March 31st, 2004 - by admin
Commentary: Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey / Pravda – 2004-03-31 09:01:08
MOSCOW (March 29, 2004) — Enough! Enough of illegal war, enough of illegal occupation, enough of dropping cluster bombs in civilian areas, enough of destroying civilian infrastructures, enough of targeting water supply, enough of machine-gunning three-year-old boys traveling with their families.
The Bush regime in the United States of America represents the worst kind of ultra-right government, convinced of its own self-righteousness, so convinced it cannot contain itself within its national frontiers.
Like the Roman Empire, it spreads its military camps across the globe, a string of forward posts for military intervention, intrusion, interfering and collusion, often with terrorist elements.
The latest outrage in Iraq will surprise nobody, given the brief history of the Bush regime, which has the blood of at least 13,000 innocent civilians on its hands, which has the illegal detention and torture of human beings, some of them innocent, at Guantanamo, which has legitimate accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity hanging over its head.
An Outrage in Tikrit: A 3-year-old Is Machinegunned by US Troops
The latest outrage in Iraq will be hard to explain to the people of the United States of America, but here it is: US troops machine-gunned a car in Tikrit last night, wounding six women and children, the male driver, and murdering a boy of three years of age. Because they were traveling along a road in their own country.
“Get your f—ing hands up, NOW!!” shouted the US soldier, thrusting his gun into the face of a terrified six-year-old boy.
That is documented on TV and that is how the US armed forces treat the Iraqi civilians. That is also why the average Iraqi is too terrified to stop his car when ordered to by this invading horde of mass murderers.
Enough! The war should never have happened in the first place but if the US government has an iota of decency, if the US government has a modicum of common sense, if it has any sense of humanity, it will realize that this war in Iraq is an abject failure. It was hastily executed, badly planned and abominably carried out.
It Is Time for a Hand-over to the United Nations
Now that the UNO is sending its advisors to plan for elections, it is time for a hand-over, as soon as possible, to this organization, which should have been used in the first place.
Murdering families is not a solution, and unfortunately it is not the first such incident. Opening up with machine-gun fire against four children and three women, no doubt yelling obscenities, is no way for a soldier to behave. It is a disgrace. For the soldiers involved, for the Bush regime and for the people of the United States of America.
All of those with children in their families should reflect very carefully on this article and on the message it brings: how would you like it if another country invaded yours illegally, destroyed your infrastructures, slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians, including grandfathers and grandmothers, women and children, blasting the limbs off people sitting at home watching TV and strafing your kids?
US Armed Forces Deny Killing
What is worse, the US armed forces deny the incident happened, despite it having been confirmed by the driver of the vehicle, the hospital authorities and independent news sources.
“Last night a patrol entered into combat with a civilian vehicle” was the explanation. A civilian vehicle, with four children and three women. Later, the story was changed to two vehicles.
Reuters news agency shows a red car pocked with bullet holes, the back seat covered in glass and blood. The blood of a three-year-old boy, murdered by these assassins.
Enough! Stop this war now and stop this evil, murderous regime. The United States of America is the world’s worst terrorist.
March 31st, 2004 - by admin
CNN Worldnews / AP – 2004-03-31 08:50:25
MOSCOW, Russia (AP) — Russia has designed a “revolutionary” weapon that would make the prospective US missile defense useless, Russian news agencies reported, quoting a senior Defense Ministry official.
The official, who was not identified by name, said tests conducted during last month’s military maneuvers would dramatically change the philosophy behind development of Russia’s nuclear forces, the Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies reported on Monday.
If deployed, the new weapon would take the value of any U.S. missile shield to “zero,” the news agencies quoted the official as saying.
The official said the new weapon would be inexpensive, providing an “asymmetric answer” to US missile defenses, which are proving extremely costly to develop.
Russia, meanwhile, also has continued research in prospective missile defenses and has an edge in some areas compared to other nations, the official said.
The statement reported Monday was in line with claims by President Vladimir Putin’s that experiments performed during last month’s maneuvers proved that Russia could soon build strategic weapons that could puncture any missile-defense system.
At the time, Col-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, explained that the military tested a “hypersonic flying vehicle” that was able to maneuver between space and the earth’s atmosphere.
Military analysts said that the mysterious new weapons could be a maneuverable ballistic missile warhead or a hypersonic cruise missile.
While Putin said the development of such new weapons wasn’t aimed against the United States, most observers viewed the move as Moscow’s retaliation to the US missile defense plans.
After years of vociferous protests, Russia reacted calmly when Washington withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 in order to develop of a nationwide missile shield. But US-Russian relations have soured again lately, and Moscow has complained about Washington’s plans to build new low-yield nuclear weapons.
March 30th, 2004 - by admin
Matthew B. Stannard / San Francisco Chronicle – 2004-03-30 16:48:37
(Monday, March 29, 2004) — When famous whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg boarded a plane to Cincinnati earlier this week, he took along a little light reading: a stack of articles about former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, who has stirred controversy with allegations in his book and testimony before a special panel that the Bush White House was somewhat indifferent to al Qaeda before Sept. 11 and obsessed with Iraq afterward.
Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers documenting government misrepresentations about the Vietnam War, sees Clarke as part of a trend: well- placed individuals in the government who have gone public with books or interviews outlining their concerns and criticisms about their country’s government — while that government is still in power.
Ellsberg is not alone in that observation — observers from across the political spectrum, whether they support Clarke’s actions or not, agree that a new willingness exists to tell all far sooner, and far more publicly, than in the past.
Ellsberg cites officials such as Scott Ritter, the former lead inspector for the UN Special Commission on Concealment and Investigations team, and Katharine Gun, a British government linguist who leaked an e-mail purportedly from U.S. intelligence services asking for help spying on UN ambassadors.
Opinions differ on whether the willingness to tell all is a good thing, but to Ellsberg, who has been sharply critical of the war in Iraq and even written articles encouraging current government employees to leak what he calls “Iraq’s Pentagon Papers,” the phenomenon is a source of optimism.
‘These People Are Heroes’
“I think these people are heroes. They’re really acting appropriately in a very dangerous situation,” he said. “It’s as if we are learning about the Tonkin Gulf a month or two later instead of years later.”
Although Ellsberg, now 72 and living in Kensington, considers Clarke somewhat of a kindred spirit, he doesn’t quite see him as a whistle-blower. Clarke was no longer an employee of the administration when he spoke out and did not provide documentation to back up his accusations — accusations the administration has rejected.
Ellsberg said the only real whistle-blower of recent times is Gun, who briefly faced charges under the British Official Secrets Act and supported her claims with documents.
“I find her really admirable,” Ellsberg said, but he considers the rest remarkable, too, for being willing to go public in a way and with a speed that simply didn’t occur 40 years ago.
“Why are they acting differently from people in my generation?” he said. “We knew (Vietnam) was just as deceptive and the policy was just as bad, but we certainly weren’t tempted to leak.”
At least, not until Ellsberg did it. But since then, a number of observers said, going public early and often has become more and more acceptable, even among ranking government officials.
It certainly wasn’t acceptable in the 1950s, said Stephen Hess, who was a speechwriter for President Dwight Eisenhower and is now with the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
“It was a rule of thumb that no one spoke until the president did. When the president wrote his memoir, told his story, that was when the others did,” Hess said. The exceptions, he said, were books that were rarely very critical — and even then, they were considered scandalous.
“We on the staff thought that was just in such poor form … it just wasn’t done,” he said.
The ideal at the time, Hess said, was the White House staff described by pre-World War II political scientist Louis Brownlow, who recommended that President Franklin Roosevelt’s staff should “remain in the background, issue no orders, make no decisions, emit no public statements … They should be possessed of high competence, great physical vigor, and a passion for anonymity.”
That changed markedly with the release of the Pentagon Papers. Another step came, Hess said, during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, who was criticized in public by some former staffers and was himself critical of his predecessors and later his successors — another taboo. After that, the genie was out of the bottle.
“Over time, it became an avalanche. By the time you reached Clinton, you had people that secretly had book contracts,” he said. “You had people sitting around the table keeping notes.”
Both former Clinton political consultant Dick Morris and former senior adviser George Stephanopoulos had books published while Clinton was still in office.
Clark’s Criticisms Are Unprecedented
But Clarke’s book, because of his position, may be taking the trend to a new level, said Peter Berkowitz, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and an associate professor of law at George Mason University Law School.
“I do think what Clarke has done is really unprecedented in our history: somebody who served as a national security adviser to the president stepping down and, while that president is still in office, blasting him,” he said. “That just hasn’t been done before.”
It is also surprising, Berkowitz said, that comments by Clarke, O’Neill, and Hans Blix, the former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq, have such an impact on public policy and public discourse — even though, in his opinion, they fit into the category of disgruntled ex-employee as comfortably as whistle-blower.
“That’s actually one reason, it seems to me, to take this criticism with a grain of salt,” Berkowitz said.
The Marketing of Dissent
But regardless of the motivation, telling all is probably going to be increasingly popular, said UC Berkeley political science Professor Bruce Cain, for commercial reasons if not ideals.
It is increasingly difficult, because of conflict-of-interest laws, for former government officials to move easily back and forth between the government and the private sector, and the growth of cable and the publishing industry ensures that they can seek lucrative post-government employment in the media, Cain said.
And because books sell better when the author’s name is fresh in people’s minds, he said, it is likely such books will continue to be published as soon as possible — and sooner all the time.
“It’s part of this whole speeding up of the cycle of everything. Now, even our memories have to come faster,” he said.
Michael Kohn, general counsel for the private National Whistleblower Center, agreed with Cain’s prediction of faster and faster revelations, but with a different premise.
A Whistleblowing Revolution
“You’re seeing an evolution of our society. Ellsberg is essentially the first modern whistle- blower. As a result, the news media observed how important obtaining this type of information was and how it was the ultimate lifeline to a free society,” he said. “As this message began to take root, the will of people to expose information at an earlier point of time has just gone with it.”
The main brake on the phenomenon, Kohn said, are federal laws that he feels inadequately protect people who try to speak up while still employed, causing more to delay revelation until they quit or are fired.
With more protective laws, he said, “you would have heard from (Clarke) before Sept. 11.”
Hess and Berkowitz said the consequences of this new willingness to tell all include the loss of a kind of loyalty in government service that had been a tradition, and the possibility that future administrations may appoint more party loyalists and be less willing to keep on longtime civil servants from prior administrations.
“There is a very good reason why there is executive privilege and why a president should feel they have a right to receive confidential information from their aides and that their aides owe” loyalty to them, Hess said.
But to Ellsberg, the fact that a number of Bush’s own people have been willing to break that presumption of loyalty is a strong condemnation of the president and his neo-conservative allies, something Clarke himself has hinted at in public statements.
Asked on 60 Minutes whether he owed loyalty to the president, Clarke responded, “Up to a point. When the president starts doing things that risk American lives, then loyalty to him has to be put aside.”
THOSE WHO TOLD
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers three decades ago, cited these people as part of what he sees as a new trend of those who criticize governments still in power:
• Scott Ritter, the former lead inspector for the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) Concealment and Investigations team in Iraq.
• Hans Blix, the former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq.
• Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, whose January book about his tenure inside the Bush administration was based, in part, on classified documents.
• Rand Beers, who quit as President Bush’s antiterrorism adviser to become John Kerry’s foreign policy adviser.
• Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who investigated whether Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger and later publicly accused the White House of manipulating his findings.
• John Brady Kiesling, a career U.S. diplomat who resigned to protest the Bush administration’s policies on Iraq.
• Ray McGovern, a retired CIA analyst on the steering committee of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
• Robin Cook, a former British foreign minister who quit and wrote a book saying the threat of Iraq was overblown.
• Katharine Gun, a British government linguist who was charged under the British Official Secrets Act for leaking an e-mail purportedly from U.S. intelligence services asking for help spying on U.N. ambassadors.
• Anthony Zinni, retired Marine general and former U.S. commander for the Middle East who has criticized the handling of postwar Iraq.
• Clare Short, a former international development secretary who resigned from British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government in protest after the invasion and later said she had seen transcripts of bugging of Kofi Annan’s office.
• Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired lieutenant colonel formerly assigned to the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans who wrote an article critical of the war on the online site Salon.com — entitled “The New Pentagon Papers.”
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle
(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.)
March 30th, 2004 - by admin
Geoffrey Lean / The lndependent (UK) – 2004-03-30 16:41:32
(March 28, 2004 ) — Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have jumped abruptly, raising fears that global warming may be accelerating out of control.
Measurements by US government scientists show that concentrations of the gas, the main cause of the climate exchange, rose by a record amount over the past 12 months. It is the third successive year in which they have increased sharply, marking an unprecedented triennial surge.
Scientists are at a loss to explain why the rapid rise has taken place, but fear that it could show the first signs that global warming is feeding on itself, with rising temperatures causing increases in carbon dioxide, which then go on to drive the thermometer even higher. That would be a deeply alarming development, suggesting that this self-reinforcing heating could spiral upwards beyond the reach of any attempts to combat it.
British CO2 Emissions on the Rise
The development comes as official figures show that Britain’s emissions of the gas soared by three percent last year, twice as fast as the year before. The increase — caused by rising energy use and by burning less gas and more coal in power stations — jeopardizes the Government’s target of reducing emissions by 19 per cent by 2010.
It also coincides with a new bid to break the log jam over the Kyoto treaty headed by Stephen Byers, the former transport secretary, who remains close to Tony Blair.
Mr Byers is co-chairing with US Republican Senator Olympia Snowe a new taskforce, run by the Institute of Public Policy Research and US and Australian think tanks, which is charged with devising proposals that could resolve the stalemate caused by President Bush’s hostility to the treaty.
The carbon dioxide measurements have been taken from the 11,400ft summit of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, whose enormous dome makes it the most substantial mountain on earth, by scientists working for the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
They have been taking the readings from the peak — effectively breathalyzing the planet — for the past 46 years. It is an ideal site for the exercise, 2,000 miles from the nearest land and protected by freak climatic conditions from pollution from Hawaii, more than two miles below.
Atmospheric CO2 Hits Record Levels
The latest measurements, taken a week ago, showed that carbon dioxide had reached about 379 parts per million (ppm), up from about 376ppm the year before, from 373ppm in 2002 and about 371ppm in 2001.
These represent three of the four biggest increases on record (the other was in 1998), creating an unprecedented sequence. They add up to a 64 per cent rise over the average rate of growth over the past decade, of 1.8ppm a year.
The US scientists have yet to analyze the figures and stress that they could be just a remarkable blip. Professor Ralph Keeling — whose father Charles Keeling first set up the measurements from Mauna Loa — said: “We are moving into a warmer world”.
© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
(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.)
March 29th, 2004 - by admin
IraqNet Information Network – 2004-03-29 10:39:08
BAGHDAD — Her Olympic dreams were put on hold 24 years ago when Saddam Hussein’s regime forced her to become a swimming coach and lifeguard at one of the dictator’s presidential compounds.
Now that Saddam is gone, Hamdiya Ahmed al-Sammak has taken up her athletic career again, training in the javelin throw five days a week despite daunting odds. She won’t say her age but is apparently in her early 50s. Al-Sammak is also blind in one eye and has a throwing arm that was broken in 1990 and never set properly.
She still holds the national women’s record for the javelin and has won medals at home in swimming, running, equestrian, discus and hammer throw. She represented Iraq twice abroad, winning two gold medals and two silvers during the Arab Games in Libya in 1975, and competed in the 1979 Asian Games in Thailand.
A 1980 visit by officials from the Ministry of Youth, which was in charge of sports, changed everything. Al-Sammak was ordered to work at a swimming pool at a presidential compound in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Radwaniyah.
“I refused for two weeks. Then the order came: ‘If you don’t come with us we will execute you,’ ” Al-Sammak said.
Her main task was teaching the wives and daughters of senior officials how to swim.
March 29th, 2004 - by admin
IraqNet / Iraq Information Network – 2004-03-29 10:36:04
(March 29, 2004) — What would you call an international scam that involves nearly $11 billion in bribes and payoffs, the involvement of corrupt officials in very high places, the diversion of funds intended for starving and sick children into private pockets and the reluctance of top U.S. allies and partners to cooperate with an investigation of it all?
Well, you could call it the most underreported story of the year, and you would be right. Or you could call it what it is: The brewing United Nations scandal over Iraq’s oil-for-food program.
It’s a scandal that has engulfed the administration of the respected UN chief, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and is threatening to erode the international organization’s credibility as an honest overseer of humanitarian projects for the world’s neediest people. And the unraveling scandal also shows that influential people in Russia and France were being paid off by Saddam Hussein in kickback schemes, possibly explaining why both nations were so opposed to military action to oust Hussein.
The scandal involves the $67-billion oil-for-food program the UN ran for Iraq until the invasion last year. The UN administered the proceeds from the oil that Iraq was allowed to sell under restrictive trade rules, with the money intended to purchase food and medicines for needy Iraq citizens who would otherwise suffer from the effects of the economic embargo.
What documents seized from the Iraqi oil ministry show, however, is that nearly $11 billion was siphoned off between 1997 and 2002 through various schemes involving payoffs, bribes, favoritism, kickbacks to Hussein, illegal surcharges, inflated port fees and widespread smuggling – all without effective oversight by UN agencies overseeing the program.
A Boondoggle of Collosal Proportions
The story first emerged earlier this year in reports published by an independent Iraqi newspaper, al Mada, based on lists kept by the oil ministry of several hundred individuals and corporations who benefited from the scheme.
The way it worked is that Hussein told suppliers to inflate their charges for food or medicine by the biggest possible margins. The excess would be skimmed off, part going to Hussein’s bank accounts in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, the rest divvied up through oil vouchers handed out to officials and corporations from more than 46 countries. Those vouchers would be turned over to one of several Hussein-controlled companies in the United Arab Emirates, in exchange for commissions of up to 30 cents a barrel.
The most damning of the documents — and testimony from former Iraqi oil officials — point to the alleged involvement of Benon Savan, the executive director of the Office of the Iraq Program at the UN. He was said to receive vouchers for close to 1 billion barrels of oil.
Also named in the list of beneficiaries were a British Labor MP hostile to Tony Blair’s support for the war, George Galloway; former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua; an Iraqi-American businessman, Shaker al-Kaffaji, who contributed $400,000 to produce a film by ex-UN inspector Scott Ritter discrediting the weapons searches; and a score of Russian companies with Kremlin ties, among others.
Annan has finally done the honorable thing, starting a formal probe of UN ties to the kickback schemes, over French and Russian objections. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget is starting an investigation and House hearings of possible UN abuses are expected next month.
This is a boondoggle of colossal dimensions that must be sorted out fully, if nothing else to recoup some of billions of dollars in payoffs and return it to the Iraqi people. But why has this scandal been ignored for so many months?
March 29th, 2004 - by admin
Ahmed Janabi / Al-Jazeera – 2004-03-29 10:33:35
(March 29, 2004) — A leading Iraqi police officer, Munim Abd al-Razaq, has urged officers from the disbanded Iraqi army to join the police to help counter the increasing problem of cocaine trafficking.
Polish and Ukrainian forces stationed near Badra and Zurbatia, the most active trafficking points on the 1200km Iraq-Iran border, have so far failed to ebb the flow.
Now, according to police sources, 1200 extra Iraqi policemen will be deployed in the area from April.
Iraqi Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman has criticised weak border controls for compounding the problem.”In the past, Iraq had thousands of checkpoints as well as guards, but today little attention is being given to this area,” he said.
Daylight Drug Selling
Saad Ibrahim, a journalist in Aljazeera’s Baghdad office, says the thousands of criminals released from prison just before the occupation of Iraq have also contributed to the growing drugs trade.
“Criminals released right before the war last year, a low standard of living since occupation, unemployment and stress are factors contributing to the rise in drug related crime.
“It’s not only cocaine. We have been witnessing many kinds of drugs that we’ve never seen in Iraq and drugged tea,” he says. Box sniff, a method of inhaling the powdered drugs off the hand, is commonplace.Waiters in some cafes in Baghdad understand when you ask them for ‘a 400-dinar tea’ it means tea with drugs mixed in.”
Drugs brought from Iran have been found in Iraq’s holy cities including Najaf and Karbala. Drug dealers can easily be found on the streets of these two religious centres.
In Baghdad narcotics are being sold with newspapers at traffic lights by Iraqi children.
“People in the past were afraid even to tell a joke about drugs in public, but now you can see children at traffic lights coming to you and asking if you need a newspaper or some capsules.”
March 28th, 2004 - by admin
Pratap Chatterjee / Special to CorpWatch – 2004-03-28 09:22:53
BAGHDAD (January 6th, 2004) — Zainab Abdul Hameed trudges back from her daily visit to the oil ministry in Baghdad. She is waiting for news on two fronts but has nothing to report today. Her assignment is to check on the electricity situation but she is also waiting to hear if she still has a job.
“No news today, but maybe tomorrow,” she tells us cheerfully. Nine months after the ousting of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s basic infrastructure is a shambles despite billions of dollars spent to fix it: Baghdad continues to suffer through ten hours of power cuts a day.
“We are free to report whatever we want,” says Hameed. “It’s not like under Saddam Hussein when we had to report what the government told us to say.”
To get back to work at the Iraqi Media Network’s Al Iraqiya radio and television station, run by a California-based multinational named Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Hameed has to walk through a maze of barbed wire, concrete barricades and three body searches run by the Florida National Guard and ISI, a private Iraqi security company.
Her office is on the third floor of the Baghdad convention center where the United States military holds press conferences about the occupation of her country. The fact that the Al Iraqiya’s main office is right above the military is no coincidence – the military is their only funder but the reporters say that the money is about to be cut off.
At the final checkpoint outside the entrance to the corridor of offices that houses Al Iraqiya’s offices, she passes a television that is almost always tuned to either Al Jazeera or Al Arabiya, the popular Middle Eastern satellite channels that are their main rivals.
In the streets of Basra and Baghdad we ask people if they watch Al Iraqiya and the answer is almost invariably no. What is most surprising is that we get the same answer from people who hate Saddam Hussein and support the Americans, almost everybody gets their news from Al Jazeera or Al Arabiya.
“Al Iraqiya has no news. Just yesterday’s information,” is the common refrain. Chagrined reporters at the Al Iraqiya agree because of strict rules that ban them from reporting material that might incite violence.
Management says that this is simply not true. We meet with Alaa Fa’ik, an Iraqi American from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who is the second in command at the Iraqi Media Network. He is dressed casually in a sweater, with short-cropped grey hair and glasses, with a military issued badge on a blue strap hanging round his neck that identifies him as a SAIC employee.
“I am not in competition with Al Jazeera, let them do whatever they want to do. In fact most Iraqis don’t have satellite dishes. Those that do found the remote control to be a new toy. Now they are returning to us because they trust us to tell the truth. Freedom has to be exercised with responsibility and we will not allow Saddam Hussein to use this as a platform,” he says.
However despite the fact that not everybody can afford a satellite dish, a recent government survey that shows that one in four Iraqis watch Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya compared to less than one in ten for Al Iraqiya.
Fa’ik also denies that the military has stifled their reporting.
“Yes, we are getting money from the Department of Defence. That is from you and me, the taxpayer. Are you reporting the fact that the ministry of education is funded by the United States government, the ministry of health is funded by the United States? I don’t understand why when it comes to the media, you say, no, no, no. So who is going to fund it?”
“The United States government took the responsibility of helping Iraq put foundations for democracy and change. So for them to support an independent Iraqi television should be welcomed. Every penny spent on this project has been worthwhile, despite the fact that I work here, really we are going to put an independent television, not controlled by the state. In Iraq, in the Middle East, this is a new concept for a station to be sponsored by the government but independent of the state,” he said.
This “concept” was proposed to the Pentagon in January, two months before the war began. At the time the Pentagon had hired SAIC to run a secret “government in exile” of Iraqi Americans in Virginia to plan the running of the country if Saddam Hussein was ousted. SAIC quickly spun off a committee of five Iraqi-Americans to plan this new media outlet, including Fa’ik.
Critics today point out that SAIC had zero experience in operating either a radio or television station although perhaps the company convinced the government that it had experience in military media management. It’s website offers a nine point program of “Information Dominance/Command and Control”, starting with ‘Battlefield Control’ and ending with ‘Information Warfare/Information Operations’.
Indeed intelligence experts say that it is the largest recipient of contracts from the National Security Agency and one of the top five contractors to the Central Intelligence Agency, two of the top spy agencies in the United States. (see sidebar)
Following fuzzy TV broadcasts from United States Air Force’s EC-130E ‘Commando Solo’ psyops (psychological operations) planes and the radio broadcasts, IMN went on the air with radio April 10 and television May 13. Faik himself worked on the first radio broadcasts to Southern Iraq from Kuwait.
“For me as an Iraqi American, I am on the two sides of the coin, as an Iraqi, I want the American money. As an American I want to like to help build an independent media, this is a concept that is new to the whole Middle East. This is an experiment, if it succeeds, it is going to set new rules for the media in the Arab world,” he told CorpWatch.
But others who worked for SAIC from the beginning say that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA, the United States-led occupation government) has caused the experiment to fail. Don North, a correspondent in Vietnam, Washington and the Middle East for ABC and NBC News, called Al Iraqiya “Project Frustration” when he quit in July.
“IMN has become an irrelevant mouthpiece for CPA propaganda, managed news and mediocre programs. I have trained journalists after the fall of tyrannies in Bosnia, Romania and Afghanistan. I don’t blame the Iraqi journalists for the failure of IMN. Through a combination of incompetence and indifference, CPA has destroyed the fragile credibility of IMN,” he wrote recently.
North says that a $500 request for a satellite dish to downlink the Reuters news feed was refused and a $200 request for printing a training manual that he put together in Arabic for reporters was turned down.
North was not the only senior staffer to quit. The first news director, Ahmad Al Rikaby, proudly told Baghdad Bulletin: “I opened my eyes to a family who were fighting Saddam Hussein and became part of this fight — I always wanted to speak freely in Iraq but never had a chance to do so. The project of creating free media in Iraq is an honor, a dream.” But he too resigned when the CPA re-hired staff troublemakers or Baathists (Saddam Hussein’s political party) that he had fired.
Meanwhile those reporters who stayed on were ordered to cover daily CPA news conferences, interviews and photo opportunities while being paid the equivalent of $120 a month, leading to major strikes by the reporters.
Today even the Pentagon appears to have realized that the concept of a military funded independent radio and television station has failed or that SAIC has done a bad job because the rumors among the staff are that they will lose the contract by the end of the month. Military officials deny that they have made a final decision but admit that a major new effort is in the works.
Later this month, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees all United States non-military propoganda efforts such as the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), Radio and TV Marti, is to launch a new Middle East Network (MEN), with more than $100 million in government funding, which promoters say will resemble CNN, MSNBC and the Discovery Channel.
“We will be on two fronts,” Norman J. Pattiz, chairman of the BBG’s Middle East committee, told TV Week recently. “We will be on satellite across the Middle East, but will also provide a targeted product that will be available terrestrially only within Iraq, which will focus on Iraq.”
The new network, serving 22 countries, will be based in Springfield, Virginia, will initially broadcast 12 to 15 hours a day. It will have a broadcast center in Dubai and news bureaus in Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Baghdad, Iraq; and Jerusalem. It has an arrangement to use the resources and video footage of the Associated Press from the region and around the world.
SAIC has applied to run MEN but most observers think that they are unlikely to get the job given their poor track record after almost a year of planning and operations.
Surveillance for Sale
In the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, 2002, San Diego-based Science Applications International Corporation generated $6.1 billion in revenue and ranked number 294 on the Fortune 500 list of the largest U.S. companies. Founded in 1969 by physicist J. Robert Beyster, formerly a nuclear scientist with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, it is an employee-owned, decentralized company.
The company made a fortune during the dot com boom by buying Network Solutions, the Web domain name keeper, for $4.5 million in 1996 and selling it for $3.1 billion before the bubble popped.
But SAIC’s biggest source of income is surveillance especially for the United States spy agencies: it is reportedly the largest recipient of contracts from the National Security Agency (NSA) and one of the top five contractors to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Some 5,000 employees (or one in eight employees) have security clearances. Beyster himself has one of the highest top-secret clearances of any civilian in the country.
“We are a stealth company,” Keith Nightingale, a former Army special ops officer, told a magazine named Business 2.0. “We’re everywhere, but almost never seen.”
Today two of SAIC’s most valuable products are: TeraText and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) data-mining programs that are used by intelligence agencies to sift the immense volumes of data they now collect by monitoring phone calls, faxes, e-mails, and other types of electronic communications.
TeraText can process two billion documents every four seconds by identifying patterns and connections between names, terms, and ideas. For example, a CIA analyst might type in a request for all documents mentioning the name “Paris” the word “sleeper,” and the term “plane” a possible code for a suicide bombing attack, organize the search by language, by time of day, and instantly retrieve all places in which the terms appeared in, say, a single sentence. LSI uses artificial intelligence that allows it to make judgments for abstract relationships among intercepted texts and public documents, and can find even less distinct patterns.
SAIC became home to former United Nations weapons inspector David Kay who went to SAIC as a vice president from 1993 to 2002. Last year he was hired by the CIA to return to Iraq and head the search for weapons of mass destruction.
Critics note that the company has a revolving door with the spy agencies: NSA veteran William B. Black Jr. retired from the intelligence agency in 1997, went to SAIC for three years and returned to the NSA as deputy director in 2000. Two years later, SAIC won the $282 million job of overseeing the latest phase of Trailblazer, the most thorough revamping in the agency’s history of its eavesdropping systems.
SAIC has dozens of other government contracts: it trains air marshals for the Federal Aviation Administration, works with Bechtel to run the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada on Western Shoshone traditional lands (despite major protests from the Native Americans), The Army hired the company to destroy old chemical weapons at Aberdeen Proving Ground, the National Cancer Institute uses SAIC to help run its research facility in Frederick, the Transportation Security Administration asked it to dispose of scissors and pocket knives confiscated from air travelers and SAIC’s unmanned Vigilante helicopters, equipped with Raytheon’s low-cost, precision-kill rockets, are to undergo testing by the Army.
Not all of its surveillance work is for the United States military The company has installed a location-based Global Positioning System tracking service for BellSouth’s 14,000 installation and maintenance vehicles and today its latest contract is to run security for the upcoming Athens Olympics from a zeppelin that will hover over the city.
March 28th, 2004 - by admin
CorpWatch – 2004-03-28 09:21:29
OAKLAND (March 19, 2004) — Exactly one year after the United States launched the dawn invasion of Iraq, war profiteering by multinational companies is at an all-time high with military contractors dramatically boosting revenues by 19% over 2002.
Today Corpwatch, an Oakland, California, based non-profit is launching a brand new version of the popular War Profiteers website to track these military contractors on a regular basis.
The website, which can be found at warprofiteers, is the one-stop shop for communities, citizens, taxpayers, policy makers, media, students and activists to learn about the new merchants of global conflict.
“Profiting from killing is wrong. What makes it even more outrageous is that taxpayers have to foot the bill. We intend to investigate these abuses and inform the public about what these companies are doing.
“This new website will be the premier place for the pubic to find out what is happening behind the scenes of the so-called war on terrorism,” said Pratap Chatterjee, program director at Corpwatch.
Private Industries Comprised Ten Percent of the Iraq Invasion Force
Today one in ten personnel in the 2003 invasion of Iraq come from private industry, a dramatic ten-fold increase over the previous Gulf War in 1991.
Not only were most of these employees drawn from the biggest military contractors in the United States: the company that won the most new work was the company that the Vice-President Dick Cheney headed up before he took office: Halliburton Corporation and its subsidiaries (e.g., Kellogg, Brown, and Root) have won over $8 billion in contracts.
Their military revenue in 2003 of $3.9 billion was a staggering 700% higher than the previous year!
The new website will feature weekly updates and regular investigative features from our new military researcher, Adam Clay Thompson, based in Washington DC.
A special “Focus on Iraq” section will provide the latest news about companies profiting from the continued occupation of that country, continuing Corpwatch’s award winning coverage of companies like Halliburton and Bechtel.
Profiteers To Be Profiled, Analyzed and Monitored
In addition, it will have selected profiles of major war profiteers and explanations of the main sectors: weapons making, security, intelligence, military logistics, reconstruction, policy & planning, multilateral and bilateral finance and the mineral extraction industry.
The website will also offer updated fact sheets, action items and a calendar of events.
The War Profiteers web site was originally created to distribute the popular War Profiteer deck of cards, which has sold over 10,000 sets to date. This deck will is available for a donation to the Ruckus Society, one of the original creators of this popular game.
The Corpwatch Mission: CorpWatch counters corporate-led globalization through education, network-building and activism. We work to foster democratic control over corporations by building a diverse movement for human rights and dignity, labor rights and environmental justice.
CorpWatch 1611 Telegraph Avenue., #702 Oakland, CA 94612 USA Tel: + 1 510-271-8080
CONTACT: Pratap Chatterjee Tel: + 1 510 759 8970 (mobile phone)
March 28th, 2004 - by admin
John Plunkett / The Guardian (UK) – 2004-03-28 09:00:22
LONDON (March 19, 2004) — The controversial anti-war MP George Galloway demanded a government inquiry today after a US newspaper which falsely accused him of accepting $10 million from Saddam Hussein apologised and paid undisclosed damages.
The article in the Christian Science Monitor was based on documents given to a journalist by an Iraqi general. But tests showed that the documents, dated between 1992 and 1993, were in fact only a few months old.
Mr Galloway, who was expelled by Labour after remarks interpreted as inciting Arabs to fight British troops, said the forged documents were evidence of a dirty tricks campaign against him and other anti-war campaigners around the world.
A Crime Has Been Committed and the General ‘Is Known’
“A crime has been committed against an elected British member of parliament,” said Mr Galloway. “The general who passed on these documents is known. I want the British embassy to launch an investigation to find out why he did it, on whose behalf, and what other documents he has forged. They are very elaborate documents and were not cooked up in someone’s kitchen. It is a systematic conspiracy.”
The Christian Science Monitor, a newspaper based in Boston, wrongly claimed that Mr Galloway had received payments of more than $10 million in return for his support for Saddam Hussein’s regime. The article alleged the payments pointed to a concerted effort by the Iraqi regime to win western friends who would promote Iraqi interests.
One of the documents was reported as stating that payments were made to Mr Galloway in return for his “courageous and daring stands against the enemies of Iraq, like Blair, the British prime minister, and for his opposition in the House of Commons and Lords against all outrageous lies against our patient people”.
High Court Apology Called ‘Complete Vindication’
Mr Galloway said today’s apology in London’s high court was a “complete vindication”. The MP’s solicitor, Mark Bateman, told the court the allegations were “false and without foundation”.
“The allegations contained in the Christian Science Monitor‘s story that Mr Galloway opposed the UN-imposed sanctions on Iraq and, thereafter, opposed the recent conflict in Iraq because he had been paid by the Iraqi regime are false and without foundation,” said Mr Bateman.
“The allegations were highly defamatory of Mr Galloway. Understandably, they caused immense distress and anxiety to Mr Galloway, his family, his constituents and supporters. Mr Galloway was not willing to let his reputation be impugned in this way.”
Galloway Sues Telegraph for Libel
Mr Galloway also launched high court libel proceedings against the Daily Telegraph after it made similar claims last April that he was in the pay of Saddam Hussein. The action is ongoing and is due to be heard in the high court in November, according to the MP’s spokesman.
The Christian Science Monitor originally apologised to Mr Galloway last July after it was revealed the documents were fake. “At the time we published these documents, we felt they were newsworthy and appeared credible, although we did explicitly state in our article that we could not guarantee their authenticity,” said Paul Van Slambrouck, the editor of the Monitor.
“It is important to set the record straight: we are convinced the documents are bogus. We apologise to Mr Galloway and to our readers,” he added.
But the apology was rejected by Mr Galloway. “This newspaper published on its front page in every country in the world that I had taken $10 million from Saddam Hussein,” he said.
“That was a grave and serious libel. Of course, the documents were a forgery and a newspaper of that importance ought to have made the effort, both morally and legally, to establish the authenticity of those documents before they published them.”
Mr Galloway now stands as an Independent MP for Glasgow Kelvin, and launched a new political party, Respect, after he was thrown out of the Labour party. He plans to run in the European elections on June 10.
To contact the MediaGuardian newsdesk email email@example.com or phone 020 7239 9857
Archives by Month: