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Monday, April 23, 2007 

Just how much madder can Mad Mel get?

In years to come, it's hard to dismiss the possibility that Melanie Philips' trajectory from seeming sanity into abject madness won't be a well established case-study for psychology students. Unlike those who slowly lose their minds over time for no apparent reason, or descend into psychosis as a result of imprisonment or abuse, Ms Philips is providing the whole world with the evidence of how someone utterly convinced in their own righteousness will use any evidence, however disreputable or clearly unfounded to prove their wider aims.

Mel herself of course denies that she is batshit crazy. When told disarmingly by Jackie Ashley that some of the ideas she espouses in her Londonistan diatribe come across as "bonkers", she spat back that to say so was akin to the tactics of Stalin, and reminiscent of the treatment of Jews in 1930s Germany, who were ignored when they raised the alarm about what was taking place. This feeds from Mel's obsession with the Holocaust; she believes that a second genocide is either taking place, or is about to take place, and that anyone who dares to criticise Israeli policy is helping it to happen. Her response to the setting up of Independent Jewish Voices was to call them Jews for Genocide.

Even by her standards, her latest investigations into the missing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are incredible. Writing in the Spectator, presumably because even the Daily Mail wouldn't print such staggering inanity, she has almost single-handedly found where they went. Amazingly, it seems that she was right all along in believing that the weapons were secretly smuggled out to Syria, which is a nice bonus:

It’s a fair bet that you have never heard of a guy called Dave Gaubatz. It’s also a fair bet that you think the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found absolutely nothing, nada, zilch; and that therefore there never were any WMD programmes in Saddam’s Iraq to justify the war ostensibly waged to protect the world from Saddam’s use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Between March and July 2003, he says, he was taken to four sites in southern Iraq— two within Nasariyah, one 20 miles south and one near Basra — which, he was told by numerous Iraqi sources, contained biological and chemical weapons, material for a nuclear programme and UN-proscribed missiles. He was, he says, in no doubt whatever that this was true.

This was in the first place because of the massive size of these sites and the extreme lengths to which the Iraqis had gone to conceal them. Three of them were bunkers buried 20-30 feet beneath the Euphrates. They had been constructed through building dams which were removed after the huge subterranean vaults had been excavated so that these were concealed beneath the river bed. The bunker walls were made of reinforced concrete five feet thick.

Mr Gaubatz verbally told the ISG of his findings, and asked them to come with heavy equipment to breach the concrete of the bunkers and uncover their sealed contents. But to his consternation, the ISG told him they didn’t have the manpower or equipment to do it and that it would be ‘unsafe’ to try.

‘The problem was that the ISG were concentrating their efforts in looking for WMD in northern Iraq and this was in the south’, says Mr Gaubatz. ‘They were just swept up by reports of WMD in so many different locations. But we told them if they didn’t excavate these sites, others would’.

That, he says, is precisely what happened. He subsequently learned from Iraqi, CIA and British intelligence that the WMD buried in the four sites were excavated by Iraqis and Syrians, with help from the Russians, and moved to Syria. The location in Syria of this material, he says, is also known to these intelligence agencies. The worst-case scenario has now come about. Saddam’s nuclear, biological and chemical material is in the hands of a rogue terrorist state — and one with close links to Iran.


It's perhaps worth the reading the Wikipedia entry on the Iraq Survey Group, which is reasonably extensive. This seems to directly contradict Gaubatz's account on at least one count: there were three separate sectors, based in the north, around Baghdad and in south, so his claims that the ISG weren't interested due to their apparent immobility seem to be nonsense. The entry also mentions how they were in fact remarkably successful in moving around, only suffering very minor losses, although this was well before the insurgency had reached the strength which it's at today. As Not Saussure also notes, in order for these great bunkers to have been built, it seems that they would have had to diverted the course of the Euphrates, something which might just have been noticed from a country which was one of the most monitored from the air for well over a decade.

All of this begs the obvious question: if such WMD stockpiles had existed, wouldn't a Bush administration desperate to justify its aggression have done the obvious thing and done everything in its power to make it known that the war had been worth fighting after all? Well, as it turns out, Mel has the answer to that as well:

The Republicans won’t touch this because it would reveal the incompetence of the Bush administration in failing to neutralise the danger of Iraqi WMD. The Democrats won’t touch it because it would show President Bush was right to invade Iraq in the first place. It is an axis of embarrassment.

Incompetence sure hasn't stopped the Republicans from doing, well, anything, over the last 7 years. As for the Democrats, wouldn't the more hawkish among them, notably Hilary Clinton, love to able to prove that she was right to support it after all, as well as being able to blast the Republicans for allowing the Syrians to get their hands on Saddam's most deadly weaponry, making the Middle East yet more dangerous?

In fact, it's even worse than we thought. Mel has the testimony of John Loftus that there's an even bigger conspiracy taking shape:

Saddam’s nuclear research, scientists and equipment, he says, have all been relocated to Syria, where US satellite intelligence confirms that uranium centrifuges are now operating — in a country which is not supposed to have any nuclear programme. There is now a nuclear axis, he says, between Iran, Syria and North Korea — with Russia and China helping to build an Islamic bomb against the West. And of course, with assistance from American negligence.

‘Apparently Saddam had the last laugh and donated his secret stockpile to benefit Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. With a little technical advice from Beijing, Syria is now enriching the uranium, Iran is making the missiles, North Korea is testing the warheads, and the White House is hiding its head in the sand.’


You would have thought if such activity was taking place in Syria that we would have heard about it, and that indeed, Israel would be even more concerned about it than it is about Iran, seeing as it shares a border with the country. It's also somehow difficult to imagine how Saddam and the mullahs, implacable enemies, would even in defeat have decided to share the hidden spoils of his labour with them.

In order to further her argument, Mel then published in full the memo from which she quotes John Loftus. It's incredibly lengthy, so I'll leave it to Glenn Greenwald from Salon to sum it up:

On her blog today, Phillips expounds on her article by printing a lengthy Memorandum which claims that: (a) John Negroponte is persecuting various groups which are trying to bring the WMD conspiracy to light because (b) Negroponte is part of what they call the "Red Team" in the U.S. government, which is exceedingly loyal to China, which is crucial given that (c) the stolen-WMD-plot involved the subsequent transfer of "Saddam's WMD technology to Syria and Iran" and that all happened (d) "because the Chinese Army created an international consortium of rogue states to develop the Islamic Bomb" (and Negroponte, it implies, is concealing that by persecuting these groups because he is an agent of China).

John Loftus shares a world-view with Melanie Philips. He too believes that al-Qaida, Hamas, etc are the new Arab equivalent of the Nazis, and that a second Holocaust is a real possibility. One has to wonder if this apparent group-think, with Philips apparently believing anyone as long as they share her own unshakable ideology (Dave Gaubatz now runs a website dedicated to keeping tabs on Muslims across America, and heads a group amusingly called SANE, which in its mission statement says it stands for "A strong commitment to preserve and to protect America’s Judeo-Christian content and moral grounding", which is almost exactly what Mel claims to be doing here in poor Blighty) is what is really behind this phenomenal exclusive. To Mel, anyone who believes that the moral decay in society is a result of multiculturalism and the supposed loosening of our Judeo-Christian shared values is worthy of supporting, even if they come up with such ignorant, conspiratorial, paranoid rot as the above.

As instructive as this is in measuring Mel's sanity, it's also illustrative of the malaise affecting the neo-con right. Its war has become a disaster worse than even the most pessimistic opponent could have predicted, yet it's still so obsessed with proving its righteousness that it will turn to the most improbable and laughable claims and demand that they be investigated. It draws upon on the slightest clink of light, the never completely debunked although daft theory that the weapons were moved into Syria before or after the war, and is willing to believe any construct which takes advantage of it.

And it isn't just on this that they're completely opportunistic. From the second that the first news came from Virginia that Cho had gone his rampage, right-wing bloggers have been desperate to try and link his anger to Islam. Mel's friend Gaubatz did exactly this. So did Debbie Schlussel, who runs what I can only describe as possibly the worst blog I've seen since Little Green Footballs. This all links back to another spree-killer, who just happened to be Muslim, who committed "extroverted suicide" in a mall in Salt Lake City. His apparent martyrdom is explained to us by... Gaubatz.

Mel then keeps what can only be described as good company. She does at least try somewhat to cover her back, mentioning in each article that she doesn't know whether the allegations of Gaubatz and Loftus are true, and tries and fails to self-deprecate at the beginning:

You may be tempted to dismiss this as yet another dodgy claim from a warmongering lackey of the world Zionist neocon conspiracy giving credence to yet another crank pushing US propaganda. If so, perhaps you might pause before throwing this article at the cat. Mr Gaubatz is not some marginal figure. He’s pretty well as near to the horse’s mouth as you can get.

Mel is far too dismissive of herself. She's not a lackey, she's one of the arch propagandists in this country for the neo-con world outlook. She might object to us calling her mad, but we ought to take her no-nonsense, politically correctness-baiting attitude and throw it back at her. Why call a mad animal that looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck anything other than a mad duck?

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Bloody hell! I saw Mad Mel's rantings but I hadn't come across Debbie Schlussel before. Her blog really is jaw droppingly bad. Those shouty responses in the comments are... well, I can't think of a suitable adjective.

Just one question: when did Mad Mel ever come across as being in a position of "seeming sanity"?

She did, once upon a time write for the Grauniad. Even a few years back she wasn't as venomous as she is now; if anything I think it's been the internet and the fans from America which have drove her further into madness.

So she's the female David Aaronovitch or Nick Cohen?

Sort of. Most of the "muscular liberals" are socially and economically liberal and/or left, while Mel certainly isn't.

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