Islamist terrorismSerious instability in Saudi Arabia could disrupt the kingdom's petroleum exports, drive up world oil prices, and hurt the US economy, as well as the economies of other countries. Saudi officials insist that a May crackdown in their country has "taken out" most of the terror network's senior leaders in that country and has left the network "badly damaged," according to a senior CIA official. But he warns that followers of Osama bin Laden are still capable of staging attacks against Saudi and foreign targets. "There are a lot of indicators that the remnants of al-Qaeda are trying real hard, real soon, to do something," he says. As many as 10,000 Saudis, many of them disgruntled by corruption and a lack of employment opportunities, could support al-Qaeda, although only a fraction of that number is believed to be ready to take up arms against the ruling family, the report says. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Iraq war and occupationBush continues to insist that, though no WMDs had been found in Iraq, the rationale of the possibility of WMDs was enough to justify the Iraq invasion. He denies that anyone he knows has raised the possibility of his insistence that the WMDs were a threat is destroying his credibility, saying, "And so, frankly, I haven't heard one person say that to me, but you run in different circles than I do. Much more elite." The idea that Bush, the ultimate elitist, runs in a "common man" crowd and Bush, the reporter, is the real elitist, is laughable in its irony. Woodward points out that he has been talking to business people, likely some of the same CEOs and corporate leaders that comprise much of Bush's own circle of colleagues and associates. Woodward notes that it took him over five minutes of pressing to get Bush to even acknowledge the fact that WMDs have yet to be found. In 2006, Woodward concludes his book State of Denial with the words, "With all Bush's upbeat talk and optimism, he had not told the American public the truth about what Iraq had become." (Bob Woodward)
Iraq war and occupation"It is in every nation's interest that Iraq be free and peaceful, and we welcome contributions," Bush says. He has asked the leaders of France, Russia, and Germany to meet with special envoy James Baker to discuss forgiving the debt. White House officials are reportedly "fuming" about the timing of the Pentagon's directive to ban those countries from receiving contracts. "I can't imagine that if you are asking to do stuff for Iraq that this is going to help," a senior State Department official says. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan questions whether the exclusions are legal under international law. Russia's government has flatly refused to forgive any Iraqi debt it is owed. Incoming Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin he is mystified by the decision because his country already spent $300 million to support Iraq and also has troops in Afghanistan. "I find it really very difficult to fathom," he says. "There's a huge amount of suffering going on there, and I think it is the responsibility of every country to participate in developing [Iraq]." Annan and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are both critical of the US move. (CNN, New York Times/Independent Media TV)
Iraq war and occupationBush discussed the restrictions, which bars any country who did not actively support the US in Iraq from receiving part of an $18.6 billion package of contracts, with the leaders of France, Germany, and Russia, and promised to "keep lines of communication open" to discuss which countries would be allowed to bid. Bush also asked the three countries for help in restructuring Iraq's massive debt, a request that was unlikely to be honored given the anger over the restrictions. White House officials said they would be flexible in deciding which countries had done enough to qualify for the contracts. One senior defense official said the roster of 63 eligible countries "is not a fixed, closed list... This is an open list. We're always going to reevaluate." The official suggested that a country might qualify for the list simply by declaring itself a member of the Iraq coalition, a step that such war opponents as France and Germany might find politically unacceptable. In further attempts at damage control, White House officials noted that the restrictions apply only to the $18.6 billion in US reconstruction aid and not to an additional $13 billion pledged by countries in Madrid, or to any other funds that might come through international organizations or to subcontractors.
HalliburtonIn a Pentagon audit, KBR has been shown to have fraudulently charged "tens of millions of dollars" for fuel brought into Iraq. Additionally, a second set of violations involve unacceptable delays by KBR in providing cost estimates to the government for dozens of separate projects already under way in Iraq. These violations, for work that includes the construction of food, housing and other facilities for the military, could also involve overcharging. Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall insists that KBR hasn't overcharged anyone for anything. So far, the KBR contracts are worth over $16 billion to the company. (New York Times)
Iraq war and occupationMany former members of the Hussein regime's intelligence agencies are being recruited. The new service will be trained, financed and equipped largely by the CIA with help from Jordan. The agency will be headed by Iraqi Interior Minister Nouri Badran, a secular Shiite and activist in the Jordan-based Iraqi National Accord, a former exile group that includes former Baath Party military and intelligence officials. Some Pentagon officials and Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, vehemently oppose allowing former intelligence and military officials into the new organization for fear they cannot be trusted. Intelligence experts said Chalabi and his sponsors also fear some former government officials would use the new apparatus to undermine the influence of Chalabi, who intends on being a permanent member of Iraq's leadership. The new service, scheduled to begin operations in February, is funded by classified CIA funds. "The intelligence community doesn't understand what's going on in Iraq and has decided to put a whole bunch of analytical manpower on it," says one intelligence official. "They definitely didn't think this would happen as it has," the official says, referring to the resilience of the insurgency. (Washington Post)
Iraq war and occupationThe growing number of Iraqi-financed private military companies has already created concern that secular leaders may be developing militias to match the paramilitary forces under the command of religious and Kurdish political groups. Now Ayad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord has accused the Iraqi National Congress, led by Ahmad Chalabi, of undermining central authority by backing the creation of a private military company to secure the oil sector. Allawi is head of the security committee on the interim Governing Council and his deputy, Nouri Badran, runs the interior ministry which controls more than 50,000 police. Allawi and Chalabi have been rivals for years, since both led separate efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Chalabi is backed by the US Defense Department, and supports US neoconservatives' wish to redraw the map of the Middle East, while Allawi is regarded as closer to the CIA and fears further upsetting the status quo would inflame the region. The latest dispute arises from the hiring of a South African-based private security firm, Erinys Internation, to train and deploy 6,500 Iraqis to protect oil installations on a two-year contract. The joint venture, Erinys Iraq, was begun by associates of Chalabi.
Iraq war and occupationC-SPAN Baghdad, with all content carefully screened by the US Department of Defense. The fact that the television station is run by the Defense Department and not the State Department allows the administration to get around US law forbidding domestic propaganda efforts, specifically the Ban on Domestic Activities by the United States Information Agency. (Utne Reader)
Congressional Republicans"Never before has the House of Representatives operated in such secrecy: At 2:54 AM on a Friday in March, the House cut veterans benefits by three votes. At 2:39 AM on a Friday in April, the House slashed education and health care by five votes. At 1:56 AM on a Friday in May, the House passed the Leave No Millionaire Behind tax-cut bill by a handful of votes. At 2:33 AM on a Friday in June, the House passed the Medicare privatization and prescription drug bill by one vote. At 12:57 AM on a Friday in July, the House eviscerated Head Start by one vote. And then, after returning from summer recess, at 12:12 AM on a Friday in October, the House voted $87 billion for Iraq. Always in the middle of the night. Always after the press had passed their deadlines. Always after the American people had turned off the news and gone to bed.
Congressional RepublicansSimmons' request for $225,000 for a Family Resource Center in his district was part of a larger Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, which at one point also cut $2 billion from veterans' health care services. Because of the cut, Smith, chairman of the Veterans Health subcommittee and a Vietnam veteran, voted against the bill, much to the displeasure of the Republican leadership in Congress. "Normally what that means is that everything else I had in that bill disappears." The House approved the bill over Smith's objections, with Smith's request intact. When he tried to speak against the bill from the floor of the house, he was again refused -- so he spoke from the Democratic side. "It's a little unusual," he says. "In fact, it's very unusual." In the end, 59 Republicans voted against the bill. Simmons, along with five other Republicans who spoke against the bill, faced "punishment" for doing so: funding for projects like the Family Resource Center was threatened, and appropriations committee members threatened to use that money for Democratic projects instead in order to garner bipartisan support for the bill. Later, during conference with the Senate, the $2 billion for health care was reinstated. The bill is expected to pass Congress with little difficulty. "I felt vindicated," Simmons says. "I was taken to the woodshed several times during that budget battle, but I think they respected my position." (Journal Inquirer)
Fall of Soviet Unionconservative columnist William Safire warns that Russia's experiment with democracy is all but dead. Instead, Putin is leading a return to one-party government. Putin, now poised to be named "president for life," led his party's takeover of the Russian parliament, the Duma.
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"Arar is preparing a lawsuit against the US government. "I recently spent 10½ months in a grave-sized cell in Syria, unsure why I was there, unsure how to get out. ...I was beaten and I was tortured and I was constantly scared. Every day I worried that I would never be released, that I would disappear into that concrete grave forever. Why was I being held? I still don't really know. I am not a terrorist. I am not a member of al-Qaeda. I am a Syrian-born Canadian. A father and a husband. A telecommunications engineer. I have never been in trouble with the police and have always been a good citizen. My ordeal began on the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2002, when my flight back from a family vacation in Tunisia stopped over in New York and American immigration officials pulled me aside to answer a few questions. At first it was only an inconvenience -— thorough airport security, post 9/11-style. But my questioners persisted. And when someone waved a copy of the 1997 lease for my Ottawa apartment, I was shocked and confused. What was going on here? Who gave them the lease and what was its significance to them? For the first time, I began to realize that the questioning was not simply routine. My interrogation in the United States took days. Shuttling in shackles among immigration officials, FBI agents and police officers, I asked repeatedly for a lawyer but was told that I didn't have the right to one because I was not an American citizen. There were no phone calls home either.
Conservative smear campaignsThe article repeats former Clinton advisor Dick Morris's characterization of the visit as a "badwill tour," and calls her remarks to US troops "grousing." The article also passes along some wildly inaccurate observations of her trip, including a story that the Pentagon had to assign troops to greet her and her companion, Senator Harry Reid, during her visit, and stating without substantiation, "[T]he troops hated [her speech]." The article also implies collusion between Clinton and radical Arab elements by saying that the Arab television al-Jazeera couldn't wait to broadcast an Arabic translation of her comments to US troops: "To our enemies, the propaganda value of having a member of the US Senate, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, come to a war zone to criticize her president and express doubts about the leadership of the US military was crystal clear."
Iraq war and occupationA report issued today says that in March and April, cluster bombs used in populated areas were responsible for more civilian casualties than any other weapon. The report, by Human Rights Watch (HRW), says American and British forces used nearly 13,000 cluster bombs, often in populated areas. The weapons are packed with small bomblets, some with time delays, can lie in the ground for months until set off by a passer-by or a vehicle. Experience from other conflicts, including the US-led war in Afghanistan, has shown the unexploded, yellow bombs attract curious children. Kenneth Roth, HRW's executive director, says: "Coalition forces tried to avoid killing Iraqis who weren't in combat. But the deaths of hundreds of civilians could have been prevented. Every death of a civilian in wartime is a terrible tragedy but focusing on the exact number of deaths misses the point. The point is that the US military should not have been using these methods of warfare. The way cluster bombs were used in Iraq represents a big step backwards for the US military. US ground forces need to learn the lesson the air force seems to have adopted: cluster munitions cannot be used in populated areas without huge loss of civilian life." Britain's Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defense, had defended their use, saying they were "perfectly legal" and "entirely legitimate."
Iraq war and occupationThe newspaper, quoting two officials with the Army's 1st Armored Division, reported that "for security reasons, only those preselected got into the facility during Bush's visit. ...The soldiers who dined while the president visited were selected by their chain of command, and were notified a short time before the visit." The paper also published a letter to the editor from Sergeant Loren Russell, who wrote of the heroism of his soldiers and then added: "[I]magine their dismay when they walked 15 minutes to the Bob Hope Dining Facility, only to find that they were turned away from their evening meal because they were in the wrong unit. ...They understand that President Bush ate there and that upgraded security was required. But why were only certain units turned away?" Russell added that his soldiers "chose to complain amongst themselves and eat MREs, even after the chow hall was reopened for 'usual business' at 9 PM. As a leader myself, I'd guess that other measures could have been taken to allow for proper security and still let the soldiers have their meal." (Washington Post)
Iraq war and occupationWitwit, who was installed by the US, was immediately replaced by a former Iraqi air force colonel by the US occupation forces. The protestors, who demonstrated for three days to force Witwit's resignation, continue their protest, demanding that free elections be held instead of having the US select its governor. Over a thousand protesters, mostly students, clerics and middle-aged professionals, chanted "Yes, yes for elections! No, no to appointment!" Local leaders describe the passionate but peaceful demonstration in this predominantly Shiite Muslim city as a preview of what US occupiers will face if they follow through with a plan to select a provisional Iraqi government through regional caucuses instead of general elections. Although elections have become an increasingly popular rallying cry in Shiite-dominated central and southern Iraq, the protest here is the first indication that mainstream Shiites are willing to take to the streets to press the issue, adding a volatile new element to the country's impending political transition. "It's been peaceful in Hilla until now, but if the coalition forces keep refusing what the people want, it will become a big problem that they will not be able to control," says Mohammed Kiflawi Abboud, chairman of the council that governs Hilla province. "Everyone will oppose the Americans." "President George Bush promised us democracy," says factory owner Kadhim Abbas. "How can you have democracy without elections?" Witwit's replacement, Emad Lefteh, insisted there could be no elections right away. He says the US "should not bend to a few people protesting outside. ...If we have elections now, our enemies, the terrorists and the extremists, will take advantage of the situation." An interpreter spoke directly to the CPA, in English, during the protests: "Coalition forces, don't be worried. We are here in peace. All we want is democracy." "That's what they promised us," a student said after the interpreter finished. "All we want is what they promised." (Washington Post)
Iraq war and occupation"Although I am now leaving the Army, I in no way regret my time in the military," Johnson says in a statement. Johnson was a cook for the 507th Maintenance Company when it was ambushed in March. She was shot in both ankles and captured with five other soldiers, including Jessica Lynch. Nine soldiers died in the ambush. "To my fallen comrades and their families, my utmost respect, and gratitude for their sacrifices," Johnson says. "Their memory has made me a better person and they will not be forgotten." Johnson had planned on making a career out of Army service. (CNN)
Attack on civil libertiesBush signs into law a bill that grants the FBI sweeping new powers; the bill is a serious expansion of the USA Patriot Act, incorporating large chunks of the anti-democratic, unconstitutional "Patriot II" legislation. A White House spokesperson dismissed the curious timing of the signing -- on a Saturday -- by saying, "the President signs bills seven days a week." But the last time Bush signed a bill into law on a Saturday happened more than a year ago, on a spending bill that the President needed to sign, to prevent shutting down the federal government the following Monday. The move was successful; the media, and as a result the American citizenry, barely noticed that Bush had just given the FBI the power to probe their financial records, even without any suspicion of involvement in crime or terrorism. The administration and its Congressional allies hid these new executive powers in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, an enormous bill that funds all the intelligence activities of the federal government. The Act included a simple, yet insidious, redefinition of "financial institution," which previously referred to banks, but now includes stockbrokers, car dealerships, casinos, credit card companies, insurance agencies, jewelers, airlines, the US Post Office, and any other business "whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters." The Senate passed it with a voice vote to avoid individual accountability.
War in AfghanistanFollowing intense arm-twisting of faction leaders by Bush envoy and ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the assembly. described by WSWS as "a huge tent full of representatives of warlords, mullahs and outright US stooges," adopted a constitution on January 4. Most observers believe that the constitution gives US-appointed president Hamid Karzai wide-ranging powers, as desired by the US, at the cost of a real Afghan democracy. The president will rule without a prime minister. He will have the power to appoint and dismiss ministers, key officials, judges and military, police and intelligence chiefs, as well as one-third of the upper house of the national assembly. He will be the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and can declare states of emergency for the whole or parts of the country.
Bush's foreign policiesThe legislation directs the president to prohibit US exports to Syria of weaponry and so-called "dual-use" technology with both civilian and military applications, but also gives him authority to waive the sanctions. It gives the US government a range of options for punishing Syria, from restricting US exports and business investment to downgrading Washington's diplomatic representation and imposing travel restrictions on Syrian diplomats in the United States. The law also allows the government to freeze Syria's assets in the United States and restrict over-flight rights for Syrian aircraft inside US airspace. It calls upon Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon. (Agence France-Presse/Al-Jazeera)
Attack on civil libertiesThe result is that the FBI, unhindered by the restrictions of the past, "will conduct many more searches and wiretaps that are subject to oversight by a secret intelligence court rather than regular criminal courts." Civil liberties groups and defense lawyers predictthat more innocent people will be the targets of clandestine surveillance. The new strategy, launched in early summer and finalized in a classified directive issued to FBI field offices in October, "goes further than has been publicly discussed by FBI officials in the past and marks the final step in tearing down the legal wall that had separated criminal and intelligence investigations since the spying scandals of the 1970s," say authorities. "With 9/11 as the catalyst for this, what we've done is fundamentally change the approach we take to every counterterrorism case," FBI terrorism chief John Pistole says. "This is a sea change for the FBI."
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"The case of two Arab immigrants, Karim Koubriti and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, who were convicted in June of conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism and a document fraud-related charge, was hailed as an early success in the Bush administration's war on terror. A third defendant was convicted of document fraud; a fourth was acquitted. The defendants have asked the judge to overturn their convictions because a letter from an imprisoned drug gang leader, who claimed the government's key witness lied to federal agents, was not turned over until several weeks ago. The evidence "should have been turned over," US District Judge Gerald Rosen said at the end of the emergency hearing. But "that does not get the defendants all the way to a new trial." (Guardian)
Iraq war and occupationafter a wave of recruits quit the new force over low salaries. He acknowledges that soldiers who quit over salaries of $150 monthly for senior officers may have a legitimate grievance. "We're in the process of reviewing the pay scales to determine what needs to be done there to ensure that they have a decent standard of living," he says. (Reuters)
US torture allegationsbut will be fined and allowed to retire rather than face a court-martial, according to military spokesmen. West has been found guilty of three counts of aggravated assault and one count of communicating a threat. West pleaded guilty to punching and firing a pistol near the prisoner, Yahya Jhodri Hamoodi, on Aug. 20 while interrogating him in al-Taji, just north of Baghdad. West also threatened to kill the detainee if he did not talk, according to the statement. The division said West "disobeyed laws, ignored orders...and mortgaged future discipline in his unit by compromising his credibility. ...While his crimes merit a court martial, mitigating factors...were considered including the stressful environment...and Lt. Col. West's record as an officer and commander," the military said. (AP/San Jose Mercury News)
Media manipulation and marketing by GOPWithout notification to foreign media outlets, immigration and customs officials are arresting, detaining, and deporting journalists arriving in the US without special visas. This happens even when they come from nations whose citizens can stay for up to 90 days without a visa if they are arriving as tourists or on business. Worse, members of the press arriving without the visas are being treated like criminals, handcuffed as they're marched through airports, photographed, fingerprinted, and their DNA sampled. The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists is readying a global campaign against the harsh and repressive treatment of foreign journalists. (Toledo Blade)
Bush's foreign policiesThe administration's policies are at odds with six decades of foreign policy through Democratic and Republican administrations aimed at forming international coalitions to address national security problems, Mondale says. "I cannot understand why the current administration believes that throwing all this out the window -— to be replaced by what I see to be their radical, unilateral, go-it-alone, in-your-face approach —- can strengthen America. I don't see how it can," Mondale said. "Their announced doctrine of pre-emption and their policy of dominance frightens our friends and fuels animosity and rage upon which our true enemies rely." Mondale is joined in his pointed criticism of Bush's foreign policy by two other officials from former Democratic administrations before an audience of 300 at Macalester College: Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser in the Carter administration, and William Perry, defense secretary in the Clinton administration. Brzezinski says the Bush administration's foreign policy can be summarized in a quote from Bush: "If you're not with us, you're against us." Brzezinski, a naturalized American born in Poland, said it's a stance "straight from [Soviet leader Vladimir] Lenin. ...There has never been a time before when the United States was as isolated in terms of its foreign policy." Perry says Bush's failure to work with a broad coalition of allies to halt the spread of nuclear weapons increases potential for them to fall into the hands of terrorists: "Unless stemmed, it is likely before this decade ends that nuclear bombs will be used in regional wars and terror attacks against American cities." Brzezinski also warns US citizens about how their response to terrorism is being viewed around the world, especially in Europe, where terrorism has been relatively constant through the 20th century and beyond. "We're allowing ourselves into a state of mind that maximizes the effect of terrorism," he said. American fears, Brzezinski said, have led to reactions out of sync with American values. In particular, he cited the Patriot Act, which he called "not a proud moment in our national history" and likened to the Alien and Sedition Acts and the internment of the Japanese during World War II: "These are things subsequent generations are ashamed of." (Pioneer Press)
Conservative smear campaignsSenate Democratic Whip Harry Reid lists several cases where Congressional Democrats had resisted Bush's proposals this year -- including an energy bill, Iraq reconstruction money and administration efforts to change overtime pay rules -- and have been attacked as "unpatriotic" or "anti-American" in return. Reid says it was never wrong to stand up for what one believes, even when in the minority, as Democrats are in both houses of Congress. "I believe the voice of dissent is often the true voice of democracy," Reid says. "I have to say, I'm troubled by the way this administration brands Americans who disagree with its policies as 'unpatriotic.' There are many areas where we do not agree with members of this administration, but we would never question their patriotism. They owe us the same in return." (Reuters)
Iraq war and occupationThe 66-year old former strongman is, according to American sources, alone, obviously exhausted, and puts up no resistance; he is described as "very disoriented." "He was just caught like a rat," says Major General Raymond Odierno, whose 4th Infantry Division troops staged the raid. "When you're in the bottom of a hole you can't fight back." 600 US soldiers moved in on the farm, located near the village of Al-Dawr, less than 24 hours after receiving a tip from Hussein clan members as to his whereabouts: "Over the last 10 days we brought in about five to 10 members of these families, and finally got the ultimate information from one of these individuals," says Odierno. The operation is melodramatically named "Operation Red Dawn." After 14 hours of media silence, US administrator Paul Bremer finally announces the capture to a group of journalists with the words, "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him." Bush orders Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to have the announcement of the capture from Baghdad; administration officials explain that they wanted the news to appear to be a victory for the Iraqi people rather than a personal triumph for Bush, who six months before the invasion called Hussein "a guy that tried to kill my dad." Hussein will now "face the justice he denied to millions," says Bush. "In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over." Two other Iraqis considered to be possible colleagues to Hussein are captured, as are two Kalashnikov rifles, a cache of documents, and $750,000 in cash. Iraqi Governing Council head Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim says that a DNA test had proved the man in custody was Saddam Hussein.
Osama bin LadenThe same reports indicate that al-Qaeda is planning to unleash "a wave of violence" upon US targets in Iraq. William Rivers Pitt writes, "The Bush administration spent hundreds of billions of dollars on this Iraq invasion, not one dime of which went towards the capture or death of the fellow who brought down the Towers a couple of years ago. For bin Laden and his devotees, Iraq is better than Disneyland." (Truthout)
Iraq war and occupationThe column gives seven rationales: "The length and state of his hair indicated he had not seen a barber or even had a shampoo for several weeks. The wild state of his beard indicated he had not shaved for the same period. The hole dug in the floor of a cellar in a farm compound near Tikrit was primitive indeed –- 6ft across and 8ft across with minimal sanitary arrangements -- a far cry from his opulent palaces. Saddam looked beaten and hungry. Detained trying to escape were two unidentified men. Left with him were two AK-47 assault guns and a pistol, none of which were used. The hole had only one opening. It was not only camouflaged with mud and bricks –- it was blocked. He could not have climbed out without someone on the outside removing the covering. And most important, $750,000 in 100-dollar notes were found with him (a pittance for his captors who expected a $25m reward) -– but no communications equipment of any kind, whether cell phone or even a carrier pigeon for contacting the outside world. According to DEBKAfile analysts, these seven anomalies point to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein was not in hiding; he was a prisoner."
Iraq war and occupationSamira Shahbandar, who lives with the ousted Iraqi leader's only surviving son Ali, "is believed to have given the Americans and their allies some information about the area where Saddam was hiding in," the sources say. Samira, who is reportedly living in Beirut with their son, was apparently in regular contact with Hussein, who gave her $5 million dollars in cash plus gold and jewelery before sending her with his son Ali to the Syrian border after the US-led invasion of Iraq in March. (South Africa Mail and Guardian)
Iraq war and occupation"We do not expect at this point in time that we will have a complete elimination of those attacks," says Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of the coalition forces in Iraq. "I believe that those will continue for some time. But with the cooperation of all of the Iraqi people and our coalition I believe that we are now much closer to a safe and secure environment." Major General Raymond Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division troops that captured Saddam, says his forces found no telephones, radios or other communications devices in Saddam's hideout, suggesting he had not been directing the insurgency as some had speculated. "I believe he was there more for moral support," says Odierno. "I don't believe he was coordinating the effort because I don't believe there's any national coordination." Captain Joe Munger, an officer in the 4th Infantry Division that captured Saddam, agrees: "I think they'll lose some of their legitimacy, but I don't think it'll stop altogether. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari tells CNN that guerrilla attacks were likely to continue, but that Hussein's capture would have a "demoralizing effect" on loyalists. Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi Governing Council says, "I think things will be better now. I am not saying that attacks will stop immediately, but they will decrease with the passage of time." He continues, "The dream of some people that the Ba'ath Party will rule again is over now." (Guardian)
Iraq war and occupation"Does this [the capture] take Iraq off the table as an issue in the presidential campaign?" She follows up with, "Last Tuesday in New Hampshire, you called President Bush a reckless, radical and heartless leader and you said the war in Iraq cast doubts on his competence to be commander in chief. Do you stand by those statements?" Clark replies that he does indeed stand by his statements, and notes that the capture by no means justifies the war or its consequences. Conservative Democratic candidate Joseph Lieberman uses the news to attack frontrunner Howard Dean: "If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today, not in prison." (Buzzflash)
Iraq war and occupationHe did not say who should try Saddam, but said the trial should be conducted with "the highest legal standards. There can be absolutely no doubt about the rights of the accused." The case "needs to be as public as possible and the evidence needs to be aired and charges brought," he adds. (AP/Free Republic)
Prewar intelligence on Iraqthe al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist. The evidence is later shown to be faked. Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001 are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The handwritten memo is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work program" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad. In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy." The second part of the memo, which is headed "Niger Shipment," contains a report about an unspecified shipment -- believed to be uranium -- that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria. Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine. "We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda," he says. "But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks." Although Atta is believed to have lived in Florida in the summer of 2001, he is known to have used more than a dozen aliases, and intelligence experts believe he could easily have slipped out of the US to visit Iraq. Abu Nidal, who was responsible for the failed assassination of the Israeli ambassador to London in 1982, was based in Baghdad for more than two decades. Days later, the document is exposed as a fake (see below.) (Daily Telegraph)
Islamist terrorismallowing the terrorist network to retain formidable financial resources, say US, European and UN investigators. Several businessmen designated by the UN as terrorist financiers, whose assets were supposed to have been frozen more than two years ago, continue to run vast business empires and to travel freely because most nations are unaware of the sanctions and others do not enforce them, the investigators said. Several charities based in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that were reportedly shut down by the governments there because of the groups' alleged financial ties to Osama bin Laden also continue to operate freely. As a result, al-Qaeda continues to receive ample funding not only to carry out its own plots but also to finance affiliated terrorist groups and to seek new weapons. "We desperately need to revitalize our effort to choke off terrorist financing, because until we cut that off, we have not crippled al Qaeda's ability to attack us," says one senior U.S. official who monitors terrorist finances. "We started out well, picked all the low-hanging fruit, and then, as we have squeezed, they have simply moved on to different methods." (Washington Post)
British torture allegationsThe detainees are being held in Belmarsh prison in southeast London, which has been described as "Britain's Guantanamo Bay" or "Camp Delta UK," and Woodhill prison near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. At least half of them are showing signs of serious mental illness. Their lawyers say they have been pushed "beyond the limits of human endurance." One detainee is a polio victim, another has lost two limbs and a third has attempted suicide. The men and their families fear some may not survive their indefinite imprisonment. The Blair administration has said none will be freed unless they are suffering from a terminal illness. The detainees have been described as a serious threat to national security. But two are seriously disabled and most have been on anti-depressant drugs for more than a year. One detainee, a North African with severe polio, has deteriorated so badly that he no longer can recognize or communicate with others. His condition worsened after he was confined to his cell by his illness. The prison authorities refused him a wheelchair, and inmates' offers to carry him to classes and prayers were rejected. A second North African has no arms and has to be helped by fellow prisoners to carry out everyday tasks. A Palestinian detainee was transferred to Broadmoor high security psychiatric hospital after trying to kill himself over a year ago and has been there ever since. Their morale is suicidally low, especially after the failure of ten separate appeals against the internments. The detainees have been charged with no crime,; are unable to see the intelligence evidence against them, and are confined to their cells for up to 22 hours a day. The government used emergency legislation against them because it had insufficient evidence to mount a prosecution.
Iraq war and occupationExperts are calling for water and milk samples to be analyzed after "the highest number, highest levels and highest concentrations of radioactive source points" were found in the Basra suburb of Abu Khasib, the center of the fiercest battles between UK and Iraqi forces. Readings taken from destroyed Iraqi tanks in Basra reveal radiation levels 2,500 times higher than normal. In the surrounding area researchers recorded radioactivity levels 20 times higher than normal. Experts believe inhaling the radioactive dust left by the highly combustible weapon causes cancer and birth defects. It has long been alleged that depleted uranium used in the first Gulf conflict was responsible for abnormally high levels of childhood leukaemia and birth defects in Iraq. Depleted uranium is also believed by some to be a contributing factor in Gulf War syndrome. Tedd Weymann, deputy director of Canada's Uranium Medical Research Center, said: "At one point the readings were so high that an alarm on one of my instruments went off telling me to get back. Yet despite these alarmingly high levels of radiation children play on the tanks or close by." It is likely that over a thousand tons of depleted-uranium munitions, primarily used to pierce tank armor, were used in the invasion. The Ministry of Defense is challenging the UMRC findings. (Guardian)
HalliburtonHalliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root's promises to improve "have not been followed through," according to a Pentagon report that warned "serious repercussions may result" if the contractor did not clean up. The Pentagon reports finding "blood all over the floor," "dirty pans," "dirty grills," "dirty salad bars" and "rotting meats ... and vegetables" in four of the military messes the company operates in Iraq. The report comes as President Bush fends off Pentagon reports that Halliburton-KBR overcharged $61 million for gasoline it sold the military in Iraq. Dick Cheney ran Halliburton for five years until becoming vice president. The company feeds 110,000 US and coalition troops daily at a cost of $28 per troop per day. Even the mess hall where Bush served troops their Thanksgiving dinner was dirty in August, September and October. This adds up to "a company that arrogantly is overcharging when they can get away with it and not providing the quality of service that they agreed to do," says Democratic representative Henry Waxman. Halliburton spokespersons blame "hostile conditions" in Iraq for the unsanitary conditions. (Agence France-Press/Taipei Times)
Iraq war and occupationSloan says if our nation's objective was to capture Saddam Hussein, then the mission was accomplished; "[b]ut we we're over there under the pretense of stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The purpose and the reason why so many lives have been lost and why others are still in jeopardy was to secure the weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein of himself is not a weapon of mass destruction. ...It sounds more like a personal vendetta on part of this administration against Saddam Hussein and lives were lost as a result of that vendetta." (NewsNet 5)