They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Monday, February 28, 2005

Drugs and death in Afghanistan: What happened to Spc. Juan Torres? Army Specialist Juan Torres had his whole life ahead of him. At 25, Torres (known as John to most of his family and friends) had an accounting degree from the University of Houston and a good job waiting for him back home. He had savings in the bank and was planning his wedding to his girlfriend of seven years, Elizabeth Wise.

Torres was close to the end of his eight years of reserve and active service. He had served in Kosovo and Hungary, and received four medals, including the Army Achievement Medal for his "motivation, energy and technical expertise." He was in good health. He didn't smoke or do drugs, and had strong relationships with his family and numerous friends.

On July 12, 2004 - just weeks before he was due to come home to Houston after his yearlong duty in Afghanistan - Torres was found dead in a shower/latrine at Bagram Air Base. The cause of death was a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head....or so the Army says.

His family and fiancee say there is no way he would have taken his own life. And several soldiers who served with John at Bagram told the family that the Army is either not telling the whole story or is not telling the truth at all. The family wants answers. So far, the Army hasn't provided them.

Spc. Torres' father, also named Juan, is a hotel worker who came from Argentina 26 years ago. He lives in a modest home near Chicago. He goes to antiwar demonstrations carrying a sign with a photo of his handsome, dark-eyed son, hoping his case will get some attention.

Torres had just returned from the demonstration at the president's inauguration when the World interviewed him at his home, Jan. 23. With a hoarse voice, exhausted by the drive back from D.C. and the turmoil he has lived with since his son's death, Torres reviewed the many questions troubling him and his family.

He had spoken to his son by telephone just a day or two before John's death. "'Daddy, I'm so glad - I will be out of here in a couple of weeks,'" Torres said, mimicking his son's upbeat tone. "He told me, 'Daddy, there are so many drugs here. I tell the people, 'Don't use the drugs.'"

Torres said they spoke about John's upcoming marriage to Elizabeth, planned for August in Las Vegas, and the family's plan to visit Argentina.

John had also called his mother and his fiancee the day before his death, excited about his impending return home.

The next thing Torres knew, he got a call from his daughter in Houston, July 13. "She told me, 'Daddy, daddy, something happened. John is dead.' The Army didn't say what happened. I didn't know if it was the Taliban or what. I went to Houston for the funeral."

....'Don't believe what the Army's telling you'

Veronica Santiago [John's sister] told the World that, at the funeral, July 20 in Houston, the captain, who was one of her brother's superiors at Bagram, "hugged me and said, 'I'm really sorry. Don't believe what the Army's telling you.' "

A month later Santiago received a call from the captain. She told Santiago she had important Criminal Investigation Division (CID) documents, and that "it was going to be 'a big deal.' " Santiago said, "She kept saying that" over and over. The captain told John's mother she was going to write a long letter about the case, but to date the family has not heard anything more from her.

Another soldier told the family that drugs were rampant at Bagram, and that she herself had used drugs there. According to Santiago, the soldier said she had seen drug sales taking place in a room at the base, with large amounts of cash on a table. The soldier said she believed Spc. Torres must have seen something he didn't approve of, and paid with his life. Santiago said her brother was a person who spoke out if he saw something he didn't approve of. "Knowing him, he would have told somebody, he would have made it known."

Later, Santiago said, the soldier told the family she did not want to become involved in their efforts to dig into the death because she feared getting into trouble. Subsequently, a reporter seeking to call her found her phone had been disconnected.

The possibility of a drug problem at Bagram was discussed by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in an April 12, 2004, article in The New Yorker. Hersh wrote, "Since the fall of 2002, a number of active-duty and retired military and CIA officials have told me about increasing reports of heroin use by American military personnel in Afghanistan, many of whom have been there for months, with few distractions." A "former high-level intelligence officer told Hersh that the problem was centered among the logistical and supply units stationed at Bagram. "The Pentagon's senior leadership has a 'head-in-the-sand attitude,' [the officer] said. 'There's no desire to expose it and get enforcement involved." Link to full pww article

Iraq: Concern over remote-controlled 'Matrix' mine deployment

Yahoo-AFP: Human Rights Watch raised a red flag over US plans to deploy a new system of remote-controlled anti-personnel mines in Iraq

The New York-based rights watchdog said the US Army had failed to answer critical questions regarding the potential harm the mines might pose to civilians.

The new system, called Matrix, allows a soldier with a laptop computer to detonate Claymore mines remotely via radio signal from several kilometers away.

While Claymores normally propel lethal fragments from 40 to 60 meters (130-200 feet) across a 60-degree arc, Human Right Watch said US Army tests indicated that the hazard range for the new system was as far as 300 meters.

"A faraway blip on a laptop screen is hardly a surefire method of determining if you are about to kill an enemy combatant or an unsuspecting civilian," said Steve Goose, executive director of the watchdog's arms division.

Goose also questioned whether the mines could be inadvertently set off by civilians themselves.

"The Pentagon needs to give concrete assurances that innocent civilians can't accidentally detonate these new Matrix mines," he said. "Otherwise, this system would end up functioning like the old-fashioned antipersonnel mines that more than three-quarters of the world's nations have banned."

According to an article in the March edition of National Defense Magazine, the US Army plans to field a total of 25 Matrix systems in Iraq by May, primarily as a defence shield for military bases. Link

Exclusive: Banned photograph in Egypt

The secretive regime in Egypt bans the press from printing photographs depicting donkeys Link or see below

Egypt: Free elections in the land of the 'donkey law'?

latimes: In the smoggy, jostling streets of the Egyptian capital, people of all political stripes greeted President Hosni Mubarak's surprise call for an open presidential election with deep skepticism Sunday.

"President Mubarak will remain in charge, and everybody will keep playing their roles," said Mohammed Ibrahim, a 30-year-old gardener who had made his way into Cairo to peddle potted pansies, rosemary bushes and lavender plants. "Mubarak's not going to shake things up."

....Egypt has been in an official state of emergency, subject to martial law, since President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981. The media are carefully censored on topics ranging from Mubarak's health to donkeys: Egyptian authorities are so eager to project modernity that a "donkey law" bans publications from printing photographs of the many donkeys that occupy the streets of Cairo. Link

Syria a great ally of US - when it comes to torturing the innocent

SpiegalOnline-NYT: As a nation, does the United States have a conscience? Or is anything and everything O.K. in post-9/11 America? If torture and the denial of due process are O.K., why not murder? When the government can just make people vanish - which it can, and which it does - where is the line that we, as a nation, dare not cross?

When I interviewed Maher Arar in Ottawa last week, it seemed clear that however thoughtful his comments, I was talking with the frightened, shaky successor of a once robust and fully functioning human being. Torture does that to a person. It's an unspeakable crime, an affront to one's humanity that can rob you of a portion of your being as surely as acid can destroy your flesh.

Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen with a wife and two young children, had his life flipped upside down in the fall of 2002 when John Ashcroft's Justice Department, acting at least in part on bad information supplied by the Canadian government, decided it would be a good idea to abduct Mr. Arar and ship him off to Syria, an outlaw nation that the Justice Department honchos well knew was addicted to torture. Link

CIA torture cover stories no match for geeks

MSNBC: Aviation obsessives with cameras and Internet connections have become a threat to cover stories established by the CIA to mask its undercover operations and personnel overseas. U.S. intel sources complain that "plane spotters"—hobbyists who photograph airplanes landing or departing local airports and post the pix on the Internet-made it possible for CIA critics recently to assemble details of a clandestine transport system the agency set up to secretly move cargo and people-including terrorist suspects [DB That's anybody, who somebody, somewhere, accuses of links to terror] -around the world. Link

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to be weakened - US stance

KyodoNews: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory members are likely to water down their commitment to nuclear disarmament at an upcoming review conference by abandoning the "unequivocal undertaking" they agreed to in 2000, Brazil's disarmament envoy indicated to Kyodo News in a recent interview.

Sergio de Queiroz Duarte, who will chair the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York in May, said the signatories will "probably" refrain from adopting the same wording as used in the previous meeting in confirming the nuclear states' commitment to nuclear disarmament during the upcoming meeting.

The "unequivocal undertaking" was the centerpiece of the 13 steps agreed on by the signatories in 2000 to implement the NPT. But the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has been reluctant to take these steps, with Undersecretary of State John Bolton declaring last year that the pledge was invalid.

The expected toning down of the commitment apparently reflects the U.S. stance and is likely to draw criticism from nonnuclear states, which are demanding that the commitment be upheld, analysts say.

In the 2000 review conference, 187 signatories to the NPT adopted the final document, which includes the 13 steps to nuclear disarmament to be implemented by the five nuclear powers - the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia - as well as nonnuclear weapon states.

But U.S. officials have described the accord as a "simply historical document" and said a new document should reflect drastic changes in international security conditions, including the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

The NPT, which was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970, is reviewed every five years.

Analysts are concerned that backtracking of the treaty may lead to possible nuclear proliferation, such as encouraging nonnuclear states to start developing nuclear arms and follow the footsteps. Link

See Noam Chomsky: Nuclear Terror At Home

Fifty more UK soldiers face trial on Iraq war crimes

news.telegraph:Almost 50 British servicemen are facing prosecution for murder, assault and other crimes committed in Iraq, according to secret military documents seen by The Telegraph.

The allegations include two cases in which Iraqi civilians were allegedly deliberately drowned by soldiers and an incident that could lead to the first member of the SAS being charged with murder.

The documents, marked "Restricted - Investigations Not For Disclosure. Ministerial Update of Service Police Investigations", show that almost three times as many soldiers face charges than had been admitted by the Ministry of Defence. They disclose that until September 13, 2004, the Royal Military Police had carried out 137 investigations into incidents - including shootings, road accidents, and allegations of corruption, murder and manslaughter - involving troops in Iraq.Link

Iraq: UK troops 'beat relatives of Camp captives'

The Independent:Relatives of Iraqis tortured by British soldiers revealed last night how they were also arrested and brutally beaten simply for asking questions.

The Independent on Sunday can reveal that the Iraqi civilians were punched and kicked after arriving at Camp Breadbasket to find out why friends and relatives had been detained.

The disclosures came as the Attorney General called for reforms of the military justice system, and shortly after three Royal Regiment of Fusiliers soldiers were jailed for abusing detainees.

The friends' and relatives' worries had grown through the day, as their loved ones failed to return from Camp Breadbasket, on the outskirts of Basra. The anxieties increased even more as gunshots were heard from the vast sprawling aid depot.... Link

Washington in U-turn over Iran's nuclear programme

The Independent:The US is embarking on a major rethink of its policy towards Iran, which could see it dropping the strategy of confrontation and threat, instead offering Tehran incentives for abandoning its suspected nuclear ambitions. The striking change of policy emerged during President Bush's fence-mending trip to Europe last week, when for the first time he indicated that Washington endorsed the tripartite effort by France, Britain and Germany to reach a deal with Iran, offering technology in return for an end to its uranium enrichment programme.

It comes on the eve of a key meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna tomorrow, at which the UN nuclear watchdog agency is due to take stock of Iran's nuclear activities, and decide on a new four-year term for its director, Mohammed ElBaradei. Link

George W Bush and Albert Camus on Freedom

Counterpunch: We know there are many obstacles, and we know the road is long. Albert Camus said that, "Freedom is a long-distance race." We're in that race for the duration -- and there is reason for optimism. Oppression is not the wave of the future; it is the desperate tactic of a few backward-looking men. Democratic nations grow in strength because they reward and respect the creative gifts of their people. And freedom is the direction of history, because freedom is the permanent hope of humanity.
George W. Bush, Brussels, February 22, 2005

It's just painful to hear and see a smirking Bush invoking Albert Camus, the French writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957, from a podium in Belgium. No doubt the speechwriter thought, "Okay, the prez will be in Brussels, surrounded by Old Europe elites. He'll state, forgivingly, that our disagreements with Europe are all in the past. But he'll lecture the Europeans about how the war on Iraq that they've opposed so strenuously is all about freedom, and not as they suspect about empire-building. The European snobs read literature. So we'll include this Camus quote to show that Bush reads too, and he respects even great French authors who favor freedom. How conciliatory!"

What an insult to Camus, whose notion of freedom was very different from that of the president! His was the radical freedom that comes from abandoning myth and dogma, and questioning the existence of any meaning in the universe other than that which the human mind creates. The powerful novel The Stranger ends with its hero, convicted of murdering a man in a moment of confusion, a protagonist who throughout the narrative has been thoroughly dispassionate, finally exploding in indignation at the attempt of a priest to comfort him before his execution.

"I hurled insults at [the priest]. I told him not to waste his rotten prayers on me; it was better to burn than to disappear. I'd taken him by the neckband of his cassock, and, in a sort of ecstasy of joy and rage, I poured out on him all the thoughts that had been simmering in my brain. He seemed so cocksure, you see. And yet none of his certainties was worth one strand of a woman's hair." As the startled priest is removed from his cell, the convicted murderer stares out through his prison bars, opening himself to the "benign indifference of the universe." Link

Saturday, February 26, 2005

How did the US and the World get lumbered with George W Bush?

The Australian: I've been asked by a number of readers to explain how the United States - and the world - gets lumbered with a president like George W. Bush.

So I will provide a detailed, scientific explanation. Bush is a statistical inevitability. His arrival at the White House was a consequence of simple division by simple people. Or, if you prefer, a process of elimination. First of all, you can eliminate half the population as the US is a long, long way from being ready to have a woman president - though some Democrats are talking up Hillary Clinton while Republicans counter with Condoleezza Rice.

Then you can eliminate all the African-Americans - even Colin Powell and Condoleezza - who haven't got a snowball's. Apart from bland bigotry you've got all the white supremacists and Aryan Nation kooks who'd want to add a black candidate to such trophies as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Word is that's why Mrs Powell insisted that her husband renege from the race a few years back.

Despite Al Gore's selection of a Jew as his running mate, US anti-Semitism precludes getting nominated as top banana. And unless Arnie Schwarzenegger can organise a change of the Constitution, you can also eliminate anyone and everyone who wasn't born in the US. "From log cabin to White House" applies only to residents of American log cabins - not to those raised in similar structures in Finland, Norway, Siberia or Poland.

See how fast we're whittling down the figures? Getting closer to George Bush, father or son?

Homosexuals need not apply. While there's undoubtedly been the odd gay president - Abraham Lincoln has recently been "outed" - such sexual proclivities have had to be kept a deep, dark secret. You wouldn't want the cross-dressing J. Edgar Hoover to find out. At this point in time, US straights have narrowed eyes when it comes to the queer guy.

Roman Catholics have been contenders since Jack Kennedy beat Quaker Nixon. But for the foreseeable future you can eliminate Muslims, Zoastrians, Hindus, Sikhs, Druids, followers of the Norse gods, or Buddhists. Although, with Buddhism becoming so very popular in Hollywood, passionately embraced by the likes of Richard Gere and Oliver Stone, it's only a matter of time until one sneaks under the radar. This will probably occur at a Democrat convention given that Christian fundamentalism is still de rigueur with the Republicans.

Atheists? No hope. In a nation where almost as many people go to church as shop at Wal-Mart, anyone who doesn't claim to be born again would be out of the race long before Super Tuesday, probably before New Hampshire. Even candidates admitting agnosticism would have to hit the road.

As you can see, the pool of presidential possibilities is now little more than a puddle. And there's a lot more draining, downsizing, filtering and elimination ahead of us. Link to full list of the excluded

Iranian officials: Iran's right to peaceful use of nuclear energy of Iran's Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, on Friday asserted that Iran-EU nuclear talks are going on well.

"The hoped results of the talks have not yet been achieved because the Europeans seem to be wasting the time," Janati said in Friday Prayer Sermon.

"The Iranian nation will never give up its legitimate rights under any pressure." he noted.

Janati underlined that Europeans should work and cooperate with Iran independently and through logical ways adding that Iran accepts to conduct its nuclear program under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog.

"If the related talks with Europeans failed to achieve any reasonable outcome, Iran will do what it sees suitable because the suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran is temporary," he added.

Meantime, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Hasan Rohani, during his meeting with the French President Jacques Chirac, emphasized Iran's legal right to make peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Also, Iran's Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said "Wasting time will not prevent Iran to get its right to peaceful use of nuclear energy particularly that Iran will not use nuclear-energy technology to make weapons of mass destruction." Link

Slovakia expels two Czechs for burning U.S. flag

CzechHappenings: Slovak police this morning [25th] expelled two Czech citizens who were detained when burning the U.S. flag during the address U.S. President George W. Bush made in Bratislava centre on Thursday, Bratislava police spokeswoman Silvia Mihalikova has announced.

Apart from the Czechs, police also detained three Slovaks who were calling Bush names [hovno will do] during his speech on Hviezdoslav square.Link

DB: I am sure that this will be appreciated by President Bush, so much so that he may even take off his gloves next time he visits.

Iraq: Colin Powell criticises Rumsfeld's postwar planning

news.telegraph: Colin Powell, the former US secretary of state, has for the first time publicly criticised troops levels in Iraq and spoken of the rifts between himself and Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, that undermined his role as architect of American foreign policy.

Mr Powell, in his first interview since resigning last November, also told The Telegraph of his "dismay" at the deterioration in relations between America and Europe and of his "disappointment" with France. Link

Noam Chomsky: Nuclear Terror at Home

AlterNet: If you can imagine some rational observers from Mars looking at this curious species down here, I don't think they'd put very high odds on survival - another generation or two. In fact, it's kind of miraculous that we've come along this far.

The world has come extremely close to total destruction just in recent years from nuclear war. New Mexico plays an important role in this. There's case after case where a nuclear war was prevented almost by a miracle. And the threat is increasing as a consequence of policies that the administration is very consciously pursuing.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld understands perfectly well that these policies are increasing the threat of destruction. As you know, it's not a high probability event, but if a low probability event keeps happening over and over, there's a high probability that sooner or later it will take place.

If you want to rank issues in terms of significance, there are some issues that are literally issues of survival of the species, and they're imminent. Nuclear war is an issue of species survival, and the threats have been severe for a long time.

It's come to the point where you can read in the most sober respectable journals warnings by the leading strategic analysts that the current American posture - transformation of the military - is raising the prospect of what they call "ultimate doom" and not very far away. That's because it leads to an action-reaction cycle in which others respond. That leads us to be closer and more reliant on hair-trigger mechanisms, which are massively destructive.

Militarization of space could very well doom the species. It's being pushed very hard. That's one issue that really requires major work and that's a huge one in New Mexico. New Mexico is one of the centers where this potential destruction of the species is taking place.

There's a document called "The Essentials of Post Cold War Deterrence"[pdf] that was released during the Clinton years by the Strategic Command, which is in charge of nuclear weapons. It's one of the most horrifying documents I've ever read. People haven't paid attention to it.

Link to full article

Friday, February 25, 2005

Iraq's missing $9bn - Where is the investigative reporting? Profiteering from the Iraq war is not a surprise, especially in light of the Bush administration's pandering to the military-industrial complex.

But some Democratic lawmakers are concerned that profiteering may have achieved stratospheric dimensions in the case of the $9 billion that is missing from the sale of Iraqi oil. This money was to have been used for humanitarian aid and reconstruction for Iraq.

It seems no one is watching the store. The fund was transferred to Iraqi government ministries, which lacked the proper financial controls, security and staff to keep close tabs on the money flow.

Nevertheless, the Democrats would like to prod the Bush administration to show its concern over the loss. You can do a lot with $9 billion, but it's only a drop in the bucket in terms of spending in Iraq. The war there is costing the United States more than $50 billion a year.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, has led the move to seek accountability for the missing funds after Stuart W. Bowen, the special inspector general appointed by the U.S. occupation authority, reported the disappearance last Jan. 30.

The audit spurred the Democratic Policy Committee - which serves as a clearinghouse for all Democratic offices on Capitol Hill - to hold hearings Feb. 14 on the management by the Coalition Provisional Authority of billions in Iraqi oil revenue.

The panel found that no banking system was implemented in Iraq, although "a lot of dinars and American dollars" were in circulation. The money was stashed in the basement of CPA headquarters and released from time to time to contractors.

The Democrats have also asked U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to convene a grand jury to look into the problem.

The CPA is accused of failing to properly account for the money funneled through the Development Fund for Iraq for Iraqi humanitarian aid and reconstruction. The DFI was set up by the U.N. and placed under the control of the CPA.

Kucinich said "not a single penny of the $9 billion could be accounted for" in the Bowen audit. The loss occurred when the United States controlled Iraq's oil profits from May 2003 until June 2004.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., accused the Republican Congress of ignoring auditors who "have raised red flags about the administration's stewardship of the Iraqi funds."

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the policy panel that he was "perplexed and disturbed" by what has happened with the reconstruction.

"We are close to 24 months into this conflict with Iraq, and the administration still can't seem to get it right," he said.

Reid said that a report last December by the Center for Strategic and International Studies - an independent think tank dealing with political and economic issues - found that more than 30 percent of the reconstruction money "is being lost to corruption, fraud and mismanagement."

The inspector general found insufficient managerial, financial, salary and contract controls. In one Iraqi ministry, 8,026 guards were officially on the payroll, but the presence of only 602 guards could be validated.

Kucinich wondered what the unaccounted employees were being paid to do and whether they even exist.

He said the CPA contracting office did not provide oversight of Iraqi ministry procurement or contracting operations, with little or no internal controls. Nor did it provide data on executed contracts.

The Ohio congressman asked a series of rhetorical questions: "What might have this $9 billion gone towards? Personal corruption? A money-laundering scheme? A back-door way of funding covert operations?" Link

DB:The Bush administration's continuing silence on this issue, whilst hiding behind an oil-for-food smokescreen will inevitably feed this sort of speculation, I hope. Because maybe the mainstreem media might feel compelled, sooner or later, to dispatch some invetigative reporters [if they still exist in the US] and hold someone, somewhere, to account - rather than leaving it all to BBC File On 4.

See Charles Lewis - A Culture of Secrecy

"At a time in America's history when discerning the truth is more elusive-and more essential-than ever, the mainstream news media seem increasingly incapable of playing their traditional watchdog role and digging out lies and inaccuracies.

The world of journalism is in a crisis that goes well beyond the spate of recent, highly-publicized scandals involving fraudulent or poorly reported stories. The country has witnessed Sumner Redstone, the chief executive officer of Viacom, home of CBS News and its hallowed legacy of journalistic excellence dating back to Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, publicly endorse an incumbent President on the eve of a national election-something once considered unimaginable. Over the years CBS and many news organizations have become hollow shells of their former selves, letting go of hundreds of newsroom people and positions in order to achieve ever higher profits and corporate consolidation. The result? Less investigative reporting, reduced scrutiny of those in power and, ultimately, a more easily bamboozled populace."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Iraq's $460M contract 'neighborhood councils' vanishing

CSM:Hundreds of neighborhood councils, now a dead letter as the elite politicians who won seats in Iraq's national election squabble over the spoils, were set up across Iraq in 2003 by the US military and the Research Triangle Institute, based near Raleigh, N.C., which was given a contract with up to $460 million to build local governance. The idea was to prime the pump of citizen participation and create a new culture that would make democracy work for citizens in a tangible way. But nearly two years later, the money and effort has yielded few visible gains. Link

Claims of Saudi torture may sink US 'terror' case

MSNBC: A lawyer for accused Al Qaeda associate Ahmed Omar Abu Ali said today that evidence that Saudi Arabian security officers brutally tortured his client - allegedly with the collusion of FBI agents and other U.S. government officials - will be "front and center" in his client's defense on charges that he plotted with Saudi-based terrorists to assassinate President Bush. Link

Retired Oz General - talk of fighting for democracy in Iraq 'bullshit'

Yahoo-AFP: Retired major-general Alan Stretton, the chief of staff of Australia's military forces in Vietnam from 1969-70, said the situation in Iraq was becoming increasing similar to the conflict in the South East Asian nation.

"I really believe it will go the same way as Vietnam," Stretton told commercial radio. "It will get no better, only worse."

"Eventually public opinion in both the US and Australia and elsewhere will demand our troops come back and when they do they will be pretending that the locals can handle it all themselves, and we will just leave a bloody mess."

Stretton said internal ethnic differences meant Iraq would never be democratic in the conventional sense and the political system could not be imposed on the population.

"This talk about fighting for democracy, that is absolute, to use a phrase, bullshit," he said.

"You have three different people in three virtually different areas. The most you could have would be some sort of loose confederation." Link

Bratislava, Iraq, and the 'brown-nosing' of Bush

DB: Predictably, Bush compared the 1989 Slovak-Czech break from communist rule - which was bloodless, and came from the people themselves - with the illegal regime change, and occupation which was imposed on Iraq - where the true numbers of Iraqi dead has never been established - but the brutality of the undertaking has never been in question.

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's government's decision to maintain the small, but symbolic force of 100 non-combatant troops in Iraq is more indicative of the government's need - both economic and political - to win 'friends' rather than reflecting a genuine spirit of a shared vision amongst the people of Slovakia.

"I see the presence of troops in Iraq negatively. There is no reason to be there," said Jan Galusek, a 63-year-old retiree. "By being there, Slovakia is taking part in something illegal. It just adds to the government's unpopularity," he said. "There has always been some type of brown-nosing here - at first brown-nosing Stalin, and now the United States." For a country of around 5.5 million inhabitants, "brown-nosing" to some extent has to be a fact of life, however there is an increasing number of Slovakians who are questioning whether or not Bush's government is the correct target. A recent poll of 505 people interviewed by the Markant agency on Feb. 16-17 showed that 43 percent said they viewed Putin as the guarantor of democracy in the world, and only 35.9 percent said they thought of Bush in that way. Whilst the sample is relatively small, it does indicate that 'life according to Bush' is not a universally accepted concept.

Given that over 70% of Slovak exports are destined for the EU, whilst the US account for just 4.7%, and the inevitable pressure that Slovakia will come under in the future to sing from the EU hymn sheet - Bush's vague assurance that the Slovak and US governments were working together to "ease visa requirements", which was always going to raise a loud cheer, will not in itself guarantee a permanent, pliable, brown-nosing partner.

Iraq - Were the Shiites cheated? What does Allawi want?

Informed Comment: Al-Hayat has a long interview with an "informed Iraqi source" who is close to US officials in Iraq. He maintains that the US officials there were astounded that the United Iraqi Alliance did so well, and that they felt helpless and resigned as the process unfolded. He says that they are now asking privately if the US shed so much blood and treasure in Iraq to help fundamentalist Shiite allies of Iran take over Baghdad.

Al-Hayat also today repeats the allegation that the US or the electoral commission somehow cheated the United Iraqi Alliance of an absolute majority in parliament. (Note that this argument completely contradicts the interview they did, which speaks of US helplessness before the results.) The argument that the Iraqi elections were fixed is, however, implausible. It is sometimes alleged that the Shiites should have done better than they did, given the Sunni Arab absence. But when the smoke cleared, the UIA did have a majority in parliament, so the allegation makes no sense.

.......If the Daily Telegraph is right Iyad Allawi hopes to form a government without either the Kurdish Alliance or the United Iraqi Alliance, then this whole bid of his for the prime minister post is a stalking horse for some other purpose. The UIA and the Kurds between them have 78 percent of the seats in parliament! And Allawi would need 66 percent to form a government. He says he will work with small parties, but aside from the Sunni Iraqiyun with 5 seats and the Communists with 2, most of the rest are Shiite and have already formed a coalition with the UIA. Allawi's only hope is to detach delegates from the United Iraqi Alliance in such numbers as to put into question that list's ability to dominate parliament. Even then he has no chance of becoming prime minister. He almost certainly is simply angling for a cabinet position, and using the threat of creating disunity in the UIA ranks by seducing some of its members as leverage.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bush in Slovakia

Don't let that put you off - he will be gone soon. Slovakia is one of the few remaining 'undiscovered' holiday destinations in Europe. Great skiing, nature, people and food. See Link

Bush, of all people, talks 'press freedom' re Russia

Yahoo-AP: President Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder agreed Wednesday to turn down the volume on arguments about Iraq and Iran, demanding in unison that Tehran abandon its nuclear ambitions.....

Nearing the end of a five-day reconciliation visit to Europe, Bush also prepared for a showdown Thursday with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Bratislava, the snow-covered capital of Slovakia.

Bush said he was concerned about Putin's restrictions on press freedom and other steps amounting to a retreat from democracy. Still, Bush emphasized he did not want to harm "a close relationship with Vladimir." Link

DB: Different histories, different cultures, same aims. Whether 'journalistic freedom' in a corporatized, consolidated media exists in the US is subject to much debate. Most of that debate is not heard by the public, due to a corporatized, consolidated media. So see 'Orwell rolls in his grave' - trailer of the movie; which hasn't received much attention, due to the corporatized, consolidated media. Currently there is a Torrent available of the full version, which may be the only chance you will get to view, due to the..........

Bush avoids unscripted German 'town hall' meeting

Spiegelonline:During his trip to Germany on Wednesday, the main highlight of George W. Bush's trip was meant to be a "town hall"-style meeting with average Germans. But with the German government unwilling to permit a scripted event with questions approved in advance, the White House has quietly put the event on ice. Was Bush afraid the event might focus on prickly questions about Iraq and Iran rather than the rosy future he's been touting in Europe this week?

..... On Wednesday, that town hall meeting will be nowhere on the agenda - it's been cancelled. Neither the White House nor the German Foreign Ministry has offered any official explanation, but Foreign Ministry sources say the town hall meeting has been nixed for scheduling reasons - a typical development for a visit like this with many ideas but very little time. That, at least, is the diplomats' line. Behind the scenes, there appears to be another explanation: the White House got cold feet. Bush's strategists felt an uncontrolled encounter with the German public would be too unpredictable. Link

Revealed: UK gov. manipulation in the rush to war with Iraq

Guardian: The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, warned less than two weeks before the invasion of Iraq that military action could be ruled illegal.

The government was so concerned that it might be prosecuted it set up a team of lawyers to prepare for legal action in an international court.

And a parliamentary answer issued days before the war in the name of Lord Goldsmith - but presented by ministers as his official opinion before the crucial Commons vote - was drawn up in Downing Street, not in the attorney general's chambers.

The full picture of how the government manipulated the legal justification for war, and political pressure placed on its most senior law officer, is revealed in the Guardian today. Link

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Europeans Ask: Is Bush a Wolf in a Granny's Suit?

Spiegelonline: US President George W. Bush's goodwill spin through Europe garners all the news with commentators searching behind the platitudes for girth. How much of what this president - known for his knack for hyperbole - says will translate into deeds? And what of the looming crises in Iran, Iraq and over the EU's desire to lift its Chinese weapons embargo?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe famously said, "When ideas fail, words come in very handy." The iconic, albeit very dead German writer would have had a field day in Brussels on Monday, where US President George W. Bush delivered his first speech abroad since his second term began. The speech, billed as a chance to address Europe and start mending ties broken over the Iraq war and other policy conflicts took place in an 18th century bourgeois salon in front of a hand-picked crowd of 300 pro-Bush supporters. It was laced with grand verbiage, but not with new ideas. By far, the president's favorite word of the night was "freedom," although "liberty" also got its fair play. Bush stood before the crowd and acted almost blissfully ignorant of the depth of Europe's frustration with him and his first administration. At one point, he went so far as to say that "no power on Earth will ever divide" Europe and America.

Pentagon confirms talks with Iraqi resistance on withdrawal

The Independent: American officials are talking to negotiators from the anti-US resistance in Iraq, whom they have denounced in the past as foreign fighters and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Insurgent leaders and Pentagon officials have confirmed to Time magazine that talks have taken place for the first time in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad.

The Sunni guerrillas want a timetable for a US withdrawal, first from Iraqi cities and then from the country as a whole. American officials aim to see if they can drive a wedge between nationalist guerrillas and fanatical Islamist groups.

Abu Marwan, a resistance commander, is quoted as saying that the insurgents want to "fight and negotiate". They are modelling their strategy on that of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. This means creating a united political organisation with a programme opposed to the US occupation.

US military commanders are now dubious about the chances of winning an outright military victory over the Sunni rebels who have a firm core of supporters among the five million-strong Sunni Muslim community. The US military has lost 1,479 dead and 10,740 wounded in Iraq since the invasion began in March 2003. Link

The coming invasion of Iran and the Bush European trip

Information Clearing House: 'A kick in the pants'

It's unfortunate that Bush doesn't understand what is happening in the world he so arrogantly believes he owns. The European trip he's on now is a barely concealed attempt to strong-arm support for his upcoming invasion of Iran. An invasion, according to former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter, that Bush has already approved, and is slated for June 2005.

Although the mainstream media is steadfastly refusing to investigate or report this startling news, Ritter, speaking on Feb. 19 to a packed house in the Capitol Theater in Olympia, Wash., maintains that "an official involved in the manipulation" was his source. In a release from United for Peace of Pierce County, Wash., reporter Mark Jensen wrote that Ritter said this announcement would "soon be reported by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in a major metropolitan magazine - an obvious allusion to The New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh."

For those who expect the media to interview Ritter - the man at the top of their "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" list for shouting until he was hoarse before, during and after the war that there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq - it could be a long wait. However, it's been scarcely a month since Hersh laid out the entire nasty scenario in his piece, "The Coming Wars," in the January 24-31 issue of The New Yorker. Link to full item

White House and Kremlin - a lot in common

The Moscow News: At their first meeting four and a half years ago in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, Bush looked into Putin's eyes and "was able to get a sense of his soul." Since then, the two presidents have been firm and consistent in preaching a common principle: "Whoever is not with us is with the terrorists." Although Putin abides by this principle mostly in his home policy, and Bush follows it in his foreign policy, with every passing year it becomes more difficult to find a fundamental difference in the political thinking inside of the Kremlin and the White House.

So, the West complains about the Kremlin's present "secretiveness"? But hasn't The New York Times indicated that concealment has become a trademark of the Bush administration?

When Western papers lament that the Russian parliament is obedient to Putin, we see with our mind's eye a U.S. Congress that has lost the ability to debate and whose main occupation is to applaud Bush.

The West is astounded to see Putin install members of his entourage on the management boards of Russia's raw-material companies. But isn't it a fact that the U.S. administration consists mostly of lobbyists fighting for their own businesses?

Western papers complain that Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration Vladislav Surkov has become the Kremlin's new "chief ideologue." But hasn't Bush quietly appointed his chief adviser Karl Rove as coordinator of all presidential policies?

Western newspapers point an accusing finger at the overly close ties between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Kremlin. Meanwhile, Bush is known to have spent billions of budgetary dollars on supporting Evangelic associations.

The West accuses Putin of encouraging Russian nationalism. But no other American president ever pursued more nationalist policies than George W. Bush.

The West claims that the Kremlin is bringing pressure to bear on the judiciary. But hasn't Bush made it clear that he is not very interested in the Senate's opinion on candidatures for Supreme Court judges? Link

Bush European 'fence mending'?

Reuters: U.S. President George W. Bush has won a largely symbolic pledge from NATO allies, including Iraq war critics, to help train Iraqi security forces but France and Germany pressed him for reform of transatlantic ties.

On the second day of a fence-mending tour, Bush took his charm offensive to summits with NATO and European Union leaders, eager to mend fences after two years of bitter rifts over Iraq.

A NATO official trumpeted the agreement of all 26 allies to make some contribution to the Iraq training mission as a token of the alliance's rediscovered unity.

"We have the 26. As far as we are concerned, that is everyone working in the same direction," the official said.

But the boast masked wide divergence in the level of help on offer. France, the most virulent European critic of the war, agreed for just one of its officers at NATO headquarters to help coordinate offers of equipment to the Iraqi military. Link

Aboard Air CIA - Kidnapping and Torture of EU citizen

Newsweek: Like many detainees with tales of abuse, Khaled el-Masri had a hard time getting people to believe him. Even his wife didn't know what to make of his abrupt, five-month disappearance last year. Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was taken off a bus in Macedonia in south-central Europe while on holiday on Dec. 31, 2003, then whisked in handcuffs to a motel outside the capital city of Skopje. Three weeks later, on the evening of Jan. 23, 2004, he was brought blindfolded aboard a jet with engines noisily revving, according to his lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic. Masri says he climbed high stairs "like onto a regular passenger airplane" and was chained to clamps on the bare metal floor and wall of the jet. Link to Newsweek Investigation

Prisoner Uprising In Iraq Exposes New Risk for U.S. [sic]

Washingtonpost: A bloody inmate riot [at camp Bucca] three weeks ago at the biggest U.S. run detention facility in Iraq has exposed an increasingly hard-core prison population that is confronting U.S. forces with a growing risk of prison violence, according to military officers.

U.S. troops who dealt with the clash tell of a chaotic and threatening situation. They say the extent of violence surprised them. They also say the nonlethal weapons available to them at the time for crowd control proved largely ineffectual.

Four inmates died [DB emphasis] and six were injured in the uprising the morning of Jan. 31, the most deaths in a prison disturbance since U.S. forces invaded Iraq two years ago. Frightened guards, some having arrived in Iraq only a month before, tried vainly to quell the rioting, spraying pepper gas and shooting rubberized pellets into throngs of prisoners, according to accounts by troops here.

Only after two Army guards in separate towers opened fire with M-16 rifles, killing the inmates, did the violence subside.............

For the first time since the incident, U.S. authorities allowed a reporter to visit the facility last week and talk with some of those who were involved....Link

"We will eradicate Spies and Diversionists, Agents of Trotskyite-Bukharinite Fascists!" - NKVD poster 1937

DB: This shameful report paints a picture of a hardcore of superhuman, unstoppable 'bad guys' confronting US camp guards, who were powerless in the face of the [inmate] brutality, and who only resorted to lethal force when US lives were at risk. Why the Washington Post - Bradley Graham - bothered 'enhancing' what for the most part is simply a US camp authority statement is not known. A cursory mention is given to the fact that the interviewing of detainees was not permitted. Under such circumstances the Washington Post should have declined this opportunity to present the 'facts'.

Added Spec. Kevin Plemmons, a guard in compound No. 4: "Really, you can't trust these guys at all. You have to be on your toes."

US policy highlights need for EU military autonomy

DB:Bush's opposition to a strengthened and autonomous European military is no surprise. Neither should it be a surprise to Bush that there is a growing realisation in Europe that such a force is becoming more desirable and probably inevitable.

Current US policy is partly responsible for this resurgent desire. It is clear that the majority of Europeans no longer see the US as a great, more or less benign power, under whose umbrella we may be protected from harm. If anything the reverse is true. We could easily be dragged into a hell of the US's own making. Of all those responsible for this shift in attitudes, it is Dubya himself, and his sponsors, who are mostly to blame.

Of course Bush would not see it like that. He would not grasp that which is plain for the rest of us to see; certainly those of us outside the US. Once you strip away the Goebbels style propaganda from the US agenda--the kind that was on display for all the world to observe at the State of the Union Address for example--what you are left with, as Seymour Hersh recently described it, is a nation that has been hijacked by a cult, with a superficial 'war on terror' and a mission that purports to advance global 'freedom' and 'democracy', whilst in reality, at its heart, the real drivers behind the crusade are a little different. Besides, where are those US 'freedoms' anyway? Are we talking about the freedom to lose your citizenship? The freedom to be locked up without trial? The freedom to be bugged and burgled and framed with impunity?

It is possible that in order to really believe the Bushite propaganda machine you need to live in America, or at least in a nation such as Slovakia, where the misconceived idea that the Soviet empire was dismantled by the efforts of Reagan and Thatcher alone, together with a need for financial favors has led to an unfortunate blind spot concerning the current US agenda that promotes it's own imperialist needs. In 'Old Europe', even in the UK, where we are saddled with the number one Bush cheerleader Blair, there is enough opposing comment for most who care enough to give these things a little thought, to understand that the aims and objectives, as articulated to the American people, are for the most part simplistic, trite, and a smokescreen, though not to be underestimated as very effective domestic propaganda.

It is Bush's own policies that have driven a wedge between him and a lot of Europeans. I would hasten to add that this phenomenon is not necessarily a problem between the peoples of these two continents. Lets not forget that 51% of voters supported the US administration in the last election. I would guess that within that figure 10-20% voted for him out of pure fear, ignorance and madness - a state of mind that had been scientifically induced in them. And one hopes that it is this 10-20%, who, given the right therapy, may just as easily flip the other way and use their vote to rid the US, and the world, of this scoundrel. But unfortunately, that will not happen for some time, and indeed should he be replaced by a Democrat we are likely to see a 'Bush Lite' set of policies.

Meanwhile we will continue to observe the evidence of 'cause and effect' unfold. The European desire to distance itself from US militarism is just one slowly developing example. But it is not the only example of the shifting tectonic plates across the world. Bland diplomatic niceties, and economic practicalities should not be allowed to mask the mistrust and concern that a lot of Europe and the world feel concerning this current US regime. And who can blame them? You don't have to look far for evidence of the destabilizing effect US policy is having.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Al-Sadr demands US withdrawal from Iraq Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has urged Iraqi parties which participated in the elections to demand a timetable for US troop withdrawal.

Speaking to Aljazeera on Sunday, al-Sadr said that if a new Iraqi government did not ask foreign forces to leave or set a timetable for their pullout, elections will have been useless.

"If elections open the door for the occupier to leave Iraq then it is a good thing. But if that is not the case, it will not have a real effect on the country or on Iraqis," he said.

"As long as the occupier is in Iraq, I will not take part in politics, whether in posts or the drafting of the constitution, because the occupier will intervene in one way or another."

But al-Sadr said all Iraqis should be allowed to participate in the country's political process, including Sunni Muslims, most of whom rejected the elections that handed power to Iraq's Shia.

"We must help the minorities to have an effective role in building the future of Iraq. Everyone must be given a chance to participate in building Iraq," he said.

Al-Sadr also urged Iraqis to refrain from violence against other Iraqis.

"I ask all parties to show patience and not to be dragged into the plots of the West which aim to destabilise the country and justify the presence of the occupation," Sadr said.

"Any attack on any Iraqi group is an attack on all Iraqis ... and it is wrong for a Muslim to kill a Muslim," he added. Link

Hunter S Thompson 'kills himself'

YahooNews (AP) : Hunter S. Thompson, the hard-living writer who inserted himself into his accounts of America's underbelly and popularized a first-person form of journalism in books such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," has committed suicide. Link

From 'Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004'

Presidential politics is a vicious business, even for rich white men, and anybody who gets into it should be prepared to grapple with the meanest of the mean. The White House has never been seized by timid warriors. There are no rules, and the roadside is littered with wreckage. That is why they call it the passing lane. Just ask any candidate who ever ran against George Bush -- Al Gore, Ann Richards, John McCain -- all of them ambushed and vanquished by lies and dirty tricks. And all of them still whining about it.

That is why George W. Bush is President of the United States, and Al Gore is not. Bush simply wanted it more, and he was willing to demolish anything that got in his way, including the U.S. Supreme Court. It is not by accident that the Bush White House (read: Dick Cheney & Halliburton Inc.) controls all three branches of our federal government today. They are powerful thugs who would far rather die than lose the election in November.

The Republican establishment is haunted by painful memories of what happened to Old Man Bush in 1992. He peaked too early, and he had no response to "It's the economy, stupid."

Which has always been the case. Every GOP administration since 1952 has let the Military-Industrial Complex loot the Treasury and plunge the nation into debt on the excuse of a wartime economic emergency. Richard Nixon comes quickly to mind, along with Ronald Reagan and his ridiculous "trickle-down" theory of U.S. economic policy. If the Rich get Richer, the theory goes, before long their pots will overflow and somehow "trickle down" to the poor, who would rather eat scraps off the Bush family plates than eat nothing at all. Republicans have never approved of democracy, and they never will. It goes back to preindustrial America, when only white male property owners could vote.

Things haven't changed all that much where George W. Bush comes from. Houston is a cruel and crazy town on a filthy river in East Texas with no zoning laws and a culture of sex, money and violence. It's a shabby sprawling metropolis ruled by brazen women, crooked cops and super-rich pansexual cowboys who live by the code of the West -- which can mean just about anything you need it to mean, in a pinch.

Houston is also the unnatural home of two out of the last three presidents of the United States of America, for good or ill. The other one was a handsome, sex-crazed boy from next-door Arkansas, which has no laws against oral sex or any other deviant practice not specifically forbidden in the New Testament, including anal incest and public cunnilingus with farm animals.

Back in 1948, during his first race for the U.S. Senate, Lyndon Johnson was running about ten points behind, with only nine days to go. He was sunk in despair. He was desperate. And it was just before noon on a Monday, they say, when he called his equally depressed campaign manager and instructed him to call a press conference for just before lunch on a slow news day and accuse his high-riding opponent, a pig farmer, of having routine carnal knowledge of his barnyard sows, despite the pleas of his wife and children.

His campaign manager was shocked. "We can't say that, Lyndon," he supposedly said. "You know it's not true."

"Of course it's not true!" Johnson barked at him. "But let's make the bastard deny it!"

Johnson -- a Democrat, like Bill Clinton -- won that election by fewer than a hundred votes, and after that he was home free. He went on to rule Texas and the U.S. Senate for twenty years and to be the most powerful vice president in the history of the United States. Until now.

Link to item in full here

Bush - 'no power on earth will ever divide us' - oh really?

USA Today:President Bush sought to repair rocky relations with Europe on Sunday, saying "no power on earth will ever divide us." He urged allies to move beyond differences over Iraq in the interest of Mideast peace.

"As past debates fade and great duties become clear, let us begin a new era of trans-Atlantic unity," Bush will say in a speech on Monday. Appealing for aid for Iraq, he urges the world's democracies "to give tangible political, economic and security assistance to the world's newest democracy." Link

DB:I'ts probably quite likely that Europe will agree to train a few more Iraqis. There will be undertakings no doubt to 'get tough' with Iran. Diplomatic niceties will be observed - expect the usual platitudes regarding a thaw in relations, and photo calls with smiling faces. However, back on planet Earth, Bush's statement above - "no power on earth will ever divide us" - is wildly optimistic. As far as Europe is concerned, this president is the most dangerous in living memory. He is perceived as a hypocritical, deluded warmonger - a danger to us all. We are already divided on a raft of issues - from Kyoto to Iran to Iraq, UN, Nuclear Disarmament (get those 480 nukes off our territory) and US proliferation, militarization of space, Torture and kidnapping - and not just of our own citizens - arms to China, EU military power etc., etc.. Never before has there been a better advertisement for a United States of Europe. In a UK election year, probably the wisest thing Blair has ever done was to advise Bush to stay the hell out of England.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Zawahri exploits US weaknesses in new statement

The Age: Al-Jazeera television has aired a videotape purporting to show al-Qaida No.2 Ayman al-Zawahri denouncing US calls for reform in the region and urging the West to respect the Islamic world.

Al-Zawahri, who appeared sitting on the ground and in front of a brown backdrop, pointed to the US military prison on Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, saying it "explains the truth about reforms and democracy that America is allegedly trying to impose in our countries".

Al-Zawahri was wearing a clean and well-pressed white and brown robe and traditional headdress in the tape. A Kalashnikov assault rifle was leaning behind him against the backdrop.

"Reform is based on American detention camps like Bagram, Kandahar, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib," said Zawahri. "It will be based on cluster bombs and imposition of people like Karzai and Allawi," he said, referring to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Al-Jazeera reported the excerpt was part of a longer videotape, but did not indicate the length of the entire tape. The station did not say if they would air the rest of the video.

"Real security is based on mutual cooperation with the Islamic nation on the basis of mutual respect and the stopping of aggression," Zawahri said in the tape.

He warned that "the new crusade is doomed to fail" and said it would result in "tens of thousands of fallen victims and the destruction of your economy".

"If you, the Western nations, think that these cardboard governments can protect you, you are wrong," he said in the tape about governments in the Middle East. "Your real security is through cooperation with the Islamic Nation."

Like al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, the Egyptian al-Zawahri is believed to be on the run in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistani border. But Pakistani officials have said there is no evidence either man is in their territory and both Pakistani and American generals agree the trail has gone cold, more than three years after the September 11 attacks. Link

US and Europe - different planets (thankfully)

BBC From Our Own Correspondent: Transatlantic divisions run deep

President Bush is about to launch himself into the most ambitious piece of diplomacy he has ever attempted. He will become the first American President in history to visit the core institutions of the European Union, in an effort to patch up relations with the Europeans

........America is strait-laced and earnest, and is getting more so with every passing day.

A recent example which caught my eye, I thought at first it was a joke, that several television stations refused to allow the screening of Steven Spielberg's film Saving Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks, is not pornographic, nor is it grotesquely violent. It is a war film with some shooting and some swearing.

Although it would be shown on any television station anywhere in Europe, with no comment and no censorship, the swearing is too much for America.

At least they say it is the swearing, but I wonder if there is a more profound difficulty here.

My memory of the film is that it is occasionally grittily realistic. In the battle scenes, soldiers are scared and their deaths are not always terribly glorious.It is in other words true to life, and that is another area where Europe and America increasingly diverge.

America is fast becoming a nation of faith not fact. A nation where the unpleasant aspects of human existence are simply airbrushed away. Link

Bush's War on Veracity - re torture, the missing Iraqi billions...

Ralph Nader for It is difficult even for news hounds to keep up with the repeated and new prevarications of President George W. Bush. When he told his council of advisors a while back that he did not have to explain because he was the President, El Jefe was not kidding.

The remarkable characteristics about Bush's false statements, lies and deep deceptions are that they are contradicted again and again by people within his own Administration or former officials who were involved or had observed the situations described. The refutations come from knowledgeable men and women who have no axe to grind for speaking the truth. Their statements are often what lawyers call "admissions against interest."

In late January, President Bush gave an interview with the New York Times in which he made this assertion: "Torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture."

On page after page, Jane Mayer, writing
in the February 14th issue of The New Yorker, amasses the evidence to the contrary. So varied, credible and attributed is the documentation that Bush presides over a costly and secretive program called "extraordinary rendition," that either Bush is a knowing liar or doesn't know what is going on in his name. Taking alleged suspects, declining to charge them with any crimes, and quickly flying them in a Gulfstream V jet, registered with a dummy American corporation, to countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Jordan for torture has become part of Bush's foreign policy. Not surprisingly, some of these suspects turn out to be so innocent they are allowed to go back to their country-be it Australia, Canada, Afghanistan or Pakistan. What happens to the uncounted others is unknown. What is known is that most prominent anti-terrorist specialists reject torture on the grounds that it does not work to produce accurate information and can backfire in numerous ways, as described by Mayer's interviewees. Link

Iraq, deathsquads, 'Gladio' ,'Saraya Iraqna' "You had to attack civilians, the people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple: to force ... the public to turn to the state to ask for greater security."

This was the essence of Operation Gladio, a decades-long covert campaign of terrorism and deceit directed by the intelligence services of the West -- against their own populations. Hundreds of innocent people were killed or maimed in terrorist attacks -- on train stations, supermarkets, cafes and offices -- which were then blamed on "leftist subversives" or other political opponents. The purpose, as stated above in sworn testimony by Gladio agent Vincenzo Vinciguerra, was to demonize designated enemies and frighten the public into supporting ever-increasing powers for government leaders -- and their elitist cronies.

First revealed by Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti in 1991, Gladio (from the Latin for "sword") is still protected to this day by its founding patrons, the CIA and MI6. Yet parliamentary investigations in Italy, Switzerland and Belgium have shaken out a few fragments of the truth over the years. These have been gathered in a new book, "NATO's Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe," by Daniele Ganser, as Lila Rajiva reports on

Last month, it was widely reported that the Pentagon is considering a similar program in Iraq. What was not reported, however--- except in the Iraqi press-- is that at least one pro-occupation death squad is already in operation. Just days after the Pentagon plans were revealed, a new militant group, "Saraya Iraqna," began offering big wads of American cash for insurgent scalps -- up to $50,000, the Iraqi paper Al Ittihad reports. "Our activity will not be selective," the group promised. In other words, anyone they consider an enemy of the state will be fair game.

Strangely enough, just as it appears that the Pentagon is establishing Gladio-style operations in Iraq, there has been a sudden rash of terrorist attacks on outrageously provocative civilian targets, such as hospitals and schools, the Guardian reports. Coming just after national elections in which the majority faction supported slates calling for a speedy end to the American occupation, the shift toward high-profile civilian slaughter has underscored the "urgent need" for U.S. forces to remain on the scene indefinitely, to provide security against the ever-present terrorist threat. Meanwhile, the Bushists continue constructing their long-sought permanent bases in Iraq: citadels to protect the oil that incoming Iraqi officials are promising to sell off to American corporations -- and launching pads for new forays in geopolitical domination. Link

Worth a visit to MoscowTimes for article in full, and their interesting linked references

Also see previous post 'Salvador option' for Iraq Mr Negroponte? Link

Friday, February 18, 2005

Further Iraq and Afghanistan torture documents released

ACLU:The American Civil Liberties Union today released files obtained from the Army revealing previously undisclosed allegations of abuse by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the documents are reports that a detainee who was beaten and seriously injured was forced to drop his claims in order to be released from custody.

In one file released today, an Iraqi detainee claimed that Americans in civilian clothing beat him in the head and stomach, dislocated his arms, "stepped on his nose until it broke," stuck an unloaded pistol in his mouth and fired the trigger, choked him with a rope and beat his leg with a baseball bat. Medical reports corroborated the detainee's account, stating that the detainee had a broken nose, fractured leg, and scars on his stomach. In addition, soldiers confirmed that Task Force 20 interrogators wearing civilian clothing had interrogated the detainee. However, after initially reporting the abuse, the detainee said that he was forced by an American soldier to sign a statement denouncing the claims or else be kept in detention indefinitely. He agreed. Link

How Britain refined the torture methods used in Iraq

GuardianUnlimited: 'Nobody is talking'
Guardian Special Report: The evidence of two new books demonstrates that 9/11 created the will for new, harsher interrogation techniques of foreign suspects by the US and led to the abuses in Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. In a special report, James Meek reveals that it is the British who refined these methods, and who have provided the precedent for legalised torture. Link

Iraq corruption - Justice Dept. stalls re Custer Battles and the rest Justice Department yesterday asked a federal judge for more time to consider taking a legal position that could have far-reaching implications for the handling of alleged contractor misdeeds in Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III had sought guidance on a deceptively complex question: Was the CPA -- which governed Iraq for a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein -- an arm of the United States, or was it part of a broader international body?

The government's response could determine the fate of a lawsuit that whistle-blowers have filed against Custer Battles LLC, a Fairfax-based contractor that is accused of defrauding the CPA of tens of millions of dollars during work in Iraq that included securing Baghdad International Airport. Because the case is the first to be unsealed involving charges of fraud in the multibillion-dollar Iraqi reconstruction effort, it could set precedents.

The government's handling of the case is of great interest to legal scholars, who say the CPA's definition has long been in doubt. "The government used the amorphous status of the CPA to its advantage," said Steven L. Schooner, a professor of government contracting law at George Washington University. "The government clearly played the CPA so that sometimes it was the government and sometimes it wasn't."

Schooner said the Justice Department is in a difficult position because identifying the CPA as a U.S. entity could make the government legally responsible for the CPA's actions. On the other hand, he said, "it's not a very attractive position to say, 'If you stole U.S. money, you're liable. But if you stole Iraqi money, the U.S. government just doesn't care.' "

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Al-Mahdi Army, Hizbullah militias for ranks of new Iraqi Army?

Informed Comment:......Al-Hayat has also learned that a security plan, which was mentioned earlier for the case where the Coalition would lead the new government, foresees the integration of large numbers of "Al-Badr" and "Al-Mahdi Army," as well as the militias of Hizbullah and Al-Dawa, in the ranks of the new Iraqi army.

Interestingly, Sistani would informally be playing a role here similar to that played by the monarch in the UK. Sistani as Elizabeth II. It certainly wasn't what Bush had been going for with this Iraq adventure. Link

Letter to Rice re Iraq overcharging and Richard Jones

Progressive Newswire: Today Rep. Waxman asked for a full explanation of the role of Ambassador Richard Jones, Secretary of State Rice's choice to head U.S. Iraq policy, in the steering of a lucrative fuel contract to an obscure Kuwaiti company. Text of the letter here

Negroponte - "a rogue, a jackanape, a bounder of the worst type"

Cryptome: [Washington Post June 2004] When Negroponte strode into a Senate room for his confirmation hearings two months ago, he was a jaunty figure, tall, swinging an umbrella with such insouciance that it seemed to have turned into a walking stick. He'd seen this scene before, of course, necks yanking toward his arrival, the long mahogany table before him, the microphone, the glass of water, the senators seen chest-high, all of it lit up by the TV lights.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee - his hair ice cream white with the lights pouring down on him - referred to the posting to Iraq as "one of the most consequential ambassadorships in American history." Negroponte, in blue pinstripes, nodded. He read from his statement. "With our help, the people of Iraq can overcome the trauma of Saddam's brutality and the intimidation of violent extremists seeking to derail the progress they have made so far."

Back and forth it went, words of praise and encouragement. Then a bearded man popped up, jack-in-the-box-like, and began shouting at the seated senators: "Ask him about his involvement with a death squad in Honduras that he supported!" Heads swiveled, shoulders twisted. "What about death squad 316, Mr. Negroponte?" The man was Andres Thomas Conteris, a human rights activist who spent five years in Honduras. Security officers escorted him out. Negroponte didn't flinch during the outburst, didn't even turn around to eyeball his critic. Those who've known him for years - family and friends, fellow ambassadors - have long attested to his cool demeanor.

"There are two streams of analysis about John Negroponte," says Larry Birns, who, as director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a human rights group, has tried, unsuccessfully, to derail Negroponte's career over the years. "One is that he is a distinguished career diplomatic officer. The other is that he is a rogue, a jackanape, a bounder of the worst type"

Eyeballing John Negroponte Link

Further reading:
Torture at CIA Battalion 316: The Record of Washington's Ambassador to Iraq Link

Iraq - Whoever you vote for, Washington wins How Washington Plans To Dominate The New Iraqi National Assembly

The elections in Iraq have been an unprecedented opportunity for ordinary people to influence the destiny of their country, but the National Assembly they have elected is so hedged in with US-imposed restrictions that the cabinet it produces will be more like a chain-gang of prisoners than an independent government.

A prominent Iraqi politician in the Shia coalition told the New Yorker in January that the US had quietly told the parties before the election that there were three conditions for the new government: it should not be under the influence of Iran; it should not ask for the withdrawal of US troops; and it should not install an Islamic state.

One important but neglected issue is the steady re-Ba'athification of the security forces under US direction. This re-Ba'athification is hotly rejected by the majority Shia coalition, and is therefore a key issue for the new government.

The British mass media, as elsewhere, has concentrated on the division of power between the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish communities, and on how power may be shared between the different elements of the 'winning' Shia coalition. What has not been examined is the framework within which the newly-elected National Assembly, and the soon to be appointed 'Iraqi Transitional Government', must operate. Link

Iraq - Republicans look the other way re missing $9bn

Bellaciao: There are 6 Congressional Committees investigating the Oil-for-Food (UN) scandal, yet not a single Republican Committee Chairman will call a hearing to investigate the whereabouts of 9 billion dollars missing in action. Link

Rice adviser choice has ties to Halliburton probe At least one of her expected appointments is controversial. She has chosen Richard Jones, a former ambassador to Kuwait and deputy of the Coalition Provisional Authority who has been linked to the Halliburton inquiries, as her new coordinator for Iraq.

According to documents released by the State Department to a member of Congress, Jones intervened in December 2003 to pressure a Halliburton subsidiary to purchase gasoline from a Kuwaiti subcontractor favored by the government of Kuwait, despite mounting evidence that the subcontractor, Altanmia Commercial Marketing Co., was charging more than twice as much as other companies for the fuel.

Rice has also named Elizabeth Cheney, the vice president's daughter, as deputy assistant secretary of state for the Near East - the second-ranking US diplomat for the Middle East. Link

Bush 'waging a jihad against journalists'

Spiegelonline: The Bush administration is waging a jihad against journalists - buying them off so they'll promote administration programs, trying to put them in jail, and replacing them with ringers.

I am very impressed with James Guckert, a k a Jeff Gannon.

How often does an enterprising young man, heralded in press reports as both a reporter and a contributor to such sites as,, Militaryescorts .com, and, get to question the president of the United States?

Who knew that a hotmilitarystud wanting to meetlocalmen could so easily get to be face2face with the commander in chief?

With the Bushies, if you're their friend, anything goes. If you're their critic, nothing goes. Link

Sycophantic Media

Paul Craig Roberts for The conservative media will never recover from its role as Chief Sycophant for the Bush administration. Journalists who demanded that Clinton be held accountable for a minor sex scandal (Monica Lewinsky) and a minor financial scandal (Whitewater) now serve as apologists and propagandists for the Bush administration's major war scandals.

The Republican House of Representatives saw fit to impeach President Clinton for lying about sex. The same Republicans defend to the hilt Bush's lies that launched America into an unjustified war that has killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans, cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, ruined America's reputation, and lost forever the hearts and minds of Muslims.

No decent or sensible person can have confidence in journalists and politicians who take partisanship to such extreme lengths.

There is plenty of room in journalism and politics for arguments over issues and policies. But two solid years of lies is beyond the pale.

Conservative journalists and Republican politicians not only lie through their teeth, but also seek to destroy everyone who utters a word of dissent or truth. Link

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Iran, Syria 'form common front'

BBCNews: Iran and Syria say they are to form a common front to face challenges and threats from overseas.

"We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats," Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref said after meeting Syrian PM Naji al-Otari.

Both countries are under intense US pressure, with Washington accusing Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons. Link

Iraq private security

A private security guard stands in front of a monument built at the site of a mass grave in which victims of Saddam Hussein's regime were burried. Four private security guards said their former employer, Custer Battles, allowed heavily armed guards to roam Iraq brutalizing civilians, while they were supposed to be guarding supply convoys from rebels(AFP/File/Saeed Khan)

Britain and CIA Wanted A 'Sexier' Iraqi Weapons Report An Australian scientist involved in the US search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq today said the CIA censored his reporting so that it suggested the weapons existed.

He also accused the head of Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee of wanting to to make the report "sexier." Link

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

New allegations of Custer Battles abuse, murder in Iraq

MSNBC: There are new allegations that heavily armed private security contractors in Iraq are brutalizing Iraqi civilians. In an exclusive interview, four former security contractors told NBC News that they watched as innocent Iraqi civilians were fired upon, and one crushed by a truck. The contractors worked for an American company paid by U.S. taxpayers. The Army is now looking into the allegations.

They worked for an American company named Custer Battles, hired by the Pentagon to conduct dangerous missions guarding supply convoys. They were so upset by what they saw, three quit after only one or two missions.

....Later, the convoy came upon two teenagers by the road. One allegedly was gunned down."The rear gunner in my vehicle shot him," says Colling. "Unarmed, walking kids."

"What we saw, I know the American population wouldn't stand for," says Craun.
Link to full story.

It had been my intention to leave this company alone for a little while, and catch up with some other matters, then this arrives in my in-box. These guys really are the pits, allegedly.

Iraqi groups demand US exit for participation

Aljazeera.Net: A statement issued at the end of the meeting at Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque, the headquarters of Iraq's leading Sunni body, called for "an internationally guaranteed timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops".

The meeting involved a representative of the Association for Muslim Scholars, an Arab nationalist, a former member of ousted president Saddam Hussein's Baath party and a representative of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The group stressed their "rejection of terrorist acts against innocent Iraqis, infrastructure and places of worship". Link

Interesting response from Custer Battles re Iraq fraud

"While this means of payment [cash] was by no means preferable, [I am pissing myself laughing - DB comment] it was understandable given the CPA's unique situation of having to develop, implement and supervise contracting procedures as part of a multinational coalition working in a hostile environment," according to Jennifer Christensen, a Custer Battles spokeswoman. Link

The 'cash' element of the story is not the issue Ms Chrisentensenen. Search this site for the REAL issues. Your bullshit doesn't work, for me.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Iraq - Whistleblower evidence re Custer Battles

Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing: [14th Feb 2005] My name is Alan Grayson. I am an attorney. I represent whistleblowers in the first case involving fraud by a government contractor in Iraq to be unsealed by the court. My testimony is based on what these whistleblowers have told me, and the court.

I wish that I could tell you that the Bush Administration has done everything it could to detect and punish fraud in Iraq. If I said that to you, though, I would be lying. In our case, the Bush Administration has not lifted a finger to recover tens of millions of dollars that our whistleblowers allege was stolen from the Government.

Link to Alan Grayson testimony (pdf)
Link to DPC web page - includes the other witness statements

These documents make interesting and shocking reading. Given the enthusiasm with which the oil-for-food case against the UN is being pursued, the stark contrast in the Bush administration's pathetic response to these allegations, which are closer to home, indicates that the notion of integrity for this US government is, as always, subject to the higher laws of greed, politics and power. What is more, given the current theme of CUTS that Bush articulated at his State of the Union Address, it is plain that it is those in America that can least afford to who are paying corporate highwaymen such as Custer and Battles - and yet these crooks may well escape accountability. Bush and Co would no doubt see that as a splendid result.

For further background reading regarding Custer Battles and the games they play see an interesting item posted in October 2004 by The Moscow Times........

It's another story of the American Dream come true, the kind you see every day in George Bush's blessed realm. All the usual inspiring elements are there: a couple of plucky kids starting a business with nothing but hustle and a whole lotta heart; a few lucky breaks crowned with big-time success; a duffel bag stuffed with millions in cash from a war-zone slush fund; a father and son held hostage at gunpoint to block a corruption probe, then dumped in hostile territory with no papers, no money, no protection.

Yes, it's the story of Custer Battles LLC., a mercenary firm run by two former covert operators and Bushist Party bagmen who sharked up more than $40 million in the usual no-bid conquistador contracts from the rape of Iraq - and may have skimmed an extra $50 million in fraudulent cream, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Custer Battles is not, as you might think, named for that earlier undermanned, overconfident military incursion that ended in disaster at Little Big Horn. No, the ill-omened moniker comes from the company's founders: ex-Army Ranger and "Special Operations" vet Scott Custer and his partner, fellow Special Opnik Mike Battles, who also brings his experience as a clandestine CIA officer, FOX News commentator and failed Republican congressional candidate to the mix.

Although CB had no previous security experience, the plucky firm somehow won a $16.8 million no-bid contract to provide security for Baghdad Airport. This was followed by $24.4 million to take part in the gargantuan porkfest surrounding the replacement of Iraqi currency, along with sundry other hired-gun work - including a sideline in supplying military dogs for raids on Iraqi homes, which the company called a "beneficial interaction with civilians, lessening the cultural divide." Link to full article, and further interesting external links