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

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Deaths spur calls to overhaul Iraqi police The Iraqi government's unprecedented admission that its police tortured and killed three Shi'ite Muslim militiamen while they were in custody has set off angry complaints from newly elected Shi'ite legislators who are engaged in a political battle for control of the police.

Shi'ite leaders have beamed gruesome images of the dead men to Iraqi television sets, displaying their bruised, scarred bodies as an argument for radically reshaping the police force, which is crucial to the fight against the country's bloody insurgency.

In a series of steps rarely seen in Iraq, US-backed Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's interim government has acknowledged the men "died under torture by police," arrested six police officers in the case, launched a high-level investigation, and paid the men's families about $2,000 each plus a $500 monthly stipend.

Yet the debate over the deaths last month is only beginning. Government officials insist the killings are an isolated case. But the leaders of the powerful Shi'ite Islamist bloc that won more than half the seats in the new National Assembly say the case reveals mistakes in the way Allawi and his US advisers recruited and trained Iraq's police. Those Shi'ite leaders say the force is a haven for Ba'athists who mistreated Iraqis, especially Shi'ites, under Saddam Hussein.

"Iraqis are being tortured by Iraqis, by the security groups which are responsible for their safety," said Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Badr Organization, an Iranian-trained militia founded in the 1980s as the armed wing of the Islamist party that is now the largest in the Shi'ite bloc.

"Under Saddam, we were used to prisoners being tortured until they died," he said. "But the strange thing is that after Saddam, the same thing happens." Link

Iraq 'overcharged' for wheat whilst the children starve

FairfaxDigital: Iraq's Trade Minister Mohammed al-Jibouri says Iraq has suspended a contract to buy one million tonnes of Australian wheat after Australian officials made remarks that suggested overcharging.

The Iraqi minister says the contract is suspended and negotiations are being conducted with the Australian Wheat Board.

Last month, the Trade Ministry began an investigation into claims that Iraq had paid inflated prices for wheat from Australia's monopoly wheat exporter the AWB.

The AWB says it hasn't been informed of the suspension and is continuing to ship wheat under the contract.

The exporter has strongly refuted suggestions in Baghdad that it overcharged for past wheat supplies to Iraq.

AWB's managing director Andrew Lindberg said last month prices reflect the risk of doing business with Iraq and the quality of the wheat. Link

[db] At the time of winning the deal in October 2004 The Age reported Andrew Lindberg crowing "This is a strategic decision by Iraq to ensure their food security is protected, and we are honoured to once again provide them with the necessary level of support during such a challenging period." Evidently Lindberg worships in the same congregation as Mike Battles.

AWB may be no more corrupt than the other Iraq war profiteers - but to see this development come along the day following a UN report detailing that malnutrition amongst children in Iraq has doubled since the invasion adds piquancy.

Child starvation doubles in 'New' Iraq - thats freedom?

BBCNews: Increasing numbers of children in Iraq do not have enough food to eat and more than a quarter are chronically undernourished, a UN report says.

Malnutrition rates in children under five have almost doubled since the US-led intervention- to nearly 8% by the end of last year, it says. Link

[db] This is yet further evidence of either a criminal and racist disregard for human life, or worse a deliberate policy. Allowing Iraqi children to starve two years into the occupation is surely unforgivable. But at twice the rate they were before the invasion?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Message From Falluja To The American People [..] The refugees told me that they were given one week notice to leave the city. After three days, they were told they could no longer drive out, they had to walk. No camps were established for them and no refugee location was given. There was no planning by the American government for the people, no food, no shelter and no water. They were just told to leave or be killed. Anyone who stayed in the city after one week would be considered a terrorist and would be killed.

For five months these people have been living in any location they could find, nothing was established for them in the surrounding areas of the Falluja countryside. They are living in tents in the mud, schools, abandoned chicken coups, burned out buildings, cars and other buildings that people were not using or where others have made room for them. The weather is bad, with much rain and it is very cold. When they were told to leave the city, it was summer and they were not dressed for this cold and many could not carry out their clothes. Some lucky children are going to school in tents and all the classes have been shortened to 2 hours per day. Food is short and they are eating what the farmers grow and the surrounding community can spare. Again, even after five months they have received no outside aid from either the American government or the new Iraqi government. Link

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Iraqi assembly descends into chaos

The meeting of Iraq's national assembly descended into chaos today as politicians failed to agree on a candidate for speaker.

Amid acrimonious scenes, the new governing body convened briefly, for only the second time since national elections in January, and admitted defeat in its efforts to nominate a Sunni candidate for the role.

The bickering exposed tensions in the newly formed parliament, with the outgoing interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, storming out of the session, followed by the interim president, Gazi al-Yawar

"What are we going to tell the citizens who sacrificed their lives and cast ballots on January 30?" asked Hussein al-Sadr, a Shia cleric and member Mr Allawi's coalition.

The start of the session was delayed by nearly three hours as talks to fill the position continued. Once it began, politicians immediately began arguing over whether to delay their decision, and the leader of the session decided to banish reporters and cameras and take negotiations behind closed doors.

"We demand to know the details of what's happening behind the scenes!" one woman shouted before television feeds went blank. Link

How US corporates own George W Bush

Business Sees Gain In GOP Takeover: [..] Bush and his congressional allies are looking to pass legal protections for drug companies, doctors, gun manufacturers and asbestos makers, as well as tax breaks for all companies and energy-related assistance sought by the oil and gas industry.

With 232 House seats, Republicans have their largest majority since 1949. This is the first time since the Calvin Coolidge administration in 1929 that the GOP has simultaneously held 55 or more Senate seats and the presidency.

Over the next four years, the GOP hopes to use this enhanced power to approve the president's judicial nominees, some of whom Democrats lambaste as too conservative, and restructure Social Security and the tax code. But in the early days of the 109th Congress, it is corporations, which largely bankrolled the GOP's resurgence that began a decade ago with the Republican takeover of the House, that are profiting. Link

[db] From Dr. Lawrence Britt's 'The 14 Characteristics of Fascism':
Number 9: Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite

Halliburton Destroys Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The sterile term "collateral damage" justifiably brings to mind the human tragedy of war. But the devastating and wanton damage inflicted on the ancient city of Babylon by U.S.-led military forces gives another meaning to the term. In this case, we are witnessing violence against one of the world's greatest cultural treasures. Babylon's destruction, according to The Guardian, "must rank as one of the most reckless acts of cultural vandalism in recent memory." When Camp Babylon was established by U.S.-led international forces in April 2003, leading archeologists and international experts on ancient civilizations warned of potential peril and damage. It was "tantamount to establishing a military camp around the Great Pyramid in Egypt or around Stonehenge in Britain" according to a damning report issued in January by the British Museum

The report, drafted by Dr. John Curtis - one of the world's leading archeologists - documents that the military base, built and overseen by Kellog, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, jeopardized what is often referred to as the "mother of all archeological sites." Helicopter landing places and parking lots for heavy vehicles caused substantial damage to the Ishtar Gate, one of the most famous monuments from antiquity. U.S. military vehicles crushed 2,600 year old brick pavement, archeological fragments were scattered across the site, trenches were driven into ancient deposits and military earth-moving projects contaminated the site for future generations of scientists. As several eminent archeologists have pointed out, while the looting of the Iraqi Museum in the first days of the war was horrifying, the destruction of ancient sites has even more dire consequences for those trying to piece together the history of civilization. Link

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Report details plan for US manipulation in Kyrgyzstan

Cryptome: 'Secret report of the U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyz Republic Stephen M.Young.'

[..] "To minimize Russian influence on the course of elections we ought to urge opposition parties to make appeals to the Russian government concerning non-interference in internal affairs of the KR." [yes, thats the US ambassador talking]

[..] "I advise focusing on discrediting the present political regime, thus making Akaev and his followers responsible for the economic crisis. We should also take steps to spread information on probable restriction of political freedoms during the election campaign"

[..] "It is worthwhile compromising Akaev personally by disseminating data in the opposition mass media on his wife's involvement in financial frauds and bribery at designation of officials. We also recommend spreading rumors about her probable plans to run for the presidency, etc. All these measures will help us form an image of an absolutely incapacitated president."

db: Would be comic if the subject matter was less threatening to the future of mankind etc.. Link to full report

May pay a dividend to read in conjunction with 'The US National Defense Strategy'

31-3: See followup denial and further comments Link

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

US Offensive Defense Strategy

IPS: March has been a bad month for the world's multilateralists who, encouraged by several early appointments to the State Department and a successful presidential tour of Europe, had hoped that George W. Bush would temper his unilateralist instincts in his second term.

But culminating in Friday's release by the Pentagon of a new "National Defense Strategy of the United States of America", the last few weeks have showered a bracing dose of cold water on that notion.

Combined with the nomination earlier in the month of super-unilateralist John Bolton as Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, as well as the U.S. withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for cases involving the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Strategy strongly suggests that Washington's interest in its traditional alliances, multilateral institutions, and even international law is on a downward trajectory. Link

The US National Defense Strategy Link

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Pilger: 'Be Proud of What You've Achieved' This is a transcript of a speech [John Pilger] delivered at Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia, on March 20, 2005, at a rally to commemorate the second anniversary of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.

[..] I may have first understood this when I reported from repressive Czechoslovakia, with its Stalinist regime, in the 1970s. The dissenters who spoke out in that country seemed so few, yet I wondered why the regime went to such lengths to silence them and attack them and sneer at them, usually via the state press. I put this question to the great protest singer Marta Kubisova, whose thrilling voice sang the anthems of the Prague Spring in 1968. Meeting me in secret, she replied by reading to me the words of one of her most defiant songs, written by a banned Czech group called the Plastic People of the Universe. I have abridged it slightly.

They are afraid of the old for their memory,
They are afraid of the young for their innocence
They afraid of the graves of their victims in faraway places
They are afraid of history. They are afraid of freedom.
They are afraid of truth. They are afraid of democracy.
So why the hell are we afraid of them? ...for they are afraid of us. Link

Monday, March 21, 2005

First and only item regarding future King and Queen

Camilla and Charles deserve our kind thoughts and our support. Especially our support, for the cause of British Republicanism is stronger and healthier with the continuing saga.

Regarding today's news that Camilla may well, after some initial confusion on the matter, become our Queen we say, Rejoice!

Germany to support Paul Wolfowitz

DW-WORLD.DE: Germany has promised the United States that it will not block the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as the next head of the World Bank. In an interview with the broadcaster N-TV, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he told US President George W. Bush in a telephone conversation that the nomination "would not fail" because of Germany. The tacit approval is one of the strongest signals yet that Schroeder wants to strengthen transatlantic ties. European Union finance ministers are expected to discuss the controversial nomination of the US deputy defense secretary on Tuesday. Link

MI6 told Tony Blair case for war in Iraq was a US "fix" The head of MI6 told Tony Blair the case for going to war in Iraq was a US "fix" months before the invasion, it was claimed last night.

Sir Richard Dearlove warned "facts and intelligence" were being fixed by the Bush administration back in July 2002, the BBC's Panorama documentary said.

It also claimed Foreign Secretary Jack Straw questioned whether Saddam Hussein posed a real danger - and argued Libya, Iran and North Korea were a bigger WMD threat.

Former Cabinet minister Robin Cook, who quit in protest over the war, said Mr Blair backed Bush only to prove "that we were his most reliable, most sound ally." And he added: "He knew perfectly well what he was doing. I think there was a lack of candour." Link

to BBC Panorama program

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Michael T. Klare: Why Bush went to war in Iraq Mapping The Oil Motive

What role did oil play in the U.S. decision to invade Iraq? If oil did play a significant role, what, exactly, did President Bush and his associates hope to accomplish in this regard? To what degree did they succeed? These are questions that will no doubt occupy analysts for many years to come, but that can and should be answered now - as the American people debate the validity of the invasion and Bush administration gears up for a possible war against Iran under circumstances very similar to those prevailing in Iraq in early 2003.

In addressing these questions, it should be noted that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a matter of choice, not of necessity. The United States did not act in response to an aggressive move by a hostile power directed against this country or one of its allies, but rather employed force on its own volition to advance (what the administration viewed as) U.S. national interests. This means that we cannot identify a precipitating action for war, but instead must examine the calculus of costs and benefits that persuaded President Bush to invade Iraq at that particular moment. On one side of this ledger were the disincentives to war: the loss of American lives, the expenditure of vast sums of money and the alienation of America's allies. To outweigh these negatives, and opt for war, would require powerful incentives. But what were they? This is the question that has so bedeviled pundits and analysts since the onset of combat. Link

Afghanistan - "One huge US jail"

guardianunlimited: Washington likes to hold up Afghanistan as an exemplar of how a rogue regime can be replaced by democracy. Meanwhile, human-rights activists and Afghan politicians have accused the US military of placing Afghanistan at the hub of a global system of detention centres where prisoners are held incommunicado and allegedly subjected to torture. The secrecy surrounding them prevents any real independent investigation of the allegations. "The detention system in Afghanistan exists entirely outside international norms, but it is only part of a far larger and more sinister jail network that we are only now beginning to understand," Michael Posner, director of the US legal watchdog Human Rights First, told us. Link

Iraq: Deadlock by Design Six weeks after the 30 January election that White House press flacks hailed as the "purple revolution," the new Iraqi national assembly
opens (opened) on Wednesday, 16 March - but there is still no new
government in Iraq. Partly that is because of the attitude of the Kurds,
summed up last month by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in a "New York
Times" interview: "If the Kurdish people agree to stay in the framework of
Iraq in one form or another as a federation, then other people should be
grateful to them." And partly it's because the US wrote the rules in such a
way that the Kurds would have a stranglehold on the political process.

An opinion poll conducted in Iraq recently by Zogby International
showed that 82 percent of Sunni Arabs, and 69 percent even of Shia Arabs,
want the US out "now" or "very soon." (The main reason for the high Shia
turn-out in the January election was that their religious leaders told them
a Shia-dominated assembly was the quickest way to get the Americans out.)
But the Kurds of Iraq, around one-fifth of the population, want the US
occupation to continue, as it guarantees a weak Iraqi state and maximum
freedom of action for them. Link

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Iraq corruption: Documents reveal Halliburton excesses

CIOToday: Overbilling for postwar fuel imports to Iraq by Halliburton totaled more than US$108 million, according to a report by Pentagon auditors that was completed last fall but has not been officially released to the public or to Congress.

..In one case, according to the auditing report, the company claimed that it had paid more than $27 million to transport liquefied petroleum gas it had purchased in Kuwait for just $82,000, a charge the auditors dismissed as "illogical."

The fuels report, by the Defense Contract Audit Agency, was one of nine involving Halliburton that were completed in October 2004, the month before the U.S. presidential elections. But the Bush administration has kept all of them confidential despite repeated requests from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress

Allegations of overcharging for the fuel imports have swirled from the initial days of the occupation, but this latest audit suggests that that the scale of disputed charges was higher than previously known.

In December 2003, the same Pentagon auditing agency announced that a preliminary study had discovered $61 million in unreasonable fuel bills up to that point. Link

POGO has the report - also Congressmen Waxman/Dingell letter to Bush here

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Iraq corruption: US Army Failed to Act on Warnings

latimes: Soon after interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi took office last summer, he announced plans to create a tank division for the new Iraqi army

The $283-million arms deal was supposed to display the power of Iraq's new government. But under the guidance of a task force overseen by one of America's top generals, it has become another chapter in a rebuilding process marked by accusations of corruption.

The U.S. contractor working on the project repeatedly warned the task force headed by Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus that a Lebanese middleman involved in the deal might be routing kickbacks to Iraqi Defense Ministry officials. But senior U.S. military officials did not act on the contractor's pleas for tighter financial controls, according to documents and interviews.

"If we proceed down the road we are currently on, there will be serious legal issues that will land us all in jail," the contractor, Dale Stoffel, wrote in a Nov. 30 e-mail to a senior assistant to Petraeus

Eight days later, Stoffel was shot dead in an ambush near Baghdad. The killing is being investigated by the FBI, according to numerous sources who have been interviewed by the bureau.

Since then, senior U.S. military officials have continued to work with the middleman, Raymond Zayna, who has taken over part of Stoffel's contract, according to the documents and interviews.
Link to full

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Iraq: Australian troops to get depleted uranium protection

ABCNEWSONLINE: The Chief of the Army says Australian troops going into southern Iraq will be protected against depleted uranium ammunition.

Lieutenant General Peter Leahy says a military survey group has returned from southern Iraq after talks with Japanese and British forces there.

He says the survey group was able to discuss concerns about depleted uranium in the area and the Army will now consider any implications.

But Lt Gen Leahy says the 450 Australian troops being deployed to southern Iraq will be fully protected from radiation.

"I don't think we've got results yet of the data and information that we've brought back, I think we should wait until we've seen that," he said.

"But we are well-prepared to respond to that and to make sure that when our forces deploy they have the appropriate protection and the full knowledge of where some of these things might be so that we can avoid them." Link

see Uranium threat to Iraq unit

Veteran's testimony supporting Depleted Uranium bill

Gulf War vet testifies on radiation [see Bill No. 5050]

HARTFORD - Gulf War veteran Melissa Sterry's voice shook as she told state lawmakers Thursday about the devastating illnesses she blames on her contact with depleted uranium ammunition and armor in Kuwait."On the outside, I look perfectly normal," said Sterry, a 42-year-old New Haven resident. "On the inside, my body is destroying itself."

Sterry told lawmakers about her chronic headaches, the pneumonia she suffers through three or four times a year, muscle spasms, chronic diarrhea, blood in her urine and stool and the three recorded heart attacks she has survived.

"Eight of us served together," she said about her buddies in the National Guard. "There are two of us left alive. ... I'd like to live to see 45 - most of my friends didn't make it to 30."

Sterry said she is now "in combat" with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over medical coverage because the government insists that its studies show depleted uranium "won't cause any long-term health risks."

Sterry was testifying in support of a bill to require that Connecticut National Guard troops now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan be properly screened and treated for depleted uranium contamination. The bill is still in committee.

She warned that the potential for exposure to depleted uranium is far higher in this war because more of it is being used in ammunition and armored vehicles and troops are being exposed for far longer periods.

Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs failed to respond to requests for comment on Sterry's claims about her medical problems.

State Rep. Patricia Dillon, D-New Haven, testified that she introduced the legislation because she has heard from military people all over the United States that "the people at desk jobs in Washington, D.C., are discounting the danger" of depleted uranium contamination.

Dillon said the Army already requires that soldiers who come in contact with depleted uranium ammunition and armored vehicles be routinely screened and treated for contamination. "Unfortunately, many people throughout the country who are in the military believe that this isn't happening," Dillon said.

Last year, the New York Daily News reported that it paid for tests on nine New York National Guardsmen who had just returned from Iraq, all of whom were suffering from various illnesses. Four of the soldiers tested positive for exposure to depleted uranium.

In response to the news articles, Army officials tested 600 additional soldiers and reported that none had tested positive.

"They don't want to hear about us," insisted Sterry, predicting that the government will respond only "when enough of us die."

Depleted uranium results when enriched uranium is separated from natural uranium when fuel is made for nuclear reactors.

The United States uses depleted uranium, or "DU," to increase the effectiveness of anti-tank shells and armor-piercing ammunition and bombs. DU is also used in armor plating in tanks and other fighting vehicles. It has been in common use since the Persian Gulf War and some veterans groups blame DU for "Persian Gulf Syndrome."

"The DU we're using in Iraq is much greater than we used in Gulf War one," Dillon said. "I don’t want us to repeat the mistakes we made back then."

The Department of Defense released a study last October that found that "the health risks from inhaling airborne particles of depleted uranium are very low." A five-year study by an independent research institute paid for by the DOD reported that even "in extreme cases, exposure to 'aerosolized' depleted uranium did not pose a health risk."

Dillon, however, said there are other studies that indicate DU depletes calcium, affects the kidneys and bones and can have an impact on a person's DNA.

During her testimony before the legislature's Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Sterry reminded lawmakers that the federal government for years also denied that the use of the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War was a serious health risk. Later studies proved it was.

Sterry said she served for six months at a supply base in Kuwait during the winter of 1991-92. Part of her job with the National Guard's Combat Equipment Company A was to clean out tanks and other armored vehicles that had been used during the war, preparing them for storage.

She said she swept out the armored vehicles, cleaning up dust, sand and debris, sometimes being ordered to help bury contaminated parts. She said that when the M-8 chemical alarms her unit used were triggered, the word would come down "to take off our chemical gear, that the M-8s were malfunctioning."

"According to the government, I was never exposed to DU because I never drove a tank," Sterry testified.

"There is this perpetual denial that is occurring." Link

Bills address US failure to provide troops with DU screening and research Two bills focusing on potentially dangerous health risks faced by Connecticut veterans because of exposure to depleted uranium ammunition won initial approval from a legislative committee Thursday.

"It's a real milestone," said state Rep. Patricia Dillon, D-New Haven, who sponsored one of the bills [see it below] to assure Connecticut soldiers a legal right to screening and follow-up care for exposure to depleted uranium. "I think we're going to be a real leader on this."

The other measure that also won unanimous approval from the legislature's Veterans' Affairs Committee would create a state task force to investigate the health effects of depleted uranium exposure and review the best screening methods used to detect it. [RSB-1245]

Both bills now go to the legislature's Public Health Committee for further action.

"Theoretically, we're putting into state law what the Army says it's already doing," said Dillon.
She said many veterans of the first Persian Gulf war and the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have told her the U.S. military isn't providing the needed screening. [DB emphasis] Link

State of Connecticut
General Assembly

Proposed Bill No. 5050

Introduced by:
REP. DILLON, 92nd Dist.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General
Assembly convened:

That chapter 505a of the general statutes be amended to require that
any resident of Connecticut who is a member of the armed forces of
any state or of any reserve component of the armed forces of the 3
United States and who has been called to active service in the armed
forces of the United States for Operation Enduring Freedom or
Operation Iraqi Freedom be screened for exposure to depleted
uranium upon returning to the state

Statement of Purpose:

To safeguard the health of members of the armed forces returning to
the state from service in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation
Iraqi Freedom. Link to pdf

Saturday, March 12, 2005

BBC grovels to Israel due to journalism

GuardianUnlimited: The BBC has bowed to an Israeli demand for a written apology from its deputy bureau chief in Jerusalem, Simon Wilson, who was barred from the country for failing to submit for censorship an interview with the nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu.

Mr Wilson was allowed to return to Israel on Thursday after signing a letter to the government acknowledging that he defied the law by ignoring demands from the security service and military censors to view tapes of an interview with Mr Vanunu after he was released from 19 years in prison last year.

The climbdown has angered some BBC journalists, who say it will compromise their work in Israel.

The agreement was to have remained confidential, but the BBC unintentionally posted details on its website before removing them a few hours later.

Officials of Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, demanded a letter of apology and a promise not to re-offend when the authorities refused to extend Mr Wilson's work permit at the end of last year and barred him from re-ntering Israel. At the time, the BBC said it could not meet such a demand.

The BBC website said Mr Wilson had now acknowledged to the Israeli government that he was in the wrong.

"He confirms that after the Vanunu interview he was contacted by the censors and was asked to give them the tapes. He did not do so. He regrets the difficulties this caused," the BBC statement said.

"He undertakes to obey the regulations in future and understands that any further violation will result in his visa being revoked."

Mr Wilson was not available for comment.

Army Details Scale of Abuse of Prisoners in an Afghan Jail

NewYorkTimes: Two Afghan prisoners who died in American custody in Afghanistan in December 2002 were chained to the ceiling, kicked and beaten by American soldiers in sustained assaults that caused their deaths, according to Army criminal investigative reports that have not yet been made public.

One soldier, Pfc. Willie V. Brand, was charged with manslaughter in a closed hearing last month in Texas in connection with one of the deaths, another Army document shows. Private Brand, who acknowledged striking a detainee named Dilawar 37 times, was accused of having maimed and killed him over a five-day period by "destroying his leg muscle tissue with repeated unlawful knee strikes."

The attacks on Mr. Dilawar were so severe that "even if he had survived, both legs would have had to be amputated," the Army report said, citing a medical examiner.

The reports, obtained by Human Rights Watch, provide the first official account of events that led to the deaths of the detainees, Mullah Habibullah and Mr. Dilawar, at the Bagram Control Point, about 40 miles north of Kabul. The deaths took place nearly a year before the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

American military officials in Afghanistan initially said the deaths of Mr. Habibullah, in an isolation cell on Dec. 4, 2002, and Mr. Dilawar, in another such cell six days later, were from natural causes. Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, the American commander of allied forces in Afghanistan at the time, denied then that prisoners had been chained to the ceiling or that conditions at Bagram endangered the lives of prisoners.

But after an investigation by The New York Times, the Army acknowledged that the deaths were homicides. Last fall, Army investigators implicated 28 soldiers and reservists and recommended that they face criminal charges, including negligent homicide. Link

Pentagon Finds Pentagon Innocent Human rights groups and some senators are expressing growing frustration over the Pentagon's failure to hold senior officers or civilian leaders accountable for widespread abuses by U.S. forces against detainees in Washington's "war on terror."

The latest report on abuses, released at a Senate hearing Thursday, drew new calls for Congress or the administration to set up an independent commission. Also, calls were made for the appointment of a special prosecutor to carry out a comprehensive investigation that would include the responsibility, if any, of senior officers and officials.

"There's been no assessment of accountability of any senior officials, either within or outside of the Department of Defense, for policies that may have contributed to abuses of prisoners," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I can only conclude that the Defense Department is not able to assess accountability at senior levels, particularly when investigators are in the chain of command of the officials whose policies and actions they are investigating," he added. Link

Iraq: How the US financed the 'alleged' crooks at Custer Battles

latimes: Mike Battles needed money fast. It was June 2003 and his cash-starved company had just won a contract to guard the Baghdad airport.

Battles turned to a lender that had lots of cash and few questions about how it would be spent: the U.S.-led coalition in charge of Iraq.

As Battles later told criminal investigators, he descended into a vault in the basement of one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, where a U.S. government employee handed him $2 million in $100 bills and a handwritten receipt.

Battles "was informed that the contracting process would catch up" later to account for the money, according to a statement he gave

By the time it did, the adventures of his fledgling security company, Custer Battles, had become a case study in what had gone wrong in the early days of the U.S. effort to rebuild Iraq, not least the haphazard and often ineffective U.S. oversight of the projects.

Today, Battles and his partner, Scott Custer, are facing a criminal investigation, lawsuits by former employees and a federal order suspending them from new government business because of allegations of fraud.

Neither Custer nor Battles responded to requests for interviews made through their attorney. However, in court records and interviews with criminal investigators, the two men have denied any wrongdoing.

They have blamed the accusations on disgruntled employees who were fired; on former employees who now compete with Custer Battles for security work in Iraq; and on government officials who harbor grudges against the company.

Court records, internal company memos, interviews with current and former employees and government investigators, and confidential documents from a Pentagon criminal investigation reviewed by The Times depict a company that ran into trouble almost from the moment it hit the ground in Iraq.

Company employees allegedly forged invoices, clashed with government officials and tried to dodge taxes. The company is accused of missing deadlines, providing shoddy equipment, failing to deliver services and botching routine security inspections, the records and interviews show.

Along the way, two of its guards allegedly moved to attack some Iraqi teenagers. And U.S. officials were startled to discover that Custer Battles was also operating a dog kennel and a catering service on airport grounds, according to interviews.

Just as worrisome as the allegations, perhaps, has been the U.S. government's response.

Beginning shortly after Custer Battles won its Baghdad airport contract, at least five senior U.S. government officials or consultants came to suspect wrongdoing by the firm or its employees, records show. Yet over the next 14 months, the company continued to win new government business, and even today holds a key contract in the U.S. program to equip and arm Iraq's new security forces. Link to full article [then shower]

Iraq: Troops give tacit nod to vigilante justice"Who killed Sheikh Saad?" the US army captain asks Sayed Malik, America's partner in the lawless Baghdad district of Dura.The 45-year-old Shiite tribal leader, shrouded in a checkered white keffiyah and grey robes, brushes off the US requests for information about which insurgent group murdered the representative of hardline cleric Moqtada Sadr.

Instead, the powerbroker suggests the Americans stand aside.

He tells the officers: "Right now, if we hit one group, the others will run away ... The Mehdi Army [of Sadr] will take care of it."

The US captains, both in their early 30s, nod an assent to Malik's recommendation that locals employ the blend of tribal and paramilitary justice that has evolved in this wild Baghdad suburb.

"These guys operate like a mob, if they [insurgents] kill one of their's they have to take revenge, they have to. They kill the guy and everything will be fine, the vengeance stops," says Captain Doug Hoyt, charged with local governance for the 3rd Infantry Division in Dura.

Here, the revenge killings and vigilante justice that Iraqi national leaders speak out against for fear of sparking a civil war are becoming a regular fact and have received at least a tacit nod from US troops. Hoyt says the Americans have had little choice in Dura where tribal traditions run deep and insurgents regularly blow up police stations, ambush convoys and murder people.

..But prominent Iraqis have warned that the American policy of cultivating tribal leaders can often undermine the democratic process.

"It is not the direction we want to go ... It was the policy of Saddam," says Iraq's UN Ambassador Samir Sumaiydah, referring to the ousted Iraqi president. Link

Friday, March 11, 2005

Greg Palast:I'd rather not say goodbye Dan Without his make-up, Dan looked like hell warmed over: old, defeated, yet angry. And he told our television audience something that just blew me away. American journalists, Dan Rather said, simply may not ask tough questions about George Bush or his wars.

"It's an obscene comparison," Rather said, "but there was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tires around people's necks if they dissented. In some ways, the fear is that you will be neck-laced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck." Link to item in full

UK: Probably not a terrorist? You are in trouble, Joseph K

BBCNews: Tory leader Michael Howard says he accepts the prime minister's offer of new laws that will deal with his concerns over the anti-terror bill. Mr Howard said Tony Blair's pledge to give MPs a chance to review the law in a year's time was a "sunset clause in all but name".

This was earlier denied by Mr Blair - but Mr Howard said his party had got what it had been asking for.

The moves look set to end the deadlock between MPs and peers over the bill. The House of Commons and the House of Lords had earlier failed to reach agreement over the government's Prevention of Terrorism Bill despite more than 30-hours of debate. Peers had refused to give up amendments that would put a 12-month time limit on the bill and place a higher standard of proof on suspects. [see below]

Instead the bill "ping ponged" between the two houses four times as the two sides failed to reach agreement. The stand-off even threatened to stretch into the weekend.

Mr Blair told reporters that the new plan was "our best attempt to get this legislation on the statute book" - and he warned the Tories there would be no more concessions on the bill.

DB: It looks like the government has got its way regarding what had been a core issue for the opposition parties which concerned the level of proof needed to impose a control order on a suspect. The government demanded that proof of 'guilt' needed only to meet a definition of 'reasonable suspicion' in order for a suspect to be deprived of his or her liberty. Opposition wanted a slightly more reasonable "on the balance of probability" - this was rejected. So it would seem now that if you are 'probably not' a terrorist (or indeed 'supportive' of terrorism) you will consequently be running the risk of being subject to these new laws.

When the Law takes necessity as its model, justice is doomed.

" is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary." This seems to be the modus operandi of the Law, the dynamo within the great machine of the Court, the divine principle before which the functionaries - and eventually the accused men - prostrate themselves. It is, as K. declares, a "melancholy thought" because it "turns lying into a universal principle." That universal lie of necessity - the mother of detention - keeps the mechanism moving forward and squelches potential challenges to the system. When the Law takes necessity as its model, justice is doomed. The terrible fact of The Trial, and of the parable, is that the men seeking justice eventually accept this warped universal principle and its skewed criteria; they submit to the necessity of their own exclusion or death. Link

Fire which gutted UK mosque 'started deliberately'

news.telegraph: A fire which gutted a Sussex mosque was started deliberately, fire chiefs have confirmed.

Two members of the local Muslim community discovered the fire at the building in Worthing when they arrived for prayers this morning.

More than a dozen firefighters were sent to the mosque, where much of the ground floor was damaged by smoke and fire.

A West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "The fire is being treated as suspicious and an investigation is under way.

"We believe the fire started on the ground floor and around 30 per cent of the ground floor has been affected." Link

No pressure from US on Pakistan for democracy US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would not pressure Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to move towards democracy during her March 17-18 visit to Islamabad, the state department has indicated.

State department spokesman Adam Ereli hedged around the question of whether Secretary Rice would demand Musharraf turn his country progressively towards a democracy as President George W Bush has made it part of his global foreign policy agenda. Rice is traveling in South and East Asia from March 14 to 21.

Asked whether Rice would urge Musharraf to give up his army chief's post, Ereli said: "If the subject comes up, we would reiterate our longstanding policy, which is that movement toward democracy is to be encouraged, is to be welcomed, and that we want to help support Pakistan as it takes the steps to, I think, take the steps to answer the people's call." Link

DB: The US has no need for a 'democratic' cover in Pakistan - Musharraf is sufficiently on-side to render such demands irrelevant to US interests. Why rock the boat? Certainly the democratic aspirations of Pakistan's citizens are not of sufficient concern to justify it. Apparently.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Iraq: DU - After the War Comes Cancer

DW-WORLD.DE: Information collected for a German project investigating the use of uranium-charged ammunition in Iraq shows that when Iraqi women fear for their children's health, it is with good reason.

After two wars where oil wells were torched, chemical factories bombed and radioactive ammunition fired, the first thing Iraqi women ask when giving birth is not if it is a boy or a girl, but if it is normal or deformed. The number of cancer cases and children born with deformities has skyrocketed after the two Gulf Wars.

"Since 1991 the number of children born with birth deformities has quadrupled," said Dr. Janan Hassan, who runs a children's clinic at a hospital in Basra in southern Iraq. "The same is the case for the number of children under 15 who are diagnosed with cancer. Mostly, it is leukemia. Almost 80 percent of the children die because we neither have medicine nor the possibility to give them chemotherapy."

Doctors have also recorded an extreme rise in cancer cases among adults. "In 2004 we diagnosed 25 percent more cancer cases than the year before and the mortality rate increased eight-fold between 1988 and 1991," said Dr. Jawad al-Ali of the Sadr Hospital in Basra.

..The scientists involved in the project met through the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). All have a special interest in the consequences of using depleted-uranium (DU) ammunition, the German project's main focus.

.."Naturally, the nations leading the war refuse to acknowldege that this type of uranium can be harmful. But as an epidemiologist, I have to say that every bit of radiation can give rise to cancer. It's just a question if what was fired in this case led to an increase in the number of cancer cases," said Professor Eberhard Greiser from the University of Bremen. Link to full article

Further DU info - The Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU)

400 Venezuelan Journalists Denounce US Campaign A group of almost 400 hundred Venezuelan journalists issued a statement today [Mar 08] denouncing what they consider is a campaign from the United States against Venezuela.

The Truth Is Greater Than Bush
As it was done in the past to Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Grenada, and Haiti, the government of the United States today targets the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with all its media and propaganda power. In those brother nations, such campaigns served as the preamble for an armed invasion by the main global military power.

The media campaign against Venezuela and its government worsened in 2005. In addition to the daily comments by high officials at the State Department, CIA, and White House, a campaign full of lies and distortions through major newspapers and news channels was initiated.

The intervention by the George W. Bush administration, as witnessed during the 2002 coup d'etat and the oil strike, lost all subtlety and pretense during the recent conflict between Venezuela and Colombia over the abduction of Rodrigo Granda in Caracas. The State Department called South American nations to pressure the Hugo Chavez administration, failing to garner a single echo in the region.

In addition to this foreign campaign, several sectors within the national [Venezuelan] media have lost all scruples and joined this initiative. Under the hypocritical title of non-governmental organizations, several organisms, financed by the United States, have supported these dark objectives.

The end result is to overthrow President Hugo Chavez Frias' democratic government, one legitimated by eight electoral processes and a presidential recall referendum.

The Venezuelan journalists who undersign this petition, not only denounce the White House's campaign against our country, but also its sinister objective to end our process of transformation, regardless of national stability. Henceforth, we denounce this criminal aggression.

From Venezuela we alert the world of this interventionist plan based on lies, distortion, and manipulation. We call all journalists and the free and independent media to oppose this immoral and ostentatious campaign. Venezuela, in camparison to the United States, is a small country. But truth is greater than Bush and his interventionist and lying government. Link

Fisk: Syria - Another Species of Cedar

Robert Fisk in counterpunch: It was a warning. They came in their tens of thousands, Lebanese Shia Muslim families with babies in arms and children in front, walking past my Beirut home. They reminded me of the tens of thousands of Iraqi Shia Muslims who walked with their families to the polls in Iraq, despite the gunfire and the suicide bombers.

And now they came from southern Lebanon and the Bekaa to say they rejected America's plans in Lebanon, and wanted - so they claimed - to know who killed Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister murdered on 14 February, and to reject UN Security Council Resolution 1559 which demands a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and the disarmament of the Hizbollah guerrilla movement, and to express their "thanks" to Syria. This was a tall order in Lebanon.

But only 100 yards from the Lebanese opposition protests, the half-million - for that was an approachable figure, given Hizbollah's extraordinary organisational abilities - stood for an hour with Lebanese flags, and posed a challenge to President George Bush's project in the Middle East. "America is the source of terrorism", one poster proclaimed. "All our disasters come from America".

Many of those tens of thousands were Hizbollah families who had fought the Israelis during their occupation of southern Lebanon, been arrested by the Israelis, imprisoned by the Israelis and feared that American support for Lebanon meant not "democracy" but an imposed Israeli-Lebanese peace treaty. Link to full article

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Northern Ireland - police knew of agent's murder in advance

Belfasttelegraph: Senior cops knew of a plot by a notorious Army spy to kill one of their own agents - nine months before the murder.

The shock revelation is contained in secret security files, which also show that two Special Branch officers weren't told of an IRA plot to kill them.

The leaked documents - described as "devastating" by a senior security source - also indicate that an IRA informer was sacrificed to protect a more highly regarded informer. Link

Further 'detail' at cryptome

Bush - " Europe trying to stop Iranian nuclear weapons program."

Yahoo-AFP: US President George W. Bush urged Iran to heed "the concerns of the world" about its nuclear programs and called on Tehran to embrace democratic reforms.

"We look forward to today when Iran joins in the hopeful changes taking place across the region. We look forward to the day when the Iranian people are free," Bush said in a speech at the US National Defense University.

"Progress in the Middle East is threatened by weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation," he said. "Today Great Britain, France and Germany are involved in a difficult negotiation with Iran aimed at stopping its nuclear weapons program." Link

DB: Iran, Nuclear-weapons-program, Iran, Nuclear-weapons-program, Iran, Nuclear-weapons-program, Iran, Nuclear-weapons-program, Iran, Nuclear-weapons-program, Iran, Nuclear-weapons-program, Iran, Nuclear-weapons-program...........................Oh, THAT nuclear weapons program.

George W. Bush - The 13th Shi'a Imam

truthout: Iran's security chief, Hassan Rowhani proclaimed in October, 2004 that it was in Iran's best interest for George W. Bush to be re-elected over John Kerry. His comment left American commentators stunned in disbelief. However, it is now clear that Rowhani was right: the Bush administration has done more than any other American leader to advance the interests of Shi'a Islamic political leadership in Iran and indeed, in the rest of the Middle East. Some groups of religious supporters in Iran are beginning to call President Bush "the 13th Imam," an ironic reference to the 12 historical Imams sacred to the branch of Shi'ism dominant in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.

President Bush's support for Shi'ism may be unintentional, to be sure, but there is no doubt about the effects of his administration's policies in boosting Shi'ite power throughout the region.

The Bush administration has lent massive help to the Iranian economy by allowing U.S. corporations to circumvent the Clinton-era economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic. While the Treasury Department cracks down on insignificant infractions of the trade sanctions, such as prohibiting U.S. publishers from providing editorial services to Iranian authors, and restricting scholarly groups from holding meetings in Iran, it overlooks large American corporations operating in Iran through dummy subsidiaries operating out of Canada, Europe and Dubai. Oil service companies, including Halliburton, continue to conduct business in Iran on a pre-evolutionary scale, while the shops and bazaars are awash in American goods. Link

Sgrena - "lucky she wasn't shot as a collaborator"

Newshounds: Last night (3/7) on Special Report [Foxnews], Brit Hume went to great lengths to continue the spin on the shooting incident that killed Italian intel agent Nicola Calipari and wounded Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, with a lot of help from one of the most rabid ideologues on his "All-Star" panel, Charles Krauthammer, who said: "She's lucky she wasn't shot as a collaborator." Link

Is Bush Plunging Deeper Into the Quagmire?

Paul Craig Roberts for How much longer can American prestige survive the embarrassments inflicted by President Bush?

Bush's demand that Syria immediately withdraw its troops from Lebanon is a ricochet demand. If Lebanon cannot have free elections while under foreign military occupation, how, asks the rest of the world, does Iraq have free elections when it is under US military occupation?

Bush's latest guffaw-evoking bluster is the work of desperation. Every explanation and justification Bush has given for his ill-fated invasion of Iraq has proven false. There were no weapons of mass destruction. No terrorist links to Osama bin Laden. No WMD programs. The penultimate justification - to bring democracy to Iraq - fast faded when the Islamic Shi'ite winners announced that Islam would be a basis for the new Iraqi state.

The assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri permitted the Bush administration to shift attention from its Iraq failure to Syria's presence in Lebanon, just as the US invasion of Iraq shifted attention from Bush's failure to capture bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Bush hasn't sufficient troops to occupy Iraq and none to spare with which to invade Syria. But the lack of means does not stop Bush from issuing ultimatums. Bush's tough talk plays well to his supernationalist supporters at home. Link

Huge Beirut protest backs Syria

BBCNews: Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in Lebanon's capital, Beirut, to applaud Syria's role in the country and reject Western "interference".

"We are here to thank Syria which has stayed by our side for many years," the head of the Syrian-allied Hezbollah group told cheering supporters.

The crowd dwarfed previous opposition protests urging Syrian troops to leave. Link

US - ramping up the spy headcount brings more fears U.S. counterintelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Al Qaeda sympathizers or operatives may have tried to get jobs at the CIA and other U.S. agencies in an effort to spy on American counterterrorist efforts.

The officials said that those who had come under suspicion were filtered out during the application process for providing false information, failing lie detector tests, applying to multiple spy services or flunking other parts of the application procedure.

But fear of possible penetration has grown because of what one official called "an intense competition" among America's intelligence, military and contractor organizations.

They are seeking to hire thousands of skilled linguists, trained analysts and clandestine operatives who can blend into overseas communities to collect intelligence and to recruit foreign agents inside terrorist cells. Link

Monday, March 07, 2005

Middle East - Unprecedented Opportunity

The Center For Public Integrity: A Lebanese journalist discusses the potential for democracy in the Middle East

The reality is that there is a moment of change in the Middle East, and it's not as the White House says - due to the American war in Iraq. The American war in Iraq may have some influences here and there, and we can't rule it out. Mostly, the war in Iraq has created problems and generated instabilities and violence and tensions and fears throughout the Middle East. But it's possible that Bush's idea that the Iraq war, overthrowing this tyranny might then start promoting democracy in the Middle East. That may happen; you can't rule it out. I think the chances of it happening in that kind of linear order are slim. Link to video or text

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Saudi government prefers beheading Asians

HindustanTimes: An Indian man convicted of murdering his compatriot was beheaded on Sunday in the Hafar al-Batin town in Saudi Arabia, an Interior Ministry statement said.

...Bajantra is the second Indian to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia. A man from Kerala was beheaded last month on charges rejected by the Indian embassy in Riyadh.

Among those beheaded are mostly Asians as the Saudi government often sets free western convicts because of political pressure.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam under which people convicted of drug trafficking, murder, rape and armed robbery can be executed. Beheadings are carried out with a sword in public. Link

Human Rights Watch - Saudi Arabia Link

FBI 'Shields Pakistan,Turkey Nuclear Weapons Development, Drug Trade, Cheney, Rumsfeld'

cryptome: With Sibel Edmonds once again in the news, and with media interest in her case increasing, it's worth speculating, again, about her knowledge by attempting to connect some of the many dots found in a public record that stretches back into the Ford Administration and that culminates, in part, with Pakistan's nuclear tests in 1998. The story has so many dots and cross currents that it's easy to miss the more salient items.

But it's not too much of a stretch to say that the FBI's interest in asserting a "State Secrets" privilege begins way back in 1972 at which time Pakistan decided to begin development of a nuclear weapons program that would culminate in the detonation of a nuclear weapon in 1998 (Turkey can't be far behind in 2005), and successful US weapons sales of helicopters, fighter aircraft, missile guidance software, combat vehicles and parts to both Turkey and Pakistan over the same 1972 to 1998 timeframe whether and in spite of US arms strictures on sales of US weapons technology. In the seven years since 1998, matters have gotten worse.

It really is the same old story we've all read about for so many decades and features these recurring themes: the black market for nuclear weapons technology, drug trade and money laundering, lobbyists housed in powerful .orgs, espionage and bribes, and big political and business names. These murky matters are always classified by governments and business groups as Top Secret or Proprietary and always involve criminal activity on behalf of national security. Unfortunately, criminal, classified and business/national security interests have always managed to find their way into the same bed whether here in the USA or abroad.

It would be nice to say that the black market for nuclear weapons had its zenith in 1998. But that's not the case. It is larger and more daring with more economic clout and political cover than ever. Not a bad development for a network created on the back of a drug trafficking network established long before there was a Cold War. And with the current US administration implementing a "new" counterintelligence directorate, seemingly to trump the bad stuff that Sibel Edmonds' litigation
might produce, it all seems to make some sense that in 2005 the US government and industry would be in preemptive/recreate threat mode. Link

Also see - onlinejournal: The American Turkish Council: US association helps create New World Order Link

dissidentvoice: A Fantastic Tale Turkey, Drugs, Faustian Alliances & Sibel Edmonds Link

Information Clearing House [LA Times]: Case Reveals Nuts and Bolts of Nuclear Network, Officials Say Link

Sgrena claims kidnappers warned her of US attack

DeutscheWelle: The Italian journalist wounded by US troops shortly after the end of her month-long kidnap ordeal fanned a growing diplomatic rift between Rome and Washington by suggesting US soldiers deliberately tried to kill her.

Giuliana Sgrena, wounded when the convoy taking her to safety was riddled with bullets by a US patrol near Baghdad airport on Friday, said on Sunday she may have been a target because the US opposed negotiations with her kidnappers.

In an account for her newspaper, Sgrena paid tribute to Nicola Calipari, the Italian intelligence officer who was killed when a US patrol opened fire on the convoy taking her to Baghdad airport. During the burst of gunfire that killed him and left her with wounds to a lung, Sgrena said a warning from her kidnappers that the Americans would try to kill her came back to haunt her.

"I immediately thought of what my kidnappers had told me. They said they were committed to releasing me, but that I had to be careful 'because there are Americans who don't want you to go back'. When they told me, I though it superfluous and ideological. In that moment, for me, it almost became the bitterest truth," wrote Sgrena.

With most attention focused on the dramatic aftermath, little has been said about the circumstances of her actual release. Link

UK legal expert in Iraq joins critics of terror laws

sundayherald: The international legal expert charged with training Iraq's next generation of lawyers and judges has revealed that his efforts are being severely hampered by the UK's increasingly controversial stance on human rights.

Professor Alan Miller, part of the International Bar Association team training more than 650 members of Iraq's fledgling judicial system, claims that the UK government's Prevention of Terrorism Bill has sparked outrage by undermining the same civil liberties it is determined to impose in the Middle East.

"After centuries of pride in its status as a bastion of liberty, suddenly the UK has abandoned the rule of law, one of this county's most fundamental principles," said Miller, director of McGrigors International Human Rights Consultancy and visiting professor of law at the University of Strathclyde.

"In doing so, it has given a green light for some of the world's most oppressive regimes to clamp down upon individual freedom.

"I now have to spend the first two days of every training session trying to unravel the fury over Britain's hypocrisy.

"They [the trainees] ask how likely it is that regimes like Libya are going to stop detaining political prisoners when the so-called shining lights have just effectively endorsed the practice.

"They are outraged that an almost impossible task has been made even harder." Link

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Attacks leaving troops with brain injuries

Tucsoncitizen: A growing number of U.S. troops whose body armor helped them survive bomb and rocket attacks face brain damage as a result of the blasts, a type of injury that some military doctors say has become the signature wound of the Iraq war.

Traumatic brain injury is the sort of wound that many soldiers in previous wars never lived long enough to suffer.

The explosions often cause brain damage similar to "shaken baby syndrome," says Warren Lux, a neurologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"You've got great body armor on, and you don't die," says Louis French, a neuropsychologist at Walter Reed. "But there's a whole other set of possible consequences. It's sort of like when they started putting air bags in cars and started seeing all these orthopedic injuries they didn't have before" Link

Corruption and criminal trade law in Iraq Ibrahim Jaafari, the prime-minister-to-be in Iraq, is unlikely to hand over the nation's valuable oil assets to foreign companies, but he won't be able to do much about the rest of the Iraqi economy, which was strangled by Coalition Provisional Authority chief L. Paul Bremer in rules and regulations benefiting Western business.

A few of these rules, left over from the Bremer occupation period, as collected last year by Foreign Policy in Focus, the independent Washington research outfit:

Order #39: Privatize the country's 200 state-owned enterprises, permit 100 percent foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses, allow for complete repatriation of profits without tax. No requirements for reinvestment, hiring local labor, or provisioning public services. Labor rights non-existent.

Order #40: Foreign banks can enter the Iraqi market and take a 50 percent interest in formerly state-owned banks.

Order #49: Drop the corporate tax rate from 40 percent to a flat 15 percent. The income tax is capped at 15 percent.

Order #12: Suspension of "all tariffs, customs duties, import taxes, licensing fees and similar surcharges for goods entering or leaving Iraq, and all other trade restrictions that may apply to such goods." Result: A tidal wave of cheap imports wipes out locally made goods.

Order #17: Security firms get full immunity from Iraq's laws.

Bremer created a Board of Supreme Audit, and named a pro-American president and assistants to oversee inspectors in all ministries who in turn oversee government contracts and classified programs.

Having done all this to assure continued American, i.e., Western, control over the Iraqis whom everyone knows are just plain greedy and corrupt by nature, Bremer's crew somehow managed to lose $9 billion in oil revenues meant for humanitarian needs and for rebuilding the country.

Veteran journalist Helen Thomas reported last week that the $9 billion had been transferred to Iraqi ministries, where it disappeared. Stuart W. Bowen, the special inspector general appointed by the U.S. occupation authority, reported the disappearance in January.

The Democratic Policy Committee in Congress held hearings a couple of weeks ago and discovered that there are "a lot of dinars and American dollars" floating around. The money was stashed in the basement of CPA headquarters and released from time to time to contractors. The Dems want Alberto Gonzales, the new attorney general, to launch a grand-jury investigation, which as one might imagine, will happen when hell freezes over. Link

China's report attacks US record in Iraq, Afghanistan

XINHUAonline: The atrocity of US troops abusing Iraqi POWs exposed the infringement of human rights of foreign nationals by the United States, according to the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2004.

The report, released by the Information Office of China's State Council on Thursday, said that according to US media like the Newsweek and the Washington Post, as early as several years ago, in US forces' prisons in Afghanistan, interrogators used various kinds of torture tools for acquiring confession, causing many deaths.

.....The report said, to avoid international scrutiny, the United States keeps under wraps half of its 20-odd detention centers worldwide which are holding terrorist suspects. And at least seven US-controlled clandestine prisons, one of which dubbed "inferno," in Afghanistan, have not been kept within the bounds of law.

In a report by the Human Rights First on 24 US secret interrogation centers, these secret facilities are believed to "make inappropriate detention and abuse not only likely but virtually inevitable," the report quoted a British newspaper, the Times, as saying.

The US military spending has kept shooting up, with its fiscal 2005 defense budget hitting a historical high of 422 billion US dollars, an increase of 21 billion dollars over fiscal 2004, according to the report.

As the biggest arms dealer in the world, the United States has made a fortune out of war. Its transactions of conventional weapons exceeded 14.5 billion dollars in 2003, up 900 million dollars year-on-year and accounting for 56.7 percent of the total sales worldwide. The Iraq War has been "a helping straw" to the US economic development, the report said.

The report points out that the United States frequently commits wanton slaughters during external invasions and military attacks. Statistics from the health department of the interim Iraqi government show 3,487 people, including 328 women and children, have been killed and another 13,720 injured in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces between April 15 and Sept. 19 in 2004. Link

Friday, March 04, 2005

Custer Battles - How a Contractor Cashed In on Iraq A $33,000 food order in Mosul was billed to the U.S.-led interim government of Iraq at $432,000. Electricity that cost $74,000 was invoiced at $400,000. Even $10 kettles got a 400 percent markup.

Documents unearthed as part of a whistleblower suit against Fairfax, Va.'s Custer Battles reveal for the first time the extent to which the defense contractor is accused of gouging the Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq following the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003.

Among those documents is a spreadsheet that appears to show the company billing the government nearly $10 million for dozens of items, including food, vehicles, and cooking pots. The total cost to Custer Battles, according to the spreadsheet, was less than $4 million -- a profit margin of 150 percent, far higher than the 25 percent margin allowed under its contract.

For critics of the Bush administration's handling of postwar Iraq, Custer Battles has become something of a symbol of contractor excess during the 14-month period that the Coalition Provisional Authority governed Iraq. The company was able to secure tens of millions of dollars' worth of security and logistical contracts from the CPA -- despite the fact that it didn't even exist until just months before the invasion of Iraq. Link

Halliburton - 'criminal activity hard to uncover when it's contemporary'

Yahoo-AP: A federal investigation into an alleged $180 million bribery scandal in Nigeria involving a Halliburton Co. subsidiary and other companies has expanded to examine whether former employees may have illegally coordinated bidding on other foreign construction projects as early as the mid-1980s, long before Halliburton acquired the subsidiary.

........... The Nigeria allegations center on a contract for a $4 billion Nigerian liquefied natural gasplant awarded in 1995 to TSKJ, a consortium of four partners - M.W. Kellogg Co., a subsidiary of Dresser Industries; Technip AL of France; ENI SpA of Italy; and Japan Gasoline Corp.

Halliburton acquired Dresser in 1998 - three years after Vice President Dick Cheney began his 1995-2000 tenure as Halliburton's chief executive officer - and combined its Brown & Root subsidiary with M.W. Kellogg to form KBR.

The Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, a French magistrate and Nigerian officials are investigating whether the consortium paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials from 1995 through 2002. The consortium got other contracts involving the Nigerian plant in 1999 and 2002.

Last June Halliburton fired two consultants, including former KBR chairman A. Jack Stanley, for violating the company's business code of conduct by receiving "improper personal benefits" related to TSKJ's construction of the Nigerian plant.

But the company said in Tuesday's filing that Stanley and other former workers "may have engaged in (other) coordinated bidding with one or more competitors on certain foreign construction projects and that such coordination possibly began as early as the mid-1980s, which was significantly before our 1998 acquisition of Dresser Industries." Link

[DB:Halliburton shares rose 81 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $43.66 in afternoon trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange]

See: The Center for Public Integrity - Kellogg, Brown & Root (Halliburton) overview Link
Halliburton Watch - 'Chronology of Key Events in the Unfolding Bribery Scandal' Link
Halliburton Watch - 'Bribing Nigeria' Link
Guardian - 'UK lawyer named in bribery inquiry' Link
Hansard - Questions in UK Parliament re. Kellogg, Brown and Root
Export Credits Guarantee Link
Corpwatch- How Cheney's Firm Routed $132m to Nigeria via Tottenham Lawyer Link

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cry Wolf and let slip the dogs of war The news that Paul Wolfowitz, the US deputy defence secretary neo-con hawk, is a leading contender to head the World Bank has sent a frisson of fear down the spines of development experts across the globe.

So great is the predicted backlash that one might almost suspect he is only there to secure Europe's assent to a rival candidate.

There is certainly a danger of establishing a worrying trend. Mr Wolfowitz would not be the first Pentagon alumnus to secure the post. In 1968 Robert McNamara, Kennedy and Johnson's defence secretary, went straight from spearheading the Vietnam conflict to a lengthy stint as Bank president.

But it would be worrying if waging war were to become an essential for securing the world's top development job. Around the world, ambitious defence secretaries might start launching pre-emptive strikes on small nations every time the post was due to come up. It could be a bloodbath. Link

Lawsuit holds Rumsfeld responsible for torture Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is responsible for torture and abuse of prisoners held by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan and should compensate the victims, a lawsuit contended today.

The suit was filed on behalf of four Iraqis and four Afghans who allege they suffered severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions, death threats, and restraint in excruciating positions.

They were held in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 and 2004, were never charged with crimes and have been released, according to officials at the groups that filed the suit, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First.

The suit is the latest against Rumsfeld, military commanders and civilian contractors since the disclosure last spring of photographs taken at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

The Pentagon said in a statement that military officials "vigorously dispute any assertion or implication that the Department of Defense approved of, sanctioned, or condoned as a matter of policy detainee abuse."

The suit contends that Rumsfeld is to blame for the abuses because he changed long-held interrogation policies and practices designed to prohibit torture.

The groups said the Pentagon chief later ignored overwhelming evidence that the policies had resulted in abuse of prisoners.

Pentagon officials have said the scandal has stained America's honor, endangered U.S. soldiers around the world and inflamed the global fight against terrorism. Charges have been filed against a number of lower-level soldiers.

Rumsfeld has apologized for the scandal and says he twice last year offered President Bush his resignation.

"He gives lip service to being responsible, but has not been held accountable ... and the victims have not been compensated," said Lucas Guttentag, lead counsel in the suit and director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project.

The suit was filed in federal court in Chicago because Rumsfeld's home state is Illinois. It seeks an undetermined amount of compensation and asks for a finding that Rumsfeld violated the Constitution and Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment.

At the same time, the ACLU filed three similar suits in other states against Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the commander in Iraq, and Col. Thomas Pappas and Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who were commanders at Abu Ghraib. The complaints were filed in federal courts in South Carolina, Texas and Connecticut. Link