Iraq war and occupationReligious and community leaders got together and selected a city council to represent them, and a security force to protect them. They had assumed that their experiment in democracy would be applauded by the American military. Instead, US troops forcibly disarmed the protection force, arrested members of the city council, and put back into power those who had served under Hussein. Karbala citizens are angry and frustrated. Dr. Hussein Shahristani, one of the most respected exiles to return after the war, is one of those citizens. Shahristani spent 11 years being confined and tortured by Hussein's government before escaping in 1991. He returned to Iraq after the war, hoping to help lead his people to freedom. "The expectations were that the Baathists would be immediately arrested and put on trial for their crimes against humanity, for their crimes against the Iraqi people," he says. "Now this hasn't happened. And people were alarmed when the Ba'athists were actually reinstated back into government." He points out that many Baathists still hold positions in the police department, including the US-selected chief of police in Karbala, General Abbas Fathil Abud, a high-ranking member of the Baath Party who had served Saddam for 24 years. Even though CPA administrator Paul Bremer is on record saying that no high-ranking members of Saddam's old Baath Party will hold power in Iraq, in Karbala, the US government is cooperating with Gen. Abud and has put him in charge of a well-armed force, even though he is a Baathist. "The decision is Mr. Bremer's. He's the decision maker and he can make an exception," says Abud, who is protected 24 hours a day by US troops.
Media manipulation and marketing by GOPThe latest piece of evidence is the fact that the roast turkey Bush posed with for the cameras was nothing more than a decoration. "The bird is so perfect it looks as if it came from a food magazine," writes the Washington Post, "with bunches of grapes and other trimmings completing a Norman Rockwell image that evokes bounty and security in one of the most dangerous parts of the world. ...A contractor had roasted and primped the turkey to adorn the buffet line, while the 600 soldiers were served from cafeteria-style steam trays." None of the soldiers were allowed to eat the turkey. Officials claim, ludicrously, that neither Bush nor his team were aware of the decoration, the bird was not placed there in anticipation of Bush's visit, and a "trophy turkey" is a standard element of holiday chow lines. (Washington Post)
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"an American citizen of Saudi descent captured fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan, to meet with a lawyer, it seemed to be a sudden reversal of the administration's policy of not allowing such detainees to exercise their Constitutional rights. Now it seems that the decision was actually made to shield the administration from criticism and reversal by the courts. Viet Dinh, the former assistant attorney general who drew up large sections of the USA Patriot Act and much of the administration's anti-terror policies, said that the decision to provide Hamdi with a lawyer was "a significant development in the case, one that moves the government to a more sustainable position before the court." Dinh added that the administration needed to provide some better form of due process "to make its case bulletproof." The brief filed by the federal government allowing Hamdi to meet with lawyer Frank Dunham does not acknowledge any need for the government to allow Hamdi any sort of Constitutional due process, and claims that the decision was made because the Pentagon had finished interrogating Hamdi and saw no need to keep him incommunicado. Hamdi is being held at a South Carolina naval prison. The Supreme Court is to review the legality of the Bush administration's entire "enemy combatant" policy in early 2004; many legal observers believe the concession for Hamdi was made in order to strengthen the government's chances of winning that court battle. The government has hinted that it might let another "enemy combatant," American Jose Padilla, to meet with a lawyer soon; it has also given Australian detainee David Hicks access to legal representation. The administration has argued that letting a detainee consult a lawyer before questioning is complete would render ineffective all efforts to obtain usable information during interrogation. Not only might a lawyer advise a detainee not to cooperate, but the consultation, officials say, would also disturb the relationship between the detainee and the questioners. (New York Times/Global Exchange)
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"The judges are actively seeking a way to ensure Moussaoui's rights as a defendant while trying to protect the government's claims of national security. Justice Department lawyer Paul Clement says while Moussaoui has the right to material that might exonerate him, national security concerns override his right of access to enemy combatants held abroad who might reveal secret information. "The proper question is, 'Does the Constitution require them [terrorism defendants] to get a windfall'" because al-Qaeda operatives were captured? he asked. The answer must be no, Clement said. Public defender Frank Dunham, representing Moussaoui, says the remedy lies in the sanctions imposed by trial judge Leonie Brinkema, whose ban on evidence linking Moussaoui to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent ban on prosecutors' attempts to seek the death penalty prompted the appeal by government prosecutors. "Our system of American justice and fair play will not permit" the government to seek Moussaoui's execution while denying him favorable testimony, Dunham said. While Moussaoui is the only US defendant charged with terrorism related to the attacks, Dunham said that even "for a most notorious enemy charged with the worst crime in American history, we will not bend the rules for our convenience even at the expense of our security. This is America and in the end, this is more about who we are than it is about Mr. Moussaoui." Brinkema named Dunham to represent Moussaoui, overriding his decision to represent himself. Her ruling followed a refusal by the government to obey two orders directing it to make three al-Qaeda witnesses available to the defense. If the government can't win a reversal, it may decide to move the case to a military court. One judge asked Clement whether he wanted the appellate court "to find the Supreme Court didn't mean what it said" when it gave defendants the right to have favorable material and testimony. (Guardian)
Iraq war and occupationThe militia would be formed by uniting fighters from five Iraqi political parties under the joint leadership of the US military and the emerging Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. If created, the paramilitary battalion would represent a significant policy reversal by Washington. The US previously declared private militias illegal and called on Iraqi political leaders to disband the groups. (AP/NewsMax)
US militaryRumsfeld calls his plan "outsourcing." The intention, he claims, is to put the lid on money going into expanding of the army so it can be diverted to new technologies such as his personal favorite, fighting wars from space. Rumsfeld has already outsourced much of the logistics and supply functions of the military to private firms, largely to a single firm, Halliburton. There are now 90-odd companies competing to provide private soldiers from places like Fiji and Nepal to work as machine-gun-toting guards in Iraq. Rumsfeld is considered privatizing US military arsenals, its ammunition plants, and repair depots by spinning them off into federal corporations modeled along the lines of Fannie Mae. He also wants to free up some of the military budget as venture capital to entice private industry into running US armed forces. It's hard to gauge the full effect of such outsourcing, but one estimate puts gross revenues of renting private armies at $100 billion a year. That compares with the total defense budget of around $400 billion.
Iraq war and occupationThe letter indicates that Hussein withdrew over $1 billion in cash from Iraqi banks just before the March invasion of Iraq, and is currently using some of that money to fund the guerrilla attacks on US troops. $132 million is still unaccounted for. According to the letter, dated March 19, 2003 and found in the files of Iraq's central bank by US officials, Hussein gives his son Qusay and another representative the authority to withdraw the funds "[t]o protect and save them from American aggression." 33 boxes of newly printed $100 bills have been connected to recent attacks on U.S. forces. (Reuters)
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"A scheduled December 2 hearing was postponed when prosecutors discovered that legal staff at Guantanamo had mistakenly included a classified document in investigation packets delivered to Yee's attorney and the hearing officer. Yee's attorney, Eugene Fidell, says, "I am wondering how they can with a straight face persist in prosecuting him when they don't themselves know what's classified and what isn't." Fidell says he examined the secret document and found "there isn't anything classified in it. ...Given the fact that this guy was in jail for 67 days, the gracious thing to do would be to just drop it and let everyone move on." Yee has been charged with disobeying an order for reportedly taking classified material from Guantanamo and improperly transporting it; storing pornography on a government computer; and adultery, which is punishable under military law. The government has rejected Fidell's assertion that the government essentially did what it has accused Capt. Yee of doing -— improperly transferring classified information. "The difference is that when the government noticed that there was an inadvertent disclosure of classified information, the government took the appropriate steps," says a spokesman for the prosecution. "In Yee's case, he did not do that — he took these things to his quarters...where they could be potentially compromised." In a later development, US prosecutors now say they can't even be sure that the papers Yee carried were actually classified. Yee's lawyers are now demanding that the charges be dropped in their entirety. (Washington Times, New York Times [abstract])
Iraq war and occupationThey consider themselves at war, and acknowledge that they have been instructed to fire if threatened. A representative of Norwegian military officers says, "This is a lack of decency from Norwegian politicians." E-mails from Norwegian soldiers show that the reality of their situation is very different from how Norwegian politicians are attempting to portray it. "The mission in Iraq is not a humanitarian one, here war continues, no matter what some politicians have said about the war being over," writes one soldier. Other reports express bafflement about the expression "humanitarian mission," used to describe battle conditions, and explain that their Rules of Engagement include combat if threatened. The officers' organization, the BFO, believes that the soldiers' mission is being portrayed as a humanitarian one in order to avoid the embarrassing admission that the country is once again involved in a war. "Anyone can see that a uniformed soldier with a helmet, shrapnel vest and an AG3 across his stomach is a soldier and not a humanitarian construction worker," says BFO spokesman Didrik Coucheron. Coucheron now wants Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik to publicly admit that Norwegian forces in Iraq are at war, in line with the PM's admission earlier this year that he should have called their Kosovo effort a war. Norway's soldiers in Iraq do not earn a basic risk bonus of $450 a month -- as their colleagues in Afghanistan do -- since their mission is defined as humanitarian. (Aftenposten)
2004 presidential elections"All indications are that the Republicans have gone to New York to exploit a terrible moment in our country," Rod O'Connor, chief executive officer of the Democratic National Convention Committee, tells hundreds of journalists who came to tour the site of next summer's convention. The accusations have been leveled before, and have been passed off by GOP spokespersons. The Republicans begin their gathering in New York on Aug. 30, later than most nominating conventions, and end it on Sept. 2, nine days before the third anniversary of the attacks. (AP/Guardian)
US actions in Latin Americaunder the presidency of Republican Gerald Ford and the direct involvement of then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, assisted the Argentine military junta of General Jorge Rafael Videla in purging the country of leftist dissident elements. The Videla government is notorious for its bloody repression of thousands of dissidents in Argentina, mainly leftists who were supporters of the former Peron regimes and often mislabeled "terrorists" to justify their slaughter. Between 1976 and 1983, up to 30,000 Argentinians "disappeared," most murdered and buried in mass graves. The transcript of the meeting between Kissinger and Navy Admiral Cesar Augusto Guzzetti in New York on Oct. 7, 1976, is the first documentary evidence that the Gerald Ford administration approved of the junta's tactics. Kissinger told Guzzetti, "Look, our basic attitude is that we would like you to succeed. ...I have an old-fashioned view that friends ought to be supported. What is not understood in the United States is that you have a civil war. We read about human rights problems but not the context. The quicker you succeed, the better. ...If you can finish before Congress gets back, the better. We won't cause you unnecessary difficulties. Whatever freedoms you could restore would help." Guzzetti assured Kissinger the country's "struggle" against the leftists would conclude by the end of 1976. "The terrorist organizations have been dismantled. If this direction continues, by the end of the year the danger will have been set aside," Guzzetti replied. Instead, the crackdowns continued through 1983. "This is final, definitive evidence that Kissinger gave a green light to Argentine generals," says Carlos Osorio, director of the Argentina Documentation Project at the National Security Archive. By the time Kissinger met with Guzzetti, the horrendous actions of the Argentine junta were drawing worldwide recriminations, and the US Congress was considering economic sanctions. "This document is a devastating indictment of Kissinger's policy toward Latin America," says John Dinges, an assistant professor at Columbia Journalism School and author of a book on South American political upheaval. "Kissinger actually encourages human-rights violations in full consciousness of what was going on. ..."All along they denied this. Now, finally, we have Kissinger's actual words giving the green light." Some of the atrocities documented by the Videla regime and tacitly approved by Ford and Kissinger include the tossing of hundreds of citizens from Navy airplanes into the ocean; the murder of French nuns and a Swedish schoolgirl, the kidnaping and murder of human rights organization members, the torture of "detainees" by electric shock, gangrapes, and other methods, and more. One of Videla's most senior officials, General Ibérico Saint Jean, is quoted as saying: "First, we must kill all subversives, then their sympathizers; then those who are indifferent; and finally, we must kill all those who are timid." Videla himself said of those who disagreed with his regime: "One becomes a terrorist not only by killing with a weapon or setting a bomb but also by encouraging others through ideas that go against our Western and Christian civilization." Many of Videla's senior officials are either graduates of the US School of the Americas, members of neo-Nazi or fascist organizations, or both. (Miami Herald, AP/NewsMax, The Vanished Gallery)
Iraq war and occupationClark says only someone who has not witnessed combat "would ever say anything as fatuous"" as Bush's remark. "You don't make policy by taunting the enemy," said Clark, a retired Army general who was wounded during the Vietnam War. Bush was a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard during the conflict but never flew in battle and eventually deserted his unit. "Only someone who hasn't seen war firsthand would ever say anything as fatuous as 'bring 'em on.'" He goes on to say that Bush had played a game of bait-and-switch by suggesting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a national security threat following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. He calls the Bush administration "all bully and no pulpit. ...Iraq was the wrong war," he continues. "I'm for the right kind of war, for example, against the terrorists who attacked this country." (San Francisco Chronicle)
Iraq war and occupationarrives in southern Iraq and begins organizing a new anti-US terror campaign to be launched in March-April 2004, marking the first year of the American invasion. For the past 21 years, Mughniyeh has waged a war of terror against Americans, whether on behalf of Hezballah, the Iranian Shi'ite fundamentalists, al-Qaeda or for himself. According to high-level sources, Mughniyeh represents for the anti-American forces in Iraq an "ultimate weapon." (DEBKAfile)
Iraq war and occupation"Secretary Baker will report directly to me and will lead an effort to work with the world's governments at the highest levels, with international organizations and with the Iraqis in seeking the restructuring and reduction of Iraq's official debt," Bush said in a statement read by White House press secretary Scott McClellan. Baker will travel to a number of countries who are owed monies by Iraq to attempt to get those governments to agree to forego or lessen the debt they are owed. Of the total Iraqi foreign debt, some $40 billion is owed to the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and other countries who are among 19 nations belonging to the Paris Club, an umbrella organization that conducts debt negotiations. At least $80 billion more is owed to other Arab countries and nations outside the Paris Club. Baker's first priority is to secure Iraqi payments to his Baker Botts client, Saudi Arabia, for almost $43 billion in debt and reparations from the 1991 Gulf War. Though US law specifically prohibits the US from seizing another country's assets or handle its debts, the administration sidesteps the law by claiming that Baker is not, technically, a government appointee; instead, Baker, says the administration, is in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi Governing Council. Of course, the IGC is merely a puppet administration run by the US, but it gives both Bush and Baker legal cover. And, as an "advisor" to the IGC, Baker's appointment does not have to be confirmed by the Senate. Baker is working with his former Baker Botts partner, the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan, to gut the Iraqi economy for the benefit of the Saudis. And as far as Baker having no connection to the Bush administration, one might well ask why Baker has his own office in the White House. (Houston Chronicle, Greg Palast)
Iraq war and occupationSome human rights groups have criticized the plans, saying Iraq's US occupiers have too much of a hand in them and that Iraqi judges and prosecutors may not have the experience needed to try the cases. Unlike war crimes tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which used international lawyers and judges, the Iraqi tribunal will be staffed and operated by Iraqis, with US officials serving as "advisors." Two recent studies of the Iraqi judicial system describe a legal system riddled with corruption and incompetence. One was conducted in August by the United Nations; the other in June by the US Department of Justice. "A degraded justice system and inadequate and outdated legal framework is not capable of rendering fair and effective justice for violations of international humanitarian law and other serious criminal offenses involving the prior regime," the UN study said. (USA Today)
Iraq war and occupationSince the invasion in March, many troops, including almost all National Guard and reserve troops, have been forced to rely on antiquated Vietnam-era body armor, which will not stop modern high-powered bullets. In some instances, troops have either bought their own armor, or their families have bought it for them. The failure to equip ordinary soldiers properly has caused fury in Congress, where the shortfall in body armor has been contrasted with the generous allocations to other projects in this year's $379 billion defense budget. Law professor Jonathan Turley, one of the first civilians to begin agitating for provision of the armor, says he was told by the Pentagon earlier that providing the armor was not a priority for the military. "It does appear that a number of soldiers died by wounds to the central body, so there does seem to be a strong likelihood that we could have saved lives if we had sent enough body armor. I'm mystified by the entire failure." (Guardian)
NeoconservativesThe AEI intends to directly influence a regime change in Iran, hoping to trigger a changeover to a government more friendly to American business interests. Many neoconservatives are angry with the Bush administration's recent announcement that it was not pushing regime change in Iran, and that it agreed with Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi that meaningful change must come from within. AEI's broadcast features carefully selected "activists" who are chosen by the station directors, contacted by the station, and allowed to speak under psuedonyms, all in order to "protect their safety." One Iranian woman who describes herself as a housewife and activist says, "Reforms have no chance. We gave [President Mohammad] Khatami more than six years and nothing happened." Another activist called by the station suggests that the son of deposed Shah Reza Pahlavi should be brought back into power. The Financial Times writes, "Most of the Los Angeles-based exile radio stations have monarchist leanings and several listeners reflected those views. While Mr Pahlavi, now a resident of Virginia, has the backing of some AEI members, the panel of exiled opposition activists assembled in Washington to go on air represented a broader spectrum. Manda Zand Ervin, head of the International Alliance of Iranian Women, served under the Shah before the 1979 Islamic revolution and is regarded as close to the monarchists. Roozbeh Farahanipour is a nationalist with Hezbeh Marzeh Por Gohar (the Glorious Frontiers party). Aryo Pirouznia works with the Student Movement Co-ordination Committee, and Ramin Parham has founded the Iran Institute for Democracy. All are professed secular democrats, but they are also virtually unknown inside Iran. The US-based opposition websites and radio and television stations, their signals sometimes jammed by the Iranians (most recently from Cuban territory), tend to exaggerate the size of their audiences and impact of their messages. Due to a mix of fear, apathy and lack of organisation, opposition calls to Iranians to flood the streets in protest on the occasion of various symbolic anniversaries have tended to fall on deaf ears." (Financial Times)
Iraq war and occupationHackworth, who describes Defense Secretary Rumsfeld as "an arrogant *sshole," acts as a volunteer clearinghouse for the raw, uncensored views of soldiers in the field. Over the last few months, he has been inundated with stories from soldiers in Iraq who complain of mismanagement, shoddy treatment of soldiers by the brass, and the horrendous treatment of Iraqi civilians by the military. Hackworth notes that the Pentagon is trying desperately to paint a happy face on a situation that most observers in the field believe is spiraling out of control. "It's the nature of the beast," he says. "You try and paint the greatest face on it. It happens in every war...in Vietnam it became an art form." (Independent/Rense)
Bush administration's contempt for democracyFor example, after Democratic Senator Richard Durbin criticized President Bush on Iraq this past summer, three reporters called to ask if he had leaked classified information and was facing pressure to quit the Intelligence Committee. The reporters, he says, told him the White House circulated both ideas. White House spokesman Scott McClellan denies that anyone in the administration made the specious charges, but Durbin got the message.
Iraq war and occupationit's also well understood that each family receives a letter from the president consoling them for their loss. What isn't so well covered is the boilerplate "form letter" sent by the White House to the families of each slain soldier. MSNBC writes, "With the exception of the salutation and a reference to the fallen soldier in the text, the letters the families shared with me are all the same. Now some one has gone to the trouble of finding out if the given name of the soldier and the name he or she used were different. And Bush does sign them all personally. But it would be more accurate to say he is 'sending' all the families letters, a practice that goes back many presidents." Maggie Caldwell, who lost her newlywed husband Todd to a mine, received the form letter a few weeks after his death. "something a little more personal would have been nice," she says. It is later revealed that Bush uses a machine called an "auto-signer" to "sign" many of the letters. (MSNBC)
Bush's economic policiesShe says Bush and his "radical" administration for attempting to dismantle the "central pillars of progress in our country during the 20th century." She says she has become convinced that his administration wants "to undo the New Deal," the Roosevelt-era policies that ushered in Social Security and a host of other governmental assistance programs. She says Bush, who campaigned as a "compassionate conservative" in 2000, had taken a "hard-right turn to pursue an extremist agenda" after moving into the White House. "I don't know where it came from, but the fact is that this President Bush has not only been radical and extreme in terms of Democratic presidents but in terms of Republican presidents, including his own father," she says. His administration is "making America less free, fair, strong, smart than it deserves to be in a dangerous world. ...We have to change direction before irreparable harm is done." (Houston Chronicle)
Conservative media slantThe warrants allege that Limbaugh "alternated physicians to obtain overlapping prescriptions" and "failed to tell each doctor that he was seeing others." Limbaugh's actions violated the letter and spirit of the law related to doctor shopping, according to one of the warrants. Limbaugh denies the charges. Reading from a statement prepared by his attorney, Roy Black, on his talk show, Limbaugh says that his medical records will clear him. "What these records show is that Mr. Limbaugh suffered extreme pain and had legitimate reasons for taking pain medication," Black wrote. "Unfortunately, because of Mr. Limbaugh's prominence and well-known political opinions, he is being subjected to an invasion of privacy no citizen of this republic should endure." State Attorney Barry Krischer replied that Limbaugh's rights have been scrupulously protected. The records that were seized by police include prescriptions for more than 2,100 pills from March 24 through Sept. 26, 2003. The medications include the powerful painkillers Oxycontin, Lorcet, Norco, hydrocodone and Kadian. In addition, Limbaugh received prescriptions for the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, the cholesterol-lowering drug Niacin, and Clonodine, which treats high blood pressure. Two of the four search warrants were executed at the offices of Jupiter Outpatient Surgery Center. A third was executed at Palm Beach Ear, Nose and Throat Association in Palm Beach Gardens. A fourth for the same location has not yet been executed. Limbaugh, reading from his lawyer's statement, said on his show, "Let us make our position clear: Rush Limbaugh is not part of a drug ring. He was never a target of a drug investigation. He became addicted to a prescription drug during legitimate medical treatment. He has publicly admitted this problem and has successfully sought treatment which continues today. ...Why is Rush Limbaugh the only person treated like this in America?" Limbaugh used the accusation as an excuse to attack Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, himself a doctor: "I bet you what, if I had been treated by Dr. Dean, I bet you Democrats in certain parts of this country would be demanding his records." (AP/ABC News, AP/ABC News)
Prewar intelligence on IraqThe memo, written by lobbyist Entifadh Qunbar, indicates that in 2002 and early 2003, the INC was directly feeding intelligence reports about Iraqi WMDs and purported Iraqi ties to terrorist groups to John Hannah, one of Cheney's top foreign policy aides. That same information would be used by Cheney and his staff to bolster their case that Iraq posed a direct threat to the United States; Cheney routinely ignored warnings from US intelligence agencies that INC information was unreliable at best. Hannah was one of only two "US governmental recipients" for intelligence reports funded by the State Department and generated by the INC. Under the State/INC program, "defectors, reports and raw intelligence are cultivated and analyzed." The info was then reported to "appropriate governmental, non-governmental and international agencies." The memo describes Hannas as a "principal point of contact" for the program, and includes his direct White House telephone number. The only other U.S. official named as directly receiving the INC intel is William Luti, a former military adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who, after working on Cheney's staff early in the Bush administration, shifted to the Pentagon, where he oversaw the shadowy Iraq war-planning unit called the Office of Special Plans. Naturally, Cheney's office denies everything. (Newsweek/MSNBC)
War in AfghanistanThe children, aged 12 and under, were killed when an A-10 warplane sprayed a field outside the village with fire. "Children's hats and shoes littered a bloody field cratered by gunfire Sunday after a US airstrike, aimed at a wanted Taliban commander, mistakenly killed nine children in an Afghan mountain village," reads the first sentence of an AP report on the massacre. "They were just playing ball, and then the shots came down," wails a villager whose 8-year old son was killed. An adult also killed in the strafing was said by US officials to be the target, a man named Mullah Wazir, a former district Taliban commander suspected of attacking aid groups and workers on the Kabul-Kandahar road, but villagers say the dead man was Abdul Hamid, a laborer. Villagers says that Wazir had left the area days before. Wazir is not considered a major player in either the Taliban or any Islamic terror groups, though he is known to have bragged about his involvement in attacks on Afghan citizens. US officials are attempting to confirm the dead man's identity. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is "profoundly saddened" by the children's deaths and calls for a thorough investigation. "The fight against terrorism cannot be won at the expense of innocent lives," says a spokesman for Annan. Annan later says that the international force in Afghanistan should be expanded to stabilize the country. "The international community must decide whether to increase its level of involvement in Afghanistan or risk failure," he says, and also calls for the overhaul of Afghan ministries responsible for security to end to their domination by factional interests. The attack is only the latest in a string of "accidents" which have cost hundreds of innocent Afghan lives. The worst was in July 2002, when an AC-130 gunship slaughtered 48 civilians and wounded 117 at a wedding party. On April 9, a US warplane mistakenly bombed a home, killing 11 civilians; on Halloween, another erroneoous air strike killed 8 civilians in a private residence. (AP/San Jose Mercury News, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Iraq war and occupationMilitary officials do not confirm the attack until December 19. Officials say the attackers probably did not know the convoy carried Bremer. "We have reason to believe it was a random, opportunistic attack, not necessarily specifically targeting him," says a CPA official. Bremer confirms the attack while visiting the southern Iraqi city of Basra. "As you can see, it didn't succeed," he tells reporters. (CNN)
Iraq war and occupationOther tactics include demolishing buildings thought to be used by insurgents, and the kidnapping and holding hostage of suspected insurgents' families in the hopes that the insurgents will come forward to bargain for the release of their family members. While the new tactics seem to be working as far as pacification goes, the citizens affected by the new tactics are anything but happy about them. "I see no difference between us and the Palestinians," says one villager. "We didn't expect anything like this after Saddam fell." The practice of destroying buildings where Iraqi insurgents are suspected of planning or mounting attacks has been used for decades by Israeli soldiers in Gaza and the West Bank. The Israeli Army has also imprisoned the relatives of suspected terrorists, in the hopes of pressing the suspects to surrender. The Israeli military has also cordoned off villages and towns thought to be hotbeds of guerrilla activity, in an effort to control the flow of people moving in and out. American officials say they are not purposefully mimicking Israeli tactics, but they acknowledge that they have studied closely the Israeli experience in urban fighting. Ahead of the war, Israeli defense experts briefed American commanders on their experience in guerrilla and urban warfare. The Americans say there are no Israeli military advisers helping the Americans in Iraq, though US commanders recently visited Israel to discuss the new procedures. "You have to understand the Arab mind," says US company commander Captain Todd Brown. "The only thing they understand is force -— force, pride and saving face." Posted on the barbed wire surrounding the village of Abu Hishma is a sign that reads, "This fence is here for your protection. Do not approach or try to cross, or you will be shot." And 4th Infantry Division commander Colonel Nathan Sassman says, "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them." (New York Times/Independent Media, San Francisco Chronicle)
US militaryThe four divisions, including the 82nd Airborne, the 101st Airborne, the 1st Armored and the 4th Infantry, are to return from Iraq next spring, to be replaced by three others, with a fourth rotating into Afghanistan. That would leave only two active-duty divisions available to fight in other parts of the world. A fifth division, the 3rd Infantry, which returned from Iraq in August, is still not fully ready to return to combat. This dip in readiness could have political consequences for President Bush, who sharply criticized the Clinton administration during the 2000 campaign for allowing two Army divisions to fall to the lowest readiness category in 1999 because of peacekeeping obligations in the Balkans. "Obviously, this is much worse in terms of the numbers," says Democrat Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has called for increasing the size of the Army. "This is an indication of the stress the Army is under." "It's called dangerous," says Ike Skelton, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, who has been calling for 40,000 more Army troops -- the equivalent of two divisions -- since 1995. "The purpose of the military is to stand ready, to face dangers as they appear. Afghanistan came out of the blue, and fortunately we were able to respond." Retired General Barry McCaffrey, a former division commander and staunch advocate of more Army forces, says having four to five divisions below par "means literally half the Army is broken and not ready to fight." McCaffrey goes on to say, "We have a potential huge challenge from North Korea. So by definition, at this point, we would only be able to respond to an emergency in North Korea with air and naval power or nuclear weapons. It's an unacceptable, in my judgment, strategic risk." Administration officials, including Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, disagree, saying that the Army is ready and able to fight wherever needed. (Washington Post)
Iraq war and occupationsays he believes the Pentagon is underreporting the number of American casualties in Iraq. Taylor makes the claim after learning that five National Guard soldiers wounded by a boody trap were denied Purple Hearts, and were classified as "noncombatant wounded." After Taylor contacted General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Purple Hearts quickly were awarded. But Taylor says the incident raised concerns that Iraq combat casualties had been understated. He said Myers told him he'd been made aware of similar oversights. "I'm probably going to send a memo out to the rest of the members of Congress and ask if anyone has had a similar incident," Taylor says. "I just don't want to see anyone else who's been injured get cheated about their Purple Heart." (Knight-Ridder/Tallahassee Democrat)
Iraq war and occupation"It's clear to me that your reporting channel is now direct to the president and not through me," says Rumsfeld, who doesn't like anyone not reporting to him. "Condi [Rice] has taken over political matters. I think that's a mistake. The last time the NSC got into operational issues, we had Iran-Contra. But she seems to have jumped into this with both feet." After the Iran-Contra investigations, the conclusion was that the National Security Council should stay out of operations and strictly focus on policy and coordination. "I'm getting out of the political process," Rumsfeld adds. "Let Condi and the NSC handle things. It might make your life a little easier. Soon after Rumsfeld's return to Washington, Rice asks Rumsfeld to call Bremer about some routine matter. "No," says Rumsfeld. "He doesn't work for me." Rice asks wonderingly, "Well, who does he work for?" "He works for you," Rumsfeld replies. Rumsfeld later tells reporter Bob Woodward that he always felt Bremer only reported to him in a technical sense. "He was" Bush's man, Rumsfeld says -- all evidence of Rumsfeld's insistance that Bremer was his puppy to the contrary. It is likely that Rumsfeld knows Bremer is on his way out, and Rumsfeld doesn't want to be linked to him. (Bob Woodward)
2004 presidential electionsMuch of his speech is a fiery lambast of the Bush administration. In part, he says: "George Bush thought he could play dress-up on an aircraft carrier in front of a sign saying 'Mission Accomplished' and we wouldn't notice that our troops are dying in Iraq every day. That Americans on the farm and in our factories are hurting and struggling every day. That George Bush has lost two jobs every minute and run up the deficit a billion dollars every day. But we did notice. We reject the cynicism and radically wrong direction of this administration. ...You want to talk about 'mission accomplished?' When it comes to coddling big oil, serving up tax giveaways for the wealthiest, and opening up doors for the lobbyists and for the polluters, that's the only mission accomplished by George W. Bush. When it comes to healthcare, to education, to jobs, to the security of our nation, it's not only mission not accomplished, it's mission not even attempted, it's mission abandoned. On issue after issue, George Bush has given America a raw deal and everyone in this room knows it. George Bush goes to Baghdad to carry around a fake Thanksgiving turkey while he cuts support for our troops and 40,000 veterans are left on a hospital waiting list. That's a raw deal! George Bush opens fire stations in Iraq and forces fire stations to shut down in America. That's a raw deal! George Bush cuts taxes for the wealthy while he cuts funding for our schools. And that's a raw deal too! You know, the real motto for this administration should be 'no special interest left behind.' This president hasn't done what it takes to protect them and defend America's ideals.
Iraq war and occupationCard seems to blow off the entire rationale of the invasion and overthrow of the Iraqi government, namely that Iraq posed a clear and present danger to the US and to its allies with its alleged weapons of mass destruction. The US Congress believed the specious assertions of the administration that Iraq did, indeed, pose such a threat, and on that basis authorized the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune editorializes, "This was an intelligence failure of immense proportions and consequences. The American people were misled into war. That failure hardly qualifies as a 'moot point.' The price paid so far, and to be paid for who knows how long into the future, is just too horrific. ...[US soldiers dying in Iraq] aren't so many throwaway pieces in some grand geostrategic game. They are American flesh and blood. Yes, they were soldiers pledged to defending their country, and they went about their tasks the best way they could. But they did not pledge to protect the civilian Iraqi population from the despot Saddam Hussein. They did not pledge to prevent more mass graves in Iraq. They were not asked to do those things. They were asked to help eliminate a threat to the United States posed by Saddam's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. ...For Andrew Card or anyone else in Washington to play bait-and-switch with such sacrifice is vulgar." (Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune)
Iraq war and occupationPrime Minister Tony Blair's office refuses to comment on the newspaper report. The Sunday Telegraph reports Lt. Col. al-Dabbagh has identified himself as the source for the British government's assertion that Iraq could have deployed chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of a decision to do so. The paper gives the officer's surname only, citing fears for his safety if he was fully identified. al-Dabbagh was the former head of an Iraqi air defense unit in the country's western desert, spied for the Iraqi National Accord, a London-based exile group, and provided reports to British intelligence from early 2002 on Saddam's plans to deploy weapons of mass destruction. "I am the one responsible for providing this information," he says. "It is 100 percent accurate. ...Forget 45 minutes, we could have fired these within half an hour." al-Dabbagh adds the weapons were not used because most of the Iraqi army did not want to fight for Saddam Hussein. al-Dabbagh now works as an adviser to the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. (AP/CBS)
Iraq war and occupationHe writes, "Last week [he flew to] Kabul to meet with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai. Yesterday he was in Kirkuk and Baghdad to meet US military and Iraqi civic leaders. Rumsfeld's 'appraisal' visits follow a pattern. He pops in for a day, then, based on what he sees and hears from inside his protective bubble, declares everything to be just hunky-dory. Yesterday Rumsfeld remained true to form. 'I am convinced,' he told reporters in Baghdad, 'that the direction that we set from the outset is the right one and that is being executed exceedingly well.' He said security arrangements would 'be passed over time to Iraqi security forces of various types'.' Last week it was Afghanistan where everything was proceeding 'exceedingly well' towards planned presidential elections in June. This despite the continuing violence and instability, which was dramatically underlined by yesterday's bomb in the southern city of Kandahar, which injured 18 people." Beaumont points out that US plans for both Afghanistan and Iraq are at best, simple-minded, and fail to acknowledge the deep divisions within each society that will bear on both countries' attempts to install Western-style democracies. He concludes, "What both Iraq and Afghanistan need is not just glib reassurances from the US that everything is going brilliantly, but a realistic, long-term international commitment." (Guardian)
Iraq war and occupation"A colonel in Baghdad (who will go nameless here for obvious reasons) told me just after I arrived that senior Army officers feel every order they receive is delivered with next November's election in mind, so there is little doubt at and near the top about who is really being used for what over here." (New York Times/Intervention Magazine)
Iraq war and occupation"I was planting a flag because the things that had started in September weren't happening fast enough," Gingrich later explains, probably meaning the ideas of rebuilding the Iraqi army and creating an Iraqi-led government. Gingrich has already told Newsweek that the US is "going off a cliff" in Iraq: "I'm told over there that CPA stands for 'Can't Produce Anything.'" His argument is that the Iraqis should have taken over their government long before now. He tells NBC's Tim Russert that the Afghanistan model should have been followed, the quick seating of a Hamid Karzai-like figurehead prime minister. "The longer we keep Americans front and center, the greater danger that Iraqi nationalism will decide it has to be anti-American." Bremer takes umbrage to Gingrich's comments, and invites Gingrich to come to Iraq to see for himself how conditions are. But before Gingrich can come, Bremer cancels his invitation, telling Gingrich that "we're too busy. (Bob Woodward)
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"most of these cases "fizzle," and few produce significant prison terms, says a study. About 6,400 people were referred by investigators for criminal charges involving terror in the two years after the attacks, but fewer than one-third actually were charged and only 879 were convicted, according to government records reviewed by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The median prison sentence was just 14 days; only five people were sentenced to 20 years or more. "The absolute number of terrorism and anti-terrorism situations that have been recorded by assistant US attorneys around the country in the last two years is sobering, considerably more sweeping than suggested in administrative statements and news accounts," the study says. Critics are using the study to bolster their claims that John Ashcroft's department have been overstating the effectiveness of their anti-terror efforts. Almost every time Ashcroft talks about the subject, he reads a long list of statistics on arrests and convictions to buttress his contention that great progress is being made. Democratic Senator Charles Grassley, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee with oversight of the FBI and Justice Department, said the report "raises questions about the accuracy of the department's claims about terrorism enforcement. ...This report shows that despite the focus on terrorism-related crimes, most of the people accused of terrorism involvement are getting little jail time, if at all."
Iraq war and occupationthe four-square mile area in Baghdad known as the "Green Zone" is for the rest and relaxation of US troops stationed in Iraq, and for the protection of US officials who live full time in the area. The Zone features swimming pools, American TV, good food, gymnasiums, and heavy security. The Zone is built around the former Republican Palace, one of the largest and most sumptuous of Hussein's many palace complexes. "The Americans are behind the walls in the palace. They have difficulty knowing what's going on. I call it the 'green area syndrome,'" says Frank Dall, project director for District-based Creative Associates International Inc., which is assisting the U.S. Agency for International Development with education reform and is housed outside the zone. "You want to feel like you are of the people," says an American translator who lives in the Zone. "But when you are here there are rules and you can't go out and you can't talk to them. You are isolated." Recently the US media broadcast video of soldiers enjoying a vacation within the Zone: soldiers whooping as they did cannonballs into the pools, soldiers relaxing in chaise lounges, with tall drinks in their hands, soldiers shooting pool. In reality, regular troops are never allowed into the Green Zone. Those soldiers featured on American TV were selected from troops stationed in the area, bused into the Zone, told to have fun for the cameras, warned what to say and not to say to reporters, and bused back to their units after the cameras had gone. (Washington Post/Australian Defence Report, my own sources)
2004 presidential elections"[President Bush] has forfeited our moral leadership in the world. ...[W]hen the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed, it came down for two reasons, other than internal stuff in the Soviet Union. One is that we have a strong military, and I think a strong military is important. The other is that most people behind the Iron Curtain wanted to be like us. And today there are not very many countries, after three years of George W. Bush's presidency, where people want to be like us anymore. That is what I mean by the loss of high moral purpose. Most people in this world think that America has forfeited its moral leadership. That's a terrible thing, because our moral leadership is part of our defense, not just having a strong military." Dean sparks controversy when he is quoted as saying of 9/11, "The most interesting theory that I have heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can't think -- it can't be proved, is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is." Dean clarifies his statement by saying, "[N]o, I don't believe that. I can't imagine the president of the United States doing that. But we don't know, and it'd be a nice thing to know. ...What we do believe is that there was a lot of chatter that somehow was missed by the CIA and the FBI about this, and that for some reason we were unable to decide and get clear indications of what the attacks what were going to be. Because the president won't give the information to the Kean commission we really don't know what the explanation is." Dean's remarks are used by GOP strategists as evidence that Dean believes Bush orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. (Fox News)
2004 presidential electionsIn part, he says, "In 1968, Richard Nixon won the White House. He did it in a shameful way -- by dividing Americans against one another, stirring up racial prejudices and bringing out the worst in people. They called it the 'Southern Strategy,' and the Republicans have been using it ever since. Nixon pioneered it, and Ronald Reagan perfected it, using phrases like 'racial quotas' and 'welfare queens' to convince white Americans that minorities were to blame for all of America's problems. The Republican Party would never win elections if they came out and said their core agenda was about selling America piece by piece to their campaign contributors and making sure that wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of a few. To distract people from their real agenda, they run elections based on race, dividing us, instead of uniting us. But these politics do worse than that -- they fracture the very soul of who we are as a country. ...In America, there is nothing black or white about having to live from one paycheck to the next. Hunger does not care what color we are."
Prewar intelligence on Iraqspeaks about the lies and misinformation spread by the Bush administration. "I've just been watching very, very closely how intelligence has been abused in the lead up to the Iraq war and, now, after the war. I fear for what this will mean for a very crucial part of our government," he says. "If the president can't turn to the CIA for straight answers, whether he knows it or not, he's in bad shape. He has nowhere to turn for a straight answer. He can't expect [Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz or [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to tell him, 'Sorry boss, we didn't think of A or B or C. We thought it would be a cakewalk.' He's getting slanted advice from the people running the policy toward Iraq." When asked who is to blame, he responds, "Rumsfeld and [Vice President Dick] Cheney primarily. And then George Tenet, the head of the CIA. He's not making any waves. This is an abnegation of responsibility because the CIA is supposed to make waves. The CIA [should be] completely objective. It should not promote or defend any particular policy. So, once the CIA loses its reputation for complete objectivity, it has nothing special to offer and you might as well just close it down."
Prewar intelligence on Iraqbetween the Bush administration and Iranian dissidents initiated by Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer who acted as a middleman in the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration and was long ago labeled a fabricator by American intelligence officials. While administration officials initially downplayed Ghorbanifar's involvement in the meetings, it is increasingly clear that the arms trader has access to the most senior levels of the administration, particularly the neoconservative hawks who have had unprecedented influence on the administration's foreign policies. Ghorbanifar apparently has "ins" with the Office of Special Plans, the analysis group organized by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and headed by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley is also one of Ghorbanifar's supporters within the administration. In 1987, the CIA evaluated Ghorbanifar's credibility and found it wanting; it warned that he "should be regarded as an intelligence fabricator and a nuisance." Yet Ghorbanifar continues to have the ear of hawks within the administration and outside as well.
Bush's energy policiesHe says the bill was flawed from the start since it was designed behind closed doors by Vice President Dick Cheney and oil industry executives. "It's one of the greatest disgraces in my time," he continues. "It's a bad bill, it's a horrible bill. I think the American people are being really ill served right now and I think nowhere is it more disgraceful than in how the environment is being treated." Republican congressional leaders have vowed to return to the measure early next year after falling two Senate votes short of sending a bill to Bush in November. (AP/Las Vegas Sun)