Saturday, April 08, 2006

Media Matters - Henninger: Media responsible for IEDs being weapons of mass destruction by showing their gruesome results


Summary: In a column for The Wall Street Journal's, deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger claimed that the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by insurgents in Iraq "qualifies as a weapon of mass destruction" because the "mass media distribute the dead, dismembered victims into our living rooms morning and night."

In his April 7 column for The Wall Street Journal's, Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger claimed that the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by insurgents in Iraq "qualifies as a weapon of mass destruction" because the "mass media distribute the dead, dismembered victims into our living rooms morning and night." Henninger was one of many conservatives in the media to join with the Bush administration in attacking "negative" media coverage for undermining public support for the Iraq war.

From Henninger's April 7 column:

Because of the practices that Islamic fundamentalism has chosen as instruments of policy -- in lower Manhattan, Madrid, London, Baghdad, Bali and for the future -- a whole range of settled customs in time of war deserve more organized thought than they have so far received. Beyond the Geneva Conventions, any such list would include the debate over Guantanamo and stateless combatants, prisoner interrogation methods (is "waterboarding" torture, or not?), the fight over electronic surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the custody status of suspected terrorists like Jose Padilla, and the fight over the provisions in the Patriot Act.

We are past the point of legal abstraction. We know the nature of the enemy's tactics, the use of loaded airplanes and the pursuit of WMD. Suicide bombings -- human beings used as weapons to kill civilians -- have become the portable gas chambers of terrorism. The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) qualifies as a weapon of mass destruction, insofar as mass media distribute the dead, dismembered victims into our living rooms morning and night, causing some to give up.

As Media Matters for America previously noted, Henninger wrote in his March 24 column that the media coverage of the Iraq war "amounts to a kind of contemporary brain-washing."


Uranium’s Effect On DNA Established

Uranium’s Effect On DNA Established

Uranium’s Effect On DNA Established

The use of depleted uranium in munitions and weaponry is likely to come under intense scrutiny now that new research that found that uranium can bind to human DNA. The finding will likely have far-reaching implications for returned soldiers, civilians living in what were once war-zones and people who might live near uranium mines or processing facilities.

Uranium - when manifested as a radioactive metal - has profound and debilitating effects on human DNA. These radioactive effects have been well understood for decades, but there has been considerable debate and little agreement concerning the possible health risks associated with low-grade uranium ore (yellowcake) and depleted uranium.

Now however, Northern Arizona University biochemist Diane Stearns has established that when cells are exposed to uranium, the uranium binds to DNA and the cells acquire mutations, triggering a whole slew of protein replication errors, some of which can lead to various cancers. Stearns' research, published in the journals Mutagenesis and Molecular Carcinogenesis, confirms what many have suspected for some time - that uranium can damage DNA as a heavy metal, independently of its radioactive properties. "Essentially, if you get a heavy metal stuck on DNA, you can get a mutation," Stearns explained. While other heavy metals are known to bind to DNA, Stearns and her team were the first to identify this characteristic with uranium.

Depleted uranium - what is left over when the highly radioactive isotopes of uranium are removed - is widely used by the military. Anti-tank weapons, tank armor and ammunition rounds are just some of the applications. "The health effects of uranium really haven't been studied since the Manhattan Project (the development of the atomic bomb in the early 1940s). But now there is more interest in the health effects of depleted uranium. People are asking questions now," Stearns said.

Her research may shed light on the possible connection between exposure to depleted uranium and Gulf War Syndrome, or to increased cancers and birth defects in the Middle East and Balkans. And closer to home, questions continue to be asked about environmental exposure to uranium from mine tailings; heavily concentrated around Native American communities. "When the uranium mining boom crashed in the '80s, there wasn't much cleanup," Stearns said. Estimates put the number of abandoned mines on the Navajo Nation in Arizona at more than 1,100.

Source: Northern Arizona University

Feds Try to Seize Gold From Suspects' Teeth on Yahoo! News


Feds Try to Seize Gold From Suspects' Teeth

Fri Apr 7, 3:07 PM ET

Talk about taking a bite out of crime.

Government lawyers tried to confiscate the gold tooth caps known as "grills" from the mouths of two men facing drug charges, saying the dental work qualified as seizable assets. They had them in a vehicle headed to a dental clinic by the time defense attorneys persuaded a judge to halt the procedure.

"I've been doing this for over 30 years and I have never heard of anything like this," said Richard J. Troberman, a past president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "It sounds like Nazi Germany when they were removing the gold teeth from the bodies, but at least then they waited until they were dead."

Prosecutors had a warrant to seize the gold dental work, according to documents and lawyers involved in the case. But they eventually abandoned the effort, saying they mistakenly thought the grills were removable.

The customized tooth caps, popularized by rappers such as Nelly, are made of precious metals and jewels and can cost thousands of dollars for a full set. Some can be snapped onto the teeth, while others are permanently bonded to the teeth.

Flenard T. Neal Jr. and Donald Jamar Lewis both have permanently bonded grills, their lawyers said.

Neal and Lewis, both charged with several drug and weapon violations, were taken Tuesday from the Federal Detention Center to the U.S. marshal's office, where they were told the government had a warrant to seize the grills. They called their lawyers as they were about to be taken to a dentist, said Miriam Schwartz, Neal's public defender.

A permanent stay of the seizure order was issued that day by U.S. Magistrate J. Kelley Arnold, court documents show.

"Asset forfeiture is a fairly routine procedure, and our attorneys were under the impression that these snapped out like a retainer," said Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle.

The defense lawyers criticized what they said was a clandestine attempt to have the grills removed.

"It's shocking that this kind of action by the federal government could be sought and accomplished in secret, without anyone being notified," said Zenon Peter Olbertz, who represents Lewis. "It reminds me of the secret detentions" in terrorist cases.

Langlie and court clerks said seizure warrants are typically sealed to prevent defendants from trying to move or hide valuables and evidence. They become public with the filing of a return that shows what was seized.

US considers use of nuclear weapons against Iran


WASHINGTON (AFP) - The administration of President George W. Bush is planning a massive bombing campaign against Iran, including use of bunker-buster nuclear bombs to destroy a key Iranian suspected nuclear weapons facility, The New Yorker magazine has reported in its April 17 issue.

The article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said that Bush and others in the White House have come to view Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a potential Adolf Hitler.

"That's the name they're using," the report quoted a former senior intelligence official as saying.

A senior unnamed Pentagon adviser is quoted in the article as saying that "this White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war."

The former intelligence officials depicts planning as "enormous," "hectic" and "operational," Hersh writes.

One former defense official said the military planning was premised on a belief that "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government," The New Yorker pointed out.

In recent weeks, the president has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of the House of Representatives, including at least one Democrat, the report said.

One of the options under consideration involves the possible use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, to insure the destruction of Iran's main centrifuge plant at Natanz, Hersh writes.

But the former senior intelligence official said the attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the military, and some officers have talked about resigning after an attempt to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans in Iran failed, according to the report.

"There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries," the magazine quotes the Pentagon adviser as saying.

The adviser warned that bombing Iran could provoke "a chain reaction" of attacks on American facilities and citizens throughout the world and might also reignite Hezbollah.

"If we go, the southern half of Iraq will light up like a candle," the adviser is quoted as telling The New Yorker. - U.S. Says Venezuela Complicit in Attack

By GEORGE GEDDA Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The State Department accused Caracas city officials of complicity Friday in an attack on the car of U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield in the Venezuelan capital.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns summoned Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez to the State Department and told him that Venezuela was in violation of an international treaty that requires the host countries to ensure the safety of foreign diplomats, department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The incident "clearly was condoned by the local government," McCormack said.

Pro-government activists bombarded Brownfield's car with fruit and vegetables and a group of motorcyclists chased the convoy, at times pummeling the vehicles with their fists.

McCormack said local government officials were handing out snacks to the perpetrators as Brownfield was participating in a ceremony at a Caracas stadium. The event included a gift of baseball equipment to children. McCormack said it was the fourth government-sponsored attempt to intimidate U.S. diplomats in Venezuela, three having occurred in the past three weeks.

"We will not be intimidated," McCormack said.

According to McCormack, Burns warned Alvarez that there will be "severe diplomatic consequences between our countries" if there is another incident.

U.S. relations with Venezuela have deteriorated sharply over the past 18 months.

Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez, has accused the United States of planning an invasion and said Washington was behind a failed coup attempt in 2002.

The Bush administration has denied the allegations while charging that Chavez is systematically dismantling Venezuelan democracy and using oil revenues to buy political influence in Latin America.

Friday, April 07, 2006

White House Does Not Dispute Bush Leak Allegation

By Steve Holland
Friday 07 April 2006

Washington - The White House on Friday chose not to challenge a prosecutor's disclosure that President George W. Bush authorized top official Lewis "Scooter" Libby to disclose intelligence on Iraq in 2003, as Libby alleges.

Spokesman Scott McClellan noted that the White House released declassified portions of an intelligence report at around the same time, July 2003.

That was part of an already known public release of information in the face of criticism of Bush's grounds for invading Iraq from former Ambassador Joe Wilson.

According to court papers filed on Tuesday, Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, told a federal grand jury that Cheney had told him Bush authorized him to disclose information from a secret National Intelligence Estimate to then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

The disclosure arose out of a long-running investigation into the leak of CIA's operative Valerie Plame's identity. Plame is Wilson's wife and the former diplomat has accused the White House of revealing her identity to get back at him.

Libby resigned from the administration last October when he was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who is investigating the leaking of Plame's name. His trial is expected to begin next January.

The court documents did not say that Bush or Cheney authorized Libby to disclose Plame's identity.

"There's an ongoing legal proceeding and our policy has been that we're not going to comment on it while it is ongoing and that remains our policy," McClellan told reporters.

He added that in the same time period, White House officials had released declassified parts of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq.

"There's nothing in that that was declassified that could compromise our nation's security," McClellan said. "It was a historical context about some of the intelligence that was used in making the decision to go to war in Iraq."

Democrats have seized on the news, accusing Bush of hypocrisy. The president has often denounced leaks from his administration and vowed to punish the leakers.

Rep. Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the disclosure, if true, revealed Bush himself as the "leaker in chief."

McClellan said the release of the declassified information was very different from what he called the potentially damaging leak of information about Bush's domestic eavesdropping program which aims to track phone calls and e-mails in the United States to suspected al Qaeda contacts abroad.

"Democrats who refuse to acknowledge that distinction are simply engaging in crass politics," he said.

Capitol Hill Blue: Iraq war a testing lab for new war technology

Apr 7, 2006, 05:54
**seems I've been saying that for years... EG:)**
In the testing laboratory that is the war in Iraq, an array of remarkable devices and technologies are making their debut in the real world of combat.

There's a "cooling" glove that, when worn on one hand, can lower a soldier's body temperature rapidly _ an invaluable help in a country where summer temperatures can reach 120 degrees.

Also being tested is a super radar that can penetrate 12 inches of concrete to reveal whether anyone is hiding in a building _ a potentially life-saving aid for troops hunting house-to-house for snipers or others lurking inside.

And troops are using a low-cost detector that can cut through the road noise to let soldiers in a convoy under enemy fire immediately determine where the shooting is coming from.

This is just some of the whiz-bang technology spawned by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a Pentagon outfit famed for thinking far outside the box and, as in the case of these new products, from the front lines of war-fighting, as well.

"DARPA is designed to be the 'technological engine' for transformation, supplying advanced capabilities based on revolutionary technological options, for the entire" U.S. military, agency director Tony Tether told Congress recently.

Actual combat conditions provide an incomparable testing ground for new technology, said John Pike, director of the national-security think tank

"It's the best simulation you can get, unfortunately," Pike said.

Taking advantage of that fact, the Pentagon is shipping an assortment of new equipment and technology for hands-on use by troops in Iraq. They include:

_ "Command Post of the Future," a system that allows commanders and troops fielding intelligence and other information across Iraq to share data immediately. The 4th Infantry Division has been using it since late 2005 in Baghdad, and its success there has led to a clamor for the technology from other headquarters and in-the-field battalions.

_ "Advanced Soldier Sensor Information System and Technology" (ASSIST), another intelligence-sharing tool that uses special sensors, networks and databases to compile the day-to-day experiences of troops on patrol to build an evolving body of knowledge about various city neighborhoods. Army units preparing for redeployment in Iraq are beginning to train with the system.

_ "Combat Zones That See" program, which networks conventional video cameras into a computerized history of the color, size and number of wheels of each vehicle that passes or parks outside the perimeter of a U.S. base or camp. It is now being installed at one such Iraq base.

_ Wasp Micro Air Vehicle, a drone that weighs about a half-pound and has a 14-inch wingspan and can "loiter" over an area for more than an hour, beaming back real-time images. The Marine Corps is training operators to use the device in Iraq and Afghanistan.

_ Several technologies that are not yet being used on the battlefield, but which DARPA hopes will be soon. One is the "Deep Bleeder Acoustic Coagulation" system, which DARPA hopes can be sent to Iraq to stop deep internal bleeding in wounded troops. The device uses ultrasound to detect and coagulate blood and can be operated by anyone, not just medics.

(Contact Lisa Hoffman at HoffmanL(at)

Capitol Hill Blue' The Rant: Pssst! Have we got a secret for you!


Apr 7, 2006, 07:52

Not that we needed another reminder of just how deceptive, devious and duplicitous the administration of President George W. Bush can be, but Thursday's revelation in court records that he ordered the leak of classified information to try and bolster his failed case for the Iraq war shows the rampant, business-as-usual dishonesty at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Now, before anyone says the release of court papers that show former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby told a federal grand jury that President Bush authorized him to give a reporter selected parts of a classified analysis called the National Intelligence Estimate is only one person's side of the story, let's examine an important fact - a White House that immediately denies anything that makes it look bad has not, in this case, denying what the court papers say.

"Under any circumstances, the president has the right to declassify information. Secondly, as the press is reporting, there is no indication in the court filing that either the president or vice president authorized the disclosure of Valerie Plame's identity, or to insinuate otherwise is flat out wrong," said Republican National Committee Communications Director Brian Jones.

In the news biz we call that a "non-denial denial." The court papers didn't say a thing about disclosing CIA operative Valerie Plame's name, even though that's what Libby is gong to trial over. They did say Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney gave Libby permission to tell New York Times reporter Judith Miller that the NIE showed Saddam Hussein was trying to try weapons grade uranium from Niger - information that turned out to be wrong and which experts within the American intelligence community raised concerns over even before Bush and his boys started bandying it about as fact.

Libby, of course, is charged with "outing" Plame, who also just happened to the be wife of Bush critic and former ambassador Joseph Wilson, the man sent to Niger to investigate the uranium claims and the one who said the information in the NIE was dead wrong. Miller used her position at The New York Times to sing the praises of the Iraq war and conservative columnist Robert Novak published Plame's name, saying he got the information from "administration sources."

Libby told the grand jury, Cheney ordered him to leak parts of the NIE to the press to discredit Wilson and said Bush approved the tactic. When the information got out, Bush bitched and moaned about leaks of classified information and promised a "full and complete" investigation to track down the leakers.

During a September 2003 speech in Chicago, after authorizing Libby to release the information, Bush said of the Libby investigation: "Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

Except Dubya knew damn well who leaked it. He ordered the release and can now hide under his Presidential authority to declassify information at will.

Legal experts say Bush, as President, has the "legal right" to declassify anything he wants but say declassifying sensitive information for political gain raises serious ethical questions.
"It is a question of whether the classified National Intelligence Estimate was used for domestic political purposes," Jeffrey H. Smith, a Washington lawyer who formerly served as general counsel for the CIA, told The Washington Post.

And while the information might have been "declassified" by Presidential order, the declassification itself was kept a secret. Libby said only he, the vice president and the president were aware that the information was no longer classified.

So let's see if we have all this straight. The President, through the Vice President, says it's all right for a staff member to give secret information to a reporter.

Except this secret information no longer secret because the President, using his secret decoder ring, has made it not secret.

But, in order to cover everybody's asses, the staff member cannot tell the reporter - or anyone else - that the previously secret information is no longer secret. That's still a secret.

This way, the President can go and tell everyone that he is sick and tired of all this secret information, which isn't really still secret, is getting out and he can act publicly upset while being secretly pleased that the New York Times fell for his little, not-so-secret secret.

Maybe it's time to let the President of the United States in on a little secret the American public knows all too well.

George W. Bush is a liar.

And that's no secret. Hasn't been for a long, long time now.

© Copyright 2006 by Capitol Hill Blue

US Abandons UN Civil Rights Council


By Warren Hoge
The New York Times

Friday 07 April 2006

United Nations - The United States said Thursday it would not be a candidate for the new United Nations Human Rights Council, which was approved last month by the General Assembly with Washington nearly alone in opposition.

Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said the United States would sit out the first election for the council in May but would support other countries with strong human rights records and would probably run for a seat next year.

The council, which will hold its first meeting in Geneva in June, replaces the Human Rights Commission, which had been widely discredited for allowing notorious rights abusers like Sudan and Zimbabwe on the panel.

The election of the 47 new members is scheduled for May 9. As of Thursday, 40 countries, including China, Cuba and Iran, had formally signed up to run.

Thursday's announcement by the State Department followed weeks of intense consultations throughout the Bush White House that appeared to many United Nations officials to be preparing the ground for American participation on the panel.

Several members of Congress, including some of the United Nations' harshest Republican critics, had joined rights groups in lobbying the Bush administration to make the United States a candidate.

Although it voted against the council last month, saying that the new membership requirements still would not do enough to keep major human rights violators out, the United States had agreed to help finance the panel and pledged to support it.

"This is a major retrenchment in America's long struggle to advance the cause of human rights around the world and it is a profound signal of U.S. isolation at a time when we need to work cooperatively with our Security Council partners," said Representative Tom Lantos of California, the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee and a founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

Mr. Lantos said the decision "projects a picture of profound weakness in U.S. diplomacy."

Felice Gaer, director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, said it was a mistake for the United States to wait for future elections to run.

"All key decisions about serious reform issues, from the curtailment of inappropriate bodies to whether and how countries are scrutinized, will be made in the first year," she said.

Countering that argument, John R. Bolton, the United States envoy, said, "I believe rather strongly that our leverage in terms of the performance of the new council is greater by the U.S. not running and sending the signal 'this is not business as usual' this year than if we were to run."

Among the Republican critics who had counseled joining the panel were Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who has frequently called for Secretary General Kofi Annan to quit; Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman; and Representative Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, who is sponsor of a bill that would withhold United States dues from the United Nations.

When Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, proposed a resolution on March 31 calling for an American boycott of the new council, Representative Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, another Republican detractor of the United Nations, put out a statement urging the resolution's defeat.

Human rights groups speculated that the United States was worried that revelations of abuses of detainees in Iraq and of clandestine prisons abroad had raised fears in the Bush administration that it could not get the 96 votes in the 191-member General Assembly needed for election.

"It's unfortunate that the Bush administration's disturbing human rights record means that the United States is today hardly a shoo-in for election to the council," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

The new council was approved on March 15 by a 170-to-4 vote, with Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau joining the United States in opposition. Belarus, Iran and Venezuela abstained.

A Democratic member of the House International Relations Committee, Robert Wexler of Florida, singled out Mr. Bolton for isolating the United States and thwarting the United Nations human rights effort.

"This decision reflects the colossal diplomatic failures of Ambassador Bolton," he said. "It's a national disgrace for America that we will not be a present in guiding and leading that council in a productive direction, and that under Mr. Bolton's leadership at the U.N. the world's single superpower cannot muster up the necessary votes to win an election."


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Russia May Help Build Gas Pipeline in South America�— Russian PM - MONEY - MOSNEWS.COM

Created: 06.04.2006 16:30 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 16:41 MSK, 14 hours 13 minutes ago

Russia could help build a natural gas pipeline linking Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said.

Speaking after a meeting with the heads of Brazilian energy companies during his visit to Brazil, Fradkov said that Russian companies could participate in the construction of a transcontinental natural gas pipeline, a project estimated to cost between $15 billion and $23 billion. He added, however, that no specific projects had been proposed yet, UPI reported.

Fradkov also said that Russian-Brazilian trade volume should reach $10 billion by 2010.

Boris Alyoshin, head of Russia`s Federal Agency for Industry, said a wide range of issues had been discussed during meetings in Rio de Janeiro this week, including Russian involvement in the use of developed deposits, hydro- and bio-energy projects, and the construction of electricity grids in Brazil.

Alyoshin said Russia and Brazil had been forging a technological alliance “covering a wide range of areas —- the energy sector, including nuclear energy, space, aircraft building and even agriculture.”

Bush Wants Capacity to Make 125 Nukes a Year


Bush Administration Unveils Nuclear Weapons Complex Blueprint
By Ralph Vartabedian
The Los Angeles Times

Thursday 06 April 2006

The administration's proposal would modernize the nation's complex of laboratories and factories as well as produce new bombs.

The Bush administration on Wednesday unveiled a blueprint for rebuilding the United States' decrepit nuclear weapons complex, including restoration of a large-scale bomb manufacturing capacity.

The plan calls for the most sweeping realignment and modernization of the nation's massive system of laboratories and factories for nuclear bombs since the end of the Cold War.

Until now, the nation has depended on carefully maintaining aging bombs produced during the Cold War arms race, some several decades old. The administration, however, wants the capability to turn out 125 new nuclear bombs per year by 2022, as the Pentagon retires older bombs that it claims will no longer be reliable or safe.

Under the plan, all of the nation's plutonium would be consolidated into a single facility that could be more effectively and cheaply defended against possible terrorist attacks. The plan would remove the plutonium now kept at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by 2014, though transfers of the material could start sooner. In recent years, concern has sharply grown that Livermore, surrounded by residential neighborhoods, could not repel a terrorist attack.

But the administration blueprint is facing sharp criticism, both from those who say it does not move fast enough to consolidate plutonium stores and from those who say restarting bomb production will encourage aspiring nuclear powers across the globe to develop weapons.

The plan was outlined to Congress on Wednesday by Thomas D'Agostino, head of nuclear weapons programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration, a part of the Energy Department. While the weapons proposal would restore the capacity to make new bombs, D'Agostino said it is part of a larger effort to accelerate the dismantling of aging bombs left from the Cold War.

D'Agostino acknowledged in an interview that the Administration is walking a fine line by modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons program while assuring other nations that it is not seeking a new arms race. The credibility of the argument rests on the U.S. intent to sharply reduce its overall inventory of weapons.

The administration is also moving quickly ahead with a new nuclear bomb program known as the "reliable replacement warhead," which began last year. Originally described as an effort to update existing weapons and make them inherently more reliable, it has been broadened and now includes the potential for new bomb designs. Weapons labs currently are engaged in a design competition.

The U.S. built its last nuclear weapon in 1989 and last tested a weapon underground in 1992. Since the Cold War, the U.S. has depended on massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons to deter attacks. By contrast, it would now increasingly rely on the capability to build future bombs for deterrence, D'Agostino said.

The blueprint calls for a modern complex to design a new nuclear bomb and have it ready in less than four years, allowing the nation to respond to changing military requirements. Such proposals in the past, such as for a nuclear bomb to attack underground bunkers, provoked concern that they undermine U.S. policy to stop nuclear proliferation.

The impetus for the plan is a growing recognition that efforts to maintain older nuclear bombs and keep up a large nuclear weapons industrial complex are technically and financially unsustainable. Last year, a task force led by San Diego physicist David Overskei recommended that the Energy Department consolidate the system of eight existing weapons complexes into a single site.

Overskei said Wednesday that the cost of security alone for the current infrastructure of plants over the next two decades is roughly $25 billion. Security costs have grown, because the Sept. 11 attacks have forced the Energy Department to assume terrorists could mount a larger and better armed strike force.

Peter Stockton, a former Energy Department security consultant and now an investigator for the Project on Government Oversight, criticized the plutonium consolidation plan in House testimony, saying it delays the difficult work too far into the future. Stockton added in an interview that the plutonium transfer at Livermore could be accomplished in a few months.

Until now, Livermore lab officials have sharply disagreed with the idea of removing plutonium from their site, saying it was essential to their work. On Wednesday, a lab spokesman said the issue is "far less controversial" and the "decision rests in Washington."

The Bush plan, described at a hearing of the strategic subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, would consolidate much of the weapons capacity, but not as completely or quickly as outside critics would like.

The overall plan would not be fully implemented until 2030. A critical part of restarting U.S. nuclear bomb production involves so-called plutonium pits, hollow spheres surrounded by high explosives. The pits start nuclear fission and trigger the nuclear fusion in a bomb.

The plutonium pits were built at the Energy Department's former Rocky Flats site near Denver, until the weapons plant was shut down in 1989 after it violated major environmental regulations.In recent years, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has attempted to start limited production of plutonium pits and hopes to build a certified pit that will enter the so-called "war reserve" next year. Los Alamos would be producing about 30 to 50 pits per year by 2012, but the Energy Department said that is not enough to sustain the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

In his testimony, D'Agostino estimated plutonium pits would last only 45 to 60 years, after which they would be too unreliable and might result in an explosion smaller than intended. Critics outside the government sharply dispute that conclusion, saying there is no evidence that pits degrade over time and that the nation can maintain an adequate nuclear deterrent by carefully maintaining its existing weapons.

'Cincy Enquirer' Blog By Army PR Officer Draws Flak for Failure To Disclose

By Joe Strupp
Published: April 05, 2006 11:13 AM ET

NEW YORK The Cincinnati Enquirer's "Grandma in Iraq" blog, which has been posting items from a U.S. Army public affairs officer since September, has been criticized for failing to fully disclose her military ties -- and now carries a detailed description of her formal title.

Most of the items posted on the blog concern views that support the U.S. occupation in Iraq and highlight what the blogger, Public Affairs Officer Suzanne Fournier, considers to be positive events there. Recent postings have cited U.S. and Iraqi efforts at improving water, electricity, and other services, as well as building a firehouse and school facilities, and even holding a Super Bowl party.

"We had a great super bowl party here Sunday, or I should say Monday morning because kickoff occurred at 2 a.m. our time and lasted until dawn," Fournier posted on Feb. 8. "We had some die-hard fans and football enthusiasts who had our day room all decked out for the big bash."

But until Tuesday, the site was somewhat limited in its full disclosure of Fournier's military ties, prompting some critics to demand more transparency. Since its launch last fall and until recently, the site has described Fournier -- who is a grandmother of 15 -- only as being stationed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Chris Graves, the Enquirer's assistant managing editor/online.

Graves said some readers began to complain this week about the lack of disclosure. Meanwhile, an item on the Web site posed the question, "Should a news organization have a military flack writing for it at all? If so, shouldn't she be explicitly identified as a public affairs officer?"

Graves agreed, and changed the description of Fournier that appears atop the opening page. It now reads, "Suzanne Fournier of Alexandria, grandmother of 15, posts from Iraq. Fournier is the Public Affairs Officer for the Gulf Region Southern District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Iraq."

"We felt we should fully describe what her job is, she never tried to hide it," Graves said. "She has blogged about what her role is."

Fournier, meanwhile, offered her own explanation in the blog on Monday and addressed the recent criticism.

"Let me take one minute to address a question that was raised today regarding my blog. I work for the US Army Corps of Engineers, they pay my salary and I volunteered to come over here as their employee to officially represent and communicate Iraq reconstruction work completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

"This blog is done on my own time, I've tried to give you a personal view of what I've observed here, the people, the land and reconstruction activities. Apparently some people are unhappy that I am communicating with you directly, because they are challenging that I haven't informed you that I am a public affairs officer and my job is to work with the news media and American public.

"I've explained my job with the Corps several times in my blogs. If I have misled anyone, I sincerely apologize, that was clearly not my intent. I believe the American taxpayers have a right to know how their tax dollars are being invested in Iraq and I believe my current job puts me in a unique position to provide personal observations since I have traveled the Southern provinces of Iraq for the past eight months."

Graves also opened up the blog to accept comments from any online reader. Previously, it had been limited only to those who had registered with the blog. Comments posted since then have ranged from supportive to those accusing the paper of propaganda.

"You have an EXCEPTIONALLY good blog, incredibly interesting and more in-depth reporting than anything you get on the network news," wrote one reader, while another opined, "The fact that you didn't disclose you worked for the U.S. military is sad, pathetic and unsurprising."

Then there's the reader who wrote, "The sad part is I'm not very surprised to learn that the Pentagon is planting propaganda in our newspapers."

Graves declined to say why the blog had been started or how Fournier had been recruited for the position, noting it had started under her predecessor, Dave Heller, who is now with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Calls to Heller, Enquirer Editor Tom Callinan and James Jackson, the paper's vice president/online, were not immediately returned. E&P also e-mailed Fournier in Iraq, but has yet to receive a response.

Somalia may be proxy US-Islam battleground


04 Apr 2006 12:28:02 GMT
Source: Reuters
By C. Bryson Hull

NAIROBI, April 4 (Reuters) - Somalia's worst fighting in years suggests the failed Horn of Africa state may become a new proxy battleground for Islamist militants and the United States.

Washington sees Somalia as a terrorist haven and backs the warlords in Mogadishu, which may have galvanised the Islamists against them both, analysts say.

A battle in March pitted warlords calling themselves the Anti-Terrorism Coalition against Islamic fighters backed by the influential Islamic courts. As many as 90 people were killed in the fighting.

A widely held perception that the United States backs the warlords with weapons, money and surveillance prompted Islamist hardliners to start a fight that killed 37 people in February, hours after the coalition announced its presence.

What has many worried is that these two battles were seen as a fight between the United States and Islam.

The U.S. backing for the warlords has, in fact, strengthened the position of the Islamists and "helped extreme elements to get the Somali public behind them," an official involved with Somalia told Reuters.

While the Islamic courts are not viewed as extremists, they and their supporters are seen as sympathetic to al Qaeda and foreign fighters who operate in Somalia, the official said.

Others say the Islamic courts, whose leaders have blamed the United States for supporting warlords, want to fight any attempt to create a government that would undermine their authority.


Complicating things is what many say are some dissenting voices in the U.S. government over what the priority in Somalia should be: Washington's counter-terrorism agenda or diplomatic efforts to help its riven interim government succeed.

Jendayi Frazer, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, would not directly answer allegations of U.S. backing for warlords. But she did say counter-terrorism in east Africa is a big concern.

"We look for allies, we look for governments that are part of that coalition that are also taking an aggressive stance against al Qaeda and terrorist elements," Frazer told reporters in Kinshasa this week when asked about Somalia.

If counter-terrorism wins out, diplomats in Somalia's peace process say that could turn it into another Iraq-like area where militants come to fight what they see as a Western war on Islam.

"That is the fear we all have," one Western diplomat said.

Nearly everyone interviewed for this story did not want to talk on the record for fear of inflaming the situation.

Somalia is on its 14th bid in almost 15 years to establish a government. The interim administration of President Abdullahi Yusuf is just starting to heal a rift that has all but paralysed it since its formation in Kenya in late 2004.

Yusuf, an Ethiopian-backed former warlord, is a U.S. ally against terrorism along with Addis Ababa.

But his outsider status in Mogadishu has forced Western intelligence agencies to turn to warlords in his cabinet who have been his chief political rivals.

That has created an impression that the United States is undermining him, and diplomats say Washington may be reassessing how it handles the warlords.


Mogadishu's residents largely despise the warlords, who have oppressed them at gunpoint for 15 years.

"It is the Americans who caused all these problems by supporting these murderers," Falestin Adan, a 70-year-old mother of five, told Reuters in Mogadishu.

Such a view is common in the city of 1 million, where the Islamic courts have created a semblance of order since an earlier alliance of warlords in 1991 ousted military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The courts, funded by wealthy businessmen, provide some basic health and education services, plus relative security and justice through Islamic sharia courts in parts of the city.

Somalis themselves do not hew toward hardline views of Islam, but are distrustful of foreigners.

Nonetheless, the anarchy has given a foothold to a handful of al Qaeda-linked militants, the International Crisis Group think-tank said last year.

Diplomats and security experts now say those numbers are rising and more training houses have been found.

(Additional reporting by Guled Mohamed in Mogadishu and David Lewis in Kinshasa)

AlertNet news is provided by REUTERS

Capitol Hill Blue: DHS's 'Operation Predator' snares two of its own


Apr 6, 2006, 02:17

It's called "Operation Predator," a high-priority Department of Homeland Security program that does battle against those who prey sexually on children.

Now, with the arrest Tuesday night of a department deputy secretary, at least two of the agency's own top personnel stand charged with just such offenses.

"It hammers home the fact that these individuals can be anywhere," said John Shehan, of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which works closely with Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.

Brian Doyle, deputy press secretary to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, faces 23 counts of using a computer to seduce a child and transmitting harmful materials to a minor. He was caught in a police Internet sting in which a detective pretended to be a 14-year-old girl.

Doyle, 55, allegedly bragged to the "girl" about his post at Homeland Security, and gave her his work telephone number when conversing with her about engaging in sex acts.

A spokeswoman for the ICE said Doyle was not directly involved in the Operation Predator program, and declined additional comment. The investigation of Doyle was initiated by the Polk County, Fla., sheriff's office, and the federal agency is cooperating with "the ongoing investigation," according to a Homeland Security statement.

The other Homeland Security official charged with a sexual offense involving a girl is veteran administrator Frank Figueroa, 49, the ICE special agent in charge of the agency's operations in central and northern Florida. Figueroa, who also ran the agency's El Paso, Texas, office, has pleaded not guilty to charges he exposed and fondled himself to a teenage girl last year at a mall in Tampa.

Within ICE, Operation Predator is a high-profile program launched in 2003. It is dedicated to identifying, investigating and catching child predators, and reports more than 6,900 arrests nationwide since the program began, according to the ICE Web site. (

Aside from cracking down on Internet predators and pornographers and those who traffick in child sexual slavery, the program also has created the National Child Victim Identification System.

Through this database, ICE, the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service and other agencies can coordinate efforts to identify children who appear in pornography, rescue them and prosecute those who photograph and distribute the images.

Also a part of that network is the private, nonprofit missing-children center, which said it was "disappointed" to hear about the case against Doyle. Even so, Shehan said his organization remains an enthusiastic partner with ICE.

"It doesn't shake our confidence," Shehan said.

(Contact Lisa Hoffman at HoffmanL(at)

Critics blast DHS on container security

**did anyone really think the DHS was about more "security"? **
WASHINGTON, April 5 (UPI) -- Senate and GAO critics have blasted the DHS for failing to meet its goals on improving cargo container security.

The Department of Homeland Security's primary cargo security program has not yet been proven to target high-risk containers and has missed multiple deadlines for improvements, despite millions of dollars spent on it and several audits, government investigators say.

Senate and Government Accountability Office investigators are calling for the DHS to verify and improve the effectiveness of the Automated Targeting System, saying the risk is too great that a weapon of mass destruction or other contraband might be smuggled into the United States via an ocean-bound cargo container, CongressDaily reported Wednesday.

Shortfalls in the system undermine the agency's claim that it is identifying all high-risk cargo, investigators say. The shortfalls also raise doubt about the effectiveness of other critical Homeland Security Department programs, such as the Container Security Initiative, which places U.S. Customs agents at foreign ports, and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, through which private shipping companies voluntarily agree to improve the security of their supply chains, CongressDaily said.

A recently released GAO report disclosed that Customs and Border Protection has missed multiple deadlines and has not put key controls in place to provide "a reasonable assurance" that ATS is effective. "Because this program is key to our nation's cargo container security inspection program, these issues have to be resolved as soon as possible," said Richard Stana, GAO's director of homeland security and justice issues.

Stana said the Automated Targeting System was used to help Container Security Initiative ports determine which cargo to inspect, and helps determine benefits for C-TPAT participants. "C-TPAT and CSI are very heavily dependent on ATS working properly," he said.

Russia wants to join Iran pipeline project :

United News of India
New Delhi, April 5, 2006

Russia is interested in becoming an active partner in the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline that would help India to meet its energy needs to a great extent.

The Russian proposal to be a partner in the proposed pipeline project was conveyed by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradikov during his visit here, Russian Ambassador to India Vyacheslav I Trubnikov informed at a seminar on "Indo Russian Relations in New Global Scenario" here on Tuesday evening.

The seminar, was organised by the Unity International Foundation and the Gandhi and Darshan Samiti, was inaugurated by former prime minister IK Gujral.

Russia has recently supplied 60 tonnes of low enriched uranium for the first and second reactor of the Tarapur nuclear plant.

The Ambassador said there was a great potential of cooperation in nuclear and energy sectors and the excellent ties between the two countries could help further consolidate cooperation in the nuclear field.

Gujral in his speech described Russia as a time tested friend, which had always stood by India at the time of crisis. He stressed the need for intensifications of cooperation in energy and fight against terrorism.

Former governor Bhishma Narain Singh also lauded the Russian leadership for their support to India on all critical issues.

Former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh said the relations between India and Russia are not merely based on buying and selling, but have acquired new dimensions in the defence technology and space research.

Israel, Turkey suspend deal to ship water in huge tankers


By Associated Press

Israel and Turkey have suspended what was meant to be a breakthrough deal: shipping water in huge tankers from Turkey to the parched Holy Land.

Both governments have concluded the deal is not feasible, but hope to revive it in the future.

Under the 20-year agreement, signed two years ago, Turkey was to ship 50

million cubic meters (1.75 billion cubic feet) of water annually from its
Manavgat River. The deal was to alleviate Israel's chronic water shortage and cement its relations with an important Muslim ally. Turkey was to boost its position as a regional power.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said recently that the agreement
was put on hold because high oil prices had made it impractical to ship the water in large tankers. Privatization of Turkey's Manavgat water-treatment facility also contributed to the higher costs, he said.

Regev said the two countries would continue looking at other options,
including building a water pipeline.

The decision to suspend the project was not connected to the recent visit of Hamas leaders to Turkey, he added. "The political relationship with Turkey is good," he said.

In Ankara, officials at the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed the project is now on hold and that the idea of a pipeline would be explored.

But experts say it could be years for a pipeline to materialize. In addition to cost considerations, such a project would possibly require involvement of Lebanon or Syria, Arab countries that are hostile to Israel.

Water experts said the deal would have provided only a small percentage of Israel's water needs. Critics have said the plan, going back more than five years, was motivated more by politics than economics.

"From the time of the first bids, it was clear you could not bring water of drinking quality from Turkey at an affordable price," said Shaul Arlosoroff, a water expert and member of the board of Mekorot, Israel's national water carrier.

"There were other reasons for Israel to maintain connections and
dialogue with Turkey. The issue of economics was not the decisive issue," he said.

Arlosoroff said the chances of building a pipeline deal are very low,
especially now that Israel has opened a new desalination plant in the port city of Ashkelon with a second plant in the works. Israel also has reduced its water needs through expertise in drip irrigation and recycling waste water for agricultural use.

"I wouldn't buy stock in the company that has to bring water from Turkey to Israel," he said.

Russia Watches US In Asia


by Andrei Grozin
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Apr 06, 2006
U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in Astana the other day that Kazakhstan should lead the effort to develop the energy sector infrastructure and set up additional transit routes for energy resources.

Although he talked exclusively about energy resources, it is worth noting statements by high-level U.S. officials, if only to find out whether the United States has embarked on a new policy in Central Asia.

At first, there was no new policy. Events in "the new Asia" were of interest exclusively to its neighbors. Moscow and Tehran took an active part in the settlement in Tajikistan and were successful. China not only reached an agreement with Kazakhstan on localizing separatist movements, which tried to set up strong points on Kazakh territory for action in Xinjiang in the first half of the 1990s, but also resolved bilateral territorial issues.

Kyrgyzstan also worked toward settling the border problem with China. Despite a host of subjective problems, Turkmenistan developed effective trade and economic relations with Russia and Iran. Moscow and Beijing facilitated the involvement of all postwar Asian republics, except Turkmenistan, into the Shanghai Five, or Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is seeking to implement a number of major transportation, economic and trade projects and promoting good neighborly relations within the SCO.

Until September 2001, the United States, and the West in general, paid little attention to the region. They merely mentioned its huge energy potential and were not too active in defending the few local dissidents. For a long time, the United States had a very cautious, if not hostile, approach to the newly independent Asian republics. The West was convinced that Muslim Central Asia was a convenient bridgehead for the dynamic growth of Islamic radicalism. But experience shows that post-Soviet Asia has proved capable of political and business cooperation with the world powers, while Islamic extremism has not yet become firmly established in the region. It has been engaged in a long struggle for this goal, but quite often without much success.

Until recently, Washington's economic and defense cooperation with these countries was based on unilateral advantage and minimal costs.

There are reasons to believe that Washington has drawn some conclusions from its Iranian experience of 1979, when the Islamic revolution destroyed in less than a month and a half the United States' 10-year-plus work with the Shah's regime. The latter looked fairly pro-Western, but was burdened with clan corruption and the poverty of more than 80 percent of its population. The situation in the post-Soviet Asian space is pretty much the same.

The United States is pursuing its strategy on several levels. It is flirting with the top echelons of local power, promising to help them solve their major domestic problems, and making some moves to the West-oriented local opposition, funding it through various non-governmental organizations as a potential "reserve." The United States is stepping up its economic influence in the region, relying on its new military bases.

At the same time, the U.S. effort to expand its military presence in the area has led to negative domestic processes in newly independent Asian countries.

The regime of Askar Akayev was toppled in Kyrgyzstan in March 2005 after a week of disorder and pogroms in its southern regions and the capital. Events of the last few months show that tensions in the republic have been escalating. In all probability, it is bound for long-time instability due to a violent change of power.

In the last three years, domestic protests have been growing in Uzbekistan and the government will unlikely be able to suppress them. Given the high birth rate, the skidding Uzbek economy cannot provide stable jobs and enough pay for the residents of agrarian regions.

The Uzbek authorities counted on economic and military-strategic partnerships with the United States as a hope of getting help in solving economic problems. But by late 2002, Tashkent became wary of excessive dependence on the United States in different spheres due to the appearance of American military bases on Uzbek territory.

After the suppression of riots in Andijan, Western government and human rights organizations launched a full-scale information war against Uzbekistan. Tashkent parried the appeals for stronger economic and political pressure on the regime with the withdrawal of the U.S. base from its territory, the full-scale re-orientation of its foreign policy in regards to Russia and China and entry into the Eurasian Economic Community.

Having lost its positions in Uzbekistan, the United States is rushing to build a new strategy in Central Asia.

Now the United States is trying hard to turn Kazakhstan into its "strategic regional partner." Washington has been very complimentary of Astana of late and is even actively lobbying the idea of the Kazakh leaders -- which appeared on the eve of the presidential elections in the republic in December 2005 -- about the republic's special mission as the regional leader in Central Asia and the Caspian area. That is the gist of statements that the U.S. energy sSecretary made in Astana. Mostly, he was talking about the U.S. desire to achieve early completion of the Kazakh-Azerbaijani talks on transporting Kazakh energy resources via the BTC pipeline.

It is easy to see why Washington is eager to see Kazakhstan in the role of the leader -- after a setback with Tashkent, it does not have other options since Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are the only post-Soviet Central Asian republics that can claim the role of regional leader. In addition, Astana's pragmatic Caspian policy allows American multinationals to freely invest in oil production and control a huge share of profits -- if oil business is based on physical control of oil reserves, the distribution of profits from oil sales is even more important.

At the same time, the signing of the intergovernmental agreement on Kazakhstan's joining the BTC pipeline has been suspended more than once and Washington is getting nervous. Speaking of Astana's potential domination of the region, the United States is striving for its own supremacy there. It presents its desire to "rule" in the Caspian area in a very attractive package -- a stable and predictable investment climate in Kazakhstan will not only attract more investment, but will also create more jobs, explained Bodman. In the next five years, the amount of investment in Kazakhstan could double, he said.

The Kazakh authorities keep talking about their country joining the ranks of the top 10 oil producers in the next 10 years. In light of this, it does not make sense for Astana to give up its maneuvering between the world centers of power, a policy which has brought it so many dividends.

But it should not forget that having launched several velvet-type revolutions in post-Soviet space, the West has radicalized the struggle for influence in the former Soviet republics since late 2003. They have exacerbated the struggle of the political elites there. Eventually, all these games in Central Asia could end badly. For all the talk about "a strategic partnership" and promises of lavish investment, the United States will never change its strategy of rotating elites in post-Soviet republics.

Andrei Grozin is the head of the department of Central Asia and Kazakhstan at the Institute of the CIS Countries in Moscow. United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

US Skeptical On Fajr-3 Claims

by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Apr 06, 2006

The Pentagon is playing down Iran's claims that it has successfully tested a multiple warhead missile with stealth capabilities. The Iranian armed forces announced Friday that they had successfully test fired a Fajr-3 missile that could carry multiple warheads and that was not detectable by radar.

The report was greeted with consternation, especially in Israel which has upgraded its Arrow anti-ballistic missile interceptor to cope with the threat of Iran's intermediate-range Shahab 3 missiles that can hit targets at least 620 miles away. Last December, an Israeli Arrow, co-produced by Israel Aircraft Industries and Boeing, successfully intercepted a missile configured to fly like a Shahab-3.

Apart from the United States only Russia has successfully developed multiple independently targeted reentry vehicle, or MIRV, technology and anti-ballistic missile interceptor evasion capabilities on its latest upgraded Topol-M and Bulava ground-mobile and submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile systems.

However, the Washington Times' veteran intelligence correspondent Bill Gertz reported Tuesday that U.S. officials believed the Iranian claims were wild exaggerations.

Gertz cited a DOD official as confirming that the missile used in Friday's Iranian test was only a Shahab-2, the Iranian designation for the old short range Scud-C missile, which has a range of only 310 miles. "It was not a new missile as (the) Iranian press reported," Gertz wrote.

Gertz also cited missile analyst Uzi Rubin as saying the Iranian description of the Fajr-3 sounded very much like the new Russian Iskander-3 missile, except for the independent targeting, which the Iskander-3 does not have.

Is Iran's carrier-killer a squib?

Other Western analysts are being equally skeptical about the other claim the Iranians made to have developed a remarkable new underwater torpedo-missile with aircraft carrier-killing capabilities that can travel at four times the speed of current fast torpedoes. reported that the weapon was most likely a version of the Russian-built VA-111 Shkval rocket-torpedo. But while the Shkval is fast, "the Russians have not had any success convincing the world's navy that their rocket propelled torpedo is a real threat," the Web site said.

"The attacking sub has to get relatively close (within 4.2 miles) to use it. Modern anti-submarine tactics focus on preventing subs from getting that close. For that reason, the Russians themselves tout the VA-111 Shkval torpedo as a specialized anti-submarine weapon for Russian subs being stalked by other subs," Strategy said.

The Web site's analyst also noted that the Shkval remained an "essentially unguided" weapon. The attacking submarine that carried it had to be lined up directly at its target so that when the Shkval was launched from its torpedo tube its rocket motor could ignite and then propel it in a straight line.

"Do the math, and you will see that there is little margin for error, or chance of success, with such a weapon. If the Iranians bought the Shkval technology from Russia, they got the bad end of the deal," the report said.

Source: United Press International

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Two top Israeli parties plan joint government on Yahoo! News

Tue Apr 4, 5:21 AM ET

Israeli Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who hopes to set a border unilaterally with the Palestinians, plans to announce talks for a joint government with the leftist Labor Party, a political source said on Tuesday.

Olmert and Labor Party leader Amir Peretz "are going to announce a formal entry into negotiations" for a new coalition after Olmert's victory in a March 28 national election, a political source said.

A joint news conference is scheduled for later on Tuesday.

Olmert's centrist Kadima party won just 29 seats in the 120-member parliament, which means he must form a coalition with other parties in order to rule.

Peretz's Labor, which won 19 seats, is the largest and most likely partner for Kadima, which campaigned on a platform to unilaterally set Israel's borders with the Palestinians by 2010.

The launch of Kadima's talks with Labor came amid expectations that President Moshe Katsav will formally designate Olmert as the new prime minister as early as Wednesday.

Once named by Katsav, Olmert would have 42 days to form a government.

The decision to negotiate with Labor follows a secret meeting at which Olmert agreed to offer Peretz a senior cabinet post, possibly the defense ministry, the source said.

The prestigious post was offered to Peretz, a former trade unionist, in a bid to persuade him to drop a demand for the finance ministry.

Kadima fears Labor's demands for increased social spending would strain the state budget and make financial markets nervous.

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams)

Pentagon calls Iran missile claim an exaggeration -- The Washington Times


Pentagon calls Iran missile claim an exaggeration
By Bill Gertz
Published April 4, 2006

Iran tested an older Scud missile variant last week and often exaggerates its military developments, the Pentagon said yesterday in response to Tehran's reported testing of new advanced weaponry.
"We know that the Iranians are always trying to improve their weapons systems by both foreign and indigenous measures," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
"It is possible they are increasing their capabilities and making strides in radar-absorbing material and targeting," he said. "However, the Iranians have been known to boast and exaggerate their statements about greater technical and tactical capabilities."
Iran on Sunday reported that its military had test-fired a high-speed underwater missile and released video footage showing the missile-torpedo hitting a target vessel.
A U.S. official cast doubt on the reported Iranian missile-torpedo but declined to comment on what U.S. intelligence agencies know about the Iranian arsenal.
The missile tests add to growing tensions over Iran's nuclear program and increased diplomatic activity at the United Nations on how to respond.
At the State Department, spokesman Adam Ereli said yesterday that the reported missile tests are a worry.
"It is a further reminder of an aggressive program of development of weapons systems and development and deployment of weapons systems that many of us see as threatening, I think first and foremost, to those nations of the Gulf that are most immediately connected to or in most immediate proximity to Iran," he told reporters.
Russia has a high-technology torpedo that uses rocket technology to propel it under water at high speeds. Moscow in the past has supplied Iran with missile technology and may have provided data on its Skval, as the rocket-powered torpedo is called, U.S. officials said.
An Iranian general said the Iranian military test-fired a new missile Friday that had the capability to evade enemy sensors and carried multiple warheads.
A defense official confirmed that the Iranians' test was a Shahab-2, Tehran's designation for the Scud-C missile, which has a range of up to 310 miles. It was not a new missile as Iranian press reported.
Mr. Whitman said yesterday that Iran's military program is "centered on its ballistic-missile program, which Tehran views as its primary deterrent."
"It has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East," he said. "Over the past year, Iran has continued testing its medium-range ballistic missile and has also tested anti-ship missiles. As Iran has been working on its ballistic-missile program, it is not surprising that they have tested this Scud-C."
Iran has three types of unguided artillery rockets: the Zelzal, Fajir-3 and Fajir-4. Its ballistic missiles include two types of Scuds, Shahab-1 and -2, and its 620-mile-range Shahab-3. It also has an extended-range version of the Shahab-3.
U.S. officials said Iran also has Chinese-made C-801 anti-ship missiles that Tehran could use to disrupt shipping in the Persian Gulf and limit supplies of oil to other parts of the world.
Uzi Rubin, a private missile threat specialist, said Iran's claim to have a multiple-warhead missile are far-fetched. The warhead could be a "frangible" re-entry vehicle capable of releasing several bomblets above the altitude of most air defenses, a system China is said to be developing.
"The Iranian's general description is similar to the Russian description of the Iskander E, save for the multiple targeting," Mr. Rubin said, noting that it is unlikely the Iranians had purchased the new Russian short-range missile.
Mr. Rubin said it is likely the Iranian missile claim is a boast.

Iraq shelves political talks despite US pressure on Yahoo! News


Tue Apr 4, 2:40 PM ET

Iraqi leaders shelved talks on forming a government despite a warning from the United States and Britain against any further delay, as at least 23 were killed in violence across the country.

In another key development, Saddam Hussein was charged for genocide for the first time over his Anfal military campaign against Kurds from 1987-1988 that left around 180,000 people dead.

Talks on forming a national unity government were shelved despite stern warnings from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her British counterpart Jack Straw who left Iraq Monday after an unprecedented two-day visit.

The formation of the first permanent post-Saddam government has been delayed due to bitter wrangling over key ministerial posts and the premiership, with non-Shiite factions opposing the candidacy of incumbent prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari.

The political vacuum saw Rice and Straw earlier this week voice their frustration at the lack of political progress, although the two refrained from any direct reference as to who should lead the cabinet.

Splits have appeared in the dominant conservative Shiite grouping, the United Iraqi Alliance, over the key sticking point of whether Jaafari should lead the new government.

"The ball is in the court of the alliance who have to take a final decision on Jaafari," a lawmaker from one of the key partners in the alliance, Mohammed Ismail Khazali of the Fadhila party, told AFP.

"I call upon a parliament session to decide on this issue as the alliance has been unable to decide till now."

Though the reason for Tuesday's shelving of talks were not announced, sources closes to negotiations said the Shiite alliance was holding intense internal talks to decide on the issue of Jaafari.

It was also not clear whether the talks will commence again Wednesday.

Kurdish, secular and Sunni politicians from other blocs involved in government negotiations have indicated their dissatisfaction with Jaafari, blaming him for not being able to stem the violence or rein in sectarian tendencies of several ministers.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, has supported the anti-Jaafari campaign.

"Our attitude towards Jaafari does not reflect that we are against his Dawa party of the Shiite alliance," Talabani told reporters Tuesday.

Expressing optimism over the talks to form the national unity government, he said "all political blocs were keen for an early resolution and ready to make compromises."

He said the political deliberations will not take more than two weeks.

For the United States, a national unity government is essential to their plans for an eventual withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi High Tribunal said that Saddam and six others would be tried on genocide charges over the Anfal campaign against Kurds that left an estimated 180,000 people dead.

Saddam's six co-defendants include Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as Chemical Ali and notorious for ordering the gassing of Halabja in 1988 which killed 5,000 people, chief investigating judge Raed al-Juhi told reporters.

"The investigation has been completed for the Anfal campaign and the seven accused have been referred to the court for genocide," he said.

The announcement came as the trial of Saddam and seven others for the massacre of 141 Shiite villagers from Dujail resumes Wednesday.

Aside from Saddam and Majid, others in the dock will include former minister of defense Sultan Hashem Ahmed and high ranking Baathists Saber Abdel Aziz, Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, Taher Mohammed al-Ani and Farhan al-Juburi.

Meanwhile, the violence on the ground escalated with dozens of US and Iraqi casualties.

At least 23 people died Tuesday in violence around the country, including a car bomb that struck eastern Baghdad.

Ten people were killed and around 25 wounded in the explosion of a car bomb parked in the al-Habibiyah neighborhood, a security source said.

Police found 18 bodies around Baghdad, many of them tortured and riddled with bullets. Dozens of bodies have been dumped in the capital in wake of the outbreak of sectarian strife since the February 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

The US military has also experienced one of its deadliest periods over the past few days, with at least 15 servicemen reported to have lost their lives in rebel violence and a flash flood.

Late Tuesday the military said it found one of the bodies of marines missing after a deadly road accident caused by the flash flood in Iraq's western Al-Anbar province Sunday. It had earlier declared five marines dead in the accident.

The bodies of a marine and a sailor remain missing from the accident near Haditha when a truck in a convoy rolled over.

About 2,340 US servicemen have died since the March 2003 invasion in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi cabinet said three insurgents were killed, including one known as the "Prince of Princes", in an operation in Tarmiya, just north Baghdad. The release gave no further detail about the "prince".

A court in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region sentenced to death 12 members of militant group Ansar al-Islam for numerous killings and explosions, an Arbil judiciary official said

Alarm At UK Call On International Law

by Hannah K. Strange
UPI UK Correspondent
London (UPI) Apr 05, 2006

Opposition politicians and human rights campaigners reacted with dismay Tuesday to British Defense Secretary John Reid's call for international laws, including the Geneva Conventions, to be redrawn to ensure states could counter global terrorism and undertake military interventions.

The threat of terrorism should not be used as justification for a watering-down of fundamental human rights, Liberal Democrats Shadow Defense Secretary Nick Harvey warned.

Any suggestion that Britain should endorse U.S. policies such as indefinite detention of terror suspects and extraordinary rendition must be "emphatically rejected," he said.

Reid's remarks were described as "dismaying" by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, while Conservative parliamentarian Andrew Tyrie said his suggestions "beggared belief."

Speaking at London's Royal United Services Institute Monday, the defense secretary said that the strategic landscape and the threats the world now faced were different to anything seen before, and that the legal framework governing conflict should therefore be reexamined.

The Geneva Conventions governing conduct in warfare were created over half a century ago when conflicts generally involved states pitted against each other, he said. They were not adequate to cope with the rise of non-state actors who obeyed "no rules whatsoever," were intent on carrying out large-scale atrocities against civilians and sought to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, he argued.

"The legal constraints upon us have to be set against an enemy that adheres to no constraints whatsoever," Reid added.

He addressed three key issues: the threat from terrorists, the possibility of states needing to use force to avert an imminent attack, and intervention on humanitarian grounds. In all such scenarios, Britain and other Western nations were hamstrung by existing laws, he suggested.

The "concept of imminence" -- the circumstances in which states can act preemptively against a perceived threat -- discussed by Reid was a central point of debate during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and has clear implications for any future military action against Iran.

The defense secretary declined to comment on whether he had been persuaded by the U.S. argument that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to enemy combatants detained in facilities such as Guantanamo Bay. Neither would he say whether Britain should endorse the U.S. practice of extraordinary rendition, the transfer of terror suspects to secret prisons where they risk being tortured. However it was not "sufficient just to say (Guantanamo) is wrong," he said.

His remarks prompted alarm among human rights groups and opposition politicians. The Liberal Democrats' Harvey said that there might be a case for reviewing the rules on humanitarian intervention and the applicability of certain legal instruments to the new global paradigm.

But, he warned: "After the disaster of Iraq, the idea that the doctrine of pre-emptive strike should be expanded, will be met with incredulity in the West, and with alarm in the ministries of Tehran."

Regarding the treatment of terror suspects, Harvey said that new threats must never be used to justify lower standards. "Compromising on established values and principles would not only be wrong, but would undermine crucial efforts to win hearts and minds."

Tyrie, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, said it "beggared belief" that Reid had suggested international standards might be amended "and by implication, weakened."

"Before proposing to rewrite the rule book he should concentrate on making sure that the laws we do have are obeyed, both by the U.K. and the U.S.," he said.

Amyas Godfrey, a defense analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, argued that amendments to the Conventions could in fact strengthen them. For example: preventing the United States from "writing its own rules" on the treatment of enemy combatants.

The fact that the Geneva Conventions did not cover non-state actors had allowed the United States to "find a loophole, slip between the rules," he told United Press International.

"There's always a need to update the world in which you live and the rules by which we work," he said, acknowledging that there had been a significant change in the nature of conflict since the end of the Cold War.

The new enemies were principally non-state actors and would likely be for some time, he said, while it was even possible that defense operations would be franchised out to private companies in future. "There do need to be rules if the world is generally moving in that direction," he added.

But Godfrey told UPI there was a danger that politicians would change the rules to meet their needs, and that the public must be "vigilant."

Steve Crawshaw, the London director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said that while there might be a case for updating the rules, the tone of Reid's speech suggested a desire to get rid of the restrictions that were deemed inconvenient.

It echoed the U.S. attacks on the entire rationale of the Geneva Conventions and the International Committee of the Red Cross following the September 11 atrocities, he told UPI.

The implication was: "We don't really like these rules, we think that after 9/11 the gloves came off," he said.

While in theory, amendments to the Conventions could close loopholes on the treatment of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, the fact was that the way the offshore camp had been constructed was specifically intended to circumvent existing laws, Crawshaw argued.

One therefore needed to be "extremely wary" of how any amendments would be handled, he said.

Crawshaw maintained that the Conventions remained "extremely applicable"; it was "deeply misleading" to suggest that they were somehow created in a "softer era," given that the key conventions were drafted in the wake of World War Two, which had seen ethnic cleansing, massacres, torture and internment on a massive scale.

While no one doubted the reality of the terror threat, the argument that it justified scrapping the rulebook was "dismaying," he said.

Source: United Press International

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Venezuela army gets first batch of Russia helicopters


Venezuela army gets first batch of Russia helicopters

04.04.2006, 14.16

CARACAS, April 4 (Itar-Tass) - A ceremony of handing in of the first batch of Russia’s helicopters to the armed forces of Venezuela was held at the San Felipe military base 350 kilometres southwest of Caracas on Monday. Demonstration flights of three Mi-17V-5 helicopters steered by Venezuelan pilots preceded the ceremony. The pilots had undergone a five-month training at the Russian Combat Training Centre (CTC) of the Army Aviation based in Torzhok.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who attended the ceremony expressed deep gratitude to Russia for solidarity with the Venezuelan people. Chavez said that under the contract signed in March 2005 the Venezuelan armed forces will get 15 Mi-17V-5, Mi-35M and Mi-26T helicopters. The republic is planning to purchase a total of 33 Russian helicopters.

The Venezuelan president said the combat and piloting performance demonstrated by the helicopters in the sky was excellent. Russia is expected to supply to Venezuela Mi-26T helicopters that are most advanced and capable of transporting up to 280 people. Chavez called this helicopter an air fortress. He noted with pride that Venezuela will become the first country in the world to receive this helicopter.

According to the president, in attempts to undermine the republic’s military potential the United States stopped the supplies of spare parts for the F-16 aircraft to Venezuela. In this connection Chavez expressed readiness to replace the outdated American aircraft with modern combat helicopters of Russian make. “Russia has answered with all seriousness to our proposals on this issue and we are ready to purchase planes in the country,” stressed the Venezuelan president.

When War Crimes Are Impossible

When War Crimes Are Impossible

When War Crimes Are Impossible
By Norman Solomon
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 04 April 2006

Is President Bush guilty of war crimes?

To even ask the question is to go far beyond the boundaries of mainstream US media.

A few weeks ago, when a class of seniors at Parsippany High School in New Jersey prepared for a mock trial to assess whether Bush has committed war crimes, a media tempest ensued.

Typical was the response from MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, who found the very idea of such accusations against Bush to be unfathomable. The classroom exercise "implies people are accusing him of a crime against humanity," Carlson said. "It's ludicrous."

In Tennessee, the Chattanooga Times Free Press thundered in an editorial: "That some American 'educators' would have students 'try' our American president for 'war crimes' during time of war tells us that our problems are not only with terrorists abroad."

The standard way for media to refer to Bush and war crimes in the same breath is along the lines of this lead-in to a news report on CNN's "American Morning" in late March: "The Supreme Court's about to consider a landmark case and one that could have far-reaching implications. At issue is President Bush's powers to create war crimes tribunals for Guantanamo prisoners."

In medialand, when the subject is war crimes, the president of the United States points the finger at others. Any suggestion that Bush should face such a charge is assumed to be oxymoronic.

But a few journalists, outside the corporate media structures, are seriously probing Bush's culpability for war crimes. One of them is Robert Parry.

During the 1980s, Parry covered US foreign policy for the Associated Press and Newsweek; in the process he broke many stories related to the Iran-Contra scandal. Now he's the editor of the 10-year-old web site, an outlet he founded that has little use for the narrow journalistic path along Pennsylvania Avenue.

"In a world where might did not make right," Parry wrote in a recent piece, "George W. Bush, Tony Blair and their key enablers would be in shackles before a war crimes tribunal at The Hague, rather than sitting in the White House, 10 Downing Street or some other comfortable environs in Washington and London."

Over the top? I don't think so. In fact, Parry's evidence and analysis seem much more cogent - and relevant to our true situation - than the prodigious output of countless liberal-minded pundits who won't go beyond complaining about Bush's deceptions, miscalculations and tactical errors in connection with the Iraq war.

Is Congress ready to consider the possibility that the commander in chief has committed war crimes during the past few years? Of course not. But the role of journalists shouldn't be to snuggle within the mental confines of Capitol Hill. We need the news media to fearlessly address matters of truth, not cravenly adhere to limits of expediency.

When top officials in Lyndon Johnson's administration said that North Vietnam had launched two unprovoked attacks on US vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin, the press corps took their word for it. When top officials in George W. Bush's administration said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the press corps took their word for it.

We haven't yet seen any noticeable part of the Washington press corps raise the matter of war crimes by the president. Very few dare to come near the terrain that Parry explored in his March 28 article, "Time to Talk War Crimes."

That article cites key statements by the US representative to the Nuremberg Tribunal immediately after the Second World War. "Our position," declared Robert Jackson, a US Supreme Court justice, "is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions."

During a March 26 appearance on the NBC program "Meet the Press," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to justify the invasion of Iraq this way: "We faced the outcome of an ideology of hatred throughout the Middle East that had to be dealt with. Saddam Hussein was a part of that old Middle East. The new Iraq will be a part of the new Middle East, and we will all be safer."

But, in a new essay on April 3, Parry points out that "this doctrine - that the Bush administration has the right to invade other nations for reasons as vague as social engineering - represents a repudiation of the Nuremberg Principles and the United Nations Charter's ban on aggressive war, both formulated largely by American leaders six decades ago."

Parry flags the core of the administration's maneuver: "Gradually, Rice and other senior Bush aides shifted their rationale from Hussein's WMD to a strategic justification, that is, politically transforming the Middle East." He concludes that "implicit in the US news media's non-coverage of Rice's new rationale for war is that there is nothing objectionable or alarming about the Bush administration turning its back on principles of civilized behavior promulgated by US statesmen at the Nuremberg Tribunal six decades ago."

Although the evidence is ample that President Bush led the way to aggressive warfare against Iraq, the mainstream US news media keep proceeding on the assumption that - when the subject is war crimes - he's well cast as an accuser but should never be viewed as an appropriate defendant.

Norman Solomon is the author of the new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. For information, go to:

Dahr Jamail: How Massacres Become the Norm

Dahr Jamail

"It amazes me that so many people in the US today somehow seriously believe that American soldiers would never kill civilians. Despite the fact that they are in a no-win guerrilla war in Iraq which, like any other guerrilla war, always generates more civilian casualties than combatant casualties on either side."

US soldiers killing innocent civilians in Iraq is not news. Just as it was not news that US soldiers slaughtered countless innocent civilians in Vietnam. However, when some rare reportage of this non news from Iraq does seep through the cracks of the corporate media, albeit briefly, the American public seems shocked. Private and public statements of denial and dismissal immediately start to fill the air. We hear, "American soldiers would never do such a thing," or "Who would make such a ridiculous claim?"

It amazes me that so many people in the US today somehow seriously believe that American soldiers would never kill civilians. Despite the fact that they are in a no-win guerrilla war in Iraq which, like any other guerrilla war, always generates more civilian casualties than combatant casualties on either side.

Robert J. Lifton is a prominent American psychiatrist who lobbied for the inclusion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders after his work with US veterans from Vietnam. His studies on the behavior of those who have committed war crimes led him to believe it does not require an unusual level of mental illness or of personal evil to carry out such crimes. Rather, these crimes are nearly guaranteed to occur in what Lifton refers to as "atrocity-producing situations."

Several of his books, like The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, examine how abnormal conditions work on normal minds, enabling them to commit the most horrendous crimes imaginable.

Iraq today is most certainly an "atrocity-producing situation," as it has been from the very beginning of the occupation.

The latest reported war crime, a US military raid on the al-Mustafa Shia mosque in Baghdad on March 26th, which killed at least 16 people, is only one instance of the phenomena that Lifton has spoken of.

An AP video of the scene shows male bodies tangled together in a bloody mass on the floor of the Imams' living quarters - all of them with shotgun wounds and other bullet holes. The tape also shows shell casings of the caliber used by the US military scattered about on the floor. An official from the al-Sadr political bloc reported that American forces had surrounded the hospital where the wounded were taken for treatment after the massacre.

The slaughter was followed by an instant and predictable disinformation blitz by the US military. The second ranking US commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, told reporters "someone went in and made the scene look different from what it was."

On March 15th, 11 Iraqis, mostly women and children, were massacred by US troops in Balad. Witnesses told reporters that US helicopters landed near a home, which was then stormed by US troops. Everyone visible was rounded up and taken inside the house where they were killed. The victims' ages ranged from six months to 75 years.

The US military acknowledged the raid, but claimed to have captured a resistance fighter and insisted that only four people had been killed. Their claim would have held good but for the discrepancies that the available evidence presents. For one, the photographs that the AP reporter took of the scene reveal a collapsed roof, three destroyed cars and two dead cows. The other indictment comes from the detailed report of the incident prepared by Iraq Police. It matches witness accounts and accuses the American troops of murdering Iraqi civilians.

"The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 persons, including five children, four women and two men. Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed the animals." The report includes the observation of local medics that all of the bodies had bullet wounds in the head.

Ahmed Khalaf, the nephew of one of the victims said, "The killed family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children. The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death." AP photos of the aftermath showed the bodies of five children, two men and four others covered in blankets being driven to a nearby hospital.

Reminiscent of Vietnam?

Another appalling example of the effect of an "atrocity-producing situation" was experienced last November 19th in Haditha. American troops, in retaliation against a roadside bomb attack, stormed nearby homes and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a three-year-old girl.

US military response? All 15 civilians were killed by the blast of the roadside bomb.

In this case, reality refuted their claim when a student of journalism from Haditha showed up with a video tape of the dead, still in their nightclothes.

Killing Iraqis in their homes and while they are in bed is not news either, for during the aftermath of the November 2004 assault on Fallujah, scores of Iraqis were killed by US soldiers in this manner.

Neither is it news that the US military regularly targets ambulances and medical infrastructure. Khaled Ahmed Rsayef, whose brother and six other relatives were killed by the troops, vividly described the blind frustration of the American soldiers and their impulsive revenge at losing one of their own. "American troops immediately cordoned off the area and raided two nearby houses, shooting at everyone inside. It was a massacre in every sense of the word," said Rasayef. While he was not present at the scene, his 15-year-old niece was and her story was corroborated by other residents of the area who witnessed the carnage.

A quick scan of some Arab media reportage for last month exposes further atrocities carried out by US forces in Iraq which find no mention in the corporate media.

March 20, the Daily Dar Al-Salam reported: "US forces destroyed houses in Hasibah and displaced the inhabitants. Also, a source at Abu Ghurayb Secondary School said that US forces raided the school for the third time and arrested the guard."

In December 2003, I personally witnessed US soldiers raid a secondary school in the al-Amiriyah district of Baghdad and detain 16 children.

March 19, Al-Arabia reported: "In another development, seven people, including a woman, were killed in a raid carried out by joint American-Iraqi forces in Al-Dulu'iyah at dawn today. The US Army has so far not confirmed this information."

March 9, Al Sharqiyah Television reported: "US troops opened fire at a civilian vehicle as it passed by Al-Hadba district in the western part of Mosul, northern Iraq. The three occupants of the vehicle were martyred in the incident."

Throughout the three-year history of the US-led catastrophe that is the occupation of Iraq, we have had one instance after another of brutality meted out to innocent Iraqis, by way of direct executions or bombings from the air, or both.

During an attack on a wedding party in May 2004, US troops killed over 40 people, mostly women and children, in a desert village on the Syrian border of Iraq.

APTN footage showed fragments of musical instruments, blood stains, the headless body of a child, other dead children and clumps of women's hair in a destroyed house that was bombed by US warplanes. Other photographs showed dead women and children, and an AP reporter identified at least 10 of the bodies as those of children. Relatives who gathered at a cemetery outside of Ramadi, where all the bodies were buried, told reporters that each of the 28 fresh graves contained between one and three bodies.

The few survivors of the massacre later recounted how in the middle of the night long after the wedding feast had ended, US jets began raining bombs on their tents and houses.

Mrs. Shihab, a 30-year-old woman who survived the massacre, told the Guardian, "We went out of the house and the American soldiers started to shoot us. They were shooting low on the ground and targeting us one by one." She added that she ran with her two little boys before they were all shot, including herself in the leg. "I left them because they were dead," she said of her two little boys, one of whom was decapitated by a shell. "I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me."

Thereafter, armored military vehicles entered the village, shooting at all the other houses and the people who were starting to assemble in the open. Following these, two Chinook helicopters offloaded several dozen troops, some of who set explosives in one of the homes and a building next to it. Both exploded into rubble as the helicopters lifted off.

Mr. Nawaf, one of the survivors, said, "I saw something that nobody ever saw in this world. There were children's bodies cut into pieces, women cut into pieces, men cut into pieces. The Americans call these people foreign fighters. It is a lie. I just want one piece of evidence of what they are saying."

Hamdi Noor al-Alusi, the manager of al-Qa'im general hospital, the nearest medical facility to the scene of the slaughter, said that of the 42 killed, 14 were children and 11 women. "I want to know why the Americans targeted this small village," he said, "These people are my patients. I know each one of them. What has caused this disaster?"

As usual, the US military ran a disinformation campaign saying the target was a "suspected safe-house" for foreign fighters and denied that any children were killed. The ever pliant US Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters that the troops who reported back from the operation "told us they did not shoot women and children."

Topping his ridiculous claim was the statement of Maj. Gen. James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division. "How many people go to the middle of the desert ... to hold a wedding 80 miles (130km) from the nearest civilization?"

Perhaps someone should have informed him that these farmers and nomads often "go to the middle of the desert" because they happen to live there.

"These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naïve," Mattis stated before being asked by a reporter to comment on the footage on Arabic television which showed a child's body being lowered into a grave. His brilliant response was: "I have not seen the pictures but bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men."

If the US were a member of the International Criminal Court, Maj. Gen. Mattis may well have been in The Hague right now being tried for aiding and abetting war crimes. How can someone holding an official position like Mattis publicly sanction atrocities?

It is about unnatural responses such as these that Dr. Lifton has written extensively. In a piece he wrote for the New England Journal of Medicine in July 2004, Lifton addressed the issue of US doctors being complicit in torturing Iraqis in Abu Ghraib. This article sheds much light on the situation in Iraq. If we substitute "doctors" with "soldiers" it is easy to understand why American soldiers are regularly committing the excesses that we hear of.

Lifton writes, "American doctors at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere have undoubtedly been aware of their medical responsibility to document injuries and raise questions about their possible source in abuse. But those doctors and other medical personnel were part of a command structure that permitted, encouraged, and sometimes orchestrated torture to a degree that it became the norm - with which they were expected to comply - in the immediate prison environment."

He continues, "The doctors thus brought a medical component to what I call an "atrocity-producing situation" - one so structured, psychologically and militarily, that ordinary people can readily engage in atrocities. Even without directly participating in the abuse, doctors may have become socialized to an environment of torture and by virtue of their medical authority helped sustain it. In studying various forms of medical abuse, I have found that the participation of doctors can confer an aura of legitimacy and can even create an illusion of therapy and healing."

I have personally experienced this. Standing with US soldiers at checkpoints and perimeters of operations in Iraq, I have seen them curse and kick Iraqis, heard them threatening to kill even women and children and then look at me as if they had merely said hello to them. My status of journalist did not deter them because they saw no need for checks.

Having stood with soldiers anticipating that each moving car would turn into a bomb and each passerby into a suicide bomber, I have tasted the stress and fear these soldiers live with on a daily basis. When one of their fellow soldiers is killed by a roadside bomb, the need for revenge may be directed at anything. And repeated often enough, the process gets socialized.

It's about this attitude brought on by the normalization of the abnormal under "atrocity-producing situations" that Dr. Lifton speaks. Unless of course we consider Mattis and others like him to be rare sociopaths who are able to participate in atrocities without suffering lasting emotional harm.

And it is this attitude that is responsible for the incessant replication of wanton slaughter and madness in Iraq today.

Back in November of 2004, I wrote about 12-year-old Fatima Harouz. She lay dazed in a crowded room in Yarmouk Hospital in Bahgdad, feebly waving her bruised arm at flies. Her shins had been shattered by bullets from US soldiers when they fired through the front door of her home in Latifiya, a small city just south of Baghdad. Small plastic drainage bags filled with red fluid sat upon her abdomen, where she took shrapnel from another bullet.

Her mother, who was standing with us, said, "They attacked our home and there weren't even any resistance fighters in our area." Her brother had been shot and killed, and his wife was wounded as their home was ransacked by soldiers. "Before they left, they killed all of our chickens," she added, her eyes a mixture of fear, shock and rage.

On hearing the story, a doctor looked at me sternly and asked, "This is the freedom ... in their Disney Land are there kids just like this?"

Another wounded young woman in a nearby hospital bed, Rana Obeidy, had been walking home with her brother. She assumed the soldiers shot her and her brother because he was carrying a bottle of soda. This happened in Baghdad. She had a chest wound where a bullet had grazed her, unlike her little brother, whom the bullets had killed.

There exist many more such cases. Amnesty International has documented scores of human rights violations committed by US troops in Iraq during the first six months of the occupation. To mention but a few:

US troops shot dead and injured scores of Iraqi demonstrators in several incidents. For example, seven people were reportedly shot dead and dozens injured in Mosul on 15 April.

At least 15 people, including children, were shot dead and more than 70 injured in Fallujah on 29 April.

Two demonstrators were shot dead outside the Republican Palace in Baghdad on 18 June.

On 14 May, two US armed vehicles broke through the perimeter wall of the home of Sa'adi Suleiman Ibrahim al-'Ubaydi in Ramadi. Soldiers beat him with rifle butts and then shot him dead as he tried to flee.

US forces shot 12-year-old Mohammad al-Kubaisi as they carried out search operations around his house in the Hay al-Jihad area in Baghdad on 26 June. He was carrying the family bedding to the roof of his house when he was shot. Neighbors tried to rush him to the nearby hospital by car, but US soldiers stopped them and ordered them to go back. By the time they returned to his home, Mohammad al-Kubaisi was dead.

On 17 September, a 14-year-old boy was killed and six people were injured when US troops opened fire at a wedding party in Fallujah.

On 23 September, three farmers, 'Ali Khalaf, Sa'adi Faqri and Salem Khalil, were killed and three others injured when US troops opened a barrage of gunfire reportedly lasting for at least an hour in the village of al-Jisr near Fallujah. A US military official stated that this happened when the troops came under attack but this was vehemently denied by relatives of the dead. Later that day, US military officials reportedly went to the farmhouse, took photographs and apologized to the family.

This last incident ended in a way similar to the one I covered in Ramadi in November, 2003. On the 23rd of that month during Ramadan, US soldiers raided a home where a family was just sitting down together to break their fast.

Three men of the family had their hands tied behind them with plastic ties and were laid on the ground face down while the women and children were made to stand inside a nearby storage closet.

Khalil Ahmed, 30 years old, the brother of two of the victims and cousin with a third, wept when he described to me how after executing the three men the soldiers completely destroyed the home, using Humvees with machine guns, small tanks, and gunfire from the many troops on foot and helicopters.

"We don't know the reason why the soldiers came here. They didn't tell us the reason. We don't know why they killed our family members." Khalil seemed to demand an answer from me. "There are no weapons in this house, there are no resistance fighters. So why did these people have to die? Why?"

Khalil told me that the day after the executions took place, soldiers returned to apologize. They handed him a cake saying they were sorry that they had been given wrong information by someone that told them there were resistance fighters in their house.

This is only a very small sampling. The only way to prevent any of this from being repeated ad infinitum is to remove US soldiers from their "atrocity-producing situation" in Iraq. For it is clearer than ever that the longer the failed, illegal occupation persists, the larger will be the numbers of Iraqis slaughtered by the occupation forces.

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who spent over 8 months reporting from occupied Iraq. He presented evidence of US war crimes in Iraq at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York City in January 2006. He writes regularly for TruthOut, Inter Press Service, Asia Times and TomDispatch, and maintains his own web site,