Saturday, July 15, 2006
The Real Aim
By: Uri Avnery
07/15/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- THE REAL aim is to change the regime in Lebanon and to install a puppet government.
That was the aim of Ariel Sharon's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It failed. But Sharon and his pupils in the military and political leadership have never really given up on it.
As in 1982, the present operation, too, was planned and is being carried out in full coordination with the US.
As then, there is no doubt that it is coordinated with a part of the Lebanese elite.
That's the main thing. Everything else is noise and propaganda.
ON THE eve of the 1982 invasion, Secretary of State Alexander Haig told Ariel Sharon that, before starting it, it was necessary to have a "clear provocation", which would be accepted by the world.
The provocation indeed took place - exactly at the appropriate time - when Abu-Nidal's terror gang tried to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London. This had no connection with Lebanon, and even less with the PLO (the enemy of Abu-Nidal), but it served its purpose.
This time, the necessary provocation has been provided by the capture of the two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah. Everyone knows that they cannot be freed except through an exchange of prisoners. But the huge military campaign that has been ready to go for months was sold to the Israeli and international public as a rescue operation.
(Strangely enough, the very same thing happened two weeks earlier in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and its partners captured a soldier, which provided the excuse for a massive operation that had been prepared for a long time and whose aim is to destroy the Palestinian government.)
THE DECLARED aim of the Lebanon operation is to push Hizbullah away from the border, so as to make it impossible for them to capture more soldiers and to launch rockets at Israeli towns. The invasion of the Gaza strip is also officially aimed at getting Ashkelon and Sderot out of the range of the Qassams.
That resembles the 1982 "Operation Peace for Gallilee". Then, the public and the Knesset were told that the aim of the war was to "push the Katyushas 40 km away from the border".
That was a deliberate lie. For 11 months before the war, not a single Katyusha rocket (nor a single shot) had been fired over the border. From the beginning, the aim of the operation was to reach Beirut and install a Quisling dictator. As I have recounted more than once, Sharon himself told me so nine months before the war, and I duly published it at the time, with his consent (but unattributed).
Of course, the present operation also has several secondary aims, which do not include the freeing of the prisoners. Everybody understands that that cannot be achieved by military means. But it is probably possible to destroy some of the thousands of missiles that Hizbullah has accumulated over the years. For this end, the army chiefs are ready to endanger the inhabitants of the Israeli towns that are exposed to the rockets. They believe that that is worthwhile, like an exchange of chess figures.
Another secondary aim is to rehabilitate the "deterrent power" of the army. That is a codeword for the restoration of the army's injured pride that has suffered a severe blow from the daring military actions of Hamas in the south and Hizbullah in the north.
OFFICIALLY, THE Israeli government demands that the Government of Lebanon disarm Hizbullah and remove it from the border region.
That is clearly impossible under the present Lebanese regime, a delicate fabric of ethno-religious communities. The slightest shock can bring the whole structure crashing down and throw the state into total anarchy - especially after the Americans succeeded in driving out the Syrian army, the only element that has for years provided some stability.
The idea of installing a Quisling in Lebanon is nothing new. In 1955, David Ben-Gurion proposed taking a "Christian officer" and installing him as dictator. Moshe Sharet showed that this idea was based on complete ignorance of Lebanese affairs and torpedoed it. But 27 years later, Ariel Sharon tried to put it into effect nevertheless. Bashir Gemayel was indeed installed as president, only to be murdered soon afterwards. His brother, Amin, succeeded him and signed a peace agreement with Israel, but was driven out of office. (The same brother is now publicly supporting the Israeli operation.)
The calculation now is that if the Israeli Air Force rains heavy enough blows on the Lebanese population - paralysing the sea- and airports, destroying the infrastructure, bombarding residential neighborhoods, cutting the Beirut-Damascus highroad etc. - the public will get furious with Hizbullah and pressure the Lebanese government into fulfilling Israel's demands. Since the present government cannot even dream of doing so, a dictatorship will be set up with Israel's support.
That is the military logic. I have my doubts. It can be assumed that most Lebanese will react as any other people on earth would: with fury and hatred towards the invader. That happened in 1982, when the Shiites in the south of Lebanon, until then as docile as a doormat, stood up against the Israeli occupiers and created the Hizbullah, which has become the strongest force in the country. If the Lebanese elite now becomes tainted as collaborators with Israel, it will be swept off the map. (By the way, have the Qassams and Katyushas caused the Israeli population to exert pressure on our government to give up? Quite the contrary.)
The American policy is full of contradictions. President Bush wants "regime change" in the Middle East, but the present Lebanese regime has only recently been set up by under American pressure. In the meantime, Bush has succeeded only in breaking up Iraq and causing a civil war (as foretold here). He may get the same in Lebanon, if he does not stop the Israeli army in time. Moreover, a devastating blow against Hizbullah may arouse fury not only in Iran, but also among the Shiites in Iraq, on whose support all of Bush's plans for a pro-American regime are built.
So what's the answer? Not by accident, Hizbullah has carried out its soldier-snatching raid at a time when the Palestinians are crying out for succor. The Palestinian cause is popular all over the Arab word. By showing that they are a friend in need, when all other Arabs are failing dismally, Hizbullah hopes to increase its popularity. If an Israeli-Palestinian agreement had been achieved by now, Hizbullah would be no more than a local Lebanese phenomenon, irrelevant to our situation.
LESS THAN three months after its formation, the Olmert-Peretz government has succeeded in plunging Israel into a two-front war, whose aims are unrealistic and whose results cannot be foreseen.
If Olmert hopes to be seen as Mister Macho-Macho, a Sharon # 2, he will be disappointed. The same goes for the desperate attempts of Peretz to be taken seriously as an imposing Mister Security. Everybody understands that this campaign - both in Gaza and in Lebanon - has been planned by the army and dictated by the army. The man who makes the decisions in Israel now is Dan Halutz. It is no accident that the job in Lebanon has been turned over to the Air Force.
The public is not enthusiastic about the war. It is resigned to it, in stoic fatalism, because it is being told that there is no alternative. And indeed, who can be against it? Who does not want to liberate the "kidnapped soldiers"? Who does not want to remove the Katyushas and rehabilitate deterrence? No politician dares to criticize the operation (except the Arab MKs, who are ignored by the Jewish public). In the media, the generals reign supreme, and not only those in uniform. There is almost no former general who is not being invited by the media to comment, explain and justify, all speaking in one voice.
(As an illustration: Israel's most popular TV channel invited me to an interview about the war, after hearing that I had taken part in an anti-war demonstration. I was quite surprised. But not for long - an hour before the broadcast, an apologetic talk-show host called and said that there had been a terrible mistake - they really meant to invite Professor Shlomo Avineri, a former Director General of the Foreign Office who can be counted on to justify any act of the government, whatever it may be, in lofty academic language.)
"Inter arma silent Musae" - when the weapons speak, the muses fall silent. Or, rather: when the guns roar, the brain ceases to function.
AND JUST a small thought: when the State of Israel was founded in the middle of a cruel war, a poster was plastered on the walls: "All the country - a front! All the people - an army!"
58 Years have passed, and the same slogan is still as valid as it was then. What does that say about generations of statesmen and generals?
Uri Avnery is an Israeli author and activist. He is the head of the Israeli peace movement, "Gush Shalom".
What I am watching in Lebanon each day is an outrage
By Robert Fisk in Mdeirej, Central Lebanon
07/15/06 "The Independent" -- - - The beautiful viaduct that soars over the mountainside here has become a "terrorist" target. The Israelis attacked the international highway from Beirut to Damascus just after dawn yesterday and dropped a bomb clean through the central span of the Italian-built bridge a symbol of Lebanon's co-operation with the European Union sending concrete crashing hundreds of feet down into the valley beneath. It was the pride of the murdered ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri, the face of a new, emergent Lebanon. And now it is a "terrorist" target.
So I drove gingerly along the old mountain road towards the Bekaa yesterday - the Israeli jets were hissing through the sky above me - turned the corner once I rejoined the highway, and found a 50ft crater with an old woman climbing wearily down the side on her hands and knees, trying to reach her home in the valley that glimmered to the east. This too had become a "terrorist" target.
It is now the same all over Lebanon. In the southern suburbs - where the Hizbollah, captors of the two missing Israeli soldiers, have their headquarters - a massive bomb had blasted off the sides of apartment blocks next to a church, splintering windows and crashing balconies down to parked cars. This too had become a "terrorist target.
One man was brought out shrieking with pain, covered in blood. Another "terrorist" target. All the way to the airport were broken bridges, holed roads. All these were "terrorist" targets. At the airport, tongues of fire blossomed into the sky from aircraft fuel storage tanks, darkening west Beirut. These too were now "terrorist" targets.
At Jiyeh, the Israelis attacked the power station. This too was a "terrorist" target.
Yet when I drove to the actual headquarters of Hizbollah, a tall building in Haret Hreik, it was totally undamaged. Only last night did the Israelis manage to hit it.
So can the Lebanese be forgiven - can anyone here be forgiven - for believing that the Israelis have a greater interest in destroying Lebanon than they do in their two soldiers?
No wonder Middle East Airlines, the national Lebanese airline, put crews into its four stranded Airbuses at Beirut airport early yesterday and sneaked them out of the country for Amman before the Israelis realised they were under power and leaving.
European politicians have talked about Israel's "disproportionate" response to Wednesday's capture of its soldiers. They are wrong. What I am now watching in Lebanon is an outrage. How can there be any excuse for the 73 dead Lebanese blown these past three days?
The same applies, of course, to the four Israeli civilians killed by Hizbollah rockets. But - please note the exchange rate of Israeli civilian lives to Lebanese civilian lives now stands at 1 to more than 15. This does not include the two children who were atomised in their home in Dweir on Thursday and whose bodies cannot be found. Their six brothers and sisters were buried yesterday, along with their mother and father. Another "terrorist" target. So was a neighbouring family with five children who were also buried yesterday. Another "terrorist" target.
Terrorist, terrorist, terrorist. There is something perverse about all this, the slaughter and massive destruction and the self-righteous, constant, cancerous use of the word "terrorist". No, let us not forget that the Hizbollah broke international law, crossed the Israeli border, killed three Israeli soldiers, captured two others and dragged them back through the border fence. It was an act of calculated ruthlessness that should never allow Hizbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, to grin so broadly ay his press conference. It has brought unparalleled tragedy to countless innocents in Lebanon. And of course, it has led Hizbollah to fire at least 170 Katyusha rockets into Israel.
But what would happen if the powerless Lebanese government had actually unleashed air attacks across Israel the last time Israel's troops crossed into Lebanon? What if the Lebanese air force then killed 73 Israeli civilians in bombing raids in Ashkelon, Tel Aviv and Israeli West Jerusalem? What if a Lebanese fighter aircraft bombed Ben Gurion airport? What if a Lebanese plane destroyed 26 road bridges across Israel? Would it not be called "terrorism"? I rather think it would. But if Israel was the victim, it would also probably be Word War Three.
Of course, Lebanon cannot attack Tel Aviv. Its air force comprises three ancient Hawker Hunters and an equally ancient fleet of Vietnam-era Huey helicopters. Syria, however, has missiles that can reach Tel Aviv. So Syria - which Israel rightly believes to be behind Wednesday's Hizbollah attack is not going to be bombed. It is Lebanon which must be punished.
The Israeli leadership intends to "break" the Hizbollah and destroy its "terrorist cancer". Really? Do the Israelis really believe they can "break" one of the toughest guerrilla armies in the world? And how?
There are real issues here. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1559 - the same resolution that got the Syrian army out of Lebanon - the Shia Muslim Hizbollah should have been disarmed. They were not because, if the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, had tried to do so, the Lebanese army would have had to fight them and the army would almost certainly broken apart because most Lebanese soldiers are Shia Muslims. We could see the restarting of the civil war in Lebanon - a fact which Nasrallah is cynically aware of - but attempts by Siniora and his cabinet colleagues to find a new role for Hizbollah, which has a minister in the government (he is Minister of Labour) foundered. And the greatest now is that the Lebanese government will collapse and be replaced by a pro-Syrian government which could re-invite the Syrians back into the country.
So there's a real conundrum to be solved. But it's not going to succeed with the mass bombing of the country by Israel. Not the obsession with terrorists, terrorists, terrorists.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited
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What the Government Knows
While an overseas program to track bank records has unleashed a political storm, the domestic Patriot Act has already made a wealth of financial data available to U.S. law enforcement agencies.
By Michael Isikoff
Updated: 2:46 p.m. PT June 26, 2006
June 26, 2006 - Over the last four years, U.S. law enforcement agencies have gained access to over 28,000 financial records inside the United States under a little known provision of the USA Patriot Act that parallels the secret international bank data program disclosed by news organizations last week, Treasury Department records show.
The disclosure of the overseas program—under which Treasury Department officials have tapped into the records of a vast Belgian-based international financial database called Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications)—has kicked up a storm of controversy. Some critics have decried the program as another example of the administration's invasion of privacy in the name of the war on terror. At the same time, President Bush today condemned as "disgraceful" the disclosure of the operation, which intended to help the government track overseas money movements of suspected terrorists. "For people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America,” Bush told reporters in Washington.
But the international program is only one part of a much broader, if little publicized, Treasury Department effort to probe suspect financial records—including thousands of bank accounts, wire transfers and other transactions involving individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations inside the United States.
Under a section of the USA Patriot Act passed by Congress in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks, Treasury officials were given new powers to direct U.S. banks and other financial institutions to search their records for accounts or transactions involving any individuals or groups who come under scrutiny during investigations of terrorism and money laundering cases.
Although it has received little attention, the Patriot Act program has produced a wealth of previously unavailable financial data that has been shared with U.S. law enforcement agencies—without any notice to the account holders who are being investigated. Since the fall of 2002, when the program began, U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN)—an arm of the Treasury Department—has directed searches of 4,397 "subjects of interest" and received reports back on 28,463 accounts and financial transactions, according to recent Treasury records.
Once there is a positive "match" showing a suspect individual or company has conducted a financial transaction with a U.S. bank, FINCEN then notifies the law enforcement agencies, which can use the existence of a reported "match" as the basis for a grand jury or administrative subpoena. The Treasury records show that U.S. agencies have used the program to obtain 1,206 grand jury subpoenas and 328 administrative subpoenas. It has also led, according to the Treasury records, to 90 indictments, 79 arrests and 10 convictions.
Treasury Department officials last week cited those figures as evidence that the Patriot Act program has become an important tool that is being increasingly used by U.S. law enforcement agencies to obtain domestic financial records.
**so the Treasury Dept leaked as well?**
Robert Werner, the director of FINCEN, also told NEWSWEEK in an interview that data gleaned from the secret Swift program involving overseas bank records can then used by Treasury to request record searches of banks and broker dealers inside the United States under the Patriot Act program—one way in which the two efforts can complement each other. "You might have information from the Swift data that allows you to track a transaction inside the United States" under the Patriot Act program, Werner said.
The complementary nature of the two programs—one secret and the other entirely public (even if barely known to the general public)— puts a different context on the furor over the Swift program. After the Swift program was disclosed last week—in news stories by the Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times—the ACLU decried the "financial spying" effort as "another example of the Bush administration's abuse of power."
But the Swift program is not significantly different—at least in concept—from the Patriot Act program. And the Patriot Act program involves purely domestic financial records, presumably an issue that would be of greater concern to American citizens who were concerned about the privacy of their financial records.
As outlined by Treasury Department officials last week, the overseas program is triggered by intelligence information about possible financial activity by suspected terrorists. Once Treasury receives the leads, it then obtains records on the suspected activity from Swift. Swift, a Brussels-based financial industry consortium, electronically processes billions of international wire transfers and money movements conducted among banks, brokerages and investment funds around the world.
Treasury Department officials insisted last week that the Swift program was closely monitored by an outside auditing firm to insure that the record searches requested by Treasury only involves legitimate terror suspects. But even though it was originally conceived as a tool for terror fighting, the Patriot Act program is actually broader than that and now frequently involves record searches in law enforcement cases that have nothing to do with terrorism.
This is because, as Congress wrote it, FINCEN searches under the Patriot Act may be for terrorism and money laundering cases—and money laundering is frequently present in a wide range of criminal activity unrelated to terrorism. Indeed, according to the recent Treasury Department figures, federal law enforcement agencies have requested FINCEN searches for financial records in a total of 536 cases—63 percent of which, or 342, involved suspected money laundering activity as opposed to terrorism. A Treasury Department "fact sheet" on the Patriot Act program highlights the fact that the program has been used in cases as diverse as cigarette smuggling, identity theft, investment fraud, and drug trafficking. In December 2003, Newsweek reported that the program had been used by the FBI office in Las Vegas to obtain the financial records of Clark County commissioners suspected of taking bribes from a local strip club operators.
After the disclosure, Treasury officials said last week, FINCEN has tightened up on its criteria for processing searches requested by law enforcement agencies and that many requests, 100 out of about 650 this year, are now rejected. "It has to be true money laundering," Werner said.
PM brands Canada an 'energy superpower'
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
LONDON — Stephen Harper positioned Canada as a new “emerging energy superpower” in his first speech abroad Friday as Prime Minister.
Mr. Harper boldly sold Canada as a secure, stable and reliable source of energy to an audience of about 300 business people — members of the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce.
He bragged about Canada's vast and seemingly limitless energy resources, calling the country “a new energy superpower” and spoke about how his government was about to build Canada into a “global energy powerhouse.”
“We believe in the free exchange of energy products based on competitive market principles, not self-serving monopolistic political strategies,” he said.
His statement was a veiled criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the host of the G8 summit, which begins Saturday in St. Petersburg. Mr. Putin has identified global energy security as one of the three priorities of the summit. As well, Russia and Canada are the only two net energy exporters among the G8.
The theme of energy security and Canada as an energy superpower has been a recurring one of late, as Mr. Harper has stepped out more on the international stage. In Washington last week, he stressed similar themes to U.S. President George W. Bush and his advisers.
Canadian embassy staff in Washington are also consciously emphasizing to business leaders and politicians how much energy Canada supplies to the United States, again reinforcing the message that the country is a safe, reliable and market-based source of energy.
A senior Harper strategist said the Prime Minister will use the summit as an opportunity to talk about Canada's secure energy resources and the importance of allowing market forces, not government monopolies, to prevail.
Our government is making new investments in renewable energy sources such as biofuels.'
In background literature distributed to reporters about the G8 summit, the Canadian briefing book says “Canada's contribution to the St. Petersburg Summit will be informed by our long experience in energy resource development, as well as by the lessons learned from exporting to the United States, the world's largest economy.”
Friday, the Prime Minister told his audience that Canada is the fifth-largest energy producer in the world; the country ranks third and seventh in global gas and oil production and is the world's largest supplier of uranium.
“But that's just the beginning,” he said. “Our government is making new investments in renewable energy sources such as biofuels. And an ocean of oil-soaked sand lies under the muskeg of Northern Alberta — my home province.”
He was referring to oil sands production, currently above one million barrels a day. But with vast, ongoing expansions and $100-billion worth of projects slated for construction, it is predicted that output could reach three to four million barrels daily within 10 to 15 years.
That promise of exponential production growth prompted U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to comment Friday during a visit to Calgary that the oil sands would have a “profound effect” on energy use in the United States.
“I believe it is incumbent on us ... to do everything we can do to understand what the barriers are; to understand what the opportunities are; to understand how we could be helpful,” said Mr. Bodman, who visited the oil sands earlier in the week.
Mr. Harper's speech ended a full day, during which he met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, drank orange juice with the Queen and met for 45 minutes with Conservative former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Mrs. Thatcher visited Mr. Harper at his hotel and the two discussed international and domestic issues, according to a senior Harper aide. It was the first time the two had met.
And early Friday morning Mr. Harper visited Mr. Blair at 10 Downing St. Over eggs, tomatoes and blood pudding, the two discussed the escalation of violence in the Middle East, the Kyoto accord and the efforts of Canadian and British soldiers in Afghanistan.
Earlier this week, Mr. Harper had been unequivocal in his support for Israel, calling its response to the abduction of several of its soldiers “measured.”
Mr. Blair was not as blunt. Rather, he called Friday for an international approach, saying the only path to success is one in which “the international community empowers the two sides, the moderates on both sides, to come to a solution.”
Mr. Harper stated again Friday that the Israeli soldiers must be returned and a solution is difficult unless Hamas “is prepared to accept the principles of the road map [to peace], and to this point they have been unwilling to do so ...”
The two Prime Ministers also spoke about climate change and the Kyoto accord, targets of which the Harper government says it cannot meet. The Blair government is a supporter of Kyoto. But Mr. Harper said the two share the same philosophy on climate change.
“The United Kingdom is close to its targets because of what it has done in the past,” he told reporters. “As far as the Canadian government, the previous government did not make the necessary decisions in order to be able to respect the targets, but our government certainly does intend to make progress and intends to work with the international community in order to be able to find a long-term solution which will include all the countries which have large emissions.”
His most eloquent words concerned the contributions of Canadian and British soldiers to the war on terrorism. In his meeting with Mr. Blair and again in his speech Friday, Mr. Harper vowed to continue the fight against terrorism.
“This war on terror will not be easy, nor will it be short, but it must be won,” he said. “And Canada's new national government is absolutely determined, once again, to stand shoulder to shoulder with our British allies, to stay the course and to win the fight.”
With a report from Canadian Press
As the New York Times notes, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general released an important and timely report on Tuesday, entitled "Progress in Developing the National Asset Database." The report chronicles the difficulties that DHS has faced in developing a usable national inventory of critical infrastructure. It also helps explain some of the shortcomings in the recent homeland security grant allocation decisions -- remember New York's big cut? -- which were based to a certain degree on the information in this database. The report provides a detailed breakdown of the 77,069 assets in the database by type, as shown
in this chart. It then discusses some of the limitations of the current database, noting that it does not assign criticality rankings to the assets in the database; in other words, the Brooklyn Bridge or Hoover Dam have the same value to the nation as the least significant asset included in the database. And what are some of those low-caliber assets? The report provides a sampling, and oh what a list it is. Some highlights:
Old MacDonald’s petting zoo
Nix’s Check Cashing
Amer. Society of Young Musicians
Trees of Mystery
Kennel Club and Poker Room
Historical Bok Sanctuary
4 Cs Fuel and Lube
Kangaroo Conservation Center
Jay’s Sporting Goods
Sweetwater Flea Market
High Stakes Bingo
Frontier Fun Park
Mule Day Parade
Beach at End of [a] Street
Amish Country Popcorn
[a] Pepper and Herb Company
Order of Elks National Memorial
Muzzle Shoot Enterprise
Apple and Pork Festival
Yacht Repair Business
These were assets which were submitted by states as lists of their critical infrastructure in 2004 and 2005, with little quality control to date. And they aren't anomalies. The report notes that the state of Indiana has 8,591 assets on the list - 50% more than New York (5,867) and nearly triple the number of assets that California submitted (3,457). The state of New Mexico apparently contains 73% of the critical assets in IT sector nationwide, according to the database. New York has only 2% of the nation's banking and finance assets - trailing North Dakota & Missouri. Indiana has more tall buildings than Illinois, home to skyscraper city Chicago. And so on. The chart on page 51 of the report provides the complete state-by-state breakdown.
The report also notes an equally serious problem: the fact that the database does not adequate account for distributed, system-level assets (e.g. food supply systems, energy & telco grids, etc.), which creates the risk of a bias in favor of protecting fixed assets in the nation's infrastructure protection activities.
It mentions that efforts are underway to improve the database and prioritize assets within it, but these efforts are incomplete. And it concludes with a set of recommendations about how to improve the database.
I've described the DHS grant system as being at risk to the "garbage-in, garbage-out" problem in its allocation processes since the beginning of the year. This report provides another point of confirmation that the quality of the data used to make DHS grant decisions is subpar, and perhaps explains some of the oddities in the funding decisions for the State Homeland Security Grant Program in 2006. Some of the states who were apparently "asset inflators" made out very well in the discretionary segment of the State Homeland Security Grant Program (money left over after the allocation of state minimums) this year, notably Nebraska, North Dakota, and Missouri. Perhaps this is a coincidence; but given the black box nature of this allocation process, and the well-documented flaws in the UASI allocations, I'm inclined to think that it's not until shown otherwise.
-- Christian Beckner, cross-posted from Homeland Security Watch.
Author of Iran insignia lie invited to White House as 'expert'
Sherwood Ross, Middle East Times
July 14, 2006
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, USA -- Canada's National Post has apologized for running a fabricated story that Iran passed a new law requiring Jews to wear a yellow insignia. Oddly enough, or maybe not so odd at that, the author of this deceit, Iranian exile journalist Amir Taheri, was invited to the White House on May 30 as one of a group of "Iraq experts" to consult with US President George W. Bush.
We learn of the peculiar background of those Bush calls upon for counsel from Larry Cohler-Esses, whose article on Taheri appeared in the July 3rd issue of The Nation, a liberal American weekly. Taheri concocted the story for Benador Associates, an American PR firm operating out of D.C. that suckered National Post into running it.
Once NP's account hit the streets, the deceit was spread by the New York Post, wire services, and Rush Limbaugh, America's king of bombastic talk radio. Limbaugh, if you haven't heard him, can hardly utter a sentence without indicting "the drive-by media" - newspapers he claims falsely attack Mr. Bush. The phrase "drive-by" derives from "drive-by shooting," a cowardly act by motorists who fire from their cars at innocent victims, as sometimes happens in America.
Only it turns out, Tahiri is the "drive-by" shooter here and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the victim of his media bullets. Some papers that repeated Tahiri's tale puffed it up with photographs of European Nazi Era Jews forced by Hitler to wear yellow Stars of David under the shrieking headline: "IRAN."
Nation writer Cohler-Esses believes Tahiri and Benador are cogs in "a media machine intent on priming the [American] public for war with Iran," a reprise of their previous successful rendition of the First and Second Media Preludes to Invading Iraq, conducted by the presidents Bush.
As it turns out, Tahiri has a rap sheet longer than his tongue. In 1988 he published "Nest of Spies," a book exposed by Persian studies expert Shaul Bakhash, a former fellow at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study. Bakhash discovered Taheri's footnotes contained references to nonexistent sources, including books that simply did not exist.
And in a New York Post column last year, it was Taheri who falsely identified Iran's UN ambassador Javad Zarif as one of the students who seized the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Dwight Simpson, an American professor wrote the Post Taheri's allegation was false as Zarif was his teaching assistant at San Francisco State University on November 4, 1979, the day of the takeover. Simpson said the Post never published his letter.
When The Nation's Cohler-Esses contacted Eleana Benador, president of the PR firm that disseminated Tahiri's "insignia" story, she told him accuracy concerning Iran is "a luxury." She asked, "Is Taheri writing one or two details that are not accurate?" Why, she declared, "This is a guy who is putting his life at stake. The Iranian government has killed its opponents." Details? That the insignia law does not exist? That's a detail?
So there you have it: a PR firm that makes a hero of a discredited journalist who concocts falsehoods to spread war fever against Iran. And gullible media like Canada's NP, the New York Post, and Rush Limbaugh, heard on New York City's WABC, which claims the largest listening audience in America, plus hundreds of other outlets nation-wide. The best that can be said for Limbaugh and the NP and Post editors is they are the unwitting dupes of Benador Associates.
Honest publications wouldn't touch Tahiri's articles with the proverbial 10-foot pole. Yet the president invites him to the White House as an "Iraq expert."
If he chose, Mr. Bush could fill the White House Rose Garden with quite a crowd if he threw a party for all the Tahiris and Benadors hired to spread lies about the Middle East. We could expect to see Pentagon-contractors Lincoln Group, of Washington, D.C., infamous for their payoffs of Iraqi journalists. Eleana Benador herself might show, perhaps to explain how she has flown so high in the PR industry on the wings of barely literate handouts.
Jimmy Guckert, the male prostitute who posed as a reporter at White House news briefings, might attend to hand out business cards. We might also catch a glimpse of TV show host Armstrong Williams, paid $241,000 to plug Mr. Bush's education policies. Attendees might also include government press hacks who posed as TV news reporters during the presidential election and Hill & Knowlton execs, who floated the infamous Kuwait incubator story during the Gulf War.
Dick Cheney, the vice president who told us Saddam Hussein "for a certainty" had WMD, might be induced to propose a toast to the next war for "democracy" vs. Iran. And the president who lies with a straight face "we don't torture" could shake the hands of those who willingly lie for him. Party favors might be replicas of the phony "insignias" supposedly required for Iran's Jews. The attendees would get a big laugh out of that one.
Sherwood Ross is an American columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.
July 14, 2006
Accused G.I. Was Troubled Long Before Iraq
By JIM DWYER and ROBERT F. WORTH
On the last day of January 2005, Steven D. Green, the former Army private accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her family, sat in a Texas jail on alcohol-possession charges, an unemployed 19-year-old high school dropout who had just racked up his third misdemeanor conviction.
Days later, Mr. Green enlisted in a soldier-strapped Army, and was later assigned to a star-crossed unit to serve on an especially murderous patch of earth.
He arrived at the very moment that the Army was increasing by nearly half the rate at which it granted what it calls “moral waivers” to potential recruits. The change opened the ranks to more people like Mr. Green, those with minor criminal records and weak educational backgrounds. In Mr. Green’s case, his problems were emerging by junior high school, say people who knew him then.
Mr. Green’s Army waiver allowed a troubled young man into the heart of a war that bore little resemblance to its original declared purposes, but which continued to need thousands of fresh recruits.
Now, there is shame and rage in the Army — from the ranks of the enlisted to the officer corps — over the crimes attributed to Mr. Green, who was discharged in April on psychiatric grounds, and four other soldiers charged with a rape and four killings in March in Mahmudiya, a town about 20 miles south of Baghdad. A sixth soldier was charged with failing to report the matter after learning about it.
Mr. Green’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk, told his brother in a recent letter that “his worst fears, the nightmare every commander dreams of, has basically come true,’’ the brother, Peter Kunk, said in an interview describing the letter.
“The three or four people have apparently been involved in a situation that reflects so badly on the Army and all the people in these brigades and companies,” Mr. Kunk said.
In early 2005, a few weeks after enlisting, Private Green immersed himself in a baptismal pool in the back of an Army chapel in Fort Benning, Ga., one of hundreds of young recruits who embraced religion as they faced certain violence.
By year’s end, Private Green, then 20, was patrolling streets in one of the most bloodily contested corridors of Iraq, the so-called “triangle of death” south of Baghdad where thousands had died in sectarian violence since 2003. He served with Bravo Company, First Battalion, 502nd Infantry, part of the Army’s 101st Division.
In a photograph released by the Army on Dec. 9, Private Green can be seen laden with gear and aiming a weapon at a lock at an abandoned house. One of his sergeants, Ken Casica, was quoted on the subject of house searches in a news release that accompanied the picture.
The next day, Sergeant Casica and Sgt. Travis Nelson, also of Bravo Company, were shot dead at a checkpoint. Less than two weeks later, two more members of the company were killed by a roadside bomb.
Steven Green lasted only another four months in the Army, but it was a grim, violent and chaotic stretch. Seventeen battalion members were killed, two of them mutilated after being kidnapped; of those killed, eight belonged to Mr. Green’s Bravo Company of about 110 soldiers.
Even the modest quarters taken over the Bravo Company, an abandoned potato warehouse, burned to the ground in an accidental fire, destroying letters, video players, and the small personal tokens the soldiers had slipped into their war gear.
Mr. Kunk, the brother of the commanding officer of the battalion, said that Colonel Kunk had regarded this deployment as the most brutal stretch of his 22 years in the service.
“This is the toughest tour of duty he has ever had,” Mr. Kunk said. “You can tell by his letters. It has taken a terrible toll on him and his men. We’re heartsick about it. There’s been so many deaths, loss of limbs, injuries.”
Born May 2, 1985, Steven Dale Green spent some of his earliest years in Midland, Tex., in the western part of the state. His parents, John Green and Roxanne Simolke, divorced while he was a child, and Mr. Green moved with his mother to Seabrook, southeast of Houston on the Gulf Coast. She married Daniel Carr when Steven was around 8.
Willy Godfrey, a classmate of Mr. Green at Seabrook Intermediate School, remembered when Mr. Green moved into the area for sixth grade in 1997.
“He was always, like, in trouble, doing something in school,” said Mr. Godfrey, 21, an emergency medical technician. “He was always getting into a fight or saying something mean to a teacher. Something weird. It was just out of place. Gradewise and stuff, I don’t know if he did good or bad. But he did not mix well with other people. He was basically mad, or something like that.”
Lisa Godfrey, Mr. Godfrey’s mother, said she had worked with Mr. Green’s mother at Seabrook Classic Cafe and they had spoken often about their boys. His mother had trouble with Steven, Ms. Godfrey, 46, said.
“He was disruptive in his house,” she said. “I don’t know if he killed small cats or anything, but that’s the kind of kid he was. His mom had a lot of issues.”
Another schoolmate, Danielle Mundine, said Mr. Green used drugs at an unusually young age for Seabrook. “I think he did drugs and drink in junior high school,” Ms. Mundine, 19, said. “He did have some friends.”
In 2000, Mr. Green’s mother spent six months in jail on a drunken-driving conviction, records show. Around that time, Mr. Green returned to Midland, where his father still lived. There, he attended Viola M. Coleman High School, which offers courses for students who have difficulty with regular academic programs. He dropped out by 2002, around the 10th grade, but received a graduate equivalency diploma in 2003 from Midland Community College.
Mr. Green was convicted in October 2001 of possession of drug paraphernalia and fined $350. Five months later, he was charged as a minor in possession of tobacco, and was fined $300, according to records in Midland Municipal Court. On Jan. 31, 2005, he was arrested and charged as a minor in possession of alcohol, and again was fined $350. This time, he did not pay the fine, but served jail time.
“He laid off the fine in jail,” Sheriff Gary Painter of Midland County said. Mr. Green did not volunteer to work in the kitchen or at other jobs, which would have shortened his stay, Sheriff Painter said. He served four days.
The jail records hint at some complications in his family life. Mr. Green did not list either parent as a contact, but listed a man in Denver City, Tex., about 80 miles away. Sheriff Painter said he was not permitted to release the name of the contact. But Mr. Green had lived in Denver City with Daniel Carr, his former stepfather, who was estranged from Mr. Green’s mother.
In Denver City, B. J. Carr, the father of Daniel Carr, said Mr. Green had lived there with his son, who works in oil fields in Oklahoma.
The Army has released little information about its review of Mr. Green’s background before he joined the service.
The share of Army recruits who received “moral waivers” for criminal records increased last year and through the first half of 2006 by 15 percent from 10 percent or 11 percent before the war, according to statistics released this week. (According to the Pentagon, the number of waivers in 2001 totaled 7,640. The figure increased to 11,018 in 2005, and for the first six months of this fiscal year totaled 5,636.)
Asked how the Green situation might apply to someone who tried to enlist today, Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky., said it was not possible to apply the Army’s standards to a hypothetical case.
“A waiver is based on the actuality of the person, the totality of their life, the information we have on them — what have been their shortcomings, what have they done in their life to overcome a previous minor mistake,” Mr. Smith said.
On March 13, two months afte he was released from the Midland jail, Mr. Green was one of eight soldiers baptized during a Church of Christ service at Fort Benning.
“You hold that weapon for the first time, a lot of guys are holding weapons for the first time in their lives, and you know this M-16 is meant for engaging the enemy,” said Jason Garber, 19, who was baptized that day but did not complete training. “You wonder, if I do die, where am I going to go?”
A year later almost to the day, a federal criminal complaint says, Mr. Green and the four other soldiers charged in the case drank alcohol, changed into black clothes and then raided the home of a husband and wife and their two daughters.
Mr. Green, the complaint charges, went into a room and killed the parents and the younger daughter. Then, it says, he and a second soldier sexually assaulted the 14-year-old, shot her and tried to burn her body.
Reporting for this article was contributed by Thayer Evans in Seabrook, Tex.; Carolyn Marshall in Fort Campbell, Ky.; and Barbara Novovitch in Denver City, Tex. Alain Delaqueriere contributed research.
CHARLESTON, S.C: To the government, he is an al-Qaeda “sleeper” agent sent to the United States by Osama bin Laden to help sow more terror after the Sept 11 attacks.
As his lawyers and human rights groups see it, however, Ali Saleh Mohamed Kahlah al-Marri is just one more victim of the many indefinite and seemingly arbitrary detentions carried out in the name of the US war on terrorism. Marri is the sole remaining “enemy combatant”-the term the administration of President George W Bush has used to brand some terrorism suspects-held on US soil without charges or a trial. The others have been deported or transferred into the criminal justice system as legal challenges to their status emerged.
A dual citizen of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Marri, 40, has been held in solitary confinement in a military prison in Charleston, South Carolina, since June 2003, after spending a year and a half in a normal jail charged with credit card fraud. Tangled up in a legal limbo, since he lacks the rights traditionally granted to criminal defendants or prisoners of war, he faces the prospect of many more years in detention. “We’re working on the assumption that he’s going to be housed under his current status for the remainder of his natural life,” said Andrew Savage, one of Marri’s lawyers.
The Bush administration has faced a rising outcry over the detention centre at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where about 450 foreign terrorism suspects, including a brother of Marri, are held in conditions similar to his. But Marri’s case has received little public attention.
“In a way he’s been disadvantaged because so much attention has been focused elsewhere,” said Eugene Fidell, an expert on military law who is president of the National Institute of Military Justice. “He’s kind of the forgotten man in the United States.”
Bush 'will be given more power to eavesdrop' in bill
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
Published: 15 July 2006
The dispute over the Bush administration's secret eavesdropping of US citizens has reignited after it emerged the White House had brokered a deal with Congress that critics say gives it even greater flexibility to monitor phone calls electronically.
It was widely reported that the agreement between the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee represented an about-turn by President George Bush on a key weapon in his so-called "war on terror". This was because the agreement hammered out with the committee's Republican chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, would allow a secret court to assess the constitutionality of the President's covert eavesdropping programme.
But Democrats said the proposed new legislation merely required the White House to behave in a way it was already legally obliged to in exchange for giving it greater flexibility over the eavesdropping. Other campaigners said the proposed legislation would allow the Bush administration to continue surveillance of US citizens without a warrant.
The controversy about the electronic eavesdropping of Americans first broke late last year when The New York Times revealed the administration has been monitoring overseas telephone conversations and internet communications since the aftermath of 11 September. At the time Mr Bush said that he did not require a court order for this and that the revelation of the programme undermined national security.
Mr Specter claimed the new deal with the White House was a breakthrough because it cleared the way for the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) court to monitor the eavesdropping programme. "We have structured a bill which is agreeable to the White House and I think will be agreeable to this committee," he claimed.
But Democrats said Mr Bush was already obliged under a 1978 act to obtain permission from the court for such eavesdropping. Senator Patrick Leahy said: "[Mr Bush] is saying, 'If you do every single thing I tell you to do I will do what I should have done anyway'. The President has a right to submit the programme to the Fisa court right now if he wanted." Senator Russ Feingold said: "I will continue to oppose any bill that would grant blanket approval for warrantless surveillance of Americans."
The new bill would give the government seven rather than the current three days to obtain a retroactive warrant to permit eavesdropping in an emergency and grant the administration greater flexibility in claiming what constituted an emergency.
Civil liberties campaigners said the agreement gave the administration greater flexibility. They also said that allowing a secret court to assess the constitutionality of the programme would mean many potentially embarrassing details - for instance, if it was revealed the programme had been used to monitor political opponents - would never be made public.
"The proposal would set up a sham judicial review," said Kate Martin, director of the non-profit group Centre for National Security Studies. "[The Supreme Court has ruled] that the President needs congressional authority.
"This bill would have Congress give authority to the President to continue the surveillance of Americans without a warrant."
The latest twist is part of a broader narrative about challenges to Mr Bush's claimed powers as a "war-time"President. The Supreme Court said recently the administration's way of dealing with prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was unconstitutional. This week, the administration said all prisoners in the custody of the Pentagon would be afforded the rights of the Geneva Conventions, something it had previously rejected.
July 15, 2006
Russia Is Not a Lost Cause
Asked by the "Today" show's Matt Lauer about the recent caning Vice President Cheney gave him and Russia, President Vladimir Putin gave this cocky and cutting reply:
"I think these kinds of comments from your vice president amount to the same thing as an unfortunate shot while hunting."
In Rostock, Germany, Bush declined to defend Cheney or rebut Putin, though the veep's tough words in Lithuania May 4, accusing Russia of backsliding on democracy and using its oil as a weapon to blackmail neighbors, had to have been approved by the White House.
Putin, a black belt in karate and the man into whose soul Bush famously saw five years ago, as he gazed into the eyes of that ex-KGB officer, takes no guff from these Americans.
That is among the reasons Putin's approval rating in Russia is twice that of Bush in America and four times that of the veep. On the Eastern shore of Delaware, where college girls from Eastern Europe come to work in the summer, Putin is a rock star among the Russians.
Why is Putin popular in Russia? Why is America no longer so? As one of the achievements of the Reagan-Bush administration was to convert Russia from the hostile global power headed by Brezhnev into the friendly nation headed by Boris Yeltsin, these issues should concern us. For the relationship between the two greatest nuclear powers on earth has been going steadily downhill.
Americans give these reasons for the estrangement: Putin's reversion to authoritarianism, his support for repressive regimes in Belarus and Uzbekistan, his closeness to Beijing (including joint military exercises), his sale of fighter jets to Hugo Chavez and anti-aircraft missiles to Tehran, his support for Iran's nuclear plant, his recognition of Hamas' election victory, his oil blackmail of Ukraine, his unplugging of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, and his crackdown on U.S. NGO's promoting democracy in Russia. All seemed designed to show Russia's independence of – and, indeed, defiance of – the world leadership of the United States.
And that is not an unfair conclusion. But Americans need to ask themselves whether we have had it coming. For consider how we have dealt with Russia's interests and sensitivities.
Listening to U.S. advisers on how to privatize the wealth of the Soviet state, Russians saw their national assets looted by thieves, hustlers and "oligarchs" welcomed in the West, as their per capita income sank and their social security vanished.
They saw the United States bomb into submission a Serb nation Russia had always seen as her Balkan god-child, for Serbia's crime of trying to hold on to her cradle province, Kosovo.
They watched America go back on her word – given when the Red Army withdrew from Europe – and push NATO into Poland, the Baltic States, the Balkans, and, now, Ukraine and Georgia. This is the political equivalent of Great Britain – had the United States come apart in the Civil War – making Virginia, South Carolina and Texas dominions of the British Empire.
They saw U.S. agents, under cover of Bush's "democracy crusade," effect the defeat of pro-Russian governments in Kiev and Tbilisi – through the project failed in Minsk – and the election of regimes pledged to reorient their policies toward the EU, NATO and the United States.
They saw Americans colluding with former provinces of the Soviet Union to develop pipelines that would bypass not only Iranian territory, but also Russian territory.
They saw the U.S. bases in Central Asia they had approved for the Afghan war taking on a permanent character.
They listened as U.S. neoconservatives cheered for Chechen rebels and officials from Cheney to McCain bashed Putin and Russia, with some calling for her expulsion from the G-8.
Putin concluded, not incorrectly, that these Americans do not want partners, they want poodles. But Putin is not Blair. A patriot and nationalist, he has set about restoring Moscow's independence and self-respect, and started looking out for Russia first. He was determined to stand up for Russia, even if it meant standing up to the United States, which is why so many Russians respect him.
He imposed a flat tax, stripped the oligarchs of their assets and jailed them or ran them out of the country, liquidated the Chechen murderers of Beslan, started using his oil wealth the way great powers always do, and began to reorient his foreign policy without consulting Washington, as Washington never consulted him.
Though the West is losing Russia, Russia is not lost. But the minimal price of regaining Russian good will is to start treating her like a great nation. That means getting out of her face, getting our alliance off her front porch, and getting our bases and our Cold War agitprop agencies and pests out of her back yard.
Russia today threatens no vital interest of the United States. Is it too much to ask that we treat Russia and her "space" the way we want Russia and Russians to treat ours?
COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
July 15, 2006
Israel: Stop Shooting Journalists
Somebody should tell the Israeli military it’s not right to shoot reporters just because you disagree with them.
At least seven media workers were injured in the first 48 hours of fighting in Lebanon – all of them hurt by the Israeli military. According to the watch-dog group Reporters Without Borders the count includes three employees of the Lebanese satellite channel New TV and four workers at the Hizballah-controlled TV network al-Manar.
"So many journalists have been injured in the very early stages of this conflict, and we want to avoid dozens of journalists being injured or killed in the coming days and weeks," the organization's Washington representative Lucie Morillon told me.
"The more journalists that are injured the more difficult it is for us to know what's going on," she added, stating the obvious.
Especially troubling to the watchdog group is the appearance that the injured news reporters were deliberately targeted by Israeli forces.
The three New TV workers; reporter Bassel Al-Aridi, cameraman Abd Khayyat and assistant cameraman Ziad Sarwan; were injured when their vehicle was hit by shots fired from an Israeli helicopter as they crossed a bridge in the south of the country, where they had gone to cover the fighting. The attack took place while Israel was bombing bridges and other communications infrastructure.
New TV said despite being in a specifically demarcated as press the New TV vehicle sustained more damage than any other, "which suggests to us that it was a targeted attack against our vehicle."
While it has yet to comment on the injured New TV journalists, the State of Israel has admitted to specifically targeting the offices of Al-Manar, the television station owned and operated by Hizbollah. Hizbollah's armed wing captured two Israeli soldiers during the week and most observers believe the group behind more than 100 rocket attacks on Israel.
Three employees with Al-Manar sustained injuries Thursday when its premises in the Shiite suburban Beirut were struck by a missile during an Israeli air raid. The station said its antenna was not destroyed and broadcasting was not interrupted.
"The al-Manar station has for many years served as the main tool for propaganda and incitement by Hizballah, and has also helped the organization recruit people into its ranks," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
But media and human rights groups say Israel has no right to target al-Manar because it doesn't like the channel's content.
"While Al-Manar may serve a propaganda function for Hizbollah, it does not appear based on a monitoring of its broadcasts today to be serving any discernible military function," the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.
Israeli officials have refused to rule out attacks on any area of Lebanon, however.
"Nothing is safe [in Lebanon], as simple as that," Israeli Brigadier General Dan Halutz told reporters in Jerusalem. Halutz said even central Beirut could be targeted if Hezbollah rockets continue to hit northern Israel.
"In terms of international law there is such a thing as a legitimate military retaliation," disputed Yifat Suskind of the human rights group MADRE. "Israel was attacked by Hizbollah Wednesday morning. That was an irresponsible act and an illegal act and the targeting of Israeli civilians is a grave act of international law. Those same laws also criminalize the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip or in Lebanon."
"It is illegal to target civilians," she concluded, "whether one of the strongest militaries like Israel is doing it or whether an armed group like Hamas or Hizbollah."
A Wave of Sexual Terrorism In Iraq
By Ruth Rosen, Tomdispatch.com
Posted on July 14, 2006, Printed on July 15, 2006
Abu Ghraib. Haditha. Guantanamo. These are words that shame our country. Now, add to them Mahmudiya, a town 20 miles south of Baghdad. There, this March, a group of five American soldiers allegedly were involved in the rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza, a young Iraqi girl. Her body was then set on fire to cover up their crimes, her father, mother, and sister murdered. The rape of this one girl, if proven true, is probably not simply an isolated incident. But how would we know? In Iraq, rape is a taboo subject. Shamed by the rape, relatives of this girl wouldn't even hold a public funeral and were reluctant to reveal where she is buried.
Like women everywhere, Iraqi women have always been vulnerable to rape. But since the American invasion of their country, the reported incidence of sexual terrorism has accelerated markedly -- and this despite the fact that few Iraqi women are willing to report rapes either to Iraqi officials or to occupation forces, fearing to bring dishonor upon their families. In rural areas, female rape victims may also be vulnerable to "honor killings" in which male relatives murder them in order to restore the family's honor. "For women in Iraq," Amnesty International concluded in a 2005 report, "the stigma frequently attached to the victims instead of the perpetrators of sexual crimes makes reporting such abuses especially daunting."
This specific rape of one Iraqi girl, however, is now becoming symbolic of the way the Bush administration has violated Iraq's honor; Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already launched an inquest into the crime. In an administration that normally doesn't know the meaning of an apology, the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad and the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. both publicly apologized. In a fierce condemnation, the Muslim Scholars Association in Iraq denounced the crime: "This act, committed by the occupying soldiers, from raping the girl to mutilating her body and killing her family, should make all humanity feel ashamed."
Shame, yes, but that is hardly sufficient. After all, rape is now considered a war crime by the International Criminal Court.
It wasn't always that way. Soldiers have long viewed women as the spoils of war, even when civilian or military leaders condemned such behavior, but in the early 1990s, a new international consensus began to emerge on the act of rape. Prodded by an energized global women's movement, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1993. Subsequent statutes in the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, as well as the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court in July 2002, all defined rape as a crime against humanity or a war crime.
No one accuses American soldiers of running through the streets of Iraq, raping women as an instrument of war against the insurgents (though such acts are what caused three Bosnian soldiers, for the first time in history, to be indicted in 2001 for the war crime of rape).
Still, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has had the effect of humiliating, endangering, and repressing Iraqi women in ways that have not been widely publicized in the mainstream media: As detainees in prisons run by Americans, they have been sexually abused and raped; as civilians, they have been kidnapped, raped, and then sometimes sold for prostitution; and as women -- and, in particular, as among the more liberated women in the Arab world -- they have increasingly disappeared from public life, many becoming shut-ins in their own homes.
Rape and sexual humiliation in prisons
The scandal of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib focused on the torture, sexual abuse, and humiliation of Iraqi men. A variety of sources suggest that female prisoners suffered similar treatment, including rape.
Few Americans probably realize that the American-run prison at Abu Ghraib also held female detainees. Some of them were arrested by Americans for political reasons -- because they were relatives of Baathist leaders or because the occupying forces thought they could use them as bargaining chips to force male relatives to inform on insurgents or give themselves up.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, the secrecy surrounding female detentions "resulted from a collusion of the families and the occupying forces." Families feared social stigma; the occupying forces feared condemnation by human rights groups and anger from Iraqis who saw such treatment of women by foreigners as a special act of violation.
On the condition of anonymity and in great fear, some female detainees nevertheless did speak with human rights workers after being released from detention. They have described beatings, torture, and isolation. Like their male counterparts, they reserve their greatest bitterness for sexual humiliations suffered in American custody. Nearly all female detainees reported being threatened with rape. Some women were interrogated naked and subjected to derision and humiliating remarks by soldiers.
The British Guardian reported that one female prisoner managed to smuggle a note out of Abu Ghraib. She claimed that American guards were raping the few female detainees held in the prison and that some of them were now pregnant. In desperation, she urged the Iraqi resistance to bomb the jail in order to spare the women further shame.
Amal Kadham Swadi, one of seven Iraqi female attorneys attempting to represent imprisoned women, told the Guardian that only one woman she met with was willing to speak about rape. "She was crying. She told us she had been raped. Several American soldiers had raped her. She had tried to fight them off, and they had hurt her arm. She showed us the stitches. She told us, 'We have daughters and husbands. For God's sake don't tell anyone about this.'"
Professor Huda Shaker, a political scientist at Baghdad University, also told the Guardian that women in Abu Ghraib have been sexually abused and raped. She identified one woman, in particular, who was raped by an American military policeman, became pregnant, and later disappeared.
Professor Shaker added, "A female colleague of mine was arrested and taken there. When I asked her after she was released what happened at Abu Ghraib, she started crying. Ladies here are afraid and shy of talking about such subjects. They say everything is OK. Even in a very advanced society in the west it is very difficult to talk about rape."
Shaker, herself, encountered a milder form of sexual abuse at the hands of one American soldier. At a checkpoint, she said, an American soldier "pointed the laser sight [of his gun] directly in the middle of my chest... Then he pointed to his penis. He told me, 'Come here, bitch, I'm going to fuck you.'"
Writing from Baghdad, Luke Hardin of the Guardian reported that at Abu Ghraib journalists have been forbidden from talking to female detainees, who are cloistered in tiny windowless cells. Senior US military officers who have escorted journalists around Abu Ghraib, however, have admitted that rapes of women took place in the cellblock where 19 "high-value" male detainees were also being held. Asked how such abuse could have happened, Colonel Dave Quantock, now in charge of the prison's detention facilities, responded, "I don't know. It's all about leadership. Apparently it wasn't there."
No one should be surprised that women detainees, like male ones, were subjected to sexual abuse at Abu Ghraib. Think of the photographs we've already seen from that prison. If acts of ritual humiliation could be used to "soften up" men, then the rape of female detainees is hardly unimaginable.
But how can we be sure? In January, 2004, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. military official in Iraq, ordered Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba to investigate persistent allegations of human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib. The Taguba Report confirmed that in at least one instance a U.S. military policeman had raped at least one female prisoner and that guards had videotaped and photographed naked female detainees. Seymour Hersh also reported in a 2004 issue of the New Yorker magazine that these secret photos and videos, most of which still remain under wraps by the Pentagon, show American soldiers "having sex with a female Iraqi prisoner." Additional photos have made their way to the web sites of Afterdowningstreet.org and Salon.com. In one photograph, a woman is raising her shirt, baring her breasts, presumably as she was ordered to do.
The full range of pictures and videotapes are likely to show a great deal more. Members of Congress who viewed all the pictures and videotapes from Abu Ghraib seemed genuinely shaken and sickened by what they saw. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn called them "appalling;" then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle described them as "horrific." Ever since the scandal broke in April 2004, human rights and civil liberties groups have been engaged in a legal battle with the Department of Defense, demanding that it release the rest of the visual documents. Only when all those documents are available to the general public will we have a clearer ¬and undoubtedly more ghastly ¬record of the sexual acts forced upon both female and male detainees.
Sexual Terrorism on the Streets
Meanwhile, the chaos of the war has also led to a rash of kidnappings and rapes of women outside of prison walls. After interviewing rape and abduction victims, as well as eyewitnesses, Iraqi police and health professionals, and U.S. military police and civil affairs officers, Human Rights Watch released a report in July, 2003, titled Climate of Fear: Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad. Only months after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces, they had already learned of twenty-five credible allegations of the rape and/or abduction of Iraqi women. Not surprisingly, the report found that "police officers gave low priority to allegations of sexual violence and abduction, that the police were under-resourced, and that victims of sexual violence confronted indifference and sexism from Iraqi law enforcement personnel." Since then, as chaos, violence, and bloodletting have descended on Iraq, matters have only gotten worse.
After the American invasion, local gangs began roaming Baghdad, snatching girls and women from the street. Interviews with human rights investigators have produced some horrifying stories. Typical was nine-year-old "Saba A." who was abducted from the stairs of the building where she lives, taken to an abandoned building nearby, and raped. A family friend who saw Saba A. immediately following the rape told Human Rights Watch:
"She was sitting on the stairs, here, at 4:00 p.m. It seems to me that probably he hit her on the back of the head with a gun and then took her to [a neighboring] building. She came back fifteen minutes later, bleeding [from the vaginal area]. [She was still bleeding two days later, so] we took her to the hospital."
The medical report by the U.S. military doctor who treated Saba A. "documented bruising in the vaginal area, a posterior vaginal tear, and a broken hymen.'
In 2005, Amnesty International also interviewed abducted women. The story of "Asma," a young engineer, was representative. She was shopping with her mother, sister, and a male relative when six armed men forced her into a car and drove her to a farmhouse outside the city. They repeatedly raped her. A day later, the men drove her to her neighborhood and pushed her out of the car.
As recently as June 2006, Mayada Zhaair, spokeswoman for the Women's Rights Association, a local NGO, reported, "We've observed an increase in the number of women being sexually abused and raped in the past four months, especially in the capital."
No one knows how many abducted women have never returned. As one Iraqi police inspector testified, "Some gangs specialize in kidnapping girls, they sell them to Gulf countries. This happened before the war too, but now it is worse, they can get in and out without passports." Others interviewed by Human Rights Watch argued that such trafficking in women had not occurred before the invasion.
The U.S. State Department's June 2005 report on the trafficking of women suggested that the extent of the problem in Iraq is "difficult to appropriately gauge" under current chaotic circumstances, but cited an unknown number of Iraqi women and girls being sent to Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and Persian Gulf countries for sexual exploitation.
In May 2006, Brian Bennett wrote in Time Magazine that a visit to "the Khadamiyah Women's Prison in the northern part of Baghdad immediately produces several tales of abduction and abandonment. A stunning 18-year-old nicknamed Amna, her black hair pulled back in a ponytail, says she was taken from an orphanage by an armed gang just after the US invasion and sent to brothels in Samarra, al-Qaim on the border with Syria, and Mosul in the north before she was taken back to Baghdad, drugged with pills, dressed in a suicide belt and sent to bomb a cleric's office in Khadamiyah, where she turned herself in to the police. A judge gave her a seven-year jail sentence 'for her sake' to protect her from the gang, according to the prison director."
"Families and courts," Bennett reported, "are usually so shamed by the disappearance [and presumed rape] of a daughter that they do not report these kidnappings. And the resulting stigma of compromised chastity is such that even if the girl should resurface, she may never be taken back by her relations."
To avoid such dangers, countless Iraqi women have become shut-ins in their own homes. Historian Marjorie Lasky has described this situation in "Iraqi Women Under Siege," a 2006 report for Codepink, an anti-war women's organization. Before the war, she points out, many educated Iraqi women participated fully in the work force and in public life. Now, many of them rarely go out. They fear kidnap and rape; they are terrified of getting caught in the cross-fire between Americans and insurgents; they are frightened by sectarian reprisals; and they are scared of Islamic militants who intimidate or beat them if they are not "properly covered."
"In the British-occupied south," Terri Judd reported in the British Independent,"where Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi's Army retains a stranglehold, women insist the situation is at its worst. Here they are forced to live behind closed doors only to emerge, concealed behind scarves, hidden behind husbands and fathers. Even wearing a pair of trousers is considered an act of defiance, punishable by death."
Invisible women -- for some Iraqi fundamentalist Islamic leaders, this is a dream come true. The Ministry of the Interior, for example, recently issued notices warning women not to go out on their own. "This is a Muslim country and any attack on a woman's modesty is also an attack on our religious beliefs," said Salah Ali, a senior ministry official. Religious leaders in both Sunni and Shiite mosques have used their sermons to persuade their largely male congregations to keep working women at home. "These incidents of abuse just prove what we have been saying for so long," said Sheikh Salah Muzidin, an imam at a mosque in Baghdad. "That it is the Islamic duty of women to stay in their homes, looking after their children and husbands rather than searching for work---especially with the current lack of security in the country."
In the early 1970s, American feminists redefined rape and argued that it was an act driven not by sexual lust, but by a desire to exercise power over another person. Rape, they argued, was an act of terrorism that kept all women from claiming their right to public space. That is precisely what has happened to Iraqi women since the American invasion of Iraq. Sexual terrorism coupled with religious zealotry has stolen their right to claim their place in public life.
This, then, is a hidden part of the unnecessary suffering loosed by the reckless invasion of Iraq. Amid the daily explosions and gunfire that make the papers is a wave of sexual terrorism, whose exact dimensions we have no way of knowing, and that no one here notices, unleashed by the Bush administration in the name of exporting "democracy" and fighting "the war on terror."
Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute.
A Disaster for the Lebanese
By Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service
Posted on July 15, 2006, Printed on July 15, 2006
Once again the U.S. government has refused to condemn the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as the bombs fall on Beirut, killing scores of civilians.
In a moment of levity while driving to the border, Abu Talat turned to me and said, "You know what I miss?" I replied, "What do you miss sir?" He smiled and said, "Iraqi chai!" He then turns to our driver and asked him if he'd ever had Iraqi chai, then went on to brag about how tasty it is. "It is the greatest of chais," he said proudly when looking back to me once again.
When we arrived at the Lebanese border this morning we found thousands of people streaming across in cars with their luggage lashed on top, and many on foot pulling wheeled suitcases.
Little Bush, the ever obedient spokesman for Bush, announced that he thinks Syria should be punished for their role in supporting Hezbollah, so the mood in Damascas is one of anxious waiting to see what comes next. The how and when of the punishment is what is on our minds.
So the latest Israeli onslaught of Lebanon is in full swing, and with the Israelis need for the water of southern Lebanon, perhaps this occupation of Lebanon may last longer than the last one of 22 years. If indeed Syria gave the green light for Hezbollah to cross the UN line in southern Lebanon and launch their attack on Israeli soldiers where they detained two soldiers and killed another eight, they have effectively handed the Israeli war planners an excuse for all out war against Lebanon. In addition, the Hezbollah attack, if indeed supported by Syria, would give the U.S. the ability to give a green light to Israel to attack Syria. We wait, watch, and hope that the bombs don't begin to fall on Damascas.
A reported 15,000 people crossed the Lebanese border into Syria on Thursday, seeking refuge from widespread bombings in Beirut, carried out by Israeli F-16 warplanes. Today, the situation continued, with reports of bombed petrol stations, police stations, and a hospital.
Interviewing people at the border who had fled the bombs in Beirut, I felt like I was back in Iraq by what people were telling me.
"I was in an area south of Beirut which was bombed heavily by the Israelis," 55 year-old electrician Ali Suleiman told me, "There were so many refugees in shelters nearby us, which was also nearby an old hospital which the Israelis bombed last night. It was terrifying at night when they attacked our area, and the Israelis thought the hospital was an ammunition dump for Hezbollah, so they bombed the hospital. Both Syrian and Lebanese people are leaving now. There is no more food, not even bread. There was no more electricity or water in our area. If this situation continues, it will be a giant catastrophe."
The same tactics I've seen used by the U.S. in Fallujah, Al-Qa'im and other cities in Iraq.
I was told a similar story by a 22-year-old Lebanese student, Nebham Razaq Hamed, who was in southern Beirut. "The bombing at night was continuous and has continued today, they are using warplanes and sometimes artillery. Everybody is in a panic because of the haphazard bombing which is killing so many civilians now. The Israelis are terrorizing the people intentionally by not discriminating between fighters and civilians."
As the level of fighting deepens, one can only hope that other forms of terrorism don't beset the people of Lebanon, particularly the women. In Ruth Rosen's incredible piece, "A Wave of Sexual Terrorism In Iraq," the disastrous situation for women caught up in the chaos of war is outlined well. This must-read paints the tragic picture of what we can only hope will not descend on the women of Beirut as the Israeli siege of that city grinds on.
A man from Saudi Arabia on a bus with his family said, "Are the Israelis not occupying enough Arab land already?"
It is only 127 kilometers from Beirut to Damascas, so the attacks were very fresh on the minds of the people I spoke with--many of them with shaky hands.
Others told me that the Bekaa Valley of central Lebanon, located on a high plateau situated between the Mt. Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges, is being bombed, including the ancient city of Baalbek. The city, which began at the end of the third millennium BC, was originally Phoenician, is located near two rivers and shortly after a Roman colony was founded there by Julius Caesar in 47 BC, construction on the massive temple complex began in earnest. Whether the temples are being bombed is doubtful, but the nearby city of Baalbek, where Hezbollah controls the area, has been bombed according to two people I interviewed.
"It's very bad there, as the Israelis are attacking civilians, bombing police and petrol stations, and even the fuel storage depots," said a 50-year-old Kuwait man who was fleeing Beirut, "In fact, they have even bombed the airport once again. I saw F-16's bombing and there is smoke everywhere. This is a big disaster for the Lebanese."
When asked what he thought it would take to end the fighting, he promptly replied, "It looks like the Arab governments are not moving their asses, so I am leaving."
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who reports from Iraq and the Middle East.
Friday, July 14, 2006
July 14, 2006
Over and over, the Bush regime and its media apologists have peddled the same mendacious line in defense of their war crime in Iraq: "We're fighting the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them over here." But in fact the occupation is breeding a cadre of vicious terrorists intent on bringing death and destruction back home to America's streets, using the deadly skills they've learned -- in the U.S. military.
Hundreds, possibly thousands of neo-Nazis and "white power" extremists have infiltrated U.S. forces in a deliberate strategy to get training in weapons, urban warfare and covert operations, the Pentagon's own investigators report. These homegrown terrorists -- avowed enemies of democracy, committed to sparking the same kind of horrific civil war in America that President George W. Bush has spawned in Iraq -- have wormed their way into some of most elite military units, as well as filling up the ordinary ranks with cretinous "race warriors."
This infestation is being actively abetted by the Bush regime. Who says? Well, Defense Department investigator Scott Barfield, for one. "Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces, and commanders don't remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members," Barfield told the Southern Poverty Law Center in a report issued last week.
In the last year alone, Barfield identified 320 white power extremists at a single U.S. army base, Fort Lewis in Washington state; only two were discharged. Some were part of just one neo-Nazi cell that has burrowed into five bases spread across the entire country, Barfield said; many of its members have joined the hundreds of known neo-Nazis now schooling themselves in Bush's master class in carnage.
The infiltration is part of a concerted strategy by the neo-Nazi movement to use Bush's war for terrorist training -- much as their extremist brothers in al Qaida are doing. In magazines and web sites, they pass along handy hints and exhortations to their cloaked comrades in the field and potential recruits at home. "Light infantry is your branch of choice because the coming race war and the ethnic cleansing to follow will be very much an infantryman's war," writes Steven Barry, a former Special Forces officer now serving as "military unit coordinator" for the neo-Nazi National Alliance, The New York Times reports.
"[The race war] will be house-to-house, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, until your town or city is cleared and the alien races are driven into the countryside where they can be hunted down and 'cleansed,'" writes Barry, as if he were channeling one of the deadly Iraqi militias sponsored by the Bushists in their self-confessed "Salvador Option" -- an undercover program named for the right-wing Central American death squads armed and trained by the Reagan-Bush administration in the 1980s, as The New Yorker reports.
"Join only for the training, and to better defend yourself, our people and our culture," says another all-American goosestepper, Army engineer and Iraq war veteran John Fain. "We must have people to open doors from the inside when the time comes."
But it looks like some big-time insiders are already opening those doors. The percentage of "moral waivers" being granted to recruits for past misdeeds -- and for previously disqualifying factors such as violent extremism or gang membership -- has "more than doubled since 2001," the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Some recruiters are even helping skinheads cover up their telltale Nazi tattoos to get them into the military, Barfield says. Meanwhile, officers in the field are routinely failing to report obvious neo-Nazi activity, and those now-uncovered tattoos, when they spot them.
It's a far cry from the crackdown on extremism in the last decade, after the first great white-power infestation of the military during the Reagan-Bush years. When skinhead troops from the elite 82nd Airborne Division randomly murdered a black couple in 1995 to earn their neo-Nazi "spider web tattoos" for killing non-whites, the Pentagon brass began turfing out hatemongers and banning racist associations; one general even ordered his 19,000 men strip-searched for extremist tattoos, the SPLC reports.
Now, the brass help hide those same inky taints of evil, and knowingly send "race warriors" to occupy an Arab land, to storm Iraqi homes. How many "spider webs" have been earned with Bush's blessing as these extremists lord it over the "non-whites" in their power?
The tacit acceptance of neo-Nazis in the military is part of a broader pattern at work in the Bush imperium: the "mainstreaming" of right-wing extremism in U.S. society, an alarming development well documented by journalist Dave Neiwert on his Orcinus blog. White-power advocates once stuck on the lunatic fringe now appear on network television as respected spokesmen on the "immigration question." High-profile Bush-backers in the mainstream media -- Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh and other gasbags -- routinely tout "fantasies" of ethnic cleansing, concentration camps and death for "traitors," i.e., anyone who opposes the hard-right line. Bush himself has openly embraced religious extremists like the "Dominionists," whose rabid doctrines of Christian nationalism are scarcely distinguishable from the religious perversions that undergird most neo-Nazi philosophies.
In its heedless lust for loot and dominion, the Bush faction will use anyone: neo-Nazis, neoconservatives, theocrats, dictators, death squads, nutballs. The blowback from this nest of vipers will poison American life for generations -- but of course the Bushists don't care. America is nothing to them but a cash cow and a billy club. Let the stupid rabble worry about war-trained Nazis in the streets; the Bush elite will be safe and cozy in their gated, guarded mansions.
A Few Bad Men
Southern Poverty Law Center, July 7, 2006
Nazis and the Military
Dave Neiwert, Orcinus, July 12, 2006
Hate Groups Are Infiltrating the Military, Group Asserts
The New York Times, July 7, 2006
Extremism and the military: A timeline
Southern Poverty Law Center, July 7, 2006
Death Mask: The Deliberate Destruction of Iraq
Empire Burlesque, Dec. 1, 2005
The Salvador Option
Newsweek, Jan. 8, 2005
Bush in Iraq, Slouching Toward Genocide
Consortiumnews.com, Dec. 1, 2005
Cry Havoc: Bush's Own Personal Janjaweed
Empire Burlesque, Aug. 27, 2004
Pentagon Plan for Global Anti-Terror Army
Sydney Morning Herald, Aug. 11, 2004
Into the Dark: The Pentagon Plan to Foment Terrorism
Empire Burlesque, Nov. 1, 2002
Darkness Visible: The Pentagon Plan to Foment Terrorism is Now in Operation
Empire Burlesque, Jan. 25, 2005
Death Mask: The Deliberate Destruction of Iraq
Empire Burlesque, Dec. 1, 2005