August 30th, 2004 - by admin
Dow Jones International News / AP – 2004-08-30 23:18:12
MANGYSTAU, Kazakhstan (August 29, 2004) — In a storage pool at a mothballed nuclear power plant on the shores of the Caspian Sea rests a key ingredient for anyone seeking to build a nuclear weapon: Containers of spent atomic fuel with enough plutonium to make dozens of bombs.
Despite international concern about the waste at the Mangyshlak nuclear power plant, plans to transport it away from the Caspian shore have stalled in a dispute between Kazakhstan and the United States over just where and how it should be removed.
Kazakhstan has earned much international good will for unilaterally disarming after the 1991 Soviet collapse and handing over its nuclear arsenal to Russia under watch of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Still, the nation’s atomic legacy as a testing ground for the Soviet nuclear program has left it with numerous waste sites, as well as the remnants of an active atomic power program.
The Mangyshlak Atomic Energy Complex is one of those places, lying in a decrepit industrial area outside the city of Aktau in the moonlike desolation of western Kazakhstan. The reactor was shut down in 2003 for economic reasons, having worked a decade beyond its intended 20-year lifetime.
It lies behind two series of walls and radiation detectors, past a security checkpoint featuring metal detectors and X-ray machines, then gates opened by electronic badges and a numeric code.
The sealed canisters of radioactive materials lie in a pool under metal floors welded together with seals from the IAEA. Video cameras with satellite feeds to the IAEA monitor the room, and IAEA experts visit once a month.
The 300 metric tons (330 short tons) of spent nuclear fuel contain nearly three metric tons (3.3 short tons) of plutonium enriched to more than 90%. That’s better than usual weapons-grade but would require extensive processing to be made into bombs.
The fuel has been cooling for so long and was so lightly irradiated to begin with that it is no longer radioactive enough to be “self-protecting” against theft, according to the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, an anti-proliferation organization.
“Thieves could load it into a boat and take it away without necessarily receiving radiation doses that would immediately be incapacitating,” the NTI wrote on its Web site. Kazakhstan is one of five countries that share the Caspian Sea with Iran, which is suspected of seeking nuclear weapons. Iranian cargo ships sail by regularly, and the NTI notes that Tehran has shown interest in Aktau and has talked of opening a consulate there.
Military Assistance, Yes: Nuclear Security, Nyet
The United States has provided military assistance bolster Kazakhstan’s shore defenses, and plans to give some $20 million (EUR16.6 million) for new radars and intercept boats. The Kazakhs want US help in a $40 million (EUR33.3 million) project to move the spent fuel to a safer site, but those efforts are deadlocked.
The Kazakhs want to take the fuel to Semipalatinsk, the former nuclear weapons test site in eastern Kazakhstan. The United States wants it shipped to Russia, where other radioactive materials were sent.
The Kazakhs planned to build single-use casks to transport the waste and then store it in reinforced underground bunkers. But the United States persuaded them to use dual-use casks in which the fuel can be both transported and stored. However, work on the dual-use casks is on hold, and the Kazakhs continue to work on single-use casks.
“No work is being done on the dual-use casks because no funding is coming from the United States. And we cannot understand why,” said Irina Tajibayeva, executive director of the Kazakhstan government’s Center for the Safety of Nuclear Technologies. “This is not an example of good cooperation,” she said.
The US Embassy in Kazakhstan has declined several requests for comment made in recent weeks.
IAEA Spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said: “We are fully aware of the status of the discussion between Kazakhstan and the United States, and materials are currently properly under IAEA safeguards.”
The plant’s director, Gennady Pugachev, insists that “fears that our nuclear fuel could get into the wrong hands are groundless. We are not North Korea, where there is no government will to make (nuclear materials) safe,” said Viktor Martyshkin, the reactor’s information security chief. “Our government wants to make sure these materials do not get into some mad, criminal hands.”
With the security at the plant, any potential theft would likely have to be at least partly an inside job. Pugachev notes employees’ salaries are minuscule; he says he himself makes 20 times less than a guard at a U.S. nuclear facility would earn.
Pugachev is also well aware of the risks of loose nuclear materials, such as from a “dirty bomb” — a device that combines conventional explosives with radioactive material. “I know how to do it,” he said.
A Western diplomat familiar with the IAEA said similar or larger quantities of spent fuel exist in dozens of countries and always represent a risk if they aren’t secured.
Some Russian facilities are well-equipped, others aren’t, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. And negotiations about transferring such material can be difficult and lengthy because many parties are involved, each with its own legal and regulatory requirements, and all want to be protected against liability and compensated for what they are being asked to do, the diplomat said.
August 30th, 2004 - by admin
War Resisters League – 2004-08-30 23:15:13
NEW YORK (August 30, 2004) — At 7 pm on Tuesday, August 31, a mass nonviolent “die-in” at the Republican National Convention will be staged by the War Resisters League and other organizations as a protest to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The die-in will be proceeded by a 3 pm vigil at the site of the World Trade Center on Church St. (and Cortlandt St.), followed by a solemn procession up Broadway beginning at 4 pm. The procession will pause at Union Square (17th & Broadway) allowing more protesters to join the march before it continues at 6 pm towards Madison Square Garden.
Besides the War Resisters League, sponsoring organizations include the Socialist Party USA, School of the Americas Watch, Voices in the Wilderness, Progressive Programmers League, The Mourning Project, and Ground Zero for Peace.
These organizations and the individuals involved feel the need to engage in civil disobedience in order to dramatize their vigorous opposition to United States government’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and President George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” Participants in the civil disobedience will have undergone special trainings in nonviolence.
Among those supporting the die-in will be NYC Council Deputy Majority Leader Bill Perkins, who is expected to participate in the 3 pm vigil at “Ground Zero,” while many supporters will be joining the procession to Madison Square Garden. Perkins has been outspoken is his support for taxes for peace rather than war.
Deaths and Disrupted Lives
“Our aim is to confront the administration with the death and suffering for which they are responsible.” commented Frida Berrigan, WRL National Committee member. Berrigan continued “Besides the 10,000 Iraqis and Afghanis killed, the 1,000 Americans who have died, and the thousands more wounded and scarred for life, the Bush military priorities have created economic victims — the unemployed, the uninsured, the undereducated.”
“We intend to take our message — that war is a bankrupt and counterproductive method of solving international disputes — directly to the floor of the Republican Convention where we will stage our nonviolent die-in,” notes long-time WRL activist Ed Hedemann, “though the police will probably prevent us from getting that far.”
This civil disobedience is part of a full day of nonviolent direct actions in coordination with the A31 Action Coalition that will be happening around Manhattan. No permits have been granted nor have they been sought from the city of New York by the organizers of these events.
More details of this event can be found on the Web site at
The War Resisters League is an 81-year-old secular pacifist organization, headquartered in New York City, and is affiliated with the War Resisters’ International, which is based in London. WRL believes war to be a crime against humanity, and advocates Gandhian nonviolence as the method for creating a democratic society free of war, racism, sexism, and human exploitation.
War Resisters League 339 Lafayette St. New York, NY 10012 212-228-0450 www.warresisters.org firstname.lastname@example.org
August 30th, 2004 - by admin
Yoav Stern / Haaretz – 2004-08-30 00:08:50
ISRAEL (July 25, 2004) — Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu says the Dimona nuclear reactor endangers the lives of millions throughout the Middle East, Army Radio reported late Saturday.
In an interview published Sunday with the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al Hayat, that a strong earthquake in the region may crack the reactor, causing radioactive leakage that would result in the death of millions.
Al Hayatclaims that this is the first interview Vanunu has given to a newspaper since his release from an Israeli prison in April, Israel Radio reported. If Vanunu did in fact give the interview, it could constitute a violation of the limitations placed upon him by the Shin Bet upon his release from prison.
Vanunu also told the paper that the Jordanian government should prepare for possible leaks from the reactor, just as Israel has plans to distribute iodine anti-radiation pills to residents living close to the nuclear reactor in Dimona.
He said that Jordanians living close to the border with Israel should be examined for possible nuclear radiation, explaining that the Hashemite Kingdom is particularly at risk from the reactor as it operates mainly when “the wind blows toward Jordan.”
He said he does not believe that the United States and European nations will pressure Israel into revealing the full extent of its nuclear capabilities. Vanunu also took the opportunity to blast United Nations nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed El Baradei for visiting Israel earlier this month and not putting any pressure on it to open up its nuclear program to international inspection. “He should have done here what he did in Iraq,” he was quoted as saying.
The former nuclear technician was freed in April after serving 18 years for revealing Israel’s nuclear secrets to the Sunday Times of London.
Vanunu went on to say that he told the Sunday Times all he knew and that the information he had “was enough to conclude that Israel presents a real danger to the entire Middle East.” He also said that he believes Israel has managed to build up its nuclear arsenal in the years in which he was incarcerated.
(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.)
August 30th, 2004 - by admin
Mordechai Vanunu – 2004-08-30 00:03:04
JERUSALEM (August 27, 2004) — Mordechai Vanunu was a technician at Dimona, Israel’s secret nuclear facility, from 1976 to 1985. He discovered nuclear weapons were being secretly produced and in 1986 he leaked photos and information to the London Sunday Times showing Israel had stockpiled about 200 hundred nuclear warheads, with no authorization from its parliament or citizens. At that time Israel was insisting it would not introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East.
Vanunu was kidnapped by the Israeli Mossad in Italy and returned to Israel for a secret trial. He spent 18 years in prison, including 11 years in solitary confinement. After completing his sentence he was released in April 2004 and ordered not to speak to foreigners or leave the country. He has received death threats and has been given refuge at the Anglican cathedral of St George’s in East Jerusalem.
An American member of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (see www.space4peace.org) was visiting the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Vanunu agreed to speak with the GN member, defying his court order, and gave permission for his interview to be distributed on the Internet.
Mordechai Vanunu Addresses the Issue of War in Space
Question: Are you familiar with plans to move the arms race into space?
Vanunu: Yes, this is open information that was available to read from the news media and was available to me in the prison years. I knew about the Cassini case and now I know about the new initiative by George Bush to develop nuclear weapons for the space program.
This was also worked on in the Clinton administration. George Bush raised it again. I hope this program will not materialize and not be developed. We don’t have any enemies in space and the US does not have any enemies. We don’t need any nuclear weapons in space or any nuclear race in space.
Question: Do you feel weapons in space are dangerous?
Vanunu: Yes! We don’t need nuclear weapons in space! We are alive to see space and enjoy the sky, not to be frightened from the sky. People should raise their eyes and look to the sky and heavens and enjoy and feel God and the love of God, not to fear nuclear weapons.
No other state should follow the US and play this game of weapons in space.
Question: Are you familiar with the nuclear power reactors that are planned to be used to provide power for space-based weapons?
Vanunu: No, I don’t know much about this, only some things I’ve read. Cassini was a spacecraft with a reactor working with plutonium.
Question: Are you familiar with the joint Israeli/US system to create a missile defense system called the Arrow system? This would give, they say, both a sword, as a weapon, and a shield, as a defense, to Israel.
Vanunu: Yes, I heard about this. In the last two days the latest Arrow test failed. Israel tries to create an environment where it needs missiles, enemies to fight, all this propaganda to keep up the race, to develop these nuclear weapons and a new generation of missiles. They encourage and push other states like India, Pakistan and Iran to follow.
We should tell them and tell Israel that we, the world, are living in a new age, a new century, post-Cold War. The last century had a lot of weapons and wars. This century should be a century of peace and disarmament of all kinds of weapons. All missiles should be destroyed.
We need to have a new century of peace, of human beings living in peace that don’t need any kinds of weapons. No one is going to fight Israel and no one is going to fight the United States. The human race needs to learn to live in peace and to work together. We don’t need any weapons.
Question: What are the enormous military expenditures over time doing to the Israeli economy?
Vanunu: Thirty percent and more, maybe fifty percent of the Israeli budget is for defense. All this money on defense is coming from not giving to others what they deserve in life — high education and high health — especially the minority Palestinians in the occupied territories. Instead of giving them help, Israel spends the money on the army and incursions and fighting the Palestianians.
The way to peace is also by reducing the defense budget, reduce it on a large scale. The same with the United States. Since George Bush has been in office he has raised the budget from $280 billion to $400 billion. All this is not necessary in this age.
The defense budget is one of the most powerful ways to impose on people psychologically and through policies, in Israel and the United States. The people behind the very large defense budgets are the new modern secret power. We should fight it by reducing the defense budget in every country.
Many countries in Europe have had to reduce their defense budgets, armies and weapons systems. Israel has continued to keep its large weapons program, in spite of the fact that we are living in a different age. We the people should be free from the defense budget. We should be able to use it and control it and hopefully in the future reduce it to a very small amount, maybe 5%.
Question: What advice would you give to activists in the US who see our country becoming more militarized and having less democracy? How can we best make an impact on our government when corporations are increasingly controlling it, military corporations like Boeing and Lockheed?
Vanunu: This is my advice to those in the US who are working for peace, who want to control those industries behind the huge production of weapons systems and nuclear weapons.
• Demand to reduce the large army power, the amount of weapons, the budgets sent to these huge defense corporations.
• Try to force government from developing new and more advanced weapons, more advanced aircraft, more advanced submarines, because there are no future enemies who are going to fight them. Maybe there are states who are competing economically, in health and social standards, but not in weapons.
There is no enemy who wants to destroy Israel or the US. The human race has learned that they do not want to kill each other. They want to compete, develop, they do not want to kill each other. We should fight by demanding a reduction to all these weapons and the weapons industry. The companies behind it, like Boeing and Lockheed, they should go into civilian production for the US and for the world.
Question: You have expressed you would very much like to come to the US.
Vanunu: I believe in the US constitution, I believe in US democracy and in individual freedom. I believe in the liberty of the US as it was established 230 years ago. The US constitution was the most advanced, it has survived, and I believe it will continue to be advanced.
I want to come the United States and be one of your citizens. To give my support to keep the US free spirit, liberty and freedom of speech, which is very important for the US people. I want to live there, to experience it, to support it, especially since 9/11 and the Patriot Act, which is bad for the people.
And I hope, that without fighting anyone, that I can contribute to reducing nuclear weapons in the US and the world, with the message that we the people in the US and Israel and all the world don’t need nuclear weapons. The US and the US Defense Dept. does not need to fear these views. The US can survive and be good and strong without nuclear weapons. Human rights are more powerful than nuclear weapons.
Question: How can we help you to reach the US and to increase your safety here in Jerusalem?
Vanunu: I would like the people to write to their Congress to demand from them to know about my story and situation. I need activists in the US – -people to help intervene.
I am not under a sentence by court but under restriction by Israel law which is not according to democracy. They have taken from me the basic human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of movement. The US and Congress has the right to protect these very important human rights.
Congress was involved when the Jews in Russia were under these restrictions and the US put sanctions against Russia until they let the Jews leave. Now the US should do the same to Israel. The US should speak and raise these issues. But first of all demand that Israel let me go and be free. I am not safe here. I don’t feel safe here.
I would like to bring these matters to Congress. If Congress or visitors can come to visit me here, I would be glad to see them here. Israel is not the democracy that is presented to the US media. The US has the right to intervene and to protect human rights such as freedom of speech.
For more information about Mordechai Vanunu, see:
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 319-2017 (Cell phone)
August 29th, 2004 - by admin
Al Jazeera – 2004-08-29 23:49:43
(August 25, 2004) — As oil prices bounce around the $45 mark one of the main factors underpinning the price rise is the increasingly popular notion of oil ”depletion”. This is the idea that certain countries’ reserves of oil have fallen to such low levels that they can no longer produce at the volumes they once did.
British trade journal Petroleum Review has reviewed the 2003 Statistical Review of World Energy, put together by British Petroleum, to look for signs of depletion. Its study claims that a large group of producer countries are now in decline – putting even more pressure on those countries who have spare production capacity.
There are several worrying aspects to this decline. The first is that added to the current increase in global demand, it means other countries must produce more just for the market to stay still.
Secondly, as those countries are forced to produce to their capacity, it only hastens the day when they too will have declining output.
Depletion Speeding Up
“What surprised me was the rate of decline among the 18 countries whose production is going down,” Petroleum Review editor and oil analyst Chris Skrebowski told Aljazeera. “For 14 out of the 18 countries, the rate of depletion is speeding up. This has confounded a long held view that decline was a slow, gradual process.
“The first country to start to decline was the USA. It could be possible that because they have such a high skill base, so many wells and such cheap capital that they were able to slow their rate of depletion. Other countries cannot,” he said.
Those 18 countries in decline amount to about 25% of the world’s producers. They are losing about 1.14 million bpd. This means that the other 75% have to increase output. Not only to add the extra barrels lost by the declining countries, but also to meet leaping global demand, about 2.4 million bpd in 2004.
That demand is set to continue its increase, forecast by the International Energy Agency to grow by another 1.8 million bpd in 2005. “It’s a crazy see-saw where the fulcrum, the pivot, is constantly moving across. Eventually it is going to get to a point where the see-saw can no longer balance,” said Skrebowski.
Another problem analysts are facing is that it appears countries can carry on expanding production until suddenly the decline sets in, never to be reversed.
The UK expanded production each year until 1999,” Skrebowski continues. “Since then it has gone down every year by 5%, then 6% then 8% and this year, 2004, it looks set to be higher. This is even with the best technologies and techniques available.”
The country with the biggest rate of decline is Gabon. The impoverished west African state experienced an 18% drop in production year on year.
This is on a set of fields who only came on the market in the 1970s, having been developed by the French oil companies. Such a rate of decline could spell disaster for vulnerable African economies.
Of course these are the most obvious examples of depletion. The more intangible effects are geo-political. “Depletion is not very exciting or special if it is just in one country, say the west of country X is going down but the east is going up. No one really cares about that except those directly involved.
“If, however, it is going down in ‘stable’ country X and up in ‘unstable’ country Y, then you get the geo-political dimension. What happens if declines in safe countries can only be offset by increases from those less secure?” Skrebowski asks.
Because that is exactly what may be happening. For example Petrologistics, an oil industry firm which tracks tanker shipments, reported that Saudi Arabian output actually fell by 400,000 bpd last month.
No More Room
Skrebowski, on demand and supply: “There are serious questions being raised about the ability of Saudi Arabia to expand production. Plus places like Abu Dhabi and Kuwait have little or no room for movement as well. And you don’t need very many large producers to peak to make things very difficult for the others,” said Skrebowski.
“As well as the 18 in decline there are many others who have no further room to expand production by any significant amount. Mexico has some problems with expanding any further and they do not appear to have invested in any new exploration whilst China’s figures claim they are still just increasing capacity. Yet at the same time even they have admitted their two main fields are in decline.”
Without gigantic and costly investment, that would itself inflate prices, squeezing more oil out of the ground may prove hard. Petroleum Review’s rigorous statistical analysis may just be the prologue to a bigger, more unsettling story.
“The phenomenon of multiple counties all declining is a new one for everybody. Up to 1990 only the USA and Romania had started declining. So, in the longer term, matching demand to the new capacity of producer countries may prove to be a very tough call, a very tough call indeed,” predicted Skrebowski.
And that may prove to be an understatement.
(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.)
August 28th, 2004 - by admin
Not In Our Name – 2004-08-28 10:55:28
For months, voices of conscience have been calling for a massive demonstration in New York’s Central Park that would serve as a great and visible repudiation of the whole Bush administration agenda.
As the No in Our Name call has put it: NO WAY! NOW HOW! NO MORE! JUST NO! NO TO THE BUSH AGENDA. See the full call and its signers at www.notinourname.net/rnc
But the government has been determined to prevent any gathering of a million or more in the only public space that can accommodate a protest of that size: Central Park. The issue is quite simply: do people still have the right to peacefully assemble and make their rejection of this whole agenda of war and repression known in a way that is visible to the whole world?
President Bush, Mayor Bloomberg, and the police say no. We say yes. And the battle for a march and rally permit is now at a critical stage. If mass public protest is now to be outlawed, we have entered a whole, new, and dangerous period of our national history. This battle is not about the grass, it’s about the future.
We need you to act right now. We want to publish a poster-size “I Say No!” ad in the New York Times on Friday, August 27, that people can cut out, post in their window, or carry with them on the march. The cost is $70,000. We are asking you to go to our web site and make an on-line contribute of $100 right away. Go to www.notinourname.net/donate.
Then come to New York on August 29 and be part of making history! Not in Our Name will have an opening (permitted) rally at 10:00 am at Union Square with Steve Earle and Saul Williams performing.
“Unconventional Heroes” Courageous Resister Awards
New York City, Thursday, August 26 ~ 7:30 pm
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, New York University
566 Laguardia Place at Washington Square South
If you are in the New York area, we also want to call your attention to an incredible program Thursday night to honor “Unconventional Heroes” in this Age of Ashcroft. The program is presented by the Artists Network of Refuse & Resist!, and sponsored by The Nation, National Lawyers Guild/NYC Chapter, Center for Constitutional Rights, Artists Against the War, Bread and Roses 1199/SEIU, and the initiators of the Not in Our Name Statement.
The program will present “Courageous Resister Awards” to individuals from all over the country who have stood up to war and repression in unconventional ways, and will feature a distinguished roster of artists. With performing artists: Dan Bern, Blair Brown, Steve Earle, Reg E. Gaines, Andre Gregory, Vijay Iyer, Erik Jensen, Ellen McLaughlin, Omar Metwally, Odetta, and Beua Sia. Please forward this message to your NYC friends.
For more information: www.artistsnetwork.org
The Not in Our Name Project needs your tax-deductible support!
Not in Our Name
PO Box 20221
Greeley Square Station
New York, NY 10001-0006
August 28th, 2004 - by admin
Waging Peace / Charting a New Course – 2004-08-28 10:53:53
Nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction continue to pose grave dangers to the US and its citizens. Before you cast your ballot this year, find out which Presidential candidate will protect you, and all Americans, by implementing policies that will significantly reduce and eliminate the threats posed by nuclear weapons. It is up to us, as citizens, to choose the direction we want to take our country. Below you will find the two main Presidential candidates’ positions on four key nuclear policies that will make America far safer and more secure.
Oppose creating dangerous new nuclear weapons that will lead others to follow our example.
President George W. Bush requested some $36.6 million in the 2005 Budget for research on dangerous new nuclear weapons, including the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator or “bunker-buster” and “mini-nukes.”
John Kerry has stated, “As president, I will stop this administration’s program to develop a whole new generation of bunker-busting nuclear bombs. This is a weapon we don’t need. And it undermines our credibility in persuading other nations. What kind of message does it send when we’re asking other countries not to develop nuclear weapons but developing new ones ourselves?”
Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and continue the current moratorium on nuclear testing, which are essential elements to promoting the international non-proliferation regime and protecting American security.
President George W. Bush opposes ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, already ratified by 115 countries, and has proposed $30 million in the 2005 Budget for reducing the time to resume nuclear testing from 24 months to 18 months.
John Kerry supports ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and has emphasized its importance in promoting the international non-proliferation regime.
Cancel funding for and plans to deploy offensive missile “defense” systems that could ignite a dangerous nuclear arms race and offer no security against terrorist weapons of mass destruction.
In 2001, President George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the US from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the former Soviet Union in order to deploy a missile “defenses.” He is seeking to deploy an inadequately tested missile defense system this year, and has requested a budget of more than $10 billion for this unproven system in 2005.
John Kerry has stated that he believes in further missile defense research, but he does “not believe in rapid deployment of a system that hasn’t been adequately tested.” He has stated that “to abandon [the ABM Treaty] altogether is to welcome an arms race that will make us more vulnerable, not less.”
Work with Russia to reduce the nuclear arsenals of both countries and ensure that nuclear weapons and materials stay out of the hands of terrorists or countries seeking to acquire nuclear capabilities.
President George W. Bush signed a treaty with the Russians that calls for bringing down the number of deployed strategic weapons to between 2,200 and 1,700 by the year 2012. The treaty, however, does not provide for verification and does not make the reductions irreversible. The treaty also terminates in the year 2012.
Since weapons taken off active deployment will be kept on the shelf in reserve, they will be a tempting target for terrorists. President Bush has also called for reductions of more than nine percent in the funding for the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to secure nuclear weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union.
John Kerry has stated that the treaty that President Bush entered into “runs the risk of increasing nuclear theft by stockpiling thousands of warheads.” He further stated that “if we are to make America safer, and we must, it will take more than cosmetic treaties that leave Russia’s nuclear arsenal in place.” Kerry has called for increased joint efforts with the Russians to dispose of stocks of existing nuclear materials. He has stated that he will make securing nuclear weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union a priority in relations between the US and Russia and work with our allies to establish global standards for the safekeeping of nuclear materials.
Click here to find out more about the Presidential candidates’ positions.
August 28th, 2004 - by admin
Lawrence Smallman – 2004-08-28 10:49:41
BAGHDAD (March 17, 2004) — There are weapons of mass destruction all over Iraq and they were used this past year. Iraqi children continue to find them every day. They have ruined the lives of just under 300,000 people during the last decade — and numbers will increase.
The reason is simple. Two hundred tonnes of radioactive material were fired by invading US forces into buildings, homes, streets and gardens all over Baghdad.
The material in question is depleted uranium (DU). Left over after natural uranium has been enriched, DU is 1.7 times denser than lead – effective in penetrating armoured objects such as tanks. After a DU-coated shell strikes, it goes straight through before exploding into a burning vapour which turns to dust.
“Depleted uranium has a half life of 4.7 billion years — that means thousands upon thousands of Iraqi children will suffer for tens of thousands of years to come. This is what I call terrorism,” says Dr Ahmad Hardan.
As a special scientific adviser to the World Health Organisation, the United Nations and the Iraqi Ministry of Health, Dr Hardan is the man who documented the effects of depleted uranium in Iraq between 1991 and 2002. But the war and occupation has doubled his workload.
Terrible History Repeated
“American forces admit to using over 300 tonnes of depleted uranium weapons in 1991. The actual figure is closer to 800. This has caused a health crisis that has affected almost a third of a million people. As if that was not enough, America went on and used 200 tonnes more in Baghdad alone (last) April. I don’t know about other parts of Iraq, it will take me years to document that.”
Hardan is particularly angry because he says there is no need for this type of weapon — US conventional weapons are quite capable of destroying tanks and buildings. “In Basra, it took us two years to obtain conclusive proof of what DU does, but we now know what to look for and the results are terrifying.”
Leukaemia has already become the most common type of cancer in Iraq among all age groups, but is most prevalent in the under-15 category. It has increased way above the percentage of population growth in every single province of Iraq without exception.
Women as young as 35 are developing breast cancer. Sterility among men has increased tenfold.
But by far the most devastating effect is on unborn children. Nothing can prepare anyone for the sight of hundreds of preserved foetuses – barely human in appearance. There is no doubt that DU is to blame.
“All children with congenital anomalies are subjected to karyotyping and chromosomal studies with complete genetic back-grounding and clinical assessment. Family and obstetrical histories are taken too. These international studies have produced ample evidence to show that DU has disastrous consequences.”
Not only are there 200 tonnes of uranium lying around in Baghdad, the containers which carried the ammunition were discarded. For months afterwards, many used them to carry water – others used them to sell milk publicly. It is already too late to reverse the effects.
After his experience in Basra, Hardan says within the next two years he expects to see significant rises in congenital cataracts, anopthalmia, microphthalmia, corneal opacities and coloboma of the iris – and that is just in people’s eyes.
Add to this foetal deformities, sterility in both sexes, an increase in miscarriages and premature births, congenital malformations, additional abnormal organs, hydrocephaly, anencephaly and delayed growth.
Soaring Cancer Rates
“I had hoped the lessons of using DU would have been learnt – especially as it is affecting American and British troops stationed in Iraq as we speak, they are not immune to its effects either.”
If the experience of Basra is played out in the rest of the country, Iraq is looking at an increase of more than 300% in all types of cancer over the next decade.
The signs are already here in Baghdad — the effects are starting to be seen. Every form of cancer has jumped up at least 10% with the exception of bone tumours and skin cancer, which have only risen 2.6% and 9.3% respectively.
Another tragic outcome is the delayed growth of children. Skeletal age comparisons between boys from southern Iraq and boys from Michigan show Iraqi males are 26 months behind in their development by the time they are 12-years-old and girls are almost half a year behind.
“The effects of ionising radiation on growth and development are especially significant in the prenatal child”, adds Dr Hardan. “Embryonic development is especially affected.”
Those who have seen the effects of DU hope the US and its allies will never use these weapons again – but it seems no such decision is likely in the foreseeable future.
“I arranged for a delegation from Japan’s Hiroshima hospital to come and share their expertise in the radiological related diseases we are likely to face over time,” says Hardan. “The delegation told me the Americans had objected and they had decided not to come. Similarly, a world famous German cancer specialist agreed to come, only to be told later that he would not be given permission to enter Iraq.”
Moreover, Hardan believes the authorities need to produce precise information about what was used and where, and there needs to be a clean-up operation and centres for specialist cancer treatment and radiation-related illnesses.
Iraq only has two hospitals that specialise in DU-related illnesses, one in Basra and one in Mosul – this needs to change and soon.
“I’m fed up of delegations coming and weeping as I show them children dying before their eyes. I want action and not emotion. The crime has been committed and documented – but we must act now to save our children’s future.”
Cancer Spreads Like Wildfire in Iraq
BAGHDAD (July 28. 2004) — Depleted uranium (DU) used by the United States and its allies against Iraq has taken its toll on around 120,000 to 140,000 Iraqis, according to the latest estimates released by the Iraqi health ministry. With Iraq becoming an almost radioactive toxic wasteland, the number of birth defects and cancer-infected Iraqis is on the rise, the London-based Al-Quds Press news agency reported on July 27. The director of Baghdad’s only nuclear medicine hospital, said 7,500 Iraqis are infected with cancer ever year.
Iraqi Doctor Learns from Hiroshima’s Past
HIROSHIMA (August 4, 2004) — The number of child cancer cases jumped eightfold in the southern Iraqi city between 1988 and 2002. Iraqi doctors allege DU weapons cause leukemia and cancer while US authorities deny direct links between DU and the cancer on the rise in Iraq. The medical community in Japan, a US staunch ally, is also reluctant to admit a connection. Hussam Mahmood Salih, 34, a pediatrician from Basra, is now studying at Hiroshima University Hospital at the invitation of a Japanese civic group. Japanese doctors understand about these diseases,” said Salih. “I think we cold learn very much from Japan’s experiences,” said Salih.
Uranium Weapons Poisoned Iraqi Civilians and Coalition Troops
Tedd Weyman / Uranium Medical Research Centre
In September/October 2003, five months after the cessation of the Shock and Awe bombing campaign in Iraq, the Uranium Medical Research Centre (UMRC) sent in a team to collect biological and environmental samples, conduct a public health survey, and a field radiation survey. The goal: to determine the extent and nature of radiological contamination from the use of weapons containing uranium. Dr. M. Al Shaickly and Tedd Weyman traveled with Dr. Siegwart-Horst Guenther to survey battlefields in Baghdad and Al Basra. Dr. Guenther conducted an independent survey of Iraqi hospitals and patients, interviewing physicians and surveying the medical effects of Gulf War I and the 2003 Iraq War on civilians exposed to battlefield contaminants and the fallout of US and UK bombs and missiles. CLIP
FILM: ‘Doctors, Depleted Uranium and Dying Children’ (August 11, 2004)
A powerful new German documentary exposes radioactive warfare in Iraq. “The Doctors, the Depleted Uranium, and the Dying Children” surveys the impact of radioactive weapons in the war against Iraq. The film features two British veterans describing their exposure to radioactive, depleted‚ uranium (DU), weapons and the congenital abnormalities of their children. Dr. Siegwart-Horst Günther and Tedd Weyman of the Uranium Medical Research Center traveled to Iraq, from Germany and Canada respectively, to assess uranium contamination in Iraq. The film is now available for purchase from the Traprock Peace Center for $25.00 for non-commercial, non-institutional use.
MDs Fear Cancer Epidemic Linked to US WMDs
A growing number of US personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have become sick and disabled from a variety of symptoms commonly known as Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). “Gulf war vets are coming down with these symptoms at twice the rate of vets from previous conflicts,” said Barbara A. Goodno from the Department of Defense’s Deployment Health Support Directorate. Nearly half the soldiers in one returned unit have malignant growths, possibly the result of exposure to depleted uranium weapons (DU). According to GWS researcher Dr. András Korényi-Both, 27 percent to 28 percent of Gulf War vets have suffered chronic health problems — more than five times the rate of Vietnam vets and four times the rate of Korean War vets.
August 26th, 2004 - by admin
Juan Cole’s blog – 2004-08-26 21:58:30
Sistani Returns, Launches Peace March
Juan Cole’s blog
(August 25, 2004) — Al-Hayat is reporting that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani defied his physicians’ advice and insisted on returning to Iraq midday on Wednesday. He landed in Kuwait and went overland to Basra, where he is staying at the home of prominent Shiite Ali Abdul Hakim.
Reuters says that Sistani’s aide Hayder al-Safi read out a statement by the grand ayatollah saying ‘ “We ask all believers to volunteer to go with us to Najaf . . . I have come for the sake of Najaf and I will stay in Najaf until the crisis ends.” ‘
The Scotsman writes that Sistani crossed into Iraq in a convoy of sport utility vehicles. He had an escort of Iraqi police and national guardsmen, who had their sirens blaring. It says, ‘After meeting with al-Sistani, Basra Governor Hassan al-Rashid told reporters that the cleric would lead a march to Najaf tomorrow . . . “The masses will gather at the outskirts of Najaf and they will not enter the city until all armed men, except the Iraqi policemen, withdraw from the city,” he said. ‘
If I read this aright, the Basra governor is talking like this.
Sistani will leave Basra for Najaf at 7 am Thursday morning Iraq time. Sistani’s offices in London, Karbala and Beirut also announced that he was calling on Shiite civilians to mount a peace march to Najaf to save the shrine of Imam Ali. He also called on both Mahdi Army militiamen and American military forces to vacate the city. The Karbala communique, acquired by a German wire service, spoke of the need to “expel the Americans from Najaf.”
Al-Jazeerah is reporting that Sadr spokesman Aws Khafaji has announced a ceasefire by the Mahdi Army in honor of Sistani’s return, and to ensure his safe passage through the south to Najaf. The Mahdi Army has been fighting British troops fiercely in Basra, Kut, Amarah and elsewhere in the south.
Sadr spokesman Ahmad Shaibani announced that the Sadrists were entirely willing to obey any command of Sistani’s and would cooperate with him completely.
I am told that some middle-class Shiites in Najaf are complaining that Sistani’s intervention may prevent the finishing off of the Mahdi militia, and that the idea of a march and a convergence on the city may in fact bring more Sadrists in. The Sadrists are not popular in largely middle class Najaf, being from the shantytowns of the southern cities in the main.
ABC is reporting that American-appointed Najaf governor Ali al-Zurfi ‘ said Iraqi security forces had “taken all needed measures to prevent any crowds from entering the province,” calling it a “military area.” ‘ Al-Zurfi is probably bluffing, since it he doesn’t have that many men loyal to him, and none of them would fire on a peaceful crowd of Shiites led by Sistani. But if he does try to fire on the crowds, it could cause a lot of trouble. The Shah tried that sort of thing on Black September and it contributed to his overthrow.
Meanwhile, Australian Broadcasting is reporting that ‘Tens of thousands from Baghdad and southern Iraq pledged to answer the Iranian-born ayatollah’s call to march on the besieged city of Najaf in a mission to resolve the crisis peacefully.
He was determined to “save Najaf,” the head of his London office Hamad al-Khaffaf told Al-Arabiya television, calling on all Iraqis to join the march . . .
Sadr supporters barricaded in the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf also greeted Sistani’s call with joy. “The situation is getting worse day by day and only God’s intervention can save us. And I think this march is a gift from God,” Mohammed al-Batat said.
A senior Shiite official said Sistani wanted all foreign troops and weapons out of the city and for Sadr’s Mehdi Army to leave the shrine and the city.
The Allawi government arrested Sadr aide Sheikh Ali Sumaisim, along with three other persons, charging him with possession of a Koranic antiquity and a large amount of dollars in cash (the implication is that he may have been involved in antiquities theft and trafficking from the Imam Ali shrine).
The US military continued to use tanks and warplanes to pound Mahdi Army positions near the shrine of Imam Ali, shattering its windows. Some damage has already been inflicted by the Americans on one of the compound walls. It is this sort of scene that horrifies Sistani.
US tanks had the shrine tightly surrounded.
A physician at the clinic of the shrine announced that at least 30 persons within had serious injuries that required their evacuation, and that he feared many more wounded were caught in nearby areas. In the last 24 hours, 6 bodies and 20 wounded had been brought to the clinic, he said.
Sistani’s return raises many questions. Note that he did not fly into American-controlled Baghdad but rather to Kuwait, traveling overland to Basra. Since Basra is in British hands, with a Shiite governor that seems pro-Sistani, it seems possible that Sistani’s people coordinated his return with the British and with the Basra authorities rather than with the United States and the Allawi government.
Indeed, America’s most militant asset in Najaf, governor Ali al-Zurfi, seems dead set against Sistani returning with crowds this way. You have to wonder if the British MI6 and military are showing some insubordination toward the Americans by allowing all this, as a mark of their disapproval of the gung-ho Marine attacks in Najaf, which have caused trouble in the British-held South and endangered the British garrisons.
Likewise, one wonders if Basra governor Hassan al-Rashid is entirely loyal to Allawi. A lot of southern Shiites would be pretty upset with the way Allawi and his two main henchmen, Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib and Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan have been reviving old Baathist stereotypes about the Shiites and pursuing iron fist policies in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
If Sistani does lead a popular march of the sort the press is describing, it might be the most significant act of civil disobedience by an Asian religious leader since Gandhi’s salt march in British India. And it might kick off the beginning of the end of American Iraq, just as the salt march knelled the end of the British Indian empire.
posted by Juan @ 8/25/2004 04:20:35 PM
Iraqi Police Fire on Kufa Demonstrators
(August 26, 2004) — Peaceful, civilian Shiite demonstrators in Kufa heeding Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s call for a march on Najaf (which is just next door to Kufa) were fired on Wednesday afternoon, suffering two killed and five wounded. Apparently the firing came from the Iraqi police. The Australian Herald Sun reports:
‘ Abbas Hamid, 32, told AFP from his hospital bed that the demonstration in support of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr began at 4pm outside the Kufa mosque. “We were heading towards Najaf but when we reached the Al-Abassiya bridge, Iraqi police opened fire,” he said. He said the demonstrators had not passed a multinational force position, where witnesses had said the gunfire broke out. ‘
Al-Jazeerah was rather dramatically reporting that the Kufa crowed was fired on by American troops, which appears not to be the case, and the Sadr spokesman they interviewed by telephone gave the impression of rather more casualties and chaos than AFP reports. CNN had footage of the firing, and to be fair it did also look to me like a bigger incident than the print wire services describe.
The motivation for the Iraqi police to fire on the peaceful protesters appears to have been that they believed them actually to be members of the Mahdi Army militia, even if temporararily going about unarmed. (There does not appear to be any reason to believe this charge other than simple prejudice — the footage from AP television clearly shows a peaceful crowd.)
Christopher Allbritton is in Najaf and reports an unsuccessful foray to the shrine of Ali, frustrated by heavy American fire and sniping all around it. On his return to the hotel, he and the other journalists were rounded up at gunpoint and taken to see the police chief of Najaf, Ghalib al-Jazairi. He reports what he heard at this weird (“can’t miss it — no, I mean really, you won’t be allowed to miss it”) press conference:
“The Shrine would be stormed tonight, he said, and we would be allowed to get on a bus and go visit it tomorrow to see the damage the Mahdi Army had done to it. The Sistani protesters in Kufa were really Mahdi guys and they had to be killed. Oh, and thank you for coming.
“A few of us put up a fight, demanding why they couldn’t just invite us down for a presser instead of kidnapping us. Oh, no, the commander said, that must have been a mistake. I just asked them to bring you to me… There was no order to brandish weapons, push journalists around and fire into the air.
“One cop, a lieutenant, just smiled at us when we pointed our fingers at him and said he was the one leading the raid, yelling and pointing his side arm at us. These are Najaf’s finest. They’re like the old regime, only less disciplined.”
Abdul Hussein al-Obeidi has more on this incident and others in Najaf on Wednesday. He reports that Jazairi “advised” Iraqis not to come to Najaf because it might be dangerous. If Sistani ever gets any practical power in Najaf, I can only imagine that Jazairi’s days in that position are numbered.
The Kufa incident underlines the potential for police/crowd violence (and perhaps US military/ crowd violence) as Sistani’s supporters converge on Najaf.
posted by Juan @ 8/26/2004 05:50:11 AM
Sistani in Najaf Today
(August 26, 2004) — As I write very early Thursday morning, Sistani ‘s convoy had left Basra on its way to Najaf several hours to the north. Al-Jazeerah says his convoy is being accompanied by Iraqi police.
The Guardian‘s Michael Howard scored a coup with an interview with Ayatollah Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, who is close to Sistani and laid out his plan of action for Thursday.
‘ Mr Bahr Ul Uloum said the grand ayatollah would spend the night in Basra, before travelling to Najaf today, gathering supporters in the southern cities of Nassiriya, Samawa and Diwaniya. He said he and a delegation of tribal and religious leaders from Najaf and the surrounding region would meet the ayatollah and his supporters on the edge of the holy city and march with them to the shrine.
“If the fighting is still going on, the ayatollah will call on everyone to put down their guns,” Mr Bahr Ul Uloum said. “Then he will go the holy shrine, pray, and receive the keys to the holy shrine.” After that the political process would take over to resolve “outstanding issues” between Mr Sadr and the interim government, he said. ‘
The 4-Point Plan
Al-Hayat reports that Sistani will put forward a 4-point plan:
• 1) An immediate ceasefire will be called; the Mahdi Army will leave Najaf and so will the American military, turning security over to the Iraqi police.
• 2) The shrine of Ali will be returned to the supervision of the Pious Endowments Board headed by Husain al-Shami.
• 3) Najaf will be declared a security (i.e. non-combat) zone.
• The source to whom the newspaper’s journalists spoke declined to reveal the fourth point.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat says that Sayyid Muhammad Musawi, one of Sistani’s more important aides, warned the Americans against damaging or raiding the shrine of Ali (where Mahdi Army militiamen are holed up). He said that if the Americans behaved this way, it would provoke “general” (i.e. nation-wide) protests and result in a “very bad” situation.
This is a threat that Sistani will bring out large urban crowds against the Americans if they do not back off. He can do it, so it is not an empty boast. And those panglossian American military planners who think they have 10 years to get things right in Iraq will find themselves tossed out summarily from the country.
Al-Zaman reports that a procession toward Najaf has already begun from the other Shiite holy city of Karbala, to the northwest of Najaf.
It also reports that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has fully endorsed Sistani’s call for a march on Najaf. SCIRI is represented on the caretaker government by Finance Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat says that Muqtada al-Sadr has issued a communique also calling on Shiites to come to Najaf. The Sadrists will inevitably attempt to piggy-back on Sistani’s new activism. But since he is insisting that they leave the shrine, they are playing a weak hand.
The interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, dispatched two cabinet ministers to consult with Sistani. They are Minister of State Qassim Dawoud and Minister of Provincial Affairs, Judge Wael Abdul Latif.
The stakes here are enormous. If Iraqi police fire on the peaceful demonstrators again, or if US troops refuse to make way for Sistani, there could be a big social explosion in Iraq. If Sistani is successful in his plan, on the other hand, it will further increase his authority in the Shiite South and perhaps even transform him into a nationalist hero.
All this is important because Sistani is insisting on the January elections being held on time. If they are postponed he will almost certainly send his followers into the streets to protest, and could well bring down Allawi.
posted by Juan @ 8/26/2004 06:00:30 AM
Dozens Dead in Kufa Mosque Mortar Attack
(August 26, 2004) — Abdul Hussein al-Obeidi of AP reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has arrived in Najaf and gone to a house about a mile from the besieged shrine of Ali. He has asked the thousands of marchers with him to wait outside the city.
Caretaker Prime Minister announced a 24-hour truce in Najaf. American-appointed Najaf Governor Ali al-Zurfi threatened that if the mosque crisis is not resolved in 24 hours, he will begin military operations again (the clip was shown on al-Jazeerah).
Iraqis in Kufa who went to a mosque to pray before walking to Najaf came under mortar fire, which killed dozens and wounded a large number. The Sadrists blamed the US military, which denied having mortar emplacements anywhere near the shrine.
The US military suggested that the Mahdi Army has engaged in wild, undisciplined mortar fire. (This is true, but unless a clear target is identified near the mosque that they might have actually been aiming at, it seems a little unlikely that they would hit their own mosque with hundreds of worshippers inside.)
The main source of violence in Kufa in the past 24 hours has been Iraqi police or national guards, who have fired on unarmed demonstrators.
Before Sistani’s arrival, protesters from Diwaniyyah to Najaf’s east who arrived at that side of the holy city had received fire from Iraqi police, and there were an unknown number of casualties.
Iraqi police also fired on peaceful demonstrators in Hilla who were heading for Najaf, killing at least two and wounding 23, according to Australian Broadcasting.
Al-Jazeerah is quoting ccasualties during the previous 24 hours from Iraqi health officials as 74 dead, 300 wounded.
Tony Karon at the Time Magazine weblog, has a fine overview of the situation which does an excellent job of explaining Sistani’s political dilemma and the way he is trying to resolve it.
posted by Juan @ 8/26/2004 09:10:46 AM
Najaf Police Round Up Reporters at Gunpoint
Iraqi police, angered by news coverage of the standoff around the Imam Ali Mosque, rousted journalists from their hotel at gunpoint Wednesday night and took them to hear Chief Ghaleb al-Jazaeri criticize their reporting.
About 50 journalists were taken to police headquarters, including representatives of CNN, the British Broadcasting Corp., Agence France-Presse and several U.S. newspapers.
Iraqi police officials have expressed anger that journalists pay too much attention to al-Sadr and not enough to the police.
When the journalists returned to their hotel, many found their rooms had been ransacked, and some reported small amounts of money missing.
Al-Zurufi, the Najaf governor, later sent a bus to the hotel to collect journalists so he could deliver an apology, but the journalists refused to go.
August 26th, 2004 - by admin
Steve Weissman / t r u t h o u t | Perspective – 2004-08-26 21:44:02
(August 27, 2004) — How much torture will it take before someone in power asks the right question: Who gave the orders that put the torturers to work?
Forget, for a moment, the failure of leadership, prison overcrowding, and personal sadism and brutality that led to much of what we saw in all those dirty pictures from Abu Ghraib. Put aside even more horrific tales of forced sex involving women, children, and dogs, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Focus, if you can, on how the torture started.
Bush Gave the Go-ahead in September 2001
Though you would never guess it from either official Army investigations or former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger’s blue-ribbon commission, America’s major newspapers and magazines — and several writers on this website — documented the answer weeks and months ago. President George W. Bush gave the go-ahead in the days after 9/11, when he signed a series of Presidential Directives giving the CIA authority to kill or capture suspected al-Qaeda leaders and “disappear” those who survived into a global network of secret torture centers around the world.
Richard C. Clarke, the president’s chief of counter-terrorism, summed up the White House mood. “I don’t care what the international lawyers say,” he quotes Mr. Bush, “we are going to kick some ass.”
To be fair, the CIA and Special Forces had used what they called “stress and duress” torture techniques at least as far back as the early days of the Vietnam War, as you can see in the CIA’s KUBARK Counter-intelligence Interrogation Manual (1963) and their updated Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual (1983). These savage skills remained part of the American arsenal, with trained professionals ready to use them or teach them to client armies. Mr. Bush ordered their use.
Bush Approved Secret Waivers on Torture
He also signed off on secret legal justifications, accepting the argument made by White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, that the need to obtain information quickly to prevent terrorist attacks “renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.”
Denying POW status to suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda captives in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Mr. Bush sought to deprive them of the “humane treatment” the Geneva Conventions requires. He also walked away from the International Criminal Court, fearing that American soldiers and political leaders might face prosecution for war crimes. The president knew what he was doing.
The result became clear with the first captives in Afghanistan. American forces kept “enemy combatants” hooded and shackled, forced them to stand or kneel in painful stress positions, deprived them of food, water, and medicine, subjected them to threats, interrupted sleep, sensory deprivation and sensory assault, and extremes of hot and cold. The Americans also kept captives naked and began the routine sexual humiliation that we later saw in Iraq.
Rumsfeld Discussed Torture with Apparent Delight
All the while, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delighted in the harsh treatment his soldiers were handing out. While the Schlesinger Commission faults him for sowing confusion about which interrogation techniques he would — and would not — permit, he publicly defended harsh interrogation, often with glee. He also defended the handling of captives at Guantánamo Bay, or Gitmo, where Major General Geoffrey Miller routinely subjected them to the same kind of torture.
Rumsfeld’s protégé Dr. Stephen A. Cambone, now Deputy Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, then sent Gen. Miller to Iraq to “Gitmoize” interrogations at Abu Ghraib and other American prisons.
“At Guantánamo Bay we learned that the prisoners have to earn every single thing that they have,” Miller told Brig. General Janis Karpinski, as she recalled on BBC’s Radio 4.
“He said they are like dogs and if you allow them to believe at any point that they are more than a dog then you’ve lost control of them.”
Rumsfeld’s Hand-picked Investigators Fail to Fault White House
The Schlesinger Commission, which Secretary Rumsfeld handpicked, acknowledges that the interrogation techniques he approved at Guantánamo “migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq, where they were neither limited nor safeguarded.” But the four commissioners — two former defense secretaries, a former Republican Congresswoman, and a retired Air Force general — refuse to condemn the techniques or hold anybody responsible for ordering them.
Not Secretary Rumsfeld. And certainly not President Bush.
“The report talks about management failures when it should be talking about policy failures,” said Reed Brody, special counsel with Human Rights Watch. “The report seems to go out of its way not to find any relationship between Secretary Rumsfeld’s approval of interrogation techniques designed to inflict pain and humiliation and the widespread mistreatment and torture of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo.”
Why? Because the Schlesinger Commission is doing exactly what I predicted Rummy would do several weeks ago. He and they are trying their damndest to preserve Stress and Duress as long as the Pentagon and CIA restricts its use to making interrogations more productive…
Stop the excesses. Leave the torture.
Schlesinger even warned of the “chilling effect” that Abu Ghraib excesses might have on attempts to obtain better intelligence through interrogations.
“One consequence of the publicity that has been associated with the activities at Abu Ghraib and the punishments that prospectively will be handed out is that it has had a chilling effect on interrogation operations,” he said. “It is essential in the war on terror that we have adequate intelligence and that we have effective interrogation.”
Significantly, the panel did not have “full access to information involving the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in detention operations.” Critics will see the panel as an effort to save Rumsfeld’s job, and Schlesinger has indeed warned that firing the Secretary, or asking him to resign, “would be a boon for all of America’s enemies.” But the bigger goal is to save the system of torture that America will continue to use to gather the information it wants.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t.
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