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Beware the ‘Bluewash’

August 30th, 2003 - by admin

by George Monbiot / The Guardian –


LONDON (August 26, 2003) The Guardian — The US government’s problem is that it has built its foreign policy on two great myths. The first is that it is irresistible; the second is that as time advances, life improves. In Iraq it is trapped between the two. To believe that it can be thwarted, and that its occupation will become harder rather than easier to sustain as time goes by, requires that it disbelieves all that it holds to be most true.

But those who oppose its foreign policy appear to have responded with a myth of equal standing: that what unilateralism cannot solve, multilateralism can. The United Nations, almost all good liberals now argue, is a more legitimate force than the US and therefore more likely to succeed in overseeing Iraq’s reconstruction and transition. If the US surrendered to the UN, this would, moreover, represent the dawning of a fairer, kinder world. These propositions are scarcely more credible than those coming out of the Pentagon.

The immediate and evident danger of a transition from US occupation to UN occupation is that the UN becomes the dustbin into which the US dumps its failed adventures. The American and British troops in Iraq do not deserve to die any more than the Indian or Turkish soldiers with whom they might be replaced. But the governments that sent them, rather than those that opposed the invasion, should be the ones that have to answer to their people for the consequences.

The vicious bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad last week suggests that the jihadis who now seem to be entering Iraq from every corner of the Muslim world will make little distinction between khaki helmets and blue ones. Troops sent by India, the great liberal hope, are unlikely to be received with any greater kindness than western forces. The Indian government is reviled for its refusal to punish the Hindus who massacred Muslims in Gujurat.

The UN will swiftly discover that occupation-lite is no more viable than occupation-heavy. Moreover, by replacing its troops, the despised UN could, in one of the supreme ironies of our time, provide the US government with the escape route it may require if George Bush is to win the next election. We can expect him, as soon as the soldiers have come home, to wash his hands not only of moral responsibility for the mess he has created, but also of the duty to help pay for the country’s reconstruction. Most importantly, if the UN shows that it is prepared to mop up after him, it will enhance his incentive to take his perpetual war to other nations.

It should also be pretty obvious that, tough as it is for both the American troops and the Iraqis, pinned down in Iraq may be the safest place for the US army to be. The Pentagon remains reluctant to fight more than one war at a time. One of the reasons that it has tackled Iran and North Korea with diplomacy rather than missiles is that it has neither the soldiers nor the resources to launch an attack until it can disentangle itself from Iraq.

It is clear, too, that the UN, honest and brave as many of its staff are, possesses scarcely more legitimacy as an occupying force than the US. The US is now the only nation on the security council whose opinion really counts: its government can ignore other governments’ vetoes; the other governments cannot ignore a veto by the US. In other words, a handover to the UN cannot take place unless George Bush says so, and Bush will not say so until it is in his interests to do so. The UN, already tainted in Iraq by its administration of sanctions and the fact that its first weapons inspection mission (Unscom) was infiltrated by the CIA, is then reduced to little more than an instrument of US foreign policy.

Until the UN, controlled by the five permanent members of the security council, has itself been democratised, it is hard to see how it can claim the moral authority to oversee a transition to democracy anywhere else. This problem is compounded by the fact that Britain, which is hardly likely to be perceived as an honest broker, is about to assume the council’s presidency. A UN mandate may be regarded by Iraqis as bluewash, an attempt to grant retrospective legitimacy to an illegal occupation.

None of this, of course, is yet on offer anyway. The US government has made it perfectly clear that the UN may operate in Iraq only as a subcontractor. Foreign troops will take their orders from Washington, rather than New York. America’s occupation of Iraq affords it regional domination, control of the second biggest oilfields on earth and, as deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz has hinted, the opportunity to withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia and install them in its new dependency instead. Republican funders have begun feasting on the lucrative reconstruction contracts, and the Russians and the French, shut out of the banquet, are being punished for their impudence.

Now that the US controls the shipping lanes of the Middle East and the oilfields of central Asia and West Africa, it is in a position, if it so chooses, to turn off the taps to China, its great economic rival, which is entirely dependent on external sources of oil. The US appears to be seeking to ensure that when the Iraqis are eventually permitted to vote, they will be allowed to choose any party they like, as long as it is pro-American. It will give up its new prize only when forced to do so by its own voters.

So, given that nothing we say will make any difference to Bush and his people, we may as well call for a just settlement, rather than the diluted form of injustice represented by a UN occupation. This means the swiftest possible transition to real democracy.

Troy Davis of the World Citizen Foundation has suggested a programme for handing power to the Iraqis which could begin immediately, with the establishment of a constitutional convention. This would permit the people both to start deciding what form their own government should take, and to engage in the national negotiation and reconciliation without which democracy there will be impossible. From the beginning of the process, in other words, the Iraqi people, not the Americans, would oversee the transition to democracy.

This is the logical and just path for the US government to take. As a result, it is unlikely to be taken. So, one day, when the costs of occupation become unsustainable, it will be forced to retreat in a manner and at a time not of its choosing. Iraq may swallow George Bush and his imperial project, just as the Afghan morass digested the Soviet empire. It is time his opponents stopped seeking to rescue him from his self-destruction.

George Monbiot’s book The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order is published by Flamingo.

Occupied Iraq Will Never Know Peace

August 30th, 2003 - by admin

by Tariq Ali / The Age –


(August 27, 2003) — The recolonization of Iraq is not proceeding smoothly. The resistance in the country (and in Palestine) is not, as Israeli and Western propagandists like to argue, a case of Islam gone mad. It is, in both cases, a direct consequence of the occupation.

Before the recent war, some of us argued that the Iraqi people, however much they despised Saddam Hussein, would not take kindly to being occupied by the United States and its British adjutant.

Contrary to the cocooned Iraqis who had been on the US payroll for far too long and who told George Bush that US troops would be garlanded with flowers and given sweets, we warned that the occupation would lead to the harrying and killing of Western soldiers every day and would soon develop into a low-intensity guerilla war.

The fact that events have vindicated this analysis is no reason to celebrate. The entire country is now in a mess and the situation is much worse than it was before the conflict.

The only explanation provided by Western news managers for the resistance is that these are dissatisfied remnants of the old regime.

This week Washington contradicted its propaganda by deciding to recruit the real remnants of the old state apparatus — the secret police — to try to track down the resistance organisations, which number more than 40 different groups. The demonstrations in Basra and the deaths of more British soldiers are a clear indication these former bastions of anti-Saddam sentiment are now prepared to join the struggle.

The bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad shocked the West, but as Jamie Tarabay of the Associated Press reported in a dispatch from the Iraqi capital last week, there is a deep ambivalence towards the UN among ordinary Iraqis. This is an understatement.

UN Is Seen as Washington’s ‘Ruthless Enforcer’
In fact, the UN is seen as one of Washington’s more ruthless enforcers. It supervised the sanctions that, according to UNICEF figures, were directly responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children and a horrific rise in the mortality rate. Two senior UN officials, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, resigned in protest against these policies, explaining that the UN had failed in its duties to the people of Iraq.

Simultaneously the US and Britain, with UN approval, rained hundreds of tonnes of bombs and thousands of missiles on Iraq from 1992 onwards and, in 1999, US officials calmly informed The Wall Street Journal that they had run out of targets.

By 2001, the bombardment of Iraq had lasted longer than the US invasion of Vietnam.

That’s why the UN is not viewed sympathetically by many Iraqis. The recent Security Council decision to retrospectively sanction the occupation, a direct breach of the UN charter, has only added to the anger.

All this poses the question of whether the UN today is anything more than a cleaning-up operation for the American Empire?

As Iraqi Resistance Rises, Bush & Blair Fall in Polls
The effects of the Iraqi resistance are now beginning to be felt in both the occupying countries. The latest Newsweek poll reveals that President Bush’s approval ratings are down 18 points to 53 percent and, for the first time since September 11, more registered voters (49 percent) say they would not like to see him re-elected. This can only get worse (or better, depending on one’s point of view) as US casualties in Iraq continue to rise.

In Britain more than two-thirds of the population now believe that Tony Blair lied to them on Iraq. This view is shared by senior figures in the establishment. There was open disquiet within the armed forces before the war. Some generals were not too pleased by the sight of their Prime Minister, snarling at the leash like a petty mastiff, as he prepared to dispatch a third of the British army to help occupy one of the country’s largest former colonies in the Middle East.

“Fishmongers Sell Fish, Warmongers Sell War”
After the capture of Baghdad, Sir Rodric Braithwaite, the former head of the joint intelligence committee and a former national security adviser to Blair, wrote an astonishing letter to the Financial Times in which he accused Blair of having deliberately engineered a war hysteria to frighten a deeply skeptical population into backing a war. “Fishmongers sell fish, warmongers sell war,” wrote Braithwaite, arguing that Blair had oversold his wares.

This anger within the establishment came to a head with the alleged suicide of the Ministry of Defence’s leading scientist, Dr David Kelly, and forced a judicial inquiry, a form of therapy much favored by the English ruling class.

This week Blair will be interrogated before Lord Hutton, but already the inquiry has uncovered a mound of wriggling worms. There is talk now that New Labour will offer the Defence Secretary — a talentless mediocrity by the name of Geoff Hoon — as a blood sacrifice to calm the public. But what if Hoon refuses to go alone? After all, he knows where the bodies are buried.

And Australia? Here the Prime Minister — a perennial parrot on the imperial shoulder – managed to pull his troops out before the resistance began. They were badly needed in the Solomon Islands. Like Blair, John Howard parroted untruths to justify the war and, like Blair, he’s lucky that the official Opposition is led by a weak-kneed and ineffective politician scared of his own shadow.

And one day, when the children of dead Iraqis and Americans ask why their parents died, the answer will come: because the politicians lied.

Meanwhile, there will be no peace as long as Palestine and Iraq continue to be occupied — and no amount of apologetics will conceal this fact.

Tariq Ali has been in Australia as a guest of the Age Melbourne Writers’ Festival. His next book, Bush in Babylon: The Recolonization of Iraq, will be published by Verso in October.

How US Policies Made the UN a Target

August 30th, 2003 - by admin

by Sara Flounders / Centre for Research on Globalisation –

(September 4, 2003) Workers World — Whoever bombed the United Nations headquarters at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad on August 19, killing 23 and injuring over 100, mostly UN personnel, the act has raised questions about the UN’s role in Iraq.

Though this may come as a surprise to some, the UN hardly played a humanitarian role in its recent history in Iraq. Its own former officials will testify to how the UN has made itself hated among Iraqis.

Dennis Halliday, a former assistant secretary general and senior UN official in Iraq, resigned in 1999 rather than administer the UN blockade. He is a predecessor of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN special representative killed in the August bombing.

Halliday, who was nominated for the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, described the UN role in Iraq:

The West sees the UN as a benign organization, but the sad reality in much of the world is that the UN is not seen as benign. The UN Security Council has been taken over and corrupted by the US and UK, particularly with regard to Iraq, Palestine and Israel.

In Iraq, the UN imposed sustained sanctions that probably killed up to 1 million people. Children were dying of malnutrition and water-borne diseases. The US and UK bombed the infrastructure in 1991, destroying power, water and sewage systems against the Geneva Convention. It was a great crime against Iraq.

Thirteen years of sanctions made it impossible for Iraq to repair the damage. That is why we have such tremendous resentment and anger against the UN in Iraq. There is a sense that the UN humiliated the Iraqi people and society. I would use the term genocide to define the use of sanctions against Iraq. Several million Iraqis are suffering cancers because of the use of depleted uranium shells. That’s an atrocity. Can you imagine the bitterness from all of this? (Sunday Herald (London), August 24, 2003).

Senior UN Official: Attack Was To Be “Expected”
Hans von Sponeck, a former assistant secretary general and the senior UN official in Iraq who replaced Dennis Halliday, also resigned in protest of the UN role in 2000. On August 20, Von Sponeck said on the radio show “Democracy Now” that while the attack on the UN was horrible it could be “expected” because the Iraqis were so provoked by the US occupation.

The UN exists in a world where the capitalist market ruthlessly decides political and economic relations. It is a body that almost exclusively represents capitalist governments that do not represent the people or their interests. The United States, as the undisputed military and economic super-power, has overwhelming influence.

The UN’s humanitarian agencies provide assistance to war refugees, food to famine victims and medical care to people in impoverished countries. These agencies’ thousands of civil servants may be deeply committed to providing emergency relief. But the UN budget for humanitarian assistance is not even a band-aid.

To put it in perspective: Socialist Cuba, a relatively poor country with only 11 million people, provides more free doctors and medical teams to developing countries than the UN World Health Organization.

1991 War and Sanctions
One of the greatest crimes against humanity — the 1991 bombing of Iraq and the 13-year starvation sanctions levied against that country — was carried out as a UN-authorized action.

Based on resolutions that the United States pushed through the UN Security Council, the devastating 42-day bombing of Iraq in 1991 took place under the UN flag. The bombs reduced Iraq’s earlier accomplishments of free education, free health care, electrification and modern infrastructure to rubble.

Then 13 years of devastating sanctions were implemented through the UN Security Council. The sanctions caused the death of more than 1.5 million Iraqis.

US veto power kept the sanctions ruthlessly in place once the UN Security Council had voted for them. For the people of Iraq there is little perceived difference.

As an international movement arose to demand an end to the sanctions, the United States implemented — again through the Security Council — the Oil for Food Program. This program allowed UN sanctions to continue while allowing Iraq to sell a severely restricted amount of oil. The controls were so onerous that they drove both Halliday and von Sponeck to resign.

The entire sanctions regime was an effort to totally destroy Iraq, based on the now exposed myth that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

The UN Security Council, through UNSCOM, carried out more than 9,000 intrusive weapons inspections. Vital Iraqi industries were systematically destroyed because the sanctions program judged countless industrial processes to have a potential “dual military-civilian use.”

The entire UN inspections program was later exposed as a thinly veiled US spy operation. The UN weapons inspectors were always based at the Canal Hotel.

It was only in March 2003 that the UN Security Council refused to pass a vote authorizing US bombing and invasion of Iraq. Nevertheless, the Bush administration rushed ahead with a war that was unprovoked, criminal and illegal against a sovereign but defenseless country.

UN Voted to Support the Military Occupation
A month after the Pentagon blasted its way into Iraq and the sheer brutality of the war had overwhelmed the mass movement, the same UN member states that had refused to authorize the war voted (with the exception of Syria) for a resolution that gave the United States and British military occupation full “authority.”

This was the most sweeping authorization for colonial domination in UN history.

After the Baghdad government collapsed, there was a growing effort to again make the UN part of the US-British occupation machinery and to line up countries to send foot soldiers, while keeping total US command and control.

On August 14, the UN Security Council passed a resolution welcoming Washington’s handpicked “Iraqi Governing Council.” The UN vote established the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, called UNAMI. UNAMI sent 300 advisors to Iraq to work on such “humanitarian” missions as training a new Iraqi police force.

In the August 20 British Independent newspaper, reporter and Middle East expert Robert Fisk wrote that the August 19 bombing of the UN building “proves that no foreign organization, no NGO, no humanitarian organization, no investor, no businessmen can expect to be safe under America’s occupation.”

Who Are the Foreign Terrorists?
Virtually all the U and British corporate media claim foreign forces are pouring into Iraq to fight the US occupation. They accuse the Al Qaeda network, the Ansar Al-Islam group, Syrians, Saudis and Iranians of slipping across the border. The Financial Times speculated that 3,000 Saudi volunteers had infiltrated Iraq from the north — although the Saudi border is on Iraq’s south.

These unsubstantiated reports are a feeble attempt to downplay the breadth and depth of Iraqi resistance. Iraqis are skilled, highly educated, have military training and are furious over the US occupation. They can organize their own resistance.

A guerrilla struggle has quickly developed using a diverse range of tactics involving ambushes, land mines, trip wires, car bombs, drive-by shootings and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Today, Iraqis consider the more than 140,000 US troops and 10,000 British troops to be the main foreign terrorists in Iraq.

Meanwhile the Bush administration is in a wild scramble to increase foreign intervention in the service of the US occupation. Through bribery and heavy political arm-twisting Washington has forced others to pledge support.

Forty-four countries have agreed to send some military forces to operate under the Pentagon’s command. Five other countries are discussing the possibility. Although few troops have actually arrived, approximately 22,000 are pledged.

UN under US Command?
Less than 48 hours after the explosion at the UN offices in Baghdad, Secretary of State Colin Powell went to the UN to press for a new resolution that would convince member states such as France, Russia, India, Pakistan and Turkey to provide troops for a proposed multinational force.

Powell made it clear that the United States is unwilling to give the UN authority in Iraq. The other imperialist powers, which are in competition with US corporate power, seek some “authority” — meaning some say in the multi-billion-dollar reconstruction budget and in contracts for oil exploration, development, pumping, transport and sales.

According to Philip Gordon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, a US think tank, the Bush administration has decided, after weeks of internal debate, to refuse to transfer any significant authority to the UN, a strategy he considers an error. (August 20 International Herald Tribune)

But the UN bombing undercut US efforts. The most immediate fallout from the attack is the decision by Japan to postpone “until next year” sending 1,000 troops. Poland immediately scaled back its unpopular decision to send its troops. Polish troops were to be stationed in the central area between the British and US forces.

Ukrainian troops were to operate under Polish command. This would have freed up thousands of US troops. Polish Foreign Minister Cimoszewicz stated that access to Iraqi oilfields “is our ultimate objective.”

In a rerun of the old Spanish Empire, Spain’s troops were to command troops from El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Today these countries are all US neo-colonies. The death of a Spanish civilian at the UN headquarters has opened a new debate and renewed opposition within Spain.

The decision in The Netherlands to send Dutch troops is already under domestic attack because of the radiation danger due to the US use of depleted-uranium weapons. Italy’s commitment of troops was already unpopular and is expected to meet new resistance.

Adding to the problems, the UN, while declaring that it will remain in Iraq, is cutting its staff more than in half. The International Monetary Fund has withdrawn its staff.

Within the US ruling class, there is a growing split over the involvement of the UN. Some in the Bush administration are determined to go it alone. Others are increasingly concerned about the mounting crisis, the vulnerability and isolation of the US position. Clearly the US occupation is in crisis.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, touring Iraq on July 20, made the incredible statement: “I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq.”

Wolfowitz, a key architect of the US invasion of Iraq, should realize that only by bringing the US troops home now could his statement come true.

From the Center for Research on Globalisation, www.globalresearch.ca.
The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/FLO308C.html
Copyright Workers World Service 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .

Groups Sue to Block new US Biowarfare Labs

August 29th, 2003 - by admin

by Andrea Orr / Reuters –


SAN FRANCISCO (August 28, 2003) — Environmental groups filed a lawsuit this week to block the construction of biowarfare labs at two national nuclear weapons facilities, saying both units lacked the sound safety records required to handle extremely dangerous materials like anthrax.

“My organization is not opposed to biodefense research,” said Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CARE (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment). “What we are trying to do is force a detailed analysis of the risk of putting these facilities at Livermore and Los Alamos.”

The facilities are designed to conduct research into various biowarfare agents such as anthrax, plague, and botulism.

The suits were filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco against the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM.

She said she was concerned because the US Department of Energy had a “horrific environmental record,” including multiple spills and accidental releases of chemicals and radioactive material. Kelley said she felt that any biowarfare research would be better handled by a public health agency like the Centers for Disease Control.

Colin King of Nuclear Watch, another plaintiff in the lawsuit, argued that placing a biowarfare research facility in a nuclear weapons lab might also inadvertently start a “biological weapons arms race.”

Both groups said they were concerned that the planned facilities would pose numerous safety and security threats including sabotage, transportation accidents, escaping research animals, and leaks during natural disasters.

The Department of Energy, which operates both the Lawrence Livermore and the Los Alamos weapons labs, said it has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation. However, it said in a statement that environmental assessments had already been conducted on the proposed projects and had concluded that the effects on the environment would be minor and would therefore not require more extensive environmental impact statements before construction began.

For more information, contact:

America’s Arsenal of Chemical WMDs

August 28th, 2003 - by admin

by Army’s WMD Destruction Program: Behind Schedule and Overbudget – Lois R. Ember / Chemical & Engineering News


WASHINGTON (August 26, 2003) — The Army’s program to destroy the nation’s arsenal of chemical weapons as mandated by the Chemical Weapons Convention is way over budget and far behind schedule. Persistent, pesky problems at operating disposal sites offer little to encourage hope for better performance.

Originally, the Army’s price tag for the destruction program was pegged at $1.8 billion. That was in 1985. In 2001, the Pentagon’s estimate had spiraled to $24 billion.

In the 1980s, the Army confidently envisioned eliminating the weapons by 1994. Today, it’s likely the US will have to ask the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons — the treaty’s oversight agency — for a five-year extension of the 2007 disposal deadline.

Greg Mahall, spokesman for the Army’s Chemical Materials Agency, admits that “earlier projections were overly optimistic and maybe not based in reality.” But, he adds, “it’s a complex and challenging program.”

Incinerating the Pentagon’s VX and Sarin Nerve Gas
In 1982, the Army selected incineration as its destruction technology, which to date has destroyed 26% of the 31,500 tons of chemical agents in the US stockpile. Craig Williams, who directs the Chemical Weapons Working Group, which opposes incineration, says, “There’s no question that the technology selected has, in significant part, been responsible for the cost overruns and the time slippage.” He also believes that it will be a “challenge” for the US to meet even the 2012 deadline.

He may have a point if the experience at the Tooele, Utah, incineration facility is any guide. Tooele — which originally stored 43% of the nation’s chemical weapons — has destroyed 44% of its holdings over the past seven years. But not without glitches and delays. Though original projections set 2004 as the date for complete elimination of its weapons, Tooele will probably not meet that goal until the end of 2007, fully 11 years after operations began.

Tooele has eliminated all its sarin nerve gas and “has started processing its VX nerve gas but not its mustard gas,” Tooele spokeswoman Alaine Southworth says. Disposal of sarin ran into many problems, including the unintended release of very small amounts of the nerve agent in May 2000, which shut the facility down for five months.

Destruction of VX Proves Vexing
Although no VX nerve agent has been released to the atmosphere, VX disposal is now experiencing problems. In recent trial burns to destroy VX-filled rockets, the incineration process has not been able to meet the federal standard for release of polychlorinated biphenyls. “PCB emissions were too high, so we stopped processing the VX rockets until we can resolve the problem,” Southworth explains.

VX rockets are encased in fiberglass firing tubes, which are the only parts of the weapon known to contain PCBs, Mahall explains. According to air samples taken during incineration, PCBs were not destroyed to the 99.9999% level required by the facility’s permit. However, Mahall points out that when “natural gas — not VX — was incinerated, we still got readings for PCBs above allowable permit levels.”

Additional air samples have been sent to the original testing lab and to another lab to determine whether the readings were the result of incomplete burning or a lab error. Until the analyses come back, Tooele has ceased destroying the rockets. VX-filled warheads, which are not encased in firing tubes and pose no PCB problem, are still being destroyed.

Disposal Problems from Utah to Indiana
The Army’s Newport, Indiana, site also contains VX, but in ton containers not weapons. It, too, is running into problems, though they differ from those at Tooele. Because of political pressure there and at the Army’s sites in Aberdeen, Md., Pueblo, Colo., and Bluegrass, Ky., these chemical arsenals will be chemically neutralized, not incinerated.

Originally, Newport’s more than 1,200 tons of VX were to be neutralized on-site with sodium hydroxide, followed by supercritical water oxidation of the hydrolysate. To build such a facility would take some time, and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Army decided that it would be safer for the public to quickly neutralize the VX and send the much less toxic hydrolysate off-site for further treatment.

VX neutralization was to begin this October, and the hydrolysate sent to a Perma-Fix facility in Dayton, Ohio, for biodegradation. This plan has run into fierce opposition. “It doesn’t appear as if the counties around Dayton will accept the hydrolysate,” Mahall says.

In the meantime, Parsons, the engineering firm contracted to build the neutralization facility at Newport, has been instructed to build a wet sprinkler system as a backup to the already-planned dry-chemical fire suppression system. Design, installation, and testing of the sprinkler system will take four to six months, which means that neutralization will not begin until next January at the earliest, Newport spokeswoman Terry Arthur says.

Arthur points out yet another problem — the analytical method used to measure the level of VX in the hydrolysate. By law, under the existing permit, the Army is allowed 230 ppb of VX in the hydrolysate. However, Arthur says, “The Army has committed to the community not to ship hydrolysate off-site unless the VX levels are 20 ppb or lower, and we can’t do that now.” As measured, caustic neutralization produces a hydrolysate containing 40 to 80 ppb of VX.

It’s unclear whether the problem lies in the neutralization process or with the analytical method used to detect VX. Glen Shonkwiler, the lead environmental engineer at Newport, says the GC-ion trap mass spectrometry system used to measure VX requires a hexane acid extraction of the hydrolysate. He speculates that “the extraction process may be creating VX or an interferent.”

The on-site neutralization plant has been built, and the decision about what to do with the hydrolysate is likely to be made by the Army within the next few weeks. Options are to “tank farm” it on-site until a supercritical water oxidation facility can be built, send it to another Perma-Fix facility for biodegradation, or send it to DuPont’s Environmental Solutions Chamber Works facility in Deepwater, N.J., for biodegradation.

Chamber Works is already receiving hydrolysate from the Army’s Aberdeen site. At Aberdeen, mustard gas in more than 1,800 ton-containers is being neutralized with warm water in a plant built and operated by Bechtel Aberdeen. There have been some start-up glitches, but the plant has processed 52 containers with no chemical agent releases or worker exposures.

Alabama Nerve Gas Incinerator Fails in Tests
The Army’s Anniston, Alabama, site, built in a residential area, has also been destroying its stocks of chemical weapons — not with neutralization but incineration. The Army has argued that lessons learned from its experience in burning weapons at the now closed Johnston Atoll facility, in the Pacific Ocean, and at Tooele would eliminate start-up problems at other incinerator sites. That has not been the case at Anniston.

At press time, Anniston had destroyed 487 sarin-filled rockets out of a total of nearly 43,000. But, in its first two weeks of operation last month, the incinerator was shut down nearly 30% of the time, for safety reasons, spokesman Michael Abrams says.

Incinerators at Umatilla, Oregon, and Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and neutralization facilities at Pueblo and Bluegrass have not yet begun destroying their stockpiles.

Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

UN Official Says US Should Set Nuclear Disarmament Example

August 28th, 2003 - by admin

by Reuters –

BERLIN (August 27, 2003) Reuters — The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog called on the United States Tuesday to set an example to the rest of the world by cutting its nuclear arsenal and halting research programs.

“The US government demands that other nations not possess nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, it is arming itself,” Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told Germany’s Stern weekly.

Criticizing President Bush’s plan for a national missile defense shield, he said, “Then a small number of privileged countries will be under a nuclear protective shield, with the rest of the world outside.”

He continued, “In truth there are no good or bad nuclear weapons. If we do not stop applying double standards, we will end up with more nuclear weapons. We are at a turning point,” ElBaradei told Stern in the interview released ahead of publication.

The IAEA director, who has overseen inspections of nuclear sites in Iraq, North Korea, and Iran, said the world’s five original nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China — should send a clear message to the world that they were disarming.

“Otherwise, we must live with the consequences,” ElBaradei said. “At the moment we are, at best acting, like the fire brigade. Today Iraq, tomorrow North Korea, the day after Iran. And then?”

Under the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the global pact aimed at stopping the spread of atomic weapons, the five original nuclear powers were permitted to keep their nuclear arsenals but agreed to negotiate terms for full global disarmament in good faith.

Nuclear nonproliferation experts have complained that Washington is undermining the goal of global disarmament with statements about its interest in exploring smaller scale atomic weapons, like nuclear “bunker-busters.”

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in Vienna)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

A Call for Public Input on Homeland Security Procedures

August 28th, 2003 - by admin

by Society of Environmental Journalists –


The Society of Environmental Journalists, on behalf of its members, signed a letter sent by 75 organizations calling on the Department of Homeland Security to allow public input on procedures for “safeguarding” and sharing a vaguely defined set of information between firefighters, police officers, public health researchers, and federal, state and local governments. Organizations representing journalists, scientists, librarians, environmental groups, privacy advocates, and others sent the letter today to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

August 27, 2003

The Honorable Tom Ridge
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We are writing to urge the Department of Homeland Security to give the public an opportunity to comment on procedures that are being developed that may restrict the public dissemination of “homeland security information,” including information that is “sensitive but unclassified.”

These procedures are being developed to implement the Homeland Security Information Sharing Act (HSISA). The Act was passed into law as Section VIII of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 with the purpose of fostering the sharing of information among federal, state, and local officials about possible terrorism activities.

The public’s ability to remain informed of and participate in the decision-making of government is fundamental to the democratic process. Democracy is undermined whenever openness is compromised. Consistent with these democratic principles, those compromises, when they are made, should be made only when necessary and only after an open process in which the public participates.

Public comment on the procedures implementing the Act is warranted for several reasons. First, the definition of Homeland Security Information (HSI) included in HSISA is so broad that it raises the question whether activities of government officials and the public that have little to do with terrorism could be harmed by these implementing regulations. In particular, Section 892(f)(1) of HSISA defines homeland security information to include information that

(A) relates to the threat of a terrorist activity, (B) relates to the ability to prevent, interdict, or disrupt terrorist activity, (C) would improve the identification or investigation of a suspected terrorist or terrorist organization, or would (D) improve the response to a terrorist act.
What remains unclear until implementing regulations are written and released is whether these procedures would preclude public access to information that community residents, parents, journalists and others in the public currently obtain from or with the assistance of government in order to make their communities safer, inform the public, and for other purposes. Equally unclear is whether these procedures will require government to remove information already publicly available. The public should have an opportunity to address that question in a public notice-and-comment rulemaking and government policymakers should consider those answers in formulating the information sharing procedures.

Second, public comment is warranted because the procedures developed under HSISA could directly affect a large number of people both inside and outside of the federal government. The HSISA would prohibit public disclosure of information subject to agreements between the government and those receiving “sensitive but unclassified” information. One recent analysis estimates that roughly four million people — including public health officials not employed by government at any level — could be asked under the requirements of HSISA to sign formal nondisclosure agreements. Those agreements would be enforceable through civil and criminal sanctions. In addition, the procedures implementing the Act could expand the list of those subject to these agreements even further.

Third, the public has an interest in being informed of new procedures for sharing information that may infringe on the public’s ability to obtain information from government about its activities. Since the procedures that are to be created will directly address the “safeguarding” of information and restrictions on public dissemination of information, the public should have the opportunity to review a draft version of these implementing procedures, analyze their adequacy and potential impact, and make recommendations for improvements, as necessary.

The Homeland Security Information Sharing Act was passed into law with little public review and scrutiny and, thus, the impacts of the procedures that are to be developed to implement the Homeland Security Information Sharing Act are unknown. Since its passage, though, the law has attracted increased attention outside the government. We ask that the Department of Homeland Security provide the public with a period of sufficient length (i.e., 90 days) to review and comment upon a draft version of the procedures before they are finalized.

The Society of Environmental Journalists, PO Box 2492 Jenkintown, PA 19046, (215) 884-8174 Fax: (215) 884-8175, www.sej.org, sej@sej.org

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In Iraq, Labor Protest Is a Crime

August 27th, 2003 - by admin

by David Bacon / Global Research –


CANADA (August 27, 2003) — Iraq’s legal code may be in disarray. The streets of Baghdad may be filled with thieves and hijackers who seem to have little fear of being arrested. But US occupation authorities seem to have no trouble identifying one crime, at least. For the four million people out of work in Iraq, protest is against the law.

On July 29, US occupation forces in Iraq arrested a leader of Iraq’s new emerging labor movement, Kacem Madi, along with 20 other members of the Union of the Unemployed. The unionists had been conducting a sit-in to protest the treatment of unemployed Iraqi workers by the US occupation authority, and the fact that contracts for work rebuilding the country have been given overwhelmingly to US corporations.

Their protest started when hundreds of unemployed workers gathered in front of an old bank building on Abu Nawas Street. From there they marched to the office of the ruling occupation council. According to Zehira Houfani, a member of the Iraq Solidarity Project in Canada, who witnessed the protest, workers in similar demonstrations in the past had normally dispersed at that point. Each time, however, Madi told Houfani, “the representatives of the occupation forces meet and discuss with us, promise to solve the problem, but each time their promises are not fulfilled and we are forced to take to the streets again.”

On this occasion they decided to step up the pressure on US authorities. In the time-honored tradition of workers from Mexico to the Philippines, they set up a planton, or a tent encampment, outside the council gates. US soldiers on guard ordered them to disperse, but the workers refused. Night fell. Then, at one in the morning the soldiers returned, arrested 21 protesters, and took them inside the compound, where they were held until the following morning.

One arrested union member, 58-year old Ali Djaafri, told Houfani that the experience was “very humiliating. At no other time during the occupation,” he said, “has my resentment towards the US soldiers been that strong.”

The unemployment rate is over 50% in cities like Baghdad. Madi estimates that four million Iraqi workers have no jobs. Thousands of public-sector workers employed by the former government lost their jobs after the war. Many provided services from healthcare to education, and those services have yet to be restored. There is no money to pay those workers, nor an Iraqi government to employ them. Even the records of their employment went up in flames in the looting which followed the occupation of Baghdad.

Thousands more worked in former government-owned enterprises. Many of those have been closed down, and occupation authorities have announced their intention to privatize huge sections of the former economy.

That all adds up to thousands of working families facing an extreme economic crisis. The new union for unemployed workers has become the fastest-growing, largest labor organization in the country as a result.

At the same time, the issue of the foreign contracts has become a hot controversy among Iraqi workers because the US corporations bring workers into the country to work under those contracts. A Kuwaiti firm subcontracting to the US construction giant Kellogg, Brown and Root, for instance, was recently found to be bringing Asian workers into the port of Basra to perform repair and reconstruction work. Meanwhile, Iraqi workers with long years of experience sit idle.

Kacem Madi and other unemployed leaders led the sit-in protest over this discrimination, and announced that they would continue their demonstrations until they either received jobs or some kind of unemployment payment. But occupation authorities, instead of trying to address the problem, arrested them. International labor organizations, including the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (of which the AFL-CIO is a member) have sharply criticized the desperate situation of Iraqi workers. “Ensuring respect for workers’ rights, including freedom of association, must be central to building a democratic Iraq and to ensuring sustainable economic and social development,” the ICFTU said in a statement made May 30. “Democracy must have roots. It requires free elections, but also mass-based, democratic trade unions that help secure it and protect it as well as being schools of democracy.”

Arab trade unionists are even more critical of the occupation’s effect on workers. According to Hacene Djemam, General Secretary of the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions, “war makes privatization easy: first you destroy the society and then you let the corporations rebuild it.” He emphasized that Iraqi workers must be able to form unions of their own choosing.

Unfortunately, the corporations who have been granted contracts for work in Iraq by the Bush administration have long records of fighting unions and violating labor rights. In May, Amy Newell, national coordinator of US Labor Against the War, and former executive secretary of the Monterey/Santa Cruz Central Labor Council, went to Geneva to present a report to international labor bodies, highlighting the record of 18 of those corporations.

USLAW is a network of unions and other labor organizations opposed to US policy in Iraq. The organization charges that the US government pays for a bloated military budget with severe cuts in domestic social programs. It grew out of the many demonstrations prior to the March 20 invasion, by which time unions representing almost one-third of all organized workers in the US were on record against the war. At that time even the AFL-CIO itself publicly opposed the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

Companies highlighted in the report made in Geneva include:

– Stevedoring Services of America. SSA was a leader in last year’s efforts by Pacific Coast shippers to lock out west coast longshore workers, and worked with the Bush administration to threaten the International Longshore and Warehouse Union with breaking up its coastwide agreement and bringing troops onto the docks. ILWU spokesperson Steve Stallone called SSA “ideologically anti-union and anti-ILWU.”

– MCI Worldcom. Worldcom has a long record of opposing worker efforts to organize. It declared bankruptcy in 2002 after fraudulently claiming $11 billion in earnings. As a result, the retirement savings of thousands of workers were completely wiped out, along with $2.6 billion in public pension funds. The Iraq contract was awarded after the company was fined $500 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its illegal fraud.

– Eight of the eighteen companies with the major contracts are completely non-union. Almost all have records of fighting any union organizing effort.

The USLAW report also discusses the track record of social responsibility of the corporations involved. It found a long history of corporate corruption and bribery (Halliburton Corp., which still pays $1 million a year to former director Vice President Dick Cheney), organizing mercenary armies (Dyncorp/Computer Sciences Corp.), and years of cooperation with repressive governments, from Hussein’s regime itself (Halliburton again, and San Francisco’s Bechtel Corp.) to the former apartheid regime in South Africa (Fluor Corp.)

“Prior to its suppression by the Hussein regime, Iraq enjoyed a robust and broadly representative labor movement,” the report concludes. [The pre-Hussein government was overthrown in a 1956 cold-war coup organized by the Central Intelligence Agency – ed] “Its legacy provides the seedbed for reestablishing an independent labor movement with internationally recognized workers’ rights to organize, bargain and strike. However, the occupying powers have invited into Iraq private corporations with an established record of labor, environmental and human-rights violations. These corporations were chosen by the Bush administration, which itself is considered by many as the most anti-worker, union-hostile administration in modern US history. This does not bode well for respect of workers rights in Iraq.”

If the arrest of Madi and the unemployed workers last month in Baghdad is any indication, that concern is well deserved.

© Copyright D Bacon 2003 For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .

Centre for Research on Globalisation

Agent Orange Found in Vietnamese Food

August 26th, 2003 - by admin

by United Press International –

DALLAS, Aug. 25 (UPI) — A recent study says Agent Orange is still contaminating food in the Hoa City area of Vietnam.

The study, published in the current issue of the Journal Of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, indicates Agent Orange residue is responsible for high blood dioxin levels among the city’s residents.

The spraying of the defoliant ended 30 years ago, but Dr. Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas said people are affected by eating highly contaminated foods, such as ducks, chicken and fish.

Along with an international research team, Schecter has collected samples of food from Hoa City, about 20 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

Very high levels of Agent Orange were found in most types of animals studied. The highest levels were found in ducks: up to 343 parts per trillion, compared with a usual level of less than 0.1 part per trillion.

Even higher dioxin levels were found in animal fats, which are considered a delicacy in Vietnam.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

US Faulted for Abandoned Weaponry Littering Iraq

August 26th, 2003 - by admin

by Borzou Daragahi / San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service –


BAGHDAD (August 26, 2003) — Iraqi officials and former army officers say the United States, in its haste to dismantle Saddam Hussein’s rule, has left thousands of pounds of munitions unguarded and accessible to looters and criminals.

“When the Americans came into Iraq, they didn’t secure the military bases,” said former Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Mohammad Abdullah Nour. “The munitions were everywhere, even on the sidewalks. Not just 500-pound bombs, but 2-ton or 5- ton bombs or 10-ton bombs. The Iraqi army was scattered all over Iraq, and when they abandoned their posts, they left the weapons there.”

The truck bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad on Tuesday has prompted harsh Iraqi criticism of the US and British security operations.

Soviet-Era Arms
Investigators say the bomb, which killed at least 23 people, including the United Nations’ Iraq point man, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was built of Soviet- era munitions — the mainstay of the Iraqi arsenal — possibly those abandoned and left unguarded following the collapse of Hussein’s government. Hundreds of pounds of mortar and artillery shells were wrapped around a 500-pound bomb.

While US forces hunted for weapons of mass destruction, Iraqis say, criminals made off with bombs, explosives and sophisticated weapons like rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

“Anyone with any military experience could have taken these munitions and made them into bombs,” Nour said. “Leaving them there was a major mistake by the American Army.”

US Army Col. Guy Shields said that American soldiers had been continually disposing of old Iraqi munitions but that the task sometimes seemed never- ending.

Billions for Weapons
Hussein amassed a substantial arsenal before the first Persian Gulf war. According to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Iraq purchased $11 billion in weapons annually from 1988 to 1991, when UN sanctions effectively cut off the supply of arms to the country.

“Hussein spent so much money and bought so much munitions that they’re everywhere,” Shields said. “We try to get rid of them, but every day we find more and more.”

On Sunday, US troops uncovered a huge arms cache near Humarrabi, 60 miles south of Baghdad, containing 300 artillery fuses and 70 bags of gunpowder, along with 400 cases of anti-aircraft ammunition and 200 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, the military said.

Iraq’s relatively unguarded frontiers have also fed the growth of terrorism,

Iraqi officials say, allowing militants to enter the country under the eyes of the United States-led occupying authority.

Warning to Coalition
“We have warned the coalition forces and told them this terrorism is caused by the absence of security and police forces on the borders of Iraq,” Naseer Kamel Chaderchi, a member of Iraq’s 25-person Governing Council, said in an interview. “Many Arabs have entered the border illegally, either from the Syrian border or the Jordanian border or from somewhere else.”

Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, at a Saturday press briefing, conceded that Americans could do more to protect Iraq’s borders. His spokesman, Charles Heatly, said the alliance had been trying to build up Iraq’s border forces. About 13,000 Iraqi border police, customs officials and immigration officers are already stationed along Iraq’s borders, and an additional 7,000 are planned in the coming months. But Heatly said it was not easy protecting Iraq’s long, harsh, porous borders.

“The western border is an arid desert,” he said. “To the north and east you have mountainous areas. Down in the south you have marshlands.”

Iraqi politicians — even those handpicked by the Americans for the Governing Council — have long demanded a greater role in maintaining the country’s security, and the UN bombing has put even more pressure on the American forces to hand over some operations to Iraqis.

“We told them, ‘You don’t know the Iraqi people,’ ” said Raya Habib al- Khusai, another member of the Governing Council. “We know our people, so if you give the security problem to us, we will solve it.”

Chaderchi, a respected lawyer, said American officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority had listened earnestly to pleas to tighten Iraq’s borders, but he added: “They shouldn’t just listen to what we say. They should act.”

National Obsession
In recent weeks, the security issue has become an obsession among Iraqis. One group of purported vigilantes, calling themselves “The Lions of Baghdad,” has distributed flyers vowing to behead looters and thieves and to “disinfect Iraq of the American occupiers.”

At the Mazen Barbershop in Adhamiya, patrons waiting for haircuts discussed kidnappings, rapes and carjackings in the city and speculated about who was behind the bombing at the UN compound and the Aug. 7 blast at the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, which left 11 dead. Few thought the Americans could solve the nation’s security problems.

“In Saddam’s time, there were police, the army and the Baath Party, and they couldn’t control the Iraqi people,” said owner Amar Taleq. “Can the American military control the Iraqi people? I don’t think so.”

Americans, under the direction of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, have begun building up Iraq’s security forces, training police and border guards. Still, Iraq’s security services have no real investigative branch or counterterrorism force, so the task of investigating both the UN bombing and the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy has fallen to the US military.

“There is no law now,” said Officer Hadem Kadem Majid, a member of the new Iraqi police. “The Americans run everything. We have no authority. We’re not well-equipped or well-armed.”

Many Iraqis question the wisdom of using soldiers — trained primarily to fight and protect themselves and their comrades in the field of battle — as Iraq’s primary security force.

“They are not police people,” said Abdul Mohsen al-Samarayee, a shopkeeper in the wealthy Adhamiya section of town. “They hear a shot 2 kilometers away, and they jump. They want to protect themselves more than protecting the public.”

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