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Friendly Fire Deaths on the Rise

May 31st, 2004 - by admin

The American War Library – 2004-05-31 11:36:21


The Michael Eugene Mullen American Friendly-Fire Notebook was established by The American War Library on November 11,1996, This database records estimates of the number of US troops injured and killed by other US forces.

Records have been assembled begining with WW 2 and continuing through the first Persian Gulf War. The trend suggests that the increased firepower of modern war may be increasing the numbers of “friendly-fire” incidents and causing growing numbers of US combat deaths.

In WW 2, approximately one death in five was the result of friendly fire. By the first Gulf War, nearly half of the deaths of US soldiers were attributed to friendly fire.

Friendly Fire Estimates Since WW2

The following are The American War Library’s best estimates on friendly fire casualties (both fatal and non-fatal) based on historic War Dept, Dept. of the Navy and Dept of Defense casualty reports detailing various battle reports.

At best, these are conservative figures. Which is to say, these figures represent the minimal percentages of Friendly Fire casualties on record so far. As additional friendly fire incidents are discovered these figures will increase, not decrease.

War/Campaign Percent Casualties (US Military only)*

World War II 21%
Korea 18%
Vietnam 39%
Persian Gulf 49%

* Both fatal and non-fatal (These figures do not include murders or deliberate or accidental self-inflicted wounds and/or fatalities)

Amicicide: the problem of friendly fire in modern war was a lesser problem in the days of small armies, circumscribed battlefields, and line-of-sight weaponry. In modern warfare, the engagement of friendly forces by friendly fire has become a serious and growing problem.

http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/ csi/Shrader/shrader.asp


‘Smart Bullet’ Reports Back Wirelessly

May 31st, 2004 - by admin

Will Knight / NewScientist.com news service – 2004-05-31 11:33:57


FLORIDA (May 28, 2004) — A “smart bullet” that can be fired at a target and then wirelessly transmit back useful information has been developed by US researchers. The projectile, created at the University of Florida in Gainesville, is 1.7 centimetres in diameter and can be fired from an ordinary paint-ball gun. The front is coated in an adhesive polymer that sticks it to the target.

Inside, the elongated projectile holds a sensor, a tiny wireless transmitter and a battery. This enables it to report back its findings to a laptop or handheld computer up to 70 metres away. It can also be reusable, because compressed gas within the gun provides the propulsion.

The prototype developed by the researchers was fitted with an accelerometer. To test it, students fired it at a target which was then shaken to activate the accelerometer and produce data for transmission. Lockheed Martin, which provided funding for the project, is interested in developing a version containing a miniature sensor capable of detecting traces of the explosive TNT.

“If you had a good chemical sensor on this projectile, you could fire it into the trash, stand back and determine whether it could detect TNT leaking out,” says Leslie Kramer, director of engineering for the Lockheed Martin subsidiary Missiles and Fire Control.

Loc Vu-Quoc, one of the university team, says the potential advantage of the system is that “you’d be able to stand far away from the target”. He says other researchers are already working on miniaturizing TNT detection.

However, Colin King, editor of the British defense industry magazine Jane’s Explosives Ordinance Disposal says this goal may be unrealistic. “Methods for detecting traces of explosives require a lot of equipment,” he told New Scientist. “I can’t think of a sensible way it could work.”

The smallest explosive vapor detectors currently available are handheld. King also warns that firing a projectile at a potential explosive goes against bomb disposal guidelines. Nevertheless, King believes the projectile sensor might still be useful. “It sounds like there could be better applications in counter-surveillance,” he suggests.


Pat Tillman Was Killed by ‘Friendly Fire’

May 31st, 2004 - by admin

Josh White / The Washington Post – 2004-05-31 11:17:13


WASHINGTON — Pat Tillman, the former pro football player, was killed by other American troops in a friendly fire episode in Afghanistan last month instead of by enemy bullets, according to a US investigation of the incident.

New details released Saturday about Tillman’s death indicate that he was gunned down by members of his elite Army Ranger platoon who mistakenly shot in his direction during an enemy ambush.

NBC News questions if any enemy was in the area and the shooting started from an over reaction to an explosion in the area).

According to a summary of the Army investigation, a Ranger squad leader mistook an allied Afghan Militia Force soldier standing near Tillman as the enemy, and he and other US soldiers opened fire, killing both men.

That Tillman, 27, wasn’t killed by enemy fire in a heroic rescue attempt was a major revelation by the US military more than a month after the April 22 incident, which the Pentagon and members of Congress had hailed as an example of combat bravery. Tillman’s sacrifice of millions of dollars to become a soldier has been held up as a stark contrast to the prison scandal in Iraq.

Shortly after his death, Army officials awarded Tillman a Silver Star for combat valor and a Purple Heart. They said Tillman, a corporal, was killed while charging at the enemy up a hill, allowing the rest of his platoon to escape alive.

Instead, it appears Tillman’s bravery in battle led him to become a victim of a series of mishaps as he was trying to protect part of his stranded platoon, which Army officials say was attacked while hampered by a disabled vehicle it had in tow.

The report said Tillman got out of his vehicle and shot at the enemy during a 20-minute firefight before he was killed when members of his unit opened fire after returning to the scene to help.

A woman who answered the door at the home of Tillman’s parents in San Jose said the family did not have anything to say publicly.

News of Tillman’s death by friendly fire was first reported Saturday in the Arizona Republic and the Argus of Fremont newspapers. New details about the incident emerged Saturday. Military officials could not explain the discrepancy between earlier reports and the releases Friday, saying that a month long investigation into the attack helped clarify the events.

The investigation reports that Tillman was killed after he got out of his vehicle and fought about a dozen enemy insurgents in restricted terrain and in poor light conditions.

“While there was no one specific finding of fault, the investigation results indicate that Cpl. Tillman probably died as a result of friendly fire while his unit was engaged in combat with enemy forces,” said Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger Jr., who is in charge of the US Army’s Special Operations Command, based in Fort Bragg, N.C.

“The results of this investigation in no way diminish the bravery and sacrifice displayed by Cpl. Tillman. Cpl. Tillman was shot and killed while responding to enemy fire without regard for his own safety.”

The report summary, however, leaves no doubt that Tillman was killed by friendly fire, saying that the Afghan fighter was “misidentified” by a Ranger squad leader, who then attacked. The report said other soldiers, who generally look to squad leaders for guidance, followed suit.

“Other members of the platoon, observing the direction of fire by the squad leader, oriented their fire in the same direction,” the summary says. “This fire fatally wounded one Ranger and the AMF soldier.”

Two other US soldiers were injured by friendly fire in the same melee, though Army officials said Saturday they could not provide details. The full investigative report has yet to be released.

According to the summary, the incident was the result of a series of problems and failures as the Ranger platoon moved from one assignment to another through the mountainous terrain along the Pakistan border, about 90 miles south of Kabul, near the village of Spera.

First, a vehicle with Tillman’s unit broke down and the platoon mechanic could not fix it. Then, without available air resources to lift the vehicle out of the area, the soldiers decided to tow the vehicle as they moved to their next assignment.

On April 22, the soldiers split the platoon, sending a working vehicle ahead while Tillman’s unit towed the disabled one, slowing it down, according to a spokesman for the US Central Command in Florida.

“Approximately 30 minutes after the platoon split off in their separate directions, the section with the non-mission capable vehicle was ambushed by anti-coalition forces,” the summary said. “Hearing the engagement, the other section of the platoon maneuvered to the location of the ambush and engaged in the fight.”

It was then that the Afghan soldier was mistaken for the enemy and was killed when the other half of the platoon returned. Tillman, who was by his side, also was shot, the report said.

Tillman and his fellow Rangers were attacked in a region where US forces have been searching out Taliban and al-Qaida leaders who are believed to be hiding there.

Operation Mountain Storm has been scouring the area for months — looking for such leaders as Osama bin Laden — and has frequently been involved in skirmishes.

Kensinger, in his statement at Fort Bragg, said Tillman’s unit was ambushed with small-arms and mortar fire at about 7:30 p.m. local time in the vicinity of a military base in Khost, Afghanistan. He described the ensuing firefight as “intense” and involving about a dozen enemy fighters shooting from multiple locations.

“There is an inherent degree of confusion in any firefight, particularly when a unit is ambushed, and especially under difficult light and terrain conditions which produce an environment that increases the likelihood of fratricide,” Kensinger said.

A member of Company A of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Tillman was one of an elite force of Army light-infantry soldiers often used for difficult assault missions around the globe.

He and his brother, Kevin, joined the Army in 2002 after he expressed deep patriotism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Kevin Tillman also was an Army Ranger and was part of the same battalion.

Pat Tillman, an Arizona Cardinals safety, walked away from a $3.6 million contract and made less than $20,000 in the Army. He shunned media attention, telling his family and the military that he
didn’t want to be treated differently than other soldiers.


Set a Date to Pull Out

May 30th, 2004 - by admin

James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon / Washington Post – 2004-05-30 18:05:23


(May 18, 2004) — American policy in Iraq faces a crisis. Mainstream US political leaders, including President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry, have continued to insist that we must “stay the course” and that “failure is not an option.” But these slogans are not enough to rescue a failing policy.

The success of our mission has depended from the outset on the perception by the Iraqi people that our presence is necessary to secure their own future. Today that premise is increasingly in doubt.

Unless we restore the Iraqi people’s confidence in our role, failure is not only an option but a likelihood. Critical to achieving our goal is an announced decision to end the current military deployment by the end of next year, following the Iraqi adoption of a constitution, together with greatly intensified training for the Iraqi security forces. Otherwise, the issue may well be not how long we want to stay but how soon the Iraqis kick us out.

From the beginning the administration’s strategy assumed that the United States would be welcomed as “liberators” by most Iraqis. Yet the failure of the US-led provisional authority to provide basic security for many, and the slow pace of reconstruction, has eroded support for our presence.

Iraq Was ‘Better Off’ under Saddam
The Abu Ghraib outrages and the recent escalation of fighting have further undermined our position. A majority of Iraqis now believe their country is worse off than before Saddam Hussein was overthrown, according to a recent poll.

This dramatic loss of support undermines the legitimacy of our continued military presence. It also makes our task of stabilizing the country nearly impossible.

The problem is compounded by our own ambivalence about the political transition in Iraq. Although we defined our mission as liberation, we have been deeply reluctant to trust the Iraqi people to set their own course.

From the decision to install a handpicked interim governing council, to our initial reluctance to support early elections for the limited authority we plan to grant the transition government after June 30, the message is that we will not permit self-determination in Iraq until Iraqis choose a government that meets our goal: a Western-style democracy broadly supportive of US interests in the region.

That objective was wildly ambitious even before the military operation began; today it is simply unattainable in the near term. The more we talk about staying “as long as it takes” the more it appears we are trying to impose our vision on Iraq — further alienating the Iraqi public.

The danger is not that we will cut and run but that the Iraqis will insist that we get out, leaving behind a security vacuum that could ignite civil war and wider regional strife.

How Can We Avoid Disaster?
How can we avoid such a disaster? First, we must make clear that our military presence in Iraq is designed to permit the Iraqis to freely choose their own future — even if it is not fully to our liking.

We should indicate not just that we will leave if asked but that we will ourselves plan to end the deployment of coalition forces following the election of an Iraqi government and the adoption of a new constitution next year.

We should make clear that we (as part of a wider international coalition) would be prepared to stay beyond that time — but only at the request of the new Iraqi government, and as part of a new, UN-sponsored mandate on terms that are acceptable to the new Iraqi government and to us.

Second, we must be clear about our legitimate security interests in Iraq. We have a right to insist that a new Iraqi government not threaten peace and security — by developing weapons of mass destruction, harboring terrorists or attacking other nations. And we should certainly seek to use our influence to encourage a tolerant, pluralist society.

But because this is a responsibility Iraq owes to all, not just us, we should shift the focus away from the United States as the enforcement arm of the international community to Iraq’s neighbors and others that share these interests, including NATO and the United Nations.

We should begin by convening a major international summit on Iraq, involving not only Western allies but also Arab leaders and Iraqis, at the time of the NATO summit next month in Istanbul. And we should invite the International Atomic Energy Agency to play a role in ensuring that a new Iraqi government does not pursue weapons programs.

Third, we should accelerate the training and equipping of new security forces for Iraq. Less than 10 percent of the necessary numbers of soldiers and police have been properly trained to date. Filling this vacuum is critical to the success of this strategy, because indigenous forces are far more likely than foreign forces to succeed in defeating the residual Baathist and foreign fighters in Iraq.

If Arab countries and NATO devoted just 10 percent of their police and military training capacity to Iraqi forces, we could complete an intensified training process by next year.

Some will see this as cut-and-run. It is not. Unlike the case with most previous stabilization missions, our own enduring commitment to success in Iraq is beginning to work against us. It breeds cynicism among Iraqis that we are like the colonialists of old, planning to stay indefinitely to keep our hands on their oil and to use Iraq for our own, broader foreign policy objectives.

The lesson of our history is that our best partners are those who freely choose to be. We must give the Iraqis the opportunity to seize that possibility for themselves.

James Steinberg was deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration and is vice president and director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution; Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow there.


Mercenaries: The Other US Military

May 30th, 2004 - by admin

Spencer E. Ante and Stan Crock / Newsweek – 2004-05-30 17:56:24


(May 21, 2004) — Almost since the first American tank rolled into Iraq last year, the role of private military contractors has been controversial.

When Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. (HAC ), billed the government hundreds of millions of dollars to support the invasion, critics griped that it was receiving preferential treatment because of ties to the Bush Administration — and was overcharging to boot.

When the bodies of four security guards employed by Blackwater USA were mutilated in Fallujah in March while escorting food deliveries to US troops, Marines laid siege to the city, igniting widespread violence.

And when a classified US military report came to light in late April alleging abuses of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, private military contractors (PMCS) found themselves in the center of a firestorm.

The end of the Cold War and Pentagon efforts to increase efficiency, speed the delivery of services, and free troops for purely military missions have triggered a boom in the outsourcing of work to private contractors. Indeed, with the strength of America’s armed forces down 29%, to 1.5 million, since 1991, contractors have become a permanent part of the military machine, doing everything from providing food services to guarding Iraq Administrator L. Paul Bremer.

Now, along with the heady growth, come mounting concerns that an industry dependent on taxpayer dollars has been spiraling out of control. That has Congress, the Defense Dept., and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq scrambling to draft regulations that make contractors — both on the security and services/reconstruction side of the industry — more accountable.

Like many businesses that have to staff up rapidly, some security contractors have cut corners in the rush to expand. On the ground in Iraq, contractors appear to have operated with little or no supervision. Mercenaries are not choirboys, but some outfits have signed up hired guns trained by repressive regimes. And revelations that civilians are performing sensitive tasks such as interrogation have jolted Congress and the public.

“This outsourcing thing has gone crazy,” says Gary D. Solis, a former Marine Corps judge advocate and now adjunct law professor at Georgetown University. “You have a lot of people with heavy weaponry answerable to no one.”

Taking a Pledge
Contractor problems are not confined to the headline-making security and interrogation side of the business. The CPA’s new inspector general, Stuart W. Bowen, is currently auditing five of the biggest contractors in Iraq — Fluor (FLR ), Parsons, Washington Group International, Perini (PCR ), and KBR –to make sure they are following U.S. laws and codes of ethics, BusinessWeek has learned. “Our intent is to deter waste, fraud, and abuse and ensure compliance with federal law,” Bowen said in a phone call from Baghdad.

There is no single industry association for contractors, but one group, International Peace Operations Assn. in Rosslyn, Va., is trying to bring some order to the security outfits. Members of the IPOA must pledge to follow a code of conduct and “strictly adhere to all relevant international laws and protocols on human rights.” The IPOA currently has just nine members, including ArmorGroup International Inc., a British security firm with 900 employees in Iraq. But, says IPOA President Doug Brooks, “companies are starting to come together and realize the value of having an organization that sets standards.”

Big, But How Big
Although many PMCs agree that the industry would benefit from increased oversight, some say Uncle Sam’s proposals may go too far. Blackwater USA, based in Moyock, N.C., which has been criticized for employing former Chilean commandos trained during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, takes issue with a Defense Dept. proposal to apply the Uniform Code of Military Justice to contractors. But, says Blackwater spokesman Chris Bertelli, “we have no problem with industry standards for hiring practices.”

The exact size of the PMC business is difficult to determine because there is no central register of contracts, and the Defense Dept. sometimes has other agencies do its purchasing. For example, the contract with CACI International Inc. (CAI ) at Abu Ghraib prison was administered by the Interior Dept., according to The Washington Post. Still, P.W. Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, estimates it is a $100 billion industry with several hundred companies operating in more than 100 countries.

In a May 4 letter to the House Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that approximately 20,000 private security workers are employed in Iraq. That doesn’t include the thousands of civilians reconstructing bridges, roads, and phone lines. In the Gulf War, the military outsourced only 1% of its work, primarily for airfield maintenance. Singer estimates that contractors are handling as much as 30% of the military’s services — including reconstruction — in Iraq. “We have pushed outsourcing way beyond what anyone contemplated,” he says.

Spying a growth business, some big defense contractors are scooping up PMCs, many of which — especially in the security sector — are small and privately held. Computer Sciences (CSC ) acquired DynCorp, Northrop Grumman (NOC ) bought Vinnell, and L-3 Communications nabbed Military Professional Resources Inc. “[Defense giants] have been buying up these companies like mad,” says Deborah D. Avant, a professor at George Washington University who is writing a book about military contractors. “This is where they think the future is.”

Yet in the wake of Abu Ghraib, critics, including current and former military officials, are starting to ask some hard questions: Has the military pushed outsourcing too far too fast? Where do you draw the line? And who’s in charge? A June, 2003, report by the General Accounting Office concluded that there are no Defense Dept.-wide policies “on the use of contractors to support deployed forces,” a situation that sows confusion.

Few analysts see a fundamental problem with contractors building base camps, serving food, and cleaning toilets — the logistical side of making war. The growing concern is about using contractors to perform functions such as security and interrogation. A report by Major General Antonio M. Taguba concluded that two interrogators-for-hire, one from CACI and one from Titan Corp. (TTN ), in conjunction with military officers, “were either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.” Titan says the individual worked for a subcontractor.

“Why the hell were contractors there in the first place?” asks John D. Hutson, a former Rear Admiral and Navy judge advocate general who is now dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center. “I have a problem with people carrying weapons in an offensive way. And I have a serious problem with people in sensitive positions, like interrogators.”

Blindsided by the Abu Ghraib scandal and allegations that PMCs have hired questionable employees, Congress is putting the Pentagon on notice to get a grip on mercenaries and even more benign contractors.

House and Senate bills would require Defense to provide Congress with a plan for collecting data on contractors and clarifying the responsibilities of commanders who manage them. This Wild West of a business is not going to go away, but it could get a lot tamer fast.

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.


Darfur Is Being Destroyed

May 30th, 2004 - by admin

Human Rights Watch – 2004-05-30 17:48:47


(May 29, 2004) — The government of Sudan is responsible for “ethnic cleansing” and crimes against humanity in Darfur, one of the world’s poorest and most inaccessible regions, on Sudan’s western border with Chad.

The Sudanese government and the Arab “Janjaweed” militias it arms and supports have committed numerous attacks on the civilian populations of the African Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. Government forces oversaw and directly participated in massacres, summary executions of civilians–including women and children–burnings of towns and villages, and the forcible depopulation of wide swathes of land long inhabited by the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.

The Janjaweed militias, Muslim like the African groups they attack, have destroyed mosques, killed Muslim religious leaders, and desecrated Qorans belonging to their enemies.

The government and its Janjaweed allies have killed thousands of Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa– often in cold blood, raped women, and destroyed villages, food stocks and other supplies essential to the civilian population.

They have driven more than one million civilians, mostly farmers, into camps and settlements in Darfur where they live on the very edge of survival, hostage to Janjaweed abuses. More than 110,000 others have fled to neighbouring Chad but the vast majority of war victims remain trapped in Darfur.

This conflict has historical roots but escalated in February 2003, when two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) drawn from members of the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa ethnic groups, demanded an end to chronic economic marginalization and sought power-sharing within the Arab-ruled Sudanese state.

They also sought government action to end the abuses of their rivals, Arab pastoralists who were driven onto African farmlands by drought and desertification-and who had a nomadic tradition of armed militias.

The government has responded to this armed and political threat by targeting the civilian populations from which the rebels were drawn. It brazenly engaged in ethnic manipulation by organizing a military and political partnership with some Arab nomads comprising the Janjaweed; armed, trained, and organized them; and provided effective impunity for all crimes committed.

The government-Janjaweed partnership is characterized by joint attacks on civilians rather than on the rebel forces. These attacks are carried out by members of the Sudanese military and by Janjaweed wearing uniforms that are virtually indistinguishable from those of the army.

Although Janjaweed always outnumber regular soldiers, during attacks the government forces usually arrive first and leave last. In the words of one displaced villager, “They [the soldiers] see everything” that the Janjaweed are doing. “They come with them, they fight with them and they leave with them.”

The government-Janjaweed attacks are frequently supported by the Sudanese air force. Many assaults have decimated small farming communities, with death tolls sometimes approaching one hundred people. Most are unrecorded.

Human Rights Watch spent twenty-five days in and on the edges of West Darfur, documenting abuses in rural areas that were previously well-populated with Masalit and Fur farmers. Since August 2003, wide swathes of their homelands, among the most fertile in the region, have been burned and depopulated.

With rare exceptions, the countryside is now emptied of its original Masalit and Fur inhabitants. Everything that can sustain and succour life – livestock, food stores, wells and pumps, blankets and clothing – has been looted or destroyed. Villages have been torched not randomly, but systematically – often not once, but twice.

The uncontrolled presence of Janjaweed in the burned countryside, and in burned and abandoned villages, has driven civilians into camps and settlements outside the larger towns, where the Janjaweed kill, rape, and pillage–even stealing emergency relief items–with impunity.

Despite international calls for investigations into allegations of gross human rights abuses, the government has responded by denying any abuses while attempting to manipulate and stem information leaks. It has limited reports from Darfur in the national press, restricted international media access, and has tried to obstruct the flow of refugees into Chad.

Only after significant delays and international pressure, were two high-level UN assessment teams permitted to enter Darfur. The government has promised unhindered humanitarian access, but has failed to deliver. Instead, recent reports of government tampering with mass graves and other evidence suggest the government is fully aware of the immensity of its crimes and is now attempting to cover up any record.

With the rainy season starting in late May and the ensuing logistical difficulties exacerbated by Darfur’s poor roads and infrastructure, any international monitoring of the shaky April ceasefire and continuing human rights abuses, as well as access to humanitarian assistance, will become more difficult.

The United States Agency for International Development has warned that unless the Sudanese government breaks with past practice and grants full and immediate humanitarian access, at least 100,000 war-affected civilians could die in Darfur from lack of food and from disease within the next twelve months.

The international community, which so far has been slow to exert all possible pressure on the Sudanese government to reverse the ethnic cleansing and end the associated crimes against humanity it has carried out, must act now.

The UN Security Council, in particular, should take urgent measures to ensure the protection of civilians, provide for the unrestricted delivery of humanitarian assistance and reverse ethnic cleansing in Darfur. It will soon be too late.


History Lesson: GOP Must Stop Bush

May 29th, 2004 - by admin

Carl Bernstein / USA Today – 2004-05-29 15:03:23


(May 24, 2004) Thirty years ago, a Republican president, facing impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate, was forced to resign because of unprecedented crimes he and his aides committed against the Constitution and people of the United States.

Ultimately, Richard Nixon left office voluntarily because courageous leaders of the Republican Party put principle above party and acted with heroism in defense of the Constitution and rule of law.

“What did the president know and when did he know it?” a Republican senator — Howard Baker of Tennessee — famously asked of Nixon 30 springtimes ago.

Today, confronted by the graphic horrors of Abu Ghraib prison, by ginned-up intelligence to justify war, by 652 American deaths since presidential operatives declared “Mission Accomplished,” Republican leaders have yet to suggest that George W. Bush be held responsible for the disaster in Iraq and that perhaps he, not just Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is ill-suited for his job.

What Did Bush Know and When Did He Know It?
Having read the report of Major Gen. Antonio Taguba, I expect Baker’s question will resound again in another congressional investigation. The equally relevant question is whether Republicans will, Pavlov-like, continue to defend their president with ideological and partisan reflex, or remember the example of principled predecessors who pursued truth at another dark moment.

Today, the issue may not be high crimes and misdemeanors, but rather Bush’s failure, or inability, to lead competently and honestly.

“You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror,” Bush told Rumsfeld in a Wizard-of-Oz moment May 10, as Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and senior generals looked on. “You are a strong secretary of Defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.”

The scene recalled another Oz moment: Nixon praising his enablers, Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, as “two of the finest public servants I’ve ever known.”

Sidestepping the Constitution
Like Nixon, this president decided the Constitution could be bent on his watch. Terrorism justified it, and Rumsfeld’s Pentagon promoted policies making inevitable what happened at Abu Ghraib — and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The legal justification for ignoring the Geneva Conventions regarding humane treatment of prisoners was enunciated in a memo to Bush, dated Jan. 25, 2002, from the White House counsel.

“As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war,” Alberto Gonzales wrote Bush. “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.” Quaint.

Since January, Bush and Rumsfeld have been aware of credible complaints of systematic torture. In March, Taguba’s report reached Rumsfeld. Yet neither Bush nor his Defense secretary expressed concern publicly or leveled with Congress until photographic evidence of an American Gulag, possessed for months by the administration, was broadcast to the world.

Rumsfeld then explained, “You read it, as I say, it’s one thing. You see these photographs and it’s just unbelievable…It wasn’t three-dimensional. It wasn’t video. It wasn’t color. It was quite a different thing.” But the report also described atrocities never photographed or taped that were, often, even worse than the pictures — just as Nixon’s actions were frequently far worse than his tapes recorded.

It was Barry Goldwater, the revered conservative, who convinced Nixon that he must resign or face certain conviction by the Senate — and perhaps jail. Goldwater delivered his message in person, at the White House, accompanied by Republican congressional leaders.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee likewise put principle above party to cast votes for articles of impeachment. On the eve of his mission, Goldwater told his wife that it might cost him his Senate seat on Election Day. Instead, the courage of Republicans willing to dissociate their party from Nixon helped Ronald Reagan win the presidency six years later, unencumbered by Watergate.

Another precedent is apt: In 1968, a few Democratic senators — J. William Fulbright, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Robert F. Kennedy — challenged their party’s torpor and insisted that President Lyndon Johnson be held accountable for his disastrous and disingenuous conduct of the Vietnam War, adding weight to public pressure, which, eventually, forced Johnson not to seek re-election.

Today, the United States is confronted by another ill-considered war, conceived in ideological zeal and pursued with contempt for truth, disregard of history and an arrogant assertion of American power that has stunned and alienated much of the world, including traditional allies.

At a juncture in history when the United States needed a president to intelligently and forcefully lead a real international campaign against terrorism and its causes, Bush decided instead to unilaterally declare war on a totalitarian state that never represented a terrorist threat; to claim exemption from international law regarding the treatment of prisoners; to suspend constitutional guarantees even to non-combatants at home and abroad; and to ignore sound military advice from the only member of his Cabinet — Powell — with the most requisite experience.

Instead of using America’s moral authority to lead a great global cause, Bush squandered it.

In Republican cloakrooms, as in the Oval Office, response to catastrophe these days is more concerned with politics and PR than principle. Said Tom DeLay, House majority leader: “A full-fledged congressional investigation — that’s like saying we need an investigation every time there’s police brutality on the street.”

When Politics Topples Principles
To curtail any hint of dissension in the ranks, Bush scheduled a “pep rally” with congressional Republicans — speaking 35 minutes, after which, characteristically, he took no questions and lawmakers dutifully circled the wagons.

What did George W. Bush know and when did he know it? Another wartime president, Harry Truman, observed that the buck stops at the president’s desk, not the Pentagon.

But among Republicans today, there seems to be scant interest in asking tough questions — or honoring the example of courageous leaders of Congress who, not long ago, stepped forward, setting principle before party, to hold accountable presidents who put their country in peril.

Carl Bernstein’s most recent book is a biography of John Paul II, His Holiness. He is co-author, with Bob Woodward, of All the President’s Men and The Final Days.


Amnesty Slams “Bankrupt” Vision of US in Damning Rights Report

May 29th, 2004 - by admin

Agence France Presse – 2004-05-29 14:54:31


LONDON (May 26, 2004) — The United States has proved “bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle” in its fight against terrorism and invasion of Iraq, human rights group Amnesty International charged in a scathing report. The London-based organization’s 2004 report, while also damning of rights violations in dozens of other nations, particularly targeted the Washington-led “war on terror” for sanctioning abuses in the name of freedom.

The unilateral nature of the conflict to unseat Saddam Hussein in Iraq had additionally “virtually paralyzed” the United Nations’ role in guaranteeing human rights on a global level, Amnesty said Wednesday.

The 339-page document, which detailed the human rights situation in 157 nations and territories, reserved the most column inches for the United States, with damning criticism also meted out to global giants Russia and China.

Other perennial violators were also highlighted such as North Korea, Cuba and the central Asian state of Turkmenistan, where Amnesty summarized the human rights situation simply as “appalling.”

Bush’s Policies Condemned as ‘Double-speak’
However the overriding theme of the report, outlined by Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan in an opening statement, singled out the United States for condemnation.

“The global security agenda promulgated by the US administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle,” she charged. “Sacrificing human rights in the name of security at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses have neither increased security nor ensured liberty.”

The notion of fighting a campaign against terrorism so as to support human rights while simultaneously trampling on them to achieve this was no more than “double speak,” she added.

The year 2003 had also “dealt a mortal blow” to the UN’s vision of universal human rights, with the global body “virtually paralyzed in its efforts to hold states to account” over the issue.

While the report only briefly dealt with damning allegations that US and British troops tortured Iraqi prisoners — these came to light relatively recently — it had harsh words about the nations’ overall record in Iraq.

“Coalition forces failed to live up fully to their responsibilities as occupying powers, including their duty to restore and maintain public order and safety, and to provide food, medical care and relief assistance,” the report’s section on Iraq said.

Serious Abuses Found in Russia and Chinga
Elsewhere, Amnesty detailed a long list of abuses in Russia, noting that the country’s security forces “continue to enjoy almost total impunity for serious violations of human rights and international law” in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

China, despite the accession of a new political regime under President Hu Jintao during 2003, had made “no significant attempt” to end the use of torture and other abuses, which “remained widespread”, the report said.

In the Middle East, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority were taken to task for alleged rights violations, with Amnesty saying that some actions by the Israeli army, such as the destruction of property, “constituted war crimes”.

One of the most damning assessments was handed to Cuba, which saw a “severe deterioration in the human rights situation” during 2003, most notably through the jailing of dozens of dissidents after “hasty and unfair” trials.

The report is available at

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.


ACTION ALERT: Help Stop Indefinite Detention

May 28th, 2004 - by admin

Matt Howes / ACLU – 2004-05-28 09:13:05


If you were classified as an “enemy combatant” by the government, would you know your rights? Would you know that you could be held indefinitely — for days, weeks, or even years — without a trial or access to a lawyer?

The Bush Administration’s classification of prisoners as “enemy combatants” and holding them without charge violates international law and the US Constitution. If the government has evidence that an individual is involved with terrorism, there are other, better, legal options than detaining them without charge.

By simply locking people away people without giving them the chance to clear their name, the government is violating their civil rights and increasing the chance that innocent people will be improperly locked up.

Right now, the Supreme Court is considering whether indefinite detention without charge violates federal law, in part because Congress has not approved such detentions. The Court’s ruling on this practice is expected soon and the Bush Administration may seek Congress’s endorsement if the case goes against them.

Now is the time to tell your Members of Congress that you oppose the Bush Administration’s practice of indefinite detention and you do not want Congress to endorse it.

Our united voices have the power to make change. Click here to make your voice heard.

Matt Howes is the National Internet Organizer for the ACLU.


Drug Causing GIs Permanent Brain Damage

May 28th, 2004 - by admin

Mark Benjamin and Dan Olmsted / United Press International – 2004-05-28 09:06:07


WASHINGTON, (May 26, 2004) — Six US soldiers have been diagnosed by the military with permanent brain damage from an anti-malaria drug used in Iraq and Afghanistan, and health officials must reassess its safety, a US senator said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, said the drug, called mefloquine, has “serious risks” that have not been adequately tracked by the Pentagon, the Peace Corps and other government agencies that distribute it.

“I ask that you work with the Food and Drug Administration to reassess the safety of mefloquine,” Feinstein wrote Thompson in a letter dated May 24.

Feinstein told Thompson she is concerned that “six service members have been diagnosed with permanent brainstem and vestibular damage from being given this drug despite the fact that alternative drugs might have been chosen to prevent infection.”

Lariam Linked to Suicides
The FDA last year warned that the drug, also called Lariam, is linked to reports of suicide, though a connection has not been established. It also said some psychiatric and neurological side effects have been reported to last long after taking it. The Pentagon this year announced a new safety study of the drug, which has been used by some 20 million people worldwide, and the Department of Veterans Affairs said it will look at possible long-term effects on veterans.

According to people familiar with the situation, the six service members were diagnosed in recent weeks by doctors at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Its Spatial Orientation Lab, a Department of Defense facility, specializes in balance disorders.

One service member who received a diagnosis is former Navy Reserve Cmdr. William Manofsky, who became severely ill after taking mefloquine in Iraq and Kuwait while deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Another soldier with a mefloquine diagnosis is a Green Beret who served in Afghanistan.

UPI reviewed a copy of Manofsky’s medical report from the San Diego lab, which includes the notation, “Lariam induced,” with the word Lariam underlined.

Hoffmann-La Roche Failed to Warn of Risks
Earlier this month, Manofsky filed suit against Lariam’s manufacturer, Swiss drug giant Hoffmann-La Roche, for alleged failure to warn of the drug’s risks and marketing a product it knows is unsafe.

Asked for comment about the suit, Roche spokesman Terence Hurley told UPI: “We don’t comment on pending litigation. Roche believes that the labeling that accompanies Lariam, and which has been approved by the FDA, is adequate. Information about the use of Lariam and neuropsychiatric events has appeared in the product’s label since it was approved by the FDA in 1989.

“Roche takes issues of safety very seriously and works with regulatory authorities on an ongoing basis to ensure recommendations on product use take into account current scientific and medical evidence.”

Trembling, Instability and Memory Loss
Manofsky said he became mentally and physically ill after taking the drug, at one point taking his gun apart because he was afraid he was going to kill himself. A year after he stopped taking the drug, he still suffers from severe balance problems, trembling and memory loss.

The diagnoses appear to put the Pentagon, and particularly the Army, in an unusual position: Military health officials continue to insist the drug is safe and to prescribe it widely. Army Surgeon General James Peake told a House subcommittee in February that “we don’t think it is as big a problem as has been made out.”

Peake also dismissed any association between the drug and a string of murder-suicides at Fort Bragg, N., in the summer of 2002 by US soldiers who took Lariam while assigned to units in Afghanistan.

“There was absolutely no statistical correlation between Lariam use and those suicides,” Peake said.

But the Army announced it will study possible Lariam side effects, including suicide, as a result of the controversy. The study could take up to two years, according to William Winkerwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

In March another Special Forces soldier committed suicide after taking Lariam in Iraq and returning home to Monument, Colo. William Howell’s wife believes Lariam triggered his bizarre behavior, in which he stuck a gun in her face and threatened to kill her before shooting himself. She accused the Army of not looking into whether the drug had played a role — the same charge made by friends of the soldiers involved in the Fort Bragg incidents.

Howell’s death in Colorado brought the number of suicides among Special Forces soldiers during the war on terrorism to five. At least four of the five took Lariam on deployments just prior to committing suicide, according to the Army.

Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International

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


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