Picasso's War: The Destruction of Guernica and the Masterpiece That Changed the World
by Russell Martin
From Library Journal:
Picasso's "Guernica" was painted in reaction to the barbarous Nazi bombing of the Basque village in Spain in 1937. Martin extensively researched the circumstances surrounding the creation of this painting and the attention it has continued to command. On 9/11 he was in Madrid viewing "Guernica"; here he has collaged his response to the attacks in New York City with his feelings about the painting. In the face of such terrible loss, it may be reasonable to parallel the two

Diary of a Genius by Salvador Dali
In the long history of the bizarre ideas of Salvador Dali, his craziest visions about movies are described in this diary. His plans include making a film about explosive ducks and another one in which one hundred Gypsies eat an elephant in the streets of Madrid. I higly recommend this book for anyone who needs a good laugh. From Amazon.com

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Conspiracy Theory This!

By Martyn Jones

I am in the city of Madrid on a dull but seasonally warm autumn afternoon, I have nothing in particular to do, just a couple of hours to kill before the high-speed AVE train takes me hurtling silently south-bound through the plains and hills of Castilla La Mancha to the sierras of Andalusia and home. I'm leaving from the station of the Puerta de Atocha, a stones throw from one of the best art centres on the Iberia peninsula. I find the left luggage people and leave my bulky suitcase, small back-pack and a new blue winter's coat, which is just too much for this weather, in a huge locker. I remember that there are a lot more flowers and fountains in Madrid these days, and I leave the station by the small side entrance and cross the familiar wide tree-lined boulevard to the plaza at the back of my favourite tapas, sandwich and beer bar - El Diamante. Once inside - the museum and not the bar - I wander around and around the many white halls; high ceilings in cloistral post-modern rooms, and long galleries for reflection or forgetfulness. The Reina Sofia is Spain's national museum of modern art, and it requires almost a suspension of belief to appreciate that so much great art and stuff can be found just a mere five minute walk from where I stood when the idea first occurred to me.

In my purposefully idle wandering around the superb permanent collection of the museum, including works by Salvador Dali, Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, Buñuel, Joan Miro, Rusiñol et al, I once again come across Picasso's famous image of modern war: Gernika. (I recall that I have had lunch in the pretty village of Gernika on a number of occasions, it's a home of honest food and honest people, with links to the past and the future.) This painting was the very same original Gernika that once occupied a prominent place at the in the Security Council chamber at the United Nations building in New York - The original "Gernika", which was sent to Spain, and which now has been replaced with a life-sized replica.

As young as I might be, I remember the original "Gernika" being moved from New York to Madrid, all the fuss about it's packaging, transportation and temporary housing at the Cason del Buen Retiro, near the El Prado en Madrid, and its eventual transfer to its new home. It always seemed to rain those days, although dull New York days are nothing new. Which reminded me of the rainy day of February the 14th 2003, when Colin Powell addressed the United Nations Security Council over the tendentious issue of the interpretation and enforcement of resolution 1441. Never has so much nonsense been written about something so unlike a law and more like a wish-list statement of generally desirable requirements. I then remembered that some folk labelled as "conspiracy theory nuts" had suggested that the covering up of Picasso's (bare faced attack on war) Gernika during the UN Security Council meeting had been at the behest of either Colin Powell or the Bush Administration or for reasons other than those related to television coverage and their desire for a clean backdrop with a clear and strong UN identity. I recalled the outcry over the covering up the Picasso at the UN and it made me think about the meaning of conspiracy, how it's used, where we see it, how it treats us and how we treat it, how we embrace it or reject it.

On the 14th of February 2003, Colin Powell told the UN Security Council members, Mohamed al-Douri the Iraqi ambassador to the UN and Kofi Annan, and the General-Secretary of the UN and other people present, about what he saw as Iraq's non-compliance with UN Resolution 1441 and about the array of physical biological, chemical and nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Programs that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was supposed to have been hiding from the teams of UN Weapons Inspectors headed up by Hans Blix and El Baradei, teams which were then on the ground in Iraq. During this period, as at other periods during the Iraq crisis, there were a lot of conspiracy theories doing the rounds of the internet communities, progressive web-sites and off-centre journals, and there was and still is a lot of comment regarding the content and style of Colin Powell's presentation to the UN that has been dismissed by conservatives and a good few liberals as being nothing more than conspiracy theories, a series of half-truths; triple deceptions; false exactitudes; huff, bluff and bluster designed to show the trusty White House intern Colin Powell in a bad light.

The term 'conspiracy' contemporarily signifies an agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful or subversive act. However, although the very term "conspiracy theory" is subject to various interpretations, there are certain common elements that most people seem to be able to agree on. First of all, conspiracy theories deal with the completion and usually imaginative interpretation of an incomplete picture or a set of factual scenarios. Secondly, although the term conspiracy is associated with something illegal, in the sense of conspiracy theory the conspiracy aspect is as much associated with shadowy or underhand dealings as with illegal activity. Thirdly, the very term 'conspiracy theory' is used to invalidate any 'conspiracy theory'. Of course, the best 'conspiracy theories' have either a sexual, celebrity or political content, the juiciest 'conspiracy theories' of course being the ones that combine all three elements.

Some people who claim that conspiracy theories are based on lies usually locate those lies somewhere in the gray areas that separate factual, logical or credible indicators, they act as the glue that holds the theories together. This inability to articulate the lies or even to locate them accurately sometimes gives the appearance of an opinion that has not been well thought out. Nonetheless, some of the most brazen 'conspiracy theories' do stretch credulity to its limits through the careful and inspired application of truths, half-truths, fabrications and logic.

It has now seemingly transpired that the US, the UK and its allies such as Spain, although of course totally justified in their minds in getting rid of the evil regime of Saddam Hussein and his Ba'athists, may have gone to war, not based wholly on facts and sound analysis, but rather may have justified the human and capital costs of liberating a sovereign country based on: outdated, incomplete and corrupt data; without taking into account the true cultural, social and geopolitical nature of the country being liberated; and, without being able to articulate a plan for invasion, occupation and post liberation, from military occupation to a democratic and civil society; and indeed, the US/UK coalition went to war against the advice of many old friends, new allies and partners in the region, such as France, Germany, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and not to overlook, what appeared to be the overwhelming strength of public opinion in many countries.

Before the liberation of Iraq even began there were claims that Iraqi exiles and insiders had provided the USA with compelling evidence to show that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. One such piece of pre-liberation evidence was related to the alleged existence of mobile laboratories used by the Iraqi regime to make biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, this was a piece of valuable intelligence provided by Iraqi exiles, after the invasion of Iraq it turned out that these mobile WMD laboratories did not in fact exist other than as mobile facilities used to produce hydrogen for weather balloons. However these types of revelations didn't deter the convinced, and US Administration member Paul Wolfowitz speaking on the Meet The Press television show stated that "The nature of terrorism intelligence is intrinsically murky," and went on to say that "If you wait until the terrorism picture is clear, you're going to wait until after something terrible has happened.", it now appears that some of the intelligence and testimony provided by Iraqi exiles may have in fact been false.
Unsurprisingly, several of the defectors were encouraged to speak to US intelligence services by alleged embezzler Ahmad Chalabi, wanted on criminal charges in Syria, and head of the Iraqi National Congress, a former exile group with close ties to the Bush Administration. Just one example of the questionable reliability of the testimony of Iraqi exiles was when Mr. Wolfowitz was supposed to have claimed that some of the most valuable information the administration received came from Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a contractor who left Iraq in the 3rd quarter of 2001. He had apparently told American intelligence officials that chemical and biological weapon laboratories were hidden in palaces and under hospitals. So impressed was the White House with the evidence from their new-best friend that they included Haideri's 'intelligence' in a report: "Iraq; A Decade of Deception and Defiance". However, a good deal of the voracity of Haideri's claims was sadly dealt a heavy blow when U.S. forces searched hospitals and presidential palaces and found nothing - not even trace evidence that weapons had previously been stored there.

In my opinion, the CIA acts as collator, controller and analyst of information received from its intelligence sources. This information is given to the administration either as a regular service or upon a request for specific intelligence for a particular area. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation the CIA supplied intelligence to the Bush Administration, usually in the form of reports, briefings and memos. According to the BBC Friday, 23 May, 2003 "Some CIA operatives have claimed privately that war intelligence provided by the agency was not essentially flawed but was exaggerated and misused by politicians." It is fast becoming apparent that there are rumblings of discontent which contend that intelligence provided in reports to the Bush Administration may have contained information that was not in essence factually adequate, appropriately analyzed or even timely. Now we are not talking about any old report here, this was intelligence used as justification for going to war. It is therefore surprising that the more time passes the more the CIA Iraq intelligence is being painted as really nothing more substantial than a series of conspiracy theories dressed up as credible analysis. The rightwing administration has never been slow at being able to spot a conspiracy theory in the making, either when it works for them, or against them. What is curious however is that the administration didn't spot what it is now declaring to be akin to inaccurate intelligence and lousy analysis, this may say a lot about the CIA, but even more than that it really does highlight an incredible lack of realism and a surfeit of fantasy amongst various key personnel in the Bush administration. But these guys and girls aren't quite your regular folk, after all, one thing is to be wrong footed by the exaggerations of exiles looking to curry favour with the big dog on the block another thing is to innocently try and convince the voting public that an administration has been unwittingly suckered by its own intelligence.

Many people in the administrations in both the US and the UK are now claiming that nobody could have envisaged that the situation in Iraq from the invasion through to the end of major hostilities and to the present situation, would have turned out as it is has done. This is in itself is impossible to believe, especially considering the frequent advice of many veteran politicians, analysts and intellectuals during the run-up to the conflict.

The Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, said on February 26th 2003 that the United States would be deluding itself if it thought it could control Iraq after a second Gulf war. During a news conference address in Jeddah the Prince said that "Anyone who thinks he can control Iraq is deluding himself," he went on the add that "Iraq is a people, a country, a civilization, a history, and its people will not tolerate any external control". Prince Saud also commented on the possibility of a war being launched without UN support: "Unilateral action would not be advisable. It would not be in the interest of Iraq, the region or the United States. Thankfully, we have seen the United States agreeing to allow the United Nations to tackle the issue.", in terms of the impact on a war on the region the Prince added "we are for the survival and stability of the region. Our goal is to avoid war. Any opportunity that can lead to that should be utilized. Peace is always the best solution."

On the 10th of March 10, 2003, it was reported that former President George H.W. Bush had indirectly warned his son against going to war that was not backed-up with full international unity. In an address at Tufts University in Massachusetts, the former President of the USA said "You've got to reach out to the other person. You've got to convince them that long-term friendship should trump short-term adversity," he said, also adding that even though the essential question of how many weapons of mass destruction Iraq held "could be debated" that the actual case against Saddam Hussein was "less clear" than it had been in 1991.

In the Meet The Press edition of March 16th 2003 US Vice President Richard Cheney was asked by Mr. Russert: "If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist … do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?". Vice President Cheney replied: "Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, … Things have gotten so bad inside Iraq ... we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators,".". Comments that seem to indicate that at least Cheney was pretty comfortable with the intelligence he was receiving prior to the invasion of Iraq. The coalition of the willing were not greeting with smiles and flowers, and with all the intelligence of the world at his fingertips, VP Cheney, like so many others in the Bush Administration, was seemingly oblivious to the old middle-eastern saying: "My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against a stranger.".

For this to happen it requires that people accept that the government lies to them because otherwise these very same people know themselves that they would react negatively, as far as the government is concerned, when presented with the truth. Therefore people believe that its legitimate for the government to lie to them because they want the government to do what the government believes it needs to do but at the same time people who want the governments to do what they do, do not want to be made uncomfortable by exposure to the truth of what government does even though at the same time they don't want to know that they are being lied to. In other words, a lot of the public are in effect saying to the government "tell me the truth and don't let me know when you are lying, but lie as you feel fit".

In spite of the bad press that 'conspiracy theories' receive there have also been some celebrity theories: Remember Watergate? Nixon, hangovers, plumbers and skulduggery? Watergate itself started as a conspiracy theory too, thing is, it was also a conspiracy that turned out to be true, much like many other 'conspiracy theory' that have been shown to be true. High ranking Iraqi officers were given payments to ensure that they did not oppose the invasion of Iraq - they didn't? well, they did; the USA has listening posts around the world for intercepting and analyzing commercial and personal communication such as fax transmissions, telephone conversations and email messages - the little devils called the whole thing Echelon, which is the name of this communications interception network operated by the Uncle Sam, the Limeys, the Mounties, the Aussies and the Kiwis - a right regular Anglo-Saxon spook machine; From the 1950s through to the mid 70s, CIA agents administered drugs such as LSD to unsuspecting human guinea-pigs, in an effort to come up with a viable truth-serum and mind-control drug. The MKULTRA project was uncovered by Presidential and Congressional research committees in 1975, and was formally discontinued at that time; British Premiere Margaret Thatcher ordered the Royal Navy warship that had patrolled the coast of The Falklands since the 60s to stand-down immediately prior to the islands invasion by an Argentinean expeditionary force. Although many juvenile republicans and arm-chair supporters still scoff at the idea that the Clintons were the target of a vast conspiracy, overwhelming material evidence and the testimonials of many participants on all aides indicates otherwise. However, not all 'conspiracy theories' are true, as can be witnessed by the lack of any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

I'm thinking now, whilst I stand eating my warm bocadillo de calamares and drinking my cold cereveza, about various seemingly disconnected pieces of information and several disengaged events: In a recent Harris poll it was revealed that: most Americans believe in miracles; half of Americans believe in ghosts and, that a third believe in Astrology. On September the 29th 2001 in Des Moines, Iowa, the former US Vice President Al Gore, seemingly forgetting he is not a member of the armed services, erroneously described President Bush as ''my commander in chief''. Before the invasion of Iraq it was Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman whom fell over each other in their haste to get to the White House photo-op and to stand side by side in the Rose Garden with President Bush, and to proclaim their loyal support for the Iraq war resolution. In the pre-Iraq silly season the long-time democrat Tom Daschle eagerly agreed to Bush's Iraq timetable which, as if anyone really cared, meant restrictions on congressional debate. Those who are supposed to be looking still haven't found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The White House has still not found the leaker who is in their midst's. Today, the State Department is in open war with the Pentagon, the Pentagon has picked a fight with the CIA, the CIA is in conflict with the White House, and the White House doesn't know which way to turn.

In Madrid in November, after visiting the Reina Sofia, I remember that day in February of 2003, the day on which Tio Sam stuck up Colin Powell to address the United Nations Security Council in New York. I recalled the words in random order: "continued efforts"; "liar"; "to deceive"; "deny"; "divert"; "throw us off the trail"; "nonsense"; "off the path", no longer remembering when the words were used or exactly why. So, in the absence of a born-again Chamberlain, the UN was tasked with the role of trying to appease the unrequited war-mongers. Powell turned up at the UN and performed his multi-media dog and pony show, which turned out to be a long concatenation of vaudeville, meaningless clichés, lousy intelligence and even worse analysis, the result being that it left the assembled delegates and guests mightily deceived, mortified and just a little annoyed. They were deceived because they thought that such political games and antics were below the likes of a "honourable" person like Colin Powell, that he at least would be capable of resisting the temptation to use the bluff, bluster and half-truths, that lesser people succumb to - yes, I do remember Woody Allen in Bananas and the his killer line "so long suckers". They were mortified by the sheer audacity of the flaky shallowness of the case, and annoyed that they were expected, by a life-long ally, to swallow such ingenuous crap - served up as both the evidence of non-compliance and the justification for going to war. It was the day that the US Administration clearly identified itself as both the suckers of 'conspiracy theories' and also as a key source of Bush-neocon-clan approved 'conspiracy theories'. All this done against the back-drop of a large and plain blue-screen, which, perhaps more coincidentally than any Charles Dickens coincidence, covered Picasso's interpretation of the first pre-emptive blitzkrieg in modern conflict. It was a brief and indecorous hiatus in the life of the UN, but it left it's mark, its stench and it's bitter taste: one small conspiracy theory for man, one large screw-up for humanity.

On the 5th of February 2003, Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times "Mr. Powell can't very well seduce the world into bombing Iraq surrounded on camera by shrieking and mutilated women, men, children, bulls and horses".

On that day it became clear that the US Administration had surpassed itself in even suspending its own belief in the Machiavellian idea of maintaining the big lies behind a façade of sincerity; genuineness, honesty, and freedom from duplicity. This was such a shameless act of arrogant desperation that not even a real Prince would have been expected to play it out.

© 2003 Martyn Richard Jones
All Rights Reserved

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