Two Responses to Paul Gronke

The two discussion-thread postings reproduced here were my contributions, dating from January 4 and 22, 2006, to a discussion under the heading “New Year's Resolutions?” initiated on December 30, 2005 at the website BlueOregon, One of the participants was Paul Gronke, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and the author of Settings, Campaigns, Institutions and the Vote: A Unified Approach to House and Senate Elections (University of Michigan Press, 2000), as well as of articles, book chapters, and policy reports on US elections. Professor Gronke intervened to rebuke a discussant whose New Year's resolution was “to notify as many people as possible that GW Bush has not been elected as our president, ever.” On January 1, he wrote:

With all due respect, the claims made on bradblog have been debunked extensively. They just don't stand up to scrutiny. Bush won more votes than Kerry in November 2004 and is the legitimate winner of the 2004 election. It is time to move on. Check the discussion on (click on the link to exit poll controversy); a forthcoming issue of Public Opinion Quarterly (unlike bradblog, a peer-reviewed scholarly publication); and the Democratic Party's own funded study of balloting in Ohio ( If you want to confirm this with other blogs, try Rick Hasen's electionlaw blog, Dan Tokaji's equal voting rights blog, and websites maintained by the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Center, and Continuing to believe this urban legend only forestalls the serious work that Democrats need to do in order to regain the Congress and the Presidency.

My own work was alluded to on January 2 by a discussant who urged readers “to download a graphic developed by the Oregon Voters Rights Coalition, Timeline of National Exit Poll & Machine Tally Data in Presidential Race—Election Day 2004” which was based on an interpretation of “Dr. Michael Keefer's analysis” in the first of my election fraud essays, “Footprints of Electoral Fraud.” Professor Gronke's response on January 4 included the following:

Yes, and please read the extensive debunking of Keefer's analysis at the sources I posted above. These are not right wing radicals folks—I know every single one of the academics personally. If it matters (it should not but in these times it does), they are progressive Democrats as well as well-established statisticians and scholars of political analysis. And NONE of them, I repeat NONE have given any credibility to the verified voter claims. The claim made above about Keefer is ONLY acceptable if you take the exit polls as valid and accurate to a certain margin of error. If, as has been shown in many states, the implementation of the exit polls in 2004 had serious flaws, the claims made by Keefer collapse.]



Jan 4, 2006 11:20:58 PM

May I join this very interesting discussion to offer corrections to a couple of Paul Gronke's postings? To the best of my knowledge none of the people Paul mentions as experts have engaged in “extensive debunking” of my analysis. I've read Rick Hasen, Dan Tokaji, Mark Blumenthal ('mystery pollster') and the others at intervals—always with respect and interest—and have never found the least indication that they even know of my existence.

These are, as Paul says, highly reputable people. (So also, by the way, is Paul Gronke, whose work on certain aspects of US elections is well known among political scientists.) But with the exception of the scholars associated with the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Center, who as 'BethP' noted lack any critical perspective on issues of electronic security, it's really not accurate to claim that any of them know very much about electronic voting mechanisms and vote counting methods. The real experts in that area—people like Rebecca Mercuri, Bruce Schneier, Doug Jones, and Aviel Rubin—were issuing a crescendo of warnings about the openness of new voting technologies to fraud during the years leading up to the 2004 election. (The first 50 or so entries in a bibliography on “Evidence of Fraud in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election” that I posted at on December 5, 2004 are devoted to that subject.)

Paul's also wrong to claim that “the sole basis for fraud is the claim that we should rely on the exit polls rather than the precinct results.” 

The exit polls are important evidence, and those who want to argue that this particular set are mysteriously unreliable are in my opinion trying (at best) to protect themselves from a truth they find too painful to contemplate. To my mind, our best guides to what the state exit polls reveal are 'TruthIsAll' (who's posting now at the Progressive Independent site), and Steven F. Freeman (who humbled Warren Mitofsky in their debate at the University of Pennsylvania in October). As 'TIA' and Freeman have also both observed, the 2004 nationwide exit poll likewise shows that there's something very seriously wrong with the national vote tally in that presidential election. 

Let's run through the arithmetic. The number of votes cast for presidential candidates rose from 105,405,000 in 2000 to 120,255,000 in 2004, while votes cast for third-party candidates (chiefly Ralph Nader) declined from 3,959,000 in 2000 to 1,170,000 in 2004. As I noted in an article posted at on November 5, 2004, the exit poll data were corrupted early in the morning of November 3rd, while we all slept. 

But here's what the national exit poll data that was made available by CNN on the evening of November 2nd (and that was based on responses from 13,047 randomly selected voters) tells us. First, 83% of these people said they had also voted in 2000. Of the Gore 2000 voters, 91% voted for Kerry in 2004, while 8% voted for Bush. Of the Bush 2000 voters, 90% stuck with him, while 10% swung to Kerry. Of the people who'd voted for third parties in 2000, 64% voted for Kerry and 17% for Bush. People voting for the first time in 2004 went 57% to Kerry and 41% to Bush.

Gore, remember, won the popular vote in 2000 by almost 544,000 votes (50,999,897 votes to Bush's 50,456,002). On the assumption, generous to Bush, that the year-2000 voters who switched loyalties in both directions in 2004 balance each other out, we can take the base number of supporters for Bush and Kerry as amounting to nearly 95% of the Democratic and Republican presidential vote tallies in 2000: in round numbers, 48.4 million votes for Kerry and 47.9 million for Bush.

If a similar percentage of the 3,949,000 who voted for third-party candidates in 2000 also voted in 2004, then since this group went 64% to Kerry and 17% to Bush, that gives about 2.3 million more votes to Kerry, and about 600,000 to Bush. Their totals are now at 50.7 million votes for Kerry and 48.5 million for Bush.

Add in the 20.2 million new voters, 57% of whom voted for Kerry and 41% of whom supported Bush. That gives Kerry 11.5 million more votes, and 8.3 million for Bush. The final expected total? It's 62.2 million votes for Kerry, and 56.8 million for Bush.

Now compare that to the official results: 61,194,773 votes (51% of the total votes cast) for George W. Bush, and 57,890,314 (48% of the total) for John Kerry. Do you smell a fault? Or were the 13,000 people who were sampled systematically deceiving the pollsters?

But as I said, Paul's wrong in thinking that the exit polls are the sole indication of fraud in the 2004 election. In January 2005, I posted an article entitled “The Strange Death of American Democracy: Endgame in Ohio” at (I'm sorry if the title seems apocalyptic, but I think that's what's at stake.) In that article, I tried to summarize the evidence for electoral fraud in Ohio, the state whose Electoral College votes determined the national outcome.

That evidence is both massive and also, for anyone who cares about democracy, sickening. I'm not talking just about the disgusting vote-suppression tactics that forced long lines of African-Americans to stand for hours in the November rain outside precincts were the voting machines had been deliberately shorted.

There's lots more. It includes the 106,000 provisional ballots and punch-card undervotes that were never counted. It includes the touch-screen machines which 15% of Ohio's voters had to use, and which in Youngstown and elsewhere systematically flipped Kerry votes to Bush or into cyberspace. It includes the Democratic precincts in Cleveland where people lined up for hours in the rain in order to achieve, according to the certified vote tallies, precinct-level turnout figures such as 20.07% of the registered voters (precinct 13F), 14.59% of the registered voters (13D), and 7.85% of the registered voters (6C). And then there's Cleveland's precinct 10L, where the turnout figure magically rose from 24.72% in the initial report to 56.21% in the figure certified by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. (Did someone forget to throw away the provisional and absentee ballots cast in this one inner-city precinct?)

In Republican Perry County, however, there was no problem with voter turnout. Blackwell (who was also co-chair of the Bush campaign in Ohio) certified turnouts of 124.4% and 124.0% of the registered voters in two precincts of that county. In the Concord South and Concord South West precincts of Republican Miami County he certified turnout figures of 94.27% and 98.55% of the registered voters. And there's more. There's Warren County, where the administration building in which the vote tabulation was carried out was locked down on the phony pretext of a terrorist threat. And guess what: in Warren and the two adjoining counties, Bush's margin of victory rose by more than 30,000 votes over what it had been in the 2000 election.

Is that enough to give just a taste of what went on?

Here's a challenge for you, Paul. You're a fine scholar: I know, because I've read some of your work. You love your country, and you're passionate about democracy. How is it then that I know these things and you don't? I'm a scholar too, but not a specialist on elections, or even a political scientist. Hell, I'm not even an American. My great-great-great-great grandfather died in 1780 defending Long Island from George Washington's army, and his widow was kicked off the family farm in Paulinskill, New Jersey, and had to walk north to Ontario with her two boys and a cow. (That's o.k.; we've learned to like it here.)

What's my challenge? To have a go at what the anthropologist Clifford Geertz called “thick description,” to get in close to the details of what people reported from that dirty election, and to assess it critically and unflinchingly—without forgetting for a moment what's at stake for your country and the world.


[Professor Gronke was not persuaded. On January 11 he wrote as follows:

Sigh. I got sent a link from where “The Bear” suggests that my lack of reply indicates that I have been convinced. Far from it—I just don't see any point in continuing to debate with people who are unwilling to listen to any contrary evidence.

Over at progressiveindependent, Keefer claims: 'Nor were any of the experts he cited—Mark Blumenthal, Rick Hasen, Dan Tokaji, the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology gang, and Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all—people of statistical persuasion.'

This is complete hokum. The CalTech/MIT group contains some of the most accomplished political methodologists in the country. Blumenthal has been conducting political polls for twenty years. Hasen and Tokaji are experts in election law. Regardless, I cited these places as sites to find discussions and alternative links, not as “experts” on this particular topic (although the CalTech/MIT folk do qualify).

I'll only leave you with these links. Draw your own conclusions.

WalterMebane's series of reports on Ohio: Most important is this statement, pg. 7 of the executive summary: 1. The statistical study of precinct-level data does not suggest the occurrence of widespread fraud that systematically misallocated votes from Kerry to Bush. If anyone wants to question Walter's partisan credentials, here is his published paper which demonstrates that Bush lost the 2000 election:

Bruce O'Dell (founder of US Counts Votes, the organization which originally claimed fraud), believes the evidence does NOT support fraud. His paper, along with a variety of responses, is contained here:

Here is the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project report on 2004: Note this phrase from page 1: 4. We conclude that there is no evidence, based on exit polls, that electronic voting machines were used to steal the 2004 election for President Bush.

Here is a report from the Social Science Research Council, written by some of the most accomplished political scientists in the country:

Note that ALL of these reports indicate serious problems with our current election system, and support the reforms that have been advocated here. I support the work of Oregon VRC.

But I think it's a gross political error to continue to use the alleged stolen election of 2004 as their launching off point. Not only [has] this been extensively debunked, but it undermines their support among Republicans who might otherwise support election reform.

When folks say “move on,” that's what they mean.]


Jan 22, 2006, 10:35:46 PM

I hope it's not a violation of thread etiquette to be responding so belatedly to Paul Gronke's last posting.

Paul Gronke was probably right to detect (and call me on) a note of arrogance that crept into the remarks of mine he quoted from Mea culpa: I must have been still at my desk long past the hour when people who are or wish to remain sensible have gone to bed. 

And his reminders of important work by Walter Mebane, Bruce O'Dell, and the authors of the Social Science Research Council's 22 December Interim Report are of course helpful.

But shall we take a closer look at the work he thinks shuts the issue down?

First, Walter Mebane—a brilliant scholar who (unlike those Gronke previously referred to) has done innovative and heavyweight work in statistical modeling and data analysis. Mebane's work on the Ohio data is indispensable, and on some issues seems to me conclusive. (For example, his analysis of the shorting of voting machines in Franklin County demonstrates that on a conservative estimate the result was a more than four percent reduction in voter turnout in predominantly African-American precincts.)

But on the larger questions of whether, where, and with what results vote-count fraud may have occurred in Ohio in 2004, Mebane's analysis fails to incorporate and explain certain key anomalies. These include the irregularities highlighted by Richard Hayes Phillips, whose county-by-county studies are posted or linked at the site. Many of these same irregularities are discussed in the very detailed report on the Ohio election assembled by Congressman John Conyers (which to its shame the Democratic National Committee largely ignored in its report Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio).

One symptom of Mebane's insufficiently elaborated conceptual framework is the way in which he and Michael Herron, in their analysis of “Turnout, Residual Votes and Votes in Precincts and Wards” (Section 6 of the DNC report), find themselves speaking of a repeated (and unexplained) “weirdness” in the data they are analyzing (pp. 5, 7). Repeated “weirdness” in data sets and their correlations is—or should be—a clear sign that the researcher's conceptual apparatus needs further refinement: either the relations among causal factors have not been adequately theorized, or else further unrecognized factors are in play.

On the evidence of his postings in this thread, Paul Gronke doesn't seem interested in doing critical work of this kind. Other people who are will find some astute (and respectful) criticisms of Mebane's analysis in two postings by 'Time for change' at Democratic Underground [on 7 and 30 October 2005].1 'Time for change' notes that the within-precinct correlations among five variables that Mebane thought provided “strong evidence against the claim that widespread fraud systematically misallocated votes from Kerry to Bush” are significantly weaker in seven counties—among them Cuyahoga County (which includes Cleveland), where one of the correlations is actually negative. S/he notes that another correlation remarked on in Section 4 of the DNC report, between voter turnout and the ratio of voters to machines, also goes negative in Cuyahoga—which could of course be a sign that large numbers of votes in that county were being trashed by hackers working with the electronic tabulators.

As 'Time for change' also observes, there's no reason to think that Mebane's network of correlations would detect randomly conducted deletions from precincts in Democratic strongholds. I don't suppose, for that matter, it would detect ghost-votes added to the tally in the right proportions in Republican strongholds. (Remember Miami County, Ohio? It first announced a total of 31,620 votes, with 100% of the precincts reporting—and then, late on election night, brought in a second total of 50,235 votes, which was in two respects anomalous: Kerry's 33.92% share of the vote remained, to one-hundredth of one percent, what it had been in the first returns, and Bush was shown to have won the county by exactly 16,000 votes.)

'Time for change' reports correspondence with Professor Mebane in which the latter says: “ I don't know what went on in Cuyahoga County. As I wrote in several places in the DNC report, there were many anomalies in the data from Cuyahoga County that warrant further investigation.” Mebane isn't conceding anything in these words—but neither is he rudely telling people to “Move on.”

Let's do so anyway, and turn to Bruce O'Dell—who, despite what Gronke tells us, nowhere says that he “believes the evidence does NOT support fraud.” Can we try for some minimal accuracy here? O'Dell thinks “The case for fraud is still unproven,” and believes that it cannot be proven “through exit poll analysis alone.” But he insists in the paper to which Gronke refers that his work “should not be misinterpreted as an argument against the likelihood of vote fraud. Quite the opposite; I believe US voting equipment and vote counting processes are severely vulnerable to systematic insider manipulation and that is a clear and present danger to our democracy.”

In this light—given Gronke's stern disapproval of “people who are unwilling to listen to any contrary evidence”—it may be worth noting that Kathy Dopp thinks it possible to determine mathematically what patterns of exit poll discrepancy result from random sampling error, partisan exit poll completion differences, and vote miscounts. (See her recently published paper “Vote Miscounts or Exit Poll Error? New Mathematical Function for Analyzing Exit Poll Discrepancy” [16 January 2006],

Let's leave the mathematicians to work these matters out among themselves—though not without observing that Steven Freeman's presentation to the American Statistical Association on October 14, 2005, “Polling Bias or Corrupted Count?”, offers a persuasive account of what exactly the exit polls can tell us. Interesting, when you think about it, that a political scientist like Paul Gronke should prefer the glib sallies of “mystery pollster” Mark Blumenthal to the carefully weighed, scrupulously referenced—dare I say scientific?—analyses of a scholar like Dr. Freeman (available, by the way, at But there do seem to be leanings among some political scientists toward the patronizing sighing Paul Gronke indulges in at the beginning of his post: a bunch of them, in fact, hang out together at a blogspot they've named “Polysigh,” where they groan together over the follies of the uninitiated.

We needn't pause over the SSRC report Gronke recommends, unless to note that a great deal more data is available than that which was examined by this group in December 2004—and to observe that they think “continuing uncertainty over the extent of irregularities merits closer public scrutiny and full disclosure of relevant data.”

But I hope we can be forgiven, finally, for smiling over Gronke's recommendation of the CalTech/MIT paper “Voting Machines and the Underestimate of the Bush Vote.” This is the piece that made the embarrassingly elementary error of using the exit poll percentages published by CNN on November 3, 2004 as a basis for dismissing concerns about discrepancies between the exit polls and the vote tallies. As Gronke proudly tells us, the authors “found no evidence, based on exit polls, that electronic voting machines were used to steal the 2004 election for President Bush.” Of course they didn't: the exit poll 'data' they were using had been conflated or corrupted to move it toward conformity with the vote tallies.

So where, in the end, is all the debunking we were promised? Professor Gronke began by claiming that Blumenthal, Hasen, Tokaji, CalTech/MIT and others had shown that those who asserted (as I have done) that the 2004 election was stolen were peddling an “urban legend.” It now appears that some of these people are to be regarded rather as sources of links and discussions. But out comes another list of definitive debunkings—rather more to the point than before, but still not conclusive, unless one wants to lie down and roll over in the face of unexamined authority. Like the first list, it includes CalTech/MIT, whose authority on exit polling Paul Gronke so fancies.

There is, after all, something about this mode of conducting an argument that is irresistibly reminiscent of the old folk-song “Widdicombe Fair.” Here's the stanza I was half-remembering in my post at Progressive Independent:

Tom Pearse, Tom Pearse, lend me your grey mare, 
(All along, down along, out along, lee) 
I wants for to go down to Widdicombe Fair, 
Wi' Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davey, 
Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawk, 
Old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all, 
Old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all.

Substitute “Caltech/MIT” for “Uncle Tom Cobbleigh” in the refrain and the rhythm still works, more or less.




1  The details, given in my text in the original, are placed for convenience in this note: “Was Kerry Cheated out of Almost 100,000 Votes in Cleveland Alone?” (7 October 2005),; and “What Happened in Cleveland?—A Plausible Scenario for a Stolen Election” (30 October 2005),   

¿Provocan EE.UU. y Gran Bretaña une guerra civil en Irak?

This translation by Germán Leyens of my essay “Were British Special Forces Soldiers Planting Bombs in Basra?” was first published at Rebelión (3 October 2005); it subsequently appeared at eight other websites in 2005. I have added the notes which now appear here as in the English text. 



¿Recuerda alguien el choque que sintió el público británico ante la revelación hace cuatro años de que uno de los miembros de la unidad del IRA cuyo ataque con bombas en Omagh el 15 de agosto de 1998, mató a veintinueve civiles, había sido un agente doble, un soldado del ejército británico?

Ese soldado no fue el único agente doble terrorista de Gran Bretaña. Un segundo soldados británico infiltrado dentro del IRA afirmó que había dado aviso anticipado de 48 horas sobre el ataque con una coche bomba en Omagh a sus jefes del Royal Ulster Constabulary [RUC, por sus siglas en inglés; policía real en Irlanda del Norte, N. del T.], incluyendo “detalles de uno de los miembros del grupo de ataque terrorista y la patente del coche del individuo.” Aunque el agente había hecho una grabación de su llamado de información, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, jefe policial de la RUC, declaró que “no se recibió una tal información.”1

Este segundo agente doble reveló la información a la prensa en junio de 2002, afirmando que desde 1981 a 1994, mientras recibía un sueldo completo del ejército británico, había actuado como topo en el IRA para la “Unidad de Investigación de la Fuerza [FRU, por sus siglas en inglés], un brazo ultra-secreto de la inteligencia militar británica.” Con pleno conocimiento y consentimiento de sus superiores en la FRU y en MI5, se convirtió en un especialista en bombas que “mezclaba explosivos y … ayudaba a desarrollar nuevos tipos de bombas,” como “bombas sensibles a la luz, activadas por flash fotográfico, para superar el problema de que los controles remotos del IRA eran interferidos a veces por señales de las unidades de radio del ejército.” Más adelante llegó a ser “miembro del escuadrón de seguridad interna del IRA Provisional”—también conocido como la ‘unidad de tortura’—que interrogaba y ejecutaba a presuntos informantes.”2

El tan temido comandante de esa misma “unidad de tortura” era igualmente un topo que había servido previamente en el Escuadrón de Botes Especiales de los Royal Marines (una unidad de elite de las fuerzas especiales, el equivalente de los Marines para la mejor conocida SAS). Un cuarto topo, un soldado con el alias “Stakeknife” cuyos manipuladores militares “le permitieron que realizara una gran cantidad de asesinatos terroristas a fin de proteger su cobertura dentro del IRA,” seguía en actividad en diciembre de 2002, como “uno de los Provisionales más importantes de Belfast.”3

También apareció evidencia fiable a fines de 2002 de que el ejército británico había estado utilizando a sus dobles agentes en organizaciones terroristas “para realizar asesinatos por encargo del Estado británico”—el más tristemente célebre es el caso del abogado de Belfast y activista de los derechos humanos Pat Finucane, que fue asesinado en 1989 por la Ulster Defence Association [UDA] protestante. Parece que la FRU pasó detalles sobre Finucane a un soldado británico que había infiltrado la UDA; él por su parte “suministró la información a equipos de asesinos de la UDA.”4

Los recientes acontecimientos en Basora han despertado la sospecha de que el ejército británico pueda haber reactivado las mismas tácticas en Irak.

Artículos publicados por Michel Chossudovsky, Larry Chin y Mike Whitney en el sitio en la Red del Centre for Research on Globalization [Centro de Investigación sobre la Globalización] el 20 de septiembre de 2005 han presentado evaluaciones preliminares de las afirmaciones de las autoridades iraquíes de que dos soldados británicos en ropas civiles, que fueron arrestados por la policía iraquí en Basora el 19 de septiembre,—y poco después liberados por un ataque británico con tanques y helicópteros contra la prisión en la que estaban detenidos—habían estado involucrados en la colocación de bombas en la ciudad.5

Otro artículo de Kurt Nimmo recuerda operaciones bajo bandera falsa realizadas por tropas de las fuerzas especiales británicas en Irlanda del Norte y en otros sitios, y la formación por Donald Rumsfeld del P2OG, o Grupo de Operaciones Preventivas Proactivas, como directamente relevantes a las acusaciones iraquíes de posibles operaciones de terror bajo falsa bandera por las potencias ocupantes en Irak.6

Estas acusaciones de parte de funcionarios iraquíes hacen eco a afirmaciones insistentes pero no substanciadas, que datan por lo menos de la primavera de 2004, en cuanto a que muchos de los atentados con bombas realizados contra objetivos civiles en Irak han sido perpetrados en realidad por las fuerzas de EE.UU. y Gran Bretaña en lugar de los insurgentes iraquíes.

Algunas de dichas afirmaciones pueden ser rápidamente descartadas. A mediados de mayo de 2005, por ejemplo, un grupo que se autodenomina “Al Qaeda en Irak” acusó a las tropas de EE.UU. de “detonar coches bomba y de acusar falsamente a los militantes.”7 Incluso para los más crédulos, estos podrían ser en el mejor de los casos ejemplos de la sartén diciéndole al cazo: retírate que me tiñes. Pero no es obvio por qué alguien iba a creer esa afirmación, ya que proviene, como es el caso, de un grupúsculo que es supuestamente dirigido por el íntegramente mítico al-Zarqawi8—cuyo propio nombre lo afilia con terroristas que colocan bombas. Esa gente, si existe, podrían tener buenas razones para culpar a otros por sus crímenes.

Otras afirmaciones, sin embargo, son en su conjunto más preocupantes.

El periodista estadounidense Dahr Jamail escribió el 20 de abril de 2004, que se rumoreaba que la reciente cadena de atentados con coches bomba en Bagdad había sido obra de la CIA:

Se dice en las calles de Bagdad que el cese de los atentados suicidas con coches bomba prueba que la CIA era responsable. ¿Por qué? Porque como dice un hombre: “[Los agentes de la CIA están] ahora demasiado ocupados combatiendo, y los disturbios que querían causar con los atentados los persiguen actualmente.” Cierto o no, no dice nada bueno sobre la imagen de los ocupantes en Irak.9

Dos días después, el 22 de abril de 2004, Agence France-Presse informó que partidarios del clérigo chií Moqtada al-Sadr culpaban a los británicos por cinco atentados con coche bomba en Basora—tres ataques casi simultáneos delante de comisarías en Basora que mataron a sesenta y ocho personas, incluyendo a veinte niños, y dos atentados subsiguientes. Mientras ochocientos de sus seguidores manifestaban afuera de las oficinas de Sadr, un portavoz de Sadr afirmó que poseía “evidencia de que los británicos estaban involucrados en esos ataques.”10

Un alto oficial militar británico anónimo dijo el 22 de abril de 2004 sobre esos ataques en Basora que “Parece como Al-Qaeda. Tiene todas características: fue suicida, fue espectacular y fue simbólico.” El brigadier general Nick Carter, comandante de la guarnición británica en Basora, declaró de modo más ambiguo que no se podía culpar necesariamente a Al-Qaeda por los atentados, pero que los responsables vinieron de afuera de Basora y que “es muy posible” que hayan venido de afuera de Irak: “'De lo único que podemos estar seguros es que esto es algo que vino de afuera,' dijo Carter.”11 Seguidores de Moqtada al-Sadr creían exactamente lo mismo—la única diferencia era su identificación de los extranjeros criminales como agentes británicos en lugar de muyahidín islamistas de otros países árabes.

En mayo de 2005, 'Riverbend', el autor bagdadí del blog ampliamente leído Baghdad Burning [Bagdad en llamas], informó que lo que la prensa internacional llamaba atentados suicidas eran en realidad a menudo “coches bomba que son detonados por control remoto o por bombas de tiempo.” Después de una de las mayores explosiones recientes, que ocurrió en el área de clase media Ma’moun al oeste de Bagdad, se dice que un hombre que vive en una casa frente al lugar de la explosión fue detenido por haber disparado contra un miembro de la Guardia Nacional. Pero según 'Riverbend', los vecinos contaban una historia diferente:

La gente del área afirma que al hombre se lo llevaron no porque haya disparado contra alguien, sino porque sabía demasiado sobre la bomba. El rumor es que vio pasar a una patrulla estadounidense por el área que se detuvo en el lugar del atentado minutos antes de la explosión. Poco después se alejaron en su vehículo, la bomba estalló y sobrevino el caos. Salió corriendo de su casa gritando a sus vecinos y a los espectadores que los estadounidenses habían colocado la bomba o la habían visto y no habían hecho nada. Se lo llevaron rápidamente.12

También en mayo de 2005, Imad Khadduri, el físico iraquí en el exilio cuyos escritos ayudaron a desacreditar las invenciones estadounidenses y británicas sobre las armas de destrucción masiva, informó sobre una historia de que en Bagdad a un conductor cuyo permiso de conducción había sido confiscado en un punto de control estadounidense le dijeron “que se presentara en un campo militar estadounidense cerca del aeropuerto de Bagdad para ser interrogado y para recuperar su permiso.” Después de interrogarlo durante media hora, le dijeron que no había nada en su contra, pero que su permiso había sido enviado a la policía iraquí en la comisaría de al-Khadimiya para ser “procesado”—y que debía dirigirse rápido a ese lugar antes de que el teniente, cuyo nombre le dieron, terminara su turno.

El conductor partió apurado, pero pronto le alarmó un sentimiento de que su coche se comportaba como si llevara considerable peso, y también sospechó de un helicóptero que volaba a baja altura y que lo sobrevolaba continuamente. Detuvo su coche y lo inspeccionó cuidadosamente. Encontró cerca de 100 kilos de explosivos ocultados en el asiento trasero y a lo largo de las dos puertas traseras. La única explicación posible de este incidente es que definitivamente los estadounidenses le habían colocado bombas al coche y que el objetivo era el distrito chií al-Khadimiya de Bagdad. El helicóptero controlaba sus movimientos y debía presenciar el esperado “horroroso ataque realizado por elementos extranjeros.”13

Según Khadduri, “el mismo guión se repitió en Mosul, en el norte de Irak.” En esta ocasión, el conductor salvó la vida cuando su coche se descompuso en camino a la comisaría donde supuestamente debía recuperar su permiso, y cuando el mecánico al que recurrió “descubrió que el neumático de repuesto estaba completamente repleto de explosivos.”

Khadduri menciona, como algo que merece ser investigado, un “incidente tal vez no relacionado” en Bagdad del 28 de abril de 2005 en el que fue muerto un conductor de camión canadiense con doble nacionalidad canadiense-iraquí. Cita un informe de CBC según el que “Algunos medios mencionaron fuentes no identificadas que dijeron que puede haber muerto después de que fuerzas de EE.UU. ‘rastrearon’ un objetivo, utilizando un helicóptero artillado, pero Relaciones Exteriores dijo que todavía está investigando informes conflictivos sobre la muerte. Funcionarios de EE.UU. han negado toda participación.”14

Otro incidente, también de abril de 2005, exige una investigación con más urgencia, ya que una de sus víctimas sigue en vida. Abdul Amir Younes Hussein, un camarógrafo de CBS, fue ligeramente herido por fuerzas de EE.UU. el 5 de abril “mientras filmaba las consecuencias de un atentado con coche bomba en Mosul.” Las autoridades militares inicialmente se mostraron apologéticas por sus heridas, pero tres días más adelante lo arrestaron por haber estado “involucrado en actividad contra la coalición.”15

Arianna Huffington, en su detallado informe sobre este caso, subraya con mucha razón sus cualidades kakfkaescas: Younes Hussein ha estado ahora detenido, en Abu Ghraib y en otros sitios, durante más de cinco meses—sin acusación, sin la menor señal de la evidencia que el Pentágono pueda tener en su contra, y sin ninguna indicación de que jamás se le vaya a permitir que sea juzgado, que cuestione esa evidencia, y refute las acusaciones que puedan ser presentadas en algún momento en el futuro. Pero aparte de confirmar, una vez más, la voluntad del Pentágono de violar los principios más fundamentales de la jurisprudencia humana y democrática, este caso también provoca una nueva pregunta. ¿Fue tal vez arrestado Younes Hussein, como el iraquí cuya suerte rumoreada fue mencionada por ‘Riverbend’, porque había visto—y en el caso de Younes, fotografiado—más de lo que le convenía?


¿Agentes provocadores?

Portavoces de la ocupación estadounidense y británica de Irak, junto con periódicos como el Daily Telegraph, han rechazado, como era de esperar, con indignación, toda sugerencia de que sus fuerzas hayan participado en operaciones terrorista de bandera falsa en Irak.

Podrían recordar que durante los años ochenta, portavoces del gobierno de Ronald Reagan también hacinaron el ridículo sobre las acusaciones nicaragüenses de que EE.UU. suministraba ilegalmente armas a los 'contras'—hasta que un avión de carga C-123 operado por la CIA repleto de armas fue derribado sobre Nicaragua y Eugene Hasenfus, un manipulador de carga que sobrevivió la caída, testificó que sus supervisores (uno de los cuales era Luis Posada Carriles, el agente de la CIA responsable por el atentado con bomba en 1976 de un avión comercial cubano) trabajaban para el vicepresidente de aquel entonces, George H. W. Bush.

El arresto [por los iraquíes]—y la urgente liberación [por las fuerzas británicas]—de dos soldados británicos clandestinos en Irak podría se interpretado del mismo modo como un haz de luz retrospectivo sobre afirmaciones que no habían sido substanciadas, respecto a la participación de miembros de los ejércitos de ocupación en ataques terroristas con bombas contra civiles.

El paralelo está lejos de ser exacto: en este caso no ha habido confesiones dramáticas como la de Hasenfus, y no ha habido documentos directamente incriminatorios como la bitácora del piloto del C-123 derribado. Existe, además, una marcada falta de consenso sobre lo que realmente ocurrió en Basora. ¿Deberíamos, por lo tanto, junto con Juan Cole, descartar la posibilidad de que soldados británicos estuvieran actuando como agentes provocadores como una “teoría [que] casi no tiene hechos que la apoyen”?16


Miembros de las fuerzas de elite de Gran Bretaña: el SAS

Parece que cuando el 19 de septiembre policías iraquíes suspicaces detuvieron el Toyota Cressida conducido por los soldados británicos encubiertos, los dos hombres abrieron fuego, matando a un policía e hiriendo a otro. Pero los soldados, identificados por la BBC como “miembros de las fuerzas especiales de elite, el SAS,”17 fueron reducidos por la policía y arrestados. Un informe publicado por The Guardian el 24 de septiembre agrega el detalle ulterior de que “se piensa que” los hombres del SAS “se encontraban en una misión de vigilancia delante de una comisaría en Basora cuando fueron encarados por una patrulla de la policía iraquí.”18

Como ha señalado Justin Raimondo en un artículo el 23 de septiembre en, casi todos los demás aspectos de este episodio son cuestionados.19

El Washington Post observó desdeñosamente, en el párrafo dieciocho de su informe sobre estos eventos, que “las fuerzas de seguridad iraquíes acusaron diversamente a los dos británicos que detuvieron de disparar a las fuerzas iraquíes o de tratar de colocar explosivos.”20 En realidad, los funcionarios iraquíes los acusaron no de uno, sino de ambos actos.

Fattah al-Shaykh, miembro de la Asamblea Nacional Iraquí, declaró a Al-Jazeera TV el 19 de septiembre que los soldados abrieron fuego cuando la policía trató de arrestarlos, y que su coche llevaba una bomba “y que querían hacerlo estallar en el centro de la ciudad de Basora en el mercado popular.”21 Un comunicado de prensa deliberadamente inflamatorio enviado el mismo día por la oficina de Moqtada al-Sadr (y colocado en su traducción inglesa en el blog de Juan Cole Informed Comment el 20 de septiembre) indica que el arresto de los soldados fue provocado porque habían “abierto el fuego contra pasantes” cerca de una mezquita de Basora, y que se descubrió que tenían “en su posesión explosivos y artefactos de control remoto, así como armas ligeras y medianas y otros accesorios.”22

¿Hasta qué punto es posible creer la afirmación sobre los explosivos? Justin Raimondo escribe que mientras los informes iniciales de la radio de la BBC reconocían que por cierto los dos hombres tenían explosivos en su coche, informes subsiguientes de la misma fuente indicaron que la policía iraquí no encontró nada aparte de “rifles de asalto, una ametralladora ligera, un arma anti-tanques, equipo de radio, y un botiquín. Se piensa que se trata de un equipo estándar para miembros del SAS que operan en un teatro de operaciones.”23

Cabría preguntarse, junto con Raimondo, si un arma anti-tanques es “equipo estándar de operaciones”—o qué uso hombres del SAS en “una misión de vigilancia delante de una comisaría” querían darle. Pero, lo que es más importante, una fotografía publicada por la policía iraquí y distribuida por Reuters muestra que—a menos que el equipo haya sido colocado para inculparlos—los hombres del SAS llevaban un buen poco más que lo que los ítems reconocidos por la BBC.24

Quisiera la opinión de un experto en armas antes de arriesgarme a un juicio definitivo sobre los objetos mostrados, que podrían haber llenado fácilmente el baúl y gran parte del asiento trasero de un Cressida. Pero esta fotografía hace plausible la declaración de Jeque Sheik Hassan al-Zarqani, portavoz de la milicia del Ejército Mehdi de Al-Sadr:

Lo que nuestra policía halló en su coche fue muy inquietante—armas, explosivos y un detonador de control remoto. Son armas de terroristas. Creemos que esos soldados estaban planeando un ataque contra un mercado u otros objetivos civiles….25

La feroz determinación del ejército británico por alejar a estos hombres de cualquier peligro de interrogación por sus propios supuestos aliados en el gobierno que los británicos están sosteniendo—incluso aunque su rescate significó la destrucción de una prisión iraquí y la liberación de gran cantidad de prisioneros, tiroteos con la policía iraquí y con el Ejército Mehdi de Al-Sadr, una gran movilización popular contra las fuerzas de ocupación británicas, y el subsiguiente retiro de toda cooperación de parte del gobierno regional—tiende, si no es otra cosa, a apoyar el punto de vista de que este episodio involucró algo mucho más tenebroso y más serio que un simple estallido de mal humor en un punto de control.


Guerra civil auspiciada por EE.UU. Y Gran Bretaña

Hay motivos para creer, además, que la guerra civil que los ataques con coches bomba contra civiles parecen querer provocar no serían una evolución mal recibida desde el punto de vista de las fuerzas de ocupación.

Escritores en los medios corporativos en idioma inglés han señalado repetidamente que los recientes ataques terroristas han causado víctimas masivas entre los civiles parecen querer empujar a Irak hacia una guerra civil de suníes contra chiíes, y de kurdos contra ambos. Por ejemplo, el 18 de septiembre de 2005, Peter Beaumont propuso en The Observer que la matanza de civiles, que atribuye sólo a Al Qaeda, “tiene un solo objetivo: la guerra civil.”26

Pero H.D.S. Greenway ya había sugerido el 17 de junio de 2005 en el Boston Globe que “En vista de la gran cantidad de ataques dirigidos por los suníes contra objetivos chiíes, los emergentes ataques dirigidos por chiíes contra suníes, y los secuestros extralegales de árabes por autoridades kurdas en Kirkuk, hay que preguntarse si la guerra civil iraquí, temida desde hace tanto tiempo, no ha comenzado ya.”27

Y el 21 de septiembre de 2005 Nancy Youssef y Mohammed al Dulaimy deKnight Ridder, Oficina de Washington, escribieron que la limpieza étnica de chiíes en vecindarios predominantemente suníes de Bagdad “procede a un ritmo alarmante y potencialmente desestabilizador,” y citaron el desesperanzado punto de vista de un experto iraquí:

“La guerra se encuentra hoy en día más cerca que en ningún tiempo precedente.” dijo Hazim Abdel Hamid al Nuaimi, profesor de política en la Universidad al-Mustansiriya de Bagdad. “Todas estas explosiones, los esfuerzos de la policía y la purga de vecindarios, constituyen una batalla por el control de Bagdad.”28

Haya o no comenzado o vaya a ocurrir, la erupción de una guerra civil en todo el sentido de la palabra, que conduzca a la fragmentación del país, sería claramente bienvenida en algunos círculos. Estrategas y periodistas israelíes ya propusieron en 1982 que uno de los objetivos estratégicos de su país debería ser la partición de Irak en un Estado chií, un Estado suní, y una parte kurda separada. (Vea “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s,” Kivunim 14 [February 1982] del funcionario del ministerio de exteriores Oded Yinon,29 o la propuesta similar presentada por Ze’ev Schiff en Ha’aretz durante el mismo mes es mencionada por Noam Chomsky en su libro Fateful Triangle.)30

Una partición de Irak en secciones definidas por el origen étnico y por las diferencias entre suníes y chiíes conllevaría, obviamente, la guerra civil y la limpieza étnica en una escala masiva. Pero esas consideraciones no disuadieron a Leslie H. Gelb de propugnar en el New York Times, el 2 de noviembre de 2003, lo que llamó “La solución de tres Estados.”31

Gelb, ex alto funcionario del Departamento de Estado y del Pentágono, antiguo editor y columnista del New York Times, presidente emérito del Consejo de Relaciones Exteriores, conoce lo confidencial sobre lo confidencial. Y si los ensayos de Yinon y Schiff son algo repugnante, especialmente en el contexto del bombardeo por Israel en 1981 del reactor nuclear Osirak de Irak, sigue existiendo una cierta diferencia entre proponer especulativamente el desmembramiento de un poderoso país vecino, y abogar activamente por el desmembramiento de un país que su propia nación ha conquistado en una guerra de agresión no provocada. Lo primero podría ser descrito como una imaginación enfermiza bélica y criminal; lo último pertenece obviamente a la categoría de crímenes de guerra.

El ensayo de Gelb propone castigar a la insurgencia dirigida por los suníes a través de la separación del centro del actual Irak, en gran parte suní, del norte kurdo rico en petróleo y del sur chií rico en petróleo. Se refiere al desmembramiento de la Federación Yugoslava en los años noventa (con las atroces matanzas la que siguieron), como un “precedente esperanzador”. El ensayo de Gelb ha sido ampliamente interpretado como una señal de la intención de una facción dominante en el gobierno de EE.UU. También ha sido denunciado, correctamente, por Bill Vann como la promoción abierta de “un crimen de guerra de proporciones históricas en el mundo.”32

Considerando la creciente desesperación de los gobiernos estadounidense y británico ante una insurgencia que sus tácticas de masivos arrestos y torturas, el Programa Phoenix33 o los escuadrones de la muerte “de la opción salvadoreña,”34 el uso ilimitado de una abrumadora fuerza militar y el criminal castigo colectivo no han logrado reprimir, no puede sorprender que en recientes acciones militares como el ataque contra Tal Afar, el ejército de EE.UU. haya desplegado tropas peshmerga kurdas y milicias chiíes de un modo que parece diseñado para inflamar los odios raciales.

Nadie, espero, se sorprende ya por el hecho de que Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—esa construcción ficticia de las filas cerradas de pequeños Tom Clancy del Pentágono, ese Dalek de una sola pierna, ese Pimpinela Escarlata del terrorismo, que logra estar aquí, allá, y en todas partes al mismo tiempo—esté tan devotamente dedicado a aterrorizar y a exterminar a sus correligionarios chiíes.

¿Debería sorprendernos en algo, entonces, si vemos evidencia que emerge en Irak de atentados terroristas bajo bandera falsa, realizados por las principales potencias ocupantes? Los servicios secretos y las fuerzas especiales de EE.UU. y de Gran Bretaña, después de todo, ya tenían bastante experiencia en dichos asuntos.





1  Neil Mackay, “British double-agent was in Real IRA's Omagh bomb team,” Sunday Herald (19 agosto 2001),; disponible en HighBeam Research,

2  Neil Mackay, “The army asked me to make bombs for the IRA, told me I had the Prime Minister's blessing ... then tried to kill me,” Sunday Herald (23 junio 2002),; disponible en

3  Neil Mackay, “IRA torturer was in the Royal Marines: Top republican terrorist exposed in court documents as a special forces soldier,” Sunday Herald (15 diciembre 2002),; disponible en

4  Ibid.

5  Véase Michel Chossudovsky, “British 'Undercover Soldiers' Caught driving Booby Trapped Car,” Centre for Research on Globalization (20 septiembre 2005),; Larry Chin, “British prison break and blown covert operation, exposes 'war on terrorism lie,” Centre for Research on Globalization (20 septiembre 2005),; Mike Whitney, “Who's Blowing up Iraq? New evidence that bombs are being planted by British Commandos,” Centre for Research on Globalization (20 septiembre 2005),

6  Kurt Nimmo, “British 'Pseudo-Gang' Terrorists Exposed in Basra,” Centre for Research on Globalization (24 septiembre 2005),

7  Esta affirmación fue publicada por la ahora desaparecida SITE Institute, en

8  Como prueba de que el Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi conocido por los lectores de la prensa occidental como un cerebro terrorista principal es una construcción mítica producida por la propaganda, véase Michel Chossudovsky, “Who Is Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi?” Centre for Research on Globalization (11 junio 2004),; Chris Shumway, “Experts Dispute Bush Line on Zarqawi,” (16 July 2004),; Brendan O'Neill, “Blowing up Zarqawi,” Spiked Online (5 octubre 2004),; y Michel Chossudovsky, “Who is behind 'Al Qaeda in Iraq'? Pentagon acknowledges fabricating a 'Zarqawi Legend',” Centre for Research on Globalization (18 abril 2006),

9  Dahr Jamail, “Dahr Jamail Blog from Baghdad,” The New Standard (20 abril 2004); disponible en,



12  'Riverbend', “The dead and the undead...,” Baghdad Burning (18 mayo 2005),

13  Imad Khadduri, “'Combat terrorism' by causing it,” (15 mayo 2005),

14  Ibid.

15  Arianna Huffington, “Kafka Does Iraq: The Disturbing Case of Abdul Amir Younes Hussein.” Huffington Post (23 septiembre 2005), (En abril de 2006, siete meses después de la publicación del artículo de Huffington y mi ensayo, fue puesto en libertad: ver “CBS cameraman freed after being held for a year by US military,” Reporters Without Borders [20 April 2006],,16937.html.)

16  “US Bombs Dhulu'iyyah[,] Basra declares Noncooperation,” Informed Comment (22 septiembre 2005),

17  “Iraq probe into soldier incident,” BBC News (20 septiembre 2005),

18  “Iraqi judge issues warrant for British troops,” The Guardian (24 septiembre 2005),,2763,1577575,00.html.

19  Justin Raimondo, “Bizarro Basra,” (24 septiembre 2005),


21  Citado por Chossudovsky, “British 'Undercover Soldiers'.”

22  “Muqtada Al Sadr's Response to Basra,” Informed Comment (20 septiembre 2005),

23  Citado por Raimondo, “Bizarro Basra.”


25  Citado por Raimondo, “Bizarro Basra.”

26  Peter Beaumont, “Al Qaeda's slaughter has one aim: civil war,” The Observer (18 septiembre 2005),

27  H.D.S. Greenway, “Facing facts in Iraq,” Boston Globe (17 junio 2005),

28  Nancy Youssef and Mohammed al Dulaimy, “Shiites fleeing Sunni-dominated neighbourhoods,” Knight Ridder Newspapers (21 septiembre 2005).

29  Oded Yinon, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” Kivunim 14 (Invierno 5742, febrero 1982), traducido por Israel Shahak,

30  Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (2nd ed., Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999), p. 457.

31  Leslie H. Gelb, “The Three-State Solution,” New York Times (25 noviembre 2003); available at Council on Foreign Relations,

32  Bill Vann, “The New York Times: a proposal for ethnic cleansing in Iraq,” World Socialist Web Site (26 noviembre 2003),

33  El programa Phoenix era un sistema de escuadrones de la muerte y el terrorismo de Estado la tortura de la CIA en Vietnam del Sur entre 1966 y principios de 1970 en la que algunos 82.000 simpatizantes 'Vietcong' fueron “eliminados” y más de 26.000 prisioneros fueron asesinados. Véase Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Metropolitan/Owl Books, 2006), pp. 64-71.

34  En enero de 2005, la revista Newsweek informó que la administración Bush estaba considerando volver a usar en Irak la “Opción El Salvador,” una “estrategia aún secreta” supuestamente de utilizar “los llamados escuadrones de la muerte dirigidos a cazar y matar a los líderes rebeldes y simpatizantes” que había sido utilizado por el gobierno de Reagan en El Salvador en la década de 1980 (citado por Ken Gude, “Roots of Iraq Civil War May Be in 'Salvador Option',” Thinkprogress [2 marzo 2006], “Opción El Salvador” escuadrones de la muerte fueron los responsables por el asesinato de decenas de miles de civiles en El Salvador; véase Tom Gibb, “'Salvador Option' mooted for Iraq,” BBC News (27 January 2005), Hay pruebas claras de que a principios de 2005 el ejército de EE.UU. ya operaba escuadrones de la muerte en Irak; véase Max Fuller, “For Iraq, 'The Salvador Option' Becomes Reality,” Centre for Research on Globalization (2 junio 2005),   

Soldati Britannici delle Forze Speciali posizionavano bombe a Bassora? Sospetti rafforzati da notizie precedenti

This translation of my essay “Were British Special Forces Soldiers Planting Bombs in Basra?” was made “a cura di Oriente” and first published at Come Don Chisciotte on 2 October 2005; it was subsequently published at five other websites on 2005 and 2006. I have made small corrections to the translation at several points, and have added the notes which now appear here as in the English text.


Ricordano tutti lo shock con cui quattro anni fa l'opinione pubblica Britannica accolse la rivelazione che uno dei membri delle unità Real IRA il cui attacco con esplosivi di Omagh del 15 agosto 1998 uccise 29 civili era un doppio agente, un soldato dell'esercito Britannico?

Quel soldato non era l'unico doppio agente terrorista. Un secondo soldato Britannico infiltrato all'interno dell'IRA sostenne di aver avvisato i suoi punti di contatto all'interno del Distretto Reale di Polizia dell'Ulster (Royal Ulster Constabulary, RUC) dell'attacco con un veicolo pieno di esplosivo con 48 ore di anticipo, insieme a “dettagli su una delle squadre e la targa della macchina dell'uomo.” Anche se l'agente aveva fatto una registrazione audio della sua informazione riservata, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, poliziotto capo del RUC, dichiarò che “non fu ricevuta nessuna informazione del genere.”1

Il secondo doppio agente divenne pubblico nel giugno 2002 con la dichiarazione che dal 1981 al 1994, sul libro paga dell'esercito Britannico, aveva lavorato per “la Force Research Unit (FRU), un'ala ultra segreta dell'intelligence militare Britannica,” come talpa dell'IRA. Con la piena conoscenza e approvazione da parte del suo FRU e di appoggi nell'MI5, divenne uno specialista in esplosivi che “mescolava esplosivi e ... contribuiva a sviluppare nuovi tipi di ordigni,” comprese “bombe ad alta sensibilità, attivate da flash fotografici, per superare il problema dei dispositivi di controllo remoto i cui segnali venivano disturbati da radio unità dell'esercito.” Proseguì col diventare “un membro della squadra provvisoria di sicurezza interna dell'IRA—conosciuta anche come “l'unità di tortura”—che interrogava e giustiziava informatori sospetti.”2

Il comandante più temuto di queste stesse “unità di tortura” era anch'egli una talpa, che aveva precedentemente servito nella Royal Marines' Special Boat Squadron (un unità d'elite delle forze speciali, gli equivalenti in Marina del più conosciuti SAS). Una quarta tolpa, un soldato dal nome in codice “Stakeknife” i cui appoggi militari “gli permisero di portare a termine un gran numero di assassinii terroristici con lo scopo di proteggere la sua copertura all'interno dell'IRA,” era ancora attiva nel dicembre 2002 come “uno deo capi provvisori di Belfast.”3

Una prova attendibile emerse anche a fine 2002: che l'esercito Britannico aveva utilizzando i suoi doppi agenti in organizzazione terroristiche “per portare a termine assassinii per procura negli interessi dello Stato Britannico”—il più famigerato nel caso del avvocato di Belfast ed attivista dei diritti civili Pat Finucane, che fu assassinato nel 1989 dalla Protestant Ulster Defence Association (UDA). Para che il FRY passò dettagl su Finucane ad un soldato UK che si era infiltrato nell'UDA; lui, in cambio, “riforni le squadre assassine di informazioni.”4

Eventi recenti a Bassora hanno alimentato sospetti secondo i quali l'esercito Britannico potrebbe aver riattivato queste stesse tettiche in Iraq. Articoli pubblicati da Michel Chossudovsky, Larry Chin e Mike Whitney sul sito del Centro di Recerca sulla Globalizzazione il 20 settembre 2005 hanno efferto delle valutazioni preliminari sulle asserzioni di autorità Irachene secondo le quali i due soldati Britannici in abiti civili che furono arrestati dalla Polizia Irachena a Bassora il 19 settembre—e subito liberati da un assalto effetuato da carri armati ed elicotteri alle prigione in cui erano rinchiusi—erano impegnati a posizione bombe in città.5

Un ulteriore articolo di Kurt Nimmo si rivolge alle operazioni sotto falsa bandiera portate a termine da soldati delle forze speciali in Irlanda del Nord ed altrove, ed alla formazione del P2OG (Proactive Preemptive Operations Group) di Donald Rumsfeld, come direttamente rilevante per le accuse Irachene in probabili operazioni di terrorismo sotto falsa bandiera da parte dei poteri di occupazione in Iraq.6

Queste accuse de parte di funzionari Iracheni riecheggiano con insistenza ma poco fondamento delle affermazioni, che si riconducono al più tardi alla primavera 2004, secondo cui molti degli attacchi bomba sferrati contro obiettivi civili in Iraq son stati effettivamente perpetuati da forze USA e UK piutosto che da ribelli Iracheni.

Contro alcune dichiarazioni di questo tipo si possono respingere vivacemente. A metà maggio 2005, per esempio, un gruppo che si fa chiamare “Al Qaeda in Iraq” accusò soldati USA “di far detonare veicoli pieni d'esplosivo e accusare falsamente gli militanti.”7 Anche per il più credulone, nella migliore delle ipotesi questo potrebbe essere come il caso della teiera che accusa il pentolino di essere sporco di fuliggine. Ma non è chiaro perché tutti vorrebbero credere a questa dichiarazione, dal momento in cui proviene da un gruppo o gruppuscolo che fa intendere di essere guidato dal fantomatico Al Zarqawi8—e pure uno il cui nome stesso si lega a terroristi del genere. Queste persone, se esistono, potrebbero avere loro stessi buone ragioni ad incolpare qualcun altro dei lro crimini.

Altre affirmazioni, comunque, sono nel complesso più preoccupanti.

Il giornalista USA Dahr Jamail il 20 aprile ha scritto che correva voce che la recente ondata di attacchi bomba a Baghdad sarebbe stata opera della CIA: “La voce circolante a Baghdad è che la cessazione di attacchi suicidi con veicoli esplosivi è la dimostrazione che la CIA ne stava dietro. Perché? Perché come dice qualcuno, '[Gli agenti della CIA] sono troppo occupati a combattere adesso, e l'agitazione che volevano provocare con le bombe ora riguarda loro stessi.' Vero o falso, no fa molto bene all'immagine degli occupanti in Iraq.”9

Due giorni dopo, il 22 aprile 2004, l'Agenzia France-Presse riferì che cinque auto esplose a Bassora—tre attacchi quasi simultanei davanti a stazioni di polizia a Bassora che ucciserò 68 persone, inclusi 20 bambini, e due bombe successive—erano imputate ai Britannici dai sostenitori del religioso Sciita Moqtada Al-Sadr. Mentre 800 sostenitori manifestavono fuori dalla sede di Al-Sadr, un suo portavoce dichiarò di avere “le prove che i Britannici erano coinvolti negli attacchi.”10

Un anonimo alto ufficiale militare britannico disse il 22 aprile 2004 riguardo a questi attacchi a Bassora che “somilglia Al-Qaeda. Ne ha tutti i segni distintivi, è stato spettacolare ed è stato simbolico.” Il Generale di Brigata Nick Carter, comandante della guarnigione Britannica a Bassora, affermò più ambiguamente che non era necessario accusare Al-Qaeda dei cinque attacchi, ma che quei responsabili venivano da fuori Bassora e “con buona probabilità” da fuori l'Iraq: “Tutto ciò di cui possiamo essere certi è che è qualcosa che è venuto dall'esterno,” ha detto Carter.11

I sostenitori di Moqtada Al-Sadr ovviamente pensavano la stessa cosa—con la sola differenza che identificavano i criminali esterni come agenti Britannici piuttosto che come mujaheddin Islamici da altri paesi arabi.

Nel maggio 2005 “Riverbend,” l'autore di Baghdad del ben conoscuto blog Baghdad Burning, scrisse che quello che la stampa internazionale riportava come attacchi suicidi erano in realtà molto spesso “veicoli esplosivi sia fatti detonare dell'esterno sia a orologeria.” Dopo una delle principali raffiche recenti, avvenute nella zona della classe media Ma'moun nella parte ovest di Baghdad, un uomo che viveva nella casa di fronte ai luoghi degli attentati fu arrestato, a quanto si dice, per aver sparato ad un soldato della Guardia Nazionale Irachena de un nascondiglio. Ma stando a quanto dice “Riverbend,” i suoi vicini avevano una versione diversa: “Gente del posto dice l'uomo fu portato via non perché avesse sparato a qualcuno, ma perché sapeva qualcosa di troppo riguardo all-esplosione. A quanto pare aveva visto una pattuglia USA che passava nella zona e soffermarsi nel luogo degli attacchi pochi minuti prima delle esplosione. Poco dopo si allontanarono, e quindi ci fu l'esplosione con il caos che ne conseguvistaì. L'uomo corse fuori dalla casa gridando ai vicini e agli astanti che gli Americani o avevano piantato loro la bomba o l'avevano vista ma non avevano fatto niente. Fu prontamente portato via.12

Sempre nel maggio 2005, Imad Khadduri, il fisico Iracheno in esilio i cui scritti hanno aiutato a screditare le menzogne Britanniche e Statunitensi sulle armi di distruzione di massa, riferì della situazione che a Baghdad ad un guidatore a cui era stata ritrata la patente presso un check-point Americano fu detto di “ricarsi in un campo militare USA vicino all'aeroporto di Baghdad per essere interrogato e per recuperare la sua patente.” Dope essere stato interrogato per una mezz'ora gli fu detto che non c'era nulla contro di lui, ma che la sua patente era stata inviata all polizia Irachena all stazione Al-Khadimiya “per la procedura”—e che avrebbe fatto meglio a recarsi in fretta dal luogotenente, di cui gli fu dat il nome, prima che questi finisse il suo turno:

Il guidatore se ne andò in fretta, ma si allarmò presto per l'impressione che la sua macchina stesse guidando come se stesse trasportando un carico pesante, e si insospetti anche di un elicottero che volava basso poco al di sopra di lui, come se lo stesse sequendo. Fermò la macchina e la ispezionò accuramente. Provò quasi 100 kg di esplosivo nascosti sotto il sedile posteriore e lungo le due portiere posteriori. L'unica spiegazione verosimile per questo episodio è che la macchina era stata manomessa in modo esplosivo dagli Americani e volta al distretto Sciita Al'Khadimiya di Baghdad. L'elicottero stava controllando i suoi movimenti e testimoniando in anticipo un “orrendo attacco da parte di elementi esterni.”13

Secondo Khadduri, “La stessa scena si ripetuté a Mosul, nord dell’Iraq.” In questo caso, la vita del conducente fu salvata quando la sua auto ebbe un guasto sulla strada per la stazione di polizia dove si pensa stesse andando a ritirare la sua patente, e quando il meccanico al quale aveva chiesto soccorso “scoprì che la ruota di scorta era stata interamente riempita di esplosivo.”

Khadduri menziona, come meritevole di indagine, un “caso forse non ricollegabile” a Baghdad il 28 aprile 2005, nel quale un camionista Canadese con la doppia cittadinanza Irachena fu ucciso. Riferisce une notizia della CBC secondo la quale “alcuni media hanno citato fonti imprecisate che dicevano che questi sarebbe morto dopo che le forze USA l'avevano seguito come un ogiettivo, usando artiglieria da elicottero, ma agli Affari Esterni dicono che si sta ancora investigando sulle notizie contrastanti della morte. Gli ufficiali USA hanno negato ogni coinvolgimento.”14

Un altro caso, anch'esso nell'aprile 2005, richiede un'inchiesta molto più urgentemente, dal momento che una delle sue vittime è ancora viva. Abdul Amir Younes Hussein, cameraman della CBS, fu lievemente ferito dalle forze USA il 15 aprile “mentre riprendeva le conseguenza di un attacco bomba a Mosul.” Le autorità militari Americane erano all'inizio spiacuti per le sue ferite, ma 3 giorni dopo lo arrestarono col pretesto che “si fosse dato ad attività anti-coalizione.”15

Arianna Huffington, nel suo resoconto dettagliato di questo caso, ne enfatizza giustissimamente le sue qualità kafkiane: Younes Hussein è stato detenuto, ad Abu Graib e altrove, per più di cinque mesi—senza accuse, senza alcuna traccia di quale prova il Pentagono avrebbe potuto muovergli contro, e senza nessuna indicazione se gli sarebbe mai stato permesso di assistere al processo, ricusare quelle prove, e confutare le accuse che gli potrebbero essere mosse in un futuro prossimo. Ma oltre a confermare, ancora una volta, la buona volontà del Pentagono di violare i principi fondamentali basilari del diritto umano e della democrazia, questo caso solleva anche un'altra domanda. Younes Hussein fu forse arrestato, come l'Iracheno la cui vociferata fatalità fu menzionata da “Riverbend,” perché aveva visto, e in questo caso fotografato, più che era buono per lui.


Agenti provocatori?

Dei portavoce dell'occupazione USA e Britannica dell'Iraq, insieme a quotidiani come il Daily Telegraph, hanno naturalmente respinto con indignazione ogni insinuazione che le lore forze potessero essere state coinvolte in operazioni di terrorismo sotto falsa bandiera in Iraq. Andrebbe ricordato che durante gli anni '80 dei portavoce del governo di Ronald Reagan riempirono di ridicolo allo stesso modo le accuse Nicaraguensi secondo le quali gli USA stavano illegalmente rifornendo i “Contras” di armi—fino a quando, successe così, un cargo C-123 pieno di artiglieria diretto dalla CIA fu abbattuto in Nicaragua, e Eugene Hasenfus, un scaricatore che sopravvisse allo schianto, testimoniò che i suoi sovrintendenti (uno dei quali era Luis Posada Carriles, l’agente CIA responsabile nel 1976 dell’abbattimento di un aereo civile Cubano) stavano lavorando per il vice presidente di allora George H. W. Bush.

L’arresto – e la liberazione repentina – dei due soldati Britannici clandestinamente in Iraq si potrebbe interpretare in maniera simile come per gettare un luce retrospettiva sulle inconsistenti affermazioni precedenti riguardo il coinvolgimento di elementi degli eserciti di occupazione in attacchi terroristici contro civili.

Il paragone è lungi dall’essere corretto: in questo caso non ci sono confessioni drammatiche come quella di Hasenfus, e non ci sono documenti direttamente incriminanti come quelli della registrazione del pilota del C-123 abbattuto. C’è, per giunta, una marcata carenza di consenso per quello che è recentemente avvenuto a Bassora. Dovremmo quindi, con Juan Cole, respingere la possibilità che soldati Britannici agissero come agenti provocatori come “una teoria che quasi non ha elementi alle spalle”?16


Membri della Forze Britanniche d'Elite SAS

Sembra che quando il 19 settembre degli agenti di polizia Iracheni sospettosi fermarono la Toyota Cressida che i soldati clandestini Britannici stavano guidando, i due uomini aprirono il fuoco, uccidendo un poliziotto e ferendone un altro. Ma i soldati, identificati dalla BBC come “membri delle forze speciali d’élite SAS,”17 furono bloccati dalla polizia ed arrestati. Un resoconto pubblicato dal Guardian il 24 settembre aggiunge il dettaglio ulteriore “si pensa [che gli uomini dei SAS] fossero in missione di sorveglianza davanti a una stazione di polizia a Bassora quando furono affrontati dalla pattuglia di polizia Irachena.”18

Come ha osservato Justin Raimondo in un articolo pubblicato il 23 settembre su, quasi ogni altro aspetto di questo episodio è controverso.19

Il Washington Post ha osservato prendendo le distanze, nel 18mo paragrafo di un suo rapporto riguardo a questi fatti, che “ufficiali Iracheni della sicurezza hanno accusato distintamente i due Britannici arrestati di aver sparato contro forze Irachene o di aver tentato di posizionare esplosivo.”20 Gli ufficiali Iracheni in realtà li hanno accusati non di una, ma di tutte e due le cose.

Fattah Al-Shaykh, membro dell’Assemblea Nazionale Irachena, ha detto all’emittente Al-Jazeera il 19 settembre che i soldati hanno aperto il fuoco quando la polizia ha tentato di arrestarli, e che la loro macchina era esplosivamente manomessa “e destinata ad esplodere nel centro di Bassora al mercato popolare.”21 Un comunicato stampa deliberatamente infiammato uscito il giorno stesso dalla sede di Moqtada Al-Sadr (e postato e tradotto in Inglese sul blog di Juan Cole Informed Comment il 20 settembre) dice che l’arresto dei soldati fu dovuto al loro “aver aperto il fuoco sui passanti” vicino alla moschea di Bassora, e all’essere stati trovati in possesso di esplosivi e apparecchiature per il controllo a distanza, così come armi leggere e medie più altri accessori.”22

Quale credibilità si può dare alle affermazioni sugli esplosivi? Justin Raimondo scrive che mentre all’inizio le notizie della BBC riconoscevano che i due uomini avevano effettivamente dell’esplosivo nella loro macchina, le notizie successive dalla stessa fonte indicavano che la polizia Irachena non trovò nulla oltre a “fucili d’assalto, una mitragliatrice leggera, un’arma anti-carro, un congegno radio, e kit medici. Si ritiene che questo sia la dotazione standard per le SAS che operano in teatri operativi del genere.”23

Ci si potrebbe benissimo chiedere, insieme a Raimondo, se un’arma anti-carro faccia parte dell’“equipaggiamento standard”—oppure quale uso intendessero farne gli uomini delle SAS durante le “missioni di sorveglianza fuori dalle stazioni di polizia.” Ma, più importante, una foto pubblicata dalla polizia Irachena e distribuita da Reuters mostra che – a meno che l’equipaggiamento non sia una attrezzatura – gli uomini SAS stavano trasportando parecchio più quanto riconosciuto dalla BBC.24

Gradirei conoscere il parere di un esperto in armi prima di arrischiare un giudizio definitivo su quanto detto, chi potrebbe aver facilmente riempito il baule e gran parte dei sedili posteriori di una Cressida. Ma questa foto autorizza l’affermazione di Sheik Hassan al-Zarqani, portavoce delle milizie di Al-Sadr: “Quello che la polizia ha trovato nella loro macchina è stato davvero rivoltante—armi, esplosivi, e un detonatore per controllo a distanza. Queste sono armi da terrorista. Noi crediamo che questi soldati stessero pianificando un attacco contro un mercato o altri obiettivi civili….”25

L’ostinata determinazione dell’esercito Britannico di preservare questi uomini da ogni rischio di interrogatorio da parte dei loro presunti alleati al governo è sorprendente—anche quando il loro salvataggio implicava la distruzione di una prigione Irachena e la liberazione di un gran numero di prigionieri, scontri ad arma da fuoco con la polizia Irachena e con le milizie di Al-Sadr, una grande mobilitazione popolare contro le forze di occupazione Britanniche, e la conseguente cessazione di ogni cooperazione di parte del governo regionale—e porta, casomai, a sostenere l’idea che l’episodio abbia implicato qualcosa di più oscuro che non una semplice scaramuccia di teste calde ad un check-point.


Guerra civile sponsorizzata USA-UK

C’è motivo di credere, per di più, che la guerra civile aperta che gli attacchi su civili con veicoli esplosivi sembrano intenzionati a produrre non sarebbe uno sviluppo sgradito agli occhi delle forze occupanti.

Scrittori dei media corporativi di lingua inglese hanno ripetutamente osservato che i recenti attacchi che hanno causato un gran numero di vittime tra i civili paiono sospingere l’Iraq verso una guerra civile tra Sunniti e Sciiti, e i Curdi contro entrambi. Per esempio il 18 settembre 2005 Peter Beaumont ha avanzato l’ipotesi sull’Observer che il massacro di civili, che imputa alla sola Al-Qaeda, “ha un unico scopo: la guerra civile.”26 Ma H.D.S. Greenway aveva già suggerito il 17 giugno sul Boston Globe che “dato il grande numero di attacchi condotti da Sunniti contro obiettivi Sciiti, l’emergere di attacchi Sciiti contro i Sunniti, e il sequestro fuori dalla legalità di Arabi ad opera delle autorità Curde a Kirkuk, ci si deve chiedere se la tanto a lungo temuta guerra civile Irachena non sia in realtà già iniziata.”27 E il 21 settembre 2005 Nancy Youssef e Mohammed al-Dulaimy del Knight Ridder Washington Bureau hanno scritto che la pulizia etnica degli Sciiti in zone nei dintorni di Bagdad a prevalente presenza Sunnita “sta proseguendo ad un ritmo allarmante e potenzialmente destabilizzante”, e hanno citato l’opinione di un esperto Iracheno: “'La guerra civile è più vicina oggi che non in passato,' ha detto Hazim Abdel Hamid al-Nuaimi, professore di scienze politiche all’Università al-Mustansiriya di Bagdad. 'Tutte queste esplosioni, i tentativi alla polizia e l’epurazione nei dintorni sono una battaglia per controllare Bagdad.'”28

Che sia già cominciata o no o che capiti in futuro, lo scoppio di una guerra civile molto accesa, che porterebbe alla frammentazione del Paese, sarebbe chiaramente benvenuta in certi ambienti. Strateghi e giornalisti Israeliani hanno proposto nel lontano 1982 che uno degli obiettivi strategici del loro Paese dovrebbe essere la suddivisione dell’Iraq in uno Stato Sciita, uno Stato Sunnita, e una parte separata Curda (Consultare "A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s," Kivunim 14 [Febbraio 1982] del funzionario del Ministero degli Esteri Oded Yinon;29 una proposta simile avanzata da Ze’ev Schiff su Ha’aretz lo stesso mese è riportata da Noam Chomsky nel suo libro Fateful Triangle.)30

Una divisione dell’Iraq in parti definite dalle etnie e dalle differenze tra Sunniti e Sciiti implicherebbe, abbastanza chiaramente, sia guerra civile che pulizia etnica su vasta scala. Ma queste considerazioni non hanno distolto Lesile H. Gelb dal patrocinare sul New York Times quella che chiama “La Soluzione dei Tre Stati.”31

Gelb, un ex funzionario del Dipartimento di Stato e del Pentagono, un ex editore e curatore di rubriche del New York Times, e presidente emerito del Consiglio per le Relazioni Estere, è un iniziato tra gli iniziati. E se i saggi di Yinon e Schiff sono materiale sgradevole, soprattutto nel contesto del bombardamento Israeliano nel 1981 di un reattore nucleare Iracheno a Osirak, c’è pur sempre qualche differenza tra il proporre teoricamente lo smembramento di un vicino Paese potente, e patrocinare attivamente lo smembramento di un Paese che la propria nazione ha conquistato in una guerra di aggressione da questo non provocata. Il primo si potrebbe descrivere come un fantasticare malato di guerra e criminalità, il secondo appartiene molto chiaramente alla categoria dei crimini di guerra.

Il saggio di Gelb propone di punire la ribellione dei Sunniti separando il grosso centro Sunnita dell’attuale Iraq dal nord Curdo ricco di petrolio e dal sud Sciita ricco di petrolio. Mira allo smembramento della federazione Yugoslava negli anni ’90 (con gli spaventosi massacri che ne sono seguiti) come ad un “promettente procedente.” Il saggio di Gelb è stato largamente interpretato come un indicatore delle intenzioni delle fazioni predominanti nel governo USA. E’ stato anche, molto opportunamente, denunciato da Bill Vann come apertamente istigatore di “un crimine di guerra dalle proporzioni storiche e planetarie.”32

Data la crescente disperazione dei governi Britannico ed Americano nel fronteggiare una rivolta che le loro tattiche di torture ed arresti arbitrari di massa, squadre della morte del Programma Phoenix33 o “opzione Salvadoregna,”34 uso senza controllo di forze militari soverchianti, e punizioni per assassinii collettivi non sono riuscite a reprimere, non sorprende che in azioni militari recenti come l’assalto a Tal Afar l’esercito USA abbia schierato truppe di Peshmerga Curdi e milizie Sciite in un modo che sembra intenzionato ad infiammare i contrasti etnici.

Nessuno, vorrei sperare, è ancora sorpreso dal fatto che Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—quella creazione romanzesca dei ranghi serrati del Pentagono di piccoli Tom Clancies, quel Dalek da una gamba sola, quella Primula Rossa del terrorismo, che riesce ad essere qua e là ed ovunque nello stesso momento35—dovrebbe essere così ferocemente dedito a terrorizzare e sterminare i suoi correligiosi Sciiti.

Dovremmo ancora stupirci, quindi, di veder spuntare in Iraq le prove di attacchi terroristici sotto falsa bandiera orchestrati dai principali poteri occupanti? I servizi segreti e le forze speciali sia degli Usa che della Gran Bretagna dopo tutto hanno una certa esperienza in materia.




1  Neil Mackay, “British double-agent was in Real IRA's Omagh bomb team,” Sunday Herald (19 agosto 2001),; disponibile da HighBeam Research,

2  Neil Mackay, “The army asked me to make bombs for the IRA, told me I had the Prime Minister's blessing ... then tried to kill me,” Sunday Herald (23 giugno 2002),; disponibile da

3  Neil Mackay, “IRA torturer was in the Royal Marines: Top republican terrorist exposed in court documents as a special forces soldier,” Sunday Herald (15 dicembre 2002),; disponibile da

4  Ibid.

5  Vedi Michel Chossudovsky, “British 'Undercover Soldiers' Caught driving Booby Trapped Car,” Centre for Research on Globalization (20 settembre 2005),; Larry Chin, “British prison break and blown covert operation, exposes 'war on terrorism lie,” Centre for Research on Globalization (20 settembre 2005),; Mike Whitney, “Who's Blowing up Iraq? New evidence that bombs are being planted by British Commandos,” Centre for Research on Globalization (20 settembre 2005),

6  Kurt Nimmo, “British 'Pseudo-Gang' Terrorists Exposed in Basra,” Centre for Research on Globalization (24 settembre 2005),

7  Questa affermazione è stata pubblicata dalla ormai defunta SITE Institute,

8  Per le prove che l'Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi noto ai lettori della stampa occidentale come un leader terrorista mente è un costrutto mitico prodotto dalla propaganda, vedi Michel Chossudovsky, “Who Is Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi?” Centre for Research on Globalization (11 giugno 2004),; Chris Shumway, “Experts Dispute Bush Line on Zarqawi,” (16 luglio 2004),; Brendan O'Neill, “Blowing up Zarqawi,” Spiked Online (5 ottobre 2004),; e Michel Chossudovsky, “Who is behind 'Al Qaeda in Iraq'? Pentagon acknowledges fabricating a 'Zarqawi Legend',” Centre for Research on Globalization (18 aprile 2006),

9  Dahr Jamail, “Dahr Jamail Blog from Baghdad,” The New Standard (20 aprile 2004); disponibile da,



12  'Riverbend', “The dead and the undead...,” Baghdad Burning (18 maggio 2005),

13  Imad Khadduri, “'Combat terrorism' by causing it,” (15 maggio 2005),

14  Ibid.

15  Arianna Huffington, “Kafka Does Iraq: The Disturbing Case of Abdul Amir Younes Hussein.” Huffington Post (23 settembre 2005), (Nell'aprile 2006, sette mesi dopo la pubblicazione dell'articulo e il mio saggio, è stato liberato: vedere “CBS cameraman freed after being held for a year by US military,” Reporters Without Borders [20 aprile 2006],,16937.html.)

16  “US Bombs Dhulu'iyyah[,] Basra declares Noncooperation,” Informed Comment (22 settembre 2005),

17  “Iraq probe into soldier incident,” BBC News (20 settembre 2005),

18  “Iraqi judge issues warrant for British troops,” The Guardian (24 settembre 2005),,2763,1577575,00.html.

19  Justin Raimondo, “Bizarro Basra,” (24 settembre 2005),


21  Citato da Chossudovsky, “British 'Undercover Soldiers'.”

22  “Muqtada Al Sadr's Response to Basra,” Informed Comment (20 settembre 2005),

23  Citato da Raimondo, “Bizarro Basra.”


25  Citato da Raimondo, “Bizarro Basra.”

26  Peter Beaumont, “Al Qaeda's slaughter has one aim: civil war,” The Observer (18 settembre 2005),

27  H.D.S. Greenway, “Facing facts in Iraq,” Boston Globe (17 giugno 2005),

28  Nancy Youssef e Mohammed al Duhaimy, “Shiites fleeing Sunni-dominated neighbourhoods,” Knight Ridder Newspapers (21 settembre 2005).

29  Oded Yinon, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” Kivunim 14 (Inverno 5742, febbraio 1982), tradotto da Israel Shahak,

30  Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (2nd ed., Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999), p. 457.

31  Leslie H. Gelb, “The Three-State Solution,” New York Times (25 novembre 2003); disponibile da Council on Foreign Relations,

32  Bill Vann, “The New York Times: a proposal for ethnic cleansing in Iraq,” World Socialist Web Site (26 novembre 2003),

33  Il programma Phoenix era un sistema di squadroni della morte e la tortura terrorismo di Stato, gestito dalla CIA in Vietnam del Sud tra il 1966 e primi anni 1970, in cui alcuni 82.000 simpatizzanti 'Vietcong' sono stati “eliminati,” e più di 26.000 prigionieri sono stati ucisi. Vedi Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Metropolitan/Owl Books, 2006), pp. 64-71.

34  Nel gennaio 2005, Newsweek ha riferito che l'amministrazione Bush stava contemplando riutilizzando in Iraq la “opzione Salvador,” una “strategia ancora-secret” si suppone di utilizzare “cosiddetti squadroni della morte rivolte a dare la caccia e uccidere i leader ribelli e simpatizzanti” che era stato usato dalla amministrazione Reagan in El Salvador nel 1980 (citato da Ken Gude, “Roots of Iraq Civil War May Be in 'Salvador Option',” Thinkprogress [2 marzo 2006], “Opzione Salvador” squadroni della morte sono stati responsabili per l'assassinio di decine di migliaia di civili in El Salvador; vedi Tom Gibb, “'Salvador Option' mooted for Iraq,” BBC News (27 gennaio 2005), Vi è la prova evidente che entro l'inizio del 2005, l'esercito degli Stati Uniti è stato già operativo squadroni della morte in Iraq; vedi Max Fuller, “For Iraq, 'The Salvador Option' Becomes Reality,” Centre for Research on Globalization (2 giugno 2005),

35  L'eroe del romanzo di Baronessa Orczy The Scarlet Pimpernel (La Primula Rossa, 1905), fissato al momento della Rivoluzione francese, è un aristocratico inglese che sotto apparenze affettato è un soccorritore brillantemente efficace di aristocratici francesi condannati alla ghigliottina, è egli stesso l'autore di versi beffardi suo aspiranti rapitori: “Lo cercano qui, lo cercano lì, / Quei Francesi lo cercano dappertutto ....” In televisione britannica serie Dr. Who, Daleks sono malvagi robot su ruote che cercano costantemente di distruggere il buon scienziato. Zarqawi, secondo una considerazione di lui, aveva perso una gamba, ma secondo un altro, era abbastanza agile da saltare da un camion in movimento e la fuga a piedi dalle forze speciali americane soldati che lo stavano perseguendo. 

Were British Special Forces Soldiers Planting Bombs in Basra? Suspicions Strengthened by Earlier Reports

This essay was first published at the Centre for Research on Globalization (25 September 2005),, and subsequently reproduced online at thirty-five other websites between 2005 and 2010. In October 2005 it was translated into Italian and Spanish; these versions appeared at a further fifteen websites in 2005-06. As originally published, the footnotes were replaced by parenthetical URLs, most of which are no longer active. In the present text, the original notes have been replaced. With the exception of notes 8, 15, 33, and 34, which refer to material published in 2006, and note 35, which is also new, the essay has not been updated.

For a fine recent analysis of some of the issues touched on at the end of this essay, see Derek Gregory, “Baghdad Burning: neo-liberalism and the counter-city,” a paper prepared for the 12th Mediterranean Research Meeting, Florence, 6-9 April 2011,

Does anyone remember the shock with which the British public greeted the revelation four years ago that one of the members of the Real IRA unit whose bombing attack in Omagh on August 15, 1998 killed twenty-nine civilians had been a double agent, a British army soldier?

That soldier was not Britain's only terrorist double agent. A second British soldier planted within the IRA claimed he had given forty-eight hours advance notice of the Omagh car-bomb attack to his handlers within the Royal Ulster Constabulary, including “details of one of the bombing team and the man's car registration.” Although the agent had made an audio tape of his tip-off call, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, chief constable of the RUC, declared that “no such information was received.”1

This second double agent went public in June 2002 with the claim that from 1981 to 1994, while on full British army pay, he had worked for “the Force Research Unit, an ultra-secret wing of British military intelligence,” as an IRA mole. With the full knowledge and consent of FRU and MI5 handlers, he became a bombing specialist who “mixed explosive and ... helped to develop new types of bombs,” including “light-sensitive bombs, activated by photographic flashes, to overcome the problem of IRA remote-control devices having their signal jammed by army radio units.” He went on to become “a member of the Provisional IRA's 'internal security squad'—also known as the 'torture unit'—which interrogated and executed suspected informers.”2

The much-feared commander of that same “torture unit” was likewise a mole, who had previously served in the Royal Marines' Special Boat Squadron (an elite special forces unit, the Marines' equivalent to the better-known SAS). A fourth mole, a soldier code-named “Stakeknife” whose military handlers “allowed him to carry out large numbers of terrorist murders in order to protect his cover within the IRA,” was still active in December 2002 as “one of Belfast's leading Provisionals.”3

Reliable evidence also emerged in late 2002 that the British army had been using its double agents in terrorist organizations “to carry out proxy assassinations for the British state”—most notoriously in the case of Belfast solicitor and human rights activist Pat Finucane, who was murdered in 1989 by the Protestant Ulster Defence Association. It appears that the FRU passed on details about Finucane to a British soldier who had infiltrated the UDA; he in turn “supplied UDA murder teams with the information.”4

Recent events in Basra have raised suspicions that the British army may have reactivated these same tactics in Iraq.

Articles published by Michel Chossudovsky, Larry Chin, and Mike Whitney at the Centre for Research on Globalization's website on September 20, 2005 have offered preliminary assessments of the claims of Iraqi authorities that two British soldiers in civilian clothes who were arrested by Iraqi police in Basra on September 19—and in short order released by a British tank and helicopter assault on the prison where they were being held—had been engaged in planting bombs in the city.5

A further article by Kurt Nimmo points to false-flag operations carried out by British special forces troops in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, and to Donald Rumsfeld's formation of the P2OG, or Proactive Preemptive Operations Group, as directly relevant to Iraqi charges of possible false-flag terror operations by the occupying powers in Iraq.6

These accusations by Iraqi officials echo insistent but unsubstantiated claims, going back at least to the spring of 2004, to the effect that many of the terror bombings carried out against civilian targets in Iraq have actually been perpetrated by U.S. and British forces rather than by Iraqi insurgents.

Some such claims can be briskly dismissed. In mid-May 2005, for example, a group calling itself “Al Qaeda in Iraq” accused U.S. troops “of detonating car bombs and falsely accusing militants.”7 For even the most credulous, this could at best be a case of the pot calling the kettle soot-stained. But it's not clear why anyone would want to believe this claim, coming as it does from a group or groupuscule purportedly led by the wholly mythical al-Zarqawi8—and one whose very name affiliates it with terror bombers. These people, if they exist, might have good reason to blame their own crimes on others.

Other claims, however, are cumulatively more troubling.

The American journalist Dahr Jamail wrote on April 20, 2004 that the recent spate of car bombings in Baghdad was widely rumoured to have been the work of the CIA:

The word on the street in Baghdad is that the cessation of car bombings is proof that the CIA was behind them. Why? Because as one man states, “[CIA agents are] too busy fighting now, and the unrest they wanted to cause by the bombings is now upon them.” True or not, it doesn't bode well for the occupiers' image in Iraq.9

On April 22, 2004, Agence France-Presse reported that five car-bombings in Basra on the preceding day—three near-simultaneous attacks outside police stations in Basra that killed sixty-eight people, including twenty children, and two follow-up bombings—were being blamed by supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on the British. While eight hundred supporters demonstrated outside Sadr's offices, a Sadr spokesman claimed to have “evidence that the British were involved in these attacks.”10

An anonymous senior British military officer said on April 22, 2004 of these Basra attacks that “It looks like Al-Qaeda. It's got all the hallmarks: it was suicidal, it was spectacular and it was symbolic.” Brigadier General Nick Carter, commander of the British garrison in Basra, stated more ambiguously that Al Qaeda was not necessarily to blame for the five bombings, but that those responsible came from outside Basra and “quite possibly” from outside Iraq: “'All that we can be certain of is that this is something that came from outside,' Carter said.”11 Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters of course believed exactly the same thing—differing only in their identification of the criminal outsiders as British agents rather than as Islamic mujaheddin from other Arab countries.

In May 2005, 'Riverbend', the Baghdad author of the widely-read blog Baghdad Burning, reported that what the international press was reporting as suicide bombings were often in fact “car bombs that are either remotely detonated or maybe time bombs.” After one of the larger recent blasts, which occurred in the middle-class Ma'moun area of west Baghdad, a man living in a house in front of the blast site was reportedly arrested for having sniped an Iraqi National Guardsman. But according to 'Riverbend', his neighbours had a different story:

People from the area claim that the man was taken away not because he shot anyone, but because he knew too much about the bomb. Rumor has it that he saw an American patrol passing through the area and pausing at the bomb site minutes before the explosion. Soon after they drove away, the bomb went off and chaos ensued. He ran out of his house screaming to the neighbours and bystanders that the Americans had either planted the bomb or seen the bomb and done nothing about it. He was promptly taken away.12

Also in May 2005, Imad Khadduri, the Iraqi-exile physicist whose writings helped to discredit American and British fabrications about weapons of mass destruction, reported a story that in Baghdad a driver whose license had been confiscated at an American check-point was told “to report to an American military camp near Baghdad airport for interrogations and in order to retrieve his license.” After being questioned for half an hour, he was informed that there was nothing against him, but that his license had been forwarded to the Iraqi police at the al-Khadimiya station “for processing”—and that he should get there quickly before the lieutenant whose name he was given went off his shift.

The driver did leave in a hurry, but was soon alarmed with a feeling that his car was driving as if carrying a heavy load, and he also became suspicious of a low flying helicopter that kept hovering overhead as if trailing him. He stopped the car and inspected it carefully. He found nearly 100 kilograms of explosives hidden in the back seat and along the two back doors. The only feasible explanation for this incident is that the car was indeed booby trapped by the Americans and intended for the al'Khadimiya Shiite district of Baghdad. The helicopter was monitoring his movement and witnessing the anticipated “hideous attack by foreign elements.”13

According to Khadduri, “The same scenario was repeated in Mosul, in the north of Iraq.” On this occasion, the driver's life was saved when his car broke down on the way to the police station where he was supposed to reclaim his license, and when the mechanic to whom he had recourse “discovered that the spare tire was fully laden with explosives.”

Khadduri mentions, as deserving of investigation, a “perhaps unrelated incident” in Baghdad on April 28, 2005 in which a Canadian truck-driver with dual Canadian-Iraqi citizenship was killed. He quotes a CBC report according to which “Some media cited unidentified sources who said he may have died after U.S. forces “tracked” a target, using a helicopter gunship, but Foreign Affairs said it's still investigating conflicting reports of the death. US officials have denied any involvement.”14

Another incident, also from April 2005, calls more urgently for investigation, since one of its victims remains alive. Abdul Amir Younes Hussein, a CBS cameraman, was lightly wounded by US forces on April 5 “while filming the aftermath of a car bombing in Mosul.” American military authorities were initially apologetic about his injuries, but three days later arrested him on the grounds that he had been “engaged in anti-coalition activity.”15

Arianna Huffington, in her detailed account of this case, quite rightly emphasizes its Kafkaesque qualities: Younes Hussein has now been detained, in Abu Graib and elsewhere, for more than five months—without charges, without any hint of what evidence the Pentagon may hold against him, and without any indication that he will ever be permitted to stand trial, challenge that evidence, and disprove the charges that might at some future moment be laid. But in addition to confirming, yet again, the Pentagon's willingness to violate the most fundamental principles of humane and democratic jurisprudence, this case also raises a further question. Was Younes Hussein perhaps arrested, like the Iraqi whose rumoured fate was mentioned by 'Riverbend', because he had seen—and in this case photographed—more than was good for him?


Agents provocateurs?

Spokesmen for the American and British occupation of Iraq, together with newspapers like the Daily Telegraph, have of course rejected with indignation any suggestion that their forces could have been involved in false-flag terrorist operations in Iraq.

It may be remembered that during the 1980s spokesmen for the government of Ronald Reagan likewise heaped ridicule on Nicaraguan accusations that the US was illegally supplying weapons to the 'Contras'—until, that is, a CIA-operated C-123 cargo aircraft full of weaponry was shot down over Nicaragua, and Eugene Hasenfus, a cargo handler who survived the crash, testified that his supervisors (one of whom was Luis Posada Carriles, the CIA agent responsible for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner) were working for then-Vice-President George H.W. Bush.

The arrest—and the urgent liberation—of the two undercover soldiers in Iraq might in a similar manner be interpreted as casting a retrospective light on previously unsubstantiated claims about the involvement of members of the occupying armies in terrorist bombing attacks on civilians.

The parallel is far from exact: in this case there has been no dramatic confession like that of Hasenfus, and there are no directly incriminating documents like the pilot's log of the downed C-123. There is, moreover, a marked lack of consensus as to what actually happened in Basra. Should we therefore, with Juan Cole, dismiss the possibility that British soldiers were acting as agents provocateurs as a “theory [that] has almost no facts behind it”?16


Members of Britain's Elite SAS Forces

It appears that when on September 19 suspicious Iraqi police stopped the Toyota Cressida the undercover British soldiers were driving, the two men opened fire, killing one policeman and wounding another. But the soldiers, identified by the BBC as “members of the SAS elite special forces,”17 were subdued by the police and arrested. A report published by The Guardian on September 24 adds the further detail that the SAS men “are thought to have been on a surveillance mission outside a police station in Basra when they were challenged by an Iraqi police patrol.”18

As Justin Raimondo has observed in an article published on September 24 at, nearly every other aspect of this episode is disputed.19

The Washington Post dismissively remarked, in the eighteenth paragraph of its report on these events, that “Iraqi security officials variously accused the two Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi forces or trying to plant explosives.”20 Iraqi officials in fact accused them not of one or the other act, but of both.

Fattah al-Shaykh, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly, told Al-Jazeera TV on September 19 that the soldiers opened fire when the police sought to arrest them, and that their car was booby-trapped “and was meant to explode in the centre of the city of Basra in the popular market.”21 A deliberately inflammatory press release sent out on the same day by the office of Moqtada al-Sadr (and posted in English translation at Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog on September 20) states that the soldiers' arrest was prompted by their having “opened fire on passers-by” near a Basra mosque, and that they were found to have “in their possession explosives and remote-control devices, as well as light and medium weapons and other accessories.”22

What credence can be given to the claim about explosives? Justin Raimondo writes that while initial BBC Radio reports acknowledged that the two men indeed had explosives in their car, subsequent reports from the same source indicated that the Iraqi police found nothing beyond “assault rifles, a light machine gun, an anti-tank weapon, radio gear, and a medical kit. This is thought to be standard kit for the SAS operating in such a theater of operations.”23 One might well wonder, with Raimondo, whether an anti-tank weapon is “standard operating equipment”—or what use SAS men on “a surveillance mission outside a police station” intended to make of it. But more importantly, a photograph published by the Iraqi police and distributed by Reuters shows that—unless the equipment is a plant—the SAS men were carrying a good deal more than just the items acknowledged by the BBC.24

I would want the opinion of an arms expert before risking a definitive judgment about the objects shown, which could easily have filled the trunk and much of the back seat of a Cressida. But this photograph makes plausible the statement of Sheik Hassan al-Zarqani, a spokesman for Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia:

What our police found in their car was very disturbing—weapons, explosives, and a remote control detonator. These are the weapons of terrorists. We believe these soldiers were planning an attack on a market or other civilian targets....25

The fierce determination of the British army to remove these men from any danger of interrogation by their own supposed allies in the government the British are propping up—even when their rescue entailed the destruction of an Iraqi prison and the release of a large number of prisoners, gun-battles with Iraqi police and with Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, a large popular mobilization against the British occupying force, and a subsequent withdrawal of any cooperation on the part of the regional government—tends, if anything, to support the view that this episode involved something much darker and more serious than a mere flare-up of bad tempers at a check-point.


US-UK Sponsored Civil War

There is reason to believe, moreover, that the open civil war which car-bomb attacks on civilians seem intended to produce would not be an unwelcome development in the eyes of the occupation forces.

Writers in the English-language corporate media have repeatedly noted that recent terror-bomb attacks which have caused massive casualties among civilians appear to be pushing Iraq towards a civil war of Sunnis against Shiites, and of Kurds against both. For example, on September 18, 2005 Peter Beaumont proposed in The Observer that the slaughter of civilians, which he ascribes to Al Qaeda alone, “has one aim: civil war.”26 But H.D.S. Greenway had already suggested on June 17, 2005 in the Boston Globe that “Given the large number of Sunni-led attacks against Shia targets, the emerging Shia-led attacks against Sunnis, and the extralegal abductions of Arabs by Kurdish authorities in Kirkut, one has to wonder whether the long-feared Iraqi civil war hasn't already begun.”27 And on September 21, 2005 Nancy Youssef and Mohammed al Dulaimy of the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau wrote that the ethnic cleansing of Shiites in predominantly Sunni Baghdad neighbourhoods “is proceeding at an alarming and potentially destabilizing pace,” and quoted the despairing view of an Iraqi expert:

“Civil war today is closer than any time before,” said Hazim Abdel Hamid al Nuaimi, a professor of politics at al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. “All of these explosions, the efforts by police and purging of neighbourhoods is a battle to control Baghdad.”28

Whether or not it has already begun or will occur, the eruption of a full-blown civil war, leading to the fragmentation of the country, would clearly be welcomed in some circles. Israeli strategists and journalists proposed as long ago as 1982 that one of their country's strategic goals should be the partitioning of Iraq into a Shiite state, a Sunni state, and a separate Kurdish part. (See foreign ministry official Oded Yinon's “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” Kivunim 14 [February 1982];29 a similar proposal put forward by Ze'ev Schiff in Ha'aretz in the same month is noted by Noam Chomsky in his book Fateful Triangle.)30

A partitioning of Iraq into sections defined by ethnicity and by Sunni-Shia differences would entail, obviously enough, both civil war and ethnic cleansing on a massive scale. But these considerations did not deter Leslie H. Gelb from advocating in the New York Times, on November 25, 2003, what he called “The Three-State Solution.”31

Gelb, a former senior State Department and Pentagon official, a former editor and columnist for the New York Times, and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, is an insider's insider. And if the essays of Yinon and Schiff are nasty stuff, especially in the context of Israel's 1981 bombing attack on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, there is still some difference between speculatively proposing the dismemberment of a powerful neighbouring country, and actively proposing the dismemberment of a country that one's own nation has conquered in a war of unprovoked aggression. The former might be described as a diseased imagining of war and criminality; the latter belongs very clearly to the category of war crimes.

Gelb's essay proposes punishing the Sunni-led insurgency by separating the largely Sunni centre of present-day Iraq from the oil-rich Kurdish north and the oil-rich Shia south. It holds out the dismembering of the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s (with the appalling slaughters that ensued) as a “hopeful precedent.” This essay has been widely interpreted as signalling the intentions of a dominant faction in the US government. It has also, very appropriately, been denounced by Bill Vann as openly promoting “a war crime of world-historic proportions.”32

Given the increasing desperation of the American and British governments in the face of an insurgency that their tactics of mass arbitrary arrest and torture, Phoenix-program33 or “Salvadoran-option” death squads,34 unrestrained use of overwhelming military force, and murderous collective punishment have failed to suppress, it comes as no surprise that in recent military actions such as the assault on Tal Afar the US army has been deploying Kurdish peshmerga troops and Shiite militias in a manner that seems designed to inflame ethnic hatreds.

No one, I should hope, is surprised any longer by the fact that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—that fictional construct of the Pentagon's serried ranks of little Tom Clancies, that one-legged Dalek, that Scarlet Pimpernel of terrorism, who manages to be here, there, and everywhere at once35—should be so ferociously devoted to the terrorizing and extermination of his Shiite co-religionists.

Should we be any more surprised, then, to see evidence emerging in Iraq of false-flag terrorist bombings conducted by the major occupying powers? The secret services and special forces of both the US and Britain have, after all, had some experience in these matters.




1  Neil Mackay, “British double-agent was in Real IRA's Omagh bomb team,” Sunday Herald (19 August 2001),; available at HighBeam Research,

2  Neil Mackay, “The army asked me to make bombs for the IRA, told me I had the Prime Minister's blessing ... then tried to kill me,” Sunday Herald (23 June 2002),; available at

3  Neil Mackay, “IRA torturer was in the Royal Marines: Top republican terrorist exposed in court documents as a special forces soldier,” Sunday Herald (15 December 2002),; available at

4  Ibid.

5  See Michel Chossudovsky, “British 'Undercover Soldiers' Caught driving Booby Trapped Car,” Centre for Research on Globalization (20 September 2005),; Larry Chin, “British prison break and blown covert operation, exposes 'war on terrorism lie,” Centre for Research on Globalization (20 September 2005),; Mike Whitney, “Who's Blowing up Iraq? New evidence that bombs are being planted by British Commandos,” Centre for Research on Globalization (20 September 2005),

6  Kurt Nimmo, “British 'Pseudo-Gang' Terrorists Exposed in Basra,” Centre for Research on Globalization (24 September 2005),

7  This claim was published by the now-defunct SITE Institute, at

8  For evidence that the Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi known to readers of the western press as a leading terrorist mastermind is a mythical construct produced by propaganda, see Michel Chossudovsky, “Who Is Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi?” Centre for Research on Globalization (11 June 2004),; Chris Shumway, “Experts Dispute Bush Line on Zarqawi,” (16 July 2004),; Brendan O'Neill, “Blowing up Zarqawi,” Spiked Online (5 October 2004),; and Michel Chossudovsky, “Who is behind 'Al Qaeda in Iraq'? Pentagon acknowledges fabricating a 'Zarqawi Legend',” Centre for Research on Globalization (18 April 2006),

9  Dahr Jamail, “Dahr Jamail Blog from Baghdad,” The New Standard (20 April 2004); available at,



12  'Riverbend', “The dead and the undead...,” Baghdad Burning (18 May 2005),

13  Imad Khadduri, “'Combat terrorism' by causing it,” (15 May 2005),

14  Ibid.

15  Arianna Huffington, “Kafka Does Iraq: The Disturbing Case of Abdul Amir Younes Hussein.” Huffington Post (23 September 2005), (In April 2006, seven months after the publication of Huffington's article and my essay, he was released: see “CBS cameraman freed after being held for a year by US military,” Reporters Without Borders [20 April 2006],,16937.html.)

16  “US Bombs Dhulu'iyyah[,] Basra declares Noncooperation,” Informed Comment (22 September 2005),

17  “Iraq probe into soldier incident,” BBC News (20 September 2005),

18  “Iraqi judge issues warrant for British troops,” The Guardian (24 September 2005),,2763,1577575,00.html.

19  Justin Raimondo, “Bizarro Basra,” (24 September 2005),


21  Quoted by Chossudovsky, “British 'Undercover Soldiers'.”

22  “Muqtada Al Sadr's Response to Basra,” Informed Comment (20 September 2005),

23  Quoted by Raimondo, “Bizarro Basra.”


25  Quoted by Raimondo, “Bizarro Basra.”

26  Peter Beaumont, “Al Qaeda's slaughter has one aim: civil war,” The Observer (18 September 2005),

27  H.D.S. Greenway, “Facing facts in Iraq,” Boston Globe (17 June 2005),

28  Nancy Youssef and Mohammed al Dulaimy, “Shiites fleeing Sunni-dominated neighbourhoods,” Knight Ridder Newspapers (21 September 2005).

29  Oded Yinon, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” Kivunim 14 (Winter 5742, February 1982), trans. Israel Shahak,

30  Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (2nd ed., Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999), p. 457.

31  Leslie H. Gelb, “The Three-State Solution,” New York Times (25 November 2003); available at Council on Foreign Relations,

32  Bill Vann, “The New York Times: a proposal for ethnic cleansing in Iraq,” World Socialist Web Site (26 November 2003),

33  The Phoenix program was a system of death-squad and torture state terrorism run by the CIA in South Vietnam between 1966 and the early 1970s in which some 82,000 'Vietcong' sympathizers were “eliminated,” and more than 26,000 prisoners were killed. See Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Metropolitan/Owl Books, 2006), pp. 64-71.

34  In January 2005, Newsweek reported that the Bush administration was contemplating re-using in Iraq the “Salvador option,” a supposedly “still-secret strategy” of using “so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers” that had been used by the Reagan administration in El Salvador in the 1980s (quoted by Ken Gude, “Roots of Iraq Civil War May Be in 'Salvador Option',” Thinkprogress [2 March 2006], “Salvador option” death squads were responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of civilians in El Salvador; see Tom Gibb, “'Salvador Option' mooted for Iraq,” BBC News (27 January 2005), There is clear evidence that by the beginning of 2005 the US army was already operating death squads in Iraq; see Max Fuller, “For Iraq, 'The Salvador Option' Becomes Reality,” Centre for Research on Globalization (2 June 2005),

35  The hero of Baroness Orczy's novel The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905), set at the time of the French Revolution, is an English aristocrat who beneath a foppish exterior is a brilliantly effective rescuer of French aristocrats condemned to the guillotine; he is himself the author of doggerel verses mocking his would-be captors: “They seek him here, they seek him there, / Those Frenchies seek him everywhere....” In the British television series Dr. Who, Daleks are evil robots-on-wheels who seek constantly to destroy the good scientist. Zarqawi, according to one account of him, had lost a leg, but according to another, was agile enough to leap from a moving truck and escape on foot from American special forces soldiers who were pursuing him. 

In Defence of Michel Chossudovsky: A Cup of Cool Reason for the Ottawa Citizen's Fevered Brow

This essay was first published at the now-defunct website of the Canadian Action Party (10 September 2005); it was also published online at eight other websites in 2005.

During the past two weeks Professor Michel Chossudovsky, an economist, political analyst and human rights advocate of international reputation who teaches at the University of Ottawa and directs his own Centre for Research on Globalization and its widely admired website, has become the object of a strange campaign of defamation.

Chossudovsky's website makes available writings on worldwide political issues by a wide range of academics and journalists. It also offers open forums on which members of the public can discuss and debate the issues raised by the scores of articles published each week.

But that, it seems, can be a risky business.

Discovering recently that anti-semites had managed to insert their noxious drivel into a discussion thread hosted by Chossudovsky's website, B'nai Brith Canada did not simply alert him to the fact, so that he could take the obvious step of removing the hateful messages. Rather, with the eager assistance of the Ottawa Citizen, this once universally-respected organization made the event a pretext for a campaign of character assassination.

On August 20, the Citizen published an article (Pauline Tam, “U of O Professor accused of hosting anti-Semitic website”) the tone of which can best be described as scurrilous. Conflating the toxic invasion of his website with Chossudovsky's own editorial work and with his own writings, the article insinuated that anti-semitism and denial of the Shoah feature prominently in both of them. A follow-up article (Alex Hutchinson, “Controversial site 'not an issue' for university,” August 21, 2005) wondered at the University of Ottawa's failure to take disciplinary action.

There are some obvious ironies here. Michel Chossudovsky is widely regarded as a leading interpreter and critic both of globalization and of the structural violence and military aggressions it has entailed. His life's work as an economist and political analyst has been a finely articulated series of reproaches to injustices of all kinds, including the foulness of racism. And as it happens, members of his immediate family died at Auschwitz.

By a further irony, the best brief introduction to his work is a profile published some years ago by none other than the Ottawa Citizen (Juliet O'Neill, “Battling mainstream economics,” January 5, 1998). This article offered a sympathetic account of Chossudovsky's “defiance of mainstream economic scholarship in which 'critical analysis is strongly discouraged',” and also of his studies of “the purposeful impoverishment of people in dozens of countries” through IMF/World Bank interventions. It mentioned in addition his criticisms of major financial institutions for a “hidden agenda” involving criminal complicity in drug-money laundering as well as in the social and economic collapses prompted by the IMF—criticisms that have since been confirmed by the revelations of former “economic hit-man” John Perkins and of Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

But B'nai Brith and the Citizen now want this distinguished public intellectual to carry the leper's rattle of the anti-semite. The August 20 article quotes Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B'nai Brith Canada, as complaining that the website's materials are “full of wild conspiracy theories that go so far as to accuse Israel, America and Britain of being behind the recent terrorist bombings in London. They echo the age-old anti-Semitic expressions that abound in the Arab world....” A second-year University of Ottawa student worries “other students will stumble on the site,” where they presumably risk contamination by Chossudovsky's ideas. B'nai Brith's human rights lawyer Anita Bromberg is quoted as piously hoping that pressure can be exerted on his university “to hold him to a certain standard of acceptable civil discourse.”

And finally, a purportedly sympathetic political scientist who specializes on the use of the internet by terrorists declares himself disturbed by “a conspiratorial element” in Chossudovsky's writings, and finds “not much that resembles” them in recent work on retail or anti-state terrorism.

This dismissive conclusion is not quite the coup de grâce the author of this article evidently meant it to be. Political scientists who have some acquaintanceship with current scholarship on development economics and on state (as opposed to retail) terrorism might be less likely to think Chossudovsky's work marginal or eccentric.

And while the weather-beaten axiom that power elites would never dream of engaging in conspiratorial behaviour may still hold a certain faded charm for journalistic Howdie Doodies and pundits of all kinds, the clear function of the taboo against “conspiracy theory” in present-day public discourse is to shut down critical inquiry into matters of what Gore Vidal has called “unspeakable truth.”

What, one wonders, did the seven leaked “Downing Street memos” reveal, if not that the American and British governments conspired between 2001 and 2003 to launch what they knew to be a criminal war of aggression against Iraq? And what did Congressman John Conyers' minority judiciary committee report on electoral irregularities in Ohio reveal, if not that the Bush Republicans conspired in 2004 to steal the presidential election?

Michel Chossudovsky has shown courageous persistence in exposing zones of unspeakable truth to principled analysis. Ironically again, his chief offence against orthodoxy appears to have been his refusal to racially delimit his opposition to human rights abuses. Articles published on his website have criticized not just the horrors of the Iraq occupation, and Canada's and the UN's grotesquely hypocritical participation in the overthrow of democracy in Haiti, but also the state of Israel's shameless violations of human rights, international law and common decency in its treatment of the Palestinians.

B'nai Brith and CanWestGlobal (which owns and controls the Ottawa Citizen) would like to enforce “a standard of acceptable civil discourse” that effaces any distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-semitism. But as is made clear by an editorial in which the Citizen returns to the attack (“The right to be wrong,” August 26, 2005), they want not merely to silence critics of Israel, but also to regulate and restrain free critical thought in a much wider sense.

Behind a pallid pretence of defending Chossudovsky's academic freedom, this editorial sets about ensuring that his exercise of it will, as the Citizen charmingly says, “have consequences.” His “exotic opinions” are mocked as arising from a procedure of “throw[ing] facts into a pot and hop[ing] conspiracies boil out.” The editorial describes as particularly absurd one of his recent articles, which drew attention to parallels between an anti-terrorism exercise run in London on the morning of July 7 that scripted bombings in the same three underground stations that were actually attacked, and CIA and military anti-terrorism exercises in the US that shortly preceded or coincided with the 9/11 attacks. We are told that B'nai Brith shares this view, objecting not just to the discussion-thread postings inserted by anti-semites into Chossudovsky's website, but also “to the tone of the site more generally. One of the scraps Mr. Chossudovsky's piece on terrorism exercises throws into the cauldron is that Israel's former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in London during the July 7 attacks.”

The editorial's tactic of ridiculing Chossudovsky by attributing to him its own feeble treatment of facts and arguments as disconnected bits and pieces is childishly obvious. But any chain of discourse can be made to seem silly if one snips it into bits and shakes them in a hat. (If I sang it badly enough, I do believe I could make “God Save the Weasel” sound like “Pop Goes the Queen.”)

The Citizen's editorial urges Chossudovsky's “colleagues and bosses” to “make a point of explaining why he's wrong.” Let's pause for a moment, then, over the article that has aroused such a flurry of contempt (Michel Chossudovsky, “7/7 Mock Terror Drill: What Relationship to the Real Time Terror Attacks?” Centre for Research on Globalization,, August 8, 2005).

Readers of the Citizen who take the trouble to look up this article may be surprised to discover that it is cautious and tentative rather than accusatory in tone. It confines itself to a sober gathering of information from mainstream media sources. And it concludes by recommending against the drawing of “hasty conclusions” and by calling for “an independent public inquiry into the London bomb attacks.”

So why the complaints? Bibi Netanyahu indeed gets a mention: Chossudovsky quotes from that wild and exotic source, the Associated Press, a report from Jerusalem according to which Scotland Yard gave the Israeli Embassy in London advance warning of a bombing attack, thanks to which Netanyahu was able to cancel a meeting scheduled in a venue close to the site of one of the bomb blasts.

Does that sound troubling to you? Do you think Michel Chossudovsky may have been right to suggest that “The issue of foreknowledge raised in the Associated Press report also requires investigation”? Or should we just shoot the messenger and be done with it?

There is, to conclude, one point at which I find myself in agreement with the Ottawa Citizen's editorial writer: I think a controversy of this sort should indeed “have consequences.”

I believe the Citizen's editorial team, together with Frank Dimant and Anita Bromberg of B'nai Brith, should bow their heads in shame.

I think they should offer a public apology to Michel Chossudovsky and make a serious effort to avoid disgracing themselves in future by any repetition of this kind of sordid campaign of defamation.

Hugo Chávez Frías e il senso della storia

This translation by Carlo Martini of my essay “Hugo Chávez Frías and the Sense of History” was published at ZNet on May 3, 2005. It subsequently appeared at three other websites, including Peacelink: telematica per la pace (9 May 2005) and “Blogopoli,” Il cannochiale (11 May 2005). I have corrected a misidentification of one of the writers whom President Chávez quoted (a fault which resulted from my own transcription error), and have added notes identifying the writers whom President Chávez quoted: their common involvement in democratic resistance to the subversion of democracy, the political tyranny, the economic pillage, and the appalling violations of human rights inflcited upon Latin America by the United States and its allies and agents may help to indicate more fully his intentions in making these references. I have revised the translation at several points to improve its accuracy; the text given here is otherwise unchanged.


28 aprile 2005: Oggi, il presidente venezuelano Hugo Chávez Frías ha presentato un importante sommario delle attuali iniziative internazionali del suo governo ad un evento che ha visto sia momenti di intense relazioni diplomatiche e commerciali tra il Venezuela e Cuba, che gli incontri della quarta conferenza emisferica contro l'ALCA.

Per un pubblico abituato al sottile farinata di luoghi comuni banali, alle inversioni orwelliane, e al vacuo tifo da ragazze ponpon in cui è caduta la retorica politica del Nord America, un discorso di Chávez può essere un'esperienza galvanizzante. Il presidente venezuelano condivide con il suo amico ed alleato Fidel Castro Ruz uno stile oratorio che si sposta senza fatica lungo una vasta gamma di stili, dalla canzonatura auto-denigratoria alle prolungate analisi storiche, dall'invettiva alla pianificazione geopolitica, e alle appassionate dichiarazioni di etica politica su quella che lui chiama la rivoluzione bolivariana.

Come il presidente Castro, Chávez Frías possiede una capacità di resistenza che farebbe diventare verdi dalla rabbia i retorici classici da Demostene a Cicerone. Al Karl Marx Teatro dell'Avana, ha parlato, senza appunti, per più di tre ore rivolgendosi ad una platea costituita dai participanti alla conferenza e degli studenti delle facoltà di medicina e di altri di istituti di istruzione superiore a l'Avana. Il tema: l'alternativa bolivariana per le Americhe (ALBA), che il Venezuela e Cuba hanno annunciato il 14 dicembre 2004 come alternativa al progetto di un accordo di libero commercio delle Americhe (FTAA, o in spagnolo, ALCA) per cui gli Stati Uniti hanno premuto sin dal 2001: prima come un accordo onnicomprensivo modellato sulla falsariga NAFTA e sul fallito accordo multilaterale sugli investimenti (MAI), che gli USA speravano di far approvare entro il primo di gennaio del 2005, poi nella forma di accordi bilaterali e regionali nei quali le singole nazioni come il Cile o gruppi di piccole nazioni come gli Stati dell'America centrale potessero essere molestati in modo più diretto.

Secondo Chávez Frías, un momento determinante nel processo che ha portato dalla protesta alla proposta alternativa è stato il suo primo incontro con il presidente Castro all'Avana nel dicembre del 1994. Questo coincidette con il summit delle Americhe a Miami, dove il presidente USA Bill Clinton (notoriamente e stupidamente) dichiarò: “Ora possiamo dire ce il sogno di Simon Bolívar è divenuto realtà per tutte le Americhe.” Quella dichiarazione, come dice oggi Chávez Frías, “fu uno schiaffo in faccia alla storia, une schiaffo in faccia a tutti quelli che conoscono la nostra storia e gli ideali a cui Bolívar dedicò la sua vita.”

Un secondo momento determinante, per lui, fu il summit dell'ALCA a Québec City nell'aprile del 2001. I più di 70.000 dimostranti che combatterono quella che oggi Chávez ha chiamato la “guerra del gas” (guerra de gaz) dentro al “muro della vergogna” che circondò la cittadella di Québec in quella memorabile occasione saranno contenti di sapere che le proteste di quel weekend fecero un'impressione indelebile ad almeno uno dei 31 leader di governo che si ripararono nella fortezza.

Di quel weekend, Chávez Frías ha ricordato il comportamento aggressivo dei diplomatici USA e del loro presidente—al quale si è referito, in un'allusione beffarda al romanzo classico di Rómulo Gallegos Doña Barbara, come a “Mister Danger” (“Signor Pericolo”).1 Ma ha anche ricordato l'accoglienza melliflua del primo ministro canadese Jean Chrétien—e il suo vanto che l'infame muro fosse “prova di anti-globalizzazione” (vanto che fu respinto dai manifestanti, i quali, giunti al muro, ne abbatterono una sezione di 50 metri).

In un discorso condito liberamente con referimenti letterali e storici, Chávez Frías has reso omaggio a due scrittori morti di recente: André Gunder Frank, i cui libri includo lo studio classico Sottosviluppo o Rivoluzione2, e il paraguayano Augusto Roa Bastos, dai cui scritti ha citato una considerazione acerba per cui “la globalizzazione è una maschera, un termine alti-sonante dietro al quale si cela un'intenzione malvagia, il vecchio vizio del colonialismo.”3 Rivolgendosi ai media internazionali, Chávez Frías ha citato un commento non meno acido dell'uruguayano Eduardo Galeano: “Mai nella storia così tante stati ingannati da così pochi.”4

Poi ha ricordato, per i media USA in particolare, un momento iniziale della cooperazione cubano-venezuelana per cui gli Stati Uniti hanno tutte le ragioni di sentirsi grati. Durante la rivoluzione americana, le donne cubane simpatizzanti raccolsero più di mille sterline per la causa. Il sostanzioso contributo fu consegnato alle tredici colonie dal capitano venezuelano Francisco de Miranda, che disertò dall-esercito imperiale spagnolo e divenne un valido compagno di Thomas Jefferson e George Washington. Chávez Frías ha proseguito ricordando il modo in cui l'emergente “colosso del nord” ripagò questo atto di generosità, contribuendo, negli anni '20 del XIX secolo, alla sconfitta del sogno di Simon Bolívar di un America Latina unita.

Ma ora, ha dichiarato, dieci anni e cinque mesi dopo la vacua appropriazione del nome di Bolívar da parte de Bill Clinton, “Ora, davvero, il sogno di Bolívar sta iniziando a realizzarsi.” Chávez Frías ha citato la proposta del presidente brasiliano Lula, durante quella che lui ha definito “una storica visita” a Caracas, che se il diciannovesimo secolo è stato il secolo dell'Europa ed il ventesimo secolo il secolo degli Stati Uniti, sta emergendo la possibilità di fare del ventunesimo secolo il secolo dell'America Latina. È in questo contesto que l'ALBA, una vera alba, l'alternativa bolivariana per le Americhe, deve essere intesa.

Lo scopo è un processo di progressiva integrazione atta a sviluppare “lo stato sociale, negli interessi non delle elite ma della gente.” I regimi di commercio proposti, e imposti, dagli Stati Uniti hanno potenziato ulteriormente le elite, e non sono risultati altro che saccheggi neoliberali di paesi come l'Argentina o il Messico (per menzionare solo due delle vittime più in vista). Sono stati anche devastanti per le economie agricole ed hanno immiserito ancor più i lavoratori e le nazioni indigene.

L'ALBA, al contrario, mira ad arricchire le persone in generale, e nutre la speranza utopica e rivoluzionario-democratica di eliminare la povertà. L'obbiettivo, ha detto Chávez Frías, è “un'integrazione per la vita—non il colonialismo, ma la felicità delle nostre genti.”

Ben quarantanove documenti distinti dell'ALBA sono stati firmati da Cuba e dal Venezuela, o sono in stato avanzato di discussione. Anche iniziative che coinvolgono altri paesi sono state sviluppate. Una caratteristica esemplare dell'ALBA è la fluidità degli scambi di beni e servizi, in un modo che evita i sistemi bancari internazionali e gli interessi della compagnie.

Così il Venezuela, in cambio dell'export di petrolio e di materiali di costruzione verso Cuba, sta attualmente beneficiando del lavoro di circa 20.000 dottori cubani che hanno aperto cliniche mediche nei barrios (quartieri ispanici, ndt) e nelle communità rurali che non hanno mai goduto di servizi medici, mentre i programmi di alfabetizzazione “hanno insegnato a 1,4 milioni di venezuelani a leggere e a scrivere solo durante l'ultimo anno.” Un accordo simile all'ALBA è attualmente in fase di discussione con l'Argentina, che già paga per gli otto milioni di barili di petrolio venezuelano importati, ma non in contanti o in valuta, che non possiede, bensì con i bovini, de cui abbonda.

Altre iniziative includono la ratifica di ventisei accordi di cooperazione tra il Venezuela e il Brasile, lo sviluppo del Telesur, un network comunicativo di media, la creazione del banco sociale venezuelano, la cui missione sarà “finanziare lo sviluppo in base alla solidarietà e alla cooperazione,” e la fondazione del Petrosur, un' “alleanza petrolifera” i cui benefici per i paesi non produttori includeranno la riduzione dal 30% al 50% del prezzo per i paesi consumatori che sotto il sistema attuale vanno alle compagnie petrolifere, ossia agli “intermediari speculatori capitalisti.”

Il sogno bolivariano di Hugo Chávez è amplo ed inclusivo. “Il bolivarismo,” ha dichiarato oggi, è sia “socialismo” che “cristianismo.” La cristianità bolivariano-socialista di Chávez Frías fa eco all' “opzione preferenziale per i poveri” dei teologi della liberazione. Ha citato il detto di Gesù per cui “è più facile che un cammello entri nella cruna di un ago, che un ricco nel regno di Dio”—un detto che ha una certa risonanza all'Avana, dove, sin dall'inizio del “periodo speciale” di crisi economia acuta seguita al collasso dell'Unione Sovietica, “cammello” è stato il nome dato ai camion autoarticolati riconvertiti in bus per il trasporto pubblico.

La dottrina bolivariana include della chiare scelte politiche: “Secondo la Bibbia,” ha ricordato Chávez Frías all sua platea, “puoi essere in buoni rapporti con il Dio o con il diavolo—ma non con entrambi.” E quest'orientazione è, molto chiaramente, umanista: “El dios para mi—es el pueblo” (Dio, per me, è il populo).

Il presidente venezuelano non si fa illusioni sulle tattiche che probabilmente gli USA metteranno in pratica per rispondere ad una ri-organizzazione potenzialmente continentale della vita sociale ed economica al servizio dell'umanità più che degli interessi delle multinazionali. Ma neppure si è accontentato della vecchia definizione di politica quale “l'arte del possibile.” A questo slogan, che Chávez Frías dica essere “nulla più che una scusa per codardi, o il simbolo di traditori e conservatori,” lui sostituisce quella che potremmo ben definire un'alternativa bolivariana: “La politica è l'arte di rendere possibile domani quel che sembra impossibile oggi.”




1  Dopo la pubblicazione di Doña Bárbara (1929), che ha criticato la dittatura di Juan Vicente Gómez, Rómulo Gallegos (1884-1969) fu mandato in esilio per sette anni. Questo romanzo, ben noto in America Latina, è stato adattato in due pellicole e tre versioni televisive. Uno dei suoi cattivi, “Míster Peligro” o “Señor Peligro,” è un americano di sinistro che assiste il malevolo Doña Bárbara per truffare bovari venezuelani dalle loro terre, ma si oppongono dall'avvocato Santos Luzardo, il protagonista del romanzo. Nel suo discorso all'Avana, Chávez ha utilizzato sia il nome originale del personaggio e anche la versione, “Mister Danger,” che compare in traduzioni in inglese del romanzo. Gallegos è stato uno dei romanzieri più apprezzati del Venezuela, è stato nominato per il Premio Nobel per la letteratura nel 1960 (con un ampio sostegno in tutta l'America Latina). Era anche un uomo politico che è stato eletto presidente nel 1948 nel primo presidenziale incorrotto del paese—e rovesciato nove mesi più tardi in un colpo di stato militare.

2  Questo libro, pubblicato nel 1969 da Monthly Review Press, era un seguito allo The Development of Underdevelopment (Monthly Review Press, 1966), e Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America (Monthly Review Press, 1967). Una figura importante in economia dipendenza-teoria e sociologia, André Gunder Frank ha inoltre pubblicato circa tre dozzine di altri libri. Dopo aver ricoperto incarichi in università brasiliane e messicane, è stato nominato Professore di Sociologia presso l'Università del Cile a Santiago nel 1968. Ha servito come consulente per il governo di Salvador Allende dopo il 1970, ma fu costretto all'esilio dal colpo di stato guidato da Augusto Pinochet nel 1973, e ha trascorso il resto della sua carriera in università in Germania, Regno Unito e Paesi Bassi. Morì il 23 aprile 2005.

3  Il romanziere, scrittore di racconti, e giornalista Augusto Roa Bastos è meglio conosciuto per i suoi romanzi Hijo del hombre (1960) e Yo, el Supremo (1974). Uno scrittore politicamente impegnato e principale esponente del realismo magico, è stato costretto a lasciare il Paraguay nel 1947, e ha vissuto a Buenos Aires fino al 1976, quando l'imposizione della dittatura di Jorge Rafael Videla lo ha costretto in un secondo esilio, questa volta in Francia. Tornò in Paraguay nel 1989, e nello stesso anno è stato insignito del Premio Miguel de Cervantes. Morì il 26 aprile 2005.

4  L'uruguaiano Eduardo Galeano è uno degli scrittori latinoamericani più letti contemporanei. I suoi numerosi libri: Las Venas abiertas de América Latina (1971; Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, 1973), Memoria del fuego (3 volumi, 1982-1986; Memory of Fire, 1988.) e Patas arriba: la escuela del mundo al revés (1998; Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World, 2000). Galeano fu imprigionato e poi costretto all'esilio dopo il colpo di stato militare 1973 in Uruguay; si rifugiò in Argentina, da cui è stato guidato da squadre della morte di Videla dopo il colpo di stato del 1976. La sua scrittura e attivismo per i diritti umani sono stati riconosciuti da numerosi riconoscimenti internazionali, tra i quali il Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize (1999), la Global Exchange International Human Rights Award (2006), e il Premio Dagerman Stig (2010). Per una valutazione profonda della sua importanza, vedere Daniel Fischlin e Marta Nandorfy, Eduardo Galeano: Through the Looking Glass (Montréal: Black Rose Books, 2002).   

Hugo Chávez Frías and the Sense of History

First published at the now-defunct website of Autonomy & Solidarity on May 1, 2005, this essay was reproduced on ZNet and at The Centre for Research on Globalization on May 3rd. Some corrections have been made—including to the name of a writer misidentified in the original text due to my transcription error. I have added notes identifying the writers whom President Chávez quoted: their common involvement in democratic resistance to the subversion of democracy, the political tyranny, the economic pillage, and the appalling violations of human rights inflicted upon Latin America by the United States and its allies and agents may help to indicate more fully his intentions in making these references.


Havana, 28 April 2005: Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías delivered a major summary of his government's current international initiatives today at an event which combined a moment of intense Venezuelan-Cuban diplomatic and commercial interactions with the meetings of the Fourth Hemispheric Conference Against the FTAA.

For listeners accustomed to the thin gruel of platitudes, Orwellian inversions and vacuous cheerleading into which North American political rhetoric seems to have declined, a Chávez Frías speech can be a heady experience. The Venezuelan president shares with his friend and ally Fidel Castro Ruz an oratorical style that moves effortlessly through a wide gamut of effects, from self-deprecating banter to sustained historical analysis, from invective to geopolitical strategizing and impassioned declarations of the political ethics of what he calls the Bolivarian revolution.

Like President Castro, Chávez Frías possesses a stamina that might well make classical rhetoricians from Demosthenes to Cicero green with envy. He spoke, without notes, for three hours in Havana's Karl Marx Theatre to an audience of conference participants and students from the medical and other faculties of Havana's institutes of higher education. His subject: the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which Venezuela and Cuba announced on December 14, 2004 as a principled alternative to the project of a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA, or in Spanish, ALCA) which the United States has been pushing since 2001, first as an all-encompassing agreement modelled on NAFTA and the failed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) which the U.S. hoped to have approved by January 1, 2005, and subsequently in the form of bilateral and regional agreements into which single nations like Chile or groups of small nations like the Central American states might more easily be bullied.

According to Chávez Frías, one defining moment in his movement from protest to alternative proposal was his first meeting with President Castro in Havana in December 1994. This coincided with the Miami Summit of the Americas, at which U.S. President Bill Clinton famously (and fatuously) declared: “Now we can say that the dream of Simon Bolívar has come true in all the Americas.” That declaration, Chávez Frías said today, “was a slap in the face of history, and a slap in the face for all of us who know our history and the ideals to which Bolívar devoted his life.”

A second defining moment for him was the Québec City FTAA Summit of April 2001. Those among the more than 70,000 demonstrators who endured what Chávez Frías today called “gas warfare” (guerra de gaz) at the “wall of shame” that surrounded the Québec citadel on that memorable occasion will be gratified to learn that the protests of that weekend made an indelible impression on at least one of the 31 government leaders sheltered within the fortress.

Chávez Frías recalled from that weekend the bullying behaviour of U.S. diplomats, and of their president—to whom he referred, in a mocking allusion to Rómulo Gallegos' classic novel Doña Bárbara, as “Mister Danger.”1 He recalled as well the suave hospitality of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien—and his boast that the infamous wall was “anti-globalizationist-proof” (a boast that was refuted by the protesters who, on arriving at the wall, immediately pulled down a fifty-metre section of it).

In a discourse liberally salted with literary and historical references, Chávez Frías paid homage to two recently deceased writers: to André Gunder Frank, whose books include the classic study Latin America: Underdevelopment or Revolution;2 and to the Paraguayan Augusto Roa Bastos, from whom he quoted the acerbic remark that “Globalization is a mask, a high-sounding term behind which crouches an evil intention, the old vice of colonialism.”3 Turning to address the international media, Chávez Frías cited the no less acid remark of Eduardo Galeano that “Never in history have so many been deceived by so few.”4

He then remembered, for the benefit of the U.S. media especially, an earlier moment of Cuban-Venezuelan cooperation for which the United States has every reason to feel enduring gratitude. During the American Revolution, sympathetic Cuban women raised more than one thousand pounds for the cause. This substantial contribution was delivered to the insurgent thirteen colonies by the Venezuelan captain Francisco de Miranda, who deserted from the Spanish imperial army and became a valued colleague of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Chávez Frías went on to remember the manner in which the emergent “colossus of the north” repaid this act of generosity by contributing in the 1820s to the defeat of Simón Bolívar's dream of a united Latin America.

But now, he declared, ten years and five months after Bill Clinton's empty appropriation of the name of Bolívar, “Now truly the dream of Bolívar is beginning to move toward fulfilment.” Chávez Frías quoted the proposal of Brazil's President Lula, during what he called “a historic visit” to Caracas, that if the nineteenth century was the century of Europe and the twentieth century the century of the United States, the possibility is now emerging of making the twenty-first century the century of Latin America. It is in this context that the ALBA, the dawn, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, is to be understood.

The aim is a process of comprehensive integration aimed at developing “the social state, in the interests not of elites but of the people.” The trade regimes proposed, and imposed, by the United States have empowered corporate elites, and have resulted in a neoliberal looting of countries like Argentina and Mexico (to mention only two of the most prominent victims). They have also resulted in the devastation of agricultural economies and the further immiseration of working people and of indigenous nations.

The ALBA, in contrast, seeks to empower the people at large, and holds out the utopian, revolutionary-democratic hope of eliminating poverty. The goal, Chávez Frías said, is “integration for life—not colonialism, but the happiness of our peoples.”

Forty-nine distinct documents of the ALBA have been signed between Cuba and Venezuela, or are in advanced stages of discussion. Initiatives involving other countries are also being developed. An exemplary feature of the ALBA is the fluidity of exchanges of goods and services in a manner that sidesteps international banking systems and corporatist trading interests.

Thus Venezuela, in exchange for exports of oil and building materials to Cuba, is currently benefitting from the work of nearly 20,000 Cuban doctors who have opened medical clinics in barrios and rural communities that had never previously enjoyed medical services, while Cuban-staffed literacy programs “have taught 1.4 million Venezuelans to read and write during the past year alone.” An ALBA-type agreement is currently being negotiated with Argentina, which already pays for the eight million barrels of Venezuelan oil it imports, not with hard cash or currency reserves that it does not have, but with cattle, which it does.

Other initiatives include the signing of twenty-six cooperation agreements between Venezuela and Brazil; the development of Telesur, a shared media network; the creation of a Banco Venezuelano Social, whose mission will be “to finance development in the interests of solidarity and cooperation”; and the founding of Petrosur, an “oil alliance” whose benefits to non-producing countries will include avoidance of the 30% to 50% of the price to consumer countries that under the existing system goes to oil trading corporations, that is to say to “speculative capitalist intermediaries.”

The Bolivarian dream of Hugo Chávez Frías is a large and inclusive one. “Bolivarianismo,” he declared today, is also both “socialismo” and “cristianismo.” Chávez Frías' Bolivarian-socialist Christianity echoes the liberation theologians' “preferential option for the poor.” He quoted the saying of Jesus that “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”—a saying that has particular resonance in Havana, where since the beginning of the “special period” of acute economic crisis brought on by the collapse of the Soviet Union, “camel” has been the name given to the huge tractor-trailer trucks converted into buses for urban transportation.

This Bolivarian doctrine involves clear political choices: “According to the Bible,” Chávez Frías reminded his audience, “you can be on good terms either with God or with the devil—but not with both.” And its orientation is, very clearly, humanist: “El dios para mi—es el pueblo” (“God, for me, is the people.”)

The Venezuelan president harbours no illusions as to the kinds of tactics the U.S. empire is likely to deploy in response to a potentially continent-wide reorganization of social and economic life in the service of human rather than corporatist interests. But neither is he content with the old definition of politics as “the art of the possible.” For this slogan, which Chávez Frías says has at times “been no more than an excuse for cowards, or a by-word of traitors and conservatives,” he substitutes what we might well term a Bolivarian Alternative: “Politics is the art of making possible tomorrow what seems impossible today.”




1  After publishing Doña Bárbara (1929), which criticized the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez, Rómulo Gallegos (1884-1969) was driven into exile for seven years. This novel, well known in Latin America, has been adapted in two film and three television versions. One of its villains, “Míster Peligro” or “Señor Peligro,” is a sinister American who assists the malevolent Doña Bárbara in swindling Venezuelan cattle-herders out of their lands; they are opposed by the lawyer Santos Luzardo, the novel's protagonist. In his Havana speech, Chávez used both the character's original name and also the version, “Mister Danger,” that appears in English translations of the novel. Gallegos was one of Venezuela's most highly regarded novelists; he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1960 (with wide support throughout Latin America). He was also a politician who was elected president in 1948 in the country's first uncorrupted presidential election—and overthrown nine months later in a military coup.

2  This book, published in 1969 by Monthly Review Press, was a sequel to The Development of Underdevelopment (Monthly Review Press, 1966), and Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America (Monthly Review Press, 1967). A major figure in dependency-theory economics and sociology, André Gunder Frank also published some three dozen other books. After holding positions in Brazilian and Mexican universities, he was appointed Professor of Sociology at the University of Chile in Santiago in 1968. He served as an advisor to Salvador Allende's government after 1970, but was forced into exile by the coup led by Augusto Pinochet in 1973, and spent the remainder of his career in universities in Germany, the U.K., and the Netherlands. He died on April 23, 2005.

3  The novelist, short story writer, and journalist Augusto Roa Bastos is best known for his novels Hijo del hombre (1960) and Yo, el Supremo (1974). A politically engaged writer and leading exponent of magical realism, he was forced to leave Paraguay in 1947, and lived in Buenos Aires until 1976, when the imposition of Jorge Rafael Videla's dictatorship forced him into a second exile, this time in France. He returned to Paraguay in 1989, and in the same year was awarded the Premio Miguel de Cervantes. He died on April 26, 2005.

4  The Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano is one of the most widely read contemporary Latin American writers. His many books include Las venas abiertas de América Latina (1971; Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, 1973), Memoria del fuego (3 vols., 1982-86; Memory of Fire, 1988), and Patas arriba: la escuela del mundo al revés (1998; Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World, 2000). Galeano was imprisoned and then forced into exile following the 1973 military coup in Uruguay; he took refuge in Argentina, from which he was driven by Videla's death squads following the 1976 coup. His writing and human rights activism have been recognized by many international awards, among them the Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize (1999), the Global Exchange International Human Rights Award (2006), and the Stig Dagerman Prize (2010). For a profound assessment of his importance, see Daniel Fischlin and Martha Nandorfy, Eduardo Galeano: Through the Looking Glass (Montréal: Black Rose Books, 2002).     

The Strange Death of American Democracy: Endgame in Ohio

First published at the Centre for Research on Globalization (24 January 2005),, and subsequently at thirteen other websites. As indicated in notes 3 and 9, two small errors in the original text have been corrected here. The text has not otherwise been altered or updated, apart from the correction of typographical errors and the deletion of a couple of now-defunct web addresses.



So whoever thought the 2004 U.S. presidential election had the remotest chance of being honest and democratic?

Not, one might guess, the electronic voting security experts like Ken Thompson, Roy Saltman, Rebecca Mercuri, Bruce Schneier, Doug Jones, Victoria Collier, Aviel Rubin, Lynn Landes, and Bev Harris, who have for years been warning that the new voting technology coming into use in the United States offers unprecedented opportunities for electoral fraud.1

Probably not Osama bin Laden, who made his much-anticipated Jack-in-the-Box video appearance three days before polling day: wearing a gold-lamé hospital gown in front of a blank shower curtain, and with a nose that looked to have been quite recently punched flat, he landed some anti-Bush shots that Rush Limbaugh and the other ring-tailed roarers of the American right were happy to interpret as a last-minute endorsement of John Kerry.2

And certainly not Republican Congressional Representative Peter King, who made an equally notable video statement long before the polls closed—several months previously, in fact, in the course of a White House function that seemed to have put him into a celebratory mood. “It's already over,” he told the interviewer. “The election's over. We won.” Asked how he knew at that early date, King replied: “It's all over but the counting. And we'll take care of the counting.”3

One of the people who took care of the counting—and who was responsible as well for some of the most decisive crookedness of the election, and the most flagrant illegalities of the post-election cover-up—is J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio's Republican Secretary of State.

To give the man his due, Blackwell is at once more discreet and more grotesquely Orwellian than the tipsy Congressman King. Rather than flaunting his election-stealing prowess, he has preferred to boast in a Washington Times op-ed that while the election in Ohio was not in all respects perfect (“a seven-hour wait” outside polling stations, he acknowledges, “is clearly unacceptable”), it was nonetheless “perfectly inspiring—a testament to the strength and power of our democratic system, the commitment of American voters to have their voices heard and the integrity of the process that encouraged participation and demanded fairness.”4

Prior to the election, this versatile ironist was reported to be “coming out strong” in support of the proposal to ban same-sex marriage: in late October, Blackwell made an appearance with Pastor Rod Parsley, president of “The Center for Moral Clarity,” in the course of which he edified “an energized crowd” in the “Cathedral of Praise” by telling them that the notion of same-sex couples “even defies barnyard logic [...] the barnyard knows better.”5

But Blackwell's talent—and his affliction—goes beyond irony or hypocrisy into a more permanent state of inversion that one might think of as resembling the punishment reported by the poet Dante for religiously inflected fraud.6 In another speech of the same week of October—the context this time being his refusal to obey a federal court order requiring him to comply with the Help America Vote Act—Blackwell compared himself, in his willingness to endure the unlikely punishment of imprisonment, to Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and the Apostle Paul. A spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party's Voter Protection Program offered the appropriate rejoinder: “Many civil rights leaders went to jail to defend the right to vote. If this official wants to go to jail to thwart it, that would be unfortunate.”7

The talented Mr. Blackwell has garnered praise for having launched “The Ohio Center for Civic Character: A Citizen Education Initiative of the Ohio Secretary of State.” The Center's goal, “a revolution of character-building in our great state,” is to be achieved by providing “today's generation of leaders” with “a shared vocabulary of character-building ethics” which Blackwell calls “Uncommon Sense.”8 It may come as no surprise that one of his most recent public appearances prior to the Bush inauguration was a lecture, delivered on January 12th, 2005 to an exclusive audience at the Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, on the subject of “Ethics in Leadership.”9

Like the unsavoury Katherine Harris, who was Florida Secretary of State in 2000 and simultaneously state Chair of the Florida Bush-Cheney campaign, Kenneth Blackwell occupied a strategic double position as Co-Chair of the Ohio Bush-Cheney campaign and Secretary of State in what analysts correctly predicted would be the key swing state of the 2004 election. From this position, a growing body of evidence shows, he was able to oversee a partisan and racist pre-election purging of the electoral rolls,10 a clearly partisan reduction of the number of voting precincts in counties won by Gore in 2000 (a move that helped suppress the 2004 Democratic turnout),11 a partisan and racist misallocation of voting machines (which effectively disenfranchised tens of thousands of African-American voters),12 a partisan and racist system of polling-place challenges (which together with electoral roll purges obliged many scores of thousands of African-Americans to vote with 'second-class-citizen' provisional ballots),13 and a fraudulent pre-programming of touch-screen voting machines that produced a systematic 'flipping' of Democratic votes into Bush's tally or the trash can.14

In a nation that enforced its own laws, the misallocation of voting machines—a clear violation of the equal protection provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution—would alone have sufficed to invalidate the Ohio election.

Having overseen one of the more flagrantly corrupt elections in recent American history, Blackwell and his Republican machine proceeded to “take care of the counting”—which involved a partisan and racist dismissal of scores of thousands of African-American ballots as “spoiled,”15 a flagrantly illegal “lock-down” of the vote-tallying process in Warren County on the transparently false grounds of a supposed terrorist threat,16 massive electronic vote-tabulation fraud in this and other south-western Ohio counties,17 and marginally less flagrant but evidently systematic forms of 'ghost-voting' and vote theft elsewhere in the state.18

Blackwell then saw to it (with the active assistance of partisan Republican judges, and the passive assistance of a strangely supine Democratic Party) that no even partial recount—let alone anything resembling a voting-machine or vote-tabulator audit—could get under way prior to the selection of Ohio's Republican electors to the Electoral College.19

He also did his utmost to block public access to election data, ordering the Boards of Elections in all eighty-eight Ohio counties to prevent public inspection of poll books until after certification of the vote, which he delayed until December 6th.20 On December 10th, his Election Administrator, Pat Wolfe, intervened to prevent analysis of poll-book data by ordering, on Blackwell's authority, a renewed “lock-down” of voting records in Greene County and the entire state. (According to Ohio Revised Code Title XXXV Elections, Sec. 3503.26, such records are to be open to the public; Ohio Revised Code Sec. 3599.42 explicitly declares that any violation of Title XXXV “constitutes a prima facie case of election fraud....”)21

Bizarrely enough, on the night following the statement to election observers in Greene County that all voter records in the State of Ohio were “locked down” and “not considered public records,” the Greene County offices were left unlocked: when the same election observers returned at 10:15 on the morning of Saturday, December 11th, they found the building open, a light on in the office (which had not been on when it was closed on the evening of the 10th), and all of the poll books and voting machines unsecured.22

When at last the Green and Libertarian parties' lawyers were able to obtain a recount, Blackwell presided over one that was fully as corrupt as the election had been. Sample hand recounts were to be carried out in each county, involving randomly-selected precincts constituting at least three percent of the vote; any disagreements between the sample recount and the official tally were supposed to prompt a full county-wide recount. According to Green Party observers, however, a substantial proportion of Ohio's eighty-eight counties broke the law by not selecting their hand-recount precincts randomly.23 There is evidence, most crucially, that Triad Governmental Systems, the private corporation responsible for servicing the vote-tabulation machines in about half of the state, tampered with selected machines in counties across Ohio immediately before the recount in order to ensure that the sample recount tallies would conform with the official vote tallies.24 (Triad's technicians knew which machines to tamper with because, it would appear, Board of Elections officials, in open violation of the law, told them which precincts had been pre-selected.)

Despite this widespread tampering, there were discrepancies in at least six counties between the sample hand recounts and the official tallies—and yet the Board of Elections refused to conduct full county-wide hand recounts.25 As David Swanson writes,

Only one county conducted a full hand recount, which resulted in 6 percent more votes than in the original vote. Those extra votes were evenly split between Kerry and Bush, but—even assuming that one county's votes have now been properly counted—how do we know where votes in the other 87 counties would fall? Should an extra several percent of them show up, and should they be weighted toward Kerry, the election would not have yet been what the media keeps telling us it is: over.26

Although required by law as Secretary of State to investigate electoral irregularities, Blackwell consistently refused to do so. He refused to respond to a formal letter from John Conyers and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus itemizing a host of alleged irregularities and asking what he had done to correct or investigate them. He also refused to testify in lawsuits against him arising from the election and its aftermath—in the expectation, no doubt, that any cases not declared moot once George W. Bush was safely reconfirmed as president by the votes of the Electoral College and of Congress would be dealt with by higher courts dominated by Republican judges.

Katherine Harris's reward for her work in throwing the 2000 Florida election to Bush was a safe seat in Congress. Kenneth Blackwell has named his prize: he wants to be Governor of Ohio. In a post-election fundraising letter soliciting funds for his governorship campaign, he takes credit for delivering Ohio to George W. Bush—and thus, since Ohio decided the national outcome, for ensuring his second term as president:

I have no doubt the strong campaign we helped the President run in Ohio—coupled with a similar effort I helped deliver for State Issue One (the Marriage Protection Amendment)—can easily be credited with turning out record numbers of conservatives and evangelicals on Election Day. [....] And, I draw great satisfaction in hearing liberal members of the media credit the Marriage Protection Amendment as [the] single most important factor that drove President Bush over the top in Ohio.

In the same letter, true to the general inversion of his world-view, Blackwell takes credit for his success in preventing electoral fraud:

I have never shied away from giving the liberals fits. And I'm sure that with all the potential voter-fraud we prevented during this last election, they will be looking to get even with me in my next political campaign. [....] As Secretary of State, I have been sued almost 30 times since this summer because I stood up for the rights of voters like you and against liberal trial lawyers and activist judges who wanted to give this election to Senator Kerry. [....] When the ACLU and other members of the radical left worked to stop me from cracking down and prohibiting outrageous ways to commit voter fraud, I fought back and won.27

But what precisely does it mean to say that lawyers and judges who sought to protect the rights of minority voters from Blackwell's manifold vote-suppression tactics would have 'given' the election to Kerry? This sounds rather like a coded acknowledgment of a Republican truth that was, notoriously, voiced openly in July 2004 by a Republican state representative in nearby Michigan: “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote”—for Ohio, substitute the Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, or Toledo vote—“we're going to have a tough time in this election cycle.”28

* * * * *

The Ohio recount of the presidential vote was officially terminated on December 28th, a day that in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints commemorates the Slaughter of the Innocents. With a derisory alteration of the official count (Kerry received an additional 734 votes, and Bush 449), George W. Bush retained a certified victory margin in Ohio of 118,755 votes—still large enough to look decisive, though well down from the lead of 136,000 he was credited with in the first official tallies. As Bob Fitrakis, Steven Rosenfeld, and Harvey Wasserman have remarked, the end came

amidst bitter dispute over official certification of impossible voter turnout numbers, over the refusal of Ohio's Republican Supreme Court Chief Justice to recuse himself from crucial court challenges involving his own re-election campaign, over the Republican Secretary of State's refusal to testify under subpoena, over apparent tampering with tabulation machines, over more than 100,000 provisional and machine-rejected ballots left uncounted, over major discrepancies in certified vote counts and turnout ratios, and over a wide range of unresolved disputes that continue to leave the true outcome of Ohio's presidential vote in serious doubt.29

The end to the post-election process as a whole came on January 6th, 2005, when the United States House of Representatives and Senate, the assembled Congress of the American republic, voted to ratify the votes cast by the Electoral College—an act which formally made George W. Bush President for the next four years.

What is normally a purely ceremonial state occasion was interrupted, this year, by the brief irruption of a more authentic form of human dignity. Ohio Democratic Representative Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, supported by California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, rose to challenge the Ohio results, thereby forcing the Senate and House of Representatives to separate in order to conduct, in Tubbs-Jones' words, “a formal and legitimate debate about election irregularities,” and to engage, if only for the two hours prescribed for such a debate, with the arguments of those Democratic representatives and senators whose sense of ethics and of duty had led them to join what Boxer called “the fight for electoral justice.”30

As Mark Weisbrot wrote in an article published by the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, Republican lawmakers responded to Senator Boxer, and to Representative Tubbs-Jones and her colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, “with howls of derision.”31 Some engaged in ad hominem tactics, labelling the objections “base” and “outrageous” (David Hobson, R-Ohio), and calling the objectors “aspiring fantasy authors” of “wild conspiracy theories,” whose behaviour exemplified “their party's primary strategy to obstruct, to divide, to destroy” (Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio). Others denounced the debate itself as “a travesty” (Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania), a “squandering [of the Senate's] time” by people “who persist in beating a dead horse” (Senator George Voinovich, R-Ohio); or, more gravely, as an exercise that “in the midst of a global war on terrorism [...] clearly emboldens those who would in fact undermine the prospect of democracy” (David Dreier, R-California), and “an assault against the institutions of our representative democracy” by the “X-Files wing” of the Democratic Party (Tom DeLay, R-Texas).

Out of this sound and fury there emerged the dim outline of a theory of Democracy-as-Confidence-Trick—according to which criticism must be silenced because, as House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) put it,

Every time we attack the process, we cast that doubt on that fabric of democracy that is so important. People do have to have confidence that the process works in a proper way. They don't need to believe that it is absolutely perfect because after all it's the greatest democracy in the history of the world. And it's run by people who step forward and make a system work in ways that nobody would believe until they see it [...].

Take away the pseudo-democratic pieties, and what's left as sub-text is a simpler message. In the laconic formulation of Ric Keller (R-Florida): “Get over it.”32

An overwhelming majority in Congress was anxious to do just that. Ohio's Electoral College votes, together with those from all the other states, were ratified by a vote of 267 to 31 in the House of Representatives, and 74 to 1 in the Senate.

What, exactly, were these large majorities agreeing to “get over”? Residual stirrings of anger—or possibly, on the Republican side, of conscience—over the fact that for the second time in a row a presidential election has been marked by appalling levels of corruption and fraud?

Ah, but while Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 election by some 540,000 votes—and would, it seems, have won Florida too, had the Supreme Court not intervened to stop the vote count, by as many as 23,000 votes33—aren't things different this time? Ohio this time may have been a mess—no one's “absolutely perfect,” even in “the greatest democracy in the history of the world”—but didn't George W. Bush win the nationwide popular vote in November 2004 by several million votes?

Do you really think so? How—let me borrow a term from the lexicon of George W. Bush's newly confirmed Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales—how “quaint.”

* * * * *

Ohio was the swing state of swing states on November 2nd, 2004, the one whose twenty Electoral College votes decided the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. It is therefore a matter of some significance that the testimonial evidence of corruption in the Ohio election is corroborated by statistical evidence which shows the election in this state—and nationwide—to have been not just corrupt, but stolen.

The evidence in both categories is massively complex. But thanks to the no less massive labours over the past two months of citizen pro-democracy activists, of social scientists, of mathematicians and statisticians, of computer programmers, and of alternative-media investigative journalists, it can nonetheless be conveniently summarized.

You want smoking guns? Here they are, starting with the evidence that John F. Kerry, and not George W. Bush, won the state of Ohio.


1. Uncounted punch-card and provisional ballots

Well over 13,000 Ohio provisional ballots were never counted, and 92,672 regular punch-card ballots were set aside by vote-counting machines as indicating no choice for president. Thus, even after Ohio's supposed recount, a total of over 106,000 ballots remained uncounted—though there was “no legal reason for not inspecting and counting each of these ballots.”34 But there seems to have been a very good political reason for not doing so: the uncounted ballots came disproportionately from places like the cities of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Akron, all of which voted overwhelmingly for the Democrats.


2. Fraud through default settings on touch-screen voting machines

Some 15 percent of Ohio's votes were cast using the new touch-screen voting machines. In the city of Youngstown, in Mahoning County, there were repeated complaints about what election observers referred to as “vote flipping” by the ES&S Ivotronic touch-screen machines used there. This “flipping” phenomenon, also widely observed in other states, typically appeared to poll watchers “like a mere computer glitch, no different than a super market checkout machine that records an incorrect price for lettuce.”35

But what was happening, in the vast majority of those cases, was no “glitch.” As Dom Stasi notes, “The laws of probability demand that multiple random errors trend toward even distribution, but only if they are truly errors.”36 Yet in all the published accounts of vote flipping, the “errors” consistently favoured Bush: voters who were trying to vote for Kerry found their votes being given to Bush, transferred to third-party candidates, or simply erased.37 The Chairman of the Mahoning County Board of Elections is reported to have stated that “20 to 30 machines [...] needed to be recalibrated during the voting process.”38 He is not quoted as saying that any action was taken, or could be taken, to compensate for the machines' one-way errors—and there is evidence that many other machines were left uncorrected.

It is clearly not the case, as one Youngstown poll worker claimed, that the repeated anomalies were due to the machines being “temperamental.” A supermarket checkout machine doesn't charge ten dollars for a tin of sardines because it's having a bad hair day: it does so because that's what it has been (perhaps mistakenly) programmed to charge. Similarly, ES&S machines flipped votes from Kerry to Bush because, as Richard Hayes Phillips proposes, they had been given “preselected default settings” that made them do so. And if they flipped votes in an apparently “temperamental” manner, 'acting up' only for every fourth or fifth or tenth voter, that would be a sign, not of electronic hissy fits, but of their having been programmed to move at preset intervals to the default setting.

One of the six machines in Youngstown's precinct 5G appears to have had a default setting for no vote at all. It may have been single-handedly responsible for the fact that nearly 14 percent of the ballots cast in this precinct (where the votes were running in Kerry's favour in a ratio of 12 to 1) were “undervotes,” that is, votes cast with no preference for president.39 Elsewhere, the subtler effect of many machines moving at intervals to their default settings would have been a gently tidal lifting of the Republican vote tallies by thousands of stolen votes.40


3. 'Ghost' absentee voters in Trumbull County

What appears to be a similar effect of widely diffused fraud came to light in Trumbull County when Dr. Werner Lange undertook the labour of inspecting 106 of the county's precinct poll books. Among the absentee votes listed in these books he found a total of 580 apparent 'ghost' votes—that is, “absentee votes for which there were no absentee voters identified.” In other words, there were on average 5.5 faked absentee votes in each of the precinct books he checked. The number may not seem significant, but this level of faked absentee votes, if it turned out to be reproduced across the state of Ohio, would have resulted in over 62,000 faked votes.41

Just how widespread this particular form of cheating was we may never know, since it appears that in many counties the electoral data is now being destroyed.

Lange's evidence has been challenged by Russ Baker, who in a study financed by “the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute” describes himself as “an old-style investigative reporter.” The 'investigation' in this instance didn't go beyond accepting the explanation of a Trumbull County official “that the poll books Lange looked at had been printed before absentee voting ended—including those who voted in the final days before the election at the Board's offices. The books would—according to practice—be updated to include everyone.”42

But the investigator, bless his gum shoes, seems not to have understood what is at issue. Lange writes that his study “would have been completed weeks earlier if Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell [...] had not unlawfully ordered all 88 boards of elections to prevent public inspection of poll books until after the certification of the vote.” In other words, much if not all of his inspection of poll books was carried out after the official certification of the Ohio vote on December 6th—and thus more than a month after election day. When, if not at the time their votes were recorded, does Baker imagine that the identities of absentee voters would be recorded in the poll books?


4. Implausible voter turnout figures

In Franklin County, which includes the city of Columbus, voter turnout figures in the 125 precincts won by Bush were on average nearly 10 percent higher than the 346 precincts won by Kerry: the median turnout in Bush precincts was 60.56 percent; in Kerry precincts it was 50.78 percent.43 Though the wide turnout differences here and in Ohio's other largely urban counties may be ascribed in large part to Kenneth Blackwell's vote-suppression tactics, including the partisan misallocation of voting machines, they have also raised suspicions that large numbers of Kerry votes went unrecorded. These suspicions are strengthened by the certified reports from pro-Kerry Cleveland, in Cuyahoga County, of precincts with turnouts of as few as 22.31 percent (precinct 6B), 21.43 percent (13O), 20.07 percent (13F), 14.59 percent (13D), and 7.85 percent (6C) of the registered voters.44 Thousands of people in these precincts lined up for many hours in the rain in order, it would appear, not to vote.

Meanwhile, in pro-Bush Perry County, the voting records certified by Secretary of State Blackwell included two precincts with reported turnouts of 124.4 and 124.0 percent of the registered voters, while in pro-Bush Miami County, there were precincts whose certified turnouts, if not physically impossible, were only slightly less improbable.45 These and other instances of implausibly high turnouts in precincts won by Bush, and implausibly low turnouts in precincts won by Kerry, are strongly suggestive of widespread tampering with the vote-tabulation processes.

Similarly anomalous patterns of differences in voter turnout have been detected by Richard Hayes Phillips in Lucas County, which includes the city of Toledo. In this case, the story has a piquant twist: thieves broke into Lucas County Democratic Headquarters on the night of October 12th, and stole computers containing all of the party's local organizing and get-out-the-vote plans. It comes as no surprise that vote-tabulation manipulations in Toledo—and election-day vote suppression efforts as well—appear to have been particularly well-focussed.46


5. Vote-tabulation fraud in Miami County

The fact that Miami County reported two successive sets of returns on election night attracted suspicion from the start. The county's initial figures, with 100 percent of the precincts reporting, seemed improbably low, with 31,620 votes cast—only about three-quarters as many as in the 2000 election. But the second total, when it came in late on election night, seemed improbably high—50,235 votes cast altogether—as well as being peculiarly tidy in two respects: John Kerry's share of the vote remained, to one-hundredth of one percent, exactly what it had been in the first set of returns (33.92 percent); and George W. Bush was shown to have won the county by exactly 16,000 votes.

The final certified figures (which include 1,542 provisional ballots added to the total) provided further surprises. In a county whose population had increased by only 1.38 percent since 2000, the number of votes cast rose by a whopping 20.86 percent. Bush's margin of victory in the county was larger by 7.3 percent than his margin of victory over Gore had been in 2000, meaning either that the county swung strongly in Bush's favour, or else that he succeeded in capturing an overwhelming proportion—well over 90 percent—of the nearly 9,000 additional voters.

A third possibility also presents itself: namely, that a substantial number of the people who voted for George Bush in Miami County in 2004 do not in fact exist.

Richard Hayes Phillips proposes that the Miami County returns are riddled with fraud—sometimes rather sloppy fraud, as when the precincts of Concord South and Concord South West reported voter turnouts of 94.27 and 98.55 percent respectively, while in adjoining Concord South East the turnout amounted to only 56.55 percent of registered voters.47 (The Concord South West turnout figure means, by the way, that only ten registered voters failed to vote—though more than that number of voters in the precinct have signed affidavits testifying that they did not vote.)48


6. Vote-tabulation fraud in Warren, Butler, Clermont (and other) Counties

There is strong evidence of large-scale vote-tabulation fraud in these three contiguous and traditionally Republican counties in southwestern Ohio. The comparisons between the 2000 and 2004 figures that Richard Hayes Phillips provides are instructive. In Warren County,

the population increased by 14.75%, the number of registered voters increased by 29.66%, voter turnout increased by 33.55%, Bush's point spread increased from 42.24% to 44.58%, and Bush's victory margin increased from 29,176 votes to 41,124 votes. In Clermont County [...], the population increased by 4.39% the number of registered voters increased by 10.20%, voter turnout increased by 24.86%, Bush's point spread increased from 37.50% to 41.69%, and Bush's victory margin increased from 26,202 votes to 36,376 votes. In Butler County [...], the populations increased by 3.12%, the number of registered voters increased by 10.06%, voter turnout increased by 18.18%, Bush's point spread increased from 29.40% to 32.52%, and Bush's victory margin increased from 40,197 votes to 52,550 votes.49

These figures are vehemently to be suspected, not least because of the election night “lock-down” of the Warren County administrative building—an event which may well suggest that the team responsible for ensuring that Bush's Ohio vote tallies added up to a convincing victory was at work behind those locked doors, and didn't want their earnest meditations to be disturbed by election observers, journalists, or 'terrorists' of any kind.

At the precinct level, dubious figures throughout these three counties cry out for detailed investigation. For example, in Butler County's St. Clair Township, where voter turnout rose by 8.27 percent, Kerry received exactly 10.00 percent fewer votes than Gore had in 2000; while in two precincts of Liberty Township (which accounted for a quarter of the purported increase in Bush's margin of victory in Butler County, the numbers of registered voters are said to have risen from 660 to 1,834 (an increase of 177.9 percent) and from 596 to 1,451 (an increase of 143.5 percent).

A more distinct marker of fraud is the fact that in all three counties C. Ellen Connally, a comparatively little-known African-American municipal judge from Cleveland who was running as a Democrat for the position of Chief Justice against a well-funded Republican incumbent, Thomas Moyer, received significantly more votes than did the Kerry-Edwards ticket—in Butler County, 5,347 more, and in Clermont County, 4,146 more votes. As Congressman John Conyers and his colleagues emphasized in their letter of December 2nd to Secretary of State Blackwell, this is a bizarre anomaly:

Have you examined how an underfunded Democratic State Supreme Court candidate could receive so many more votes in Butler County than the Kerry-Edwards ticket? If so, could you provide us with the results of your examination? Is there any precedent in Ohio for a downballot candidate receiving on a percentage or absolute basis so many more votes than the presidential candidate of the same party in this or any other presidential election? Please let us know if any other County in Ohio registered such a disparity on a percentage or absolute basis.50

Blackwell, needless to say, did not respond to these questions. But as Conyers and his researchers went on to discover for themselves, the obscure Judge Connally did in fact out-poll the Democratic presidential candidate in seven other Ohio counties: Auglaize, Brown, Darke, Highland, Mercer, Miami, and Putnam Counties.51

If this “disparity” of Connally out-polling Kerry is a sign that Kerry votes were being discarded or switched to Bush through voter-tabulation fraud in Butler, Clermont, and Warren Counties, then it is also a marker of electoral fraud in these other counties as well.


7. Doing the sums: one analyst's estimate

After conducting precinct-by-precinct analyses of statistical anomalies in the election results “in fifteen Ohio counties accounting for 62% of the registered voters in the state,” Richard Hayes Phillips determined that, on a conservative estimate, “the reported margin of victory for George W. Bush in the State of Ohio is inflated by 101,020 votes.” This estimate, in addition to being conservative, is also incomplete. Philips remarks that “These studies were conducted under time constraints and with such evidence as Ohio officials were willing to provide. Even in the counties that I have analyzed, I have examined only certain aspects of a well-orchestrated and multi-faceted plan to undermine democracy in Ohio.” Emphasizing, in conclusion, that he has yet to analyze the date from seventy-three of Ohio's eighty-eight counties, Phillips implies that the manifold forms of electoral fraud and vote suppression identified were sufficient to divert to Bush what would have been, in a clean election, a clear Kerry victory.52


8. Cuyahoga County: other kinds of fraud

In moving on to evidence beyond that which Richard Hayes Phillips took into account, I need first to explain one very large-scale false alarm. The election results published by Cuyahoga County (which includes the city of Cleveland) led a number of commentators in November 2004—myself among them—to believe that there had been massive 'ghost-voting' fraud in the suburbs of Cleveland.53 But the official lists showing twenty-nine communities with voter turnout figures of more than 100 percent (and hence some 93,000 'ghost votes' in the county) turned out to result from a bizarrely structured software program that grouped communities in the same congressional, house, and state senate districts, and added the total number of absentee ballots within the combined districts to the voter turnout figures for each community in these districts—though not to the vote totals for candidates or issues.54

This programming oddity worked, the County's website idiotically declared, in “even-numbered years.” What its intended function might have been is hard to say. It could have been a piece of innocent stupidity, or the residue of an abandoned ghost-voting scheme—or even a Karl Rovian fool-catcher, designed to set the blogosphere alight with easily extinguished flames.

But other, more subtle, forms of electoral corruption now appear to have been detected in the Cuyahoga County returns.

As may have been observed, the statistically-informed analyses of Richard Hayes Phillips are open to the objection that some of his judgments are, in the end, no more than subjective. Many of the anomalies he swings at are, without question, home-run pitches: the voter turnout figures in Concord, Miami County, for example, amount to a fast ball over the plate that Phillips hits over the back fence. In other instances, as in Warren County and the adjoining counties of southwestern Ohio, his analyses are corroborated by evidence like the Judge Connally disparity. There may be further cases, though, in which a skeptical reader might well ask for firmer evidence of fraud than one analyst's “professional judgment.” Two recently published studies of the Cuyahoga County data appear to offer methods of analysis that could usefully be applied to the election returns from other Ohio counties—and, quite possibly, from other states as well. The first establishes the likelihood that what observers thought to be mere incompetence in the conduct of the election in Cleveland was actually a deliberately designed feature designed to throw large numbers of votes from Kerry to Bush; the second, if its “reverse-engineering” programming analysis can be confirmed, would show that a significant number of the official precinct vote-tallies in this county—and perhaps in many others—were fraudulently generated by a hacker.

James Q. Jacobs' still ongoing work with the Cuyahoga County data reveals a significant connection between two apparently disparate features of the election: the fact that odd and wholly implausible clumps of votes in certain precincts went to third-party candidates in a manner that some observers have thought must point to computer hacking; and the fact, noted with frustration by many voters and election-day observers, that in many instances the same polling place was used for two or more voting precincts, and that because of inadequate or nonexistent precinct labelling, significant numbers of voters found themselves in the wrong line-ups.

Jacobs demonstrates a connection between the two: the anomalous third-party votes arose from the fact that the punch-card ballots given to voters in adjoining precincts listed the presidential candidates in different sequences. What he calls “precinct cross-voting” led to many ballots being counted by machines that were coded to attribute punch-marks in a manner differing from the printed sequence of candidates' names on the ballots. As Jacobs' detailed and statistically sophisticated analysis shows, the result was a steady diversion of votes from Kerry, the candidate favoured by an overwhelming majority of Cleveland voters, to Bush and to third-party candidates.55 What at first seems no more than spectacularly incompetent election design appears, on reflection, more likely to have been intended to produce exactly this effect.

But if the clumps of third-party votes seem not to have been the result of hackers moving votes about and leaving some of them parked with third-party candidates, that doesn't mean that hacking was not taking place. Another analysis that may have wide potential applicability has been published at the Democratic Underground website by a computer programmer who claims to have special expertise in the reverse-engineering of calculations, and who goes by the blogger cognomen of '59sunburst.' (Because this analysis has been anonymously published—and because, moreover, I have been unable to activate the author's link to a field of supporting data—I present it with due reservations, in the hope that those possessing programming expertise may be able to critically assess its validity.)

Finding it curious that in 46 Cuyahoga County precincts George Bush received the same number of votes in 2004 as in 2000, while only in 12 precincts did John Kerry receive the same number of votes that Al Gore did in 2000, '59sunburst' speculated that Bush's 2000 numbers in each precinct might somehow have been used “as a benchmark for altering the results of 2004”—with a putative hacker's goal being to ensure that Bush's 2000 level of support was either maintained or enhanced. '59 sunburst' was able to develop a quite simple mathematical formula which made it possible “to calculate Kerry's and Bush's 2004 totals for over 400 precincts using Bush's 2000 numbers and a randomizing factor”; this formula, s/he claims, works both for the preliminary results published on November 8th and the final results published by Cuyahoga County's Board of Elections on November 30th.

After demonstrating, with figures from Cleveland precinct 1M, how the formula generates, out of the Bush 2000 vote count and the number of votes cast in 2004, Bush's and Kerry's 2004 vote tallies in both the November 8th and the November 30th reports, '59sunburst' anticipates the obvious objection: If you throw the right randomizing factor into such a calculation, “you can make anything come out the way you want it to.”

True—but it appears that someone was indeed making things come out the way he wanted to on election night. For, as it happens, Cleveland precinct 1N—the very next one on the list—requires the very same “randomizing factor” as precinct 1M (Factor: 0.0618) for the formula to work. The same phenomenon recurs repeatedly with other pairs (or triplets) of consecutively numbered precincts: Cleveland 6G and 6H (Factor 0.005), Cleveland 10D and 10E (Factor: 0.024), Cleveland Heights 3C and 3D (Factor: 0.0267), East Cleveland 2E and 2F (Factor: 0.0263), East Cleveland 2H and 3A (Factor: 0.0241), East Cleveland 3B, 3C, and 3D (Factor: 0.0158), and so on.56

If the “randomizing factor” numbers were different in each precinct, or only randomly coincided, there would be no reason to suspect a hacker's presence. What gives the game away is the reappearance of the same numbers in successive precincts—an obvious economizing of effort on the part of a hacker whose sticky fingerprints on the Cuyahoga County returns are made visible by that very fact. The effects of this hacking appear to have been substantial: in the first pair of precincts discussed by '59sunburst' alone, Bush's tally rose from 2 votes in 2000 to 23 in 2004 (precinct 1M), and from 2 votes in 2000 to 32 in 2004 (precinct 1N).


9. The Ohio exit poll

The November 2nd exit poll showed with some clarity the scale of the Republican Party's electoral fraud in Ohio. When I gathered the Ohio exit poll data from CNN's website at 7:32 p.m. EST on election day, women voters (53 percent of the total) were reported as favouring Kerry over Bush by 51 percent to 49 percent. The exit poll thus showed Kerry winning Ohio by a margin of 4.2 percent, with 52.1 percent of the vote to Bush's 47.9 percent.57

According to the official vote tally, however, George W. Bush carried Ohio with 51 percent of the vote to John Kerry's 48.5 percent—with a winning margin, that is, of 2.5 percent. (Subsequent adjustments to the tally as absentee and provisional ballots were counted cut the margin of victory from 2.5 to 2 percent.)

But do exit polls mean anything at all? According to the collective wisdom of political pundits in the U.S. corporate media, the Ohio exit poll—like the national exit poll, which showed John Kerry, not George W. Bush, winning the popular vote nationwide by a margin of 2.56 percent58—must simply have been wrong. Set aside the fact that professionally conducted exit polls have been repeatedly shown to have a high degree of accuracy (significantly higher than that of any other kind of polling). Set aside the fact that the 2004 polls were conducted with elaborate professional care by one of the most highly respected pollsters in the business. Set aside as well the very peculiar fact that all of the divergences between exit polls and vote tallies in the swing states in the 2004 election favoured George W. Bush—often by amounts far outside the statistical margins of error—and the further fact that none of the (frankly implausible) explanations put forward to deal with this statistical anomaly have been supported by the smallest shred of evidence.59

Perhaps we should also avoid any mention of the high-toned denunciations of electoral fraud delivered by George W. Bush, Colin Powell, and Republican Senators Richard Lugar and John McCain following the second-round presidential election in Ukraine on November 21st, 2004. For what was the key evidence adduced in this chorus of denunciations? And why were these Republican statesmen threatening Ukraine with diplomatic isolation and economic penalties if the election results were allowed to stand? Because there was a wide divergence in Ukraine between the exit polls, which gave Viktor Yushchenko a commanding lead, and the official vote tally, according to which the election was narrowly won by his pro-Russian rival, Viktor Yanukovich.

Those who have not yet wholly averted their eyes from the matter might want to note that the divergence between the second-round vote tally in Ukraine and what seems to be the more trustworthy of the second-round Ukrainian exit polls was 6.2 percent.60 By an odd coincidence, the divergence between the exit poll result and the final vote tally in Ohio was exactly the same: 6.2 percent.

* * * * *

If George W. Bush didn't win the vote tally in Ohio—and the evidence that he didn't is cumulatively overwhelming—then he didn't properly win the Electoral College vote either.

And the popular vote? For the sake of completeness, and of decency, let's briefly lay to rest the idea that some tattered shreds of democratic legitimacy can be reclaimed for Bush's presidency through the pretence that he must, after all, have won the popular vote on November 2nd.

I am not going to rehearse here any part of the rapidly accumulating body of analyses that shows Republican electoral fraud to have been carried out in many other states from coast to coast with much the same energy and inventiveness as in Ohio.61 For as the mathematician who posts his analyses of exit poll data at the Democratic Underground site under the name 'TruthIsAll' has intimated, and as Dr. Steven F. Freeman has shown in a major new study which he has kindly shared with me in draft form, there is a simpler way of showing that, in the big picture, the numbers which underlie Bush's supposed victory in the popular vote simply don't add up.62

In comparison to the election of 2000, there were two dramatic changes in 2004: an increase of some 14 percent in the total number of votes cast (which rose from 105,405,000 in 2000 to 120,255,000 in 2004), and a significant decline in the number of votes cast for third-party candidates (which sank from 3,949,000 in 2000 to 1,170,000 in 2004). According to the national exit poll data made available by CNN on the evening of November 2nd, 83 percent of those who voted in 2004 had also voted in 2000. This means, in slightly different terms, that nearly 100 million people who voted in 2000, or close to 95 percent of the 2000 voters, also cast ballots in 2004.63 In the 2004 national exit poll, 13,047 randomly selected respondents stated that they had voted as follows:

                               Bush    Kerry

Gore 2000 voters:  8%       91%

Bush 2000 voters: 90%     10%

Other 2000 voters: 17%      64%

New voters:              41%      57%

Al Gore, remember, won the popular vote in 2000 by almost 544,000 votes (50,999,897 votes to George Bush's 50,456,002). Assuming that the 8 percent of Gore voters who migrated to Bush's camp in 2004 more or less cancel out the 10 percent of Bush-2000 voters who swung to Kerry, one can take the base number of supporters for Bush and Kerry as amounting to 95 percent of the Republican and Democratic presidential vote tallies in 2000—or, in round numbers, 48.4 million votes for Kerry and 47.9 million votes for Bush.

If 95 percent of the 3,949,000 who voted for third-party candidates in 2000 also voted in 2004, then given that 64 percent of these people voted for Kerry and 17 percent for Bush, that, in round numbers, would add 2.3 million votes to Kerry's expected total and 600,000 to Bush's, raising them to 50.7 million for Kerry and 48.5 million for Bush.

Add in the 20.2 million new voters, 57 percent of whose ballots, according to the exit poll, went to Kerry, and 41 percent to Bush. That means 11.5 million additional votes for Kerry, and 8.3 million additional votes for Bush. The final expected total comes out to 62.2 million votes for Kerry, and 56.8 million expected votes for Bush.

Compare these numbers to the official results: 61,194,773 votes (or 51 percent of the total votes cast) for George W. Bush, and 57,890,314 (or 48 percent) for John Kerry. The discrepancies are striking: Bush appears to have received 4.4 million more votes than he should have, and Kerry 4.3 million fewer than he should have.

The magic—as Congressman Peter King, whom I quoted at the outset, evidently understood—is in the counting. As a large and growing body of evidence makes clear, the official tallies of the 2004 presidential election are to an unprecedented degree distorted by fraud, much of it carried out through widespread and systematic tampering with electronic vote-tabulation machines.

There is, of course, another magic as well, whose secrets reside in all the manifold ways of not counting. In December 2000, Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, a leading expert in issues of electronic voting-technology security, together with Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, estimated that at least two million of the ballots cast in that year's presidential election never got counted. In the words of the journalists who reported this estimate: “That would disenfranchise a city the size of Houston.”64 How large a city has been disenfranchised this time round, if in Ohio alone 106,000 ballots went uncounted?

And finally, there is the shabbiest magic of all—the magic of the corporate-media hacks and think-tank trolls, whose collective mission it is to conjure away the most glaring evidence, normalize the abnormal, and twist or bludgeon critical thinking into conformity.

* * * * *

What this adds up to, I have suggested in my title, is the death of American democracy. A strange death, because so many Americans, for good reasons and for bad, refuse to acknowledge that it has taken place.

The good reasons—those of the many thousand pro-democracy activists who remain fiercely attached to the rights and freedoms that are theirs by inheritance and struggle, who have uncovered through patient study the details of the theft, and who are seeking through firm public action to reassert the dignity and reclaim the stolen voices of those many hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens deliberately abjected and silenced by fraud—these one must honour. One can honour as well the activists' wit and their defiant good humour—evident, for example, in the placards carried in a demonstration in Denver on November 11th (Remembrance Day, in this country):

Dude, Where Did My Vote Go?” 
Vote Free or Die Bold” 
Correct Electile Disfunction” 
Corporations Cannot Run Elections” 
The Computer Ate My Vote!” 
The Fox is Guarding the Voting Coop” 
I Do Not Concede.”65

But let's be realistic about what it means when, with the willing complicity of all the major outlets of the corporate media, a single corporatist party controls the executive functions of the central government, including all of the security apparatus of a thoroughly militarized state, both houses of the legislature, and the judiciary—and what it means when this same party, having acquired executive power in 2000 through electoral fraud and a judicial coup d'état, and having confirmed its control of the legislature through the corrupt midterm elections of 2002, then provides a convincing demonstration in 2004 of its power to turn what should have been a landslide defeat into a dubious but effectively unassailable victory.

It might be suggested that the leader himself, in his inverted Orwellian manner, gave fair warning of what the public could anticipate in his second presidential election. One of the most rightly celebrated of all 'Bushisms' was delivered in September 2002 to an audience in Nashville, Tennessee: “There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, Fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again.”66 Really? Why on earth not?

* * * * *

For now at least, the forms of a democratic republic remain in place—as, in a parallel way, the residual forms of the Roman Republic remained in place well after its devolution into a militarized imperial autocracy.

One of the early emperors, Tiberius, got sadistic pleasure out of writing deferential letters to the Roman Senate, humbly requesting the terrorized senators' direction and advice. (It is not recorded, though others of his missives had a similarly noxious effect, that he ever went so far as to have the envelopes dusted—did the Romans use envelopes?—with weaponized anthrax.67

Tiberius's successor, known to history by the fond nickname, Caligula, given him by the Roman legionaries, likewise held the Senate in high esteem: he is said to have planned to have his horse—or was it his donkey?—elected to that august body.68





1  For writings by these and other critics of electronic voting technologies, see Michael Keefer, “Evidence of Fraud in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election: A Reader,” Centre for Research on Globalization (5 December 2004),

2  For an incisive analysis of the Bin Laden tape, see Michel Chossudovsky, “'Intelligence Asset' bin Laden supports Bush Re-election,” Centre for Research on Globalization (31 October 2004),

3  King's remarks, recorded in Alex Pelosi's new film Diary of a Political Tourist, are quoted by Thom Hartmann in “Restoring Trust in the Vote,” Common Dreams News Center (15 November 2004), [My original text mistakenly stated that King's remarks were made on election day: they are all the more incriminating for having been made months before the election.]

4  J. Kenneth Blackwell, “How Ohio pulled it off,” The Washington Times (17 November 2004),

5  “Blackwell Compares Gay Couples, Farm Animals,” WTOL11: Toledo's News Leader (20 October 2004),

6  See Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto XIX.

7  Gregory Korte and Jim Siegel, “Defiant Blackwell Rips Judge,” Cincinnati Enquirer (22 October 2004),

8  For further details see Blackwell's website,

9  Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld, and Harvey Wasserman, “Ohio GOP election officials ducking subpoenas as Kerry enters stolen vote fray,” The Free Press (28 December 2004), [My original text mistakenly located this country club in rural Scioto County: several readers from Columbus kindly wrote to correct me.]

10  For evidence of the practice of purging voter rolls, see Greg Palast, “Electoral Fraud, Ethnic Cleansing of Voter Rolls, An Election Spoiled Rotten,” (1 November 2004), available at; and Greg Moses, “The One-Two Punch of Racism: Whitewashing the Voter Fraud Issue,” The Free Press (10 December 2004), This and other forms of Jim Crow electoral manipulation are analyzed in a report by the Democratic Investigative Staff, House Committee on the Judiciary, How to Make One Million Votes Disappear: Electoral Sleight of Hand in the 2000 Presidential Election. A Fifty-State Report Prepared for Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member, House Committee on the Judiciary (Washington, D.C.: U.S. House of Representatives, 20 August 2001, available at http://www.electionreport.pdf). Substantial evidence of the Ohio Republican Party's illegal practice of “caging” (sending registered letters to newly registered minority and urban voters, and then challenging those whose letters are returned as undeliverable—often because they refuse to sign for mail from the Republicans) is presented in the Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff, Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio (Washington, D.C.: U.S. House of Representatives, 5 January 2005, available at, pp. 40-43. I would recommend analysis of the following Cleveland precincts, where the astonishingly low numbers of registered voters in the Cuyahoga County electoral returns creates suspicion of purging: 5U (30 registered voters), 6E (21 registered voters), 6X (83 registered voters), 13Y (56 registered voters), 13Z (53 registered voters, 14C (13 registered voters), 14D (7 registered voters), 16C (51 registered voters), 18B (58 registered voters), and 19A (19 registered voters).

11  David S. Bernstein, “Questioning Ohio: No controversy this time? Think again,” The Boston Phoenix (12-18 November 2004),

12  Free Press Staff, “Franklin County, Ohio voting machine assignments, and other information,” The Free Press (20 November 2004),; Bob Fitrakis, “How the Ohio election was rigged for Bush,” The Free Press (22 November 2004),; Richard Hayes Phillips, “Stealing votes in Columbus,” The Free Press (23 November 2004),; and Richard Hayes Phillips, “Another Stolen Election: Favoritism in the Suburbs,” Lyric Poetry Website (26 November 2004),

13  See Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, Detailed Findings A.5: “Targeting Minority and Urban Voters for Legal Challenges,” pp. 43-47; and Richard Hayes Phillips, “Provisional Ballots in Cuyahoga County,” The Free Press (24 December 2004),

14  Richard Hayes Phillips, “Default Settings in Mahoning County,” The Free Press (23 December 2004),

15  See Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, Detailed Findings B.3.a: “Spoiled Ballots—Hanging Chads Again?”, pp. 70-72; and Richard Hayes Phillips, “Uncounted Votes in Montgomery County,” The Free Press (10 December 2004),; Phillips, “Uncounted Votes in Hamilton County,” The Free Press (24 December 2004),; and Phillips, “Uncounted Votes in Summit County,” The Free Press (24 December 2004),

16  Erica Solvig, “Warren's vote tally walled off: Alone in Ohio, officials cited homeland security,” Cincinnati Enquirer (5 November 2004),; Solvig, “No changes in final Warren Co. Vote count, Emails released Monday show lockdown pre-planned,” Cincinnati Enquirer (16 November 2004),

17  Richard Hayes Phillips, “Election results in southwestern Ohio,” The Free Press (21 December 2004),; Phillips, “Hacking the vote in Miami County,” The Free Press (25 December 2004),

18  Registration and vote tally irregularities in Perry County were noted by Congressional Representative John Conyers in a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell dated 2 December 2004, available at; many further irregularities are itemized in Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, Detailed Findings B: “Election Day.”

19  See Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, Detailed Findings C.2: “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied—Recounts were Delayed Because of a Late Declaration of Results,” pp. 79-81.

20  See “The Case for Fraud in Ohio Election 2004 (V.B.: Restricting Citizen Access to Election Records),” Bloomington Peace Action Coalition,

21  Ray Beckerman, “Blackwell Locks Down Ohio Voting Records,” Yurica Report: News Intelligence Analysis (10 December 2004),

22  Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, Detailed Findings C.4: “Greene County—Long Waits, the Unlocked Lockdown, and Discarded Ballots,” pp. 87-91.

23  According to Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, Detailed Findings, C.5.a: “Irregularities in Selecting the Initial 3% Hand Count,” pp. 92-93, the samples were not selected randomly in Allen, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Morrow, Hocking, Medina, and Vinton Counties; in Summit County, the selection was random, but conducted without any recount witnesses present. According to a lawsuit filed on December 30th by the Green and Libertarian parties, the selection of sample precincts was non-random in 17 counties (see David Swanson claims, in “The Media and the Ohio Recount: Missing in Action,” CounterPunch (3 January 2005),, that “86 of 88 counties broke the law and did not select RANDOMLY which precincts they would recount.”

24  William Rivers Pitt, “Proof of Ohio Election Fraud Exposed,” Truthout (15 December 2004),; this item reprints other texts, including a key affidavit and Tom Zeller's article “Lawmaker Seeks Inquiry into Ohio Vote,” The New York Times (15 December 2004). Further details of Triad's alleged tampering are available in two letters from Congressional Representative John Conyers to Triad officials, available at, and also in Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, Detailed Findings, C.3: “Triad GSI—Using a 'Cheat Sheet' to Cheat the Voters in Hocking and Other Counties,” pp. 81-87. The December 30th lawsuit filed by the Green and Libertarian parties lists five counties in which tabulating-machine tampering was carried out by Triad, and one in which the tampering was carried out by a Diebold technician.

25  The December 30th lawsuit filed by the Green and Libertarian parties lists six counties in which, despite sample-recount discrepancies, the Board of Elections refused to conduct full recounts. Two flagrant cases of impropriety in the recount are narrated in Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, C.5.b: “Irregularities in Applying the Full Hand-Count Requirement”: “In Monroe County, the 3% hand-count failed to match the machine count twice. Subsequent runs on that machine matched neither each other nor the hand count. The Munroe County Board of Elections summoned a repairman from Triad to bring a new machine and the recount was suspended and reconvened for the following day. On the following day, a new machine was present at the Board of Elections office and the old machine was gone. The Board conducted a test run followed by the 3% hand-counted ballots. The results matched this time and the Board conducted the remainder of the recount by machine.” “In Fairfield County, the hand recount of the 3% test sample did not match the machine count, even after two attempts. The Board suspended the recount and stated that Secretary Blackwell recommended that the recount should begin again 'from scratch.' The Green recount observers were then told that it was 4:00 PM, the building was closed, and all had to leave. The Republican recount observers, however, were allowed to stay in a conference room for an additional ten minutes or so for a private discussion. When the Board reconvened a few days later, it announced that it would be conducting a machine count of the county's votes. When a Green Party observer objected, she was told by the Board that she was not allowed to speak.”

26  Swanson, “The Media and the Ohio Recount.”

27  “Text of Fundraising Letter from Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell,” available as an appendix to Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld, and Harvey Wasserman, “The 'Crime of November 2': The human side of how Bush stole Ohio, and why Congress must investigate rather than ratify the Electoral College (Part Two of Two),” The Free Press (5 January 2005),

28  Melvin Butch Hollowell and Len Niehoff, “Local Comment: To even consider suppressing the vote shames a democracy,” Detroit Free Press (27 July 2004), For a mainstream account of election-day vote suppression in Ohio, see Michael Powell and Peter Slevin, “Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio,” The Washington Post (15 December 2004): A1, available at Yurica Report: News Intelligence Analysis, For a very useful listing of materials relating to vote suppression and electoral fraud, see Election 2004,

29  Fitrakis, Rosenfeld, and Wasserman, “Ohio's official recount ends amidst new evidence of fraud, theft and judicial contempt mirrored in New Mexico,” The Free Press (31 December 20094),

30  “Contesting Ohio Electoral Votes: Transcript of Press Conference: Senator Barbara Boxer and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones,” Federal News Service (6 January 2005), available from the Centre for Research on Globalization (9 January 2005),

31  Mark Weisbrot, “Ohio Election Problems Highlight Urgent Need for Reform,” Knight Ridder Newspapers (8 January 2005), available at Common Dreams News Center (9 January 2005),

32  Quotations are from Brian Dominick and Ariella Cohen, “Electoral Vote Challenge Meets Venomous Response in Congress,” The New Standard (8 January 2005), available at ZNet,; from Alan Fram, “Congress Formally OKs Bush Election,” Yahoo! News (6 January 2005),; from “History in the Making: Dems Force Debate on Ohio Voting Irregularities,” Democracy Now! (7 January 2005),; and from the C-Span broadcast of the House debate.

33  That Gore would have won is clear: see Robert Parry, “So Bush Did Steal the White House,” Consortium News (22 November 2001), The figure of 23,000 votes is from Daniel Lazare, The Velvet Coup: The Constitution, The Supreme Court, and the Decline of American Democracy (London and New York: Verso, 2001), p. 4.

34  Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld, and Harvey Wasserman, “Ten preliminary reasons why the Bush vote does not compute...,” The Free Press (3 January 2005),

35  Robert Lockwood Mills, “The greatest story never told,” The Free Press (20 December 2004),

36  Dom Stasi, “Moral Victory: Religious exploitation, and the new American creed,” Online Journal (23 December 2004),

37  According to staff writers of The Nashua Advocate, over 97 percent of the vote-flipping incidents reported to the non-partisan Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS) favoured Bush: see “News: Election 2004: Who's Reading the Words of 'Internet Muckrakers'? Diebold, For a Start...,” The Nashua Advocate (14 January 2005),

38  Richard Hayes Phillips, “Default Settings in Mahoning County,” The Free Press (23 December 2004),

39  Phillips, “Default Settings.”

40  For evidence of the election-swinging potential of this form of fraud, see Anthony di Franco et al., “Small Vote Manipulations Can Swing Elections,” Communications of the ACM 47:10 (October 2004): 43-45; available at

41  Dr. Werner Lange, “More Votes than Voters in Ohio: Absentee Vote Inflated, Certified Vote in Doubt,” (12 December 2004),

42  Russ Baker, “Election 2004: Stolen or Lost,” (7 January 2005),

43  Fitrakis, Rosenfeld, and Wasserman, “Ten preliminary reasons.”

44  These are the certified figures, from Cuyahoga County General Election: Official Results Report, which is no longer available on the web; the data can now be obtained from James Q. Jacobs' website (see note 55 below). The figures first released after the election, before there had been a partial counting of provisional ballots, were still more shocking: 21.8 percent (Cleveland 6B), 21.01 percent (13O), 19.6 percent (13F), 13.05 percent (13D), and 7.1 percent (6C). Cleveland precinct 10L was initially reported as having a 24.72 percent turnout—a figure which rose in the certified results to a 56.21 percent turnout. Perhaps by some accident all of the provisional and absentee ballots cast in this precinct were counted.

45  Fitrakis, Rosenfeld, and Wasserman, “Ten preliminary reasons.”

46  Richard Hayes Phillips, “Rigging the vote in Lucas County,” The Free Press (10 December, revised 24 December 2004),; and “Another third rate burglary,” The Free Press (25 December 2004),

47  Richard Hayes Phillips, “Hacking the vote in Miami County,” The Free Press (25 December 2004),

48  See Fitrakis, Rosenfeld, and Wasserman, “Ten preliminary reasons.”

49  Richard Hayes Phillips, “Election results in Southwestern Ohio,” The Free Press (21 December 2004),

50  The letter is quoted in Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, B.1, pp. 54-55 note 240.

51  Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, B.1, p. 54 note 238.

52  Richard Hayes Phillips, “Estimated Vote Count in Ohio,” The Free Press (5 January 2005),

53  See Teed Rockwell, “93,136 EXTRA Votes Found in ONE County,” (19 November 2004),; and paragraph 20 in the second part of my essay “Election Fraud in America,” Centre for Research on Globalization (30 November 2004), Katherine Yurica republished Rockwell's essay, with Editor's Notes dated 21 November and 12 December 2004 blaming Cuyahoga County for “obfuscating the election results” and describing the essay as part of the “historical record of what transpired: i.e. Cuyahoga County published false information and then apparently corrected it.” See Yurica Report: News Intelligence Analysis,

54  The matter was explained, with ascending degrees of clarity and competence, by Manuel Roig-Franzia and Dan Keating, “Latest Conspiracy Theory—Kerry Won—Hits the Ether,” The Washington Post (11 November 2004): A2; David Knox, “Turnout turns out to be glitch,” Akron Beacon Journal (10 November 2004),; and “Cuyahoga County Precincts—Revised!” Americans for America,

55  James Q. Jacobs, “Precinct Cross-Voting and Ballot Order in the Ohio 2004 Presidential Race,” 2004 Ohio Election—Analysis, Summary, Charts, and Spreadsheets (14 January 2005),

56  '59sunburst,' “Cuyahoga Cty—2000 Bush Tallies Used to Fake 2000 Tallies?” Democratic Underground (27 December 2004),

57  It is important to distinguish between these exit poll figures and the altered Ohio figures which were posted by CNN at 1:41 a.m. EST on November 3rd; these showed women splitting 50-50 in their preferences for Kerry and Bush, and men supporting Bush over Kerry by 52 to 49 percent. One must also distinguish, in the national exit poll, between the figures available at 9:00 p.m. EST on November 2nd, which show Kerry leading by nearly 3 percent, and the revised figures posted at 1:36 a.m. EST on November 3rd, which showed a 5 percent swing to Bush. Richard Morin's claim that the later national figures were based on “later interviewing” that found Bush in the lead (“New Woes Surface in Use of Estimates,” The Washington Post [4 November 2004]: A29) is demonstrably incorrect. As was immediately apparent from comparison of respondent numbers and percentage preferences, and as has since been acknowledged by the pollsters, these figures were conflated with the vote tally percentages. See Michael Keefer, “Footprints of Electoral Fraud: The November 2 Exit Poll Scam,” Centre for Research on Globalization (5 November 2004),; see also “The Case for Fraud in Ohio Election 2004 (IX.A: Irregular/Impossible Changes in Exit Polls over time on Election Night),” Bloomington Peace Action Coalition,

58  See 'TruthIsAll,' “BEST EVIDENCE: WP/Mitofsky/NEP (13.047 Random; MOE 1%): 547 million to 1,” Democratic Underground (7 January 2005),

59  For authoritative studies of the 2004 exit polls, see Steven F. Freeman, Ph.D., “The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy,” Research Report from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate Division, School of Arts & Sciences Center for Organizational Dynamics (29 December 2004), available at; Ron Baiman, “The United States of Ukraine? Exit Polls Leave Little Doubt that in a Free and Fair Election John Kerry Would Have Won Both the Electoral College and the Popular Vote,” The Free Press (19 December 2004),; and Jonathan D. Simon, J.D., and Ron Baiman, Ph.D., “The 2004 Presidential Election: Who Won the Popular Vote? An Examination of the Comparative Validity of Exit Poll and Vote Count Data,” The Free Press (28 December 2004), Other significant articles include Jonathan Simon, “47 State Exit Poll Analysis Confirms Swing Anomaly,” Scoop (11 November 2004),; Alastair Thompson, “Complete US Exit Poll Data Confirms New Suspicions,” Scoop (17 November 2004),; John Allen Paulos, “Final Tallies Minus Exit Polls=A Statistical Mystery!” The Philadelphia Inquirer (24 November 2004), available at; 'TruthIsAll,' “Breaking: Washington Post Declares Kerry Won,” Democratic Underground (4 January 2005),; and Mark Blumenthal, “Exits: Were They Really 'Wrong'?” Mystery Pollster (14 December 2004), The most lucid brief analysis of the weighting of exit polls that I have seen is in a sequence of postings by 'Fly by night' to a discussion thread initiated by 'TruthIsAll,' “I learned something about exit polls today,” Democratic Underground (17 January 2005),

60  For an initial comparison between the U.S. and Ukrainian elections, see Michel Keefer, “Election Fraud in America,” Centre for Research on Globalization (30 November 2004),; also published as “The Stolen U.S. Presidential Election: A Comparative Analysis,” at the now defunct website of Autonomy & Solidarity.

61  For a small reminder of the wholesale rottenness of the election in Florida, see Bev Harris, “Vote Fraud—Volusia County on Lockdown,” Scoop (18 November 2004),; and Thom Hartmann, “'Stinking Evidence' of Possible Fraud in Florida,” Scoop (19 November 2004), And for a sample of the action on the west coast, see the excellent recent study by Paul R. Lehto, J.D., and Jeffrey Hoffman, Ph.D., “Evidence of Election Irregularities in Snohomish County, Washington General Election, 2004,” Votersunite.Org (6 January 2005),

62  Dr. Freeman's new article, “Hypotheses for Explaining the Exit Poll-Official Count Discrepancy in the 2004 US residential Election,” should be published in the near future. The vote-tally figures given here, all of which are available from the Wikipedia site, are presented by Freeman in a somewhat more fully elaborated form.

63  On demographic grounds one would expect that over a four-year period more than five percent of the voters active in 2000 would have moved on to cast their ballots in a better world. A demographically-inflected estimate would increase the number of new voters in 2004—but since this would also increase Kerry's numbers at the expense of Bush's, I will hold to the exit-poll figure.

64  Los Angeles Times Staff Writers, “A 'modern' democracy that can't count votes. Special Report: What happened in Florida is the rule and not the exception. A coast-to-coast study by The Times finds a shoddy system that can only be trusted when the election isn't close,” Los Angeles Times (11 December 2000),

65  The Denver Voice,

66  Jacob Weisberg, “The Complete Bushisms,” Slate,

67  What may seem a particularly sour joke is perhaps no joke at all. The identity of the persons who carried out terrorist anthrax-letter attacks in the United States in September and October 2001 remains unknown. However, the attacks were clearly intended to intimidate the Democratic opposition and the media: they targeted two leading Democratic members of the U.S. Senate, Senator Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), as well as major media outlets. Moreover, the anthrax was of the Ames strain, and came from a U.S. defence-biowarfare source; and there is strong evidence to indicate that FBI investigation of the anthrax attacks has been blocked as a result of high-level political interference. See Barbara Hatch Rosenberg (Chair, Federation of American Scientists Working Group on Biological Weapons), “Analysis of the Anthrax Attacks,” available at; Patrick Martin, “Who is stonewalling the US anthrax investigation?” World Socialist Web Site (20 July 2002),; and Steve Moore, “Why the FBI Cannot Catch the Anthrax Killer,” Centre for Research on Globalization (16 April 2003),

68  The name Caligula means “Little Boot.” The Roman historian Suetonius reports that Caligula had planned to make his horse Incitatus a Consul (the highest position in the government of the Roman Republic); this would have entailed conferring senatorial rank upon the horse. See Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, trans. Robert Graves, revised by Michael Grant (London: Penguin, 2000), IV.55, p. 156.