September 12, 2003


The magazine you cannot NOT buy this month, returning to the charts for the first time in a long while, is Vanity Fair. If you don't pick this one up, you'll miss literary scholar-detective Don Foster's fairly conclusive case that it was, in fact, Steven J. Hatfill, possibly inspired or assisted by mentor William Patrick, who was behind the 2001 anthrax attacks.

The thesis is that Hatfill, inspired by the state of alarm over the WTC bombing, launched a series of low-risk attacks on the U.S. in order to convert the public's fear into a demand to restore funding to some key anti-bioterror programs. Some interesting facts I hadn't heard before:

*"During the civil war to topple the apartheid government [in 1978-80], the southern Tribal Trust Lands [in Rhodesia] were ravaged by an [anthrax] epidemic that caused 10,738 recorded human infections in about two years... in 1992, Dr. Meryl Nass, an American physician, and Jeremy Brickhill, a Zimbabwean journalist, published separate reports supporting what was already suspected: that the Rhodesian anthrax epidemic was deliberate... a biowarfare attack on the black townships, probably be carried out by Rhodesia's notorious government-backed Selous Scouts militia... [In his autobiography] Hatfill boasted of having served with the Selous Scouts."

*The anthrax letter to Sen. Tom Daschle was labelled as from the "Greendale School." Greendale was a wealthy white suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe. Hatfill lived in Harare for six years in the 1970s.

*All information that the chemical method used to prepare the anthrax linked it with a foreign manufacturer has proved false.

*Hatfill got his job as one of the U.S.'s top 5 bioweapons experts by forging a Ph.D.

*Hatfill was in Washington the day of a 1997 hoax bioattack on the B'nai Brith offices in that city. He was in London the day a second, hoax anthrax letter was sent to Tom Daschle from London. He was in Louisiana when a later series of hoax anthrax letters were sent from Louisiana.

*Hatfill actually wrote a novel in which a mystery bioattack on the U.S. is traced to Iraq by heroic scientist "Steven J. Roberts."

*Hatfill mentor Bill Patrick's 1999 report "Risk Assessment" is apparently the only document known that identified super-fine anthrax sent through the mail could be a real threat, before it actually happened.

*Patrick was involved in "simulated bioattacks," supposedly using inert bacilli instead of anthrax, in 1950 and 1952, that appear to have accidentally killed Americans.

*In the wake of the attack, the U.S. increased funding to support America's languishing bioweapons establishment, which Patrick once headed, to the tune of $6 billion a year.

Anyone wondering yet whether there's something actually there?

Also in the same issue:

Christopher Hitchens reports from Baghdad: "Even better than visiting liberated territory is visiting liberated friends."

James Wolcott reports on the flailing postwar MSNBC: "MSNBC looked high [for talk show hosts]. It looked low. It mostly looked low. And when that wasn't enough, it looked lower, draining swamps, scouting the bus depots, recruiting from the mole people."

(Wolcott adds two things about MSNBC I didn't know... that when it cancelled Donahue midwar, it was their most popular program; and that current host Joe Scarborough once admitted to killing his intern, Chandra-style, when he was a congressman.)

George Clooney admits Batman and Robin was a really bad movie.

David Kamp reports that British Airways wants to keep the Concorde, but Air France is forcing them to drop it, because Americans aren't flying to Paris anymore.

Sebastian Junger pens a stunning account from the middle of the Liberian civil war.

Quentin Tarantino's friends say his next movie is a disturbing masterpiece.

And finally, Craig Unger apparently settles the question once and for all: 140 members of the Saudi royal family and the Bin Laden family WERE spirited out of the U.S. within a week of the Sept. 11 attacks, with at least one inter-U.S. collector run occurring BEFORE the ban on commercial air travel was lifted, and all of them without the FBI knowing anything more than who was on the planes. Former U.S. terrorism czar Richard Clarke admits the decision was cleared by the White House situation room.

That enough to make you buy it, yet?

Posted by BruceR at 08:08 PM


India joins Russia in saying they won't send troops, UN resolution or no.

This is a blow. Other than Turkey, these were the only two countries that could contribute a brigade-plus to the Americans, enough to hang other countries smaller contributions on, without much difficulty, and Turkey just frightens everybody. Without one of the three the two British and Polish-led divisions will likely have to do (they're going to start needing replacing in another few months anyway), and the replacement for the U.S. 101st in the Kurdish areas when it leaves in February-April is still a questionmark.

Posted by BruceR at 05:28 PM


A recounting of our friend "D."'s reaction to the rocket attack on the Canadian HQ in Kabul yesterday, by another soldier of common acquaintance:

[D.] was in the mess tent, had just set down his Pringles, and was leaning back into his chair when the rocket impacted 40 feet behind him (it hit a "sea can", or sea container, just missing our brand new kitchen tent ... thank goodness, or we would have been REALLY ticked off... ). The concussion threw him forward, but when he regained his balance his feet were already moving in the direction of the closest bunker, so his torso followed. Arriving safely in the shelter with a cheery "Hello, boys - anybody for a game of cards?" he then saw another soldier try to enter the tent through a closed window. Ever the helpful chap, [D.] suggested he try the door, which proved much more successful...

Thus, despite all the ballyhoo about the infantry battalion being the "teeth", we HQ types can lay claim to having the first to have been "shelled" (which, if you think about it, only makes sense that they'd try to hit the more important target first). All's well that ends well, and please don't worry - our training has prepared us for this, and we're Canadian (i.e. we're good at this).

P.S. (the bad guys better look out - they owe [D.] for the beer that he had just opened)

Posted by BruceR at 01:32 PM


In the spirit of Kevin Drum's devastating indictment of gun advocate John Lott (one in which he doesn't even need to touch the whole "Mary Rosh" nonsense, one of the great investigative victories of the blogosphere this year), here's the story so far for those who can't be bothered to keep up with the Ontario election.

1. In 1999, the rightist Canadian Taxpayers' Federation pushes the Ontario legislature to pass a bill that prohibits tax increases in the absence of an election (ie, increases that are part of a clearly articulated platform), or, if between elections, a referendum. The Provincial Tories, the party of the right in this province, whose finance minister at the time is Ernie Eves, fully support the legislation.

2. In late 2001, Eves announces that the Tory government would have to override their new "no taxation without representation" law, because the economic backlash from Sept. 11 had made it impossible for them to support the coming tax cuts they had previously passed through parliament. (To which most of Ontario responded, "What economic backlash?" but never mind.)

3. In spring 2003, facing an election, now-Premier Ernie Eves closes the legislature to prevent debate, defying all Canadian democratic tradition, and announces the province's next budget at a campaign contributor's auto plant. In the budget, among other things, is a promise to end all tax support for primary and secondary schools by Ontarians over the age of 65, a group that largely votes pro-Tory. Despite being criticized as deeply regressive, divisive to the community, disrespectful of Canada's historic status as one of the first dominions anywhere in the world to build a real public education system, and deeply damaging to an underfunded school system to boot, the necessary legislation is rammed through in June. The first tax cuts are to take effect spring 2004.

3. In 2003, with their antitax law having been chucked in the bin the first time it actually proved an inconvenience to their supposed friends in government, the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation tries again. This time they're forced to resort to a plea to the two serious candidates for premier, Liberal Dalton McGuinty and Eves, to pledge that they would actually follow the law, if elected.

4. Yesterday, McGuinty publicly signed the CTF's pledge, saying he would not raise taxes without an election, a referendum, or a real public emergency, as the law reads. McGuinty gets the endorsement of the CTF as the most fiscally responsible of the candidates.

5. Ernie Eves' attack dogs immediately go at McGuinty, saying he opposed the CTF's bill in 1999. McGuinty responds by faxing reporters the parliamentary record that show he fully supported it.

6. Stymied by something so obvious as the truth, the Eves camp tries again, saying that because McGuinty is campaigning to repeal the seniors education tax cut they promised at the car plant, he's ignoring the law's requirement to have a referendum on any of his tax hikes. McGuinty's team responds again by calmly pointing out what the law the Tories themselves originally put forward actually says... that clearly articulated campaign promises count. They also calmly point out that it was Eves, not McGuinty, who actually circumvented this particular law in the past when it proved inconvenient.

7. Thinking Ontarians begin looking around for rails, tar, and feathers.

UPDATE: Evil reptilian kitten eater?

Posted by BruceR at 10:23 AM