Environmentalists Against War
Home | Say NO! To War | Action! | Information | Media Center | Who We Are

 

 

 

Questions After A.Q. Khan’s Resurfacing

June 11th, 2009 - by admin

J. Sri Raman/ t r u t h o u t | Perspective – 2009-06-11 22:57:09

http://www.truthout.org/061109C

(June 11, 2009) — “Recently there have been unconfirmed rumors of a rollback in Pakistan’s nuclear program, but all is not yet lost. If our leaders have our national interests at heart above all else, much can be achieved, but it requires commitment, honesty of purpose, efficiency, dedication and foresight.”

That may sound like an opposition leader in Pakistan. But, no, it was not former Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif, under whom the country went for its nuclear-weapon tests over a decade ago. Nor former President Pervez Musharraf, angling for the right issue in an attempt at a political comeback. The advice on nuclear policy to the rulers in Islamabad came from Abdul Qadeer Khan, a notorious “proliferator” abroad but still a “national hero” to a large number of Pakistanis.

A.Q. Khan made the statement in a newspaper article on the eve of May 28, the 11th anniversary of the tests conducted on the Chagai hills of Baluchistan, officially celebrated as the Youm-e-Takbeer (roughly translatable as the Day of God’s Greatness). His call raised – or should have raised – two sets of questions.

The provocation for the first series of questions was the fact that Khan was speaking, in public and forthrightly, on this subject at all. When the 72-year-old scientist was released in February 2009 from years of house arrest, it may be recalled, there was much speculation about his “secret agreement” with Islamabad. The Pakistani media, however, said the agreement “obviously” forbade Khan from expressing himself or engaging with the nuclear issue in any way.

Obviously now, the agreement either never existed or has been altered significantly. If it has been, why has his role as a mascot of nuclear militarism for the nation been revived? Has this been done without the winking consent of influential quarters in Washington or the Pentagon?

Or without the connivance – even complicity – of the Pakistani army?

Khan himself is quite used to official adoration alternating with displays of disapproval intended for international consumption. In the same article, he recalled not only his promise of a Pakistani bomb in 1984 to former military dictator Zia ul-Haq, but also the effusive encouragement he received from the country’s last usurper in uniform.

Khan quotes Pervez Musharraf as declaring in a speech of March 27, 2001: “This nation is grateful to you for what you have done for us, today and for all times to come. You are our national hero and an inspiration to our future generations.” After a string of superlatives, the general added: “These men of science, these Mujahids, have put Pakistan in the exclusive nuclear club. They have made Islamic nations proud. They … have shown that, when we want to, we can move mountains and indeed change their color.” That last bit was an allusion to the observation of some eyewitnesses that the blasts of 11 years ago turned the Chagai site white.

The same Musharraf hastened to present himself as a staunch anti-proliferator in the wake of 9/11. He placed Khan under house arrest, where he stayed even after a presidential pardon in 2004. Khan’s quotation of the general was perhaps meant to suggest a similar change of heart in the current rulers of the country.

The second set of questions concerns what Khan was talking about. So far, there has been no official talk, or any opposition hint, about plans for a “rollback” of Pakistan’s strategic nuclear program. Was the semi-rehabilitated scientist speaking of efforts to stop the “expansion” of the program, of which much has been heard in recent days?

Notably, the resurfacing of Khan followed a diplomatic victory declared by Pakistan. Washington had earlier linked its aid to Pakistan to conditions relating to Khan and India. It had wanted the right to interrogate the scientist about his past as a proliferatror and a written guarantee that the aid would not be used against India. Before Khan was to issue his clarion call, the Foreign Office in Islamabad formally announced: “The US has dropped the demands for access to nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and India’s name from the aid bill because of Pakistan’s concerns.”

The change of heart in Washington came just about a month after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Baghdad on April 25: “One of our concerns … is that if the worst, the unthinkable, were to happen, and this advancing Taliban … were to essentially topple the government for failure to beat them back, then they would have the keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan…. We can’t even contemplate that.” The concern has remained, even after President Barack Obama’s statement of April 29: “I feel confident that nuclear arsenal (Pakistan’s) will remain out of militant hands.”

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), a research wing of the US Congress, chose the Chagai anniversary to confirm reports that Pakistan was expanding its nuclear arsenal. The CRS said: “Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal consists of approximately 60 nuclear warheads. It continues fissile material production for weapons, and is adding to its weapons production facilities and delivery vehicles.” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Congressional hearing on May 14, had confirmed that the US had “evidence” of the expansion plans. The “evidence” consisted of satellite images pointing to construction of additional nuclear reactors.

There is no doubt at all about the dire implications of such plans for regional peace. Khan illustrated the priorities of Pakistan’s nuclear militarists when he told a television channel on May 28 that “India will not dare to challenge Pakistan owing to Pakistan’s nuclear capability” and urged the government “to make Pakistan a strongest country in the world.” The CRS report noted that Pakistan had pledged no-first-use against non-nuclear-weapon states, but had not ruled out first -use against a nuclear-armed aggressor that attacks Pakistan – for example, India. The report also said that Pakistan had addressed issues of survivability in a possible nuclear conflict through a second-strike capability.

Prospects of an accelerated nuclear arms race in South Asia have also been raised by an offer from France to Pakistan. Islamabad claimed on May 15 that French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari that “he wanted the Muslim country to have a wide-ranging deal to buy nuclear equipment like the one obtained by its rival India.” Influential sections in Pakistan’s establishment are pressing for a similar deal with China in order to meet the challenge of the US-India nuclear deal.

The issue is related also to the anti-Taliban military offensive in Pakistan, amidst which May 28 was marked this time. Ahmed Rashid, author of the best-selling “Taliban and Descent into Chaos,” writes: “Bush’s signing of the nuclear deal with India last year was the last straw for the Pakistani army. In military and public thinking, Pakistan was seen as sacrificing some two thousand soldiers in the war on terror on behalf of the Americans, while in return the Americans were recognizing the legitimacy of India’s nuclear weapons program. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons got no such acceptance….”

India, for its part, has no dearth of nuclear militarists to promote this diabolical madness. They may not have had time enough in the midst of a general election campaign to celebrate May 11, the 11th anniversary of India’s nuclear-weapon tests. But that did not prevent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani from hailing it as “a historic day” when “India showcased its nuclear prowess to the whole world.”

Officially, it was marked as the National Technology Day, with scientists and sundry politicians indulging in inanities about the bomb being a harbinger of a better tomorrow for India’s impoverished billion. The far right, humbled in the election, will no doubt see hope for its future in the attempt at revival of Pakistan’s nuclear nationalism.

Pakistan’s anti-nuclear-weapon scientist Pervez Hoodbhoy spoke for the peace movements in both countries, when he wrote on the same May 28: “It is time for Pakistan to become part of the current global move against nuclear weapons. India – which had thrust nuclearization upon an initially unwilling Pakistan – is morally obliged to lead. Both must announce that they will not produce more fissile material to make yet more bombs. Both must drop insane plans to expand their nuclear arsenals.”

He added: “Eleven years ago, a few Pakistanis and Indians had argued that the bomb would bring no security, no peace. They were condemned as traitors and sellouts by their fellow citizens. But each passing year shows just how right we were.”

The resurfacing of Khan, and all that the move may represent, will not prove the peace-loving people of South Asia wrong.

A freelance journalist and a peace activist in India, J. Sri Raman is the author of “Flashpoint” (Common Courage Press, USA). He is a regular contributor to Truthout.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

KBR, Halliburton Sued over War-zone’s Toxic Burn Pits

June 11th, 2009 - by admin

Sue Sturgis / Grist & Facing South – 2009-06-11 22:50:20

http://www.grist.org/article/kbr-halliburton-sued-over-war-zones-toxic-burn-pits

(June 8, 2009) — Confronted with the need to dispose of enormous quantities of war-related trash including batteries, pesticide containers, medical waste and even human body parts, but lacking proper incinerators, private contractors working for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan came up with a simple solution.

They burned the trash in big, open pits.

But now soldiers, contractors and civilians have filed a series of class-action lawsuits against the companies behind the burning, saying the smoke from the pits — which at times was so heavy it reduced visibility to only a few yards and filled soldiers’ living quarters — contained toxic chemicals that have left them with severe respiratory problems, chronic infections and even cancer.

The suits have been filed in 10 states against Houston-based KBR and former parent company Halliburton by Burke O’Neil, a law firm with offices in Washington, D.C. and Charlottesville, Va. Attorney Elizabeth Burke says her firm expects to file suit in 34 states where people are suffering problems they believe are linked to the burning.

Among the claims regarding a burn pit at Iraq’s Balad Air Force Base from the suit filed in Maryland:

On at least one occasion, Defendants were attempting to improperly dispose of medical waste at the open air burn pit by backing a truck full of medical waste up to the pit and emptying the contents into the fire. The truck caught fire. Defendants’ fraudulent actions were thereby discovered by the military.

Defendants burned medical waste that contained human body parts on the open air burn pit. Wild dogs in the area raided the burn pit and carried off human remains. The wild dogs could be seen roaming the base with body parts in their mouths, to the great distress of the U.S. forces.

One of the suits was recently moved from Texas state court to federal court in San Antonio. It was filed on behalf of six men including David McMenomy of Lampasas, Texas, who had a football-sized tumor removed from his hip that was suspected of being caused by the toxic fumes from a burn pit at Iraq’s Camp Al Taji, the San Antonio Express-News reports:

“They took an enormous amount of taxpayer dollars and did shoddy work,” Burke said of the contractors. “The work they did harmed the soldiers and hindered the military mission. In some bases with an Air Force presence, planes could not take off and land because of the smoke.”

KBR denies any wrongdoing and says it followed U.S. military rules. Halliburton, which also has headquarters in Houston, questioned why it was named in the suits and denied any legal responsibility. The company, which until 2000 was headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, spun off its KBR subsidiary in April 2007.

Last month a group of U.S. lawmakers asked the Government Accountability Office to review the Defense Department’s safety testing of a burn pit at the Balad base, saying the tests may have “significant methodological problems,” the Air Force Times reports.

U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), Kerry Baker from Disabled American Veterans, and reporter Kelly Kennedy from Army Times have set up the Burn Pits Action Center website that offers information and personal stories from people affected by the burning.

The lawsuits over the burn pits is the latest controversy for war contractor KBR, which has also been in hot water over the electrocution deaths of U.S. soldiers due to faulty wiring, exposing troops to a deadly cancer-causing poison, inflating prices for imported gasoline, poor treatment of migrant workers, rapes of women employees in Iraq, and involvement in human trafficking.

(A version of this story originally appeared at Facing South.)

Sue Sturgis is the editorial director of Facing South, the online magazine of the nonprofit Institute for Southern Studies in Durham, N.C.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Another Act of Domestic Terrorism

June 11th, 2009 - by admin

Kate Stayman-London / CREDO Action – 2009-06-11 00:01:39

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/gunshow_loophole/?r=3852&id=4475-513211-s6DOThx

(June 10, 2009) — Today’s shooting was a tragedy. The gun violence has to stop. It’s time to close the gun show loophole.

Close the gunshow loophole! Criminals and corrupt gun sellers can avoid the background checks required by the Brady Bill at gun shows and other events. Rep. Lee should take swift action to close this egregious loophole.

Take action now!

First the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-choice extremist. Now the murder of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist.

These are two horrifying acts of right wing domestic terrorism in as many weeks. No wonder the Department of Homeland Security issued a report last month labeling “rightwing extremism” the “most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

And, as we all know, these acts of terrorism were carried out with guns. Scott Roeder, who’s being held for the murder of Dr. Tiller, has a history of mental illness and threatened violence against abortion providers a week before he allegedly shot Dr. Tiller. James W. von Brunn, who allegedly killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum, has his own white supremacy website and is a convicted felon (he stormed the Federal Reserve Bank in 1981).

Why is it so easy for domestic terrorists to get hold of guns?

Here’s one way to make it harder. The Brady Bill requires criminal background checks before the purchasing of guns. But there’s a tremendous loophole for gun shows and similar events — a loophole that criminals know only too well how to exploit.

Currently, there’s a bill in Congress to close this loophole — H.R. 2234, “To require criminal background checks on all firearms transactions occurring at gun shows.” We need this law to reduce future attacks like those on Dr. Tiller and at the Holocaust Museum, but it won’t go anywhere without significant support in Congress — and right now it has only seven sponsors.

Click here to tell Rep. Lee to co-sponsor H.R. 2234. We need swift action to keep criminals from getting more guns.

Thank you for working to build a safer world.

Kate Stayman-London is the Campaign Manager for CREDO Action from Working Assets


Stop domestic right wing terrorists from getting guns.

First the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-choice extremist. Now the murder of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist.

These are two horrifying acts of right wing domestic terrorism in as many weeks. No wonder the Department of Homeland Security issued a report last month labeling “rightwing extremism” the “most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

And, as we all know, these acts of terrorism were carried out with guns. Scott Roeder, who’s being held for the murder of Dr. Tiller, has a history of mental illness and threatened violence against abortion providers a week before he allegedly shot Dr. Tiller. James W. von Brunn, who allegedly killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum, has his own white supremacy website and is a convicted felon (he stormed the Federal Reserve Bank in 1981).

Why is it so easy for domestic terrorists to get hold of guns?

Here’s one way to make it harder. The Brady Bill requires criminal background checks before the purchasing of guns. But there’s a tremendous loophole for gun shows and similar events – a loophole that criminals know only too well how to exploit.

Currently, there’s a bill in Congress to close this loophole – H.R. 2234, “To require criminal background checks on all firearms transactions occurring at gun shows.” We need this law to reduce future attacks like those on Dr. Tiller and at the Holocaust Museum, but it won’t go anywhere without significant support in Congress – and right now it has only seven sponsors.

Sign this petition today to tell your representative to co-sponsor H.R. 2324. We need swift action to keep criminals from getting more guns.

THE PETITION:
“We write to urge you in the strongest possible language to co-sponsor H.R. 2324. Domestic terrorists like those who murdered Dr. George Tiller and a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum can only too easily purchase guns at gunshows and similar events to avoid criminal background checks like those required by the Brady Bill. Two acts of domestic terrorism in as many weeks are horrifying, but tragically, these are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gun violence in the U.S. We need to make it harder for criminals to get guns. Please do your part to help by co-sponsoring H.R. 2234.”

Iraq’s New Death Squads

June 11th, 2009 - by admin

Shane Bauer / The Nation – 2009-06-11 00:00:24

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090622

This article appeared in the June 22, 2009 edition of The Nation. Research support provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute, the Center for Investigative Reporting and New American Media.

NEW YORK (June 3, 2009) — The light is fading from the dusty Baghdad sky as Hassan Mahsan re-enacts what happened to his family last summer. We’re standing in the courtyard of his concrete-block house, his children are watching us quietly and his wife is twirling large circles of dough and slapping them against the inside walls of a roaring oven.

He walks over to his three-foot-tall daughter and grabs her head like a melon. As she stands there, he gestures wildly behind her, pretending to tie up her hands, then pretending to point a rifle at her head. “They took the blindfold off me, pointed the gun at her head and cocked it, saying, ‘Either you tell us where al-Zaydawi is, or we kill your daughter.'”

Shane Bauer: As peace talks open between rebels and the government in Darfur, the question is: who speaks for whom?

“They just marched into our house and took whatever they wanted,” Hassan’s mother says, peeking out the kitchen door. “I’ve never seen anyone act like this.”

As Hassan tells it, it was a quiet night on June 10, 2008, in Sadr City, Baghdad’s poor Shiite district of more than 2 million people, when the helicopter appeared over his house and the front door exploded, nearly burning his sleeping youngest son. Before Hassan knew it, he was on the ground, hands bound and a bag over his head, with eight men pointing rifles at him, locked and loaded.

At first he couldn’t tell whether the men were Iraqis or Americans. He says he identified himself as a police sergeant, offering his ID before they took his pistol and knocked him to the ground. The men didn’t move like any Iraqi forces he’d ever seen.

They looked and spoke like his countrymen, but they were wearing American-style uniforms and carrying American weapons with night-vision scopes. They accused him of being a commander in the local militia, the Mahdi Army, before they dragged him off, telling his wife he was “finished.” But before they left, they identified themselves. “We are the Special Forces. The dirty brigade,” Hassan recalls them saying.

The Iraq Special Operations Forces (ISOF) is probably the largest special forces outfit ever built by the United States, and it is free of many of the controls that most governments employ to rein in such lethal forces. The project started in the deserts of Jordan just after the Americans took Baghdad in April 2003.

There, the US Army’s Special Forces, or Green Berets, trained mostly 18-year-old Iraqis with no prior military experience. The resulting brigade was a Green Beret’s dream come true: a deadly, elite, covert unit, fully fitted with American equipment, that would operate for years under US command and be unaccountable to Iraqi ministries and the normal political process.

According to Congressional records, the ISOF has grown into nine battalions, which extend to four regional “commando bases” across Iraq. By December, each will be complete with its own “intelligence infusion cell,” which will operate independently of Iraq’s other intelligence networks. The ISOF is at least 4,564 operatives strong, making it approximately the size of the US Army’s own Special Forces in Iraq. Congressional records indicate that there are plans to double the ISOF over the next “several years.”

According to retired Lt. Col. Roger Carstens, US Special Forces are “building the most powerful force in the region.” In 2008 Carstens, then a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, was an adviser to the Iraqi National Counter-Terror Force, where he helped set up the Iraqi counterterrorism laws that govern the ISOF.

“All these guys want to do is go out and kill bad guys all day,” he says, laughing. “These guys are shit hot. They are just as good as we are. We trained ’em. They are just like us. They use the same weapons. They walk like Americans.”

When the US Special Forces began the slow transfer of the ISOF to Iraqi control in April 2007, they didn’t put it under the command of the Defense Ministry or the Interior Ministry, bodies that normally control similar special forces the world over. Instead, the Americans pressured the Iraqi government to create a new minister-level office called the Counter-Terrorism Bureau.

Established by a directive from Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, the CTB answers directly to him and commands the ISOF independently of the police and army. According to Maliki’s directive, the Iraqi Parliament has no influence over the ISOF and knows little about its mission. US Special Forces operatives like Carstens have largely overseen the bureau. Carstens says this independent chain of command “might be the perfect structure” for counterterrorism worldwide.

Although the force is officially controlled by the Iraqi government, popular perception in Baghdad is that the ISOF — the dirty brigade — is a covert, all-Iraqi branch of the US military. That reading isn’t far from the truth. The US Special Forces are still closely involved with every level of the ISOF, from planning and carrying out missions to deciding tactics and creating policy.

According to Brig. Gen. Simeon Trombitas, commander of the Iraq National Counter-Terror Force Transition Team, part of the multinational command responsible for turning control of the ISOF over to the Iraqi government, the US Special Forces continue to “have advisers at every level of the chain of command.”

In January 2008 the US Special Forces started allowing ISOF commanders to join missions with them and the ISOF rank and file. Starting last summer — when Hassan’s family was attacked — ISOF battalions began launching missions on their own, without American advisers, in Sadr City, where political agreements forbid the Americans from entering. Accusations of human rights abuses, killings and politically motivated arrests have surfaced, including assaults on a university president and arrests of opposition politicians.

The US government has been focused on turning out “as many men in arms as possible, as quickly as possible,” says Peter Harling, senior Middle East analyst at the International Crisis Group. “There has been very little impetus to build checks and controls to prevent abuse. It’s been very much about building up capability without the oversight that could prevent some of the units [from] turning into proxies working for some politician.”

In Sadr City opposition to the Iraqi government and the US occupation is strong. There is no longer any visible militia presence, but pictures of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr still stick to the US-built concrete walls that enclose the city, and calls to prayer end with a demand for the hastened exit of “the enemy.” There, the ISOF uses a policy of collective punishment, aimed at intimidating civilians, charges Hassan al-Rubaie, Sadrist member of the parliamentary Security and Defense Committee. “They terrorize entire neighborhoods just to arrest one person they think is a terrorist,” he says. “This needs to stop.”

US Special Forces advisers have done little to respond to allegations of abuse. Civilian pleas, public protests, complaints by Iraqi Army commanders about the ISOF’s actions and calls for disbanding it by members of Parliament have not pushed the US government to take a hard look at the force they are creating. Instead, US advisers dismiss such claims as politically motivated. “The enemy is trying to discredit them,” says Carstens. “It’s not because they are doing anything dirty.”

On the same night Hassan Mahsan’s house was raided, 26-year-old Haidar al-Aibi was killed with a bullet to the forehead. His family says there was no warning. They tell me how it happened as we drink tea on the floor of their living room, furnished only with thick foam cushions and mournful depictions of the Shiite martyr Hussein. A woman weeps loudly in the corner, the sleeping child of her dead son almost obscured by the folds of her black garments.

Fathil al-Aibi says the family was awakened around midnight by a nearby explosion. His brother Haidar ran up to the roof to see what had happened and was immediately shot from a nearby rooftop. When Fathil, his brother Hussein and his father, Abbas, tried to bring Haidar downstairs, they were shot at, too. For about two hours he lay lifeless on the roof while his family panicked as red laser beams from rifle scopes danced on their windows. “We had tests the next day at the university,” Hussein says. “We didn’t think he would go like this.”

Down the road, around the same time that night, police commando Ahmed Shibli says he was also being fired on. He illuminates two bullet holes in his house with a kerosene lamp as we talk. The men who busted open his front door called themselves the dirty brigade, he says, and they were carrying American weapons, not the AK-47s or PKCs the National Police use. When they entered, they fired immediately. “It wasn’t a warning shot. They shot at me like they wanted to kill me as I was getting down on the ground. It was like we were first-degree terrorists.” They fired again, he says, fatally shooting his ailing 63-year-old father. As blood poured from the old man’s hip, Ahmed says the men held a gun to his little boy’s head and forced his wife to search the room for the police-issued weapon he had left at work.

Ahmed and his brother were hauled to the outskirts of the city, along with Hassan, where they were lined up with other men in the dark. Hassan insists on substantiating his story by showing me an official complaint issued by a local army commander named Mustafa Sabah Yunis, alleging that an “unknown armed squadron” entered the area and arrested him.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Army was rushing in to respond to the gunfire, and according to Hussein al-Aibi, these soldiers were shot at as well. He tells me the army got Haidar off the roof and drove him to the hospital. On the way, Fathil says, the vehicle was stopped by a dirty brigade operative, who asked Iraqi Army Major Abu Rajdi where they were going. According to Fathil, Rajdi told the operative, “This is a college student who has nothing to do with anything, and you shot him recklessly.” The operative responded by hitting Rajdi and saying, “Turn around and go back, or we’ll shoot him and we’ll shoot you too.”

At Haidar’s funeral, Fathil asked Rajdi to testify. “You are a representative of the government, and you saw it all happen,” he told the major. “You saw that he didn’t have a weapon in his hand.” Fathil says the major declined. “This is the dirty brigade,” he recalls Rajdi saying. “We are afraid of them. When we see them, we retreat. If I testify against them, I’ll be killed the next day. They kill and no one will hold them accountable, because they belong to the Americans.”

Major Rajdi’s fear and distrust of the ISOF are echoed by other members of the regular Iraqi Army. “Sometimes we are surprised when the Special Forces enter,” says Lt. Colonel Yahya Rasoul Abdullah, commander of the Third Battalion of the Forty-second Brigade in Sadr City. “Bad things happen. Some people steal, and some abuse women. They don’t know the people on the streets like us. They just go after their target. We have suffered from this problem.”

Accounts of older ISOF operations I heard around Baghdad suggest that the Americans may have knowingly allowed violence against civilians. In Adhamiya, long the stronghold of the Sunni insurgency in Baghdad, two hospital employees described their 2006 run-in with the ISOF to me. According to both witnesses, a self-identified ISOF operative named “Captain Hussam” unloaded his machine gun in the Al Numan Hospital after seeing the body of his superior, who had died under the hospital’s care. An American operative with a red beard stood by silently watching. According to one witness, the Iraqi operative demanded his commander’s death certificate, threatening to “torture you, kill you and kill the people of Adhamiya” if they didn’t comply. The witnesses said the eight operatives who entered the hospital were driving Humvees, vehicles that only the Americans and the ISOF use. The next day, Captain Hussam returned, a witness said, offering a box of bullets as an apology.

The effective head of the American ISOF project is General Trombitas of the Iraq National Counter-Terror Transition Team. A towering man with a gray mustache and a wrinkled brow, Trombitas spent nearly seven of his over thirty years in the military training special forces in Colombia, El Salvador and other countries. On February 23 he gave me a tour of Area IV, a joint American-Iraqi base near the Baghdad International Airport, where US Special Forces train the ISOF. As we walk away from the helicopter, he cracks a boyish smile. Though he’s worked with special forces all over the world, he tells me the men we are about to meet are “the best.”

Trombitas says he is “very proud of what was done in El Salvador” but avoids the fact that special forces trained there by the United States in the early 1980s were responsible for the formation of death squads that killed more than 50,000 civilians thought to be sympathetic with leftist guerrillas. Guatemala was a similar case. Some Guatemalan special forces that had been trained in anti-terrorism tactics by the United States during the mid-1960s subsequently became death squads that took part in the killing of around 140,000 people. In the early 1990s, US Special Forces trained and worked closely with an elite Colombian police unit strongly suspected of carrying out some of the murders attributed to Los Pepes, a death squad that became the backbone of the country’s current paramilitary organization. (Trombitas served in El Salvador from 1989-90 and in Colombia from 2003-2005, after these incidents took place.)

“The standards get looser when the Americans aren’t with [the local special forces], and they can eventually become death squads, which I believe actually happened in Colombia,” says Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo, a book about the hunt for Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar by CIA and US Special Forces. The tactics taught in each country are the same, Bowden says. “They teach the same kind of skills. They use the same equipment.”

Trombitas told the official blog of the Defense Department that the training missions used in Latin America are “extremely transferable” to Iraq. Salvadoran Special Forces even helped train the ISOF, he tells me. “It’s a world of coalitions,” he says. “The longer we work together, the more alike we are. When we share our values and our experiences with other armies, we make them the same.”

Trombitas guides me into a warehouse where ISOF operatives, most of them in black masks, have been preparing for our arrival. He walks me through a special display of their American equipment — machine guns, sniper rifles, state-of-the-art night-vision equipment and fluffy desert camo that makes soldiers look like teddy bears. He takes me up a catwalk overlooking a fake house stocked with cartoonish posters of big-breasted women pointing pistols, a couple of real men dressed as “terrorists” with kaffiyehs wrapped around their faces and a 10-year-old boy playing hostage.

As we stand in the observation area, the door explodes. After a minute of constant shooting, the operatives march out with the “terrorists,” the boy and a poster of an ’80s-style villain, wearing a jean jacket and holding a woman hostage. More than twenty bullet holes are centered on his forehead. “Look at that marksmanship,” Trombitas says, smiling proudly.

rombitas gets to the issue of human rights before I do. He assures me that US Special Forces take allegations of human rights abuses very seriously — two Iraqi men were let go for prisoner abuse since he took over in August last year, he says — but he won’t comment on specific cases. I raise the issue of accountability and bring up one well-documented mission that caused waves in the Iraqi Parliament: in August the ISOF raided Diyala’s provincial government compound, reportedly with the support of US Apache helicopters. They arrested a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, Iraq’s main Sunni Arab party. They also arrested the president of the university, also a Sunni, and killed a secretary and wounded four armed guards during the night.

I barely get the word “Diyala” out of my mouth before the American operatives standing around us start to grumble nervously and a translator jumps in. “For the reputation of the ISOF, please, let’s cut that off,” he says.

Abdul-Karim al-Samarrai, a member of the ruling United Iraqi Alliance and the parliamentary Security and Defense Committee, says that what happened in Diyala was one of many signs of the prime minister’s bad intentions for the ISOF. “Politicians are afraid because this force can be used for political ends,” he says. In response to outrage from members of Parliament over the arrest of politicians by the ISOF, Maliki, who is officially required to approve every ISOF target, denied any knowledge of the Diyala mission. His claim of innocence raises important questions. If the man who is supposed to be in charge of the ISOF has no knowledge of its missions, then who is ultimately responsible for the force? Was Maliki lying to cover up the fact that he is using the force for political purposes? Or was someone else — namely the Americans — calling the shots?

Diyala was only the first publicized case of possibly politically motivated arrests. In December the ISOF arrested as many as thirty-five officials in the Interior Ministry who were thought to be in opposition to Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party. This past March the ISOF arrested at least one leader of the Awakening Councils, semiofficial Sunni neighborhood militias that have been increasingly at odds with Maliki over his failure to keep a promise to incorporate the councils into the military or give them other employment.

The Maliki government has developed a “culture of direct control,” says Michael Knights, a Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute and the head of its Iraq program. Knights visits Iraq regularly and has close contact with the country’s security services. He says the people in charge of the ISOF at the regional levels are “personally chosen loyalists or relatives of Maliki. It reminds me of Saddam.” Knights says that Maliki is only supposed to approve or reject missions that come to him, but occasionally he will “assert his prerogative as the commander in chief and tell the ISOF to do something or not to do something.” Knights raises the possibility that the ISOF will become Maliki’s personal death squad. “The prime minister is looking for re-election, and there are not that many restraints on his ability to target political opponents, as [his government] has been doing with the Sadrists for years now.”

Samarrai, along with other members of Parliament, is calling for disbanding the Counter-Terrorism Bureau. He says there is no legal basis for an armed brigade to exist outside the control of the Interior or Defense ministry. “People are afraid of the existence of an organization with such dreadful capabilities that reports directly to the prime minister,” he says.

Member of Parliament Hassan al-Rubaie is concerned about the close relationship between the ISOF and the Americans. “If the US leaves Iraq, this will be the last force they will leave behind,” he insists. He is worried that such a powerful and secretive force that is closely tied to the Americans could turn Iraq into a “military base in the region” by allowing the United States to continue to conduct missions in Iraq with the cover of the ISOF. “They have become a replacement” for the Americans, he says.

President Obama has said he plans to increase reliance on the US Special Forces; Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s recent appointment of Stanley McChrystal as commander of Afghanistan suggests that he is keeping his word. From 2003 to 2008, McChrystal was the head of the Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees the Army’s most secretive forces and is responsible for the training of special forces abroad. McChrystal was also commander of US Special Operations Forces in Iraq for five years, during which time, according to the Wall Street Journal, he commanded “units that specialize in guerrilla warfare, including the training of indigenous armies.”

“The eventual drawdown in Iraq is not the end of the mission for our elite forces,” Gates said in May 2008. Gates hasn’t spoken on the issue since Obama took office; but Obama says he will institutionalize irregular warfare capabilities, and the White House stresses the need to “create a more robust capacity to train, equip and advise foreign security forces, so that local allies are better prepared to confront mutual threats.”

Bowden says those “local allies” are often used for covert operations. “The United States Special Operations Command cultivates relationships with special forces in other countries because it gives the United States the opportunity of intervening militarily in a covert way,” he says. “The ideal covert op is one that is actually carried out by local forces.”

As I stand on the tarmac with Trombitas in Area IV, waiting for our helicopter to return and fly us back to the Green Zone, I ask him how long the United States will be involved with the ISOF. “Special forces are special because we do maintain a relationship with foreign forces,” he says. “Part of our theater-engagement strategy is to maintain a relationship with those units that are important to the security of the region and to the world.” As our helicopter appears in the lightly clouded sky, he chooses his next words carefully: “We are going to have a working relationship for a while,” he says.

S hane Bauer is a freelance journalist and Arabic speaker living in the Middle East.

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

Rightwing Extremism Is Top Domestic Terrorist Threat

June 10th, 2009 - by admin

US Department of Homeland Security – 2009-06-10 23:51:07

Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment
US Department of Homeland Security

LAW ENFORCEMENT INFORMATION NOTICE: This product contains Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES) information. No portion of the LES information should be released to the media, the general public, or over non-secure Internet servers. Release of this information could adversely affect or jeopardize investigative activities.

Warning: This document is (U//FOUO). It contains information that may be exempt from public release under the Freedom of Information Act (5 USC. 552). It is to be controlled, stored, handled, transmitted, distributed, and disposed of in accordance with DHS policy relating to FOUO information and is not to be released to the public, the media, or other personnel who do not have a valid need-to-know without prior approval of an authorized DHS official. State and local homeland security officials may share this document with authorized security personnel without further approval from DHS.

All US person information has been minimized. Should you require the minimized US person information, please contact the DHS/I&A Production Branch at IA.PM@hq.dhs.gov, IA.PM@dhs.sgov.gov, or IA.PM@dhs.ic.gov.

Rightwing Extremism:
Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling
Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment

Prepared by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch, Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division. Coordinated with the FBI.

Scope

WASHINGTON, DC (April 7, 2009) — This product is one of a series of intelligence assessments published by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch to facilitate a greater understanding of the phenomenon of violent radicalization in the United States.

The information is provided to federal, state, local, and tribal counterterrorism and law enforcement officials so they may effectively deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States. Federal efforts to influence domestic public opinion must be conducted in an overt and transparent manner, clearly identifying United States Government sponsorship.

Key Findings
(U//LES) The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing* terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.

— (U//LES) Threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts. Nevertheless, the consequences of a prolonged economic downturn—including real estate foreclosures, unemployment, and an inability to obtain credit—could create a fertile recruiting environment for rightwing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past.

— (U//LES) Rightwing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning. The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s when rightwing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to US power and sovereignty by other foreign powers.

— During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors.

— Growth of these groups subsided in reaction to increased government scrutiny as a result of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and disrupted plots, improvements in the economy, and the continued US standing as the preeminent world power.

The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.

Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

— Proposed imposition of firearms restrictions and weapons bans likely would attract new members into the ranks of rightwing extremist groups, as well as potentially spur some of them to begin planning and training for violence against the government. The high volume of purchases and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition by rightwing extremists in anticipation of restrictions and bans in some parts of the country continue to be a primary concern to law enforcement.

— Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.

Current Economic and Political Climate
DHS/I&A assesses that a number of economic and political factors are driving a resurgence in rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization activity. Despite similarities to the climate of the 1990s, the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years. In addition, the historical election of an African American president and the prospect of policy changes are proving to be a driving force for rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization.

— A recent example of the potential violence associated with a rise in rightwing extremism may be found in the shooting deaths of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 4 April 2009. The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled “one world government.”

Exploiting Economic Downturn
Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the perceived loss of US jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and home foreclosures. Anti-Semitic extremists attribute these losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish “financial elites.” These “accusatory” tactics are employed to draw new recruits into rightwing extremist groups and further radicalize those already subscribing to extremist beliefs. DHS/I&A assesses this trend is likely to accelerate if the economy is perceived to worsen.

Historical Presidential Election
(U//LES) Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool. Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms

Perceptions on Poverty and Radicalization
Scholars and experts disagree over poverty’s role in motivating violent radicalization or terrorist activity. High unemployment, however, has the potential to lead to alienation, thus increasing an individual’s susceptibility to extremist ideas. According to a 2007 study from the German Institute for Economic Research, there appears to be a strong association between a parent’s unemployment status and the formation of rightwing extremist beliefs in their children—specifically xenophobia and antidemocratic ideals. ownership and use. Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment. From the 2008 election timeframe to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns, thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers.

— (U//LES) Most statements by rightwing extremists have been rhetorical, expressing concerns about the election of the first African American president, but stopping short of calls for violent action. In two instances in the run-up to the election, extremists appeared to be in the early planning stages of some threatening activity targeting the Democratic nominee, but law enforcement interceded.

Revisiting the 1990s
Paralleling the current national climate, rightwing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members. Prominent among these themes were the militia movement’s opposition to gun control efforts, criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico), and highlighting perceived government infringement on civil liberties as well as white supremacists’ longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage.

During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors.

Economic Hardship and Extremism
Historically, domestic rightwing extremists have feared, predicted, and anticipated a cataclysmic economic collapse in the United States. Prominent antigovernment conspiracy theorists have incorporated aspects of an impending
economic collapse to intensify fear and paranoia among like-minded individuals and to attract recruits during times of economic uncertainty. Conspiracy theories involving declarations of martial law, impending civil strife or racial conflict, suspension of the US Constitution, and the creation of citizen detention camps often incorporate aspects of a failed economy. Antigovernment conspiracy theories and “end times” prophecies could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition, and weapons.

These teachings also have been linked with the radicalization of domestic extremist individuals and groups in the past, such as violent Christian Identity organizations and extremist members of the militia movement.

Illegal Immigration
Rightwing extremists were concerned during the 1990s with the perception that illegal immigrants were taking away American jobs through their willingness to work at significantly lower wages. They also opposed free trade agreements, arguing that these arrangements resulted in Americans losing jobs to countries such as Mexico.

Over the past five years, various rightwing extremists, including militias and white supremacists, have adopted the immigration issue as a call to action, rallying point, and recruiting tool. Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent.

DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremist groups’ frustration over a perceived lack of government action on illegal immigration has the potential to incite individuals or small groups toward violence. If such violence were to occur, it likely would be isolated, small-scale, and directed at specific immigration-related targets.

— DHS/I&A notes that prominent civil rights organizations have observed an increase in anti-Hispanic crimes over the past five years.

— In April 2007, six militia members were arrested for various weapons and explosives violations. Open source reporting alleged that those arrested had discussed and conducted surveillance for a machinegun attack on Hispanics.

— A militia member in Wyoming was arrested in February 2007 after communicating his plans to travel to the Mexican border to kill immigrants crossing into the United States.

Legislative and Judicial Drivers
Many rightwing extremist groups perceive recent gun control legislation as a threat to their right to bear arms and in response have increased weapons and ammunition stockpiling, as well as renewed participation in paramilitary training exercises. Such activity, combined with a heightened level of extremist paranoia, has the potential to facilitate criminal activity and violence.

— During the 1990s, rightwing extremist hostility toward government was fueled by the implementation of restrictive gun laws—such as the Brady Law that established a 5-day waiting period prior to purchasing a handgun and the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that limited the sale of various types of assault rifles—and federal law enforcement’s handling of the confrontations at Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

— On the current front, legislation has been proposed this year requiring mandatory registration of all firearms in the United States. Similar legislation was introduced in 2008 in several states proposing mandatory tagging and registration of ammunition. It is unclear if either bill will be passed into law; nonetheless, a correlation may exist between the potential passage of gun control legislation and increased hoarding of ammunition, weapons stockpiling, and paramilitary training activities among rightwing extremists.

Open source reporting of wartime ammunition shortages has likely spurred rightwing extremists—as well as law-abiding Americans—to make bulk purchases of ammunition. These shortages have increased the cost of ammunition, further exacerbating rightwing extremist paranoia and leading to further stockpiling activity.

Both rightwing extremists and law-abiding citizens share a belief that rising crime rates attributed to a slumping economy make the purchase of legitimate firearms a wise move at this time.

Weapons rights and gun-control legislation are likely to be hotly contested subjects of political debate in light of the 2008 Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in which the Court reaffirmed an individual’s right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, but left open to debate the precise contours of that right. Because debates over constitutional rights are intense, and parties on all sides have deeply held, sincere, but vastly divergent beliefs, violent extremists may attempt to co-opt the debate and use the controversy as a radicalization tool.

Perceived Threat from Rise of Other Countries
Rightwing extremist paranoia of foreign regimes could escalate or be magnified in the event of an economic crisis or military confrontation, harkening back to the “New World Order” conspiracy theories of the 1990s. The dissolution of Communist countries in Eastern Europe and the end of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led some rightwing extremists to believe that a “New World Order” would bring about a world government that would usurp the sovereignty of the United States and its Constitution, thus infringing upon their liberty. The dynamics in 2009 are somewhat similar, as other countries, including China, India, and Russia, as well as some smaller, oil-producing states, are experiencing a rise in economic power and influence.

— Fear of Communist regimes and related conspiracy theories characterizing the US Government’s role as either complicit in a foreign invasion or acquiescing as part of a “One World Government” plan inspired extremist members of the militia movement to target government and military facilities in past years.

— Law enforcement in 1996 arrested three rightwing militia members in Battle Creek, Michigan with pipe bombs, automatic weapons, and military

Lone Wolves and Small Terrorist Cells
DHS/I&A assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States. Information from law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations indicates lone wolves and small terrorist cells have shown intent—and, in some cases, the capability—to commit violent acts.

— (U//LES) DHS/I&A has concluded that white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy—separate from any formalized group—which hampers warning efforts.

— Similarly, recent state and municipal law enforcement reporting has warned of the dangers of rightwing extremists embracing the tactics of “leaderless resistance” and of lone wolves carrying out acts of violence.

— Arrests in the past several years of radical militia members in Alabama, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania on firearms, explosives, and other related violations indicates the emergence of small, well-armed extremist groups in some rural areas. … ordnance that they planned to use in attacks on nearby military and federal facilities and infrastructure targets.

— Rightwing extremist views bemoan the decline of US stature and have recently focused on themes such as the loss of US manufacturing capability to China and India, Russia’s control of energy resources and use of these to pressure other countries, and China’s investment in US real estate and corporations as a part of subversion strategy.

Disgruntled Military Veterans
DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists—including lone wolves or small terrorist cells—to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.

— After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans—including Timothy McVeigh—joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups.

— A prominent civil rights organization reported in 2006 that “large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [US] armed forces.”

— (U//LES) The FBI noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.

Outlook
DHS/I&A assesses that the combination of environmental factors that echo the 1990s, including heightened interest in legislation for tighter firearms restrictions and returning military veterans, as well as several new trends, including an uncertain economy and a perceived rising influence of other countries, may be invigorating rightwing extremist activity, specifically the white supremacist and militia movements.

To the extent that these factors persist, rightwing extremism is likely to grow in strength.

Unlike the earlier period, the advent of the Internet and other information-age technologies since the 1990s has given domestic extremists greater access to information related to bomb-making, weapons training, and tactics, as well as targeting of individuals, organizations, and facilities, potentially making extremist individuals and groups more dangerous and the consequences of their violence more severe.

New technologies also permit domestic extremists to send and receive encrypted communications and to network with other extremists throughout the country and abroad, making it much more difficult for law enforcement to deter, prevent, or preempt a violent extremist attack.

A number of law enforcement actions and external factors were effective in limiting the militia movement during the 1990s and could be utilized in today’s climate.

— Following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, the militia movement declined in total membership and in the number of organized groups because many members distanced themselves from the movement as a result of the intense scrutiny militias received after the bombing.

— Militia membership continued to decline after the turn of the millennium as a result of law enforcement disruptions of multiple terrorist plots linked to violent rightwing extremists, new legislation banning paramilitary training, and militia frustration that the “revolution” never materialized.

— Although the US economy experienced a significant recovery and many perceived a concomitant rise in US standing in the world, white supremacist groups continued to experience slight growth.

DHS/I&A will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months to ascertain with greater regional specificity the rise in rightwing extremist activity in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the political, economic, and social factors that drive rightwing extremist radicalization.

Reporting Notice:
DHS encourages recipients of this document to report information concerning suspicious or criminal activity to DHS and the FBI. The DHS National Operations Center (NOC) can be reached by telephone at 202-282-9685 or by e-mail at NOC.Fusion@dhs.gov. For information affecting the private sector and critical infrastructure, contact the National Infrastructure Coordinating Center (NICC), a sub-element of the NOC. The NICC can be reached by telephone at 202-282-9201 or by e-mail at NICC@dhs.gov. The FBI regional phone numbers can be found online at http://www.fbi.gov/contact/fo/fo.htm. When available, each report submitted should include the date, time, location, type of activity, number of people and type of equipment used for the activity, the name of the submitting company or organization, and a designated point of contact.

For comments or questions related to the content or dissemination of this document, please contact the DHS/I&A Production Branch at IA.PM@hq.dhs.gov, IA.PM@dhs.sgov.gov, or IA.PM@dhs.ic.gov.

Tracked by: CRIM-040300-01-05, CRIM-040400-01-05, TERR-010000-01-05

Conservatives Outraged at Homeland Security Report Characterizing ‘Right-wing Extremism’

June 10th, 2009 - by admin

Raw Story – 2009-06-10 23:43:48

http://rawstory.com/08/news/2009/04/15/conservatives-outraged-at-report-characterizing-right-wing-extremism/

(April 15, 2009) — An April 7 report by the Department of Homeland Security is causing waves of indignation among conservatives for labeling “rightwing extremism” the “most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

In its key findings, the 10 page document (see report on today’s EAW Website) put forward by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis states that there is “no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence,” but warns law enforcement agencies that the economic recession, coupled with the recent election of the first African-American President of the United States, is driving radical groups’ recruitment.

“The DHS under President Bush was apparently more reluctant to make such assessments about the right. According to CQ, a 2005 report outlining terrorist threats ‘does not mention anti-government groups, white supremacists and other radical right-wing movements,’” noted Think Progress. “Bush’s report did, however, list the threat of left-wing groups such as the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front. And a 2001 report from the Energy Department examined “Left-Wing Extremism: The Current Threat.”

Rightwing blogger and occasional Fox News editorialist Michelle Malkin referred to the analysis as “a sweeping indictment of conservatives.”

Her blog on the topic came on the same day as a Washington Times report on the analysis and a high-profile link from rightwing news blogger Matt Drudge.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said in a ‘tweet’ late Tuesday afternoon, “The person who drafted the outrageous homeland security memo smearing veterans and conservatives should be fired.”

The first outlet to carry details of the DHS paper was Alex Jones’ InfoWars.

“A recent example of the potential violence associated with a rise in rightwing extremism may be found in the shooting deaths of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 4 April 2009,” the report states. “The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled ‘one world government.’”

Richard Poplawski, the Pittsburgh shooter, was linked to the white supremacist group Stormfront by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette following discovery of posts he made to the group’s Web site. The paper, along with a broad range of media sources, also fallaciously linked Poplawski to Jones, a self-described paleoconservative and supporter of Republican Congressman Ron Paul.

“[It] should be noted that on numerous occasions Alex Jones has advocated non-violence and advised listeners to avoid confrontation with the police and authorities,” noted InfoWars writer Kurt Nimmo. “None of the critics […] have bothered to note this fact as they attempt to make a connection between the deranged Poplawski and Jones.”

The DHS report also states: “Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or ejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

The reference to “rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority” appears to be aimed at supporters of the State Soverignty movement, which seeks to assert states rights over the federal government as outlined in the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. On Tuesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry affirmed his support for the cause, which has spread across numerous states.

“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion inton the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” said Perry. “That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.”

Furthermore, the report points toward ammunition stockpiling and opposition to gun control as hallmarks of rightwing extremism.

“Many rightwing extremist groups perceive recent gun control legislation as a threat to their right to bear arms and in response have increased weapons and ammunition stockpiling, as well as renewed participation in paramilitary training exercises. Such activity, combined with a heightened level of extremist paranoia, has the potential to facilitate criminal activity and violence.”

Two recent reports have fingered the Obama Administration and the assault weapons ban’s most ardent supporter in Congress — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) — as putting off any effort to regulate high-powered weapons. Congressional officials told a reporter in comments published Saturday that Obama and top White House aides have all but abandoned a push for tighter gun control, indicating they can’t stomach a fight with the National Rifle Association when they’re focused on other issues.

Seven million people have applied for criminal background checks since November in an effort to buy guns, according to the FBI. That figure doesn’t include Virginia, whose gun shows don’t require any background checks.

The buying bonanza has stripped some stores almost bare of assault weapons and yielded a national ammunition shortage.

Feinstein said there isn’t support for the assault weapons ban in Congress. Pro-gun Democrats picked up seats in the last election.

The report also cites concern that “rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.”

Finally, in an ominous-sounding passage on page eight, the report outlines plans to continue gathering information on groups which fall under its strikingly broad definition of rightwing extremism.

“DHS/I&A will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months to ascertain with greater regional specificity the rise in rightwing extremist activity in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the political, economic, and social factors that drive rightwing extremist radicalization.”

A Homeland Security-funded law enforcement fusion center in Virginia included groups some may categorize as “leftwing” among those it considers to be terrorism threats. In a lengthy assessment, reported on by RAW STORY April 6, groups such as the anti-Scientology movement “Anonymous,” the “New Black Panthers” and even environmental group “Earth First!” are said to be domestic terrorism risks. The Virginia assessment even alleged that the nation’s oldest colleges are “radicalization nodes” for terrorist recruitment.

“This is the job of DHS, to assess what is happening in this country, with regard to homegrown terrorism, and determine whether it’s an actual threat or not, and that’s what these assessments do,” a Homeland Security official told Fox on Monday. “This is nothing unusual. These assessments are done all the time. This is about awareness.”

With reporting by John Byrne.

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

The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism

June 9th, 2009 - by admin

Barry Sanders: Book Excerpt / AK Press – 2009-06-09 22:03:57

http://www.revolutionbythebook.akpress.org/book-excerpt-from-the-green-zone-the-environmental-costs-of-militarism/

BERKELEY (May 11, 2009) — From the Publisher. Our most recent book back from the printer is Barry Sanders’s The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism. It’s a detailed examination of the environmental impact of US military practices—which identifies those practices, from fuel emissions to radioactive waste to defoliation campaigns, as the single-greatest contributor to the worldwide environmental crisis. We think it’s a powerful book, especially considering the fact that the Obama regime’s efforts to save capitalism through new, “ecological” modes of production—disingenuous and doomed as they are—won’t even begin to address the environmental and climactic havoc wreaked by the planet’s most destructive enemy: the US military.

The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism
From the Introduction

Over the years, my family has bought three or four little books on how to lead the greenest life possible. We’ve all seen those well-intentioned pamphlets at the checkout counters of bookstores and grocery stores: Fifty Ways to Save the Planet; Going Totally Green; Making a Difference; and so on. While they may pale these days considering the enormity of the environmental crisis, we nonetheless still take the advice to heart, choosing low-energy light bulbs, installing low-flush toilets, turning down the thermostat, refusing to warm up the car’s engine for extended periods, and on and on.

Every little bit helps, as the experts tell us, and, besides, we need to feel that we are doing something. But no list in any of those books addresses the largest single source of pollution in this country and in the world: the United States military—in particular, the military in its most ferocious and stepped-up mode—namely, the military at war.

In a nation like ours, where military might trumps diplomatic finesse, the supreme irony may be that the planet, and not human beings, will provide the most stringent corrective to political overreaching. The earth can no longer absorb the punishment of war, especially on a scale and with a ferocity that only the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world—no, in history—knows how to deliver. While the United States military directed its “Operation Iraqi Freedom” solely against the Iraqis, no one—not a single citizen in any part of the globe—has escaped its fallout.

When we declare war on a foreign nation, we now also declare war on the Earth, on the soil and plants and animals, the water and wind and people, in the most far-reaching and deeply infecting ways. A bomb dropped on Iraq explodes around the world. We have no way of containing the fallout. Technology fails miserably here. War insinuates itself, like an aberrant gene and, left unchecked, has the capacity for destroying the Earth’s complex and sometimes fragile system.

So we can act like honorable and conscientious citizens, conserving all the energy we can. We can feel good about all those glossy magazine ads from Shell and Exxon Mobil telling us how their companies now treasure the environment, producing their fuels in the cleanest ways possible. We can fall for Detroit’s latest news, too, convincing us of a revolutionary breakthrough in fuel efficiency: 300 horsepower cars that get still 30 or 32 miles per gallon on the highway. But that’s just insanity wearing a green disguise. None of those advertised boasts and claims really matter. They still cling to fossil fuels and further our campaign to kill off everything on the planet with our addictive need.

But, even if those claims did make a slight difference, even if we could slow down global warming, ultimately it would not matter. For, in the background, lurking and ever-present, a giant vampire silently sucks out of the Earth all the oil it possibly can, and no one stops it. And so here’s the awful truth: even if every person, every automobile, and every factory suddenly emitted zero emissions, the Earth would still be headed head first and at full speed toward total disaster for one major reason. The military—that voracious vampire—produces enough greenhouse gases, by itself, to place the entire globe, with all its inhabitants large and small, in the most immanent danger of extinction.

As we contemplate America in the opening years of the twenty-first century, then, let us reconsider George Washington’s farewell warning that “overgrown military establishments…under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.” Today, our own military has grown beyond an institution hostile to liberty and has wrapped its arms of death around life itself. And, from all the available evidence, it will not let go. Unlike most animals, the military has no surrender mechanism. Unless we all summon the strength to confront the military—no easy task—it will continue to work its evil.

I write as a citizen, not a politician; as a layman, not a scientist; as an outsider from the academy, not an insider from the Pentagon. Most of the information that I present here is deliberately withheld from the general public, made intentionally obscure, folded inside arcane reports, or hidden on hard-to-find governmental websites by the Department of Defense (DoD), or the Pentagon, or the General Accounting Office. Researching the military is like trying to uncover the truth in the former Soviet Union. Governments always conduct a good deal of their business in clandestine ways.

The Bush administration, however, enjoyed the well-earned reputation as particularly deceptive, tight-lipped, secretive, and downright hostile to the most routine questions and probes—and especially over things that appeared so obviously illegal, like spying on citizens through wiretapping telephone calls and intercepting international e-mail messages, all without the legally required warrants. We will see how eager the Obama administration will be to reveal its inner workings. Transparency was one of the goals of Obama’s campaign, and he repeated that mantra over and over again….

But before we rejoice too soon in the new administration, recall that, directly before the election, Obama sounded very much like the old administration when he announced that he would probably need to send two more battalions into the foothills of Afghanistan. Bin Laden is still the prize; victory is still the illusion. War is still the way. The impulse toward war transcends parties: Republicans defend their war in Iraq; Democrats defend Kosovo. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and practiced genocide on the Kurds. Slobodan Milosovic is a tyrant and practiced genocide on the Albanians. The names change, the nations shift, but the war drums reverberate with their same incessant and insistent beat. And almost everyone listens—conservatives and liberals—and almost everyone responds.

AK Press, 674-A 23rd Street, Oakland, CA 94612. (510) 208-1700

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Obama’s Speech: The Tone and the Music

June 9th, 2009 - by admin

Uri Avnery / Gush-Shalom – 2009-06-09 21:58:08

http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1244289868/

While Obama proclaims the 21st century, the government of Israel is returning to the 19th.

(June 6, 2009) — ONE MAN spoke to the world, and the world listened.

He walked onto the stage in Cairo, alone, without hosts and without aides, and delivered a sermon to an audience of billions. Egyptians and Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, Sunnis and Shiites, Copts and Maronites – and they all listened attentively.

He unfolded before them the map of a new world, a different world, whose values and laws he spelled out in simple and clear language – a mixture of idealism and practical politics, vision and pragmatism.

Barack Hussein Obama – as he took pains to call himself – is the most powerful man on earth. Every word he utters is a political fact.

“A HISTORIC SPEECH”, pronounced commentators in a hundred languages. I prefer another adjective:

The speech was right.

Every word was in its place, every sentence precise, every tone in harmony. The masterpiece of a man bringing a new message to the world.

From the very first word, every listener in the hall and in the world felt the honesty of the man, that his heart and his tongue were in harmony, that this is not a politician of the old familiar sort – hypocritical, sanctimonious, calculating. His body language was speaking, and so were his facial expressions

That’s why the speech was so important. The new moral integrity and the sense of honesty increased the impact of the revolutionary content.

AND A REVOLUTIONARY speech it certainly was.

In 55 minutes, it not only wiped away the eight years of George W. Bush, but also much of the preceding decades, from World War II on.

The American ship has turned – not with the sluggishness everyone would have expected, but with the agility of a speedboat.

That is much more than a political change. It touches the roots of the American national consciousness. The President spoke to hundreds of million US citizens no less than to a billion Muslims.

The American culture is based on the myth of the Wild West, with its Good Guys and Bad Guys, violent justice, dueling under the midday sun. Since the American nation is composed of immigrants from all over the world, its unity seems to require a threatening, world-encompassing evil enemy, like the Nazis and the Japs, or the Commies. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, this role was taken over by Islam.

Cruel, fanatical, bloodthirsty Islam; Islam as the religion of murder and destruction; an Islam lusting for the blood of women and children. This enemy captured the imagination of the masses and supplied material for television and cinema. It provided lecture topics for learned professors and fresh inspiration for popular writers. The White House was occupied by a moron who declared a world-wide “War on Terrorism”.

When Obama is now uprooting this myth, he is revolutionizing American culture. He wipes away the picture of one enemy, without painting another in its place. He preaches against the violent, adversary attitude itself, and starts to work to replace it with a culture of partnership between nations, civilizations and religions.

I see Obama as the first great messenger of the 21st century. He is the son of a new era, where the economy is global and the whole of humanity faces the danger to the very existence of life on the planet Earth. An era where the Internet connects a boy in New Zealand with a girl in Namibia in real time, where a disease in a small Mexican village spreads all over the globe within days.

This world needs a world law, a world order, a world democracy. That’s why this speech really was historic: Obama outlined the basic contours of a world constitution.

WHILE OBAMA proclaims the 21st century, the government of Israel is returning to the 19th.

That was the century when a narrow, egocentric, aggressive nationalism took root in many countries. A century that sanctified the belligerent nation which oppresses minorities and subdues neighbors. The century that gave birth to modern anti-Semitism and to its response – modern Zionism.

Obama’s vision is not anti-national. He spoke with pride about the American nation. But his nationalism is of another sort: an inclusive, multi-cultural and non-sexist nationalism, which includes all the citizens of a country and respects other nations.

This is the nationalism of the 21st century, which is inexorably striving towards supranational, regional and world-wide structures.

Compared to this, how miserable is the mental world of the Israeli Right! How miserable is the violent, fanatical-religious world of the settlers, the chauvinist ghetto of Netanyahu, Lieberman and Barak, the racist-fascist closed-in world of their Kahanist allies!

One has to understand this moral and spiritual dimension of Obama’s speech before considering its political implications. Not only in the political sphere are Obama and Netanyahu on a collision course. The underlying collision is between two mental worlds which are as distinct from each other as the sun and the moon.

In Obama’s mental world, there is no place for the Israeli Right or its equivalents elsewhere. Not for their terminology, not for their “values”, and still less for their actions.

IN THE political sphere, too, a huge gap has opened up between the governments of Israel and the USA.

During the last few years, successive Israeli governments have ridden the wave of Islamophobia that has spread throughout the West. The Islamic world was considered the deadly enemy, America was galloping grimly towards the Clash of Civilizations, every Muslim was a potential terrorist.

Israel’s right-wing leaders could rejoice. After all, the Palestinians are Arabs, the Arabs are Muslims, the Muslims are Terrorists – so that Israel was assured a central place in the war of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness.

That was a Garden of Eden for racist demagogues. Avigdor Lieberman could advocate the expulsion of the Arabs from Israel, Ellie Yishai could enact laws for the revocation of the citizenship of non-Jews. Obscure Members of the Knesset could grab headlines with bills that might have been conceived in Nuremberg.

This Garden of Eden is no more. Whether the implications will become clear quickly or slowly – the direction is obvious. If we continue on our path, we will become a leper colony.

THE TONE makes the music – and this applies also to the President’s words on Israel and Palestine. He spoke at length about the Holocaust – honest and courageous words, full of empathy and compassion, which were received by the Egyptians in silence but with respect. He stressed Israel’s right to exist. And without pausing, he spoke about the suffering of the Palestinian refugees, the intolerable situation of the Palestinians in Gaza, Palestinian aspirations for a state of their own.

He spoke respectfully about Hamas. Not anymore as a “terrorist organization”, but as a part of the Palestinian people. He demanded that they recognize Israel and stop violence, but also hinted that he would welcome a Palestinian unity government.

The political message was clear and unequivocal: the Two-State Solution will be put into practice. He himself will see to that. Settlement activity must cease. Unlike his predecessors, he did not stop at speaking about “Palestinians”, but uttered the decisive word: “Palestine” – the name of a state and a territory.

And no less important: the Iran war has been struck from the agenda. The dialogue with Tehran, as a part of the new world, is not limited in time. As from now, no one can even dream about an American OK for an Israeli attack.

HOW DID official Israel respond? The first reaction was denial. “An unimportant speech”. “There was nothing new”. The establishment commentators picked out a few pro-Israeli sentences from the text and ignored all the others. And after all, “these are just words. So he talked. Nothing will come out of it.”

That is nonsense. The words of the President of the United States are more than just words. They are political facts. They change the perceptions of hundreds of millions. The Muslim public listened. The American public listened. It may take some time for the message to sink in. But after this speech, the pro-Israel lobby will never be the same as it was before. The era of “foile shtik” (Yiddish for sneaky tricks) is over. The sly dishonesty of a Shimon Peres, the guileful deceits of an Ehud Olmert, the sweet talking of a Bibi Netanyahu – all these belong to the past.

The Israeli people must now decide: whether to follow the right-wing government towards an inevitable collision with Washington, as the Jews did 1940 years ago when they followed the Zealots into a suicidal war on Rome – or to join Obama’s march towards a new world.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Justice for Pakistan’s ‘Disappeared’ Delayed

June 9th, 2009 - by admin

James Palmer / San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service – 2009-06-09 21:55:46

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/06/MNKC153CL1.DTL

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (June 7, 2009) — Huzfia Sharif toddles over to a photograph of a smiling man with neatly combed hair and a graying beard perched on a living room shelf.

“I want to go to Papa,” the 3-year-old boy says in Urdu while grasping a bulky picture frame before pressing his mouth affectionately against the image of his father, Abid Sharif, who he has never seen. “He thinks that photo is his father,” said Zahida Sharif, 42, Huzfia’s mother and Abid’s wife.

Sharif, a physician, was 50 when he disappeared from the city of Peshawar a month before Huzfia’s birth. The father of three sons is among the hundreds of people who vanished during the rule of former president Pervez Musharraf (1999-2008), according to Defense of Human Rights, a national organization based in this northern city.

Since its formation in 2005, Defense of Human Rights has registered 640 disappearances. Since then, 150 have been released and 70 have been located and are still in custody. The group also estimates that as many as 10,000 people disappeared during Musharraf’s rule, including 6,000 in the southwest province of Baluchistan, where separatist groups have long sought autonomy.

Rise in ‘Disappearances’
“Enforced disappearances” – as kidnappings and illegal detentions are commonly called – were extremely rare in Pakistan before 9/11, according to Amnesty International. The ensuing U.S. war on terror gave the Musharraf government an opportunity to take its critics off the streets, rights activists say. They allege the missing come from a broad spectrum of economic and social classes, including political activists, poets, medical professionals, shopkeepers and laborers.

“The army is torturing its own people,” said Amina Janjua, who co-founded Defense of Human Rights soon after her husband, Masood, vanished three years ago after boarding a bus in the capital, Islamabad.

Under Article 10 of Pakistan’s Constitution, authorities must produce a person before a judge within 24 hours of a person’s arrest or detention. However, the country’s security forces widely ignored this law under Musharraf in the name of fighting terrorism, according to a report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The report also states that the number of missing is hard to gauge because “people might have preferred silence to coming out in the open about a disappearance and risk upsetting a government agency holding a missing relative.”

The families of the missing say the ambiguity of not knowing the fate of their relatives is especially cruel. “It’s very damaging physically and emotionally,” said Janjua, 44, a single mother of three children between 12 and 16.

Pledge to Find the Missing
Even though Farooq Naik, the new Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights, has pledged to find the missing, frustration with the new administration of President Asif Ali Zardari runs deep. Zardari succeeded Musharraf last year. “The government has made promises to help us but nothing has happened,” said Zahida Sharif.

Naik was unavailable for comment for this story but he has asked family members to provide his office with information and has promised U.S. Ambassador Ann Patterson that he would move quickly to locate the missing. Pakistan’s fragile government, however, may not be able to move that quickly.

The military is battling Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents in the tribal areas of the Northwest Frontier province along the Afghanistan border, and Washington continues to send drone air strikes against suspected militants in the region. At the same time, Pakistan’s economy has slumped so badly the government has sought assistance from the International Monetary Fund.

“The new government has done nothing substantial since taking over,” said Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, a Supreme Court lawyer in Rawalpindi who represents several families of the missing.

Supreme Court Hurdles
Another significant issue affecting justice for the missing is the nation’s Supreme Court. In 2007, Musharraf removed 55 of the Supreme Court’s 95 judges, including chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, citing interference with his counterterrorism efforts. In March, all judges who had not retired due to the age limit were reinstated.

As a result, hearings scheduled for missing persons were delayed. In the eyes of many, the judiciary is the only hope of locating the missing, and frustration is evident among families and their advocates.

For Janjua, the situation is not only a personal struggle for her and her three children, but a stain on her country. “If one person goes missing in the U.S., then the whole justice system would be turned upside down,” she said. “Judges or no judges, we’re going to fight for our rights and keep struggling. Only death can stop us.”

E-mail James Palmer at foreign@sfchronicle.com.

© 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Officials: US Made Mistakes in Afghan Attack

June 9th, 2009 - by admin

Karen DeYoung / Washington Post – 2009-06-09 21:36:58

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/09/MNMT18334O.DTL

WASHINGTON (June 9, 2009) — US military personnel on the ground in western Afghanistan and in the air failed to follow established procedures in a battle with the Taliban last month that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, Pentagon and other Obama administration officials said Monday.

During the battle, a Marine “quick-reaction” force came to the aid of an Afghan army unit attacking Taliban forces. Among the rules violated or poorly followed were poor initial planning for combat in a populated area and the dropping of a 2,000-pound bomb from a B-1 bomber on a building without proper visual and ground confirmation of the target, officials said.

Afghan government officials and human rights organizations have variously estimated that between 97 and 140 civilians were killed in the battle, in Farah province. Results of a major military investigation, presented Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, are to be released in summary form later this week, one Pentagon official said.

Civilian deaths from US air strikes have been a major concern of Gates and other officials and are “one of the most dangerous things we face in Afghanistan, particularly with the Afghan people,” Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Senate last week in his confirmation hearing as the new commander of US and NATO forces there.

“We’ve got to recognize that that is a way to lose their faith and lose their support,” McChrystal said of the Afghans, “and that would be strategically decisive against us.” McChrystal said that he would review tactics and the use of air power upon his arrival in Afghanistan and would probably change procedures.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Monday that “there were some problems with the tactics, techniques and procedures” in the battle, including “the way in which close air support was supposed to have been executed,” including the fact that the B-1 bomber “had to break away from the target at least for a period.”

But Morrell said that there was “no indication” that the targeting gap itself “resulted in civilian casualties,” adding that it was just “one of the problems associated with these events.”

The number of civilian deaths, Morrell said, was “greatly outnumbered by the Taliban killed in this incident.”

That conclusion appeared to be at odds with statements from other US officials, including Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, who have said the number of civilian deaths may never be known. The military initially estimated Taliban deaths at 60 to 65, along with 20 to 30 civilians.

Another Pentagon official said that the targeting lapse may not technically have caused civilian deaths – noting that Taliban forces had been seen running to and from the building and on its roof – but acknowledged that there was no ground confirmation of who was inside.

Several officials who were not authorized to publicly discuss the results of the investigation spoke about the matter only on the condition of anonymity.

Following a similar incident last fall in Herat province, Gates and the current US ground commander, Gen. David McKiernan, put new procedures in place for the use of air power.

But in the Farah attack, “there were some procedures that weren’t necessarily completely followed or followed to the letter,” a Pentagon official said. “It was not a deliberate ignorance of existing rules but certainly a lack of knowledge of certain procedures” in planning and executing such operations. Another official said no senior-level US commander was aware of the operation before it began.

© 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Archives by Month:

 

 

Stay Connected
Sign up to receive our weekly updates. We promise not to sell, trade or give away your email address.
Email Address:
Full Name:
 

Home | Say NO! To War | Action! | Information | Media Center | Who We Are