Saturday, October 18, 2008

Facts, Fishing, and Monkey-Business

Associated Press
updated 9:49 a.m. CT, Fri., Oct. 17, 2008
Monkey photo fails to fool Los Angeles officials
Told to surrender pet, owner tries to make court believe ape is in Mexico

LOS ANGELES - A California man is headed back to court after trying to use a photo of his pet monkey alongside a Mexican newspaper to fool a court commissioner into believing the animal had been sent south of the border. David Grigorian had been ordered to surrender his [monkey] Cheeta because he did not have a permit for the animal…. His proof: a photo of Cheeta beside a recently dated Mexican newspaper…. Grigorian eventually admitted that Cheeta was in downtown Los Angeles. He has agreed to hand Cheeta over to federal officials.

One of the painfully obvious actualities of courtroom drama is that prosecutors are sworn to present ONE version of events—no matter what—even if that version is not the only version (or, worse, is fabricated).

When David Grigorian presented a picture of his monkey reading a Mexican newspaper, he was not fabricating reality. Both the monkey and the newspaper did exist, and they were together. Desperate, Mr. Grigorian tried to convince the court that, because the two were at a given moment side by side, they were both in Mexico.
Dawn Goldberg, IRS agent since 1985, testified for the prosecution in the HLF trial on October 16. The government spent tax money to fly her from Cincinnati, where the IRS Tax Exempt Entities office is located, for her fifteen minutes of fame. She was to prove that the HLF conspired with “the Terrorist Marzook.” “The Prosecutor Jonas” showed “the Agent Goldberg” HLF's form 990 (charitable organizations use 990 to report fund-raising) for 1992. The HLF form—filed and a matter of public record—showed a contribution of $210,000 from “the Terrorist Marzook.”
Enter Cheeta the monkey. The Terrorist Marzook, living legally in this country at the time (he filed an income tax return) claimed on his 1040 that he had given $25,000 to the Holy Land Foundation and attached a receipt for $25,000 from the HLF as evidence. The Prosecutor Jonas showed the receipt to The Agent Goldberg and entered it as evidence. The Defence Attorney Theresa Duncan , in cross examination, asked The Agent Goldberg a simple question. “Is the receipt signed?” “No.” “Pass the witness.”

The prosecution's attempt to fool the jury was as desperate as Mr. Grigorian’s attempt to keep his monkey. Everyone there—perhaps except the jury—saw the gallows humor (unfortunately some in the audience snickered). It was a ridiculous performance. Taxpayer money spent to bring The Agent Goldberg to Dallas to present a receipt that would not be acceptable as evidence in any other court in the United States. The Terrorist Marzook may have been less than truthful about his contribution (whatever his reason), but the HLF’s public records show that the HLF had nothing to do with his deception. There is, however, a much more serious—and frightening—aspect to all of this: when fiction becomes fact, no one is safe.

In his article, “A Pragmatic Guide to Qualitative Historical Analysis in the Study of International Relations,” (1) Dr. Cameron G. Theis (Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri) wrote:

In our search for facts we must always remember that their meaning is never objectively obvious—facts never speak for themselves. As Levy (2) states, it is “the conventional wisdom in both history and political science that all empirical observations are filtered through a priori mental frameworks, that all facts are ‘theory laden.’” Levy continues this line of reasoning by recalling an analogy originally made by E. H. Carr….between facts and fish swimming in the ocean. What the fisherman catches depends on chance, the part of the ocean he fishes in, and what kind of tackle he uses, the latter two depending entirely upon what kind of fish he is looking to catch. (3) The moral of the story is that the facts we find are dependent upon the facts we seek based upon our implicit or explicit theoretical orientation.

The “facts” found by the prosecution are blatantly and horrifically the “facts” they seek. From Matthew Levitt’s shameless and unscholarly bias to Agent Burns’s gathering of partial facts and unreliable translations to Agent Miranda’s rhetorical deceptions, the entire case is based on the explicit theoretical orientation, given to the prosecution by Presidents Clinton and Bush at the behest of Israel, that Palestinian Resistance to tyranny is terrorism.

The reality of Israeli domination of the Palestinian people does not figure in the “facts [the prosecutors] seek.” The “facts” they present are “filtered through a priori mental frameworks” of the Zionist project of ethnic cleansing, reported most eloquently by Ariel Sharon’s close friend, Norman Podhoretz:

Sharon…always referred to the territories as Judea and Samaria, never as 'the West Bank' and certainly never as 'occupied.' For how could the very heartland of the biblical land of Israel be considered foreign to the present-day children of Israel? (4)

Mohamed Shorbagi (who lived the first 18 years of his life in Gaza), the former HLF volunteer whose prison sentence has been reduced for his testimony that attempts to connect his perception of the HLF’s activities to support for Hamas, visibly infuriated prosecutor Jacks when he said too much in answer to a question, declaring that Palestinians know the tyranny of the Israeli soldiers in their land every day. He said his son, who was born after his father went to jail and does not know him, has spent time in Gaza. He does not know his father, Shorbagi said, but he knows the tyranny of the occupation.

The prosecution was shaken when facts that were not “filtered through [its] a priori mental frameworks” crept into testimony.

There seemed to be a rip in the newspaper Cheeta was reading.
(1) Theis, Cameron G. “A Pragmatic Guide to Qualitative Historical Analysis in the Study of Internatinal Relations.” International Studies Perspcetives (2002): 3, 353.
(2) Levy, J. S. “Explaining Events and Developing Theories: History, Political Science, and the Analysis of International Relations.” In Bridges and Boundaries, Historians, Political Scientists, and the Study of International Relations, edited by C. Elman and M. F. Elman. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001, p 51.
(3) Carr, E. H. What is History? Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1964.
(4) Podhoretz, Norman. "Bush, Sharon, My Daughter, and Me." Commentary (Apr2005): 119.4, 40.