September 30th, 2006 - by admin
Carl G. Estabrook / CounterPunch & The Embassy of Sudan – 2006-09-30 00:28:14
Is Humanitarian Interventionism Humane?
The Darfur Smokescreen
Carl G. Estabrook / CounterPunch
(September 23, 2006) — Democracy Now! reported this week that “tens of thousands of protesters rallied around the world on Sunday in a global day against genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan … In New York, organizers said over 30,000 people gathered in Central Park.
Speakers included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright [sic] … Demonstrations and vigils were also held on Sunday in Berlin, Dubai, Dublin, London, Melbourne, Paris, Seoul and Stockholm and dozens of other cities. The global day of protests was organized to coincide with the start of the United Nations General Assembly debate this week on Sudan. Late last week the actor George Clooney testified before the United Nations Security Council.”
What might be called the liberal position on Darfur can be stated as follows:
“The people of Darfur have suffered unspeakable violence, and America has called these atrocities what they are — genocide. For the last two years, America joined with the international community to provide emergency food aid and support for an African Union peacekeeping force. Yet your suffering continues.
The world must step forward to provide additional humanitarian aid — and we must strengthen the African Union force that has done good work, but is not strong enough to protect you.
The Security Council has approved a resolution that would transform the African Union force into a blue-helmeted force that is larger and more robust. To increase its strength and effectiveness, NATO nations should provide logistics and other support.
The regime in Khartoum is stopping the deployment of this force. If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act.”
The liberal position is hardly distinguishable from
(a) the Bush administration’s position on Darfur, and
(b) the Clinton administration’s position on Kosovo.
In both cases the cry of genocide and “humanitarian” intervention is used to cover the USG’s imperial machinations to reduce a state (respectively Sudan and Serbia) that was unreliable from the US/Israeli POV.
For Clinton, “NATO must act” — and the situation of Kosovo got worse, but Serbia was brought to heel. For Bush, “the United Nations must act” (with NATO providing logistics and “other support”) – and the wretched situation in Darfur will probably get worse, but Sudan, an oil-producing state (much of its production goes to China) will be put under increasing pressure.
Of major media, only the BBC has said at all clearly that Khartoum’s resistance to “peacekeepers” was based on “well-founded fears of the designs of Western governments on Sudan.” Meanwhile self-styled US peace groups and the Israeli lobby urge “Out of Iraq and into Darfur!”
People honestly concerned about Darfur should listen to the calm common sense of Alex de Waal, a fellow of the Global Equity Initiative at Harvard, an advisor to the African Union, and author of “Darfur: A Short History of a Long War”:
“I don’t believe there is a military solution. It will not defeat the holdout rebel groups. What it will do is, it will kill more people, create more hunger, create more displacement and make the situation even more intractable … I think the key thing to bear in mind is that the solution to Darfur is a political solution.
“No solution can be imposed by any amount of arm twisting, any amount of bluster, any amount of military force. Even if we sent 100,000 NATO troops, we would not be able to impose a solution. The solution has to come through political negotiation.”
But by mobilizing the cover story of humanitarian intervention, the Bush administration should be able to introduce a military solution to its real problem: how to attack another country on the Neocon hit list, another country (like Serbia) on the concentric circle around the cynosure of US foreign policy, Middle East energy resources.
President Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has frequently expressed the bipartisan consensus of the US foreign policy elite. “America has major strategic and economic interests in the Middle East that are dictated by the region’s vast energy supplies,” he wrote two years ago in The National Interest. “Not only does America benefit economically from the relatively low costs of Middle Eastern oil, but America’s security role in the region gives it indirect but politically critical leverage on the European and Asian economies that are also dependent on energy exports from the region.”
And how is Sudan related to this long-term US strategy? We have it from no less a figure than the official hero of Kosovo, Wesley Clark: “As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said.
“But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.”
Note: What was called the liberal position above is taken from Bush’s address to the UN on Tuesday.
C. G. Estabrook is a retired visiting professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the co-host of the community radio program “News from Neptune”. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The Darfur Crisis: Looking beyond the Propaganda
Embassy of Sudan
“There has been a breakdown in negotiations because of unacceptable rebel demands. The talks have been suspended.”
— Chadian Government Peace Mediators, December 2003 (1)
“What is going on in Darfur is a war by proxy.”
— Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Taha, July 2003 (2)
(July 13, 2004) — Since February 2003, there has been a growing armed conflict between two armed groups and the Government of Sudan in Darfur. These groups launched their first attacks on government garrisons in the region. These armed groups call themselves the ‘Sudan Liberation Army’ (SLA) and the ‘Justice and Equality Movement’ (JEM). (3)
Darfur is home to some 80 tribes and ethnic groups divided between nomads and sedentary communities. The unrest, especially that associated with the SLA, appears to have been identified with one particular ethnic group, the Zaghawa tribe, which straddles the Sudan-Chad border. The JEM group has come to be identified with extremist Islamic political leaders hostile to the present Sudanese government.
Darfur presents a very complex situation with very complex problems. There can be no simple analysis of the issue. Darfur is an ecologically- fragile area and subject to growing — and often armed — conflict over access to water. There has also been considerable armed banditry and criminality within the area with many criminals having access to automatic weapons from Chad and the Central African Republic.
In perhaps the most objective reading of the crisis in Darfur, the UN media service has made this analysis: “The conflict pits farming communities against nomads who have aligned themselves with the militia groups — for whom the raids are a way of life — in stiff competition for land and resources. The militias, known as the Janjaweed, attack in large numbers on horseback and camels and are driving the farmers from their land, often pushing them towards town centres.” (4)
What is clear is that just as Sudan was on the brink of resolving its long-running civil war in southern Sudan, another conflict has suddenly appeared — a conflict clearly fanned by external forces and Islamic fundamentalist extremists. It has also become apparent that the Darfur issue has been caught up in the sort of propaganda and misinformation that has characterised previous coverage of Sudan.
And for all the SLA’s pretence of pursuing a political agenda, the UN news service reported that “SLA rebels regularly attacked and looted villages taking food and sometimes killing people…The attacks present a real threat to people’s food security and livelihoods, by preventing them from planting and accessing markets to buy food.” (5) The SLA had also sought to suppress opposition within the areas it has sought to dominate by the abduction, for example, of tribal leaders. (6)
What has Caused the Unrest?
The gunmen in Darfur claim to be acting because of the region’s alleged underdevelopment. These claims are not immediately borne out by the facts. Before the present government came to power in 1989, there were only 16 high schools in Darfur: there are presently some 250 schools. In 1989 there were 27,000 students in schools; there are now more than 440,000.
In 1989 there was not a single university in Darfur; there are now three. Before 1989 here was not a single airport in Darfur; there are now three. There has been a three-fold increase in paved roads since 1989. And, politically, Darfur is very well represented at all levels of Sudanese society from the federal cabinet on downwards.
The claims made by the rebels to represent all Darfur, and that they are acting because of Darfur-wide “underdevelopment”, are undermined by the fact that the SLA is based on almost exclusively upon the Zaghawa tribe.
What has become obvious is that whatever legitimate issues may have arisen out of concerns about underdevelopment they have been hijacked by various opportunistic forces to serve different ends. Eritrea has militarily, logistically and politically assisted the Darfur gunmen in its continuing attempts to destabilise Sudan.
Khartoum has lodged official complaints with the United Nations and African Union. (7) The Sudanese government has also pointed to the agreement signed in the Eritrean capital between Darfur gunmen and elements of the Beja Congress, an armed anti-government group based in Eritrea.(8)
Islamic extremists identified with the party of Islamic fundamentalist leader Dr Hasan al-Turabi are politically involved with the rebels. Dr Hasan al-Turabi, the leader of the Islamist Popular National Congress (PNC) party, has admitted that 30 members of his party have been arrested in connection with activities in Darfur. (9)
Turabi has also admitted supporting the Darfur insurrection: “We support the cause, no doubt about it…we have relations with some of the leadership.” (10) In November 2003, an unnamed PNC official admitted that some party members were involved in the Darfur conflict.(11)
In any instance, it is clear that the gunmen who have caused so much havoc in Darfur have had considerable outside assistance. The ‘Sudan Liberation Army’ were reported by Agence France Presse to have “weapons, vehicles and modern satellite communications”. (12) UN media sources have also noted claims by tribal leaders that the rebels have better weapons than the Sudanese army. (13)
The rebels have also been receiving military supplies by air. (14) And, in a disturbing resonance of the gunmen who have dominated parts of Somalia in four-wheel drive “technicals”, the gunmen have also been operating in groups of up to 1,000 men in four-wheel drive vehicles.(15)
National and Regional Implications
UN media sources have noted that it has been said that attempts to link Darfur to the wider Sudanese peace process might retard the Kenya talks between the Government and SPLA, and would be viewed as a “reward” for armed insurrection. (16) It is a matter of record that the violence in Darfur was initiated just as the long-running Sudanese civil war is reaching a peaceful, negotiated conclusion through lengthy IGAD-brokered talks in Kenya.
Mr Tom Vraalsen, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for humanitarian affairs for Sudan, has pointed out the regional implications of the Darfur conflict: “A continuation of the problems in Darfur could have serious political repercussions in the sense that it could destabilize the area along the Chad-Sudan border and it could have repercussions also regionally if it continues. It has to be brought to an end.” (17)
The danger of another Somalia is looming. Do we want to surrender Darfur to rootless Somalia-type gunmen motivated by opportunism and greed?
The Need for a Negotiated Settlement
The Government of Sudan has declared its commitment to a peaceful solution to the Darfur conflict.(18) The Sudanese interior minister restated this in January 2004: “Whenever (the rebels) are ready to talk, we are ready to talk to them. We have no conditions at all.” (19)
As early as February 2003, the government sought to defuse the conflict through negotiations. (20) In 2003, the Chadian government, parts of which are drawn from the Zaghawa tribe (Chadian President Idriss Deby is Zaghawa), offered to mediate between the government and rebels.
The Sudanese government has welcomed continuing Chadian mediation in the conflict (21), and Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Taha has also had meetings with Darfurian opposition leader Ahmed Ibrahim Diraige with a view to an immediate ceasefire. (22) Vice-President Taha and Mr Diraige agreed that the proper way to settle the conflict is through “dialogue”. (23)
The government of Chad has been instrumental in negotiating ceasefires in western Sudan in September 2003 and earlier. Chadian Government mediators declared in December 2003 placed the blame for the stalling of peace talks on the rebels: “There has been a breakdown in negotiations because of unacceptable rebel demands. The talks have been suspended: it’s a failure”. (24)
In what was seen as a deliberate attempt to derail the peace talks, the SLA demanded military control of the region during a transitional period, 13 percent of all Sudan’s oil earnings and SLA autonomy in administering Darfur. (25)
It was claimed that the Islamic fundamentalist opponents of the Sudanese government had been instrumental in sabotaging the negotiations. (26) The government named senior PNC members Hassan Ibrahim, Suleiman Jamous, Abubakr Hamid and Ahmed Keir Jebreel as having been responsible. (27) JEM has refused to join in mediated peace talks. (28)
The escalation of conflict since February 2003 has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Many have fled into neighbouring Chad.
A humanitarian crisis has ensued. The usual propagandistic allegations have been made that the Sudanese government has been deliberately denying aid to areas affected by the conflict. In September 2003, the Government of Sudan and the SLA signed an agreement allowing “free and unimpeded” humanitarian access within Darfur. (29)
The UN have, however, quoted the Government as saying “The problem is in areas controlled by the SLM. Our experience has made us hesitant to send relief to areas under the SLM because of kidnapping and attacks on trucks.” (30)
The difficulties of relief operations in western Sudan were starkly highlighted one month after the aid access agreement by the murder of nine World Food Programme truck drivers, and the wounding of 14 others, in an attack on a relief convoy in October 2003. (31)
The extent of the insecurity for humanitarian workers led to the United States government asking the Sudanese government for help with security and access. (32) One month later, rebel gunmen killed two other relief workers and abducted three others. (33) In a further example of interference with humanitarian work, JEM gunmen admitted abducting five aid workers working for the Swiss humanitarian group Medair. (34)
In January 2004, UN media sources reported that “about 85 percent of the 900,000 war-affected people in Darfur…are inaccessible to humanitarian aid, according to the UN, mainly because of insecurity.” (35) The UN humanitarian relief spokesman stated: “You can’t give aid when there are bullets flying.” (36)
The Sudanese government’s commitment to the provision of aid is clear. In December 2003, Khartoum provided five thousand tonnes out 19,000 tonnes of food aid destined for immediate distribution in Darfur. (37)
There has been considerable hypocrisy from the human rights industry on Darfur. The fact is that scores of Sudanese soldiers and policemen have been killed while intervening in tribal conflicts and trying to apprehend those suspected of criminal acts. Amnesty International has previously criticised government inaction in responding to the violence and banditry in the region and has then condemned the government when it sought to restore order.
In February 2003, for example, Amnesty International stated that “government responses to armed clashes have been ineffective”. (38) Firmer government responses, including the arrests of persons suspected of involvement in violence, have then been criticised by Amnesty. (39)
Amnesty International have also been critical of the special criminal courts created by presidential decree to deal with offences such as murder, armed robbery, arson and the smuggling of weapons., and the firm sentences these courts have subsequently handed down. (40)
The government has stated that: “Those with their own agendas are trying to give a very sad view of what is happening. The propaganda in the west is trying to exaggerate what is taking place in Darfur.” (41) Khartoum’s concerns about propagandistic distortion of the issue appear to be well founded.
Partisan or lazy analysts or journalists seem to be unable to resist projecting the image of government-supported “Arab” — Janjaweed — militias attacking “African” villagers — this despite the scarcity of reliable information. UN media sources, for example, have noted “a lack of accurate information on the conflict” (42) and Reuters has also stated that “it is hard to independently verify claims by government or rebels in Darfur.” (43)
A January 2004 ‘New York Times’ article has been typical of the unprofessional reporting that has characterised coverage of the Darfur crisis. While repeating claims of killings, kidnappings, ethnic cleansing, forced displacement, attacks by “Arab” militias supported by Sudanese soldiers and an Arab versus African clash, ‘The New York Times’ admitted that “it is impossible to travel in Darfur to verify these claims”. (44)
The simple fact is that there is very little, if any, racial difference between the many tribes of Darfur, “Arab” or “African”. The UN media service noted: “In Darfur, where the vast majority of people are Muslim and Arabic-speaking, the distinction between ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ is more cultural than racial.” (45)
Even hostile Amnesty International researchers have said that observers should be “cautious” about describing clashes as ethnic cleansing.(46) Nevertheless, ‘The New York Times’ has fallen back on sloppy stereotypes, speaking of a “an already ugly conflict between Arabs and Africans”. (47)
It is very clear that the government has repeatedly taken very firm action against those “Arab” tribesmen who have attacked “African” communities. In April 2003, for example, Sudanese courts sentenced 24 Arab armed bandits to death for their involvement in the murder of 35 African villagers in attacks on pastoralist villages. Judge Mukhtar Ibrahim Adam described the attacks as “barbaric and savage conduct” reminiscent of “the dark ages”. (48)
In a further examples of the government’s firm stance, in October 2003, 14 other Arab tribesmen were also sentenced to death for the murder of non-Arab villagers during attacks and arson within villages in south Darfur state. (49)
There is also abundant evidence that there has been considerable “Arab” on “Arab” violence. In one incident alone in May 2002, as reported by the UN media service, 50 Arab tribesmen were killed in such clashes between the Arab Rizayqat and Ma’aliyah tribes. (50)
A special criminal court sentenced 86 Rizayqat tribesmen to death for involvement in the murder of these members of the Ma’aliyah tribe (the sentences are still pending appeals). These are the Arab tribesmen that it is alleged the government are militarily supporting.
The reliability of rebel claims has also been highlighted by their January 2004 to have shot down 3 Apache helicopter gunships. (51) This will come as news to the American army who have strictly controlled purchases of the Apache helicopter: Apaches have not yet even been deployed by the British army.
There is a crisis in Darfur. The fighting has resulted in a humanitarian crisis. And external forces have undoubtedly played a part in the development of the conflict.
It is essential to cut away the propaganda that is already clouding the Darfur issue. The issue is far too important to leave to extremists, propagandists, flawed analysis and those who wish to see continued conflict in Sudan.
The Sudanese government has spent several years successfully normalising its relations with the international community and is on the verge of signing a landmark peace agreement with southern rebels. Those who claim that the Sudanese government has deliberately provoked the conflict with a pre-set agenda of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” are either naïve or malicious.
The Sudanese government has clearly sought to address Darfur’s historical underdevelopment. Khartoum’s record since 1989 speaks for itself. While the rebels claim to be fighting for federalism, it is clear that Khartoum’s decentralisation of power since 1989 has itself perhaps led to a slower response to the crisis than might have been expected.
A negotiated settlement of the conflict must be reached. International pressure must be brought to bear upon those external forces — such as Eritrea — that have been fuelling the fighting. The humanitarian needs of those who have been displaced must be met until those affected are able to return to their homes.
Khartoum must address the criminality and armed banditry that has undermined law and order in Darfur. Human rights organisations cannot have it both ways in criticising the Sudanese government for inaction and then attacking Khartoum for responding firmly to terrorism and lawlessness.
1 “Sudan Govt, SLA Rebels Peace Talks Break Down in Chad”, News Article by Associated Press, 16 December 2003.
2 “Government Accuses Rebel Leader of Being Behind War in Western Sudan”, News Article by Associated Press, 29 July 2003.
3 See, for example, “Darfur Rebels Adopt New Name: Sudan Liberation Movement/Army”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 14 March 2003.
4 “Widespread Insecurity in Darfur Despite Ceasefire”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 3 October 2003.
5 “Widespread Insecurity Reported in Darfur”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 30 July 2003.
6 See, for example, “Khartoum Forces Free Tribal Leaders Held Hostage in Darfur: Press”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 30 March 2003.
7 See, for example, “Sudan Calls on U.N. to Take Action Against Eritrea”, News Article by Deutsche Press Agentur, 5 January 2004; and “AU to Consider Sudan Complaint Against Eritrea”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 10 January 2004.
8 See, for example, “Sudan Rebels Form Alliance Against Khartoum Government”, News Article by Africa Online, 28 January 2004.
9 “Al-Turabi Denounces US Role in Peace Process”, News Article by Al- Hayat (London), 26 January 2004.
10 “Peace Still Some Way Off in Sudan”, Middle East International (London), 8 January 2004.
11 “Sudanese Government Warns Opposition Party to Stop ‘Sedition’ in West”, News Article by Associated Press, 23 November 2003.
12 “New Rebel Group Seizes West Sudan Town”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 26 February 2003.
13 “The Escalating Crisis in Darfur”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 31 December 2003.
14 See, for example, “Sudan Accuses Southern Separatists of Supplying Arms to Darfur Rebels”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 28 April 2003, and “Sudanese Armed Forces Attack an Unidentified Plane for Helping Western Rebels”, News Article by Associated Press, 28 August 2003.
15 “Dozens Reported Killed or Wounded in Attack in Western Sudan”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 6 October 2003.
16 “The Escalating Crisis in Darfur”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 31 December 2003.
17 “Situation in Sudan’s Dafour Region ‘Very Serious’, Says UN Envoy”, News Article by Africa Online, 16 January 2004.
18 “Government Prefers Political Solution to Darfur Problem, Sudan’s FM Says”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 20 January 2004.
19 “Sudan Says Ready to Talk Peace to Darfur Rebels”, News Article by Reuters, 13 January 2004.
20 See, for example, “Sudan to Hold Conference in Bid to Quell Tribal Violence in Darfur”, News Article by Associated Press, 22 February 2003.
21 “Sudan Hails New Chad Mediation in Rebellion-hit Western Darfur: Report”, News Article by Agence France Press, 3 February 2004.
22 “West Sudan Rebels Agree to Face-to-Face Aid Talks”, News Article by Reuters, 3 February 2004.
23 “Sudan Vice-President Holds Talks With Rebel Leader”, News Article by Xinhua, 24 January 2004.
24 “Sudan Govt, SLA Rebels Peace Talks Break Down in Chad”, News Article by Associated Press, 16 December 2003.
25 “Peace Talks Break Off Between Sudan Government and Darfur Rebels”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 16 December 2003.
26 “Sudan Charges That Meddling Sabotaged Chad-Hosted Peace Talks”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 17 December 2003.
27 “Sudan Accuses Eritrea, Popular Congress Party of Supporting Darfur Rebels”, News Article by Agence France Press, 19 December 2003.
28 “W. Sudan Rebels Say Killed 1,000 Govt Troops, Militia”, News Article by Reuters, 19 January 2004.
29 “Agreement Reached Allowing Humanitarian Access to Darfur Region of Sudan”, Press Release by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, New York, 17 September 2003.
30 “Feature — Death and Destruction in Darfur”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 11 December 2003.
31 “Workers in Sudan Aid Convoy Killed”, News Article by BBC News, 28 October 2003.
32 “USAID Seeks Security for Aid Convoys to War-Torn Area of Sudan”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 26 October 2003.
33 “Sudanese Government Accuses Rebels of Murdering its Relief Workers”, News Article by Agence France Presee, 17 November 2003.
34 “Rebel Faction Admits Abducting Relief Workers in Sudan”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 20 November 2003.
35 “Authorities Forcibly Close IDP Camps in Southern Darfur”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 16 January 2004.
36 “Aid Workers Unable to Reach Most War Zones in Darfur, Western Sudan”, News Article by Deutsche Presse Agentur, 13 January 2004.
37 “Sudan Says Trying to Secure Access for Relief to Darfur Region”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 7 January 2004.
38 “Sudan: Urgent Call for Commission of Inquiry in Darfur as Situation Deteriorates”, Press Release by Amnesty International, 21 February 2003.
39 “Khartoum Stepping Up Arrests in Strife-Torn Darfur: Amnesty”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 6 August 2003.
40 See, for example, “Sudan: Alarming Increase in Executions in Darfur Region”, Press Release by Amnesty International, London, 28 June 2002.
41 “The Escalating Crisis in Darfur”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 31 December 2003.
42 “The Escalating Crisis in Darfur”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 31 December 2003.
43 “Pressure Seen as Key to Ending Sudan’s Western War”, News Article by Reuters, 28 January 2004.
44 “War in Western Sudan Overshadows Peace in the South”, The New York Times, 17 January 2004.
45 “The Escalating Crisis in Darfur”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 31 December 2003.
46 “Sudanese Gov’t ‘Largely Responsible’ for Abuses in Darfur, Says Watchdog”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 27 November 2003.
47 “War in Western Sudan Overshadows Peace in the Souht”, The New York Times, 17 January 2004.
48 “Court Sentences 24 to Death for Killing 35 People in Tribal Raid”, News Article by Associated Press, 27 April 2003.
49 “Sudan Sentences 14 to Death for Arson in Turbulent Western Province”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 16 October 2003.
50 “State of Emergency After Southern Darfur Tribal Clashes”, News Article by Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 22 May 2002.
51 “W. Sudan Rebels Say Killed 1,000 Govt Troops, Militia”, News Article by Reuters, 19 January 2004.
September 30th, 2006 - by admin
Dahr Jamail / t r u t h o u t | Perspective – 2006-09-30 00:13:38
A Broken, De-Humanized Military in Iraq
Dahr Jamail / t r u t h o u t | Perspective
BAGHDAD (September 26, 2006) — While the deranged chicken-hawks who “lead” the US continue their efforts to wage another unprovoked war of aggression, this time against Iran, what’s left of their already overstretched military continues to be bled in Iraq.
When the situation is so critical that even the corporate media is forced to report on it, you know it’s bad. Last week on the NBC Nightly News, General Barry McCaffrey, now retired, said of the current state of the US military, “I think, arguably, it’s the worst readiness condition the US Army has faced since the end of Vietnam.”
This isn’t a big surprise when we consider the facts that many soldiers are already into their third combat tour, frequent deployments have cut training time at home in half, and two thirds of all Army combat units are rated not ready for combat.
The fact that 60% of National Guard soldiers have already reached their limit for overseas combat is most likely not going to slow down the Cheney administration’s lust for more war. Most likely, they’ll just have Rummy change the Pentagon’s policy that currently limits Guard combat tours to two out of every five years.
This change was apparently already expected by Lieutenant General Steven Blum, of the National Guard, who told NBC, “If you think the National Guard’s busy today, I think we’re going to look back and say ‘these were the good old days’ in about three years.” A comment to which General McCaffrey responded: “More is being asked of them, particularly the National Guard and reserve components, than they signed up to do. And in the near-term, we think it’s going to unravel.”
That “near-term” seemed to be about 72 hours away from McCaffrey’s comments. On Monday, the Army announced that because it is stretched so thin by the occupation of Iraq, it is once again extending the combat tours of thousands of soldiers beyond their promised 12-month tours. It’s the second time since August (i.e., last month) that this has occurred. The 1st Brigade Armored Division, which is having its tour extended, just happens to be located in the province of Al-Anbar, which the military has long since lost control of. Between 3,500 and 4,000 soldiers are affected by this decision.
The move prompted defense analyst Loren Thompson to tell reporters: “The Army is coming to the end of its rope in Iraq. It simply does not have enough active-duty military personnel to sustain the current level of effort.”
There are currently over 142,000 US soldiers in Iraq. Just last week General John Abizaid, the top US commander in the region, said the military is likely to maintain and possibly even increase its force level in Iraq through next spring.
What does this look like for US troops on the ground in Iraq? Here is an email I received just last week from a mother whose son is serving in the US military in Ramadi:
/My son cannot bear what he is forced to do, and has probably through sheer terror, confusion, and split-second decisions, killed innocent civilians. He is well aware of this, and I have witnessed the consequences first hand. He probably carries innocent blood on his hands. The killing of innocent people is virtually unavoidable. He is in Al-Anbar region. You are the ONLY person in the media who has responded to my emails. The other emails I sent to news organizations questioning why so little news out of Al-Anbar were unanswered. I believe that it is because the US has lost that region, and is suppressing that news to the American public. My son called me last week from Ramadi and said the war is lost – they are just going thru the motions, again, forced to carry out orders and risk their lives for an unobtainable and unjust goal. I continue to read your web site, as well as others, while I pray for my son’s safe homecoming in spring./
Her anguish, the description of her son’s mental state, and her son’s report of the conditions in Ramadi, tragic as they are, come as no surprise. At the time of this writing, over 2,703 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and over ten times that number wounded. This month, over 61 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. With an average of over 2.5 killed daily this month, at the time of this writing it’s already the third bloodiest month this year in Iraq for occupation forces.
Another report released last weekend from the Veterans Health Administration found that over one third of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seeking medical treatment are reporting symptoms of stress or other metal disorders. This is a tenfold increase in the last 18 months alone. The dramatic jump in cases is attributed to the fact that more troops are facing multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is of course complicated by the fact that veterans’ groups claim that the VA is not able to meet the growing demand for services. Already, veterans have had to deal with long waits for doctor appointments (oftentimes over six months), staffing shortages, and lack of equipment at medical centers run by the VA.
The woman who sent me the email about her son gave me permission to publish another email that shows clearly how the over-stretch of the military in Iraq and multiple tours are affecting her son:
I have established contact with my son, thank God, and he writes to me daily about Iraqi atrocities, and how he wants to wax them all. His morale is low and he has a weak LT who is unable to keep up with the pace required. I would love to share these emails with you, but I am afraid. I’m afraid of the implications should this ever get out. I want to do nothing to endanger my communications with my son.
My impression through my readings and contact with soldiers is that the Iraqis are generally good people. The American occupation seems to be only making things that much worse for the average Iraqi. My impression is that Iraq is a country with no hope. No matter what is done, they will never have a stable government, no matter what form it might take. From my son, I’m able to glean the complete CHAOS Ramadi is in. It is hopeless.
As a mother, I want him to do whatever is necessary to come home, and will not sugar-coat my thoughts: that he should kill everything and come home. Naturally, not someone who is obviously an innocent civilian, but how do you tell? How do you know who is innocent and who is a threat? Therefore, he feels that daisy-cutting the town is the only option. Of course this will not happen, and he’s blowing smoke. However, it is an indication of how bad things are there … the struggle between the Marines and the insurgents is never ending.
The type of bomb now employed by the insurgents (whoever they are) is frightening … a metal plate on the ground: when the Marine steps on it, it connects the circuit and that boy is blown up. My son is running missions thru back alleys … and is hauling a machine gun that is destroying his back. He is a slender young man, and the gear he is carrying is affecting his health. He can run for miles, but not with a hundred pounds on him. Already I hear such a hardness in his emails, such low morale, such hopelessness, and he has only just begun this deployment (hopefully his last … his third).
America is a great nation, compassionate to many, and is my homeland. I am sickened at what is happening, and what my son is being made to do as a Marine. Ultimately we have morphed into an empire. It breaks my heart that my son may die on foreign soil fighting a useless war that will only lead to more death and destruction …
The longer the occupation of Iraq continues, more death and destruction are two things all of us can count on. Along with a broken, bleeding military that is being stretched even further each day, and the anxious families of those serving, whose nerves and hearts are also being stretched further each day.
(c) 2006 Dahr Jamail. All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com
Poll Finds Majority of Iraqis Support Attacks on US Troops,Barry Schweid / Canadian Press
WASHINGTON (September 27, 2006) — About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on US-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask US troops to leave within a year, a poll finds.
The Iraqis also have negative views of Osama bin Laden, according to the early September poll of 1,150.
The poll, done for University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes, found:
-Almost four in five Iraqis say the US military force in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents.
-About 61 per cent approved of the attacks — up from 47 per cent in January. A solid majority of Shiite and Sunni Arabs approved of the attacks, according to the poll. The increase came mostly among Shiite Iraqis.
-An overwhelmingly negative opinion of terror chief bin Laden and more than half, 57 per cent, disapproving of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
-Three-fourths say they think the US plans to keep military bases in Iraq permanently.
-A majority of Iraqis, 72 per cent, say they think Iraq will be one state five years from now. Shiite Iraqis were most likely to feel that way, though a majority of Sunnis and Kurds also believed that would be the case.
The PIPA poll, which included an oversample of 150 Sunni Iraqis, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
The State Department, meanwhile, has conducted its own poll, something it does periodically, spokesman Sean McCormack said. The State Department poll found two-thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad favour an immediate withdrawal of US forces, according to The Washington Post. McCormack declined to discuss details of the department’s poll.
An Iraqi public opinion research firm with a proven record of conducting scientifically valid surveys conducted the department’s poll, press officer Janelle Hironimus said later.
“We will not identify the firm in order to protect it and its employees from danger,” she said.
Iraqi officials have said Iraq’s security was improving and expanding throughout the country, and most US troops might be able to leave eventually.
Last week, Iraqi President Jalal Talibani told the United Nations that coalition forces should remain in Iraq until Iraqi security forces are “capable of putting an end to terrorism and maintaining stability and security.”
© The Canadian Press, 2006
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September 30th, 2006 - by admin
Molly Ivins / TruthDig & Friends Committee on Legislation – 2006-09-30 00:06:49
Congress Says Yes to Torture,
Expands Presidential Power
Friends Committee on National Legislation
We at FCNL are profoundly disappointed with congressional approval this week of legislation that authorizes the president to:
• order torture and abusive, humiliating treatment;
• permits indefinite detention of human beings without safeguards recognized as essential by US law and treaty obligations;
• and transfers significant congressional power to the president.
This legislation is morally reprehensible. It eliminates protections that go back more than 800 years, since the time of the Magna Carta.
Despite the flood of citizen messages and volumes of expert testimony and opinion, the House approved the Military Commissions Act of 2006 by a vote of 253 to 168 on Wednesday and the Senate was poised to approve the same legislation Thursday.
FCNL will continue to work on Capitol Hill for legislation to abolish torture and the opportunity for torture — without exceptions.
Military Commissions Act of 2006
House Roll Call No. 491
109th Congress, 2nd Session
The bill authorizes and outlines the military commissions system to be used to try “enemy combatants” caught in the War on Terror.”
See how your representative voted.
Friends Committee on National Legislation
245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795
Habeas Corpus, R.I.P. (1215 – 2006)
Molly Ivins / TruthDig
AUSTIN, Texas (September 27, 2006) — Oh dear. I’m sure he didn’t mean it. In Illinois’ Sixth Congressional District, long represented by Henry Hyde, Republican candidate Peter Roskam accused his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, of planning to “cut and run” on Iraq.
Duckworth is a former Army major and chopper pilot who lost both legs in Iraq after her helicopter got hit by an RPG. “I just could not believe he would say that to me,” said Duckworth, who walks on artificial legs and uses a cane. Every election cycle produces some wincers, but how do you apologize for that one?
The legislative equivalent of that remark is the detainee bill now being passed by Congress. Beloveds, this is so much worse than even that pathetic deal reached last Thursday between the White House and Republican Sens. John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
The White House has since reinserted a number of “technical fixes” that were the point of the putative “compromise.” It leaves the president with the power to decide who is an enemy combatant.
This bill is not a national security issue — this is about torturing helpless human beings without any proof they are our enemies. Perhaps this could be considered if we knew the administration would use the power with enormous care and thoughtfulness. But of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place.
Death by torture by Americans was first reported in 2003 in a New York Times article by Carlotta Gall. The military had announced the prisoner died of a heart attack, but when Gall saw the death certificate, written in English and issued by the military, it said the cause of death was homicide. The “heart attack” came after he had been beaten so often on this legs that they had “basically been pulpified,” according to the coroner.
The story of why and how it took the Times so long to print this information is in the current edition of the Columbia Journalism Review. The press in general has been late and slow in reporting torture, so very few Americans have any idea how far it has spread. As is often true in hierarchical, top-down institutions, the orders get passed on in what I call the downward communications exaggeration spiral.
For example, on a newspaper, a top editor may remark casually, “Let’s give the new mayor a chance to see what he can do before we start attacking him.”
This gets passed on as “Don’t touch the mayor unless he really screws up.”
And it ultimately arrives at the reporter level as “We can’t say anything negative about the mayor.”
The version of the detainee bill now in the Senate not only undoes much of the McCain-Warner-Graham work, but it is actually much worse than the administration’s first proposal. In one change, the original compromise language said a suspect had the right to “examine and respond to” all evidence used against him.
The three senators said the clause was necessary to avoid secret trials. The bill has now dropped the word “examine” and left only “respond to.”
In another change, a clause said that evidence obtained outside the United States could be admitted in court even if it had been gathered without a search warrant. But the bill now drops the words “outside the United States,” which means prosecutors can ignore American legal standards on warrants.
The bill also expands the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant to cover anyone who has “has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” Quick, define “purposefully and materially.” One person has already been charged with aiding terrorists because he sold a satellite TV package that includes the Hezbollah network.
The bill simply removes a suspect’s right to challenge his detention in court. This is a rule of law that goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215. That pretty much leaves the barn door open.
As Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet dissident, wrote, an intelligence service free to torture soon “degenerates into a playground for sadists.” But not unbridled sadism — you will be relieved that the compromise took out the words permitting interrogation involving “severe pain” and substituted “serious pain,” which is defined as “bodily injury that involves extreme physical pain.”
In July 2003, George Bush said in a speech: “The United States is committed to worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes, whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit.”
Fellow citizens, this bill throws out legal and moral restraints as the president deems it necessary — these are fundamental principles of basic decency, as well as law.
I’d like those supporting this evil bill to spare me one affliction: Do not, please, pretend to be shocked by the consequences of this legislation. And do not pretend to be shocked when the world begins comparing us to the Nazis.
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September 30th, 2006 - by admin
Jill Savitt / Human Rights First & New York Times Editorial – 2006-09-30 00:01:35
Congress Bows to Bush; Defiles Constitution
Jill Savitt / Human Rights First
(September 29, 2006) — As you may have heard in the news today, the US Congress yesterday passed legislation that will deny individuals detained by the United States the ability to challenge their detentions and treatment in court.
“This was the moment for Congress to pass legislation that reflects the fundamental values of this country. Instead, it rushed to adopt an ill-considered law which history will judge harshly,” said Elisa Massimino, Washington Director of Human Rights First. “The many flaws in this law raise fundamental constitutional issues. It will result in prolonged legal challenges, instead of fair trials that ensure justice.”
The most serious flaws in the Act include:
• Grants unprecedented and unchecked authority to the Executive Branch to label as “unlawful enemy combatants” and detain an overly broad range of people, including US citizens and legal permanent residents inside the United States
• Denies any independent judicial review of these detentions
• Seeks to eliminate accountability for past violations of the law
• Permits evidence obtained through coercion
• Gives the Secretary of Defense authority to deviate from time-tested military justice standards for fair trials.
Despite these flaws, we still want to thank you for standing with Human Rights First and more than 50 retired military leaders to stop White House efforts seeking to redefine the humane treatment standards of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, as the administration had originally proposed.
The Act passed by Congress makes it clear that conduct in violation of Common Article 3 remains unlawful and that subjecting detainees to treatment that involves serious physical or mental pain or suffering is a war crime. In floor debate, the drafters of the bill said:
Senator John McCain (R-AZ):
“The President and his subordinates are… bound to comply with Geneva. That is clear to me and to all who have negotiated this legislation in good faith… We expect the CIA to conduct interrogations in a manner that is fully consistent not only with the Detainee Treatment Act and the War Crimes Act, but with all of our obligations under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.”
“To the CIA: Your program, whatever it may be in classified form, must comply with the War Crimes Act. And the War Crimes Act runs the gamut from torture to cruel, inhumane treatment, intentional infliction of serious bodily injury, or mental pain.”
Senator John Warner (R-VA):
“The types of conduct described in [the Kennedy] amendment, in my opinion, are in the category of grave breaches of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. These are clearlyprohibited by our bill.”
“The Kennedy Amendment specified acts including: ‘forcing the person to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; applying beatings, electric shocks, burns, or other forms of physical pain to the person; waterboarding the person; using dogs on the person; inducing hypothermia or heat injury in the person; conducting a mock execution of the person;and depriving the person of necessary food, water, or medical care.'”
We hope you will continue to work with Human Rights First in the months ahead as we seek to uphold the rule law and work to ensure that these measures do not go unchallenged.
Jill Savitt is HRF’s Director of Campaigns. Human Rights First, 333 Seventh Avenue, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10001-5004 www.humanrightsfirst.org
Rushing Off a Cliff
Editorial / New York Times
NEW YORK (September 28, 2006) — Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists.
Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.
Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda.
Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.
It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.
Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies.
Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.
These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:
Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.
The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.
Habeas Corpus: Detainees in US military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.
Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.
Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.
Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.
Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.
There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.
We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.
They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
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September 28th, 2006 - by admin
Friends Committee on National Legislation & Drew Brown / McClatchy Newspapers – 2006-09-28 23:46:37
Congress Bans Funding for Permanent US Military Bases in Iraq
Friends Committee on National Legislation
WASHINGTON (September 26. 2006) — The US Congress this week finalized legislation that bars funding to construct permanent military bases in Iraq, and states definitively that it is the policy of the United States government not to exercise control over Iraq’s petroleum resources.
“The perception that the US military plans to stay in Iraq indefinitely has fueled the insurgency and undermined the stability of the Iraqi government,” said Ruth Flower, legislative director for the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). “This legislation is an important first step in changing the failed US policy in Iraq.”
The 63-year-old Quaker lobby, FCNL, has been working with members of Congress on this policy since January 2005. Reps. Barbara Lee (CA) and Tom Allen (ME) advanced stand-alone bills to bar permanent bases in 2005, and in 2006 the House and the Senate approved similar amendments banning permanent bases as part of an emergency supplemental spending bill and then as part of the military authorization legislation. In both cases, the administration persuaded leaders in the House and Senate to strip out the “no permanent bases” language during conference committee negotiations.
But when similar language was attached to the FY07 military appropriations bill (H.R. 5631) by Rep. John Murtha (PA) in the House and Sen. Joe Biden (DE) in the Senate, negotiators from the House and Senate held firm. The final conference report on the military appropriations bill released September 25 prohibits the Pentagon from spending money to establish military installations or bases in Iraq. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the final version of this legislation later this week.
While we at FCNL believe this declaration of policy is an important step toward changing US policy in Iraq, we are concerned that the military appropriations bill also includes an additional $70 billion in funding for the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The US government’s own National Intelligence Estimate confirms what we have been hearing from people in Iraq for more than a year – that the US presence in Iraq has fueled the development of a new generation of violent radical groups and has made the overall problem of terrorism worse,” said Flower. War is not the answer.
Costs of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Could Reach $549 Billion
Drew Brown / McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON (September 27, 2006 ) — The total cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and enhanced security at military bases since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks could reach $549 billion this year, a new report to Congress concludes.
The projection by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service is based on an update in July from the White House Office of Management and Budget, which estimated that war costs will total $110 billion for fiscal year 2007, which begins Sunday.
In fiscal year 2005, the Pentagon spent an average of $6.4 billion a month in Iraq and $1.3 billion a month in Afghanistan. During fiscal year 2006, it’s projected that those costs will have increased to about $8 billion a month in Iraq and $1.5 billion per month in Afghanistan.
“Everybody expects that troops will come home and that next year will be cheaper, but it just never happens that way,” said Winslow Wheeler, the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, a policy-research group in Washington.
The report says war costs are expected to continue to grow in the next decade.
Even if U.S. forces were reduced from 258,000 today in Iraq, Afghanistan and other military operations around the globe related to the war on terrorism to 74,000 by 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that war costs would still grow by $371 billion from fiscal year 2007 to fiscal year 2016.
Given the amount already spent, total war funding could reach $808 billion by 2016, according to the Congressional Research Service report to Congress.
But the true figure may prove to be higher, if current trends hold. The Pentagon had hoped to reduce its troop presence in Iraq to fewer than 100,000 by the end of this year, but military commanders are planning to keep at least 140,000 troops there through the spring because of the high level of violence.
Congress has appropriated about $437 billion so far for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other anti-terrorism efforts around the world, according to the Congressional Research Service.
This includes money for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs and veterans’ health programs related to the war. Another $2 billion is in fiscal 2007 spending bills for foreign aid and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and veterans’ medical programs, the agency reported.
The House approved a record $448 billion in defense spending for 2007 late Tuesday, including $70 billion as a down payment, or bridge fund, for military operations during the next fiscal year. Final passage by the Senate could come Thursday.
The White House expects to ask for at least $50 billion in bridge funding to pay for the war in fiscal year 2008, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The Pentagon hasn’t provided Congress with the individual costs of each operation. However, the agency report estimated that Iraq accounts for about 75 percent of all war spending and Afghanistan accounts for 20 percent. Increased base security takes the remaining 5 percent.
Operating, maintenance and procurement costs account for the biggest increases in spending from 2003 to 2006, according to the agency.
Total operating and maintenance costs reached almost $200 billion by fiscal 2006, primarily because of purchases of more body armor, the jump in oil prices, increasing bills to repair aging equipment and money to train Afghan and Iraqi security forces.
The amount spent on replacement weapons and equipment reached almost $61 billion during the same period.
Congress is allocating $23 billion this year to replace worn-out or damaged military equipment. Most of that is going to the Army. Wheeler said the expense could be even higher, and that these costs were likely to climb each year that the war continued.
© 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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September 28th, 2006 - by admin
Jonathan Curiel / San Francisco Chronicle – 2006-09-28 23:41:38
[Podcast: Jonathan Curiel with Professor Glenn Gass on the history of rock ‘n’ roll.]
(September 24, 2006) — In the spring of 1972, when the Vietnam War was still raging and claiming thousands of lives, when American protesters (including John Kerry and other Vietnam vets) were demanding US troop withdrawals and a peaceful end to the Southeast Asian conflict, the Nixon administration worried endlessly about a 31-year-old singer-songwriter from Britain.
The musician couldn’t even vote in the upcoming presidential election, but John Lennon represented everything Nixon feared: a popular anti-war voice who could rally millions of young Americans against the president’s quest for a second term.
The Nixon White House targeted Lennon, then living in New York, for deportation, while the FBI maintained a close watch on the former Beatle. The bureau paid people to attend Lennon’s concerts and speeches and report back anything they deemed suspicious. A new documentary, “The U.S. vs. John Lennon,” sheds important light on this dubious moment in U.S. history, but the Lennon episode — as aberrational as it might seem — is part of a long pattern of Washington monitoring popular musicians and artists (and seeking to undermine them when convenient).
The list includes Pete Seeger, Pablo Picasso, Charlie Chaplin, Paul Robeson, Lenny Bruce and Allen Ginsberg, all of whom the government considered serious threats to America’s well-being during their careers.
In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, for example, Seeger was labeled a Communist agitator, and his folk songs (“If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”) were considered radical appeals. The evidence? Seeger, a member of the Communist Party, first performed “If I Had a Hammer” at a 1949 fundraiser for 11 Communist Party members on trial for attempting to overthrow the U.S. government. Seeger left the Communist Party in 1950, but he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, where he was bold enough to challenge his inquisitors about their standards of patriotism and their right to question his.
“I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs,” Seeger told committee members, who consulted information in the singer’s thick FBI files to question him. “I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked.”
For his outspokenness, Seeger was found in contempt of Congress, for which he would have served one year in jail if his lawyer hadn’t bailed him out and fought the conviction, which was eventually overturned. Still, Seeger saw his career nose-dive when promoters became reluctant to book him. As part of the humiliation, Seeger had to notify federal authorities whenever he traveled beyond the southern district of New York. If the government sought to damage Seeger’s career and his ability to reach a mass audience, they were effective in the short-term but badly miscalculated in the long-term.
“In some ways, the HUAC ordeal was the making of Seeger, rather than his undoing,” writes David King Dunaway, author of the Seeger biography, “How Can I Keep From Singing.”
“Until challenged, his puritan habits had a Boy Scout leader’s blandness, and his music seemed too wholesome and rural for mass audiences. Under HUAC’s attack, however, he became a warrior of song.”
The government also miscalculated with Lennon. As noted in “The U.S. vs. John Lennon,” which opens in Bay Area theaters on Friday, the Nixon administration became obsessed with the idea that Lennon would perform at get-out-the-vote concerts preceding the 1972 presidential election.
Thanks to the 26th Amendment, people ages 18, 19 and 20 had the right to cast ballots for the first time. Lennon had become one of the Vietnam War’s most outspoken critics. After his 1969 “bed-ins” for peace with Yoko Ono, and his 1969 recording of “Give Peace a Chance,” he regularly went on American television (including “The Dick Cavett Show”) to question Washington’s war in Vietnam. Lennon suspected the FBI was tapping his phone and following him on the street — which they were.
The FBI’s files on Lennon, released to UC Irvine history Professor Jon Wiener in 1997 after a long legal battle, read like the writings of a paranoid goody-two-shoes.
On Feb. 10, 1972, CIA Director Richard Helms sent FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover a memo that warned Lennon and Ono were going to participate in a “caravan of entertainers” raising funds as it traversed the United States.
In April, Hoover wrote Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman that “a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, advised that Lennon had contributed $75,000 to a newly organized New Left group formed to disrupt the Republican National Convention” in Miami. And in July, the FBI’s New York office furnished a letter to acting FBI director L. Patrick Gray III that stated its Miami office “should note that Lennon is reportedly a ‘heavy user of narcotics’ known as ‘downers.’ This information should be emphasized to Local Law Enforcement Agencies (in Miami) with regards to subject being arrested if at all possible on possession of narcotics charge. … INS has stressed to Bureau that if Lennon were to be arrested in United States for possession of narcotics he would become more likely to be immediately deportable.”
Lennon’s FBI file (portions of which can be seen at www.lennonfbifiles.com) is “more a documentation of abuse of power by the White House and the FBI” than a catalog of Lennon secrets, says Wiener, whose books include “Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files.” The Immigration and Naturalization Service served Lennon with a 30-day deportation order, ruling that his 1968 conviction for a minor drug offense in Britain made him ineligible for the visa he used to enter the United States. Lennon appealed, winning the right to stay in the United States as a permanent resident in 1976. (Lennon never did sing outside the Republican convention. Wiener notes the irony of an FBI memo from an informer in March 1972 that said Lennon would perform at convention protests only “if they are peaceful” — a memo that contradicted the FBI’s claim that Lennon was a fomenter of violent dissent.)
Lennon didn’t make the mistake Chaplin made during his run-in with Washington: Leave the country on a professional tour, only to be told he wouldn’t be allowed to return. In 1952, Chaplin had lived in the United States for 40 years. He was universally loved for his cinematic portrayal of the Little Tramp and other movie characters, but his empathy for the Communist cause during World War II, and what U.S. officials viewed as his lack of patriotism, sealed the government’s decision to keep him out of the United States for good. Chaplin’s reputation for love affairs with underage girls contributed to Washington’s anti-Chaplin sentiment, which filled his FBI dossier with hundreds of additional pages.
In the early 1950s, anyone thought to have sympathy for Moscow, or anyone critical of U.S. policies, was suspect. Robeson, despite his illustrious sports, singing and theatrical careers, was attacked by Washington for his pro-Communist views. In 1950, the State Department took away his passport so he couldn’t work abroad or give speeches critical of American segregation.
That same year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee denied a visa to Picasso, who wanted to visit the United States from France as part of an anti-nuclear peace delegation.
In the early 1960s, the FBI put Lenny Bruce and Allen Ginsberg on watch lists for filthy language that, by today’s standards, is tame and commonplace. The government’s harassment of Bruce led to his isolation and contributed to his suicide at age 40.
Today, Washington may have changed its tune. There’s no indication that the FBI is amassing giant dossiers on Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Michael Stipe and other pop stars in 2004 who did what the bureau feared Lennon would do in 1972: lead a national rock tour to sway the election against the incumbent Republican president.
The pop factor didn’t work in 1972 (Nixon won in a landslide), nor did it work in 2004 for John Kerry, but the musicians left behind a legacy of great music and the message that protesting is worth it, regardless of the outcome.
Glenn Gass, a music professor at Indiana University who teaches a course on the history of rock ‘n’ roll, says it’s hard to imagine a world without Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” which Lennon first recorded in a Montreal hotel room. “The U.S. vs. John Lennon” has a clip of Lennon singing the song at his Montreal bed-in. The people in the room who joined in, including Timothy Leary and Tommy Smothers, are smiling and upbeat. They believed what they were singing.
The song gave the anti-war movement its anthem, Gass says. “It’s impossible to think of a civil rights rally and not hear ‘We Shall Overcome’ being sung by linked arms and a sense of community. That’s what ‘Give Peace a Chance’ gave the peace movement. It was just the right mix of defiance and with a good-hearted optimism. It wasn’t, ‘Throw grenades and tear down walls.’ It was perfect.”
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September 28th, 2006 - by admin
CBS – 2006-09-28 23:39:15
NEW YORK (Sept. 28, 2006) — Veteran Washington reporter Bob Woodward tells Mike Wallace that the Bush administration has not told the truth regarding the level of violence, especially against US troops, in Iraq. He also reveals key intelligence that predicts the insurgency will grow worse next year.
In Wallace’s interview with Woodward, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes this Sunday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. ET/PT, the reporter also claims that Henry Kissinger is among those advising Mr. Bush.
According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. “It’s getting to the point now where there are eight-, nine-hundred attacks a week. That’s more than 100 a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces,” says Woodward.
The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. “The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], ‘Oh, no, things are going to get better,'” he tells Wallace. “Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know,” says Woodward.
“The insurgents know what they are doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn’t know? The American public,” Woodward tells Wallace.
Woodward also reports that the president and vice president often meet with Henry Kissinger, who was President Richard Nixon’s secretary of state, as an adviser. Says Woodward, “Now what’s Kissinger’s advice? In Iraq, he declared very simply, ‘Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.'” Woodward adds. “This is so fascinating. Kissinger’s fighting the Vietnam War again because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will.”
President Bush is absolutely certain that he has the U.S. and Iraq on the right course, says Woodward. So certain is the president on this matter, Woodward says, that when Mr. Bush had key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq, he told them, “I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.”
Woodward reported for two years and interviewed more than 200 people, including top officials in the Bush administration, to learn these and other revelations that he makes in his latest book, State of Denial, published by Simon & Schuster, part of the CBS Corp.
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September 28th, 2006 - by admin
Kate Zernike / New York Times & Jennifer Loven / Associated Press – 2006-09-28 23:37:54
Senate Passes Detainee Bill Sought by President Bush
Kate Zernike / New York Times
WASHINGTON (September 28, 2006) — The Senate approved legislation this evening governing the interrogation and trials of terror suspects, establishing far-reaching new rules in the definition of who may be held and how they should be treated.
The vote, 65-to-34, came after more than 10 hours of often impassioned debate touching on the Constitution, the horrors of Sept. 11 and the nation’s role in the world, but it was also underscored by a measure of politics as Congress prepares to break for the final month of campaigning before closely fought midterm elections.
The legislation sets up rules for the military commissions that will allow the government to prosecute high-level terrorists including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It strips detainees of a habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in court and broadly defines what kind of treatment of detainees is prosecutable as a war crime.
The bill was a compromise between the White House and three Republican senators who had pushed back against what they saw as President Bush’s attempt to rewrite the nation’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions. But while the president had to relent on some of the key specifics, it allowed him to claim victory in achieving one of his main legislative priorities.
“As our troops risk their lives to fight terrorism, this bill will ensure they are prepared to defeat today’s enemies and address tomorrow’s threats,” Mr. Bush said in a statement shortly after the vote.
A similar bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday by a vote of 253 to 168, and the measure should be ready to go to Mr. Bush by the end of the week for his signature.
Republicans argued that the new rules would provide the necessary tools to fight a new kind of enemy. “Our prior concept of war has been completely altered, as we learned so tragically on September 11th, 2001,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia. “And we must address threats in a different way.”
Democrats argued that the rules were being rushed through for political gain too close to a major election, that they would fundamentally threaten the foundations of the American legal system, and that they would come back to haunt lawmakers as one of the greatest mistakes in history.
“I believe there can be no mercy for those who perpetrated the crimes of 9/11,” said Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York. “But in the process of accomplishing what I believe is essential for our security, we must hold onto our values and set an example that we can point to with pride, not shame.”
Twelve Democrats crossed party lines to support the legislation, while one Republican, Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, opposed it. Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, did not vote.
Mr. Bush attacked Democrats for voting against the legislation even before the vote began, signaling Republicans’ intention to use it as a hammer in their efforts to portray themselves as the party of strength on national security.
But provisions of the bill came under criticism from Republicans as well as Democrats, with several of them crossing lines on some amendments to the bill that failed along narrow margins.
Among the amendments that failed were one that would have struck the habeas corpus provision, one that would have established a sunset on the legislation to allow Congress to reconsider it in five years, and one that would have require the Central Intelligence Agency to submit to Congressional oversight.
A fourth amendment would have required the State Department to inform other nations of what interrogation techniques it considers illegal for use on American troops, a move intended to prompt the administration to say publicly what techniques it considers out of bounds.
Senator Carl M. Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, argued that the habeas corpus provision “is as legally abusive of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution as the actions at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and secret prisons were physically abusive of detainees.”
And even some Republicans who said voted for the bill said they expected the Supreme Court to strike down the legislation because of the habeas corpus provision, ultimately sending the legislation right back to Congress.
“We should have done it right, because we’re going to have to do it again,” said Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon, who had voted to strike the habeas corpus provision, yet supported the bill.
The legislation broadens the definition of enemy combatants beyond the traditional definition used in wartime, to include noncitizens living legally in this country as well as those in foreign countries, and also anyone determined to be an enemy combatant under criteria defined by the president or secretary of defense.
It strips detainees being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of a habeas right to challenge their detention in court, relying instead on procedures known as combatant status review trials, which have looser rules of evidence than the courts.
It allows evidence seized in this country or abroad to be taken without a search warrant. It bars evidence obtained by cruel and inhumane treatment, except that obtained before Dec, 30, 2005, when Congress enacted the Detainee Treatment Act. Democrats charged that the date was set conveniently after the worst abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay.
The legislation establishes several “grave breaches” of Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions that are felonies under the War Crimes Act, including torture, rape, murder and any act intended to cause “serious” physical or mental pain or suffering.
It leaves to the president the definition of specific interrogation techniques and rules barring any techniques that do not rise to the level of grave breaches.
The issue was sent to Congress as a result of a Supreme Court decision in June that struck down military tribunals the Bush administration had established shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The court ruled that the tribunals violated the Constitution, and it upended the president’s claim that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the war on terror.
The White House submitted another bill in early September, setting off weeks of intraparty fighting as the three Senate Republicans, John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, insisted they would not support a provision that in any way appeared to alter the nation’s commitments under Geneva.
Bush Criticizes Democrats on Terror War
Jennifer Loven / Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (September 28, 2006) ± President Bush suggested Thursday that Democrats don’t have the stomach to fight the war on terror, battling back in the election-season clamor over administration intelligence showing terrorism spreading.
“Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on the American homeland in our history, Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing,” Bush said at a Republican fundraiser.
“The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run,” Bush told a convention-center audience of over 2,000 people. The event put $2.5 million in the campaign accounts of Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and the state GOP.
Democrats immediately disputed the charge that they would hold back in the anti-terror battle.
“On his watch, five years after 9/11, he not only has failed to capture Osama bin Laden, but as the (National Intelligence Estimate) indicates, his failed policies have made America less safe and spawned terrorism, not decreased it,” said Karen Finney, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee. “Democrats will be tough and smart, and will actually fight the terrorists, not leave them to plan future attacks.”
Bush’s no-holds-barred speech, one of his harshest yet on the campaign trail, came less than six weeks before midterm elections in which Democrats are seeking to strip Republicans of their control of one or both houses of Congress.
The war of words continued a nearly weeklong tussle by both parties over the implications of a newly revealed estimate, an analysis of terror trends put together by the nation’s top intelligence analysts in 16 spy agencies.
The document concluded that Iraq has become a “cause celebre” for jihadists worldwide, whom it said have grown in number and geographic reach. The report said the factors, such as the Iraq war, that are fueling the jihadist movement’s growth outweigh its vulnerabilities and that, if the current trend continues, risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.
Portions of the five-month-old report were leaked over the weekend, and Bush ordered the key judgments – four of its 30 pages – declassified on Tuesday in hopes that wider availability of most conclusions would quell the criticism.
continued to point to the report to argue that the 2003 Iraq invasion, by fanning anti-U.S. sentiments and helping terrorists recruit, is one reason to change leadership in Congress.
On Thursday, Bush accused the opposition party of cherrypicking pieces of the report “for partisan political gain” and “to mislead the American people and justify their policy of withdrawal from Iraq.”
“The greatest danger is not that America’s presence in the war in Iraq is drawing new recruits to the terrorist cause,” Bush said. “The greatest danger is that an American withdrawal from Iraq would embolden the terrorists and help them find new recruits to carry out even more destructive attacks.”
Though not by name, he quoted Rep. Jane Harman of California, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, as saying that because of the Iraq war “it may become more likely” that the US will have to contend with terrorists on its own soil again, rather than less likely as the president argues. And he quoted Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, as saying the world would be better off without the Iraq war and if former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein were still in power.
“Some in Washington, some decent people, patriotic people, feel like we should not be on the offensive in this war on terror,” the president said. “We will fight them wherever they make a stand.”
The president also criticized House Democrats, including their leadership, who voted this week against a White House plan for interrogating, detaining and trying terrorists. “We must give our professionals the tools they need to protect the American people in this war on terror and those in the House of Representatives were wrong to vote against this bill,” he said.
Democrats, joined by some Republicans, say the legislation would give the president too much latitude when deciding whether aggressive interrogations cross the line and violate international standards of prisoner treatment.
Bush headed from Alabama to Ohio to raise $600,000 for the Ohio GOP and Rep. Deborah Pryce, who is struggling to hold on to her seat in an evenly split district and stressing her independence from the president.
That fundraiser was held behind closed doors – like most that Bush does lately.
By Thursday’s end, the president had headlined 68 political events – all fundraisers – benefiting 37 candidates, the national GOP, several state counterparts and the campaign arms of House and Senate Republicans. Half of them overall have been closed to media coverage, with the percentage going up to nearly two-thirds in recent months.
The only one of the president’s six political events this week that was open was the fundraiser for Riley, who is favored for re-election over his challenger, Democratic Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley.
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September 27th, 2006 - by admin
Zaman Daily News & merican Forces Press Service & The Sunday Herald – 2006-09-27 23:30:43
British Soldiers Accused of Gun Smuggling for Drugs
Zaman Daily News / zaman.com
(September 24, 2006) — British soldiers in Iraq have been accused of smuggling stolen guns in Iraq and exchanging them for cocaine and cash on the black market.
According to the Sunday Times, soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment have been subjected to a criminal inquiry by the Royal Military Police in Britain.
The newspaper also wrote that one of the soldiers were arrested for smuggling guns from Iraq, including Glock pistols, and selling them in Germany in exchange for drugs.
The Sunday Times commented that the British military presence in Iraq would be questioned even more after this, adding: “The army is suffering an epidemic of drug abuse. One former fusilier claimed that 75 men from his company, some 60 percent of its strength, regularly took cocaine, ecstasy or marijuana.”
The newspaper reported that evidence showed some of the guns were exchanged for 50 grams of cocaine, worth 2,500 sterling, which was subsequently sent to soldiers in Iraq.
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A Look at Drug Use and Testing Within the Military
Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
If you had visited a typical military unit in 1983, about one out of every four service members would have used illegal drugs.
If you had visited the same unit in 1998, about three out of 100 service members admitted to using drugs.
Between 1983 and 1998, the fraction of service members admitting to frequent drug use dropped from 23 percent to 2.7 percent. Officials say there are many reasons for the drop.
DoD is attacking the problem on the two fronts of supply and demand. Education and deterrence are the key aspects of reducing demand for illegal drugs, Andre Hollis, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics, said.
Generally, Hollis explained, the services don’t take every one to court for illegal drug use, but most members are not allowed to remain on active duty. “That creates, I think, a strong deterrent to violating the rules,” he told American Forces Radio and Television Service.
Hollis described educating troops on the dangers and consequences of illegal drug use as the duty of military leaders. “We as leaders must be responsible for the health and welfare of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines,” he said.
DoD also works closely with the Drug Enforcement Administration to halt the flow of illegal drugs into the country. Hollis explained that DEA is responsible for identifying sources of drug production; while DoD is responsible for monitoring and detecting drug shipments.
The current war on terrorism has direct bearing on the illegal drug trade as well, in ways that are of particular concern to DoD. Afghanistan is one of the world’s leading suppliers of opium – a drug further refined into morphine and heroin.
Drugs that come out of Afghanistan are shipped primarily to Europe, where American service members and American allies can fall victim to drug abuse and associated violent crimes, Hollis said.
“Perhaps more insidious, the pipeline that these narcotraffickers use to ship their drugs and to sell their drugs is also the pipeline that they use for financing terrorism and arms sales, for smuggling illegal aliens, money and for potentially weapons of mass destruction, and for abusing women,” Hollis said. “It’s a vile pipeline that’s used for a variety of evil purposes.”
Increased use of the popular club drug commonly called ecstasy is a disturbing trend in the military community as well as among civilians. “Many people fail to realize … that ecstasy is a dangerous drug,” Hollis said. He cited studies that show even infrequent use can cause serious impairment of cognitive functions.
“That’s particularly of concern within the armed forces, where our young people are in charge of and responsible for sophisticated pieces of equipment,” he said.
Army Col. Mick Smith agreed. Smith is an expert on drug testing in Hollis’s office. “Military people have a dangerous job,” he said. “They operate heavy equipment and use complex integrated computer systems.”
Smith described a recent Johns Hopkins University study on monkeys given typical doses of ecstasy for a three-day period. “It would be comparable to someone bingeing over a weekend,” he said. Tests showed the animals had a significant depletion of nerve cells that produce serotonin – the chemical in the brain that makes us feel good – a year and a half later.
“There’s very good evidence that even small amounts of ecstasy can cause permanent brain damage,” Smith said during an American Forces Press Service interview.
To combat this rising health concern, DoD is planning to use more sensitive tests to detect ecstasy during routine urine testing. Smith explained that active duty service members must undergo a urine drug test annually. Reserve component members must be tested at least every two years, he said.
The new test for ecstasy will expand the “window of detection,” the amount of time after a drug is used that it can still be detected in urine, Smith said. He said all six DoD urine-testing laboratories should be using the new ecstasy test within six months.
During 2000, roughly 1,000 service members tested positive for ecstasy use and were removed from the military, Smith said.
Despite recent concerns over ecstasy use, marijuana remains the most heavily used illegal drug within the military. And marijuana isn’t a “safe” drug either, Smith stressed. He cited a Harvard University study that shows chronic users have memory and learning deficits even after they stop using. “It does have some long-term effects on the brain,” Smith said.
DoD labs test 60,000 urine samples each month, but it would be next to impossible for a mistaken positive result to affect a service member’s career. Smith described the steps taken after troops “fill the bottle.”
First, individuals initial the label on their own bottles. The bottles are boxed into batches, and the test administrator begins a chain-of-custody document for each batch, Smith explained.
“This is a legal document,” Smith said of the chain-of- custody form. “Everybody who has had something to do with that sample signs it – whether it be the observer who watched the person collect the sample, the person who puts it into the box or the person who takes it out of the box. We have a written record of who those individuals are.”
The chain-of-custody requirement continues in the lab as well. People who come in contact with each sample and what exactly they do to the sample are written on the document, Smith said.
Samples then undergo an initial immunoassay screening. Those that test positive for the presence of drugs at this point undergo the same screen once again. Finally, those that come up positive during two screening tests are put through a much more specific gas chromatography/mass spectrometry test. This test can identify specific substances within the urine samples, he said.
Even if a particular drug is detected, if the level is below a certain threshold, the test result is reported back to the commander as negative. “The system is really built to protect the service member whose sample is coming through the laboratory,” Smith said.
DoD labs are equipped to test for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, opiates (including morphine and heroin), barbiturates and PCP. But not all samples are tested for all of these drugs.
“Every sample gets tested for marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines, including ecstasy,” Smith said. Tests for other drugs are done at random on different schedules for each lab. “Some laboratories do test every sample for every drug,” he added.
Commanders can request samples be tested for steroids. In this case, the samples are sent to the Olympic testing laboratory at the University of California at Los Angeles, Smith explained.
Inevitably, someone will try to “beat the test.” But, Smith said, common rumors that make the rounds on military bases won’t help you a bit.
He said commonly available substances such as golden seal and lasix are often touted as magical substances that can mask drugs in urine. In fact, they can make it easier to get caught. Smith explained these substances are diuretics, so if they’re taken before giving a urine sample they flush chemicals out of the body – right into the collection cup.
Drugs are often more concentrated in the urine after a service member takes one of these substances, Smith said.
And other “sure-fire” solutions are even worse for you. “Some people drink vinegar. I’ve even heard a few stories of people drinking bleach,” Smith said. “I think they were probably worse off after drinking bleach than if they had used drugs.”
Smith also debunked some other common rumors. He said over- the-counter cold medications and dietary supplements might cause a screening test to come up positive, but that the more specific secondary testing would positively identify the medication. “The report that goes back to the commander says negative,” he said.
The military services test for drug use and have adopted a zero-tolerance policy on drug use among military members because the stakes are so high. Drug use in a unit “interferes with their ability to complete their mission,” Smith said. “We don’t have time for that, particularly when we’re fighting a war.”
Hollis agreed. Readiness is critical right now, he said. “Everybody must recognize that drug use does not help this country or its cause,” he said. “It’s stupid; it affects your health; it affects your career; and it affects the readiness of your unit.”
Hollis said he had a message for service members using drugs or thinking about it: “Think about what this country has gone through (since Sept. 11). Think about what we’re undertaking in terms of this armed conflict (in Afghanistan),” he said. “We need you all to be alert, to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. … We’re calling on you to do a very important job, and we need to know that you’re responsible and alert so you can take care of each other.”
Drug-Addicted US Troops Sent to Scotland for Help
Liam McDougall / The Sunday Herald
(January 9, 2005) — A picturesque Scottish hospital is being used by the US military as a base to treat drug and alcohol addicted troops who have fought in Iraq, the Sunday Herald can reveal.
The US department of defence is sending up to 40 damaged servicemen and women a year — including marines, army and airforce personnel — to Castle Craig rehabilitation clinic to undergo intensive treatment.
The remote centre, which sits in 50 acres of scenic grounds in West Linton, Peeblesshire, has become so highly regarded, it has been classed as a “preferred provider” by military chiefs who are flying in addicts from American bases across Europe.
The controversial clinic is best known for treating Scots alcohol and heroin addicts who have been referred there by the NHS. It also takes in private patients, such as the artist Peter Howson, who enrolled at the clinic in 2000 to overcome alcoholism.
But it has now emerged that the centre has landed a huge contract to treat addicts from the military who have turned to drink and drugs after suffering harrowing ordeals in Iraq. The hospital also treats close relatives of military personnel who become addicts.
It follows news that the famous Priory Clinic in Surrey had won a contract with the Ministry of Defence to treat British soldiers for depression.
Peter McCann, chairman of Castle Craig, said: “We have been getting [US troops] in dribs and drabs, but there have been more coming over recently. I think they are being sent to all the corners of Iraq and are falling to pieces when they get back to base. ”
McCann said troops were coming to the hospital from US bases in the UK, Germany and Turkey to undergo four weeks of intensive counselling and therapy alongside some of the most desperate Scottish drug addicts and alcoholics. While the Scots’ treatment is paid for by the NHS and local authorities, the bill for the US troops’ UKP1400-a-week sessions is picked up by the American Department of Defence’s Tricare insurance.
McCann added: “We can have up to about four at any one time, but there’s a continuous stream of them coming in. There has been a step up in the numbers since Iraq. We see about 40 a year.
McCann’s comments give an insight into the terrible toll the Iraq war is taking on soldiers. There have been more than 30 recorded suicides among US troops in Iraq, a rate nearly one-third higher than the army’s historical average.
A major study published last year also found that up to 17% of surveyed Iraq veterans suffered from post traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD ), anxiety or major depression.
While alcohol consumption is prohibited in Iraq , it is believed many are turning to drink and drugs when they return from their tour of duty. Soldiers suffering psychological disorders are known to have high rates of alcohol and drug abuse and suicide.
Therapy sessions at Castle Craig are based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step programme, whereby addicts are forced to turn themselves over to God, or a higher power, to overcome their problems.
While the length of treatment at the clinic normally lasts six weeks, the US troops stay for only 28 days. In that time they complete the first five steps, which include “admitting their wrongs” in confidence to another person.
Tom Bruce, deputy lead therapist at Castle Craig who treats the US soldiers, said: ” Most are young men in their early 20s. They would go back to their base and continue with the 12-step programme.”
Professor Ian Robbins, the director of the Traumatic Stress Service at St George’s Hospital in London and a former army officer, said rates of trauma and addiction were high among serving and retired personnel.
He said: “A quarter of people are likely to have some form of problem, mostly PTSD, in relation to warfare. It depends on the intensity of experience, previous experiences and their level of resilience.”
Clive Fairweather, a former SAS colonel and appeals co-ordinator for Combat Stress, a charity that treats ex-service personnel for psychological and addiction problems, said: “Combat, stress and alcohol are no strangers. Forces personnel cost a lot to train so everything must be done within reason to help them get back on the road again .”
The US Department of Defence would not comment.
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September 27th, 2006 - by admin
Michael Klare / Tomgram – 2006-09-27 23:25:06
Why Oil Prices Are Falling
Michael Klare / Tomgram
(September 26, 2006) — The price of crude oil, which this summer threatened to top $80 a barrel, briefly dipped under $60 for the first time in six months yesterday, a 23% decline from July highs.
In the Midwest, where gas not long ago had soared to $3 at the pump, it now averages, according to the Energy Department, a nationwide low of $2.20 a gallon ($1.89 at one Jackson, Missouri gas station).
At the same time, another set of figures rose precipitously. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 42% of Americans “agreed with the statement that the Bush administration … deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall’s elections.'”
Two-thirds of those respondents were registered Democrats for whose party the price at the pump has proved a Chevron. The first American ambassador to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, and the present ambassador (think: viceroy) of Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, had been an advisor to Unocal , the energy company that negotiated unsuccessfully to put a natural-gas pipeline through the Taliban’s Afghanistan.
In addition, Dick Cheney, charged with setting the administration’s national energy policy, notoriously did so (while denying the fact) in secret meetings with Big Oil execs back in 2001. Officials from Exxon Mobil, Conoco, Shell, and BP America met with Cheney’s aides, while at least the chief executive of BP met with Cheney himself. Chevron was one of a number of energy companies that, according to the Government Accountability Office, “gave detailed energy policy recommendations” to the Vice President’s task force — while, of course, environmentalists of every stripe were left out in the cold.
The oil companies have no less notoriously made an a bsolute boodle in over-the-top profits (and oil executives in over-the-top compensation packages) on this administration’s watch; so it’s certainly imaginable that Washington officials might have jaw-boned a few months of cheap energy from them in return for a couple of more years of mega-profits.
But on this there is, as yet, no evidence. When it comes to other reasons for the fall in the price at the pump quite a lot is known — especially by Tomdispatch resident expert and author of the indispensable Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum, Michael Klare. He answers the questions in all of our heads below. — Tom
Reading the Gas Pump Numbers
What Do Falling Oil Prices Tell Us about
War with Iran, the Elections, and Peak-Oil Theory
Michael T. Klare
What the hell is going on here? Just six weeks ago, gasoline prices at the pump were hovering at the $3 per gallon mark; today, they’re inching down toward $2 — and some analysts predict even lower numbers before the November elections. The sharp drop in gas prices has been good news for consumers, who now have more money in their pockets to spend on food and other necessities — and for President Bush, who has witnessed a sudden lift in his approval ratings.
Is this the result of some hidden conspiracy between the White House and Big Oil to help the Republican cause in the elections, as some are already suggesting? How does a possible war with Iran fit into the gas-price equation? And what do falling gasoline prices tell us about “peak-oil” theory, which predicts that we have reached our energy limits on the planet?
Since gasoline prices began their sharp decline in mid-August, many pundits have attempted to account for the drop, but none have offered a completely convincing explanation, lending some plausibility to claims that the Bush administration and its long-term allies in the oil industry are manipulating prices behind the scenes.
In my view, however, the most significant factor in the downturn in prices has simply been a sharp easing of the “fear factor” — the worry that crude oil prices would rise to $100 or more a barrel due to spreading war in the Middle East, a Bush administration strike at Iranian nuclear facilities, and possible Katrina-scale hurricanes blowing through the Gulf of Mexico, severely damaging offshore oil rigs.
As the summer commenced and oil prices began a steep upward climb, many industry analysts were predicting a late summer or early fall clash between the United States and Iran (roughly coinciding with a predicted intense hurricane season).
This led oil merchants and refiners to fill their storage facilities to capacity with $70-80 per barrel oil. They expected to have a considerable backlog to sell at a substantial profit if supplies from the Middle East were cut off and/or storms wracked the Gulf of Mexico.
Then came the war in Lebanon. At first, the fighting seemed to confirm such predictions, only increasing fears of a region-wide conflict, possibly involving Iran. The price of crude oil approached record heights. In the early days of the war, the Bush administration tacitly seconded Israeli actions in Lebanon, which, it was widely assumed, would lay the groundwork for a similar campaign against military targets in Iran.
But Hezbollah’s success in holding off the Israeli military combined with horrific television images of civilian casualties forced leaders in the United States and Europe to intercede and bring the fighting to a halt.
We may never know exactly what led the White House to shift course on Lebanon, but high oil prices — and expectations of worse to come — were surely a factor in administration calculations. When it became clear that the Israelis were facing far stiffer resistance than expected, and that the Iranians were capable of fomenting all manner of mischief (including, potentially, total havoc in the global oil market), wiser heads in the corporate wing of the Republican Party undoubtedly concluded that any further escalation or regionalization of the war would immediately push crude prices over $100 per barrel.
Prices at the gas pump would then have been driven into the $4-5 per gallon range, virtually ensuring a Republican defeat in the mid-term elections. This was still early in the summer, of course, well before peak hurricane season; mix just one Katrina-strength storm in the Gulf of Mexico into this already unfolding nightmare scenario and the fate of the Republicans would have been sealed.
In any case, President Bush did allow Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to work with the Europeans to stop the Lebanon fighting and has since refrained from any overt talk about a possible assault on Iran. Careful an acceleration of the preparations for war already underway in the Persian Gulf area (similar to the military buildup witnessed in late 2002 and early 2003 prior to the US invasion of Iraq).
This will naturally lead to an intensification of fears and a reversal of the downward spiral of gas prices, though from a level that, by then, may be well below $2 per gallon.
Now that we’ve come this far, does the recent drop in gasoline prices and the seemingly sudden abundance of petroleum reveal a flaw in the argument for this as a peak-oil moment? Peak-oil theory, which had been getting ever more attention until the price at the pump began to fall, contends that the amount of oil in the world is finite; that once we’ve used up about half of the original global supply, production will attain a maximum or “peak” level, after which daily output will fall, no matter how much more is spent on exploration and enhanced extraction technology.
Most industry analysts now agree that global oil output will eventually reach a peak level, but there is considerable debate as to exactly when that moment will arise. Recently, a growing number of specialists — many joined under the banner of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil — are claiming that we have already consumed approximately half the world’s original inheritance of 2 trillion barrels of conventional (i.e., liquid) petroleum, and so are at, or very near, the peak-oil moment and can expect an imminent contraction in supplies.
In the fall of 2005, as if in confirmation of this assessment, the CEO of Chevron, David O’Reilly, blanketed US newspapers and magazines with an advertisement stating, “One thing is clear: the era of easy oil is over… Demand is soaring like never before… At the same time, many of the world’s oil and gas fields are maturing. And new energy discoveries are mainly occurring in places where resources are difficult to extract, physically, economically, and even politically. When growing demand meets tighter supplies, the result is more competition for the same resources.”
But this is not, of course, what we are now seeing. Petroleum supplies are more abundant than they were six months ago. There have even been some promising discoveries of new oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico, while — modestly adding to global stockpiles — several foreign fields and pipelines have come on line in the last few months, including the $4 billion Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, which will bring new supplies to world markets. Does this indicate that peak-oil theory is headed for the dustbin of history or, at least, that the peak moment is still safely in our future?
As it happens, nothing in the current situation should lead us to conclude that peak-oil theory is wrong. Far from it. As suggested by Chevron’s O’Reilly, remaining energy supplies on the planet are mainly to be found “in places where resources are difficult to extract, physically, economically, and even politically.” This is exactly what we are seeing today.
For example, the much-heralded new discovery in the Gulf of Mexico, Chevron’s Jack No. 2 Well , lies beneath five miles of water and rock some 175 miles south of New Orleans in an area where, in recent years, hurricanes Ivan, Katrina, and Rita have attained their maximum strength and inflicted their greatest damage on offshore oil facilities.
It is naive to assume that, however promising Jack No. 2 may seem in oil-industry publicity releases, it will not be exposed to Category 5 hurricanes in the years ahead, especially as global warming heats the Gulf and generates ever more potent storms. Obviously, Chevron would not be investing billions of dollars in costly technology to develop such a precarious energy resource if there were better opportunities on land or closer to shore — but so many of those easy-to-get-at places have now been exhausted, leaving the company little choice in the matter.
Or take the equally ballyhooed BTC pipeline, which shipped its first oil in July, with top US officials in attendance. This conduit stretches 1,040 miles from Baku in Azerbaijan to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, passing no less than six active or potential war zones along the way: the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan; Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia; the Muslim separatist enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia; and the Kurdish regions of Turkey. Is this where anyone in their right mind would build a pipeline? Not unless you were desperate for oil, and safer locations had already been used up.
In fact, virtually all of the other new fields being developed or considered by US and foreign energy firms — ANWR in Alaska, the jungles of Colombia, northern Siberia, Uganda, Chad, Sakhalin Island in Russia’s Far East — are located in areas that are hard to reach, environmentally sensitive, or just plain dangerous.
Most of these fields will be developed, and they will yield additional supplies of oil, but the fact that we are being forced to rely on them suggests that the peak-oil moment has indeed arrived and that the general direction of the price of oil, despite period drops, will tend to be upwards as the cost of production in these out-of-the-way and dangerous places continues to climb.
Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and the author of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum
Copyright 2006 Michael T. Klare
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
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