On my wall is the Daily Express front page of September 5 1945 and the words: “I write this as a warning to the world.” So began Wilfred Burchett’s report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror. Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again we are held hostage by the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity’s most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic. John Kerry’s farce and Barack Obama’s pirouettes are temporary.Russia’s peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy. With al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran. “This operation [in Syria],” said the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in June, “goes way back. It was prepared, pre-conceived and planned.” When the public is “psychologically scarred”, as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people’s overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, suppressing the truth is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the “rebels” used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US, not Syria, that is the world’s most prolific user of these terrible weapons. In 1970 the Senate reported: “The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population.” This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand – the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a “cycle of foetal catastrophe”. I have seen generations of children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorus, as did the Israelis in Gaza. No Obama “red line” for them. No showdown psychodrama for them. The sterile repetitive debate about whether “we” should “take action” against selected dictators (ie cheer on the US and its acolytes in yet another aerial killing spree) is part of our brainwashing. Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law and UN special rapporteur on Palestine, describes it as “a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence”. This “is so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable”. It is the biggest lie: the product of “liberal realists” in Anglo-American politics, scholarship and media who ordain themselves as the world’s crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. Stripping humanity from the study of nations and congealing it with jargon that serves western power designs, they mark “failed”, “rogue” or “evil” states for “humanitarian intervention”. An attack on Syria or Iran or any other US “demon” would draw on a fashionable variant, “Responsibility to Protect”, or R2P – whose lectern-trotting zealot is the former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, co-chair of a “global centre” based in New York. Evans and his generously funded lobbyists play a vital propaganda role in urging the “international community” to attack countries where “the security council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time”. Evans has form. He appeared in my 1994 film Death of a Nation, which revealed the scale of genocide in East Timor. Canberra’s smiling man is raising his champagne glass in a toast to his Indonesian equivalent as they fly over East Timor in an Australian aircraft, having signed a treaty to pirate the oil and gas of the stricken country where the tyrant Suharto killed or starved a third of the population. Under the “weak” Obama, militarism has risen perhaps as never before. With not a single tank on the White House lawn, a military coup has taken place in Washington. In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned facade, more former US soldiers are killing themselves than are dying on battlefields. Last year 6,500 veterans took their own lives. Put out more flags. The historian Norman Pollack calls this “liberal fascism”: “For goose-steppers substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.” Every Tuesday the “humanitarian” Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that “bugsplat” people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west’s comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement – Obama’s singular achievement. In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded. A stirring has begun, though people of conscience should hurry. The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: “Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity.” The ordinary people of Syria, and countless others, and our own self-respect, deserve nothing less now.
Two years before the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP off-shore rig suffered a nearly identical blow-out, but BP concealed the first one from the U.S. regulators and Congress.
This week, EcoWatch.org located an eyewitness with devastating new information about the Caspian Sea oil-rig blow-out which BP had concealed from government and the industry.
The witness, whose story is backed up by rig workers who were evacuated from BP’s Caspian platform, said that had BP revealed the full story as required by industry practice, the eleven Gulf of Mexico workers “could have had a chance” of survival. But BP’s insistence on using methods proven faulty sealed their fate.
One cause of the blow-outs was the same in both cases: the use of a money-saving technique—plugging holes with “quick-dry” cement.
By hiding the disastrous failure of its penny-pinching cement process in 2008, BP was able to continue to use the dangerous methods in the Gulf of Mexico—causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. April 20 marks the second anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster.
There were several failures in common to the two incidents identified by the eyewitness. He is an industry insider whose identity and expertise we have confirmed. His name and that of other witnesses we contacted must be withheld for their safety.
The failures revolve around the use of “quick-dry” cement, the uselessness of blow-out preventers, “mayhem” in evacuation procedures and an atmosphere of fear which prevents workers from blowing the whistle on safety problems.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “We have laws that make it illegal to hide this kind of information. At the very least, these are lies by omission. When you juxtapose their knowledge of this incident upon the oil companies constant and persistent assurances of safety to regulators, investigators and shareholders, you have all the elements to prove that their concealment of the information was criminal.”
The first blow-out occurred on a BP rig in the Caspian Sea off the coast of Baku, Azerbaijan, in September 2008. BP was able to conceal such an extraordinary event with the help of the ruling regime of Azerbaijan, other oil companies and, our investigators learned, the Bush Administration.
Our investigation began just days after the explosion and sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010 when this reporterreceived an extraordinary message from a terrified witness—from a ship floating in the Caspian Sea:
“I know how …. Would not be wise for me to communicate via [official] IT system, ….”
When the insider was contacted on a secure line, he stated that he witnessed a blow-out and the panicked evacuation of the giant BP “ACG” drilling platform.
To confirm the witness’ story, British television’s premier investigative program, Dispatches, sent this reporter under cover into Baku, Azerbaijan, with a cameraman. While approaching the BP oil terminal, the Islamic republic’s Security Ministry arrested the crew.
To avoid diplomatic difficulties, we were quickly released. However, two new witnesses suddenly vanished, all communication lost with them, after they confirmed the facts of the 2008 blow-out. Both told us they had been evacuated from the BP off-shore platform as it filled with methane.
Furthermore, witnesses confirmed that, “there was mud (drill-pipe cement) blown out all over the platform.” It appears the cement cap failed to hold back high-pressure gases which, “engulfed the entire platform in methane gas,” which is highly explosive.
In both cases, the insider told us, BP had used “quick-dry” cement to cap their well bores and the cost-saving procedure failed catastrophically.
We have learned this week that BP failed to notify the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) about the failure of the cement. (British companies report incidents as minor as a hammer dropped.) Notification would have alerted Gulf cement contractor Halliburton that the process of adding nitrogen to cement posed unforeseen dangers.
In fact, this past December, BP attempted to place the blame and costs of the Gulf disaster on Halliburton, the oil services company that injected quick-dry cement into the well under the Deepwater Horizon. BP told a federal court that Halliburton concealed a computer model that would show that, under certain conditions, the cement could fail disastrously.
Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it became clear that nitrogen-laced mud can leave “channels” in the cement, allowing gas to escape and blow out the well-bore cap. However, that would have become clearer, and risks better assessed, had Halliburton and regulators known of the particulars of the Caspian blow-out.
We have also just learned that the cement casing itself appears to have cracked apart in the Caspian Sea. The sea, we were told, “was bubbling all around [from boiling methane]. You’re even scared to launch a life boat, it may sink.”
This exposed another problem with deepwater drilling. BP had promoted Blow-Out Preventers (BOPs) as a last line of defense in case of a blow-out. But if the casing shatters, the BOPs could be useless.
BP has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal the story of the first blow-out, and for good reason: If the company deliberately withheld the information that it knew “quick-dry” cement had failed yet continued to use it, the 11 deaths on its Gulf rig were not an unexpected accident but could be considered negligent homicide.
Kennedy told me, “This is a critical piece of information. The entire government is basing its policy on the assurances of this company that this process can be done safely and it never failed before. This is what they were telling everybody. Yet, the whole time they knewthat this was a process that had failed disastrously in the Caspian Sea.”
Why haven’t these stories come out before? This week our witness explained that in Azerbaijan, “People disappear on a regular basis. It’s a police state.”
But even in the U.S. and Europe, BP and other industry workers are afraid to complain for fear their files will be marked “NRB,” for Not Required Back—which will end a workers’ offshore career. Jake Malloy, head of the Offshore Oil Workers Union, reached in Aberdeen, Scotland, independently confirmed statements of the whistleblowers. He noted that companies create an atmosphere of fear for one’s job with the “NRB” system and its latest variants, which discourage reports on safety problems.
BP refused an interview for this investigation, though the company responded to our written questions regarding the Caspian blow-out. Notably, the company does not deny that the blow-out occurred, nor even that it concealed the information from U.S. and UK regulators. Rather, the company says there was a “gas release”—a common and benign event, not a blow-out. As to the accusation of concealment, BP states:
“BP has shared findings from its investigation into the incident with the Azerbaijan government, [Azerbaijan] regulators, its partners and within BP.”
While BP says it issued a press release at the time of the September 2008 Caspian blow-out, the company did not tell the whole truth as reported by workers and witnesses.
The BP press release of that day admitted only that, “a gas leak was discovered in the area of” the platform when, in fact, it was an explosion of cement and methane, say our witnesses, “which engulfed the platform.”
BP later stated that all operations on the platform were suspended as a “precautionary measure,” suggesting a distant, natural leak. In fact, the workers themselves said that, like the workers on the Deepwater Horizon, they were one spark away from death, with frightened minutes to escape.
While BP called the evacuation a by-the-textbook procedure, in fact, said our witness, “It was total mayhem,” and that a lifeboat rammed a rescue ship in the chaos. U.S. government investigators in the Gulf cite BP’s confused and chaotic evacuation procedures for possibly adding to the Deepwater Horizon’s death toll. Information about the 2008 blow-out should have led to improved procedures and possibly could have saved lives.
More seriously, BP PLC’s official filing to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, which requires reporting of all “material” events in company operations, again talked about a “subsurface release,” concealing that the methane blew outthrough its drilling stack.
Both the safety of quick-dry cement (which some drillers won’t use) and deep water drilling itself were in contention before the April 20, 2010 Gulf blow-out. In fact, the U.S. Department of Interior was refusing BP, Chevron and Exxon the right to expand the area of their deep water drilling in the Gulf over safety questions.
Rainey made no mention to Congress of the blow-out in the Caspian Sea which occurred a year before his testimony.
BP itself states that if not for Halliburton’s quick-dry cement failures, the Deepwater Horizon would never have blown out. Halliburton defends itself by saying that BP’s methods created air channels in the cement that caused it to fail.
Notably, BP’s court Motion states, “Halliburton has deprived the Court and parties of uniquely relevant evidence.” BP claims that hiding the information about problems with the cement caused the loss of lives.
Kennedy suggests that if Halliburton’s withholding evidence was deadly, so was BP’s concealment of the cement failure in the Caspian.
Stefanie Penn Spear, editor of EcoWatch.org, says that BP’s hiding evidence ultimately led to, “The biggest oil spill in U.S. history. It entirely turned the Gulf Coast economy upside down and threatened—and continues to threaten—the health and livelihoods of the people in the Gulf region.”
How is it that a major oil disaster, a blow-out that shut down one of the world’s biggest oil fields and required the emergency evacuation of 211 rig workers could be covered up, hidden from U.S. regulators and Congress?
The answer: pay-offs, threats, political muscle and the connivance of the Bush Administration’s State Department, Exxon and Chevron.
Evidence now implicates top BP executives as well as its partners Chevron and Exxon and the Bush Administration in the deadly cover-up—which included falsifying a report to the Securities Exchange Commission.
Yesterday, Ecowatch.org revealed that, in September 2008, nearly two years before the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP rig had blown out in the Caspian Sea—which BP concealed from U.S. regulators and Congress.
Had BP, Chevron, Exxon or the Bush State Department revealed the facts of the earlier blow-out, it is likely that the Deepwater Horizon disaster would have been prevented.
Days after the Deepwater Horizon blow-out, a message came in to our offices in New York from an industry insider floating on a ship in the Caspian Sea. He stated there had been a blow-out, just like the one in the Gulf, and BP had covered it up.
To confirm this shocking accusation, I flew with my team to the Islamic republic of Azerbaijan. Outside the capital, Baku, near the giant BP terminal, we found workers, though too frightened to give their names, who did confirm that they were evacuated from the BP offshore platform as it filled with explosive methane gas.
Before we could get them on camera, my crew and I were arrested and the witnesses disappeared.
Expelled from Azerbaijan, we still obtained the ultimate corroboration: a secret cable from the U.S. Embassy to the State Department in Washington laying out the whole story of the 2008 Caspian blow-out.
The source of the cable, classified “SECRET,” was a disaffected U.S. soldier, Private Bradley Manning who, through WikiLeaks.org, provided hot smoking guns to The Guardian.
The information found in the U.S. embassy cables is a block-buster.
The cables confirmed what BP will not admit to this day: there was a serious blow-out and its cause was the same as in the Gulf disaster two years later—the cement (“mud”) used to cap the well had failed.
“Schrader said that the September 17shutdown of the Central Azeri (CA) platform…was the largest such emergency evacuation in BP’s history. Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition. … Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was ‘a lot of mud’ on the platform.”
From other sources, we discovered the cement which failed had been mixed with nitrogen as a way to speed up drying, a risky process that was repeated on the Deepwater Horizon.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, calls the concealment of this information, “criminal. We have laws that make it illegal to hide this.”
The cables also reveal that BP’s oil-company partners knew about the blow-out but they too concealed the information from Congress, regulators and the Securities Exchange Commission. BP’s major U.S. partners in the Caspian Sea drilling operation were Chevron and Exxon.
The State Department got involved in the matter because BP’s U.S. partners and the Azerbaijani government were losing more than $50 million per day due to the platform’s shutdown. The Embassy cabled Washington:
“BP’s ACG partners are similarly upset with BP’s performance in this episode, as they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this event even to its ACG partners.”
The body of a decorated US Army officer was found dumped in a Delaware landfill on New Years Eve day, a few days after he expressed concern that the nation wasn’t adequately prepared for cyber warfare, according to news reports following the bizarre whodunit.
Events surrounding the murder of John P. Wheeler III, who most recently worked part-time for defense contractor Mitre Corporation on cyber defense topics, read like a Tom Clancy novel. The 66-year-old worked for three Republican administrations, was special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force, served in the office of the Secretary of Defense, and penned a manual on the effectiveness of biological and chemical weapons, which urged US forces to show restraint.
The day after Christmas – five days before his body was found as it was being dumped from a trash truck into the Cherry Island Landfill in Wilmington – Wheeler sent longtime friend Richard Radez an email expressing concern that the US wasn’t sufficiently prepared for “cyber warfare,” according to The Associated Press.
“This was something that had preoccupied him over the last couple of years,” Radez told the news organization.
Wheeler’s focus on computer warfare, and his ties to Mitre, have already attracted conspiracy theories involving the military industrial complex, but there are plenty of other intriguing details that don’t immediately fit into such a plot.
Among them are revelations that Wheeler was seen on December 29 and 30 in a “confused and disoriented” state in downtown Wilmington. During that last appearance, which occurred some 14 hours before his body was discovered, he was wandering inside an office building a few blocks from an attorney who was handling a contentious lawsuit Wheeler filed to stop neighbors from building a home near his. He refused help from several people who approached him.
A day earlier, he approached a parking garage attendant “wearing a black suit with no tie and only one shoe,” according to the AP report. He carried the missing shoe in his hand and wore no overcoat, despite the frigid temperature. He told the attendant he had been robbed of his briefcase and said repeatedly he wasn’t drunk.
To further the intrigue, Delaware police have reportedly found evidence that Wheeler may have been involved in an attempted arson on the same neighbors he was suing. The attempted arson on December 28 came after someone tossed several smoke bombs used for rodent control into the neighbors’ house, scorching the floors.
What’s more, the AP has reported that yellow police evidence tape was seen surrounding two wooden chairs in Wheeler’s kitchen, where several wooden floorboards were missing, even though Delaware police have said the victim’s home is not considered a crime scene. A neighbor, according to Examiner.com, said Wheeler’s television blared continuously in the days preceding his death.
Those details, combined with the fact that someone went to considerable effort to hide Wheeler’s body in a trash dumpster in nearby Newark, Delaware, would suggest the homicide wasn’t a random mugging.
The FBI has offered “technical assistance” to the Delaware police, and judging from the facts as they are so far know, they’re going to need it.
The White House has released a list of 16 people whose criminal convictions would be eliminated or commuted, but the group is more notable for those not included: Conrad Black, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Michael Milken, and other notable felons who have sought clemency.
American presidents wield the powerful constitutional power to pardon or commute the prison sentences of any individual, but so far George W Bush has proven reluctant to absolve the boldfaced names seeking clemency from the US justice department.
Among the 14 pardons and two commutations released yesterday by the White House was John Forte, the Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist known for his collaborations with the Fugees. Forte had served about seven years of a 14-year sentence for transporting a suitcase filled with more than $1m worth of cocaine.
Forte had several powerful allies pressing the White House for a pardon, including Republican senator Orrin Hatch, who moonlights as a successful songwriter, and pop star Carly Simon, whose son was a classmate of Forte’s at the elite prep school Philips Exeter. Bush and his father also both attended Exeter.
The most prominent pardon-seekers currently serving prison terms – Black, the former boss of the Daily Telegraph, and disgraced former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham – did not make the list but remain eligible for a pardon until January 20, when Bush steps aside for Barack Obama.
Others still petitioning for clemency include Michael Milken, the Wall Street junk bond trader who served a short prison term for 1980s-era financial crimes before rehabilitating himself through charity work, and Scooter Libby, the former top aide to vice-president Dick Cheney whose perjury sentence Bush commuted last year.
The 16 individuals released late yesterday bring Bush’s total clemency figures to 171 pardons and eight commutations, a notable low for a US president serving two terms.
Part of Bush’s reluctance may stem from the controversy unleashed by Bill Clinton, who made several politically charged pardons before leaving the White House in 2000.
A congressional investigation was later launched into Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, a fugitive financier whose wife had donated nearly $500,000 (£327,000) to the president’s library fund while pleading for Rich to win a pardon.
Here’s the full list of those let offa the hook, snatched from Wiki:
James Leon Adams (1965 selling firearms to out of state residents and falsifying firearms records)
Kristan Diane Bullock Akins (1990 Embezzlement by a bank employee)
Charles James Allen (1979 conspiracy to defraud the United States. A former federal employee, Allen was convicted for approving payments to James Hilles Associates Inc., a Virginia firm, for office supplies that were never delivered. In return, Allen received car parts, a radio, a freezer and other gifts from the firm. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
Tony Dale Ashworth (1989 unlawful transfer of a firearm)
Alan Dale Austin (1987 misapplication of mortgage funds)
William Sidney Baldwin Sr. (1981 conspiracy to possess marijuana. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
Timothy Evans Barfield (1989 aiding and abetting false statements on a Small Business Administration loan application. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
Bruce Louis Bartos (1987 transportation of a machine gun in foreign commerce)
George Francis Bauckham (1958 unlawful detention or delay of the mail by a postal employee)
David Thomas Billmyer (1978 military conviction for making a false claim)
James Allen (Albert) Bodendieck, Sr. (1959 interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle)
Clyde Philip Boudreaux (1975 military conviction for borrowing money from enlisted men, accepting a noninterest-bearing loan from a government contractor and signing and swearing to a false affidavit. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
Gene Armand Bridger (1963 Conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and mail fraud)
Marie Georgette Ginette Briere (1982 possession of cocaine with intent to distribute)
Kenneth Charles Britt (1998 conspiracy to violate fish and wildlife laws)
Jeffrey James Bruce (1994 possession of stolen mail)
Charles Wayne Bryant (1962 theft of U.S. mail matter by employee)
Mark Alan Eberwine (1985 conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, and obstructing the assessment of taxes by the Internal Revenue Service and making false declarations to the grand jury. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
Rusty Lawrence Elliott (1991 Making counterfeit Federal Reserve notes)
Colin Earl Francis (1993 accepting a kickback of about $9,000 for helping a vendor for United Technologies Corp.’s Sikorsky Aircraft division, where Francis worked at the time, land a contract. Pardoned December 21, 2006)
Victoria Diane Frost (1994 conspiracy to possess)
William Grover Frye (1968 AWOL and 1973 sale of stolen car)
Joseph Daniel Gavin (1979 military insubordination, drunkenness, threats, and other offenses) 
George Glenn (1956 accepting $50 bribe while in military)