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Oct 29, 2005

Portrait of Conspiracy: The Cabal At Work

(click image for larger version)

As more and more information spills out about the deception and double dealing involved in the selling of the Iraq war, you have a paper trail and you have a pictorial trail. 

Of course, the two are profoundly different.  With the former, you get the factual goods, while the latter is largely impressionistic.  However, I would argue that particular images -- especially when supported by facts -- represent a rather robust source of clues regarding attitudes, strategies, motives, social alliances and the like.   Even if we do not yet possess the techniques or methodologies to more effectively decrypt and decipher this information, we should still -- with a careful outlook -- be able to extract considerable potential meaning.

Because only so many photos are distributed by the White House, we can take special note of those  provided to the public and press at moments under dispute.  The caption for this image reads as follows:

Vice President Dick Cheney meets with Iraqi Americans and Iraqi Expatriates in the Roosevelt Room.

Well, that's a wonderful caption.

According to the State Department, however, the people on the left are members of an organization called Women for a Free Iraq, a disparate band which has strangely disappeared by now (and was originally created by a government backed, pro-war liberation group which has been drawing funds from the U.S. government to procure Iraqi state documents for the prosecution of Saddam Hussein).  If you check the specific State Department  web page, you can find their names and affiliations in a caption under a photo they took with Secretary Powell.   (Apparently, the same day they met with Cheney -- two weeks before the war started -- the group also met with Condi Rice, briefed members of Congress and gave a briefing at the National Press Club.)

To more fully understand the curiosity of this picture, however, you should take it at the most simple face value.  In an otherwise innocent situation, it would be understandable for a relatively minor group of dissidents to get their picture taken with one, maybe two figures on the right.  It might even make sense for the Iraqis to earn a couple minutes of sit down time with maybe one of these overly busy government heavyweights.  However, for this relatively weightless delegation to participate in what looks like a mini-summit with Senator Levin, as well as the trioka of Cheney, Wolfy and Libby (in terms of the power differential, notice how the Iraq delegation literally hugs that table; in terms of time, notice that the Iraqis have the occasion to break into consultative material), you've got to wonder how they've been afforded such a platform.

(updated: 10/29/05.  9:48 am PST)

(image: David Bohrer/White House.  March 6, 2003.


I don't know how to make links to other sites, but if you go to Yahoo News and click on "Indictment Adds to White House Woes" (AP, 10/29/05, 1:45 a.m.) there's the most telling news photo of the White House I've seen since I've been following Bagnews. WOW!

This is the picture that blabby mentioned: Stormy Autumn Sky.

The first thing I noticed was that the left side of the table is very different from the right. They have their notes out, bottles of water... maybe they've been there for a while. On the right side, just a couple of files unopened on the table. Maybe they just came in and are talking for a few minutes; it looks like no one on that side's planning on taking any notes.

I was wondering what this group "Women for a Free Iraq" is. According to this, it seems to be a group that was launched in January 2003 at a White House meeting, with support from Dick Cheney (and some think tank that was created two days after 9/11). So it was started in January; another paragraph at that link says that it was "a group of women who came together in February 2003 to speak up about the suffering of Iraqis under Saddam's brutal rule, and rally support for the liberation of Iraq..."

So basically, this group was created with Cheney's support in either January or February 2003, specifically to lobby for the overthrow of Saddam, and here they are in the beginning of March 2003, meeting with Cheney again.

The State Department description of that meeting says:

"On March 6, Iraqi exiles in the United States met with Bush administration officials and members of Congress to urge Americans to support military action against Saddam Hussein and bring democracy to Iraq.

"Members of a group called Women for a Free Iraq were among the Iraqi expatriates who went first to the White House, and then to Capitol Hill."

That disclaimer seems pretty ridiculous, knowing this.

ummabdulla, nice work observing about the two sides of the table and investigating the origins of the Women for a Free Iraq. Another group created by Bushco to promote their war. Yet another bit of the conspiracy.

What struck me when I looked at this is that Cheney is at the center of attention, though he is on the right side of the photo. Everything is symmetrical. Of course, everyone is looking at him, but, in addition, both corners of the table radiate towards him. At the far end, the water bottles line up to point towards him. At the near end, a hanging folder balances the clutter at the other end. Put your thumb over the hanging folder or the bottles, and you'll see that Cheney loses substance: I wish I could photoshop that.

Meanwhile, on his side of the table, Cheney sits equidistant between two notebooks. The flag is behind his head, a vertical emphasis. His body is twisted, concave, as if absorbing all the attention. It's all about Cheney.

In answer to the question about what the pictoral trail tell us, now, this picture suggests that this event was staged, like the Iraq war, to showcase the power of Bushco.

Ummabdella and PT make excellent points--to add a little bit more . . . Cheney, Wolfowitz and the man at the end (who is he?) are the only ones with nothing in front of them on the table that I can see. Doesn't that usually indicate power? Ummabdella points out that the people on the left have their papers out and look like they're ready to get to work. But the people on the right side of the table sit with pricey, unopened leather portfolios. Either they haven't started work yet or they have no real intention of doing any work for Women for a Free Iraq. It's all a sham. This White House photo-op is all they're going to get. With their humble paper folders and water bottles, the Iraqi group is transient and powerless. PT noticed how the water bottles on one end and the hanging paper folder on the other end magnify Cheney's power position in this photo and reiterate the Iraqis' powerlessness.

Speaking of leather portfolios or appointment books, in the October 27 "Reclaiming The Frame," we saw another leather portfolio, cradled by Cheney on a couch in the White House. Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor who's investigating Cheney's office, was appointed a few months after this photo was taken in 2003 . . . I wonder what his appointment books look like. I'm sure they're not as sleek and high-priced as the ones the Cheney and his staff favor. Like the people on the left in this photo, he probably tends towards the low-priced and practical.

The comments/observations by Ummabdella, PT and Marysz are so on target, I wonder if they have worked for a major corporation and have the Insider View.

They are absolutely correct in their analyses.

The people on the left of the table were prepared to talk, in length, for the goals they hope to achieve for their people. They were sincere and earnest.

The people on the right were only there for the time it took for the photographers to get the shots. They didn't bring water or note pads or anything. For them it's Stop 'n' NeGo. Cheney never planned to listen or negotiate, no one on the right side did. The whole shibang was probably a real inconvenience for these NeoCons.

God, how they must hate these obligatory "let's look Human" moments.

As the updated post mentions, the "Women for a Free Iraq" group - or at least their website - is gone. I guess they've served their purpose... and if they ever did actually bring up the concerns of ordinary Iraqis, that message surely isn't welcome now that Saddam's not there to blame.

Maybe the website developer is now busy getting the "Women for a Free Syria" website ready...

'Women for a Free Iraq' may be gone, but the Organisation of Womens' Freedom in Iraq are still around.Looks like they've been calling for a referendum boycott and turning up talking to Amy Goodman so I guess they didn't get asked to Dick's Tea Party.

Ironic, considering the worsening of womens' positions following the breakdown of civil order after the invasion. Riverbend ( this in detail.
She has had to give up her job and cover up her face/hair, take a male relative when out walking...

My interpretation centers around the obvious inequality of power on the two sides of the table, which matches the gender and ethnic distribution, and the hands. The men on the left are associated with a women's group, and they share the same clasped hands pose, which could be viewed as attentive, pleading, or worshipful, or a sign of "all our cards are on the table." I don't know if clasped hands has another meaning in Arab culture. Geert Hofstede™ Cultural Dimensions says the Arab countries have a high "Power Distance Index," meaning an acceptance of unequal power relations in society, and a high Uncertainty Avoidance Index, which together explains the acceptance of authoritarian rule in much of the Arab world ( In that context, the clasped hands may indicate submission, as if the hands were bound together. Those on the left side are looking at Cheney, while those on the right side are avoiding eye contact with those on the left. The man in the back is actually looking at the floor to avoid the eyes of those on the left. The power players on the right side of the table for the most part have their hands below the table, which could be a sign of cheating in a card game or at least deception. Cheney's gesture is either being even-handed, dispensing wisdom, holding his cards close to his vest, or offering an empty hand to his guests. The open-hand, palm-up gesture is also the gesture of the fiat, "let it be done."

I was thinking that everyone was just looking at Cheney because they were listening to him, but you're right - they all seem to be avoiding looking at the "Women for a Free Iraq" people. Maybe they set up this group just as a prop for photo ops, but then some of the members actually got to thinking that they actually would be listened to, and that's making for an awkward atmosphere.

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