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The Execution of Saddam Hussein

December 31st, 2006 - by admin

LA Times & The Independent & InterPress Service – 2006-12-31 21:25:42

So Long to ‘Our’ Tyrant
Andrew Cockburn / The Los Angeles Times

(December 30, 2006) — Among the many ironies of Saddam Hussein’s execution is that, although his death seems certain to boost sectarian bloodletting between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, he always posed as an Iraqi and Arab nationalist who could unite the rivalrous sects in his country — an attribute that initially recommended him to Washington.

Other qualities of the Iraqi dictator that appealed to US policymakers included his sterling record in eliminating communists and his readiness to confront the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the militant Shiite leader of Iran.

Today of all days, the administration has no desire to be reminded of the era when the US actively intervened on Iraq’s side in the Iran-Iraq war, supplying credit, intelligence, helicopters and, finally, active combat assistance from the US Navy.

But that is indeed what happened. Something of the flavor of the relationship is summed up in a March 1984 cable from Secretary of State George Shultz to Donald Rumsfeld, who was about to visit Baghdad for the second time as President Reagan’s Middle East envoy.

Although the US had just publicly condemned Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, Shultz told Rumsfeld that the condemnation had been more or less pro forma and that “our interests in 1) preventing an Iranian victory and 2) continuing to improve bilateral relations with Iraq, at a pace of Iraq’s choosing, remain undiminished…. This message bears reinforcing during your discussions.”

The key to the relationship between the US and Hussein over the years was that they shared the same enemies. Hussein’s early political career was as a hit man for the Baath party. In 1961, he fled into exile in Egypt after botching an assassination attempt against the then-leader of Iraq, Abdul Karim Qassim. Qassim, a leftist general who ruled with the support of the Communist Party, was regarded with extreme disfavor in Washington.

In fact, Hussein’s exile ended in 1963, when his Baathist colleagues seized power with covert US assistance. “We rode to power on a CIA train,” the party’s secretary general, Ali Saleh Saadi, admitted later.

Once in power, Hussein and his party pursued a nationalist agenda that sometimes irked Washington — as when he masterminded the full nationalization of Iraq’s oil assets. In the mid-1970s, the US got so irritated with him that it briefly gave covert assistance to Kurdish insurgents. But the triumph of militant Shiism in Iran a few years later guaranteed Hussein a place among Washington’s allies once again.

Initially, it wasn’t clear that Hussein would have to go to war against Khomeini’s Iran. That’s because the Shiite religious leadership in Iraq posed little threat to Hussein’s rule. But that began to change when the communists — who had commanded the allegiance of the Shiite masses — were crushed and liquidated. The Shiite religious hierarchy, encouraged by the success of the Islamic Revolution next door, then began asserting itself politically.

Panicked by this internal threat, Hussein decided on a preemptive attack against Iran in 1980, a move that came with covert US encouragement.

Apart from the eccentric deviation of the Iran-Contra affair, Washington’s support for Iraq against the militant Iranian Shiite regime remained firm during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, despite Hussein’s well-publicized use of poison gas against, as President Bush likes to remind us, his own people.

That consistent support, in fact, appears to have deluded Hussein into thinking that the US would grant him concessions in return for withdrawing from Kuwait after his 1990 invasion of that country. Had he any experience of the outside world beyond his exile in Egypt and brief arms-shopping trips to Moscow and Paris — or had his advisors not been too frightened to tell him the truth — he might have understood that, with the Soviet Union’s defeat in the Cold War, Third World dictators could no longer defy the US and escape unpunished.

Though he was expelled from Kuwait and his economy wrecked by sanctions, Hussein was allowed to survive because Washington for a time continued to believe that he was useful as a bulwark against Iran abroad and militant Shiism at home in Iraq. When that policy was discarded by the neoconservatives after the 9/11 attacks, the dictator’s days were numbered.

Hussein was for a period the prime example of the traditional US means of control in the Middle East: quiet support for a repressive leader respectful of US interests. That approach has now apparently been replaced by one that induces civil discord and breakdown (deliberately or otherwise), as evidenced by recent events in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

In his final hours, Saddam Hussein may have derived some satisfaction from the unpleasant surprises this change has produced for his former friends in Washington.

>Andrew Coburn is the author of Rumsfeld, His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy, to be published by Simon & Schuster in February.


A Dictator Created then Destroyed by America
Robert Fisk / The Indepoendent

BAGHDAD (December 30, 2006) — Saddam to the gallows. It was an easy equation. Who could be more deserving of that last walk to the scaffold — that crack of the neck at the end of a rope — than the Beast of Baghdad, the Hitler of the Tigris, the man who murdered untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis while spraying chemical weapons over his enemies?

Our masters will tell us in a few hours that it is a “great day” for Iraqis and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that his death sentence was signed — by the Iraqi “government”, but on behalf of the Americans — on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the moment of greatest forgiveness in the Arab world.

But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another question this weekend, a question that will not be posed in other Western newspapers because it is not the narrative laid down for us by our presidents and prime ministers — what about the other guilty men?

No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don’t gas our enemies. George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn’t invade Iran or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead — and thousands of Western troops are dead — because Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality.

In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent — we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam’s shame at Abu Ghraib — and yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created.

Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls?

And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam’s weird trial, forbad any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability.

And the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our “bunker buster” bombs and our phosphorous, the murderous post-invasion sieges of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy we unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of our “victory” — our “mission accomplished” — who will be found guilty of this? Such expiation as we might expect will come, no doubt, in the self-serving memoirs of Blair and Bush, written in comfortable and wealthy retirement.

Hours before Saddam’s death sentence, his family — his first wife, Sajida, and Saddam’s daughter and their other relatives — had given up hope.

“Whatever could be done has been done — we can only wait for time to take its course,” one of them said last night. But Saddam knew, and had already announced his own “martyrdom”: he was still the president of Iraq and he would die for Iraq. All condemned men face a decision: to die with a last, grovelling plea for mercy or to die with whatever dignity they can wrap around themselves in their last hours on earth. His last trial appearance — that wan smile that spread over the mass-murderer’s face — showed us which path Saddam intended to walk to the noose.

I have catalogued his monstrous crimes over the years. I have talked to the Kurdish survivors of Halabja and the Shia who rose up against the dictator at our request in 1991 and who were betrayed by us — and whose comrades, in their tens of thousands, along with their wives, were hanged like thrushes by Saddam’s executioners.

I have walked round the execution chamber of Abu Ghraib — only months, it later transpired, after we had been using the same prison for a few tortures and killings of our own — and I have watched Iraqis pull thousands of their dead relatives from the mass graves of Hilla. One of them has a newly-inserted artificial hip and a medical identification number on his arm. He had been taken directly from hospital to his place of execution. Like Donald Rumsfeld, I have even shaken the dictator’s soft, damp hand. Yet the old war criminal finished his days in power writing romantic novels.

It was my colleague, Tom Friedman — now a messianic columnist for The New York Times — who perfectly caught Saddam’s character just before the 2003 invasion: Saddam was, he wrote, “part Don Corleone, part Donald Duck”. And, in this unique definition, Friedman caught the horror of all dictators; their sadistic attraction and the grotesque, unbelievable nature of their barbarity.

But that is not how the Arab world will see him. At first, those who suffered from Saddam’s cruelty will welcome his execution. Hundreds wanted to pull the hangman’s lever. So will many other Kurds and Shia outside Iraq welcome his end.

But they — and millions of other Muslims — will remember how he was informed of his death sentence at the dawn of the Eid al-Adha feast, which recalls the would-be sacrifice by Abraham, of his son, a commemoration which even the ghastly Saddam cynically used to celebrate by releasing prisoners from his jails.

“Handed over to the Iraqi authorities,” he may have been before his death. But his execution will go down — correctly — as an American affair and time will add its false but lasting gloss to all this — that the West destroyed an Arab leader who no longer obeyed his orders from Washington, that, for all his wrongdoing (and this will be the terrible get-out for Arab historians, this shaving away of his crimes) Saddam died a “martyr” to the will of the new “Crusaders”.

When he was captured in November of 2003, the insurgency against American troops increased in ferocity. After his death, it will redouble in intensity again. Freed from the remotest possibility of Saddam’s return by his execution, the West’s enemies in Iraq have no reason to fear the return of his Baathist regime. Osama bin Laden will certainly rejoice, along with Bush and Blair. And there’s a thought. So many crimes avenged.

But we will have got away with it.


Saddam: The Questions that Will Live On
Andrew Buncombe / The Independent

WASHINGTON (December 31, 2006) — So why did George Bush decide to invade Iraq? Nearly four years and hundreds of thousands of casualties later, the reasons appear both as obvious and as elusive as they were in the spring of 2003.

The official reasoning was always straightforward. Key among the claims included in the so-called Iraq War Resolution passed by Congress in October 2002 was that Iraq “poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region”. It added that Saddam’s regime harbored chemical and biological weapons and was seeking to develop a nuclear arsenal.

In an address to the nation just three days before the invasion, Mr Bush declared: “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

It quickly became clear that central claim was not true, and it became equally clear the administration had been manipulating uncertain and “caveated” intelligence to make the case for a war that had been decided on long before. The famous Downing Street memo suggests that as early as July 2002 ” intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”. Indeed, within hours of the attacks of 9/11, senior elements within the administration were seeking for a strike against Iraq even though there was no evidence it was involved.

But if the alleged threat of WMD was based on “manipulated intelligence” some provided by Iraqi exiles such as Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress — what else motivated the US? Many remain convinced the overwhelming factor was a desire to control Iraq’s oil supplies, the second largest proven reserves in the world.

Such a view has been reinforced by recent recommendations of Iraq Study Group which said: ” The United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganise the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise, in order to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability.”

Veteran dissident Noam Chomsky said: “It is glaringly obvious that Iraq is estimated to have the second largest energy reserves in the world and is right at the heart of the world’s major energy producing region, and that establishing a client state in Iraq would considerably enhance policies that go back to the dawn of the oil age, and in particular to the post-war period when the US was taking over global domination, and established as a very high and natural policy principle the need to control this stupendous source of strategic power’.”

He added: “It takes remarkable obedience to authority to believe that the US would have ‘liberated’ Iraq — or taken revenge — if its main exports were lettuce and pickles, and the major petroleum resources were in the South Pacific.”

Some point out that a desire among some in government to oust Saddam predated 9/11, and suggest in the aftermath of those attacks, a climate existed in which it was easier to pursue an invasion. Indeed, among the signatories to the 1998 letter from the neo-con Project for the New American Century calling on President Clinton to take on Saddam were former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.

Mr Wolfowitz later said Saddam’s alleged possession of WMD was just one of many reasons for invading. “For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on,” he said.

David Swanson, a founder of afterdowningstreet.org, a coalition of peace and activist groups, said: “The one thing we know is that the reasons they told us were false. [I think] they wanted an Iraq that looked free but isn’t and they wanted to control it. They wanted the oil and the power that comes with controlling that oil and making profits for British and US oil companies.”

Did other factors influence Mr Bush? Was he seeking revenge against “the guy who tried to kill my dad” — a reference to an alleged plot to kill the president’s father during a visit to Kuwait in 1993 or was there even a broader strategic rationale, one that would benefit Israel — something claimed by peace activist Cindy Sheehan.

What does seem certain is that there was a confluence of factors and interests coming together in the aftermath of 9/11 that allowed Mr Bush to proceed to war with little opposition from the Congress, or indeed, the media.


Execution Begins to Deepen Divisions
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily / InterPress Service

BAGHDAD (December 30, 2006) — New divisions appear to be opening up between Iraqi political and religious leaders following the execution of Saddam Hussein Saturday.*

Former president Saddam Hussein was hanged at an army base in the predominantly Shia district of Khadamiya in northern Baghdad outside of Baghdad’s Green Zone just before 6am local time.

The execution of the 69-year-old former dictator was witnessed by a representative of Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki and a Muslim cleric among others.

The execution appears already to be generating more sectarianism, which has already claimed tens of thousands of lives in the war-torn country. Sectarian divisions have opened up primarily between Shias and Sunnis, who follow different belief systems within Islam.

Several Shia leaders, particularly those of Iranian origin, say the execution would be a blow to resistance against the Iraqi government by Saddam loyalists. In Baghdad’s sprawling Shia slum, the Sadr City, where most of the three million inhabitants are loyal to the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, people danced in the streets while others fired in the air to celebrate the execution.

National security advisor Mouaffaq al-Rubaii, a Shia, declared that “we wanted him to be executed on a special day.”

Celebrations in Kurdish areas were no expression of unmixed joy, even though Kurds were persecuted more than any other group under Saddam’s regime.

“The world ignored Saddam’s crimes when he committed them,” Azad Bakir, a 35-year-old engineer in the northern Kurdish city Arbil told IPS on phone. “But we are committing the same crime again by executing him like this.”

And few Sunnis were cheering Saddam’s death. A senior member of the Islamic Party who asked not to be named said the timing of the execution at the start of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha would prove a grave mistake. The festival marks the end of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

Muhammad Ayash, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, a leading Sunni group, said Saddam had served his country well, and had been punished for the wrong reasons.

“He was executed for the good things he did such as fighting the U S aggression against the Arab nation,” Ayash told IPS. “He stopped the dark Iranian plans in the area, and helped Palestinians survive the continuous Israeli crimes.”

In predominantly Sunni cities like Beji, Ramadi and Saddam’s hometown Tikrit, people fired shots in protest and swore to avenge the execution of the “legitimate president” of Iraq.

The execution may not bring the end to violence across Iraq that some Iraqi government leaders expect. At least 68 people were killed in bombings after the execution Saturday.

So far 2,998 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq, including 109 just
this month, according to the website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.

The resistance to occupation is expected to continue. A spokesman for the Al-Mujahideen Army resistance group in Ramadi told IPS that his group saw Saddam Hussein simply as the leader of the Ba’ath Party who was “a helpless man in jail when we conducted our heroic operations against invaders.”

The spokesman, who refused to give his name, added: “We praise his bravery in facing death, but his death will not increase or decrease our carefully planned actions until the US invaders and their allies leave our country.”

Across Iraq, Saddam seems to have won respect for the calm with which he went to his execution. And that could increase sympathy for him and his family.

A close friend of Saddam Hussein’s daughters in Amman in Jordan spoke with IPS on condition of anonymity. She said that when the daughters got news of the execution, “they cried of course, but then they praised God for having such a great father who faced death with such courage and faith.”

A friend of Saddam’s oldest daughter Raghad told IPS: “The family’s only concern now is to receive the body for burial in a dignified way suitable for a martyr and a national hero.”

(c)2006 Dahr Jamail. More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Right Groups Deplore Execution of Saddam Hussein

December 31st, 2006 - by admin

Human Rights Watch & International Action Committee & Ramsey Clark – 2006-12-31 21:23:51

http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/12/30/iraq14950.htm

Iraq: Saddam Hussein Put to Death
Hanging After Flawed Trial
Undermines Rule of Law

Human Rights Watch

NEW YORK (December 30, 2006) — The execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein following a deeply flawed trial for crimes against humanity marks a significant step away from respect for human rights and the rule of law in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch has for more than 15 years documented the human rights crimes committed by Hussein’s former government, and has campaigned to bring the perpetrators to justice. These crimes include the killing of more than 100,000 Iraqi Kurds in Northern Iraq as part of the 1998 Anfal campaign.

“Saddam Hussein was responsible for massive human rights violations, but that can’t justify giving him the death penalty, which is a cruel and inhuman punishment,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program. The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced Saddam Hussein and two others to death in November for the killing of 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail in 1982.

The tribunal’s statute prohibits, contrary to international law, the possibility of commuting a death sentence. It also requires that the execution take place within 30 days of the final appeal. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances. Increasingly, governments are abolishing the death penalty in domestic law.

“The test of a government’s commitment to human rights is measured by the way it treats its worst offenders,” said Dicker. “History will judge these actions harshly.” A report issued in November 2006 by Human Rights Watch identified numerous serious flaws in the trial of Hussein for the Dujail executions.

The 97-page report, “Judging Dujail: The First Trial Before the Iraqi High Tribunal,” was based on 10 months of observation and dozens of interviews with judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers. The report found, among other defects, that the Iraqi High Tribunal was undermined from the outset by Iraqi government actions that threatened the independence and perceived impartiality of the court.

It outlined serious flaws in the trial, including failures to disclose key evidence to the defense, violations of the defendants’ right to question prosecution witnesses, and the presiding judge’s demonstrations of bias. Hussein’s defense lawyers had 30 days to file an appeal from the November 5 verdict. However, the trial judgment was only made available to them on November 22, leaving just two weeks to respond. The Appeals Chamber announced its confirmation of the verdict and the death sentence on December 26.

“It defies imagination that the Appeals Chamber could have thoroughly reviewed the 300-page judgment and the defense’s written arguments in less than three weeks’ time,” said Dicker. “The appeals process appears even more flawed than the trial.”

At the time of his hanging, Saddam Hussein and others were on trial for genocide for the 1988 Anfal campaign. The victims, including women, children and the elderly, were selected because they were Kurds who remained on their traditional lands in zones outside of areas controlled by Baghdad. Hussein’s execution will therefore jeopardize the trial of these most serious crimes.


The International Action Center
Condemns the Trial and Death Sentence For
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein

The International Action Center (IAC) hold the US government responsible for the decision of the “Iraqi High Tribunal” to carry out the death sentence against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and considers this execution part of the Bush administration’s plan to once again escalate the war.

The timing of the execution was clearly intended to pre-empt news that the death toll of US service people has hit 3,000 while that of Iraqis is in the hundreds of thousands. Such an execution will be another war crime against the Iraqi people.

As we have made clear in prior statements and articles, the IAC does not consider the capture, trial and judgment of the Iraqi president to be legal under international, U.S. or Iraqi law.* This punishment has nothing to do with the alleged crimes of the Iraqi leader nor is it part of an historical judgment of his role. It is the act of a conquering power against a nation that is occupied against the will not only of its 2003 legal government but also against the will of the vast majority of its people.

No authoritative human rights body, including those who were and are opponents and severely hostile to President Saddam Hussein such as the Human Rights Watch, considers his trial fair or the sentence just (see Dec. 27, 2006 statement).

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a founder of the IAC, who was part of the defense team for Saddam Hussein, told the media after hearing of the plan to execute that “SaddamHussein and his co-defendants are in the custody of the U.S. military in Iraq. They will be turned over to Iraq only on the order of or with the approval of President Bush. His pending decision will have long term consequences for the peace and stability of Iraq, and for the rule of law as a means to peace.”

The Bush administration is preparing to announce its “new strategy” toward Iraq. This follows the November mid-term elections, which were an anti-war statement by the U.S. electorate. It follows the publication of the Iraq Study Group’s report, which was a recognition that the US occupation of Iraq had collapsed and that disaster was near.

The execution of Saddam Hussein is a clear sign that the Bush administration is looking not to negotiate a way for the U.S. to leave Iraq, but is instead sending a signal that it will continue the war and escalate it despite the impending disaster. This conclusion is all the more obvious, as it accompanies the news out of Iraq that US and puppet Iraqi troops are attacking, arresting and killing members and leaders of the Mahdi Army, led by Moqtada al-Sadr.

We in the IAC say no to the execution of Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants, no to the escalation of the Iraq war that will mean more deaths for Iraqis and for US troops and for an intensified mobilization to stop the occupation of Iraq. We applaud the decision of the MECAWI organization in Michigan to call a protest outside of the McNamara Federal Building at 4:30 PM on the day the lynching of Saddam Hussein is set to be carried out.

RESOURCES
• Illegal and unfair trials of President Saddam Hussein and others by the Iraqi Special Tribunal… RAMSEY CLARK
October 10, 2006 Memorandum with Exhibits for Each…
URL: http://www.iacenter.org/Iraq/hussein-2-102006.htm – 25KB – 14 Oct 2006

• Verdict of the US Occupation Court – International Action Center Statement – November 06-06
URL: http://www.iacenter.org/Iraq/hussein_verdict-11-2006.htm – 9KB – 08 Nov 2006

• Demonize to Colonize by Ramsey Clark “In the determination of any criminal charge … everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by…
URL: http://www.iacenter.org/Iraq/rc-demonize2004.htm – 19KB – 28 Nov 2005

• The Trial of Saddam Hussein / Anti-war Movement Must Reject Colonial ‘Justice’ Le procès de Saddam, justice coloniale By Sara Flounders,…
URL: http://www.iacenter.org/Iraq/iraq_shtrial2005.htm – 34KB – 28 Jan 2006


Why I’m Willing to Defend Hussein
Ramsey Clark / The Los Angeles Times

(January 24, 2005) — Late last month, I traveled to Amman, Jordan, and met with the family and lawyers of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. I told them that I would help in his defense in any way I could.

The news, when it found its way back to the United States, caused something of a stir. A few news reports were inquisitive — and some were skeptical — but most were simply dismissive or derogatory. “There goes Ramsey Clark again,” they seemed to say. “Isn’t it a shame? He used to be attorney general of the United States and now look at what he’s doing.”

So let me explain why defending Saddam Hussein is in line with what I’ve stood for all my life and why I think it’s the right thing to do now.

That Hussein and other former Iraqi officials must have lawyers of their choice to assist them in defending against the criminal charges brought against them ought to be self-evident among a people committed to truth, justice and the rule of law.

Both international law and the Constitution of the United States guarantee the right to effective legal representation to any person accused of a crime. This is especially important in a highly politicized situation, where truth and justice can become even harder to achieve. That’s certainly the situation today in Iraq.

The war has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis and the widespread destruction of civilian properties essential to life. President Bush, who initiated and oversees the war, has manifested his hatred for Hussein, publicly proclaiming that the death penalty would be appropriate.

The United States, and the Bush administration in particular, engineered the demonization of Hussein, and it has a clear political interest in his conviction. Obviously, a fair trial of Hussein will be difficult to ensure — and critically important to the future of democracy in Iraq. This trial will write history, affect the course of violence around the world and have an impact on hopes for reconciliation within Iraq.

Hussein has been held illegally for more than a year without once meeting a family member, friend or lawyer of his choice. Though the world has seen him time and again on television — disheveled, apparently disoriented with someone prying deep into his mouth and later alone before some unseen judge — he has been cut off from all communications with the outside world and surrounded by the same U.S. military that mistreated prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Preparation of Hussein’s defense cannot begin until lawyers chosen by him obtain immediate, full and confidential access to him so they can review with him events of the last year, the circumstances of his seizure and the details of his treatment.

They must then have time to thoroughly discuss the nature and composition of the prosecution and the court, the charges that may be brought against him, and his knowledge, thoughts and instructions concerning the facts of the case. And finally, they must have the time for the enormous task of preparing his defense.

The legal team, its assistants and investigators must be able to perform their work safely, without interference, and be assured that their client’s condition and the conditions of his confinement enable him to fully participate in every aspect of his defense.

International law requires that every criminal court be competent, independent and impartial. The Iraqi Special Tribunal lacks all of these essential qualities. It was illegitimate in its conception — the creation of an illegal occupying power that demonized Saddam Hussein and destroyed the government it now intends to condemn by law.

The United States has already destroyed any hope of legitimacy, fairness or even decency by its treatment and isolation of the former president and its creation of the Iraqi Special Tribunal to try him.

Among the earliest photographs it released is one showing Hussein sitting submissively on the floor of an empty room with Ahmad Chalabi, the principal U.S. surrogate at that moment, looming over him and a picture of Bush looking down from an otherwise bare wall.

The intention of the United States to convict the former leader in an unfair trial was made starkly clear by the appointment of Chalabi’s nephew to organize and lead the court. He had just returned to Iraq to open a law office with a former law partner of Defense Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith, who had urged the U.S. overthrow of the Iraqi government and was a principal architect of U.S. postwar planning.

The concept, personnel, funding and functions of the court were chosen and are still controlled by the United States, dependent on its will and partial to its wishes. Reform is impossible. Proceedings before the Iraqi Special Tribunal would corrupt justice both in fact and in appearance and create more hatred and rage in Iraq against the American occupation. Only another court — one that is actually competent, independent and impartial — can lawfully sit in judgment.

In a trial of Hussein and other former Iraqi officials, affirmative measures must be taken to prevent prejudice from affecting the conduct of the case and the final judgment of the court. This will be a major challenge. But nothing less is acceptable.

Finally, any court that considers criminal charges against Saddam Hussein must have the power and the mandate to consider charges against leaders and military personnel of the U.S., Britain and the other nations that participated in the aggression against Iraq, if equal justice under law is to have meaning.

No power, or person, can be above the law. For there to be peace, the days of victor’s justice must end.

The defense of such a case is a challenge of great importance to truth, the rule of law and peace. A lawyer qualified for the task and able to undertake it, if chosen, should accept such service as his highest duty.

Ramsey Clark was attorney general under President Lyndon B. Johnson.
© 2005 Los Angeles Times

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US Naval War Games off the Iranian Coastline

December 21st, 2006 - by admin

Michel Chossudovsky / Global Research – 2006-12-21 01:08:26

http:”www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=20061024&articleId=3593

US Naval War Games off the Iranian Coastline: A Provocation which Could Lead to War?

(October 24, 2006) — There is a massive concentration of US naval power in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Two US naval strike groups are deployed: USS Enterprise, and USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group. The naval strike groups have been assigned to fighting the “global war on terrorism.”

War Games
Concurrent with this concentration of US Naval power, the US is also involved in military exercises in the Persian Gulf, which consists in “interdicting ships in the Gulf carrying weapons of mass destruction and missiles”

The exercise is taking place as the United States and other major powers are considering sanctions including possible interdiction of ships on North Korea, following a reported nuclear test, and on Iran, which has defied a UN Security Council mandate to stop enriching uranium.

The exercise, set for Oct. 31, is the 25th to be organized under the US-led 66-member Proliferation Security Initiative and the first to be based in the Gulf near Bahrain, across from Iran, the officials said.

A senior US official insisted the exercise is not aimed specifically at Iran, although it reinforces a U.S. strategy aimed at strengthening America’s ties with states in the Gulf, where Tehran and Washington are competing for influence” __(Defense News, http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?F=2171176&C=mideast)

Tehran considers the US sponsored war games in the Persian Gulf, off the Iranian coastline as a provocation, which is intended to trigger a potential crisis and a situation of direct confrontation between US and Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf:

“Reports say the US-led naval exercises based near Bahrain will practise intercepting and searching ships carrying weapons of mass destruction and missiles. __Iran’s official news agency IRNA quoted an unnamed foreign ministry official as describing the military manoeuvres as dangerous and suspicious.

Reports say the US-led naval exercises based near Bahrain will practise intercepting and searching ships carrying weapons of mass destruction and missiles.

The Iranian foreign ministry official said the US-led exercises were not in line with the security and stability of the region. Instead, they are aimed at fomenting crises, he said.” (quoted in BBC, 23 October 2006)

USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG 5) to arrive in Arabian Sea.

The USS Boxer (LHD 4), –which is the flagship for the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG 5) — which left Singapore on October 16, is scheduled to join the two other naval strikes groups. ESG 5 is comprised of USS Boxer, Bunker Hill, USS Dubuque (LPD 8), USS Comstock (LSD 45), USS Benfold (DDG 65), and USS Howard (DDG 83). ESG 5 also includes PHIBRON 5, the 15th MEU, Coast Guard Cutter Midgett (WHEC 726).

“We are about to enter a part of the world that can be very dangerous,” said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (AW/SW) Jacques Beaver, Boxer’s flight deck ordnance chief. “We must be flexible and prepared to defend ourselves from any threats.”

Boxer has been preparing for the weapons upload for two months by completing required maintenance and electronic pre-checks. Checks ensure that the ship’s missile and launching systems are up to standard and safe to load with live ordnance.

“It has taken a lot of hard work for our people to get this done,” said Chief Fire Controlman (SW) William Lewis, combat systems, fire control division’s leading chief petty officer. “You cannot measure the importance of having these defenses guarding the lives of the Sailors and Marines in this strike group.”

BOXESG is comprised of USS Boxer (LHD 4), USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), USS Dubuque (LPD 8), USS Comstock (LSD 45), USS Benfold (DDG 65) and USS Howard (DDG 83). The strike group also includes Amphibious Squadron 5, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Coast Guard Cutter Midgett (WHEC 726) and Canadian Frigate HMCS Ottawa (FFH 341).

BOXESG is currently conducting operations in support of the global war on terrorism while transiting to the Arabian Gulf [sic].” (http://www.c7f.navy.mil/news/2006/october/3.htm)

Canada is formally participating in this military deployment under the disguise of the “war on terrorism”. The Canadian Navy has dispatched Frigate HMCS Ottawa, which is now an integral part of ESG 5, under US Command. It is worth noting that particular emphasis has been given to medical evacuations and combat medical support suggesting that a combat scenario could be envisaged.

Boxer and Ottawa, both operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, know that they can play a vital role to aid humanitarian assistance operations, medical evacuations or combat medical support that would rely heavily on the medical capabilities of the Boxer strike group. Cross training Sailors from ship to ship helps ensure the success of the strike group should BOXESG have to respond to any medical scenario, according to Richardson.

“Training is a necessary part of any evolution,” said Richardson. “Anytime you’re working with another nation, it’s important that we understand their capabilities just as much as they understand ours, so in the event anything occurs we know where our assets are.”

The cross training also fostered cooperation between the two allies which provided Verville and Boxer corpsmen a forum to learn about each other’s navies and each other’s culture.” (Military.com October 2006)

Dangerous Crossroads: Tonkin II?
“An incident” in the Persian Gulf could be used by the US as a pretext for war against Iran.

A war pretext incident, similar to “the Gulf of Tonkin Incident”, which triggered the Vietnam war, could be used by US forces, with a view to justifying retaliatory military action against Iran.

In August 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson claimed that North Vietnamese forces had attacked US destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Tonkin incident, which had been manipulated, contributed to unleashing a full-fledged war against Vietnam:

“A phantom attack on two U.S. destroyers cruising the Gulf of Tonkin was staged by the Pentagon and the C.I.A. The bogus attack occurred early in August, 1964. That evening President Lyndon Johnson went on television giving the grim details of the non-attack. Later, however, it was revealed that navy commander James Stockdale flew cover over the Gulf of Tonkin that night.

Stockdale disclosed that U.S. ships were firing at phantom targets—targets that didn’t exist. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident that drew the U.S. into the quagmire of Viet Nam simply didn’t happen. Johnson, as presidents so often do, lied to the American people.

The result was the rapid passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which was the sole legal basis for the Viet Nam War. As a result of Johnson’s lie, three million Vietnamese people and fifty eight thousand U.S. soldiers died.” (Charles Sullivan, Global Research, January 2006)

Revised and updated Oct 25, 2006. Note: Since this report was first published, we have been advised that several press reports concerning USS Eisenhower are incorrect. US military sources have confirmed that USS Eisenhower was in Naples on Oct 23. __We have made appropriate corrections.

ANNEX: US NAVY

Navy Personnel

Active Duty: 349,783

Officers: 51,979

Enlisted: 293,368

Midshipmen: 4,436

Ready Reserve: 131,802 [As of 30 September]

Selected Reserves: 70,500

Individual Ready Reserve: 61,302

Reserves currently mobilized: 5,996 [As of 18 October]

Personnel on deployment: 36,037

Navy Department Civilian Employees: 175,454

Ships and Submarines

Deployable Battle Force Ships: 280

Ships Underway (away from homeport): 133 ships (47% of total)

On deployment: 104 ships (37% of total)

Attack submarines underway
(away from homeport): 22 submarines (40%)

On deployment: 11 submarines (20%)

Ships Underway

Carriers:

USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) – Philippine Sea

USS Enterprise (CVN 65) – Persian Gulf

USS Nimitz (CVN 68) – Pacific Ocean

USS Dwight D.Eisenhower (CVN 69)- Mediterranean Sea

USS Ronald Reagan – Pacific Ocean

Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG):

USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) – Persian Gulf

USS Nashville (LPD 13) – Persian Gulf

USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) – Persian Gulf

Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG):

USS Boxer (LHD 4) – Indian Ocean

USS Dubuque (LPD 8) – Indian Ocean

USS Comstock (LSD 45) – Indian Ocean

Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG):

USS Essex (LHD 2) – South China Sea

USS Juneau (LPD 10) – South China Sea

USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) – South China Sea

Amphibious Warfare Ships:

USS Tarawa (LHA 1) – Pacific Ocean

USS Saipan (LHA 2) – Persian Gulf

USS Wasp (LHD 1) – port visit, Copenhagen, Denmark

USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) – Atlantic Ocean

USS Bataan (LHD 5) – Atlantic Ocean

USS Cleveland (LPD 7) – Pacific Ocean

USS Shreveport (LPD 12) – Atlantic Ocean

USS Ponce (LPD 15) – Atlantic Ocean

USS San Antonio (LPD 17) – Atlantic Ocean

USS Ashland (LSD 48) – Atlantic Ocean

USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) – Pacific Ocean

Aircraft (operational): 4000+

currently/or en route in/to Persian Gulf-Arabian Sea
(according to available information)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. www.globalresearch.ca

© Copyright Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2006

Iran: UN Should Condemn Israel’s ‘Clandestine’ Nuclear Weapons

December 21st, 2006 - by admin

The Associated Press & NBC – 2006-12-21 00:53:43

(December 20, 2006) — Iran demanded Tuesday that the United Nations Security Council condemn what it said was Israel’s clandestine development and possession of nuclear weapons.

Javad Zarif, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, said in identical letters to the council and to the secretary-general that the Security Council should “condemn Israeli regime’s clandestine development and possession of nuclear weapons, compel it to abandon nuclear weapons, [and] urge it to accede” to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Zarif said the Security Council should demand that all of Israel’s nuclear facilities be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency and be placed under its safeguards program.”Should the Israeli regime fail to do so, the council must take resolute action under Chapter 7 of the Charter to ensure compliance,” he said.

Chapter 7 of the UN Charter authorizes a range of measures from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military action. Iran insists its own nuclear program is purely peaceful to develop nuclear energy, but the United States and many European nations believe Tehran’s real aim in enriching uranium is to produce nuclear weapons.

The Security Council is currently debating a resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend its enrichment program.

Zarif said in the letters that the council’s actions would show whether it was acting under the UN Charter or as “a tool” for a few permanent members who have encouraged Israel “to persist in its lawless behavior with impunity.”

The statement may be in reference to the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, which would almost certainly veto any council resolution on Israel’s nuclear program. Zarif said Israel was the only obstacle to establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. “Peace and stability cannot be achieved in the Middle East while the massive Israeli nuclear arsenal continues to threaten the region and beyond,” he said.

Zarif said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s recent comments in a German television interview constituted not only a public admission of the country’s nuclear weapons but a public boast of how dangerous they are.

Israel has a long-standing policy of ambiguity on nuclear weapons, refusing to confirm or deny whether it has them. But in the German TV interview broadcast December 12, Olmert listed Israel among countries that possess nuclear weapons.

Israel’s UN Mission had no immediate comment on Zarif’s letters.

The Iranian ambassador insisted in the letters, obtained by the Associated Press, that Olmert’s comments were a clear admission that Israel possessed nuclear weapons in violation of international law, the UN Charter, and numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

“Nuclear weapons in the hands of a regime with an unparalleled record of noncompliance with Security Council resolutions and a long and dark catalogue of crimes and atrocities such as occupation, aggression, militarism, state-terrorism, and crimes against humanity, poses a uniquely grave threat to regional as well as international peace and security,” Zarif claimed.

He called on the council to fulfill its responsibility under the UN Charter “to address such a clear and serious threat to international peace and security.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.


US Plans Naval Buildup in Gulf to Counter Iran
CENTCOM Plans to Use ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’
/
NBC News and news services

WASHINGTON (December 19, 2006) — The US Central Command is aggressively planning a naval buildup in the Persian Gulf, including the addition of a second aircraft carrier, in response to a series of aggressive actions by Iran, US military officials told NBC News on Tuesday.

The officials pointed to Iran’s interference in Iraq — including its support for Shiite militants and shipments of improvised explosive devices into the country — recent military naval exercises in the Gulf, and its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The attempt at “gunboat diplomacy” is in its final planning stages. Although it has not been approved yet, it appears likely the increase in US warships into the Gulf could come as early as January, the officials said.

US: Iran making headway on weapons_On Monday, the Bush administration said Iran was making headway in building nuclear weapons as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to iron out differences with Russia over a U.N. resolution designed to stop the program with economic sanctions.
While not predicting when Iran would join the nuclear club,

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Iranians were trying to perfect technology to enrich uranium. Iran has denied an effort to build nuclear weapons and says its work is for energy development.

“It’s a very tricky matter of perfecting centrifuge technology so you can actually enrich all the uranium,” McCormack said. “So, yes, they are going along their way in trying to go down the various pathways.”

The spokesman provided no details of Rice’s telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “They went over some of the outstanding issues,” McCormack said.

‘Time for a vote’_Russia, which has close economic ties with Iran, has favored diplomacy over punitive sanctions, but the Bush administration is hoping Moscow may be prepared to approve a watered-down resolution at the U.N. Security Council.

“We are hopeful that we can get a vote in the very near future. It is time for a vote,” McCormack said. “I think we need to see a vote on this in a matter of days.”

The United States and its European allies have proposed offering Iran economic concessions in exchange for halting its enrichment of uranium, a key part of the process of building nuclear weapons.

NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Army Subpoenas Journalists over Officer’s Quotes

December 21st, 2006 - by admin

Bob Egelko / SF Chronicle – 2006-12-21 00:43:46

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/12/18/BAGI7N1F811.DTL

OAKLAND, Ca. (December 18, 2006) — Army prosecutors have sent subpoenas to journalists in Oakland and Honolulu demanding testimony about quotes they attributed to an officer who faces a court-martial after denouncing the war in Iraq and refusing to deploy with his unit.

The Army’s subpoenas, which the journalists said they received last week, put them in the uncomfortable position of being ordered to help the Army build its case against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

“It’s not a reporter’s job to participate in the prosecution of her own sources,” said Sarah Olson, an Oakland freelance journalist and radio producer. “When you force a journalist to participate, you run the risk of turning the journalist into an investigative tool of the state.”

But Olson, who received her subpoena Thursday, acknowledged she has no legal grounds to refuse to testify, since she is being asked only to confirm the accuracy of what she wrote about Watada and not to disclose confidential sources or unpublished material.

Normally, she said, “no one, myself included, has any problem verifying the veracity of their reporting.” The ethical problem in this case, she said, is that she would be aiding the prosecution of one of the dissidents and war critics who regularly trust her to tell their stories to the public.

Watada, 28, faces a court-martial in February at Fort Lewis, Wash., where he is based. He is charged with missing a troop movement — because he refused to deploy — and with conduct unbecoming an officer for his quotes in articles in June on the Web site truthout.org and in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. In the news reports, Watada criticized President Bush and the Iraq war.

Watada’s lawyer, Eric Seitz, said he understands journalists’ unhappiness at having to appear in court but would not object if they complied.

“It doesn’t bother us or disturb us that reporters testify Lt. Watada made those comments,” he said. The main issue, Seitz said, is “whether he had First Amendment rights to say what he did.”

Both Olson and her lawyer, David Greene, declined to say whether she would comply with the subpoena, which requires her to take part in a hearing in January as well as the court-martial. She could be held in contempt of the military tribunal and jailed if she refuses.

The second journalist, Gregg Kakesako, who covers military affairs for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, confirmed Friday that he had been subpoenaed to testify at Watada’s court-martial but declined further comment.

Other journalists may be summoned to testify. Joseph Piek, spokesman for the Army base at Fort Lewis, said he didn’t know how many subpoenas had been issued.

“The Army would like to verify with the reporters that the story or stories that they have written are accurate representations of the interview that they had with Lt. Watada or what was said at his public appearances,” Piek said.

The subpoenas come at a time of increasing efforts by the Bush administration to pressure reporters to testify about their sources and newsgathering.

In a case that raises different issues, two Chronicle reporters, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, are appealing prison sentences of up to 18 months for refusing to reveal their sources of closed-door grand jury testimony by Barry Bonds and other athletes about drug use. And Josh Wolf, a San Francisco freelance journalist, has spent nearly four months in prison for refusing to surrender outtakes of videos he took at a violent protest last year.

The Bush administration has also criticized the news media for publishing stories based on high-level leaks and has hinted at the possibility of charging journalists with espionage for printing classified information.

There is nothing secret about the statements that led to Watada’s court-martial and the subpoenas to the journalists.
Watada, raised in Honolulu, joined the Army in 2003 after graduating from college and was first stationed in South Korea. In public appearances and interviews, he has said he was motivated to enlist by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but had misgivings about the Iraq war from the start and eventually concluded that it was both immoral and illegal.

“As I read about the level of deception the Bush administration used to initiate and process this war, I was shocked,” Olson quoted him as saying in one of the statements cited by the Army as conduct unbecoming an officer. “I became ashamed of wearing the uniform. How can we wear something with such a time-honored tradition, knowing we waged war based on a misrepresentation and lies?”

The interview, conducted in May, was published on truthout.org on June 7, the same day Watada declined to go to Iraq with his armored vehicle unit in the 2nd Infantry Division. He said he offered to redeploy to Afghanistan or resign his commission but was turned down.

He was the first commissioned officer to refuse publicly to take part in the war and is the first to face a court-martial on that charge.

Before sending subpoenas to the journalists who reported Watada’s comments, the Army asked them to verify their quotes voluntarily, but they refused. Olson said last week that free expression is endangered by both the Army’s case against Watada and its attempt to enlist journalists.

“If conscientious objectors know that they can be prosecuted for speaking to the press and that the press will participate in their prosecution, it stands to reason that they would think twice before being public about their positions,” she said. “What we need in this country now is more dialogue and not less.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Happy Holidays from Environmentalists Against War

December 21st, 2006 - by admin

– 2006-12-21 00:42:46

The EAW Website will be taking a break for the Holidays.
We will return on January 1, 2007.

The Christmas Truce
by Gar Smith

On a cold December night, songwriter John McCutcheon slowly approached a microphone at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage and announced a special song. Those who knew the song grew silent. Those who heard it for the first time were soon nodding their heads in quiet affirmation. Some wept.

My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool.

Two years ago, the war was waiting for me after school.

To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here,

I fought for King and country I love dear.

McCutcheon’s wrenching ballad, “Christmas in the Trenches,” celebrates a nearly forgotten incident from WW I — the “Christmas Miracle.”

It was Christmas Eve, 1914. After four months of fighting, more than a million men had perished in bloody conflict. The bodies of dead soldiers were scattered between the trenches of Europe, frozen in the snow. Belgian, German, French, British and Canadian troops were dug-in so close that they could easily exchange shouts.

Lt. Kurt Zehmisch, a German soldier who had been a schoolteacher in Leipzig, blew a two-fingered whistle toward the British trenches. To the delight of Zehmisch’s Saxon regiment, the Brits whistled back. Some of the Germans who had worked in England before the war shouted greetings across the battlefield in English.

On the Allied side, the Brits watched in amazement as candle-lit Christmas trees began to appear atop German trenches. The glowing trees soon appeared along the length of the German front.

Henry Williamson, a young soldier with the London Regiment wrote in his diary: “From the German parapet, a rich baritone voice had begun to sing a song I remembered my German nurse singing to me…. The grave and tender voice rose out of the frozen mist. It was all so strange… like being in another world — to which one had come through a nightmare.”

The cannon rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more,

As Christmas brought us respite from the war….

“They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate,” another British soldier wrote, “So we sang The First Noël and when we finished, they all began clapping. And they struck up O Tannebaum and on it went… until we started up O Come All Ye Faithful [and] the Germans immediately joined in …. this was really a most extraordinary thing — two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

“There’s someone coming towards us!” the front-line sentry cried.

All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.

His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright

As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night.

Soldiers rose from their trenches and greeted each other in No Man’s Land. They wished each other a Merry Christmas and agreed not to fire their rifles the next day. The spontaneous cease-fire eventually embraced the entire 500-mile stretch of the Western Front, from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. On Christmas day, more than a million soldiers put down their guns, left their trenches and celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace among the bodies of their dead.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man’s Land.

With neither gun nor bayonet, we met there hand to hand.

The soldiers exchanged handshakes and food. Some cut badges and buttons from their uniforms to exchange. Others shared prized photos of wives and children. Many exchanged addresses and promised to write after the war ended.

The German troops rolled out barrels of dark beer and the men from Liverpool and London reciprocated with offerings of British plum pudding. Some soldiers produced soccer balls, while others fashioned balls from sacks of bundled straw and empty jam boxes. Belgians, French, Britons and Germans kicked their way across the icy fields for hours as fellow soldiers shouted encouragement.

Officers on both sides, aghast at the spectacle of peace breaking out between the lower ranks, exploded with shouts of “treason” and threats of courts martial. Their threats were ignored.

Along some stretches of the Front, the truce lasted several weeks. But, slowly, under threats from their officers, the troops returned to the trenches and rifles once more began to bark. (But many soldiers aimed so their bullets flew well above the heads of the “enemy.”)

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more.

With sad farewells, we each prepared to settle back to war.

But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night:

“Whose family have I fixed within my sight?”

WW I lasted another two years. In that time, another 4.4 million men would die — an average of 6,000 each day. In all, 8.5 million soldiers perished.

It’s Christmas Eve and John McCutcheon’s voice echoes in the room:

My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell.

Each Christmas come since World War I, I’ve learned its lesson well:

That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame,

And on each end of the rifle, we’re the same.

Lyrics © John McCutcheon/Appleseed Music. Reprinted by permission.

John McCutcheon has recorded 30 albums and has received five Grammy nominations. “Christmas in the Trenches” appears on his 1984 album, “Winter Solstice.” McCutcheon’s website is www.folkmusic.com.

Gar Smith is Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War.


Christmas in the Trenches

THIS SONG is based on a true story from the frontlines of World War I France. Ian Calhoun, a Scot, was the commanding officer of the British forces involved in the story. He was subsequently court-martialed for “consorting with the enemy” and sentenced to death. Only George V spared him from that fate.
— John McCutcheon

My name is Francis Toliver, I come from Liverpool.
Two years ago, the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany, to here,
I fought for King and country I love dear.

‘Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung.
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung.
Our families back in England were toasting us that day:
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound.
Says I, “Now listen up, me boys!” each soldier strained to hear
As one young German voice sang out so clear.

“He’s singing bloody well, you know!” my partner says to me.
Soon, one by one, each German voice joined in harmony.
The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more,
As Christmas brought us respite from the war.

As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent,
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen struck up some lads from Kent.
The next they sang was Stille Nacht, “‘Tis Silent Night, says I.
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.

“There’s someone coming towards us!” the front-line sentry cried.
All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright
As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man’s Land.
With neither gun nor bayonet, we met there hand to hand.
We shared some secret brandy and wished each other well
And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave ’em hell.

We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home.
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own.
Young Sanders played his squeeze-box and they had a violin,
This curious and unlikely band of men.

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more.
With sad farewells, we each prepared to settle back to war.
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night:
“Whose family have I fixed within my sights?”

‘Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung.
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung.
For the walls they’d kept between us to exact the work of war
Had been crumbled and were gone forevermore.

My name is Francis Toliver, in Liverpool I dwell.
Each Christmas come since World War I, I’ve learned its lessons well:
That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we’re the same.

Words & Music by John McCutcheon.
© 1984 by John McCutcheon / Appalsong

China May Convert $1 Trillion to Euros, Threatening US Economy

December 20th, 2006 - by admin

Hal Turner & Ariana Eunjung Cha / Washington Post & Jerome R. Corsi / Prisonplanet – 2006-12-20 08:53:29

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/14/AR2006121400681.html

Report – China to Dump One Trillion in US Reserves
HalTurnerShow.com

BEIJING (December 15, 2006) — Sources with a US Delegation in Beijing have told The Hal Turner Show the Chinese government has informed visiting Bush Administration officials they intend to dump One TRILLION US Dollars from China’s Currency Reserves and convert those funds into Euros, gold and silver!

China was allegedly asked to withhold the announcement until Bullion Markets closed for the weekend to prevent an instant spike in gold and silver prices. This delay will give the world the weekend to consider appropriate actions rather than have a knee-jerk reaction which could see the US Dollar totally collapse in value Monday.

According to this Senior source, China told the US delegation they no longer have faith in US Currency for several reasons:

1) The Federal Reserve Bank ceased publishing “M3” data in March, making it nearly impossible for anyone to know how much cash is being printed. China said this act made it impossible to tell how much a Dollar is worth.

2) The US Dollar has lost upwards of thirty percent (30%) of its value against other foreign currencies in the recent past, meaning China has lost almost $300 Billion simply by holding US Dollars in its reserves.

3) The US has no plans whatsoever to reduce deficit spending or ability pay down any of its existing debt without printing money to pay it off.

For these reasons China has decided to implement an aggressive sell-off of US Dollars before the rest of the world does so. China reportedly told the US delegation; “we are the largest holder of US Currency and if the rest of the world unloads theirs before we unload ours, we will lose our shirts.”

Early this week, in an unusual move, the Bush administration sent virtually the entire economic “A-team” to visit China for a “strategic economic dialogue” in Beijing Dec. 14 and 15.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke lead the delegation, along with five other cabinet-level officials, including Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. Also in the delegation is Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, and US Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

The Bush administration wanted to get China’s cooperation in preventing a dollar collapse. The Hal Turner Show has been told the effort failed.

According to the source, Fed Chairman Bernanke left the meeting “pale and in a cold sweat” as the implications of China’s decision seemed to sink in.

The implications are enormous: The US Dollar is likely to collapse in value against all other major currencies as early as Monday, December 18.

This would cause a worldwide sell-off of dollars, create almost immediate “hyper-inflation” in the US and also impact world markets at a level “worse than the Great Depression of 1929.”

Arabs to the Rescue?
In a strange twist of fate, Arabs and OPEC may come to the rescue of the US!

Senior officials in OPEC made clear that they too would be severely harmed if the US Dollar collapsed, and hinted they “would not be inclined to sell oil to any particular nation that intentionally caused such a collapse.”

This was a thinly veiled threat to China, which depends heavily on OPEC oil for its rapidly developing energy needs.

The OPEC officials even went so far as to say “Since China lacks the ability to project their military power, OPEC nations need not worry about any Chinese military response to an oil cut-off.”

Such brutally candid remarks will not sit well with China; and signal ominous things for the US .

Arabs and OPEC will want something in return for saving the US from economic collapse and it is already widely speculated what they want will be a complete change in US backing of Israel in the Middle East.

If such demands are made by the oil-rich Arabs, the US would be left with little choice but to virtually abandon the jewish state to preserve itself.

UPDATE: The Washington Post Confirms. . . .
‘US, China Clash On Currency’

WASHINGTON (December 16, 2006) — Additional sources, one in the US Commerce Department and another in the US Treasury have confirmed the initial report above and referred me to another, Third, source in the Pentagon.

Both the Commerce and Treasury Sources report that while China will not be able to simply trade their Dollars for other paper currencies, they will spend their US Cash on commodities such as gold, silver and Rhodoium as well as military hardware; ships and planes, placing large orders and paying for those orders with the one point one trillion in cash dollars they possess.

Extreme Military Concern
In speaking with the contact at the Pentagon, I am able to now report the Pentagon views this currency-killing as a cunning military aspect to Chinese plans:

The Pentagon says that while China has a 2-million-man army, they lack the logistics and heavy lift capability to move that army and supply it. They can, however, get that military to South Korea and to Japan.

The Chinese see that the US Military is over-stretched and almost exhausted by its globe trotting Commander-In-Chief. They feel that by intentionally destabilizing the dollar, the US economy will fail, putting tens of millions of Americans on the unemployment line and putting unbearable pressure on the US Government.

Then, with the US economy in shambles and its manufacturing base eroded by a steady stream of manufacturing plants moving out of the US., the American government will be too occupied with troubles at home to do much internationally. America will be in no position to challenge China, allowing the Chinese to act militarily elsewhere in the world;

Further, if the US attempted to intervene against any Chinese military action, the only plant in the world which can manufacture the specialized gyros needed for US Cruise Missile guidance systems, is now located in. . . China.

China could prevent that plant from shipping to the US, and once our arsenal of cruise missiles was depleted, it would take a long time to re-tool a plant to make more gyros and resupply cruise missiles for battle. The Chinese feel they could accomplish certain military goals before the US could re-tool.

They are also confident the US will never “go nuclear” as long as the US itself is not attacked.

The Pentagon source went so far as to say “Even if China was to lose the entire one trillion in cash to a collapse of the Dollar as a currency, they will have succeeded in taking the US off the world stage as any type of effective military or economic power — without firing a shot!” A ‘classic’ Sun Tzu paradigm of victory – the art of fighting, without fighting.

The crippling of the US is a highly desirable military benefit for China at a relatively cheap price since it will leave their human capital and infrastructure assets in place; assets they know they would lose if a hot war erupted with the US.


US, China Clash on Currency
Both Countries Assertive as Economic Talks Open in Beijing

Ariana Eunjung Cha / Washington Post Foreign Service

Friday, December 15, 2006; Page D01 http://http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/14/AR2006121400681.html

BEIJING, Dec. 14 — US and Chinese leaders clashed publicly on the opening day of strategic economic talks, with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. pushing China to revalue its currency and Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi saying Americans do not have a full understanding of the situation.

After standing by as US officials criticized her country’s economic policies in the media during the past week, Wu set the tone for the meeting with assertive introductory remarks that spanned 20 typed pages and 5,000 years of Chinese history.

“Some American friends are not only having limited knowledge of, but harboring much misunderstanding about, the reality in China,” Wu said, according to a copy of her remarks provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For example, Wu noted that China needed to create enough jobs to absorb an estimated 300 million rural workers — equal to the entire population of the United States — into its urban economy in the next two decades.

Paulson was equally aggressive in his follow-up speech, saying that the US government’s “strong view” is that China should allow its currency, the yuan, to be more flexible. Most countries allow the value of their currencies to be set in global markets, but China intervenes to keep its currency pegged to the dollar at an exchange rate that many Western economists regard as skewed in China’s favor.

The Chinese economy “would be more effective under a regime where currency values are determined in a competitive, open marketplace based upon economic fundamentals,” Paulson said. A revaluation of the yuan upward would make US goods cheaper in China and Chinese goods more expensive in the United States.

Throughout the day, US officials pushed on issues such as trying to resolve the huge trade imbalance between the two countries and making sure that China lives up to commitments it made five years ago when it joined the World Trade Organization. By the afternoon, they said they were optimistic.

“They were very much in a receiving mode,” Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in an interview with reporters. “They were listening very carefully.”

Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez said that the meeting “exceeded expectations” and that “it was a very candid . . . honest, solid dialogue.”

High-level US officials, interviewed after the close of meetings for the day, said the two sides agreed on many things in principle, such as the need to keep their economies open to other countries. But specific measures and a timetable were less clear, with the United States pushing for rapid change and China seeking to move cautiously.

Skepticism toward foreign trade, particularly with China, played a major role in the recent US elections, and proposals for punitive tariffs or other protectionist measures could gain support in Congress next year.

“I sense that they have an understanding of the stakes,” Gutierrez said. “And the stakes are very large. You are talking about a lot of business, a lot of jobs on both sides. We are their No. 1 customer.”

While most of the day was focused on US requests of Beijing, China also listed some priorities: fewer obstacles to the export of US technology and to Chinese investment in the United States. The complaint about US export controls, in particular, led to some tense exchanges, US delegates said,

“They would like no restrictions, and we have restrictions, so there are certain things that they would like that we can’t give on,” Guttierez said.

US Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab said in an interview that she told the Chinese that their country was “slowing if not backsliding” on economic reforms.

Paulson is a former Wall Street executive who has made dozens of trips to China. He has taken command of the Bush administration’s economic discussions with that country and took a high-level delegation of Cabinet members and others with him on this trip as he seeks to make progress toward resolving thorny disputes.

The format of the meeting included formal presentations and broad debate on issues such as China’s transport problems and the US culture of easy credit.

Perhaps the meeting’s most anticipated and sensitive talks — about whether China should allow the yuan to rise in value — were anchored by a statement from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, who accompanied Paulson on the trip.

Bernanke said an increase in the currency’s value would benefit China, according to US officials present at the talk.

“Other people piped in to say the US has a very interested stake in China’s economic well-being,” Chao said.


Dollar’s Collapse Would Result in the ‘Amero’
Some think deep recession likely
regardless of Fed’s actions

Jerome R. Corsi / Prisonplanet.com
http://rense.com/general74/dollar.htm

(December 15, 2006) — Two analysts who have reconstructed money supply data after the Fed stopped publishing it argue a coming dollar collapse will set the stage for creating the amero as a North American currency to replace the dollar.

The reconstructed M3 data — the broadest measure of money — published on econometrician Gary Kuever’s website, NowAndFutures.com, shows M3 increased at a rate of 11 percent in May, compared to 9 percent when the Federal Reserve quit publishing M3 data earlier this year.

Asked why the Fed decided to stop publishing M3 data, Kuever told WND, “The Fed probably wants to hide how much liquidity is being pumped into the market, and I expect the trend to keep pumping liquidity into the market will continue, especially since the economy is slowing down.”

Why is this important?

“The trend line in my M3-plus-debt chart is staggering,” Kuever said. “There has been a straight, long-term trend line of M3-plus-credit increasing since 2000. Long-term, we are creating inflation and the dollar has lost almost 98 percent of its value in the past 100 years.”

Kuever, a retired investor, is concerned that with growing budget and trade deficits “the dollar could collapse.”

“Especially if the Fed cannot increase rates, because we have already entered a recession,” he said.

Bob Chapman, who issued a reconstructed M3 estimate to the 100,000 subscribers to his newsletter, “The International Forecaster”, agrees.

“The world is awash in money and credit,” Chapman told WND. “My numbers show M3 increasing at about a 10-percent rate right now.”

Chapman believes the US economy entered a recession in February. In his newsletter of Dec. 9 he predicted the Fed would hold interest rates at 5.25 percent.

“The Fed is in a very tough spot here,” Chapman wrote, “If they raise rates, the real estate market will collapse, and if they lower rates, the dollar will collapse.”

Meeting yesterday, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee voted, as Chapman had predicted, to hold the overnight lending rates between banks steady at 5.25 percent. This was the fourth straight meeting the Fed had voted not to change rates. In its rate announcement, the Fed affirmed the economy had slowed.

Almost immediately after the announcement of the Fed’s decision, the dollar weakened to a new 20-month low against the euro, with currency markets reportedly pricing in the expectation the Fed will be forced to lower rates next year to bolster the economy. Following the announcement by the Fed, the US Dollar Index, or USDX, also dropped, with the dollar going below 83.

A dollar collapse is imminent, Chapman declared.

“Technicians studying the USDX think there is a support level for the dollar at 75, but I don’t think so.”

How low could the dollar go?

“If the dollar breaks through 78.33 on the USDX,” Chapman answered, “my guess is the dollar will go through a 35-percent correction, which would put it at 55.”

“The key in how low the dollar goes is the interest rates,” Chapman told WND. “In January, the Fed is going to have to make a decision which way to go. If Fed rates go up, the dollar will hold in the 78.33 range, but the stock market and the economy will tank.

“If next year the Fed lowers rates to keep the economy from crashing, the bottom will fall out of the dollar, and I see it going as low as 55. Once the dollar hits bottom, it will take the stock market and the economy right with it anyway. The Fed is in a box they can’t get out of.”

As WND reported earlier this week, in an unusual move, the Bush administration is sending virtually the entire economic “A-team” to visit China for a “strategic economic dialogue” in Beijing Thursday and Friday. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are leading the delegation, along with five other cabinet-level officials, including Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.

Also in the delegation will be Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, and US Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

But Chapman doubts the trip will help the Fed to engineer a slow dollar slide.

“The Chinese are going to do what the Chinese want to do, not what we want them to do,” he said. “I believe the Chinese are going to send Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke home packing, with little or nothing to show for the trip.”

How severe will the coming dollar collapse be?

“People in the US are going to be hit hard,” Chapman warned. “In the severe recession we are entering now, Bush will argue that we have to form a North American Union to compete with the Euro.”

“Creating the amero,” Chapman explained, “will be presented to the American public as the administration’s solution for dollar recovery. In the process of creating the amero, the Bush administration just abandons the dollar.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Gift of the Magi: No Nukes

December 20th, 2006 - by admin

Peter G. Cohen / Nuke-free World.com – 2006-12-20 08:38:49

http://ww2.californiapeaceaction.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=5864

There are few gifts for children that last a lifetime, but the gift of living in a nuclear weapons-free world is one of them. In this Holiday Season we have an unusual opportunity to join with the wise men who have spoken out against these horrible weapons by taking a significant step toward getting rid of them.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is now soliciting public opinion on the creation of a new giant facility to store and handle all plutonium – including the manufacture of pits (plutonium cores) for a new generation of nuclear weapons. This is the same job that was carried out in the past by the notorious Hanford and later by the equally polluted Rocky Flats.

Both of these sites have discharged radioactive material and toxic chemicals in to the air, soil and water of their communities and contributed to unknown numbers of cancers, heart and lung disease, and birth defects. They are now in the process of a cleanups that have consumed billions of dollars and will require billions more in the next decades — if it can be done at all.

This new plutonium facility is planned to produce 125 new nuclear weapons pits a year. It is part of a DOE plan, called Complex 2030, to rebuild our nuclear weapons stockpile while complying with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia to reduce our weapons stockpile to 6,000. In other words, we’ll cut back, but we’ll create a new generation of weapons that are “more reliable and more usable.”

Recent research has shown that the existing plutonium pits, once thought to deteriorate, will remain reliable for at least 90 years and we have thousands of them in reserve. Still they want to develop “the needed capabilities required to sustain the stockpile in the long term.”

CONSIDER THE ALTERNATIVE
The DOE Environmental Impact Statement for this project is supposed to consider the possible location of this new weapons factory at one of five existing nuclear facilities. But the law says that DOE must consider all of the alternatives!

The best one is to live up to our national obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to work for total disarmament. We cannot expect other nations to renounce nuclear weapons while we are working to “sustain” and improve our own.

After chairing the international WMD Commission for two years Hans Blix said about nuclear disarmament, “If the U.S. takes the lead other nations will follow. If it does not there will be arms races.”

We do not need Complex 2030 or any other plan for new weapons. We support the Alternative: to lead the world in negotiations and further reductions of all nuclear weapons and the improvement of our storage and verification systems.

This is a long, tough road, but every step improves the chances that our children will not live under the threat of incineration or radiation. We have spent billions of dollars, sickened and killed thousands of our own people in pursuit of these illegal and immoral weapons of mass destruction. It is time to end this disastrous course.

We urge you to send letters to the DoE and to your representatives before the deadline of January 17 of the new year. And we hope that you will forward this message to everyone in your address book. Just keep it going.

Create a flood of protest. This is a great opportunity for the public to influence the future safety of our people. What greater gifts can you give those you love than the chance to live free of the nuclear threat to our lives, our health and the national economy.

Thanks for your efforts and all best wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season.

ACTIONS TO TAKE
• For a sample letter and mail service please go to:
ww2.californiapeaceaction.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=5864

• Write your own email to: complex2030@nnsa.doe.gov

• Or a letter to:
Theodore A. Wyka
Complex 2030 SEIS Document Manager
Office of Transformation
US Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue SW
Washington DC 20585

A Marine’s Eye-View of Fallujah (Unclassified)

December 20th, 2006 - by admin

Anonymous via email – 2006-12-20 08:31:06

http://www.defensetech.org/archives/002800.html

All:
I haven’t written very much from Iraq. There’s really not much to write about. More exactly, there’s not much I can write about because practically everything I do, read or hear is classified military information or is depressing to the point that I’d rather just forget about it, never mind write about it.

The gaps in between all of that are filled with the pure tedium of daily life in an armed camp. So it’s a bit of a struggle to think of anything to put into a letter that’s worth reading. Worse, this place just consumes you.

I work 18-20-hour days, every day. The quest to draw a clear picture of what the insurgents are up to never ends. Problems and frictions crop up faster than solutions. Every challenge demands a response. It’s like this every day.

Before I know it, I can’t see straight, because it’s 0400 and I’ve been at work for twenty hours straight, somehow missing dinner again in the process. And once again I haven’t written to anyone. It starts all over again four hours later. It’s not really like Ground Hog Day, it’s more like a level from Dante’s Inferno.

Rather than attempting to sum up the last seven months, I figured I’d just hit the record setting highlights of 2006 in Iraq. These are among the events and experiences I’ll remember best.

Worst Case of déjà vu — I thought I was familiar with the feeling of déjà vu until I arrived back here in Fallujah in February. The moment I stepped off of the helicopter, just as dawn broke, and saw the camp just as I had left it ten months before — that was déjà vu. Kind of unnerving. It was as if I had never left. Same work area, same busted desk, same chair, same computer, same room, same creaky rack, same . . . everything. Same everything for the next year. It was like entering a parallel universe. Home wasn’t 10,000 miles away, it was a different lifetime.

Most Surreal Moment — Watching Marines arrive at my detention facility and unload a truck load of flex-cuffed midgets. 26 to be exact. I had put the word out earlier in the day to the Marines in Fallujah that we were looking for Bad Guy X, who was described as a midget. Little did I know that Fallujah was home to a small community of midgets, who banded together for support since they were considered as social outcasts.

The Marines were anxious to get back to the midget colony to bring in the rest of the midget suspects, but I called off the search, figuring Bad Guy X was long gone on his short legs after seeing his companions rounded up by the giant infidels.

Most Profound Man in Iraq — an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines (searching for Syrians) if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied “Yes, you.”

Worst City in al-Anbar Province — Ramadi, hands down. The provincial capital of 400,000 people. Killed over 1,000 insurgents in there since we arrived in February. Every day is a nasty gun battle. They blast us with giant bombs in the road, snipers, mortars and small arms. We blast them with tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, our snipers (much better than theirs), and every weapon that an infantryman can carry.

Every day. Incredibly, I rarely see Ramadi in the news. We have as many attacks out here in the west as Baghdad. Yet, Baghdad has 7 million people, we have just 1.2 million. Per capita, al-Anbar province is the most violent place in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. I suppose it was no accident that the Marines were assigned this area in 2003.

Bravest Guy in al-Anbar Province — Any Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (EOD Tech). How’d you like a job that required you to defuse bombs in a hole in the middle of the road that very likely are booby-trapped or connected by wire to a bad guy who’s just waiting for you to get close to the bomb before he clicks the detonator?

Every day. Sanitation workers in New York City get paid more than these guys. Talk about courage and commitment.

Second Bravest Guy in al-Anbar Province — It’s a 20,000 way tie among all the Marines and Soldiers who venture out on the highways and through the towns of al-Anbar every day, not knowing if it will be their last — and for a couple of them, it will be.

Best Piece of US Gear — new, bullet-proof flak jackets. OK, they weigh 40 lbs and aren’t exactly comfortable in 120-degree heat, but they’ve saved countless lives out here.

Best Piece of Bad Guy Gear — Armor Piercing ammunition that goes right through the new flak jackets and the Marines inside them.

Worst E-Mail Message — “The Walking Blood Bank is Activated. We need blood type A+ stat.” I always head down to the surgical unit as soon as I get these messages, but I never give blood — there’s always about 80 Marines in line, night or day.

Biggest Surprise — Iraqi Police. All local guys. I never figured that we’d get a police force established in the cities in al-Anbar. I estimated that insurgents would kill the first few, scaring off the rest.

Well, insurgents did kill the first few, but the cops kept on coming. The insurgents continue to target the police, killing them in their homes and on the streets, but the cops won’t give up. Absolutely incredible tenacity. The insurgents know that the police are far better at finding them than we are — and they are finding them. Now, if we could just get them out of the habit of beating prisoners to a pulp . . .

Greatest Vindication — Stocking up on outrageous quantities of Diet Coke from the chow hall in spite of the derision from my men on such hoarding, then having a 122mm rocket blast apart the giant shipping container that held all of the soda for the chow hall. Yep, you can’t buy experience.

Biggest Mystery — How some people can gain weight out here. I’m down to 165 lbs. Who has time to eat?

Second Biggest Mystery — if there’s no atheists in foxholes, then why aren’t there more people at Mass every Sunday?

Favorite Iraqi TV Show — Oprah. I have no idea. They all have satellite TV.

Coolest Insurgent Act — Stealing almost $7 million from the main bank in Ramadi in broad daylight, then, upon exiting, waving to the Marines in the combat outpost right next to the bank, who had no clue of what was going on. The Marines waved back. Too cool.

Most Memorable Scene — In the middle of the night, on a dusty airfield, watching the better part of a battalion of Marines packed up and ready to go home after six months in al-Anbar, the relief etched in their young faces even in the moonlight. Then watching these same Marines exchange glances with a similar number of grunts loaded down with gear file past — their replacements. Nothing was said. Nothing needed to be said.

Highest Unit Re-enlistment Rate — Any outfit that has been in Iraq recently. All the danger, all the hardship, all the time away from home, all the horror, all the frustrations with the fight here — all are outweighed by the desire for young men to be part of a ‘Band of Brothers’ who will die for one another. They found what they were looking for when they enlisted out of high school. Man for man, they now have more combat experience than any Marines in the history of our Corps.

Most Surprising Thing I Don’t Miss — Beer. Perhaps being half-stunned by lack of sleep makes up for it.

Worst Smell — Porta-johns in 120 degree heat — and that’s 120 degrees outside of the porta-john.

Highest Temperature — I don’t know exactly, but it was in the porta-johns. Needed to re-hydrate after each trip to the loo.

Biggest Hassle — High-ranking Visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and “battlefield” tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no affect on their preconceived notions of what’s going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they’ve been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here.

Biggest Outrage — Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest offender — Bill O’Reilly — what a buffoon.

Best Intel Work — Finding Jill Carroll’s kidnappers — all of them. I was mighty proud of my guys that day. I figured we’d all get the Christian Science Monitor for free after this, but none have showed up yet. Talk about ingratitude.

Saddest Moment — Having the battalion commander from 1st Battalion, 1st Marines hand me the dog tags of one of my Marines who had just been killed while on a mission with his unit. Hit by a 60mm mortar. Cpl Bachar was a great Marine. I felt crushed for a long time afterward. His picture now hangs at the entrance to the Intelligence Section. We’ll carry it home with us when we leave in February.

Biggest Ass-Chewing — 10 July immediately following a visit by the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Zobai. The Deputy Prime Minister brought along an American security contractor (read mercenary), who told my Commanding General that he was there to act as a mediator between us and the Bad Guys.

I immediately told him what I thought of him and his asinine ideas in terms that made clear my disgust and which, unfortunately, are unrepeatable here. I thought my boss was going to have a heart attack. Fortunately, the translator couldn’t figure out the best Arabic words to convey my meaning for the Deputy Prime Minister.

Later, the boss had no difficulty in convening his meaning to me in English regarding my Irish temper, even though he agreed with me. At least the guy from the State Department thought it was hilarious. We never saw the mercenary again.

Best Chuck Norris Moment — 13 May. Bad Guys arrived at the government center in the small town of Kubaysah to kidnap the town mayor, since they have a problem with any form of government that does not include regular beheadings and women wearing burqahs.

There were seven of them. As they brought the mayor out to put him in a pick-up truck to take him off to be beheaded (on video, as usual), one of the bad Guys put down his machinegun so that he could tie the mayor’s hands. The mayor took the opportunity to pick up the machinegun and drill five of the Bad Guys. The other two ran away. One of the dead Bad Guys was on our top twenty wanted list. Like they say, you can’t fight City Hall.

Worst Sound — That “crack-boom” off in the distance that means an IED or mine just went off. You just wonder who got it, hoping that it was a near-miss rather than a direct hit. Hear it every day.

Second Worst Sound — Our artillery firing without warning. The howitzers are pretty close to where I work. Believe me, outgoing sounds a lot like incoming when our guns are firing right over our heads. They’d about knock the fillings out of your teeth.

Only Thing Better in Iraq Than in the US — Sunsets. Spectacular. It’s from all the dust in the air.

Proudest Moment — It’s a tie every day, watching my Marines produce phenomenal intelligence products that go pretty far in teasing apart Bad Guy operations in al-Anbar.

Every night Marines and Soldiers are kicking in doors and grabbing Bad Guys based on intelligence developed by my guys. We rarely lose a Marine during these raids, they are so well-informed of the objective. A bunch of kids right out of high school shouldn’t be able to work so well, but they do.

Happiest Moment — Well, it wasn’t in Iraq. There are no truly happy moments here. It was back in California when I was able to hold my family again while home on leave during July.

Most Common Thought — Home. Always thinking of home, of Kathleen and the kids. Wondering how everyone else is getting along. Regretting that I don’t write more. Yep, always thinking of home.

I hope you all are doing well. If you want to do something for me, kiss a cop, flush a toilet, and drink a beer. I’ll try to write again before too long — I promise.

Semper Fi.

US Army Might Break Goodyear Strike

December 20th, 2006 - by admin

Bernard Simon / Financial Times – 2006-12-20 08:13:43

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16226231/

TORONTO (December 15, 2006) — The US Army is considering measures to force striking workers back to their jobs at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant in Kansas in the face of a looming shortage of tyres for Humvee trucks and other military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A strike involving 17,000 members of the United Steelworkers union has crippled 16 Goodyear plants in the US and Canada since October 5.

The main issues in dispute are the company’s plans to close a unionised plant in Texas, and a proposal for workers to shoulder future increases in healthcare costs.

An army spokeswoman said on Friday that “there’s not a shortage right now but there possibly will be one in the future”.

According to Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House of Representatives armed services committee, the strike has cut output of Humvee tyres by about 35 per cent.

Mr Hunter said that the army had stopped supplying tyres to units not related to the Central Command, which is responsible for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tyres were also not being provided to army repair depots.

While concern has centred on the Humvees, tyres are also critical to aircraft and other military equipment.

Goodyear brushed off concerns of looming shortages, saying that production at the Kansas plant, where the Humvee tyres are made, “is near normal levels and will be back to 100 per cent in the near future.”

It added that “we’re in daily contact with the military to ensure delivery of the required Humvee tyres”.

The company said it was using salaried and temporary workers to keep the Kansas plant running. It has taken similar measures at other plants, as well as stepping up imports from overseas factories to maintain supplies to the car and truck industry.

The union claims that the strikebound plants are running at about 20 per cent of capacity. Goodyear has said that North American output is at about half normal levels, including non-union plants.

According to Mr Hunter, the army is exploring a possible injunction under the Taft-Hartley Act to force the 200 Kansas workers back to their jobs.

He proposed that they return under their current terms of employment, on the understanding that any settlement would be extended to them.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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