Saturday, July 01, 2006

Reuters AlertNet - CHRONOLOGY-U.S. troops and civilian complaints in Iraq

Reuters AlertNet
June 30 (Reuters) - Here are some incidents that have made headlines about U.S. forces' treatment of civilians in Iraq:

April 28, 2003 - Troops of the 82nd Airborne Division open fire during a protest in the Sunni town of Falluja. Officers said they fired on two gunmen and said up to 10 people were killed. Doctors put the casualty toll at 13 dead and 75 wounded.

Jan. 3, 2004 - Zaidoun Faleh Hassoun believed drowned after U.S. soldiers pushed two men into the Tigris River at Samarra. Two soldiers were sentenced to up to six months for assault.

April 28 - U.S. television shows photographs of U.S. troops abusing detainees in 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison. Several were jailed. Some cases go on. Commanders deny ordering torture.

May 19 - About 40 people killed in U.S. air strike on desert encampment at Mogr al-Deeb. Denying local accounts that the dead were innocently celebrating a wedding, U.S. military insists most were foreign Arab militants: "Bad people have parties too."

Sept. 12 - U.S. helicopter rockets kill at least five people including a television journalist in a crowd around a crippled U.S. vehicle in Baghdad. U.S. military changes justification for firing, eventually saying pilots were responding to gunshots.

Nov. 13 - Unnamed corporal from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment filmed shooting apparently unarmed, wounded man in a Falluja mosque. Commanders ruled he could have "reasonably believed" the man and two others he shot were hostile.

March 4, 2005 - U.S. soldiers at checkpoint kill Italian agent Nicola Calipari as he escorts freed hostage Italian journalist to Baghdad airport. Troops cleared of any wrongdoing.

Oct. 16 - Iraqi officials in Ramadi say about 20 civilians, including children, killed near wreck of U.S. vehicle. Military says 20 militants killed when jet bombs men planting explosives.

Nov. 19 - Twenty-four Iraqis shot dead at Haditha. Marines of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment first say 15 civilians killed by roadside bomb that killed a Marine and that they shot eight guerrillas. U.S. investigators now say 24 men, women and children were shot. Charges expected to be brought.

Feb. 15, 2006 - Soldier shoots man near U.S. base in Ramadi. He is charged in June with voluntary manslaughter. He and a second soldier are also charged with obstruction of justice.

March 12 - A family of four Iraqi civilians are killed in their home in the area of Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad. The U.S. launches a probe in late June into allegations that U.S. soldiers raped an Iraqi woman and then killed her and three members of her family, including a child.

March 15 - Police say six adults and five children shot dead in U.S. raid on home in Ishaqi, north of Baghdad. The 101st Airborne Division initially says two women and a child died during arrest of al Qaeda militant. Military later says up to nine civilians killed but clears troops of any wrongdoing.

March 18 - Iraqi police say U.S. soldiers ambushed on patrol in the Sunni town of Dhuluiya killed eight people, including a 13-year-old boy and his parents in their home. The 101st Airborne says troops killed seven "attacking terrorists".

April 26 - A disabled man is shot in the face in the village of Hamdania. Seven marines and a navy medic are later charged with premeditated murder, accused of planting a rifle and a shovel by body to make it appear he was placing a roadside bomb.

May 4 - 101st Airborne says troops kill two men and a woman involved in firing from house in Samarra. Police name two women and a mentally handicapped man and say they were unarmed.

May 9 - Three detainees shot dead during U.S. raid on a suspected insurgent camp at Thar Thar Lake north of Baghdad. Four soldiers later charged with premeditated murder.

Police hold mother-of-three for reading 'Independent' outside Downing Street

By Terry Kirby, Chief Reporter
Published: 01 July 2006

An anti-Iraq war protester was questioned by police outside Downing Street because she was reading The Independent.

Charity Sweet, 40, and a mother-of-three, was holding a copy of Thursday's edition which carried the headline: "Warning: if you read this newspaper you may be arrested under the Government's anti-terror laws."

Inside was an article reprinted from Vanity Fair magazine which ran across the first three pages of that day's issue of the newspaper. The article, by the writer Henry Porter, accused the Blair Government of a sustained erosion of civil liberties.

As she sat outside Downing Street, Ms Sweet was approached and questioned by a police officer. When he had finished his inquiries she was astonished to be handed a form detailing the reasons for his interest which included "reading today's Independent".

Earlier this month, Steven Jago, an accountant and also an anti-war protester and friend of Ms Sweet, was arrested by police and later charged under the Serious and Organised Crime Act. He had been carrying copies of the magazine which were confiscated by police. On Thursday afternoon, after seeing The Independent had reprinted the article, Ms Sweet decided she would demonstrate her solidarity with Mr Jago and went to Downing Street to find him. Unsuccessful, she bought a sandwich and decided to eat it while sitting down under a tree near the gated entrance to Downing Street and reading the newspaper. She was also wearing a sign around her neck warning against bullying. After some minutes she was interrupted and questioned by a Scotland Yard officer.

Ms Sweet, from Chatham in Kent, said: "It was intrusive and ridiculous to think that I could not sit there and read the newspaper when I chose to. I don't have any issues with the officer himself, he was perfectly polite and just doing his job. He asked me who I was and what I was doing there. I told him the publication of the article was history in the making and I could not think of a more appropriate place to sit down and read it. I don't think I was causing a problem for anybody." She was not cautioned or arrested.

As is normal procedure, the officer handed Ms Sweet a form which set out why a particular person is stopped and, as can happen, searched. Under the section requiring a description of what the person stopped had been doing, the officer wrote: "Sitting outside D Street with Notification Around Neck about Bullying. And Reading Today's Independent."

Ms Sweet was allowed to continue reading The Independent. She left soon after, found Mr Jago and they went to sing protest songs and hymns outside the Palace of Westminster.

Ms Sweet's interest in the Iraq conflict stems from the fact that her first husband was an Iraqi Christian and their daughter, who is 18, is therefore half-Iraqi. She said: "What has happened there since the war is genocide. Life under that terrible dictator was actually far, far kinder and that is a very sad state of affairs." Originally from Canada, she has been living in the UK since 1991 and has two other children, a girl aged seven and a 13-year-old boy.

She has been cautioned once before and was present when Mr Jago was arrested. "I don't want to do things that get me arrested, because I am a mother and sometimes I have my young children with me," she said. "I am into building bridges, not burning them down."

Bush's Assault on Freedom: What's to Stop Him? - by Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts

On June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-3 decision ruled that President Bush's effort to railroad tortured Guantanamo Bay detainees in kangaroo courts "violates both U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions."

Better late than never, but it sure took a long time for the checks and balances to call a halt to the illegal and unconstitutional behavior of the executive.

The Legal Times quotes David Remes, a partner in the law firm of Covington & Burling: "At the broadest level, the Court has rejected the basic legal theory of the Bush administration since 9/11 – that the president has the inherent power to do whatever he wants in the name of fighting terrorism without accountability to Congress or the courts."

Perhaps the Court's ruling has more far-reaching implications. In finding Bush in violation of the Geneva Conventions, the ruling may have created a prima facie case for charges to be filed against Bush as a war criminal.

Many readers have concluded that Bush assumed the war criminal's mantle when he illegally invaded Iraq under false pretenses. The U.S. itself established the Nuremberg standard that it is a war crime to launch a war of aggression. This was the charge that the chief U.S. prosecutor brought against German leaders at the Nuremberg trials.

The importance of the Supreme Court's decision, however, is that a legal decision by America's highest court has ruled Bush to be in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

There are many reasons to impeach Bush. His flagrant disregard for international law, U.S. civil liberties, the separation of powers, public opinion, and human rights associate Bush with the worst tyrants of the 20th century. It is true that Bush has not yet been able to subvert all the institutions that constrain his executive power, but he and his band of Federalist Society lawyers have been working around the clock to eliminate the constraints that the U.S. Constitution and international law place on executive power.

Republicans are "outraged" that "liberal judges" have prevented Bush from "protecting us from terrorists." In the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist said that Republicans will propose legislation to enable Bush to get around the Supreme Court's decision. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) already had a bill ready. What sense does it make to talk about "liberal opposition" when liberal Republicans like Specter are falling all over themselves to kowtow to Bush?

Americans are going to have to decide which is the greater threat: terrorists, or the Republican Party's determination to shred American civil liberties and the separation of powers in the name of executive power and the "war on terror."

The rest of the world has already reached a decision. A Harris Poll recently conducted for the Financial Times found that the populations of our European allies – Britain, France, Italy and Spain – view the United States as the greatest threat to global stability.

A Pew Foundation survey released the same week found that 60 percent of the British believe that Bush has made the world less safe and that 79 percent of the Spanish oppose Bush's war on terror.

Republicans and conservatives equate civil liberties with homosexual marriage, abortion, racial quotas, flag burning, banning of school prayer, and crime resulting from a lax punishment of criminals. This is partly the fault of the ACLU and left-wingers, who go to extremes to make a point. But it is also the fault of conservatives, who believe that their government is incapable of evil deeds.

In their dangerous and ill-founded belief, conservatives are in total opposition to the Founding Fathers, who went to the trouble of writing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in order to protect us from our government. Most conservatives believe that they do not need constitutional protections, because they "are not doing anything wrong." Conservatives have come to this absurd conclusion despite the Republicans' decision to sell out the Bill of Rights for the sake of temporary power.

A number of important books have recently been published that decry America's decaying virtue. In Lawless World, the distinguished British jurist Philippe Sands documents the destruction by George Bush and Tony Blair of the system of international law put in place by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. In The Peace of Illusions, Christopher Layne documents the American drive for global hegemony that threatens the world with war and destruction. Americans are enjoying a sense of power with little appreciation of where it is leading them.

Congress has collapsed in the face of Bush's refusal to abide by statutory law and his "signing statements," by which Bush asserts his independence of U.S. law. Bush has done what he can to turn the Supreme Court into a rubber stamp of his unaccountable power by placing John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the bench. Though much diminished by these appointments, the Court found the strength to rise up in opposition to Bush's budding tyranny.

Amazingly, on the very same day in England, where our individual rights originated, the High Court struck down Tony Blair's "anti-terrorism" laws as illegal breaches of the human rights of suspects. As with the Bush regime, the Blair regime tried to justify its illegality on the grounds of "protecting the public," but a far larger percentage of the British population than the American understands that the erosion of civil liberty is a greater threat to their safety than terrorists.

Thus, in the two lands most associated with civil liberties, courts have struck down the tyrannical acts of the corrupt executive. Perhaps the fact that courts have reaffirmed the rule of law will give hope and renewed strength to the friends of liberty to withstand the assaults on freedom that are the hallmarks of the Bush and Blair regimes. On the other hand, the two tyrants might ignore the courts as they have statutory law.

What's to stop them?

Troops Facing Murder Probe

Atrocities Against Iraqi Family Alleged
By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, July 1, 2006; A01

In mid-June, two other members of the same brigade were abducted, their bodies later found mutilated in the town of Yusufiyah, near Mahmudiyah. The soldiers under investigation for the killings in Mahmudiyah were from the same platoon as those later abducted and killed,

BAGHDAD, June 30 -- The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that American soldiers raped and killed a woman and killed three of her family members in a town south of Baghdad, then reported the incident as an insurgent attack, a military official said Friday.

The alleged crimes occurred in March in the insurgent hotbed of Mahmudiyah. The four soldiers involved, from the 502nd Infantry Regiment, attempted to burn the family's home to the ground and blamed insurgents for the carnage, according to a military official familiar with the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was providing details not released publicly.

No charges have yet been filed in the case, which the official said was "in the very early stages."

Maj. Gen James D. Thurman, commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, to which the 502nd is attached, ordered the investigation into the killings more than a week ago, according to a terse statement released by the military Friday. A preliminary inquiry "found sufficient information existed to recommend a criminal investigation into the incident," the statement said.

Also Friday, the military reported the deaths of three soldiers in insurgent attacks Thursday. One was killed by a roadside bomb while on foot patrol in Baghdad. Another died in a roadside bomb attack in Balad, north of Baghdad. The third was killed by small-arms fire in the northern city of Mosul. No further information was provided.

The case in Mahmudiyah, a rural town in a Sunni Arab region dubbed the Triangle of Death for the insurgent attacks and crimes that are common there, was the latest in a string of allegations of unlawful killings -- and subsequent coverups -- by U.S. forces in recent months, beginning with reports in March that Marines killed 24 unarmed civilians in the western town of Haditha. Investigations continue into that case.

In June, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman were charged with murder and other crimes related to the shooting death of a crippled man in Hamdaniya, west of Baghdad. Residents there said the soldiers planted a rifle and a shovel near the victim's body to make it look as if he had been burying roadside bombs.

Later in June, three soldiers were charged with murdering three Iraqi detainees in U.S. custody and threatening to kill another soldier who saw the incident. And last week, two Pennsylvania National Guardsmen were charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed man in the western city of Ramadi and with trying to cover up the crime.

At least 14 U.S. service members have been convicted of crimes related to the deaths of Iraqi civilians or detainees, according to the Associated Press. Investigations have intensified in recent months following the high-profile Haditha allegations, pressure from the Iraqi government on military commanders to curtail excessive force by soldiers, and an initiative by Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the top U.S. ground commander in Iraq, to cut down on civilian casualties.

But the prospect that soldiers may have committed rape could make the Mahmudiyah allegations particularly incendiary. Charges that U.S. forces have killed civilians come as little shock to many Iraqis, but sex crimes -- especially those perpetrated against Muslim women by someone outside the faith -- can generate greater outrage in the Islamic world. The 2004 Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal inflamed passions in large part because of the sexual humiliations detainees suffered.

Ammar Jabouri, a spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party, Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political organization and a frequent critic of U.S. actions against Iraqi civilians, said he was unaware of previous charges of rape against American soldiers.

Jabouri said that when he and others have spoken to U.S. officials about abuses by troops, the officials "explain it as 'reckless behavior by soldiers under stress.' They promise to investigate, but nothing comes out of that."

The unit in Mahmudiyah had attributed the deaths of the four civilians to "insurgent activity, which is common in the area," until two soldiers from the 502nd came forward June 23 to say U.S. troops were responsible, the military official said. An investigation began the next day. Three of the soldiers are still in Iraq, and one has been discharged for reasons unrelated to the case, he said. None is under confinement.

"They cannot be held until or unless there is enough evidence," the official said.

Mahmudiyah police Capt. Maaly Hassan Felayh said the killings in March took place in a rural neighborhood called Stream Three, three miles south of the town center.

It was one of three cases since February in which U.S. forces killed Iraqi troops in the area, he said, including a shooting at a checkpoint in April that left 11 Iraqis dead.

Another local resident, Sadeq Muhammed al-Janabi, a farmer, said the woman who was raped and killed was an elementary school teacher.

In mid-June, two other members of the same brigade were abducted, their bodies later found mutilated in the town of Yusufiyah, near Mahmudiyah. The soldiers under investigation for the killings in Mahmudiyah were from the same platoon as those later abducted and killed, the AP reported, citing an account provided by an unnamed official with the unit who said the incidents were unrelated. Platoons usually number about 40 soldiers.

***it has to make you wonder then, doesn't it? What would you do if your daughter or wife was raped and murdered and then her body set alight? That that specific unit was targeted AFTER the rape and murder took place points more to an act of justice than barbarity. Given what the world has seen of "military justice" in the US, maybe they had the right idea.***

The AP, whose reporter was embedded with the 502nd in early June, also reported Friday that at least one soldier had confessed to involvement in the alleged crimes and was motivated to come forward when his fellow soldiers were kidnapped and murdered.

Elsewhere in Iraq on Friday, Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on followers to prepare themselves to go to the predominantly Sunni Arab northern city of Samarra to help rebuild a Shiite shrine damaged in a February bombing that triggered months of sectarian violence. "Believers inside and outside Iraq should register their names as volunteers to build and protect the holy shrine," said Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia terrorized Sunni neighborhoods following the bombing of Samarra's Askariya Shrine.

In Baghdad, the Association of Muslim Scholars, an influential Sunni religious organization with close ties to some Iraqi insurgent groups, rejected a plan for reconciliation between Iraq's rival sects proposed by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki offered amnesty to insurgents who had not committed major crimes and said some insurgent groups had responded positively to the offer.

But in an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency, Muthana Hareth Dhari, a Muslim Scholars official, said that "the main resistance factions have rejected" the plan and called it "nothing but a public relations campaign to brighten the image of the government."

Correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer, special correspondents Naseer Nouri and K.I. Ibrahim and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.

Something very wrong with this picture

Choice Changes

Articles / The Goal of Peace
Posted by ilyana on June 30, 2006 - 05:06 PM

Israel attacked Palestine and took 1/3 of their Democratically elected Parliment into custody. This was in retaliation for the kidnapping of one Israeli soldier. Read the following Op-ed report and then ask your local news media WHY they aren't questioning this action by Israel.

"But what was even more appalling was the response of American media, which didn't think the kidnapping of a third of the government of a supposedly sovereign state authority was all that significant. Consider this headline and subheads from the Washington Post: West Bank Settler Killed / An 18-year-old Israeli settler was found executed today. Israel arrests more than 80 Hamas officials.

Geov Parrish

Whitewashing a criminal government US press buries Israeli kidnapping of Palestinian parliament

It's bad enough that the Israeli government went and seized as political prisoners, essentially as hostages, 87 Hamas members of the Palestine Authority (PA) parliament yesterday, including eight cabinet ministers. Once again, Israel has demonstrated its contempt for virtually every known code of conduct honored by civilized (and, usually, even by uncivilized) governments around the globe.

But what was even more appalling was the response of American media, which didn't think the kidnapping of a third of the government of a supposedly sovereign state authority was all that significant. Consider this headline and subheads from the Washington Post: West Bank Settler Killed / An 18-year-old Israeli settler was found executed today. Israel arrests more than 80 Hamas officials.

Those "arrests" weren't even mentioned in reporter Scott Wilson's story until the fourth paragraph. Imagine an analogous situation: an Al-Qaeda terror cell storms the U.S. Capitol and takes 180 Congresspersons, a third of the Senate and House, hostage. And throw in a few cabinet members for good measure. Meanwhile, the U.S. military kills an Afghan civilian sympathetic to the Taliban. What sane media outlet would lead with the Afghan killing?

But that's what it's like here in America. Just as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert noted last week, the life of an Israeli is, in the eyes of the Washington Post, "even more important" than that of a Palestinian. By a lot. And, for that matter, it's even more important than what may well turn out to be a critical turning point in Israel's illegal military occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank: the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority. An Israeli death, tragic to be sure but only one of the countless deaths in this six-decade tragedy, is somehow more important than the collapse of Palestinian self-government, to the extent that such self-government ever existed.

The New York Times, to its credit, mentioned the seizure of scores of PA government officials in the lead sentence of its story. And, again, it was mentioned in the sixth paragraph. And, again, in paragraphs 11, 12, 13, and 16 of a 32-paragraph story whose other 26 paragraphs focused mostly on the Israeli military incursion into the Gaza Strip and other related developments.

The IDF's assault on Gaza is appalling, but it is nothing new. Its retaliation for the kidnapping of one Israeli soldier is only the latest example of the mass collective punishment of Palestinians that has been in full force since Palestinian elections gave Hamas control of the PA parliament last winter. Since then, Gaza has been in lockdown, under siege, its borders closed off by Israel, with entry of food, medical supplies, and humanitarian aid shut down. Over the last two weeks, heavy Israeli shelling of Gaza civilian areas has been the Israeli response to a handful of wayward rockets launched, as they have been for years, along the border.

No Palestinian ever believed the Israeli fiction that Israel had "withdrawn" from Gaza and no longer controlled it; this latest assault on the lives, welfare, and dignity of Gaza residents has been terrifying, but it's not much of a surprise. It's the logical extension of Israel's international crimes against humanity -- the collective punishment of a civilian population, banned under the Geneva Conventions -- that have been going on for nearly half a year, and which the United States and European Union have been actively complicit in. And as Palestinians have died, and the survivors have begged for help and support from abroad, American media, for months, has turned a deaf ear.

Victimizing the residents of the Gaza Strip isn't all that new, but jailing a third of the Palestinian Authority's leadership is. This is the story U.S. media should be covering, because it is likely to signal the end of the Palestinian Authority. Amidst the chaos this week, the two rival parties that have battled for control of the PA, Fatah and Hamas, reached an agreement that, among other things, recognized Israel's right to exist. It should have been a watershed moment, but it was buried by the (probably not coincidental) Israeli aggression. And, so, every Palestinian has learned the lesson: the PA is a cruel charade of self-governance: mangled by Israel, strangled by Israel and the U.S., spurned by the rest of the West, whenever Palestinian voters or their duly elected representatives don't do exactly what Israel and their international enablers demand. What sort of autonomy is that?

Dr. Eyad El Sarraj, an activist under siege in Gaza, yesterday expressed what seems to be the popular response to the parliamentary kidnappings and Gaza shelling: "By destroying the infrastructure again and again of the Palestinian Authority, by arresting ministers and Members of Parliament, and by preventing Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, from leaving Gaza, [Israel] unveils the true nature of its relation with the Palestinian Authority. It was the one thousandth error of Arafat not to dissolve the Palestinian Authority when he was under siege. The poor man thought that being a President would have given him protection. Abu Mazen [Abbas] should now dissolve the Palestinian Authority before he meets the same fate."

Such calls are echoing through occupied Palestine today: the PA is worse than useless, because it helps maintain the fiction that Palestine has an independent leadership. It masks the pervasiveness and brutality of a grotesquely illegal military occupation that has just entered its fortieth year. And its so-called "democracy" is an excuse for cruel, mass collective punishment if Palestinian others cast their ballots in their own interests, rather than those of Israel or America.

This cannot go on. Israel is, in essence, trying to permanently cement the existence of an apartheid state decades after the rest of the world's colonies disintegrated. Israel's occupation, too, will not last. The only question is whether the transition to a more just arrangement will be largely peaceful, as it was in South Africa, or whether it will be far more grim. Israel's kidnapping of 87 elected Palestinian leaders is an enormous step in the direction of grim. As with each of the last several years of Israeli crimes, it is a step that almost without question was taken with the foreknowledge and approval of the Bush administration.

That, rather than the death of a single Israeli citizen, is the story American media should be covering.

original article with additional links at:


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Sept. 11 claim stirs UW probe

Sept. 11 claim stirs UW probe
Instructor says U.S. planned the attacks to provoke war
Posted: June 29, 2006

The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced Thursday that it would launch a review of an instructor who argues that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks for its own benefit.

The instructor, Kevin Barrett, is co-founder of an organization called the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance, which claims the Bush administration planned the attacks to create a war between Muslims and Christians. He argues that members of the faiths must work together to overcome the belief that terrorists were to blame.

"The 9/11 lie was designed to sow hatred between the faiths," Barrett has written on the organization's Web site.

"Either we discuss the compelling evidence that 9/11 was an inside job, or there is precious little to talk about."

Barrett, who did not return calls Thursday and an e-mail seeking comment, has taught a class on cultural folklore and is scheduled to teach an introductory class on Islam this fall in Madison. He has said he discusses his views on Sept. 11 in the classroom.

In a written statement Thursday, Provost Patrick Farrell said the university would conduct a 10-day review of Barrett's plans for the fall course and his past teaching performance. He said Barrett's syllabus, reading list and past evaluations by supervisors and students would be examined.

"Mr. Barrett's statements regarding the events of Sept. 11 have raised some legitimate concerns about the content and quality of instruction in his planned fall course," Farrell said.

"Mr. Barrett is entitled to his own personal political views. But we also have an obligation to ensure that his course content is academically appropriate, of high quality, and that his personal views are not imposed on his students," the statement says.
Word spreads on the Web

The announcement came as word of Barrett's views spread through political Web sites. State Rep. Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) was among a burst of critics calling for his dismissal.

Other Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists in academia include Steven Jones, a physicist from Brigham Young University who argues that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by controlled explosives, not just the impact of airplanes; James H. Fetzer, a retired philosophy professor from the University of Minnesota-Duluth who believes the U.S. military launched a missile into the Pentagon and shot down the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania; and David Ray Griffin, a retired professor from the Claremont School of Theology who sums up arguments for U.S. involvement in the attacks in two books, "The New Pearl Harbor" and "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions."

Barrett arranged for Griffin to speak at UW-Madison last year. Barrett also helped organize a conference in Chicago this month called "9/11: Revealing the Truth - Reclaiming Our Future." In July, he and Fetzer are scheduled to speak about the Sept. 11 theories at a forum at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"We're catching on," said Fetzer, who co-chairs the group 9/11 Scholars for Truth, which includes more than 50 members from academia, including Barrett. "Kevin Barrett has been instrumental on many fronts."

Barrett has shared his views in letters to The Capital Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education and has discussed them on Wisconsin Public Radio.

But it wasn't until he spoke on a conservative talk show hosted by Jessica McBride on WTMJ-AM (620) Wednesday night that Barrett prompted a public outcry in Wisconsin. He talked openly about his Sept. 11 beliefs and said he discussed them in the classroom.
'Outlandish claims'

Nass released a statement calling on Chancellor John Wiley to fire Barrett immediately.

"The fact that Mr. Barrett uses his position at UW-Madison to add credibility to his outlandish claims is an unacceptable embarrassment to the people of Wisconsin and the UW System," Nass said. "Chancellor Wiley must act immediately to end any professional relationship between Barrett and the UW. He needs to be fired."

U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.), who is running for governor, released a statement that said: "Not a dime of either taxpayer or tuition dollars should be going to Kevin Barrett so he can tell students that September 11 was a creation of the government, and that the most murdering terrorist organization in the world is a myth created by the CIA."

But not everyone was outraged.

Mir Babar Basir, a recent graduate of UW-Madison who served as president of the Muslim Students Association, said he knew Barrett and agreed with his take on the attacks. He said Griffin drew hundreds of supportive observers when he spoke at the university.

"This is not just Kevin Barrett's idea," Basir said. "It's legitimate to think that the U.S. government was involved."

"When David Ray Griffin spoke, it was packed," Basir added. "Madison is fairly liberal. It's not surprising that a lot of people agreed with him."

David Walsh, president of the UW System Board of Regents, said Barrett should be able to share his views in the classroom.

"Unless he's yelling fire in a crowded theater, we need to be careful to protect his academic freedom," Walsh said.

No Choice When It Comes to License Plates


By Jennifer Fox, AlterNet
Posted on July 1, 2006, Printed on July 1, 2006

Now that anti-abortion "Choose Life" license plates are legal in some states, I wonder where's the "Choose Choice" option?

On Monday, June 26, the Supreme Court refused to tackle a lawsuit about the matter, ensuring that the "Choose Life" plates -- which originated In Florida -- remain legal in Louisiana, Tennessee and the few other states where they have grown in popularity.

Proceeds from the plates have raised about $4 million for anti-abortion organizations. And according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, if an organization so much as lists abortion as a post-pregnancy option, they won't receive any proceeds.

Despite strong interest, pro-choice license plates only exist in Montana (and as a decal in Hawaii). If you Google "anti-abortion license plates," all sorts of articles pop up about how they are legal in 13 states -- there's even ordering information. But searching for "pro-choice license plates," you get a smattering of the same stories about anti-abortion plates, a few articles about design contests for a pro-choice plate and a few articles about how states like Tennessee allow anti-abortion plates but refuse to authorize pro-choice ones.

According to a article, Sen. Gloria Butler, D-Ga., sponsored an amendment for a "pro-family, pro-choice" license plate in the Georgia Senate, but dropped it when Republican senators proposed an alternate amendment that would channel funds from the pro-choice license plate to adoption agencies instead of Planned Parenthood, as Butler wanted. In fact, those same senators specifically prevented any group that provided abortions from receiving any license plate revenue. Apparently they missed the point that a license plate for choice should aid organizations that actually advocate choice.

Republican South Carolina Sen. Mike Fair came up with what he evidently saw as a solution to the debate. In 2005 he introduced a bill to the South Carolina general assembly that would allow for a "Choose Death" license plate. (Yes, he was serious). Of course, the proceeds wouldn't go to nonprofit organizations advocating abortion as an option -- the funds would go to the Department of Mental Health, where they would be "used for post-abortion trauma counseling for females who have chosen to have abortions."

As if the modern pro-choice movement isn't being shafted enough, the anti-choice license plate depicts two crayon-doodled happy children as artwork. Why do anti-abortionists have the right to use smiling children as propaganda? Were they "lucky" enough to have happy, stable lives -- or were they born into poverty, to an unprepared mother or a couple that simply didn't want kids?

If it's ever actually manufactured, a pro-choice license plate could have smiling kids on it, too. Maybe they would smile because they knew that one mistake doesn't have to irrevocably change their lives, or because their right to reproductive freedom is protected -- for now. Or maybe they would just be smiling at the irony that an actual abortion is legal but a license plate supporting one isn't.

Editor's note: Some of the information from this article came from a clip on CNN that can be viewed here:

Jennifer Fox is an AlterNet intern.

Friday, June 30, 2006

WTC owner now has another building - The Sears Tower

3/12/04: Met Life Sells Sears Tower to Larry Silverstein Partners

MetLife Will Sell
Sears Tower
By Dean Starkman
From The Wall Street Journal Online

Two investors who are part of Larry Silverstein's group that owns
the World Trade Center lease are among the buyers of the Sears Tower,
which MetLife Inc. agreed to sell Thursday for more than $800
million, according to people familiar with the situation.

Lloyd Goldman and Joseph Cayre, New York investors who are among
Mr. Silverstein's backers in the Trade Center, are part of a group
that agreed to buy the Chicago landmark, these people said. Another
New York investor, Jeffrey Feil, was also a participant in the Sears
Tower deal, the people said. Names of the other investors couldn't be

MetLife announced the agreement Thursday, but declined to disclose
the buyer or the terms, citing a confidentiality agreement. While the
insurance company, based in New York, had previously announced its
intention to sell the tower, the speed of the deal and the relatively
high price caught the real-estate industry off-guard.

MetLife said it would realize an after-tax gain of $90 million on
the deal.

Messrs. Goldman and Carye couldn't be reached. Attempts to reach
Mr. Feil were unsuccessful. The names of the three investors were
reported Thursday on the Slatin Report, a Web newsletter.

Mr. Goldman led a group including Mr. Cayre that put up most of the
$125 million of the equity that Mr. Silverstein, a New York
developer, used to buy the 99-year office lease on the Trade Center
office portion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The deal, valued at $3.2 billion, including the Trade Center's retail
mall, closed in July 2001, weeks before the September terror attacks
that destroyed the complex.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Port
Authority in December had quietly agreed to return all of the $125
million in equity that Mr. Silverstein and his low-profile group
originally invested to buy the leases. The full details of that
transaction haven't been released to the public. But the deal
effectively eliminated the Silverstein group's capital risk in the
project, while allowing the group to retain control of 10 million
square feet of office space. The Port Authority has rejected a Wall
Street Journal request to review the transaction, citing Mr.
Silverstein's ongoing lawsuit against his insurers, led by Swiss
Reinsurance Co., over how many claims may be collected as a result of
the attacks.

Censorship in the Empire by Michael Gaddy

Censorship in the Empire
by Michael Gaddy

"All the news that's new and approved by the US Army, the sweetest-smelling army in the world."

~ Robin Williams as Adrian Croneaur, Good Morning Vietnam

The Neocon American State-Corporatocracy learned its lessons well from Vietnam. Their "lessons learned" acknowledged truth from the war zone could be hazardous for those who desire continuous wars for peace. They also realized the blind dedication of military personnel is essential to creating an empire. Therefore, "perfumed princes" are much more desirable in uniform than warriors. Thus the reason for the dismissal of General Eric Shinseki as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the rise to power of General Richard Meyers at the onset of the Dubya administration in 2001.

Knowing full well that the constant video and unfettered news reports from the war zone and pictures of coffins returning to America bearing the fruits of war were detrimental to their efforts, the Bush administration moved to ensure such reporting did not occur in "their" war. As a result, the War Department created and carried out the idea of embedded reporters. Embedding reporters with military units made it wonderfully easy to control media and therefore the news, subjecting them to censorship at the base level of operation.

The Department of Continual War for Peace would have everyone believe the "embedding" was done to facilitate the dissemination of truth to the masses. The exact opposite was their desired goal.

The Secretary of Defense contended in his directive, "that media will have long-term minimally restrictive access to air, ground and naval forces through embedding." The DOD document also states, "We need to tell the factual story – good or bad – before others seed the media with disinformation and distortions…" The DOD and the military are providing disinformation and distortion from the war in Iraq to the citizens of the US as standard operating procedure. (See the DOD directive on embedded reporters.)

A prime example of suppressing the truth and ignoring the DOD directive is exemplified in the actions of a particular military unit and its commander in the Iraq Theater of Operations. While these actions may or may not be typical, they are revealing.

A Stryker Squadron of the 25th Infantry Division, commanded by a Lt. Colonel, provides great insight into how the media has actually been handled, how they are controlled, and what happens to them when they do not toe-the-line. From the very beginning of this unit’s deployment to Iraq in October of 2004, the SCO (squadron commander) had a standing policy with embedded reporters that any story for publication must be submitted to him and his staff for approval before it was transmitted to the reporter’s employers.

In January of 2005, a traffic control patrol of this unit, accompanied by embedded reporter Chris Hondros, encountered a car coming toward them on the streets of Tal-Afar. For some reason, the driver of the car did not stop as directed and was met with a hail of gunfire. When the car came to rest it was found to contain Iraqi parents and their children. The parents were killed in the gunfire, but the children miraculously survived with only minor injuries. Pictures from that tragic event can be found here.

Returning to the Forward Operating Base (FOB Sykes) in Tal-Afar, Hondros filed his report and pictures without approval from the Colonel or his staff. When the Colonel learned of this he called Brigade (25th Infantry Division) in Mosul and told them Hondros was not playing ball and had him sent back to Brigade – so much for telling the factual story – good or bad. Sources tell me Hondros asked for permission to return and do a follow-up on the story but was told he would have to do it on his own without any military escort to accompany him in Iraq. Hondros recently received an award for his reporting of the incident.

Later in the spring of 2005, a bus loaded with Iraqi Army personnel was hit by an IED between Sinjar and Tal-Afar, resulting in a large number of casualties. Another reporter embedded with the above-mentioned unit asked for permission to be taken to the scene and file a report but permission from the Colonel was denied. The reporter proceeded to the scene anyway. The Colonel had him arrested and sought to have him placed in the detention center in Tal-Afar, but the officer in charge of the facility refused to place the reporter in the same center with suspected terrorists. The Colonel had the reporter placed under guard at all times until he had him removed from his area of operations and returned to Brigade headquarters in Mosul. Obviously, Brigade was beginning to see a pattern and "embeds" assigned to this unit became extremely rare.

One of the greatest examples of hypocrisy in this war involved this unit and their commander. The Colonel was conducting a sweep of an area in Tal-Afar. One of the tactics employed in this sweep was the placing of pro-American propaganda posters on the walls of Iraqi businesses. The Colonel noticed a poster written in Arabic on the door of a market and asked his interpreter what the poster said. The interpreter replied that it was anti-American in nature. The Colonel had the owner of the market brought to him and asked about the poster. When the owner replied that he did not put up the poster, the Colonel asked why he had not removed it and he replied he did not want to have his head chopped off. The commander had the storeowner placed under arrest and put in the unit’s detention facility as a suspected insurgent. The Colonel ordered the market left unsecured. Looters immediately entered the store and it was emptied in a matter of minutes. When the storeowner was being interrogated at the FOB, he asked if the United States was conducting a war in Iraq to bring the people freedom and democracy, why was he denied the right to freedom of speech and expression? Game, set, match, Iraqi businessman.

Many were the soldiers, both officer and enlisted, who questioned the conduct of this commander in the theater of operations during his unit’s tour of duty in Iraq. One officer actually gave the Colonel a copy of the Geneva Convention when he was ordered to do something he felt was illegal. The Colonel fired the officer and had him reassigned to Brigade. Command and DOD obviously found nothing wrong with the Colonel’s battlefield conduct; he was promoted to full Colonel (O-6) shortly after returning to the US.

This Colonel was not the only commander seeking to keep the truth of his conduct from being reported; his Brigade had three Majors, three Captains and approximately one dozen enlisted personnel whose entire job was to spin the truth into palatable form for dissemination to the American public plus managing the information that was published by our lackeys in the Iraqi media. They were known as the IO, or information operation. Many of these military personnel were trained and specialized in psychological warfare.

Our government actually trains military personnel to obscure the truth from the citizens it claims to defend. This makes a mockery of the DOD’s professed goals as stated in their own directives. Surely these soldiers’ talents could be better used in a combat zone. Creating "all the news that is new and approved" for their enemies and their fellow countrymen should be a subject of concern for all Americans who claim an allegiance to the First Amendment.

June 30, 2006

Michael Gaddy [send him mail], an Army veteran of Vietnam, Grenada, and Beirut, lives in the Four Corners area of the American Southwest.

Israeli "Retaliation" and Double Standards


Israeli "Retaliation" and Double Standards


06/28/06 "Counterpunch" -- -- The killing by Palestinian militants of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of a third from an army post close to the Gaza Strip set the scene for Israeli "reprisals" and "retaliation", according to the reports of BBC correspondents in Israel and Gaza yesterday.

The attack by the Palestinians, who sneaked through tunnels under the electronic fence surrounding Gaza, marked a "major escalation in cross-border tension" (Alan Johnston) that threatened to overturn "a week of progress on two fronts" (John Lyon): namely, the recent talks between Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan, and between rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas.

Thus, according to the BBC's analysis, this attack ends the immediate chances for "peace" negotiations and provides the context for the next round of the conflict between the Israeli army and the Palestinians of Gaza. We are left to infer that all the suffering the army inflicts in the coming days and weeks should be attributed to this moment of "escalation" by the Palestinians.

We can ignore the weeks of shelling by the Israeli army of Gaza, the firing of hundreds of missiles into the crowded Strip that have destroyed Palestinian lives and property, while spreading terror among the civilian population and deepening the psychological trauma suffered by a generation of children.

We can ignore the deaths of more than 30 civilians, and dozens of horrific injuries, in the past few weeks at the hands of the Israeli military, including three children hit in a botched air strike last week, and a heavily pregnant woman and her doctor brother killed a day later as a missile slammed into the room where they were eating dinner.

We can ignore the blockade of Gaza's "borders" by the Israeli army for months on end, which has prevented Palestinians in the Strip from trading goods at crossing points with Israel and from receiving vital supplies of food and medicines. As a captive population besieged by Israeli soldiers, Gazans are facing a humanitarian catastrophe sanctioned by Israeli government policy and implemented by the Israeli army.

We can ignore Israel's bullying of the international community to connive in the starving of the Hamas-led government of funds and diplomatic room for manoeuvre, thereby preventing the elected Palestinian leadership from running Gaza. So desperate is the situation there that Hamas officials are being forced to smuggle in millions of dollars of cash stuffed in suitcases to pay salaries.

And finally we can ignore the violation of Palestinian territory by Israeli commandos who infiltrated Gaza a day before the Palestinian attack to kidnap two Palestinians Israel claims are terrorists. They have been "disappeared", doubtless to be be held in administrative detention, where they can denied access to lawyers, the courts and, of course, justice.

None of this provides the context for the Palestinian attack on the army post -- any more than, in the BBC's worldview, do the previous four decades of occupation. None is apparently relevant to understanding the Palestinian attack, or for judging the legitimacy of Israel's imminent military "reprisals".

In short, according to the BBC, we can ignore Israel's long-standing policy of unilateralism -- a refusal to negotiate meaningfully with the Palestinians, either the old guard of Fatah or the new one of Hamas -- with its resort to a strategy of collective punishment of Gaza's population to make it submit to the continuing occupation.

In the skewed moral and news priorities of the BBC, the killing of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinian militants -- the "escalation" -- provides a justification for "fierce retaliation" against Gaza, with the inevitable toll on Palestinian civilians and militants alike. The earlier killing of tens of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military, however, is not presented as justification for yesterday's Palestinian retaliation against the army.

In other words, on the scale of moral outrage the BBC ranks the deaths of Israeli soldiers enforcing an illegal occupation far above those of Palestinian civilians enduring the illegal occupation.

There is another notable asymmetry in the BBC's assessment of the "escalation". Participation by the military wing of Hamas in the attack is evidence, suggest the reporters, of the role of the Palestinian leadership in "escalating tension". But the killing by the Israeli army of a Palestinian family of seven on a Gaza beach on June 9, and many more civilians since, was apparently not an "escalation", even though it provoked Hamas to renounce a ceasefire it had maintained for 16 months in the face of continuous Israeli military assaults.

So how is the ordinary viewer to make sense of these events -- the endless "cycle of violence" -- with the BBC as guide. (And the BBC is no worse, and possibly better, than most of other Western broadcasters. At least its reporter Alan Johnston is based in Gaza.)

Not only do its reporters exhibit the biases associated with its institutional racism -- as an organisation, the BBC chooses to identify with Israeli concerns before Palestinian ones -- but they then compound this distortion by repeating uncritically Israel's own misrepresentation of events.

The reporters, like so many of their colleagues, fall into the trap of presenting the conflict through the eyes of the Israeli government, the same government whose prime minister, Ehud Olmert, last week proudly displayed his ethnic chauvinism by setting the suffering of the Jewish residents of Sderot, who face a mostly non-lethal smattering of Palestinian home-made Qassam rockets, far above the rising death toll of Gaza's civilians from the army's constant aerial and artillery bombardment. "I am sorry with all my heart for the residents of Gaza," Olmert said, "but the lives and well-being of Sderot's residents are more important than those of Gaza residents." In other words, a potential threat to a single Jew is more important than the deaths of dozens of Palestinian innocents.

Thus we learn without comment from the BBC that Olmert has denounced the killing of the two soldiers as "terrorism", even though the word cannot describe an attack by an occupied people on an occupying army. How is it possible for a few men with light arms to terrorise one of the most powerful armies in the world? What next: are we to listen sympathetically to claims by the US that its soldiers are being "terrorised" by Iraqi insurgents?

The defence that the BBC is simply reporting Israel's position does not stand up to scrutiny. Is it even conceivable that we might hear a BBC reporter neutrally repeat a Hamas statement that the Israeli army is terrorising Palestinians by reckless shelling civilians in Gaza, even though the word's usage in this case would better satisfy the dictionary definition? The shells most certainly do spread terror among Gaza's civilian population.

We hear too without comment that Olmert is holding both Hamas and the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the attack. The BBC dutily repeats Israeli claims that Abbas has the resources to fight "terror" even as the money to pay Palestinian security forces is held by foreign banks unwilling, at Israeli and American behest, to hand it over, and as Hamas and Abbas are locked in battle for control of the Palestinians' shrinking government.

Does common sense not recoil from the suggestion that both Hamas and Abbas can be equally blamed for the attack when the two are bitter rivals for power? Or that either can be held accountable when Israel has refused to negotiate with them or treat them as the genuine representatives of the Palestinian people?

Again, would the BBC report with due solemnity claims by the Palestinians that they hold Olmert and Peretz personally guilty for the civilian deaths in Gaza over the past fortnight, even though in an enlightened world both should be standing trial for war crimes?

Instead, however implausible the Israeli version of reality, the BBC happily sows confusion on behalf of the Israeli army. Like other broadcasters, it credulously reports preposterous arguments seeking to exonerate the Israeli army of responsibility for the shelling of the beach in Gaza that killed a Palestinian family of seven. It treats as equally credible the army's belated version in which Palestinian militants are said to have laid a single mine at a favourite seaside picnic spot in the futile hope of preventing the Israeli navy landing along the Strip's miles of coastline. (In consequence, the BBC excludes the seven dead and dozens of Palestinian injured in that Israeli attack from its list of recent civilian casualties in Gaza).

And both BBC reporters note gravely Israel's concerns that this is the first time Palestinian militants have broken out of the fenced-off Strip since Israel withdrew from Gaza nearly a year ago. Somehow the fact that the Palestinians have briefly escaped from their cage appears to make the attack all the more shocking not only for Israel but for the two reporters.

This attack in Israel, they tell us, is the most serious to date, with the implication that it is therefore illegitimate and part of the same "escalation". Even ignoring the fact that this attack was against Israeli soldiers besieging, imprisoning and shelling the Palestinians of Gaza, does the BBC not to pause to consider the double standard it is applying?

Was the Israeli army's incursion into Gaza a day earlier to capture two alleged Palestinian militants not an equal escalation? Was it not an equal violation of Palestinian sovereignty? Of course not. The BBC knows, as do the rest of us, that the army never really left Gaza and the occupation never really ended. But you won't hear that from any of its reporters.

The government is losing its reason

The government is losing its reason

By Haaretz Editorial

06/30/06 "Haaretz" -- -- Bombing bridges that can be circumvented both by car and on foot; seizing an airport that has been in ruins for years; destroying a power station, plunging large parts of the Gaza Strip into darkness; distributing flyers suggesting that people be concerned about their fate; a menacing flight over Bashar Assad's palace; and arresting elected Hamas officials: The government wishes to convince us that all these actions are intended only to release the soldier Gilad Shalit.

But the greater the government's creativity in inventing tactics, the more it seems to reflect a loss of direction rather than an overall conception based on reason and common sense. On the face of it, Israel wishes to exert increasing pressure both on Hamas' political leadership and on the Palestinian public, in order to induce it to pressure its leadership to release the soldier. At the same time, the government claims that Syria - or at least Khaled Meshal, who is living in Syria - holds the key. If so, what is the point of pressuring the local Palestinian leadership, which did not know of the planned attack and which, when it found out, demanded that the kidnappers take good care of their victim and return him?

The tactic of pressuring civilians has been tried before, and more than once. The Lebanese, for example, are very familiar with the Israeli tactic of destroying power stations and infrastructure. Entire villages in south Lebanon have been terrorized, with the inhabitants fleeing in their thousands for Beirut. But what also happens under such extreme stress is that local divisions evaporate and a strong, united leadership is forged.

In the end, Israel was forced both to negotiate with Hezbollah and to withdraw from Lebanon. Now, the government appears to be airing out its Lebanon catalogue of tactics and implementing it, as though nothing has been learned since then. One may assume that the results will be similar this time around as well.

Israel also kidnapped people from Lebanon to serve as bargaining chips in dealings with the kidnappers of Israeli soldiers. Now, it is trying out this tactic on Hamas politicians. As the prime minister said in a closed meeting: "They want prisoners released? We'll release these detainees in exchange for Shalit." By "these detainees," he was referring to elected Hamas officials.

The prime minister is a graduate of a movement whose leaders were once exiled, only to return with their heads held high and in a stronger position than when they were deported. But he believes that with the Palestinians, things work differently.

As one who knows that all the Hamas activists deported by Yitzhak Rabin returned to leadership and command positions in the organization, Olmert should know that arresting leaders only strengthens them and their supporters. But this is not merely faulty reasoning; arresting people to use as bargaining chips is the act of a gang, not of a state.

The government was caught up too quickly in a whirlwind of prestige mixed with fatigue. It must return to its senses at once, be satisfied with the threats it has made, free the detained Hamas politicians and open negotiations. The issue is a soldier who must be brought home, not changing the face of the Middle East.

© Copyright 2006 Haaretz. All rights reserved

Israel warns: free soldier or PM dies | The World | The Australian

Middle East correspondent Martin Chulov
July 01, 2006

ISRAEL last night threatened to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh if Hamas militants did not release a captured Israeli soldier unharmed.

The unprecedented warning was delivered to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a letter as Israel debated a deal offered by Hamas to free Corporal Gilad Shalit.

**hardly unprecedented**

It came as Israeli military officials readied a second invasion force for a huge offensive into Gaza.

Hamas's Gaza-based political leaders, including Mr Haniyeh, had already gone into hiding.

But last night's direct threat to kill Mr Haniyeh, a democratically elected head of state, sharply raised the stakes.

The bid to free Corporal Shalit was brokered by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who last night warned Hamas it faced severe consequences if it did not curb its "extreme stance" and described the growing conflict as a lightning rod for Palestinian vengeance.

Jerusalem has made no official comment, but Egyptian state media said Israel had found the offer unacceptable. Israel has not spelt out the terms demanded by Hamas, but earlier this week it refused to buy into talk of a prisoner swap.

Thousands of Hamas supporters protested in Gaza City late on Thursday over the arrest by Israeli forces of up to 32 Hamas MPs on the West Bank that day.

A Hamas spokesman said the group would never recognise Israel, in spite of a deal its leaders signed this week offering implicit recognition of the Jewish state in return for easing an economic blockade.

Israeli fighter jets bombed 20 targets in Gaza, including the Interior Ministry, which it said had been used by militants to stage meetings, while artillery hit the northern strip with 500 shells in the 24 hours until yesterday morning.

Jewish settler Eliyahu Asheri, who was murdered by militants this week, was buried on Thursday as leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees pledged to seize more hostages in the West Bank. No further word has emerged about another suspected Jewish hostage, Noach Moskowitz, who Israeli police said was found dead hours after Mr Asheri's remains were found.

Much of Gaza, including two main hospitals, was without power and running water as a UN aid chief warned that the 1.4 million residents of the strip were three days away from a humanitarian crisis.

"They are heading for the abyss unless they get electricity and fuel restored," said emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland, who urged militants to free Corporal Shalit and stop firing rockets into Israel.

Residents complain that sonic booms caused by Israeli jets traumatise children and that shelling confines families to their homes.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has vowed the military will do all it can to avoid civilian deaths if a full-scale assault is launched.

Mr Olmert said the decision to invade northern Gaza had already been delayed to allow Mr Mubarak's negotiations to continue.

The arrested Hamas legislators have been sent to security prisons and many will stand trial on terrorism offences. The detentions have hurt Hamas's already limited ability to govern and are likely to force a regime change.

**which has been the goal all along**

Israel claims it has intelligence about the area where Corporal Shalit is held, but has been unable to pinpoint the exact location. Mr Olmert said the military would leave the strip if he was unconditionally and safely returned.

Egypt and the neighbouring Arab states of Jordan and Lebanon fear a war between Israel and the Palestinians could lead to uprisings within their own borders, which house many Palestinian refugees.

The Promotion After Haditha

As two investigations of the alleged massacre in Iraq drag on, questions are raised over the promotion of one officer who is a focus of the probe

Three officers have already been removed from their posts in the wake of the allegations that U.S. Marines killed 24 civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha. But while top-level officials in the Marine Corps await the report from Army Maj. General Eldon Bargewell, who is investigating the actions of the Marines and the chain of command after the incident, the promotion of one of the Marines who is the focus of the criminal investigation is drawing new scrutiny.

Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the Marine who was the unit leader on the ground that day in Haditha, was put on the Marine Corps list for promotion from sergeant to staff sergeant in October 2005. Being put on the list, however, does not ensure promotion; the Marine's commander must okay it first, and the Marine Corps routinely holds up nominations or promotions if there is any reason to question the actions of a Marine. Even a charge of "driving while intoxicated," for example, can delay or derail a step up.

Still, Wuterich, who has over seven years in the Corps but was on his first combat duty in Haditha, was officially promoted to the higher rank on January 1, 2006, six weeks after the incident took place. That has led some Marine sources to suspect there was at least a failure to report relevant details up the chain of command. Others, including Wuterich's attorney, Neal Puckett, argue that Wuterich acted appropriately under the rules of engagement in Haiditha and that if his superior officers had suspected otherwise, Wuterich's promotion would have been stopped.

The Marine Corps has been more careful with regard to two other promotions since Wuterich's. The Corps has kept two senior officers — a major general and a colonel — who were in command at the time of the incident, from moving into new positions until the report from Army Major General is complete.

Meanwhile, despite reports that Bargewell's report would be delivered weeks ago, it appears that Lt. Gen. Peter Chairelli, the ground commander in Iraq, who ordered up the investigation, is still reviewing Bargewell's detailed report. "He is going over it with a fine tooth comb," says one defense official. "Given the interest in this case, everyone wants the first report to be comprehensive and answer all the possible questions."

The other inquiry into the alleged Haditha massacre, being conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, is not likely to reach its final conclusions until later this summer. One problem slowing that probe is the refusal of Iraqi families to allow the bodies of the victims to be exhumed. In some previous cases where U.S. troops were under suspicion, Iraqi corpses have in fact been brought back to Dover Air Force Base for US forensic specialists to examine. Navy investigators are still trying to get the Iraqi families in the Haditha probe to change their minds. Local/Regional


Man charged after videotaping police
By ANDREW WOLFE, Telegraph Staff
Published: Thursday, Jun. 29, 2006
Michael Gannon stands outside his house on Morgan Street where he videotaped a detective who had come to his house investigating his 15-year-old son Tuesday in Nashua. Gannon said the detective was rude, and brought a surveillance tape to the Nashua Police Station to file a complaint. Instead, police arrested him, telling him he had violated New Hampshire’s eavesdropping and wiretap laws.

NASHUA – A city man is charged with violating state wiretap laws by recording a detective on his home security camera, while the detective was investigating the man’s sons.

Michael Gannon, 49, of 26 Morgan St., was arrested Tuesday night, after he brought a video to the police station to try to file a complaint against Detective Andrew Karlis, according to Gannon’s wife, Janet Gannon, and police reports filed in Nashua District Court.

Police instead arrested Gannon, charging him with two felony counts of violating state eavesdropping and wiretap law by using an electronic device to record Karlis without the detective’s consent.

The Gannons’ son, Shawn Gannon, 18, is charged with resisting detention and disorderly conduct, and his wife also was cited for disorderly conduct, she said.

Janet Gannon said the family plans to hire a lawyer, and expects to sue the police department.

The couple’s 15-year-old son also was arrested, charged as a juvenile in an unrelated robbery case, according to police reports and Janet Gannon.

The Gannons installed a video and audio recording system at their home, a four-unit building at 22-28 Morgan St., to monitor the front door and parking areas, family members told police. They installed the cameras about two years ago, buying the system at Wal-Mart, Janet Gannon told the police, according to reports filed in court. The Gannons have owned the property, which is assessed at $382,700, for the past three years, city records show.

Janet Gannon spoke with The Telegraph by phone Wednesday afternoon, before going to bail out her husband. She said they installed the system in response to crime in the neighborhood, and at their house.

“We’ve had two break-ins. One guy came right up our stairs and started beating on my husband, and we called the cops,” she said. Another time, after someone broke into a camper on their property, Janet Gannon said an officer suggested they were “too rich” for the neighborhood, and should move.

The security cameras record sound and audio directly to a videocassette recorder inside the house, and the Gannons posted warnings about the system, Janet Gannon said.

On Tuesday night, Michael Gannon brought a videocassette to the police department, and asked to speak with someone in “public relations,” his wife said and police reported.

Gannon wanted to lodge a complaint against Karlis, who had come to the family’s house while investigating their sons, Janet Gannon said. She said Karlis showed up late at night, was rude, and refused to leave when they asked him.

“He was just very smart-mouthed. He put his foot in the door, and my husband said, ‘Excuse me, I did not invite you in, please leave,’ and he wouldn’t,” Janet Gannon said. “We did not invite him in, we asked him to leave, and he wouldn’t.”

After the police arrested the Gannons’ sons, Janet Gannon said, they “secured” the house, and told her and her sister-in-law they had to stay out of it from around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday until about 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Police said they were waiting to get a warrant to search the house, Janet Gannon said.

“They were waiting for a warrant to seize the cameras and the tapes in my house . . . because they said having these cameras was against the law. They’re security cameras,” she said, adding, “They said they could do that. They could seize my apartment.”

Karlis went to the Gannons’ home at about 11:30 p.m. Friday night and again at about 7 p.m. Tuesday, police reported. Karlis was investigating the Gannons’ 15-year-old son in connection with a June 21 mugging outside Margaritas restaurant, for which two other teens already have been charged, according to police reports. The boy also is charged with possessing a handgun stolen three years ago in Vermont, and resisting detention, police said.

The boy wasn’t home when Karlis went there, and the Gannons were “uncooperative” regarding his whereabouts, police reported.

The Gannons felt police were harassing the family, Janet Gannon said.

“There were six cops in my yard,” the first time police came, she said. “My husband was very upset. How many cops does it take to talk to a 15-year-old.”

Karlis didn’t know about the security camera until his second visit, when Michael Gannon told him to “smile” for the camera, police reported.

Janet Gannon said her husband explicitly warned officers of the camera, later adding “smile,” as a joke.

“I heard him say it,” she said. “He said, ‘Gentlemen, there’s a camera right there.’”

According to police, however, Janet Gannon told officers she didn’t remember her husband warning police about the security camera.

Police reported that Gannon “has a history of being verbally abusive” toward police, and that after his arrest, he remarked that the officers “were a bunch of corrupt (expletives).”
***gee, it's hard to imagine where he'd end up with an opinion like that, all things considered***

Andrew Wolfe can be reached at *****

another put up job...

Was There Really An Attack On Israeli Soldiers?
Questions about the story of the "kidnapping".
this put up job is so blatantly obvious once you look at it....
too picture heavy to post here...

Pentagon Fireworks - by Chip Ward and Tom Engelhardt

Tom Dispatch
Pentagon Fireworks
by Chip Ward and Tom Engelhardt

One of the least noticed success stories of George Bush's years in power has been his administration's ability to focus the world's attention so singularly first on Saddam Hussein 's "nuclear program" – remember that yellowcake brick road? – which had absolutely no basis in reality; then on a meager (though frightening) North Korean nuclear force (of questionable use), and finally on a questionable Iranian nuclear bomb, which, according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate, is perhaps 10 years away and yet somehow has been ever in our midst.

The near-civilization-destroying Israeli nuclear arsenal is hardly ever even noted. The Pakistani/Indian arsenals, aimed at each other on a hair-trigger and constantly being upgraded, are rarely in the news (though they may be the most obvious flashpoint for a nuclear conflagration on the planet). Above all, the great nuclear arsenals of the two Cold War superpowers, those MAD (or mutually assured destruction) creations, have been allowed to slip into obscurity without faintly slipping into oblivion. The Russians are again upgrading their aging nuclear forces and, with an ever shakier military, have, if anything, become more reliant on nuclear power for great-power status; while the Bush administration has been eager to upgrade the already gargantuan American arsenal with various kinds of mini-nukes, "bunker busters," and other weapons of mass destruction.

Everyone knows that the only nuclear weapons ever used against civilian populations came out of the American arsenal on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, obliterating the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Everyone also knows that, since then, no power on Earth has ever used nuclear weapons against civilian populations – an absolute truth that absolutely isn't so. In fact, the vast program of nuclear testing that the U.S. undertook in the American West from the 1950s into the early 1990s has taken a terrible disease toll on "downwinders," particularly the citizens of Utah and Nevada (and wherever else fallout landed in the U.S., not to say, on the planet) as did the Russian nuclear testing program on its citizenry (as did the French program, though they were cannier and tested their bombs not outside Avignon but in the South Seas).

The power of nuclear weapons was so beyond normal comprehension that the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, "the father of the atomic bomb," Robert Oppenheimer, on observing the first atomic test, immediately invoked the powers of the gods. As he described it (taken from Richard Rhodes' book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb):

"We waited until the blast had passed, walked out of the shelter and then it was extremely solemn. We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita: Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him he takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another."

Now, the most religiously zealous administration in our history is invoking the "divine" power to destroy untold millions in seconds in the happy pursuit and maintenance of global nuclear superiority. The Bush administration is, in fact, strikingly eager to proliferate in its supposed war against nuclear proliferation and so is willing once again to turn Americans into nuclear guinea pigs. Chip Ward, whose book Canaries on the Rim took up the earlier round of testing in the Western U.S., returns to the subject below, giving those Fourth of July fireworks a slightly different meaning. Tom

Fireworks Deferred

Divine Strake, hellish repercussions
by Chip Ward

Shock and awe is coming home. The Bush administration is planning to conduct future preemptive wars with "mini-nukes" and, to that end, wants to set off a nuclear-sized explosion at the government's Nevada Test Site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. So far, the Department of Defense's latest testing plan – code named "Divine Strake" – has been thwarted by the organized citizens of Utah and Nevada, but the clock is running out. The DoD announced the plan in April and scheduled the blast for early June. After an initial public outcry in the region, it was postponed for two weeks, then postponed again until "September or later." Those unfamiliar with the nightmarish ambitions and skewed reasoning of the nation's wannabe nuclear-warriors may find Divine Strake unfathomable. Sadly, the inhabitants of America's original Ground Zero – where our nuclear and chemical weapons were honed during the Cold War – know that thinking all too well. It's a dirty shame…

Dirt Bomb: Imagine a fertilizer bomb 280 times more powerful than the one Tim McVeigh used to blow apart the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City – enough to take down an entire city. Imagine that bomb as 50 times more powerful than our largest conventional weapon – the Massive Ordinance Air Blast Bomb, or MOAB, that has to be shoved by hand out of the belly doors of a specially fitted cargo plane and carries the nickname, "the Mother of All Bombs." But the bomb we are imagining is way too large to be delivered by any known conventional method. It would take two cargo planes to deliver the explosive fuel that will be packed into a pit 36 feet deep by 32 feet in circumference. Imagine, then, that this massive pile of explosives is to be set off on an arid, windswept desert floor made of a fine, dry soil that has been contaminated by decades of exposure to nuclear radiation. Although the explosive fuel itself will not be radioactive – thus avoiding an obvious violation of international treaties that ban aboveground nuclear tests – the dirt and debris that drifts downwind may very well be radioactive, a possibility that the Pentagon is not keen to know more about.

Now, picture what happens after the load is fired off. If you see a gigantic, thick, and rolling mushroom cloud of toxic dirt that climbs 10,000 feet into the atmosphere, then you agree with the Department of Defense's own expectations. That toxic cloud will drift and fall eastward over Utah, Colorado, the Midwest, or wherever the wind carries it.

If your mental image of that mushroom cloud is vivid, then you are of a certain age. Maybe you also live in this neck of the West and so are familiar with the phenomenon from the hundred-plus aboveground atomic explosions set off at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s or the more than 800 "underground" explosions that continued until 1992. Most of those underground tests turned out to be "leakers," often producing smaller mushroom clouds that escaped through cracks fissured into the ground as the explosions displaced millions of tons of earth instantly and the surface of the desert collapsed into immense craters. The radiation that was vented then drifted far and wide.

Divine Strake, the latest experiment in irradiating Americans, was postponed briefly when a public outcry ensued; then postponed indefinitely when the protests continued to mount and Utah's powerful Sen. Orrin Hatch joined Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and various Nevada politicians calling for more risk-assessment first. Although an exact date to conduct Divine Strake has not been set, the Department of Defense is still intent on conducting their experiment as early as this autumn, according to the latest DoD announcement.

The citizens of Las Vegas, the nation's sex-alcohol-and-gambling mecca, and the puritanical Mormon citizens of Utah might seem unlikely political allies – except for the fact that they share a legacy of cancer and chronic illness, a consequence of the last time our military rolled the nuclear dice on the Nevada desert floor. Recent research reveals that most of the nation also suffers from that legacy of illness, they just aren't as aware of it as the "downwinders" of Nevada and Utah who actually saw the clouds of fallout heading their way. Once again, the citizens of those two states find themselves on the front lines of a struggle with profound international repercussions. For us, Divine Strake is a weapon of mass déjà vu.

Dirty Lies: As in earlier decades, planning documents obscure what is happening; official reassurances are misleading; and the tests are facilitated by federal agencies whose hallmarks are being distant, secretive, inaccessible, and arrogant. Last time the Nevada Test Site was active, the citizens of Utah and Nevada living directly downwind were described in a classified military report as "a low-use segment of the population." In other words, expendable. Today, sanitized language cloaks the same old disregard for the consequences of military testing, again masking a willingness to sacrifice the health of citizens on the altar of nuclear hegemony.

Listen to Irene Smith, a spokesperson for the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which will help facilitate the explosion. According to her, the test would not be a nuclear simulation at all, but would merely "assess computer programs to reduce uncertainties in target characterization, target function, layout, operational status, and geotechnical features." Oh, okay. Another Pentagon spokesperson, David Rigby, put it a tad more directly. The purpose of Divine Strake, he stated, was "to develop better predictive tools for defeating hardened underground targets." Then he added, "It is not a precursor to a nuclear test."

Unsaid: whether or not it's a precursor to such a test, it is certainly a precursor to nuclear use. What, after all, are they predicting? They want to know what size nuclear warhead will take out a hardened underground target in a geologic formation much like the one where we suspect Iran is developing nuclear weapons. A tunnel has already been drilled through the jointed limestone directly below the site where Divine Strake would be exploded. North Korea is thought to have similar tunnels to hide its nuclear weapons-making facilities. Other nations have built such underground retreats for their national leaders, much as we did in hillsides around Washington, D.C. Then there are underground facilities for shielding the aircraft of potentially hostile powers of the future – like a hardened "airbase" at Feidong, China. The descriptions the Department of Defense has offered of Divine Strake paint the military as cautious and responsible in trying to determine the size of the smallest nuclear warhead that could destroy such buried targets. Forget the fact that every target on their hit list is surrounded by innocent civilians who will certainly be killed, just as every target is upwind from everyone else on the planet.

Dirty Joke: Then there's that name – Divine Strake. Strake, not strike, which might seem logical under the circumstances. "Strake" is either an obscure nautical term meaning a line of horizontal planking running the length of a ship's hull or the aerodynamic surface mounted on the fuselage of an aircraft to control airflow. Why it has been used in this faux-nuclear context is not clear. Apparently, war planners regard the test as a platform, support, or control for something else – but what? Or maybe, consciously or not, strake is an amalgam of "strike" and "mistake." Anyway, whatever one makes of "strake," "divine" conveys a breathtakingly unabashed and self-righteous hubris. It's also a clear case of linguistic bait n' switch since there is nothing divine about slaughtering innocents or destroying whole landscapes, unless of course it is death we are worshipping and our own power to play God and decide the fates of untold numbers of people.

**unless it was "divine strike" at one point and someone still wants that connotation to remain while removing the obvious**

If we wonder how the rest of the world, especially Islamic cultures, hear these words, we have only to think how we would hear them if they were used by Iranians to describe a weapons program they were developing with the obvious purpose of targeting us. Proof of fanaticism, we would insist. Maybe we are in a holy war, after all, at least in the minds of those fashioning the weapons to fight it. While Islamists set off car bombs and call it "jihad," we prepare a simulated nuclear explosion and label it "divine." The people of Utah and Nevada may be forgiven if they feel like hostages caught in the crossfire of warring zealots.

Dirty Trick: If Divine Strake happens, its mushroom cloud will rise like an extended middle finger to Congress, which killed funding for the "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator," a nuclear weapon the Bush administration has been eager to develop to penetrate the earth to hardened bunkers below, and has otherwise refused to fund the development of a new set of mini-nukes it also desperately wants, or to fund the rapid reactivation of the Nevada Test Site so it can resume testing for such "mini-nukes." Testing has always been a key component of developing new weapons of mass destruction – war planners cannot use such a weapon if they are not sure what it does on the ground. Since large-scale testing stopped in 1992, the Nevada Test Site has been operating with a skeleton crew.

Deprived of the means to develop a new class of bunker-buster nuclear weapons that can drill deep into the earth, the Bush administration's war gamers are now planning to simply blow up nuclear warheads above such targets. If they can't dig the bastards out, they want to know just what size nuke will cave-in their hideouts from above. Whatever the Pentagon says, Divine Strake will closely resemble the destructive yield of a B-61 nuclear warhead, one of the smallest in the arsenal. Eventually, war planners will argue that they need to build a new class of even smaller nukes so as to avoid the casualties and damage that the bigger ones in the American nuclear arsenal would cause – such is the mad humanitarian logic of nuclear warriors.

The underlying willingness to launch a "preventive" nuclear war to prevent a nuclear war, as expressed in such planning, has already become embarrassing and so must now be hidden. As late as 2005, budget documents describing the Tunnel Target Defeat Advanced Concept and Technology Demonstration Series (of which the Divine Strake is a key component) still made it clear that their overall purpose was to "improve war fighters' confidence in selecting the smallest proper nuclear yield necessary to destroy underground facilities." Similarly, the Divine Strake piece of the puzzle was clearly identified as a nuclear simulation. But 2006 budget documents covering the same plans erased all references to nuclear simulation and nuclear weapons. As has so often been the case in the Bush era, satisfied that they could alter reality simply via a new description of reality, Pentagon spokespeople now insist that the project that looked, walked, and quacked like a nuclear duck was just a conventional war chicken that, gosh, only resembles a duck. Or, as spokesperson Rigby proclaimed, "The planned detonation has been redefined."

Dirty Job: Reactivating the semi-comatose Nevada Test Site is considered crucial to the development of a new set of nuclear warheads. Hence, the rush to test by any means necessary – even with a crude, mammoth fertilizer bomb. Unstated in the official documentation, and seldom considered by critics, the Department of Defense is also desperate to start up the testing again for another reason entirely: The human infrastructure that developed and managed America's nuclear arsenal is retiring or dying off.

We stopped underground testing in 1992 and haven't developed a new nuclear weapon since the W88 Trident II warheads over a decade ago. The human knowledge-and-experience base that learned how to handle nuclear weaponry and the skill sets that can only be attained firsthand are melting away over time. Reviving the Nevada Test Site would give the Department of Energy, which runs the facility for the DoD, a valuable training ground to rebuild that knowledge base. It would also give a new generation of technicians and engineers the hands-on experience they need to keep the nuclear ball rolling. If they can get the Test Site up and running soon, even for a fertilizer bomb, the veteran technicians left over from the Cold War will still be available to instruct and mentor the nuclear newbies. Unfortunately for them, time is not on their side.

Eat Dirt: As citizens immediately downwind demanded evidence that Divine Strake would not raise soils still contaminated by generations of previous nuclear explosions, Pentagon spokespeople offered the usual assurances, even while admitting that they had little in the way of data to back them up. Nothing resembling an environmental impact assessment had been done, but the implication was that the Pentagon's word should be good enough. Richard Miller, an industrial health technician, has documented that six nuclear detonations from the 1950s were conducted within eight miles of the proposed Divine Strake site, contaminating the surface soil with radioactive debris that could be dangerous for many decades to come. Local activists who have visited the Nevada Test site note that DoD employees do not allow them to pick up and carry off stones from the area because, they were told, even dirt sometimes sets off the Geiger counters wielded by the guards at the gate.

Contrary to Pentagon claims that the 10,000-foot mushroom cloud from Divine Strake should dissipate within a mile or two of the explosion, Miller's research shows that a similarly large debris column that leaked from the "Baneberry" underground test in 1970 was caught up in the jet stream and carried all the way to Canada before falling out. Climate scientists who are studying how dust from storms in Mongolia coats Colorado mountain snowpack would not find this surprising; nor would scientists who suspect that high background levels of mercury in Western states can be explained by the prevailing winds sweeping across toxic residues from open-pit gold mining in Nevada and carrying mercury as well as other harmful chemicals hundreds of miles downwind.

Miller's previous studies of fallout patterns from the Nevada Test Site showed that, according to the government's own reports, radioactive materials from both aboveground and underground tests traveled much farther than previously assumed and in greater concentrations – some hot clouds of fallout settled on places in the Midwest and even on the New York/New Jersey metropolitan areas. Back in the 1950s and '60s, radiation from the Nevada testing grounds reached deep into food chains, contaminating grain harvests and milk production sometimes thousands of miles away. Although airborne debris from a non-nuclear explosion will contain less harmful materials than the debris from an actual nuclear blast, no analysis has been done of how arsenic and other naturally occurring toxins as well as the more exotic toxins that will result from blowing up 700 tons of ammonium nitrate will be dispersed into the wind. Clearly, however, whatever is in that dirt ball will land on playgrounds, lawns, farms, cattle, and watersheds. We have learned the hard way from pollution, cancer, and global climate change that we all live downwind and downstream from one another; that, through a complex global food web, we also eat each others' dirt.

Salt of the Earth: During the first era in which the Nevada Test Site practiced for the Apocalypse, the people immediately downwind were naive, trusting, and mostly silent. No more. By now the stories about misshapen calves, miscarried babies, and children with leukemia who died in the wake of atomic testing have become common lore. Everyone here can name a victim. Cancer continues to stalk downwinders decades after the last exposure. Birth defects and chronic illness are showing up in their children and grandchildren. Because health is complex, dynamic, synergistic, variable, and its patterns emerge slowly – and because no effort has been made to track those exposed and collect data – legal proof of the harm that came with the atomic winds is hard to come by and accountability is nowhere to be found. Congress did agree to compensate those who were most obviously exposed to fallout, but applicants had to document their exposure and the illnesses that followed and, in the process, jump through a bewildering set of bureaucratic hoops. Most will die before they see a check.

Polls show that the citizens of Utah and Nevada are as overwhelmingly opposed to new atomic weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site as they are to having the waste from the nation's commercial nuclear power plants dumped in their deserts. The same grassroots groups that have led the campaigns against proposed nuclear-waste repositories at Yucca Mountain, Nev., and Skull Valley, Utah, responded quickly to the Divine Strake plan and mobilized media campaigns, congressional lobbying, and sign-carrying demonstrations.

In the face of immediate and widespread opposition, the DoD agreed to hold town-hall meetings in Las Vegas and in St. George, Utah. Preston Truman, director of Downwinders, a local organization that represents the victims of Cold War era nuclear testing, predicts that those public hearings will only lead "to escalating demands for hearings from Las Vegas to Boise. Instead of quieting the ticked-off natives, the delay will give us time to organize and pressure elected representatives to draw a line and say 'no' we will not allow another generation of us to be created."

Local politicians understand that they will be judged by whether they can halt the explosion and that they will win important bragging rights if they succeed. They also know that postponements are not the same as a cancellation and that there is no guarantee the Pentagon will not eventually have its way. We know from experience that military planners are tenacious in pursuit of pet projects and will do everything in their power to ignore or thwart a public that disagrees with them. Vanessa Pierce, an organizer for HEAL Utah, a grassroots group that has led the opposition to shipping and storing nuclear waste to Utah, warns that "weapons designers will do whatever it takes to get their fix."

The Real Dirt: It is not hard to imagine that some future enemy might threaten our nuclear hegemony by constructing the radioactive equivalent of a car bomb – what Mike Davis has termed "the poor man's air force" – in some cave or bunker. It is harder to imagine why war planners think that the development of a new class of bunker-busting bombs would be a "deterrent," or that we can meet the threats we face by blowing up nuclear warheads above bunkers and tunnels. Do war planners seriously think we could use our nuclear weapons "preventively" on underground targets without horrific consequences to regional populations that would unleash such hatred and condemnation as well as the desire for revenge and violence as to render such a strike as impractical as it is immoral?

This much is clear to those of us who live immediately downwind from the Nevada Test Site and other hellish places like Utah's Dugway Proving Grounds, where the military did open-air tests with nerve agents that sickened hundreds of workers and unknown numbers of nearby residents, or Hanford, Wash., where the weapons were loaded with their nuclear fuel, also contaminating groundwater, soil, and the bloodstreams of hundreds of workers in the process. Once again in a new age of nuclear testing, American citizens will be the first victims of our own weapons of mass destruction. We will not be shredded or incinerated as an enemy would be. Domestic civilian casualties will sicken and die slowly.

If there is a next time, we will not go unnoticed again, but neither will we be able to prove that our suffering resulted from military testing according to the narrow legal standards that apply. There will yet again be little or no accountability; and, like unwilling guinea pigs in some ghastly experiment, we will live with uncertainty and doubt while waiting for the results of our own military folly to unfold in our tissues, our blood, our chromosomes, and our bones. As an elderly woman walking a picket line in St. George to protest Divine Strake said, "This is supposed to be about national security. I don't feel more secure. Do you?"

Chip Ward is a political activist, writer, and a library administrator. He is the author of Canaries on the Rim: Living Downwind in the West (Verso) and Hope's Horizon: Three Visions for Healing the American Land (Shearwater/Island Press).

Copyright 2006 Chip Ward