War in Afghanistansending 2,000 soldiers into a chaotic area of that country in order to stop insurgent attacks. "Operation Avalanche" began as Afghan and UN officials warn that one of the military's most tragic blunders -- the weekend killing of nine children in an airstrike -- could drive more Afghans into the arms of the rebels. The offensive "is the largest we have ever designed," says an Army spokesman. The enemy "isn't going to know when we hit, he isn't going to know what we're doing." The wave of Taliban attacks against aid workers, US soldiers and Afghan government officials has belied American claims that it is winning the war to stabilize the country. Two years after the fall of the Taliban, some 11,700 soldiers, most US troops, remain in Afghanistan on combat missions against the Taliban and their allies, remnants of al-Qaeda and followers of renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The December 6 airstrike which targeted a local Taliban militant but killed 9 children playing in a village, underlines the risk that a heavy US military hand may only alienate Afghan civilians. "Every innocent who is killed has brothers, uncles, sisters and nephews--and behind them the tribe," says Sadokhan Ambarkhil, deputy governor of Paktika, one of the most dangerous provinces for coalition troops and their Afghan allies. "If 10 people are killed, how many people are saddened?" (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Iraq war and occupationsays even capturing Saddam Hussein won't end attacks on US forces in Iraq, and predicts that guerrilla attacks may surge ahead of a July 1 deadline for a transfer of authority from the U.S.-led coalition to a transitional Iraqi government. "We expect to see an increase in violence as we move forward toward sovereignty at the end of June," Sanchez says. "The killing or capturing of Saddam Hussein will have an impact on the level of violence, but it will not end it. It won't be the end-all solution. ...It's a needle in a haystack," he says of the hunt for Hussein. "Clearly we haven't found the right haystack.... We are moving under the assumption that he is still in the country, that he is still operating." (Chicago Sun-Times [cached Google copy])
Iraq war and occupation"We are not fighting for Saddam," says Kashid Ahmad Saleh, quoted in the New York Times. "We are fighting for freedom and because the Americans are Jews. The Governing Council is a bunch of looters and criminals and mercenaries. We cannot expect that stability in this country will ever come from them. The principle is based on religion and tribal loyalties. The religious principle is that we cannot accept to live with infidels. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, said, 'Hit the infidels wherever you find them.' We are also a tribal people. We cannot allow strangers to rule over us." (Truthout)
US militaryMany of the troops are expected to be stationed in former Communist bloc countries just entering NATO, particularly Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. "A lot of the current force posture in Europe is based on the realities of the Cold War, so adjustments are going to have to be made to take into account that the alliance is larger and stronger than it was a few years ago," says Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. "The perspective for this exercise is decades. This is not about current events, this is not about immediate considerations." (BBC)
Halliburtonoften at the expense of the Iraqi people and the US military. Iraqi Fares Mohamad gives one example: "KBR is charging Iraq $180,000 for each school they renovate. They then give the project to Iraqi sub-contractors and pay them just $20,000 to do the job. So KBR nets $160,000 just like that. KBR is getting everything." Sheikh Abdul Jalil calls the US company's involvement in Iraq "robbery." He says, "If KBR is making money this way, they are actually stealing from us. There are many able and capable Iraqis here, so why can't the jobs be given directly to us. That is, of course, if they are sincere in wanting to help the Iraqis and Iraq, and not to rip us off." Halliburton-run mess halls in Iraq are in deplorable condition: "Blood all over the floors of refrigerators, dirty pans, dirty grills, dirty salad bars, rotting meat and vegetables," says a Pentagon report. Though Halliburton promised in October to fix the problems, they have not. The fact that Halliburton was run by US Vice-President Dick Cheney from 1995 to 2000 escapes no one. "Actually, I think this more or less explains the real reason the US went to war," says an Iraqi security officer who helps protect the KBR team at one of the hotels. Many fear that the US will subject Iraq to "economic colonization;" with a 60% unemployment rate in the country and the rush by foreign companies to buy out and privatize Iraqi industries, that fear may be justified. Few Iraqis look for help to the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council for help; most see the council as a collection of "liars, thieves and murderers" who are lining their own pockets at Iraqi expense. Many point to council members who lived outside Iraq for years and have come back now to rebuild the country while leaving their wives and children abroad. "This looks like they have not enough faith in the country and in what they are doing, so how do you expect me to put my trust in them?" asks one Iraqi. (Toronto Star/Portland Independent Media, New York Times/Truthout)
Iraq war and occupationBaker's law firm, Baker Botts, has worked tirelessly to block the attempts of the 9/11 victims' families to receive information from Saudi Arabia on the Kingdom's funding of al-Qaeda fronts. Now Baker Botts' chief client, Saudi Arabia, will receive the largest amount of money of any country under the restructuring plan. Saudi Arabia is owed $30.7 billion by the Iraqi government and claims $12 billion in reparations from the first Gulf War. Although the US has no authority under international law to make any decisions about Iraq's sovereign debt, the Bush administration has sidestepped that problem by announcing that Baker is not an envoy of the US government, but a private citizen invited by the Iraqi Governing Council to help with the debt restructuring. Havint the IGC, whose ruling member, Ahmad Chalabi, is a creature of the neoconservatives running the Bush foreign policy, "request" Baker's presence also ensures that the US Senate doesn't get to hold confirmation hearings on Baker's appointment. Greg Palast writes, "In the case of Jim Baker, who will be acting as a de facto US Treasury secretary for international affairs, our elected Congress will have no chance to ask him who is paying his firm...nor even require him to get off conflicting payrolls."
Anti-terrorism and homeland security"There were many terrorist attacks that were stopped during the Clinton presidency. There were planned embassy bombings. There was a whole series of attacks on the scale of September 11 that were stopped around the Millennium. There was, in effect, a coordinated and highly effective struggle against terrorism going on. It lacked the kind of support it ought to have had from Congress, and from certain nations that were complicit with the terrorists. Pakistan, for example. Uzbekistan was not helpful. There was not a single Republican member of Congress who ever raised a single question or put a query to the Clinton National Security Council about its efforts against terrorism. Not one. When we left office, our National Security team conducted three extensive briefings of the incoming Bush team. Their attitude was, essentially, dismissive, that it was a 'Clinton thing.' It was considered to be part of the package of soft foreign policy issues. They thought of themselves as the adults, the real men, interested in hard things like Star Wars. So they blew off the Middle East peace process. They blew up the long negotiations involving North Korea, and humiliated the South Korean president, who had won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. This has set us down the road to where we are today with North Korea, as they try to rediscover, essentially, the Clinton position. On terrorism, they assigned the matter to Vice President Dick Cheney 'for study.' Anyone who has been in government knows that when you do that, you are essentially taking it off the table and not taking it seriously.
Clinton Administration"The legacy of the Clinton administration serves as a marker to measure what Bush has done, his efforts to roll back the social gains made by the American people. In every single area, the accomplishments of the Clinton administration stand as a rebuke to Bush on the environment, in the law and appointments to the courts, on women's rights, on labor rights – just yesterday, Congress voted to repeal overtime for workers, mainly the working poor. The record of the Clinton administration should be made clear to people: Not only are we talking about 22 million new jobs, the longest expansion of economic prosperity in the country's history, but we are also talking about the greatest rise in family income in real wages in a generation and a half, and a reduction of poverty by 25%, the greatest reduction since the Great Society brought the elderly out of poverty. This came largely through Medicare, a program Bush has begun to systematically unravel. ...For the record, the American people did not dislike Bill Clinton. They liked Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was the most popular President since John F. Kennedy. There's just no question about it, and he sustained this popularity longer than any President since Kennedy. The idea that people didn't like Clinton is completely belied by all of the polls that show they approved of him as President. There was an intense minority that hated Clinton, and they still hate him, and they engaged in demonization. But the idea that Clinton is hated by a majority of the American people is a myth."
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"The forced registration caught hundreds of family breadwinners without "proper" documentation, and saw them forcibly deported to their home countries, leaving their wives and children (often US citizens) without anyone to support them. One deportee, Suleman Faqih, had just opened a cell phone store in New York when he was rounded up, found not to have the necessary immigration papers, thrown in jail for 185 days and then sent back to Pakistan with dozens of others originally from that country. "Now he's adrift and bewildered in the violent metropolis of Karachi, staying with relatives who are nervous about letting him leave the house alone," reports the Chicago Tribune. "The young man who played youth football and used to belt out the American national anthem for his family does his best to keep the advice of the older siblings he left behind in New York: Keep your mouth shut." Faqih is far too Americanized to survive in Karachi, home to some of the most militantly anti-U.S. Islamic organizations in Pakistan. "I love the American way of life, but some don't," says Faqih. "And if you try to defend America, that can create a problem." Others are kidnapping targets by criminals who assume the deportees have money. In none of the instances have any terrorism charges been leveled. (Madison Capital Times)
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"The Bush administration has previously touted the case as a victory in its war on terrorism. Al-Arian is in jail on charges of funneling money and support from Chicago and Florida to the radical Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. Search warrants used in 1995 were shredded by mistake, casting doubt on the admissibility of some government evidence. Investigators used the warrants to raid Al-Arian's home, his university office and a think tank with which he was associated. The absence of the court documents could prevent the government from using as evidence in court material they seized from the 1995 search. Since the 9/11 attacks, several cases the U.S. government has brought against alleged Islamic militants have fizzled for lack of evidence. "The government has a problem that these documents have been destroyed," says Al-Arian's lawyer, Linda Moreno. "Dr. Al-Arian has a right to legally challenge the search and seizure of his home and his university office. In order to do that he has to examine the integrity of the search warrant, its application, its affidavit and the resulting inventory. If those documents have been destroyed, how do we know that the affidavit had sufficient probable cause?" Al-Arian said at the time of his arrest that he was being prosecuted because of his political views in support of a Palestinian state. "It's all about politics," Al-Arian said on Feb. 20, 2003, the day of his arrest. He is accused of being the US leader of Islamic Jihad, a group that has taken responsibility for suicide bombings that killed scores of people in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 1994. Islamic Jihad has denied any links to Al-Arian. In announcing the indictment against Al-Arian and his three co-defendants, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the defendants "finance, extol and assist acts of terror" by supporting Islamic Jihad's stated goals of destroying Israel, derailing peace accords and ridding the Middle East of influence of "the Great Satan" - the United States. (Knight Ridder/Chicago Tribune/South Mississippi SunHerald)
Bush's foreign policies"After the invasion it became embarrassingly clear that they [the US] are not going to find weapons of mass destruction, the rhetoric began to shift and bringing democracy became the great achievement," says Chomsky. "In early November, Bush made a speech that got wonderful applause in the west, in the US and England, mostly ridiculed elsewhere, saying now we're engaged in a new mission in the world, we made some mistakes in the past, now we're going to be struggling to bring democracy everywhere. There were also reactions in Iraq. There was a poll shortly after asking people why they thought United States came to Iraq. And some people did agree with this, actually one percent in the poll. Throughout most of the region, and in places like Latin America, the reaction was mostly ridicule. For several reasons: for one thing this sort of change of course -- we did some bad things in the past now we're going to wonderful, this doctrine is in vogue every two or three years. Furthermore, it's uniform in the history of aggression and imperialism. If you look at Hitler or Stalin, Japanese fascists, they all used that kind of terminology, certainly the British Empire used that kind of language, and others. So it basically carries no information. It is kind of the routine reflexive terminology, freedom, democracy justification that Stalin even introduced with what he called People's Democracy. No one takes it seriously, you look at the practice. You have to be pretty dumb not to notice that the countries that were praised in Bush's speech for their progress towards democracy [Algeria, Morocco, Yemen] were the ones that are following orders and the ones that were condemned were the ones that aren't following orders. This is completely independent of any steps towards democracy, human rights and so on."
Iraq war and occupationThe explanation is that it "is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States." The directive, issued by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, represents perhaps the most substantive retaliation to date by the Bush administration against American allies who opposed its decision to go to war in Iraq. Only companies from the United States, Iraq and 61 other countries designated as "coalition partners" will be allowed to bid on the contracts, which are financed by American taxpayers. Among the eligible countries are Britain, the closest American ally in Iraq, as well as Poland and Italy, which have contributed troops to the American-led security effort; however, the list includes other nations whose support has been less evident, including Turkey, which allowed American aircraft to fly over its territory but barred American forces at the last minute from using its soil as a staging point to invade Iraq from the north in March. Republican congressman Christopher Shays is one of many US lawmakers who believes the directive is a mistake: "It strikes me that we should do whatever we can to draw in the French, the Germans, the Russians and others into the process," he says. "I would expect that most of the contracts would go to countries who have done the heavy lifting, but I wouldn't want to see any arbitrary effort to shut anyone out."
Iraq war and occupationIsraeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders. Many of the Iraqi participants are militiamen formerly associated with a variety of Iraqi exile groups. Some observers compare the squads to the Vietnam-era "Phoenix" assassination program or the US-trained death squads in Latin America. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and Israeli military "consultants" have also visited Iraq. US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centers of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against US troops. However, the secret war in Iraq is about to get much harsher, in the hope of suppressing the Ba'athist-led insurgency ahead of next November's presidential elections. US special forces teams are already behind the lines inside Syria attempting to kill foreign jihadists before they cross the border, and a group focused on the "neutralization" of guerrilla leaders is being set up. A former senior US intelligence official says, "This is basically an assassination program. That is what is being conceptualized here. This is a hunter-killer team." He fears the new tactics and enhanced cooperation with Israel would only inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East. "It is bonkers, insane. Here we are -- we're already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we've just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams."
War with IranIt also calls for seizure of the rebels' money and weapons and a funneling of the proceeds to a fund that will compensate victims of Saddam Hussein's regime. The decision is a challenge to the US, which has kept the MEK rebel army under guard for months in the camp at Khalis as an ever-present threat to Iran. Iran has long called for the dissolution of the rebel army, which they see as a US-created threat to its government's rule. While the Pentagon is cautious in its response to the IGC's decision to dissolve the MEK, indications are that it has no intention of doing so. The guerrilla army has been actively opposed to the Iranian government since it broke with Iran after the 1979 revolution. It is classified by the State Department as a terrorist terrorist organization because of its role in attacks on Americans in the 1970s and its support for Hussein in crushing the Shiite uprising in southern Iraq after the Gulf War in 1991. It was given lavish support by Hussein, who provided conventional weaponry like tanks and helicopters, plus a half-dozen luxurious military bases replete with swimming pools and executive-quality offices. However, conservatives in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office view the rebels as freedom fighters and potential US allies against Iran's religious leaders, in much the same way as the Northern Alliance helped overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan. Neoconservatives, who dominate the Defense Department, are obviously willing to overlook the MEK's terrorist past and its attacks on Americans in hopes that the group can be used to destabilize the Iranian government. Current relations between the MEK and the US military are quite friendly. In backchannel negotiations through Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Iran has offered to extradite several top- level al-Qaeda officials it is holding if the United States shuts down the Mujahedeen and delivered its members to Iran. Most senior Iraqi officials believe that no such offer will be taken; instead, the MEK is being groomed for action as an intelligence-gathering and covert-action force. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Iraq war and occupationThe troops, which will number from 500 to 700, will be armed with anti-tank weapons. They will not be mobilized until sometime in early 2004, and will stay from six months to one year. The troops will primarily focus on humanitarian efforts such as providing medical services, supplying water, repairing and rebuilding public facilities such as schools, and transporting aid supplies. (Asahi Shimbun)
Bush's economic policiesburied within the omnibus federal spending bill that takes away federal grants from local and state transportation authorities that allow citizens to run advertising on buses, trains, or subways in support of reforming our nation's drug laws. The provision effectively silences community groups around the country that are using advertising to educate Americans about medical marijuana and other drug policy reforms. The bill also provides the White House with $145 million in taxpayer money to run anti-marijuana ads in 2004. "The government can't spend taxpayer money promoting one side of the drug policy debate while prohibiting taxpayers from using their own money to promote the other side," says Bill Piper, Associate Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This is censorship and not the democratic way." Questions about the provision's Constitutionality are being explored. (Drug Policy Alliance/CommonDreams)
2004 presidential electionsThe endorsement substantially bolsters Dean's status as the man to beat for the Democratic nomination, and is widely seen as a serious blow to the campaign of Gore's former running mate, Senator Joseph Lieberman, who has consistently been the most conservative of the candidates. "We need to remake the Democratic Party, we need to remake America," says Gore. "This nation cannot afford to have four more years of a Bush-Cheney administration." About Dean, he says, "He was the only major candidate who made the correct judgment about the Iraq war. And he had the insight and the courage to say and do the right thing. And that's important because those judgments -- that basic common sense -- is what you want in a president." Conservative commentators immediately tie Gore's endorsement to their favorite topic, the "Clinton conspiracy" to dominate US politics. Hours after Gore's endorsment, political analyst Jeff Greenfield told CNN's Aaron Brown, "Well, if you are a conspiratorialist, this is all about the Clintons." Brown replied, "Isn't it always?"
Iraq war and occupationShe admits leaking the memo, but will not plead guilty. She says, "I have today [November 27] indicated to the court that I intend to plead not guilty to the charge that I face under the Official Secrets Act. I will defend the charge against me on the basis that my actions were necessary to prevent an illegal war in which thousands of Iraqi civilians and British soldiers would be killed or maimed. No one has suggested (nor could they) that I sought or received any payment. I have only ever followed my conscience. I have been heartened by the many messages of support and encouragement that I have received from Britain and around the world." The top-secret memo came from the US National Security Agency official Frank Koza, and was written to his British counterparts in the Government Communications Headquarters, where Gun worked as a translator. Koza asked GCHQ for its help in secretly spying on UN Security Council delegations from governments considered to be wavering over the drive to war against Iraq. Intelligence sources say that US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice would have either initiated the memo or, at the very least, approved it; US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would have also had to have been involved in any surveillance on UN members. Koza's memo explained how the NSA had mounted "a surge effort to revive/create efforts against UNSC members Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea, as well as extra focus on Pakistan UN matters." The NSA effort, Koza said, would help provide "the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to US goals or to head off surprises." Koza asked for the help of British analysts who "might have similar, more indirect access to valuable information from accesses in your product lines" -— a request for bugging work and home telephones and intercepting e-mails.
Iraq war and occupationsaying that administration hawks came to Washington with President Bush seeking an excuse for invasion, and found it on Sept. 11, 2001. "I think they came into office looking for the opportunity, not quite sure how to get it. And 9-11, presto: perfect opportunity," Clark says. He says that after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, "there was this massive bait-and-switch operation" that allowed war supporters to pursue Saddam Hussein based on flawed evidence as part of the war on terrorism. "I think they made the decision to go after Saddam, and worked very hard to find the evidence to justify it. But they failed. That evidence was not there. It is not there. It was a wrong war. It was an unnecessary war. And it is a $150 billion mess today." (Boston Globe)
Iraq war and occupationBoth documents will eventually allow a fundamentalist, repressive Islamic theocracy to establish itself in the two countries. Fein writes, "The draft Afghan constitution, released last month and fashioned under the guidance of the United States, celebrates religious intolerance and the supremacy of the Sunni sect of Islam. Benighted mullahs command greater constitutional standing than secular democrats. The post-Taliban constitutional debacle should have taught the Bush administration a cluster of nation-building axioms: that political and social culture must be transformed before inaugurating popular elections and majority rule; that democratic-friendly cultural transformations require decades -— not years abbreviated by presidential politics -— of US occupation and governance; and that tyranny by the majority is tyranny, not democracy. But like the French Bourbons, the Bush presidency seems to forget nothing and learn nothing. Its Afghanistan folly has been repeated in Iraq, which each unfolding day there confirms. The draft constitution denies equal justice under law to non-Sunnis and women. The preamble proclaims on behalf of the people of Afghanistan a belief 'in the sacred religion of Islam.' In other words, non-Muslims are subservient to the 85 percent Sunni Afghan majority." (Washington Times)
Iraq war and occupation"There was an announcement by the Iraqi Governing Council earlier this week about the tribunal that they have set up to hold accountable members of the former regime who were responsible for three decades of brutality and atrocities. ...We know about the mass graves and the rape rooms and the torture chambers of Saddam Hussein's regime. ...We welcome their decision to move forward on a tribunal to hold people accountable for those atrocities." By this time, stories of atrocities committed by US soldiers in Baghdad prisons, including Abu Ghraib, are circulating through the Bush administration. (White House/Slate)
War in AfghanistanThe children die during an attack against a complex in Paktia province, where renegade Afghan commander Mullah Jalani kept a huge cache of weapons. US spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty says, "The next day we discovered the bodies of two adults and six children. We had no indication there were noncombatants" in the compound. Jalani was not in the compound. "We try very hard not to kill anyone. We would prefer to capture the terrorists rather than kill them," Hilferty says. "But in this incident, if noncombatants surround themselves with thousands of weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and howitzers and mortars in a compound known to be used by a terrorist, we are not completely responsible for the consequences. ...I can't guarantee that we will not injure more civilians. I wish I could." (Guardian)
Iraq war and occupationAngry reactions come from France, Germany, Russia, and Canada, saying that the decision threatens efforts to rebuild diplomatic ties damaged by the war. The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, is investigating whether the move complies with global trade rules. China is also excluded from bidding on the contracts, which total more than $18.6 billion. Many other countries were eligible to bid, including countries with which America has much less solid relations with than the ones who were on the blacklist. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov criticizes the decision: "The interests of a political settlement of the situation in Iraq and the rebuilding of Iraq are best served by uniting the efforts of the international community, and not splitting it." The European Commission issued a statement calling on Bush to revoke the policy and warning that it may violate World Trade Organization rules. "This decision is difficult to accept and unjustified," the commission says. "Furthermore, it is a political mistake because it sends a most unhelpful signal at a time when the international community is constructively working on making Iraq an open, transparent, democratic and prosperous country. ...We do not need another WTO dispute at this time." (Bush replies, "International law? I better call my lawyer; he didn't bring that up to me.") Administration officials defend their decision, saying it is "appropriate and reasonable" to limit the opponents of the war to bidding for sub-contracts while countries that backed the war such as Britain, Spain and Poland had a chance to reap the benefits. Says press secretary Scott McClellan, "The United States and coalition countries, as well as others that are contributing forces to the efforts there...are the ones that have been helping and sacrificing to build a free and prosperous nation for the Iraqi people." Paul Martin, incoming prime minister of finace in Canada, says the decision is "difficult to fathom." Several Bush aides wonder why the administration doesn't simply adopt a policy of giving preference to prime contracts to members of the coalition, without barring any countries outright. "What we did was toss away our leverage," one senior American diplomat says. "We could have put together a policy that said, 'The more you help, the more contracts you may be able to gain.'" Instead, the official says, "we found a new way to alienate them." (Reuters/Forbes, New York Times/Independent Media TV, Chicago Tribune)
Iraq war and occupationWhile the order was relayed by the ministry's director of planning, Dr. Nazar Shabandar, the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority also wants the counting to stop. "We have stopped the collection of this information because our minister didn't agree with it," says the head of the ministry's department of statistics, adding, "The CPA doesn't want this to be done." Neither the US nor British militaries have ever counted Iraqi civilian casualties inflicted by their operations. Dr. Nagham Mohsen, the head of the statistics department, says she was told by her boss to stop the count and to refuse to release the information she had already compiled. "He told me, 'You should move far away from this subject,'" Mohsen says. "I don't know why." (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Iraq war and occupationMade from innocuous containers such as Coke cans, toy cars, and even animal carcasses, the homemade bombs are proving very difficult to locate and defend against. Often, guerrillas who make the bombs do not deploy them; they hire unemployed Iraqis desperate for money to place the explosives instead. Other times they set the IEDs, hide, and set the bombs off either by remote control or by timers. Not only are the devices effective guerrilla weapons, they are psychologically effective. One US soldier describes an IED attack on his unit: "Suddenly you hear a big bang and there is smoke all over. It is so quick. People just scream." (Independent News and Media)
HalliburtonHalliburton, which has the exclusive United States contract to import fuel into Iraq, subcontracts the work to a Kuwaiti firm, but gets 26 cents a gallon for its overhead and fee, according to documents from the Army Corps of Engineers. "I have never seen anything like this in my life, says oil economist Phil Verleger. "That's a monopoly premium —- that's the only term to describe it. Every logistical firm or oil subsidiary in the United States and Europe would salivate to have that sort of contract." The cost of the imported fuel first came to public attention in October when two senior Democrats in Congress criticized Halliburton, the huge Houston-based oil-field services company, for "inflating gasoline prices at a great cost to American taxpayers." At the time, it was estimated that Halliburton was charging the United States government and Iraq's oil-for-food program an average of about $1.60 a gallon for fuel available for 71 cents wholesale. A breakdown of fuel costs shows that Halliburton is charging $2.64 for a gallon of fuel it imports from Kuwait and $1.24 per gallon for fuel from Turkey. The Iraqi state oil company and the Pentagon's Defense Energy Support Center import fuel from Kuwait for less than half of Halliburton's price. While Halliburton defends its charges as necessary and equitable, it is also known that Halliburton is making tremendous profits from its exclusive gasoline sales to the US military and civilian concerns in Iraq. Nearly $500 million has already been spent to bring gas, benzene and other fuels into Iraq. And as part of the $87 billion package for Iraq and Afghanistan that President Bush signed last month, $18.6 billion will be spent on reconstruction projects, including $690 million for gasoline and other fuel imports in 2004.
Iraq war and occupation$60/month for privates, compared to Iraqi police being paid $60 a month and the Civil Defense Corps $50/month. Others may fear threats from insurgent attacks, who have recently focused on Iraqis cooperating with the American occupation forces. The recruiting was done by US authorities and the training is done by civilian instructors, mostly ex-US military men, from the US defense contractor Vinnell Corporation. (Boston Globe/WSVN-TV)
Iraq war and occupationGingrich's comments ignite a storm of controversy and second-guessing from left and right alike. Gingrich is also critical of the US's insistence on keeping Iraqis out of the loop and of the command structure. "Americans can't win in Iraq," he says. "Only Iraqis can win in Iraq." Gingrich believes that the administration has been putting far too much emphasis on a military solution and slighting the political element. "The real key here is not how many enemy do I kill. The real key is how many allies do I grow," he says. "And that is a very important metric that they just don't get." He contends that the civilian-run CPA is fairly isolated and powerless, hunkered down inside its bunker in Baghdad. The military has the money and the daily contact with the locals. But it's using the same tactics in a guerrilla struggle that led to defeat in Vietnam. "The Army's reaction to Vietnam was not to think about it," he says. Rather than absorb the lessons of counterinsurgency, Gingrich says, the Army adopted "a deliberate strategy of amnesia because people didn't want to ever do it again." The Army rebuilt a superb fighting force for waging a conventional war. "I am very proud of what [Operation Iraqi Freedom commander Gen.] Tommy Franks did -— up to the moment of deciding how to transfer power to the Iraqis. Then," says Gingrich, "we go off a cliff." Gingrich faults the Americans for not quickly establishing some sort of Iraqi government, however imperfect. "The idea that we are going to have a corruption-free, pristine, League of Women Voters government in Iraq on Tuesday is beyond naivete," he says. "It is a self-destructive fantasy." Gingrich insists that the current "exit strategy" of bringing home most of the US troops by the November election is a mistake. The guerrillas cannot be allowed to believe that they only have to outlast the Americans to win, he says. "The only exit strategy is victory," he says, but not by brute American force. "We are not the enforcers. We are the reinforcers. The distinction between these two words is central to the next year in Iraq." (Newsweek/MSNBC)
Bush's foreign policiesThe report, titled "Toward a More Secure America: Grounding US Policy in Global Realities," takes issue with the Bush administration over methods used to combat terrorism. Based on two years of research and input from 22 international policy advisors, the report argues for a collaborative security effort within the international community. The report's main argument says that "Through cooperative engagement with other countries, multilateral disarmament, the strengthening of international institutions, and carrots and sticks diplomacy, the United States can protect itself against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and realize a more secure future." The authors of the report believe that the way the US implemented its invasion of Iraq hurt the war on terror because it detracted from any real debate about how best to combat terrorism. They caution against allowing the media's hype of the war on terror and the "axis of evil" to mask the mounting problems in American foreign policy. Instead of focusing on Iraq, according to the report, American government officials should focus on cooperating with international institutions and other countries to improve counterterrorism intelligence. (Notre Dame Observer)
Plame outingSince September 29, no word on the supposed Justice Department investigation has been made public. She writes, "The Department of Justice investigation appears to be at a standstill. Sure, the Department might claim that even the existence of a grand jury investigating the matter is a secret, but recall how such secret investigations were conducted during the Clinton years. Was there ever a grand jury matter that wasn't leaked to the press? No, the press set up camp outside the Courthouse where the grand jury sat and took note of and publicly report on every person who went in. A grand jury investigation involving the White House is too good a story not to be subject of its own leak. Why has the investigation stalled? Is it because the Department of Justice, just as suspected by the Democrats all along, isn't serious about prosecuting the leaker? Is it because George Bush has swept the matter under the carpet? Where are the Congressional hearings that were so common during the Clinton administration? Can anyone seriously doubt if the same events had transpired during the Clinton years there would have been day after day, and month after month of hearings with Congressional leaders clamoring for an independent counsel, with the result that one would have been appointed? I guess the truth is that neither this administration, nor this Congress, cares nearly as much about national security and the safety of undercover operatives as they do about politics." (Buzzflash)
9/11 attacksDean says, "There are many interesting theories about it. The most interesting theory I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory that can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is? By suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and they get repeated as fact." It is plain that Dean is not advocating any 9/11 conspiracy theories, but is instead decrying the fact that, because the Bush administration has refused to release so much information about the attacks, theories sprout up to fill the void. Yet Republicans tar Dean's remarks as "political hate speech," "as if," in Mark Crispin Miller's words, "mere reference to the question of the president's foreknowledge were the same as calling for impeachment or assassination." (Mark Crispin Miller)
Conservative media slantThe plan, documented in an October 13 memo sent to Premiere Radio Network president Kraig Kitche, involved taking up former Sen. Bob Dole's offer "to help" the embattled radio jock by writing a supportive letter to Newsweek magazine. The memo also recommended doing a survey of Rush's listeners to gauge their reaction to Limbaugh's embarrassing admission. "If results are positive, we can use PR with stations, advertisers and media," the memo states. "If not, we don't have to publicize. ...Assuming an outpouring of protest...[w]e will alert the [Wall Street Journal]." It also urges "Kraig to send memo to Congress" with updates on "coverage, advertiser and affiliate feedback." (New York Daily News)