Saturday, November 26, 2005

World must end awful Uganda crisis-UN official

World must end awful Uganda crisis-UN official

World must end awful Uganda crisis-UN official
Fri 25 Nov 2005 9:29 AM ET

By Richard Waddington

GENEVA, Nov 25 (Reuters) - International pressure is urgently needed to end the war in northern Uganda where one of the most neglected humanitarian crises in the world has displaced nearly 2 million people, a U.N. official said. "We need massive international pressure, concentrated and sustained. It has been 20 years and it has got to be stopped," said Dennis McNamara, special U.N. adviser on displacement, referring to the Uganda's war with the shadowy Lord's Resistance Army rebels.

McNamara, just back from a week-long visit, said on Friday that while the LRA was guilty of continued atrocities, the government of President Yoweri Museveni had also "failed in its obligation" to assist and protect refugees who fled the fighting.

According to U.N. estimates, the mortality rate in some 200 camps housing some 1.7 million refugees was twice that of Sudan's Darfur, with more than 1,000 people dying each week -- many of them women and children -- from disease and violence.

"This is one of the longest, largest, and least addressed humanitarian crises in the world," said McNamara. "It has uprooted as many people as the Bosnian war did 10 years ago, but gets only a fraction of the international attention."

He noted that according to a group of 50 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Oxfam and Save the Children, the U.N. Security Council had yet to even pass a resolution condemning what was happening in Uganda.

"It (the situation) is extremely grave and unlikely to get better unless we take much more serious action," McNamara told a news conference.

The LRA is led by self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony, 44, who appears to have no political agenda, though he has said he wanted to establish rule based on the Biblical Ten Commandments.

Although the Ugandan government said the LRA, infamous for mutilating civilians and kidnapping an estimated 20,0000 children to act as soldiers or sex slaves, had been reduced to "a remnant" by army action, that was not the view of villagers in the north, who described them as still strong, he said.

More than 10,000 people in northern Uganda trudge miles every night to sleep in towns rather than risk abduction from their villages.

Civilian militias were supposed to protect the refugee camps, but in the northern town of Kitgum they had not been paid for 10 months and were refusing to confront the rebels, McNamara added.

While the LRA carried out regular atrocities, army personnel were also guilty of attacks on women in camps in the lawless north, he said.

He said the United Nations planned to increase its presence and humanitarian programmes in the north next year. To do so, the world body would be seeking $220 million in funding up from $188 million in 2005.

But the biggest problem remained security, both for local people and for the international aid community trying to help.

Bush widens sanctions against Zimbabwe

Bush widens sanctions against Zimbabwe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush has widened economic sanctions against Zimbabwe, blocking the assets of an additional 128 people and 33 entities Washington says undermine democratic reform in the southern African state.

A statement posted on the White House Web site said Bush had issued an executive order allowing U.S. authorities to "block the property of additional persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe, their immediate family members, and any persons assisting them."

The executive order, which took effect on Wednesday, expands sanctions imposed by the United States against 77 Zimbabweans in March 2003.

Earlier this month, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe told the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Dell, to "go to hell" after the envoy blamed the country's economic and political crisis on mismanagement and corrupt rule.

"The failed political and economic policies of the Robert Mugabe regime have succeeded in devastating Zimbabwe," the White House statement said.

Citing U.S. calls for the Mugabe government to stop harassing Zimbabwe's opposition and hold free elections, the statement said:

"The parliamentary elections in March 2005 were neither free nor fair. Recent demolitions of housing and informal markets have displaced 700,000 people at a time when Zimbabwe is already in the grip of a humanitarian crisis."

The statement said Bush "designated and blocked the assets of 128 persons and 33 entities." It did not list them.

Mugabe, Zimbabwe's sole ruler since 1980, rejects accusations his policies have brought the economy to its knees and instead says the country has fallen victim to sabotage by Western powers.

Designer of Supercomputers Leaves Cray to Join Microsoft - New York Times

Designer of Supercomputers Leaves Cray to Join Microsoft - New York Times

Designer of Supercomputers Leaves Cray to Join Microsoft

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 25 - Burton Smith, a longtime supercomputer designer and chief scientist at Cray, has resigned to take a position at Microsoft.

Mr. Smith was a founder of Tera Computer, which in 2000 acquired Cray Research from Silicon Graphics. The company, which was based in Seattle, was renamed Cray.

A Microsoft spokesman said Friday that Mr. Smith would work for Craig Mundie, one of Microsoft's chief technology officers and formerly chief executive of Alliant Computer Systems, a maker of an early minisupercomputer.

Microsoft announced two weeks ago that it planned to introduce a new version of its Windows software for scientific and engineering users, and that Mr. Smith would be involved.

"He's a really smart guy and an innovator," said Steven Wallach, a founder of the Convex Computer Corporation, and currently a venture investor. "The designs he developed were milestones in computer architecture."

While at Tera and previously at a Denver start-up supercomputer maker, Denelcor, Mr. Smith was a pioneer of an innovative computer design called multithreaded architecture, or MTA, which allows several programs to run simultaneously in computer hardware.

The approach was an alternative to Seymour Cray's "vector" style of computing, which was optimized for quickly performing calculations on long arrays of numbers.

Although the MTA idea was adopted in Intel's microprocessors, Mr. Smith's supercomputer designs were not commercially successful and are no longer offered as products by the supercomputer maker. The company does continue to support the design for a government intelligence agency.

Cray, which lost $204 million last year, has continued to offer the vector style of computer as well as a second series of machines based on the Opteron microprocessor of Advanced Micro Design.

Cray has stated that its design direction is toward a heterogeneous approach, which will combine features of vector processing and microprocessor-based massively parallel supercomputing designs.

In addition to being Cray's chief scientist, Mr. Smith has been head of the company's Cascade supercomputing initiative, which is one of three competitions supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as part of an effort to design computers able to process at a petaflop, or a thousand trillion mathematical operations a second.

At this year's supercomputing show Microsoft's entry was greeted by some skepticism. The company is trying to persuade technical computing users to adopt its software, but that community still relies heavily on Unix and related types of software.

Officers Face Reprimands in Burning of Taliban Fighters' Bodies - New York Times

Officers Face Reprimands in Burning of Taliban Fighters' Bodies - New York Times

Officers Face Reprimands in Burning of Taliban Fighters' Bodies

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Nov. 26 (AP) - Four American soldiers face disciplinary action but no criminal charges after an inquiry into the burning of two Taliban corpses and their later use in the taunting of other guerrillas, an American military commander said on Saturday.

The operational commander of the American-led forces here, Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, said two junior officers who had ordered the bodies burned for what they said were hygienic reasons would be reprimanded for showing a lack of cultural and religious understanding. He said the officers were unaware that Islamic tenets ban cremation and consider the burning of human bodies to be a desecration.

General Kamiya also said two noncommissioned officers who later used a loudspeaker to harangue nearby Taliban rebels while standing over the bodies would be disciplined. They face nonjudicial punishments, typically a loss of pay or demotion.

In Kabul, the Afghan capital, the Swedish military and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said that a Swedish soldier had died from wounds received on Friday in a roadside bomb blast in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. The blast wounded three other Swedish peacekeepers and two civilians.

Afghan officials reported that Taliban fighters burned a district police headquarters in Logar Province on Saturday and abducted four officers.

The investigation into the burning of the bodies was prompted by a report on Australian television last month. Video images made by Stephen Dupont, a freelance journalist who was accompanying an American unit near the village of Gonbaz, showed soldiers standing by two smoldering bodies after a clash in which an American and an Afghan soldier were also killed.

General Kamiya said that the investigation "found there was no intent to desecrate the remains but only to dispose of them for hygienic reasons," and that the taunts, while "designed to incite fleeing Taliban to fight," violated military policy but not "the rules of war."

The governor of Kandahar, Asadullah Khalid, attended the general's news conference and said afterward, "We have confidence in this investigation."

Pinochet Held on Charges Linked to Bank Accounts - New York Times

Pinochet Held on Charges Linked to Bank Accounts - New York Times
Pinochet Held on Charges Linked to Bank Accounts

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov. 23 - Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the former military dictator of Chile, was arrested Wednesday in Santiago on tax fraud and passport forgery charges arising from secret bank accounts holding millions of dollars that he maintained under false names in the United States and elsewhere.

Since returning to Chile after being freed from detention in Britain in March 2000 on Spanish court accusations of human rights violations and genocide, General Pinochet has twice been formally accused of human rights violations during the 17 years he was in power. But this is the first time he has been charged with other crimes, and lawyers said the likelihood of a trial and conviction was greater on these charges.

"I believe that yes, it is definitely going to be possible to determine the exact origins of Pinochet's multimillion-dollar patrimony," Carmen Hertz, a human rights lawyer who filed one of the original complaints against General Pinochet, told reporters in Santiago, the Chilean capital.

The former dictator, who has heart, circulatory and neurological problems, has thus far eluded trial in the human rights cases on grounds that his health is too fragile. But court-appointed doctors ruled last month that he was capable of standing trial on the tax evasion and related charges, which also include submitting false documents and reports.

General Pinochet's lawyer, Pablo Rodr�guez, harshly criticized the arrest order, calling it "shameful" and claiming that his client "is a man who has been persecuted by international Marxism." He also said that he would appeal the most recent medical ruling and that General Pinochet could not afford to post the $23,000 bail required of him because his personal assets had been frozen. He is to be held under house arrest.

United States Senate investigators originally uncovered about $8 million that General Pinochet and his wife had deposited in accounts at Riggs Bank in Washington. But as a result of additional legal inquiries in Chile, official calculations of his personal fortune have now grown to more than $27 million.

"I have always been an honest man," General Pinochet said under questioning last week by the investigative judge handling the case, Carlos Cerda. Officers of the Pinochet Foundation have attributed his wealth to donations and smart investments, but human rights lawyers contend that much of the money came either from kickbacks on arms deals or funds embezzled from the state.

The arrest in the Riggs case follows other recent legal setbacks for General Pinochet, who turns 90 on Friday. Last week, he and Manuel Contreras, his former secret police chief who has now become an adversary and accuser, were jointly questioned in connection with the investigation into a notorious human rights abuse case.

In that episode, 119 opponents of the Pinochet dictatorship disappeared in 1975 after what was described then as an armed confrontation with state security forces. General Pinochet has been stripped of his immunity from prosecution in the case, and human rights lawyers predict that he could be indicted as early as next month.

Under questioning, General Pinochet acknowledged publicly for the first time that Colonel Contreras did not operate independently and without the general's knowledge, as had previously been his response when asked about human rights abuses under his government, which ended in 1990. "I don't remember well, but it seems that he rendered accounts personally to me and also to members of the junta," he said, according to an official transcript of his testimony.

But in the transcript, General Pinochet also argued that he "could only have an indirect responsibility" for the execution, torture, jailing or exile of thousands of his countrymen. "I regret and suffer for these losses, but God will forgive me if I have committed excesses," he said, adding that "I do not believe" that he had done so.

Advocate for Coca Legalization Leads in Bolivian Race - New York Times

Advocate for Coca Legalization Leads in Bolivian Race - New York Times

Advocate for Coca Legalization Leads in Bolivian Race

CHIPIRIRI, Bolivia - In nearly 50 years of growing coca, Jos� Torrico has seen army soldiers swarm across his fields to pull up his plants and heard threats from successive Bolivian governments determined to destroy his crop.

And like thousands of other coca farmers in this verdant, tropical region of central Bolivia, Mr. Torrico has refused to stop growing coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, even in the face of a relentless United States-financed effort to stamp it out.

Now, after years of persistence, he and his fellow farmers say they are eagerly anticipating the advent of a new era, one in which growing coca will finally be made legal. That is, they say, if Evo Morales is elected president on Dec. 18.

"It will be legalized," Mr. Torrico, 69, said with a broad smile as he showed off an orange nylon tarp loaded with freshly picked coca leaves. "This is good for us. Evo can do us favors."

Mr. Morales, a onetime leader of the coca growers federation, has steadily become revered by the left around Latin America as an unbending opponent of globalization. That is worrisome enough to the Bush administration. But more alarming to American officials is that a man who promotes coca farming - an industry central to cocaine production - may soon lead this Andean nation.

Rising in part on his pledge to legalize coca, Mr. Morales has become the top presidential candidate in Bolivia, and he now leads his closest adversary, Jorge Quiroga, an American-educated former president, by 33 to 27 percent, according to a poll conducted earlier this month.

Mr. Morales's ascent now, at a time when President Bush holds the lowest standing of any United States leader ever in Latin America, has intensified a clash of cultures with Washington that shows some of its deepest strains here.

For 20 years, Washington has sponsored efforts to eliminate coca as part of its fight against the illegal drug trade, and Bolivian governments have cooperated, eager for loans and other support from international lenders.

But today Washington-backed economic prescriptions are being rejected up and down the continent. And though the presidential race is tight, political analysts say that Mr. Morales may have the upper hand because of the potent anti-establishment fervor that has swept Bolivia, forcing out two presidents since 2003.

The growing appeal of Mr. Morales, who like most Bolivians is of Indian descent, runs deepest here in the Chapare, a New Jersey-size swath of rivers and thick jungle where coca cultivation has for years made Bolivia one of the world's top cocaine producers.

For thousands of years before that, however, Indian highlanders cultivated and chewed unprocessed coca to mitigate hunger and increase stamina. Though the Bolivian government has made growing coca largely illegal, the bright green leaves are taken for granted as part of Andean culture.

They are still bought and sold legally across Bolivia for chewing or making tea, with people young and old never giving it a second thought. Indeed, coca tea is sold in supermarkets and it is consumed across the Andes, even in elegant hotels and offices.

While acknowledging that cocaine trafficking is a problem, Mr. Morales and the coca growers contend that most coca in the Chapare goes for traditional uses. Mr. Morales says that as president he would allow the "industrial" use of coca, to make everything from toothpaste to pharmaceuticals to soft drinks to be exported as far away as China and Europe.

"Coca and coca tea can be industrialized to circulate internationally," Mr. Morales said during an interview en route to a meeting with coca farmers. "How can we not legalize, since we are not hurting anybody?"

Erecting road blockades and battling soldiers, the coca growers have already won victories against the Bolivian government once thought impossible, most recently with a pact last fall that allowed each farmer to plant up to a third of an acre with coca in the Chapare.

Today the blue, black and white flags of Mr. Morales's party, the Movement Toward Socialism, flutter from houses in the Chapare, and Mr. Morales is treated like a conquering hero during his frequent visits.

"Evo came up from the bottom, first as a union leader, then as the leader of the coca growers federation," Ren� Arandia, a coca growers leader, said as he took a break from a recent meeting between Mr. Morales and several hundred cocaleros, as the growers are called, in the town of Lauca �. "And now he's on his way to becoming president of the republic. For us, this is a victory."

For Washington, however, it is little short of a nightmare. American officials and leading drug policy experts contend that, no matter what Mr. Morales and the coca growers say, most of the coca grown in the Chapare winds up as cocaine.

They also say that the recent pact permitting limited coca production in the Chapare has emboldened not only coca farmers, but cocaine traffickers.

"The results are pretty clear," said Eduardo Gamarra, the Bolivian-born director of Latin American studies at Florida International University, who has closely tracked the drug trade. "Coca production has expanded considerably in Bolivia, and cocaine production has expanded considerably in Bolivia."

The United Nations said in a recent report that Bolivia produced up to 107 tons of cocaine last year, up 35 percent from 2003. The sudden increase has prompted warnings that cocaine traffickers are gaining ground after several years in which Bolivia's drug crops were substantially reduced.

"I don't think there's an attractive or viable future by becoming a narco-state," John Walters, the White House drug czar, said in an interview.

American officials, though, have watched helplessly as Mr. Morales's influence has grown. When they have offered opinions - like claims, with little proof, that Mr. Morales is linked to drug trafficking - it has only strengthened Mr. Morales's appeal.

"They accuse me of everything," Mr. Morales told a crowd on a recent campaign swing. "They say Evo is a drug trafficker, that Evo is a narco-terrorist. They don't know how to defend their position, so they attack us."

As president of the so-called Six Federations, a confederation of coca growers, he molded it into a powerful political force that propelled him to Congress.

Mr. Morales is well aware of the debt he owes his base. "If not for the Chapare, if not for the Six Federations," he says, "there would not be an Evo Morales."

Though 20,848 acres of coca was uprooted in eradication efforts in 2004, farmers keep planting it. They say they have no choice but to grow coca, since other crops fare poorly here and American-financed efforts to encourage them to switch to legal crops have stumbled.

Mr. Torrico's 20 acres are filled with crops like bananas, fruit, yucca, coffee and cacao. On a tour of his plot, though, he listed off the hurdles he faces making ends meet, from high transportation costs to bottom-basement prices for most of his crops.

Coca, on the other hand, earns him as much as $162 dollars a month. It is not a windfall, even by Bolivian standards, but it is a living, he said.

"With coca, I was able to send my children to study," said Mr. Torrico, who has eight children. "The other stuff, the citrus fruit, the bananas, give us nothing. Coca is what sustains us here."

In Terror Cases, Administration Sets Own Rules - New York Times

In Terror Cases, Administration Sets Own Rules - New York Times

In Terror Cases, Administration Sets Own Rules

When Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced last week that Jose Padilla would be transferred to the federal justice system from military detention, he said almost nothing about the standards the administration used in deciding whether to charge terrorism suspects like Mr. Padilla with crimes or to hold them in military facilities as enemy combatants.

"We take each individual, each case, case by case," Mr. Gonzales said.

The upshot of that approach, underscored by the decision in Mr. Padilla's case, is that no one outside the administration knows just how the determination is made whether to handle a terror suspect as an enemy combatant or as a common criminal, to hold him indefinitely without charges in a military facility or to charge him in court.

Indeed, citing the need to combat terrorism, the administration has argued, with varying degrees of success, that judges should have essentially no role in reviewing its decisions. The change in Mr. Padilla's status, just days before the government's legal papers were due in his appeal to the Supreme Court, suggested to many legal observers that the administration wanted to keep the court out of the case.

"The position of the executive branch," said Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University who has consulted with lawyers for several detainees, "is that it can be judge, jury and executioner."

The government says a secret and unilateral decision-making process is necessary because of the nature of the evidence it deals with. Officials described the approach as a practical one that weighs a mix of often-sensitive factors.

"Much thought goes into how and why various tools are used in these often complicated cases," Tasia Scolinos, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said on Friday. "The important thing is for someone not to come away thinking this whole process is arbitrary, which it is not."

Among the factors the government considers, Ms. Scolinos said, are "national security interests, the need to gather intelligence and the best and quickest way to obtain it, the concern about protecting intelligence sources and methods and ongoing information gathering, the ability to use information as evidence in a criminal proceeding, the circumstances of the manner in which the individual was detained, the applicable criminal charges, and classified-evidence issues."

Lawyers for people in terrorism investigations say a list of factors to be considered cannot substitute for bright-line standards announced in advance.

The courts have given the executive branch substantial but not total deference, often holding that the president has the authority to designate enemy combatants but allowing those detained to challenge the factual basis for the administration's determinations. Some courts have suggested that a detainee's citizenship, the place he was captured and whether he was fighting American troops should play a role in how aggressively the courts review enemy-combatant designations.

A look at the half-dozen most prominent terrorism detentions and prosecutions does little to illuminate the standards that have informed the government's decisions.

One American captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan was held in the United States as an enemy combatant. Another was prosecuted as a criminal. One foreigner seized in the United States as a suspected terrorist is being held as an enemy combatant without charges in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Others have been prosecuted for their crimes.

In three high-profile terrorism cases, the government obtained convictions in federal court. Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen, pleaded guilty to taking part in the conspiracy that led to the Sept. 11 attacks and faces the death penalty. Richard C. Reid, who is British, pleaded guilty to trying to blow up an airliner over the Atlantic with bombs in his shoes and is serving a life term. And John Walker Lindh, the California man who pleaded guilty to aiding the Taliban, is serving 20 years.

In three other cases, the administration designated terrorism suspects as enemy combatants who may be detained by the military indefinitely without charge. One, Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen of Saudi descent, was released and sent to Saudi Arabia after the Supreme Court gave him the right to contest the government's claims. A second American, Mr. Padilla, was transferred to the custody of the Justice Department last week.

The only remaining enemy combatant known to be detained in the United States, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, traveled the same road as Mr. Padilla, but in the opposite direction. "Al-Marri is precisely the flipside of Padilla," said Lawrence S. Lustberg, one of Mr. Marri's lawyers.

After 16 months of criminal proceedings on fraud charges, and less than a month before Mr. Marri's trial was to start in July 2003, President Bush designated him an enemy combatant. Mr. Marri, a Qatari who had been working on a master's degree at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., was immediately transferred into military custody and moved to the Navy brig in Charleston.

John Yoo, a former Justice Department official who is now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said two issues tended to determine how the government proceeded.

"The main factors that will determine how you will be charged," Mr. Yoo said, "are, one, how strong your link to Al Qaeda is and, two, whether you have any actionable intelligence that will prevent an attack on the United States."

Jonathan M. Freiman, one of Mr. Padilla's lawyers, questioned that, saying the administration's decisions had often seemed to be reactions to actual and anticipated court decisions.

"The government continues to be more focused on protecting its strategies than allowing them to be subjected to legal review," Mr. Freiman said.

In the indictment unsealed Tuesday, Mr. Padilla was not charged with some of the most serious accusations against him, including plotting to explode a radioactive device, because the evidence needed to prove the case had been obtained through harsh questioning of two senior members of Al Qaeda, current and former government officials have said. The statements might not have been admissible in court and could have exposed classified information, the officials said.

The Moussaoui case was also complicated by his lawyers' demands that they be given access to potentially exculpatory evidence that the government said had to be kept secret for reasons of national security.

The mere possibility of being named an enemy combatant, coupled with the difficulty of divining the standards the administration uses in choosing whom to call one, can affect the decisions of defendants in criminal plea negotiations.

"In the case of John Walker Lindh," said his lawyer, James J. Brosnahan, "there was a suggestion that even if we got an acquittal that he could be declared an unlawful combatant, that he could be a Padilla."

Indeed, the plea agreement Mr. Lindh signed contains an unusual provision. "For the rest of the defendant's natural life," it says, "should the government determine that the defendant has engaged in" one of more than a score of crimes of terrorism, "the United States may immediately invoke any right it has at that time to capture and detain the defendant as an unlawful enemy combatant."

Mr. Freiman said he, too, had been told that the government reserved the right to detain Mr. Padilla again should he be acquitted.

Arguably, it may sometimes be preferable for a defendant to be held as an enemy combatant rather than being prosecuted. Mr. Lindh's case, for instance, is at least superficially similar to that of Mr. Hamdi, another American captured in Afghanistan. But Mr. Hamdi is free after three years of confinement, though he had to relinquish his American citizenship. Mr. Lindh is in the early part of his 20-year sentence.

The government has not offered an explanation for the disparate treatment of the cases.

Mr. Marri's detention, on the other hand, is potentially lifelong. Though he has not been convicted of a crime, said Jonathan Hafetz, one of his lawyers, the conditions in the Charleston brig are as bad or worse than those in the toughest high-security prisons.

"He has been in solitary confinement for two and a half years," Mr. Hafetz said of Mr. Marri. "He hasn't spoken to or seen his wife and five children since he was designated an enemy combatant" in June 2003. "There's no news, no books, nothing."

This year, the same South Carolina federal judge heard challenges from Mr. Padilla and Mr. Marri. In July, the judge, Henry F. Floyd, ruled that the administration was authorized to detain Mr. Marri. Four months earlier, the judge had reached the opposite conclusion in Mr. Padilla's case.

The difference, he said, was that Mr. Padilla was an American citizen.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., reversed the ruling in the Padilla case. The administration's decision last week to charge Mr. Padilla and try to moot his appeal of the Fourth Circuit's decision to the Supreme Court may have been driven by its desire to maintain a helpful precedent in the circuit where it brings many of its terrorism cases.

"They are seeking to keep their options open," said David D. Cole, a law professor at Georgetown, "by avoiding Supreme Court review in the Padilla case. It lets them keep standing the Fourth Circuit decision."

In Mr. Hamdi's Supreme Court case last year, the four justices who joined Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's controlling opinion used a narrow definition of "enemy combatant," saying, at least for purposes of that case, that it meant someone "carrying a weapon against American troops on a foreign battlefield."

The government has proposed a much broader definition.

"The term 'enemy combatant,' " according to a Defense Department order last year, includes anyone "part of or supporting Taliban or Al Qaeda forces or associated forces."

In a hearing in December in a case brought by detainees imprisoned in the naval facility in Guant�namo Bay, Cuba, a judge questioned a Justice Department official about the limits of that definition. The official, Brian D. Boyle, said the hostilities in question were global and might continue for generations.

The judge, Joyce Hens Green of the Federal District Court in Washington, asked a series of hypothetical questions about who might be detained as an enemy combatant under the government's definition.

What about "a little old lady in Switzerland who writes checks to what she thinks is a charitable organization that helps orphans in Afghanistan but really is a front to finance Al Qaeda activities?" she asked.

And what about a resident of Dublin "who teaches English to the son of a person the C.I.A. knows to be a member of Al Qaeda?"

And "what about a Wall Street Journal reporter, working in Afghanistan, who knows the exact location of Osama bin Laden but does not reveal it to the United States government in order to protect her source?"

Mr. Boyle said the military had the power to detain all three people as enemy combatants.

In January, Judge Green allowed the detainees' court challenges to their confinement to proceed. Another judge on her court reached the opposite conclusion, and an appeal from the two decisions is pending.

AlterNet: How The Bush Administration Got Spooked

AlterNet: How The Bush Administration Got Spooked
How The Bush Administration Got Spooked
By Tom Engelhardt,
Posted on November 26, 2005, Printed on November 26, 2005

It's finally Wizard of Oz time in America. You know -- that moment when the curtains are pulled back, the fearsome-looking wizard wreathed in all that billowing smoke turns out to be some pitiful little guy, and everybody looks around sheepishly, wondering why they acted as they did for so long.

Starting on September 11, 2001 -- with a monstrous helping hand from Osama bin Laden -- the Bush administration played the fear card with unbelievable effectiveness. For years, with its companion "war on terror," it trumped every other card in the American political deck. With an absurd system for color-coding dangers to Americans, the President, the Vice President, and the highest officials in this land were able to paint the media a "high" incendiary orange and the Democrats an "elevated" bright yellow, functionally sidelining them.

How stunningly in recent weeks the landscape has altered -- almost like your basic hurricane sweeping through some unprotected and unprepared city. Now, to their amazement, Bush administration officials find themselves thrust through the equivalent of a Star-Trekkian wormhole into an anti-universe where everything that once worked for them seems to work against them. As always, in the face of domestic challenge, they have responded by attacking -- a tactic that was effective for years. The President, Vice President, National Security Adviser, and others have ramped up their assaults, functionally accusing Democratic critics of little short of treason -- of essentially undermining American forces in the field, if not offering aid and comfort to the enemy. On his recent trip to Asia, the President put it almost as bluntly as his Vice President did at home: "As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind them." The Democrats were, he said over and over, "irresponsible" in their attacks. Dick Cheney called them spineless "opportunists" peddling dishonestly for political advantage.

But instead of watching the Democrats fall silent under assault as they have for years, they unexpectedly found themselves facing a roiling oppositional hubbub threatening the unity of their own congressional party. In his sudden, heartfelt attack on Bush administration Iraq plans ("a flawed policy wrapped in illusion") and his call for a six-month timetable for American troop withdrawal, Democratic congressional hawk John Murtha took on the Republicans over their attacks more directly than any mainstream Democrat has ever done. ("I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done. I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, he [Bush] criticized Democrats for criticizing them.") Perhaps more important, as an ex-Marine and decorated Vietnam veteran clearly speaking for a military constituency (and possibility some Pentagon brass), he gave far milder and more "liberal" Democrats cover.

For the first time since the war in Iraq began, "tipping points," constantly announced in Iraq but never quite in sight, have headed for home. Dan Bartlett, counselor to the President and drafter of recent Presidential attacks on the Democrats, told David Sanger of the New York Times that "Bush's decision to fight back... arose after he became concerned the [Iraq] debate was now at a tipping point"; while Howard Fineman of Newsweek dubbed Murtha himself a "one-man tipping point."

Something indeed did seem to tip, for when the White House and associates took Murtha on, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, and other Democrats leaped aggressively to his defense. In fact, something quite unimaginable even a few days earlier occurred. When Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio, the most junior member of the House, accused Murtha (via a Marine colonel from her district) of being a coward, Democratic Representative Harold Ford from Tennessee "charged across the chamber's center aisle to the Republican side screaming that Ms. Schmidts's attack had been unwarranted. 'You guys are pathetic!' yelled Representative Martin Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts. 'Pathetic.'"

There could, however, be no greater sign of a politically changed landscape than the decision of former President Bill Clinton (who practically had himself adopted into the Bush family over the last year) to tell a group of Arab students in Dubai only two-and-a-half years late that the Iraqi invasion was a "big mistake." Since he is undoubtedly a stalking horse for his wife, that great, cautious ship-of-nonstate, the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, should soon turn its prow ever so slowly to catch the oppositional winds.)

If you want to wet an index finger yourself and hoist it airwards to see which way the winds are blowing, then just check out how the media has been framing in headlines the recent spate of administration attacks. Headline writing is a curious in-house craft -- and well worth following. Changing headline language is a good signal that something's up. When the President attacks, it's now commonly said that he's "lashing out" -- an image of emotional disarray distinctly at odds with the once powerful sense of the Bush administration as the most disciplined White House on record and of the President and Vice President as resolutely unflappable. Here's just a small sampling:

The Miami Herald, "President lashes out at critics of Iraq war"; the Associated Press, Cheney Latest to Lash Out at Critics; the Buffalo News, Bush lashes out at war critics; even the Voice of America, Bush Lashes Out at Political Opponents Over Iraq Accusations.

In other headlines last week, the administration was presented in post-Oz style as beleaguered, under siege, and powerless to control its own fate: The Associated Press, for example, headlined a recent Jennifer Loven piece, Iraq War Criticism Stalks Bush Overseas; the New York Times, a David Sanger report, Iraq Dogs President as He Crosses Asia to Promote Trade; and CNN headlined the Murtha events, A hawk rattles GOP's cage.

The language used in such recent press accounts was no less revealing. Sanger, for example, began his piece this way:

"President Bush may have come to Asia determined to show leaders here that his agenda is far broader than Iraq and terrorism, but at every stop, and every day, Mr. Bush and his aides have been fighting a rearguard action to justify how the United States got into Iraq and how to get out."

While Loven launched hers with, "His war policies under siege at home...," attributing the siege atmosphere and the Bush "counterattack" to "the president's newly aggressive war critics."

Lashing out, stalked, dogged, under siege, counterattacking, fighting a rearguard action -- let's not just attribute this to "newly aggressive war critics." It's a long-coming shift in the zeitgeist, as evident in the media as in the halls of Congress.

On Thursday, for instance, ABC prime-time TV news, which led with a story on the President "lashing out" at critics, then offered a long, up-close-and-personal segment in which a teary-eyed Murtha spoke of the war-wounded he's regularly visited at hospitals and the fraudulence of administration policy. That same night, another prime-time news broadcast turned the President's claim that the Democrats were "irresponsible" in their criticisms into a montage of Bush repeatedly saying "irresponsible" in different poses -- so many times in a row, in fact, that the segment could easily have come from a sharp opening sequence on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.

None of this would have been possible even weeks ago in a country where it was once gospel that you don't attack a president while he's representing the United States abroad. That's why, in the Watergate era, Richard Nixon had such a propensity for trips overseas and undoubtedly why our stay-at-home President's handlers decided to turn him into a Latin American and Asian globetrotter. The question is: How did this happen? What changed the zeitgeist and where are we heading?

Poll-driven Politics

Polls are, it might be said, what's left of American democracy. Privately run, often for profit or advantage, they nonetheless are as close as we come these days -- actual elections being what they are -- to the expression of democratic opinion, serially, week after week. Everyone who matters in and out of Washington and in the media reads them as if life itself were at stake. They drive behavior and politics. Fear, too, is a poll-driven phenomenon. Not surprisingly then, it was the moment late last spring when presidential approval ratings fell decisively below the 50 percent mark and looked to be heading for 40 percent, that the White House took anxious note and so, no less important, did a previously cowed media. Somewhere in that period, the fear factor, right in the administration's hands, was transformed into a feeling fearful factor. As I've written elsewhere, faced with the mother of a dead soldier on their doorstep, all the President's men blinked and the Camp Casey fiasco followed. Soon after, before hurricane Cindy could even blow out of town, hurricane Katrina blew in and the President's ratings headed for freefall. In just the last month, they look as if they had been shoved over a small cliff, dipping in the latest Harris and Wall Street Journal polls to an almost unheard of 34 percent (only five points above Richard Nixon's at his Watergate nadir).

The poll numbers which once gave the administration's fear factor meaning have simply evaporated -- as have any figures which might indicate that this administration is capable of staunching its own wounds. Emboldening media and political opposition in Washington, such figures give Murtha-like cover to behavior that not long ago would have been unthinkable. A record 60 percent of Americans surveyed in the most recent USA Today poll, including one in four Republicans, said "the war wasn't 'worth it.' One in five Republicans said the invasion of Iraq was a mistake." Those who felt things were "going well" for the country as a whole dropped nine percentage points in a month.

Democrats long ago fled the ranks of presidential supporters, as more recently have independents; now moderate Republicans are beginning to peel away too. According to Tom Raum of the Associated Press,"[Bush's] approval on handling Iraq fell from 87 percent among all Republicans in November 2004 to 78 percent this month. Among Republican women, from 88 percent a year ago to 73 percent now. Among independents, approval on Iraq fell from 49 percent in November 2004 to 33 percent now." If you want a figure that, from the administration's viewpoint, offers a frightening glimpse into a possible future, consider the 79 percent of Americans who believe I. Lewis Libby's indictment is "of importance to the nation"; this, despite Republican claims that the grounds for indicting were insignificant, and a new Libby defense fund made up of Republican high-rollers and assorted neocons.

In other words, replace the still emotionally charged issues of the war in Iraq and the President's actions, where, at 34-40 percent, a bedrock base of support remains more or less intact, with a less charged ethics-in-government issue and that vaunted Rock of Gibraltar shatters. This is the previously inconceivable future so many Republican politicians suddenly fear.

Just for the heck of it, throw in another factor -- "intensity" -- and you have an even more volatile picture, given the lack of positive, potentially mobilizing news on the domestic and foreign horizons. E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post suggests that the polling figures are even worse than they look because intensity of feeling on the war issue is now "on the side of the war's opponents." He adds:

"The findings on the strength of feelings about the war were matched by the intensity of feelings about Bush himself: Only 20 percent of those surveyed said they strongly approved of the overall job Bush was doing, while 47 percent strongly disapproved. A president who has always played to his base finds that his base is steadily shrinking."

In other words, doubt and demoralization are setting in -- a political rot that can do untold damage. Given how many independents and moderate Republicans who once supported the war have changed their minds, the scathing attacks on Democrats for mind-changing on the war may not prove a winning strategy either. They may, as Raum comments, "backfire on Republicans."

But here's a question: Can we trace Bush's polling near-collapse to its origins anywhere? In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine under the eerie title, "The Iraq Syndrome" (subscription only), John Mueller, an expert on how wars affect presidencies, offers a canny, cool-eyed interpretation of changing American opinion on Iraq. He tracks polling data on the three sustained wars -- Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq -- the U.S. has fought in the last half-century-plus where we took more than 300 casualties.

All three show approximately the same polling pattern: broad enthusiasm at the outset, a relatively quick and steep falloff in support, followed by steady erosion thereafter from which no long-term presidential recovery seems possible (certainly not via heightened rhetoric). In all three wars, as support fell, pro-withdrawal sentiment rose. Though some experts link this pattern to an American "defeat-phobia," Mueller points out that, in cases like Lebanon in the Reagan years and Somalia in the Clinton era, Americans have been quite capable of swallowing withdrawal and defeat (of a sort) without making the presidents involved pay any significant political cost.

The crucial factor in loss of support for each of these wars, Mueller insists, is a growing casualty list and not just any casualties either -- only American ones. (The fact that "vastly more" Iraqis have died than all the victims of "all international terrorists in all of history" matters little, he observes, in American popular judgments on the war.) What makes Iraq stand out in this list of three "is how much more quickly support has eroded in the case of Iraq. By early 2005, when combat deaths were around 1,500, the percentage of respondents who considered the Iraq war a mistake -- over half -- was about the same as the percentage who considered the war in Vietnam a mistake at the time of the 1968 Tet offensive, when nearly 20,000 soldiers had already died."

If Mueller's right, then the steady drip of American casualties -- many less dead and many more wounded than in Korea and Vietnam, in part because of improved medical care and triage techniques -- has seeped deeply into American consciousness. This seems so, despite the administration's careful attempt to keep returning bodies and individual funerals out of sight and so out of mind; despite the fact that the American dead -- 60 soldiers in the first 19 days of October -- have largely been kept off the front-pages of American papers and photos of dead Americans off television (where dead Iraqis can regularly be seen). Short of massive draw-downs of American forces in Iraq, there is no casualty end in sight for this administration; and drawing down ground forces (while substituting air power for them), as Richard Nixon learned in his "Vietnamization" program, only solves a home-front problem at the cost of creating staggering problems on the war front.

For an administration still fighting "withdrawal" with all its strength, this may prove a problem with no exit -- further casualties acting as a motor propelling the unhappiness that changes more minds and pushes falling polling figures ever downward, propelling unease about the country which only leads to escalating casualty figures of another kind -- those growing defections from the ranks of your core political supporters.

When Agendas Go Bump in the Night

To put the present crisis in some perspective, you could say that two central agendas of the Bush administration proved to be in conflict, although for years this was less than evident (even to the players involved). There was the long-planned neoconservative drive to invade Iraq and, through that act, begin to remake the Middle East. The neocons were backed in this by Vice President Cheney and his crew in the vice-presidential office as well as allied figures like John Bolton, Stephen Hadley, and (some of the time) Donald Rumsfeld, none of whom were necessarily neocons. The motives this disparate group held for remaking the region in their image ranged from the urge to establish a planetary, militarily enforced Pax Americana and/or an urge to control the oil heartlands of the planet to a desire -- from the Likudniks in the administration -- to secure the region for an ascendant Sharonista Israel.

Whatever the overlapping motivations, at the heart of this policy lay an urge to unleash a Constitutionally unfettered "war president" on the world. (Torture was a crucial issue in all of this largely because, once established as an essential tool of the war on terror, it would be proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that George Bush's presidency had been freed of all restraints.) Put into full effect on March 20, 2003, when the "war on terror" melded into an invasion of Iraq, the policy was meant to place in the President's hands every global lever of power that mattered for all time.

It now seems far clearer that the endless fallout from the fatal decision to invade Iraq is eating away at another agenda entirely, one that emerged from the domestic political wing of this administration -- from Karl Rove, Andrew Card, Tom DeLay and their ilk. This was the Republican desire to nail down the country as a purely red (as in red-meat) Republican land. The vetting of the K-Street lobbying crowd, the increasing control over the flow of corporate dollars into politics, the gerrymandering of congressional districts to create an election-proof House of Representatives, the mobilization of a religious base dedicated to an endless set of culture wars, the ushering in of a right-wing Supreme Court, and so many other activities were all meant to create an impregnable Republican Party in control of every lever of power in our country into an endless future.

The unfettered, imperial President and the unfettered, imperial Republican Party were joined at the hip by the attacks of September 11, 2001, which led to both the "war on terror" abroad and the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Department domestically. Had the Bush administration pursued both agendas, minus an invasion of Iraq, the two might have remained joined far longer. The crucial invasion decision, made almost immediately by the neocon war party backed by the President, was supported by White House Chief of Staff Andrew (""From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August") Card and Karl ("the architect") Rove, both of whom believed that a good war, well promoted and correctly wielded domestically, might drive a Republican agenda to eternal domination in America. None of them expected that it would prove to be the wedge driven between the two agendas.

The first hint of this was caught perfectly in a classic headline: On May 2, 2003, George Bush co-piloted an Air Force jet onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln (carefully kept thirty miles out of its San Diego homeport so that the President could have his "top gun" photo op instead of climbing a gangplank like any normal being). Following this "historic landing," he stepped up to an on-deck podium where, under a White House banner that read "Mission Accomplished," he declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended." This was clearly meant to be the stunning start of the President's campaign for reelection in 2004, a classic piece of Rovian image manipulation and a nail in the coffin of the Democratic Party. And so it seemed to most at the time.

But if you revisit the CNN story about the landing and speech, headlined "Bush calls end to 'major combat,'" it's hard now not to note the subhead lurking just under it: U.S. Central Command: Seven hurt in Fallujah grenade attack. Seven wounded American soldiers -- that really says it all. The photo-op that was meant for the reelection campaign was already being undermined by another story; two policies yoked together were already pulling in different directions. Our present moment was already being born, unnoticed but in plain sight.

Now both agendas are in disarray with no help whatsoever on the horizon. Imagine, for instance, that the South Koreans timed the announcement of the withdrawal of the first of their troops from (Kurdish) northern Iraq for the moment the President arrived in their country. Imagine that Tony Blair's people are now said to be perfecting total withdrawal plans for next year, and that the President recently may have had to slap down the top American general in Iraq for suggesting withdrawal (or at least drawdown) plans of his own. Imagine that various European nations are now investigating (or in the case of an Italian court charging) American agents in the war on terror with crimes. Imagine that the President, who often insisted Saddam had been overthrown to rid Iraq of its torture chambers ("the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever") and to end the reign of a "murderous tyrant who... used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people," now faces a "tip-of-the-iceberg" torture scandal in Iraq involving the people we've brought to power and another spreading scandal about the American use of a chemical-like weapon, white phosphorous, on civilians in the city of Fallujah. Imagine that we proved less capable than Saddam of delivering basics like electricity and potable water to the people of Iraq, that we squandered billions of taxpayer dollars in "reconstruction" funds there, and that we face an insurgency which continues to grow and spread in opposition to a shabby elected government all but in league with the Iranians. Imagine that the President's Iraq War is now devouring his presidency and that it can only get worse.

The Middle East is a sea of political gasoline just waiting for the odd administration match or two; American foreign policy is in a kind of disarray for which even the final days of Vietnam offer no comparison; while at home, the DeLay, Frist, Libby, and Abramoff scandals (and associated indictments) can only grow and spread. Special Counsel Fitzgerald has just announced his decision to empanel a new grand jury, sure to drive the Plame scandal ever deeper and higher into the administration and ever closer to the 2006 elections or possibly beyond. It would be easy to go on, but you get the idea.

It is a truism of American politics that voters are almost never driven to the polls by foreign policy. In this case, however, the war in Iraq has chased the President and his men ever since he landed on that carrier deck. How little he knew what he was asking for when, in a moment of bravado, he said of the Iraqi insurgents, "Bring 'em on." He just barely beat the erosive effects of his war to the polls in November 2004. Now, it continues to eat inexorably into the heartland of Republican political domination. Even Republican discipline in Congress -- without the Hammer's hammer -- has disintegrated under the heat of the war. As Chris Nelson wrote recently in his Washington insider's newsletter, The Nelson Report:

"The stunning swiftness of the bipartisan Congressional collapse of support for the Administration's conduct of the war in Iraq, and by extension the entire anti-terrorism effort, is such that it has not been fully appreciated by the 'leadership' of either party. That's the real meaning of a Senate vote which Republicans tried to spin into a victory for the President, because they avoided the Democrat's amendment to set performance-based withdrawal deadlines."

Now, the war threatens to crack open the Republican base and chase the dream of a single-party Republican political future -- only recently so close -- right off the map. No wonder the Democrats have just come out swinging (sort of). The political shock and awe the administration so regularly deployed after Sept. 11, 2001 no longer works. The Democrats suddenly have discovered that -- no thanks to them -- the American people are somewhere else and they have little to fear from George Bush or Dick Cheney. No Presidential "counterattack," no "lashing out," no set of speeches or new agenda (to be announced in the 2006 State of the Union Address or anywhere else) is likely to change any of this for the better for this President. Fear is no longer on the Bush administration's side. No wonder they're now afraid -- very, very afraid.

Tom Engelhardt, editor of, is co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of "The End of Victory Culture."
� 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Stifling criticism does nothing to help our soldiers

Stifling criticism does nothing to help soldiers
By Michael Kinsley
Originally published November 25, 2005,1,5593897.story

"One might also argue," said Vice President Dick Cheney Tuesday, "that untruthful charges against the commander-in-chief have an insidious effect on the war effort."

That would certainly be an ugly and demagogic argument, were one to make it. After all, if untruthful charges against the president hurt the war effort (by undermining public support and soldiers' morale), then those charges will hurt the war effort even more if they happen to be true. So one would be saying, in effect, that any criticism of the president is, essentially, treason.
Mr. Cheney generously granted critics the right to criticize, as did the president this week. Then he resumed hurling adjectives like an ape hurling coconuts at unwanted visitors. "Dishonest." "Reprehensible." "Corrupt."
"Shameless." President Bush and others joined in, all morally outraged that anyone would accuse the administration of misleading us into war by faking a belief that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear and/or chemical and biological weapons.
Interestingly, the administration no longer claims that Mr. Hussein had such weapons at the time Mr. Bush led the country into war in order to eliminate them. "The flaws in intelligence are plain enough in hindsight," Mr. Cheney said Tuesday. So-called weapons of mass destruction were not the only argument for the war, but the administration thought they were a crucial argument at the time. So the administration now concedes that the country went to war on a false premise. Doesn't that mean that the war was a mistake no matter where the false premise came from?
Mr. Cheney and others insist that Mr. Bush couldn't possibly have misled anyone about WMD since everybody had assumed for years that there were WMD in Iraq. That's why any criticism of Mr. Bush on this point is corrupt, reprehensible, distasteful, odoriferous, infectious, etc.
But this indignation is belied by Mr. Cheney's remarks in the 2000 election campaign. In the vice-presidential debate, Mr. Cheney was happy to agree with Mr. Bush that Mr. Hussein's possession of WMD would be a good enough reason to "take him out." But he did not assume that Mr. Hussein already had such weapons. And he certainly did not assume that this view was the consensus.
Until last week, the anti-war position closely resembled the pro-war position in the ancient debate over Vietnam. That is: it was a mistake to get in, but now that we're in, we can't just cut-and-run. That was the logic on which Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger took over the Vietnam War four years after major American involvement began, and kept it going for another five.
American "credibility" depended on our keeping our word . In the end, all the United States wanted was a "decent interval" between our departure and the North Vietnamese triumph - and we didn't even get that. Thousands of Americans died in Vietnam after America's citizens and government were in general agreement that the war was a mistake.
We are now very close to that point of general agreement in the Iraq war. Do you believe that if Misters Bush, Cheney and company could turn back the clock, they would do this again? And now, thanks to Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, it is permissible to say, or at least to ask, "Why not just get out now?"
There are arguments against this - some good, some bad - but the worst is the one delivered by Mr. Cheney and others with their withering scorn. It is the argument that it is wrong to tell American soldiers risking their lives in a foreign desert that they are fighting for a mistake.
One strength of this argument is that it doesn't require defending the war itself. The logic applies equally whether the war is justified or not. Another strength is that the argument is true, in a way; it is a terrible thing to tell someone he or she is risking death in a mistaken cause. But it is more terrible actually to die in that mistaken cause.
The longer the war goes on, the more Americans and "allies" and Iraqis will die. That is not a slam-dunk argument for ending this foreign entanglement. But it is worth keeping in mind while you try to decide whether American credibility or Iraqi prosperity or Middle East stability can justify the cost in blood and treasure. And don't forget to factor in the likelihood that the war will actually produce these fine things.
The last man or woman to die in any war almost surely dies in vain: The outcome has been determined, if not certified. And he or she might die happier thinking that death came in a noble cause that will not be abandoned. But if it is not a noble cause, he or she might prefer not to die at all. Stifling criticism that might shorten the war is no favor to American soldiers. They can live without that kind of "respect."
Michael Kinsley is a commentator who lives in Seattle. His e-mail is .

BBC NEWS | Americas | Spain-Venezuela arms deal nears

BBC NEWS | Americas | Spain-Venezuela arms deal nears: "Spain-Venezuela arms deal nears
Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono is travelling to Venezuela to oversee the signing of an arms contract that is opposed by the US.

Madrid has agreed to sell military patrol boats and transport planes to Caracas in deal worth more than $1.5bn.

The two countries insist the equipment is for peaceful purposes, such as to help in the fight against drug gangs.

But the US regards Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a destabilising influence in the region.

US ambassador Eduardo Aguirre had asked the Spanish authorities not to go ahead with the sale.

He said Washington was considering whether to allow Spain to sell aircraft made with US technology, which would require a US export licence.

Growing tension

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister, Teresa Fernandez de La Vega, confirmed Mr Bono's visit to Caracas.

But she insisted the deal had been negotiated with 'scrupulous respect for international law'.

Mr Chavez said the contracts would be signed on Monday, according to the Spanish newspaper ABC's website.

The arms deal was agreed during Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's a two-day visit to Venezuela last March.

President Chavez said at the time that the boats would be used to step up Venezuela's coastal patrols against the drugs trade, while the transport planes would be used mainly for humanitarian missions inside and outside the country.

Tensions between Washington and Caracas have grown in recent months, in part because of US criticism over Venezuela's purchases of military equipment.

Story from BBC NEWS:"

Venezuela's Leader to Send Heating Oil to South Bronx - New York Times

Venezuela's Leader to Send Heating Oil to South Bronx - New York Times: "Venezuela's Leader to Send Heating Oil to South Bronx

A group of South Bronx residents will soon receive a large - and inexpensive - shipment of heating oil, courtesy of President Hugo Ch?vez of Venezuela, a frequent thorn in the side of the Bush administration.

Under an agreement between President Ch?vez and United States Representative Jos?E. Serrano, Citgo, the Houston-based American subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, will provide eight million gallons of discounted heating oil this winter to thousands of low-income residents of the South Bronx.

The populist government of the Venezuelan president is one of Latin America's most vocal critics of American-style capitalism. Mr. Ch?vez has led anti-Bush rallies in his country and has accused the United States of trying to kill him and invade his country.

The oil should start arriving late next week or early in the week of Dec. 5, Mr. Serrano, a Bronx Democrat, said in an interview yesterday. He said that the oil would be provided at 40 percent below the market rate.

'This is something that came as a result of conversations between me and President Ch?vez,' Mr. Serrano said. 'As part of our talk, he suggested that he wanted to ask Citgo to make home heating oil available to the poor of the South Bronx at a lower rate.'

Mr. Serrano said that the agreement provided 'an incredible message to other oil companies.'

'It tells them,' he said, 'that that if these people in Venezuela can share their profits with poorer communities, then they should, too.'

Earlier this year, two nonprofit Massachusetts groups signed an agreement with Citgo to provide discounted heating oil this winter to thousands of low-income residents.

Mr. Serrano said that there were some challenges in fine-tuning the program in the Bronx that were not encountered in Massachusetts.

In New York, he said, most of the low-income residents rent their apartments as opposed to being homeowners, as in Massachusetts.

The congressman added that the priority was to administer the program in such a way that the savings were passed to residents.

'In New York, most of the landlords are private landlords, and we don't really know how to get them to pass along those savings to the renters,' Mr. Serrano said. 'We suggested to the president that we start off with three nonprofit affordable housing community corporations in the South Bronx.'

Initially, Mr. Serrano said, the program will involve residents in about 200 apartments. He added that the agreements with the nonprofit groups call for residents to receive vouchers for rent reductions and for 'infrastructure and quality-of-life improvements' in the buildings.

China, India oil firms bid for Petro-Canada fields in Syria

China, India oil firms bid for Petro-Canada fields in Syria
: "SINGAPORE: China National Petroleum Corp and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp are jointly bidding for Petro-Canada's US$1bil oil and gas fields in Syria, a source said yesterday.

This is the first time the Chinese and Indian oil giants are teaming up in their efforts to buy overseas reserves to feed their booming economies.

The Syrian assets ? Petro-Canada's interest in a major Syrian oil and gas joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell-operated ? were valued at about US$1bil or more, said the source.

Petro-Canada said in September it might sell its 38% stake in the Shell-operated Al Furat venture in Syria, which accounts for about 70,000 barrels of oil equivalent of the company's daily output.

There were other bidders for the assets, the source said.

The source and analysts said Petro-Canada was selling the assets to reduce its political risk profile. ? Reuters

For another perspective from The Straits Times, a partner of Asia News Network, click here.

Latest business news from AP-Wire


Rumsfeld's Plan to Provoke Terrorists P2OG

Rumsfeld's Plan to Provoke Terrorists
"Proactive Preemptive Operations Group" (P2OG)

CounterPunch (
November 1, 2002
Title: "Into the Dark"
Author: Chris Floyd
Evaluator: Catherine Nelson Ph.D., Meri Storino Ph.D.
Student Researcher: Jennifer Scanlan

Corporate Media Coverage:
Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2002, "The Secret War", by William


According to a classified document, "Special Operations and Joint
Forces in Countering Terrorism" prepared for Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board, a new organization has
been created to thwart potential terrorist attacks on the United
States. This counter-terror operations group? the "Proactive
Preemptive Operations Group" (P2OG) will require 100 people and at
least $100 million a year. The team of covert counter-intelligence
agents will be responsible for secret missions designed to target
terrorist leaders. The secret missions are designed to "stimulate
reactions" among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing
violent acts which would then expose them to "counterattack" by U.S.

This means that the United States government is planning to use
secret military operations in order to provoke murderous terrorist
attacks on innocent people. In a strange twist of logic, it seems
the plan is to somehow combat terrorism by causing it. According to
the report, other strategies include stealing money from terrorist
cells or tricking them with fake communications. The Defense
Department already maintains a secretive counter-terror operations
group known as Delta Force that is called in when a crisis happens.

Exactly what type of actions would be required to "stimulate
reactions" by terrorist groups has yet to be revealed. When asked
questions regarding what measures would be taken, Pentagon sources
responded with, "Their sovereignty will be at risk."

The current P2OG program is not entirely new to the United States.
One similar program was Operation Northwoods. In 1963, America's top
military brass presented a plan to President John Kennedy that
called for a fake terrorist campaign ? complete with bombings,
hijackings, plane crashes and dead Americans ? to
provide "justification" for an invasion of Cuba, a Mafia/corporate
fiefdom which had recently been lost to Castro. Kennedy rejected the
plan, and was killed a few months later. Now Rumsfeld has
resurrected Northwoods, but on a far grander scale, with resources
at his disposal undreamed of by his predecessors, and no
counterbalancing global rival to restrain him.

Former president Nixon wanted such a group, but congress denied it;
President Reagan tried to use the National Security Council instead,
but ran into trouble with the Iran-Contra affair. Now, President
Bush may finally realize the dream.


Appropriately enough for a story about the deepest possible covert
operation ? penetrating terrorist cells and provoking them into
action ? the saga of the Pentagon's "Proactive, Preemptive
Operations Group" (P2OG) went straight back into the dark after
strutting its brief hour upon the stage. There has been no new
information about the group since it was first mentioned nationally
in the Los Angeles Times as part of a larger story on Pentagon plans
for new "secret armies." Was it funded? Is it operational? Has
it "flushed out" any terrorists lately by goading them
into "action"? Are any of the post-Iraq War spate of terrorist
atrocities linked to P2OG activities? We don't know. And with Donald
Rumsfeld's openly avowed penchant for "strategic misinformation,"
how will we ever know? Certainly the mainstream press has done
nothing to enlighten us. Although the CounterPunch article (which
appeared simultaneously in The Moscow Times) provoked a lively
response in the "alternative" media (print, web and radio), there
has not been a single subsequent mention of the group in the U.S.
national press. In the UK, John Pilger has raised warning flags
about P2OG in The New Statesman and the Daily Mirror, while The
Ecologist also ran a version of the CounterPunch article. The rest
is silence. At first glance, this decided lack of interest might
seem a curious reaction, given the American media's insatiable?and
profitable?obsession with terrorism. But the media's equally
intense, and equally profitable, abhorrence of moral ambiguity?
especially when it involves possible American complicity in mayhem
and murder?makes the silence easier to understand.


For more information see:
"The Secret War," by William Arkin, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27,
2002, at
"P2OG Allows Pentagon to Fight Dirty," David Isenberg, Asia Times,
Nov. 5, 2002, at
At excerpt from the partially classified Defense Science Board
briefing that proposed the creation of P2OG at
"Friendly Fire: Operation Northwoods,", May 1, 2001, at
John Pilger, The New Statesman, Dec. 12, 2002,

Tories stand by accusation linking Liberals to organized crime...more crooked politicians...quel surprise...

Tories stand by accusation linking Liberals to organized crime

Canadian Press

Friday, November 25, 2005

Prime Minister Paul Martin is demanding a pre-election apology from Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. (CP PHOTO/Adrian Wyld)

OTTAWA (CP) - Tories stood defiantly by their allegation linking the Liberals to organized crime and dared their opponents Friday to make the accusation a campaign issue.

They flatly rejected Liberal calls to apologize. Prime Minister Paul Martin demanded a retraction and his office threatened to sue over the comments by Stephen Harper, who told the Commons on Thursday that the sponsorship program was 'a front for massive kickbacks involving organized crime, used by the Liberal party to fill its own election coffers.'.

But the Conservative leader said he has nothing to apologize for. One of his top lieutenants dared Liberals to keep pushing the issue during the upcoming election.

'The prime minister has got it backwards,' Harper said in an interview.

'It's the Liberal party that needs to apologize to Canadians.'

Harper added that 'a Conservative government will ask the appropriate authorities to pursue the Liberal party for the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that are still missing.'

With pre-election mud-slinging setting the stage for a nasty campaign, the prime minister said his opponents should retract their allegation.

'Yesterday in the House of Commons, Mr. Harper made a statement concerning organized crime which is false,' Martin said on his way into a Kelowna, B.C. conference on aboriginal people.

'He should apologize and he should withdraw that statement.'

John Reynolds, the Tory election co-chair, was adamant there will be no apology:

'He's not getting one. It was a crime that was well-organized.'

Reynolds then cited testimony from the Gomery inquiry, which heard about envelopes stuffed with cash being handed out in restaurants and false paper trails hiding cash transfers to Liberals.

The sponsorship scandal has resulted in the criminal conviction of Montreal ad man Paul Coffin, while Jean Brault, another ad exec, and retired bureaucrat Chuck Guite also face charges.

And the RCMP is still looking into other possible crimes.

'There were crimes involved. The RCMP are investigating, money under the table, bags of cash,' Reynolds said.

'These were Liberals - no other political party in Canada. If they want to make this an election issue, good for them. . .

'Obviously when there's still $40.5 million missing that even (Justice John Gomery) with all his experts couldn't find, that's a very well organized crime.'

The dispute was just one of several slurs tossed back and forth between Tories and Liberals as the pre-election jockeying continues.

Martin wore a sombre expression as he spoke to reporters.

'This is not the first time Mr. Harper has made statements such as this in the shadow of an election campaign,' the prime minister said.

'Canadians deserve better. They want to see a national debate. They do not want to see a repetition of the kinds of acts and activities that we have seen during question period in the House of Commons over the course of the last year and a half.'

The Liberals are clearly hoping to exploit once again public distaste for campaign rough-tumble that crosses the line of good taste.
? The Canadian Press 2005"

Bechtel wins USAF contract -

Bechtel wins USAF contract - 2005-11-25 - San Francisco Business Times: "Bechtel wins USAF contract

Bechtel Corp. won a contingency support contract from the United States Air Force as one of six companies that will sell engineering, construction and support services to the military around the world.

The contract is part of the Air Force Contract Augmentation Program, according to a release on Bechtel's web site. The San Francisco company did not disclose the value of the deal, but the entire contract lasts 10 years and is worth $10 billion.

In order that a war or crisis requiring rapid response might not overwhelm a single company, six firms were awarded the contract. The deal requires the companies to respond to urgent jobs in the continental United States within 48 hours and to overseas crises within 72 hours.

Bechtel and the other companies -- Washington Group International, CH2M Global Services, URS/Berger JV, DynCorp International and Readiness Management Support -- were chosen by competitive bidding."

Dirty-bomb redux

WorldNetDaily: Dirty-bomb redux
By Gordon Prather
? 2005

On June 10, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft called a press conference in Moscow to announce that Abdullah Al Muhajir ? aka Jose Padilla ? had been arrested more than a month earlier at O'Hare International Airport by the FBI on a "material witness" warrant. Quoth Ashcroft:

I am pleased to announce today a significant step forward in the war on terrorism. We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or "dirty bomb," in the United States.

Let me be clear: We know from multiple independent and corroborating sources that Abdullah Al Muhajir was closely associated with al-Qaida and that as an al-Qaida operative he was involved in planning future terrorist attacks on innocent American civilians in the United States.

The safety of all Americans and the national security interests of the United States require that Abdullah Al Muhajir be detained by the Defense Department as an enemy combatant.

Finally, last week, the Justice Department got around to charging Padilla and four others ? apparently subject to FBI surveillance since at least 1996 ? with operating and/or participating in a North American "support cell" that sent money and mujahideen recruits to overseas conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Somalia and elsewhere.

In particular, the indictment alleges that in July 2000, Padilla [who had been in Egypt since 1998] filled out a "Mujahideen Data Form" ? under the name Abdullah al-Espani ? "in preparation for violent jihad training in Afghanistan."

What about the "dirty bomb"?

According to the Department of Justice, Padilla, while in Afghanistan, had suggested to his al-Qaida "handler," Abu Zubayda, that he construct a real nuke, using "plans" Padilla had found on the Internet.

Zubayda allegedly didn't think Padilla ? or anyone else in al-Qaida ? was capable of doing that. However, Zubayda allegedly did think Padilla might be able to construct a radiological dispersal device [aka "dirty bomb"] consisting of "uranium wrapped with explosives."

How did Ashcroft know what Padilla allegedly suggested to Zubayda? And how did Ashcroft know what Zubayda allegedly thought?

Well, Abu Zubayda was captured in Pakistan in April 2002 ? a month before Padilla showed up in Chicago with $10,000 in cash ? and has been held for interrogation ever since in one of those secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency.

So, maybe the CIA has extracted the truth from Zubayda, and maybe they haven't.

In particular, if uranium is actually the "radiological agent" that Zubayda suggested Padilla use, then Zubayda doesn't know diddley-squat about nukes ? "dirty" or otherwise.

You see, uranium is only weakly radioactive, emitting principally alpha particles, which won't even penetrate rubber gloves. True, uranium is a heavy metal, but unlike lead, is not a "bone seeker." In fact, if ingested in any form other than a fine aerosol, uranium passes right through the body.

Shortly after 9-11, the dirty bomb "experts" at the Federation of American Scientists told the world how to make one that would work.

The FAS "dirty bomb" was a "coffee jar" containing about a thousand curies of a true radiological material such as Cobalt-60.

[That's about the radiological source-strength of a medical radio-therapy unit used to irradiate cancer patients.]

A successful bomb would have to be designed with great sophistication, first to break open the "coffee jar," then to gradually heat the radioactive source so that it vaporized, and finally to scatter it to the winds.

No explosion? Gradually heat the radioactive source? Scatter vapor to the winds?

What's terrifying about that?

The only person who would die right away would be the dolt who transported a thousand-curie gamma-ray source into the mall in a coffee jar.

There are estimated to be more than 10,000 medical radiotherapy units and 12,000 industrial radiographic units in operation, worldwide. Many are "orphans". That is, no one knows where many of them ? still potentially dangerous ? are.

Thieves have stolen several medical radiotherapy units ? not knowing what they had stolen ? and sold them as scrap metal. The lead shielding weighs about a ton.

In the worst incident ? in 1987 in Brazil ? the thieves removed the highly radioactive source from the shielded unit. Result? Five persons died within days and others got life-threatening doses of radiation.

How many might Padilla's "dirty bomb" have killed? Well, that would depend upon how much explosive he used.

So, if Padilla is convicted, it certainly will be "a significant step forward in the war on terrorism." Ashcroft will probably get the Medal of Freedom.

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Defense hawk Dicks says he now sees war as a mistake

The Seattle Times: Defense hawk Dicks says he now sees war as a mistake
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Norm Dicks is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Dicks is no longer a member of that committee, although he participated in various intelligence briefings about Iraq.

Defense hawk Dicks says he now sees war as a mistake

By Alicia Mundy
Seattle Times Washington bureau

WASHINGTON ? It was after 11 p.m. on Friday when Rep. Norm Dicks finally left the Capitol, fresh from the heated House debate on the Iraq war. He was demoralized and angry.

Sometime during the rancorous, seven-hour floor fight over whether to immediately withdraw U.S. troops, one Texas Republican compared those who question America's military strategy in Iraq to the hippies and "peaceniks" who protested the Vietnam War and "did terrible things to troop morale."

The House was in a frenzy over comments by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who had called for the troops to leave Iraq in six months. In response, the White House initially likened Murtha, a 37-year veteran of the Marines and an officer in Vietnam, to lefty moviemaker Michael Moore.

Then a new Republican representative from Ohio, Jean Schmidt, relayed a message to the House that she said she had received from a Marine colonel in her district: "Cowards cut and run; Marines never do."

During much of the debate, Dicks, a Democrat from Bremerton, huddled in the Democrats' cloakroom with Murtha, a longtime friend. Both men are known for their strong support of the military over the years. Now, they felt, that record was being questioned.

"There was a lot of anger back there," Dicks said in an interview this week. "It was powerful. I can't remember anything quite as traumatic as this in my history here."

Near midnight, he drove to his D.C. home, poured a drink and wondered how defense hawks like he and Murtha had gotten lumped in with peaceniks by their colleagues and the administration.

And he thought about all that had happened over the past couple of years to change his mind about the war in Iraq.

Voted to back Bush

In October 2002, Dicks voted loudly and proudly to back President Bush in a future deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq ? one of two Washington state Democratic House members to do so. Adam Smith, whose district includes Fort Lewis, was the other.

Dicks thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and wouldn't hesitate to use them against the United States.

After visiting Iraq early in the war, "Norm told me the Iraqis were going to be throwing petals at American troops," Murtha said in an interview this week.

Dicks now says it was all a mistake ? his vote, the invasion, and the way the United States is waging the war.

While he disagrees with Murtha's conclusion that U.S. troops should be withdrawn within six months, Dicks said, "He may well be right if this insurgency goes much further."

"The insurgency has gotten worse and worse," he said. "That's where Murtha's rationale is pretty strong ? we're talking a lot of casualties with no success in sight. The American people obviously know that this war is a mistake."

Dicks, a former member of the House Intelligence Committee, says he's particularly angry about the intelligence that supported going to war.

Without the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), he said, he would "absolutely not" have voted for the war.

The Bush administration has accused some members of Congress of rewriting history by claiming the president misled Americans about the reasons for going to war. Congress, the administration says, saw the same intelligence and agreed Iraq was a threat.

But Dicks says the intelligence was "doctored." And he says the White House didn't plan for and deploy enough troops for the growing insurgency.

"A lot of us relied on [former CIA director] George Tenet. We had many meetings with the White House and CIA, and they did not tell us there was a dispute between the CIA, Commerce or the Pentagon on the WMDs," he said.

He and Murtha tended to give the military, the CIA and the White House the benefit of the doubt, Dicks says. But he now says he and his colleagues should have pressed much harder for answers.

"Norm ... has agonized"

"All of us have gone through a difficult period, but Norm really has agonized," Murtha said this week.

Murtha and Dicks were appointed to the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee in 1979, three years after Dicks first was elected to Congress. They rarely have disagreed, especially in their support of the military.

In October 2002, Dicks made an impassioned speech during the House debate over whether to authorize the president to send troops to Iraq without waiting for the United Nations to act.

"Based on the briefings I have had, and based on the information provided by our intelligence agencies to members of Congress, I now believe there is credible evidence that Saddam Hussein has developed sophisticated chemical and biological weapons, and that he may be close to developing a nuclear weapon," Dicks said at the time.

By spring 2003, U.N. weapons inspectors said they hadn't found hard evidence of WMDs in Iraq. But Dicks remained convinced of Iraq's threat.

"We're going to find things [Saddam] had not disclosed," he said shortly before the war began in March 2003. "There is no doubt about that. Period. Underlined."

By June of that year, with no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons found, Dicks remained steadfast in his support for the war but called for a congressional inquiry into the intelligence agencies' work on Iraq. "I think the American people deserve to know what happened and why it happened," he said at the time.

That same month, Dicks was upset when a good friend, Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, was forced into retirement after telling Congress that the secretary of defense was not sending enough troops to win the peace.

Growing doubts

On July 6, 2003, Dicks awoke to read the now-famous New York Times opinion piece by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had been sent on a CIA mission to investigate a report that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear materials in Africa.

Wilson wrote that he had found no evidence of such Iraqi intentions and criticized Bush for making the claim in his State of the Union address two months before the invasion.

"That Joe Wilson article was very troubling," Dicks said.

Dicks grew somber about Iraq. Rep. Jim McDermott, who represents Seattle and had opposed the war from the start, talked with him about it.

"Norm is a lot like Jack Murtha. These are guys with a somewhat different philosophy than me," McDermott said recently. "This an extremely difficult time for them because they have to reassess what they were led to believe" about prewar intelligence.

The White House maintains it did nothing to mischaracterize what it knew about Iraq and its weapons.

Dicks' private concerns became more public two months ago. At a breakfast fundraiser on Capitol Hill, Dicks surprised the guests with a tough talk against the war.

The White House last Friday called Dicks to gauge his support. House GOP leaders were pushing for a vote on a resolution they hoped would put Democrats on the spot by forcing them to either endorse an immediate troop withdrawal or stay the course in Iraq.

Dicks said he told the White House that "their attack on Murtha was the most outrageous comment I've ever heard."

The resolution, denounced by Democrats, ultimately was defeated 403-3.

Dicks says the Pentagon should begin a phased withdrawal and leave some troops to help maintain order and train a new Iraq army. "We've got to be very concerned that Iraq comes out of this whole," he said.

But he added, "We can't take forever."

Some people say it takes eight to nine years to control an insurgency, Dicks said.

"I don't think the American people will give eight to nine years, and I sure as heck won't."

Alicia Mundy: XXXXXXX

Gun-related crime more common all over: cops---yes, in quiet Vancouver even...

Gun-related crime more common all over: cops: "By Janis Cleugh
The Tri-City News
Nov 25 2005

A number of incidents involving firearms have happened in Tri-City

Gun-related crimes are now common around the Lower Mainland - not just in the Tri-Cities, Mounties say.
'The number of gun incidents are going up everywhere,' said Coquitlam RCMP Const. Dave Babineau, who noted, 'One shooting in the community is alarming.'
Monday, police investigated a report of a 30-year-old Coquitlam man who accidentally shot himself in the leg while playing with a stolen handgun at a friend's house in Port Coquitlam; he initially told officials he was shot while being robbed, Babineau said, and now faces charges of mischief and possession of stolen property.
Sunday at 4:45 a.m., a 22-year-old Abbotsford man was targeted during a shooting in the 700-block of North Road. The victim, who is known to police, was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries, Babineau said.
And Nov. 12, a 49-year-old Coquitlam man, also known to police, was shot at around 1 a.m. near Foster Avenue and Robinson Street. The incident was not a random attack, police said.
Other local gun-related incidents in the past three months include:
a drive-by shooting in the 600-block of Lost Lake Drive;
an attempted grow of rip with a shotgun at the wrong house in the 1100-block of Como Lake Avenue;
an armed robbery at Little Caesar's Pizza at 1175 Johnson St.;
a hold-up with a handgun at Quizno's at 435 North Rd.; and
a shooting in the courtyard at a Port Moody apartment complex during an apparent drug rip-off that left a woman with a bullet in her brain; she is now on life-support.
Other police news:

A suspected car thief crashed the vehicle he was driving early Monday after leading police on a high-speed chase through downtown Port Coquitlam.
The driver of the Dodge Neon was arrested after he was found by a police dog hiding near the intersection of Shaughnessy Street and Wilson Avenue. He faces charges of possession of stolen property, breach of probation and breach of recognizance.

A commuter parked on the side of the road to check his truck fluid levels was assaulted and had his vehicle stolen last Friday.
The theft happened shortly before 11 a.m. Nov. 18 in the 900-block of Tupper Avenue when the suspect approach the driver and slammed the hood down on his head three times, then made off with his truck.
Coquitlam RCMP located the vehicle eastbound on Mary Hill bypass a short time later and followed it into a cul de sac. The driver was arrested after a short foot chase.
The suspect faces charges of robbery, possession of stolen property and breach of recognizance."