September 30th, 2003 - by admin
by March Against War and Occupation on October 25 –
As momentum grows for the giant October 25 mobilization, hundreds of thousands of people went into the streets in the last two days in demonstrations in more than 45 countries.
London, England 100,000 marched in London, where Tony Blair’s countrywide approval rating has dropped to a dismal 30 percent. Tens of thousands marched in Barcelona, Madrid, Istanbul, Athens and elsewhere.
The people’s anti-war movement that now demands “Bring the Troops Home Now” and “End the Occupation of Iraq” is asserting itself again as the single biggest obstacle to the Bush administration’s criminal foreign policy. Bush’s approval rating is now below the 50 percent level, according to a Wall Street Journal poll from Thursday, September 25.
People are not only angry with Bush, they are incensed that the Congress continues to function as a virtual rubber stamp for the administration’s policies that are reviled throughout society. Facing a growing $500 billion federal budget deficit, will Congress approve another $87 billion on top of the $80 billion already spent for the illegal war and occupation? In spite of some highly publicized speech making critical of the administration, leaders of both the Republican and Democrats indicate that they expect the bill to be passed. The people must make the politicians feel their anger. Negative poll numbers for the president are passive. We are mobilizing this anti-Bush sentiment into a massive outpouring of street protests that will be impossible to ignore.
The number of people in the United States living in poverty increased by 1.7 million last year and the median household income declined sharply. Nearly three million jobs have been lost since January 2001. According to the Census Bureau’s annual Current Population Survey, African American communities suffered the worst increases in poverty, after several years of economic advances in the 1990s. While Bush’s tax cuts for the rich shifted income dramatically to the already wealthy, the Census Bureau report shows a steep increase in poverty in the last year for the African American community – an increase that leaves nearly one out of every four people living below the official poverty line.
Los Angeles, CA
No government official should be allowed to appear anywhere without being challenged by people who insist that the troops be brought home and that the hundreds of billions being spent on the effort to economically recolonize Iraq – an adventure that is doomed to fail – be used instead to meet people’s needs.
On October 25, 2003, when hundreds of thousands of people go into the streets and surround the White House in a sea of protest, they will be sending a powerful message: Bush and his strategy of “endless war” will be stopped. Having defied the will of the people in his race towards war, the administration has unleashed an irresistible political opposition that will be the political undoing of the war makers.
We have less than four weeks to go before October 25 and we need everyone to do their part to help this movement grow. You can pass out leaflets to publicize the event in your community. You can help organize a bus or car caravan to Washington DC.
We urgently need funds to help subsidize transportation for people on fixed incomes and students. It has been the donations of dedicated and self-sacrificing people that have allowed us to pay for the hundreds of thousands of leaflets, stickers, posters, bus rentals and the large number of expenses on the day of the demonstration. To make an online contribution or write a check to help build this important national demonstration, please click here now.
Your help is needed, and we are looking forward to seeing all of you back in Washington on October 25.
September 30th, 2003 - by admin
by Carol Giacomo / Reuters –
UNITED NATIONS (September 30, 2003) – With the world pressing Iran and North Korea to give up nuclear programs, Arab states Monday criticized the West for allowing Israel to remain outside global nonproliferation regimes.
Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons capability but has not signed on to major agreements, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which is aimed at curbing the spread of nuclear arms.
“What surprises us is that at a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency is intensifying its efforts and monitoring (NPT) members’ countries … we see that it continues to ignore the rejection of Israel in not joining the treaty,” Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly. “This constitutes a serious threat to the security and stability of the whole region,” he said.
Under US pressure, the IAEA — the UN nuclear watchdog — has given Iran until October 31 to prove Teheran’s claim that it has no intention of developing nuclear arms and it merely hopes to use nuclear technology to produce electricity.
Meanwhile, the United States, China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan have been working to engage Pyongyang in a negotiating process aimed at persuading the North to abandon its nuclear weapons programs.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said, “It is unacceptable that Israel’s possession of such weapons should remain a reality that some prefer to ignore or prevent the international community … from facing it squarely and frankly.”
Syria, accused by the United States of developing chemical and biological arms, took aim at both Washington and Israel.
Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara noted that “a lot has been said lately about the dangers of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by countries that already have different types of such weapons. Some have even waged war under the pretext of eliminating these weapons,” he said in an apparent reference to the United States and its war to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Shara called it “regrettable … that some quarters selectively choose to level their false accusations at some Arab and Islamic states but not at others, while simultaneously ignoring the Israeli arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.”
The Arab ministers repeated their support for making the Middle East region free from all weapons of mass destruction.
Israel maintains an ambiguity about its weapons programs, but Joe Circincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has written that the Jewish state is believed to have between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons, a stockpile of chemical weapons, and an active biological arms program.
(In accordance with Title 17 USC. 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.)
September 29th, 2003 - by admin
by Marjorie Cohn / Global Research –
(September 25, 2003) — Non-governmental organizations and individuals from sixty-six different countries have filed 499 “communications” — or complaints — with the International Criminal Court (ICC), between July 2002 and July 2003. Many of them urge the ICC to investigate the United States conduct in the war on Iraq. The primary charge is that the US committed an act of aggression against Iraq. The ICC has jurisdiction to punish the crime of aggression. However, this crime remains undefined in the ICC’s statute due to disputes among the states parties about how to define it.
The United States is not a party to the ICC treaty. The Bush administration has vigorously opposed it, for fear that US military officials and personnel could be subject to “politically-motivated” prosecutions for war crimes.
In an unprecedented move last year, George W. Bush removed Bill Clinton’s signature from the treaty. A few months later, Bush signed into law the American Serviceman’s Protection Act, which restricts US cooperation with the ICC and prohibits military assistance to states parties to the treaty unless they sign bilateral immunity agreements with the US States which sign these “Article 98” agreements — referring to the section of the ICC statute that addresses treaties between countries — pledge not to hand over US nationals to the ICC. The United States has reportedly extracted these agreements from 60 countries — primarily small nations, or fragile democracies with weak economies. And the US has withdrawn military aid from 35 nations that refused to be coerced into signing Article 98 agreements.
The US has also demanded express immunity from ICC prosecution for American nationals. This demand delayed the passage of several peacekeeping resolutions in the Security Council. But in 2002, the Security Council capitulated when it unanimously passed Resolution 1422, which called for one year of immunity for peacekeepers from countries not party to the ICC statute, and provided that immunity could be renewed in subsequent years. The resolution was renewed in June. But this time, the US was unable to achieve unanimity. France, Germany and Syria abstained from the vote.
Ninety-one countries have signed on as parties to the ICC treaty. So why has the Bush administration resisted it so vehemently? Bush’s handlers were likely prescient about how the world would react to the United States’ illegal invasion of Iraq, which was not executed with Security Council approval or in lawful self-defense. They evidently knew they and their boss might be vulnerable to prosecutions for the unlawful killing of thousands of Iraqi civilians, the destruction of the civilian infrastructure, and the use of weapons of mass destruction – cluster bombs and depleted uranium – by “coalition forces.”
A Preemptive War Is a War of Aggression
The United States has sought to ensure the ICC’s legal processes do not jeopardize its role as global superpower by subjecting US leaders to prosecution. It has consistently resisted definitions and jurisdictional provisions that may challenge US impunity for wars of aggression.
Many ICC parties favor a definition of aggression set out in 1974 in General Assembly Resolution 3314, passed in the wake of Vietnam: “Aggression is the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this definition.”
Bush’s new doctrine of “preemptive war” is a license to prosecute wars of aggression. It runs directly counter to the United Nations Charter’s prohibition on the use of armed force except in self-defense or when authorized by the Security Council. A preemptive war is a war of aggression. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” falls squarely into this category.
More than 50 years ago, Associate United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, one of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Tribunal, wrote: “No political or economic situation can justify” the crime of aggression. He added: “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.” An impartial international criminal tribunal is necessary to prevent “victor’s justice,” where only the vanquished are subject to prosecution.
Universal Jurisdiction for International Crimes
Under the treaty, the ICC can take jurisdiction over a national of even a non-party state if he or she commits a crime in a state party’s territory. The US vehemently objects to this. But it’s nothing new. Under well-established principles of international law, the core crimes prosecuted in the ICC — genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression — are crimes ofuniversal jurisdiction.
That means that an alleged perpetrator can — and always could — be arrested anywhere. Indeed, the United States itself has asserted jurisdiction over foreign nationals in anti-terrorism, anti-narcotic trafficking, torture and war-crimes cases. Even Resolution 1422 notes that states not party to the ICC statute “will continue to fulfill their responsibilities in their national jurisdiction in relation to international crimes.”
However, the US has not fulfilled its responsibilities to seek justice for international crimes. It has refused to extradite four terrorists — right-wing Cuban exiles trained by the CIA — who were convicted more than 20 years ago in Venezuela for blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976. The US similarly refuses to extradite John Hull, an American CIA operative indicted in Costa Rica for the 1984 bombing of a press conference which killed five journalists in a Nicaraguan border town. It has also refused to extradite former military officer Emmanuel Constant for trial in Haiti. Constant, who worked closely with the CIA, is believed to be responsible for the murder of more than 5000 people under the Haitian dictatorship in the early 1990s.
The ICC statute adds a special safeguard to the venerable principle of universal jurisdiction. It promises the ICC will only prosecute when the alleged perpetrator’s native country cannot, or will not, prosecute one of its nationals. The US should not then fear ICC prosecution, especially in light of the Article 98 agreements it coerced – and continues to coerce – from a multitude of countries. Unfortunately, however, these agreements contain no guarantee that an American national accused of an international crime would be tried if handed over to the US.
In June, Belgium indicted Bush, Tony Blair, Paul Wolfowitz, John Ashcroft, and Condoleezza Rice for war crimes during the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan, which predated the effective date of the ICC. The indictment was issued under Belgium’s universal jurisdiction law, which gave Belgian courts the right to judge anyone accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, regardless of where the crimes were committed. Four Rwandans have been convicted in 2001 under Belgium’s law for their participation in the 1994 genocide which left more than one million dead.
The government of Belgium, fearing a backlash, decided to refer the cases against Blair, Bush and the others to London and Washington, making trials unlikely. Even so, Donald Rumsfeld threatened to move NATO out of Brussels unless Belgium changed its universal jurisdiction law. Belgium capitulated, and its Court of Cassation has asked for the dismissal of the war crimes indictments.
Belgium isn’t alone in indicting Bush and Blair for war crimes. In July, Greece’s Athens Bar Association filed a complaint in the ICC against the two for crimes against humanity and war crimes, this time in connection with their war on Iraq. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” began after July 2002, the effective date of the ICC.
The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occurred before the ICC went into effect. Two years later, a Spanish judge charged Osama bin Laden and nine alleged Al Qaeda members with terrorism and murder under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
US Undermines War Against Terrorism
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Argentine Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, has decided to begin the work of the Court by investigating possible genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for the recruitment and use of children as soldiers and sex slaves in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Moreno-Ocampo’s selection of the Congo for his maiden investigation was made partly with an eye to the credibility of the ICC because, he says, “the Congo was a clear case.”
But, John Shattuck, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, wrote in the Washington Post in September that the United States has “so far played a passive and sometimes negative role in the region.” Just two days after the Security Council adopted a resolution on July 28 which imposed an embargo on “the direct or indirect supply” of arms or assistance to “armed groups and militias operating in the territory,” the US lifted its own embargo on weapons sales to Rwanda, which has armed its clients in eastern Congo.
Moreno-Ocampo, who has described the genocide in Congo as the “most important case since the Second World War,” plans to investigate businesses in 29 countries, including the United States, suspected of financing ethnic violence in Congo.
Ironically the Chief Prosecutor, an attorney with extensive experience investigating atrocities and prosecuting officials in Argentina, says that the United States’ refusal to work with the ICC will undermine the International Criminal Court’s role in the US efforts to fight terrorism.
Marjorie Cohn, a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, is executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild.© Copyright Marjorie Cohn, 2003 For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .
September 29th, 2003 - by admin
by BBC –
BBC (September 28, 2003) — Mazen Dana was killed by a US tank shell while filming in broad daylight near Baghdad on 17 August. An inquiry into his death cleared the troops involved saying they had respected the rules of engagement. But Reuters’ head Tom Glocer said he was dismayed that the US Defence Department had not properly notified the agency about the inquiry’s results.
On Monday, US military spokesman in Baghdad, Lieutenant Colonel George Krivo, said the Pentagon would not publish the full report because some parts of it were classified. Reuters said it had only found out about the results of the report after questioning Lt Col Krivo.
In a letter to US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, released on Thursday, Mr Glocer said: “I am writing to you again in order to express my deep dismay that neither Reuters nor Mazen Dana’s family were properly informed of further developments in this case”.
“Specifically, neither was advised directly of the completion and findings of your investigation, which were instead communicated in a haphazard way by a military spokesman responding to journalist questions in Baghdad. I certainly don’t believe that my government intentionally targets Reuters or anyone else’s journalists but let’s just say protecting journalists isn’t high enough on the Pentagon’s priority list,” Mr Glocer, who holds US citizenship, wrote.
Reuters spokeswoman Susan Allsopp said the agency had already filed a request under the US Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the report.
Glocer first wrote to the US defence secretary on 20 August demanding a thorough investigation into Mr Dana’s death. He also urged the Pentagon to “establish clear guidelines on how journalists and the military interact”. A number of international media rights bodies had earlier also expressed concern over the death of Mr Dana and demanded a full inquiry.
The shooting of Mr Dana happened near Abu Ghraib prison in daylight, after he and his sound engineer had asked permission to film from US soldiers. But shots were later fired from a US tank, and the cameraman was hit in the chest.
He was taken to a US military hospital but pronounced dead on arrival. US military officials later described Mr Dana’s shooting as a terrible tragedy, saying the troops mistook his camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
Dana is the second Reuters cameraman to be killed since US-led troops invaded Iraq. In April, Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian based in Warsaw, died when a US tank fired a shell at the Palestine Hotel, the base for many foreign media in Baghdad.
September 29th, 2003 - by admin
by Sami Ramadani / The Guardian –
(September 27, 2003) — It was my first and brutally abrupt realisation that Baghdad, the city of my childhood, is now occupied territory. It was also my first encounter with a potent symbol of Iraqi hostility to the occupation forces.
Sitting in the front seat of the taxi that brought us from Amman, I suddenly realised that a heavy machine gun was pointing at us from only a few metres away. It was an American soldier aboard an armoured vehicle in front of us, stuck in a traffic jam on the outskirts of Baghdad. He gestured disapprovingly towards our driver for approaching with some speed, then looked to his left and angrily stuck out a middle finger.
I followed his gaze and there was a child of no more than eight or nine sitting in a chair in front of the open gates leading to the garden of his house. He was shouting angrily, with a clenched fist of defiance, cutting the air with swift and furious right hooks.
Two weeks later, and after talking to scores of people and touring much of Baghdad, it dawned on me that that child’s rebellious, free spirit was a moving and powerful symbol of how most people in Baghdad felt towards the occupation forces. It is precisely this indomitable spirit which survived the decades of Saddam’s brutal regime, the numerous wars and the murderous 13 years of sanctions. And it is precisely this spirit that Bush and Blair did not take on board when they decided to invade and occupy Iraq.
They chose instead to listen to the echo of their own voices bouncing back at them from some of the Iraqi opposition groups, nurtured, financed and trained by the Pentagon and the CIA. Some of these Iraqi voices are now members of the US-appointed Iraqi governing council.
A recent report in the Washington Post backs up the rumors I heard in Baghdad that the Iraqi resistance to occupation is so strong that the authorities are now actively recruiting some of the brutal officers of the security and armed forces that Saddam himself used to suppress the people. If true, the US administration, in the name of fighting the so-called remnants of Saddam’s regime, is now busy trying to rebuild the shattered edifice of Saddam’s tyrannical state — a tyranny which they had backed and armed with WMD for many years. One of the popular sayings I repeatedly heard in Baghdad, describing the relations between the US and Saddam’s regime, is “Rah el sani’, ija el ussta” — “Gone is the apprentice, in comes the master.”
New Pictures for Old
The governing council is not so much hated as ridiculed, and attacked for having its members chosen along sectarian lines. Most of the people I talked to think that it is a powerless body: it has no army, no police, and no national budget, but boasts nine rotating presidents. One of the jokes circulating in Baghdad was that no sooner had you brought down Saddam’s picture than you were being asked to pin up nine new ones.
Support for the council is largely confined to some activists of the organisations that belong to it. Indeed, it could be argued that most supporters of the more credible organisations belonging to the council are opposed to membership of the US-appointed body. The leaders of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), for example, are finding it increasingly hard to convince these supporters that cooperation with the invaders is still a possible route to independence and democracy. The same goes for another smaller but equally credible party, the Islamic Da’wa, which experienced a split and serious haemorrhaging of membership following its decision to join the council.
The now small organisation that enjoyed majority support in Iraq in the late 50s, the Iraqi Communist party (ICP), was opposed to the invasion and the council, but decided to join it at the eleventh hour. Most of its supporters opposed the move. One, a poor truck driver, described it as being even worse than the 1972 ICP leadership decision to join Saddam’s government. That policy collapsed in a pool of blood when Saddam turned on the party’s members, killing, jailing and forcing into exile thousands of them. The truck driver described the council as “the devil’s lump of iron”: a saying which refers to the superstitious practice of keeping a small piece of metal in the house to ward off the devil.
The gulf between popular sentiment and membership of the council was clear after the murder of the leader of Sciri, Ayatolla Mohammed Baqir Al Hakim. The slogans chanted by the hundreds of thousands who marched in the three-day funeral processions in Baghdad and Najaf — “Death to America, Death to Saddam” and “There is no god but Allah; America is the enemy of Allah; Saddam is the enemy of Allah” — were very much in tune with what I witnessed in Baghdad. They revealed the strength of anti-US feeling in Baghdad and the south.
The one area where America has had relative success is Iraqi Kurdistan. The political situation in this region is complex. Most Kurds believed that the no-fly zone during Saddam’s reign protected them from his chemical weapons, and it is evident that the sanctions did not hurt Kurdistan as much as it did the rest of Iraq. In the lead-up to the war, most Kurds accepted the tactical notion of being protected against Saddam and the hated Turkish forces. But despite this, it is likely that American plans in Kurdistan will face popular opposition once the realities of US interests and the regional contradictions reassert themselves. Meanwhile, the historic political unity between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq is unlikely to be broken.
Resistance Is Provoked by Occupaton
What of the armed resistance? And why is it much more evident in some parts of Iraq than others? There is no doubt that armed resistance directed against the US forces enjoys wide popular support and is mostly carried out by politically diverse, locally based organizations. However, I also met many in Baghdad who, though supportive of the “patriots” who resist the “invaders,” believe that such actions are “premature”. One should, they argue, first exhaust all peaceful means, mobilizing the people in mass organizations before confronting the occupation forces in armed struggle. Popular sentiment can be gleaned from the conspiracy theories circulating in Baghdad. People routinely blame the US or Israel or Kuwait for attacks on civilian rather than military targets.
But you do not need to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect that the main reason for the high intensity of armed conflict in areas of central Iraq and Mosul is that the US itself decided to make these areas the arena for a showdown that they thought they could win more easily, thereby establishing a bridgehead from which they could subdue Baghdad and the south. They provoked conflict by killing civilians in cold blood in Falluja, Mosul, Ramadi and elsewhere long before any armed resistance in those areas.
The occupying forces quickly discovered that the slightest provocation in the labyrinthine working-class districts of Baghdad, and most cities of the south, was being met by massive shows of popular strength on the streets. The US military command are surely aware that Iraqis in these areas are heavily armed, well-trained and better organised.
The US authority’s nonsense about a “Sunni triangle” and “Shi’ite Baghdad and south” is a smokescreen which has so far failed to divide the Iraqi people or drive them into internecine conflict. The only people who now believe that the US will back a democratic path in Iraq are the few who have still not fully grasped America’s role in Iraq’s modern history, the strategic significance of Iraq, or the nature of US foreign policy today.
Leaving the city on the road back to Amman, when our car passed by the house of that precocious child, I realised why my love for Baghdad remained undiminished despite 34 years in exile.
Sami Ramadani was a political refugee from Saddam’s regime and is a senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University.
(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.)
September 29th, 2003 - by admin
by Christian Parenti / The Nation –
ON THE GROUND WITH US TROOPS IN IRAQ (October 6, 2003) — An M-16 rifle hangs by a cramped military cot. On the wall above is a message in thick black ink: “Ali Baba, you owe me a strawberry milk!”
It’s a private joke but could just as easily summarize the worldview of American soldiers here in Baghdad, the fetid basement of Donald Rumsfeld’s house of victory. Trapped in the polluted heat, poorly supplied and cut off from regular news, the GIs are fighting a guerrilla war that they neither wanted, expected nor trained for. On the urban battlefields of central Iraq, “shock and awe” and all the other “new way of war” buzzwords are drowned out by the din of diesel-powered generators, Islamic prayer calls and the occasional pop of small-arms fire.
Here, the high-tech weaponry that so emboldens Pentagon bureaucrats is largely useless, and the grinding work of counterinsurgency is done the old-fashioned way–by hand. Not surprisingly, most of the American GIs stuck with the job are weary, frustrated and ready to go home.
It is noon and the mercury is hanging steady at 115 Fahrenheit. The filmmaker Garrett Scott and I are “embedded” with Alpha Company of the Third Battalion of the 124th Infantry, a Florida National Guard unit about half of whom did time in the regular Army, often with elite groups like the Rangers. Like most frontline troops in Iraq, the majority are white but there is a sizable minority of African-American and Latino soldiers among them. Unlike most combat units, about 65 percent are college students–they’ve traded six years with the Guard for tuition at Florida State. Typically, that means occasional weekends in the Everglades or directing traffic during hurricanes. Instead, these guys got sent to Iraq, and as yet they have no sure departure date.
Mobilized in December, they crossed over from Kuwait on day one of the invasion and are now bivouacked in the looted remains of a Republican Guard officers’ club, a modernist slab of polished marble and tinted glass that the GIs have fortified with plywood, sandbags and razor wire.
Behind “the club” is a three-story dormitory, a warren of small one-bedroom apartments, each holding a nine-man squad of soldiers and all their gear. Around 200 guys are packed in here. Their sweaty fatigues drape the banisters of the exterior stairway, while inside the cramped, dark rooms the floors are covered with cots, heaps of flak vests, guns and, where possible, big tin, water-based air-conditioners called swamp coolers. Surrounding the base is a chaotic working-class neighborhood of two- and three-story cement homes and apartment buildings. Not far away is the muddy Tigris River.
This company limits patrols to three or four hours a day. For the many hours in between, the guys pull guard duty, hang out in their cavelike rooms or work out in a makeshift weight room.
“We’re getting just a little bit stir-crazy,” explains the lanky Sergeant Sellers. His demeanor is typical of the nine-man squad we have been assigned to, friendly but serious, with a wry and angry sense of humor. On the side of his helmet Sellers has, in violation of regs, attached the unmistakable pin and ring of a hand grenade. Next to it is written, “Pull Here.”
Leaning back on a cot, he’s drawing a large, intricate pattern on a female mannequin leg. The wall above him displays a photo collage of pictures retrieved from a looted Iraqi women’s college. Smiling young ladies wearing the hijab sip sodas and stroll past buses. They seem to be on some sort of field trip. Nearby are photos clipped from Maxim, of coy young American girls offering up their pert round bottoms. Dominating it all is a large hand-drawn dragon and a photo of Jessica Lynch with a bubble caption reading: “Hi, I am a war hero. And I think that weapons maintenance is totally unimportant.”
The boys don’t like Lynch and find the story of her rescue ridiculous. They’d been down the same road a day earlier and are unsympathetic. “We just feel that it’s unfair and kind of distorted the way the whole Jessica, quote, ‘rescue’ thing got hyped,” explains Staff Sgt. Kreed Howell. He is in charge of the squad, and at 31 a bit older than most of his men. Muscular and clean-cut, Howell is a relaxed and natural leader, with the gracious bearing of a proper Southern upbringing.
“In other words, you’d have to be really fucking dumb to get lost on the road,” says another, less diplomatic soldier.
Specialist John Crawford sits in a tiny, windowless supply closet that is loaded with packs and gear. He is two credits short of a BA in anthropology and wants to go to graduate school. Howell, a Republican, amicably describes Crawford as the squad’s house liberal.
There’s just enough extra room in the closet for Crawford, a chair and a little shelf on which sits a laptop. Hanging by this makeshift desk is a handwritten sign from “the management” requesting that soldiers masturbating in the supply closet “remove their donations in a receptacle.” Instead of watching pornography DVDs, Crawford is here to finish a short story. “Trying to start writing again,” he says.
Crawford is a fan of Tim O’Brien, particularly The Things They Carried. We chat, then he shows me his short story. It’s about a vet who is back home in north Florida trying to deal with the memory of having accidentally blown away a child while serving in Iraq.
Later in the cramped main room, Sellers and Sergeant Brunelle, another one of the squad’s more gregarious and dominant personalities, are matter-of-factly showing us digital photos of dead Iraqis.
“These guys shot at some of our guys, so we lit ’em up. Put two .50-cal rounds in their vehicle. One went through this dude’s hip and into the other guy’s head,” explains Brunelle. The third man in the car lived. “His buddy was crying like a baby. Just sitting there bawling with his friend’s brains and skull fragments all over his face. One of our guys came up to him and is like: ‘Hey! No crying in baseball!'”
“I know that probably sounds sick,” says Sellers, “but humor is the only way you can deal with this shit.”
And just below the humor is volcanic rage. These guys are proud to be soldiers and don’t want to come across as whiners, but they are furious about what they’ve been through. They hate having their lives disrupted and put at risk. They hate the military for its stupidity, its feckless lieutenants and blowhard brass living comfortably in Saddam’s palaces. They hate Iraqis–or, as they say, “hajis”–for trying to kill them. They hate the country for its dust, heat and sewage-clogged streets. They hate having killed people. Some even hate the politics of the war. And because most of them are, ultimately, just regular well-intentioned guys, one senses the distinct fear that someday a few may hate themselves for what they have been forced to do here.
Added to such injury is insult: The military treats these soldiers like unwanted stepchildren. This unit’s rifles are retooled hand-me-downs from Vietnam. They have inadequate radio gear, so they buy their own unencrypted Motorola walkie-talkies. The same goes for flashlights, knives and some components for night-vision sights. The low-performance Iraqi air-conditioners and fans, as well as the one satellite phone and payment cards shared by the whole company for calling home, were also purchased out of pocket from civilian suppliers.
Bottled water rations are kept to two liters a day. After that the guys drink from “water buffaloes”–big, hot chlorination tanks that turn the amoeba-infested dreck from the local taps into something like swimming-pool water. Mix this with powdered Gatorade and you can wash down a famously bad MRE (Meal Ready to Eat).
To top it all off they must endure the pathologically uptight culture of the Army hierarchy. The Third of the 124th is now attached to the newly arrived First Armored Division, and when it is time to raid suspected resistance cells it’s the Guardsmen who have to kick in the doors and clear the apartments.
“The First AD wants us to catch bullets for them but won’t give us enough water, doesn’t let us wear do-rags and makes us roll down our shirt sleeves so we look proper! Can you believe that shit?” Sergeant Sellers is pissed off.
The soldiers’ improvisation extends to food as well. After a month or so of occupying “the club,” the company commander, Captain Sanchez, allowed two Iraqi entrepreneurs to open shop on his side of the wire–one runs a slow Internet cafe, the other a kebab stand where the “Joes” pay U.S. dollars for grilled lamb on flat bread.
“The haji stand is one of the only things we have to look forward to, but the First AD keeps getting scared and shutting it down.” Sellers is on a roll, but he’s not alone.
Even the lighthearted Howell, who insists that the squad has it better than most troops, chimes in. “The one thing I will say is that we have been here entirely too long. If I am not home by Christmas my business will fail.” Back “on earth” (in Panama City, Florida), Howell is a building contractor, with a wife, two small children, equipment, debts and employees.
Perhaps the most shocking bit of military incompetence is the unit’s lack of formal training in what’s called “close-quarter combat.” The urbanized mayhem of Mogadishu may loom large in the discourse of the military’s academic journals like Parameters and the Naval War College Review, but many U.S. infantrymen are trained only in large-scale, open-country maneuvers–how to defend Germany from a wave of Russian tanks.
So, since “the end of the war” these guys have had to retrain themselves in the dark arts of urban combat. “The houses here are small, too,” says Brunelle. “Once you’re inside you can barely get your rifle up. You got women screaming, people, furniture everywhere. It’s insane.”
By now this company has conducted scores of raids, taken fire on the street, taken casualties, taken rocket-propelled grenade attacks to the club and are defiantly proud of the fact that they have essentially been abandoned, survived, retrained themselves and can keep a lid on their little piece of Baghdad. But it’s not always the Joes who have the upper hand. Increasingly, Haji seems to sets the agenda.
A thick black plume of smoke rises from Karrada Street, a popular electronics district where U.S. patrols often buy air-conditioners and DVDs. An American Humvee, making just such a stop, has been blown to pieces by a remote-activated “improvised explosive device,” or IED, buried in the median between two lanes of traffic. By chance two colleagues and I are the first press on the scene. The street is empty of traffic and quiet except for the local shopkeepers, who occasionally call out to us in Arabic and English: “Be careful.”
Finally we get close enough to see clearly. About twenty feet away is a military transport truck and a Humvee, and beyond that are the flaming remains of a third Humvee. A handful of American soldiers are crouched behind the truck, totally still. There’s no firing, no yelling, no talking, no radio traffic. No one is screaming, but two GIs are down. As yet there are no reinforcements or helicopters overhead. All one can hear is the burning of the Humvee.
Then it begins: The ammunition in the burning Humvee starts to explode and the troops in the street start firing. Armored personnel carriers arrive and disgorge dozens of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne to join the fight. The target is a three-story office building just across from the engulfed Humvee. Occasionally we hear a few rounds of return fire pass by like hot razors slashing straight lines through the air. The really close rounds just sound like loud cracks.
“That’s Kalashnikov. I know the voice,” says Ahmed, our friend and translator. There is a distinct note of national pride in his voice–his countrymen are fighting back–never mind the fact that we are now mixed in with the most forward U.S. troops and getting shot at.
The firefight goes on for about two hours, moving slowly and methodically. It is in many ways an encapsulation of the whole war–confusing and labor-intensive. The GIs have more firepower than they can use, and they don’t even know exactly where or who the enemy is. Civilians are hiding in every corner, the ground floor of the target building is full of merchants and shoppers, and undisciplined fire could mean scores of dead civilians.
There are two GIs on the ground, one with his legs gone and probably set to die. When a medevac helicopter arrives just overhead, it, too, like much other technology, is foiled. The street is crisscrossed with electrical wires and there is no way the chopper can land to extract the wounded. The soldiers around us look grave and tired.
Eventually some Bradley fighting vehicles start pounding the building with mean 250-millimeter cannon shells. Whoever might have been shooting from upstairs is either dead or gone.
The street is now littered with overturned air-conditioners, fans and refrigerators. A cooler of sodas sits forlorn on the sidewalk. Farther away two civilians lie dead, caught in the crossfire. A soldier peeks out from the hatch of a Bradley and calls over to a journalist, “Hey, can you grab me one of those Cokes?”
After the shootout we promised ourselves we’d stay out of Humvees and away from U.S. soldiers. But that was yesterday. Now Crawford is helping us put on body armor and soon we’ll be on patrol. As we move out with the nine soldiers the mood is somewhere between tense and bored. Crawford mockingly introduces himself to no one in particular: “John Crawford, I work in population reduction.”
“Watch the garbage — if you see wires coming out of a pile it’s an IED,” warns Howell. The patrol is uneventful. We walk fast through back streets and rubbish-strewn lots, pouring sweat in the late afternoon heat. Local residents watch the small squad with a mixture of civility, indifference and open hostility. An Iraqi man shouts, “When? When? When? Go!” The soldiers ignore him.
“Sometimes we sham,” explains one of the guys. “We’ll just go out and kick it behind some wall. Watch what’s going on but skip the walking. And sometimes at night we get sneaky-deaky. Creep up on Haji, so he knows we’re all around.”
“I am just walking to be walking,” says the laconic Fredrick Pearson, a k a “Diddy,” the only African-American in Howell’s squad. Back home he works in the State Supreme Court bureaucracy and plans to go to law school. “I just keep an eye on the rooftops, look around and walk.”
The patrols aren’t always peaceful. One soldier mentions that he recently “kicked the shit out of a 12-year-old kid” who menaced him with a toy gun.
Later we roll with the squad on another patrol, this time at night and in two Humvees. Now there’s more evident hostility from the young Iraqi men loitering in the dark. Most of these infantry soldiers don’t like being stuck in vehicles. At a blacked-out corner where a particularly large group of youths are clustered, the Humvees stop and Howell bails out into the crowd. There is no interpreter along tonight.
“Hey, guys! What’s up? How y’all doing? OK? Everything OK? All right?” asks Howell in his jaunty, laid-back north Florida accent. The sullen young men fade away into the dark, except for two, who shake the sergeant’s hand. Howell’s attempt to take the high road, winning hearts and minds, doesn’t seem to be for show. He really believes in this war. But in the torrid gloom of the Baghdad night, his efforts seem tragically doomed.
Watching Howell I think about the civilian technocrats working with Paul Bremer at the Coalition Provisional Authority; the electricity is out half the time, and these folks hold meetings on how best to privatize state industries and end food rations. Meanwhile, the city seethes. The Pentagon, likewise, seems to have no clear plan; its troops are stretched thin, lied to and mistreated. The whole charade feels increasingly patched together, poorly improvised. Ultimately, there’s very little that Howell and his squad can do about any of this. After all, it’s not their war. They just work here.
Christian Parenti is the author, most recently, of The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America From Slavery to the War on Terror (Basic) and a fellow at City University of New York’s Center for Place, Culture, and Politics.
(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.)
September 28th, 2003 - by admin
LONDON, England (September 27, 2003) AP — Thousands of protesters demanding an end to the occupation of Iraq took to the streets in London, Paris, Athens and other cities around the world, chanting slogans against the United States and Britain.
Saturday’s protests, the first major demonstrations since Saddam Hussein was ousted earlier this year, come as the United States tries to gain international help in rebuilding Iraq. The demonstrations were organized in each country by local activist groups that have informal contacts with each other.
London’s was the biggest protest, drawing 20,000 people. Demonstrators turned out in a dozen other countries, including South Korea, Turkey and Egypt.
“No more war. No more lies” proclaimed a banner pinned to the pedestal of Nelson’s Column in London’s Trafalgar Square, where demonstrators rallied after a march through the city. People of all ages, from gray-haired couples to toddlers in strollers, joined the orderly stream of protesters marching from Hyde Park.
Some young marchers chanted, “George Bush, Uncle Sam, Iraq will be your Vietnam!”
“I don’t believe the war with Iraq was right and the proof is we haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction,” London protester Emma Loebid, 20, said. “I think they should hand Iraq back to the Iraqis and get the troops out.”
Demonstrators, including those in London, also added the Palestinian cause to their campaign.
Some 3,000 people marched in Paris, where a wide banner read, “American Imperialism: Take your bloody hands off the Middle East.” Others held posters that read “Wanted: George W. Bush—War Criminal.”
In Beirut, thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian protesters demanded that U.S. forces leave Iraq and that Israel stops its attacks in the Palestinian territories.
Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, addressed the crowd by phone from his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“Together with you until victory and together until [we liberate] Jerusalem,” Arafat said, his voice blaring over loudspeakers.
Outside the U.S. Embassy in Athens, demonstrators hurled bottles at riot police. About 3,000 protesters, chanting “Occupiers Out” and “Freedom for Palestine,” joined the rally.
Protests were also staged in other parts of Greece and on the island of Crete, outside an American naval base at Souda Bay. The base supports the U.S. Sixth Fleet and spy planes.
In Spain, thousands of people carrying antiwar banners, banging drums and wearing white smocks marched through the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Malaga. “Oil kills,” read a banner in Madrid.
In Seoul, thousands of activists protested a U.S. request to send South Korean troops to Iraq. Protesters chanted “No war!” and carried banners saying “End the occupation in Iraq” and “Oppose a plan to dispatch S. Korean combat troops to Iraq.”
Some 4,000 protesters in the Turkish capital, Ankara, shouted slogans and unfurled banners to support the Palestinian cause and demand an end to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. Hundreds more gathered at a similar rally in Istanbul and burned American and Israeli flags.
In downtown Cairo, about 50 political activists and journalists staged a peaceful protest against Israeli attacks and the U.S.-led occupation.
In Warsaw, 100 young people protested the Polish military presence in Iraq, marching with banners saying “Down with the global U.S terrorism” and “We don’t want to occupy with Bush.”
An estimated 1,200 demonstrated in Brussels, while about 400 people marched through downtown Berlin. In Stockholm, police said about 250 people staged a demonstration.
Opposition to the war has always been strong in Britain. Several large peace protests were held during the war, though none matched a huge rally February 15, before the conflict began, when between 750,000 and 2 million people marched through central London.
Now, questions about Prime Minister Tony Blair’s tactics in trying to win public support before invading Iraq have left his government struggling through its worst crisis. The ruling Labor Party is still well ahead of the opposition in opinion polls, but the public’s faith in the government and in Blair has eroded.
A new poll taken September 11-16 and published Saturday in The Financial Times found 50 percent of those questioned said Blair should step aside. The newspaper did not give the sample size or margin of error.
The London protest Saturday was timed for the eve of the governing party’s annual conference for “maximum political impact,” said Andrew Burgin, spokesman for Stop the War Coalition, one of the rally’s organizers.
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, another organizer of Saturday’s march, said a big demonstration would send a strong message to the government that the public did not condone what it called “lies” used to justify the war.
Twenty-year-old Liban Kahiye, also in London, said, “I don’t believe British and American troops should still be in Iraq. Everyday you hear stories of innocent people being killed — that’s not justice.”
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
(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.)
September 28th, 2003 - by admin
by Jimmy Breslin / Newsday –
(September 23, 2003) — George Bush won’t mention the names below in today’s speech, nor will your gullible news and television people — the Pekinese of the Press.
Therefore we print promptly and thus prominently the names of American soldiers killed in Iraq and reported from Sept. 9 to Sept. 19:
• Spc. Ryan G. Carlock, 25, 416th Transportation Co., 260 Quartermaster Battalion (Petroleum Support), Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. Died in attack on truck Sept. 10. Home: Macomb, Ill.
• Staff Sgt. Joe Robsky, 31, 759 Ordnance Co., Fort Irwin, Calif. Home is a mobile home park trailer in Elizaville, N.Y. Died in Baghdad while trying to defuse a homemade bomb on Sept. 10. He volunteered for this duty because he didn’t want children killed by land mines.
• Sgt. Henry Ybarra III, 32, D Troop, 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry. Home: Austin, Texas. Died when truck tire exploded, Sept. 11.
• Marine Sgt. Kevin N. Morehead, 33, 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group. Home: Little Rock, Ark. Died of wounds received when raiding enemy forces.
• Sgt. 1st Class William M. Bennett, 35, 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, of Seymour, Tenn. Died of wounds in same raid on Sept. 12 in Ramadi.
• Sgt. Trevor A. Blumberg, 22, lst Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne, Fort Bragg, N.C. Home: Canton, Mich. Died in attack on his vehicle in Baghdad on Sept. 14.
• Staff Sgt. Kevin C. Kimmerly, 31, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, North Creek, N.Y. Killed when his vehicle was hit by rocket-propelled grenade while on patrol in Baghdad Sept. 15.
• Spc. Alyssa R. Peterson, 27, 311 Military Intelligence Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky. Home: Flagstaff, Ariz. Died of wounds on Sept. 15 at Tel Afar.
• Spc. James C. Wright, 27, Fourth Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Home: Delhi Township, Ohio. Died when vehicle hit by rocket-propelled grenade during ambush near Tikrit on Sept. 18.
George Bush told lies and they died.
First, your government lied to ensure Bush’s re-election. Who votes against a president in time of war? And even better, you get oil with the winning election.
So Bush lied to you. Not misstatements. Lies. He and his people threw away their honor and consciences to lie to the people they had sworn to protect.
The lies of Washington put young men from Seymour, Tenn., and Maspeth, Queens and Palos Hills, Ill., into boxes. And that, dear reader, is quite a lie.
At the start, Bush claimed that Iraq had poison gas and was making nuclear weapons. Soon, they will poison us all and blow us up. His proof was documents forged by elementary-school pupils. Still, Bush used it in his State of the Union speech. Condoleezza Rice said it was only 23 words in a speech. What are you so concerned about?
The 23 words were only about nuclear bombs.
Look now at the lie that George Bush carries into the United Nations today:
We went into Iraq because they were part of the World Trade Center attack.
That’s what they told you, and Americans, who honor their government, believed what their government told them. And so did all those young people as they were about to put up their lives in the desert.
On Oct. 14, 2002, Bush said, “This is a man [Saddam] that we know has had connections with al-Qaida. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al-Qaida as a forward army.”
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, on Sept. 26, 2002, “Yes, there is a linkage between al-Qaida and Iraq.”
Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, said on Sept. 25, 2002, “There have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of al-Qaida going back for actually quite a long time.”
They knew exactly what they were saying and what it would do. It was using a Big Lie in an age of screens and faxes. What did you think it was, a government telling you the truth? Why should they do that?
At summer’s end, suspicions rose. It was time to change the lie before it became a liability. How do you do that? By using the ultimate con: telling the truth.
Here in the world of professional lying is how you use the truth to defuse a lie when it becomes dangerous to keep: Suddenly, Donald Rumsfeld on Sept. 16 announced, “I’ve not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.”
That same day, Condoleezza Rice jumped up and chirped, “And we have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either … direction or control of 9/11. What we’ve said is that this was someone who supported terrorists, helped train them.”
And then the next day, George Bush said, “There’s no question that Saddam Hussein has al-Qaida ties. We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the Sept. 11 attacks.”
So the three now say that they never said that Hussein was involved in the World Trade Center attack. Look up what we said. We never said it.
Of course they did. Anybody who thinks they didn’t is a poor fool. Take a half-word out of a sentence, replace it with a smug smile or chin motion and the meaning is there. Saddam was in on the Trade Center with bin Laden. Of course Bush and his people said it. Then go to the whip, go to the truth.
Only the strong memory is an opponent, and there are few of them. Otherwise, the only thing that can remind people and maybe even inflame them are these dead bodies coming back from Iraq to Heber, Calif. They arrive here in silence. We have no idea of how many wounded are in government hospitals with no arms or legs. You never hear Bush talking about them. He often acts as if subjects like this have nothing to do with him.
September 28th, 2003 - by admin
by Vince Calder –
The front page article headlined: “Justice Department considers action against ABC over story,” appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Journal Times. It told how ABC News smuggled 15 pounds of “depleted uranium” into the United States through the port of Los Angeles under the noses of US customs and the LA port authorities. However, the article did not explain adequately why the Department of Homeland Defense and the FBI are so distressed, nor did it explain how this breach in security relates to homeland security. To understand the serious implications of ABC’s story you have to know what “depleted uranium” is.
Uranium is the metal used to make nuclear weapons and fuel rods employed in nuclear reactors. But only a tiny fraction, less than 1 percent, of mined and purified uranium is useable for these purposes. This useable fraction is extracted and concentrated. What is left behind is so-called “depleted uranium” — called DU for short. For every pound of useable product produced, some 200 pounds of “depleted uranium” are left behind. A number of very major problems are also left behind:
DU Is Not Totally ‘Depleted’
DU is essentially permanently radioactive. It gives off radioactive particles at a fixed rate on any human time scale — decades, centuries, even millennia. A lump of DU sitting on a table in front of you is harmless. The radioactive particles that DU gives off are stopped by the thin layer of dead skin cells that naturally cover everyone’s body, so human tissue cells are said to have a large “stopping power” for these radioactive particles.
However, this same large “stopping power” makes DU deadly if it gets inside the body. Besides being a chemically toxic heavy metal, like lead or mercury, a particle of DU inside the body continuously bombards surrounding live tissues with a barrage of subatomic particles capable ionizing nearby cellular material and ripping apart the chemical bonds that hold the cells together. The tracks of destruction left by these reactive particles can be observed directly under a microscope.
US Dilemma: 2 Billion Pounds of DU Waste
No commercial applications have been found for any significant amounts of this leftover DU since it started to accumulate when the first atomic bombs were made in the early 1940’s. As a result, the US alone has accumulated over two billion pounds of this commercially worthless DU.
In terms of everyday experience two billion pounds is beyond comprehension. To put this weight of material on an understandable scale, it is about the same weight six Washington Monuments, or about 5,000 Statues of Liberty. Some of this inventory has been given away to allies. This included Iraq when they were an “ally” against Iran.
The major uses of DU are as the tip of armor-piercing artillery shells, ammunition, and missiles, and as armor plate on tanks and armored vehicles. What makes DU so effective at piercing armor is that when it strikes a hard target it ignites like a Roman candle, sharpens itself like a pencil in a pencil sharpener and, like a hot knife through butter, melts steel armor or even concrete. It is used as armor plate because it is the only metal armor that will stop a DU-tipped shell!
However, every time a shell misses its target and falls onto soft desert sand, or a DU-plated tank or an armored vehicle is abandoned (both occur frequently) DU is left behind on the battlefield for the taking. These armor-piercing shells were used in the first Gulf War, in the Bosnian conflict, and in the present war against Iraq. The bottom line is: DU is readily and globally available at little or no cost to any terrorists wishing to acquire it.
When uranium burns, the radioactive dust produced is so incredibly fine, it behaves as if it were a gas. This dust can pass through military gas masks, so gas masks offer troops no protection, and it is deposited permanently in the lungs. If swallowed, the dust particles can be digested and pass into the blood stream, if the dust rubs into a scrape or wound it can enter tissues directly.
Most of these dust particles are smaller than red blood cells, the smallest cells in the body, so the radioactive dust freely crosses organ and tissue boundaries. There is no way to remove them from the body. These ultra-fine smoke particles are spread by wind, settle out on surface water, and are redispersed by human activities — digging, plowing, driving, or even just walking.
This information is neither new nor secret. From the very beginning, the scientists involved in the making of the first atomic bombs recognized in detail the potential of uranium smoke as a terrain contaminant and as an instrument of gas warfare: “(a.) To make evacuated areas uninhabitable. (b.) To contaminate small critical areas such as rail-road yards and airports. (3.) As a radioactive poison gas to create casualties among troops. (4.) Against large cities, to promote panic, and create casualties among civilian populations.”*
DU as a ‘Dirty’ Weapon
The present danger is that depleted uranium can be used to make so-called “dirty” nuclear devices. There is no need to purify or “weaponize” the uranium. As the makers of the atomic bomb realized in 1943, all one has to do is wrap DU in a conventional explosive charge and detonate it. The DU will almost certainly ignite from the heat of the explosion, and its sub-microscopic radioactive smoke particles will be dispersed by wind, rain, and fallout, potentially contaminating vast land areas, lakes, rivers, streams, and water reservoirs.
It is this ease of importation and the simple construction of a potential weapon of mass destruction within the boundaries of the US that so concerns Homeland Security and the FBI. But from whom are they keeping the secret? Certainly not potential terrorists, they know how and what to do. The only conclusion is that the government wishes to keep the public in the dark, ignorant of the threat facing all of us.
Vince Calder is a retired research chemist with SC Johnson. He has a Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley in physical chemistry.
September 28th, 2003 - by admin
by Christian Parenti / In These Times –
The air in Baghdad is potent stuff. Plastic-rich garbage heaps burn in empty lots. Massive diesel generators run round the clock. More than a million vehicles — old cars, trucks and fuel-guzzling US tanks — creep through the streets belching fumes. On the horizon, beyond the looted and bombed out office blocks, looming above the low-rise residential sprawl, is a giant smokestack; its massive black plume hangs over the city constantly. Add to this haze the soot of building fires, the stench of sewage, and the ubiquitous dust from countless rubble heaps; then cap and seal the mixture with the 115-degree hostility of a desert sun.
But forget the poisonous air. The really pressing issue in Baghdad is escalating chaos. The 6 million people living here want electricity, water, telecommunications and security. As of yet they have none of these in sufficient supply. On the ground it seems that this American adventure is spinning out of control. Most Iraqis want peace, but a terrorist war of resistance requires only a small and determined minority.
Here the criminal is king. Saddam emptied the prisons and the United States disbanded the police, while 60 percent of people are unemployed. As a result, carjacking, robbery, looting, and murder are rife. Marauding men in “misery gangs” kidnap and rape women and girls at will. Some of these victims are dumped back on the streets only to be executed by their “disgraced” male relatives in what are called “honor killings.”
Many women and girls stay locked inside their homes for weeks at a time. And increasingly those who do venture out wear veils, as the misogynist threats and ravings of the more fundamentalist Shia and Sunni clerics have warned that women who do not wear the hijab should not be protected.
According to the city morgue, there were 470 fatal shootings in July, up from 10 the year before. Not surprisingly, most people in Baghdad are armed and edgy. Under such conditions community solidarity takes on strange forms. Irish peace activist Michael Birmingham, who works with Voices in the Wilderness, witnessed the new vigilantism first hand.
Three carjackers took a vehicle in midday. In response, the crowd on the streets started throwing stones while shopkeepers started firing AK-47s. Before long the crowd had dragged one of the carjackers out onto the street and started beating him. “They were jumping on his head and his chest. I don’t think he made it,” explains Birmingham in a deadpan Dublin brogue.
As for the American troops — whom Iraqis call the kuwat alihtilal, or forces of occupation — they are stretched too thin to deal effectively with such crimes. And they have little understanding of Iraqi culture or politics. They are adrift in a sea of unintelligible Arabic, where even the street names are a mystery. At crime scenes they can just as easily arrest the victims as the perpetrators. Their small convoys are under constant assault.
Officially there are, on average, 13 attacks on Coalition Forces in Baghdad every day. Since May 1, when the war “ended,” more than 404 US soldiers have been permanently removed from action due to wounds, while more that 60 have been killed in attacks.
I relay these numbers to a grunt in the field, a young GI with the first armored division. He has no clear picture of how the counter-insurgency war is going other than that someone shot at the gate he is guarding a while back and missed. But he’s sure of one thing. “Whatever they tell you is a lie. It is bullshit. They’re camouflaging.”
Even journalists are getting killed. A Reuters photographer, Mazen Dana, was recently taken out by US troops. Before that, a young British free-lancer named Richard Wild was murdered by an assassin who probably thought his victim was a soldier. Three GIs had died the same way: at close range, in the neck, from behind, with a pistol.
May Ying Walsh — a stellar American reporter who now works for Al Jazeera — was almost killed, as she recounts with an air of blank serenity. “I was interviewing some soldiers and a grenade fell right in between us, like a ripe piece of fruit. Everyone ran, but I just froze. The grenade rolled under a Humvee and when it blew, somehow, the shrapnel missed me. I think I was behind the tire or something.” Her film crew and two GIs were not so lucky; all of them were wounded, one of them very badly.
Baghdad also suffers from the less dramatic structural violence of epidemic poverty. War, sanctions, and Saddam’s greed have left a large destitute class with no work, medicine, or schooling. Exploring the rubble of some government ministry, two colleagues and I meet Ibrahim Kadum, who lost his foot in the Iran- Iraq war, then he lost his home and now squats in these ruins with his wife, nine children, and a shaggy and bleating ewe.
Kadum, who can’t work, says he lives off the meager wages of his children, some of whom do odd jobs in a local market. Mostly he survives on World Food Program donations of flour, legumes, oil, salt, sugar, and tea. These allotments feed 27 million and are a direct continuation of the oil-for-food program of Saddam’s era, which is scheduled to end in November. The scale and form of any new system is as yet unclear. As we talk, a bleary-eyed child approaches with a very realistic toy pistol and levels it at my colleague’s head.
At the Palestine Hotel, now a huge fortified camp where highly-paid TV journalists are guarded by the razor wire and tanks of the U.S. Army, one can find yet more forms of the war’s violence and desperation.
A young woman, through a translator, explains the details of her work. She sells herself to American soldiers for $15 a session. She’s seventeen, wants to go to college and leave Iraq.
“Do you use protection with the soldiers?”
She blushes and pauses. “She says she takes the pills,” explains our translator Ahmed. Does she know about AIDS? “No condoms?” I ask. She blushes even more deeply and answers directly in English. “Sometimes.”
In the center of this sprawling war zone is a clean and air-conditioned oasis, the Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters. Situated in one of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces — a huge complex of high-modernist trophy architecture — the CPA is where L. Paul Bremer III and his army of freshly minted MBAs brainstorm on vital topics like competitive bidding and privatization. Somewhere else in this fortress sits the Coalition’s hand-picked Interim Governing Council of Iraq.
Every afternoon at 3:00, the CPA’s spin-doctors address the press in a large auditorium. In Vietnam style, we call these confabs “the follies.” The ritual begins with a slew of statistics about the “good progress” being made. But the numbers are often mumbled like a Latin mass, and one begins to feel that the driving force here is faith, not reason or planning.
“In the last 24 hours, coalition forces have detained 149 individuals, conducted over 1,000 patrols and 20 raids.” The pale and pudgy Col. Shields is presiding today. “We have confiscated 110 diesel-smuggling tanker trucks, and destroyed more than 20 IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. Coalition forces completed four civic action projects in the Basra area and . . . ” On and on it goes until the colonel gets stuck on the word adjudicated.
“Several of these cases will be . . . edjuda-rated, that is educated, I mean . . . ”
Ask Shields how many Iraqis have been killed by US troops and, despite his reams of stats, he doesn’t know. How many women raped by gangs? No number. How many US soldiers committing suicide? Any troops busted for looting? Can’t say.
Then from the auditorium — a loud snore followed by snickering laughter. The L.A. Times man, just in from Jordan, has passed out cold. He didn’t nap last night during the dangerous 13-hour drive in and obviously the combination of Shield nattering on and the wonderful air-conditioning have had a powerful soporific effect.
Smoke is rising from Karrada Street, an electronics district popular with US troops. An American humvee has just pulled up on the median and been blown to pieces by a remote activated mine.
The sidewalks are packed with refrigerators and air conditioning boxes. In the street sit a military transport truck and another humvee, beyond that are remains of the burning humvee. A few US soldiers are crouched behind the truck.
There are two wounded GI’s on the ground and now a medivac helicopter circles just overhead. But there’s no way the chopper can land because of overhead wires. An on-and-off firefight ensues for the next two hours until Bradley Fighting Vehicles start pounding the targeted building with 25-millimeter cannon shells. Whoever was inside has either left out the back or they are now definitely dead.
Two Iraqi civilians lie dead and one or two are wounded. A cigarette stand has been knocked down, its packs of smokes strewn on the street. An Iraqi shopkeeper leans on a wall and sobs as his store goes up in flames.
The GIs next to us among the refrigerators seem neither scared nor brave, just weary and numb. They are no longer driving the situation but rather riding it. And from this vantage point, crouching among the smashed merchandise and empty shell casings, one can feel the war taking on its own momentum.
Christian Parenti is the author of The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slavery to the War on Terror (Basic Books, fall 2003). He recently returned from Baghdad. © Copyright In these Times 2003 For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .
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