Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Another day, another puppet--Abbas at Howdy Doody time

Palestinian president fawns on Bush

By Chris Marsden
31 May 2005

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

Journalists love a cliché, as is evidenced by how many wrote of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with President Bush under the title, “Mr Abbas goes to Washington”.

In truth only the meeting’s arena permits reference to Frank Capra’s masterpiece. In every other respect the comparison is fallacious. In “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, James Stewart plays Jefferson Smith, a naïve idealist who succeeds in both exposing and triumphing over the corruption endemic to Capitol Hill and echoed in the US media. Abbas, on the other hand, is no innocent, but a venal representative of the Arab bourgeoisie. And his role in Washington was to conceal political duplicity, rather than expose it.

Even before meeting with Bush, Abbas chose to write an op-ed piece for the mouthpiece of the Republican right, the Wall Street Journal. Entitled, “Message to Ariel Sharon: Set My People Free,” the May 26 article provides a fairly accurate summation of the efforts of Israel’s Likud-Labour coalition government to “effectively preclude a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Abbas writes, “Israel’s ongoing settlement construction in the West Bank, its insidious Wall which, since not built on the 1967 border, is suffocating Palestinian cities and towns, and its illegal attempts to cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank will, if allowed to continue, render a two-state solution to our conflict an impossibility. If the two-state solution dies, our democracy cannot be far behind, for democracy and freedom are intertwined: It is impossible to have one without the other.

“For the next few months, world attention will focus on Israel’s planned unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians have no illusions about this action: It is not a gesture of peace; rather it diverts attention away from Israel’s settlement expansion of the West Bank. While much is being made of Israel’s withdrawal of 7,300 settlers from Gaza, homes for another 30,000 Jewish settlers are being built in the West Bank. Moreover, even after Israel withdraws its settlers from Gaza it wants to continue to control Gaza’s borders, airspace and seacoast. No one will be able to enter or leave without Israel’s approval, and the Israeli army has made clear its intention to operate at will within Gaza. The 1.3 million Palestinians in Gaza who have lived under an oppressive occupation will hardly be made free by Israel’s evacuation. Palestinians fear that the Gaza Strip will become a large prison.”

But Abbas reveals only a partial truth. For he presents these measures as an attack on the “vision” shared by himself and Bush, a man who supposedly supports the Palestinian “quest for freedom” as part of his ongoing efforts “to see democracy and freedom spread throughout the Middle East”.

To proclaim Bush’s commitment to democracy and freedom would be impermissible under any circumstances, but Abbas prefaces his assertion by stating, “Although I have great faith in the Palestinian people and in our democracy, I also am aware that democracy without freedom is ultimately meaningless: An ‘occupied democracy’ is an oxymoron.”

This is certainly true for Palestine, but equally so for Iraq where the United States is the occupying power and is ruthlessly suppressing all resistance to this injustice.

Abbas fawns on Bush, as if he is unaware that Sharon has enjoyed the full backing of Washington for his ongoing offensive against the Palestinians—measures that have been discussed between Bush and the Israeli Prime Minister at every turn. The Bush administration has repeatedly insisted that the planned Israeli pull-out of settlers from Gaza is all that can be expected at present, unless Abbas succeeds in ending all opposition to the Israeli occupation and imprisons militant nationalist and Islamic forces. Washington even declares that criticism of settlement construction on the West Bank is counter-productive because it might hinder Sharon’s efforts to implement the Gaza pullout.

Abbas boasts of already having done what is required of him. He presents this as having fulfilled the demands of the Palestinian electorate, but his list of achievements, “transparency and accountability”, a “cease-fire with Israel”, “dialogue” (he boasts “I have brought about in four months what Israel was unable to achieve in four years of military incursions and assassinations”), has been drawn up at the behest of the White House.

Furthermore, even after correctly characterising the aims of Sharon’s government, and noting how “Israel’s daily military incursions and destruction of our infrastructure and institutions have rendered us an impoverished nation,” Abbas promises his continued cooperation with Tel Aviv and to take over the policing of Gaza.

Following his audience with Bush, Abbas continued in a similar vein. In a press statement issued before he departed for Canada, he commended Bush’s efforts to reach peace in the Middle East and to support the Palestinian economy. He was happy with Bush’s strong commitment to support Palestinian efforts to build their own state and to implement the Roadmap peace plan. “We consider the statements of President Bush as obligations. He is a man who honors his obligations and we have not asked for more,” he wrote.

A look at what was actually said by Bush exposes the falsity of such claims. Bush was careful in phrasing any demand he made on Israel and prefaced these with a veiled warning to Abbas that “only the defeat of violence will lead to sovereignty... All who engage in terror are the enemies of a Palestinian state, and must be held to account. We will stand with you, Mr. President, as you combat corruption, reform the Palestinian security services and your justice system, and revive your economy.”

Bush never called for a return to the 1967 borders. Instead he stated that, in any final status peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, ”changes to the 1949 armistice lines must be mutually agreed to.”

Nor did he call for a halt to the construction of the separation wall across the West Bank. After noting there should be an end to settlement expansion, he said only that Israel’s barrier in the West Bank “must be a security, rather than political barrier, and its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.” What this means is anyone’s guess. Only as security improves should Israeli armed forces withdraw to their positions as of September 28, 2000, rather than 1967, Bush added.

When questioned by reporters on his attitude to the ongoing settlement activity on the West Bank, Bush inadvertently made clear that his pretence of opposition was worthless. “We continue to remind our friends, the Israelis, about their obligations under the road map, just like we remind President Abbas about the obligations under the road map that the Palestinians have accepted. So nothing has changed,” he said.

Since nothing has changed, Sharon will no doubt take this as a green light to carry on as before.

Bush’s financial commitment to the Palestinian economy, hailed by Abbas, amounted to a meagre $50 million to be used in projects in Gaza. To put this in perspective, Washington provides Israel with approximately $3 billion in direct military and economic aid every year—around a third of the entire foreign aid budget—and a further $2-3 billion in indirect forms of aid.

Only on security was the US more forthcoming. Bush stated that he was sending General Kip Ward to support Abbas’s efforts “to reform the Palestinian security services and to coordinate the efforts of the international community to make that crucial task a success.” Thus Abbas has granted the US overall control of Palestinian Authority security forces and its international relations, including negotiations with Israel.

Bush told reporters that the end goal was “a Palestinian state based upon rule of law, and you cannot have a democracy based upon rule of law if you have armed bands of people who will use their weapons to try to achieve a political outcome.”

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz concluded on May 29 that the onus was still being placed on Abbas to meet the Palestinian Authority’s security commitments before there was any question of Israel dismantling illegal outposts in the West Bank:

“In the wake of Israeli unease after the Bush-Abu Mazen meeting on Thursday, US officials made it clear over the weekend that the promises made by the US president to the PA chairman did not deviate from Washington’s well-known stance with regard to the Middle East. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said that Bush’s statements to Abu Mazen reiterated the president’s declarations in his June 24, 2004 speech and in his letter of guarantees to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.”

An accompanying article by Danny Rubinstein noted the response to Bush’s remarks of Palestinian spokesmen other than Abbas as being less than fulsome:

“As far as Gaza is concerned, Bush’s statements were superfluous, Palestinian spokespeople said over the weekend. After all, Israel intends to withdraw from Gaza completely. As for the West Bank, Israel has for years been establishing faits accomplis that affect the final status. They have already won partial American recognition of the settlement blocs...

“‘The statements about Jerusalem are worthless,’ said one Palestinian commentator, noting that Bush was attempting, not even seriously, to close the stable doors after the horses have fled. He meant that after building Jewish neighbourhoods in and around East Jerusalem, with more than 250,000 residents today, Israel has already fixed faits accomplis in the city borders, by completing the walls and separation fences.”

Bush’s statements were indeed “superfluous” and “worthless”, but this was enough to satisfy Mr Abbas who functions as Washington’s puppet.

See Also:
Bush's meeting with Sharon confirms US support for West Bank land grab

Monday, May 30, 2005

Help for Americans gets an Iraqi some fat bastard soldier's boot on his neck for 20 minutes thank you very much Amerika

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

May 30, 2005
“Things are getting worse by the day.”

The mayhem continues in Iraq, with today at least 40 people dead, including five US soldiers in Diyala province as the meltdown of the failed US-led occupation ontinues.

Two suicide bombers detonated themselves after walking into a crowd of police officers in Hilla, south of Baghdad. The policemen were demonstrating outside the mayor’s office to protest a government decision to disband their Special Forces unit.

In yet another horrible PR move (or attempt to raise sectarian tensions?) by the US military the head of Iraq’s largest Sunni political party, Mohsen Abdul Hamid was detained from his home early this morning in western Baghdad. Of course his head was promptly bagged and his hands tied before he was taken away to be interrogated. His three sons were also detained with him. Stun bombs and bullets were said to be used during the raid, according to his wife.

It just so happens that his party, the Islamic Party, opposes the new US-backed
security operation now engulfing Baghdad because they believe the security forces will disregard the rights of innocent Iraqis.

Later today he was released and the military admitted it made a mistake.

The military statement concerning the matter said, “Coalition forces regret any inconvenience and acknowledge (Abdul-Hamid’s) cooperation in resolving this matter.”

Abdul Hamid refused their apology in the Arab media, and stated that he was humiliated when US soldiers held their boots on his head for 20 minutes. It was also stated that he accused American soldiers of removing items from his home, including a computer. This is standard operating procedure with home raids-I can’t tell you how many Iraqis I’ve interviewed after their homes were raided who complained of money, jewelry and other belongings being looted by American soldiers.

The Islamic Party released a statement after the release of Abdul Hamid which said, “The U.S. administration claims it is interested in drawing Sunnis into the political process but it seems that their way of doing so is by raids, arrests and violating human rights.”

At least 740 Iraqis have been killed since the new “government” took power in late April, and with the ongoing operations sparking more attacks each day, it doesn’t look like there is an end in sight. Keep in mind, the vast majority of the Iraqi security forces are either Shia or Kurdish battling against a primarily Sunni resistance (for now). It can easily be argued that we are witnessing a US-backed Iraqi government who is deliberating using its power to
wage a civil war.

On that note, today Major General Ahmed al-Barazanchi, a Kurdish man who was the director of internal affairs of Kirkuk province died this morning after being shot yesterday.

My sources in Baghdad also said there have been fierce clashes today in the al-Amiriya district of Baghdad between resistance fighters and Iraqi and US soldiers. “Open gun battles in the streets,” as one friend told me, “And as soon as the Iraqi and US soldiers leave the area, the resistance takes it back over.”

Keep in mind that all of this is against the backdrop of well over 50% unemployment, horrendous traffic jams, and an infrastructure in shambles that continues to degrade with next to no reconstruction occurring in Baghdad.

“Electricity shut offs drive us crazy in this hot summer,” one of my friends wrote me recently, “Even we can’t read at night because of long hours of electricity cuts and because the outside generators can’t withstand running these long hours and we have to turn these generators off for some time to cool them!”

He continues, “Two years of occupation…for God sake where is the rebuilding, where the hell are these billions donated to Iraq? Even not 1% improvement in services and electricity! They say again and again the terrorists are to blame and I would accept this, but why they do not protect these facilities? Do the American camps have cuts of electricity? No, no, and nobody will allow this to happen...but poor Iraqis, nobody would be sorry for them if they burn with the hell of summer, small kids and old men they get dehydrated because no electricity, no cold water, etc. Have you heard about the tea that is mixed with iron particles? It is real in our life. People have to make sure their tea is not mixed with iron by use of magnets.”

He concluded his email with, “Things are getting worse day by day. Iraq has become a country not for its people, every day thoughts jump into the mind that sooner or later we have to leave this country, searching for another. And there is a saying, “your home is where you sleep safe,” but this is not true in Iraq anymore.

He sent me that email three days ago.

Yesterday the Iraqi government announced that it may decrease subsidies for fuel and electricity, despite a severe shortage of both in the country, according to the electricity minister who warned Iraqis to prepare for more blackouts this summer.

Ongoing fuel, electricity and drinking water shortages persist, and only 37% of Iraqis have a working sewage system.

As so many of my Iraqi friends continue to say, “This is the freedom and democracy that America has brought us.”

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Who will pay for the fake war of fake president Chimpers?

Illegally Financing The WMD Hoax

""Of course, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia paid the bill for daddy's war. But even on that count, many neo-cons were certain that a grateful Iraq - under American administration - would be more than happy to reimburse the United States on some kind of 'oil-for-invasion' program."

"Iraq had no stockpile, no biological agents, no chemical feedstocks, no plants to manufacture them and no delivery systems to fire them. Saddam was no threat to us and had no weapons of mass destruction to pass to terrorists. Brushing the UN inspectors aside in order to go to war on false intelligence was a colossal blunder."
-- Robin Cook, the British Foreign Minister who resigned to protest the Iraq war

No WMDs. No 9/11 link. No imminent threat. No intelligence failure. Just well orchestrated lies to market a war based on manufactured intelligence.

How many "gotcha" articles have you read lately? Unless you've spent the last year on Gilligan's island - it should now be clear that Bush lied. Unfortunately, a lot of people who 'get it' are missing the point. The question is no longer whether Bush lied but so what if he did. It's no longer matter of whether we should trust the president. Rather, the emphasis should be on how Bush dodged his WMD credibility problem and whether he used public funds in the process.

Charitable folks are still inclined to believe that Bush lied only to protect the great unwashed from dealing with imperial realities. As Irving Kristol, the godfather of the neo-cons, would say 'There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work.'

Listen up, children. If the President is guilty of anything - it is faulty judgment. He just made a bad call based on his best instincts and faulty risk/reward calculations tabulated by the CIA. He meant no harm to the empire and he is in no position to turn back the clock.

That above line of reasoning depends entirely on the proposition that there was an 'intelligence failure' - not an 'intelligence fix'. That proposition was blown out of the water with the recent publication of a pre-invasion British memo that clearly establishes that 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.'

This could be the start of a very messy affair. Rep. John Conyers and 87 other members of Congress are already demanding answers from the White House. If this story takes its natural course, we are about to discover that Bush not only lied about the WMDs, not only fixed intelligence but also misappropriated public funds to cover up his lie and pass it off as an 'intelligence failure'. In the process, revelations of great import are going to become part of the public record. Get ready for some startling headlines about the role of the mass media in both fixing intelligence and the subsequent cover-up. Prepare yourself for a long parade of complicit politicians from both major parties knee deep in the muck of bamboozling the American people. Bush's conspiracy was not the work of one man or one party or one paper. This was a family affair.

The makings of this conspiracy started with a faith based foreign policy outlook that projected a short 'cake walk' in Iraq followed by a triumphant victory parade that would drown out any further discussion of the phantom WMD stockpiles. Invading Iraq was expected to be a brief and inexpensive project in terms of both blood and treasure. The architects of the war were certain that the outcome would dazzle all the cynics who doubted the invincibility of the indispensable nation."
Link to report:

Gitmo: "The gulag of our time."

Amnesty International report denounces US abuses of human rights

By Chris Marsden
28 May 2005

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

Amnesty International has called on the Bush administration to close its prison camp at the US Navy base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, calling it “the gulag of our time.”

The human rights group’s Secretary General Irene Khan called for the closure of the infamous institution, where about 540 men have been detained for as long as three years, most without trial, purely on suspicion of having links to the Taliban regime or Al Qaeda. The “gulag” refers to the camps run by the Stalinist regime in the former USSR, where it kept thousands of political prisoners.

Khan was speaking at a press conference to launch Amnesty’s 308-page annual report for 2004, which accuses the United States and its main ally Britain of betraying the cause of human rights in pursuit of the so-called “war on terror.”

“Not a single case from some 500 men has reached the courts,” Khan said.

She accused Washington and London of both perpetrating and condoning acts of torture. “A new agenda is in the making, with the language of freedom and justice being used to pursue policies of fear and insecurity. This includes cynical attempts to redefine and sanitise torture,” said Ms. Khan.

US troops have committed appalling torture and sexually abused detainees, Kahn said, and evidence has since come to light “that the US administration had sanctioned interrogation techniques that violated the UN Convention against Torture.” “The US administration attempted to dilute the absolute ban on torture through new policies and quasi-management speak such as ‘environmental manipulation,’ ‘stress positions’ and ‘sensory manipulation’...

“When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse with impunity,” she warned.

For its part, the British government led by Prime Minister Tony Blair has claimed that the Human Rights Act did not apply to British soldiers operating in Iraq. Also, by seeking diplomatic assurances from Arab countries such as Algeria that those it was seeking to deport would not be tortured, it was tacitly admitting that torture was entrenched in those countries and was therefore, in effect, condoning the practice.

Amnesty’s report accuses governments around the world of abandoning human rights protections. In her foreword, Khan writes of an “assault on fundamental values that is shaking the human rights world,” of which the most damaging expression is “the efforts by the US administration to weaken the absolute ban on torture.”

Neither the Bush administration nor the US Congress has called for a full and independent investigation of the abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, or into the evidence suggesting that such practices are being applied to other prisoners held by America in Afghanistan, Guantánamo and elsewhere. “Instead, the US government has gone to great lengths to restrict the application of the Geneva Conventions and to ‘re-define’ torture,” Khan said.

“It has sought to justify the use of coercive interrogation techniques, the practice of holding ‘ghost detainees’ (people in unacknowledged incommunicado detention) and the ‘rendering,’ or handing over, of prisoners to third countries known to practise torture. The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times,” she said, “entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law. Trials by military commissions have made a mockery of justice and due process.”

Khan added that the UN Commission on Human Rights “has become a forum for horse-trading on human rights. Last year, the commission dropped Iraq from scrutiny, could not agree on action on Chechnya, Nepal or Zimbabwe, and was silent on Guantánamo Bay.”

In the section of the annual report dealing with the Middle East and North Africa the report explains,Civilians bore the brunt of the casualties as the war in Iraq intensified and the death toll rose. Tens of thousands of men, women and children were reported to have been killed or injured since the armed conflict began in March 2003. Both the US-led occupying forces and armed groups operating in Iraq—often with the declared objective of resisting foreign occupation—continued to violate international human rights and humanitarian laws with impunity. “Throughout the year there were reports that scores of civilians had been killed unlawfully by the US-led forces during bombardments of Fallujah, Najaf and Samarra, and in various operations in Baghdad.”

Amnesty also states that hundreds of civilians have been killed in “indiscriminate or direct attacks by armed groups” opposing the US occupation.

Some 700 Palestinians were killed by Israel in the Occupied Territories, including about 150 children: “Most were killed unlawfully, in reckless shootings, shellings or air strikes on refugee camps and other densely populated areas throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli forces continued to carry out extrajudicial executions of members and leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian groups, in which bystanders were frequently killed or injured.

“The destruction of Palestinian homes, land and property in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was stepped up in the biggest wave of house demolitions in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Intifada (uprising) that has left close to 4,000 Palestinians homeless. In the West Bank, Israel continued to build a 600-kilometre fence/wall encircling and cutting off Palestinian towns and villages, despite the ruling by the International Court of Justice.

“Some 109 Israelis, most of them civilians and including eight children, were killed by Palestinian armed groups in suicide bombings, shootings and mortar attacks inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories.”

Elsewhere in the Middle East, “human rights violations continued to be justified by the global ‘war on terror’ as security forces across the region responded to attacks by armed groups they accused of links with Al Qaeda.”

In the section on the Americas, Amnesty turns once more to the way that the US-led “war on terror” has undermined human rights. The report explains:

“President Bush’s refusal to apply the Geneva Conventions to those captured during the international armed conflict in Afghanistan and transferred to the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was challenged by a judicial decision in November. The ruling resulted in the suspension of trials by military commission in Guantánamo, and the government immediately lodged an appeal. The US administration’s treatment of detainees in the ‘war on terror’ continued to display a marked ambivalence to the opinion of expert bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and even of its own highest judicial body. Six months after the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts had jurisdiction over the Guantánamo detainees, none had appeared in court. Detainees reportedly considered of high intelligence value remained in secret detention in undisclosed locations. In some cases their situation amounted to ‘disappearance.’”

In addition, “The ‘war on terror’ and the ‘war on drugs’ increasingly merged, and dominated US relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. Following the US elections in November, the Bush administration encouraged governments in the region to give a greater role to the military in public order and internal security operations. The blurring of military and police roles resulted in governments such as those in Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Paraguay deploying military forces to deal with crime and social unrest.”

The US has also continued to pressure governments throughout the region to sign unlawful immunity agreements shielding US personnel from surrender to the International Criminal Court: “Of 12 countries that had refused to sign, 10 had some military aid suspended as a result. In November the US Congress threatened to cut off development aid to countries that refused to sign.”

In a more pointed statement, William Schultz, the executive director of Amnesty International’s US branch, issued a direct warning to top US officials.

“The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera,” he said, “because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998.”

Schultz added, referring to the lack of a statute of limitations on crimes against humanity, “Let’s keep in mind that these issues can be pursued years from now, not just today.”

In the section dealing with Europe and Central Asia, the report notes that governments “continued to roll back rights under the auspices of the ‘war on terror.’ Although the highest court in the UK ruled in a landmark decision that indefinite detention without charge or trial of foreign ‘suspected international terrorists’ was unlawful, 11 men still remained in detention—and one under effective house arrest—at the end of 2004. Earlier the Court of Appeal of England and Wales had ruled that ‘evidence’ obtained by torture of a third party would be inadmissible in court proceedings only if UK agents had been directly involved in, or connived at, the torture. Throughout the year the UK also sought to circumvent its obligations under domestic and international human rights law by asserting that international human rights law did not bind its armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Sections of the report also deal with the situation in Africa and Asia and the Pacific. The report can be read in full at

See Also:
US press takes umbrage at Amnesty's "gulag" charge
[28 May 2005]

Saturday, May 28, 2005

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **

** **
May 27, 2005

Sketchy Details

Yesterday Iraq’s Minister of Defense, Sadoun al-Dulaimi, announced that starting
Saturday 40,000 Iraqi troops will seal Baghdad and begin to “hunt down
insurgents and their weapons.” Baghdad will be divided into two main sections,
east and west, and within each section there will be smaller areas of control.

There will be at least 675 checkpoints and al-Dulaimi said this is the first
phase of a security crackdown that will eventually cover all of Iraq.

Keep in mind that most of Iraq has remained in a “state of emergency” since the
beginning of the siege of Fallujah, on November 8th.

“We will also impose a concrete blockade around Baghdad, like a bracelet around
an arm, God willing, and God be with us in our crackdown on the terrorists’

Also at the press conference was Bayan Jabor, the Minister of Interior who
added, “These operations will aim at turning the government's role from
defensive to offensive.”

This is really, really bad news.

The Iraqi security forces already have an extremely bad name throughout much of
Baghdad. I’ve had three Iraqi doctors tell me, in different hospitals at
different times, that they call the Iraqi National Guard the “dogs of the

Another close friend of mine in Baghdad, also a doctor, wrote me recently to

“Iraqi forces now have what they call “liwaa al deeb,” which means the Wolf
Brigade. This is a very American name, and is an ugly name which gives the
impression of violence. In the past the Iraqi troops held names of some famous
Muslim and Arabic symbols which were more accepted. Anyway, the name wouldn’t
matter if their behavior was straight….they now practice a kind of state
sponsored terrorism.”

He went on to give an example of their not-so-straight behavior…

“Eyewitnesses in Al-Saydia area to the south of Baghdad told me that recently
when a car bomb detonated and destroyed the area nearby, people were astonished
to see the so-called police looting a destroyed mobile phone store that was
nearby! The police now are a bunch of thieves. Many of then are already
criminals who were released from Abu Ghraib prison before the war.”

When I was in Baghdad in January, I was shot at by Iraqi Police on two different
occasions simply because our car drove too close to them.

Hence, out of concern for his family, Abu Talat has returned to Baghdad. He
fears that his two youngest sons will be detained simply because they are of
“military age,” according to the US military.

Even now in Haditha, where the US military is engaged in an operation called
“Operation New Market,” (where do they get these names?) somewhat similar to
the recent attack on Al-Qa’im, where around 1,000 troops are raiding homes.
They have set up sniper positions, and according to an Iraqi doctor I spoke
with today that has colleagues in Haditha, “The Americans are detaining so many
people there, any man between the ages of 16 and 25 years is being immediately
detained without question.”

So Abu Talat is back into the fire…needless to say, I support his decision to go
back to look after his family, but not without deep concern and sadness.

“What else can I do, habibi,” he asks me while holding up his hands today.

So we say goodbye yet again, which in this situation is always a difficult thing
to do. Will I see him again? Will his family be alright? What if…?

Life in occupied Iraq. On any given day, anything can happen. It’s a numbers

He or any of my other friends there could end up like the three civilians who
were shot dead by US soldiers yesterday while they were traveling in a minibus
in al-Dora, Baghdad.

Lieutenant Jamie Davis, a spokesman for the US military, said of the slaughter,
“The details are sketchy and we don’t know who was involved.”

According to AFP, the bus driver who survived the incident said US troops opened
fire after he pulled over to get out of their way.

Now with over 675 checkpoints to be manned by the “dogs of the Americans,” we’ll
all have to get used to countless more civilian deaths where “the details are
This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Let The Siege of Baghdad Begin!

US puppet government announces state of siege in Baghdad

By Barry Grey
27 May 2005

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

The defense and security ministers of the US-backed Iraqi government on Thursday announced a massive police-military operation in Baghdad involving 40,000 Iraqi police and soldiers, backed by the 10,000 US troops stationed in the city.

The plan outlined by Defense Minister Saadun al-Dulaimi and Interior Minister Bayan Jabor, to be launched next week, involves the setting up of a military cordon around the entire city, 675 checkpoints inside the city, and the deployment of “search and arrest” units that will patrol neighborhoods and check identity cards in hotels and restaurants.

Dulaimi, describing classic techniques of state terror, intimidation and repression long used in counterinsurgency operations against hostile populations, said the city would be divided into sections, each occupied by a specific police-military unit, and added, “We will also impose a stringent blockade around Baghdad, like a bracelet around an arm, God willing... You will witness unprecedented, strict security measures.”

He said the lockdown of the capital would continue indefinitely and serve as a model for operations to be mounted throughout the country.

Bayan claimed those arrested in the police sweeps would receive a “fair and just trial,” a worthless assurance from a puppet government that has already, since it formally assumed office at the end of April, arrested 587 suspected insurgents, and stands accused of dispatching commando units to assassinate prominent Sunni clerics.

Coming in response to an escalation of insurgent attacks over the past month, the measures announced Thursday amount to a reign of terror employing indiscriminate arrests and death squad violence.

On the same day as the Baghdad press conference announcing the state of siege, the Washington Post published an article enthusiastically hailing the Iraqi regime’s plans to implement its earlier decision to reinstate the death penalty. Portraying the resumption of state killings as a broadly popular measure among Iraqis, the Post openly acknowledged that state executions would be used as a political weapon in the effort to crush the insurgency against the US military occupation and its Quisling government.

The Post wrote: “In a show of force the government hopes will help quell the insurgency, Iraq will soon carry out its first judicial executions since the fall of President Saddam Hussein.”

The newspaper’s undisguised support for the resumption of this barbaric practice is indicative of the American media’s unswerving backing for the illegal US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the ongoing repression and mass killing that have already claimed many tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, thrown thousands of Iraqis into US-run prisons, and employed torture as a basic modus operandi.

The newspaper noted that numerous countries and international human rights groups have condemned the revival of capital punishment in Iraq, including Britain, which maintains thousands of troops in Iraq but abolished the death penalty decades ago.

It then quoted the statement issued by the US Embassy in Iraq effectively blessing the resumption of state killings in Iraq—an action that adds Iraq to the small list of countries, headed by the US, that continue to carry out judicial executions. Oozing hypocrisy and cynicism, the statement, issued by an occupying power that maintains 140,000 troops in the subject nation, declared: “The death penalty is a decision for democratically elected and legally chosen Iraqi authorities.”

The atrocities that will be committed inside the military cordon around Baghdad will go virtually unreported in the US media. The broadcast media already made this clear by barely reporting the announcement of the extraordinary security measures in Baghdad in their Thursday evening news programs. The networks and establishment press have universally and willingly accepted a regime of strict news censorship imposed by the White House and the Pentagon.

Nor will the Democrats issue any protests against the employment of such methods. The Democratic Party has, from the beginning, supported the war and occupation, and fully backs any and all measures to put down the Iraqi popular resistance.

It is clear that Thursday’s announcement by the Iraqi regime came at the behest and under pressure from Washington. It followed by only eleven days a surprise visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Iraq, in which Rice demanded that the newly formed government in Baghdad take stronger measures against the insurgency. In particular, Rice pressured Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and his Shiite-based United Iraqi Alliance to recruit Sunni veterans of Saddam Hussein’s security forces and use them in the war against the insurgents.

The Bush administration has been shaken by the upsurge of insurgent attacks since the April 28 installation of the government headed by Jaafari. The month of May has witnessed one of the bloodiest waves of violence to date in Iraq. More than 620 Iraqis and 60 US troops have died since the formation of the Shiite-led government.

The US military has responded with a sharp intensification of bloodletting against suspected insurgents. It has carried out major offensives, particularly in Anbar province, which abuts the Syrian border in the west of Iraq. Thursday’s announcement of siege measures in Baghdad came a day after US forces launched Operation New Market, a security sweep in the town of Haditha involving 1,000 Marines and sailors.

In a similar operation two weeks earlier in the Anbar province town of Al Qa’im and its surrounding villages, the US military indiscriminately bombed entire villages, and then claimed to have killed 125 insurgents. Local residents said most of the victims were innocent civilians.

As in Vietnam, the US authorities routinely count those Iraqis killed by American bombs and missiles as “insurgents.”

The systematic use of lies and distortions by the US military was exemplified by a statement released Wednesday following the death of a child as the result of American fire in the northwestern city of Talafar. “When multinational forces engaged the terrorists,” the statement read, “the terrorists used Iraqi children as shields. One child was killed as a result of their action.”

See Also:
Wall Street Journal alibis for Nazi-style crimes in Iraq
[25 May 2005]
US issues more demands on Iraqi government to include former Baathists
[20 May 2005]
US demands Iraq's new government repudiate "de-Baathification"
[4 May 2005]
Who is Iraq's new prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari?
[18 April 2005]

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

WSJ Editorial page pisses all over the International Red Cross

Wall Street Journal alibis for Nazi-style crimes in Iraq

By Bill Van Auken
25 May 2005

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In an editorial titled “As bad as the Nazis,” the Wall Street Journal Monday launched a smear campaign against the International Committee of the Red Cross, while attempting to cover up the crimes carried out by the US military in the illegal war in Iraq.

The newspaper’s editorial board, whose right-wing writings closely reflect prevailing opinion within the Bush administration, feigned outrage at an alleged incident in which an exasperated Red Cross official compared the US personnel at Camp Bucca, a detention camp in Iraq, to Nazi concentration camp guards.

The real source of the Journal’s ire, however, was the ICRC’s May 19 statement revealing that it had repeatedly complained to US authorities over the abuses against the Koran at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp that were referred to in a brief report published by Newsweek magazine earlier this month.

The ICRC’s account cut across a campaign orchestrated by the Bush administration to exploit a technical error in the story in order to portray the well-documented charges over the Koran as a media fabrication. Newsweek and the rest of the mass media cravenly acquiesced to this campaign, helping to assure its success and allowing the administration to imply that the long list of revelations of US crimes, from Abu Ghraib on, were all merely the slanderous inventions of a “biased” press.

The ICRC statement, the Journal complains, “came just as the US was scrambling to undo the damage in the Muslim world from the discredited Newsweek story.”

This is patent nonsense. The “damage in the Muslim world” came not from a two-paragraph item in Newsweek, but from the wars of aggression, mass detentions, torture and murder carried out by the Bush administration from Iraq to Guantánamo over the course of nearly four years. The magazine’s story at most provided an incidental spark that ignited the explosive outrage against US policies and practices that exists throughout the region.

The Journal editorial attributes the ICRC statement to an “ideological” inclination by the ICRC to “embarrass the United States, however unfairly.” As to the source of this alleged bias, the editorial provides not a clue.

The ICRC itself, however, made it fairly clear why it chose to break its usual silence on what it finds in its inspections and speak out on the Koran issue.

“Since these reports have become public in other channels, and because of their impact in Afghanistan and around the world, we decided we could report that we had brought this to authorities’ attention and that our work had value,” the organization’s spokesman Simon Schorno said last week.

In other words, the ICRC was attempting to defend its own credibility in the region, making clear that it had spoken out and was not complicit in the brutal abuse of detainees. It begins not from Washington’s propaganda spin, but from the reality that the charges against the US are correctly believed by millions throughout the Muslim world.

As for why the ICRC would have a conflictive relationship with Washington, the explanation is not to be found in some hidden ideological agenda, as the Journal suggests, but in the employment by US authorities of extra-legal measures that repudiate the treaties under which the organization operates, including the Geneva Conventions.

In Iraq and elsewhere, this has meant denying Red Cross inspectors access to US-run detention facilities and hiding so-called “ghost” detainees within them.

Echoing the logic used by those who have erected Washington’s worldwide network of detention camps and torture centers, the Journal dismisses as “absurd” an earlier International Red Cross report that denounced the indefinite imprisonment without charges of the Guantánamo detainees as “tantamount to torture.”

The Journal’s editors note that the ICRC had also complained that Washington had refused to grant the Guantánamo detainees prisoner of war status, adding, “POWs are explicitly allowed by the Geneva Conventions to be held indefinitely—that is, for the duration of a conflict.”

This cynical piece of sophistry essentially boils down to an assertion that the US is bound by no law and can do whatever it wants with anyone it chooses to brand as a “terrorist.” The “conflict” that it refers to—the Bush administration’s “global war on terrorism”—is a pretext for never-ending US wars of aggression abroad. Bush and others have declared that this so-called war will last for decades, meaning that the American administration arrogates to itself the right to detain anyone for as long as they live, without having to produce a shred of evidence against them.

What about the Journal’s self-righteous umbrage over the alleged Nazi reference? The editorialists themselves acknowledge that news of their planned editorial had leaked before its publication Monday. Warnings appeared on the Internet, they wrote, “that we were out to smear the ICRC.”

This is no doubt the case—however much the editorialists deny it. But can an accusation—whether true or false—that someone has compared what is happening inside US detention camps to the practices of the Nazis really be considered a smear?

If the remark was indeed made, it undoubtedly slipped out in a moment of anger and frustration on the part of an ICRC official who was being stonewalled, if not threatened, by the US military. These officials are trained in the art of diplomacy and tend to avoid such plain speech so as not to prejudice their access to places where Nazi-style torture and abuse take place.

Clearly, Camp Bucca is not the equivalent of Auschwitz or Treblinka, where the Nazis systematically exterminated millions in the gas chambers. But there is an undeniable connection between the methods that produced those historic crimes and the methods that have given rise to the US-organized atrocities against the Iraqi people.

Denying any desire to “smear” the ICRC, the Journal states, “We are trying to understand how a representative of an organization pledged to neutrality and the honest investigation of detainee practices could compare American soldiers to the Nazi SS.”

Well, they might begin by re-reading the report issued by Major General Antonio Taguba on the undeniable abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and Camp Bucca. Following the release of photographs of torture and sexual abuse at Abu Ghraib, the Pentagon had no choice but to investigate and issue this report as a form of damage control. Given its source, the document is a telling indication of the depravity that dominates the US enterprise in Iraq.

Among the “intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel” listed by Tabuga were the following:

* punching, slapping and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

* videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees.

* forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;

* forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

* forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;

* forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

* arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

* positioning a naked detainee on a box [of meals ready to eat], with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes and penis to simulate electric torture;

* writing “I am a Rapest” (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year-old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked;

* placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female soldier pose for a picture;

* a male MP [military police] guard having sex with a female detainee;

* using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee;

* taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees.

In addition to these acts—which could not be denied because of photographic or videotape evidence—the general said he found “credible” descriptions by detainees of other acts, including:

* breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;

* threatening detainees with a charged 9-millimeter pistol;

* pouring cold water on naked detainees;

* beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;

* threatening male detainees with rape;

* allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell;

* sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick.

Or, the Journal might arrive at a better understanding of the analogy between the Nazis and Camp Bucca by reviewing the testimony of Hossam Shaltout, an Egyptian-born Canadian citizen and permanent US resident detained by the US military in Iraq in 2003.

“He described Camp Bucca as a ‘torture camp,’ where soldiers beat and humiliated prisoners—including having them lie naked atop each other or pose in sexual positions,” the Knight Ridder news agency reported. “Shaltout said he saw soldiers tie groups of naked prisoners together. He said they hogtied his hands and legs and placed scorpions on his body. ‘American soldiers love scorpions,’ Shaltout said.”

“They did unspeakable things to Iraqis,” Shaltout told CBC last year. “They wanted confessions,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t have anything to confess.”

Last February a group of Muslim clerics in Baghdad cited letters from detainees recounting horrific forms of abuse, including US guards breaking prisoners’ legs, smashing their fingers and forcing them to sit for hours inside large freezers.

Then there was a December Washington Post report citing the experience of Ahnad Naje Dulaimi, a 23-year-old Baghdad waiter picked up for interrogation and sent to Camp Bucca. He was confronted with a American male and female and a Kuwaiti interpreter. “The male soldier strode into the room, Dulaimi said, and immediately urinated on his head,” the Post reported.

The military has itself been forced to confirm some of the abuse at Bucca. Four soldiers from the 320th Military Police Battalion were charged with systematically beating prisoners. Two soldiers would hold the detainees’ legs apart while a third kicked them in the groin.

Is this not precisely the style of the Nazi bullyboys? And, isn’t the twisted ideology underlying it similar to that propagated by the Third Reich among its troops sent to conquer Poland and Russia? Those they confronted were subhumans or Untermenschen and therefore no restrictions applied to the cruelty that could be inflicted upon them.

And the purpose of this cruelty is also much the same today as it was in occupied Europe 60 years ago. Human rights organizations have credibly estimated that 90 percent of those who are arrested and detained by US forces have nothing to do with the armed struggle against the occupation. No matter how much they are tortured, they indeed have nothing to confess. But their brutalization is aimed at terrorizing the population, physically intimidating it into withdrawing support for the resistance.

Even more importantly, the source of the crimes in Iraq and of those committed by Hitler’s SS is in essence the same: the launching of a criminal war of aggression.

This was the finding of the Nuremberg Trials, which found that all of the crimes of Nazism flowed from Hitler’s regime having planned and executed an aggressive war.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 were enacted in response to the Nazi crimes in occupied Europe. Having embarked on an unprovoked war of aggression and embraced a policy of “preventive war,” it is hardly an accident that the Bush administration has repudiated these very conventions, finding them, in the words of former White House counsel and current US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, “quaint.”

The conclusion of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial is that it is time to do away with the 140-year-old International Committee of the Red Cross as well. “The world needs a truly neutral humanitarian body of the sort the ICRC is supposed to be,” it states. “But the Camp Bucca incident ... is evidence it isn’t currently up to the task.”

The journalistic warmongers at the Journal, reflecting the views of their patrons in the Bush White House, cannot tolerate any challenge to US policy or to Washington’s falsification and cover-up of its criminal activity in Iraq. Those who cannot be cowed, as Newsweek has been, must be eliminated.

Extreme silliness characterizes debate on Iraq

Gene Lyons
Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2005

With respect to the Bush administration’s "war on terror," Americans appear to have entered the Monty Python stage of debate, where extreme silliness trumps all competing values. I refer to the inspired scene in "Life of Brian" in which a cabal of toga-clad revolutionaries styling itself the "Judean People’s Liberation Front" meets in a Roman coliseum to argue strategy. It’s time to confront the real enemy. Poor Brian, the amiable dunce who keeps being mistaken for the messiah, obligingly shouts an anti-Roman slogan, only to be coolly informed that the real enemy is, in fact, the "People’s Liberation Front of Judea."

As a send-up of Sixties’ left-wing factionalism, it’s priceless. So now we’re doing it all over again, except this time the crackpot radicals appear to be the White House and its allies. (It doesn’t help that so many of the administration’s principal figures appear to have been driven bonkers by Jane Fonda-style radicals during the Vietnam era.) Instead, the administration spent last week attacking not al-Qa’ida or Iraqi insurgents, but the real enemy: Newsweek magazine and pusillanimous Americans who doubted the wisdom of invading Iraq to begin with. Washington Post columnist Terry Neal found it "mind-boggling listening to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who used information from a now discredited source known as ‘Curveball’ to make the case for war against Iraq, calling out Newsweek: ‘Newsweek hid behind anonymous sources, which by their own admission do not withstand scrutiny. Unfortunately, they cannot retract the damage they have done to this nation or those that were viciously attacked by those false allegations.’ "

It was almost as if the Newsweek fiasco had occurred in a vacuum, or in an alternate reality, where the Iraq war, fought over non-existent weapons of mass destruction, had never occurred. "Meanwhile, the same newspaper’s estimable Walter Pincus, in a story unaccountably buried on page A26, reported that back before the war, both the CIA and German intelligence sources handling" Curveball" warned that the Iraqi defector was at best "problematical." Nothing he said could be confirmed. He was eventually determined to be a fabricator peddling tall tales. Contrary to the White House line that the president was misled by poor intelligence, Pincus said that "many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about [Saddam] Hussein’s alleged weapons programs."

Elsewhere in the news, The New York Times broke yet another story about an under-trained and poorly supervised group of soldiers who allegedly decorated their tent with a Confederate flag and called themselves the "Testosterone Gang," systematically beating and torturing prisoners to death at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Even worse, Army investigators believe, some victims were innocent civilians caught up in the chaos of war. It’s estimated that 85 percent of Bagram detainees were released without charges.

Atrocities happen in all wars. Two things, however, make the reported American transgressions at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram AFB particularly appalling: first, the way they appear to confirm everything Islamist propagandists say about the "crusaders ’" contempt for Islam; second, that they proceeded directly from the administration’s country-club tough-guy rhetoric. Classic psychology experiments have repeatedly shown that, absent stringent discipline among their captors, isolated groups rendered helpless and defined as the "other" often fall prey to sadism and brutality—a phenomenon hardly unknown to U.S. military authorities. Instead of proper training, however, inexperienced American Reservists were encouraged to treat the captives as "terrorists" to whom the president naïvely determined the Geneva Conventions did not apply. In effect, if not intent, George W. Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who signed off on memos validating torture for "enemy combatants," declared open season on detainees.

Then there was the story of former NFL star Pat Tillman, a genuine American hero who gave up a $4.5 million contract to defend his country after 9/11. After he was killed by his own troops in a tragic combat blunder on a mountainside in Afghanistan, the Pentagon hid the actual circumstances of his death from his own family for many weeks, seemingly fearful that the facts would render his sacrifice meaningless. "They realized," Tillman’s embittered father told The Washington Post, "that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy."

With all due respect, I think the elder Tillman and the Pentagon are both mistaken. His son is no less a hero for the tragic circumstances of his death, and most Americans are grown up enough to handle the truth. Hardly anybody opposed the mission into Afghanistan, and few do today. What they can’t handle, and what’s forcing the Bush administration and its supporters into increasingly absurd postures, is their growing awareness of the comprehensive disaster caused by their misguided obsession with Iraq and the propaganda campaign that got us there. –––––—

Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Afghan Puppet Show

Afghan president feigns outrage over latest US torture revelations

By Peter Symonds
24 May 2005

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On the eve of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s current trip to the US, an article in last Friday’s New York Times provided details of the systematic torture of detainees by American military interrogators in Afghanistan. The article confirmed that two deaths in custody in December 2002 were not the result of “natural causes”, as the US military claimed at the time, but were the consequence of sustained beatings and physical abuse.

Concerned that the revelations would further fuel anti-US sentiment in Afghanistan, Karzai put on an indignant display of opposition at a press conference on Saturday. He said that he was “thoroughly shocked” by the story and called on Washington to take “very, very strong action” to deal with the culprits. Karzai declared he would press US President George Bush to return all Afghan prisoners to Kabul’s control and insist on more control over US military operations in Afghanistan.

“No operations inside Afghanistan should take place without the consultation of the Afghan government,” Karzai said. “They should not go to our people’s homes any more without the knowledge of the Afghan government. If they want any person suspected in a house, they should let us know, and the Afghan government would arrange that.”

Karzai’s comments were directed at pacifying the widespread hostility, particularly among the Pashtun majority in the south and east of the country, generated by three years of US military operations and aimed at crushing continuing armed opposition to the US presence. Villages have been attacked or raided, homes ransacked and hundreds of Afghans arbitrarily detained, held without charge or trial and tortured.

Angry anti-US demonstrations erupted in Jalalabad, Kabul and other Afghan cities after a small article appeared in the Newsweek magazine on May 9 reporting the desecration of the Koran by US interrogators at Guantánamo Bay detention centre. Protesters burned US flags, chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Karzai”, demanded the repatriation of Afghan prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, and condemned Karzai’s decision to support the establishment of permanent US bases in the country. At least 15 people were killed by Afghan police brought in to quell the demonstrations.

While Karzai has dismissed the protests as the work of anti-government agitators, he is acutely aware that his regime is viewed with contempt by ordinary Afghans. In comments to Fox News, the president insisted that Afghanistan’s independence and self-reliance was growing. “No Afghan is a puppet, you know,” he feebly declared. But that is exactly what Karzai is: a figure selected and installed by Washington and completely dependent on the US, financially, politically and militarily.

For all the talk of the US and Afghanistan being “partners”, Karzai’s subservience to Washington was on display as soon as he set foot in the US. Gone were Karzai’s protestations and feigned outrage over torture. Bush dismissed any suggestion that US would release Afghan prisoners or grant Kabul a greater role in supervising US military operations. However, at their joint press conference yesterday, there was not a hint of criticism. Karzai simply described the deaths of the two detainees as “sad” and blamed individual soldiers. He duly signed a “strategic partnership” paving the way for a long-term US presence in Afghanistan and agreed that US forces will continue to have “freedom of action”.

Just what that signifies is underscored by the details contained in the New York Times article, which was based on a confidential 2,000-page file compiled by US army investigators and obtained by the newspaper. While the army report was limited to a review of the two deaths and obviously concerned to minimise the political fallout, it nevertheless confirmed that the US military operated a regime of systematic physical and psychological torture at its detention facility at the Bagram air base north of Kabul.

Even the New York Times was compelled to cautiously conclude: “[T]he Bagram file includes ample testimony that harsh treatment by some interrogators was routine and that guards could strike shackled detainees with virtual impunity. Prisoners considered important or troublesome were handcuffed and chained to ceilings and doors of their cells, sometimes for long periods, an action Army prosecutors recently classified as criminal assault.”

Two homicides

The deaths of Mullah Habibullah, 30, and Dilawar, a 22-year-old farmer and part-time taxi driver, were a direct result of their treatment at the hands of US interrogators.

Habibullah was captured on November 28, 2002 by an Afghan warlord and delivered two days later to what was known as the Bagram Collection Point by CIA operatives who claimed he was a brother of a former Taliban commander.

Over the next three days, Habibullah was subjected to verbal abuse, beatings and physical torture designed to end his alleged arrogance, insubordination and lack of cooperation. The New York Times provides a harrowing day-by-day account of the treatment. He was isolated, hooded and shackled by his wrists to the wire ceiling of his cell. By the second day he was coughing and complaining of chest pains. He limped into the interrogation room because of repeated blows to his legs. Far from providing medical assistance, the interrogators laughed and made fun of him.

The beatings continued on December 3. Habibullah returned to an isolation cell where he was shackled to the ceiling by two sets of handcuffs and a chain around his waist. Guards found him slumped forward, his body held up by the chains, and unresponsive. One guard claimed that Habibullah spat at him when the hood was removed the prisoner’s head—the pretext for another series of blows. Twenty minutes later, Habibullah was found dead in his cell.

As the Times explained: “Mr Habibullah’s autopsy, completed on December 8, showed bruises or abrasions on his chest, arms and head. There were deep contusions on his calves, knees and thighs. His left calf was marked by what appeared to have been the sole of a boot. His death was attributed to a blood clot, probably caused by the severe injuries to his legs, which travelled to his heart and blocked the blood flow to his lungs.”

On December 5, Dilawar was delivered to Bagram. He was detained along with three passengers in his taxi on allegations of involvement in an attack on a US military base. Although he was small and described by his brother as “a shy man”, he was singled out as being “non-compliant” because he cried out when kicked and beaten. Describing a session on December 8, Mr Ahmadzai, an interpreter, explained: “About the first 10 minutes, I think, they were actually questioning him, after that it was pushing, shoving, kicking and shouting at him. There was no interrogation going on.”

During the final session on December 10, Dilawar was clearly distraught and disoriented. He was exhausted and unable to adopt the “stress positions” ordered by his torturers. Yet he was subject to more violent physical abuse and humiliating threats to ship him to a US prison where he would be “treated like a woman, by the other men”. He was taken back to his cell and once again strung up to the ceiling. The following morning he was dead.

The autopsy found some coronary artery disease but concluded, as in the case of Habibullah, that his Dilawar’s heart failed due to “blunt force injuries to the lower extremities”. One of the coroners, Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Rouse, later testified that Diliwar’s legs “had basically been pulpified”. “I have seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus,” she said.

One of the US soldiers who witnessed the final interrogation told the Times that “most of us were convinced the detainee was innocent”. Dilawar’s three passengers were sent to Guantánamo Bay but released in March 2004 with letters declaring that they posed “no threat” to US forces. The militia commander who originally detained the four was himself arrested in February on suspicion of carrying out the attack on the US base and turning over the “suspects” to deflect blame.

The official coverup

The attempt by the Bush administration, aided by Karzai, to dismiss the deaths as the crimes of a few individuals is the just the latest in a series of blatant cover-ups designed to obscure the responsibility of the White House and the Pentagon for torture in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The US military responded to the deaths by claiming that two men had been afforded all possible medical care and died from “natural causes”. The US military commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Daniel McNeill, continued to insist as late as February 7, 2003 that he had “no indication” that either man had been injured in custody. This was nearly two months after the autopsies ruled the deaths to be “homicides”.

All the indications were that the deaths were going to be swept under the carpet. Military investigators recommended that the cases be closed without the filing of any criminal charges. They along with military lawyers at Bagram claimed that it was not possible to determine who precisely was responsible for the injuries sustained by the prisoners. It was only after the results of the autopsies were made public in March 2003 that the Army Criminal Investigation Command changed tack and continued the probe.

Even then the drawn out inquiry has had minimal results. Last October, Criminal Investigation Command concluded there was the basis for charging 27 officers and soldiers with offences ranging from dereliction of duty to involuntary manslaughter over the death of Dilawar. Fifteen were also cited over Habibullah’s death. But to date only, seven have been charged—four of them less than a fortnight ago—and none has been found guilty.

As in the case of US torture of inmates at the Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, the military is attempting to blame a few scapegoats. All of those charges have protested their innocence, claiming that they were using accepted interrogation methods. John Galligan, a lawyer for one of the soldiers charged, told the Times: “At the time, my client was acting consistently with the standard operating procedure that was in place at the Bagram facility.”

In 2003, some of the Bagram interrogators, including their operations officer Captain Carolyn Wood, were transferred to Iraq and took charge of detainees at the Abu Ghraib jail. Clearly, in conditions of an expanding anti-US armed resistance, the Pentagon was keen to use their expertise to extract information from Iraqi detainees. Not surprisingly an inquiry last year found the techniques employed in the two facilities were “remarkably similar”.

Like the army itself, the New York Times has played down the latest evidence of torture in Afghanistan as the result of the poor training and inexperience of young soldiers. “The responsibility of senior officers at Bagram for carrying out such methods is not clear in the Army’s criminal report,” it disingenuously declared. The most elementary points were not probed. Why did top military officers lie about the deaths? Why have the results of the investigations not been made public? Why has the investigation been limited to the two deaths not extended to other cases of torture and deaths in custody?

The obvious answer is that the Bush administration and the US military are directly responsible for the regime of torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. As for Karzai, his ridiculous posturing over the latest revelations simply exposes him for what he is: a US stooge. More than two years after autopsy findings of homicide were made public, he has, in rapid succession, declared himself “shocked”, demanded “very, very strong action” and then shelved his objections—allowing the US military “freedom of action” in its repressive operations in Afghanistan.

See Also:
US war criminals hail new puppet regime in Afghanistan

Monday, May 23, 2005

Republicans launch power grab in US Senate

By Patrick Martin and Joseph Kay
23 May 2005

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Senate Republicans filed a motion Friday to end debate over the nomination of extreme right-wing Texas jurist Priscilla Owen to the US Court of Appeals and force an up-or-down vote. The motion begins a series of parliamentary maneuvers that could end with the effective suppression of minority rights in the US upper house.

A Republican victory would insure that when the next Supreme Court vacancy occurs, Bush will be able to force Senate confirmation of a nominee backed by the Christian fundamentalists, committed to abolishing women’s right to abortion and imposing other retrograde and anti-democratic social policies.

If Democrats carry out plans to filibuster the nomination of Owen—by using procedural rules in the Senate that allow debate to continue indefinitely unless 60 of 100 senators vote to end it—Republicans have threatened to change Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster option. This would allow the Republican Party to appoint life-time judicial nominees without accommodating in any way the position of the minority party.

Because of previous Democratic threats of an escalating retaliation, bringing the Senate to a virtual halt, former Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott once christened the proposed termination of the right to filibuster nominations the “nuclear option.” This is the name now universally used in the media to refer to what is, in reality, a power grab by the Republican Party and an effort to establish complete right-wing control over the functioning of Congress.

The Senate Republican leadership and the Bush administration are seeking to disguise this fact by constant invocations of the principle of majority rule and maintaining that elementary fairness requires that every judicial nomination by the president should receive an up-or-down vote in the Senate.

They have even claimed that the US Constitution, which gives the Senate the power to “advise and consent” on judicial nominations, implicitly mandates such a vote. This interpretation, however, would undo 215 years of constitutional precedent, under which “advise and consent” has always included the power to reject, either by direct vote or by refusal to vote.

For the past two weeks, Washington political and media circles have been filled with speculation over whether the Republican leadership has the 50 votes required to sustain the “nuclear option.” With the 44 Democrats and one independent opposed, and three Republicans—John McCain of Arizona, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Olympia Snowe of Maine—already announcing they will vote “no,” three more Republican defectors would defeat the measure.

There has been an intensive campaign of White House political pressure and Christian fundamentalist lobbying, directed at the handful of Republicans believed to be wavering. These include such Senate veterans as Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John Warner of Virginia and Richard Lugar of Indiana, as well as Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine.

All five have cited concerns over the reversal of longstanding precedents, the threat of institutional breakdown, and the loss of protection for minority rights. In his initial comments during the Owen debate, Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, warned that the nuclear option could “do substantial damage to the institution.... It is my personal view that the option of a filibuster for really extraordinary, egregious circumstances ought to be retained.”

The mounting tension in Washington found expression in hysterical comments by Republican leaders as the Senate debate got under way. Frist himself compared the Democratic tactic of filibustering judicial nominations to “assassinating” these individuals—a particularly inflammatory characterization given recent incidents in which judges and their families have been murdered by criminal defendants or unsuccessful plaintiffs. Attempting to outdo Frist, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the third-ranking Republican and a favorite of the Christian right, compared the Democrats to Adolf Hitler.

Two things have characterized the protracted political conflict over judicial nominations: a steady weakening of the Democratic Party’s opposition to the ultra-right; and the increasingly vitriolic and dictatorial demeanor of the Republicans as they consolidate control over all branches of the federal government: the White House, the Congress, and the federal judiciary.

This control is out of all proportion to the actual support for the program of the ultra-right among the American people. Bush won reelection by a margin of 51-48 percent, the narrowest reelection victory for a US president in over a century. Republicans control the House by 231-204 and the Senate by 55-45. Yet the Republicans are demanding 100 percent control of the federal judiciary, a branch of the government which is already firmly under Republican domination, with about two-thirds of all federal judges appointed by Reagan, George H.W. Bush or the current president.

The fight over judicial nominees and Senate procedure in the confirmation process is the latest in an ongoing struggle within the ruling elite over forms of rule. This struggle has found expression in a series of constitutional crises over the past decade, each involving a further attempt to suppress democratic rights.

In the impeachment crisis of the latter years of the Clinton administration, the Republican right sought to exploit a sex scandal in order to unseat a twice-elected president. This was followed by the elections of 2000, in which the outcome of the election was decided through the intervention of the Supreme Court, which halted a recount of the votes in Florida and handed the Presidency to George W. Bush.

Most recently, the attempt by Congress to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo represented a fundamental attack on the independence of the judiciary. In spite of overwhelming public opposition, the federal government, acting at the behest of a small layer of fundamentalist Christians, inserted itself in the judicial process to promote the “pro-life” agenda of the far-right.

In each of these cases, the determination of the Republican Party to lay siege to basic democratic rights and constitutional procedures has stood in stark contrast to the capitulation of the Democratic Party. At no time have the Democrats sought to carry out a serious fight for democratic rights, to expose the extremely reactionary forces behind the Republican onslaught and mobilize the population against them.

It is significant that on the eve of the upcoming confrontation over judicial appointments, the Democrats have begun to retreat from earlier threats that they have made. On Sunday, Democratic whip Dick Durbin said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “the Democrats will not shut the government down” if Republicans rewrite Senate rules. He insisted that they would merely follow the rules and continue “to push an agenda the Republicans don’t want to talk about.” In other words, the Democrats will respond to a Republican decision to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominees with their traditional timidity and spinelessness.

Statements of other leading Democrats have consisted entirely of appeals by the Republicans to agree to a compromise that would avoid a confrontation. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said on Sunday, “We need to withdraw from the precipice and forge a bipartisan compromise to resolve this matter.” Any such compromise will include the confirmation of the majority of those judges that are still pending. The orientation of the Democrats is directed entirely at winning over a section of the Republican Party “moderates.” It is within the Republican Party that the real struggle over policy is being carried out.

Political initiative, once again, is entirely on the side of the extreme right. The Democratic Party is in retreat in the face of the determination of the Republicans to rewrite rules and consolidate its control. This situation can be explained only by the fact that, while Democrats may differ with Republicans on certain tactical questions, what unites the two parties is vastly greater than what separates them. On questions touching the basic interests of the ruling class in the United States, there is complete agreement.

The determination of the Republican Party expresses the fact that it represents directly and consistently the interests of the most reactionary section of the ruling elite in the US, having broken completely with all methods of class compromise. The impotence of the Democratic Party, on the other hand, is a product of the enormous chasm between its attempts to portray itself as a popular party, and its ultimate subordination to the same class interests.

More than anything else, the Democrats are afraid that any appeal to the broad mass of working people could spark a social movement that would threaten the Democrats own social and political interests. Given the extent of the power grab that the Republican Party is carrying out, it is striking the extent to which all these policies and decisions are being made completely outside of any broader involvement of masses of people.

As the World Socialist Web Site has continually warned, there does not exist within the ruling elite any broad constituency committed to the defense of democratic rights. Again and again the same pattern of Republican assault and Democratic capitulation repeats itself. The central lesson to be drawn from this pattern is the impossibility of defending democratic rights on the basis of the capitalist system and its political representatives.