors claim that the cables were accessible to two or three million people in the US bureaucracy and allied secret and diplomatic services. Well, no. Only a portion of the cables would fall into that category – those graded as “unclassified” and “Unclassified // for official use only”. There’s also in descending order of availability, stuff catagorised as “Confidential” and “Confidential // noforn [no foreigners]”, “Secret” and “Secret // noforn”. Those cables classed “noforn” are stuff that would have been withheld from, for example, Australia’s ASIO or Britain’s MI6. 

Some American right wing isolationist libertarians who rightly oppose the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures are even pushing the “nothing new here folks” line one step further and alleging that WikiLeaks is a CIA conspiracy – a deliberate release of harmless diplomatic gabble designed to distract us, or even to make the US, in some cases, look good.

Of course, theoretically, that is possible, but the possibility is this case is vanishingly small. Maybe the good folk of the anti-war libertarian right would have been satisfied if WikiLeaks was able to publish the CIA’s traffic, and that of the even more secretive wildcat operations run at one time by Donald Rumsfeld’s Office of Special Plans. Trouble is, these cables would report on deniable operations – dirty tricks, black operations and assassinations – stuff so explosively damaging that they would be far more securely kept than the US State Department’s diplomatic traffic. If, for example, an assassination of a troublesome Iraqi identity was actually carried out by US operatives but made to appear as if it were an al’Qaeda job, this ugly fact might even be suspected by US diplomats but they’d be extremely unlikely to record their suspicions in their routine secret traffic.

There was similar carping when WikiLeaks published the Iraq War Logs, which are a cryptic running record of significant day-to-day incidents in which the regular US military was involved. They give a general picture of the progress of the war against the Iraqi insurgency but most importantly they can also shed light on particular incidents that were previously obscured by disinformation and spin.

One example of the helpfulness of the War Logs in establishing the truth is the fact that we now know that the young American businessman Nick Berg was believed, in 2004, to be a terrorist cell leader and was targeted for capture by US forces rather than being accidentally arrested at a routine Iraqi Police checkpoint in Mosul, which was the story put about at the time.

As of 12 December just half of one per cent of the documents in the possession of WikiLeaks have been published on the web – only 1295 items out of 251,287 – so the fun has only just begun! On top of the cables released so far, which you can view on the web, there are a few others that have been given, selectively, to major news organizations, such as the Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald. Presumably, they’ll be put up on the web as soon as the papers have got their exclusives.

Moreover, the WikiLeakers are proceeding, basically, to make the material available on the web in reverse chronological order. Starting with the most recent communications, they’re proceeding backwards in time and, so far, apart from a tiny handful of older items, they’ve only reached back to 2009.

Things will get really, really, interesting if the material obtained by the hapless Bradley Manning and handed on to WikiLeaks goes as far back as the Iraq invasion and its lead-up.

Personally, I’m waiting to see if there’s any traffic into and out of the original Baghdad Consulate as it was set up immediately after the Yanks overran Baghdad. It’ll be fascinating to see how the then consul, Beth A. Payne, dealt with the arrest and subsequent disappearance of Nick Berg and the concurrent arrest and secret imprisonment of New Zealander, Andreas Schafer, not to mention the Americans’ falling out with Ahmad Chalabi and the events surrounding the generalised Iraqi uprising of May 2004.

The Nick Berg case on the Nick Possum Home Page
WARNING: some articles contain disturbing images

WikiLeaks fallout:
Iraq War Logs throw new light on the Nick Berg mystery

3 November 2010
Until now, the story that alleged al-Qaeda victim Nick Berg was arrested at a routine Iraqi Police checkpoint has been unchallenged. But the official – and exhaustive  – Iraq War Logs recently published by WikiLeaks show Berg was specifically targeted as a suspected terrorist cell leader in a 'cordon and search' operation by US forces.

The Nicholas Berg execution:
A working hypothesis and a resolution for the orange jumpsuit mystery

23 May 2004
Why was Nick Berg wearing a US prison "jumpsuit" when he was apparently executed on video by what are claimed to be al-Qaeda-linked terrorists? Something fishy there, but there's an elegant explanation. This was my first work on the case, later elaborated by …

New evidence and observations on the Berg case
18 July 2004
A close comparison of frames from the Berg video and pictures from Abu Ghraib prison reveals more evidence that the execution video was recorded in the notorious prison complex. Also, a refinement on the issue of the orange jumpsuit, which was actually a two-piece US prison uniform. And for an "off camera" view of a videotaped interrogation like the one seen in the opening 13 seconds of the Berg execution video, see the postscript to this piece. WARNING: disturbing images.

Nick Berg: the missing month
1 June 2004
A lot of people would like to know what happened to Nicholas Berg after he walked out of Baghdad’s Al-Fanar Hotel on 10 April. They say the 26 year-old American contractor was looking for a taxi when he walked off down the street and into history.

Nagging questions about Nicholas Berg's last days:
An open letter to Beth A. Payne, US Consul, Baghdad, Iraq

9 June 2004
Millions want to know the truth about the last days of the young American contractor murdered in Iraq. Was he seized a second time by US forces? The US Consul in Baghdad should tell us all she knows.

Our man in Kabul:
Torturing Afghanis with Fox News' celebrity mercenary

1 August 2004
The fascinating case of Jonathan Keith Idema, a mercenary headhunter and one of Donald Rumsfeld's OA boys until he fell foul of the US State Department and the Afghan regime.

Occupation turf war sheds new light on the Nick Berg case
US contractors ‘tortured’ for talking to the FBI

11 April 2007
The case of Donald Vance, an American citizen secretly imprisoned by the US military in Iraq after making accusations against an Iraqi-owned security company for which he worked, has revealing parallels with the 2004 disappearance of Nick Berg, a US contractor whose murder is officially attributed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.