Saturday, February 18, 2006

Fear Escalates on Foreign Control of Ports on Yahoo! News

Print Story: Fear Escalates on Foreign Control of Ports on Yahoo! News

Fear Escalates on Foreign Control of Ports

By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer 21 minutes ago

A New Jersey congressman said Saturday he wants to require that security officials at U.S. ports be American citizens to prevent overseas companies operating shipping facilities here from hiring foreigners in such sensitive positions.

Republican Frank A. LoBiondo, chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, cited "significant" security concerns over a $6.8 billion sale that gives a company in the United Arab Emirates control over operations at six major American ports.

LoBiondo said he wants the new mandatory citizenship requirements approved by Congress and President Bush before state-owned Dubai Ports World completes its pending purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

The British company, the world's fourth-largest ports company, runs major commercial operations at shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

The Bush administration earlier approved the deal, which has drawn escalating criticism by lawmakers who maintain the United Arab Emirates is not consistent in its support of U.S. terrorism-fighting efforts.

Caught by surprise over the breadth of concerns expressed in the United States, Dubai Ports World is cautiously organizing its response. The company quietly dispatched advisers to reassure port officials along the East Coast, and its chief operating officer — internationally respected American shipping executive Edward "Ted" H. Bilkey — was expected to travel to Washington soon for meetings on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is defending its approval of the sale, and strongly resisting demands by Congress to reconsider.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack described the United Arab Emirates on Friday as "a long-standing friend and ally" and said the United States and UAE had a good relationship.

Bush visited the port in Tampa, Fla., on Friday but did not mention the dispute. Bush said an important element of defeating terrorism was taking precautions domestically and working with local officials.

"We've got to protect ourselves by doing smart things in America," Bush said. "I appreciate working with the mayors on homeland security issues."

But one of those mayors, Martin O'Malley of Baltimore, criticized Bush's approval of the ports deal as an "outrageous, reckless and irresponsible decision" and urged the president to reconsider.

O'Malley, co-chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Task Force on Homeland Security, also is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Maryland.

"I think that they did not take into account the vulnerability of America's ports," O'Malley said Saturday in a telephone interview. "I think Congress needs to have further hearings on these things."

He said only 5 percent of the shipments into the nation's ports are inspected, calling that a stark contrast to Hong Kong, which inspects 100 percent of shipments.

Dubai Ports World declined through a spokesman to respond to O'Malley's remarks.

In New York, families of some victims from the September 2001 terror attacks planned to criticize the deal Sunday during a press conference with Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), a leading critic of the sale. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he is dubious any assurances can justify the UAE's involvement in American ports.

Schumer and others have cited the UAE's history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks against New York and Washington.

"A lot of families are incensed by this, because you're talking about the safety of the country," said William Doyle, whose son Joseph died at the World Trade Center. "We have a problem already in our ports because all of our containers aren't checked, but now they want to add this unknown? It's not right."

LoBiondo's legislative proposal would amend federal maritime laws to require facility security officers, which operate at terminals in every U.S. port, to be American citizens. LoBiondo said there now are no citizenship requirements, which he said permits foreign companies with a stake in U.S. terminal operations to employ security officers who are not Americans.

"We cannot be lax about our nation's security nor fail to recognize that our ports are realistic targets of terrorists," LoBiondo said.


Associated Press Writer Brian Witte in Baltimore contributed to this report.

Missing the Scandal at Abu Ghraib

Missing the Scandal at Abu Ghraib

By Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet
Posted on February 16, 2006, Printed on February 17, 2006

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr should be given some kind of
award for the most outrageously off-target reporting on the newly
released photos and videos of U.S. torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu
Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In her numerous appearances during the morning news cycle on CNN after
the images were first broadcast on Australia's SBS television, Starr
described what she saw as the "root of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal" as

"Let's start by reminding everybody that under U.S. military law and
practice, the only photographs that can be taken are official
photographs for documentation purposes about the status of prisoners
when they are in military detention. That's it. Anything else is not
acceptable. And of course, that is what the Abu Ghraib Prison
scandal is all about."

What? Here I thought the "scandal" was that the U.S. military was
systematically abusing prisoners. These new photos, with their
documentation of violently inflicted open wounds, obliterate any notion
that what occurred at Abu Ghraib was anything short of torture by all
accepted definitions of the term. They reveal some horrifying scenes of
naked, humiliated, bloodied prisoners, some with apparent gunshot
wounds. In a video broadcast on Australia's SBS, naked, hooded prisoners
were seen being forced to masturbate in front of the camera.

But, according to CNN's Starr, the real transgression was that some
soldiers documented the torture in violation of "U.S. military law and

In a report later in the morning, Starr returned to her outrageous
characterization of the "scandal," beginning her report:

"As we look at a couple of the photographs, let's remind people why
these are so inappropriate. Under U.S. military law and practice and
procedure, you simply cannot take photographs -- as we're going to
show you some of them right now. You cannot take photographs of
people in detention, in humiliating positions, positions that are
abusive in any way, shape or form. The only pictures that are ever
allowed of people in U.S. military detention would be pictures for
documentation purposes. And, clearly, these pictures are not that.
That is the whole issue that has been at the root of the Abu Ghraib
prison scandal, that it was abusive, the practices in which soldiers
engaged in."

"You cannot take photographs of people in detention, in humiliating
positions, positions that are abusive in any way, shape or form,"
according to Starr. But apparently it's OK to place them in those
humiliating, abusive positions -- or at least not worth commenting on in
these reports on CNN.

Starr continued her report, describing Pentagon reaction to the newly
released photos:

"But the Pentagon certainly is not happy that these pictures, these
additional pictures, which had not been distributed publicly in the
past, Pentagon not happy that they are out. And the reason is, the
Pentagon had filed a lawsuit trying to prevent their publication in
the United States out of concern, they say, that it would spark
violence in the Arab world to see these photographs, and it would
put U.S. military forces at risk."

The release of the photographs will spark the violence? No -- U.S.
torture of prisoners sparks massive outrage and justifiably so.
Moreover, this outrage should not just be confined to the "Arab world"
but should be felt everywhere, particularly in the United States.
Besides, Pentagon lawyers have already tried this defense in federal
court, and a judge ruled that fear of facing the consequences of your
actions is not a legitimate defense.

Starr concluded another report saying the Pentagon is concerned that if
the images "appear in the Islamic world, they are concerned they will
incite unrest in the Islamic world and therefore put U.S. military
troops at risk."

CNN anchor Zain Vergee then shot back, "And they were swiftly put on
Arab TV. As you say, they're out there."

They were swiftly put on Arab TV. Is there something devious about that?
Is "Arab TV" somehow committing some transgression against freedom and
democracy by broadcasting these images that were first put out by
Australian TV in a country Bush claims as his ally?

All of the images of the torture at Abu Ghraib should be made public, as
the Center for Constitutional Rights and ACLU have been fighting for,
because they are an accurate representation of what has happened and
continues to happen in U.S.-run and -supported gulags around the world.

When and if they are released, Barbara Starr should be reminded that she
is supposed to be a CNN reporter at the Pentagon, not a Pentagon
spokesperson on CNN.

/ Jeremy Scahill is a correspondent for the national radio and TV
program Democracy Now! and a Puffin Writing
Fellow at The Nation Institute. /

� 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: - Thermoelectric company gets CIA fund backing - Thermoelectric company gets CIA fund backing

Thermoelectric company gets CIA fund backing

Peter Clarke
(02/17/2006 10:04 AM EST)

LONDON — Nextreme Thermal Solutions Inc., a developer of thin-film superlattice thermoelectric material and on-chip thermoelectric devices, has made a strategic investment agreement with In-Q-Tel, a venture group funded by CIA and the U.S. intelligence community.

Nextreme (Research Triangle Park, NC), which announced an $8 million Series A round of financing in February 2005, did not reveal the amount of money it had or was set to receive from In-Q-Tel.

The technology is based on a superlattice thermoelectric material of bismuth telluride, which Nextreme has been working on since 1993. Embedded thermoelectric components (eTECs) can be used to cool hotspots on both semiconductor and optoelectronic integrated circuits. They can also be used to control the temperature of temperature-sensitive components, such as photonics, DNA chips, and asynchronous logic circuits. The same devices can also be used as power generators, scavenging waste heat and converting into electricity. Nextreme said.

“This agreement will help provide a new channel into the intelligence community and government programs at large, which could lead to new applications for Nextreme's technology,” said Jesko von Windheim, chief executive officer of Nextreme, in a statement.

“We invested in Nextreme because its advances in the field of thermal management promise significant impact in a wide variety of both commercial and intelligence-related markets,” said William Johnson, a principal at In-Q-Tel, in the same statement.

U.S. to spend $5 million for reformers in Syria

Reuters AlertNet - U.S. to spend $5 million for reformers in Syria

U.S. to spend $5 million for reformers in Syria
17 Feb 2006 21:33:02 GMT
Source: Reuters
WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - The United States will hand out about $5 million in grants to democratic reformers in Syria, the State Department announced on Friday.

It did not indicate which Syrian groups would get the funds but said they were aimed at "accelerating the work of reformers". A Web site has been set up for people to apply for grants (

"The United States stands firmly with courageous men and women struggling for their freedom across the Middle East, including in Syria," said senior State Department official Elizabeth Cheney, who announced the grants.

The United States is at loggerheads with Syria over what it sees as interference in Iraq and neighboring Lebanon. It also accuses Syria of not cooperating with a U.N. inquiry into the murder of the Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Cheney, the daughter of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, said the people of Syria deserved the opportunity to build a better future and "live in freedom" and these grants were aimed at encouraging this.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has put promoting democracy at the heart of her foreign policy platform but many in the Middle East are wary of U.S. intentions.

Arab states insist any change must come from within rather than being forced from the outside and they interpret U.S. attempts to impose democracy as meddling.

The money for Syrian grants comes from the U.S. government's so-called Middle East Partnership Initiative, which was announced in 2002 to promote reforms in the Middle East and North Africa.

So far, it has been given nearly $300 million for more than 350 projects in 14 countries and the Palestinian territories.

The Syrian grant program follows an announcement this week that the Bush administration will ask Congress for $75 million to expand television broadcasts in Iran as part of a campaign to boost democracy there.

The United States is trying to isolate Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program. Iran denies it is trying to build a bomb and says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes

US 'smears to keep Venezuela off UN council' News - International - US 'smears to keep Venezuela off UN council'

Venezuela: Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel has accused the US of trying to block Venezuela from a seat on the UN Security Council through a smear campaign.

He was responding to comments reportedly made by John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, that Venezuela's addition to the 15-member council would be undesirable.

Indonesia: Police arrested two men and seized 3000 detonators and fuses they said came from a passenger ferry that originated in Malaysia.

The devices were seized on a ferry in Nunukan on the Indonesian side of Borneo.

This article:

Venezuela may cut off oil exports to US :

Venezuela may cut off oil exports to US :

Associated Press

Caracas, February 18, 2006

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned on Friday that he could cut off oil exports to the United States if Washington continues its efforts to destabilise his left-leaning government.

Chavez statements came a day after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Venezuelan government posed "one of the biggest problems" in the region and that its ties to Cuba were "particularly dangerous" to democracy in Latin America.

"The government of the United States should know that if they go over the line, they are not going to have Venezuelan oil," said Chavez, a self-styled "revolutionary" and close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

"I have already taken measures regarding this. I'm not going to say what because they think that I can't take these measures because we would not have any place to send the oil. They are mistaken," he added.

Speaking to government supporters at the presidential palace, Chavez said "many countries ask us for more oil and we have had to tell many countries we can't send them more" because Venezuela -- the world's fifth largest oil exporter -- ships 1.5 million barrels of oil a day to the United States.

Relations between Chavez and the administration of US President George W Bush hit new lows in recent days after Washington expelled a high-ranking Venezuelan diplomat in response to Chavez booting out a US embassy official for alleged spying.

Earlier Friday, Venezuela demanded an explanation from Washington for being labeled one of Latin America's biggest threats as a visiting US State Department delegation aimed to ease tensions between the governments.

"We are going to ask for an explanation, we've already done so verbally," said Maripili Hernandez, Venezuela's vice minister for North America.

Hernandez said a written demand was being sent to the State Department asking it to clarify Rice's comments.

Infiltrating Iran Print This Story

Infiltrating Iran
Feb. 17, 2006(CBS) Senior officials in Washington may not see it this way but programs announced this week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certainly appear to be designed to undermine, if not overthrow, the regime in Tehran. Clearly, Rice and other senior officials in her department don’t want to talk about advocating regime change using that term, but what else can the aim be?

In testimony before several Congressional committees, Rice asked for an additional $75 million to go with $10 million already available to promote democracy and democratic reforms in Iran. An excerpt from Rice’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said "The United States will actively confront the aggressive policies of the Iranian regime. At the same time, we will work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy in their country."

On the one hand, no one -— including Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -— should be surprised. On the other hand, he was elected by the Iranian people and sees this as an effort to remove him. Meanwhile, at every opportunity, Bush administration officials question the legitimacy of the election since perhaps as many as a thousand candidates were not allowed to have their names on the ballots.

The $85 million dollars requested would be used for a variety of programs ranging from increased hours of radio and television broadcasts beamed into Iran by the VOA, Radio Farda and possibly other outlets which would broadcast in Farsi; for the organization of civil society and non-governmental groups which would promote democratic ends, and for scholarships and fellowships to bring Iranian students to the United States to study.

Senior officials who briefed reporters at the State Department acknowledged the difficulty of launching and supporting some of these programs, because the Iranian regime is very good at infiltrating them. "It is probably impossible right now to find a group inside Iran that you could be confident wasn’t infiltrated," said one official who worked to develop the program. "We understand very well that people we begin to work with will become targets and so, I think you will see us as not being as public as we might otherwise be about specific individuals we’re working with," the official said.

There is almost nothing the Bush administration likes about the regime in Tehran. At the top of the list of complaints is Iran’s effort to gain the capability, as Washington sees it, to build nuclear weapons. For many years now, Iran has been at the top of America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism because of its support for Hezbollah, Hamas and other groups.

As if these two problem areas were not enough reason to be unhappy with Iranian policy, another senior official this week expressed what he said was "acute concern" not only over the first two issues but also another which he and Rice call a "democracy deficit" in Iran. It is to address this last concern that Rice asked for the extra money from Congress this week.

The patient yet persistent diplomatic effort by the administration over the past year has made very good progress, especially its effort to persuade most of the rest of the world that Iran’s nuclear aim is military, not civilian. To that end, the United States was joined not only by its European allies, but also by Russia, China, Egypt, Brazil and others in a move to take Iran before the U.N. Security Council, where more pressure and the possibility of sanctions confront the regime. In an interview with CBS News, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said Iran’s action this week to resume work on uranium enrichment crossed what he called an "international red line."

There are analysts in Washington who say the diplomatic successes of the past year have come in part, precisely because of such moves by the Iranian regime, which, together with bellicose and outrageous statements made by Iran’s Ahmadinejad related to Israel’s existence and a denial of the Holocaust, have helped the Bush administration drive Iran to the point where it faces security council restrictions, which is why some found the administration’s new programs to support democracy announced this week counterproductive.

"It is unfathomable," said Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "they would essentially announce they were trying to overthrow the Iranian government. If there’s anything that would harm the coalition more, I don’t know what it is."

For the Bush administration, it is all about applying pressure on the regime in Tehran. And the effort isn’t going to stop simply with Washington’s actions. Efforts are being discussed to get the Europeans to threaten the placement of economic restrictions on their trade with Iran and late in the week, Rice herself signaled an effort to get Iran’s regional neighbors to play a role.

Speaking to Arab-based media in Washington before her departure next week for the Middle East and Persian Gulf, Rice, according to wire reports, said "I would hope that those states who are worried about this (the potential of Iran’s nuclear weapons capability)… are prepared to really say to the Iranians: 'You are going to be isolated from us too if you continue down this road.'"

Perhaps the full court press is on because Washington wants to seize the moment at a time it perceives Tehran vulnerable to outside pressure. Or maybe it’s just another way to wield the administration’s democracy hammer against a regime it not only doesn’t like, but also refuses to talk to.

Charles M. Wolfson ©MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

Russia Warns U.S. Against Striking Iran

Russia Warns U.S. Against Striking Iran

Associated Press Writer


Russia's top military chief on Thursday warned the United States against launching a military strike against Iran and a top diplomat voiced hope that close cooperation with China could help resolve the Tehran nuclear crisis.

With tension mounting over Iran's nuclear programs, Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the chief of Russia's general staff, warned the United States against attacking Iran.

"A military scenario can't be ruled out," Baluyevsky was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

He said that while Iran's military potential cannot compare to the United States', "it is hard to predict how the Muslim world will respond to the use of force against Iran."

"This may stir the whole world, and it is crucial to prevent anything like that," Baluyevsky was quoted as saying.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alekseyev, meanwhile, said that cooperation with China could help push Iran toward accepting Moscow's offer to host Iran's uranium enrichment program.

The Russian proposal has become a centerpiece of international efforts to defuse tensions over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"We are counting on the continuation of close contacts with our Chinese colleagues and other interested countries," Alekseyev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. He added, however, that the Iranian nuclear issue recently had become "sharper," and "it is too early to assess the effectiveness of our joint steps to resolve it."

Iran's ambassador to Moscow said Thursday that Tehran hoped Russia would be able to help resolve the international crisis surrounding the Iranian nuclear program.

"Taking into account the good relations between Russia and Iran, I hope that together we can overcome this crisis which has arisen recently," Gholamreza Ansari said at a meeting with Russian lawmakers.

Ansari confirmed that a delegation is expected to travel to Moscow on Monday to discuss the proposal. He would not say who will lead it, but the Interfax news agency quoted Vyacheslav Moshkalo, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Tehran, as saying that the team will be headed by Javad Vaeidi, Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said after his discussions with the ambassador that he was satisfied that the Iranians would be coming in good faith.

"Iran understands the seriousness of the situation and is ready to continue discussions between experts to reach a compromise on the Russian proposal," he said. He said he had received assurances that "the delegation is getting ready for talks and will have all the necessary authority for conducting negotiations."

Kosachev also sharply criticized Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks in which he called for Israel's destruction and questioned whether the Holocaust occurred.

"Such statements don't help strengthen Iran's international prestige," he said with Ansari standing at his side.

A Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the strong international consensus developed so far, including Russia, "is probably the strongest instrument we have going right now in trying to influence Iranian behavior."

Moscow is deeply concerned about the current Iranian regime's prospects for acquiring nuclear weapons, not only because Russia is geographically located close to Iran, but also because of the impact that could have on other Middle East players' nuclear aspirations, including Saudi Arabia's, the diplomat said.

The diplomat also noted that by aspiring to a central role in resolving the Iran crisis, Russia wanted to show that it could use the contacts it has built up over the years _ including direct communications with the Iranians _ to advance the concerns of the international community.

Israel mulls sanctions as Hamas takes control

Independent Online Edition > Middle East

Israel mulls sanctions as Hamas takes control
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Published: 18 February 2006

Israel will consider whether to impose a tough new series of restrictions on Palestinians tomorrow in the wake of today's meeting at which Hamas will assume majority control of the new Palestinian parliament.

The acting Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, put off until then a decision on a series of options put to him yesterday by officials and ministers for what could amount to a virtual diplomatic and economic blockade of a Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA).

The measures are designed to increase the difficulties faced by an incoming Hamas administration unless the faction reverses its previous stances by recognising Israel, renouncing violence and agreeing to honour previous agreements between the old PA and Israel.

Dov Wesiglass, a senior Prime Ministerial adviser, has already been quoted in Israeli media as saying the government intends "to put the Palestinians on a diet but not to starve them".

But amid some European and American pressure not to inflict fresh and premature hardship on the Palestinian public itself, yesterday's meeting agreed to delay a decision until at least after today's meeting of the new Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The new PLC members will be sworn in and addressed by the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas.

The only firm decision taken at yesterday's meeting was to continue the bar on newly elected Hamas parliamentarians based in Gaza -- who include the likely new Prime Minister, Ismael Haniyeh -- from travelling to Ramallah for today's meeting. The proceedings in both centres will therefore be linked by video conferencing facilities.

Israel has already indicated that it is not intending to remit to the PA the next $50m monthly tranche of duties it collects on the authority's behalf, although officials said that a final decision on this may not be taken until the end of the month.

The most draconian proposals are being canvassed by the Defence Ministry and include measures to isolate Gaza further by halting the modest flow of workers allowed to enter Israel and halt the passage of all but vital supplies through the main Karni cargo crossing.

Mark Regev, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Israel was now in "watch and wait mode" to see what positions Hamas would take today after the swearing-in. "We're waiting to see what happens tomorrow in Ramallah," he said.

It was not fully clear yesterday how far Mr Abbas will go today towards insisting that Hamas abide by the conditions laid down by Israel and the international community for contacts and funding for the PA.

In a reference to the outgoing administration's pursuit of a two-state solution, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior presidential aide, declared: "Any new government should be a continuation of the previous government. They have to say this publicly and in writing." Mr Rdeneh said it was too early to say what action Mr Abbas would take if Hamas refused to adopt his programme.

Israeli officials said Mr Olmert, leader of the new Kadima party, would ponder over the weekend what sanctions to recommend to his Cabinet. The debate within Israel on the issue has been sharpened by the first sparring in the campaign running up to elections on March 28. The right-wing Likud party, under Benjamin Netanyahu, is agitating for the toughest possible stance against Hamas.

Mr Haniyeh said the group's supporters would weather what he called Israel's "policies of oppression and collective punishment". Mushir al-Masri, an incoming Hamas legislator, said he expected a compromise between the faction and Mr Abbas which would lead to the formation of a Palestinian Cabinet.

Turkey-Israel rift over Hamas visit News - Latest News - Turkey-Israel rift over Hamas visit

Turkey-Israel rift over Hamas visit

A visit by the exiled political leader of Hamas to the Turkish capital Ankara has triggered a new diplomatic rift between US allies Israel and Turkey, two years after the Turkish premier accused Israel of engaging in state terrorism against Palestinians.

Turkey rejected Israeli criticism of the visit of Khaled Mashaal and said an Israeli spokesman's comparison of the Palestinian group to Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey was an "unfortunate statement."

Mashaal met on Thursday with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, prompting Israel's government spokesman Raanan Gissin to condemn the visit in an interview with Turkey's private NTV television.

Mashaal flew by commercial plane from Ankara to Istanbul later, from where he is expected to return to Syria.

"How would you feel if we got together with Abdullah Ocalan?" Gissin asked NTV, referring to the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdish guerrilla group fighting for autonomy in Turkey's southeast.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Israeli spokesman had made "an unfortunate statement."

"We think the comparison in this statement is totally baseless and wrong," the ministry statement said. "We relayed our discomfort and dissatisfaction with this statement to Israel." The ministry also suggested that the Israeli remarks were prompted by Israeli "domestic political concerns."

Ocalan's rebels have been fighting for autonomy in the largely Kurdish southeast since 1984 in a war which has claimed more than 37,000 lives. Both Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and Hamas are branded as terrorist organisations by the US State Department.

Turkey, which has close ties with both Israel and the Palestinians, has been urging Hamas - which won a landslide victory in legislative elections last month - to reject violence as it assembles a new Palestinian government.

Meanwhile, Mashaal has called on the world to stop seeing the newly elected Palestinian representatives through the eyes of Israel. "We want the world, and especially the countries in the West, to understand us, to understand Hamas well, to understand the will of the Palestinian people, the national goals of Hamas and the Palestinian people," he said.

© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2006, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Professor McCoy Exposes the History of CIA Interrogation

Professor McCoy Exposes the History of CIA Interrogation

Democracy Now

Professor McCoy Exposes the History of CIA Interrogation
From the Cold War to the War on Terror

Professor Alfred McCoy talks about his book “A Question of Torture”, a startling expose of the CIA development of psychological torture from the Cold War to Abu Ghraib. CIA mercenaries attempted to assassinate McCoy more than 30 years ago.

Transmission date: 02/17/06

Listen to Segment || Download Show mp3
Watch 128k stream Watch 256k stream

We now take a look at what lies behind the shocking images of torture at Abu Ghraib by turning to the history of the CIA and torture techniques. The International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International and other human rights groups say the recently released images of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib show a clear violation of international humanitarian law. The U.S. made a pledge against torture when Congress ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1994 - but it was ratified with reservations that exempted the CIA’s psychological torture method. So what were the results?

A new expose gives an account of the CIA’s secret efforts to develop new forms of torture spanning fifty years. It reveals how the CIA perfected its methods, distributing them across the world from Vietnam to Iran to Central America, uncovering the roots of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo torture scandals. The book is titled "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror."

* Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Author of “A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror” and also “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.”

To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Espionage and the First Amendment- by Justin Raimondo

Espionage and the First Amendment- by Justin Raimondo

Espionage and the
First Amendment
Spycraft, free speech, and the AIPAC espionage case
by Justin Raimondo

Is there a First Amendment right to steal and transmit vital U.S. secrets to a foreign power? Viet Dinh, the intellectual author of the PATRIOT Act – and a rising star among the neoconservative legal theorists who have commandeered the Justice Department in the service of presidential omnipotence – thinks so.

In the latest development in the AIPAC spy case, in which two longtime employees of one of the most powerful lobbies in the Washington are charged with passing classified information to Israeli officials, Dinh has submitted a legal brief [.pdf] that, in so many words, asserts exactly that.

Dinh starts out by citing none other than Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who, at his press conference announcing the indictment of Scooter Libby, explained why he did not prosecute under the terms of the Espionage Act. The context is in response to a question about Valerie Plame's covert status:

"And all I'll say is that if national defense information which is involved because her affiliation with the CIA, whether or not she was covert, was classified, if that was intentionally transmitted, that would violate the statute known as Section 793, which is the Espionage Act.

"That is a difficult statute to interpret. It's a statute you ought to carefully apply.

"I think there are people out there who would argue that you would never use that to prosecute the transmission of classified information, because they think that would convert that statute into what is in England the Official Secrets Act.

"Let me back up. The average American may not appreciate that there's no law that's specifically just says, 'If you give classified information to somebody else, it is a crime.' There may be an Official Secrets Act in England. There are some narrow statutes, and there is this one statute that has some flexibility in it.

"So there are people who should argue that you should never use that statute because it would become like the Official Secrets Act. I don't buy that theory, but I do know you should be very careful in applying that law because there are a lot of interests that could be implicated in making sure that you picked the right case to charge that statute."

I have bolded the portions omitted by Dinh, in hopes of underscoring what are really Fitzgerald's key points. The important phrase here, of course, is "I don't buy that theory" – and neither, we hope, will the jury in the AIPAC case. Dinh's brief in favor of dismissing all charges against the AIPAC defendants is basically an argument calling for the abolition of the relevant sections of the Espionage Act. In which case it would be perfectly legal to release documents or hearsay "respecting the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation," as the language of the Act puts it.

Furthermore, the presentation of the citation in its complete context ought to make clear that Dinh is distorting and even reversing not only the true significance of what Fitzgerald said, but also what the special counsel's investigation portends. For clearly Fitzgerald was and perhaps still is gunning to get the vice president's chief of staff – and others in the administration – on violating the same provisions of the Espionage Act of which Rosen and Weissman stand accused. The problem for Fitzgerald is that, as he put it, what Libby and his cohorts have done is throw sand in the umpire's eyes, preventing investigators from ascertaining the facts in the case and establishing a conspiracy to "out" Plame. No such problem exists for the prosecutors in the AIPAC spy case.

As revealed in the indictment of the AIPAC defendants – Steve Rosen, the lobby's longtime director, and Keith Weissman, a top policy analyst – the FBI was watching their every move as they milked Pentagon Iran specialist Larry Franklin for every drop of classified information to which he had access, including top-secret intelligence relating to al-Qaeda as well as Iran. The FBI's counterintelligence unit listened as the conspirators arranged assignations and watched as they engaged in furtive meetings: "On or about March 10, 2003," the indictment informs us,

"Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman met at Union Station early in the morning. In the course of the meeting, the three men moved from one restaurant to another restaurant and then finished the meeting in an empty restaurant."

Hardly the sort of behavior one might expect from a group supposedly engaged in, as Dinh puts it, "a core First Amendment activity" – unless spying is now constitutionally protected. Dinh's brief characterizes the accused as a couple of public-spirited guys whose only crime is exercising the "public's right to associate, advocate, and speak in an effort to shape foreign policy." What this fanciful version of events conveniently ignores is the central role played by Israeli "diplomats," including Naor Gilon, the Washington embassy's chief political officer. Franklin repeatedly met with Gilon and others and handed over classified information, in addition to indirectly transmitting U.S. secrets via the Rosen-Weissman tag team. Neither Gilon, nor any reference to specific foreign officials as described in the indictment, is so much as mentioned in Dinh's brief.

Dinh goes so far as to cite Attorney General Clark, who, when the relevant sections of the Espionage Act were amended, declared:

"Nobody other than a spy, saboteur, or other person who would weaken the internal security of the nation need have any fear of prosecution."

Rosen and Weissman have been charged with espionage because they are spies and were acting on behalf of a foreign power, just like the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss before them. They cultivated Franklin, who, convinced that U.S. policy in the Middle East is insufficiently pro-Israel, approached Rosen and Weissman, who put them in touch with Israeli agents. The pair then proceeded to act as a conduit for top-secret information gleaned from Franklin, which was passed directly to the Israelis.

How is it that someone who had a hand in drafting legislation – the PATRIOT Act – that permits the indefinite detention of American citizens, the surveillance of phone calls, e-mail, and other communications on an unprecedented scale, and otherwise represents the most invasive incursion into our civil liberties since the Alien and Sedition Acts, is now posing as a champion of the First Amendment rights of these two spies caught red-handed?

This will have to remain one of the murkiest mysteries of recent times, one that defies all explanation but this one: that this former assistant to Attorney General John Ashcroft and head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy believes that there ought to be one standard for lobbyists on behalf of a foreign country – in this case, Israel – and another for us hoi polloi who owe no foreign country our allegiance or bias. There is to be one standard for AIPAC and another for the rest of us.

Now, this imputation may seem like an unfair stretch of the facts, but ask yourself this: what if, instead of Rosen and Weissman, the two accused were named Abdullah and Mohammed? And what if the organization they worked for was, say, the Muslim American Political Action Council (MAPAC), and the two of them had been caught handing over sensitive intelligence to employees of the Iranian embassy? One has the right to wonder if Dinh – author of legislation that empowers the government to conduct surveillance of mosques and detain thousands of individuals of Middle Eastern descent, including American citizens – would be quite so forthcoming in his call for dismissing all charges.

Somehow, I doubt it.


An interesting side note: The Franklin-AIPAC indictment dates the time-span of the AIPAC spy conspiracy as being "Between in or about April 1999 and continuing until on or about August 27, 2004." At around this time, in 1998, the U.S. rejected Israeli demands that their citizens be included in the visa waiver program: they would now have to undergo an interview and be fingerprinted. Why the change in policy, coming from the most ostensibly pro-Israel administration in memory? The AIPAC spy case is just the tip of the iceberg, as this UPI dispatch by Richard Sale makes all too clear.

See No Evil, Become That Evil: Supporting the War As An Act of Unpatriotic Cowardice

See No Evil, Become That Evil: Supporting the War As An Act of Unpatriotic Cowardice

See No Evil, Become That Evil: Supporting the War As An Act of Unpatriotic Cowardice
by David Michael Green

Nowadays, Americans have to actively journey far out of their way to blind themselves to how the country was utterly duped into fighting a completely unnecessary war in Iraq.

Last week, the former chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell called the WMD rationale for the invasion “a hoax on the American people."

This week, the top CIA official in charge of intelligence assessments on Iraq reported that the administration “used intelligence not to inform decision making, but to justify a decision already made," and that “it went to war without requesting – and evidently without being influenced by – any strategic level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.”

Add these to the revelations which have already been made by other top officials and those with access to them – Paul O’Neill, Richard Clarke, Bob Graham, Bob Woodward (along with Powell’s chief of staff and CIA spooks, a bunch of radical anti-American lefties if ever there were any). Not to mention certain inconvenient facts on the ground, like the complete absence of WMD in Iraq and a war that’s gone completely off the rails. It’s getting to the point where you have to very badly want to believe whatever the president says in order to do so. It’s getting to the point where you have to actively hide from the evidence in order to keep your faith-based war politics safe from the cognitive dissonance induced by overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary.

Unfortunately, that is precisely what many conservatives are now choosing to do.

And to some extent, I don’t even care. If some forty percent of the American public is crouched in such a state of perpetual fear, I guess they have problems enough without being further burdened by somebody’s extended rants on the existential threat which willful ignorance poses to a democracy.

And to some further extent, I don’t even care that they still bolster their own ideological insecurities by throwing down yet again the card which the regressive right plays so well (they must have 53 of them in their decks): the attack labeling critics of the president’s patently failed policies as traitors and threats to American security. By the way, that group includes a heck of a lot of people nowadays. Just once I’d like to see Bill O’Reilly question the patriotism of the 57 percent of Americans (that’s 171 million of your fellow citizens, Bill) who disapprove of the way Bush is handling Iraq. But, alas, more likely that will have to wait for another lifetime...

No, even though conservatives make it their business to constantly worry about my sexual proclivities, I will not return the favor. They are free to indulge themselves in as much private political masturbation as suits them.

But what I do mind, I really have to say, is their loudly-proclaimed belief that they are patriots, and that they support the troops in Iraq.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing could further misunderstand the intentions of the American Founders to create a republic on these shores. Nothing could be more corrosive of democracy. And nothing could be less supportive of our troops suffering in the bottomless pit George Bush created for them in Iraq.

I don’t care if someone concludes on the other side of an educational process that this war really does make us safer, that it really was morally justified, and that those beliefs really do support the troops over there. That’s fine – do your homework and reach whatever conclusion you reach. But, goddammit, if you’re gonna make those claims, the very least you can do is to genuinely examine the facts. The very least you can do is transcend your own fears just enough to learn the truth about the war.

People are dying in Iraq by the tens of thousands, and that destructive project is entirely dependent on the acquiescence of the American people in allowing it to continue in their name, and financed by their tax dollars (or, more accurately, by their children’s tax dollars which will be used to pay back the massive loans we are racking up in China and Japan).

No one who is a true patriot can support such a grave policy decision until they have seriously examined it. No one who really supports the troops can put them in harm’s way without studying and analyzing carefully the justification for doing so.

Anyone who does otherwise is, in fact, an unpatriotic coward.

For what could be more unpatriotic than to support a war – the most serious decision a government can make – without learning the facts? What could be less supportive of the troops than to allow them to go kill, to die and get maimed without being sure there is a good justification for doing so? And if the reasons for thoughtlessly sending people off to war are either laziness or fear of one’s own inadequacies, what could be more despicable?

Recently I published an essay suggesting that the President of the United States was at war with Americanism, for all the obvious reasons (see the Bill of Rights for further elaboration). That piece produced the following emailed response (with the subject line: “Get A Life”) from a conservative reader: “I read your article. Have you ever had any family or friends hit by the terrorists? In my opinion you are just another loser liberal. I served in the military. Did you? Go ‘W’.”

So I wrote back at some length, posing some difficult questions for my interlocutor to consider.

He did not. But he did write back to tell me of his surprise at receiving my note and his admiration at my actually responding. I get this all the time. I think the shock troops of the fearful right must be so bought into their own stereotypes (and perhaps also inadvertently reflecting their own level of political comprehension) that they figure all of us on the other side are just mindless Michael Moore clones taking our marching orders from Havana. They seem so surprised when you show them that you can think on your own, that you’re willing to engage in dialog, that you have facts to support your arguments, and that you can actually string two coherent sentences together, back to back.

That became more evident when my correspondent wrote “I don't follow or believe the likes of Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, Hillary and of course, the great Jesse. I have to assume these are the leaders you follow. Your arguments mirror these jerks.” Leaving aside the rich irony of his presumption that I’m a fan of Hillary Clinton’s, what I think this comment reveals is a mind set in which politics is a game where citizens pick the ‘leaders’ they then slavishly follow and support, never quite coming to their own conclusions or interpretations. In my book, it is a politics which is a lot more reminiscent of either baseball or religion than it is of citizenship in a participatory democracy.

Which brings to mind another comment my friend on the right made in this second and last note to me, after apparently believing he had parried the questions I posed to him: “I will concede you are a good writer. You must teach English.” This I took to actually mean, “Your words make a lot of sense, and so does the evidence you present, but that can’t be right because you’re a liberal and these ideas contradict my political gospel. Therefore you must be tricking me with your fancy rhetoric.”

After receiving from me just a handful of challenging questions, my right-wing correspondent replied “How do you know the W planned to invade Iraq before 9/11? How do you know Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11? How do you know the W is a liar? All liberal propaganda.”

And then he concluded with this: “Please do not write back. I will not open your mail again. I see neither of us winning this war of words. I'm too busy thinking about more important issues.”

Clearly, he is saying that he doesn’t want to think about this stuff. Rather than letting me answer his questions, which is easily and conclusively done, he immediately writes it all off as “liberal propaganda”. But, just to make sure no errant facts should crawl beneath the door and invade his warm cocoon of self-deceit, he then not only asks me not to write back, but insists that he will refuse to look at anything I send. Why he didn’t just come right out and say “See No Evil”, I don’t know.

‘Course, I wrote him back anyhow. ‘Course, I know he read my note, too – though he was careful not to give me the satisfaction of telling me so.

I have no desire to pick on this nice gentleman, who appears from his own description to be a good family man, successful career guy, etc. I just think he is entirely reflective of a very pervasive mentality in this country, and that this mentality is crippling us.

This is the reason why those of us on the thinking left are just so incredulous, so paralyzingly shocked at the support that exists for George Bush. It is as if someone wrote the textbook on how to be a disastrous president and he walked into the part as an object lesson.

Imagine if everyone, left and right, had sat down five years ago and agreed (which to some large degree we probably could have) on the criteria to define a successful presidency. We probably would have included items like protecting American security from foreign attack, proactively protecting against natural disaster and responding competently when it hits, building on the federal surpluses in order to pay down the national debt, honest and open government, improving relations with our allies and American moral leadership in the world, making the world environmentally safe for our children, improving the standard of living for all economic classes, serving as a force for peace in the Middle East and elsewhere, preventing WMD proliferation and discouraging it by our own actions, deploying American forces prudently so as not to decimate the military, genuinely supporting the troops by providing them proper armor and numbers adequate to the task, and more.

What is so shocking is that George W. Bush has failed every objective test, including all those which virtually all Americans, regardless of their ideological commitments, would have agreed to five years ago. But what is even more shocking is the degree to which this has pushed so many of us into simply going post-empirical, so that we can avoid the ugly task of confronting a reality contrary to our political beliefs. The absolute easiest way to see this is just to consider what these folks would be saying if we took the entirety of the last five years’ historical record, completely intact, and simply changed one word. Imagine the howls of foaming outrage which would bellow across the land if this president, with this track record of unending failure, was named Clinton.

I don’t know what’s gotten into the perhaps forty percent of Americans who cannot seem to be dissuaded from supporting this president, regardless of how badly he screws up. What I do know is that we progressives need to think broadly and deeply about this very question if we hope to save the republic from Cheneyism, the Founders’ worst nightmare come to life. These legions of the willfully mindless are the death knell of American democracy if ever there was one.

I suspect the causes for Bush’s support are multiple. Obviously, if you’re one of the narrow sliver of Americans in the economic elite and all you care about is your own wallet, Bush is your man. Moreover, poll data shows that ridiculous percentages of Americans believe that they will be joining that club one day and so are tempted to swallow anything, including a war consuming their neighbors’ children, to receive their precious would-be, someday, tax cuts.

I think other Americans are simply tuned out of politics for a variety of reasons, making them easy prey for the Rovian tactic of employing simplistic, emotional-button laden politics, of which conservatives are now the undisputed masters. Between educational failures, shameful media commercialization and trivialization of news, and pounding conservative ideology that government is the problem, we have dumbed down sufficiently to become a very politically unsophisticated country, perfect fodder for the politics of fear, caricature, personalization and slogan which the right employs ruthlessly, even against such radical leftist threats like John McCain.

Some Americans undoubtedly don’t have time for politics. With a criminally low minimum wage of five bucks and change, many people have to work all the time to stay afloat. It is especially ironic that they can’t spare the time somehow to change the government’s law (if not the government itself) so that they could then get some rest. At a campaign stop, the president once marveled at the greatness of America when a woman announced that she worked two-and-a-half jobs. No wonder he and his ilk would. Low wages, high profits, prostrate politics – hey, what’s not to like about that? (Oops, sorry – am I engaging in ‘class warfare’? We can’t have that.)

But many of us have that free time – especially those among the more potentially influential segments of society – and we spend it mesmerized by yet another football game on the idiot box, yet another life lived vicariously in the pages of celebrity magazines, yet another pathetically self-affirming episode of reality TV degradation. I know it’s easy for me to preach. I love my work, and if I had to dig ditches or wait tables for twelve hours, I’d probably be inclined to collapse in exhaustion at the end of each shift, no more interested in intellectual stimulation than physical.

But I still think we have an obligation to muster up the energy to do more, especially if we’re fond of calling ourselves patriots. We have eighteen year-old kids, fellow citizens who are willing to slog through the hell George Bush created on Earth, all in the name of protecting our security. Can we not give up one game and educate ourselves about their lot? Can we not forego one more breathless article on why Brad left Jen, and devote that time to learning about the war being fought in our name? Could we not turn off American Idol and instead read the Downing Street Memo?

And if we can’t, could we at least please just stop calling ourselves patriots who nobly support our troops in the field? If ol’ Zell Miller were to experience a momentary lapse into sanity, he might rightly ask, “Support the troops? With what? Bumper stickers?”

Never mind that the last years’ deluge of such ‘stickers’ (tellingly magnetic, not actually stuck on) are fading, when they can be seen at all. I guess we can’t even be bothered with that anymore.

There is a war going on in Iraq which is fast consuming America’s blood, treasure, reputation and security. The simple fact is, this war goes on in our name. The rest of the world certainly believes that, and they are right to do so. Whether they are also right to condemn we individual Americans for our actions in Iraq is a matter we ought to care about, for reason of our reputation and honor alone. But, of course, a better reason is that people are dying there with our acquiescence.

Patriots? Supporters of the troops? I say if you can’t be bothered to learn about this war which your taxes, votes and silence enable, you are a traitor and a coward.

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond.

Chertoff's Sweetheart Deal For Israeli-Owned Carnival Cruise Cruise Line

Chertoff's Sweetheart Deal For Israeli-Owned Carnival Cruise Cruise Line

Chertoff's Sweetheart
Deal For Israeli-Owned
Carnival Cruise Cruise Line

By Christopher Bollyn
American Free Press

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, through a hastily arranged deal with Carnival Cruise Lines, $236 million from U.S. taxpayers will flow to a tax exempt Israeli-founded corporation registered in Panama. Before federal assistance even reached the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Carnival Cruise Lines had received a profitable deal to provide three ships to house evacuees from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The deal, reached on Sept. 2, 2005, will pay Carnival some $236 million for the use of 7,100 berths for six months.

This means that each berth will cost U.S. taxpayers $5,540 per month, or more than $184 per night. The cost per bed can actually be much higher because not all berths will be occupied for the entire 6-month period of the contract. The deal, arranged by the Military Sealift Command of the U.S. Navy at the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has raised questions in Congress about excessive profiteering by Carnival Corp., the parent corporation that owns Carnival Cruise Lines along with 11 other leading cruise brands, including: Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Princess, and Holland America Line. Carnival Corp. operates a fleet of 79 ships.

Critics in Congress, however, said the cost of the deal with Carnival was exorbitant. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the cost per berth is more than $1,275 a week, while a 7-day Caribbean cruise costs about $600 per person. "A short-term temporary solution has turned into a long-term, grossly overpriced sweetheart deal for a cruise line," Coburn said. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff requesting a copy of the contract and supporting documentation for its cost on Sept. 23. The contract with Carnival includes $44 million for operating costs and an unknown amount to compensate for corporate taxes that could amount to tens of millions of dollars.

The federal department headed by Chertoff agreed to compensate Carnival for its corporate taxes because, while the company is headquartered in Miami, Florida, it is exempt from U.S. income taxes and other taxes because it is registered in Panama and its ship fly under foreign flags. Carnival Corp. reported net income of $1.904 billion the nine-month period ending August 31, 2005, but only paid $43 million in income taxes from its pre-tax income of $1.947, a tax rate of 2.2 percent. The state or nation to which the taxes were paid was not specified. Carnival Corp. was started by the Ted Arison, an Israeli veteran of the 1948 war in Palestine, who came to the United States in the early 1950s, as did Michael Chertoff's mother, Livia Eisen. In 1990. Arison returned to Israel and turned control of Carnival Corp. over to his son, Micky.



Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D., OrbStandard

February 16, 2006

"To initiate a war of aggression is, therefore, not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." - Judgment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, relating to "Count Two, the Crime of Aggression," as brought against Herman Goering, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and 14 other defendants.

In Mr. Bush's "State 0f The Union" address, he claimed that "US forces will be drawn down as Iraqi forces stand up." [1] However, this claim is flatly contradicted by the Pentagon's ongoing multibillion-dollar expenditures for the construction of 106 permanent bases - including six hi-tech "super-bases" - inside Iraq. [2]

Is there a reason why the USA's mainstream media won't report on those 106 bases, and why Congress won't debate the Pentagon's base-construction projects? The simplest answer is that the government-media complex has declared this subject taboo because it would reveal the USA's intention to militarily occupy Iraq for decades. [3]

Furthermore, Mr. Bush's quagmire in Iraq already has the USA hemorrhaging red ink. According to a recent study by the American Economic Association, the Bush administration's pre-war estimate of a $60 billion price-tag for the Iraq War was wildly unrealistic. The study concluded that the final bill for the Iraq War will actually be somewhere between ONE AND TWO TRILLION DOLLARS, depending on how much longer our troops stay. [4] And that staggering figure doesn't take into account its human costs in bloodshed and suffering. [5]

Realistically, Mr. Bush's "draw-down" rhetoric is merely a propaganda ploy in anticipation of the 2006 mid-term election, and the withdrawal won't be implemented. In all likelihood, those hi-tech "super-bases" will serve another purpose, which is to launch and monitor his next illegal war of aggression against Iraq's oil-rich neighbor, IRAN. [6] Of course, the Bush administration will reassure us, during its pre-war propaganda campaign, that their petro-state invasion is absolutely necessary, and isn't merely another "blood-for-oil" scenario through which their wealthy war-profiteering cronies will further enrich themselves at our expense (and some naive Americans will actually believe them).

So where is this nation's foreign policy headed? In the short run, Mr. Bush is already attempting to expand his "wartime commander-in-chief powers" to despotic dimensions, so he can - among other things - autonomously order the commencement of a "might-makes-right" aggressive war against Iran, thus giving Republicans yet another "national security" cudgel to swing during the upcoming mid-term election. [7]

Additionally, it's foreseeable that Mr. Bush's dictatorial assumption of extra-constitutional powers will elicit a strong negative reaction domestically, and that he'll use these protests as his excuse to declare martial law at home. In the long run, it's foreseeable that his cynical militarization of US foreign policy will bankrupt this nation - morally, legally, politically and economically. [8]

BEFORE these things happen, we should be asking ourselves: "Does might make right?" According to the principles of Just War Theory and international law, the answer is a resounding "NO!" [9] BEFORE these things happen, we should have the moral courage to pro-actively pursue every legitimate preventive measure that is available to us in a democracy. BEFORE these things happen, we should try the constitutionally-prescribed remedy of impeachment and - if it becomes necessary - collective acts of nonviolent civil disobedience on a massive scale everywhere. [10]

Finally, every citizen should know that the plain language of the US Constitution empowers Congress to impeach any president who commits a war crime in violation of the USA's treaty obligations under international law. Here's how:

(a) in Article VI, Paragraph 2, of the US Constitution, the "Supremacy Clause" declares that Senate-ratified treaties are "the supreme law of the land"; and
(b) Article I, Section 8, Clause 10 of the US Constitution, Congress is empowered to "punish...offenses against the law of nations." In short, Congress may punish the president for committing war crimes in violation of Senate-ratified treaties and conventions. Therefore, Congress may impeach, convict, and remove Mr. Bush from office for committing the supreme crime when he ordered the commencement of an aggressive war against Iraq. [11]

China Rushes to Complete $100B Deal With Iran

China Rushes to Complete $100B Deal With Iran

China Rushes to Complete $100B Deal With Iran

By Peter S. Goodman
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, February 17, 2006; 5:39 PM

SHANGHAI, Feb. 17 -- China is hastening to complete a deal worth as much as $100 billion that would allow a Chinese state-owned energy firm to take a leading role in developing a vast oil field in Iran, complicating the Bush administration's efforts to isolate the Middle Eastern nation and roll back its nuclear development plans, according to published reports.

The completion of the agreement would advance China's global quest for new stocks of energy. It could also undermine U.S. and European initiatives to halt Tehran's nuclear plans, possibly generating friction in Beijing's relations with outside powers.

Caijing, a respected financial magazine based in Beijing, reported on its Web site on Thursday that a Chinese delegation comprised of officials from the National Development and Reform Commission -- a top economic policy body -- intends to visit Iran as early as next month to conclude an agreement. The deal would clear China Petrochemical Corp., also known as Sinopec, to develop the Yadavaran oil field in southern Iran.

Beijing and Tehran are attempting to swiftly conclude a deal in the next few weeks, ahead of the possible imposition of international sanctions against Iran, according to a report published in Friday's editions of The Wall Street Journal. The report relied upon unnamed Iranian government officials. Sanctions could hinder Chinese investments in Iran.

Chinese officials declined to comment, and calls to Sinopec's offices went unanswered. In a written statement, the Iranian Embassy in Beijing asserted that the two nations have been working together on energy development, "following the rule of mutual benefits and respect in all bilateral cooperation."

A deal would cement a memorandum of understanding signed by China and Iran in October 2004. The framework agreement pledges that Sinopec will develop the Yadavaran field in exchange for the purchase of 10 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year for the next quarter-century.

Analysts in China said the deal should primarily be seen as part of Beijing's global reach for new energy stocks to fuel its relentless development -- a drive that has in recent years led Chinese companies to invest in Indonesia, Australia, Venezuela, Sudan and Kazakhstan. China is now locked into a high-stakes competition with Japan for access to potentially enormous oil fields in Russia.

But the speed with which China and Iran are moving to conclude their agreement and begin development appears to signal Beijing's intent to limit the United States-led drive for sanctions against Iran to curb what the Washington describes as Tehran's rogue effort to develop nuclear weapons.

As one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, China can veto a sanctions proposal within the international body, or at least threaten to do so to restrict the bite and breadth of such an initiative.

"The timing is really interesting," said Shen Dingli, an international relations expert at Fudan University in Shanghai. "China and Iran appear to be collaborating not only for energy development but also to increase the stakes in case sanctions are imposed. This is a subtle message that even if sanctions are passed, you could have limited sanctions without touching upon oil. China is saying, 'This is my cheese. Don't touch.' "

China's voracious appetite for energy is increasingly guiding its foreign policy. China has used the threat of a Security Council veto to limit sanctions against Sudan, the African nation in which China's largest energy firm, China National Petroleum Corp., is the largest investor in a government-led oil consortium. China is the largest buyer of Sudan's oil, as well as the largest supplier of arms to its ruling regime. The Sudanese government has been accused of massacring villagers to clear land for further energy development and of committing genocide in its efforts to crush separatist rebels in the western region of Darfur.

China's pursuit of an energy deal with Iran comes as Tehran has announced the resumption of its uranium enrichment program. Tehran says this work is merely aimed at generating energy, while the Bush administration asserts it is a precursor to the development of nuclear weapons and has been lobbying its allies to take a hard line while threatening sanctions.

China has joined the international chorus in urging Tehran to halt its nuclear plans. But China's aggressive pursuit of an oil deal with Iran underscores how energy security has become a paramount concern for Beijing at a time of relentless industrial growth. Government forecasts show China's demands for imported crude oil swelling from about one-third of its total needs to about 60 percent by 2020.

Analysts assume that the Iranian field could produce as much as 300,000 barrels of oil per day, making it one of the larger overseas operations for a Chinese company. Sinopec would hold a 51 percent stake in the Yadavaran project, according to the Caijing report, while India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. would hold 29 percent. The rest of the venture would be divided among Iranian companies and perhaps other outside investors.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this article.

Iraq contractor pleads guilty to fraud

Top News Article |

Iraq contractor pleads guilty to fraud
Fri Feb 17, 2006 2:03 PM ET

By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An executive has pleaded guilty to adding $1 million in fraudulent "war risk" surcharges for flying cargo into Baghdad under a U.S. military contract with a Halliburton Inc. subsidiary, authorities said on Friday.

Christopher Cahill, 41, formerly a Dubai-based executive of logistics company EGL Inc. of Houston, may implicate others as part of a plea agreement reached on Thursday with federal prosecutors in Rock Island, Illinois, court papers showed.

Cahill, 41, could face up to 10 years in prison and a $5 million fine at a May 26 sentencing.

According to court papers, Cahill hatched his plan to add a 50 cent per kilogram surcharge on freight into Baghdad after the plane of competitor DHL Worldwide Express was hit by a missile and landed in flames. Cahill had heard DHL was seeking war risk insurance and arranged to have EGL's subcontractor write a phony letter declaring it was adding the surcharge.

The extra charges appeared on invoices from Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root and paid by the Army.

Cahill, a regional vice president, was fired in December with another EGL executive when the company admitted the scheme. EGL repaid the government $4 million - $1.14 million in fake surcharges, plus $2.86 million in fines -- which allowed the company to avoid being banned from future contracts.

"There may be two to three other people (at EGL) that they're still interested in," said EGL general counsel Dana Carabin.

Cahill was the fourth person charged in three cases involving supply contracts in Iraq handled in Rock Island in western Illinois, where the Army Field Support Command is located, said Jeffrey Bailey, the local U.S. attorney.

The Justice Department has also charged others servicing Texas-based Halliburton's huge, multibillion-dollar logistics contracts in Iraq and the region. Halliburton was run by Vice President Dick Cheney between 1995 and 2000.

Critics in the U.S. Congress have charged Halliburton has had little competition or oversight for its huge contracts.

Doug Thompson's Rant

Traitorous bitches and bastards
Posted at February 17, 2006 06:21 AM in The Rant .

Founder and Publisher

Those bagpipes you hear playing in the background provide a much-needed funeral dirge for freedom, which died this week at the hands of the United States Congress.

Freedom has been on its deathbed for about five years now, mortally-wounded in the post-9/11 frenzy that put political expediency above the Constitution and gave paranoia supremacy over what used to be guarantees of individual rights for all Americans.

Freedom went on the endangered-species list in the hours following the 9/11 attacks when President George W. Bush turned to attorney general John Ashcroft and said "John, take whatever steps you feel are necessary to make sure something like this never, ever, happens again."

Turning a zealot like Ashcroft loose on the Constitution is like giving Bill Clinton the keys to a sorority house. Someone is going to get screwed big-time and in this case it was, collectively, the whole concept of freedom and individual rights in this country.

Ashcroft crafted his personal vision of a new America, one ruled by a police state reporting to a totalitarian government, and called it the USA Patriot Act. It sailed through a shell-shocked Congress like a fraternity on a panty raid and gave Bush and his gang of thugs all they needed to create a new American Gestapo, detaining this nation's citizens without due course, spying on Americans without warrants and setting the country on a headlong rush to ruin.

The abuses of the Patriot Act proved so onerous that even firebrand conservatives like Bob Barr joined forces with uber-liberals like the American Civil Liberties Union to fight it.

Late last year, spurred by anger over Bush's admission that he authorized the warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, the Patriot Act appeared to face serious opposition when it came up for renewal. Congress twice granted temporary extensions and promised to add new language to protect the civil liberties of Americans.

But, as happens all too often in Washington, those promises vanished into thin air as the Patriot Act this week cleared hurdle after hurdle and heads for permanent renewal when the goons who call themselves our elected representatives return from the President's Day recess.

In the end, the White House "negotiated" a set of meaningless changes with a handful of Republicans and the so-called compromise sailed through the Senate Thursday on a 96-3 vote. Even worse, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee successfully blocked attempts to open an inquiry in Bush's use of the National Security Agency to spy on Americans.

Not that the Democrats did that much to stop it. Even those who spoke out about Bush's spying on Americans said they supported the concept but only opposed how the President went about it. As long as he got warrants, they said, they didn't really care who the NSA snooped on. And a bunch of Democrats joined with Republicans Thursday to keep the rights-robbing USA Patriot Act the law of the land.

Which means virtually no one - Democratic or Republican, conservative or liberal, left or right - can claim the high road when it comes to destroying freedom in the United States. Only Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., seems to realize the dangers of the act, continuing to fight it and saying the law, even as amended, allows "government fishing expeditions" and an outright assault on the Constitution.

For the most part, the rest of Congress sold out the people who elected them to office, all Americans who depend on Congress to serve as a check and balance on the excesses of the White House and the Constitution of the United States.

Yes, freedom died this week and just about every one of the bitches and bastards who "serve" in Congress should take a long, hard look at the blood on their hands. They stand guilty of high crimes and treason against the United States of America. They are traitors and should be treated as such.

Rice says U.N. must push Syria on Hariri inquiry

Top News Article |

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will push the U.N. Security Council to give details on Syria's cooperation with a U.N. inquiry into the murder of Lebanon's former premier, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday.

Rice told lawmakers she did not think Syria had cooperated with the U.N. investigation into Last February's murder of Rafik al-Hariri and something must be done about this.

"We will need, I really do believe, to go back to the Security Council at some time in the not-too-distant future to get a report on what is happening with Syrian cooperation," Rice told the House of Representatives International Relations Committee.

Syria has repeatedly denied a role in the killing of Hariri in a truck bombing in Beirut. A U.N. inquiry has implicated senior Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies.

Syria promised full cooperation after a U.N. Security Council resolution in October demanded that it cooperate with the investigation or face unspecified further action.

Damascus has allowed U.N. investigators to question some Syrian officials but has turned down a request to talk to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Last month, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz took over the U.N. investigation from Germany's Detlev Mehlis who had led the probe since June.

Rice said it had taken time for Brammertz to find his feet, and that those who had met the new investigator described him as "serious, tough-minded."

"We are going to need to really re-energize that (the inquiry). And I think once we've given investigator Brammertz a little time to get up to speed, we'd probably want to go back to the Security Council," Rice said.

Rice calls Venezuela a big problem for Western Hemisphere

Rice calls Venezuela a big problem for Western Hemisphere

Rice calls Venezuela a big problem for Western Hemisphere

WASHINGTON (AP): Venezuela's close ties to Cuba and efforts to subvert democracies elsewhere make the country one of the "biggest problems'' in the Western Hemisphere, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday.

Testifying before the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives, Rice also urged democratic nations worldwide to be "more active in supporting and defending Venezuelan people'' against actions President Hugo Chavez has taken against nongovernmental organizations and labor unions.

On Haiti, Rice pledged to work with and support the new Haitian government to be headed by former President Rene Preval, who was declared on Thursday the winner of disputed elections held Feb. 7.

The country has been bedeviled by violence and instability for two decades.

"Haiti is a country that has had too few chances,'' Rice said, noting that the administration has committed $400 million (euro337.3 million) in aid to Haiti.

Rice acknowledged that fragile democracies are a problem throughout the hemisphere and said she discussed that with top officials from Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador and Panama at a State Department dinner Tuesday night.

Rep. Eliot Engel said the United States must do more to help lift Latin America from the "grinding poverty'' in which, he said, 25 to 40 percent of the population lives.

He said it was a mistake for the United States to cut aid to Bolivia even though an avowedly anti-American, Evo Morales, took over last month as the elected president.

"Cutting development programs in Bolivia is going in the wrong direction,'' Engel said. Rice said the administration has reached out to the new Bolivian leader. While acknowledging that aid cuts have been imposed on a number of Latin American countries, she said U.S. programs are being directed increasingly at the region's poorest.

Rep. Dan Burton, chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on Latin America, raised the Venezuelan issue with Rice. He alleged that Chavez's activities are generating misgivings among presidents throughout Latin America.

He also took note of Venezuela's increasing friendship with Iran, pointing out that Iranian parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel made an official visit to Venezuela on Wednesday.

Rice said Venezuela's recent support for the leftist Sandinista party in Nicaragua "was producing a situation where the democratic government could not function.''

In response, she said the United States froze the assets and revoked the visas of some Sandinista officials.

During his seven years in power, Chavez's critics have described him as a populist, a path that Rice said is doomed to fail.

"The best thing we can do is to have an alternative to Latin brand of populism that has taken countries down the drain,'' Rice said. U.S. options include more free trade agreements and more aid to the most vulnerable, she said.

Much of Chevez's support in Venezuela is derived from poor neighborhoods, where his government has increased social services sharply.

Criticizing Chavez's policies on another front, Rice said the Venezuelan civil society group Sumate is being subjected to "kangaroo court'' treatment.

Sumate describes itself as a vote monitoring group. The government has charged that Sumate conspired against Venezuela's interests by accepting money from the congressionally supported National Endowment for Democracy, which supports pro-democracy groups worldwide.

The trial against Sumate officials began last week. GIFT gives no new freedom on the Net GIFT gives no new freedom on the Net

GIFT gives no new freedom on the Net
James P. Pinkerton
<A HREF=",85,165,249,673,692,755,1123,1345,1545,1600,2167,2254,3379,3763,3907,4294,4296,4538,6207,52005,52529,52641,54254,54255,54453,54522,54523,55084,55311,55441,55451,55497,55631,55792,55868,55873,55883,55899&Targets=54732,196,785,50790,58299,58264,50958,52971,2812,58732,7872,58722,57931,58826,58879,56000,6458,8287,58807,54191,56069,58511,58652,57663,57975,58157,58178,58269,58469,58844&Values=30,46,50,60,72,84,85,90,100,110,131,150,289,301,328,333,347,388,395,591,834,903,998,1016,1051,1065,1066,1089,1091,1093,1105,1112,1122,1136,1191,1212,1263,1272,1282,1309,1436,1604,1653,1654,1664,1681,1724,1733,1745,1748,1754,1758,1786,1787,1788,1816,1840,1863,1870,1871,1872,1882,1887,1888,1890,1892,1917,1919,1956,1957,1978,1985,1986,2011,2017,2035,2036,2044,2091,2106,2161,2281,2284,2297,2353,2377,2380,2384,2548,2625,2719,2720,2765,2782,2804,2805,2806,2823,2838,2856,2861,2863,2915,2932,2938,2948,2971,2975,3023,3024,3047,3051,3055,3058,3061,3062,3065,3070,3088,3103,3113,3117,3133,3215,3238,3242,3257,3258,3286&RawValues=USERAGENTID%2CMozilla/5.0%2520(Windows%253B%2520U%253B%2520Windows%2520NT%25205.1%253B%2520en-US%253B%2520rv:" target="_top"><IMG SRC="" WIDTH=160 HEIGHT=600 BORDER=0></A>

February 16, 2006

Remember when the Internet was supposed to liberate everyone? Well, that was then. Today, it's a different story.

But wait! Here comes the U.S. government, defending our freedom. On Tuesday, the State Department announced its Global Internet Freedom Task Force (GIFT, get it?). That's right, the same Uncle Sam who brought us such secret operations as Carnivore, Total Information Awareness and the National Security Agency wiretaps is now giving the world the gift of free and open speech. Ri-i-i-ight.

Not so long ago, the Internet was supposed to usher in a libertarian utopia, which no government could hinder. On Feb. 8, 1996, John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that works to protect digital rights, issued a "Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace" demanding that governments "leave us alone." Addressing the world's politicians, Barlow added, "You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather."

Yet, that same year, 1996, governments asserted their power. The feds enacted the Communications Decency Act, beginning a long-term effort to regulate such evils as child pornography. Other laws and court cases followed - governing spam, file-sharing, cyber-stalking and identity theft. Most Americans probably think these restrictions are reasonable enough. But other countries imposed their own limitations on Net freedom that they see as reasonable, too; Germany, for example, banned Nazi paraphernalia and Web sites, freely available in the United States.

And many countries limit other forms of Net expression, such as political speech. In American terms, those countries violated the First Amendment. But, of course, those countries never had a First Amendment. They view free speech in the light of their own traditions, some antithetical to our own - such as the Muslim prohibition on depicting Muhammad. But, taken together, these strictures spelled the end of the idea of the Net as an anarchist preserve.

Then came 9/11. More was to be done. That event demonstrated that the Internet and globalism were two-way streets: It's great that the Net connects people, but it's not so great that the 9/11 hijackers could conspire via anonymous e-mail accounts. Since then, homeland securitizers have faced the additional burden of "firewalling" national assets against the threat of an "electronic Pearl Harbor." The problem is that the Net reinforces existing capabilities: It empowers good people to do more good things and it empowers bad people to do more bad things.

Which is to say, the Internet, like other past transformative technologies such as railroads and radio, has gone through the predictable stages of a revolution: first, giddy growth accompanied by a hot sense of unlimited possibility among the techno-evangelical vanguard; second, the fever-cooling grip of reality as stubborn dogmas wrap their clutching fingers around the revolutionaries, and third, the cold realization that the bosses of the new technology are pretty much the same as the old bosses.

That's why "new economy" companies such as Yahoo and AOL have quickly become "old" companies, operating according to the same imperatives as the rest of the Fortune 500; they must always stay on the right side of bureaucratic sensitivities and nationalistic sensibilities. Indeed even the "coolest" new company, Google, finds itself being muscled by governments from Washington to Beijing. The Net will continue to be a marvelous tool for communication, information and commerce, but it's not going to be a worldwide freedom forum.

So here's a prediction about GIFT. The State Department task force will simply be another version of existing U.S. policy. That is, in the name of Net freedom, GIFT will pound away at the repressive practices of known American enemies, such as Iran and Cuba. And it will pressure weak countries, such as those in Africa, into opening up a little. Meanwhile, it will mostly ignore Net suppression committed by big powerful governments such as China, Russia - or the United States.

James P. Pinkerton's e-mail ad- dress is

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

US Wants Israel to Sign Up to NPT: Official

US Wants Israel to Sign Up to NPT: Official

US Wants Israel to Sign Up to NPT: Official
Javid Hassan, Arab News —

RIYADH, 17 February 2006 — A senior official of the Washington-based Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation has defended Israel’s nuclear program yesterday, saying that it is one of three countries in the region that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“If you are speaking about any double standard, you have to remember that Pakistan, a Muslim country, also possesses nuclear weapons. But we cannot say that the nuclear programs of India, Pakistan and Israel are illegal, because they do not have the treaty obligations,” Stephen G. Rademaker, acting assistant secretary for the bureau told a limited press conference.

Rademaker was in Riyadh as part of his swing through the Middle East to ratchet up pressure on Iran, which has reportedly resumed its nuclear-enrichment program. During his stay, he had talks with Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Assistant to the Minister of Defense and Aviation Gen. Khaled ibn Sultan.

“If you want to say that the US policy is inconsistent vis-à-vis Israel, you also have to say that US policy is inconsistent toward Pakistan. At the same time, both are major non-NATO allies of the US and also recipients of the US aid,” said Rademaker in response to allegations that the US has a double standard with respect to Israel’s nuclear arsenal and Iran’s potential N-weapons capabilities.

According to the US-based non-profit Center for Defense Information, Israel is estimated to have 100 to 200 warheads; India is suspected of having at least 60 warheads; and Pakistan has 24-48 warheads.

“Iran’s nuclear program is not just a threat to the United States or Israel. I don’t know why the Arab world continues to believe that Iran will only use its nuclear weapons against Israel,” he said.

Rademaker said the US policy has been consistent all along. “We want India, Pakistan and Israel to sign up to the NPT. In all three cases, they have resisted our advice,” he said. “We would like every country in the world to join the NPT.”

He added that the best way to encourage Israel to join the treaty is not to support more Arab states to go nuclear. “You want to persuade Israel to give up its nuclear weapons, while you allow Iran to go for the nuclear option. This is a wrong way to approach the issue,” he said.

“Today Iran is giving Israel the best possible reason not to give up its nuclear weapons. Moreover, Iran’s president wants Israel to be erased from the map.”

The US official claimed that Iran was close to having nuclear weapons. In this context, he referred to the concern that the 27 members of the 35-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board meeting expressed recently over Iran’s nuclear program.

“This is profoundly threatening under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said. “Iran is not the Netherlands or Japan. In other words, it cannot be trusted given its record of nuclear activity.”

US sturggles with a mutating insurgency - Asia times /

US struggles with a mutating insurgency
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Despite reports of growing tensions and even occasional clashes between Islamists and nationalists, the predominantly Sunni insurgency in Iraq appears increasingly united and confident of victory, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG).

The 30-page report, based primarily on an analysis of the public communications of insurgent groups, as well as interviews and past studies about the insurgency, also concludes that rebel groups have adapted quickly and effectively to changing US

tactics - in both the military and political spheres.

"Over time, the insurgency appears to have become more coordinated, confident, sensitive to its constituents' demands and adept at learning from the enemy's successes and its own failures," said the report, "In Their Own Words: Reading the Iraqi Insurgency".

"The US must take these factors into account if it is to understand the insurgency's resilience and learn how to counter it," it said, stressing that the most effective responses included reining in and disbanding sectarian militias responsible for human-rights abuses and repeatedly making clear that Washington had no designs on Iraq's oil resources or on its territory for military bases.

The report, which comes amid intense - but so far unavailing - efforts by the US Embassy to negotiate the creation of a new government in Baghdad that will place prominent Sunnis in key cabinet posts, is based mainly on what insurgents have themselves said on their Internet websites and chat rooms, videos, tapes and leaflets since the invasion, and how those messages have evolved.

While much of the rhetoric is propagandistic, according to the ICG, it also provides a "window into the insurgency" capable of informing the analyst about its internal debates, levels of coordination, its perceptions of both the enemy and its constituency, and changes in tactics and strategy.

Such a textual analysis, according to the ICG, yields conclusions that are substantially at odds with many of Washington's current, as well as past, assumptions about the insurgency. Indeed, "In Iraq, the US fights an enemy it hardly knows," the report asserts.

The notion, for example, that the insurgency is divided between Iraqi nationalists and foreign jihadis, most prominently al-Qaeda's Organization in Mesopotamia (QOM), led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, appears increasingly questionable, according to the report, which notes that there has been a "gradual convergence" in the groups' tactics and rhetoric.

"A year ago, groups appeared divided over practices and ideology, but most debates have been settled through convergence around Sunni Islamic jurisprudence and Sunni Arab grievances," according to the report.

"Practically speaking, it has become virtually impossible to categorize a particular group's discourse as jihadi as opposed to nationalist or patriotic, with the exception of the Ba'ath Party, whose presence on the ground has been singularly ineffective."

During the first half of 2005, when reports of armed clashes between the two kinds of groups first surfaced, that was less true, but, since then and despite intense US efforts to drive a wedge between them, the groups have largely harmonized their rhetoric.

In that connection, "recent reports of negotiations between 'nationalist' groups and the US over forming an alliance against foreign jihadis appear at the very least exaggerated", according to the report. It noted that any such "duplicity" would almost certainly have been exposed and denounced by others.

Moreover, "no armed group so far has even hinted" that it may be willing to negotiate with the US and Iraqi authorities. "While covert talks cannot be excluded, the publicly accessible discourse remains uniformly and relentlessly hostile to the occupation and its 'collaborators'."

That does not mean that differences between the two kinds of groups do not exist and that there could be a day of reckoning - but only after Washington's withdrawal. "To this day, the armed opposition's avowed objectives have ... been reduced to a primary goal: ridding Iraq of the foreign occupier. Beyond that, all is vague."

Meanwhile, the groups have become increasingly mindful of their image and the necessity of cultivating public opinion among Sunnis, other Iraqis and the West, according to the report.

Thus, they promptly and systematically respond to charges that they are corrupt or target innocent civilians and even reject accusations, despite the evidence from suicide attacks against Shi'ite mosques, that they are waging a sectarian campaign.

Similarly, they have abandoned some tactics that proved especially revolting to their various audiences, such as the beheading of hostages and attacking voters going to the polls. And "while [they] deny any intent of depriving the population of water and electricity, restraint does not apply to oil installations, which are seen as part and parcel of American designs to exploit Iraq".

According to the report, four main groups now dominate the communications channels of the insurgency and publish regularly through a variety of media: QOM; Partisans of the Sunna Army (Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna); the Islamic Army in Iraq (al-Jaysh al-Islami fil-'Iraq); and the Islamic Front of the Iraqi Resistance (al-Jabha al-Islamiya lil-Muqawama al-'Iraqiya, or Jami).

QOM, whose operational importance has, according to the ICG, been exaggerated by US officials, sought during the past year to "Iraqify" its image, in part by reportedly replacing Zarqawi, a Jordanian, with an Iraqi leader. Jami, according to some ICG sources, may be a "public relations organ" shared by different armed groups and tends to be somewhat more sophisticated and nationalistic in its rhetoric and communications strategy than the others.

Another five groups that take credit for military actions generally use far less elaborate and stable channels of communication, while four more groups appear to lack regular means of communication to produce occasional claims of responsibility for armed actions through statements or videos.

All groups appear to have become more confident over the past year, according to the report, which noted that their optimism is not only noticeable in their official communiques but in more spontaneous expressions by militants and sympathizers on Internet chat sites and elsewhere.

Initially, according to the report, they perceived the US presence as extremely difficult to remove, "but that no longer is the case".

"Today, the prospect of an outright victory and a swift withdrawal of foreign forces has crystallized, bolstered by the US's perceived loss of legitimacy and apparent vacillation, its periodic announcement of troop redeployments, the precipitous decline in domestic support for the war and heightened calls by prominent politicians for a rapid withdrawal," the report states.

Moreover, "when the US leaves, the insurgents do not doubt that Iraq's security forces and institutions would quickly collapse".

(Inter Press Service)