January 31st, 2006 - by admin
Michel Chossudovsky / Global Research – 2006-01-31 23:32:35
America’s War of Terrorism:
The Dangers of a US Sponsored Nuclear War
Michel Chossudovsky / Global Research
• Video Webcast: Click here to view the Webcast of Michel Chossudovsky’s Presentation to the Perdana Peace Forum, Kuala Lumpur
KUALA LUMPUR (January 30, 2006) — The World is at the crossroads of the most serious crisis in modern history. In the largest display of military might since the Second World War, the United States and its indefectible British ally have embarked upon a military adventure, which threatens the future of humanity.
The wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq are part of the same “military road-map”. Confirmed by military documents, the US war agenda not only targets Iran, Syria and North Korea, but also its former Cold War enemies: Russia and China.
We are dealing with a global military agenda characterized by various forms of intervention. The latter include covert military and intelligence operations in support of domestic paramilitary groups and so-called liberation armies. These operations are largely devised with a view to creating social, ethnic and political divisions within national societies, ultimately contributing to the destruction of entire countries, as occurred in Yugoslavia.
Meanwhile, the US sponsored “democratization” agenda consists in intervening in countries’ internal affairs, often with a view to destabilizing national governments and imposing sweeping “free market” reforms. In this regard, the illegal invasion of Haiti following a US sponsored military coup, which was also supported by Canada and France, is an integral part of Washington’s global military agenda.
War and Globalization
War and globalization are intimately related processes. Military and intelligence operations support the opening up of new economic frontiers and the remolding of national economies. The powers of Wall Street, the Anglo-American oil giants and the U.S.-U.K. defense contractors are indelibly behind this process.
Ultimately, the purpose of America’s “War on Terrorism” is to transform sovereign nations into open territories (or “free trade areas”), both through “military means”, as well as through the imposition of deadly macro-economic reforms.
The latter, implemented under IMF-World Bank-WTO auspices often serve to undermine and destroy national economies, precipitating millions of people into abject poverty. In turn, so-called “reconstruction programs” imposed by donors and creditors in the wake of the war contribute to a spiraling external debt.
In a twisted logic, “war reparations” financed by external debt are being paid to the US invader. Billions of dollars are channeled to Western construction conglomerates such as Bechtel and Halliburton, both of which have close links to the US Department of Defense.
Iran and Syria:
Next Phase of the War
Confirmed in national security documents, a central objective of this war is the conquest and confiscation of Middle East oil wealth. In this regard, the broader Middle East – Central Asian region encompasses some 70 percent of the World’s oil and gas resources, more than thirty times those of the US.
The Anglo-American oil giants in alliance with Wall Street and the military-industrial complex are indelibly behind America’s war agenda.
The next phase of this war is Iran and Syria, which have already been identified as targets.
Iran is the country with the third largest oil and gas reserves (10%) after Saudi Arabia (25%) and Iraq (11%). The US is seeking with the complicity of the UN Security Council to establish a pretext for the bombing of Iran, which is presented as a threat to world peace.
Israel is slated to play a key role in launching the military operation against Iran.
This operation is in a state of readiness. Were it to occur, the war would extend to the entire Middle Eastern region and beyond. At the same token, Israel would become an official member of the Anglo-American military axis.
In early 2005, several high profile military exercises were conducted in the Eastern Mediterranean, involving military deployments and the testing of weapons systems. Military planning meetings were held between the US, Israel and Turkey. There has been a shuttle of military and government officials between Washington, Tel Aviv and Ankara.
Intense diplomatic exchanges have been carried out at the international level with a view to securing areas of military cooperation and/or support for a US-Israeli led military operation directed against Iran. The UN Security Council resolution regarding Iran’s nuclear program provides a pretext, which the US plans to use to justify military intervention.
Of significance is a November 2004 military cooperation agreement between NATO and Israel. A few months later, Israel was involved for the first time in military exercises with NATO, which also included several Arab countries.
A massive buildup in military hardware has occurred in preparation for a possible attack on Iran. Israel has taken delivery from the US of some 5,000 “smart air launched weapons” including some 500 BLU 109 ‘bunker-buster bombs.
Nuclear Weapons in Conventional War Theaters:
“Safe for Civilians”
An attack on Iran using tactical nuclear weapons (mini-nukes) has also been contemplated. Tactical nuclear weapons with an explosive capacity between one third to 6 times a Hiroshima bomb have been cleared for use in conventional war theaters. .
The mini-nukes have been redefined as a defensive weapon, which is “safe for civilians” “because the explosion is underground”. The Senate in a December 2003 decision, has authorized their use in conventional war theaters
Air strikes against Iran could contribute to extending the war to the broader Middle East Central Asian region. Tehran has confirmed that it would retaliate if attacked, in the form of ballistic missile strikes directed against Israel (CNN, 8 Feb 2005). These attacks could also target US military facilities in the Persian Gulf, which would immediately lead us into a scenario of military escalation and all out war.
In recent developments, Israel’s armed forces have been ordered by Prime minister Ariel Sharon, “to be ready by the end of March  for possible strikes” on Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities (The Sunday Times, 11 December 2005).
Meanwhile, Iran is building its air defense capabilities. Russia has recently announced that it plans to sell to Iran some 29 Tor M-1 anti-missile systems.
The planned attack on Iran should also be understood in relation to the timely withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, which has opened up a new space, for the deployment of Israeli forces. The participation of Turkey in the US-UK-Israeli military operation is also a factor, following an agreement reached between Ankara and Tel Aviv.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.
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© Copyright Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2006
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/PrintArticle.php?articleId=1848
Multimedia © Copyright 2005
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
January 31st, 2006 - by admin
Gore Vidal / Democracy Now! – 2006-01-31 23:27:45
Gore Vidal’s State of the Union Address:
“Let the Powers That Be Know There is
Something Called We the People of the US
and all Sovereignty Rests in Us.”
(January 31st, 2006) —
AMY GOODMAN: In Washington, President Bush will deliver the State of the Union address tonight. In advance of tonight we’d like to bring you a different take on the annual presidential speech.
Since the early 1970s, author and playwright Gore Vidal has been delivering his own State of the Union address. The tradition began on the David Susskind Show. We’re going to continue that tradition by hearing from Gore Vidal today.
Gore Vidal, one of America’s most respected writers and thinkers. He’s authored more than twenty novels and five plays. His recent national bestsellers are Dreaming War and Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. His latest book is called Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia.
GORE VIDAL: Today, the 31st of January, in the hallowed year, election year, of ’06, could be a memorable day if we all do our part, which is simply to concentrate, among other things, and do perhaps what a couple of groups have decided would be useful for the President, I guess his State of the Union.
We might give him some idea of our state, which is one of great dissatisfaction with him and his regime. And there’s talk of perhaps demonstrating in front of the Capitol or here or there around the country to show that the union is occupied by people who happen to be patriots. And patriots do not like this government.
This is an unpatriotic government. This is a government that deals openly in illegalities, whether it is attacking a country which has done us no harm, two countries — Iraq and Afghanistan — because we now believe, not in declaring war through Congress as the Constitution requires, but through the President. ‘Well, I think there are some terrorists over there, and I think we got to bomb them, huh? We’ll bomb them.’ Now, we’ve had idiots as presidents before. He’s not unique. But he’s certainly the most active idiot that we have ever had.
And now here we are planning new wars, ongoing wars in the Middle East. And so as he comes with his State of the Union, which he is going to justify eavesdropping without judicial warrants on anybody in the United States that he wants to listen in on.
This is what we call dictatorship. Dictatorship. Dictatorship. And it is time that we objected. Don’t say wait ’til the next election and do it through that. We can’t trust the elections, thanks to Diebold and S&S and all the electronic devices which are being flogged across the country to make sure that elections can be so rigged that the villains will stay in power.
I think demonstrations across the country could be very useful on this famous Tuesday. Just say no. We’ve had enough of you. Go home to Crawford. We’ll help you raise the money for a library, and you won’t even ever have to read a book.
We’re not cruel. We just want to get rid of you and let you be an ex-president with his own library, which you can fill up with friends of yours who can neither read nor write, but they’ll be well served and well paid, we hope, by corporate America, which will love you forever.
So I think it is really up to us to give some resonance to the State of the Union, which will be largely babble. He’s not going really try to do anything about Social Security, we read in the papers. He has no major moves, other than going on and on about the legality of his illegal warrantless eavesdroppings and other breakings of the law.
I had a piece on the internet some of you may have seen a few days ago, and there’s a story about Tiberius, who’s one of my favorite Roman emperors. He’s had a very bad press, because the wrong people perhaps have written history. But when he became emperor, the Senate of Rome sent him congratulations with the comment, “Any law that you want us to pass, we shall do so automatically.”
And he sent a message back. He said, “This is outrageous! Suppose I go mad. Suppose I don’t know what I’m doing. Suppose I’m dead and somebody is pretending to be me. Never do that! Never accept something like preemptive war,” which luckily the Senate did not propose preemptive wars against places they didn’t like. But Mr. Bush has done that.
So this is a sort of Tiberius time without, basically, a good emperor, and he was a good emperor in the sense that he sent back this legislation, which was to confirm anything he wanted to have done automatically. And they sent it back to him again. And then he said, “How eager you are to be slaves,” and washed his hands of the Senate and went to live in Capri, a much wiser choice, just as we can send this kid back to Crawford, Texas, where he’ll be very, very happy cutting bushes of the leafy variety.
You know, it’s at a time when people say, ‘Well, it makes no difference what we do, you know, if we march and we make speeches, and this and that.’ It makes a lot of difference if millions of Americans just say, “We are fed up! We don’t like you. We don’t like what you’re doing to the country and what you have done to the country. We don’t like to live in a lawless land, where the rule of law has just been bypassed and hacks are appointed to the federal bench, who will carry on and carry on and carry on all of the illegalities which are so desperately needed by our military-industrial corporate masters.”
I think a day dedicated to that and to just showing up here and there around the country will be a good thing to do. And so, let the powers that be know that back of them, there’s something called “We the people of the United States,” and all sovereignty rests in us, not in the board rooms of the Republicans.
“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”
— George Gordon Noel Byron (Lord Byron) 1824-1878 Download this as a file
January 31st, 2006 - by admin
– 2006-01-31 23:20:40
The language of the news release below is a bit cautious–but that’s hard to avoid when you’re getting a group of people to agree on a single statement. With effective press relations and a bit of luck they may score media breakthroughs where other 9/11 Truth groups have tried and failed. After all, most of the people are part of the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex, so their statements have the force of Insider Whistleblow Testimony. This analysis stresses Physical Evidence — e.g., “the government’s account violates laws of physics and engineering.”
Something similar to this could have been put together three or four years ago. That it wasn’t is mainly the fault of most of the 9/11 researchers, who chose to bicker among themselves rather than put together a group like this based on the most persuasive generally-agreed-upon evidence among them.
— Keith Lampe, Ro-Non-So-Te, Ponderosa Pine
Scholars Repudiate Official Version of 9/11
PR Web Direct)
(January 27, 2006) — An influential group of prominent experts and scholars have joined together alleging that senior government officials have covered up crucial facts about what really happened on 9/11. The members of this new non-partisan association, “Scholars for 9/11 Truth” (S9/11T), are convinced their research proves the current administration has been dishonest with the nation about events in New York and Washington, DC.
These experts contend that books and articles by members and associates have established that the World Trade Center was almost certainly brought down by controlled demolitions and that the available relevant evidence casts grave doubt on the official story about the attack on the Pentagon. They believe that the government not only permitted 9/11 to occur but may even have orchestrated these events to facilitate its political agenda.
The society includes US and international faculty and students of history, science, military affairs, psychology, and even philosophy. According to its spokesmen, S9/11T represents a concerted effort to uphold the standards of truth and justice and to strengthen democracy in this nation, which has taken a terrible hit in the aftermath of 9/11, when “everything changed.” Its function is to bring scientific rigor to the study of 9/11 phenomena.
The members of this group are dedicated to exposing falsehoods and to revealing truths behind 9/11, “letting the chips fall where they may.” The evidence has become sufficiently strong that they are speaking out. They are actively devoting themselves to reporting the results of their research to the public by means of lectures, articles, and other venues.
The society includes numerous notable professors and scholars, including:
• Morgan Reynolds, Texas A & M Professor Emeritus of Economics, former Chief Economist for the Department of Labor for President George W. Bush, and former Director of the Criminal Justice Center at the National Center for Policy Analysis
• Steven E. Jones, Professor of Physics, Brigham Young University, co-chair of S9/11T and the creator of its home page and its forum
• Robert M. Bowman, former Director of the U.S. “Star Wars” Space Defense Program in both Republican and Democratic administrations, a former senior Air Force Colonel with 101 combat missions, who is also a Catholic Archbishop
• Lloyd DeMause, Director of The Institute for Psychohistory, President of the International Psychohistorical Association and Editor of The Journal of Psychohistory
• James H. Fetzer, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, author or editor of more than 20 books and co-chair of S9/11T
• Daniele Ganser, Senior Researcher at the Center for Security Studies of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
• Andreas Von Buelow, former assistant German defense minister, director of the German Secret Service, minister for research and technology, and member of Parliament for 25 years
The society, founded by Professors Fetzer and Jones, who serve as its co-chairs, is approaching 50 members to date. Fetzer, a philosopher of science, observed that the government’s “official account” is not even physically possible, because it violates laws of nature. “What we have been told is fine,” he said, “if you are willing to believe impossible things. Serious scholars don’t believe in tooth fairies.”
Beyond encouraging its members to vigorously express their concerns on this score through lectures, conferences, symposia, articles, and books as well as other access routes that publicize their findings, the society’s initial activities, which are expected to increase in frequency and intensity, include the following projects and endeavors:
• Professor Jones is refining his influential analysis of the physics of the collapse of buildings at the World Trade Center.
• Professor Fetzer is editing a collection of new studies about 9/11 that will include contributions from the members of S9/11T.
• A major conference is being planned for this fall to further inform the American public about the group’s most recent findings.
• Studies by the society’s founders and by prominent theologian David Ray Griffin, who has taken a leading role in exposing false claims about 9/11, are accessible from the association’s home page, www.ScholarsFor911Truth.org. Information for those who may want to join S9/11T can also be found there.
James H. Fetzer, Ph.D. S9/11T Co-Chair, (218) 726-7269 (office) . www.d.umn.edu/~jfetzer/
• Resource Questions:
Eric Hufschmid, S9/11T Associate, (805) 968-5351. PainfulQuestions [at aol.com
January 31st, 2006 - by admin
Anthony Romero / ACLU & David Krieger / Nuclear Age Peace Foundation – 2006-01-31 23:17:23
Restore our Constitutional Checks and Balances
Anthony D. Romero / ACLU
“The state of our Union cannot be strong if the president continues to violate the law”
Tonight, the president gives his State of the Union address, and if recent weeks are any guide, he will stand before us and deny the truth about his program of illegal spying on innocent Americans.
Just last week in a White House press conference, President Bush claimed that the program is actually “designed to protect civil liberties.”
But the truth is that this warrantless spying is part of a wide-ranging pattern of abuses of power, abuses that are especially troubling as the administration renews its push this week for the wholesale reauthorization of the Patriot Act, despite persistent outcries for reform from both liberals and conservatives.
The illegal NSA spying and the Patriot Act are just two signs of the troubling state of our union; others include:
• Over 30,000 FBI national security letters demanding access to personal records
• Pentagon monitoring of peaceful political protestors
• Government labeling of groups like Greenpeace and PETA as terrorist organizations
Together, we must make it clear that no matter what President Bush says to blur the truth about his illegal actions, or to frighten us into accepting losses of liberty, the state of our union can’t be strong when the state of our civil liberties has reached an historic crisis.
The ACLU is doing everything in our power to challenge the administration’s reckless abuses of power, filing a landmark lawsuit against the NSA, challenging its illegal spying on Americans.
Today we are also running full-page ads in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times with an open letter to President Bush challenging his ongoing and unacceptable actions.
Today’s ACLU Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
January 31st, 2006 - by admin
Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War – 2006-01-31 10:31:59
A Memorial to the 73 Soldiers Who Died on Duty while the Commander-in-Chief Was on Vacation
58 Soldiers Died in Iraq from August 4-31.
They were: *
• Specialist Jason E. Ames Mosul – Ninawa. Non-hostile – unspecified cause
• Captain Lowell T. Miller II Iskandariyah (near) – Babil. Hostile – hostile fire
• Sergeant Monta S. Ruth Samarra (SE of) – Salah ad-Din. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Major Gregory J. Fester Iskandariyah – Babil. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• 2nd Lieutenant Charles R. Rubado Tall Afar – Ninawa. Hostile – hostile fire – sniper
• Chief Warrant Officer Dennis P. Hay Tall Afar – Ninawa. Hostile – hostile fire
• Sergeant 1st Class Obediah J. Kolath Landstuhl Reg. Med. Ctr. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Specialist Joseph L. Martinez Tall Afar – Ninawa. Hostile – hostile fire
• Master Sergeant Ivica Jerak Husaybah – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Corporal Timothy M. Shea Husaybah – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Sergeant 1st Class Trevor J. Diesing Husaybah – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Master Sergeant Chris S. Chapin Ramadi (Tamin Distr.) – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire – sniper
• 1st Lieutenant Carlos J. Diaz Ba’qubah – Diyala Hostile – hostile fire – suicide bomber
• Private 1st Class Ramon Romero Fallujah (near) – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Specialist Hatim S. Kathiria Baghdad (southern part) Hostile – hostile fire – rocket attack
• Staff Sergeant Victoir P. Lieurance Samarra (SW of) – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Sergeant Joseph Daniel Hunt Samarra (SW of) – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• 2nd Lieutenant James J. Cathey Al Karmah (near) [nr. Fallujah] – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Private 1st Class Elden D. Arcand Tall Afar (near) – Ninawa. Non-hostile – vehicle accident
• Staff Sergeant Brian Lee Morris Tall Afar (near) – Ninawa. Non-hostile – vehicle accident
• Specialist Joseph C. Nurre Ad Dwar (near Tikrit) – Salah ad-Din. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Sergeant Willard Todd Partridge Baghdad Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Private 1st Class Timothy J. Seamans Samarra – Salah ad-Din. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Specialist Ray M. Fuhrmann II Samarra – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Sergeant Nathan K. Bouchard Samarra – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Staff Sergeant Jeremy W. Doyle Samarra – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Specialist Michael J. Stokely Baghdad (southwest part) Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Specialist Jose L. Ruiz Mosul (central part) – Ninawa Hostile – hostile fire
• Sergeant Paul A. Saylor Al Mahmudiyah – Babil Non-hostile – vehicle accident (drowning)
• Specialist Joshua P. Dingler Al Mahmudiyah – Babil Non-hostile – vehicle accident (drowning)
• Sergeant Thomas J. Strickland Al Mahmudiyah – Babil Non-hostile – vehicle accident (drowning)
• Specialist Toccara R. Green Ar Rutbah (E of) [nr. Jordan border] – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Specialist Gary L. Reese Jr. Tuz Khurmatu [nr. Tikrit] – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire
• Sergeant Shannon D. Taylor Tuz Khurmatu [nr. Tikrit] – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire
• Staff Sergeant Asbury F. Hawn II Tuz Khurmatu [nr. Tikrit] – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire
• Specialist Brian K. Derks Baghdad (western part) Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Specialist Rusty W. Bell Taji (NW of Baghdad) Non-hostile – weapon discharge
• 1st Lieutenant David L. Giaimo Tikrit (near) – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Lance Corporal Evenor C. Herrera Ramadi – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Sergeant 1st Class Michael A. Benson Bethesda Naval Hosp., MD Hostile – hostile fire – car bomb
• Staff Sergeant Ryan S. Ostrom Camp Taqaddum (nr. Al Habbaniyah) – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire
• Sergeant Francis J. Straub Jr. Bayji (near) – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire
• Private 1st Class Nathaniel E. “Nate” Detample Bayji (near) – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire
• Specialist John Kulick Bayji (near) – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire
• Specialist Gennaro Pellegrini Jr. Bayji (near) – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire
• Specialist Miguel Carrasquillo Baghdad (central part) Hostile – hostile fire – suicide car bomb
• Private 1st Class Hernando Rios Baghdad Hostile – hostile fire
• Specialist Anthony N. Kalladeen Baghdad Hostile – hostile fire
• Staff Sergeant Ramon E. Gonzales Cordova Ramadi – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire
• Private 1st Class Seferino J. Reyna Taji (NW of Baghdad) Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Lance Corporal Chase Johnson Comley Amiriyah (S of Fallujah) – Anbar Hostile – hostile fire – suicide car bomb
• Sergeant Brahim J. Jeffcoat Samarra – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Specialist Kurt E. Krout Samarra – Salah ad-Din Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Sergeant 1st Class Brett Eugene Walden Al Kasik Military Base (near) – Ninawa Non-hostile – vehicle accident
• Gunnery Sergeant Terry W. Ball Jr. Bethesda Naval Hosp., MD Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
• Sergeant 1st Class Robert V. Derenda Al Kasik Military Base (near) – Ninawa Non-hostile – vehicle accident
• Private 1st Class Nils George Thompson Mosul – Ninawa Hostile – hostile fire – sniper
• Staff Sergeant Chad J. Simon Fitchburg, WI Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack
15 Died in Afghanistan
• Damion G. Campbell, (23) Army Staff Sergeant, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Reg., 173rd Airborne Brigade. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack. Khayr Kot District [Paktika Prov.]. Baltimore, Maryland
• Christopher L. Palmer, (22) Army Private, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Reg., 173rd Airborne Brigade. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack. Deh Chopan (S of), Zabul Province. Sacramento, California
• Michael R. Lehmiller, (23) Army Sergeant. 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Reg., 173rd Airborne Brigade. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack. Deh Chopan (S of), Zabul Province. Anderson, South Carolina
• Joshua M. Hyland, (31) Army 1st Lieutenant. 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Reg., 173rd Airborne Brigade. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack. Deh Chopan (S of), Zabul Province. Missoula, Montana
• Blake W. Hall, (20) Army Specialist, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Reg., 173rd Airborne Brigade. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack. Deh Chopan (S of), Zabul Province. East Prairie, Missouri
• Phillip C. George,(22) Marine Lance Corporal, 2nd Bat., 3rd Marines, 3rd Mar. Div., III Mar. Exped. Force Hostile – hostile fire. Taleban (near) [Kunar Province]. Houston, Texas
• Robert G. Davis, (23) Army Sergeant, 864th Engineer Bat., 555th Maneuver Enhancement Brig. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack. Kandahar (N of). Jackson, Missouri
• Laura M. Walker, (24) Army 1st Lieutenant, 864th Engineer Bat., 555th Maneuver Enhancement Brig. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack, Kandahar (N of). Not reported yet. Texas
• Jeremy A. Chandler, (30) Army Captain, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. Non-hostile – explosives accident. FOB Ripley (at Tarin Kowt) [Oruzgan P.]. Clarksville, Tennessee
• Edward R. Heselton, (23) Army Reserve Sergeant. 391st Engineer Battalion, 415th Chemical Brigade. Hostile – hostile fire., Paktika Province (eastern part). Easley, South Carolina
• Christopher M. Katzenberger, (25) Army Specialist, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack. Bagram Air Base. St. Louis, Missouri
• Christopher M. Falkel, (22) Army Staff Sergeant, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. Hostile – hostile fire. Deh Chopan (SW of), Zabul Province Highlands Ranch Colorado
• John M. Henderson Jr., (21) Army Private, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Non-hostile – vehicle accident (drowning). Kunar River (NE of Jalalabad). Columbus, Georgia
• Damian J. Garza, (19) Army Private 1st Class, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Non-hostile – vehicle accident (drowning). Kunar River (NE of Jalalabad). Odessa, Texas
• Theodore Clark Jr., (31) Marine Gunnery Sergeant. 1st Combat Engr. Bat., 1st Marine Div., I Mar. Exped. Force. Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack. Orgun-E (near) [Paktika Province]. Emporia, Virginia
Wounded in Iraq: 593
63 (Wounded) 45 (Returned to Duty)
• 10-Aug- 16-Aug-05 45 99
45 (Wounded) 99 (Returned to Duty)
• 17-Aug- 23-Aug-05 11 88
11 (Wounded) 88 (Returned to Duty)
• 24-Aug- 30-Aug-05 38 107
38 (Wounded) 107 (Returned to Duty)
• 31-Aug- 07-Sep-05 5 92
5 (Wounded) 92 (Returned to Duty)
A Letter from a Soldier’s Family
EAW received the following letter on January 23, 2006:
Subject: fallen soldier
My brother, Lcpl Phillip C. George, is on your list of fallen. I would appreciate you removing his name from your site. He knew what he signed up for and why he was fighting. If you have a problem with the war, debate the point on other facts, but leave my brother out of it. You cheapen his sacrifice and our loss when you use his name to further a cause he would not support.
— Aaron George
EAW’s Web editor responds:
Dear Aaron George,
Thank you for your note.
While I cannot alter the history of the war that claimed your brother’s life by making it appear that his sacrifice never happened, I can honor your request by posting your letter on our Web site.
My personal feeling is that it was the Commander-in-Chief’s decision to take a four-week vacation — while American soldiers were risking their lives in combat — that constituted “cheapening the sacrifice” of those who died. I’m sure that your brother wanted to see an honorable end to this conflict. So do we all.
I’m deeply sorry for your loss.
— Gar Smith
Environmentalists Against War
January 31st, 2006 - by admin
Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor / London Telegraph – 2006-01-31 09:07:22
LONDON (January 28, 2006) — Anti-ID cards campaigners accused the Home Office yesterday of misleading parliament and the public over plans to include radio tracking devices in ID cards.
Only last month, Andy Burnham, the Home Office minister, said in a parliamentary written answer that there were “no plans to use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in ID cards”.
However, a leaked letter from Mr Burnham indicates that the chips will use radio frequencies to allow “contactless” reading of the card by special scanners.
The Home Office said the signals emitted would be picked up only at a distance of a few inches. But Phil Booth, co-ordinator of the No2ID campaign, said receivers could easily be boosted to receive signals from much further away. This would allow anyone carrying the card to be tracked in the street or entering a building.
Mr Booth said that unlike normal RFID technology, which simply broadcast a number as a means of identifying an individual holder, the chips envisaged for use would transmit personal details.
He added: “This technology will make the cards a snooper’s paradise. It is outrageous for the Government to conceal this from the public and try to deny it in parliament.”
However, he said that since there would be no legal requirement to carry the cards, the people that the police most wanted to keep tabs would not be picked up if they took the simple precaution of leaving the card at home.
Mr Burnham said the radio technology was being introduced to meet international regulations enabling identity documents to be read by scanners at airports. It was “nonsense” to suggest the frequencies could be used to monitor people’s movements.
“This kind of scaremongering is designed to whip up fears about the ID cards scheme. I hope people will see it for what it is.”
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
January 31st, 2006 - by admin
Kelly Hearn / AlterNet – 2006-01-31 09:05:39
(January 17, 2006) — In the midst of an Amazonian oil boom, classified documents reveal deep links between oil companies and Ecuador’s military.
Scanning bookshelves in his tiny law office in Quito, Ecuador, Bolivar Beltran’s disdain for Big Oil is as legible as the contracts that map their nefarious ways.
“These were all negotiated in secret,” says the soft-spoken attorney and Ecuadorian congressional aide, explaining how he used a lawsuit last year to obtain pages of once-classified contracts between the Ecuadorian military and 16 multinational oil companies.
In November, when I visited him, Beltran handed me a grainy photocopy of a contract dated 2001. Then another bearing an official government seal. Soon a small table is covered, his finger running down keywords that spill off the page. Occidental Oil. Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense. Counterintelligence. Kerr-McGee. Armed Patrols. Military detachments. Burlington Resources.
The contracts come to light as an oil boom bears down on the Ecuadorian Amazon. Ecuador’s 100,000 square kilometers of the world’s richest rainforests unfortunately sit atop 4.4 billion proven barrels of oil, the 26th largest reserve in the world.
Since the 1960s, state and private companies have taken oil from Ecuador’s eastern province, known as the Oriente, and sent much of it to the United States, leaving behind environmental and public health disasters. And on top of all else, serious poverty: Despite their country’s vast natural resources, 70 percent of Ecuadorians live below the poverty line.
Impoverished, in debt and dependent on petro-dollars for revenues, the Ecuadorian government has put some 80 percent of its oil-flush lands up for international grabs, according to Amazon Watch, a California-based watchdog group. Oil companies are given subsoil rights by the government, but by law must negotiate with the pre-industrial societies that hold title to jungle lands — tribes like the Huarani, the Achuar and the Shauar tribes, some of which have only come into contact with the modern world in recent decades.
Too often, the tribes’ introduction to modernity comes from oil company negotiators. By finessing them into signing away oil access in morally deplorable contracts, these deals channel the legendary purchase of Manhattan island for $24 worth of trinkets. But they are learning fast. Increasingly savvy to the oilman’s ways, tribes here are putting on war paint, grabbing spears and shotguns, and saying no, sometimes violently, to the world’s most powerful interests.
Against that backdrop of rising tension, these previously unpublished contracts, including classified agreements between the Ecuadorian military and 16 oil companies, are changing the debate. The bulk of the documents, obtained by Beltran and verified by this reporter in November, offer what experts say is an extremely rare and detailed look at how cut-throat capitalism and an oil-guided militarization of the Ecuadorian Amazon are digging deep rifts through the country.
Sealing the Deal with a Fingerprint
“This one is one of the worst,” Beltran says, handing me an eight-page contract.
In 2001, Agip Oil Ecuador BV, a subsidiary of the multibillion dollar Italian petrochemical company Eni, convinced an association of Huarani Indians to sign over oil access to tribal lands and give up their future right to sue for environmental damage. In return Agip gave, among other things, modest allotments of medicine and food, a $3,500 school house, plates and cups, an Ecuadorian flag, two soccer balls and a referee’s whistle.
Indicative of the vast gulf in cultures, two of the tribal representatives signed the document with fingerprints.
Other contracts, some marked classified, are signed by multinational oil companies and the Ecuadorian military. Activists and attorneys interviewed for this story say the documents prove the Ecuadorian army has become a private security force for oil companies, one obligated to patrol vast swaths of jungle lands while engaging, and spying on, Ecuadorian citizens opposed to oil operations.
The contracts I reviewed typically required companies to provide money and nonlethal logistical support such as food and fuel in exchange for military protection of staff and facilities in remote jungle areas.
But some go even further.
In July 2001, a “master agreement” was signed between the Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense and 16 oil companies, including Petroecuador, the state oil company, and US-based companies Kerr-McGee, Burlington Resources and Occidental Oil.
Covering a duration of five years, the document is stamped “Reservado” — classified. Its purpose: “To establish, between the parties, the terms of collaboration and coordination of actions to guarantee the security of the oil installations and of the personnel that work in them.” It obligates the military to undertake “the control of arms, explosives and undocumented persons” in areas of oil operations and to give periodic updates to oil executives in monthly meetings.
For their part, oil companies are obligated, among other things, to provide food, fuel and medical attention while maintaining permanent communication links with military units in the sector.
Activists say this seemingly innocuous language is harmful in scope: Hundreds of thousands of remote jungle acres are covered by the accord, making especially the mandate to control undocumented persons ridiculously expansive, since indigenous citizens often either do not have IDs or don’t carry them.
Another contract between the ministry of defense and California-based Occidental Oil, dated April 2000 and also marked classified, required soldiers to “carry out armed patrol and checks of undocumented individuals in the area of Block 15; provide security guards for ground travel of personnel, materials, and equipment within the area of operations and its area of influence; [and] plan, execute and supervise counterintelligence operations to prevent acts of sabotage and vandalism that interfere with the normal development of hydrocarbon activities.”
“This basically gives the company the ability to spy on citizens,” Beltran told me, a sentiment echoed by Steve Donziger, a U.S. attorney involved in an Ecuadorian environmental lawsuit against Chevron Corp.
Beltran and men like Ricardo Ulcuango, a popular Ecuadorian politician who put his name on Beltran’s disclosure suit, say the contracts are especially troublesome given claims that a Quichua Indian settlement of Sarayacu, in Ecuador’s Napo province, as well as Shuar, Achuar and Shiwiar Indian communities in southeastern Ecuador have been victims of state threats. For them, the army’s involvement in land disputes is part of “a policy of intimidation” by oil companies working through what has essentially become their own private army.
Oxy’s Invisible Hand
A few days after my visit to Beltran’s office, I met Ulcuango in a dilapidated high-rise office building not far from the Ecuadorian Congress. He was preparing for a strategy meeting with other Amazonian lawmakers. Getting off the elevator, the entire floor had the feel of a company gone belly up: dim lights, little furniture, bare walls. But shy, smiling secretaries in brightly colored tribal dresses hustled among political aides with bronze skin and wide cheekbones. More lawmakers showed up: a group of short, elderly indigenous lawmakers in red shawls and, like Ulcuango, trilby hats.
Soon the three of us were sitting in a side office, empty but for an old desk and two chairs, with the high-rise’s view of Quito’s morning chaos. I told Ulcuango I had seen the contracts, and I needed to verify that he had officially filed the disclosure suit and that the contracts were, as far as he knew, valid. He confirmed both and added, “This is all unconstitutional because the military is supposed to serve the people, not just oil companies.”
But that is far from clear. While the contracts are technically legal, Beltran, whose oil investigations take place under the auspices of a small nonprofit group called Las Lianas, says the fact they were negotiated in secret violates Ecuadorian law requiring oil companies to publicize such agreements.
Another uncertainty is the military’s role in intervening in disputes between oil companies and local tribes. Even the contracts seem contradictory. What appears to be a November 2001 annex agreement to the master contract, for example, forbade military commanders from getting involved in problems between local populations and oil firms. But the 2000 Occidental agreement says they should collaborate in helping solve problems between companies and locals.
Do oil companies wield much leverage in guiding military policy? In a 2001 letter to a ranking Ecuadorian military official, an Occidental executive offered to build a military base near one of its remote operation areas, which Beltran says is located near a Quichua Indian community. The base was eventually built and supplied with Ecuadorian troops, all on what he claims is expropriated indigenous lands. In a Las Lianas newsletter, Beltran and Jim Oldham, an American activist working with the group write:
It’s unusual, to say the least, that a foreign-owned business, dedicated to oil exploration and production, should choose to advise the Ecuadorian Armed Forces as to where best to base their soldiers, and it is a sad reflection on the power relations in Ecuador that the advice not only did not offend, but was followed. The danger is that, now that the oil companies have established their authority over the military, and now that indigenous lands have become a target for military intervention, it is a short step to the military terror that has been seen in Burma, Nigeria and Colombia.
I also met with attorneys suing Chevron Corp. for damages left by Texaco Petroleum Co., which launched the Amazonian oil boom in 1967 but left the country in the early ’90s. (Chevron and Texaco merged in 2001).
On November 28, while visiting the legal team’s headquarters — a white nondescript building with a security guard located in a hilly section of Quito — I was shown another military contract. Released that same day by the Defense Ministry (presumably a result of public pressure by the plaintiff’s attorneys in the case), the agreement was signed by Chevron and a military detachment near a jungle oil town called Lago Agrio, where the trial is taking place.
That deal obligates Chevron to build a villa on a remote jungle military base belonging to a Special Forces detachment known as Rayo-24. The building remains army property but is used, currently, as temporary housing for Chevron attorneys defending the company in a billion-dollar environmental lawsuit here.
Big Oil’s Response
Larry Meriage, Occidental’s spokesman, dismissed Beltran’s allegations as propaganda of the well-intentioned, saying that tribes in the Oriente have long known about the security arrangements.
Regarding claims that tribes had been forced to open the lands to oil, he wrote in a November email: “It is important to clarify that [they] do not allege nor, to Occidental’s knowledge, are there any allegations that indigenous communities within Block 15 have ever been threatened or subjected to violence directly by Occidental or by armed forces acting on behalf of Occidental.”
Meriage said the contracts in question were legal and far from nefarious, adding that in 2004 Occidental received an amended agreement it requested in keeping with its human rights policy. That version had no references to armed patrols or counterintelligence, for example, and forbade the military from deploying troops that had been “credibly implicated” in human rights violations, Meriage said.
He stressed the dangers of operating in the Oriente, a zone widely reputed to be frequented by drug runners, FARC guerillas from Colombia and kidnappers who in the past have taken oil employees hostage. Also, though the 2000 agreement is clearly marked classified, Meriage told me that “pursuant to Ecuadorian law, these documents are most likely freely accessible to the public from the Ministry of Defense.” He also said the base referenced in the letter was not on indigenous territory, as Beltran claims.
Chevron’s Jeff Moore said plaintiffs in the Chevron case have long known about the villa and only recently called it into question as their case deteriorates. Like Meriage and extractive industry experts I interviewed, Moore pointed out the dangers of operating in Ecuador’s jungles. The Ecuadorian military did not grant an interview for this story.
People and Politicians Fighting Back
The potential significance of the contracts rises proportionally with social tensions here. In August, state forces in Quito cracked down on populist protests that had shut down the country’s oil production. And such clashes will continue as long as indigenous groups clamor for halts to or bigger stakes in oil operations.
There are stories of military personnel serving as repressive minions of oil interests. A woman who works for a Quito-based group called Accion Ecologica told me she had interviewed several poor residents of eastern Ecuador who had been subjected to intimidation and violence by state forces after they complained about the oil companies. Beltran says he, too, has interviewed people with similar claims and has worked with an NGO to videotape testimony, a project that wasn’t completed due to lack of funds.
Santiago de La Cruz, a Chachi indigenous leader and president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, said companies try to intimidate community leaders. “The companies have the backing of the government, even though the government is supposed to defend the towns and guarantee the conservation of natural resources,” he said. “That is why groups are resisting oil companies. It is a process that requires risks and sacrifices of the people.”
In addition to populist uprisings, political waves have recently spread. In early December, an Ecuadorian congressional committee on indigenous affairs called the country’s defense minister, Oswaldo Jarrin, to testify about contracts with foreign oil firms. Though Jarrin did not attend, he later suspended all military contracts with foreign oil companies on December 8. Local media reports said he plans to create a special military unit to protect oil facilities in the Oriente.
Others have a different take on the military here. For many Ecuadorians, the military is seen as a stabilizing social force, one that has even taken indigenous sides in disputes with companies. Alex Alper, an American (and former AlterNet intern) who for two years worked for an anti-mining newspaper in Ecuador, said she was surprised to read the contracts. “Historically, the military in Ecuador has been seen as a big safeguarder of the will and well-being of the people, ousting several unpopular regimes and seeing to nonviolent government transitions. So it’s inconsistent to [describe the military] as primarily at the behest of the petroleum companies.”
Randy Borman, a middle-aged son of American missionaries who was raised with Ecuador’s Cofan Indians, agreed. Over the years, as oil operations further encroached on tribal lands, Borman, now a Cofan elder, put on face paint and organized armed raids on remote oil facilities, even once kidnapping a group of oil employees for a day. He told me that during the Cofan’s confrontations, the military proved to be fair.
“They have basically been good,” he said, “even though they are often manipulated by political forces.” In his dealings with oil companies during land disputes, Borman said oil companies would bring the military as backup for their position, but the troops would often end up supporting the Cofan. Borman did say that some military officials “who are on the take” are responsible for intimidation. (In a seeming reference to this problem, the Master Agreement’s amendment prohibits contracts, verbal or otherwise, between military commanders and oil companies. It also prohibits commanders from taking donations and “economic support.”)
The Resistance: Divide et Impera
Ulcuango symbolizes a recent shift in Ecuador’s indigenous opposition: Whereas groups once boycotted the political system, they are now starting to work within it. But politics in Ecuador is a messy and unpredictable business. Corrupt, unstable and prone to turnover, it has had eight presidents in ten years, the last one, Lucio Gutierrez, being forced to flee street protesters. He’s now in an Ecuadorian prison, where he reportedly claims to still be the rightful president, not President Alfredo Palacio, his former second in command.
More than politics or law, force gets heard, says Borman. He believes aggressive tactics helped the Cofan build a tough reputation and ultimately regain a respectable chunk of its territorial lands. “We’ve got a reputation now,” he says, telling me how his tribe recently confronted a Chinese oil company whose newly acquired operations encroached on Cofan territory. “They backed off and put out a press release saying the area is highly biodiverse,” he said. “But basically they surrendered without a fight.”
Other groups have gotten oil companies to back down, or at least stand still. In one case, the Ecuadorian government has given Houston-based Burlington Resources subsoil rights to vast tracts of undisturbed rainforest that crosses into lands belonging to the Shauar and Achuar Indians (the latter group only came into contact with the outside world in the late 1960s). That project has since stalled because the tribes vow to fight.
Borman sees oil’s march as inevitable and works to shape rather than stop it. He said the right technology can take oil without leaving an environmental mess, and that tribes can work to make sure they get a fair stake in profits, not just payoffs.
A common claim I heard is that oil companies use sophisticated ways of dividing and conquering tribal opposition. According to Atossa Soltani, director of Amazon Watch, in some cases the oil companies employ anthropologists who speak local languages to offer development in exchange for oil rights.
Likewise, Chachi tribal leader De La Cruz says oil company representatives offer health centers, schools and “other things that will offer a better life.” And if there is dissent in the community, he said the companies “buy the conscience” of certain leaders who convince their base to follow suit. In 1999, an Ecuadorian court ruled that an oil company could only negotiate with legally recognized federations of indigenous communities, but activists say it changed little. As environmental writer John Vidal puts it, “yesterday’s mirrors and beads have become today’s roads, health and education centers.”
Cracks in the Oil Well
Can tribal people of the Ecuadorian Amazon stop the pipeline push? How much will the Ecuadorian government, bent by debt to the globalizing North, tolerate opposition to Big Oil? And if clashes come, how will rank and file soldiers respond?
By one estimate, global oil consumption is forecast to grow from 82 million barrels per day now to 111 million barrels per day over the next 20 years. In this light, the billions of barrels of oil lying in wait below Ecuador are understandably tempting for the oil companies.
Scott Pegg, a political scientist at Purdue University in Indianapolis who studies natural resource conflicts, says having documents like these contracts and letters is “extremely rare” and points out that oil companies have a “catalytic effect,” if not a direct one, on human rights in developing nations.
“Simply by virtue of them being there and generating extremely valuable revenues for the government, they tend to bring an increased military and security presence into oil-producing areas,” he says. “The increased presence of soldiers then potentially adversely affects the local population through increased bribes, corruption, shakedowns, drunkenness, bad behavior, rape, etc. My point is that this can happen even if the companies are not actively participating in the security dynamics themselves.”
Pegg says oil companies accused of rights violations typically justify their actions in a few basic ways: First, they say they are simply conducting business and remain “neutral,” or “apolitical” or “uninvolved” in political matters. Second, they point to their own legitimate security needs. Third, he says, they sometimes claim that they are required to follow the domestic laws in place.
“Obviously, he added, “the documents you have blow serious holes in a number of these justifications.”
These are untranslated, scanned versions of the contracts mentioned in this report. Right-click these links to save the files to your computer.
• Agip contract [PDF]
http://www.alternet.org/pdf/Agip_Contract.pdf • Master contract [PDF]
• November master update [PDF]
• Oxy contract [PDF]
http://www.alternet.org/pdf/Oxy_Contract.pdf • Oxy letter [PDF]
Kelly Hearn is a former UPI staff writer who divides his time between the US and South America. A correspondent to the Christian Science Monitor, his work has appeared in TheNation.com, E Magazine, Grist, the American Prospect and other publications. He is a regular contributor to AlterNet.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
January 31st, 2006 - by admin
Josh Meyer Los Angeles Times – 2006-01-31 08:54:10
WASHINGTON (January 29, 2006) — Despite protests from other countries, the United States is expanding a top-secret effort to kill suspected terrorists with drone-fired missiles as it pursues an increasingly decentralized Al Qaeda, US officials say.
The CIA’s failed January 13 attempt to assassinate Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri in Pakistan was the latest strike in the “targeted killing” program, a highly classified initiative that officials say has broadened as the network splintered and fled Afghanistan.
The strike against Zawahiri reportedly killed as many as 18 civilians, many of them women and children, and triggered protests in Pakistan. Similar US attacks using unmanned Predator aircraft equipped with Hellfire missiles have angered citizens and political leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen.
Little is known about the targeted-killing program. The Bush administration has refused to discuss how many strikes it has made, how many people have died, or how it chooses targets. No US officials were willing to speak about it on the record because the program is classified.
Several US officials confirmed at least 19 occasions since Sept. 11 on which Predators successfully fired Hellfire missiles on terrorist suspects overseas, including 10 in Iraq in one month last year. The Predator strikes have killed at least four senior Al Qaeda leaders, but also many civilians, and it is not known how many times they missed their targets.
Critics of the program dispute its legality under US and international law, and say it is administered by the CIA with little oversight. US intelligence officials insist it is one of their most tightly regulated, carefully vetted programs.
Lee Strickland, a former CIA counsel who retired in 2004 from the agency’s Senior Intelligence Service, confirmed that the Predator program had grown to keep pace with the spread of Al Qaeda commanders. The CIA believes they are branching out to gain recruits, financing and influence.
Many groups of Islamic militants are believed to be operating in lawless pockets of the Middle East, Asia and Africa where it is perilous for US troops to try to capture them, and difficult to discern the leaders.
“Paradoxically, as a result of our success the target has become even more decentralized, even more diffused and presents a more difficult target — no question about that,” said Strickland, now director of the Center for Information Policy at the University of Maryland.
“It’s clear that the US is prepared to use and deploy these weapons in a fairly wide theater,” he said.
Current and former intelligence officials said they could not disclose which countries could be subject to Predator strikes. But the presence of Al Qaeda or its affiliates has been documented in dozens of nations, including Somalia, Morocco and Indonesia.
High-ranking US and allied counter-terrorism officials said the program’s expansion was not merely geographic. They said it had grown from targeting a small number of senior Al Qaeda commanders after the Sept. 11 attacks to a more loosely defined effort to kill possibly scores of suspected terrorists, depending on where they were found and what they were doing.
“We have the plans in place to do them globally,” said a former counter-terrorism official who worked at the CIA and State Department, which coordinates such efforts with other governments.
“In most cases, we need the approval of the host country to do them. However, there are a few countries where the president has decided that we can whack someone without the approval or knowledge of the host government.”
The CIA and the Pentagon have deployed at least several dozen of the Predator drones throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and along the borders of Pakistan, US officials confirmed. The CIA also has sent the remote-controlled aircraft into the skies over Yemen and some other countries believed to be Al Qaeda havens, particularly those without a strong government or military with which the United States can work in tandem, a current US counter-terrorism official told The Times.
Such incursions are highly sensitive because they could violate the sovereignty of those nations and anger US allies, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Predator, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego, is a slender craft, 27 feet long with a 49-foot wingspan. It makes a clearly audible buzzing sound, and can hover above a target for many hours and fly as low as 15,000 feet to get good reconnaissance footage. They are often operated by CIA or Pentagon officials at computer consoles in the United States.
The drones were designed for surveillance and have been used for that purpose since at least the mid-1990s, beginning with the conflict in the Balkans. After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush ordered a rapid escalation of a project to arm the Predators with missiles, an effort that had been mired in bureaucratic squabbles and technical glitches.
Now the Predator is an integral part of the military’s counter-insurgency effort, especially in Iraq. But the CIA also runs a more secretive — and more controversial — Predator program that targets suspected terrorists outside combat zones.
The CIA does not even acknowledge that such a targeted-killing program exists, and some attacks have been explained away as car bombings or other incidents. It is not known how many militants or bystanders have been killed by Predator strikes, but anecdotal evidence suggests the number is significant.
In some cases, the destruction was so complete that it was impossible to establish who was killed, or even how many people.
Among the senior Al Qaeda leaders killed in Predator strikes were military commander Mohammed Atef in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Qaed Sinan Harithi, a suspected mastermind of the bombing of the US destroyer Cole in Yemen, in 2002.
Last year, Predators took out two Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan: Haitham Yemeni in May and Abu Hamza Rabia in December, one month after another missile strike missed him.
The attack on Rabia in North Waziristan also killed his Syrian bodyguards and the 17-year-old son and the 8-year-old nephew of the owner of the house that was struck, according to a US official and Amnesty International, which has lodged complaints with the Bush administration following each suspected Predator strike.
Another apparent Predator missile strike killed a former Taliban commander, Nek Mohammed, in South Waziristan in June 2004, along with five others. A local observer said the strike was so precise that it didn’t damage any of the buildings around the lawn where Mohammed was seated. At the time, the Pakistani army said Mohammed had been killed in clashes with its soldiers.
Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA’s special unit hunting Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, said he was aware of at least four successful targeted-killing strikes in Afghanistan alone by November 2004, when he left the agency.
In the attack on Zawahiri, word spread quickly that a US plane had been buzzing above the target beforehand. Afterward, villagers reportedly found evidence of US involvement.
The missiles intended for Bin Laden’s chief deputy incinerated several houses in Damadola, a village near Pakistan’s northwestern border with Afghanistan. But Zawahiri was not there, US officials now believe. Pakistan said it was investigating whether the strikes killed other high-ranking militants.
There were some well-publicized failures before the Zawahiri strike. In February 2002, a Predator tracked and killed a tall man in flowing robes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The CIA believed it was firing at Bin Laden, but the victim turned out to be someone else.
Before the Sept. 11 attacks, the US government had targeted Bin Laden in at least one Cruise missile strike. But the CIA was reluctant to engage in targeted killings because it said the laws regarding assassinations were too vague and the agency could face criminal charges.
Even today, documents and interviews suggest that the US policy on targeted killings is still evolving.
Some critics, including a U.N. human rights watchdog group and Amnesty International, have urged the Bush administration to be more open about how it decides whom to kill and under what circumstances.
A U.N. report in the wake of the 2002 strike in Yemen called it “an alarming precedent [and] a clear case of extrajudicial killing” in violation of international laws and treaties. The Bush administration, which did not return calls seeking comment for this story, has said it does not recognize the mandate of the U.N. special body in connection with its military actions against Al Qaeda, according to Amnesty International.
“Zawahiri is an easy case. No one is going to question us going after him,” said Juliette N. Kayyem, a former US government counter-terrorism consultant and Justice Department lawyer. “But where can you do it and who can you do it against? Who authorizes it? All of these are totally unregulated areas of presidential authority.”
“Paris, it’s easy to say we won’t do it there,” said Kayyem, now a Harvard University law professor specializing in terrorism-related legal issues. “But what about Lebanon?”
Paul Pillar, a former CIA deputy counter-terrorism chief, said the authority claimed by the Bush administration was murky.
“I don’t think anyone is dealing with solid footing here. There is legal as well as operational doctrine that is being developed as we go along,” Pillar said. “We are pretty much in uncharted territory here.”
Pillar, who was also the CIA’s National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia before retiring in mid-2005, said there had long been disagreement within the intelligence community over whether targeted killings were legally permissible, or even a good idea.
Before Sept. 11, Pillar said, CIA officers were issued vaguely worded guidelines that seemed to give them authority to kill Bin Laden, but only during an attempt to capture him.
The 9/11 commission investigating the attacks in New York and Washington concluded that such vaguely worded laws and policies gave little reassurance to those who might be pulling the trigger that they would not face disciplinary action — or even criminal charges.
Although presidents Ford and Reagan issued executive orders in 1976 and 1981 prohibiting US intelligence agents from engaging in assassinations, the Bush administration claimed the right to kill suspected terrorists under war powers given to the president by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks.
It is the same justification Bush has used for a recently disclosed domestic spying program that has the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants, and a CIA “extraordinary rendition” program to seize suspected terrorists overseas and transport them to other countries with reputations for torture.
Strickland, like some other officials, said the Predator program served as a deterrent to foreign governments, militias and other groups that might be harboring Al Qaeda cells.
“You give shelter to Al Qaeda figures, you may well get your village blown up,” Strickland said. “Conversely, you have to note that this can also create local animosity and instability.”
The CIA’s lawyers play a central role in deciding when a strike is justified, current and former US officials said. The lawyers analyze the credibility of the evidence, how many bystanders might be killed, and whether the target is enough of a threat to warrant the strike.
Other agencies, including the Justice Department, are sometimes consulted, Strickland said. “The legal input is broad and extensive,” he said.
Scheuer said he believed the process was too cumbersome, and that the agency had lost precious opportunities to slay terrorists because it was afraid of killing civilians.
But others said they had urged the Bush administration to adopt a multi-agency system of checks and balances similar to that used by Israel, which for decades has convened informal tribunals to assess each proposed targeted killing before carrying it out.
Amos N. Guiora, a senior Israeli military judge advocate who participated in such tribunals, said that although the failed Zawahiri strike itself appeared to be justifiable, the result suggested a lack of adequate deliberations on the quality of the intelligence.
“I think [the] attack was a major screw-up, because so many kids died. It raises questions about the entire process,” said Guiora, who now a professor at Case Western Law School and director of its Institute for Global Security Law and Policy.
“It shows the absolute need to have a well-thought-through and developed process that examines the action from a legal perspective, an intelligence perspective and an operational perspective. Because the price you pay here is that you are going to have to be hesitant the next time you pull the trigger.”
Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
January 31st, 2006 - by admin
Gore Vidal / Truthdig.com – 2006-01-31 08:50:22
(January 28, 2006) — While contemplating the ill-starred presidency of G.W. Bush, I looked about for some sort of divine analogy.
As usual, when in need of enlightenment, I fell upon the Holy Bible, authorized King James version of 1611; turning by chance to the Book of Jonah, I read that Jonah, who, like Bush, chats with God, had suffered a falling out with the Almighty and thus became a jinx dogged by luck so bad that a cruise liner, thanks to his presence aboard, was about to sink in a storm at sea.
Once the crew had determined that Jonah, a passenger, was the jinx, they threw him overboard and — Lo! — the storm abated.
The three days and nights he subsequently spent in the belly of a nauseous whale must have seemed like a serious jinx to the digestion-challenged whale who extruded him much as the decent opinion of mankind has done to Bush.
Originally, God wanted Jonah to give hell to Nineveh, whose people, God noted disdainfully, “cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand,” so like the people of Baghdad who cannot fathom what democracy has to do with their destruction by the Cheney-Bush cabal. But the analogy becomes eerily precise when it comes to the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico at a time when a president is not only incompetent but plainly jinxed by whatever faith he cringes before. Witness the ongoing screw-up of prescription drugs.
Who knows what other disasters are in store for us thanks to the curse he is under? As the sailors fed the original Jonah to a whale, thus lifting the storm that was about to drown them, perhaps we the people can persuade President Jonah to retire to his other Eden in Crawford, Texas, taking his jinx with him. We deserve a rest. Plainly, so does he.
Look at Nixon’s radiant features after his resignation! One can see former President Jonah in his sumptuous library happily catering to faith-based fans with animated scriptures rooted in “The Simpsons.”
Not since the glory days of Watergate and Nixon’s Luciferian fall has there been so much written about the dogged deceits and creative criminalities of our rulers. We have also come to a point in this dark age where there is not only no hero in view but no alternative road unblocked. We are trapped terribly in a now that few foresaw and even fewer can define despite a swarm of books and pamphlets like the vast cloud of locusts which dined on China in that ’30s movie The Good Earth.
I have read many of these descriptions of our fallen estate, looking for one that best describes in plain English how we got to this now and where we appear to be headed once our good Earth has been consumed and only Rapture is left to whisk aloft the Faithful. Meanwhile, the rest of us can learn quite a lot from Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire, by Morris Berman, a professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
I must confess that I have a proprietary interest in anyone who refers to the United States as an empire since I am credited with first putting forward this heretical view in the early ’70s. In fact, so disgusted with me was a book reviewer at Time magazine that as proof of my madness he wrote: “He actually refers to the United States as an empire!” It should be noted that at about the same time Henry Luce, proprietor of Time, was booming on and on about “The American Century.” What a difference a word makes!
Berman sets his scene briskly in recent history.
“We were already in our twilight phase when Ronald Reagan, with all the insight of an ostrich, declared it to be ‘morning in America’; twenty-odd years later, under the ‘boy emperor’ George W. Bush (as Chalmers Johnson refers to him), we have entered the Dark Ages in earnest, pursuing a short-sighted path that can only accelerate our decline.
For what we are now seeing are the obvious characteristics of the West after the fall of Rome: the triumph of religion over reason; the atrophy of education and critical thinking; the integration of religion, the state, and the apparatus of torture — a troika that was for Voltaire the central horror of the pre-Enlightenment world; and the political and economic marginalization of our culture…. The British historian Charles Freeman published an extended discussion of the transition that took place during the late Roman empire, the title of which could serve as a capsule summary of our current president: The Closing of the Western Mind.
“Mr. Bush, God knows, is no Augustine; but Freeman points to the latter as the epitome of a more general process that was underway in the fourth century: namely, ‘the gradual subjection of reason to faith and authority.’ This is what we are seeing today, and it is a process that no society can undergo and still remain free. Yet it is a process of which administration officials, along with much of the American population, are aggressively proud.”
In fact, close observers of this odd presidency note that Bush, like his evangelical base, believes he is on a mission from God and that faith trumps empirical evidence. Berman quotes a senior White House adviser who disdains what he calls the “reality-based” community, to which Berman sensibly responds: “If a nation is unable to perceive reality correctly, and persists in operating on the basis of faith-based delusions, its ability to hold its own in the world is pretty much foreclosed.”
Berman does a brief tour of the American horizon, revealing a cultural death valley. In secondary schools where evolution can still be taught too many teachers are afraid to bring up the subject to their so often un-evolved students.
“Add to this the pervasive hostility toward science on the part of the current administration (e.g. stem-cell research) and we get a clear picture of the Enlightenment being steadily rolled back. Religion is used to explain terror attacks as part of a cosmic conflict between Good and Evil rather than in terms of political processes…. Manichaeanism rules across the United States.
According to a poll taken by Time magazine 59% percent of Americans believe that John’s apocalyptic prophecies in the Book of Revelation will be fulfilled, and nearly all of these believe that the faithful will be taken up into heaven in the ‘Rapture.’
“Finally, we shouldn’t be surprised at the antipathy toward democracy displayed by the Bush administration…. As already noted, fundamentalism and democracy are completely antithetical.
The opposite of the Enlightenment, of course, is tribalism, groupthink; and more and more, this is the direction in which the United States is going…. Anthony Lewis who worked as a columnist for the New York Times for 32 years, observes that what has happened in the wake of 9/11 is not just the threatening of the rights of a few detainees, but the undermining of the very foundation of democracy.
Detention without trial, denial of access to attorneys, years of interrogation in isolation — these are now standard American practice, and most Americans don’t care. Nor did they care about the revelation in July 2004 (reported in Newsweek), that for several months the White House and the Department of Justice had been discussing the feasibility of canceling the upcoming presidential election in the event of a possible terrorist attack.”
I suspect that the technologically inclined prevailed against that extreme measure on the ground that the newly installed electronic ballot machines could be so calibrated that Bush would win handily no matter what. [Read Rep. Conyers’ report on the rigging of Ohio’s vote.]
Meanwhile, the indoctrination of the people merrily continues. “In a ‘State of the First Amendment Survey’ conducted by the University of Connecticut in 2003, 34 percent of Americans polled said the First Amendment ‘goes too far’; 46 percent said there was too much freedom of the press; 28 percent felt that newspapers should not be able to publish articles without prior approval of the government; 31 percent wanted public protest of a war to be outlawed during that war; and 50 percent thought the government should have the right to infringe on the religious freedom of ‘certain religious groups’ in the name of the war on terror.”
It is usual in sad reports like Professor Berman’s to stop abruptly the litany of what has gone wrong and then declare, hand on heart, that once the people have been informed of what is happening, the truth will set them free and a quarter-billion candles will be lit and the darkness will flee in the presence of so much spontaneous light.
But Berman is much too serious for the easy platitude. Instead he tells us that those who might have struck at least a match can no longer do so because shared information about our situation is meager to nonexistent. Would better schools help?
Of course, but, according to that joyous bearer of ill tidings, the New York Times, many school districts are now making sobriety tests a regular feature of the school day: apparently opium derivatives are the opiate of our stoned youth.
Meanwhile, millions of adult Americans, presumably undrugged, have no idea who our enemies were in World War II. Many college graduates don’t know the difference between an argument and an assertion (did their teachers also fail to solve this knotty question?).
A travel agent in Arizona is often asked whether or not it is cheaper to take the train rather than fly to Hawaii. Only 12% of Americans own a passport. At the time of the 2004 presidential election 42% of voters believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. One high school boy, when asked who won the Civil War, replied wearily, “I don’t know and I don’t care,” echoing a busy neocon who confessed proudly: “The American Civil War is as remote to me as the War of the Roses.”
We are assured daily by advertisers and/or politicians that we are the richest, most envied people on Earth and, apparently, that is why so many awful, ill-groomed people want to blow us up. We live in an impermeable bubble without the sort of information that people living in real countries have access to when it comes to their own reality.
But we are not actually people in the eyes of the national ownership: we are simply unreliable consumers comprising an overworked, underpaid labor force not in the best of health: The World Health Organization rates our healthcare system as 37th-best in the world, far behind even Saudi Arabia, role model for the Texans. Our infant mortality rate is satisfyingly high, precluding a First World educational system.
Also, it has not gone unremarked even in our usually information-free media that despite the boost to the profits of such companies as Halliburton, Bush’s wars of aggression against small countries of no danger to us have left us well and truly broke. Our annual trade deficit is a half-trillion dollars, which means that we don’t produce much of anything the world wants except those wan reports on how popular our Entertainment is overseas.
Unfortunately the foreign gross of “King Kong,” the Edsel of that assembly line, is not yet known. It is rumored that Bollywood — the Indian film business — may soon surpass us! Berman writes, “We have lost our edge in science to Europe…. The US economy is being kept afloat by huge foreign loans ($4 billion a day during 2003). What do you think will happen when America’s creditors decide to pull the plug, or when OPEC members begin selling oil in euros instead of dollars?…An International Monetary Fund report of 2004 concluded that the United States was ‘careening toward insolvency.’ ”
Meanwhile, China, our favorite big-time future enemy, is the number one for worldwide foreign investments, with France, the bete noire of our apish neocons, in second place. Well, we still have Kraft cheese and, of course, the death penalty.
Berman makes the case that the Bretton-Woods agreement of 1944 institutionalized a system geared toward full employment and the maintenance of a social safety net for society’s less fortunate — the so-called welfare or interventionist state. It did this by establishing fixed but flexible exchange rates among world currencies, which were pegged to the US dollar while the dollar, for its part, was pegged to gold. In a word, Bretton-Woods saved capitalism by making it more human. Nixon abandoned the agreement in 1971, which started, according to Berman, huge amounts of capital moving upward from the poor and the middle class to the rich and super-rich.
Mr. Berman spares us the happy ending, as, apparently, has history. When the admirable Tiberius (he has had an undeserved bad press), upon becoming emperor, received a message from the Senate in which the conscript fathers assured him that whatever legislation he wanted would be automatically passed by them, he sent back word that this was outrageous. “Suppose the emperor is ill or mad or incompetent?” He returned their message. They sent it again. His response: “How eager you are to be slaves.”
I often think of that wise emperor when I hear Republican members of Congress extolling the wisdom of Bush. Now that he has been caught illegally wiretapping fellow citizens he has taken to snarling about his powers as “a wartime president,” and so, in his own mind, he is above each and every law of the land.
Oddly, no one in Congress has pointed out that he may well be a lunatic dreaming that he is another Lincoln but whatever he is or is not he is no wartime president. There is no war with any other nation…yet. There is no state called terror, an abstract noun like liar.
Certainly his illegal unilateral ravaging of Iraq may well seem like a real war for those on both sides unlucky enough to be killed or wounded, but that does not make it a war any more than the appearance of having been elected twice to the presidency does not mean that in due course the people will demand an investigation of those two irregular processes.
Although he has done a number of things that under the old republic might have got him impeached, our current system protects him: incumbency-for-life seats have made it possible for a Republican majority in the House not to do its duty and impeach him for his incompetence in handling, say, the natural disaster that befell Louisiana.
The founders thought two-year terms for members of the House was as much democracy as we’d ever need. Therefore, there was no great movement to have some sort of recall legislation in the event that a president wasn’t up to his job and so had lost the people’s confidence between elections.
But in time, as Ecclesiastes would say, all things shall come to pass and so, in a kindly way, a majority of the citizens must persuade him that he will be happier back in Crawford pruning Bushes of the leafy sort while the troops not killed or maimed will settle for simply being alive and in one piece. We may be slaves but we are not unreasonable.
One way that a majority of citizens can help open the road back to Crawford is by heeding the call of a group called the World Can’t Wait. They believe that the agenda for 2006 must not be set by the Bush gang but by the people taking independent mass political action.
On Jan. 31, the night of Bush’s next State of the Union address, they have called for people in large cities and small towns all across the country to join in noisy rallies to make the demand that “Bush Step Down” the message of the day.
At 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, just as Bush starts to speak, people can make a joyful noise and figuratively drown out his address. Then on the following Saturday, Feb. 4, converge in front of the White House with the same message: Please step down and take your program with you.
Novelist, playwright and essayist Gore Vidal is a contributing editor to The Nation. Visit Truthdig.com to read the essay in its original context or listen to an audio file of Vidal reading the entire piece.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercail, educationa purposes.
January 30th, 2006 - by admin
Robert Dreyfuss / TomPaine.com – 2006-01-30 00:08:14
(January 25, 2006) — The election results [in Iraq] make it nearly impossible to stop the country from descending into full-blown civil war
There’s no one left to put Humpty Dumpty together again in Baghdad. Zalmay Khalilzad, America’s feckless ambassador in Iraq, is trying. But, unwilling or unable to reach out to the Iraqi resistance, Khalilzad instead finds himself immersed instead in gooey egg mass.
The Iraqi body politic is shattered, with little hope now of avoiding an all-out civil war. That’s the only conclusion that can be reached by looking at the results of the Dec. 15 elections in Iraq, whose official returns were announced on Friday.
Those results gave the Shiite religious bloc 128 seats out of 275. Their junior partners, the two Kurdish warlord parties, got 53. The religious Sunnis got 44, the secular Sunni parties got 11, and Iyad Allawi’s non-ethnic, secular alliance got 25.
So the coalition of Shiite fundamentalists and Kurdish warlords controls 181 seats, at least, just a few votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to form a government. Let’s look at the bad news, item by item.
First, the Arab League’s peace initiative for Iraq is dead. It was, I’ve written, perhaps the last best hope for holding Iraq together and avoiding an ethnic-sectarian war. The effort began last fall, when Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan organized an initiative to hold talks between Iraq’s Shiite-Kurdish government, the Sunni-led opposition, and the resistance.
Scheduled for Cairo last November, the first meeting failed when the two fundamentalist Shiite parties, Al Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said that they would not talk to the insurgents, whom they describe as “terrorists.” (That word, in fact, is increasingly used by SCIRI and Al Dawa to refer to all Sunnis in Iraq, not just to Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda or even to the Baathist-military resistance.)
In December, I wrote for TomPaine.com that the Arab League effort would collapse if the SCIRI-Dawa forces, augmented by the fanatical Mahdi Army of Muqtada Sadr, won big in the elections. They did, winning nearly half of the seats in the new parliament. So, no surprise: on Saturday, Iraq’s foreign minister, a Kurd, announced that the scheduled Arab League follow up meeting in February, which had been dubbed a National Accord Conference, would not be held.
Second, the notion that Iraq can form a “national unity government” now, led by the SCIRI-Dawa-Mahdi Army coalition, is beyond absurd. Khalilzad, described by The New York Times, as the “unabashedly hands-on U.S. ambassador,” is pushing hard for the inclusion of some docile Sunnis in the new government. “The advice of Zal, as he is known here, will not be subtle,” says the Times , hopefully. And listen to the pathetically naïve musings of a “senior U.S. official” in Iraq, quoted by Reuters:
For us Iraq can’t build on a relatively narrower sectarian or ethnic basis. It has to be inclusive. We support a unity government as the best means of bringing Iraqis together after a hard-fought election contest, and we are encouraging all sides in this to look to the advantages. In the end it’s an Iraqi decision not an American decision. We are prepared to help the Iraqis in any way we can to reach an agreement that brings the country together, broadens the base of support of the Iraqi government and results in a competent and capable government.
In fact, however, the all-or-nothing sectarianism of Iraq is now set in stone. That is thanks to nearly three years of US mismanagement in Iraq, during which time the United States first insisted on installing in power the creatures that populated Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress and its exile allies, then forced every Iraqi institution from the 2003 Iraqi Governing Council to the interim government of Iyad Allawi on down to apportion its power according to some ethnic and sectarian census, meanwhile encouraging the SCIRI-Dawa alliance to establish its power, and its paramilitary forces, throughout southern Iraq.
Why is a national unity government impossible? Because the 55 Sunnis who were elected to the parliament do not represent the resistance, and so they cannot exercise influence over the fighters opposed to the US occupation. And, even among those Sunnis who will now take up seats in the parliament, only a handful — perhaps the Iraqi Islamic Party and a few others — are willing to join the Shiite-dominated regime.
Therefore, Khalilzad cannot succeed in creating a broad-based Iraqi government that can successfully appeal to the resistance. All the king’s horses and all the king’s US troops can’t do it.
Making everything worse is the fact that the hard-line Shiites, especially Abdel Aziz Al Hakim and Adel Abdel Mahdi of SCIRI, have ruled out even minor compromises with the Sunni opposition. Their policy is: No to “the terrorists,” no to changes in the divisive Iraqi constitution, and no to the Arab League.
By refusing to change the constitution, the Shiites insist on the imposition of sharia-style Islamic courts, insist on grabbing nearly all of Iraq’s future oil revenues for the Shiite south, insist on creating breakaway “federal” states in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south, insist on giving Kirkuk to the revanchist and expansionist Kurds, and more.
That’s the ersatz constitution, you will recall, that passed in a referendum on Oct. 15, despite the fact that 50 of its 130 clauses hadn’t yet been finished, despite the fact that copies of the document weren’t printed and circulated to the population that was voting, despite the fact that it was written in secret (under US supervision) by the Shiite-Kurd majority over the objections of the token Sunnis in the room. The Sunni community was tricked into voting on Oct. 15 and then Dec. 15 by promises that the constitution’s bad provisions could be amended. Now, SCIRI says: No such luck.
Making things even worse, the Shiites continue to insist that Sunnis who were elected to the parliament are too close to the resistance and are therefore “terrorists.” This is not an argument calculated to win friends among the Sunni bloc. If SCIRI demands that Sunni politicians disavow the armed resistance, they will succeed only in recruiting a handful of quislings into the quisling-run regime in Baghdad.
It’s part and parcel of the dead-end “de-Baathification” scheme that was pushed so far by Chalabi that has now been twisted to the most extreme interpretation. “The Shiites have turned de-Baathification into de-Sunnification,” according to Salman Al Jumayli, spokesperson for the Sunni Accordance Front, which has 44 seats in the coming parliament. “They’re only targeting Sunnis and they’ve turned it into a weapon to get rid of all their political opponents.”
Khalilzad seems genuinely distressed by this, but he is at a loss over what to do about it. What seems clear is that the signals put out by Khalilzad before the election, about being willing to talk to the resistance, have been extinguished, along with Allawi’s hopes of getting enough seats to create a nonsectarian, centrist (and pro-U.S.) government.
So what’s left is an increasingly Iran-leaning, Shiite fundamentalist theocracy with a rump Kurdish republic attached to it. And you can put this in your signs-of-things-to-come file: Muqtada Sadr, the cherubic (and Rubenesque) militant young cleric, said on Sunday that the Mahdi Army, which is now a big part of the Iraqi government to be, says that his forces will fight alongside Iran’s if Iran is attacked by the United States over its nuclear program.
So it’s curtains for Bush’s “victory or defeat” policy. The insurgency will strengthen, so that won’t help. The Shiites are likely to move in an increasingly radical (and pro-Iranian direction), so that won’t help. The violence will get worse.
Robert Dreyfuss is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va., who specializes in politics and national security issues.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
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