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Turkey and the National Security Strategy: Behind the Iraq Border Conflict

October 31st, 2007 - by admin

Hassan Hanizadeh / Tehran Times Opinion Column – 2007-10-31 23:02:24


TEHRAN (October 31, 2007) — The rising tension between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the deployment of the Turkish army in northern Iraq has created a new situation in the Iran-Iraq-Turkey triangle.

Even though the PKK issue has been a major national security concern for Ankara for many years the deployment of 100,000 troops along the border with Iraq is a result of certain local, regional and international factors.

The covert confrontation of secularists with Erdogan’s Islamist government and an attempt by the army to revive its influence are the reasons for the heightened conflict between Turkey and the PKK.

The victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) with Islamic roots in the recent parliamentary elections has lessened the influence of the powerful Turkish army and secularists in the country. Now the secularists are looking for a successful military gain against the PKK to re-establish their considerably lost influence.

As in the past, in recent days the PKK has been carrying out terrorist acts, without analyzing the internal situation, and each time Turkish army responded to the terrorist attacks with equal force.

Since the Erdogan government has been more responsive to the demands of the Kurdish population the worsening of the security situation will not benefit the PKK at all.

To find a peaceful solution of the Kurdish demands under the current Turkish administration is easier, but regrettably the PKK has chosen the violent path without realizing the situation at home.

On the other hand, the Iraqi Kurdistan is being used as a base for attacks against Turkey by the PKK rebels, leading to the spread of insecurity in the Turkish land.

Moreover, the Iraqi occupation forces are trying to spread the cycle of violence to borders outside Iraq so that they find an excuse to topple the government of Nouri al-Maliki and replace him with a secular prime minister.

In order to divert the public attention towards northern Iraq the United States has been provoking the PKK to create a security problem for Turkey (even for Iran), knowing that it may eventually force Ergdogan to order military strikes on northern Iraq.

Now if the Turkish army launches strikes against northern Iraq its repercussions will surely affect the countries bordering Iraq. Since the Turkish army will not be able to root out the PKK in a short military operation, as it is difficult to track down rebels in the mountainous region.

However, Ankara has not ruled out political solution of the PKK problem. The Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan’s visit to Tehran and a visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki to Iraq, plus the telephone conversations between the presidents of Iran, Iraq and Turkey show that there is still hope to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, which involve the Turkey-Iraq-Iran triangle and that the military option is not the only solution.

Naturally, Turkey’s strategic policy is not inflaming tension at home and outside. It wants fair dealings with all minorities in the country and the establishment of a proper atmosphere for national unity will consolidate Turkish national security.

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US Diplomats Refuse Iraq Postings as a “Death Sentence”

October 31st, 2007 - by admin

BBC News – 2007-10-31 22:53:42


WASHINGTON (October 31, 2007) — Hundreds of US diplomats have protested against a government move to force them to accept postings in war-torn Iraq.

About 300 angry diplomats attended a meeting at the state department, at which one labelled the decision a “potential death sentence”.

If too few volunteer, some will be forced to go to Iraq – or risk dismissal, except those exempted for medical or personal hardship reasons. Iraq postings have previously been filled on a voluntary basis.

‘Prime Candidates’
The meeting was called to explain the “forced assignments” order made by state department human resources director Harry Thomas.

Last Friday, he notified about 250 “prime candidates” that they had been selected for one of 48 one-year postings at the embassy in Baghdad or in a Provincial Reconstruction Team elsewhere in the country. They were given 10 days to reply.

Senior diplomat Jack Croddy, who once worked as a political adviser with Nato forces, highlighted safety fears of staff who would be forced to serve in a war zone.

“It’s one thing if someone believes in what’s going on over there and volunteers, but it’s another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment,” Mr Croddy said.

“I’m sorry, but basically that’s a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded? “You know that at any other [country] in the world, the embassy would be closed at this point.”

For months, US officials have been warning that a lack of volunteers could lead to this diplomatic call-up, says the BBC’s James Coomarasamy in Washington.

Many positions are due to become vacant in 2008. But unions say the constantly growing embassy in Iraq is straining human resources.

An attractive financial package is being offered as well as a generous leave allowance. But the Baghdad embassy is considered a hardship posting due to security risks and because spouses and children must be left at home.

American diplomats have been sent on forced assignments before – some had to take postings in some African countries in the 1970s and 1980s, and in 1969 an entire class of new foreign service officers was sent to Vietnam.

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Iraqi Dam ‘at Risk of Collapse’

October 31st, 2007 - by admin

BBC News – 2007-10-31 22:50:00


(October 30, 2007) — The largest dam in Iraq is at risk of an imminent collapse that could unleash a 20m (65ft) wave of water on Mosul, a city of 1.7m people, the US has warned.

In May, the US told Iraqi authorities to make Mosul Dam a national priority, as a catastrophic failure would result in a “significant loss of life”. However, a $27m (£13m) US-funded reconstruction project to help shore up the dam has made little or no progress.

Iraq says it is reducing the risk and insists there is no cause for alarm. However, a US watchdog said reconstruction of the dam had been plagued by mismanagement and potential fraud.

In a report published on Tuesday, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) said US-funded “short-term solutions” had yet to significantly solve the dam’s problems. SIGIR found multiple failures in several of the 21 contracts awarded to repair the dam.

Among the faults were faulty construction and delivery of improper parts, as well as projects which were not completed despite full payments having been made.

‘Fundamentally Flawed’
The dam has been a problem for Iraqi engineers since it was constructed in 1984.

It was built on water-soluble gypsum, which caused seepage within months of its completion and led investigators to describe the site as “fundamentally flawed”.

In September 2006, the US Army Corps of Engineers determined that the dam, 45 miles upstream of Mosul on the River Tigris, presented an unacceptable risk.

“In terms of internal erosion potential of the foundation, Mosul Dam is the most dangerous dam in the world,” the corps warned, according to the SIGIR report. “If a small problem [at] Mosul Dam occurs, failure is likely.”

A catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam would result in flooding along the Tigris River all the way to Baghdad
US letter to Iraqi government

The corps later told US commanders to move their equipment away from the Tigris flood plain near Mosul because of the dam’s instability.

The top US military commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, and US ambassador Ryan Crocker then wrote to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki urging him to make fixing the dam a “national priority”.

“A catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam would result in flooding along the Tigris River all the way to Baghdad” the letter on 3 May warned. “Assuming a worst-case scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul Dam filled to its maximum operating level could result in a flood wave 20m deep at the city of Mosul, which would result in a significant loss of life and property.”

If that were to happen some have predicted that as many as 500,000 people could be killed.

Alarm Bells
Iraqi authorities, however, say they are taking steps to reduce the risk and they do not believe there is cause for alarm.

The Iraqi Minister for Water Resources, Latif Rashid, told the BBC that a number of steps were being taken to tackle the problem, including a reduction in water levels in the reservoir and a round-the-clock operation to pump grouting into the dam’s foundations.

Work would also begin next year on a longer-term plan to make the foundations safe by encasing them in a concrete curtain, he added.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in Baghdad says the debate over the dam has gone on largely behind the scenes so as not to cause public panic or attract the interest of insurgents.


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Iraq Dismisses Mosul Dam Warnings
BBC News

(October 31, 2007) — The Iraqi government has dismissed a US warning that Iraq’s largest dam is at imminent risk of collapse and is threatening the lives of thousands.

Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said US claims that Mosul Dam, in the country’s north, was the most dangerous in the world were inaccurate and “totally untrue”. Mr Dabbagh said it was under constant observation and regularly maintained.

In May, the US told Iraq a catastrophic collapse could unleash a 20m (65ft) wave on Mosul, a city of 1.7 million. The warning was published on Tuesday in a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), which said that the dam’s foundations could give away at any moment.

SIGIR found that a $27m (£13m) US-funded reconstruction project, recently begun to help shore up the dam, had made little or no progress. It said the “short-term solutions” had been plagued by mismanagement and potential fraud.

‘Precautionary Measures’
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Iraqi government insisted it was taking steps to reduce the risk and did not believe there was cause for alarm. “These reports are not accurate and are totally untrue,” Mr Dabbagh said.

Mr Dabbagh said Mosul Dam was observed 24 hours a day and that “all precautionary measures in terms of maintenance are regularly carried out. There are teams working round-the-clock to strengthen the dam,” he added.

Mr Dabbagh said there were operations to pump grouting into the dam’s foundations and to reduce water levels in the reservoir.

The Minister of Water Resources, Latif Rashid, told the BBC on Tuesday that work would also begin next year on a longer-term plan to make the foundations safe by encasing them in a concrete curtain.

‘Fundamentally Flawed’
The dam, 45 miles upstream of Mosul on the River Tigris, has been a problem for Iraqi engineers since it was constructed in 1984.

It was built on water-soluble gypsum, which caused seepage within months of its completion and led investigators to describe the site as “fundamentally flawed”.

In September 2006, the US Army Corps of Engineers determined that the dam presented an unacceptable risk.

“In terms of internal erosion potential of the foundation, Mosul Dam is the most dangerous dam in the world,” the corps warned, according to the SIGIR report. “If a small problem [at] Mosul Dam occurs, failure is likely.”

The top US military commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, and US ambassador Ryan Crocker wrote in May to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki urging him to make fixing the dam a “national priority”.

“A catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam would result in flooding along the Tigris River all the way to Baghdad,” the letter on 3 May warned.

“Assuming a worst-case scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul Dam filled to its maximum operating level could result in a flood wave 20m deep at the city of Mosul, which would result in a significant loss of life and property.”

If that were to happen some have predicted that as many as 500,000 people could be killed.

Mosul Dam is Middle East’s fourth largest dam in reservoir capacity and Iraq’s largest

Key component in Iraq’s national power grid , with four 200 megawatt (MW) turbines generating 320 MW of electricity a day.

Built on water-soluble gypsum , which causes seepage. Subsequent erosion creates cavities beneath dam that must be plugged or “grouted” on a regular basis or dam will fail, say experts.

Array of piezometers have been deployed to measure water pressure and leakage Seismic equipment provides information to monitor dam’s stability US-funded reconstruction project – costing $27m (£13m) – to help shore up the dam has made “little or no progress” since 2005 to significantly improve basic grouting capability of the Iraqi Ministry of Water and Resources at the dam, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR)


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Nigeria Navy in Deadly Oil Clash

October 31st, 2007 - by admin

BBC News & Sola Odunfa / BBC Focus On Africa – 2007-10-31 22:44:43


NIGER DELTA (October 31,2007) — At least two people have been killed in a clash between the Nigerian navy and suspected militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta, security sources say. It occurred near an offshore oilfield operated by the Shell oil company.

On Tuesday, six foreign oil workers were released after being seized during a raid on the oil platform. The BBC’s Alex Last in Nigeria says it is the latest violence to hit the area since a militant faction pledged to renew attacks on the oil industry.

Militant groups had been observing a five-month ceasefire on attacks against the oil industry to allow for peace talks with the government.

Our correspondent says just hours after six hostages were freed by militants, gunmen in the Niger Delta took to the water again.

At night, their speedboats came across a Nigerian naval patrol assigned to protect an oilfield operated by the Shell oil company. A fight ensued and at least two people have been killed and three others were injured.

There are reports of military causalities but details are sketchy. It is the latest sign that the ceasefire in the Niger Delta is unravelling, our reporter says.

Five months ago, militants had publicly declared a cessation of attacks against the oil industry to allow for peace talks with the new government. But recently, one militant faction called off the truce, citing the lack of progress at peace talks and the detention of one of its leaders in Angola.

Others say the reason for the renewed violence is simply that some militants feel that they have not got their share of the cash and contracts quietly offered by the government and oil companies to shore up the peace process.

It was hoped the recent calm would enable the oil companies to restore the huge chunk of Nigeria’s oil production, which had been cut by militant attacks last year, thus also restoring a huge chunk of oil revenues to the government.

But without a ceasefire, our correspondent says, this becomes a lot more difficult.



Obasanjo’s Legacy to Nigeria
Sola Odunfa / BBC Focus On Africa magazine

Olusegun Obasanjo
Obasanjo’s efforts to stand again have been thwarted
When President Olusegun Obasanjo leaves office at the end of May, Nigeria would have achieved its first democratic transfer of power from one civilian administration to another – in spite of the reluctance of the outgoing administration.

For two years, Nigerians stood up in unusual unity against a bid by Mr Obasanjo to have the nation’s constitution amended to extend his tenure by another term of four years – in order, his supporters claimed, to allow him to complete his reform programme. And the people won a significant victory when the Senate threw out the constitutional amendment bill in May last year.

That struggle taught Nigerians the important lesson that democracy would survive only if they applied themselves to protecting and nurturing it.

Vigilance and distrust of government’s motives became the watchword – and in a sense, this would be counted as one of the major legacies of Obasanjo’s eight-year tenure.

Curbing Corruption
At the time of his swearing-in in 1999, many Nigerians were cynical about the chances of the government lasting this long.

The fear of the military staging a comeback hung thick in the air. The president himself must have sensed it, because his very first action in office was the unexpected but tactical retirement of all military chiefs and their immediate replacement.

That action was followed by the retirement of all military officers who had held political appointments in the preceding military regime.

Umaru Musa Yar’Adua
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is Obasanjo’s ‘anointed’ successor
The steps were widely applauded and they sent a clear message to the barracks and officers’ messes that the military must henceforth subject itself to control by civil government.

For the first time since independence in 1960, Nigeria has now had democratic governance for eight uninterrupted years.

A hallmark of the Obasanjo presidency has been the emphasis placed on curbing official corruption.

From his very first day in office the president promised that it would no longer be “business-as-usual”. He set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and installed at its head Nuhu Ribadu, then an assistant commissioner of police.

A measure of Mr Ribadu’s success in at least instilling a consciousness of the anti-corruption war in the minds of Nigerians is reflected in the popular saying on the streets that “the fear of Ribadu is the beginning of wisdom”.

But he has done much more. For the first time in the history of Nigeria highly-placed persons in both the public and private sectors are being investigated and brought to justice.

The EFCC has prosecuted government ministers. It arrested a sitting head of the Nigeria Police Force, prosecuted him for stealing government funds, recovered the stolen funds from him and got the court to imprison him.

But it has also been criticised for indulging in selective investigations, and this complaint became more strident in the build-up to April’s presidential and general elections.

‘Essential’ Reforms
The commission was accused of being used as an instrument to harass and blackmail opponents of Mr Obasanjo and the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Mr Obasanjo’s economic reform programme, meanwhile, may have earned him accolades abroad, but it has little support outside government corridors at home.

Nigerian Oil Delta
Nigeira’s oil-rich deltas are becoming highly dangerous areas
The effects of the programme have been worsening unemployment, spiralling prices of food, higher housing rent and the near collapse of the power sector which, in effect, cripples small businesses.

The respected Nigerian economist Sam Aluko has said of the president, “his philosophy is that government must withdraw; an economy of withdrawal is an economy of disaster”.

Former head of state Ernest Shonekan, however, defends the reforms as essential.

“Whatever initial pains they might have brought, we must appreciate the fact that economic reforms take time to work their way through and begin to produce results,” he says.

The most serious legacy of the Obasanjo presidency is to be found in the deteriorating security situation in the Niger Delta – Nigeria’s economic powerhouse.

The region’s oil and gas riches provide about 90% of the country’s foreign earnings. But militant youths, actively supported by the indigenes, are turning the entire mangrove creeks into a vast minefield.

The armed protests in the region are fast turning into an insurgency. In February, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), an umbrella body of the major militant groups, issued a public statement threatening war.

“We will fight a war that has never been fought in Africa and disintegrate Nigeria if we have to do so to get justice,” it said. It accused the government of engaging in “a show of absolute disrespect of Ijaw potency and a test of the might of the nuisance value that we can deploy”.

That “nuisance value” is exacting an increasingly heavy toll on Nigeria’s oil industry and on the economy.

In the past year, no less than 60 foreign oil workers have been kidnapped.

Initially all the kidnappings were carried out on oil installations, but recently foreigners were kidnapped in the centre of the city of Port Harcourt in Rivers State. The government says it lost more than $4bn last year as a result of the insecurity and vandalism of pipelines.

Giving details of the 2007 federal budget in January, Finance Minister Nenadi Usman said that Nigeria realised only a marginal increase in oil revenue last year, compared to receipts in 2005 – despite the all-time record price of crude oil in 2006.

The recent shortage of petrol in Nigeria is partly attributed to the sabotage of an important installation through which oil is supplied to the country’s two major refineries in Warri and Kaduna. The militants have prevented contractors from repairing the facility.

President Obasanjo’s response to the deteriorating security situation is the establishment of a military Joint Task Force (JTF), which is carrying out Operation Restore Hope in the region.

The JTF itself has suffered heavy casualties at the hands of the militants.

This legacy of an unstable and highly militarised region is one which President Obasanjo’s successor must confront – and early too – for the economic and political stability of Nigeria.

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

ACTION ALERT: Watch the “Film that Has the White House Spooked”

October 30th, 2007 - by admin

Bob Fertik / Democrats.com – 2007-10-30 23:04:03


Democrats are trying to find a way to end the occupation of Iraq, but George Bush wants to keep the occupation going… forever. That’s why it’s essential for all of us to see No End in Sight, a remarkable and powerful film that will give you the facts you need to demolish Bush’s latest lies.

Buy the DVD Today!

Recently in Salon, noted correspondent Sidney Blumenthal wrote that the film ‘No End In Sight’ “has the White House spooked” by the prospect of former high level officials like Colin Powell being inspired by the insiders in the film to speak out against the shortsightedness of the disastrous Iraq policy, destroying the last vestiges of the administration’s credibility.

[See Blumenthal’s article below]

Time Magazine has called the film “Without a doubt the most important film you are likely to see this year,” and it is possibly the best reviewed film of the entire year, as you can see from the selection of critic quotes below.

The film is playing in theatres in most major cities nationwide. For a list of dates and locations, visit www.noendinsightmovie.com.

If you care about where we’re headed as a country, you owe it to yourself to see, what the NY Times calls, “an absolutely vital” film.


“THIS POWERHOUSE OF A MOVIE SHOULD BE REQUIRED VIEWING FOR EVERY MEMBER OF CONGRESS. Lucid, without partisan rhetoric, and not to be missed.” -David Ansen, Newsweek


“AN ABSOLUTELY VITAL FILM. Exacting, enraging and revelatory. A clear, temperate and devastating account of high level arrogance and incompetence.” – A.O. Scott, NY Times

“THE MOVIE IS A CLASSIC. An extraordinary, elegant looking film.” -David Denby, New Yorker

“A TRUE RARITY. A model of concision and clarity, it’s probably the onlyone of the Iraq documentaries with the potential to reach across partisan lines.” – Dennis Lim, LA Times

“****” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“**** IT MAY BE THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR SO FAR. Devastating, factually air-tight and blessedly free of simplification.” – Michael Phillips,Chicago Tribune

“**** STAGGERING! A DAMNING POLITICAL THRILLER.” – Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

The film convicts the Bush Administration more clearly, specifically and forcefully than any previous documentary, and more wrenchingly than any book could do.” -Stuart Klawans, The Nation

Will The Real Colin Powell Stand Up?
The White House Fears That The Former Secretary of State Will Finally Tell The Truth About Planning For The Iraq War.

Sydney Blumenthal / Salon.com

Every movement, gesture and tic of the Bush administration is shadowed by its past. When National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell was deployed politically to overawe timorous legislators into approving unlimited and warrantless domestic surveillance, he was acting in the shadow of former CIA Director George Tenet, whose presence was used to lend credibility to intelligence being fixed to suit arguments for the invasion of Iraq.

As Gen. David Petraeus prepares to deliver his report in September on the “surge” in Iraq, he is elevated into the ultimate reliable source, just as former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s sterling reputation was exploited for his delivery of the case for invasion before the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, a date that will live in mendacity, for every statement he made was later revealed to be false; Powell regretted publicly that it was an everlasting “blot” on his good name. Meanwhile, during the dog days of August, the president’s aides are preparing the fall public relations campaign to envelop Petraeus’ report.

On cue, neoconservative organs spew out good news of “progress on the ground” and thrash critics as “defeatist.” “Defeatists in Retreat” trumpets William Kristol’s latest screed in the Weekly Standard, repackaging old themes once again.

Behind the display of bravado, the West Wing is seized with anxiety. Any rustle in the brush, any sudden noise, upsets the president’s aides. As they try to regain their composure and confidence, recalling the glory days when they constituted themselves as the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a P.R. juggernaut before the invasion, they know who and what they have buried along the way and fear their return.

The release of a documentary on the administration’s failures in Iraq, “No End in Sight,” directed by Charles Ferguson, has the White House spooked. Bush’s aides are not worried because the film is brilliantly shot and edited, or because it is compelling, but because of what — or whose appearance — it might augur to upset their September rollout.

The film features three former administration officials speaking on camera as unreserved critics of prewar and postwar planning: Powell’s former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson; Powell’s former deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage; and former U.S. ambassador Barbara Bodine, a senior member of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq, closely aligned with Powell.

Wilkerson and Bodine have spoken out before. But Armitage’s debut in particular has the White House fuming and fretting that it somehow signals Powell’s emergence as a full-throated critic in the middle of the September P.R. offensive. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, according to sources close to him, has voiced anger and concern about whether Powell will step forward and what he might say, and other presidential aides are wondering how to cope with that nightmarish possibility.

Two months ago, Powell declared the surge a near-certain failure. On June 10, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he declared, “The current strategy to deal with it, called a surge — the military surge, our part of the surge under General Petraeus — the only thing it can do is put a heavier lid on this boiling pot of civil war stew … And so General Petraeus is moving ahead with his part of it, but he’s the one who’s been saying all along there is no military solution to this problem. The solution has to emerge from the other two legs, the Iraqi political actions and reconciliation, and building up the Iraqi security and police forces. And those two legs are not — are not going well. That part of strategy is not going well.”

Hadley and others are taking Powell’s early skepticism toward the surge and willingness to express it as a potential sign that he will swoop down on them just after Petraeus asks for more forbearance for the president’s policy. Powell is the White House’s ticking-time-bomb scenario. He was Petraeus before Petraeus, the good soldier before the good soldier, window-dressing before window-dressing.

The White House aides’ fear of Powell reflects their guilt, if not their stricken consciences, over his disposal. Powell was used, ruined and tossed overboard. His warnings were ignored, his loyalty was abused, and when he no longer served Bush’s purposes he was unceremoniously discarded.

Throughout the excruciating years of his slow destruction, no one served Powell less ably than Powell. To the degree that his abusers and tormentors may be haunted, he is more haunted. Powell’s aides are now on the front line of criticism against the administration, while he obviously simmers, pretending to be happily retired. He travels the country delivering motivational speeches, a theater of make-believe, as though he were the same Colin Powell as before Bush.

While he preaches his secrets of success, he can see the neoconservative architects of failure in Iraq who demonized him distributed among the leading Republican candidates for president.

There is not one among them who does not boast neocon dominance of his foreign policy circle. Powell’s absence cedes the political terrain to those who ousted him from office. Notwithstanding his tarnished reputation, he has a final chance to regain his dignity and at least some of his previous standing by stepping forward at the crucial hour. Does he accept his marginalization as permanent? He is Banquo’s ghost, but will he make an appearance at Bush’s banquet?

Hadley and Co. worry that Powell may be secretly writing a memoir that would expose their hidden history, though Powell has said he will not produce a sequel to his inspirational autobiography. One of the most significant stories for which Powell would be an ideal narrator is his own mistreatment and misjudgments. Were Powell to decide to stop serving his false friends and instead to serve history, or if he were to decide simply to serve the truth before Bush perpetrates more damage, he would have to start at the beginning.

When did he realize that as secretary of state he was not the principal foreign policy advisor to the president? Was it when he was appointed in December 2000 as secretary-designate?

Being an experienced bureaucrat at the most senior levels of government, having been national security advisor and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, why did he not make common cause with Brent Scowcroft and other experienced senior personnel with whom he had long relationships to get an alternative point of view to a president whose only policy choices were being filtered through Dick Cheney’s neocon structure? As chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Scowcroft was politically isolated, forced to speak out occasionally in Op-Ed pieces and interviews. When Scowcroft published his Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 15, 2002, “Don’t Attack Saddam,” where was Powell and what did he say to Scowcroft?

Why did Powell not join Scowcroft in expressing concern about the rehabilitation of Iran-Contra convicted felon Elliott Abrams, appointed on June 1, 2001, as special assistant to the president and senior director on the National Security Council for Near East and North African Affairs. And why did Powell make no effort to block Cheney’s neocon takeover of the administration?

On Oct. 5, 2004, two weeks before he was ousted by Bush as chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Scowcroft objected to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s advisor Dov Weisglass’ statement in favor of freezing the Oslo peace process. Why didn’t Powell step in to help Scowcroft against Abrams’ manipulation of information flowing to the president about what Weisglass was saying? Was Powell aware that Abrams was working with Weisglass?

Powell watched as the neocons filled strategic positions throughout the administration. Why did he agree to the appointment of John Bolton as undersecretary for arms control and international security on May 11, 2001, and keep him on instead of firing him for reporting to Cheney rather than to him? Why did he permit Bolton to hire neocon David Wurmser as a special advisor?

On Sept. 17, 2001, one week after 9/11, Bush signed a “top secret” document to begin planning the invasion of Iraq. Powell was later reported to have said at meetings at the time, “Jeez, what a fixation about Iraq.” In April 2002, Bush advised Condoleezza Rice that he was prepared to move against Saddam. Did he advise Powell? When did Powell learn what Bush had told Rice? Was he cut out?

In February 2003, Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Meyers briefed Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar on the Iraq war plans. Had they already briefed Powell? If he was cut out, what did he do subsequently?

On May 16, 2004, Powell stated on “Meet the Press” that his Feb. 5, 2003, presentation before the United Nations Security Council on weapons of mass destruction was inaccurate. When he agreed to make the administration’s case, why did he take only two personal staffers (Col. Wilkerson and executive assistant Craig Kelly) to the CIA to review what Cheney, Scooter Libby and Paul Wolfowitz had prepared and/or distorted, instead of bringing knowledgeable members of his own intelligence service, the State Department Intelligence and Research Bureau (INR), to protect him?

On Feb. 5, 2004, I quoted Greg Thielman, former director of the Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs Office of INR, in Salon: “He didn’t have anyone from INR near him. Powell didn’t want to know what was true or not. He wanted to sell a rotten fish. At some point, Powell decided there was no way to avoid war. His job was to go to war with as much legitimacy as we could scrape up.” Why did Powell cut out his own people to his own ultimate detriment?

The documentary “No End in Sight” depicts the creation of the multivolume “Future of Iraq” study prepared by Powell’s State Department staff for the reconstruction of Iraq after the war. When Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz rejected the study and blackballed Powell’s staff, what did he do to counter them, if anything?

Eventually, history will answer these questions. But in September, Bush will attempt to impose his endgame for Iraq, a continuation of his policy, until he hands off the disaster to his successor. Petraeus is Bush’s agent, just as Powell had been. Bush and his White House dread the “mockery” of Powell’s “horrible shadow.” If Powell remains silent in September it will be his last act of acquiescence as a spectral being.

Haunted by Banquo’s ghost, Macbeth says, “If charnel-houses and our graves must send/ Those that we bury back, our monuments/ Shall be the maws of kites.” And when Banquo’s ghost vanishes, still plagued with the guilt of Banquo’s murder, Macbeth cries out: “Hence, horrible shadow! Unreal mockery, hence!”

© 2007 Salon.com

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

US Intelligence Budget Disclosed

October 30th, 2007 - by admin

BBC News – 2007-10-30 22:55:11


WASHINGTON (October 30, 2007) — The US has revealed that it has spent $43.5bn (£21bn) on intelligence during 2007, the first time the figure has been made public in almost a decade.

Intelligence chief Mike McConnell said he would give no breakdown of how the money was spent, saying that disclosure could harm national security. The disclosure was made to comply with a law passed by Congress last year.

The 2007 sum, split among 16 agencies, is almost double what was spent in 1997 and 1998, the last budgets made public.

According to legislation signed into law by US President George W Bush, total intelligence spending must be revealed 30 days after the end of the fiscal year, on 30 September.

Exactly where the money goes remains classified, but a share will go on salaries for an estimated 100,000 people, among them intelligence analysts and spies, the Associated Press reports.

Also covered will be such expenses as high-tech secret satellite programmes, aircraft, weapons, computers and software.

Secret Satellites
The budget includes money for the CIA, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and FBI intelligence programmes, as well as agencies within the state and treasury departments.

The figure does not include what is spent by the US military on gathering intelligence. Mr McConnell, releasing a brief statement highlighting the main figure, made it clear he did not intend to give more details.

“Any and all information concerning the intelligence budget, whether the information concerns particular intelligence agencies or particular intelligence programmes, will not be disclosed,” he said.

Intelligence officials have argued that detailed figures could be used by others to track fluctuations in spending and so ascertain information about secret intelligence schemes.

Former CIA director George Tenet released the budget figures for 1997 ($26.6bn) and 1998 ($26.7bn), saying he saw no risk to national security in doing so.

Intelligence spending increased significantly after the 11 September, 2001, terror attacks on the US.

The 2007 figure is greater than the national economies of all but the world’s 60 or so richest nations.

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

Burma Army ‘Recruiting Children’

October 30th, 2007 - by admin

BBC News – 2007-10-30 22:54:09


RANGOON (October 30, 2007) —The Burmese army is forcibly recruiting children to cover gaps left by a lack of adult recruits, says a report by a US-based human rights organisation. Human Rights Watch (HRW) says children as young as 10 are beaten or threatened with arrest to make them enlist.

Burma has previously said it is working towards preventing the recruitment of children by the military. HRW has urged the UN Security Council to do more to punish Burma over its alleged use of child soldiers.

The report, entitled “Sold to be Soldiers: The Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Burma” says there are thousands of children in the Burmese military.

It claims that children are approached in public places by military recruiters and civilian brokers who have been promised cash rewards by the military. The children are often beaten or threatened with arrest to force them to enlist, the report says.

It is claimed that recruiting officers routinely falsify enlistment documents to register children as being 18, the legal minimum age for recruitment.

One child quoted in the report says he was forced to lie about his age when he was recruited for a second time. “When I said I was 16, I was slapped and he said, ‘You are 18, answer 18.’ I just wanted to go back and home and I told them, but they refused.”

‘Blatant Recruitment’
The child recruits are deployed to battalions after an average of 18 weeks training, the report says. They are often reportedly sent into combat immediately, or forced to take part in activities, such as burning villages, which can be classified as human rights abuses.

Jo Becker, children’s rights advocate for HRW, said Burma is “literally buying and selling children” to fill the ranks. “The government’s senior generals tolerate the blatant recruitment of children and fail to punish perpetrators,” she said. “In this environment, army recruiters traffic children at will.”

Ms Becker said that the recent military crackdown had put off many of those potential recruits who were not already deterred by poor conditions and low pay. “After deploying its soldiers against Buddhist monks and other peaceful demonstrators, the government may find it even harder to find willing volunteers,” she said.

The Burmese ruling junta says it has formed a high-level committee to address the issue of child soldiers. However, Ms Becker described the committee as “a sham”, saying the government must address the issue head-on and demobilise all children.

International Pressure
There remains widespread international concern about human rights in Burma. Thousands of people are thought to have been detained following September’s military crackdown.

The UN Security Council is due to meet soon to discuss the use of child soldiers in Burma.

HRW has accused the Security Council of not taking any action to address the issue, despite stating repeatedly that it would consider targeted sanctions. The group has urged the UN to impose travel restrictions and arms embargos if the situation does not improve.

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

Number of People Fleeing Inside Iraq Could Rise to Nearly 5 Million

October 30th, 2007 - by admin

United Nations – 2007-10-30 09:01:46


UNITED NATIONS (23 October 2007) — Monitoring developments on the Iraq-Turkey border, the United Nations refugee agency today warned that the number of Iraqis displaced by conflict could rise beyond the already staggering 4.7 million who have fled either within the country or across borders.

Ron Redmond, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the agency “is worried about ongoing instability that could lead to further displacement.”

Staffers of the agency “are closely watching developments at the Iraq-Turkey border,” he said, pointing out that northern Iraq – the least insecure part of the country – is home to over 800,000 internally displaced Iraqis.

“We fear that displacement inside central and southern Iraq will increase as safe havens outside Iraq and in the north become increasingly inaccessible,” Mr. Redmond told a press briefing in Geneva, pointing out that at least 11 of 18 governorates inside Iraq have some form of restrictions on internal movement.

Meanwhile, Iraqi refugees continue to arrive in Syria in much smaller numbers than before now that new visa regulations are in place which can require applicants to travel to dangerous areas to process the paperwork. “One told of the insecurity they faced reaching the embassy in Baghdad’s Al Mansour district and said applicants had to wait a long time before being helped due to limited staff,” Mr. Redmond said.

More than 2.3 million Iraqis are displaced inside the country, while more than 2.4 million Iraqis have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly to Syria and Jordan.

In Syria, the agency is cleaning up its registration centre in Douma, 15 where a huge fire on Friday destroyed over $1 million of relief items. “We hope to resume registration there later this week,” the spokesman said.

He also announced that over 6,700 refugee families in Syria will benefit from a financial assistance programme that UNHCR will launch later this year in cooperation with a private bank in the country.

US Offers to Shield Blackwater Crimes: Iraq to End Contractor Immunity

October 30th, 2007 - by admin

BBC News – 2007-10-30 08:55:54


Iraq to End Contractor Immunity
BBC News

(October 30, 2007) — The Iraqi government has approved a draft law revoking the immunity from prosecution private security contractors enjoy under Iraqi law. The law, which has been referred to parliament, would revoke an order set up after the US-led invasion in 2003.

The move comes six weeks after the fatal shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad by US firm Blackwater.

Earlier, reports said the US state department might have offered partial immunity to the guards involved. The deals would protect the guards against prosecution for anything they might say in interviews as long as their statements were true. But the US Department of Justice said the bureau had no right to grant the deals.

The Baghdad shooting is currently being investigated by the FBI. Correspondents say that if the reports of immunity deals do turn out to be true, that could further complicate the issue of how the guards could be tried.

Widespread Anger
In Baghdad, however, Iraq’s government was adamant that contractors would have to obey its laws.

“The cabinet today approved a new draft law which puts all private security companies under the Iraqi law,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said. “These companies will not get immunity and will be subject to Iraqi law.”

Foreign guards would also be subject to searches at Iraqi checkpoints and be required to carry licences for weapons, Mr Dabbagh said. The bill must now be approved by the Iraqi parliament.

It is intended to replace Order 17 of the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq after the US-led invasion of 2003.

That order granted private security contractors immunity from prosecution in Iraq but made them subject to the law of their “sending state”.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in Baghdad says there is widespread anger after the shootings involving Blackwater, and there are many calls for those responsible to be put on trial. But that is unlikely to happen in this particular case, our correspondent says, as the legislation would have to be applied retrospectively.

An Iraqi government investigation has concluded that Blackwater guards fired without provocation during the incident in Baghdad on 16 September and were “100% guilty”.

Blackwater has insisted its staff acted only in self defence after insurgents fired upon the US diplomatic convoy they were protecting.

Last Wednesday, the head of the state department’s diplomatic security division, Richard Griffin, resigned after a report said there should be far tighter supervision of private security personnel in Iraq.


Blackwater Men ‘Given Immunity’
BBC News

Private US security contractors accused of shooting dead 17 innocent Iraqis may have been offered partial immunity by the US state department, say reports.

Unnamed officials said the offer was unauthorised and could make it much more difficult to prosecute the guards employed by the Blackwater firm. If confirmed, the revelation may put further strain on US-Iraq relations.

The Iraqi government was furious at the 16 September deaths, and demanded the guards be handed over to face trial. Blackwater says its staff acted in self-defence.

Legal Confusion
The Associated Press news agency quotes three unnamed senior law enforcement officials as saying that all the guards involved in the case were given the legal protections as investigators from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security looked into what had happened. The bureau is the investigative arm of the Department of State.

The guards were offered “limited-use immunity deals”, reported the New York Times, which protects them against prosecution for anything they might say in interviews with authorities as long as their statements are true.

The FBI took over the investigation earlier this month, after the justice department realised it would not be able to bring charges based on the guards’ statements to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, reported AP. But some of the Blackwater employees have now reportedly refused to answer further questions from FBI investigators.

Unnamed officials speaking to the New York Times questioned whether Bureau of Diplomatic Security officials had the authority to offer such deals – making the legal validity of the offers unclear. Nonetheless, if the reports do turn out to be true, they could further complicate the issue of how the guards could be tried.

The contractors are currently granted immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law by Order 17 of the Coalition Provisional Authority – the now-defunct interim body set up by the US-led coalition in the wake of the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Private firms working for the Department of Defence are subject to existing US legislation, but those private firms such as Blackwater working for the state department are not.

Iraqi Rage
Last Wednesday, the head of the BDS Richard Griffin resigned following a state department report which identified an urgent need for tougher oversight of the private firms. The biggest and best-known of the companies is Blackwater.

The Iraqi government accuses Blackwater of the deaths of the 17 innocent civilians in Baghdad, and says it wants the firm out of the country. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, has described the shooting as a “criminal act” and an inquiry by the Iraqi interior ministry concluded the security guards were “100% guilty”.

The head of Blackwater denies the killings were unprovoked, insisting his men had been fired upon.


Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, fro noncommercial, educational purpsoes.

Former US Diplomat Banned from Giving Anti-war Speech in Canada

October 30th, 2007 - by admin

Nonviolent Resistance – 2007-10-30 08:44:08


(October 30, 2007) — On the invitation six members of the Canadian Parliament to speak October 25 on Canada’s Parliament Hill as a member of a panel called “Peacebuilders Without Borders: Challenging the Post-0/11 Canada-US Security Agenda,” I arrived at the Ottawa airport in the morning of October 25 to be met by three members of Parliament and to hold a press conference at the airport.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Codepink Women for Peace and Global Exchange, was also invited by the Parliamentarians, but had been arrested the previous day for holding up two fingers in the form of a peace sign during the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing in which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testified on Iraq, Iran and Israel-Palestinian issues.

The October 24 committee hearing began with Codepink peace activist Desiree Fairooz holding up her red paint stained hands to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and shouting “The blood of millions of Iraqis is on your hands.” As Capitol Hill police took her out of the hearing of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs, Fairooz yelled over her shoulder “war criminal, take her to the Hague.”

Shortly thereafter two Codepinkers were arrested for just being in the room and brutally hauled out of the hearing by Capitol police. An hour later Medea and a male Codepinker were arrested for no reason. Four of the five had to stay overnight in the District of Columbia jail. Medea was one of those and missed the trip to Ottawa.

I presented to immigration officials our letter of invitation from the Parliamentarians that explained that Medea and I had been denied entry to Canada at the Niagara Falls border crossing on October 3, 2007 because we had been convicted in the United States of peaceful, non-violent protests against the war on Iraq, including sitting on the sidewalk in front of the White House with 400 others, speaking out against torture during Congressional hearings, and other misdemeanors. The Canadian government knew of these offenses as they now have access to the FBI’s National Crime Information database on which we are listed.

The database that was created to identify members of violent gangs and terrorist organizations, foreign fugitives, patrol violators and sex offenders—not for peace activists peacefully protesting illegal actions of their government.

The immigration officer directed me to secondary screening where my request to call the members of Parliament waiting outside the customs doors was denied. My suggestion that the letter of invitation from the Parliamentarians might be valuable in accessing the need for me to be in Canada was dismissed with the comment that members of Parliament do not have a role in determining who enters Canada.

I suggested that the laws enacted by the Parliament were the basis of that determination. I added that the reason I had been invited to Ottawa by Parliamentarian was to be an example of how current laws may exclude those whom Canadians may wish to allow to enter. I also mentioned that Parliament might decide to change the laws that immigration officials implement. I also suggested that since the Parliament provides the budget to the Immigration Services, they might notify the Parliamentarians awaiting my arrival that I had been detained.

The officers declined to do so citing my privacy, which I immediately waived. The Parliamentarians were never notified by Immigration that I had arrived and was being detained. Only when my cell phone was returned to me by Immigration officers four hours later was I able to make contact with the Parliamentarians.

After nearly four hours of interrogation, I was told by the senior immigration officer that I was banned from Canada for one year for failure to provide appropriate documents that would overcome the exclusion order I had been given in early October because of conviction of misdemeanors (all payable by fines) in the United States.

The officer said that to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) for entry for a specific event on a specific date, I must provide to a Canadian Embassy or consulate the arresting officer’s report, court transcripts and court documents for each of the convictions and an official document describing the termination of sentences, a police certificate issued within the last three months by the FBI, police certificates from places

I have lived in the past ten years (that includes Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia), a letter acknowledging my convictions from three respected members of the community (the respected members that I will ask to write a letter all been convicted of similar “offenses”) and a completed 18 page “criminal rehabilitation” packet.

Additionally, besides obtaining the Temporary Resident Permit, since I was being banned for a year from Canada, I would have to obtain a “Canadian Government Minister’s consent.” The officer said that the TRP and the Minister’s consent normally took from 8-10 months to obtain. In the distant future, to be able to enter Canada without a TRP, I would have to have to be “criminally rehabilitated” and be free for five years of conviction of any offense, including for peaceful protest.

The senior immigration officer took my fingerprints for Canadian records, escorted me to the airport departures area and placed me on the first plane departing for Washington, DC. In the meantime, the members of Parliament conducted the press conference and the panel without my presence but certainly using the example of what had happened to me and previously to Medea Benjamin as incidents that the Parliamentarians are very concerned about, specifically their government’s wholesale acceptance of information on the FBI’s database, information that appears to have been placed there for political intimidation.

A participant on the Parliamentary panel that I was unable to attend was Monia Mazigh, the wife of Canadian citizen Maher Arar who was sent by US authorities when he transited New York’s JFK airport, to Syria where he was imprisoned and tortured for 10 months. The day before I arrived at the Ottawa airport, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that the United States had “not handled his case properly.”

But Rice did not apologize to Arar on behalf of the Bush administration during testimony to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. The previous week during a video conference, both Republican and Democrat members of Congress offered apologies to Arar. Arar, an Ottawa telecommunications engineer, still has a lawsuit pending against American officials. Arguments are scheduled for Nov. 9 in New York.

Many countries have succumbed to the behind the scenes 9-11 pressure of the Bush administration to enact extensive and expansive anti-terrorism laws to increase “harmonization” and integration of security measures among countries. Unfortunately, the Canadian government is mirroring the Bush administration’s use of security measures to increase control over dissent in their country—and in other countries.

Most of the new security measures are done through administrative agreements, international joint working groups, regulations and the use of international organizations such as the G-8 and the International Civil Aviation Organization. By using administrative regulations, the U.S. and Canadian governments avoid opening up the proposed restrictions of personal privacy to public scrutiny and debate by preventing such regulations from being enacted in the Congress or Parliament.

Through these agreements with Canada and other G-8 countries, the Bush administration is setting up a global infrastructure for the registration and surveillance of populations worldwide, looking at every person as a suspect and a risk, whom must in their opinion, as a precaution, be identified and tracked. Ordinary legal protections fundamental to democratic societies such as the presumption of innocence, rights against unreasonable search and seizure and rights against arbitrary detention and punishment are greatly threatened by these precautionary measures.

Countries are accepting the “precautionary principle” and are gathering and sharing information not only to track suspected “terrorists” but to stop dissidents from flying and/or entering other countries, to stop activists and intellectuals at borders (the Bush administration has refused visas for numerous academics from all over the world who have been invited to teach at American universities but whom have spoken and written against the Bush war in Iraq, torture and other violations of international law), to detain persons without reasonable grounds and to send persons to third countries and prisons operated by the US government, where are detained indefinitely without charge, tortured and are sometimes murdered.

The Canada-U.S. Smart Border Agreement and Action Plan, an administrative agreement signed in December 2001, is the master document for security integration between Canada and the United States. The agreement calls for biometric standards for identity cards, coordinated visa an refugee policy, coordinate risk assessment of travelers, integrated border and marine enforcement teams, integrated national security intelligence teams, coordinated terrorist lists, increased intelligence sharing and joint efforts to promote the Canada-US model internationally.

After 9-11 the Bush administration, under the National Security Entry-exit Registration System (NSEERS) registered and took biometric identifiers (fingerprints) of all males age 16-45 with links to Muslim and Arab countries visiting or traveling though the United States. Next, persons applying for visas to visit the United States had to submit biometric data (fingerprints) that will be stored in a US database for 100 years through the new U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology (US-VISIT) program.

The Bush administration expanded its biometric round-up on a global scale in 2002 by requiring all countries that want to retain their visa waiver status with the U.S. to require by 2004 biometric passports through the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002. In 2004 the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) set a face recognition standard with fingerprint and iris scans as optional standards. Beginning in 2005 the United States and Canada have biometric passports with facial recognition.
We all want our countries to be safe from criminal actions. However, the unnecessary curtailment of civil liberties and purposeful targeting of those who disagree with government policies must end.

I call on the US Congress to conduct hearings to determine who ordered the FBI to place peaceful, non-violence protest convictions on the international data base and for what purpose.

It feels to me like purposeful intimidation to stop dissent—but I can guarantee you, it won’t work!

To all those concerned about free speech, freedom to travel, ending an illegal war, stopping torture and other violations of domestic and international law, come to Washington and help us!!!

• For more extensive information on security agreements that unnecessarily jeopardize our civil liberties, please see “Americanizing the Restriction of Canadians’ Rights—Security Overtaking Trade as a Driver of ‘Deep Integration’,” by Maureen Webb, Canadian centre for Policy Alternatives

Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The US Department of State has delayed for over three months publication of her new book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.” It will be published whenever the State Department finishes its search for classified materials.

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