January 31st, 2007 - by admin
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya / Global Research – 2007-01-31 23:06:46
Saddam Hussein’s Last Words: “To the Hell that is Iraq!?”
What the Media has Deliberately Concealed
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya / Global Research
“On the Holy day of Eid, the world watched in horror at the barbaric lynching of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, allegedly for crimes against humanity. This public murder was sanctioned by the War Criminals, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair.
The entire trial process was a mockery of justice, no less a Kangaroo Court. Defence counsels were brutally murdered, witnesses threatened and judges removed for being impartial and replaced by puppet judges. Yet, we are told that Iraq was invaded to promote democracy, freedom and justice.”
— Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, 30 December 2006
(January 31, 2007) — The barbaric lynching of Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq, was a choreographed event, a carefully staged U.S. sponsored PSYOP, with a view to triggering social divisions and fomenting sectarian violence within Iraq and the broader Middle East.
In its coverage of the execution, the international media, in a highly convoluted fashion, combined the transcript of Saddam Hussein’s execution with “recollections” of so-called witness statements.
Moreover, the transcripts were often presented to readers without context or explanation. More generally, the translations from the Arabic were the object of manipulation and media distortion.
The execution of the Iraqi leader was carefully timed to occur during a sensitive time for Muslims. The execution fell during Eid ul-Adha, a holy day for Muslims. The date of the execution is perhaps one of the most compromising signals that the execution was indeed a psychological operation (PSYOP) launched by the United States.
The execution date was deliberately chosen during a sacred period for Muslims to exploit a divide between Shiites and Sunni. This sacred day was marked on Saturday, December 30, 2007 by Sunni Muslims in Iraq and was observed a day later on Sunday, December 31, 2007 by Iraq’s Shiites.
This is a strategic difference in dates that the executing of Saddam Hussein sought to expose and exploit to create sedition and division between Iraqis and Muslims. The day of the execution was deliberately chosen by its US sponsors to occur on Saturday, December 30, 2006, the day that Sunni Muslims observed Eid ul-Adha.
The execution took place on December 30, with a view to enraging Sunni Muslims against Shiite Muslims. Concurrently, both the media and offical US statements pointed to the Shiites (and the “Shiite government”) as being responsible for the execution.
Aside form the religious context, the execution was also illegal under the Iraqi legal code and constitution. This has been articulated by Rizgar Mohammad Amin, an Iraqi Kurd and one of the former judges in the questionable trial of Saddam Hussein.
The execution was carried out, as a psychological weapon, to usher in sectarian violence and division throughout the Middle East. The timing also coincided with several announcements and news reports of war plans by the United States and Israel in regards to Syria and Iran.
It is no coincidence that shortly after the execution, the US President identified Syria and Iran as the enemies of Iraq and raided an Iranian Consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The media disinformation campaign pertaining to the execution was coordinated with the instruments of war propaganda emanating from the Pentagon and US intelligence.
In the immediate wake of the execution, the global networks of the corporate media went into full gear to propagate the misinformation that the Pentagon wanted to convey to the general public.
The translated transcripts of Saddam Hussein’s last words, which had been scrupulously manipulated and distorted, were fed into the global news chain.
Presented below is the Global Research translation from the Arabic original audio-video believed to have been recorded on a cell phone. Also presented for purposes of comparison are several other “translations” from the same Arabic original.
Our Translation from the Arabic Original
Note: The Global Research translation is based on an Arabic video. The release of this video was in all likelihood part of the US sponsored intelligence operation. The video was allegedly taken from a cell phone camera belonging to one of the executioners. Viewer discretion is advised; the video is gruesome and upsetting in nature and does not resemble a state-run execution. To view the video, click on the link below:
Background voices, which are very hard to hear, are having a conversation in the background and someone calls someone else in the execution chamber by “Ali” or is looking for “Ali.”
Saddam Hussein: “I testify that Mohammed is the Messenger of God.”
Saddam Hussein: “Oh God.” [saying this in preparation, as is Middle Eastern custom, as the noose is put around his neck]
One voice leads customary Muslim prayer (called a salvat): “May God’s blessings be upon Mohammed and his companions/household [family].”
All Voices, including Saddam Hussein, repeat the customary prayer: “May God’s blessings be upon Mohammed and his companions/household [family].”
A group of voices: “Moqtada…Moqtada …Moqtada.” [Meaning the young Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr] …
Saddam with amusement: “Moqtada…Moqtada! Do you consider this bravery?” [This can also be translated as meaning “Is this your manhood?”]
Several individuals say several times: “To Hell [hell-fire]!” [This can be translated as “Go to Hell!”]
Saddam Hussein mockingly replies/asks: “To the hell that is Iraq!?”
Others voices: “Long live Mohammed Baqir Al-Sadr.”
Single Voice: “Please do not [stop]. The man is being executed. Please no, please stop.”
Saddam Hussein starts recitation of final Muslim prayers: “I bear witness that there is no god but God and I testify that Mohammed is the Messenger of God. I bear witness that there is no god but God and I testify that Mohammed…” [Saddam Hussein is suddenly interrupted without finishing his prayer with the opening of the trap door.]
Several Voices: “The tyrant [dictator] has collapsed!”
Other voices: “May God’s blessings upon Mohammed and his household (family).”
Single Voice: “Let him hang for eight minutes.”
Many conversations continue in the background about Saddam Hussein.
Corporate Media Translations
Below are several transcripts of translations. Some of these transcripts demonstrate a major deviation from the original (Arabic) word by word dialogue. A look at the CNN or BBC versions of the video clearly reveals a deliberate attempt to distort Saddam Hussein’s statements and portray the Shiite Muslims of Iraq as those behind the Iraqi leaders hanging in Baghdad.
The corporate media’s translations add or interject what was reportedly said by Saddam Hussein to what was recorded.
The Fox News’ transcript fails to even give a glimpse of Saddam Hussein’s last words. It only gives an ominously detailed translation of the start of the video. One should ask is there a reason why the full transcript was not given and why this partial transcript was portrayed as the transcript of the execution in its entirety.
Fox News Transcript
A new videotape surfaced Monday on the Web appearing to show the body of former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein after he was hanged on Dec. 30, 2006. This is the translation of the audio conversation on that 27-second video among individuals with access to the body and someone apparently using a cell phone camera:
(Inaudible)— Abu Ali
Hurry up! Hurry up!
— Hurry up!
— Let’s go my friend…Come on man!
I’ll fix it up for you.
— I am coming. I am coming.
— Just a moment, one moment
— I am coming. I am coming.
— Abu Ali, Abu Ali… You take care of this.
— Ok let’s go, let’s go
— Come on my friend! Come on my friend!
— Ok, I am coming. I am coming.
The BBC’s transcript fails also to give a glimpse of Saddam Hussein’s last words, besides painting the executioners as savage Shiites. Nor does the BBC report acknowledge Washington role in ordering this execution.
Moreover, Saddam Hussein’s last words about Iraq being turned into a living Hell are conveniently omitted. The BBC transcript also uses phrases that portray the executioners as Shiites. This is done by the chosen reference in the phrase referring to Prophet Mohammed’s family and the statement “And may God hasten their appearance and curse their enemies,” which is a reference to Imam Mahdi, a Muslim figure, that Shiite Muslims’ place special emphasis on in regards to Sunni Muslims.
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Transcript
Translation of Arabic subtitles accompanying the latest execution footage as broadcast on al-Jazeera TV station:
[Saddam] Oh God.
[Voices] May God’s blessings be upon Muhammad and his household.
[Voices] And may God hasten their appearance and curse their enemies.
[Voices] Moqtada [Al-Sadr]…Moqtada…Moqtada.
[Saddam] Do you consider this bravery?
[Voice] Long live Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr.
[Voice] To hell.
[Voice] Please do not. The man is being executed. Please no, I beg you to stop.
[Saddam] There is no God but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God. There is no God but Allah and I testify that Muhammad…
At this point the video stops and the sound of the trapdoors opening is heard in the background.
The Independent (UK)
The Independent, a British daily, that gives a fairly progressive view on international events seems to have also carried a version of the translation of the transcript of the execution of Saddam Hussein that has omitted Saddam Hussein’s last words indicating that Iraq has been turned into a “Hell on earth.”
The Independent (UK) Transcript: Dictator’s last words
Saddam: “Oh God.”
Voices: “May God’s blessings be upon Mohamed and his household. And may God hasten their appearance and curse their enemies.”
Voices: “Moqtada [al-Sadr] … Moqtada … Moqtada.”
Saddam: “Do you consider this bravery?”
Voice: “Long live Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr.”
Voice: “To hell.”
Voice: “Please do not. The man is being executed. Please no, I beg you to stop.”
Saddam: “There is no God but Allah and I testify that Mohamed is the messenger of God. There is no God but Allah and I testify that Mohamed…”
Analysis and Implications
Internationally and especially in the Arab World and the Middle East, the barbaric lynching was casually presented as a Shiite Muslim initiative, when in fact the Anglo-American occupation forces were in control of every phase of this gruesome venture.
Ironically, the individuals and leaders who played a major role in ordering the lynching of Saddam Hussein are now saying quite emphatically that they were opposed to his execution. Prime Minister Tony Blair is reported to have stated that “the manner in which former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was executed was ‘completely wrong.’”
Meanwhile, the dictators and autocratic leaders of the Arab World have also jumped aboard in expressing their opposition to Saddam Hussein’s lynching.
Criticism expressed by the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia, the Hashemite family in Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt, amongst others, constitutes an empty form of posturing geared towards raising their popularity amongst their own citizens.
The Role of the Iraqi Puppet Government
In these various reports, there has been a deliberate and calculated attempt to place the responsibility for the execution of Saddam Hussein squarely on the shoulders of the so-called “Iraqi government,” without acknowledging that this government cannot act without the consent of the United States.
The Iraqi government, which is best described as a U.S.-controlled puppet regime, is invariably portrayed in press reports as a “Shiite Muslim government” or a “Shiite Muslim-dominated government”. This is also an integral part of the U.S. PSYOP designed to break down solidarity between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims against the Anglo-American invaders and occupiers.
The present Iraqi “government” is an appendix of the U.S. Occupation administration and gets it orders from Washington and London. It is neither Shiite Muslim in character nor is it a real government. With regards to its powerless composition, it is almost evenly divided between Iraqi Kurds, Shiite Arabs, and Sunni (Sunnite) Arabs.
To expose the manufactured portrayal of power in Iraq, one should look back at the composition of Iraqi government institutions during the era of Saddam Hussein. Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Shiite Arabs had a greater representation than Sunni Arabs within the civilian bureaucracy as well as within the security and military apparatus, largely because of the demographic realities of Iraq.
But this fact has long been forgotten. Nothing has changed in regards to the composition of the bureaucracy, administrative bodies, security forces, and military apparatus of Iraq. Prior to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, about 60% of the Iraqi military were Shiite Arabs. This 60% fought against neighbouring Iran which is a predominantly Shiite Muslim nation.
In reality, the real divisions in the Middle East are not based on on around religious, sectarian, and ethnic considerations, but on those nations and forces, which either oppose or support the Anglo-American agenda in the Middle East.
The media focus on sectarian divisions is intended to divert the attention of public opinion from the fact that the U.S. and its Coalition partners are the root cause of anarchy and violence, resulting in countless deaths and atrocities in Iraq.
Saddam Hussein’s Last Moments
In his last moments, the words of Saddam Hussein were very compelling. When he was told to “go to Hell” by his executioners, the Iraqi leader replied, “[You mean] to the hell that is Iraq!?”
Who turned Iraq into a living Hell? Who is to be blamed? These words were so powerful that several major media outlets conveniently omitted them from their translations, including the BBC and CNN. Any meaningful revelation or coverage of the correct final statements of Saddam Hussein could have severe and negative implications for the Anglo-American military roadmap in the Middle East. “To the hell that is Iraq!?” could become a powerful political slogan, serving to rally public opinion throughout the Muslim World against America’s imperial ambitions.
The Iraqi leader’s final words carry great weight because they describe the situation created in Iraq under military occupation. This final statement could also have political ramifications in the U.S. and Britain, as public opinion becomes increasingly aware that these last words, “the living Hell,” describes what Iraq has been turned into, under U.S. and British military occupation.
The late Saddam Hussein’s words could have strong implications for rallying resistance in the Arab world against the US-UK occupation of Iraq. In this regard, the Arab mainstream media has played a calculated role in furthering the Anglo-American military agenda by shifting the blame for Saddam Hussein’s execution onto the Shiite Iraqis.
_Outside the Arab World, if allowed to be heard freely and unadulterated, Saddam Hussein’s last words (“To the hell that is Iraq!?”), which describe the realities of an occupied country, could potentially backlash on the legitimacy of the US adminstration and its indefectible British ally.
The mainstream sources, which reported his statement conveyed the impression, through a highly distorted and convoluted analysis, that Saddam Hussein was blaming the Shiite Arabs and the “Shiite dominated Iraqi government” for destroying Iraq. But nothing could be further from the truth. The evidence amply confirms that since the early days of the occupation of Iraq the United States and Britain have not only created a situation of insecurity, but have also been involved in covert acts of violence, including random massacres and suicide attacks directed against civilians.
This deliberate media portrayal of an emerging “Shiite ascension” in Iraq and the Middle East is part of a multifaceted strategy geared towards creating tensions within the predominately Muslim populations of the Middle East. It is a typical “divide and conquer” strategy, which is supported by the long tentacles of the intelligence apparatus of the United States. The hidden agenda is to trigger “civil war” and the redraw the map of the Middle East. The ultimate objective is the domination of the Middle East by the United States, Britain and their coalition partners, including Israel and proxy Arab leaders. The active collaboration of the frontline Arab governments, which have military cooperation agreements with NATO and the U.S., are also tied into this agenda.
Divisions and animosity within their respective populations is what has allowed these pro-U.S. Arab authoritarian figureheads, which increasingly act as proxies, to remain in power.
Since the Anglo-American sponsored Israeli siege of Lebanon, the coalition building phase of the military roadmap has been launch. The United States has been constructing the “Coalition of the Moderate,” which includes Israel, Saudi Arabia, Mahmoud Abbas, the Lebanese government, Egypt, the U.A.E., Turkey, and Jordan. While this has been going on there is a continuous attempt to build public consensus in support of dividing Iraq and military strikes against Syria and Iran. The media in North America, Europe, and the Arab World have played an important role in demonizing the Syrians and the Iranians.
As the United States gears up for the next stage of the Middle East war, the drive to divide the populations of the region now encompasses a broad area extending from Lebanon and Palestine to the Persian Gulf.
The life of Saddam Hussein was used by the United States as firewood to further fuel discord and division in Iraq and the Middle East before the next phase of its military roadmap, which is directed against Iran and Syria.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is an independent writer based in Ottawa specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. He is a Research Associate of the Center for Research on Globalization (CRG).
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 Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, GlobalResearch.ca, 2007
January 31st, 2007 - by admin
Ian Traynor and Jonathan Steele / The London Guardian – 2007-01-31 22:57:11
BRUSSELS (January 31, 2007) — Senior European policy-makers are increasingly worried that the US administration will resort to air strikes against Iran to try to destroy its suspect nuclear programme.
As transatlantic friction over how to deal with the Iranian impasse intensifies, there are fears in European capitals that the nuclear crisis could come to a head this year because of US frustration with Russian stalling tactics at the UN security council. “The clock is ticking,” said one European official. “Military action has come back on to the table more seriously than before. The language in the US has changed.”
As the Americans continue their biggest naval build-up in the Gulf since the start of the Iraq war four years ago, a transatlantic rift is opening up on several important aspects of the Iran dispute.
The Bush administration will shortly publish a dossier of charges of alleged Iranian subversion in Iraq. “Iran has steadily ramped up its activity in Iraq in the last three to four months. This applies to the scope and pace of their operations. You could call these brazen activities,” a senior US official said in London yesterday.
Although the Iranians were primarily in Shia areas, they were not confined to them, the US source said, implying that they had formed links with Sunni insurgents and were helping them with booby-trap bombs aimed at Iraqi and US forces, new versions of the “improvised explosive devices”.
Senior members of the US Congress have raised concerns that the US will attack Iran in retaliation for its alleged activities in Iraq. The official said there were no plans for “cross-border operations” from Iraq to Iran. But he said: “We don’t want a progressively more confident and bolder Iran … The perception that Iran is ascendant in the region and that there are no limits to what Iran can do – that’s what is destabilising.”
The Americans and Europeans have sought to maintain a common front on the nuclear issue for the past 30 months, with the European troika of Britain, France and Germany running failed negotiations with the Iranians and the Americans tacitly supporting them.
But diplomats in Brussels and those dealing with the dispute in Vienna say a fissure has opened up between the US and western Europe on three crucial aspects — the military option; how and how quickly to hit Iran with economic sanctions already decreed by the UN security council; and how to deal with Russian opposition to action against Iran through the security council.
“There’s anxiety everywhere you turn,” said a diplomat familiar with the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. “The Europeans are very concerned the shit could hit the fan.”
A US navy battle group of seven vessels was steaming towards the Gulf yesterday from the Red Sea, part of a deployment of 50 US ships, including two aircraft carriers, expected in the area in weeks.
“No path is envisaged by the EU other than the UN path,” the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, told the Guardian yesterday. “The priority for all of us is that Iran complies with UN security council resolutions.”
The IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, called at the weekend for a “timeout” in the worsening confrontation in an attempt to enable both sides to save face and climb down. But the Americans rejected the proposal and European officials involved in the dispute also believe the Iranians cannot be trusted to stick to a deal.
Despite recurring tensions on the Middle East between the US and France, the French are the most hawkish of the Europeans on Iran and are said to back a US drive to tighten the noose on Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The populist and recalcitrant leader is perceived to have been weakened recently, in part because of a mishandling of the nuclear row. “One group of western countries thinks it’s a good time to step up the pressure on Ahmadinejad. All options are on the table. Others are worried we might be stumbling into a war,” said another diplomat familiar with the dispute.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007
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January 31st, 2007 - by admin
Simon Tisdall / The Guardian & Gabriel Ronay / The Sunday Herald – 2007-01-31 22:52:15
Bush ‘Spoiling for a Fight’ with Iran
Simon Tisdall / The Guardian
WASHINGTON (January 30, 2007) — US officials in Baghdad and Washington are expected to unveil a secret intelligence “dossier” this week detailing evidence of Iran’s alleged complicity in attacks on American troops in Iraq. The move, uncomfortably echoing Downing Street’s dossier debacle in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, is one more sign that the Bush administration is building a case for war.
Nicholas Burns, the senior US diplomat in charge of Iran policy, says Washington “is not looking for a fight” with Tehran. The official line is that Washington has made a conscious decision to “push back” against Iran on a range of fronts where the two countries’ interests clash. Primarily that means Tehran’s perceived meddling in Iraq, where its influence with the Shia-led government and Shia majority population appears to be increasing as Washington’s weakens.
State department spokesman Sean McCormack claimed this week the administration has a body of evidence implicating Iran in sectarian attacks against Iraq’s Sunni minority. “There is a high degree of confidence in the information that we already have and we are constantly accumulating more,” he told the New York Times.
CIA and Pentagon officials are also touting intelligence that “Iranians are smuggling into Iraq sophisticated explosive devices, mortars, and detailed plans to wipe out Sunni Arab neighbourhoods,” the paper said. Officials would make a “comprehensive case” this week. But President George Bush has already acted on information received. He confirmed yesterday that he has ordered US forces in effect to kill or capture Iranian “agents” targeting Americans in Iraq — as happened earlier this month when five Iranian officials were detained in Irbil.
Hassan Kazemi Qumi, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, ridiculed “sectarian maps” and evidence the US military said it had obtained during a raid on a Shia compound in Baghdad. He repeated Tehran’s contention that Iranians were in Iraq to help with “security problems”. Barham Saleh, Iraq’s deputy prime minister, complains that the US and Iran are turning his country into a “zone of conflict and competition” and suggests they take their fight elsewhere.
But as was also the case in the days before Saddam Hussein fell, powerful external forces, ranging from exiled Iranian opposition groups to leading Israeli politicians, appear intent on stoking the fire — and winding up the White House.
“The al-Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards is stepping up terrorism and encouraging sectarian violence in Iraq,” Alireza Jafarzadeh, a US-based Iranian dissident who has been linked to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK) resistance group, told the Washington Times this month. Mr Jafarzadeh is credited with revealing the existence of Iran’s secret nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002.
“There is a sharp surge in Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and sectarian violence in the past few months,” Mr Jafarzadeh told a conference organised by the Iran Policy Committee, a Washington lobby group pressing the state department to remove the MeK from its terrorist list.
Israel is also pushing the intelligence case while upping the ante, claiming to have knowledge that Tehran is within a year or two of acquiring basic nuclear weapons-making capability. In a BBC interview last week former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu compared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime to Hitler’s Nazis. Speaking in Davos the deputy prime minister, Shimon Peres, demanded immediate regime change or failing that, military intervention.
The US “push back” against Iran comprises many other elements beyond Iraq. Unconfirmed reports suggest Vice-President Dick Cheney has cut a deal with Saudi Arabia to keep oil production up even as prices fall, to undercut Iran’s main source of foreign currency. Washington is pursuing expanding, non-UN global financial sanctions against Tehran; encouraging and arming a “new alignment” of Sunni Arab Gulf states; and highlighting Iran’s role in “supporting terrorism” in Palestine, where it helps bankroll the Hamas government, and Lebanon, where it backs Hizbullah. The US is also deploying powerful naval forces in the Gulf that are of little help in Iraq but could more easily be used to mount air strikes on Iran.
Almost any one of these developments might produce a casus belli. And when taken together, despite official protestations, they seem to point in only one direction. The Bush administration, an American commentator suggested, is “once again spoiling for a fight”.
America ‘Poised to Strike at Iran’s Nuclear Sites’ from Bases in Bulgaria and Romania:
Report suggest that ‘US defensive ring’ may be new front in war on terror.
Gabriel Ronay / The Sunday Herald (Scotland)
(January 28, 2007) — President Bush is preparing to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities before the end of April and the US Air Force’s new bases in Bulgaria and Romania would be used as back-up in the onslaught, according to an official report from Sofia.
“American forces could be using their two USAF bases in Bulgaria and one at Romania’s Black Sea coast to launch an attack on Iran in April,” the Bulgarian news agency Novinite said.
The American build-up along the Black Sea, coupled with the recent positioning of two US aircraft carrier battle groups off the Straits of Hormuz, appears to indicate president Bush has run out of patience with Tehran’s nuclear misrepresentation and non-compliance with the UN Security Council’s resolution. President Ahmeninejad of Iran has further ratcheted up tension in the region by putting on show his newly purchased state of the art Russian TOR-Ml anti-missile defence system.
Whether the Bulgarian news report is a tactical feint or a strategic event is hard to gauge at this stage. But, in conjunction with the beefing up of America’s Italian bases and the acquisition of anti-missile defence bases in the Czech Republic and Poland, the Balkan developments seem to indicate a new phase in Bush’s global war on terror.
Sofia’s news of advanced war preparations along the Black Sea is backed up by some chilling details. One is the setting up of new refuelling places for US Stealth bombers, which would spearhead an attack on Iran. “The USAF’s positioning of vital refuelling facilities for its B-2 bombers in unusual places, including Bulgaria, falls within the perspective of such an attack.” Novinite named colonel Sam Gardiner, “a US secret service officer stationed in Bulgaria”, as the source of this revelation.
Curiously, the report noted that although Tony Blair, Bush’s main ally in the global war on terror, would be leaving office, the president had opted to press on with his attack on Iran in April.
Before the end of March, 3000 US military personnel are scheduled to arrive “on a rotating basis” at America’s Bulgarian bases. Under the US-Bulgarian military co-operation accord, signed in April, 2006, an airbase at Bezmer, a second airfield at Graf Ignitievo and a shooting range at Novo Selo were leased to America. Significantly, last year’s bases negotiations had at one point run into difficulties due to Sofia’s demand “for advance warning if Washington intends to use Bulgarian soil for attacks against other nations, particularly Iran”.
Romania, the other Black Sea host to the US military, is enjoying a dollar bonanza as its Mihail Kogalniceanu base at Constanta is being transformed into an American “place d’arme”. It is also vital to the Iran scenario.
Last week, the Bucharest daily Evenimentual Zilei revealed the USAF is to site several flights of F-l5, F-l6 and Al0 aircraft at the Kogalniceanu base. Admiral Gheorghe Marin, Romania’s chief of staff, confirmed “up to 2000 American military personnel will be temporarily stationed in Romania”.
In Central Europe, the Czech Republic and Poland have also found themselves in the Pentagon’s strategic focus. Last week, Mirek Topolanek, the Czech prime minister, and the country’s national security council agreed to the siting of a US anti-missile radar defence system at Nepolisy. Poland has also agreed to having a US anti-missile missile base and interceptor aircraft stationed in the country.
Russia, however, does not see the chain of new US bases on its doorstep as a “defensive ring”. Russia’s defence chief has branded the planned US anti-missile missile sites on Czech and Polish soil as “an open threat to Russia”.
Sergey Ivanov, Russia’s defence minister, spoke more circumspectly while emphasising Moscow’s concern. He said: “Russia is not worried. Its strategic nuclear forces can assure in any circumstance its safety. Since neither Tehran, nor Pyongyang possess intercontinental missiles capable of threatening the USA, from whom is this new missile shield supposed to protect the West? All it actually amounts to is that Prague and Warsaw want to demonstrate their loyalty to Washington.”
Bush’s Iran attack plan has brought into sharp focus the possible costs to Central and Eastern Europe of being “pillars of Pax Americana”.
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January 31st, 2007 - by admin
Molly Ivins / The Star-Telegram – 2007-01-31 22:40:17
It’s Up to You and Me, Bubba: Stop This War, Now!
Molly Ivins / Star-Telegram
(January 3, 2007) — The president of the United States does not have the sense God gave a duck—so it’s up to us. You and me, Bubba.
I don’t know why Bush is just standing there like a frozen rabbit, but it’s time we found out. The fact is we have to do something about it. This country is being torn apart by an evil and unnecessary war, and it has to be stopped now.
This war is being prosecuted in our names, with our money, with our blood, against our will. Polls consistently show that less than 30 percent of the people want to maintain current troop levels. It is obscene and wrong for the president to go against the people in this fashion. And it’s doubly wrong for him to send 20,0000 more soldiers into this hellhole, as he reportedly will announce next week.
What happened to the nation that never tortured? The nation that wasn’t supposed to start wars of choice? The nation that respected human rights and life? A nation that from the beginning was against tyranny? Where have we gone? How did we let these people take us there? How did we let them fool us?
It’s a monstrous idea to put people in prison and keep them there. Since 1215, civil authorities have been obligated to tell people with what they are charged if they’re arrested. This administration has done away with rights first enshrined in the Magna Carta nearly 800 years ago, and we’ve let them do it.
This will be a regular feature of mine, like an old-fashioned newspaper campaign. Every column, I’ll write about this war until we find some way to end it. STOP IT NOW. BAM! Every day, we will review some factor we should have gotten right.
So let’s take a step back and note, for example, that before the war one of the architects of the entire policy, Paul Wolfowitz, testified to Congress that Iraq had no history of ethnic strife.
Sectarian and ethnic strife is a part of the region. And the region is full of examples of Western colonial powers trying to occupy countries, take their resources and take over the administration of their people—and failing.
The sectarian bloodbath we see daily completely refutes Wolfowitz. And now Bush has given him the World Bank to run. Wonder what he’ll do there.
And let’s keep in mind that when the Army arrived in Baghdad, we, the television viewers, watched footage of a bunch of enraged and joyous Iraqis pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein, their repulsive dictator, in Firdos Square. Only one thing was wrong. The event was staged. Taking down the statue was instigated by a Marine colonel, and a PSYOP (psychological operations) unit made it appear to be a spontaneous show of Iraqi joy.
When we later saw the whole square, only 30 to 40 people were there—U.S. military people, press and some Iraqis. And a U.S. tank pulled the statue down with a cable. We, the television viewers, saw the square being presented as though the people of Iraq had gone into a frenzy and spontaneously pulled down the statue. Fake images and claims have been a part of this fiasco from the beginning.
We need to cut through all the smoke and mirrors and come up with an exit strategy, forthwith. The Democrats have yet to offer a cohesive plan to get us out of this mess. Of course, it’s not their fault—but the fact is we need leaders who are grown-ups and who are willing to try to fix it. Bush has ignored the actual grown-ups from the Iraq Study Group and the generals and all the other experts, who are nearly unanimous that more troops will not help.
So, as I said, it’s up to you and me, Bubba. We need to make sure that the new Congress curbs executive power, which has been so misused, and asserts its own power to make this situation change. Now.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and see works by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate
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Columnist Molly Ivins Dies
John Moritz / Star-Telegram
AUSTIN (January 31, 2007) — Molly Ivins, whose biting columns mixed liberal populism with an irreverent Texas wit, died at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at her home in Austin after an up- and-down battle with breast cancer she had waged for seven years. She was 62.
Ms. Ivins, the Star-Telegram’s political columnist for nine years ending in 2001, had written for the New York Times, the Dallas Times-Herald and Time magazine and had long been a sought-after pundit on the television talk-show circuit to provide a Texas slant on issues ranging from President Bush’s pedigree to the culture wars rooted in the 1960s.
“She was magical in her writing,” said Mike Blackman, a former Star-Telegram executive editor who hired Ms. Ivins at the newspaper’s Austin bureau in 1992, a few months after the Times-Herald ceased publication. “She could turn a phrase in such a way that a pretty hard- hitting point didn’t hurt so bad.”
A California native who moved to Houston as a young child with her family, Ms. Ivins was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. Two years later after enduring a radical mastectomy and rounds of chemotherapy, Ms. Ivins was given a 70 percent chance of remaining cancer-free for five years. At the time, she said she liked the odds.
But the cancer recurred in 2003, and again last year. In recent weeks, she had suspended her twice-weekly syndicated column, allowing guest writers to use the space while she underwent further treatment. She made a brief return to writing in mid-January, urging readers to resist President Bush’s plan to increase the number of US troops deployed to Iraq. She likened her call to an old-fashioned “newspaper crusade.”
“We are the people who run this country,” Ms Ivins said in the column published in the Jan. 14 edition of the Star-Telegram. “We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war.
“Raise hell,” she continued. “Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and are trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge.”
She ended the piece by endorsing the peace march in Washington scheduled for Saturday. 01-27 “We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!’ ” she wrote.
The Spice of Texas
Born Mary Tyler Ivins on Aug. 30, 1944, in Monterey, Calif., Ms. Ivins was raised in the upscale River Oaks section of Houston. She earned her journalism degree at elite Smith College in Massachusetts in 1965. From there she ventured to Minnesota, taking a job as a police reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune.
Growing weary of the winters in the Upper Great Lakes and missing the spice of Texas food and its politics, Ms. Ivins moved to Austin to become co-editor of the Texas Observer, long considered the state’s liberal conscience.
Nadine Eckhardt, the former wife of the late Texas novelist Billy Lee Bramer and who later married former US Rep. Bob Eckhardt of Houston, said Ivins soon made herself a fixture in the Austin political and cocktail party scene in the early 1970s.
“That’s where she became the Molly Ivins as we’ve come to know her,” said Eckhardt, an Ivins friend for nearly four decades. “The Observer had such wonderful writers doing such wonderful stories at the time, and Molly was always right in the middle of everything.”
Her writing flair caught the attention of the New York Times, which hired her to cover city hall, then later moved her to the statehouse bureau in Albany. Later, she was assigned to the Times’ Rocky Mountain bureau in Denver.
Even though she wrote the Times’ obituary for Elvis Presley in 1977, Ms. Ivins said later that she and the sometimes stodgy Times proved to be a mismatch. In a 2002 interview with the Star-Telegram, Ms. Ivins recalled that she would write about something that “squawked like a $2 fiddle” only to have a Times editor rewrite it to say “as an inexpensive instrument.” Ms Ivins said she would mention a “beer belly” and The Times would substitute “a protuberant abdomen.”
So Ms. Ivins returned to Austin in 1982 to become a columnist for the Dallas Times-Herald and reconnecting with such political figures as Ann Richards, who would later become governor, and Bob Bullock, then the hard- drinking state comptroller who later wielded great power as lieutenant governor.
The column provided Ms. Ivins the freedom to express her views with the colorful language that would become her trademark. She called such figures as Ross Perot, former US Sen. John Tower and ex-Gov. Bill Clements “runts with attitudes.” As a candidate for governor, George W. Bush became “Shrub,” a nicknamed she never tired of using.
Surprised became “womperjawed.” A visibly angry person would “throw a wall-eyed fit.”
Ms. Ivins, who was single and had no children, told readers about her first bout with cancer in a matter-of-fact afterword in an otherwise ordinary column.
“I have contracted an outstanding case of breast cancer, from which I fully intend to recover,” she wrote on Dec. 14, 1999. “I don’t need get-well cards, but I would like the beloved women readers to do something for me: Go. Get. The. Damn. Mammogram. Done.”
Ms. Ivins authored three books and co-authored a fourth. She was a three-time finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and had served on Amnesty International’s Journalism Network, but the iconoclastic writer often said that her two highest honors were being banned from the conservative campus of Texas A&M University and having the Minneapolis police name their mascot pig after her when she covered the department as a reporter during one of her first jobs in the newspaper business.
© 2007 Star-Telegram.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. email@example.com. http://www.mercurynews.com
January 31st, 2007 - by admin
Robert Parry / Consortium News – 2007-01-31 00:09:42
WASHINGTON (December 12, 2006) — Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s death on Dec. 10 means the Bush Family can breathe a little bit easier, knowing that criminal proceedings against Chile’s notorious dictator can no longer implicate his longtime friend and protector, former President George H.W. Bush.
Although Chilean investigations against other defendants may continue, the cases against Pinochet end with his death of a heart attack at the age of 91. Pinochet’s death from natural causes also marks a victory for world leaders, including George H.W. and George W. Bush, who shielded Pinochet from justice over the past three decades.
The Bush Family’s role in the Pinochet cover-up began in 1976 when then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush diverted investigators away from Pinochet’s guilt in a car bombing in Washington that killed political rival Orlando Letelier and an American, Ronni Moffitt.
The cover-up stretched into the presidency of George W. Bush when he sidetracked an FBI recommendation to indict Pinochet in the Letelier-Moffitt murders.
Over those intervening 30 years, Pinochet allegedly engaged in a variety of illicit operations, including terrorism, torture, murder, drug trafficking, money-laundering and illicit arms shipments – sometimes with the official collusion of the U.S. government.
In the 1980s, when George H.W. Bush was Vice President, Pinochet’s regime helped funnel weapons to the Nicaraguan contra rebels and to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, an operation that also implicated then-CIA official Robert M. Gates, who will be the next U.S. Secretary of Defense.
When Pinochet faced perhaps his greatest risk of prosecution — in 1998 when he was detained in London pending extradition to Spain on charges of murdering Spanish citizens — former President George H.W. Bush protested Pinochet’s arrest, calling it “a travesty of justice” and joining in a successful appeal to the British courts to let Pinochet go home to Chile.
Once Pinochet was returned to Chile, the wily ex-dictator employed a legal strategy of political obstruction and assertions of ill health to avert prosecution. Until his death, he retained influential friends in the Chilean power structure and in key foreign capitals, especially Washington.
Pinochet’s years in the service of U.S. foreign policy date back to the early 1970s when Richard Nixon’s administration wanted to destroy Chile’s democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende.
The CIA launched a covert operation to “destabilize” Allende’s government, with the CIA-sponsored chaos ending in a bloody coup on Sept. 11, 1973. Gen. Pinochet seized power and Allende was shot to death when Pinochet’s forces stormed the Presidential Palace. [i.e. DID NOT commit suicide, as alleged by right-wing press]
Thousands of political dissidents – including Americans and other foreigners – were rounded up and executed. Many also were tortured.
With Pinochet in control, the CIA turned its attention to helping him overcome the negative publicity that his violent coup had engendered around the world. One “secret” CIA memo, written in early 1974, described the success of “the Santiago Station’s propaganda project.” The memo said:
“Prior to the coup the project’s media outlets maintained a steady barrage of anti-government criticism, exploiting every possible point of friction between the government and the democratic opposition, and emphasizing the problems and conflicts that were developing between the government and the armed forces. Since the coup, these media outlets have supported the new military government. They have tried to present the Junta in the most positive light.” [See Peter Kornbluh’s The Pinochet File]
Despite the CIA’s P.R. blitz, however, Pinochet and his military subordinates insisted on dressing up and acting like a casting agent’s idea of Fascist bullies. The dour Pinochet was known for his fondness for wearing a military cloak that made him resemble a well-dressed Nazi SS officer.
Pinochet and the other right-wing military dictators who dominated South America in the mid-1970s also had their own priorities, one of which was the elimination of political opponents who were living in exile in other countries.
Though many of these dissidents weren’t associated with violent revolutionary movements, the anticommunist doctrine then in vogue among the region’s right-wing military made few distinctions between armed militants and political activists.
By 1974, Chilean intelligence was collaborating with freelancing anti-Castro Cuban extremists and other South American security forces to eliminate any and all threats to right-wing military power.
The first prominent victim of these cross-border assassinations was former Chilean Gen. Carlos Prats, who was living in Argentina and was viewed as a potential rival to Pinochet because Prats had opposed Pinochet’s coup that shattered Chile’s long history as a constitutional democracy.
Learning that Prats was writing his memoirs, Pinochet’s secret police chief Manuel Contreras dispatched Michael Townley, an assassin trained in explosives, to Argentina. Townley planted a bomb under Prats’s car, detonating it on Sept. 30, killing Prats at the door and incinerating Prats’s wife who was trapped inside the car.
On Oct. 6, 1975, a gunman approached Chilean Christian Democratic leader Bernardo Leighton who was walking with his wife on a street in Rome. The gunman shot both Leighton and his wife, severely wounding both of them.
In November 1975, the loose-knit collaboration among the Southern Cone dictatorships took on a more formal structure during a covert intelligence meeting in Santiago. Delegates from the security forces of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia committed themselves to a regional strategy against “subversives.”
In recognition of Chile’s leadership, the conference named the project after Chile’s national bird, the giant vulture that traverses the Andes Mountains. The project was called “Operation Condor.”
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency confidentially informed Washington that the operation had three phases and that the “third and reportedly very secret phase of ‘Operation Condor’ involves the formation of special teams from member countries who are to carry out operations to include assassinations.”
The Condor accord formally took effect on Jan. 30, 1976, the same day George H.W. Bush was sworn in as CIA director.
In Bush’s first few months, right-wing violence across the Southern Cone of South America surged. On March 24, 1976, the Argentine military staged a coup, ousting the ineffectual President Isabel Peron and escalating a brutal internal security campaign against both violent and non-violent opponents on the Left.
The Argentine security forces became especially well-known for grisly methods of torture and the practice of “disappearing” political dissidents who would be snatched from the streets or from their homes, undergo torture and never be seen again.
Like Pinochet, the new Argentine dictators saw themselves on a mission to save Western Civilization from the clutches of leftist thought.
They took pride in the “scientific” nature of their repression. They were clinical practitioners of anticommunism — refining torture techniques, erasing the sanctuary of international borders and collaborating with right-wing terrorists and organized-crime elements to destroy leftist movements.
Later Argentine government investigations discovered that its military intelligence officers advanced Nazi-like methods of torture by testing the limits of how much pain a human being could endure before dying. Torture methods included experiments with electric shocks, drowning, asphyxiation and sexual perversions, such as forcing mice into a woman’s vagina.
The totalitarian nature of the anticommunism gripping much of South America revealed itself in one particularly bizarre Argentine practice, which was used when pregnant women were captured as suspected subversives.
The women were kept alive long enough to bring the babies to full term. The women then were subjected to forced labor or Caesarian section. The newborns were given to military families to be raised in the ideology of anticommunism while the new mothers were executed.
Many were taken to an airport near Buenos Aires, stripped naked, shackled to other prisoners and put on a plane. As the plane flew over the Rio Plata or out over the Atlantic Ocean, the prisoners were shoved through a cargo door, sausage-like, into the water to drown. All told, the Argentine war against subversion would claim an estimated 30,000 lives.
The 1976 Argentine coup d’etat allowed the pace of cross-border executions under Operation Condor to quicken.
On May 21, gunmen killed two Uruguayan congressmen on a street in Buenos Aires. On June 4, former Bolivian President Juan Jose Torres was slain also in Buenos Aires. On June 11, armed men kidnapped and tortured 23 Chilean refugees and one Uruguayan who were under United Nations protection.
Despite protests from human rights groups, Pinochet and his fellow dictators felt immune from pressure because of their powerful friends in Washington. Pinochet’s sense of impunity led him to contemplate silencing one of his most eloquent critics, Chile’s former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier, who lived in the U.S. capital.
Earlier in their government careers, when Letelier was briefly defense minister in Allende’s government, Pinochet had been his subordinate. After the coup, Pinochet imprisoned Letelier at a desolate concentration camp on Dawson Island, but international pressure won Letelier release a year later.
Now, Pinochet was chafing under Letelier’s rough criticism of the regime’s human rights record. Letelier was doubly infuriating to Pinochet because Letelier was regarded as a man of intellect and charm, even impressing CIA officers who observed him as “a personable, socially pleasant man” and “a reasonable, mature democrat,” according to biographical sketches.
By summer 1976, George H.W. Bush’s CIA was hearing a lot about Operation Condor from South American sources who had attended a second organizational conference of Southern Cone intelligence services.
These CIA sources reported that the military regimes were preparing “to engage in ‘executive action’ outside the territory of member countries.” In intelligence circles, “executive action” is a euphemism for assassination.
Meanwhile, Pinochet and intelligence chief Manuel Contreras were putting in motion their most audacious assassination plan yet: to eliminate Orlando Letelier in his safe haven in Washington, D.C.
In July 1976, two operatives from Chile’s intelligence service DINA – Michael Townley and Armando Fernandez Larios – went to Paraguay where DINA had arranged for them to get false passports and visas for a trip to the United States.
Townley and Larios were using the false names Juan Williams and Alejandro Romeral and a cover story claiming they were investigating suspected leftists working for Chile’s state copper company in New York. Townley and Larios said their project had been cleared with the CIA’s Station Chief in Santiago.
A senior Paraguayan official, Conrado Pappalardo, urged U.S. Ambassador George Landau to cooperate, citing a direct appeal from Pinochet in support of the mission. Supposedly, the Paraguayan government claimed, the two Chileans were to meet with CIA Deputy Director Vernon Walters.
An alarmed Landau recognized that the visa request was highly unusual, since such operations are normally coordinated with the CIA station in the host country and are cleared with CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Though granting the visas, Landau took the precaution of sending an urgent cable to Walters and photostatic copies of the fake passports to the CIA. Landau said he received an urgent cable back signed by CIA Director Bush, reporting that Walters, who was in the process of retiring, was out of town.
When Walters returned a few days later, he cabled Landau that he had “nothing to do with this” mission. Landau immediately canceled the visas.
It remains unclear what — if anything — Bush’s CIA did after learning about the “Paraguayan caper.” Normal protocol would have required senior CIA officials to ask their Chilean counterparts about the supposed trip to Langley.
However, even with the declassification of more records in recent years, that question has never been fully answered.
The CIA also demonstrated little curiosity over the Aug. 22, 1976, arrival of two other Chilean operatives using the names, Juan Williams and Alejandro Romeral, the phony names that were intended to hide the identity of the two operatives in the aborted assassination plot.
When these two different operatives arrived in Washington, they made a point of having the Chilean Embassy notify Walters’s office at CIA.
“It is quite beyond belief that the CIA is so lax in its counterespionage functions that it would simply have ignored a clandestine operation by a foreign intelligence service in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere in the United States,” wrote John Dinges and Saul Landau in their 1980 book, Assassination on Embassy Row. “It is equally implausible that Bush, Walters, Landau and other officials were unaware of the chain of international assassinations that had been attributed to DINA.”
Apparently, DINA had dispatched the second pair of operatives, using the phony names, to show that the initial contacts for visas in Paraguay were not threatening. In other words, the Chilean government had the replacement team of Williams and Romeral go through the motions of a trip to Washington with the intent to visit Walters to dispel any American suspicions or to spread confusion among suspicious U.S. officials.
But it’s still unclear whether Bush’s CIA contacted Pinochet’s government about its mysterious behavior and, if not, why not.
As for the Letelier plot, DINA was soon plotting another way to carry out the killing. In late August, DINA dispatched a preliminary team of one man and one woman to do surveillance on Letelier as he moved around Washington.
Then, Townley was sent under a different alias to carry out the murder. After arriving in New York on Sept. 9, 1976, Townley connected with Cuban National Movement leader Guillermo Novo in Union City, New Jersey, and then headed to Washington. Townley assembled a remote-controlled bomb that used pieces bought at Radio Shack and Sears.
On Sept. 18, joined by Cuban extremists Virgilio Paz and Dionisio Suarez, Townley went to Letelier home in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington. The assassination team attached the bomb underneath Letelier’s Chevrolet Chevelle.
Three days later, on the morning of Sept. 21, Paz and Suarez followed Letelier as he drove to work with two associates, Ronni Moffitt and her husband Michael. As the Chevelle proceeded down Massachusetts Avenue, through an area known as Embassy Row, the assassins detonated the bomb.
The blast ripped off Letelier’s legs and punctured a hole in Ronni Moffitt’s jugular vein. She drowned in her own blood at the scene; Letelier died after being taken to George Washington University Hospital. Michael Moffitt survived.
At the time, the attack represented the worst act of international terrorism on U.S. soil. Adding to the potential for scandal, the terrorism had been carried out by a regime that was an ostensible ally of the United States, one that had gained power with the help of the Nixon administration and the CIA.
Threat to Bush
Bush’s reputation was also at risk. As authors Dinges and Landau noted in Assassination on Embassy Row, “the CIA reaction was peculiar” after the cable from Ambassador Landau arrived disclosing a covert Chilean intelligence operation and asking Deputy Director Walters if he had a meeting scheduled with the DINA agents.
“Landau expected Walters to take quick action in the event that the Chilean mission did not have CIA clearance. Yet a week passed during which the assassination team could well have had time to carry out their original plan to go directly from Paraguay to Washington to kill Letelier. Walters and Bush conferred during that week about the matter.”
“One thing is clear,” Dinges and Landau wrote, “DINA chief Manuel Contreras would have called off the assassination mission if the CIA or State Department had expressed their displeasure to the Chilean government. An intelligence officer familiar with the case said that any warning would have been sufficient to cause the assassination to be scuttled. Whatever Walters and Bush did – if anything – the DINA mission proceeded.”
Within hours of the bombing, Letelier’s associates accused the Pinochet regime, citing its hatred of Letelier and its record for brutality. The Chilean government, however, heatedly denied any responsibility.
That night, at a dinner at the Jordanian Embassy, Senator James Abourezk, a South Dakota Democrat, spotted Bush and approached the CIA director. Abourezk said he was a friend of Letelier’s and beseeched Bush to get the CIA “to find the bastards who killed him.” Abourezk said Bush responded: “I’ll see what I can do. We are not without assets in Chile.”
A problem, however, was that one of the CIA’s best-placed assets – DINA chief Contreras – was part of the assassination. Wiley Gilstrap, the CIA’s Santiago Station Chief, did approach Contreras with questions about the Letelier bombing and wired back to Langley Contreras’s assurance that the Chilean government wasn’t involved.
Following the strategy of public misdirection already used in hundreds of “disappearances,” Contreras pointed the finger at the Chilean Left. Contreras suggested that leftists had killed Letelier to turn him into a martyr.
CIA headquarters, of course, had plenty of evidence that Contreras was lying. The Pinochet government had flashed its intention to mount a suspicious operation inside the United States by involving the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay and the deputy director of the CIA. Bush’s CIA even had in its files a photograph of the leader of the terrorist squad, Michael Townley.
Yet, rather than fulfilling his promise to Abourezk to “see what I can do,” Bush ignored leads that would have taken him into a confrontation with Pinochet. The CIA either didn’t put the pieces together or avoided the obvious conclusions the evidence presented.
Indeed, the CIA didn’t seem to want any information that might implicate the Pinochet regime. On Oct. 6, a CIA informant in Chile went to the CIA Station in Santiago and relayed an account of Pinochet denouncing Letelier.
The informant said the dictator had called Letelier’s criticism of the government “unacceptable.” The source “believes that the Chilean Government is directly involved in Letelier’s death and feels that investigation into the incident will so indicate,” the CIA field report said. [See Kornbluh, The Pinochet File.]
But Bush’s CIA chose to accept Contreras’s denials and even began leaking information that pointed away from the real killers.
Newsweek‘s Periscope reported in the magazine’s Oct. 11, 1976, issue that “the Chilean secret police were not involved…. The [Central Intelligence] agency reached its decision because the bomb was too crude to be the work of experts and because the murder, coming while Chile’s rulers were wooing U.S. support, could only damage the Santiago regime.” [A reverse situation, however, such as the death of a former KGB spy suggests no reservation on pinning the blame on Russian president Putin.]
Similar stories ran in other newspapers, including the New York Times.
Despite the lack of help from Washington, the FBI’s legal attaché in Buenos Aires, Robert Scherrer, began putting the puzzle together only a week after the Letelier bombing.
Relying on a source in the Argentine military, Scherrer reported to his superiors that the assassination was likely the work of Operation Condor, the assassination project organized by the Chilean government.
Another break in the case came two weeks after the Letelier assassination on Oct. 6, 1976, when anti-Castro terrorists planted a bomb on a Cubana Airlines DC-8 before it took off from Barbados. Nine minutes after takeoff, the bomb exploded, plunging the plane into the Caribbean and killing all 73 people on board including the Cuban national fencing team.
Two Cuban exiles, Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo, who had left the plane in Barbados, confessed that they had planted the bomb. They named two prominent anti-Castro extremists, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada, as the architects of the attack.
A search of Posada’s apartment in Venezuela turned up Cubana Airlines timetables and other incriminating documents. Although Posada was a CIA-trained Bay of Pigs veteran and stayed in close touch with some former CIA colleagues, senior CIA officials again pleaded ignorance.
For the second time in barely two weeks, Bush’s CIA had done nothing to interfere with terrorist attacks involving anticommunist operatives with close ties to the CIA. [For more on Posada, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush’s Hypocrisy: Cuban Terrorists.”]
But the Cubana Airlines bombing put federal investigators on the right track toward solving the Letelier assassination. They began to learn more about the network of right-wing terrorists associated with Operation Condor and its international Murder Inc. However, CIA Director Bush continued to assert the innocence of Pinochet’s regime.
On Nov. 1, 1976, the Washington Post cited CIA officials in reporting that “operatives of the present Chilean military Junta did not take part in Letelier’s killing.” The Post added that “CIA Director Bush expressed this view in a conversation late last week with Secretary of State Kissinger.”
Regarding the Letelier murder, George H.W. Bush was never pressed to provide a full explanation of his actions.
When I submitted questions to Bush in 1988 – while he was Vice President and I was a Newsweek correspondent preparing a story on his year as CIA director — Bush’s chief of staff Craig Fuller responded, saying “the Vice President generally does not comment on issues related to the time he was at the Central Intelligence Agency and he will have no comment on the specific issues raised in your letter.”
My editors at Newsweek subsequently decided not to publish any story about Bush’s year at the CIA though he was then running for President and citing his CIA experience as an important element of his resumé.
The Carter Interregnum
After Jimmy Carter became President in 1977, federal investigators cracked the Letelier case, successfully bringing charges against Townley and several other conspirators.
Prosecutor Eugene Propper told me that Bush’s CIA did provide some information about the background of suspects, but didn’t volunteer the crucial information about the Paraguayan gambit or supply the photo of the chief assassin, Townley. “Nothing the agency gave us helped us break this case,” Propper said.
Though US prosecutors grasped the criminal nature of the Pinochet government, the wheels of justice turned slowly. Before the prosecutors could climb the chain of command in Chile, the Republicans had returned to power in 1981, with George H.W. Bush serving as Vice President and acting as a top foreign policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan.
Despite the mounting evidence of Pinochet’s guilt in a terrorist act on US soil, the dictator emerged from his pariah status of the Carter years to regain his position as a favored ally under Bush and Reagan.
When help was needed on sensitive projects, the Reagan administration often turned to Pinochet. For instance, in 1982, after Reagan decided to tilt Iraq’s way during the Iran-Iraq War, one of Pinochet’s favored arms dealers, Carlos Cardoen, manufactured and shipped controversial weapons to Saddam Hussein’s army.
Regarding these Iraqi arms shipments, former National Security Council aide Howard Teicher swore out an affidavit in 1995 detailing Reagan’s decision and describing the secret roles of CIA Director William Casey and his deputy, Robert Gates, in shepherding the military equipment to Iraq.
Teicher said the secret arming of Iraq was approved by Reagan in June 1982 as part of a National Security Decision Directive. Under it, Casey and Gates “authorized, approved and assisted” delivery of cluster bombs and other materiel to Iraq, Teicher said.
Teicher’s affidavit corroborated earlier public statements by former Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe and Iranian-born businessman Richard Babayan, who claimed first-hand knowledge of Gates’s central role in the secret Iraq operations.
In his 1992 book Profits of War, Ben-Menashe wrote that Israeli Mossad director Nachum Admoni approached Gates in 1985 seeking help in shutting down unconventional weapons, especially chemicals, moving through the Chilean arms pipeline to Iraq.
Ben-Menashe wrote that Gates attended a meeting in Chile in 1986 with Cardoen present at which Gates tried to calm down the Israelis by assuring them that U.S. policy was simply to ensure a channel of conventional weapons for Iraq.
Though Gates denied Ben-Menashe’s and Babayan’s allegations in 1991 – when Gates underwent confirmation hearings to be CIA director – he has never been asked to publicly respond to Teicher’s affidavit which was filed in a Miami court case in 1995.
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were aware of the discrepancies between the Teicher and Gates accounts when Gates appeared at a Dec. 5, 2006, confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Defense, but no one asked Gates to respond to Teicher’s sworn statement.
A source at the United Nations also has told me that some of the documents captured in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 shed light on the Cardoen arms pipeline, but those records have never been made public.
Other potential avenues for understanding Pinochet’s covert role in supporting anticommunist strategies in the Reagan-Bush era opened recently, as former DINA chief Contreras turned on his old boss.
In a court document filed in early July 2006, Contreras implicated Pinochet and one of his sons in a scheme to manufacture and smuggle cocaine to Europe and the United States, explaining one source of Pinochet’s $28 million fortune.
Contreras alleged that the cocaine was processed with Pinochet’s approval at an Army chemical plant south of Santiago during the 1980s and that Pinochet’s son Marco Antonio arranged the shipments of the processed cocaine. [NYT, July 11, 2006]
At the time of this alleged cocaine smuggling, Pinochet was a close ally of the Reagan administration, providing help on a variety of sensitive intelligence projects, including shipping military equipment to Nicaraguan contra rebels who also were implicated in the exploding cocaine trade to the United States. [For details on the contra-cocaine scandal, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]
Contreras said Eugenio Berrios, a chemist for Chile’s secret police, oversaw the drug manufacturing. Berrios also was accused of producing poisons for Pinochet to use in murdering political enemies. Berrios disappeared in 1992. [For details on the Berrios mystery, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Pinochet’s Mad Scientist.”]
As this drip-drip-drip of evidence accumulated implicating Pinochet and his American allies in serious crimes and international intrigue, it fell to the second generation of George Bush presidents to put a finger in the dike.
Near the end of the Clinton presidency in 2000, an FBI team reviewed new evidence that had become available in the Letelier case and recommended the indictment of Pinochet.
But the final decision was left to the incoming Bush administration – and George W. Bush, like his father, chose to protect Pinochet. In doing so, the younger George Bush also protected his father’s reputation and the legacy of the Bush Family.
Freed from Washington’s legal pressure, Pinochet was able to fend off intermittent attempts in Chile to bring him to justice during the last half dozen years of his life.
“Every day it is clearer that Pinochet ordered my brother’s death,” human rights lawyer Fabiola Letelier told the New York Times on the 30th anniversary of the Letelier-Moffitt assassinations. “But for a proper and complete investigation to take place we need access to the appropriate records and evidence.” [NYT, Sept. 21, 2006]
Ultimately, Pinochet escaped a formal judgment of guilt for his many crimes, dying on the afternoon of Dec. 10, 2006, at the Military Hospital of Santiago from complications resulting from a heart attack.
As Pinochet took his last breath, the Bush Family, too, had reason for a sigh of relief.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. He is also the author of Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth.’
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
January 30th, 2007 - by admin
Andrea Shalal-Esa / Reuters – 2007-01-30 23:55:04
US Missile Defense Maturing, Latest Test a Success
Andrea Shalal-Esa / Reuters
WASHINGTON (Janury 29, 2007) — Within a year, the US missile defense system should be able to guard against enemy attacks, while testing new technologies, the deputy director of the US Missile Defense Agency said on Monday.
The United States activated the ground-based system last summer when North Korea launched one long-range and six short-range missiles.
North Korea’s intercontinental Taepodong 2 missile fell into the Sea of Japan shortly after launch but the short-range tests appeared successful, said Brig. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.
O’Reilly said there would be no formal announcement that the system was operational. He predicted the capability to defend against enemy missiles and to continue testing and development work would be achieved within a year.
“It’s just a matter of maturation,” he told reporters after a speech hosted by the George C. Marshall Institute, a public policy group.
O’Reilly said work by North Korea and Iran on long-range ballistic missiles underscored the need for a viable U.S. missile defense system.
The war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants last summer also highlighted the dangers of ballistic missiles and their use by non-state actors, he said. “We know we must be prepared for all contingencies.”
O’Reilly said the missile defense system, which includes sea-based and ground-based interceptors, and powerful X-Band radar systems, achieved success in 14 of 15 flight tests.
Through the end of 2007, the program will focus on protecting the United States from threats from the Middle East and North Korea, expanding coverage to U.S. allies and boosting protection against shorter-range threats.
In 2008 and beyond, there would be increased focus on countering unconventional attacks and increasing the U.S. inventory of interceptors and sensors, O’Reilly said.
RUSSIA IS WARY
On Saturday, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), built by Lockheed Martin Corp, intercepted a target shot from a barge. It was the first test of THAAD since its move to the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.
Two more THAAD intercept tests are planned for 2007, along with three tests of the Aegis Standard Missile-3 interceptors against short- and medium-range targets, O’Reilly said.
The agency also plans two tests of long-range ground-based interceptors in late spring and early fall.
The United States has 14 interceptors in Alaska and two in California, primarily to counter North Korea. O’Reilly said the number in Alaska would grow to 21 within eight months.
By 2011, plans call for some 40 interceptors in Alaska and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, he said.
He said negotiations were just beginning with Poland to host up to 10 ground-based interceptors and with the Czech Republic about fielding an advanced radar station.
Asked about the concerns of Russian officials, O’Reilly said the United States was talking with Moscow and hoped to convince it that placing U.S. missile defenses in eastern Europe could also enhance Russia’s security as well.
He gave no timeline for completing negotiations with Poland and the Czechs, but said the United States was “always looking at all our options” if either country chose not to proceed.
“We’ll have to see how it unfolds,” O’Reilly said.
© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
January 30th, 2007 - by admin
C.W. Nevius / San Francisco Chronicle & John Koopman / SF Chronicle – 2007-01-30 23:43:07
Citizen-soldiers Answering the Call — at a High Price
C.W. Nevius / San Francisco Chronicle
(January 14, 2007) — Let’s make one thing clear. This isn’t about shirking a sacrifice or attempting to get out of a commitment. When soldiers sign up for the National Guard or Reserves, they know they could be activated for combat.
“It’s not like I should be surprised,” says Keith Harper, a sergeant in the Redwood City Police Department, a major in the Air Force Reserve and a veteran of multiple trips to combat zones in the Middle East. “The nation called and said, ‘You know all those things we said could happen when you signed? Well, they’re happening.’ ”
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard, particularly for thousands of citizen-soldiers who learned this week that they may be called up for another tour under President Bush’s plan to beef up troops in Iraq by more than 20,000.
Granted, it is no cakewalk for any soldier sent to Iraq. But for reservists, abruptly jerked out of everyday life and shipped to war for months at a time, it is an undeniable shock. Their jobs, their families and their lives are put on hold. And when they return — expected to fit back into the neighborhood as if they’d gone on a one-year camping trip — the cultural jolt can leave them reeling.
Take the case of Josh Erickson of Petaluma. A former active Army soldier, he fulfilled most of his time in the Reserve with the standard one-weekend-a-month commitment and the annual two-week training session. As recently as three years ago, his only requirement was to check in with his unit once a month.
Erickson says he was “going to college, had a full-time job and was married.” But one summer day in 2004, he got a call at work and was told he’d been activated. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had plans that night, but he met her outside their house and told her they had to talk.
“I thought he was playing a mean joke, to be honest,” Elizabeth Erickson says. “As far as I knew, he was nearly out.”
Nine days later Josh was gone, on his way to Kuwait. In all, he was away for 17 months and managed just one two-week visit home.
“I did know what I was getting into,” Erickson says now. “But do you expect to be given nine days’ notice to be gone 17 months? Not really.”
No built-in support
Again, Erickson is not complaining. But neither is he pretending that his tour of duty didn’t make huge changes in his life. A major difference between the reserves and the full-time military is that active-duty soldiers and their families have a built-in support group on base. The Ericksons have seen both.
“On active duty, I had other spouses around me that knew what was going on,” Elizabeth says. “In the civilian world, people are scared to ask if you are OK. I’d say, ‘Ask me. Go ahead. It helps me to talk about it.’ They’d say, ‘Really?’ ”
And then there’s the homecoming. Like many soldiers, Josh Erickson dreamed of returning home, only to find that was almost as difficult an adjustment as leaving.
“It was almost like I became an intruder in my own house,” says Josh, who came back in November 2005. “We went from being happily married for seven years to having to go to counseling.”
“After that long you get used to not having someone in the bed next to you,” Elizabeth says. “It’s really awkward. He’s talking military jargon, and all the stories are about the military. There’s no common thread.”
Vic Artiga, a Redwood City police officer who works with Harper, is currently on National Guard duty in Hawaii. This is his second call-up. His first, in 2003, came with four days’ notice. Artiga is an enthusiastic supporter of the Guard, and of the mission in Iraq, but he’s realistic. He saw combat in his first tour and even today feels he can only talk about what he saw there with other veterans.
“You come back after a long deployment and you don’t just pick up where you left off,” he says. “Things have changed.”
Not all the changes are psychological. Although it is federal law that reservists must be given their jobs back when they return, not every business can afford to have an employee suddenly pack up and leave for 11/2 years.
‘Not quite so happy’
Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Monroe, formerly the highest-ranking member of the California National Guard, says he’s working on two cases now where nurses saw their jobs eliminated while they were gone.
“And that’s happening more and more,” he says. “Typically, when they leave the first time, the employers have a big celebration for them. But they are not quite so happy the next time. And neither are the families.”
That, of course, is the specter over all of this. With the recent announcement of a “surge” in U.S. forces, reservists may be asked to serve more than one tour of duty.
On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that it was changing the rule for citizen-soldiers. Previously, once 24 months had been served, the soldier’s commitment was up. Now, the Pentagon says, that soldier could be called up for a second 24-month stint.
The Ericksons, like thousands of guardsmen and reservists across the country, watch those developments warily, knowing they could be called back any time. Josh has started school again, majoring in business management at Santa Rosa Junior College. Will he have to drop everything again? Will their marriage survive the strain?
“I don’t think the administration realizes how this impacts their families and their careers,” says Monroe, formerly the adjutant general of the California National Guard. “If they did, they’d do something else.”
C.W. Nevius’ column appears regularly. Read his blog, C.W. Nevius.blog, and listen to his podcast, “Newswrap,” at SFGate.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Conflict’s Painful Legacy: Living with the Scars of War
John Koopman / San Francisco Chronicle
(January 14, 2007) — Faoa Apineru should be dead. In May 2005, he was in a humvee driving down a road in Iraq near the Syrian border when a roadside bomb went off right next to him.
The blast was enormous. A shard of metal pierced his face and rattled around his brainpan. He was flown to a hospital in Fallujah, then to another one in Germany and to Bethesda, Md. After many surgeries to fix his brain and face, Apineru made his way to the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System hospital for treatment and rehabilitation.
He couldn’t move. He couldn’t speak. He was barely alive.
It’s a far cry from the burly, strapping Marine who now lives in a tidy townhouse near Moffett Field. The guy with the broad shoulders and easy laugh, a pinch of tobacco under his lip and a big, scarred, shaved head.
Apineru, whom everyone calls “AP,” is living on his own and loving it. He can cook for himself, go to a movie, hang out with friends, have a good time.
He’s not fully recovered from his wounds. He suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which is compounded by his brain injury. He still goes to therapy and he talks with counselors at the PTSD center regularly. Not long ago, he had an episode; he saw someone on the side of the road. Looked like an insurgent, like the one who tried to kill him with a horrible bomb, and he had bad thoughts. Thoughts that required another trip to the PTSD center.
“They’re the only ones who really know what’s going on with me,” he said.
The VA hospital in Palo Alto has a lot of people like AP. Mostly men and some women who were injured while in uniform, most of them from Iraq or Afghanistan. The VA has a polytrauma center, so troops with more than one injury can get help for all their problems, and a brain injury rehabilitation unit, called BIRU, for the guys who took one to the head.
He hangs out with other wounded Marines. Cpl. Jason Poole, who also had a severe head wound and nearly died, is his best friend.
“I don’t have much family around here, so the Marines are my family,” AP said. “That’s what attracted me to them in the first place. It reminds me of my culture.”
Most of the guys share the common bond of having been wounded by roadside bombs in Iraq. Guys like Angel Gomez, who was unhurt except for that one piece of shrapnel that hit his head and took a good chunk of his skull with it. And Tim Jeffers, who lost his legs, an eye, a finger and a small piece of skull.
They’re all in a program — called Marine 4 Life — designed to help wounded Marines get back on their feet and into the civilian world.
The program’s Western region is run by a reserve captain from San Francisco, Nina D’Amato.
“The Marine Corps has an ethos, ‘You don’t leave people behind,’ ” said D’Amato, a public school math teacher when she’s not wearing a uniform. “The Marine Corps asked these men and women to perform some very intense things. The Marine Corps is not going to turn their back on them when they come back wounded.”
It’s a tough, slow road and not for the weak. Some have horrible wounds, lost limbs and memories. They spend months, years, in the hospital. And while different programs give money to bring family members close by, there are a lot of long, lonely days spent in the company of doctors, nurses and each other.
About six months ago, AP had recovered sufficiently to move into his own apartment, a townhouse that is part of base housing for Moffett Field. And he’s taking small steps toward independence.
His apartment is clean and neat. He has a massive television that dwarfs his small living room. He’s got gadgets and toys and a wall of photos showing his rehabilitation and important people he’s met while in the hospital.
For AP, moving out of the hospital was a big deal. It makes him feel relatively normal again to do little things, like making his own food, going shopping, taking in a movie — things he did without thinking long ago, before the injuries.
AP was no kid when he got hit. He’d spent 10 years in the Marines by then and was a staff sergeant. Still, he has three U.S. flags tacked to his walls, along with all sorts of Marine paraphernalia.
AP grew up in Samoa. That’s about all he remembers from his childhood. The explosion took away most of his memories.
Picture it: You are an adult in your 20s and you have no recollection of where you grew up, who were your best friends, or your first kiss.
AP’s mother told him he had gotten into a lot of trouble when he was growing up. His father thought the Marines would be a good place for him to learn discipline and stay out of trouble. He found out later that his grandfather had served in the Marines in World War II.
AP joined the corps in 1996 and worked his way up to communications chief for his unit.
He was in Iraq only once. At least, he thinks so. He doesn’t remember any other tours. He has trouble remembering how to spell his name.
Everyone has his or her demons in rehab. For AP, it’s the nightmares.
“After the injury, I always think there’s people against me,” he said. “I know it’s not true; I know I’m in the U.S. But that feeling will get me off guard whenever I have pain, or especially when I go to sleep because I have nightmares. My nightmares are so real, I can feel it, I can smell it.”
He dreams about getting hit. The dream is always the same. The only variation is when it starts and when it ends.
In May 2005, AP was in Anbar province with the Marines. He’d been going out on a lot of patrols. Too many. The days were long, and filled with the stress of knowing a bomb could go off at any time. One of his buddies said, hey, take the day off, you’re working too hard.
AP didn’t listen. And that’s why he feels some sense of regret, or remorse. If he’d only listened.
They’d gone out on a convoy. Two 7-ton trucks, then AP’s humvee, then more vehicles. It was another hot, sunny day in Iraq. The road had just been cleared and the convoy moved along briskly.
AP has the explosion on video. After the bomb went off, Marines scoured the area looking for the triggerman. They went through a house nearby and found cameras and disks.
On one was a montage of various attacks on American units. Insurgent groups post the videos on the Internet. They’re not hard to find.
AP plugs a thumb drive into his laptop and watches the shaky image. With an Arabic song as soundtrack, you can see the big trucks driving along the long, dusty road. A humvee comes along and is immediately enveloped in a blinding flash, smoke, dirt and debris.
“The first thing I remember is screaming. I remember trying to stop screaming. You know, that Marine Corps crap about not showing your feelings. Then I heard my Marines. They were doing the same thing. They were screaming, too. So I let go and it went blank. Then I heard my Marines yelling, ‘AP! AP!’ and they were trying to pull me out of the vehicle. Then I went blank again.”
AP went in and out of consciousness. He remembers someone trying to cut off his bloody uniform, and saying that he didn’t appear to be hurt.
He thought he was shaken but physically fine. He took off his protective glasses and looked in what was left of the humvee’s side mirror. Blood sprayed from his nose and a big gash close to his ear.
“I just thought, ‘Oh my God. I’m f — ed,’ ” he said.
He thought maybe the gash was just a deep scratch. He tried to stem the flow of blood with his finger. His finger sunk in deep.
“I remember getting cold, real cold, even though it was hot outside as hell,” he said. “I remember my lance corporal talking to me, saying, ‘Come on, AP, the chopper is coming. It won’t be much longer.’ But I couldn’t really hear anything. My hearing was blocked. I saw everything in black and white.”
AP wasn’t listening to the medic or the other Marines. But his training kicked in when his lieutenant came over and told him to stay awake.
“I kept thinking, ‘This is a lieutenant in the Marine Corps, I better do what he says. Thank God he did that.”
AP couldn’t talk. His jaw was broken. The lieutenant told him to squeeze his hand if he understood what was being said. AP squeezed. Hard. Another lieutenant came over and started praying for him. AP says he prayed, too, for the lieutenant.
AP was in a coma for eight days.
That was weird, too. He could feel people’s presence and hear them talking. He wanted to tell everyone he was OK, but no words came out.
When he finally came to, he had no idea where he was. He was alone in a room. His hands were tied down.
A nurse came in and saw he was conscious. She called others into his room and when someone talked to him, he recognized an American accent. He spotted a man wearing the chevrons of a Marine gunnery sergeant. Finally, something he recognized. He relaxed. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md. His mother and sister were there, too.
“Who the hell are those people?” he asked a medic.
“Dude, that’s your mom,” the man replied.
“What’s a mom?” AP asked.
He was sent to Palo Alto for rehabilitation in June 2005. He had to learn how to walk and talk and remember again.
It was a long and difficult road. AP hated the hospital. He hated the smell. He sprayed cologne everywhere to get the stink of antiseptic out of his nostrils. He took test after test, and was frustrated that he could no longer think the way he used to think and remember the simplest things.
He stayed up late at night, going over and over the tests until the nurses forced him to stop, to try to sleep. He was moved to a different hospital, but he kept running away. There’s a reason for that, one he’s reluctant to share because people think he’s nuts.
“I’m seeing people, you know, who are dead already,” he said. Not guys he knew. People he never met before.
He tried to leave the hospital several times, even under threat of disciplinary action. But he didn’t care. He wanted out.
“I kept running away because I was afraid I would hurt a nurse,” he said. “They keep coming to check on me every two hours. Every time they touch the door, I’m up, because I can hear them. Plus all these nightmares. I don’t know what’s real and what’s a dream.”
That’s when the doctors realized AP was also suffering from severe PTSD. He was referred to the PTSD center and he got the therapy he needed.
For now, that’s enough. The future is on hold. AP still goes to the center. He says he still has some things to work on.
“Every time I have pain or nightmares, it triggers something,” he said. “I know I’m going to be like this the rest of my life.”
One who’s just getting out
Angel Gomez just wants to drive. That’s what he was doing when he got hit in March 2005: driving a 7-ton truck in the city of Ramadi. A piece of shrapnel hit his head just behind the ear. It took off a big chunk of skull.
When he got to Palo Alto, he was barely alive. Couldn’t walk. Could barely talk. His family wondered if he would ever recover.
Gomez has had surgery to replace a portion of his skull. For a long time, he wore a bicycle helmet to protect his unprotected brain. Now, his head is intact and the only sign of his injury is a long, ragged scar that goes up over his crown and back down toward his neck, a little like a ram’s horn. His hair is growing longer and covers most of the scar. He wears a cap most of the time.
But the brain injury has caused physical problems. He can move his right shoulder, but his hand doesn’t work. He can walk now, but he needs a brace on his right leg. He’s not sure if he’ll ever regain full movement on his right side.
Gomez has a sweet smile and bright eyes. He speaks haltingly, and peppers his sentences with “you know,” “like” and “whatever.” He will be in the middle of a sentence and stop because the right word, an easy word, simply vanishes from his vocabulary without warning.
Angel was on his second tour when he was injured. He was driving a truck in and around the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and home to some of the fiercest fighting of the war.
He drove the big trucks, moving Marines and supplies around the city. He was there for about a month and a half before the explosion tore apart his truck. Gomez thinks he was taking a unit of Marines on a raid. “We were going and going and all of a sudden, I got hit.”
Does he remember it?
“Oh yeah, I remember it,” he said.
Gomez was behind the wheel when the blast hit. The explosion rocked the truck, but didn’t knock it over. A jagged shard of metal flew through the air and hit him in the head. He was otherwise unhurt.
“I was really dazed, you know,” he said. “I was like, ‘Whoa, what happened?’ ”
His good friend, Jesse Aguilar, ran to the vehicle to check him out.
“I saw his face,” Gomez said. “He was shocked or whatever. I guess he thought I was gonna die. My brain was like showing and stuff. I didn’t know.”
Gomez said his skull looked like an egg does when it’s dropped on the floor. He had pieces of skull in his brain.
Gomez stayed awake as the corpsmen and Marines put him in a humvee and drove to an aid station. He said a medic had to prevent him from touching his head, so he wouldn’t hurt himself any further.
After that, Gomez slipped in and out of consciousness. “It was just like an on and off button,” he said, like an electrical circuit with bad wiring. He kept going in and out, and when he was conscious, he had no idea what was going on or where he was.
He was in a coma for 14 days. He was flown to Germany and from there to Bethesda. That’s where he woke up.
His mother, father, sister and brother were there, but he didn’t recognize any of them.
“I had some horrible dreams when I was in the coma,” he said. “One of the dreams I still remember, I was dreaming that somebody was chopping all my body into pieces. I was just like, ‘Whoa!’
“I also dreamed I was in the hospital and one of my feet was missing,” he said. “When I woke up, I looked to see if I still had my feet.”
By the time Gomez got to Palo Alto, he knew who people were, but he didn’t know their names. Not even his parents.
He still has a problem with words sometimes. He knows things, but the names and titles escape him.
But mostly, he just wants to drive.
He has a nice Chevy truck at home — a 2003 S-10 — and that’s what he misses most. In the meantime, he practices in a driving simulator at the VA center, and occasionally drives around the parking lot when he can get someone to go with him.
Gomez wants to go to college, to get married, to have kids. His girlfriend has stuck with him throughout the ordeal.
“I’m getting better, but it’s slow,” he said. “It’s really, really slow. But I’m going to make it. I’ll feel good about myself.”
A couple of weeks ago, Gomez was discharged from the hospital. He moved into an apartment nearby so he could take a bus to the hospital for therapy. But he was itching to drive. He just wanted to get into his truck and hold the wheel in his hands. And move.
Shortly after he moved into his new apartment, he was on the bus, talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone, and he had a seizure. He lay on the floor of the bus, jerking uncontrollably, as his brain fought with itself.
His dreams of driving again went out the window that day. The doctors say he’ll need another six months before he can even think about getting behind the wheel of a vehicle again.
“Angel is frustrated and that’s understandable,” Capt. D’Amato of Marine 4 Life said. “But he also recognizes that it could have been a lot worse. He could have been driving when this happened and gotten killed, or killed someone else.
“Angel took an enormous step by moving into his own apartment and when he’s ready, he’ll drive again. That represents freedom to him.”
One who still has a long way to go
At 22, Tim Jeffers is learning to walk. He’s missing both legs just above the knee. He has high-tech prosthetic legs with feet encased in new black-suede tennis shoes. Rehabilitation for him — getting out of the hospital and on his own — will take some time.
He lost both his legs just above the knee. He lost a finger, his right eye and a chunk of skull just above his right temple. The wound healed but swelling remains, causing his head to be misshapen. He often wears a bicycle helmet to protect his brain.
The Marines transferred Jeffers’ brother, Chris, to a local reserve unit so he could help Jeffers out and have family nearby. Chris Jeffers spends at least one day a week helping his brother in rehabilitation exercises. He’s learned how to help put on Tim Jeffers’ new legs; he needs a tight seal so the prosthetic legs stay firmly in place when he tries to walk. Right now, Tim Jeffers uses a walker when he practices.
“The physical therapist has been after me to try to walk on my own, but I’m a little fearful,” Jeffers said with a grin. “But I think the fear is justified. I mean, that’s a lot of pain if I take a fall now and land on my face, you know?”
Jeffers recently had surgery to implant a synthetic piece of bone into his skull. A couple of days later, he developed an infection and the piece had to be removed.
It will be another six months before the doctors try that procedure again.
Jeffers joined the Marines in November 2002.
“I always wanted to,” he said. “Maybe it was the poster I saw, that Marine in the dress blues. They’re kinda like badass. I just took an interest in it. I learned about it, found out it was the hardest, so I wanted to do that.”
Jeffers said his dad didn’t want him to join the corps but he didn’t stop him. “My mom was worried about me going, but she wanted me to do what I wanted to do,” he said.
Boot camp was tough, he said, but he didn’t want to give up. “There were times it almost broke me down, but I wasn’t going to let some guys who didn’t even know me change who I was,” he said.
That attitude has carried into his rehabilitation. Jeffers is a small man with a quiet voice, but it is filled with determination.
“I’m the same guy I always was,” he said, sitting in his wheelchair and playing with a prosthetic foot.
Jeffers was a convoy commander in Iraq, and had been in-country about four months when he got hit. It was May 18.
“We were in a convoy, running along,” he said. “Over the radio, someone said an IED went off between a military vehicle and civilian contractor vehicle with us. We were at a security halt, to make sure nothing else happened.
“I was at a T-intersection at the halt, so I was looking around. There was some trash in the area, so I was looking to see if there were any loose wires sticking out. I turned around and there were two mufflers in the middle of the road. And then, “Bang.” One of them blew up.”
Jeffers was about 3 feet from the bomb when it exploded. His legs were mangled and the bomb blew out his eye. It took out a small piece of his skull.
“I was awake the whole time waiting for the helo,” he said. “I was yelling and screaming and swearing. That’s all I remember. Three or three and half weeks later, I woke up.”
He doesn’t remember going to a surgical hospital at the American base at Al Asad.
The blast didn’t take off his legs, but they were mangled. “As far as I know, I got my first amputation in Al Asad,” he said. “I don’t know how many amputations total I had. I think there were about four, going higher and higher on the legs.
“The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital with my dad’s face over me. He was telling me to blink once for no and twice for yes, and asking if I could hear him. So I blinked twice. I kinda knew why I was in there, even though it took me a couple of minutes to figure it out.”
Jeffers was at Bethesda for about two months. He left in the middle of July to go to Palo Alto.
He wants to go to college and study math. He’s a studious-looking man and very articulate. D’Amato brings him Sudoku puzzles to help pass the time and keep his mind sharp.
“Tim will probably teach math some day,” D’Amato said. “He’s got the intelligence and the drive.
“He can do anything he puts his mind to, no doubt about it.”
• For information on how to help injured Marines, go to www.semperfifund.org.
E-mail John Koopman at email@example.com.
©2007 San Francisco Chronicle
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
January 30th, 2007 - by admin
Jonathan Marcus / BBC News – 2007-01-30 23:23:24
WASHINGTON (January 30, 2007) — “With each passing day,” it says, “Iraq sinks deeper into the abyss of civil war.”
It argues that the Bush Administration’s policy has to change “to reflect the painful reality that the US effort to bring peace and stability to Iraq has failed.”
Unlike last year’s report from the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group, whose goal appears in large part to have been consensus at home, this Brookings study is a tightly-argued case for urgent practical steps to deal with a looming catastrophe.
Its title — Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover From An Iraqi Civil War — says it all. Things in Iraq are bad now, but they could indeed still get much worse.
Implicit in the report is an assumption, as Kenneth Pollack – one of its co-authors – put it, that President George W Bush’s plan to send over 20,000 additional troops to Iraq is probably the last chance to stabilise the country.
Military experts here in Washington are not writing off the chances of the so-called “surge”, but they are far from optimistic either.
Professor Eliot Cohen of the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University told me that the new Bush strategy was less about troop numbers and more about the man selected to command them.
He referred back to remarks attributed to a British officer – Field Marshall Montgomery – when Britain was struggling with the Malaya insurgency in the 1950s.
“First we need a man and then we need a plan,” he said, and this according to Prof Cohen is very much the approach being taken now in Iraq.
The new US commander there, he told me, Gen David Petraeus “is quite unusual among all American generals. He has been thinking hard about this. He has a terrific background on the ground and he has a fabulous network of contacts. He’s been told he can have anyone he wants to work with him. That’s really the most important thing that’s been happening.”
Much though, he argues, also depends upon the Iraqi government itself — is it willing or able to act in a less sectarian fashion? This, according to Prof Cohen “has to be one of the great unknowns”.
“Clearly,” he says, “they haven’t behaved very well up to this point”. And even if they do seize the moment, his fear remains that this all may be too late.
This, then, is where the Brookings study kicks in. It argues that the key goal for the Bush administration now should be to prevent the crisis in Iraq from spilling over into neighbouring states.
This spill-over could take various forms – floods of refugees, outright military intervention, damaging economic effects, terrorism or even new insurgencies in other countries.
What is needed, according to Kenneth Pollack is a new policy of containment – to insulate Iraq’s neighbours from the corrosive effects of a full-scale civil war.
For make no mistake, while there are many calls here in Washington, from Democrats and dissident Republicans alike, for some kind of phased US withdrawal, the simple fact is that the worse things get the less the Bush administration will be able to walk away from Iraq. The regional stakes are just too high.
The Brookings plan would involve a mixture of measures.
Stepped up financial assistance to Iraq’s neighbours would go hand-in-hand with the pull-back of US troops from Iraqi population centres to the country’s borders.
Here they could prevent foreign intervention from both regular or irregular forces and set up safe-havens where refugees could be protected and cared for.
Where the Brookings report shares common ground with the Iraq Study Group is its stress on wider diplomatic efforts.
The Brookings study calls for US engagement with Iran, but it argues that this should be through a contact group involving all of Iraq’s neighbours.
In effect, the Brookings authors believe that engagement with Tehran should only be at a level proportional to Iran’s ability to actually help solve Iraq’s problems.
The Brookings study also says that there should be a renewed diplomatic effort to solve regional problems like the crisis in Lebanon and the Israel-Palestinian dispute.
This study is not saying that the President’s new strategy of troop reinforcements will fail but that it clearly could and that America must then be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Abandoning Iraq is not an option.
And if containment is to work, the report says that there must be a resolute commitment by both the US and the whole international community.
A study of previous civil wars, it argues, suggests that half-measures and incremental steps only make matters worse.
© BBC MMVII
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January 30th, 2007 - by admin
Jonathan S. Landay / McClatchy Newspapers – 2007-01-30 01:11:54
Rockefeller: Cheney Applied ‘Constant’ Pressure
To Stall Investigation on Flawed Iraq Intelligence
WASHINGTON (Jan. 25, 2007) — Vice President Dick Cheney exerted “constant” pressure on the Republican former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to stall an investigation into the Bush administration’s use of flawed intelligence on Iraq, the panel’s Democratic chairman charged Thursday.
In an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia also accused President Bush of running an illegal program by ordering eavesdropping on Americans’ international e-mails and telephone communications without court-issued warrants.
In the 45-minute interview, Rockefeller said that it was “not hearsay” that Cheney, a leading proponent of invading Iraq, pushed Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to drag out the probe of the administration’s use of prewar intelligence.
“It was just constant,” Rockefeller said of Cheney’s alleged interference. He added that he knew that the vice president attended regular policy meetings in which he conveyed White House directions to Republican staffers.
Republicans “just had to go along with the administration,” he said.
In an e-mail response to Rockefeller’s comments, Cheney’s spokeswoman, Lea McBride, said: “The vice president believes Senator Roberts was a good chairman of the Intelligence Committee.”
Roberts’ chief of staff, Jackie Cottrell, blamed the Democrats for the investigation remaining incomplete more than two years after it began.
“Senator Rockefeller’s allegations are patently untrue,” she said in an e-mail statement. “The delays came from the Democrats’ insistence that they expand the scope of the inquiry to make it a more political document going into the 2006 elections. Chairman Roberts did everything he could to accommodate their requests for further information without allowing them to distort the facts.”
“I’m not aware of any effort by the vice president, his staff or anyone in the administration to influence the speed at which the committee did its work,” said Bill Duhnke, who was Roberts’ staff director.
Rockefeller’s comments were among the most forceful he’s made about why the committee failed to complete the inquiry under Roberts. Roberts chaired the intelligence committee from January 2003 until the Democrats took over Congress this month.
The panel released a report in July 2004 that lambasted the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies for erroneously concluding that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was concealing biological, chemical and nuclear warfare programs. It then began examining how senior Bush administration officials used faulty intelligence to justify the March 2003 invasion.
Robert promised to quickly complete what became known as the Phase II investigation. After more than two years, however, the panel published only two of five Phase II reports amid serious rifts between Republican and Democratic members and their staffs.
Rockefeller recalled that in November 2005, the then-minority Democrats employed a rarely used parliamentary procedure to force the Senate into a closed session to pressure Roberts to complete Phase II.
“That was the reason we closed the session. To force him” to complete the investigation, he said.
The most potentially controversial of the three Phase II reports being worked on will compare what Bush and his top lieutenants said publicly about Iraq’s weapons programs and ties to terrorists with what was contained in top-secret intelligence reports.
In the two reports released in September, the panel said that the administration’s claims of ties between Saddam and al-Qaida were false and found that administration officials distributed exaggerated and bogus claims provided by an Iraqi exile group with close ties to some senior administration officials.
Rockefeller said it was important to complete the Phase II inquiry.
“The looking backward creates tension, but it’s necessary tension because the administration needs to be held accountable and the country . . . needs to know,” he said.
Rockefeller said that he and the senior Republican member of the committee, Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., have put the frictions behind them and agree that the committee should press the administration for documents it’s withholding on its domestic eavesdropping program and detainee programs.
Under the eavesdropping program, the National Security Agency monitored Americans’ international telephone calls and e-mails without court warrants if one party was a suspected member or supporter of al-Qaida or another terrorist group.
Rockefeller charged that Bush had violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to obtain permission to eavesdrop on Americans from a secret national security court.
“For five years he’s (Bush) has been operating an illegal program,” he said, adding that the committee wants the administration to provide the classified documents that set out its legal argument that Bush has the power to wiretap Americans without warrants.
Rockefeller is among a handful of lawmakers who were kept briefed on the program after it started following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But he told Cheney in a handwritten note in July 2003 that he was deeply concerned about its legality.
In the interview, Rockefeller said the committee needs more details about how the program worked before it considers amending the eavesdropping act to give the administration the flexibility it says it requires to be able to track terrorists.
“How do we draw something up if we have no idea about what the president sent out in the way of orders to the NSA? What about the interpretation of the Department of Justice?” he asked. “Americans . . . should want us to discern what the facts are, what the truth is.”
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January 30th, 2007 - by admin
BBC World News – 2007-01-30 01:03:07
WASHINGTON (January 29, 2007) — The state department looked into Israel’s use of cluster bombs in civilian areas of southern Lebanon during its conflict with Hezbollah.
US-made weapons are sold to the Israeli military with restriction on their use.
Cluster bombs can scatter hundreds of small bomblets over a wide area, and their use has been widely criticised.
The International Committee of the Red Cross called for a ban on the use of cluster bombs in populated areas, because of the indiscriminate civilian deaths they caused.
And Amnesty International has criticised Israel for its use of cluster bombs in the final days of the conflict.
The US government has now sent a preliminary report on its investigation into the matter to the US Congress.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the report delivered to Congress was not a “final judgement”.
He refused to elaborate on the report’s conclusion, but said the terms agreed with Israel for the use of US-supplied munitions were “likely” to have been violated.
“This is a preliminary finding and because it also involves the agreements about use (of munitions), which are classified, I cannot get into the details,” he added.
Congress will now consider the report before deciding whether to take any further action against Israel.
Israel has consistently maintained it uses cluster bombs in line with international law, although in November the military said it would investigate how the bombs were used during the conflict.
Israel denies breaking any agreement with the US and says it is co-operating with investigators.
“Israel takes the concerns raised by the US very seriously. In our response, we have been as detailed, as forthcoming and transparent as possible,” said government spokesman Mark Regev.
The US is Israel’s biggest military donor, offering about $2bn of aid and assistance each year.
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