By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
With the casualty rate in Iraq growing by the day and President George Bush's worldwide "war on terrorism" showing no signs of abating, a stretched United States military is turning increasingly to Latinos - including tens of thousands of non-citizen immigrants - to do the fighting and dying on its behalf.
Senior Pentagon officials have identified Latinos as by far the most promising ethnic group for recruitment, because their numbers are growing rapidly in the US and they include a plentiful supply of low-income men of military age with few other job or educational prospects.
Recruitment efforts have also extended to non-citizens, who have been told by the Bush administration that they can apply for citizenship the day they join up, rather than waiting the standard five years after receiving their green card. More than 37,000 non-citizens, almost all Latino, are currently enlisted. Recruiters have even crossed the border into Mexico - to the fury of the Mexican authorities - to look for school-leavers who may have US residency papers.
The aim, according to Pentagon officials, is to boost the Latino numbers in the military from roughly 10 per cent to as much as 22 per cent. That was the figure cited recently by John McLaurin, a deputy assistant secretary of the army, as the size of the "Hispanic ... recruiting market", and it has also been bandied about in the pages of the Army Times.
"According to descriptions given to Congress, available at the Web site and provided by the two senators, traders who register would deposit money into an account similar to a stock account and win or lose money based on predicting events.
"For instance," Mr. Wyden said, "you may think early on that Prime Minister X is going to be assassinated. So you buy the futures contracts for 5 cents each. As more people begin to think the person's going to be assassinated, the cost of the contract could go up, to 50 cents.
"The payoff if he's assassinated is $1 per future. So if it comes to pass, and those who bought at 5 cents make 95 cents. Those who bought at 50 cents make 50 cents."
The senators also suggested that terrorists could participate because the traders' identities will be unknown.
From Democracy Now
New York Times reporter Chris Hedges was booed off the stage and had his microphone cut twice as he delivered a graduation speech on war and empire at Rockford College in Illinois.
“As I looked out on the crowd, I was witnessing things I had witnessed in the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina or in squares in Belgrade… it breaks my heart when I see it in my country.”
“Speaker Disrupts RC Graduation” – this is the headline in the Rockford Register Star in Illinois.
The article describes how a commencement speaker was booed of the stage for making an antiwar speech at the Rockford College graduation on Saturday. The paper reports that two days later, graduates and family members are “still reeling.” They had envisioned a “go out and make your mark send-off.”
The speaker wasn’t an antiwar student. It wasn’t an antiwar faculty member. It was New York Times reporter and veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges. Hedges reported from war-torn countries for fifteen years. Hedges spent the last year covering Al Qaida cells in Europe and North Africa. He was a member of the New York Times team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism.
In his new book War is a Force that Gives us Meaning, Hedges writes: “War and conflict have marked most of my adult life. I began covering insurgencies in El Salvador, where I spent five years, then went on to Guatemala and Nicaragua and Colombia, through the first intifada in the West Bank and Gaza, the civil war in the Sudan and Yemen, the uprisings in Algeria and the Punjab, the fall of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the Gulf War, the Kurdish rebellion in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, the war in Bosnia, and finally to Kosovo. I have been in ambushes on desolate stretches of road in Central America, shot at in the marshes of southern Iraq, imprisoned in the Sudan, beaten by Saudi military police, deported from Libya and Iran, captured and held for a week by Iraqi Republican Guard, strafed by Russian Migs-2IS in Bosnia, fired upon by Serb snipers, and shelled for days in Sarajevo.”
But this didn’t stop Rockford College officials from pulling the plug on his microphone three minutes after he began to speak. The college president told Hedges to wrap it up. He resumed his speech as to the sound of boos and foghorns. Some graduates and audience members turned their backs to Hedges. Others rushed up the aisle to protest the remarks; one student tossed his cap and gown to the stage before leaving.
Rockford College’s most prominent alum is Jane Addams, a pacifist who was booed off the Carnegie Hall stage for opposing US intervention in World War I. Addams was the founder of Hull House, a non-profit social service agency, the first president the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a Nobel Peace Prize Winner.
[Posting this mostly because of the picture, which alludes to the Iraqi playing cards that were distributed to the soldiers. It's also a pretty bizarre story.]
Has anyone seen these men? Representative Dan Branch, Republican of Dallas, with playing cards featuring Texas House Democratic members.
AUSTIN, Tex., May 13 — A battle over redistricting virtually shut down the work of the Texas Legislature for a second day today and turned into a Keystone Kops affair.
Although a few Democrats showed up for work, more than 50 of them remained across the border, out of the reach of Texas troopers, who had been ordered to round them up on Monday.
The trouble began when Republicans, encouraged by the United States House majority leader, Tom DeLay, a Texan, pressed legislation on Monday to redraw the Congressional map in their favor. Miffed by what they see as meddling from Washington, nearly all the Democrats did not show up for work. And that meant there was no quorum.
Speaker Tom Craddick, a Republican, locked the House chamber to prevent further flight.
Angry Republicans asked the state government to help sniff out their colleagues. The state's Department of Public Safety put out an alert asking for the public's assistance. A toll free number was set up. The Texas Rangers gave chase.
On Monday night, the delinquent Democrats were found at a Denny's restaurant in Ardmore, Okla., 30 miles north of the Texas border. They were holed up at a nearby Holiday Inn, where they said they were discussing strategy.
BAGHDAD -- The group directing all known U.S. search efforts for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is winding down operations without finding proof that President Saddam Hussein kept clandestine stocks of outlawed arms, according to participants.
The 75th Exploitation Task Force, as the group is formally known, has been described from the start as the principal arm of the U.S. plan to discover and display forbidden Iraqi weapons. The group's departure, expected next month, marks a milestone in frustration for a major declared objective of the war.
Leaders of Task Force 75's diverse staff -- biologists, chemists, arms treaty enforcers, nuclear operators, computer and document experts, and special forces troops -- arrived with high hopes of early success. They said they expected to find what Secretary of State Colin L. Powell described at the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5 -- hundreds of tons of biological and chemical agents, missiles and rockets to deliver the agents, and evidence of an ongoing program to build a nuclear bomb.
Fifty years after Senator Joseph McCarthy began a communist witch hunt, the Senate has released transcripts of the secret hearings he held to try to intimidate witnesses before they appeared in public.
You can download .pdfs of the files from this page on the website of the United States Congress.
I confess to having gotten these links from Steve Perry's bushwarsblog.com, which contains more good links and a memorable Ashcroft joke.
A data-gathering company that was embroiled in the Florida 2000 election fiasco is being paid millions of dollars by the Bush administration to collect detailed personal information on the populations of foreign countries, enraging several governments who say the records may have been illegally obtained.
US government purchasing documents show that the company, ChoicePoint, received at least $11m (£6.86m) from the Department of Justice last year to supply data - mainly on Latin Americans - that included names and addresses, occupations, dates of birth, passport numbers and "physical description". Even tax records and blood groups are reportedly included.
Nicaraguan police have raided two offices suspected of providing the information. The revelations threaten to shatter public trust in electoral institutions, especially in Mexico, where the government has begun an investigation.
The controversy is not the first to engulf ChoicePoint. The company's subsidiary, Database Technologies, was responsible for bungling an overhaul of Florida's voter registration records, with the result that thousands of people, disproportionately black, were disenfranchised in the 2000 election. Had they been able to vote, they might have swung the state, and thus the presidency, for Al Gore, who lost in Florida by a few hundred votes.
By Neil Mackay
The Bush administration has admitted that Saddam Hussein probably had no weapons of mass destruction.
Senior officials in the Bush administration have admitted that they would be 'amazed' if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were found in Iraq.
According to administration sources, Saddam shut down and destroyed large parts of his WMD programmes before the invasion of Iraq.
Ironically, the claims came as US President George Bush yesterday repeatedly justified the war as necessary to remove Iraq's chemical and biological arms which posed a direct threat to America.
Bush claimed: 'Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We will find them.'
The comments from within the administration will add further weight to attacks on the Blair government by Labour backbenchers that there is no 'smoking gun' and that the war against Iraq -- which centred on claims that Saddam was a risk to Britain, America and the Middle East because of unconventional weapons -- was unjustified.
The senior US official added that America never expected to find a huge arsenal, arguing that the administration was more concerned about the ability of Saddam's scientists -- which he labelled the 'nuclear mujahidin' -- to develop WMDs when the crisis passed.Sunday Herald.
The U.S. government this week launched its Arabic language satellite TV news station for mostly Muslim Iraq. It is being produced in a studio – Grace Digital Media – controlled by fundamentalist Christians who are rabidly pro-Israel. That's grace as in "by the grace of God."
Grace Digital Media is controlled by a fundamentalist Christian millionaire, Cheryl Reagan, who last year wrested control of Federal News Service, a transcription news service, from its former owner, Cortes Randell. Randell says he met Reagan at a prayer meeting, brought her in as an investor in Federal News Service, and then she forced him out of his own company.
Grace Digital Media and Federal News Service are housed in a downtown Washington, D.C. office building, along with Grace News Network. When you call the number for Grace News Network, you get a person answering "Grace Digital Media/Federal News Service." According to its web site, Grace News Network is "dedicated to transmitting the evidence of God's presence in the world today."
[This is not--I repeat not--from the Onion or any other source of satirical news. Events are rapidly outstripping satire and soon we will be making fun of ourselves in reverse...]
"We ought to be beating our chests every day. We ought to look in a mirror and get proud and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say: 'Damn, we're Americans!'," Jay Garner told reporters, saying that Iraq's oil fields and other infrastructure survived the war almost intact.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The retired general overseeing Iraq's postwar reconstruction said on Wednesday that his fellow Americans should beat their chests with pride at having toppled Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) without destroying the country's assets.
"We ought to be beating our chests every day. We ought to look in a mirror and get proud and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say: 'Damn, we're Americans!'," Jay Garner told reporters, saying that Iraq's oil fields and other infrastructure survived the war almost intact.
Garner, who was speaking after talks with visiting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad, took the media to task for emphasizing anti-American demonstrations and dissent in the wake of the three-week U.S. led war that deposed Saddam.
His comments came after U.S. troops opened fire for the second time this week on an angry crowd protesting against the U.S. presence in the town of Falluja, west of Baghdad. Iraqi hospital officials said two men were killed in the latest incident. At least 13 died in shooting on Monday, they said.
Garner said the war was fought in a way that prevented Saddam's forces from setting fire to its oilfields and had largely preserved Iraq's infrastructure intact:
"I was planning on the oilfields being torched, a huge humanitarian crisis and a monumental reconstruction task, " he said.
"There is no humanitarian crisis ... and there's not much infrastructure problem here, other than getting the electrical grid structure back together."
The situation in Baghdad was improving every day and power had been restored to about half of the city, he said.
The U.S. military is increasing its presence in the Iraqi capital to boost security and help in wiping out pockets of resistance from diehard Saddam supporters.
Revealed: How the road to war was paved with lies
Intelligence agencies accuse Bush and Blair of distorting and fabricating evidence in rush to war
By Raymond Whitaker
The case for invading Iraq to remove its weapons of mass destruction was based on selective use of intelligence, exaggeration, use of sources known to be discredited and outright fabrication, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
The case for invading Iraq to remove its weapons of mass destruction was based on selective use of intelligence, exaggeration, use of sources known to be discredited and outright fabrication, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
A high-level UK source said last night that intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic were furious that briefings they gave political leaders were distorted in the rush to war with Iraq. "They ignored intelligence assessments which said Iraq was not a threat," the source said. Quoting an editorial in a Middle East newspaper which said, "Washington has to prove its case. If it does not, the world will for ever believe that it paved the road to war with lies", he added: "You can draw your own conclusions."
UN inspectors who left Iraq just before the war started were searching for four categories of weapons: nuclear, chemical, biological and missiles capable of flying beyond a range of 93 miles. They found ample evidence that Iraq was not co-operating, but none to support British and American assertions that Saddam Hussein's regime posed an imminent threat to the world.
On nuclear weapons, the British Government claimed that the former regime sought uranium feed material from the government of Niger in west Africa. This was based on letters later described by the International Atomic Energy Agency as crude forgeries.
On chemical weapons, a CIA report on the likelihood that Saddam would use weapons of mass destruction was partially declassified. The parts released were those which made it appear that the danger was high; only after pressure from Senator Bob Graham, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was the whole report declassified, including the conclusion that the chances of Iraq using chemical weapons were "very low" for the "foreseeable future".
On biological weapons, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, told the UN Security Council in February that the former regime had up to 18 mobile laboratories. He attributed the information to "defectors" from Iraq, without saying that their claims – including one of a "secret biological laboratory beneath the Saddam Hussein hospital in central Baghdad" – had repeatedly been disproved by UN weapons inspectors.
On missiles, Iraq accepted UN demands to destroy its al-Samoud weapons, despite disputing claims that they exceeded the permitted range. No banned Scud missiles were found before or since, but last week the Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, suggested Scuds had been fired during the war. There is no proof any were in fact Scuds.
Some American officials have all but conceded that the weapons of mass destruction campaign was simply a means to an end – a "global show of American power and democracy", as ABC News in the US put it. "We were not lying," it was told by one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." American and British teams claim they are scouring Iraq in search of definitive evidence but none has so far been found, even though the sites considered most promising have been searched, and senior figures such as Tariq Aziz, the former Deputy Prime Minister, intelligence chiefs and the man believed to be in charge of Iraq's chemical weapons programme are in custody.
Robin Cook, who as Foreign Secretary would have received high-level security briefings, said last week that "it was difficult to believe that Saddam had the capacity to hit us". Mr Cook resigned from the Government on the eve of war, but was still in the Cabinet as Leader of the House when it released highly contentious dossiers to bolster its case.
One report released last autumn by Tony Blair said that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes, but last week Mr Hoon said that such weapons might have escaped detection because they had been dismantled and buried. A later Downing Street "intelligence" dossier was shown to have been largely plagiarised from three articles in academic publications. "You cannot just cherry-pick evidence that suits your case and ignore the rest. It is a cardinal rule of intelligence," said one aggrieved officer. "Yet that is what the PM is doing." Another said: "What we have is a few strands of highly circumstantial evidence, and to justify an attack on Iraq it is being presented as a cast-iron case. That really is not good enough."
Glen Rangwala, the Cambridge University analyst who first pointed out Downing Street's plagiarism, said ministers had claimed before the war to have information which could not be disclosed because agents in Iraq would be endangered. "That doesn't apply any more, but they haven't come up with the evidence," he said. "They lack credibility."
Mr Rangwala said much of the information on WMDs had come from Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC), which received Pentagon money for intelligence-gathering. "The INC saw the demand, and provided what was needed," he said. "The implication is that they polluted the whole US intelligence effort."
Facing calls for proof of their allegations, senior members of both the US and British governments are suggesting that so-called WMDs were destroyed after the departure of UN inspectors on the eve of war – a possibility raised by President George Bush for the first time on Thursday.
This in itself, however, appears to be an example of what the chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix called "shaky intelligence". An Iraqi scientist, writing under a pseudonym, said in a note slipped to a driver in a US convoy that he had proof information was kept from the inspectors, and that Iraqi officials had destroyed chemical weapons just before the war.
Other explanations for the failure to find WMDs include the possibility that they might have been smuggled to Syria, or so well hidden that they could take months, even years, to find. But last week it emerged that two of four American mobile teams in Iraq had been switched from looking for WMDs to other tasks, though three new teams from less specialised units were said to have been assigned to the quest for "unconventional weapons" – the less emotive term which is now preferred.
Mr Powell and Mr Bush both repeated last week that Iraq had WMDs. But one official said privately that "in the end, history and the American people will judge the US not by whether its officials found canisters of poison gas or vials of some biological agent [but] by whether this war marked the beginning of the end for the terrorists who hate America".
Time to send Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood overseas for a real battle of the bands...
PESHAWAR, April 22 (OneWorld) - In Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), the U.S-led war on Iraq has fuelled the growth of a thriving music industry, based on rabble-rousing, anti-American audio cassettes, which analysts fear will give a fillip to Islamism.
As during the 1991 U.S. attack on Iraq, and ten years later in Afghanistan, this time too poets in the local Pashto language, are working overtime to arouse anti-Western sentiments among the province's orthodox Pashtoon tribes.
PESHAWAR, April 22 (OneWorld) - In Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), the U.S-led war on Iraq has fuelled the growth of a thriving music industry, based on rabble-rousing, anti-American audio cassettes, which analysts fear will give a fillip to Islamism.
As during the 1991 U.S. attack on Iraq, and ten years later in Afghanistan, this time too poets in the local Pashto language, are working overtime to arouse anti-Western sentiments among the province's orthodox Pashtoon tribes.
Not that the locals need much incitement. Just to get the measure of the province's already strong anti-American sentiment, two years ago thousands of volunteers went to bordering Afghanistan to fight against U.S troops alongside the Taliban.
As most people in far flung areas of this Islamist province lack access to sources of entertainment, audio cassettes churned out by a host of local musicians and poets are effortlessly filling the void.
All these songs contain a common thread - they express solidarity with Iraqis and equate America with Satan. As one song goes, "A devil has emerged from his filthy den and has endangered humanity's peace. Alas, there is no one to stop his cruelties."
Clearly, music companies seem to have struck the right chord. For the recently produced cassettes are moving off the shelves faster than companies can replace them. "We sold audio cassettes on Iraq in the thousands," says the owner of Peshawar's Muhammad Wali Music Center, Haji Mubarak Jan.
Jan's company specialises in the production of traditional tribal Pashto music, but the Iraq war, and the 2001 Afghanistan war earlier, spawned a new genre dubbed anti-U.S. music.
The fever has spread to Pashtoons in other cities as well. "My brother owns a music center in Karachi which also sold thousands of such cassettes to Pashtoons working there," says Jan.
Despite a ban imposed in NWFP by the ruling Islamist alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), on playing music in public transport and places, many drivers listen to cassettes about Iraq in their vehicles.
Passengers aren't complaining. "People hate America for its attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, so they like it when we play cassettes containing anti-American sentiments," says Ahmad Gul, a coach driver in Peshawar, the capital of NWFP.
Famous tribal singers weave anti-American songs with traditional Pashto music to vent their emotions. And this time, it's not just America that is their target. Arab leaders too are the target of their ire.
As one lyric goes, "O King Fahd, you allowed the infidels to enter, now they will pollute the Holy Land of the Muslims." The reference clearly is to the Saudis who have allowed thousands of U.S troops to be stationed in their country.
"These cassettes are in great demand, and now we plan to produce a number of other volumes of such songs," says Jan.
Most of the music produced is revolutionary in spirit, accompanied by loud and energetic songs, which never fail to arouse the people. They are penned in the common man's language, lucid and down to earth.
Part of their appeal lies in the fact that they stress the immediacy of the threat to Muslims. Take a prime example - "Today Baghdad and Karbala are burning, tomorrow you will be deprived of Mecca. O Muslim, why have you let your sword rust?"
Though they have little in common, Saddam Hussain and Osama Bin Laden are regular favorites among songwriters. So some of these poems contain panegyrics in their honor.
As one songwriter says, "People are not concerned with the political and religious status of these two, they just regard them as heroes of Islam."
In one particular album, displaying Saddam Hussein praying on the cover even as enemy bombers circle menacingly overhead, the lyrics run, "Brave Saddam Hussein is standing before the enemy. He has destroyed a large number of their aircraft."
Of course, in this part of the world one cannot escape a dose of Islamic fundamentalism. Some cassettes are having a good run despite the fact that they contain lyrics unaccompanied by any music.
They have been produced by the local Taliban (students of religious seminaries) who consider music un-Islamic.
Jan says most of the patrons of hate-American cassettes spring from the poor class or tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
One of the biggest markets for these cassettes are Afghan refugees living in camps in NWFP as well as those returning to Afghanistan.
As poet Muhammad Wali, puts it, "People feel emotionally satisfied when they listen to songs condemning the U.S. and U.K. They get inspiration, hope and strength from them. So we have no other option but to represent their feelings in our productions."
The singers arouse people's emotions by announcing, "Flames have engulfed Baghdad, and the sacred soil of Karbala is burning. The soil of holy prophets is being bombed but I can't do anything. I am helpless and brutalized at the hands of the devil."
Pointing towards the real motive of the American attack on Iraq, they say, "President Bush is the oil thief who painted Iraq with blood."
Says singer Hidayat Shah, whose new album hit the market recently, "I write poetry to awaken the Muslims from their deep slumber. During the U.S. attack on Iraq in 1991 we released several albums which encouraged us to produce more this time," he says.
Shah says his object is not pecuniary. "It is not my business. I consider it a jehad and a religious obligation," he maintains.
Shah's zeal is unwavering. "I have sung and written more than 1,000 revolutionary poems since the American invasion of Iraq last time," he claims.
Cassettes filled with hate speeches have also proliferated. Speeches by religious leaders condemning America and its allies are fast gaining popularity. The most popular of these is religious scholar Maulana Muhammad Amir, popularly known as Maulana Bijli Ghar for his firebrand speeches.
Political analysts say these cassettes cannot be taken lightly. They believe they will impact Pashtoons for a long time to come.
Renowned political analyst and lawyer Barrister Baacha says the emotional nature of the lyrics will make people - especially Afghans - more pro-Taliban and pro-Osama.
"The Afghans consider the attack on Iraq the start of another crusade. They will become prey to pro-Taliban elements, thus blocking the way for reformation of the orthodox Pashtoon society," Baacha comments.
He says the American attack on Afghanistan acted as a catalyst to bring together religious parties to form the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). The alliance won the October general elections in the Pashtoon-dominated NWFP and Balochistan provinces.
"Such poetry will certainly help the MMA strengthen its roots in Pashtoon society," he observes.
"Britain's battles with the Pashtoons before 1947 in pre-partition India are still alive in Pashto folk poetry," says Baacha, adding that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would also be remembered for generations.
He predicts, "Just as Ayatullah Khomeini's messages on audio cassettes paved the way for an Islamic revolution in Iran, the revolutionary poems and lyrics being disseminated today would inculcate a revolutionary sentiment among the Pashtoons."
by John Chuckman
My subject is Franklin Graham, one of President Bush's very-public religious confidants. Franklin's father, Billy, served President Nixon in a similar capacity. Billy's efforts were crowned with a kind of earthly immortality: he's on those White House tapes in the National Archives sharing anti-Semitic remarks with Nixon and never flinching or clearing his throat over the idea of using atomic bombs in Vietnam.
Franklin has pretty well replaced his ailing father in leading the huge Billy Graham organization. You may wonder about religious ministries being handed down like fifteenth-century dukedoms, but the practice is fairly common in America, and several of the nation's big ministries - the type of outfits that might be characterized as Las Vegas Showstoppers for Jesus - have been handed down in this fashion. This happens in American politics, too. After all, a hand-me-down evangelist serves a hand-me-down President who ran against (and lost the popular vote to) a hand-me-down politician from Tennessee.
It's not that Americans accept aristocracy, but in a nation of insanely-frenzied consumers, an established brand name always still has some juice worth squeezing.
The youthful Franklin seems to have been a bit of a trial for his mom and dad, reportedly exhibiting more interest in sowing oats than saving souls. He had an obsession with guns one could interpret as slightly at odds with the message of the Prince of Peace. He may just have been reflecting the quaint traditions of America's Appalachian subculture - his home is the mountains of North Carolina - when he once cut down a tree by blasting away at it with an automatic weapon (I did not make this up). Apparently, he used to be fond of giving automatic pistols as gifts.
Well, at some point, I guess the lad realized he was burning out and going nowhere, and automatic weapons are expensive when you like to give the very best, so Franklin had something like the President's road-to-Damascus experience. I doubt he recalled Henry the Fourth's saying Paris was worth a mass (Henry of Navarre became King of France by adopting Catholicism). It would have weighed heavily that dad's ready-made, super-slick organization offered a handsome, steady income, all expenses paid, especially if Franklin had come to recognize that his next-best career option might be itinerant bingo caller.
Redemption is one of America's great ongoing themes. It's the spiritual extension of all the plastic surgery, injections, drugs, youth-inducing potions, diets, and tales of lives changed by lotteries or get-rich-quick schemes, but it does have to be the right kind of redemption. None of your consolations of philosophy, peace of the Buddha, wisdom of the Great Spirit, or following the Prophet will do. Lives lived decently and peacefully from beginning to end are not admired because they don't make juicy entertainment.
The approved American redemption-story template includes years of inflicting hell on others, often by abusing whisky or drugs, finally being overcome by frightful (drug-induced or otherwise) visions of going to hell yourself, and then spending the rest of your life annoying every person who crosses your path with the opinion that he or she does not know the truth. About 85% of the nation's country-and Western singers and about 95% of its evangelists spend their declining years sharing such tales in magazines, tapes, interviews, and sermons. It's a major industry.
This is all by way of background to Franklin's words about his new mission. I suppose it's possible Franklin thinks Nazareth is a trailer park somewhere in North Carolina or Texas which would account for his thinking that the people in the Middle East haven't heard about Jesus, but, in any event, Franklin is now going to tell them about Jesus, at least his gun-totting Appalachian version. Well, almost, but Franklin has probably been advised that proselytizing for conversion from Judaism is against the law in modern Israel. With a Bush-appointed Proconsul, that kind of law shouldn't get in the way of bringing the good word to Iraqis, although he'll be a bit late to save the souls of those smashed and broken by American bombs.
Franklin's organization, Samaritan's Purse, claims that it intends only to bring relief services and not evangelism to Iraq, but how valid can this claim be? The Billy Graham organization for decades has worked only to convert people to its narrow notion of Christianity. It has been criticized even by other Christians for the nature of its work - cranking out converts like sausages in a vast Midwestern meat-packing plant. Perhaps when Franklin created his offshoot relief organization, Samaritan's Purse, it was in part a response to this kind of criticism.
Franklin's own words on Islam over the last year hardly resemble a second Albert Schweitzer yearning to help fellow beings. His tone is militaristic and has the same nasty, parochial feel as the President's "us and them." One looks in vain for any generosity of spirit associated with the words of Jesus.
"We're not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion."
Franklin here makes no distinction between the nineteen individuals responsible for 9/11 and the world's hundreds of millions of Muslims, yet he seems never to have made the same kind of connections between criminals of other religious backgrounds and the religions themselves. Did the IRA's outrages elicit such comments about Catholicism?
"the persecution or elimination of non-Muslims has been a cornerstone of Islam conquests and rule for centuries."
I suppose it would be foolish to expect any sensible perspective on history from a man of Franklin's limited learning. The work of people calling themselves Christians in countless wars, religious persecutions, and exterminations just since the Renaissance dwarfs the volume of spilled blood in all the rest of human history. The Holocaust, the African slave trade, and the extermination of many aboriginal peoples were the work of people calling themselves Christians.
"I believe it is my responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching."
Why should it be his responsibility to speak against these particular deeds and no others? Franklin certainly is not known as an advocate for the world's abused and downtrodden. One does not find him shouldering this responsibility over other terrible deeds, a number of them the dirty work of his own government. No, his time goes to "crusades," the word used for decades by the Billy Graham organization to describe its assembly-line salvation gatherings.
The denomination with which the Graham family generally has been associated, the Southern Baptists, has an ugly history in the United States. Extreme segregationists founded this denomination to keep blacks out of their churches and a century later, through the Civil Rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, Southern Baptists were better known for opposing Dr. King's work than supporting it. The denomination's official view on a woman's role in marriage is among the most parochial in the United States. Incidentally, the Southern Baptists' Mission Board also aims at providing aid in Iraq. Jerry Vines, former president of the Southern Baptists, described the Prophet Muhammad not very long ago as a "demon-possessed pedophile."
"There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism."
These are the words of a man teaching suspicion and fear rather than understanding and brotherhood. One has to ask what such comments have to do with evangelism or Christianity, but American fundamentalists often ignore Jesus' clear teaching on the matter and put their visions of government and secular affairs at the heart of sermons and pronouncements. This suggests that politics, and a particularly nasty kind of politics, is at least as much a driving force here as religion.
Franklin recently gave a Good Friday service at the Pentagon. Reading that, I had the absurd image of an early Christian preacher praying for Rome's Tenth Legion. True, there were probably no Christian legionaries at the time, but the fact remains that the purpose of the Pentagon is exactly the same as that of the legions, professional killing for the state and its policies, a purpose totally incompatible with any words of Jesus.
But of course, the more apt comparison would be a few centuries later when the legions did their bloody work for a so-called Christian empire.
John Chuckman can be reached at: email@example.com
By Evelyn Nieves
ARCATA, Calif. -- This North Coast city may look sweet -- old, low-to-the-ground buildings, town square with a bronze statue of William McKinley, ambling pickup trucks -- but it acts like a radical.
Arcata was one of the first cities to pass resolutions against global warming and a unilateral war in Iraq. Last month, Arcata joined the rising chorus of municipalities to pass a resolution urging local law enforcement officials and others contacted by federal officials to refuse requests under the Patriot Act that they believe violate an individual's civil rights under the Constitution. Then, the city went a step further. This little city (pop.: 16,000) has become the first in the nation to pass an ordinance that outlaws voluntary compliance with the Patriot Act.
"I call this a nonviolent, preemptive attack," said David Meserve, the freshman City Council member who drafted the ordinance with the help of the Arcata city attorney, city manager and police chief.
The Arcata ordinance may be the first, but it may not be the last. Across the country, citizens have been forming Bill of Rights defense committees to fight what they consider the most egregious curbs on liberties contained in the Patriot Act. The 342-page act, passed by Congress one month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with little input from a public still in shock, has been most publicly criticized by librarians and bookstore owners for the provisions that force them to secretly hand over information about a patron's reading and Internet habits. But citizens groups are becoming increasingly organized and forceful in rebuking the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act for giving the federal government too much power, especially since a draft of the Justice Department's proposed sequel to the Patriot Act (dubbed Patriot II) was publicly leaked in January.
Both the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act, which created the Cabinet-level department, follow the Constitution, says Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo. Federal law trumps local law in any case, which would mean Arcata would be in for a fight -- a fight it wants -- if the feds did make a Patriot Act request. LaRae Quy, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco FBI office, whose jurisdiction includes Arcata, said that the agency has no plans to use the Patriot Act in Arcata any time soon, but added that people misunderstood it. Although some people feel their privacy rights are being infringed upon, she said, the agency still has to show "probable cause for any actions we take."
But to date, 89 cities have passed resolutions condemning the Patriot Act, with at least a dozen more in the works and a statewide resolution against the act close to being passed in Hawaii.
"We want the local police to do what they were meant to do -- protect their citizens," said Nancy Talanian, co-director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee in Florence, Mass., which gives advice to citizens groups on how to draft their own resolution.
Although cities across the country passed antiwar resolutions before the attack on Iraq with little notice from the administration, Talanian said that the anti-Patriot Act resolutions are "not quite as symbolic" as those that passed against the war.
"Normally, the president and Congress don't pay that much attention when it comes to waging war," she said. "But in the case of the Patriot Act, the federal government can't really tell municipalities that you have to do the work that the INS or the FBI wants you to do. The city can say, 'No, I'm sorry. We hire our police to protect our citizens and we don't want our citizens pulled aside and thrown in jail without probable cause.' "
In Hawaii, home to many Japanese Americans who vividly recall the Japanese internments during World War II, Democratic state Rep. Roy Takumi introduced a resolution on the Patriot Act as a way to raise debate, he said. Although the resolution may be seen as symbolic, he said, "states have every right to consider the concerns of the federal government and voice our opinions. If a number of states begin to pass similar resolutions, then it raises the bar for Congress, making them realize our concerns. I hope to see what we've done here plays a role in mobilizing people to take action."
Lawmakers and lobbyists on both ends of the political spectrum are beginning to sound more alarms about the antiterrorism act, which gave the government unprecedented powers to spy on citizens. Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced a bill, the "Freedom to Read Protection Act" (H.R. 1157), that would restore the privacy protections for library book borrowers and bookstore purchases. The bill has 73 co-sponsors.
Earlier this month, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the ranking Democrat, asked the Justice Department for more information on the government's use of the Patriot Act to track terrorists, questioning what "tangible things" the government can subpoena in investigations of U.S. citizens.
Sensenbrenner and Conyers sent an 18-page letter to Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, challenging the department's increased use of "national security letters" requiring businesses to hand over electronic records on finances, telephone calls, e-mails and other personal data.
They questioned the guidelines under which investigators can subpoena private books, records, papers, documents and other items; asked whether the investigations targeted only people identified as agents of a foreign power; and asked the attorney general to "identify the specific authority relied on for issuing these letters."
The Justice Department said it is working on the request.
But citizens groups, worried about a timid Congress, are not waiting for their elected officials to act before launching a campaign against the proposed sequel to the Patriot Act, the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act." The Idaho Green Party has begun the Paul Revere Project to stop Patriot Act II before it can be passed.
The proposed addendum to the Patriot Act, which the Justice Department has insisted is only a draft of ideas, would enlarge many of the controversial provisions in the first Patriot Act. It would give the government authority to wiretap an individual and collect a person's DNA without court orders, detain people in secret and revoke citizenship, among other powers.
The proposed sequel to the act has galvanized communities in a bottom-up, grass-roots way, Talanian said. "Before a community votes on resolutions, they engage in forums and petitioning to show the town council they want this. After, communities band together and do things like visit the offices of their entire congressional delegations and say our communities have these concerns and now we are asking you to help."
In Arcata, where forums drew little debate, the new law is an unqualified hit. It passed by a vote of 4 to 1, but has what looks like near-unanimous approval from residents.
Meserve, a weather-worn builder and contractor in his fifties who wears a ponytail and flannel shirts, hasn't felt so popular since he won his council seat running on the platform, "The Federal Government Has Gone Stark, Raving Mad."
"The ordinance went through so easily that we were surprised," he said. "We started going up to people asking what they thought. They thought, 'great.' It's our citywide form of nonviolent disobedience."
The fine for breaking the new law, which goes into effect May 2, is $57. It applies only to the top nine managers of the city, telling them they have to refer any Patriot Act request to the City Council.
The US military has revealed it is holding juveniles at its high-security prison for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, known as Camp Xray.
The commander of the joint task force at Guantanamo, Major General Geoffrey Miller, says more than one child under the age of 16 is at the detention centre.
However, Maj Gen Miller has revealed little more about their welfare.
Maj Gen Miller says the US is holding "juvenile enemy combatants" at the centre, confirming rumours of children being held.
He has refused to reveal how many there are, their exact ages or their countries of origin.
He says they are being well cared for and are kept in facilities separate to adult prisoners.
The children are still being interrogated and will continue to be held at Guantanamo.
About 660 prisoners are in the camp.
They have not been tried or convicted of any offence but are being held as part of what the US calls its war on terror.
From the NY Times Obituary:
"If I had to be called something," she wrote in 1991 in her autobiography, "I Put a Spell on You," "it should have been a folk singer because there was more folk and blues than jazz in my playing."
And a set of lyrics to remember and think forward with...
(Everybody knows... goddam)
Alex Comfort, Nina Simone
Oh Daughter, dear Daughter,
take warning from me
and don't you go marching
with the N-A-A-C-P.
For they'll rock you and roll you
and shove you into bed.
And if they steal your nuclear secret
you'll wish you were dead.
Singin too roo la, too roo la, too roo li ay.
Singin too roo la, too roo la, too roo li ay.
Oh Mother, dear Mother,
no, I'm not afraid.
For I'll go on that march
and I'll return a virgin maid.
With a brick in my handbag
and a smile on my face
and barbed wire in my underwear
to shed off disgrace.
One day they were marching.
A young man came by
with a beard on his cheek
and a gleam in his eye.
And before she had time
to remember her brick...
they were holding a sit-down
on a nearby hay rig.
For meeting is pleasure
and parting is pain.
And if I have a great concert
maybe I won't have to sing those folk songs again.
Oh Mother, dear Mother
I'm stiff and I'm sore
from sleeping three nights
on a hard classroom floor.
One day at the briefing
she'd heard a man say,
"Go perfectly limp,
and be carried away."
So when this young man suggested
it was time she was kissed,
she remembered her brief
and did not resist.
Oh Mother, dear Mother,
no need for distress,
for the young man has left me
his name and address.
And if we win
tho' a baby there be,
he won't have to march
like his da-da and me.
Langston Hughes, Nina Simone
Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just who you think I am
You raise my taxes, freeze my wages
And send my son to Vietnam
You give me second class houses
And second class schools
Do you think that alla colored folks
Are just second class fools
Mr. Backlash, I'm gonna leave you
With the backlash blues
When I try to find a job
To earn a little cash
All you got to offer
Is your mean old white backlash
But the world is big
Big and bright and round
And it's full of folks like me
Who are black, yellow, beige and brown
Mr. Backlash, I'm gonna leave you
With the backlash blues
Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just what do you think I got to lose
I'm gonna leave you
With the backlash blues
You're the one will have the blues
Not me, just wait and see
Nina Simone (1963)
The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it
Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
Can't you see it
Can't you feel it
It's all in the air
I can't stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer
Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
This is a show tune
But the show hasn't been written for it, yet
Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day's gonna be my last
Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don't belong here
I don't belong there
I've even stopped believing in prayer
Don't tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I've been there so I know
They keep on saying "Go slow!"
But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
Washing the windows
"do it slow"
Picking the cotton
"do it slow"
You're just plain rotten
"do it slow"
You're too damn lazy
"do it slow"
The thinking's crazy
"do it slow"
Where am I going
What am I doing
I don't know
I don't know
Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
For everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
I made you thought I was kiddin' didn't we
School boy cots
They try to say it's a communist plot
All I want is equality
for my sister my brother my people and me
Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you'd stop calling me Sister Sadie
Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You're all gonna die and die like flies
I don't trust you any more
You keep on saying "Go slow!"
But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Do things gradually
"do it slow"
But bring more tragedy
"do it slow"
Why don't you see it
Why don't you feel it
I don't know
I don't know
You don't have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
Nobody's Fault but Mine (alternate from "Saga of the Good Life and Hard Times")
Ah, nobody's fault but mine
Nobody's fault but mine
If I die and my soul be lost
Nobody's fault but mine
I had a mother who could pray
I said I had a mother who could pray
Nobody's fault but mine
I had a mother who could sing
I had a mother who could sing
If I die and my sould be lost
It's nobody's fault but mine
Nobody's fault but mine.
If I die and my soul be lost now
If I die and my soul be lost now
If I die and my soul be lost now
If I die and my soul be lost
Nobody's fault but mine
(1967) Nina Simone
And now we are one
Let my soul rest in peace
At last it is done
My soul has been released
For thousands of years
My soul has roamed the earth
In search for you
So that someday I could give birth
To know joy, joy, joy, joy
Joy and peace is mine
And now we give thanks
Give thanks for each other
At peace forever
For it is done
One feature of the war in Iraq was the speed and immediacy with which many events were reported by the media. Some of these turned out to be not quite what they seemed, others are still surrounded by confusion. Was this the fog of war, effects-based warfare, propaganda, or error? BBC News Online has created a list of points where discrepancies in reporting remain, such as the following:
Coalition account: On day one of the war, 20 March, military spokesmen for the US and UK announce that "Scud-type" missiles have been fired into Kuwait. This was significant because Iraq was banned from having Scuds or other missiles of a similar range under UN resolutions.
Clarification:Three days later US General Stanley McChrystal reports: "So far there have been no Scuds launched."
In due course, questions will be asked about the clashing interests of the military and the media and the role of war propaganda in the pursuit of a swift victory against Saddam Hussein's regime.
Umm Qasr was "taken" at least nine times before it was...taken. An uprising in Basra evaporated without trace. Chemical Ali may or may not have been found dead. And most extraordinarily today, it transpires that the Saddam torture morgue seized upon by troops as evidence of the regime's horrors may in fact be completely erroneous. The Iraqis said they were victims of the Iran-Iraq war and it looks as if they may be telling the truth.
WASHINGTON -- Ed Vuillamy
The plan envisages the reconstruction of an old pipeline, inactive since the end of the British mandate in Palestine in 1948, when the flow from Iraq's northern oilfields to Palestine was re-directed to Syria.
Now, its resurrection would transform economic power in the region, bringing revenue to the new US-dominated Iraq, cutting out Syria and solving Israel's energy crisis at a stroke.
It would also create an end less and easily accessible source of cheap Iraqi oil for the US guaranteed by reliable allies other than Saudi Arabia - a keystone of US foreign policy for decades and especially since 11 September 2001.
Until 1948, the pipeline ran from the Kurdish-controlled city of Mosul to the Israeli port of Haifa, on its northern Mediterranean coast.
The revival of the pipeline was first discussed openly by the Israeli Minister for National Infrastructures, Joseph Paritzky, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz .
The paper quotes Paritzky as saying that the pipeline would cut Israel's energy bill drastically - probably by more than 25 per cent - since the country is currently largely dependent on expensive imports from Russia.
US intelligence sources confirmed to The Observer that the project has been discussed. One former senior CIA official said: 'It has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving this administration [of President George W. Bush] and the war in Iraq to safeguard Israel's energy supply as well as that of the United States.
'The Haifa pipeline was something that existed, was resurrected as a dream and is now a viable project - albeit with a lot of building to do.'
The editor-in-chief of the Middle East Economic Review , Walid Khadduri, says in the current issue of Jane's Foreign Report that 'there's not a metre of it left, at least in Arab territory'.
To resurrect the pipeline would need the backing of whatever government the US is to put in place in Iraq, and has been discussed - according to Western diplomatic sources - with the US-sponsored Iraqi National Congress and its leader Ahmed Chalabi, the former banker favoured by the Pentagon for a powerful role in the war's aftermath.
Sources at the State Department said that concluding a peace treaty with Israel is to be 'top of the agenda' for a new Iraqi government, and Chalabi is known to have discussed Iraq's recognition of the state of Israel.
The pipeline would also require permission from Jordan. Paritzky's Ministry is believed to have approached officials in Amman on 9 April this year. Sources told Ha'aretz that the talks left Israel 'optimistic'.
James Akins, a former US ambassador to the region and one of America's leading Arabists, said: 'There would be a fee for transit rights through Jordan, just as there would be fees for Israel from those using what would be the Haifa terminal.
'After all, this is a new world order now. This is what things look like particularly if we wipe out Syria. It just goes to show that it is all about oil, for the United States and its ally.'
Akins was ambassador to Saudi Arabia before he was fired after a series of conflicts with then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, father of the vision to pipe oil west from Iraq. In 1975, Kissinger signed what forms the basis for the Haifa project: a Memorandum of Understanding whereby the US would guarantee Israel's oil reserves and energy supply in times of crisis.
Kissinger was also master of the American plan in the mid-Eighties - when Saddam Hussein was a key US ally - to run an oil pipeline from Iraq to Aqaba in Jordan, opposite the Israeli port of Eilat.
The plan was promoted by the now Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the pipeline was to be built by the Bechtel company, which the Bush administration last week awarded a multi-billion dollar contract for the reconstruction of Iraq.
The memorandum has been quietly renewed every five years, with special legislation attached whereby the US stocks a strategic oil reserve for Israel even if it entailed domestic shortages - at a cost of $3 billion (£1.9bn) in 2002 to US taxpayers.
This bill would be slashed by a new pipeline, which would have the added advantage of giving the US reliable access to Gulf oil other than from Saudi Arabia.
Tony Blair is facing the threat of a fresh rebellion from Labour backbenchers who are growing increasingly alarmed that the failure to uncover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq will confirm that the war was illegal.
As a 1,000-strong Anglo-American task force of inspectors prepares to search hundreds of suspicious sites, Labour MPs are demanding an inquiry to establish whether MI6 misled ministers about Iraq's weapons programme.
Backbench Labour MPs who feel they were duped into backing the war on the basis of questionable intelligence want the cross-party Commons intelligence and security committee to carry out an investigation. One well-placed former minister said: "The intelligence committee is raring to challenge the veracity of what the security services told them about Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons. They were told what he had and where it was. There may be a perfectly innocent explanation for all this, but they don't seem to be able to find the stuff."
Britain and the US are so desperate to uncover a 'smoking gun' to justify the war against Iraq that they have drawn up a list of 146 sites to be inspected in Iraq. A team of civilian scientists and military forces, dubbed Usmovic because they are a US-led rival to the UN's Unmovic inspection force, will interview up 5,000 Iraqi scientists.
US forces have begun to interrogate General Amir al-Saadi, the head of Iraq's weapons programme, who surrendered last weekend. But General Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces in the Gulf, attempted to lower expectations when he warned that it may take a year to uncover details of Iraq's arsenal.
Such comments are causing alarm in the Commons. Lindsay Hoyle, the Labour MP for Chorley, who voted in favour of war because of Mr Blair's chilling warnings about Iraq's banned weapons, said: "We were led to believe that the Iraqis could fire them within 45 minutes. If that was the case where have they vanished to? We were told there was hard evidence."
David Hinchliffe, chairman of the Commons health committee, said: "For many of us who talked to ministers there was an implication that more was known. Therefore a lot of people are anxious to establish the truth."
His remarks were echoed by the former defence minister Doug Henderson, who warned that the war would in retrospect be deemed illegal if no banned weapons were found, because the military action was taken under UN resolutions calling for Iraq to disarm.
"If by the turn of the year there is no WMD then the basis on which this was executed was illegal," he said.
MPs are also starting to ask questions about the conduct of the intelligence services. They want to see the evidence that persuaded members of the Commons intelligence committee to back government efforts to win round waverers before the war began. One MP is telling committee members: "You kept saying you wished you could tell us, so now will you tell us?"
Critics suspect that Downing Street may have hyped up the intelligence reports about Iraq's banned weapons. They point to last month's resignation speech by Robin Cook, in which the former foreign secretary said: "Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term."
Such doubts were echoed yesterday by a three-star Iraqi general who told the Guardian in Baghdad that the country had purged itself completely of weapons of mass destruction after the 1991 Gulf war.
The general, who worked in the chemical weapons section of the Iraqi military for more than 30 years and asked not to be identified, insisted that gas masks, anti-contamination suits and atropine injectors had been intended to protect Iraqis rather than for offensive use. "We do not have any kind of forbidden weapons," he said.
Describing the use of chemical weapons by Iraq against Iran in the 1980s as "abnormal", he said the country had possessed weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against its neighbours.
"If I have nerve gas and I know the Americans have a better version, it would be stupid of me to use it against them," he said. "The concept of having this kind of weapon was just to try to protect ourselves against others who had them, like the Israelis and the Iranians."
The doubts about Iraq's WMD programme mean that some Labour MPs will be sceptical even if a 'smoking gun' is uncovered. Mr Hinchliffe said there was a "cynical view" among Labour MPs that the coalition inspectors will doctor the evidence.
Britain wants to reassure critics by appointing an international body on the lines of the Northern Ireland disarmament commission to verify any weapons finds.
But the former cabinet minister Gavin Strang said the coalition should go all the way by allowing UN inspectors back into Iraq. "I do not understand why we have not been able to allow Hans Blix to go back in," he said.
SAN JOSE -- Wired reports that The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency cut off grant money for helping to develop a secure, free operating system (OpenBSD, a cousin of Linux) less than two weeks after top programmer Theo de Raadt made anti-war statements to a major newspaper.
Problems started when the Globe and Mail published a story in which de Raadt was quoted as saying he was "uncomfortable" about the funding source.
"I try to convince myself that our grant means a half of a cruise missile doesn't get built," he said.
Within days, de Raadt received an e-mail from Jonathan Smith, a computer science professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the grant's lead researcher, expressing discomfort over the statements. Shortly after, Smith notified de Raadt of the cancellation.
"A tenured professor was telling me not to exercise my freedom of speech," de Raadt said.
Smith declined to comment on the matter, and DARPA did not return telephone messages Friday. De Raadt's suspicions about the cancellation could not be confirmed.
The $2.3 million grant had funded security improvements to the OpenBSD operating system since 2001 as well as related projects.
OpenBSD, a variation of Unix designed for use on servers, is touted as so secure that its default installation has had only one bug in the past seven years. Thousands of copies of OpenBSD have been downloaded in the past six months.
De Raadt estimates about 85 percent of the DARPA grant has been spent, with about $1 million being used to pay for OpenBSD developers. Much of the work has been handled by a team of 80 unpaid volunteers.
Another $500,000 of the money funded the work of United Kingdom-based researchers on a related project called OpenSSL, which is used to encrypt data. DARPA, which oversees research activities for the Pentagon, is best known for developing the network that evolved into the Internet.
By Andrew Gumbel
Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector, returns to the Security Council this week – not to update the member nations on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but rather to pile pressure on the United States to let the UN back into the post-war reconstruction process.
The 74-year-old Swede, who spoke so even-handedly about Iraqi compliance in the run-up to the US-led invasion, has not so much been shunted aside by the Americans as ritually humiliated. His team of inspectors, whose competence was constantly questioned by an impatient Bush administration, has been replaced lock, stock and barrel by a much larger US team which is showing no inclination even to seek his opinion.
Worse, the Americans have sought to poach several dozen of the UN's brightest inspectors from under his nose. The leader of the US team, called the Iraq Survey Group, is himself a former UN man, Charles Duelfer, who has been sharply critical of Mr Blix's leadership.
But Mr Blix has a trump card up his sleeve. To date, at least, the United States has been deeply embarrassed by its inability to find any significant trace of the Iraqi weapons programmes it went to war over. In other words, when Mr Blix told the world earlier this year that the Iraqis were co-operating with what promised to be a lengthy process, he was almost certainly telling it how it was.
And although Mr Blix probably won't be saying "I told you so" when he addresses the Security Council on Tuesday, he will at least speak with some authority when he urges the military victors in Iraq to let the UN back in and help certify that, post-Saddam, the country is indeed free of biological, chemical and nuclear arms.
"I think the world would like to have a credible report on the absence or eradication of the programme of weapons of mass destruction," he told the BBC last week. "We would be able not only to receive the reports of the Americans and the Brits of what they have found or not found, but we would be able to corroborate a good deal of this."
The United Nations has several ways it can take advantage of the growing controversy over Iraq's illegal weapons programmes – or lack of them. One is simply to reassert the authority of the inspection team and to point out its usefulness as an independent arbiter. The clear implication of Mr Blix's interview was that the US, on its own, cannot report credibly and should not have the right to dictate its terms. As he also said last week: "We're not dogs on a leash."
Another possible strategy stems from the wording of the Security Council resolution on economic sanctions on Iraq. The sanctions can only end, Resolution 687 says, if the UN certifies the country to be free of illegal weapons. Several countries, notably Russia, have suggested this clause could be used as leverage to give the UN a more significant role in post-war Iraq.
The Bush administration is busy looking for ways to end the sanctions without this UN imprimatur. The Iraqi people "have suffered enough", the Deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz, argued – a line that is not without irony, since for years the United States insisted that sanctions were not responsible for Iraqi suffering, Saddam Hussein was.
One senses a certain enjoyment in UN circles as America squirms. Another former weapons inspector, David Albright, said: "They said the UN inspectors were bumbling idiots and can't find anything. Now these guys are looking like bumbling idiots that can't find anything."
The American search teams found nothing on the Iraqis' front-line defences during the assault on Baghdad – a logical place for chemical or biological weapons to be deployed if they existed. They found nothing in the prime locations pinpointed by their own intelligence agencies.
And they have come up empty even after capturing and questioning several of Saddam's top science advisers. The latest of these, a VX gas expert called Emad Husayn Abdullah al-Ani, gave himself up on Friday.
The BBC was the only mainstream news agency that had half a clue about how to harness the power of blogging during the Iraq war. Now, the BBC war reporters are shutting their blog down. Visit the site for their final impressions of what it was like to report on this war.
From reporter Jonathan Marcus:
There were two press operations going on at CentCom headquarters in Doha.
The first was the over-arching American press operation, very much a public relations exercise.
Within that there was a much smaller British press operation, very different in tone but struggling to try to get some real information out because of the tutelage of the Americans over the whole thing.
This was the fascinating thing about this war: you had this absolute avalanche of material from our BBC colleagues in Baghdad and with the actual units in the field.
But in a strange sort of way a lot of it was like looking though a keyhole at a very small piece of the war.
At CentCom we were faced with the problem of deciphering all this information.
People wanted to know: "What does it all mean?", "Is it going wrong?", "Is it not going wrong?", "What does this particular bit of action mean?"
Pulling all that together proved dramatically difficult in this particular campaign, which is precisely what I think the Pentagon wanted.
They were prepared to allow this extraordinary vision of what modern warfare is like at grass-roots level, but I think they were very happy that journalists did have to struggle to put the pieces together.
And we did not even see most of what went on in Iraq; there were no embedded people out in the west, in much of the north, and so on.
Of course the military came away from the war thinking it was a jolly good system. The real test is when the war goes badly.
This war went very well for the coalition, and this highly intrusive press arrangement served them, because it was largely reporting on success - dramatic movement, collapsing Iraqi formations and so on.
If things had gone very differently, perhaps in Whitehall and in the Pentagon they would not have been quite so enamoured with this system.
From Richard Lloyd Parry in al-Nasiriyah
for The Times Online
THE rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, which inspired America during one of the most difficult periods of the war, was not the heroic Hollywood story told by the US military, but a staged operation that terrified patients and victimised the doctors who had struggled to save her life, according to Iraqi witnesses.
Doctors at al-Nasiriyah general hospital said that the airborne assault had met no resistance and was carried out a day after all the Iraqi forces and Baath leadership had fled the city.
Four doctors and two patients, one of whom was paralysed and on an intravenous drip, were bound and handcuffed as American soldiers rampaged through the wards, searching for departed members of the Saddam regime.
An ambulance driver who tried to carry Private Lynch to the American forces close to the city was shot at by US troops the day before their mission. Far from winning hearts and minds, the US operation has angered and hurt doctors who risked their lives treating both Private Lynch and Iraqi victims of the war. “What the Americans say is like the story of Sinbad the Sailor — it’s a myth,” said Harith al-Houssona, who saved Private Lynch’s life after she was brought to the hospital by Iraqi military intelligence.
“They said that there was no medical care in Iraq, and that there was a very strong defence of this hospital. But there was no one here apart from doctors and patients, and there was nobody to fire at them.”
Dr Harith was on duty when Private Lynch was brought to al-Nasiriyah general by Iraqi soldiers a few days after her capture on March 23. She was a member of a 15-member US Army maintenance company convoy that was ambushed after taking a wrong turn near the city.
At the time, she was suffering from a head injury, a broken leg and arm, a bullet wound to her leg, a pulmonary oedema and her breathing was failing. In a hospital inundated with war casualties with few drugs, her condition was stabilised and she regained consciousness.
“She was very frightened when she woke up,” Dr Harith, 24, a junior resident at the hospital, said. “She kept saying: ‘Please don’t hurt me, don’t touch me.’ I told her that she was safe, she was in a hospital and that I was a doctor, and I never hurt a patient.”
Private Lynch’s military guards would allow no other doctor to tend to her and Dr Harith formed a friendship with her. She talked to him about her family, including her arguments about money with her father, and about her boyfriend, a Hispanic soldier named Ruben.
Dr Harith went outside the hospital during the bombing to get supplies of Private Lynch’s favourite drink, orange juice, and struggled to persuade her to eat.
“I told her she needed to eat to recover, and I brought her crackers, but her stomach was upset. She said as a joke: ‘I want to be slim.’
“I see (many) patients, but she was special. She’s a very simple person, a soldier, not well-educated. But she was very, very nice, with a lovely face and blonde hair.”
The Iraqi intelligence officers told the hospital that Private Lynch would soon be transferred to Baghdad, a prospect that terrified her.
After her condition stabilised, they ordered Dr Harith to transfer Jessica to another hospital.
Instead he told the ambulance driver to deliver her to one of the American outposts that had already been established on the ouskirts of the city.
“But when he reached their checkpoint, the Americans fired at him,” he said.
On April 1 the local Baathists fled al-Nasiriyah for Baghdad and arrived at the hospital looking for their prize captive. Dr Harith moved her to another part of the hospital, and other doctors told the soldiers that he was away.
“They said that they thought Jessica had died, and they didn’t know where she was,” he said. In their haste and confusion the soldiers left, leaving behind only a few critically injured soldiers.
The American “rescue” operation came on the night of April 2. The hospital was bombarded and soldiers arrived in helicopters and, according to the hospital doctors, in tanks that pulled up outside the hospital.
Most of the doctors fled to the shelter of the radiology department on the first floor.
“We heard them firing and shouting: ‘Go! Go! Go! Go!’ ” Dr Harith said. One group of soldiers dug up the graves of dead US soldiers outside the hospital, while another interrogated doctors about Ali Hassan al-Majid, the senior Baath party figure known as Chemical Ali, who had never been seen there. A third group looked for Private Lynch.
US soldiers videotaped the rescue, but among the many scenes not shown to the press at US Central Command in Doha was one of four doctors who were handcuffed and interrogated, along with two civilian patients, one of whom was immobile and connected to a drip. “They were doctors, with stethoscopes round their necks,” Dr Harith said.
“Even in war, a doctor should not be treated like that.”
Unluckiest of all was Abdul Razaq, one of the hospital administrators, who took shelter from the bombardment in Private Lynch’s room, believing that he would be safe.
He was seized and taken with the US soldiers on their helicopter to their base, where he was held for three days in an open-air prison camp.
“When he left his skin was the colour of yours,” another doctor, Mahmud, said. “When he came back, he was black.”
Bizarrely, the rescuers cut open a special bed, designed for patients with bed sores, which had been provided for Private Lynch’s use.
“They took samples of sand out of it,” Dr Harith said. “It was the only bed like it that we have, the only one in the governorate.”
Today, the hospital struggles on without adequate supplies of drugs and without running water or mains electricity.
“There are two faces to Americans,” Dr Harith said. “One is freedom and democracy, and giving kids sweets. The other is killing and hating my people. So I am very confused. I feel sad because I will never see Jessica again, and I feel happy because she is happy and has gone back to her life. If I could speak to her I would say: ‘Congratulations!’”
Cable's War Coverage Suggests a New 'Fox Effect' on Television
by Jim Rutenberg
The two commentators were gleeful as they skewered the news media and antiwar protesters in Hollywood.
"They are absolutely committing sedition, or treason," one commentator, Michael Savage, said of the protesters one recent night.
His colleague, Joe Scarborough, responded: "These leftist stooges for anti-American causes are always given a free pass. Isn't it time to make them stand up and be counted for their views?"
The conversation did not take place on A.M. radio, in an Internet chat room or even on the Fox News Channel. Rather, Mr. Savage, a longtime radio talk-show host, and Mr. Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, were speaking during prime time on MSNBC, the cable news network owned by Microsoft and General Electric and overseen by G.E.'s NBC News division.
An open letter from Ellison Horne:
I'm urgently calling for an investigation of the broadcast by CNN and CNN Headline News's reporting of Michael Moore's acceptance speech last month at the Academy Awards.
CNN and CNN Headline News aired a significantly different audio response to Mr. Moore's speech than was orginally broadcasted on ABC.
It seems that someone has manipulated the audio to give the impression there was constant loud "booing" throughout Moore's speech, when in reality, there was only marginal booing often overridden with cheers and applause.
This needs to be fully investigated.
As you may well know it is not easy to demonstrate how the corporate media influences mass opinion, but here we have a clear and shocking example of unethical behavior through manipulation of a historic event.
Let's help the public to better understand corporate media bias by making CNN and CNN Headline News face the REAL story.
Horne and his friend Lisa Rein have built a web page housing digital clips of both ABC's live audio and CNN's rebroadcast, along with a waveform analysis of both clips. Decide for yourself.
From Boing Boing:
"The March 2, 1998 issue of Time ran a piece by George Bush and Brent Scowcroft titled, "Why We Didn't Remove Saddam."
Here's an excerpt from the article:
We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different -- and perhaps barren -- outcome.
NEW MEXICO, USA - On March 17, the day of US President George Bush's
televised announcement of the imminent US military attack on Iraq, Green
Left Weekly writer Bill Nevins was suspended from his teaching job at Rio
Rancho New Mexico public high school. The student Poetry Slam Team/Write
Club, which Nevins organises and sponsors, was also barred from performing
their outspoken words in public.
The suspensions took place after an anti-war poem written by a Rio Rancho
New Mexico poetry team member read out a poem over the in-school closed
circuit TV system. Following the reading, the student's parent (also a
teacher at the school) was ordered by an assistant principal to go home and
search the student's room for a print copy of the poem. The parent declined
to do so. All members of the poetry team were individually interrogated by
the school administration. The charge against Nevins is that he permitted
students to perform at public poetry readings without approved "field trip"
forms being on file.
Nevins is fighting the suspension with the strong support of the New Mexico
teachers' union. The Slam Team/Write Club has achieved local fame for the
courageous way that multicultural youth from the school and the community
had put their words of anger and protest into fine-crafted poetry. They have
delivered these bursts of truth on local television, in print and at
frequent poetry open mikes throughout central New Mexico.
The team was planning to appear at the Taos State Wide Youth Poetry Slam on
March 21 but was told by the Rio Rancho High School administration on March
17 that they may be barred from going there by the school. Several students
vowed to go to Taos anyway and to speak out there against repression in the
USA, denial of free speech at their school and the suspension of Nevins.
Readers are asked to send protest letters to New Mexico governor Bill
Richardson from his web site at
Below is the poem that was read out:
Bush said no child would be left behind
And yet kids from inner-city schools
Work on Central Avenue
Jingling cans that read
Please sir, may I have some more?
They hand out diplomas like toilet paper
And lower school standards
Underpaid, unrespected teachers
Are afraid of losing their jobs
Funded by the standardised tests
That shows our competency
When I'm in detox.
This is the Land of the Free ...
Where the statute of limitations for rape is only five damn years!
And immigrants can't run for President.
Where Muslims are hunted because
Some suicidal men decided they didn't like
Our arrogant bid for modern imperialism.
This is the Land of the Free ...
You drive by a car whose
God bless America!
Well, you can scratch out the B
And make it Godless
Because God left this country a long time ago.
The founding fathers made this nation
On a dream and now
Freedom of Speech
Lets Nazis burn crosses, but
Calls police to
Gay pride parades.
Can afford war with Iraq
But we can't afford to pay the teachers
Who educate the young who hold the guns
Against the "Axis of Evil"
Land of the Free ...
This is the land
If you're politically assertive
They call you a traitor and
Damn you to ostracism.
Say good-bye to Johnny Walker Lindh
And his family.
My ideas about this nation
Don't resolve around perfection
But at least I know
Education is more important
Land of the Free . . .
If this was utopia
We'd have to see each other naked
Before we got married
But instead, we see each other naked all the time
Because the government has my social security number
And the name of my dog!
And then we make babies,
But don't worry, they won't be left behind
And they grow up saying
God bless America!
But they don't know who Bush is
Because they never learned the Presidents.
And they will ride the ship Amistad
To our dreamland shores
Bearing the same shackles as us.
I'm here to say that
Is pissed and we are taking over,
Ripping down the American illusion of perfection
We are the future generation
I have my qualifications
I know it looks like Angel Soft paper,
But don't worry
It's a diploma
Do I look qualified?
You can take our toilet paper,
But you can't take our Revolution.
From Green Left Weekly, March 26, 2003.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page at:
WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans, working with the Bush administration, are maneuvering to make permanent the sweeping anti-terrorism powers granted to federal law enforcement agents after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, officials said Tuesday.
The move is likely to touch off strong objections from many Democrats and even some Republicans in Congress who believe that the Patriot Act, as the legislation that grew out of the attacks is known, has already given the government too much power to spy on Americans.
The landmark legislation expanded the government's power to use eavesdropping, surveillance, access to financial and computer records and other tools to track terrorist suspects. When it passed in October 2001, moderates and civil libertarians in Congress agreed to support it only by making many critical provisions temporary. Those provisions will expire, or "sunset," at the end of 2005 unless Congress reauthorizes them.
But Republicans in the Senate in recent days have discussed a proposal, authored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, that would repeal the so-called sunset provisions and make the expanded powers permanent, officials said. Republicans may seek to move on the proposal this week by trying to attach it to another anti-terrorism bill that would make it easier for the government to use secret surveillance warrants against "lone wolf" terrorism suspects.
Many Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated by what they see as a lack of information from the Justice Department on how its agents are using their newfound powers. The Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, said Tuesday that without extensive review, he "would be very strongly opposed to any repeal" of the 2005 time limit. He predicted that Republicans did not have the votes to repeal the limits.
A senior Justice Department official on Tuesday said the Patriot Act has allowed the FBI to move faster and more flexibly to disrupt terrorists before they strike. "We don't want that to expire on us," the official said.
With the act's provisions not set to expire for more than 2 1/2 years, officials expected that the debate over its future would be many months away.
But political jockeying over separate, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., appears to have given Hatch the chance to move on the issue much earlier than expected.
The Kyl-Schumer measure would eliminate the need for federal agents seeking secret surveillance warrants to show that a suspect is affiliated with a foreign power or agent, such as a terrorist group. Advocates say the measure would make it easier for agents to go after "lone wolf" terrorists who are not connected to a foreign group.
The proposal was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Republicans were upset because several Democrats said that when the measure reaches the Senate floor for a full vote, perhaps this week or later in the month, they plan to offer amendments that would impose tougher restrictions on the use of secret warrants.
[This is kind of like detournement meets Robert Smithson / land art.]
By Neela Banerjee
March 27, 2003
The subtleties surrounding the sensitive role oil plays in the Iraqi war may have eluded the United States Army. Deep in some newspaper coverage yesterday was a report that the 101st Airborne Division had named one central Iraq outpost Forward Operating Base Shell and another Forward Operating Base Exxon.
The Pentagon shrugged off concerns that now might not be the time to mention the names of foreign oil companies on Iraqi soil. "The forward bases are normally refueling points they're basically gas stations in the desert," a Pentagon spokeswoman said. "Whether or not we're going to lecture everyone that, due to political sensitivities, you should be careful what you call your gas stations, I don't know if that's something that should be done or would be done."
Neither Royal Dutch/Shell nor Exxon knew about the Iraqi bases. Cerris Tavinor, a spokeswoman for Shell, heard of the base only when a reporter called.
"We don't have anything in Iraq," Ms. Tavinor said. "Clearly they pick their names for whatever they want to use."
Tom Cirigliano, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, said he first heard of the bases when he read a press review on Wednesday morning, but the mention did not bother the company, the world's largest publicly traded corporation.
"My first reaction when I saw it was this was not a political statement in any way by the men and women of 101st," Mr. Cirigliano said. "I think the 101st was being pretty creative and naming things after what reminds them of home. And I think that's pretty neat."
But others involved in the oil industry say the Pentagon's indifference to the names of the bases was poorly considered. "You have this atmosphere of suspicion and apprehension now, and that's just among your allies," Jan Stuart, head of research for global energy futures at ABN Amro, the Dutch investment bank, said. "And in this atmosphere, you call your own supply effort this. It's mind-boggling the degree of insensitivity. There is little doubt the Americans will win the war, but you have to wonder how people who are so insensitive are going to win the peace."
By JULIANNE BASINGER
A Florida legislator has sponsored a bill that would ban state financial aid to college students who are citizens of six nations on the U.S. State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
State Rep. Dick Kravitz, a Republican from Jacksonville, said on Sunday that in considering how Florida spends its money in a tight economy, he was disturbed by the idea of state funds being used to help educate students who are nonresident aliens from those countries.
"These people do have to go back, and whatever they learn here is going to be used for their country," Mr. Kravitz said. "I felt as though those dollars, which we needed, would be better spent on taxpayers in Florida and their children."
The bill (HB 31), which was placed last Thursday on the Florida Legislature's agenda for consideration, would bar state aid from going to college students from six countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, and North Korea. Cuba, which is also on the State Department's list, was removed from the bill through an amendment.
Florida has a large Cuban population. The state's colleges and universities used $308,717 to provide financial aid to students from countries on the federal list in 2001 and 2002. If passed, the measure sponsored by Mr. Kravitz would go into effect in July.
"We're going to find out if we're going to give them the money to potentially use against us, or if we're going to give it to our kids," he said. But Muslim students in Florida say that the bill unfairly discriminates against them.
"What he's saying is if you're born in Libya or Syria, you're more likely to be a terrorist than anyone else," Hadia Mubarak, president of the Muslim Students Association at Florida State University, told the Associated Press. Mr. Mubarak did not return a telephone message on Sunday seeking further comment.
NEAR NAJAF, Iraq - A facility near Baghdad that a US officer had said might finally be "smoking gun" evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons production turned out to contain pesticide, not sarin gas as feared.
A military intelligence officer for the US 101st Airborne Division's aviation brigade, Captain Adam Mastrianni, told AFP that comprehensive tests determined the presence of the pesticide compounds.
Initial tests had reportedly detected traces of sarin -- a powerful toxin that quickly affects the nervous system -- after US soldiers guarding the facility near Hindiyah, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad, fell ill.
SUMMIT COUNTY - Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, will introduce a bill today to establish a Cabinet-level Department of Peace, an agency that would be responsible for things ranging from social services to a Peace Academy.
Kucinich has the support of 38 other U.S. representatives, including Mark Udall, D-Colo. Udall represents Summit County in the 2nd Congressional District. A representative from his office will discuss the proposal from 2-3 p.m. today at the Summit County Community and Senior Center south of Frisco.
The newest Cabinet-level department was created last year, when President Bush crafted the Department of Homeland Security, designed to protect U.S. citizens from terrorism. Prior to that, President Jimmy Carter established the Veterans Administration almost 30 years ago. Today, there are 15 departments with numerous agencies under their collective umbrellas.
If approved, the Department of Peace would be dedicated to peacemaking and the study of conditions that are conducive to domestic and international peace. The department's mission would be to promote justice and democratic principles, expand human rights, strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking, promote human potential and work to create peace, prevent violence and develop new ways to resolve disputes.
"We have lived with war, violence and abuse for far too long," said Kucinich spokeswoman Denise Hughes. "By establishing a Cabinet level Department of Peace, we have the unique opportunity to confront the root cause of these evils and the ability as a society to build a safer world."
Methods would include mediation, nonviolent intervention and encouraging communities, religious groups and nongovernmental organizations to develop initiatives.
The department would be responsible for developing policies that address domestic violence, child abuse and mistreatment of the elderly, create new policies to reduce drug and alcohol abuse, protect animals from violence, develop new approaches to deal with gun-related violence and develop programs that address school violence, gangs and racial violence and violence against gays and lesbians.
Additionally, the department would take under its wing civil rights, labor law, community-based violence prevention and racial tolerance programs.
At the international level, the department would work with the U.S. Secretary of Defense and U.S. Secretary of State to reduce international conflict, train those who work to reconstruct war-torn societies, sponsor countrywide and regional conflict prevention and dispute resolution initiatives and encourage international sister city programs to exchange artistic, cultural, economic, educational and faith-based values.
The department also would submit recommendations to the president regarding how the sales of arms from the United States affect peace and develop strategies for the sustainability and distribution of international funds.
The secretary of the Department of Peace also would develop a peace education curriculum to include the civil rights movement in the United States, how peace agreements have worked to stop conflict and to work with teachers to help students work on peace through reflection and conflict resolutions.
A highlight of that would be a Peace Academy, which would provide a four-year course of instruction in peace education, after which graduates would be required to serve five years in public service in domestic or international nonviolent conflict resolution programs.
A donkey lies dead near shrapnel-riddled bus in Hilla. Forty-eight civilians were killed by cluster bombs during a coalition air raid in the southern province of Babylon. (AFP/Karim Sahib)
The danger posed by the use of these weapons, designed to destroy concentrations of armour and infantry by scattering small bomblets over a wide area, was shown during the Nato bombing campaign in Kosovo in 1999 and again last year in Afghanistan.
"We are appalled, in the context of a conflict where we have been assured that civilian casualties will be minimized. It is very hard to use these weapons knowing exactly who you are going to target," said Richard Lloyd, director of Landmine Action.
The weapons are dropped or fired in such large quantities at any one time that, with a failure rate as high as one in 10, an attack leaves hundreds of unexploded bomblets scattered around a target site, creating a de facto minefield.
Al-Jazeera's Tariq Ayoub, killed on 8 April by US bombing.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Tariq Ayoub was killed on Tuesday when two US missiles struck the Baghdad offices of the Qatar-based channel. Shortly afterwards, US warplanes returned to hit the neighbouring Abu Dhabi TV offices. Five other journalists including three from the news agency Reuters were also injured when a tank fired a round at the Palestine Hotel where at least 200 international correspondents are staying in Baghdad.
Tuesday, April 8, 2003
by Mike McPhee and Kieran Nicholson
A federal jury convicted three Roman Catholic nuns Monday of obstructing national defense and damaging government property after they cut through fences and sprayed their own blood on a Minuteman III missile silo last year.
While the Dominican sisters face up to 30 years in prison, federal prosecutors said they expect terms closer to five to eight years. Sentencing is scheduled for July 25 in U.S. District Court in Denver.
The three nuns enter the site of a nuclear missile silo in Weld County on Oct. 6.
(Photo Courtesy Of Jonah House)
"We knew the forces, the powers were against us," Sister Ardeth Platte, 66, said in an interview later Monday from jail. "We weren't surprised by the verdicts.
"We got back to the jail and turned on the television, which had all the pictures of children being killed in Iraq. This is all wrong. You can't drop a bomb on a city and kill children. This is exactly our defense. Those missiles are on high alert."
Sister Platte said she does not expect U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn will show lenience at the sentencing.
Having already spent six months behind bars, Sister Platte said "it's really, really hard. It's sacred time, but difficult sacred time."
She said the three are responding to thousands of letters and are trying to "motivate people to get out into the streets, to continue our ongoing civil disobedience."
The pronouncement of the guilty verdict electrified the courtroom.
"This is a kangaroo court," shouted Susan Crane, a supporter of the nuns who quilted during last week's trial. "Shame on this court."
Two U.S. marshals hauled her out of the courtroom on orders from the judge.
Sister Platte, a former councilwoman and mayor pro-tem of Saginaw, Mich.; Sister Carol Gilbert, 55, of Baltimore; and Sister Jackie Marie Hudson, 68, of Bremerton, Wash., stood in their orange jail jumpsuits and began singing "Rejoice in the Lord above, again I say rejoice."
Sister Platte faced the jury and made the sign of the cross. She did again to the judge, to the prosecutor and to the approximately 40 spectators who packed the gallery.
Sister Gilbert shouted to the jury, "We will not be found guilty under God's law."
Jury forewoman Terrah McNellis, 25, of Denver, said the six-man, six-woman jury followed the law and not its collective heart.
"We all agree with their politics," McNellis said. "Nobody in the U.S. wants nuclear weapons, but you have to demonstrate lawfully."
The nuns were charged after entering the grounds of the N-8 Minuteman III missile silo northeast of Greeley early Oct. 6. They cut two gate chains and a fence, then symbolically tapped hammers on the rusted railroad tracks used to transport the missile. They also sprayed six crosses on the 110-ton concrete silo dome with their own blood.
Military riflemen arrived an hour after the alarm went off, training automatic weapons on the nuns, who were singing and praying. A military Humvee crashed through the fence when the nuns didn't obey an officer's orders, which they said they couldn't hear.
In court Monday, defense attorney Walter Gerash attempted to stop the reading of the verdicts by seeking a mistrial. He said McNellis had been seen in the hallway away from the rest of the jury during deliberations. Judge Blackburn refused to stop the proceedings and ordered Gerash to file a written motion within five days.
"Free speech is the first casualty of war. I'm bitterly disappointed with the people running this court," said Gerash, who clashed several times with Blackburn during the trial. "We had two Air Force colonels testify that the nuns never interfered with national defense or the operation of the Minuteman III missile."
U.S. Attorney John Suthers said he was pleased with the verdict.
"In the United States, you have the right to protest government policy in a variety of ways. But if you violate the laws, you'll face the consequences. We will continue to prosecute all acts of civil disobedience."
Near the end of deliberations, the jury asked the court to clarify whether the nuns were charged with "sabotage." Blackburn said they were not.
After they were charged in October, the nuns refused the government's offer to be released under a personal recognizance bond, so they remained in custody. On Monday, after the verdict was read, they again refused another offer to be released on bond. They are being held in the Clear Creek County Jail in Georgetown because the federal prison in Jefferson County has no facilities for women.
Lynn Butler, pastor of the United Church of Idaho Springs, called the verdicts "a travesty of justice. The sisters did not endanger the national defense. Their entire act was symbolic."
Copyright 2003 The Denver Post
Nominee says 10 to 15 percent of Muslims are 'potential killers'
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/3/2003) - CAIR is urging President Bush to rescind his nomination of an "Islamophobe," who claims 10 to 15 percent of Muslims are "potential killers," to the board of a government institution formed to promote the peaceful resolution of international conflicts.
President Bush yesterday nominated pro-Israel commentator Daniel Pipes, who many American Muslims regard as the nation's leading Islamophobe, to join the board of the United States Institute of Peace, a federal institution created by Congress. The institute's board of directors is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. (Pipes made the claim about Muslims being potential killers in the October 8, 2001, issue of the Philadelphia Daily News.)
"Pipes' nomination sends entirely the wrong message as America seeks to convince Muslims worldwide that the war on terrorism and the war against Iraq are not attacks on Islam. His bigoted views are incompatible with the mission of the United States Institute of Peace. We respectfully urge President Bush to rescind this ill-considered and poorly-timed nomination," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. He called on the Senate to reject Pipes' nomination if it is not rescinded by the president.
Awad added that Pipes also lacks the credentials required for service on the institute's board. All board members are required by law to "have appropriate practical or academic experience in peace and conflict resolution." "Pipes' anti-Muslim polemics have had the opposite impact of that sought by the institute. His views promote unending conflict, not peace," said Awad.
Muslims say Pipes has a long history of advocating the political disenfranchisement and marginalization of America's Islamic community. In an October 21, 2001, speech before the convention of the American Jewish Congress, Pipes stated: "I worry very much from the Jewish point of view that the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims...will present true dangers to American Jews."
He has decried any positive portrayal of Islamic history and beliefs in public schools and termed the PBS documentary "Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet" an "outrage."
In the Jerusalem Post, Pipes called for increased surveillance of ordinary American Muslims. He wrote: "There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military, and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism, as do Muslim chaplains in prisons and the armed forces. Muslim visitors and immigrants must undergo additional background checks. Mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches, synagogues and temples. Muslim schools require increased oversight to ascertain what is being taught to children." (1/22/03)
Last year, Pipes faced a storm of criticism when he launched Campus Watch, a web site that included "dossiers" on professors and academic institutions thought to be too critical of Israel or too sympathetic to Islam and Muslims. The web site also sought information from students about their teachers' political opinions. Pipes has been quoted as saying: "The Palestinians are a miserable people...and they deserve to be." (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2001) His personal web site is maintained by an Israeli settler. He also claims Muslims have no real religious attachments to the city of Jerusalem.
A central theme of Pipes' commentary is that American Muslims are a threat because they have the goal of "transforming [the United States] into a Moslem country." (Jewish World Review, 11/16/2000) In fact, he even claimed to have a special mental "filter" with which he can detect those who want to "create a Muslim state in America." (Salon.com, 11/9/2001) He has also compared American Muslim voter registration drives to those of the Communist Party USA.
Pipes goes so far as to recommend "vigilant application of social and political pressure to ensure that Islam is not accorded special status of any kind in this country." (Commentary, November 2001) The "special status" Pipes refers to includes ordinary religious accommodations for Muslims in the workplace and "inclusion of Muslims in affirmative-action plans."
SEE: "Who is Daniel Pipes?"
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUESTED: (As always, be POLITE and RESPECTFUL.)
Contact President Bush to respectfully request that he rescind Daniel
Pipes' nomination to the board of the United States Institute of Peace.
White House Phone Numbers:
White House E-Mail Addresses:
President George W. Bush: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President Richard Cheney: email@example.com
COPY TO: firstname.lastname@example.org
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
(original photo 1)
(original photo 2)
On Monday, March 31, the Los Angeles Times published a front-page photograph that had been altered in violation of Times policy. Following is their retraction note:
The primary subject of the photo was a British soldier directing Iraqi civilians to take cover from Iraqi fire on the outskirts of Basra. After publication, it was noticed that several civilians in the background appear twice. The photographer, Brian Walski, reached by telephone in southern Iraq, acknowledged that he had used his computer to combine elements of two photographs, taken moments apart, in order to improve the composition.
Times policy forbids altering the content of news photographs. Because of the violation, Walski, a Times photographer since 1998, has been dismissed from the staff.
The altered photo and the two photos that were used to produce it (the first two), are shown above.
Michael Kelly, the Atlantic Monthly editor-at-large and Washington Post columnist, has been killed in a Humvee accident while traveling with the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division. Kelly, the first American journalist killed in the war, was 46.
The Post writes that "As a columnist, Kelly was a caustic conservative who was merciless in his criticism of Bill Clinton and Al Gore and was generally supportive of President Bush, especially on foreign policy. In 1997, New Republic owner Martin Peretz, a close friend of Gore, fired Kelly as the magazine's editor over his continuing attacks on the Clinton administration."
Legendary soul singer Edwin Starr (b. Charles Hatcher), one of the first artists signed to the Motown label, died yesterday (April 3) after a heart attack. His biggest hit was "War (What Is It Good For?)", which has been covered by hundreds of musicians, including Frankie Goes to Hollywood, DOA and Bruce Springsteen. Starr was 61.
by Lee Douglas
PORTLAND, Oregon -- An Oregon antiterrorism bill would jail street-blocking protesters for at least 25 years in what critics consider a thinly veiled effort to discourage antiwar demonstrations.
The bill has met strong opposition, but lawmakers expect a debate on the definition of terrorism and the value of free speech before a vote by the state Senate judiciary committee, whose chairman, Republican John Minnis, wrote the proposal.
Senate Bill 742 identifies a terrorist as a person who ''plans or participates in an act that is intended, by at least one of its participants, to disrupt'' business, transportation, schools, government, or free assembly.
The bill's few public supporters say police need stronger laws to break up protests that have created havoc in cities like Portland, where thousands of people have marched and demonstrated against war in Iraq since last fall.
''We need some additional tools to control protests that shut down the city,'' said Lars Larson, a conservative radio talk-show host who has stumped for the bill.
Larson said protesters should be protected by free speech laws, but not be able to hold up ambulances or frighten people out of their daily routines, adding that police and the court system could be trusted to see the difference.
''Right now, a group of people can get together and go downtown and block a freeway,'' Larson said. ''You need a tool to deal with that.''
The bill contains automatic sentences of 25 years to life for the crime of terrorism.
Critics of the bill say its vagueness erodes basic freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism under an extremely broad definition.
''Under the original version, [terrorism] meant essentially a food fight,'' said Andrea Meyer of the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the bill.
Police unions and minority groups also oppose the bill for fear it could have a chilling effect on relations between police and poor people, minorities, children, and ''vulnerable'' populations.
Some legislators said the bill stands little chance of passage.
''I just don't think this bill is ever going to get out of committee,'' said Democratic Senator Vicki Walker, one of four members on the six-person panel who have said they oppose the legislation.
An extraordinary communication from the United States to UN representatives around the world has been leaked to Greenpeace. (Full text of the leaked document here). In it, the United States warns that the simple act of support for a General Assembly meeting to discuss the war will be considered "unhelpful and directed against the United States." They further threaten that invoking the Uniting for Peace resolution will be "harmful to the UN."
Greenpeace has been actively lobbying at the United Nations against the war, and many delegates have expressed both publicly and privately their distaste for what they see as US attempts to "strongarm" the world community to do as it is told. One delegate was so incensed with the memo circulated by the US that he leaked the full document.
The Uniting for Peace resolution, which the US is trying to head off, has a long history of stopping conflict. Ironically, it has most often been invoked by the US to overcome vetoes by the Soviet Union during the cold war. Under its terms, the full 191 member United Nations General Assembly can gather to make recommendations for restoring the peace when the Security Council is deadlocked or unable to take action. Somewhat hilariously, one of the reasons the US says the General Assembly should not take up the issue of war in Iraq is that the "Security Council remains seized of this matter." Seized is certainly the correct term: the engine of peace is simply not turning.
There are those who say that the United Nations has been harmed by the Security Council debate on Iraq and the US coalition action without authorisation. However, it can also be said that the UN showed extraordinary strength in withstanding the pressure to rubber-stamp an illegal invasion. The only course of action open now to the global community is to demand the immediate end of hostilities and a return to UN-sanctioned disarmament measures. It's the right thing to do for world peace, it's the right thing to do for the future of the United Nations.
In the past two weeks, Greenpeace Cyberactivists have been part of the global outcry for an emergency session of the UN. We've sent a record 60,000 appeals to United Nations representatives calling for the General Assembly to denounce the war in Iraq and to call for an immediate cease-fire. And despite the fierce US pressure, it looks like our global demand will be met.
A press announcement by the Arab League Monday confirms that they will be invoking the "Uniting for Peace" resolution to bring all 191 member nations of the UN together. "The point of the request is to save the lives of Iraqi civilians," one Arab diplomat said to the Associated Press. "We will ask for a cease-fire and a return to peaceful disarmament in Iraq."
Dozens of other nations have already gone on record saying they will support the call for an emergency session. We urge the General Assembly to meet swiftly and give shape to the global voices that are demanding an end to this illegal war.
It can happen here -- and does.
Chinese hacker groups are planning attacks on U.S.- and U.K.-based Web sites to protest the war in Iraq, the Department of Homeland Security warned in an alert that it unintentionally posted on a government Web site yesterday.
The hackers are planning "distributed denial-of-service" attacks, which render Web sites and networks unusable by flooding them with massive amounts of traffic. They also are planning to deface selected Web sites, according to the alert, though the government said it did not know when the attacks would occur.
The Homeland Security Department said it got the information by monitoring an online meeting that the hackers held last weekend to coordinate the attacks. The department sent the alert to government and industry officials over the weekend but accidentally posted the link on the home page of the National Infrastructure Protection Center. The alert was pulled hours later.
Homeland Security Department spokesman David Wray said the information was not supposed to be released to the public. "This was an inadvertent release and the information, while not classified, is sensitive," he said.
The messages cited in the alert were posted on several hacker Web sites thought to be affiliated with the "Honker Union of China," a cadre of Chinese hackers that launched an assault against dozens of U.S. government Web sites in May 2001 after the collision of a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. surveillance plane on April 1, 2001. "Honker" is Chinese slang for "hacker."
The group claimed responsibility then for defacements on the Web sites of the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Navy, the Labor Department, and other government agencies and businesses.
The Homeland Security Department's warning comes amid a flurry of antiwar hacking activity. About 10,000 Web sites have been marred with digital graffiti by protesters and supporters of U.S.-led war in Iraq, according to F-Secure Corp., a Finnish Internet security firm.
A commentary by Arundhati Roy
CNn is reporting that Fox News Channel executives and the Pentagon reached a deal Monday in which Geraldo Rivera, who raised the military's ire when he reported operational details, will leave Iraq voluntarily rather than be expelled from the country.
U.S. military officials told CNN on Monday morning that Rivera violated the cardinal rule of war reporting by giving away crucial details of military plans during a Fox News Channel broadcast from Iraq, where the reporter was temporarily assigned to the Army's 101st Airborne Division.
In the live broadcast, Rivera told his photographer to aim the camera at the sand in front of him. Rivera then outlined a map of Iraq, and showed the relative location of Baghdad and his location with the 101st Airborne. He then showed where the 101st would be going next.
"He gave away the big-picture stuff," a senior military official told CNN. "He went down in the sand and drew where the forces are going."
A Pentagon official told CNN that members of the 101st Airborne would escort Rivera to the Kuwaiti border. But Rivera appeared in another live report from Iraq hours after the official announced his expulsion, and said he knew nothing of it.
"In fact, I'm further in Iraq than I've ever been," Rivera said. "It sounds like some rats from my former network, NBC, are trying to stab me in the back [... ] MSNBC is so pathetic a cable news network that they have to do anything they can to attract attention [ ... ] You can rest assured that whatever they're saying is a pack of lies."
Nevertheless, Geraldo is packing his bags. Guess the search for the secret vault of Saddam Hussein will have to wait for another day.
[from Jason LeHeup]
Democracy NOW! reports that international press watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres has accused US and British coalition forces in Iraq of displaying "contempt" for journalists covering the conflict who are not embedded with troops.
The criticism comes after a group of four "unilateral" or roving reporters revealed how they were arrested by US military police as they slept near an American unit 100 miles south of Baghdad and held overnight.
They described their ordeal as "the worst 48 hours in our lives".
"Many journalists have come under fire, others have been detained and questioned for several hours and some have been mistreated, beaten and humiliated by coalition forces ," said the RSF secretary general, Robert Menard.
The four journalists -- Israeli Dan Scemama and Boaz Bismuth and Portugese Luis Castro and Victor Silva -- entered Iraq in a jeep and followed a US convoy but were not officially attached to the troops.
US military police seized the journalists outside their base and detained them even though they were carrying international press cards.
The group claimed they were mistreated and denied contact with their families.
Britain's artists have always responded to war. Here, we preview the work of the two official artists sent to record the Afghanistan war - images that seem all the more chilling in light of the current conflict
by Sean O'Hagan
In a pristine artist's studio in Whitechapel, I am being given a guided tour of the former house of Osama bin Laden.
It is small and makeshift, just three rooms made of earth and stone, with an external kitchen. Close by, there is a bunker and a small mosque that the most wanted man in the world had built while he stayed there from May 1996 until September 1997. Inside the house, one room has a large electric fan and a huge pile of onions. It looks like a conceptual art installation.
Which, in a way, it now is. Courtesy of Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell, two east London-based conceptual artists, you, too, will soon be able to visit the former home of Osama bin Laden, when it is transported, via virtual technology, from rural Afghanistan to a room in the Imperial War Museum in London. As if playing a computer game, visitors will be able to navigate their way through these rooms using a joystick to manipulate the images projected before them. You will be able to wander around the promontory near the town of Daruntah where it was built, and look out over the nearby reservoir to the mountains beyond, as bin Laden must have done many times until the presence of American operatives in nearby Peshawar forced him to decamp to the safer, less isolated environs of Kandahar. You will be able to see the small mosque made for his personal use, and examine his bunker built from used ammunition boxes filled with stones, its ceiling beams made from the chassis of an old Russian army truck. As art installations go, this is a ghostly and disturbing one, made all the more surreal by being created from the same software utilised by the computer game Quake .
'We have been working closely with the architect Tom Barker, who developed a technique of building a virtual architectural model, then fitting photographs into it to give it a particular sense of reality and verisimilitude,' explains Langlands. 'What sets it apart is that most architectural modelling techniques are predicated on notions of construction and engineering, while this thinks of architecture more in terms of perception. Visitors will be able to explore the terrain, enter the house and go into the bunker, all by using a joystick.' When I viewed this work in progress, projected on to their studio wall, that landscape was incomplete but still oddly disorienting. I kept waiting for action figures and onscreen explosions to occur followed by a flashing GAME OVER! sign.
As events unfold uneasily in the wind-blown deserts of Iraq, The House of Osama bin Laden is both a timely and provocative reminder that the man who isn't there any more is still a dark and foreboding presence in the West's collective consciousness. 'In a way, it's about bin Laden's absence more than anything,' says Langlands, the more voluble half of the dapper, fortysomething duo. 'He is now this unseen presence who, in many ways, is more powerful now than when he was visible. In a way, the house is a metaphor for bin Laden, a Scarlet Pimpernel figure.'
Nikki Bell takes over, warming to one of the themes at the heart of the work. 'People are always interested in visiting places where certain people lived. They want to go to a house where someone lived in order to somehow explore that life.'
This, though, is a long way from Keats's house. Or, for that matter, Turner's studio, the setting for Langlands & Bell's last virtual artwork, The Artist's Studio, which recreated just that at Petworth House, where Turner often stayed as a guest of his patron, the third Earl of Egremont.
And, if we are talking about architecture as a metaphor, it would be hard, too, to imagine anywhere more antithetical to the towering presence of the World Trade Centre than these few makeshift buildings in Daruntah. After 11 September, bin Laden's house and bunker were partially bombed by American B-52s. There are still rocks and missile shells strewn over the dusty terrain today.
When Langlands & Bell visited the house last year, it was home to a group of Afghani militia men. 'They were pretty non-committal when we arrived there,' says Bell. 'It was only when we started measuring the distances between buildings that they suddenly got very twitchy. We left soon afterwards before they started asking questions. It would have been too difficult to explain what we were trying to do.'
What they were trying to do, say the artists, was create a work of art that showed 'things that hadn't been looked at before, that made connections between the local and the global'.
When the news media moved on from Afghanistan, aid agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) moved in to try to make sense of the fallout. It was the presence of these international groups, says Langlands, 'that alerted us to the fact that everywhere is connected to everywhere else; that no matter how beleaguered or broken down a place is, it is still part of a global network'.
The pair flew into Kabul last year as the Imperial War Museum's official war - or should that be post-war? - artists, along with photographer Paul Seawright. Langlands & Bell had a brief to provide work that tackled the aftermath of the war in Afghanistan. From the off, they were an odd, if brave, choice: conceptualists who did not fit into the traditional role of the war artist as illustrator of the rigours of battle. For a long time, Paul Nash's Second World War painting, Totes Meer (Dead Sea) - wrecked planes against an ominous sky - was the model for that kind of bearing witness, albeit a biased one: the planes had German insignia, while, in reality, the terrain was littered with aircraft from both sides.
As war grows more hi-tech, and jour nalists are on hand everywhere to record the horror as it happens, the role of the artist has had to change, though the idea of bearing witness remains. Both John Keane, who went to Iraq in 1991, and Peter Howson, who visited Bosnia in 1994, responded to the remit with suitably graphic imagery. No one has yet been chosen by the Imperial War Museum to go to Iraq, which suggests that the nature of the job is changing again. As, too, does the choice of Langlands & Bell to comment on Afghanistan. One would not immediately associate their clinically precise artwork with the chaos of battlefields. They have, though, been prescient in their preoccupation with the invisible, and often ominous, global 'connections' - a term they use constantly - that underpin society at the start of the new millennium. While Seawright chose to document the big, empty tracts of rural Afghanistan, which remain no-go areas because of unexploded land mines, Langlands & Bell went with no clear agenda in mind except, as the latter puts it, 'to be intuitive and travel to the places we thought should be looked at'.
They based themselves in Shari Naw, a residential district of Kabul, where they found a proliferation of foreign embassies and NGOs, the presence of which had ironically made this the most exclusive area in what remained of a ravaged city. 'Seventy per cent of the city had been destroyed,' says Bell. 'You'd see people emerging from the ruins every day, trying to get on with their lives. Everywhere we went, there were signs for aid agencies. We began to collate them through photographs with a view to making a work similar to Frozen Sky, a previous project that used the acronyms of the world's airports.'
A large white artwork from the Frozen Sky series, containing all the airport acronyms arranged in a circle - including FRO (Floro, Norway), ZEN (Zenag, Papua, New Guinea) and SKY (Sandusky, Ohio) - takes up one wall of the top floor of their studio. On it, they project this new work, a video loop where the acronyms of one aid agency blend slowly into another - CARE becomes HOPE becomes WIN becomes ECHO - with a strange graphic poetry emerging out of all the random juxtapositions.
As part of the exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, a series of flags designed from these acronyms will hang from the ceiling above bin Laden's virtual house, like regimental flags that hang from the naves of churches and cathedrals. The idea, according to Bell, is to create 'a single, intense space that people can wander through or just sit still in'.
By far the most chillingly powerful work in this already intense space will be the only non-silent work, Zardad's Dog, a short film of a murder trial that took place in Kabul's supreme court while Langlands & Bell were there. The title of the piece was the nickname of the accused, Abdullah Shah. He served in the Hezb-i-Islami faction under the infamous commander Zardad, and earned his chilling sobriquet for savagely biting travellers who crossed his territory before murdering them.
The five-hour trial, filmed with a single hand-held camera in an overcrowded and tense courtroom, has been edited down to 12 minutes. It cuts between the evidence of the accused and the testimony of his victims' relatives, all delivered under the nervous gaze of armed soldiers. Langlands & Bell have chosen not to subtitle the film though the shouts of 'Allah Akbar!' ('God is great') when Shah is found guilty are unmistakable. If the court's decision is upheld, Shah's will be the first judicial execution since the fall of the Taliban.
'The trial was a very strange and humbling event to witness,' says Langlands. 'The whole atmosphere was a mixture of fear and hope. These people were willing to testify even though the commander is still at large, and there was the risk that Shah could appeal and maybe get off. We still haven't found out what was the final outcome.'
I ask if they encountered any suspicion or hostility as they travelled around the beleaguered country. 'Surprisingly little,' replies Langlands, 'given that we were part of this huge network of Western professionals who were travelling around in smart clothes and jeeps while most Afghani people had nothing.
'Once we overheard an Afghani woman describing a school where local girls were learning to sew to two Americans. The school had no electricity, like most of Kabul, so half the girls powered the other half's sewing machines by cycling on old Chinese bicycles rigged up as generators.
'When we asked her if we could visit, she rounded on us, eyes blazing, and with a look of utter contempt said, "The Afghani people are sick to death of outside investigators and researchers. We need help and money, not more investigations." She pushed her chair back and stormed out of the hotel. But, how could you argue with that? She made complete sense.'
Langlands & Bell are uncertain about what will happen to their work after it leaves the Imperial War Museum. The House of Osama bin Laden could well end up as a website accessible to every corner of the globe from Daruntah to Durham. Maybe even bin Laden himself will log on, if he is still alive, to revisit his old abode, view the mosque he built on the edge of the reservoir and see again the humble wood-and-stone bunker that protected him from the infidels' missiles.
Though one can only wonder what he would make of this appropriation of his former dwelling in the name of conceptual art.
· The House of Osama bin Laden will be at the Imperial War Museum, London SE1, 10 April-26 May
HILLA, Iraq (AFP) - Forty-eight more civilians, including women and children, have been killed and 310 wounded in US-British bombings around this town south of Baghdad in the last 24 hours, a hospital director revealed.
The deaths brought to 73 the number of Iraqi civilians who have died under allied bombings since Monday.
Thirty-three civilians, including women and children, were killed and 310 wounded in a coalition bombing on the southern province of Babylon on Tuesday morning, a hospital director said.
Murtada Abbas said the bombing targeted the Nader residential area at the southern outskirts of the farming town of Hilla, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the capital.
He was speaking at the Hilla hospital where a large number of children lay wounded under blankets on the floor due to a shortage of beds.
At the scene of the bombing, dozens of what seemed to be parts of cluster bombs equipped with small parachutes were peppered over a large area, an AFP correspondent at the site said.
Iraqi soldiers were seen collecting the debris, which witnesses said coalition warplanes had dropped over the neighborhood. The soldiers poured fuel on the bombs before setting them on fire to explode the ordnance.
Dozens of homes were destroyed in the bombing that also killed donkeys and chickens, the correspondent said.
Fifteen members of a family were killed late Monday when their pickup truck was blown up by a rocket from a US Apache helicopter in the region of Haidariya near Hilla, the sole survivor of the attack told AFP on Tuesday.
Razek al-Kazem al-Khafaji said he lost his wife, six children, his father, his mother, his three brothers and their wives.
Khafaji, sitting among the 15 coffins at the local hospital, said the family was fleeing fierce fighting in Nasiriya, further south, when they were targetted by a US helicopter in Haidariya.
US troops admitted killing seven women and children when they opened fire Monday on a civilian vehicle at a military checkpoint manned by the US Army's Third Infantry Division at Najaf, 150 kilometers (95 miles) south of Baghdad.
On Monday, eighteen civilians were also killed in coalition bombings on Baghdad, according to Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf.
by Ruben Navarrette Jr
DALLAS -- I KNOW the saying dictates that to the victor go the spoils. But there are serious questions emerging over the process by which US companies are hired to put out oil fires, build roads and bridges, restart oil production, and do whatever is necessary to ''reconstruct'' Iraq after allied forces deconstruct it. Some answers need to come from Vice President Dick Cheney, a major architect of the war with Iraq, according to many newspapers and columnists around the country. That's the same Dick Cheney who was, until 2 1/2 years ago, chief executive officer of Halliburton Co., a Houston-based oil field services firm that takes in nearly $20 billion annually.
It is a Halliburton subsidiary -- Kellogg, Brown & Root -- that landed on a short list of companies invited by the US Agency for International Development to bid on what could grow to be a $900 million contract to rebuild Iraq. That's the same Kellogg, Brown & Root that was recently awarded, by the Defense Department, the contract to put out fires at oil fields in Iraq.
Good work if you can get it. Oil-field firefighting firms fetch up to $50,000 per day, and it can take weeks to cap a single well. There's no telling how much work there will be in Iraq, but experience says there could be plenty.
In the first Gulf War, Iraqis torched more than 700 oil wells in Kuwait. About half the fires were extinguished by Halliburton.
There's that name again.
And just to prove what a small world it is, the man who was secretary of defense in 1991 was later himself awarded a choice position: CEO of Halliburton. His name: Dick Cheney.
The Halliburton gig, from 1995 to 2000, was a cash cow for Cheney. During his final 8 1/2 months on the job, he pulled down a salary of $806,332 and collected another $100,000 in benefits.
And, mind you, all this was occurring while he was directing George W. Bush's search for a running mate.
Not only did Halliburton not seem to mind that its CEO was moonlighting as a headhunter, it gave Cheney a $1.5 million bonus. But that was cookie jar money compared with what Cheney pocketed when Bush made him his running mate. Cheney then sold his stock options and pocketed another $22 million and change.
Now $22 million and change isn't just a golden handshake. It's a wet, sloppy kiss. And that brings us to the questions. Are the new contracts for Halliburton Cheney's idea of reciprocity? If not, why was the process done by invitation only and not opened to other bids? And why was all this done in relative quiet?
Moreover, why hasn't the vice president's office been more forthcoming in trying to clear up any confusion about any benefit that Halliburton might derive from having its former CEO now sitting to the right hand of the president? Why has Cheney's office typically referred inquiring reporters from The Washington Post to Halliburton, only to have Halliburton refer them back to the vice president?
And given that these are tax dollars we're talking about (lots of them), why isn't there more transparency in the whole process?
Americans may never learn the answers. After howls of protests from competing firms around the world that were aced out of the Iraqi reconstruction bidding process, the government has now shifted the responsibility for overseeing the oil-field contracts to the Army Corps of Engineers and stamped the matter ''classified.''
And why is that, exactly?
Here's the big question: Did the vice president of the United States use his influence to help make his wealthy friends at his old company wealthier?
No one knows. And it's mighty hard to find out when no one is talking and folks are giving reporters the run-around. That has to stop. Cheney should speak up and settle once and for all these questions about how his private sector experience may be affecting his public service.
AMMAN, Jordan - Bruised and bleeding, in need of medical care, the Americans stranded in Iraq's western desert approached the mud-brick town and found the hospital destroyed by bombs.
"Why? Why?" a doctor demanded of them. "Why did you Americans bomb our children's hospital?" Scores of Iraqi townspeople crowded around.
The American peace activists' account was the first confirmation of a report last week that a hospital in Rutbah was bombed Wednesday, with dead and injured. The travelers said they saw no significant Iraqi military presence near the hospital or elsewhere in Rutbah. The doctor did not discuss casualties, the Americans said.
U.S. Central Command said Sunday it had no knowledge of a hospital bombing in Rutbah. The U.S. military has said it is doing its best to avoid civilian casualties in its campaign to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
For the battered band of peace activists, recounting their nerve-jarring exit from Iraq on Sunday, it was one of the worst moments in 10 days of war.
That exit had begun at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, when a dozen foreigners — eight Americans and one Irish member of the Iraq Peace Team, and three unaffiliated Japanese and South Korean activists — set out from Baghdad on the 300-mile (480-kilometer) trek to the western border with Jordan, through a nation at war.
Members of the antiwar group have shuttled in and out of the Iraqi capital for months to take part in vigils, small demonstrations and other activities to protest U.S. war plans. Since March 20, they have borne witness and compiled reports on the U.S. bombing of Baghdad.
Some who left Saturday had been ordered out by jittery Iraqi bureaucrats for a minor infraction — taking snapshots in Baghdad without an official escort. Others said they left to get out the story of the Baghdad bombing.
The journey was a straight shot through the gritty western desert, the Badiyat ash-Sham, over a divided superhighway eerily empty of traffic. American special forces and warplanes have been staging raids and air attacks on isolated targets across the west.
"I'd say we passed up to 20 bombed-out, burned-out vehicles along the way," said Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, 22, a student from Devon, Pennsylvania. Four were Iraqi tanks and other military vehicles, he said, but the others appeared to be civilian, including a bus and an ambulance.
"We had to detour around a bombed-out bridge, dodge lightpoles down across the road," said Shane Claiborne, 27, a community organizer from Philadelphia.
Three times the group — in a big white GMC Suburban and two yellow taxis — spotted bomb explosions nearby. The last, in early afternoon, occurred near the far-western town of Rutbah. Their Iraqi drivers' nerves were fraying as they sped toward Jordan at 80 mph (130 kph).
"He kept going faster, faster," Betty Scholten, 69, of Mount Rainier, Maryland, said of her driver.
Suddenly the lagging taxi, pushing to catch up, blew a tire. It careened, spun out of control and plunged down a ditch, landing on its side. "It was a heavy hit," Claiborne said. All five men inside were hurt. "We pulled each other up through the side doors."
A passing car eventually braked to a halt. The Iraqis inside got out, helped the injured into their vehicle and drove back toward Rutbah and a hospital. Along the way, Claiborne said, he spotted the contrails of a jet streaking toward the car. The Iraqis frantically waved a white sheet out a window, and the plane veered off, he said.
In poor, remote Rutbah, a burned-out oil tanker truck sat in the road, and the customs building and communications center had been wrecked by bombing. When they reached the hospital, they saw it, too, had been bombed, its roof caved in.
Claiborne said an English-speaking Iraqi doctor took them to a small nearby clinic, and 100 or so townspeople then gathered around the building. The men were worried, but the doctor told them, "We'll take care of you. Muslim, Christian, whatever, we are all brothers and sisters,'" Claiborne recalled.
The staff tended to them, stitching up a scalp laceration for group leader Cliff Kindy, 53, of North Manchester, Indiana, and doing their best for the worst hurt, Weldon Nisly, 57, of Seattle, who suffered cracked ribs and similar injuries.
The two other carloads, missing the third, eventually doubled back and found the men in Rutbah. All then ventured onward the final 80 miles (130 kilometers) to the Jordan border, and then Amman, where Nisly was admitted to a hospital early Sunday.
As they left Rutbah, said Wilson-Hartgrove's wife, Leah, 22, the villagers "said to us, `Please tell them about the hospital.'"
India's national newspaper, The Hindu, is reporting that the British Government is angry over the way BBC is presenting the war in Iraq.
A senior Cabinet member had last week made clear his irritation to the public broadcaster's political editor. John Reid, chairman of Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party and a member of his War Cabinet, took up the issue with Andrew Marr.
Blair's office believes the 24-hour coverage is distorting the events, and Reid is reported to have accused BBC of acting like a "friend of Baghdad".
Marr is reported to have responded that the Government was "angry that they can control where reporters go but what they cannot control is what they see".
[Some good links at the end of this one, and mention of Circulars via our embedded Toronto correspondent, Darren W=H.]
By JOHN ALLEMANG
The first Gulf War did it for CNN. The new one may do it for 'blogs' -- personal Web pages of news and opinion, tracking and debating Iraq's fate by the minute. As JOHN ALLEMANG writes, they're now many people's first choice for unembedded journalism.
He calls himself George Paine, in a proud allusion to the 18th-century American patriot and pamphleteer Thomas Paine. But in every other respect, the young New York technology consultant is a man of these anxious times.
Talking into his cellphone at a patio table in a Chelsea café, keeping one eye on the darkening clouds while searching the Web for updates on the war in Iraq, the young man in his 20s is the very model of a communications revolution.
But the news George Paine accumulates and analyzes isn't just for his own peace of mind or intellectual hunger. Within minutes of finding an Arab-media contradiction of a CNN report, he will post it on his argumentative antiwar site, warblogging.com, and subversive readers who share his doubts will also share his newfound knowledge.
George Paine is what's called a blogger, a man who keeps a running log on the Web ("Web log" is contracted to "blog") of news and links of interest to him, with his own commentary. As it turns out, they are also of interest to tens of thousands of avid readers who don't believe that either government or the mainstream media have their best interests in mind.
"Seven or eight months ago," he says, "I was feeling dismayed by the direction my country was going in. I was looking for an outlet to share my feelings and maybe score some points against the authorities, and when the Patriot Act came along, I started the site."
With no formal journalistic training, he began by writing a paragraph or two about civil-liberties issues and the American war on terror. He reckons he had about 100 readers in the first month. But now, as the fog of war sweeps through Iraq, and eager reports of surrenders and uprisings disappear into the desert air, about 100,000 readers search warblogging.com for news and arguments ("I am ashamed that my country is engaged in an aggressive war") that embedded journalists can't or won't put forward.
George Paine is now writing thousands of words every day, and with the help of sympathetic readers, he is passing on hundreds of links where a wider range of war stories are told. And he is still working full-time as a technology consultant. "I post during the day, but I don't allow it to interfere with my day job," he says. "I'm blogging on breaks, or while I'm waiting for someone to call back. If I spend nine or 10 hours in the office, I'll bill for eight."
This is a large part of how the world, and especially that part of it under 40, is informing itself about the war. The truth, as they see it, is being composed on coffee breaks by people nowhere near the front lines, writers who are beholden to no one -- except perhaps the bosses in their off-line lives, who force them to use a liberating pseudonym.
Using free and relatively simple software available from such sites as blogger.com, with tools that can handle a huge amount of data, anyone with a modem can publish his views and find a following. And that following will probably grow, as younger readers numbed by the conventions of mainstream reporting and discouraged by its connections to government find a shared intimacy in the Web's daily diaries.
"I think that sort of clarity of voice and immediacy is more possible on Web logs than in any print media," says Dean Allen of textism.com. "I can't think of another broadcast medium that has such a potential for directness. Someone reporting live from the battlefield for CNN can't come close: As impressive as it can be, the reporter is still speaking though an editorial, journalistic gauze."
Of course, when anyone can do all this at low cost and with minimal technological skill, there's no shortage of eye-glazing egomania. Personal Web logs -- the daily, hourly and even minute-by-minute chronicles of lifeless keystrokers -- abound on the Web and have a terrible reputation among the serious-minded war bloggers. Yet even the war chroniclers, Mr. Allen says, seem to be getting carried away by both the recent deluge of recent media hype and the increased feedback their sites are receiving.
"These factors have led to oceans of unself-consciously hilarious self-importance on the part of people who are, after all, sitting in front of a computer typing a commentary through links on this and that."
And for all the alternative-culture myth-making that surrounds blogging, it is not the exclusive preserve of the enlightened fringe. Hard as it is to believe, one of the roots of all this harried Web activity was Matt Drudge's scandal-chasing Drudge Report. Andrew Sullivan, one of the pioneers of blogdom's public-pundit side, came to the Web from the editorship of the influential magazine The New Republic, and actually makes good money from his daily words.
Power-worshippers as diverse as David Frum and Warren Kinsella now share their thoughts with Web readers, and few mainstream news operations don't include a Web log somewhere on their site -- in the case of msnbc.com and its affiliated slate.com, that comes to means all blogs, all the time.
This mainstreaming of the Web log caused trouble for CNN's Iraq reporter Kevin Sites, whose much admired personal war blog kevinsites.net was ordered closed (temporarily, he hopes) by the people paying his salary.
Yet the most powerful blog to emerge from the war in Iraq is not from a North American networker, but from a Baghdad blogger who calls himself Salam Pax (from the Arabic and Latin words for peace). Salam is described as a worldly, 28-year-old, gay architect, who has little use for either Saddam Hussein or the war against him. But what makes his diary so affecting is the way it achieves an easy intimacy that eludes the one-size-fits-all coverage of Baghdad's besieged residents.
Humane in an inhuman environment, Salam writes of how to pack in case you have to flee, why he dislikes the self-appointed foreign human shields ("every third one of these shields will be writing an article somewhere"), what you need to buy when the Americans are coming (manual pump, 60 litres of gasoline, two kerosene cookers, particle masks), the music on the radio ("What good are patriotic songs when bombs are dropping?") and the distressing TV behaviour of Iraq's Interior Minister ("Hurling abuse at the world is the only thing left for them to do").
Like all good bloggers, once discovered, Salam has been overwhelmed by comments and questions. "Please stop sending e-mails asking if I were for real," he writes. "Don't believe it? Then don't read it. I am not anybody's propaganda ploy -- well, except my own."
For Paul Grabowicz, a professor of new media at the University of California School of Journalism at Berkeley, it's this kind of dialogue, along with the back-and-forth debates at more formal sites, that elevates Web logs into a powerful new form of communication.
"Traditional journalism can be very good at collecting information, writing great narratives and crafting a story. But that's just the starting point -- if there's no conversation, it's like making art and not showing it in a gallery. To me, the whole point is to get people talking."
Part of that conversation demands that you know what other people are looking at. Toronto writer and teacher Darren Wershler-Henry finds out through a site called Blogdex, which tracks the top stories being read on Web logs. "This way you know what everyone else on the Web is talking about," he says, "The more connectivity you can generate, the more powerful are your applications."
Mr. Wershler-Henry contributes to three Web logs when he's not writing poetry or teaching communications students at York University. At http://www.arras.net/circulars, he and New York writer Brian Stefans have brought together a blog group they title "Poets, Artists and Critics Respond to U.S. Policy."
Here, you can learn how to filter out jingoistic spam, read an eye-opening PRWeek magazine article on how the White House spins its public relations, link to a gambling site where you can bet on Saddam Hussein's future (the odds change rapidly) or follow the diary of a American teaching in Turkey. All of this, Mr. Wershler-Henry says, contributes to creating "communities of interest."
Some observers, such as Mr. Grabowicz, are critical of sites that are simply an excuse for people of like minds to agree, but Mr. Wershler-Henry resists the idea that the poets, artists and critics may be segregating themselves.
"The Internet was founded on rigorous debate," he says, "and you don't have to go far to see a lively discussion. You read one Web log and, sure, you're limited in what you're seeing. But if you read one newspaper or watch one television network, you're just as limited."
At this early stage in war-blog history, most sites are extremely wide-ranging and and almost unbearably informative (do these people ever leave their laptops?) without sacrificing the first-person approach. Eric Alterman writes an opinionated column called Altercations for msnbc.com, and his paragraphs are filled with blue-tinted links.
"I make my arguments," he says, mentioning how he had called the Bush foreign-policy team incompetent bozos. "But it's important for me to show that I'm not just talking off the top of my head."
By writing for a mainstream outlet such as msnbc.com, Mr. Alterman gets much stronger reactions than he would if he were isolated in his own private blog space. He quotes a letter he's just opened (all bloggers are unapologetic multitaskers) that calls his diary "a compendium of extremist stupidity." And yet, he says, this wider exposure of his intimate thoughts is both good and necessary.
"You judge a man by his enemies to some extent. I need to be exposed to ideas outside my own cocoon."
That will certainly happen to bloggers as more and more big media organizations pick up on the device, and many Web logs will undoubtedly lose their edge as they move upscale. But even now, reaching thousands of readers instead of dozens, many war bloggers say they can only practise their craft by treating it as the personal space it originally was.
"It really doesn't concern me whether anyone looks at this besides me," Bruce Rolston says. Mr. Rolston, who manages a university Web site by day and serves as a Canadian Forces logistics officer on weekends, writes a wonderfully detailed analysis of the war's tactics at http://www.snappingturtle.net/jmc/flit.
Though he disclaims any military expertise, Mr. Rolston's trenchant critiques of what he believes is going on are bracing to war obsessives who need to know everything -- a group that appears to be growing day by day. If you want to follow the movements of the 101st Airborne, or consider how bad the fighting in Najal might be, or conjecture why the beleaguered U.S. military might cut some ties with the embedded journalists, read the man with the laptop in Toronto.
No newspaper editor or TV producer would ever allow Mr. Rolston's work near a general reader or viewer, for fear of taxing or boring them. But war creates a need to know and the desire to share expertise, whether it's about daily life in Baghdad, antiwar poets in New York, or where the war is going on the banks of the Euphrates.
"The thirst for information on-line is remarkable now," Mr. Rolston says. "It's a defence mechanism after Sept. 11 -- people are willing to suck the information system dry."
John Allemang is a feature writer for The Globe and Mail.
Top war blogs
Some of the most popular and admired Web logs following the war, all linked with numerous other blogs and news sites:
Renowned for its rapid reporting, this is the site many people turn to for the latest developments.
A smart, generous pro-war blog specializing in strategy and deep background.
The Command Post:
Minute-by-minute war updates, and reliably rant-free.
All-encompassing news and views, from an antiwar perspective.
Back to Iraq 2.0:
Supported by on-line donations, journalist Christopher Allbritton has been hailed as the first independent Web foreign correspondent.
Where is Raed?:
Moving accounts of daily life in Baghdad, now worryingly sporadic.
The CNN correspondent's suspended personal site chronicles life in Northern Iraq.
Labelled the Grand Central Station of Bloggerville for its wide-ranging links, bolstered by cocky opinionizing from a Tennessee law professor.
Mouthy, to-the-point observations on bad government and weak media.
-- John Allemang
U.S. intelligence officials have been spamming Iraq's generals and leaders of Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party via phone and email with promises of safety, asylum and a role in Iraq's new government if they defect, mount a coup or agree not to use biological or chemical weapons.
The spam, directed by the CIA, began three months ago during the buildup of U.S. and coalition forces on Iraq's borders. Initially, U.S. officials were so confident that they could persuade Iraqi leaders to surrender that they delayed the start of the war. And although those early efforts were largely unsuccessful, the communications have resumed even as U.S. forces carry out air and ground assaults inside Iraq, according to three intelligence and two military officials directly involved in the communications efforts.
United Press international reports that Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore is working on a documentary about the "the murky relationship" between former President George Bush and the family of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The movie, Fahrenheit 911, will suggest that the bin Laden family profited greatly from the association.
According to Moore, the former president had a business relationship with Osama bin Laden's father, Mohammed bin Laden, a Saudi construction magnate who left $300 million to Osama bin Laden. It has been widely reported that bin Laden used the inheritance to finance global terrorism.
Moore said the bin Laden family was heavily invested in the Carlyle Group, a private global investment firm that the filmmaker said frequently buys failing defense companies and then sells them at a profit. Former President Bush has reportedly served as a senior adviser with the firm.
"The senior Bush kept his ties with the bin Laden family up until two months after Sept. 11," said Moore.
Moore said he expects the new movie to be in U.S. theaters in time for the 2004 presidential election. "I expressed exactly what was in the film and instead of being blacklisted, I've not only gotten a deal to fund Fahrenheit 911 but offers on the film after," he said.
The Guardian reports that General Paul Van Riper, a retired marine lieutenant-general, told the Army Times that the biggest war game in US military history, staged this month at a cost of £165 m with 13,000 troops, was rigged to ensure that the Americans beat their "Middle Eastern" adversaries.
Gen. Van Riper protested by quitting his role as commander of "enemy forces" (which bore a strong re semblance to Iraq, but could have been Iran), and warning that the Pentagon might wrongly conclude that its experimental tactics were working.
The Army Times reported that, as commander of a low-tech, third-world army, Gen Van Riper appeared to have repeatedly outwitted US forces. He sent orders with motorcycle couriers to evade sophisticated electronic eavesdropping equipment. When the US fleet sailed into the Gulf, he instructed his small boats and planes to move around in apparently aimless circles before launching a surprise attack which sank a substantial part of the US navy. The war game had to be stopped and the American ships "refloated" so that the US forces stood a chance.
After too much success, Van riper noted that "We were directed... to move air defences so that the army and marine units could successfully land," he said. "We were simply directed to turn [air defence systems] off or move them... So it was scripted to be whatever the control group wanted it to be."
[Special thanks to my New Yorker reading friends for pointing this one out to me-- I didn't even know they were online. Read following Ari & I to see how fond the Administration is of Seymour Hersh.]
Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq’s nuclear program?
Last September 24th, as Congress prepared to vote on the resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to wage war in Iraq, a group of senior intelligence officials, including George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence, briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq’s weapons capability. It was an important presentation for the Bush Administration. Some Democrats were publicly questioning the President’s claim that Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction which posed an immediate threat to the United States. Just the day before, former Vice-President Al Gore had sharply criticized the Administration’s advocacy of preëmptive war, calling it a doctrine that would replace “a world in which states consider themselves subject to law” with “the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the President of the United States.” A few Democrats were also considering putting an alternative resolution before Congress.
According to two of those present at the briefing, which was highly classified and took place in the committee’s secure hearing room, Tenet declared, as he had done before, that a shipment of high-strength aluminum tubes that was intercepted on its way to Iraq had been meant for the construction of centrifuges that could be used to produce enriched uranium. The suitability of the tubes for that purpose had been disputed, but this time the argument that Iraq had a nuclear program under way was buttressed by a new and striking fact: the C.I.A. had recently received intelligence showing that, between 1999 and 2001, Iraq had attempted to buy five hundred tons of uranium oxide from Niger, one of the world’s largest producers. The uranium, known as “yellow cake,” can be used to make fuel for nuclear reactors; if processed differently, it can also be enriched to make weapons. Five tons can produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a bomb. (When the C.I.A. spokesman William Harlow was asked for comment, he denied that Tenet had briefed the senators on Niger.)
On the same day, in London, Tony Blair’s government made public a dossier containing much of the information that the Senate committee was being given in secret—that Iraq had sought to buy “significant quantities of uranium” from an unnamed African country, “despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it.” The allegation attracted immediate attention; a headline in the London Guardian declared, “african gangs offer route to uranium.”
Two days later, Secretary of State Colin Powell, appearing before a closed hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also cited Iraq’s attempt to obtain uranium from Niger as evidence of its persistent nuclear ambitions. The testimony from Tenet and Powell helped to mollify the Democrats, and two weeks later the resolution passed overwhelmingly, giving the President a congressional mandate for a military assault on Iraq.
On December 19th, Washington, for the first time, publicly identified Niger as the alleged seller of the nuclear materials, in a State Department position paper that rhetorically asked, “Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?” (The charge was denied by both Iraq and Niger.) A former high-level intelligence official told me that the information on Niger was judged serious enough to include in the President’s Daily Brief, known as the P.D.B., one of the most sensitive intelligence documents in the American system. Its information is supposed to be carefully analyzed, or “scrubbed.” Distribution of the two- or three-page early-morning report, which is prepared by the C.I.A., is limited to the President and a few other senior officials. The P.D.B. is not made available, for example, to any members of the Senate or House Intelligence Committees. “I don’t think anybody here sees that thing,” a State Department analyst told me. “You only know what’s in the P.D.B. because it echoes—people talk about it.”
President Bush cited the uranium deal, along with the aluminum tubes, in his State of the Union Message, on January 28th, while crediting Britain as the source of the information: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” He commented, “Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.”
Then the story fell apart. On March 7th, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, told the U.N. Security Council that the documents involving the Niger-Iraq uranium sale were fakes. “The I.A.E.A. has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents . . . are in fact not authentic,” ElBaradei said.
One senior I.A.E.A. official went further. He told me, “These documents are so bad that I cannot imagine that they came from a serious intelligence agency. It depresses me, given the low quality of the documents, that it was not stopped. At the level it reached, I would have expected more checking.”
The I.A.E.A. had first sought the documents last fall, shortly after the British government released its dossier. After months of pleading by the I.A.E.A., the United States turned them over to Jacques Baute, who is the director of the agency’s Iraq Nuclear Verification Office.
It took Baute’s team only a few hours to determine that the documents were fake. The agency had been given about a half-dozen letters and other communications between officials in Niger and Iraq, many of them written on letterheads of the Niger government. The problems were glaring. One letter, dated October 10, 2000, was signed with the name of Allele Habibou, a Niger Minister of Foreign Affairs and Coöperation, who had been out of office since 1989. Another letter, allegedly from Tandja Mamadou, the President of Niger, had a signature that had obviously been faked and a text with inaccuracies so egregious, the senior I.A.E.A. official said, that “they could be spotted by someone using Google on the Internet.”
The large quantity of uranium involved should have been another warning sign. Niger’s “yellow cake” comes from two uranium mines controlled by a French company, with its entire output presold to nuclear power companies in France, Japan, and Spain. “Five hundred tons can’t be siphoned off without anyone noticing,” another I.A.E.A. official told me.
This official told me that the I.A.E.A. has not been able to determine who actually prepared the documents. “It could be someone who intercepted faxes in Israel, or someone at the headquarters of the Niger Foreign Ministry, in Niamey. We just don’t know,” the official said. “Somebody got old letterheads and signatures, and cut and pasted.” Some I.A.E.A. investigators suspected that the inspiration for the documents was a trip that the Iraqi Ambassador to Italy took to several African countries, including Niger, in February, 1999. They also speculated that MI6—the branch of British intelligence responsible for foreign operations—had become involved, perhaps through contacts in Italy, after the Ambassador’s return to Rome.
Baute, according to the I.A.E.A. official, “confronted the United States with the forgery: ‘What do you have to say?’ They had nothing to say.”
ElBaradei’s disclosure has not been disputed by any government or intelligence official in Washington or London. Colin Powell, asked about the forgery during a television interview two days after ElBaradei’s report, dismissed the subject by saying, “If that issue is resolved, that issue is resolved.” A few days later, at a House hearing, he denied that anyone in the United States government had anything to do with the forgery. “It came from other sources,” Powell testified. “It was provided in good faith to the inspectors.”
The forgery became the object of widespread, and bitter, questions in Europe about the credibility of the United States. But it initially provoked only a few news stories in America, and little sustained questioning about how the White House could endorse such an obvious fake. On March 8th, an American official who had reviewed the documents was quoted in the Washington Post as explaining, simply, “We fell for it.”
The Bush Administration’s reliance on the Niger documents may, however, have stemmed from more than bureaucratic carelessness or political overreaching. Forged documents and false accusations have been an element in U.S. and British policy toward Iraq at least since the fall of 1997, after an impasse over U.N. inspections. Then as now, the Security Council was divided, with the French, the Russians, and the Chinese telling the United States and the United Kingdom that they were being too tough on the Iraqis. President Bill Clinton, weakened by the impeachment proceedings, hinted of renewed bombing, but, then as now, the British and the Americans were losing the battle for international public opinion. A former Clinton Administration official told me that London had resorted to, among other things, spreading false information about Iraq. The British propaganda program—part of its Information Operations, or I/Ops—was known to a few senior officials in Washington. “I knew that was going on,” the former Clinton Administration official said of the British efforts. “We were getting ready for action in Iraq, and we wanted the Brits to prepare.”
Over the next year, a former American intelligence officer told me, at least one member of the U.N. inspection team who supported the American and British position arranged for dozens of unverified and unverifiable intelligence reports and tips—data known as inactionable intelligence—to be funnelled to MI6 operatives and quietly passed along to newspapers in London and elsewhere. “It was intelligence that was crap, and that we couldn’t move on, but the Brits wanted to plant stories in England and around the world,” the former officer said. There was a series of clandestine meetings with MI6, at which documents were provided, as well as quiet meetings, usually at safe houses in the Washington area. The British propaganda scheme eventually became known to some members of the U.N. inspection team. “I knew a bit,” one official still on duty at U.N. headquarters acknowledged last week, “but I was never officially told about it.”
None of the past and present officials I spoke with were able to categorically state that the fake Niger documents were created or instigated by the same propaganda office in MI6 that had been part of the anti-Iraq propaganda wars in the late nineteen-nineties. (An MI6 intelligence source declined to comment.) Press reports in the United States and elsewhere have suggested other possible sources: the Iraqi exile community, the Italians, the French. What is generally agreed upon, a congressional intelligence-committee staff member told me, is that the Niger documents were initially circulated by the British—President Bush said as much in his State of the Union speech—and that “the Brits placed more stock in them than we did.” It is also clear, as the former high-level intelligence official told me, that “something as bizarre as Niger raises suspicions everywhere.”
What went wrong? Did a poorly conceived propaganda effort by British intelligence, whose practices had been known for years to senior American officials, manage to move, without significant challenge, through the top layers of the American intelligence community and into the most sacrosanct of Presidential briefings? Who permitted it to go into the President’s State of the Union speech? Was the message—the threat posed by Iraq—more important than the integrity of the intelligence-vetting process? Was the Administration lying to itself? Or did it deliberately give Congress and the public what it knew to be bad information?
Asked to respond, Harlow, the C.I.A. spokesman, said that the agency had not obtained the actual documents until early this year, after the President’s State of the Union speech and after the congressional briefings, and therefore had been unable to evaluate them in a timely manner. Harlow refused to respond to questions about the role of Britain’s MI6. Harlow’s statement does not, of course, explain why the agency left the job of exposing the embarrassing forgery to the I.A.E.A. It puts the C.I.A. in an unfortunate position: it is, essentially, copping a plea of incompetence.
The chance for American intelligence to challenge the documents came as the Administration debated whether to pass them on to ElBaradei. The former high-level intelligence official told me that some senior C.I.A. officials were aware that the documents weren’t trustworthy. “It’s not a question as to whether they were marginal. They can’t be ‘sort of’ bad, or ‘sort of’ ambiguous. They knew it was a fraud—it was useless. Everybody bit their tongue and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the Secretary of State said this?’ The Secretary of State never saw the documents.” He added, “He’s absolutely apoplectic about it.” (A State Department spokesman was unable to comment.) A former intelligence officer told me that some questions about the authenticity of the Niger documents were raised inside the government by analysts at the Department of Energy and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. However, these warnings were not heeded.
“Somebody deliberately let something false get in there,” the former high-level intelligence official added. “It could not have gotten into the system without the agency being involved. Therefore it was an internal intention. Someone set someone up.” (The White House declined to comment.)
Washington’s case that the Iraqi regime had failed to meet its obligation to give up weapons of mass destruction was, of course, based on much more than a few documents of questionable provenance from a small African nation. But George W. Bush’s war against Iraq has created enormous anxiety throughout the world—in part because one side is a superpower and the other is not. It can’t help the President’s case, or his international standing, when his advisers brief him with falsehoods, whether by design or by mistake.
On March 14th, Senator Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, formally asked Robert Mueller, the F.B.I. director, to investigate the forged documents. Rockefeller had voted for the resolution authorizing force last fall. Now he wrote to Mueller, “There is a possibility that the fabrication of these documents may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq.” He urged the F.B.I. to ascertain the source of the documents, the skill-level of the forgery, the motives of those responsible, and “why the intelligence community did not recognize the documents were fabricated.” A Rockefeller aide told me that the F.B.I. had promised to look into it.
Mokhiber: Richard N. Perle is the chairman of the Defense Policy Board and a leading public advocate for war on Iraq. In the New Yorker magazine this week, Seymour Hersh reports that Perle is also managing partner in a venture capital company, Trireme Partners, that is positioned to profit from a war with Iraq. The federal Code of Conduct, which governs Perle in this matter, prohibits conflicts of interest. Henry Kissinger resigned from the 911 commission because of similar business conflicts. When asked on Sunday by Wolf Blitzer about the New Yorker article, Perle called Hersh "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist." Two questions. Given Perle's conflict of interest, and given the widespread public belief that this war is being driven by corporate interests -- war for oil, war for defense contracts, war for construction contracts -- does the President believe -
Fleischer: Whose informed judgement is that?
Mokhiber: Widespread public belief.
Mokhiber: Yes, widespread.
Fleischer: Widespread, or just that chair?
Mokhiber: No, widespread. Does the President believe that Richard Perle should resign from the Defense Policy Board? And the second question, do you agree with Richard Perle that Hersh is "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist."
Fleischer: Russell, there is absolutely no basis to your own individual and personal statement about what may lead to war. If anything leads to it is the fact that Saddam Hussein has refused to disarm. And I think you do an injustice to people, no matter what their background, if you believe that people believe that Saddam Hussein should be disarmed for any reason that suggests personal profit.
Mokhiber: What about the question Ari? Should he resign - and is he a terrorist?
Fleischer: Russell, you have made your speech.
Mokhiber: You didn't answer the question.
Fleischer: You have made your speech.
Hundreds of chanting anti-war demonstrators lined Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on Thursday and dozens lay down in the street to begin a day of planned civil disobedience actions.
Officers, some in riot gear, clamped plastic handcuffs onto protesters and loaded them into police vehicles.
Anti-war groups had called for a day of widespread civil disobedience, including blocking busy intersections and staging a ``die-in'' to protest media and corporate ``profiteering from the war.''
As helicopters hovered overhead, the protesters -- chanting ``Hey-hey, ho-ho, Bush's war has to go!'' and ``Peace now!'' -- jammed police pens along Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets, near St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Saks Fifth Avenue store.
One lane of traffic was reopened on that block 25 minutes later.
Police and security officers placed a web of barricades at adjacent Rockefeller Center, home of the GE Building, NBC and The Associated Press, to prevent a planned ``die-in'' there.
Organizers of the loose coalition, which calls itself M27, said the ``die-in'' was intended to symbolize Iraqi war victims.
One Fifth Avenue protester held a sign showing a picture of parrots and the words, ``Don't Parrot the Right-wing Propaganda.''
``There's a long-standing tradition of nonviolent witness, which we're enacting today,'' said the Rev. Patricia Ackerman, of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Code Pink.
Another protester, Lee Whiting, 44, held up a sign that said, ``Embedded? or In Bed?'' Embedded, she said, means that ``journalists are presenting almost exclusively the military view of this war.''
``We're seeing glorification of technology. We're seeing heartwarming moments. We're not seeing much in the way of the real casualties inflicted on the Iraqis,'' said Whiting, a teacher from Manhattan.
The anti-war demonstrations are costing the city millions of dollars in police overtime and drawing resources away from crime-fighting and anti-terrorism operations, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Wednesday.
``This is more than protest, more than free speech,'' Kelly said. ``We're talking about violating the law.''
The traffic-blocking technique was used in recent protests in San Francisco, which led to thousands of arrests and complaints that police used excessive force.
Anyone who's ever wondered why blogs are crucial alternatives to mainstream news sources need only look at an item from Monday's PRWeek on the White House plan to not only "disseminate, but also to dominate news of the conflict around the world."
Each morning, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer sets "the day's message" in an early-morning conference call to his British counterpart Alastair Campbell, White House communications director Dan Bartlett, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, Pentagon spokesperson Torie Clarke, and White House Office of Global Communication (OGC) director Tucker Eskew.
PRWeek says "The OGC, an office born out of post-September-11 efforts to combat anti-American news stories emerging from Arab countries, will be key in keeping all US spokespeople on message. Each night, US embassies around the world, along with all federal departments in DC, will receive a'Global Messenger' e-mail containing talking points and ready-to-use quotes."
Further, "administration officials have made it clear they'll rely on independent journalists, 'embedded' by the Pentagon with military units, to act as one of their most reliable PR vehicles."
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nicole Maestri reports that following a ban earlier this week from airing live market reports from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Arabic-language television network al Jazeera has also been turned down by the Nasdaq Stock Market Inc.
Nasdaq spokeswoman Silvia Davi said Al Jazeera asked Nasdaq on Tuesday for permission to broadcast live reports from its building in Times Square, but the request was denied. She would not expand on why the Nasdaq refused. Earlier this week, the NYSE revoked the rights of al Jazeera reporters to broadcast from its trading floor, saying its credentials were for networks that provided "responsible" coverage.
"This is ridiculous," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a media watchdog group in Washington, D.C. "Clearly, it is a violation of press freedom."
Hot on the heels of the US Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci's statement that "security will trump trade," implying possible implications for cross-border traffic, comes a story on Wired News indicating that CompAtlanta, a company selling computer equipment on eBay, is refusing to "ship to, or accept bids from, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany or any other country that does not support the United States in our efforts to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. If you are not with us, you are against us."
EBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said CompAtlanta was the only eBay merchant he knew of that is boycotting buyers for reasons related to the war. He said sellers can decide with whom they want to do business, but eBay frowns on posting overtly political messages. Pursglove said eBay ordered CompAtlanta to remove the auction item and to modify its message to bidders from Canada, Mexico, France and Germany.
By Reshma Kapadia
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hacker attacks and technical glitches caused a string of headaches on Tuesday for a new English-language Web site launched by Arab satellite TV network Al Jazeera.
The Qatar-based network, already controversial in the West for airing messages from Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), has faced a storm of criticism in the United States for broadcasting Iraqi footage of five U.S. prisoners of war and at least eight corpses.
Its new site (http;//english.aljazeera.net) went live on Monday, but was quickly hit by hacker attacks -- as was the Arabic-language site (www.aljazeera.net).
Staff were unable to update the English site for about four hours on Tuesday, said it managing editor Joanne Tucker.
"We've had a lot of obstacles thrown in our way," Tucker said. "I thought the launch of this site would be quite smooth and wouldn't make too many waves, but the reaction has been amazing. It has been almost surreal."
Al Jazeera's information technology manager Salah Al Seddiqui said the company was also told by its Qatar-based vendor that U.S.-based DataPipe could no longer host its site from the end of the month. Al Seddiqui said the company was moving its servers to Europe.
Tucker said war sensitivities may have been behind the decision, but DataPipe said in a statement it was ending its relationship with a company that manages Al Jazeera's site on March 31. It said it had no direct ties with Al Jazeera.
The new English-language site has no multi-media capability but carried photos from the footage showing the U.S. prisoners of war. The Arabic-language site had the video, prompting a flood of traffic on Sunday.
Lycos cited that video as the factor that made Al Jazeera the most searched term on search engine, generating three times as much search activity as anything else.
The surge traffic badly hit the site's performance. Product manager Roopak Patel of performance tracker Keynote Systems said the site's performance "went to hell" on March 23.
Tucker said the new site, which for now is devoted exclusively to the war on Iraq (news - web sites), was a temporary operation pending a full launch tentatively set for mid-April.
"Every story on the site now has a byline. It should have been (that way) from the first day but it was just one of the glitches," she said.
WASHINGTON - The US army said it gave the main Iraqi oil well firefighting contract to a unit of Halliburton Co., a firm once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, without any bidding.
Kellogg, Brown and Root, a unit of Houston, Texas-based Halliburton, was handed the contract by the Army Corps of Engineers, which has been placed in charge of fighting the blazes.
The contract had not been put out to tender, said the Corps spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Gene Pawlik.
Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) had already been asked by the Pentagon to draw up plans for extinguishing oil well fires in Iraq, Pawlik noted.
"It made the most sense to engage them in the near term as the company to get the mission done because they were familiar with the details of the fires themselves and what would be needed," he said.
The value of the contract would depend on the scale of the work.
The chief of Britain's armed forces, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, said Friday that Iraqi forces had set fire to seven oil wells in the south of the country.
KBR would claim the cost of its services plus two to five percent depending on how it executed the job, Pawlik said.
Shares in KBR parent Halliburton rose 54 cents or 2.68 percent to 20.66 dollars.
"KBR was selected for this award based on the fact that KBR is the only contractor that could commence implementing the complex contingency plan on extremely short notice," the company said in a statement.
KBR said it had teams of well control and engineering contractors preparing the initial phase.
The company was given a free hand to choose subcontractors for the work, the Corps spokesman said.
KBR chose Houston-based Boots and Coots International, with which it has a services and equipment partnership, and Wild Well Control Inc. as firefighting subcontractors.
President George W. Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said he did not have the details.
"I think the question that people will want answered is: Do we have a plan in place to put out the oil fires, and is it a good plan to put out the oil fires?," he told a news conference.
Bush asked lawmakers on Tuesday to approve some 3.5 billion dollars in aid to get Iraq back on its feet, including nearly half a billion for oil field repair.
In a statement late Monday, the Defense Department said the Army Corps of Engineers would rely largely on contractors to extinguish the oil well fires and assess the damage to facilities.
Very good story by Angela Gunn with links to varoius blogs related to the war, such as this one by CNN journalist Kevin Sites -- it's been shut down temporarily by his employers but with luck will be up soon -- and the English language version of Al Jazeera (it seems to be quite slow, probably tons of traffic).
Declan McCullagh's Politech is carrying a story stating that YellowTimes.org, a Canadian website, was shut down for two hours until they removed a photo of an American POW and a photo of a dead Iraqi child.
McCullagh says "YellowTimes told me that their hosting provider, Vortech Hosting, pulled the plug because of pressure from its upstream provider, Level3.net. Ogrish.com has posted a far more disturbing video clip and hasn't received any threats yet (at least as of mid-afternoon [March 24th])".
At one point, YellowTimes had posted an article on the incident here, but their hosting has been suspended entirely.
Monday March 24, 2003
A 29-year-old, middle-class man somewhere in the suburbs of the Iraqi capital has become one of the most intriguing stories on the internet. Known simply as Salam Pax, his online diary has fascinated the web's myriad users with its sharp observations of a tumultuous six months for the beleaguered Iraqi nation that has included a presidential election, yet another UN resolution, its resulting weapons inspectors and, of course, the approach of war.
Story continues below; here's the blog Where is Raed ?
As the build-up to conflict intensified, more and more people became drawn - through forwarded emails, weblogs, or message boards - to the compelling musings of what appeared to be an educated, if cynical, young man in Baghdad waiting for war. His diary, mysteriously titled Where is Raed?, has recorded, with humour and in eloquent detail, the anxieties of the Iraqi capital's besieged citizens as they awaited attack - their rush to tape up windows, the stockpiling of groceries, the increased presence of menacing Ba'ath party officials on the streets. By last Friday, as American B52s finally homed in on Baghdad, the website had become the most linked-to web diary on the internet as visitors, in fear of his safety, eagerly awaited his next posting. At the time of going to press, Salam hadn't posted again since Friday.
But is he real? It has been one of the most popular and debated questions on the internet for weeks. What has been troubling many visitors to the site is the question of whether Pax is who he claims he is. Never ones to spurn a conspiracy theory, internet users have queried whether he is an ordinary Iraqi man located in a Baghdad suburb, as he vehemently says he is, and put forward wild claims that he could be anything from a Mossad agent to a Saddam stooge intent on pumping out misinformation for the gullible masses.
To start with, there is the mystery of his cryptic name. It doesn't take long to realise that "Salam Pax" is a simple play on words meaning "peace" and "peace" in Arabic and Latin respectively. This mirroring motif is reflected in the website's address, www.dear_raed.blogspot.com, with its palindromic "dear" and "Raed". There has also been a lot of chatter about the true identity of the eponymous "Raed" from the website's title, Where is Raed? Is "Raed" a euphemism for a family member in trouble with the Iraqi authorities? Or is he Salam's gay lover? Speculation has been rife. But isn't he just understandably protecting his identity?
But the doubters seem to ignore the most compelling evidence that Salam is who he says he is - the detail of his day-to-day life. Those who know Baghdad well, and who have read the diary closely, say there is no doubt in their mind that whoever is writing it is currently resident in the Iraqi capital. The author may display evidence of spending time in the west (possibly Britain, though he does use Americanisms) with his cynical sense of humour and love of David Bowie lyrics, but the reams and reams of fascinating detail about domestic and street life in Baghdad are highly convincing. After all, why would he make it all up, especially for the long period before it even became the internet phenomenon it is today. As Salam himself said last Friday: "Please stop sending emails asking if I were for real. Don't believe it? Then don't read it. I am not anybody's propaganda ploy. Well, except my own."
A grim view of the future from Steven Brill.
By Deborah Sharp
MIAMI -- When Travis Clark joined the U.S. military at age 19, it seemed like a good way to travel and pay for college. It was 1996, the country was at peace, and Clark signed on for an eight-year hitch.
Now, with a year left on his contract, the Marine reservist from Plantation, Fla., says he won't go if his unit is called to serve in a war against Iraq. He is adding his voice to a small chorus of like-minded military personnel who say they will not fight for a cause they do not support.
''This war is the wrong war,'' says Clark, 25. ''I can't put myself into the position of going into another country and forcing them to defend themselves against me.''
Unlike during the Vietnam War era, when hundreds of thousands of men dodged the draft or sought the status of conscientious objector, today's military is composed solely of volunteers. About 2.7 million men and women serve in active-duty and reserve forces.
It's uncertain how many say their conscience won't allow them to fight in Iraq. Last year, 29 people were discharged from the military as conscientious objectors.
But peace groups say a hotline that counsels members of the military against war logged more than 3,500 calls in January, double its usual monthly average.
''I don't think there is anything cowardly about standing up and saying, 'I won't be a part of this,' '' says Bill Galvin of the Center on Conscience and War in Washington, D.C.
Critics say a person who volunteers for the military and discovers an aversion to war on the brink of invading Iraq is being disingenuous at best and cowardly at worst.
''Anyone in the military who has signed up to protect our country and now doesn't want to do so is doing a grave disservice to this country and to their fellow soldiers,'' says Jason Crawford, founder of Patriots for the Defense of America, an Internet-based group that supports attacking Iraq.
The government does recognize that views can change over the course of military service. Those who can prove a religious, ethical or moral opposition to all wars may apply for a discharge or transfer to a non-combat job as a conscientious objector. But the criteria for such cases are difficult. For example, the Air Force's policy governing application and approval runs to 20 pages. Those who don't receive such status but refuse to fight can face court-martial and penalties from dishonorable discharge to prison.
Pro- and anti-war sentiment divided the USA during the Vietnam War. From 1965 to 1973, 2.15 million people served in Vietnam. About 170,000 people earned status as conscientious objectors. Many thousands of others burned their draft cards. At least 40,000 fled the country, and others served time in prison. In 1977, President Carter granted amnesty to many war resisters.
Opposition to a war in Iraq is a trickle compared with the Vietnam War era.
Peace activists from the '60s are among those advising current military members how to follow their conscience and avoid war.
''I have no sympathy for Saddam Hussein. He's a blight on his people. But this war makes no sense,'' says Michael Simmons, 57, of the American Friends Service Committee, part of the Quaker religion.
Simmons was imprisoned in 1969 for 2 years for refusing to be drafted to fight in Vietnam. He says most servicemembers now wrestling with the possibility of killing Iraqis had joined the military for travel, self-improvement and other benefits promised by recruiters.
''I see these young kids who are going to be suffering from this for years to come -- if they're lucky enough to come out alive. And that's not even to mention the effect on the Iraqi people,'' says Simmons, whose older brother, Reginald, served in Vietnam. ''It pains my heart.''
Few hotline callers are willing to speak out about avoiding a war in Iraq. But Clark has some company in his public stance for peace:
* Michael Sudbury, 27, a former Army Reserve staff sergeant, called a news conference last month in Salt Lake City to say he wouldn't go when his unit deployed to a war in Iraq. Sudbury's military discharge, delayed because of the pending conflict, came through a day before his planned announcement.
* Travis Burnham, 24, an Army photojournalist at Fort Drum in Upstate New York, applied in January for conscientious objector status. The Army is considering his application. The process, which includes a psychiatric interview, can take up to six months.
Burnham's older brother, Taylor, is an Army combat engineer in Kuwait. Their mother keeps a yellow ribbon on her door for Taylor and a protest sign on her wall for Travis.
Dave Wiggins, 40, a physician and father of two who lives in High Point, N.C., has also counseled military personnel on avoiding war. A graduate of West Point who served as an Army captain and flight surgeon, he wound up with a dishonorable discharge and a $25,000 fine after he refused to take part in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. After his conscientious objector application was denied, Wiggins staged a hunger strike, endured death threats and finally stripped off his uniform and stopped military traffic heading to the front lines.
''It had become obvious to me that the military was more a political tool than white knights in shining armor going off to save democracy,'' Wiggins says.
His father told him he had brought such shame to the family that he didn't feel right hanging the American flag outside their home.
About 500 servicemembers filed for conscientious objector status during the Persian Gulf War, according to the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Peace groups say as many as three times that number refused to fight, and many served prison sentences up to 18 months.
There have been conscientious objectors as long as there have been wars. In the Civil War, 4,000 soldiers whose religious beliefs prohibited killing for any reason served in unarmed positions. During World War II, 42,000 conscientious objectors refused to fight. Many went to prison, but 25,000 served in non-combat jobs, and 12,000 were placed in work camps. They volunteered to help in mental institutions and to serve in experiments on contracting pneumonia and the flu.
Some in today's all-volunteer force question those who enlisted but now don't want to go.
Says Navy Lt. Cmdr. Pauline Storum: ''When you sign up and raise your right hand to serve your country, you don't really get the option of rolling over one morning and saying, 'I'm not going to go to work today,' ''
From David Ensor
CNN Washington Bureau
Intelligence documents that U.S. and British governments said were strong evidence that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons have been dismissed as forgeries by U.N. weapons inspectors.
The documents, given to International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, indicated that Iraq might have tried to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger, but the agency said they were "obvious" fakes.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the documents directly in his presentation to the U.N. Security Council outlining the Bush administration's case against Iraq.
"I'm sure the FBI and CIA must be mortified by this because it is extremely embarrassing to them," former CIA official Ray Close said.
Responding to questions about the documents from lawmakers, Powell said, "It was provided in good faith to the inspectors and our agency received it in good faith, not participating ... in any way in any falsification activities."
"It was the information that we had. We provided it. If that information is inaccurate, fine," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday.
"We don't believe that all the issues surrounding nuclear weapons have been resolved [in Iraq]," he said.
How were forgeries missed?
But the discovery raises questions such as why the apparent forgeries were given to inspectors and why U.S. and British intelligence agents did not recognize that they were not authentic.
Sources said that one of the documents was a letter discussing the uranium deal supposedly signed by Niger President Tandja Mamadou. The sources described the signature as "childlike" and said that it clearly was not Mamadou's.
Another, written on paper from a 1980s military government in Niger, bears the date of October 2000 and the signature of a man who by then had not been foreign minister of Niger in 14 years, sources said.
"The IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts that these documents -- which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger -- are not in fact authentic," ElBaradei said in his March 7 presentation to the U.N. Security Council.
Close said the CIA should have known better.
"They have tremendously sophisticated and experienced people in their technical services division, who wouldn't allow a forgery like this to get by," Close said. "I mean it's just mystifying to me. I can't understand it."
A U.S. intelligence official said that the documents were passed on to the International Atomic Energy Agency within days of being received with the comment, " 'We don't know the provenance of this information, but here it is.' "
If a mistake was made, a U.S. official suggested, it was more likely due to incompetence not malice.
"That's a convenient explanation, but it doesn't satisfy me," Close said. "Incompetence I have not seen in those agencies. I've seen plenty of malice, but I've never seen incompetence."
Who made the forgeries?
But the question remains -- who is responsible for the apparent forgeries?
Experts said the suspects include the intelligence services of Iraq's neighbors, other pro-war nations, Iraqi opposition groups or simply con men.
Most rule out the United States, Great Britain or Israel because they said those countries' intelligence services would have been able to make much more convincing forgeries if they had chosen to do so.
President Bush even highlighted the documents in his State of the Union address on January 28.
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," Bush said.
U.S. officials said that the assertion by the president and British government was also based on additional evidence of Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from another African country. But officials would not say which nation and a knowledgable U.S. official said that there was not much to that evidence either.
CNN reports that as part of the US government's prewar "orange" alert", the FAA has declared Disneyland and Disneyworld -- along with those other hubs of US civilization, New York and Washington DC -- to be no-fly zones.
"We're taking measures to correspond with the threat level to protect the airspace. That which is inside that airspace are potential targets of symbolic value," FAA spokesman Greg Martin said.
Counterterrorism officials said the Disney parks have come up in interviews with al Qaeda operatives. Pictures and information about the parks have allegedly been found during some terror sweeps overseas. Martin, on the other hand, stated "there is no specific, credible threat for Disney."
Authorities in California and New Jersey are making it very clear that a "red alert" during a war could result in the suspension of most civil liberties. The Press-Telegram is running a story about Homeland Security measures that begins with the sentence "Should war with Iraq erupt, Southern Californians could find themselves living in a world of restricted travel, constrained trade, closed schools and public buildings, canceled events and hypersecurity." The South Jersey News quotes Sid Caspersen, New Jersey's director of the office of counter-terrorism, as saying that if the nation escalates to "red alert" you will be assumed by authorities to be the enemy if you so much as venture outside your home. Plan to spend a lot of time in front of your computer.
Following a Space Daily story, Slashdot is reporting that the U.S. government may be degrading GPS satellite signals to hamper Iraqi forces' ability to use those systems during the war. This could potentially reduce accuracy from 3 meters to over 100 meters. The U.S. will do this by increasing the inaccuracies on the civilian C/A code, turning back on S/A (Selective Availability), by having the satellites deliberately and randomly return inaccurate information on where they are. S/A degrades GPS accuracy to only 100 meters 95 percent of the time and 300 meters the other 5 percent of the time.
People depending on GPS systems may want to do sanity checks on any data returned by those systems during the war.
According to Nielsen/NetRatings, 49 percent of the Guardian's 1.3 million unique visitors (that's the number of different visitors, not the site's total traffic) in January originated from the Americas. Likewise, Nielsen said a quarter of the visitors to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's website in January were from the Americas.
According to Richard Goosey, NetRating's international chief of measurement science, traffic from the Americas was not the result of an across-the-board increase in news consumption.
Jon Dennis, Guardian Unlimited deputy news editor, said U.S. readers are visiting his site for the range of opinions it publishes, and to engage in vigorous debate. Media outlets in the United States, he said, are not presenting the issues critically.
"As a journalist, I find it quite strange that there's not more criticism of the Bush administration in the American media," he said. "It's as though the whole U.S. is in shock (from Sept. 11). It's hard for (the media) to be dispassionate about it. It seems as though they're not thinking as clearly as they should be [ ... ] Weblogs are doing all the work that the U.S. media did in the past," Dennis said. "That's an interesting development."
by Alastair Hay
The US wants to use potentially lethal chemicals against Iraq - despite the fact that this would contravene international law
The US secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, recently argued that the military should again be allowed to use chemicals as weapons of war in Iraq - not the tonnes of lethal nerve gases, such as sarin or tabun, which the US possesses, or its supply of mustard gas, which causes severe injuries and sometimes kills; no, Rumsfeld wants to take advantage of the US's stockpile of the misleadingly named "non-lethal" chemical agents, particularly those used for riot control. These cause temporary incapacitation for the majority, but can be lethal in confined spaces.
What Rumsfeld is proposing is illegal. The rules are set down by the chemical weapons convention (CWC), which became international law in 1997. It states that "any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacition or permanent harm to humans or animals" is forbidden as a method of warfare. The US, along with some 140 other countries, including the UK, has signed this treaty and is pledged to uphold it.
Rumsfeld, in his testimony to the House of Representatives armed services committee last month, referred to the CWC as a "straitjacket" limiting US options in war. What the US should be able to do, Rumsfeld claims, is resort to the use of non-lethal agents in combat situations when there are civilians present and there is a need to preserve life. He gave two examples. The first was "when transporting dangerous people in a confined space", such as an aircraft. The second was when "women and children" are trapped with enemy troops "in a cave".
Such action is forbidden by international law. The CWC explicitly forbids the use of riot-control agents except for domestic law enforcement purposes. Under the CWC these and other chemicals can also be used for policing operations if the country's own laws permit them. The exemption applies only to those policing operations and not to any external armed conflict. It would be stretching credulity to argue that any prospective conflict with Iraq was a simple, policing operation.
Rumsfeld's desire to protect civilians is, in any case, totally impractical. In a confined space - an aircraft, or a cave - there is no way to guarantee that civilian exposure to the chemicals will always be low, and in high concentrations they kill.
Another group of chemicals Rumsfeld may be thinking of using are the so-called calmatives. There are a vast number of possible chemicals in this category based on the known substances used to relieve anxiety, treat depression or reduce pain. Precisely what calmatives the US possesses is not known.
Here, too, there are great risks, particularly in war. The recent Moscow Opera House siege was ended through the use of a calmative fed into the building through the air conditioning system. The Russian special forces are said to have used an opiate-based compound, a derivative of a chemical fentanyl, which is generally used in operations. But as we all now know it may have ended the siege, but at a terrible cost involving over 120 dead.
Why so many died is still a matter of dispute. What is incontestable is that many people were exposed to lethal concentrations. Although calmatives are effective at non-lethal concentrations, it is extremely difficult to ensure that everyone is only exposed to those amounts. To guarantee that individuals in the middle of a large room are sedated it is inevitable that those at the periphery and near air vents will be exposed to lethal amounts. Deaths are inevitable and if emergency services are not equipped to counteract the effects of the chemicals, the death toll will rise. The Moscow siege would appear to exemplify all these problems. In a war the situation would be even worse. Guaranteeing low exposure to chemicals would be very difficult, and as for providing emergency medical help in time, this is a forlorn hope.
The CWC is meant to be a straitjacket. Its provisions, elaborated over nearly 30 years of negotiations exist precisely to constrain combatants in war. There is, or should be, a mutual recognition that certain codes of conduct are important to uphold, such as accepting the surrender of an enemy and protecting prisoners and civilians. The CWC rules are an attempt to civilise war, if that is possible, and to protect non-combatants. This one group is increasingly vulnerable to the use of chemical warfare agents because it is always likely to have no protection against them.
The irony of all this is that should Rumsfeld persuade President Bush to authorise use of non-lethal agents (riot-control and/or others) Iraq would be entitled under the 1925 Geneva protocol to retaliate in kind. This protocol (of which both Iraq and the US are signatories) forbids first use of chemicals in war. And if, as is likely, use of chemicals resulted in deaths, Iraq could arguably resort to the use of lethal agents in its arsenal. In the heat of battle it would be difficult for Iraq's forces to discern that only non-lethal agents were being used against them. It would be understandable therefore, that they might resort to whatever was available to them to use. If, of course, they have any.
Should the US resort to the use of non-lethal agents it will seriously undermine the CWC. This fledgling disarmament treaty is universally cited as a model set of rules which we will all benefit from. Because a few members of the current US administration object to its constraints, this treaty may be about to be holed below the waterline.
Alastair Hay is professor of Environmental Toxicology at Leeds University
by Mark Benjamin
WASHINGTON -- Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, on Tuesday called on government officials to leak documents to Congress and the press showing the Bush administration is lying in building its case against Saddam Hussein.
Ellsberg, an ex-Marine and military analyst, said he held out hope that exposing alleged lies by the Bush administration could still avert an unjust war. He warned that whistleblowers may face ruin of their careers and marriages and be incarcerated.
"Don't wait until the bombs start falling," Ellsberg said at a Tuesday press conference in Washington. "If you know the public is being lied to and you have documents to prove it, go to Congress and go to the press."
Ellsberg did not leak the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times until 1971, although he says he had information in the mid-1960s that he now wishes he had leaked then.
"Do what I wish I had done before the bombs started falling" in Vietnam, Ellsberg said. "I think there is some chance that the truth could avert war."
The thousands of pages in the Pentagon Papers showed the government's secret decision-making process on Vietnam since the end of World War II. Their publication -- the government sued and lost to prevent it -- is widely credited with helping to turn public opinion against the war in Southeast Asia.
Ellsberg's press conference comes a little more than a week after the London Observer reported on what it said is a top-secret memo showing that the United States planned to spy on U.N. delegates to gain an advantage in the debate over Iraq.
The Observer reported the electronic memo dated Jan. 31, by high-ranking National Security Agency operative Fank Koza, says the agency is "mounting a surge" of intelligence activities mostly focused on U.N. Security Council members for "information that could give U.S. policy-makers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals or to head off surprises."
NSA spokesman Patrick Weadon wouldn't comment on the authenticity of the e-mail memorandum. "We have no statement," he said.
U.N. ambassadors have mostly shrugged off the memorandum as reflecting the regular course of business at the United Nations.
Ellsberg said this story on spying at the United Nations is potentially more significant than the Pentagon Papers because it comes before a war has begun and it shows a desperate Bush administration. "This leak is potentially more significant than the release of the Pentagon Papers, since it is extraordinarily timely," Ellsberg said.
This past Sunday, the Observer reported that an employee at the top-secret British Government Communications Headquarters had been arrested following publication of the story. Ellsberg said reporters at the Observer told him the 28-year old woman arrested was not the source of the leak.
A second U.S. diplomat resigned yesterday in protest against the Bush administration's war stance. John H. Brown, who served in the diplomatic corps since 1981, said Bush's disregard for the views of other nations was giving birth to "an anti-American century." Last month, a senior U.S. diplomat based in Athens, political counselor John Brady Kiesling, resigned with similar complaints.
Last week, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, rejected a Bush administration claim that Iraq had tried to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes to use in centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
Copyright © 2001-2003 United Press International
[Here's a story from this week that recounts the events that lead to Lytle and Emilie's arrests (see below), but also provides a global perspective of the Baghdad Snapshot Action.]
by Alexander Zaitchik
There are anonymous wedding pictures plastered on trashcans around Tokyo and Warsaw. On lampposts in Berlin and Melbourne, you will find stills of children riding a merry-go-round. Watch the newspaper boxes in Manhattan for a captionless image of two friends with their arms around each other, smiling.
This cryptic smattering of portraits from Palo Alto to Yukon seems to be a globally coordinated art project, but it’s not. The spreading phenomenon is an antiwar meme hatched by the Baghdad Snapshot Action Crew, a New York-based collective that’s been bombing the city with pictures of happy Iraqis since the middle of February. Their website, nationalphilistine.com, offers 30 of the images for download, and so far activists in 43 cities in nine countries have brought the faces home.
"We’re getting twenty emails a day from everywhere," says Tarikh Korula, a BSAC founder. "People are still using the pictures. It’s growing."
Like the New York-based Lysistrata Project, which inspired dozens of international solidarity productions of the Greek antiwar comedy, the BSAC started small. Korula got the idea when his friend Paul Chan returned from a two-month stint in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team, an humanitarian group. During his work, Chan took hundreds of images with his digital camera, all of ordinary people doing ordinary things in their home city: hanging out, playing, laughing.
Chan’s friends were so moved by the snapshots that they decided to turn them into an antiwar message in the run-up to the Feb. 15 protests. Inspired by the photo memorials to the dead that peppered Ground Zero after 9/11, Korula helped narrow Paul’s picture collection down to thirty images and then printed 9000 copies for postering around Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. The only text they placed beneath the images is the word "Baghdad" followed by the date the picture was taken.
"They reminded us of our friends and family," says Korula. "The people are just playing around, being normal. This is still possible in Iraq, but it won’t be when the bombs start falling. We didn’t want to add spin. The meaning is obvious: Come April 20th, could you find this person again? During a ‘shock and awe’ campaign, this woman isn’t going to be getting married. These kids aren’t going to be laughing."
The pictures are a departure from most antiwar imagery distributed on the left. Standard-issue antiwar agitprop tends to focus on mutilated Iraqi children dying from simple diseases (presumably a fault of the sanctions) or cancer patients made sick by the use of depleted uranium shells in the first Gulf War. "Those images [of suffering] are real," says Korula, "but it’s not the whole story. We wanted to restore some dignity to the people of Iraq, to humanize the people we’ll be bombing."
Korula and his friends began recruiting volunteers in late January. On the February night that the crew first hit the streets, it felt like 20 degrees below freezing, and the organizers were stunned when dozens of strangers turned out. "Even with the cold, 75 people showed up," says Elise Gardella, a photographer and crew organizer. "We started emailing our friends, then they emailed their friends and it just took off."
Volunteers were given a stack of pictures and clear packaging tape–not buckets of messy wheat paste–and assigned to a neighborhood. Most cops didn’t know what to make of the pictures, and volunteers experienced little harassment from authorities and passers-by.
Except for Lytle Shaw and Emilie Clark. While taping a poster to a lamppost at the corner of Mercer and Prince Sts., three plainclothes cops emerged from a nearby car and charged them with a "quality of life" infraction. Illegal postering is a criminal misdemeanor in New York, and offenders are usually given a court summons and a nominal fine. But Shaw and Clark–who is seven months pregnant–were instead handcuffed and taken to the First Precinct on Varick St., where they were booked and, after seven hours in jail, given a March 13 court date.
During their incarceration, the two were questioned about their antiwar activities and warned not to attend the protests that weekend. "The police emphasized that many of [the cops at the protest] would be rookies, and suggested that they’d be looking for violence," says Shaw, who is organizing a protest for his arraignment. "They said they wouldn’t want to read our names in the deaths column of the newspaper."
Despite the arrests and intimidation of Shaw and Clark, the Baghdad Snapshot Action Crew plans to keep postering. To help organize future missions, they’ve enlisted a veteran poster campaigner for Queer Nation and Dyke Action Machine. Although most of the pictures put up around the Upper East Side and Soho were taken down immediately, these wealthier neighborhoods remain earmarked for saturation bombing runs as the war drums grow louder.
By posting their pictures without comment, does the Baghdad Snapshot Action Crew run the risk of having their posters interpreted as prowar? Proponents of invasion argue that ordinary Iraqis–the very faces highlighted by the group–will be the beneficiaries of a war that topples Saddam Hussein, not its victims. But the group is confident in the clarity of its message and doubts observers could take the posters as showing the hopeful faces of the hawk position.
"In a war, they’ll be given liberty and death," says Gardella. "We should all know from the experience of the first Gulf War that there’s nowhere to hide in Baghdad. The shelters aren’t safe."
As the BSAC continues to poster and activists here and around the world follow their lead, Gardella stresses the importance of numbers in a successful postering campaign.
"Even 9000 pictures is just a drop in the bucket," she says. "New York turns over very quickly, that’s just the nature of the city."
Volume 16, Issue 11 - 3/12/2003
[Ok, another story about pop songs, but this one has a useful list of links, and it is arguably a guage of how "mainstream" anti-war sentiment has become when it infiltrates, for better or worse, the entertainment industry. Madonna's video -- sounds a bit like that Frankie Goes to Hollywood one of yore -- is still a long way from a public articulation of why the war shouldn't happen, but I'm sure it'll put it on the MTV radar, into the image-recycle of television.]
What if they gave a war and nobody sang?
The music community, swift to react to the 9/11 terror attacks with benefit concerts and topical songs, has been slow to address the impending war in Iraq.
Though lagging behind the pace of military buildup, anti-war momentum is growing in pop's ranks. Reaction so far is more in gestures and statements than in music, perhaps because sporting a peace button requires less time and effort than writing, recording and distributing a protest song.
Music's loose anti-war alliance should get a vigorous push with the world premiere of Madonna's American Life video on MTV this month. Using a fashion show as a backdrop, the clip "examines the horrors of war" as an audience applauds grenade-lobbing models in haute-couture army fatigues, spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg says.
In a statement, Madonna disputes misconceptions about the video: "I am not anti-Bush. I am not pro-Iraq. I am pro-peace. I hope this provokes thought and dialogue."
Madonna is the first high-profile artist to directly confront the Iraq standoff in her work. Other efforts are falling beneath the pop-culture radar. Musician/poet Michael Franti performed his scathing Bomb da World ("You can bomb the world to pieces but you can't bomb it into peace") at a taping for the late-night Craig Kilborn show, but it was cut from the broadcast. Singer/songwriter Stephan Smith's The Bell, an anti-war record featuring a live version, a spoken-word rendition by Pete Seeger and a remix by DJ Spooky, was just issued on the tiny Synchronic label.
Other new tunes are circulating in cyberspace. Chuck D's Fine Arts Militia takes on the Bush agenda in A Twisted Sense of God, a rock/spoken-word diatribe available at slamjams.com. Folk singer Leslie Nuchow's An Eye for an Eye (Will Leave the Whole World Blind) is at slammusic.com. Musician Jynkz posted We Don't Want Your War at jynkz.com.
More songs are on the way. Singer Jonatha Brooke has revamped 1995's War, a biting retort to the Gulf War, to protest the current blueprint for battle. It went to radio recently and is a free download at jonathabrooke.com. Bay Area rapper Paris questions the wisdom of post-9/11 patriotism in What Would You Do, a track on his upcoming Sonic Jihad album.
British musicians have been far more vocal in criticizing hawks. Members of Massive Attack and Blur subsidized ads and posters protesting Britain's support for U.S. aggression. At February's Brit Awards in London, rising star Ms. Dynamite and George Michael performed an anti-war version of his Faith, and Coldplay singer Chris Martin blasted war plans: "We are all going to die when George Bush gets his way."
The tone was tamer at the Grammy Awards. Sheryl Crow, known to don a "war is not the answer" T-shirt, wore a guitar strap emblazoned with "no war." Bonnie Raitt proposed, "Let's build some peace," while Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit made an awkward statement suggesting, "This war should go away as soon as possible."
Activist artists overseas have been quicker to respond musically. The U.K.-based anarchist collective Chumbawamba is selling its antiwar single Jacob's Ladder (Not in My Name), a revised version of an earlier song, at chumba.com with the notation: "We are among the artists and activists refusing to stay silent as Bush pushes for war."
Peace Not War, a two-CD benefit compilation on Australia's Shock Records, boasts an international lineup of acts opposing the call to war in Iraq, including Public Enemy, Billy Bragg, Midnight Oil and Ani DiFranco. In the song Frijolero, Mexican rap-metal band Molotov condemns supporters of force for "burning money, making war on other countries."
Acts have been quieter north of the border, but that won't last. The U.S. music community "is waking up," says Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, who expects a quick expansion of anti-war activities among his colleagues. He and rapper Mos Def have recorded two 30-second TV ads attacking Bush's policies. Simmons helped launch Musicians United to Win Without War, a campaign supported by David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, Lou Reed, R.E.M., Dave Matthews and others that taken out ads in several major newspapers.
"We haven't paid attention to it the way we should have," says Simmons. He says the international debate "went over the heads of a lot of young people."
Though the standoff has left many conflicted, invading Iraq will do more harm than good, he says.
"Saddam Hussein is a horrible person, but that's Iraq's problem," he says. "George Bush -- that's America's problem. My concern is the war on poverty and ignorance. When are we going to adequately fund that war? All the people who will die fighting in Iraq are poor and young."
The young are beginning to rally, as are their musical idols, whether at a podium or in a melody.
P. Diddy "is more well known and well liked by young people across the world than George Bush," Simmons says. "Jay-Z is more well known than Colin Powell. These are powerful voices that can make a difference."
Kuwaitis apparently following marks left by U.S. Marines
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Kuwaiti workers have cut holes in the demilitarized zone fence between Iraq and Kuwait big enough to drive military vehicles through, United Nations officials said Friday.
The workers apparently are cutting areas marked by U.S. Marines who have been working inside the demilitarized zone for days, according to the United Nations.
Kuwaiti workers said they were told to make 35 holes in the fence by March 15, the United Nations said.
The development comes as U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix reported Friday to the Security Council on Iraqi disarmament efforts.
About 100,000 U.S. and British troops are in Kuwait preparing for a possible air and ground attack aimed at dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. Iraq denies that it has any such weapons.
President George W. Bush said Thursday that he had not decided whether to invade Iraq, but he added that U.N. Security Council members would decide in a matter of days whether they would join the United States in forcibly disarming the country. (Full story)
The United Kingdom has presented a revised draft resolution to the Security Council that sets a March 17 deadline for Iraq to comply fully with previous Security Council disarmament resolutions. (Full story)
The United Nations said Kuwait has cut four holes in the fence along the demilitarized zone, revising an earlier report that the Kuwaitis had opened between 10 and 15 gaps -- some up to 330 yards [300 meters] wide -- in the electrified fence inside the DMZ, and that Kuwaitis and U.S. Marines had made marks for about 30 more.
In the latest report, a U.N. official said the workers told peacekeepers "they were employed by a commercial firm under a contract issued by the Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior" and had been told to create holes "each 25 meters [82 feet] wide."
Security Council told of incursions
The United Nations sent a letter on the matter to the Security Council on Friday. It would be up to the Security Council to determine whether the activity violated the resolution that established the zone.
On Thursday, the Security Council was told that U.S. military had encroached into the zone.
By U.N. mandate, no military activity other than a police presence by Iraq and Kuwait can take place in the DMZ. Technically, if U.S. troops go through breaches in the demilitarized zone fence to enter Iraq from the south, they would be in violation of Security Council rules, and that would be reported to the United Nations
U.S. officials said that scenario was not a concern because any war with Iraq would be a justified attack because of Iraq's treatment of Kuwait in the past and possible mistreatment in the future.
CNN's Martin Savidge in Kuwait City said the U.S. military operations in the demilitarized zone could be scouting missions for possible military action against Iraq.
CNN's Gordon Robison reported from the edge of the DMZ on Friday that he saw two U.S. military Humvees pull several hundred meters into the zone and park. Robison said the occupants were upset that a CNN camera crew was videotaping them and soon left the area.
Diplomatic sources in Kuwait City said violations occur daily, and when observers tell members of the U.S. military that they are in violation of a U.N. mandate, they usually leave -- sometimes after saying they are lost.
Marine helicopters reported inside DMZ
Observers have also reported seeing U.S. Marine helicopters inside the zone.
U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Thursday, "UNIKOM [the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission] has reported numerous violations of the demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait since the 4th of March by personnel in civilian clothes in 4-by-4 vehicles, at least some of whom were armed and identified themselves as U.S. Marines."
U.S. military spokesmen in Kuwait had no immediate comment on the UNIKOM report, Reuters reported. The Kuwaiti mission to the U.N. said it was not aware of the story but played down its significance.
UNIKOM was established in 1991 after a U.S.-led coalition ejected Iraqi occupation troops from Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War. Its job is to monitor the demilitarized zone and to "deter border violations and report any hostile action," according to the United Nations.
Because of the activity, a U.N. official in Kuwait told CNN, UNIKOM forces inside the DMZ have requested permission to elevate their alert status from amber, or level 2, to red, level 3. At level 4, U.N. observers would be removed from the DMZ.
UNIKOM previously reported three breaches in the electric fence, Eckhard said.
Kuwaiti officials said construction under way on the Kuwaiti side of the demilitarized zone had encroached on the fence, Eckhard said.
A spokesman for the Kuwaiti Defense Ministry told CNN that though he had no comment on the reports of gaps in the fence, the structure is within Kuwaiti territory and was built by Kuwait, so any Kuwaiti modifications to it would be legal.
-- CNN's Richard Roth, Martin Savidge and Liz Neisloss contributed to this report.
Anti-War Protest at Site of Burning Man Festival
(Gothic News Service, 3/9/03) Two Rangers at Black Rock Desert – the annual site in Nevada for the Burning Man Festival - were greeted by a strange vision this morning. Talking to a Reno newspaperman, one of the Rangers reported, "It was sunrise across the playa and we were on our first patrol. When we looked down from the perimeter ridge, we initially saw an astonishingly large grid of either body or garbage bags. Through our binoculars, against the rising sun, we could still see that they were definitely filled - it could have been potatoes or anything big and lumpy. Each bag was spaced about 30 feet away from the next one - about 50 parallel lines going north and south, and about 40 going east and west. The whole thing made a large rectangular space, about a mile long and a kilometer wide. Frankly I can’t say if was just spooky, or both spooky and spectacular, to see all those black bags begin to get the first rays of the sun."
"When we got down inside to the actual site," reported the other Ranger, "You can't believe what we found in each of those bags. Each one had a couple of breathing holes, thankfully, for otherwise they were tied down close with duct tape. I had to use my knife carefully so as not to cut anything inside. Lo and behold, when I opened the first one, it was a body. The first one a female and the next one a male, both in their twenties. Each body was in a fetal, curled up shape. Breathing, thankfully, but totally comatose, or so it seemed."
"Yep, not saying a thing," his fellow Ranger interrupted. "Nothing at all. But more strange, on the back of each body - and now we reckon there were over 1,000 - someone had scripted in large, lavender letters, "We Mourn for Iraq".
"When we cut open a few more bags, we realized that the people were of all ages and colors. I don’t know why, but we both started getting real sad and had to work real hard – opening one bag after another - to keep from breaking down and crying. I think we're still both pretty upset."
According to the Reno Newspaperman – apart from his interview - nobody from the local Press was allowed to visit, photograph or film the occasion. Park and Regional authorities in contact with Attorney General Ashcroft's office apparently decided that any published images of the comatose bodies might become a national security issue. The rangers did report that it took a full day to open the bags and deliver the bodies to a local, unidentified military base. It's not known whether any of the participants have begun to wake up, whether or not they will be charged with any crime and when or from where they will be released by the military.
The Department of Defence has withdrawn advertising from all student media around Australia because of an ' adbust' done by Vertigo, the student newspaper of The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). The move comes in response to a controversial full-page parody of Defence recruitment advertising, which features in the latest edition.
Vertigos "adbust" satirically portrays the Department of Defence as a political tool of an Australian government intent on participating in an unsanctioned invasion of Iraq.
Vertigo had earlier rejected Defence Department requests for advertising space, a move that instigated a boycott of Defence advertising by a number of student publications at major Australian universities. The "adbust" subtly highlights the hypocritical nature of a possible invasion of another country being undertaken by the Department of "Defence".
"We see it as a great victory that students are no longer being inundated with inaccurate representations of the Defence Force," said Vertigo spokesperson, Jano Gibson.
[One of the nice features of commondreams.org are the postings by Russell Mokhiber of his unedited interactions with White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer during the daily press briefings. Here's the latest one.]
Mokhiber: Ari, you have said in the past that every step will be taken to protect innocent and civilian life in Iraq. During the first Gulf War, the United States intentionally bombed water storage facilities and sewage treatment plants. This led to the deaths of an estimated half million civilian Iraqis from cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid. In what sense is that protecting civilian and innocent life?
Ari Fleischer: In the event force is used, the United States military takes particular care to make certain that targets that are attacked are only military targets. There can never be an absolute guarantee in war, of course, but every care is taken by our military to make certain that every target is a military target with a military objective.
Mokhiber: Then why did we intentionally bomb the water treatment facilities?
Ari Fleischer: I don't know about your facts. I'm not certain in what you are saying. I didn't work here in 1991. You may want to talk to the Pentagon about anything that took place then.
QUESTION: Any viewer who saw the war on television had the impression this was an easy war, fought from a distance and soldiers coming back relatively unharmed. Is this an accurate picture?
ROKKE: At the completion of the Gulf War, when we came back to the United States in the fall of 1991, we had a total casualty count of 760: 294 dead, a little over 400 wounded or ill. But the casualty rate now for Gulf War veterans is approximately 30 percent. Of those stationed in the theater, including after the conflict, 221,000 have been awarded disability, according to a Veterans Affairs (VA) report issued September 10, 2002.
Many of the US casualties died as a direct result of uranium munitions friendly fire. US forces killed and wounded US forces.
We recommended care for anybody downwind of any uranium dust, anybody working in and around uranium contamination, and anyone within a vehicle, structure, or building that's struck with uranium munitions. That's thousands upon thousands of individuals, but not only US troops. You should provide medical care not only for the enemy soldiers but for the Iraqi women and children affected, and clean up all of the contamination in Iraq.
And it's not just children in Iraq. It's children born to soldiers after they came back home. The military admitted that they were finding uranium excreted in the semen of the soldiers. If you've got uranium in the semen, the genetics are messed up. So when the children were conceived-the alpha particles cause such tremendous cell damage and genetics damage that everything goes bad. Studies have found that male soldiers who served in the Gulf War were almost twice as likely to have a child with a birth defect and female soldiers almost three times as likely.
Q: You have been a military man for over 35 years. You served in Vietnam as a bombardier and you are still in the US Army Reserves. Now you're going around the country speaking about the dangers of depleted uranium (DU). What made you decide you had to speak publicly about DU?
ROKKE: Everybody on my team was getting sick. My best friend John Sitton was dying. The military refused him medical care, and he died. John set up the medical evacuation communication system for the entire theater. Then he got contaminated doing the work.
John and Rolla Dolph and I were best friends in the civilian world, the military world, forever. Rolla got sick. I personally got the order that sent him to war. We were both activated together. I was given the assignment to teach nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare and make sure soldiers came back alive and safe. I take it seriously. I was sent to the Gulf with this instruction: Bring 'em back alive. Clear as could be. But when I got all the training together, all the environmental cleanup procedures together, all the medical directives, nothing happened.
More than 100 American soldiers were exposed to DU in friendly fire accidents, plus untold numbers of soldiers who climbed on and entered tanks that had been hit with DU, taking photos and gathering souvenirs to take home. They didn't know about the hazards.
DU is an extremely effective weapon. Each tank round is 10 pounds of solid uranium-238 contaminated with plutonium, neptunium, americium. It is pyrophoric, generating intense heat on impact, penetrating a tank because of the heavy weight of its metal. When uranium munitions hit, it's like a firestorm inside any vehicle or structure, and so we saw tremendous burns, tremendous injuries. It was devastating.
The US military decided to blow up Saddam's chemical, biological, and radiological stockpiles in place, which released the contamination back on the US troops and on everybody in the whole region. The chemical agent detectors and radiological monitors were going off allover the place. We had all of the various nerve agents. We think there were biological agents, and there were destroyed nuclear reactor facilities. It was a toxic wasteland. And we had DU added to this whole mess.
When we first got assigned to clean up the DU and arrived in northern Saudi Arabia, we started getting sick within 72 hours. Respiratory problems, rashes, bleeding, open sores started almost immediately.
When you have a mass dose of radioactive particulates and you start breathing that in, the deposit sits in the back of the pharynx, where the cancer started initially on the first guy. It doesn't take a lot of time. I had a father and son working with me. The father is already dead from lung cancer, and the sick son is still denied medical care.
Q: Did you suspect what was happening?
ROKKE: We didn't know anything about DU when the Gulf War started. As a warrior, you're listening to your leaders, and they're saying there are no health effects from the DU. But, as we started to study this, to go back to what we learned in physics and our engineering-I was a professor of environmental science and engineering-you learn rapidly that what they're telling you doesn't agree with what you know and observe.
In June of 1991, when I got back to the States, I was sick. Respiratory problems and the rashes and neurological things were starting to show up.
Q: Why didn't you go to the VA with a medical complaint?
ROKKE: Because I was still in the Army, and I was told I couldn't file. You have to have the information that connects your exposure to your service before you go to the VA. The VA obviously wasn't going to take care of me, so I went to my private physician. We had no idea what it was, but so many good people were coming back sick.
They didn't do tests on me or my team members. According to the Department of Defense's own guidelines put out in 1992, any excretion level in the urine above 15 micrograms of uranium per day should result in immediate medical testing, and when you get up to 250 micrograms of total uranium excreted per day, you're supposed to be under continuous medical care.
Finally the US Department of Energy performed a radiobioassay on me in November 1994, while I was director of the Depleted Uranium Project for the Department of Defense. My excretion rate was approximately 1500 micrograms per day. My level was 5 to 6 times beyond the level that requires continuous medical care.
But they didn't tell me for two and a half years.
Q: What are the symptoms of exposure to DU?
ROKKE: Fibromyalgia. Eye cataracts from the radiation. When uranium impacts any type of vehicle or structure, uranium oxide dust and pieces of uranium explode all over the place. This can be breathed in or go into a wound. Once it gets in the body, a portion of this stuff is soluble, which means it goes into the blood stream and all of your organs. The insoluble fraction stays-in the lungs, for example. The radiation damage and the particulates destroy the lungs.
Q: What kind of training have the troops had, who are getting called upright now-the ones being shipped to the vicinity of what may be the next Gulf War?
ROKKE: As the director of the Depleted Uranium Project, I developed a 40-hour block of training. All that curriculum has been shelved. They turned what I wrote into a 20-minute program that's full of distortions. It doesn't deal with the reality of uranium munitions.
The equipment is defective. The General Accounting Office verified that the gas masks leak, the chemical protective suits leak. Unbelievably, Defense Department officials recently said the defects can be fixed with duct tape.
Q: If my neighbors are being sent off to combat with equipment and training that is inadequate, and into battle with a toxic weapon, DU, who can speak up?
ROKKE: Every husband and wife, son and daughter, grandparent, aunt and uncle, needs to call their congressmen and cite these official government reports and force the military to ensure that our troops have adequate equipment and adequate training. If we don't take care of our American veterans after a war, as happened with the Gulf War, and now we're about ready to send them into a war again-we can't do it. We can't do it. It's a crime against God. It's a crime against humanity to use uranium munitions in a war, and it's devastating to ignore the consequences of war.
These consequences last for eternity. The half life of uranium 238 is 4.5 billion years. And we left over 320 tons all over the place in Iraq.
We also bombarded Vieques, Puerto Rico, with DU in preparation for the war in Kosovo. That's affecting American citizens on American territory. When I tried to activate our team from the Department of Defense responsible for radiological safety and DU cleanup in Vieques, I was told no. When I tried to activate medical care, I was told no.
The US Army made me their expert. I went into the project with the total intent to ensure they could use uranium munitions in war, because I'm a warrior. What I saw as director of the project, doing the research and working with my own medical conditions and everybody else's, led me to one conclusion: uranium munitions must be banned from the planet, for eternity, and medical care must be provided for everyone, not just the US or the Canadians or the British or the Germans or the French but for the American citizens of Vieques, for the residents of Iraq, of Okinawa, of Scotland, of Indiana, of Maryland, and now Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Q: If your information got out widely, do you think there's a possibility that the families of those soldiers would beg them to refuse?
ROKKE: If you're going to be sent into a toxic wasteland, and you know you're going to wear gas masks and chemical protective suits that leak, and you're not going to get any medical care after you're exposed to all of these things, would you go? Suppose they gave a war and nobody came. You've got to start peace sometime.
Q: It does sound remarkable for someone who has been in the military for 35 years to be talking about when peace should begin.
ROKKE: When I do these talks, especially in churches, I'm reminded that these religions say, "And a child will lead us to peace." But if we contaminate the environment, where will the child come from? The children won't be there. War has become obsolete, because we can't deal with the consequences on our warriors or the environment, but more important, on the noncombatants. When you reach a point in war when the contamination and the health effects of war can't be cleaned up because of the weapons you use, and medical care can't be given to the soldiers who participated in the war on either side or to the civilians affected, then it's time for peace.
[Which color -- green, yellow, or red -- will you be? Read on...]
ACLU Online: March 7, 2003
The e-newsletter of the American Civil Liberties Union
A secretive new system for conducting background checks on all airline passengers threatens to create a bureaucratic machine for destroying Americans' privacy and a government blacklist that will harm innocent Americans.
The system, known as CAPPS II -- Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System II -- will be tested at several airports around the United States starting sometime in March.
Like the Pentagon's controversial "Total Information Awareness" program, CAPPS II would collect information about individuals including "financial and transactional data," which could include credit card and other consumer data, housing information, communications records and health records. It would also make use of public source information such as law enforcement and legal records.
"This system threatens to create a permanent blacklisted underclass of Americans who cannot travel freely," said Katie Corrigan, an ACLU Legislative Counsel.
Under the program Americans will be labeled as a "green," "yellow" or "red" security risk. The red code would be reserved for those on terrorist watch lists. Far less clear is who would get a yellow code in their file; those passengers would be subject to extra-intensive security screening.
Details of the program reveal that a yellow code in a person's file could be shared with other government agencies at the federal, state and local level, with intelligence agencies such as the CIA and with foreign governments and international agencies -- all of which could use those designations for many purposes, including employment decisions and the granting of government benefits.
"Once the infrastructure for a system of government files and security ratings on American citizens is built, it won't be limited to air transportation for very long," added Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program. "Nothing like it has ever been done in this country."
Excerpted from an article by Judy Rebick recently posted on rabble.ca, a Canadian alternative online media source. rabble.ca has a special anti-war coverage section as well, featuring great articles, columnists, and events around Canada.
from A Better Idea by Judy Rebick:
The Lysistrata Project, one of the many anti-war actions sweeping the globe, reminds us that women’s opposition to war goes back a long way in human history. While I am glad to see a revival of the ancient comedy of women refusing sex to men if they go off to war, I would a prefer a more modern version of women’s resistance. How about a story where women form a global non-violent army and rise up against the men in power?
[Helen Caldicott's letter to the Pope is at the end of this story.]
by Leslie Scrivener
Dr. Helen Caldicott, one of the world's most determined peace activists, is imploring Pope John Paul II to go to Baghdad as he is the "only person on earth who can stop this war" in Iraq. (see below)
Caldicott has organized a letter writing and e-mail petition, urging people around the world to write to the 82-year-old Pope asking him to travel to Baghdad and stay there until peace has been achieved.
"Your physical presence in Baghdad will prevent the impending slaughter of hundreds of thousands of human beings," her letter says.
The Australian-born Caldicott, who has written extensively on the nuclear threat, is a former Harvard professor, founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility and subject of the award winning film If You Love This Planet.
In her letter, circulated on the Internet, she urges ordinary people to make their opposition to war known and send a "mountain" of letters, e-mails, faxes and phone calls to the Vatican to persuade the Pope of the need for his immediate, unprecedented action.
"The Pope's presence in Iraq will act as the ultimate human shield," she writes. Though the Bush administration has shown "no reservations about slaughtering up to 500,000 innocents in Iraq, there is one person whose life they absolutely will not risk. That person is Pope John Paul II."
The Pope's travel schedule is usually set months, sometimes years in advance. He had hoped to travel to Iraq in 1999 and 2000, though trips were cancelled.
During Ash Wednesday services yesterday in Rome, the Pope called on Catholics to pray and fast for peace during Lent, the 40-day season of penitence leading to Easter.
And the Pope's emissary, Cardinal Pio Laghi, met with U.S. President George Bush in Washington yesterday. A White House spokesperson said Bush rejects the argument there's no moral justification for a war.
Canadian church leaders marked Ash Wednesday by releasing a letter to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, asking him to redouble Canada's efforts to prevent a war in Iraq and announcing a March 22 ecumenical peace vigil at St. Michael's Cathedral.
The 18 leaders, including Archbishop Michael Peers, Primate of the Anglican Church, and Bishop Jacques Berthelet, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, stress their "firm belief that war on Iraq, even with explicit Security Council authorization, would be the worst option."
Copyright 1996-2003. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited
Urgent Appeal From Helen Caldicott
I write this appeal for your help as a pediatrician, a mother, and a grandmother -- and I am writing about the lives of tens of thousands of children.
Although the current administration has demonstrated it has no reservations about slaughtering up to 500,000 innocents in Iraq, there is one person whose life they absolutely will not risk. That person is Pope John Paul II.
While the Pope has already formally denounced the proposed war, calling it a defeat for humanity, as well as sent his top spokesperson to meet with Saddam Hussein, he now must take a historically unprecedented action of his own and travel to Baghdad. The Pope's physical presence in Iraq will act as the ultimate human shield, during which time leaders of the word nation can commit themselves to identifying and implementing a peaceful solution to this war that the world's majority clearly does not support.
To persuade the Holy Father to take this unusual but potent action, he must hear from you and millions of others around the world who have already been inspired to stand up and speak out for peace. A mountain of surface mail, email, faxes, and phone calls are our devices to inspire him. Please understand that your taking just a few minutes right now to communicate with him may ultimately spare the lives of thousands of innocent people who at this moment live in complete terror from the threat of an imminent U.S.-lead military strike on their homeland.
So here is what you can do to be a part of this powerful final action to Stop the march to war in Iraq.
1. Do not forward the letter below. Its power depends upon your sending it directly, as a personal communication to the Pope.
2. Simply cut and paste the letter below into a new email. Also cut and paste the Vatican email address we have provided.
3. At the close of the letter, type in your name, city and state--no need to include your address.
4. Either email, (email@example.com) FAX ([from USA] 011-39-06698-85378--from other countries drop the 011 prefix -- or send a hardcopy of this letter to the addresses in the letter below. DO NOT put "Italy" anywhere on the envelope, as this will send your mail into the Italian mail system which is independend of the Vatican system. Should you wish to phone the Vatican directly, (from USA) dial 011-39-06-69-82--all other countries must use their appropriate international prefix.
5. Pass this original email on to as many people you can so as to assure a critical mass is reached in this action.
6. Note that as you and others begin sending your letters, faxes and emails, there will be a simultaneous effort to alert the media of this action, so as to be sure it is publicly known throughout the world.
Thank you for participating in this formal request of the Pope.
We just may stop this war in Iraq -- and save these childrens' lives.
Dr. Helen Caldicott
His Holiness John Paul II
00120 Vatican City State
"Father, why has thou forsaken me?"
I write to you today out of a sense of great urgency. As you know the United States of America is on the verge of launching what may be one of the most cataclysmic wars in history using weapons of mass destruction upon the Iraqi people, fifty percent of whom are less than 15 years of age.
Conservative estimates are that such a war will result in the death of 500,000 Iraqis. It seems clear that, at this time, you are the only person on Earth who can stop this war. Indeed, your physical presence in Baghdad, will prevent the impending slaughter of hundreds of thousands of human beings, and force the international community of nations to identify and implement a truly peaceful resolution to this unprecedented, preemptive aggression.
I implore you to travel to Baghdad and to remain there until a peaceful solution to this crisis has been implemented. The lives of the people of the people of Iraq rest in your hands - as does the fate of the world.
BRITISH troops had been told an invasion of Iraq would begin on March 17, with a huge bombing campaign being launched four days earlier, the Daily Express in London has reported.
The tabloid quoted a senior government source, who it reported had direct access to British military planning in Kuwait, as saying that "everything is being geared up towards a ground invasion beginning on Monday week".
British newspapers also reported that Britain and the US were considering an amended new United Nations resolution giving Iraq a short time to disarm or face imminent military action.
The Times said that London and Washington were to force a vote on a new resolution early next week, but were studying ways of luring wavering Security Council members into their camp.
One possible solution would be to introduce an ultimatum into the resolution, or a protocol alongside it. The intention would be to give Iraq a few more days to produce chemical and biological weapons, or furnish evidence of their destruction.
The pro-war Sun, Britain's biggest-selling daily, said that US President George W. Bush would give Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a 72-hour ultimatum to disarm next week after a crucial Security Council vote.
The order to strike would be given even if France vetoed a new resolution that aimed to pave the way to military action, the tabloid added.
Action was expected to begin towards the end of next week, and senior allied commanders had set April 10 as the target date for the end of the war, before temperatures in Iraq soared and the cost of conflict spirals, The Sun said.
In an editorial, the tabloid renewed an attack on French President Jacques Chirac, calling him "Le Worm" for his "spineless" refusal to back the tough US stance on Iraq.
France and Russia on Wednesday dangled the threat of using their veto power on the Security Council to block a new US-British-Spanish resolution.
The Sun claimed Chirac was trying to protect his country's trade deals in the region, and "never meant it when he opposed military action".
France could do a "massive U-turn" if chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix delivered a negative report to the UN on Friday, and Chirac could "emerge with a vestige of respectability", the paper said.
The right-wing Daily Mail tabloid said that Bush would give Saddam a three-day final deadline to disarm next week, whether a new resolution in the Security Council passed, failed or was withdrawn.
The paper said on its front page that British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's staunchest supporter in the Iraq crisis, had been dealt a "double hammer blow" by Blix saying that Iraq's destruction of a number of banned Al-Samoud missiles was "real disarmament", and by the declaration by France and Russia.
The following is an excerpt of an interview with Donald Rumsfeld by David Dimbleby of the BBC, on March 4, 2003. The complete interview can be read on the BBC website:
DR: . . . The critical issue is the relationship between weapons of terrorist states, which Iraq is, by everyone's agreement -
DD: America took it off the list of terror states 20 years ago.
DR: I don't know that. I accept -
DD: When you - when you - sorry. When you visited Iraq and negotiated with Saddam Hussein, when America wanted Saddam Hussein for its own purposes, America took Iraq off the list of terrorist states and, indeed, supplied it with the wherewithal to make the chemical weapons they're now trying to remove.
DR: I've read that type of thing, but I don't know where you get your information, and I don't believe it's correct. They may have been taken off. I was a private businessman...
I was asked for a few months to assist after the 241 Marines were killed in Beirut, Lebanon. And I did meet with Saddam Hussein. I did not give him or sell him or bring him any chemical weapons or any biological weapons, as some of the European press likes to print. It's just factually not true.
Now, whether or not the United States at some point, when I was not part of the government, decided to take him off a terrorist list, you may be right. In fact, I -
DD: Are you saying you don't know, you didn't know when you went there whether he was on the list of terror states or not? You were trying to reopen -
DR: I believe he was.
DD: - a relationship between the United States and Iraq.
DR: That's right. And I believe he was on the list of terrorist states when I went there.
DD: We're being diverted a bit here, but let's just go into this, because it's another of the causes of a lack of credibility, or a credibility gap that you particularly have to fill, that you were there and met the man.
DR: I was there with the President and Secretary Shultz to meet with him and to see it was one of the few Middle Eastern countries that had not re-established relationships with the United States after the earlier Middle East war.
DD: But you aren't saying that you weren't aware that he was using chemical weapons, because the Secretary of State at the time had said they were using them.
DR: I was certainly aware of that. I didn't say I wasn't aware of that. I said I was not aware that the United States gave him, as you suggested, or I gave him, and that I had some burden to bear. That's just utter nonsense.
DD: I'm not suggesting you had a burden to bear. I was saying that there was one of the reasons you lacked -
DR: You said you particularly.
DD: No, you went and talked to the man.
DR: I did.
DD: But what I'm suggesting is that the United States in the world outside, over and over again people say, well, now they're trying to get rid of the weapons, as Jesse Jackson put it when he was at Hyde Park Corner a week ago, for which the United States has the receipts. I mean, that's the problem, that you created this monster, evil, as you know -
DR: You who?
DD: You, the United States, not you personally.
DR: Well, first of all, you're wrong. If you look at the record of the European countries, and the other technologically advanced countries of the world and the relationships with Iraq, I think you'll find that the United States ranks relatively low in terms of trading with Iraq and assisting Iraq with respect to weapons. I think that's correct. I don't have the data, but I think you'll find that's the case. And I think, furthermore, that if at some point a ground truth is achieved, it will be embarrassing to countries that have been providing Saddam Hussein's regime with a great deal of those technologies.
The Times is reporting that new EU measures to deter computer hacking could pose problems because the new laws could also outlaw people who organize protests online, like the MoveOn "Virtual March on Washington" (mentioned elsewhere on this site).
The agreement, reached last week, obliges all 15 member states to adopt a new criminal offense: illegal access to, and illegal interference with an information system. It calls on national courts to impose jail terms of at least two years in serious cases.
If European Union citizens undertook a similar electronic bombardment of the e-mail, fax and phone lines of the British prime minister, Tony Blair, they might be liable for prosecution, said Leon de Costa, chief executive of Judicium, a legal consultancy based in London. The new code "criminalizes behavior which, until now, has been seen as lawful civil disobedience," Mr. de Costa said.
ABC News reports that late Monday, lawyer Stephen Downs, director of the Albany Office of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, was arrested at the Crossgates Mall near Albany and charged with trespassing. The reason? He refused to take off a "Give Peace A Chance" T-shirt that he had just purchased at the same mall.
"I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall," said Downs. When Downs refused, police from the town of Guilderland were called and he was arrested and taken away in handcuffs.
Downs said police tried to convince him he was wrong in his actions by refusing to remove the T-shirt because the mall "was like a private house and that I was acting poorly ... I told them the analogy was not good and I was then hauled off to night court where I was arraigned after pleading not guilty and released on my own recognizance," Downs told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Downs is due back in court for a hearing on March 17. He could face up to a year in prison if convicted.
The Austin American Statesman, in conjunction with KLRU-TV, recently hosted a panel on America's role in the world, featuring an eclectic and intelligent assortment of heavyweight pundits including H.W. Brands (history professor and author), Admiral Bobby Inman (former NSA director and CIA deputy director), Bruce Sterling (SF writer and cultural critic), Steven Weinberg (director of the University of Texas Theory Group) and Paul Woodruff (humanities professor and author).
An excerpt from the transcript follows.
Paul Woodruff: I hate to hear people say what may very well be true, that the future of the U.N. hangs in the balance, because we can't lose an international organization at this stage in our history. We can't be the ones to put a new regime in Iraq. Anything that Americans do in the Middle East is going to be loaded in a way that makes it intolerably vulnerable. Without international agreement, what we can actually accomplish for the long term in the Middle East, it seems to me, is severely limited.
Inman: We went into Bosnia with U.N. approval, as part of the NATO organization. We're still there. We went into Kosovo, comparable kind of fight. We're in Afghanistan. There is a terrible juncture not far in front of us where the country has to decide how much can we carry the U.N., particularly if many of the other partners in putting it together are not prepared to do their share. They voted for resolutions all the way back to '91 forward. And you can't have a viable institution to maintain peace when whatever it puts out can be flaunted at no cost.
Woodruff: I agree.
Inman: I don't want go into Iraq. Let me be very clear. But I think we're in a situation where we don't have a lot of other options.
Weinberg: On the other hand, staying in Iraq with inspectors on an almost indefinite time would be vastly cheaper in terms of money and lives than having a war. Unfortunately, the administration, through its tremendous buildup and through its words and actions, has really painted itself into a corner. They've made it very difficult for themselves to accept a revised, renewed, revivified regime of inspections. It's hard to see how this administration is not going to start a war. They put themselves into a position where they can hardly not. It's a difficult problem. Lord knows, I wouldn't want to be the one in the position to decide what to do about Iraq. But even so, looking at it from the sidelines, this seems to me the most inept foreign policy that I have seen in, well, in my life really. The way that this crisis has been handled by our administration is unbelievably clumsy and stupid.
Bruce Sterling: I have to concur. May I ask my fellow pundits here, if any of you besides me actually went to that (antiwar) demonstration?
Weinberg: No. I haven't been to a demonstration since Berkeley in 1965.
Sterling: This one was on that scale. You may want to drop by just for the sake of a little nostalgic activism. I've been to my share of demos. I was at the European social forum in Florence, where they put a million people into the street. They just put three million into the streets of Rome and a million into the streets in London. This is the biggest and most significant event since 9/11.
Inman: The irony is that if, in fact, we want to avoid going to war, the demonstrators in the streets are probably the worst thing that can happen, because we know that Saddam Hussein in January '91 made his decision not to start withdrawing from Kuwait because he was watching on CNN demonstrators outside the Capitol and he said they'll never attack as long as there are demonstrators in the streets. So the threat of force had no bearing on shaping his —
Sterling: Six hundred cities. It was the largest demonstration in the history of the human race. I didn't see that covered on Fox News. Now, the people inside the Beltway have been drinking their own bath water. They believe their own hype. They have no idea that the first regime change they're likely to see is going to be Tony Blair's head on a platter.
A survey in the February issue of Conde Nast Traveler states that according to a recent Gallup poll, a declining number of Americans (54% today vs. 79% a year ago) believes that the USA enjoys a favorable image abroad. Further, a majority of Americans (64%) cite a fear of unfriendliness as the top concern of traveling abroad during wartime.
USAToday, that bastion of reliable hard news, says that those fears are justified: "From Spanish plazas to Parisian metros, American tourists are being quizzed, grilled and even spat on by people who do not approve of the Bush administration's drive for a war against Saddam Hussein." Accordingly, they've provided some "Tips For Blending In:"
(Sorry, actively interrogating current US foreign policy doesn't make the list).
American Academy of Arts & Sciences
How silly of us -- the reason that the world is upset with the US has nothing to do with the Bush administration's imperialist impulses. According to a conservative professor at Boston University, it's simply an image problem.
After questioning teens in 12 different countries, Melvin DeFleur, a communications professor at Boston University, discovered that American entertainment was brewing a "culture of hate" among the youth of other countries. DeFleur surveyed 1,313 people ranging in from age 14 to 19. The study, "The Next Generation's Image of Americans: Attitudes and Beliefs by Teenagers in 12 Countries" was conducted in late 2002.
DeFleur, who thinks the war on terror needs to be fought on many fronts, said its time to change Hollywood's mind about the images it's producing. "If a teenager in Saudi Arabia sees an episode of The Sopranos, they are going to enjoy it, but the images of Americans being lewd and lawless will become imbedded in them," he said. "They are creating these dreadfully negative attitudes around the world among young people [ ... ] You don’t recruit terrorists out of a country that has favorable view of Americans [ ... ] They have to dislike us very intently and see us as worthless people that deserved to be harmed, and these media depictions are teaching them that."
Examples of wholesome entertainment that DeFleur said he'd like emulated in today’s society are Lassie, Flipper and Leave It to Beaver --- shows that never aired "couples writhing in bed" or "saying dirty words," he said.
[A useful reminder, perhaps, that the new possibilities for organized resistance presented by better communications technology are at the same time new possibilities for the defense of imperialism. -- Keston Sutherland]
Secret document details American plan to bug phones and emails of key Security Council members
Martin Bright, Ed Vulliamy in New York and Peter Beaumont
Sunday March 2, 2003
The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.
Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.
The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency - the US body which intercepts communications around the world - and circulated to both senior agents in his organisation and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input.
The memo describes orders to staff at the agency, whose work is clouded in secrecy, to step up its surveillance operations 'particularly directed at... UN Security Council Members (minus US and GBR, of course)' to provide up-to-the-minute intelligence for Bush officials on the voting intentions of UN members regarding the issue of Iraq.
The leaked memorandum makes clear that the target of the heightened surveillance efforts are the delegations from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea and Pakistan at the UN headquarters in New York - the so-called 'Middle Six' delegations whose votes are being fought over by the pro-war party, led by the US and Britain, and the party arguing for more time for UN inspections, led by France, China and Russia.
The memo is directed at senior NSA officials and advises them that the agency is 'mounting a surge' aimed at gleaning information not only on how delegations on the Security Council will vote on any second resolution on Iraq, but also 'policies', 'negotiating positions', 'alliances' and 'dependencies' - the 'whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises'.
Dated 31 January 2003, the memo was circulated four days after the UN's chief weapons inspector Hans Blix produced his interim report on Iraqi compliance with UN resolution 1441.
It was sent by Frank Koza, chief of staff in the 'Regional Targets' section of the NSA, which spies on countries that are viewed as strategically important for United States interests.
Koza specifies that the information will be used for the US's 'QRC' - Quick Response Capability - 'against' the key delegations.
Suggesting the levels of surveillance of both the office and home phones of UN delegation members, Koza also asks regional managers to make sure that their staff also 'pay attention to existing non-UN Security Council Member UN-related and domestic comms [office and home telephones] for anything useful related to Security Council deliberations'.
Koza also addresses himself to the foreign agency, saying: 'We'd appreciate your support in getting the word to your analysts who might have similar more indirect access to valuable information from accesses in your product lines [ie, intelligence sources].' Koza makes clear it is an informal request at this juncture, but adds: 'I suspect that you'll be hearing more along these lines in formal channels.'
Disclosure of the US operation comes in the week that Blix will make what many expect to be his final report to the Security Council.
It also comes amid increasingly threatening noises from the US towards undecided countries on the Security Council who have been warned of the unpleasant economic consequences of standing up to the US.
Sources in Washington familiar with the operation said last week that there had been a division among Bush administration officials over whether to pursue such a high-intensity surveillance campaign with some warning of the serious consequences of discovery.
The existence of the surveillance operation, understood to have been requested by President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is deeply embarrassing to the Americans in the middle of their efforts to win over the undecided delegations.
The language and content of the memo were judged to be authentic by three former intelligence operatives shown it by The Observer. We were also able to establish that Frank Koza does work for the NSA and could confirm his senior post in the Regional Targets section of the organisation.
The NSA main switchboard put The Observer through to extension 6727 at the agency which was answered by an assistant, who confirmed it was Koza's office. However, when The Observer asked to talk to Koza about the surveillance of diplomatic missions at the United Nations, it was then told 'You have reached the wrong number'.
On protesting that the assistant had just said this was Koza's extension, the assistant repeated that it was an erroneous extension, and hung up.
While many diplomats at the UN assume they are being bugged, the memo reveals for the first time the scope and scale of US communications intercepts targeted against the New York-based missions.
The disclosure comes at a time when diplomats from the countries have been complaining about the outright 'hostility' of US tactics in recent days to persuade then to fall in line, including threats to economic and aid packages.
The operation appears to have been spotted by rival organisations in Europe. 'The Americans are being very purposeful about this,' said a source at a European intelligence agency when asked about the US surveillance efforts.
by Felicity Barringer
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 26
A career diplomat who has served in United States embassies from Tel Aviv to Casablanca to Yerevan resigned this week in protest against the country's policies on Iraq.
The diplomat, John Brady Kiesling, the political counselor at the United States Embassy in Athens, said in his resignation letter, "Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson."
Mr. Kiesling, 45, who has been a diplomat for about 20 years, said in a telephone interview tonight that he faxed the letter to Secretary of State Colin L, Powell on Monday after informing Thomas Miller, the ambassador in Athens, of his decision.
He said he had acted alone, but "I've been comforted by the expressions of support I've gotten afterward" from colleagues.
"No one has any illusions that the policy will be changed," he said. "Too much has been invested in the war."
Louis Fintor, a State Department spokesman, said he had no information on Mr. Kiesling's decision and it was department policy not to comment on personnel matters.
In his letter, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times by a friend of Mr. Kiesling's, the diplomat wrote Mr. Powell: "We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world that a war with Iraq is necessary. We have over the past two years done too much to assert to our world partners that narrow and mercenary U.S. interests override the cherished values of our partners."
His letter continued: "Even where our aims were not in question, our consistency is at issue. The model of Afghanistan is little comfort to allies wondering on what basis we plan to rebuild the Middle East, and in whose image and interests."
It is rare but not unheard-of for a diplomat, immersed in the State Department's culture of public support for policy, regardless of private feelings, to resign with this kind of public blast. From 1992 to 1994, five State Department officials quit out of frustration with the Clinton administration's Balkans policy.
Asked if his views were widely shared among his diplomatic colleagues, Mr. Kiesling said: "No one of my colleagues is comfortable with our policy. Everyone is moving ahead with it as good and loyal. The State Department is loaded with people who want to play the team game — we have a very strong premium on loyalty."
From Kuro5hin (who says geeks are apolitical?):
Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, was laughed out of the daily briefing on Feb 25th. Members of the foreign press asked about US vote buying for its resolution before the UN Security Council on Iraq. Ari reacted in a offended manner, eliciting loud laughter from the entire press corps. Ari gets a somewhat miffed look on his face and makes a quick exit to continuing laughter and the press making snide remarks amongst themselves.
Here's the video in downloadable RealMedia.
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and activism
MEDIA ADVISORY: Star Witness on Iraq Said Weapons Were Destroyed:
Bombshell revelation from a defector cited by White House and press
February 27, 2003
On February 24, Newsweek broke what may be the biggest story of the Iraq crisis. In a revelation that "raises questions about whether the WMD [weapons of mass destruction] stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist," the magazine's issue dated March 3 reported that the Iraqi weapons chief who defected from the regime in 1995 told U.N. inspectors that Iraq had destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles, as Iraq claims.
Until now, Gen. Hussein Kamel, who was killed shortly after returning to Iraq in 1996, was best known for his role in exposing Iraq's deceptions about how far its pre-Gulf War biological weapons programs had advanced. But Newsweek's John Barry-- who has covered Iraqi weapons inspections for more than a decade-- obtained the transcript of Kamel's 1995 debriefing by officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the U.N. inspections team known as UNSCOM.
Inspectors were told "that after the Gulf War, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them," Barry wrote. All that remained were "hidden blueprints, computer disks, microfiches" and production molds. The weapons were destroyed secretly, in order to hide their existence from inspectors, in the hopes of someday resuming production after inspections had finished. The CIA and MI6 were told the same story, Barry reported, and "a military aide who defected with Kamel... backed Kamel's assertions about the destruction of WMD stocks."
But these statements were "hushed up by the U.N. inspectors" in order to "bluff Saddam into disclosing still more."
CIA spokesman Bill Harlow angrily denied the Newsweek report. "It is incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue," Harlow told Reuters the day the report appeared (2/24/03).
But on Wednesday (2/26/03), a complete copy of the Kamel transcript-- an internal UNSCOM/IAEA document stamped "sensitive"-- was obtained by Glen Rangwala, the Cambridge University analyst who in early February revealed that Tony Blair's "intelligence dossier" was plagiarized from a student thesis. Rangwala has posted the Kamel transcript on the Web: http://casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf.
In the transcript (p. 13), Kamel says bluntly: "All weapons-- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were destroyed."
Who is Hussein Kamel?
Kamel is no obscure defector. A son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, his departure from Iraq carrying crates of secret documents on Iraq's past weapons programs was a major turning point in the inspections saga. In 1999, in a letter to the U.N. Security Council (1/25/99), UNSCOM reported that its entire eight years of disarmament work "must be divided into two parts, separated by the events following the departure from Iraq, in August 1995, of Lt. General Hussein Kamel."
Kamel's defection has been cited repeatedly by George W. Bush and leading administration officials as evidence that 1) Iraq has not disarmed; 2) inspections cannot disarm it; and 3) defectors such as Kamel are the most reliable source of information on Iraq's weapons.
* Bush declared in an October 7, 2002 speech: "In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and capable of killing millions."
* Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 presentation to the U.N. Security Council claimed: "It took years for Iraq to finally admit that it had produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX. A single drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes. Four tons. The admission only came out after inspectors collected documentation as a result of the defection of Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's late son-in-law."
* In a speech last August (8/27/02), Vice President Dick Cheney said Kamel's story "should serve as a reminder to all that we often learned more as the result of defections than we learned from the inspection regime itself."
* Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley recently wrote in the Chicago Tribune (2/16/03) that "because of information provided by Iraqi defector and former head of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel, the regime had to admit in detail how it cheated on its nuclear non-proliferation commitments."
The quotes from Bush and Powell cited above refer to anthrax and VX produced by Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War. The administration has cited various quantities of chemical and biological weapons on many other occasions-- weapons that Iraq produced but which remain unaccounted for. All of these claims refer to weapons produced before 1991.
But according to Kamel's transcript, Iraq destroyed all of these weapons in 1991.
According to Newsweek, Kamel told the same story to CIA analysts in August 1995. If that is true, all of these U.S. officials have had access to Kamel's statements that the weapons were destroyed. Their repeated citations of his testimony-- without revealing that he also said the weapons no longer exist-- suggests that the administration might be withholding critical evidence. In particular, it casts doubt on the credibility of Powell's February 5 presentation to the U.N., which was widely hailed at the time for its persuasiveness. To clear up the issue, journalists might ask that the CIA release the transcripts of its own conversations with Kamel.
Kamel's disclosures have also been crucial to the arguments made by hawkish commentators on Iraq. The defector has been cited four times on the New York Times op-ed page in the last four months in support of claims about Iraq's weapons programs--never noting his assertions about the elimination of these weapons. In a major Times op-ed calling for war with Iraq (2/21/03), Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution wrote that Kamel and other defectors "reported that outside pressure had not only failed to eradicate the nuclear program, it was bigger and more cleverly spread out and concealed than anyone had imagined it to be." The release of Kamel's transcript makes this claim appear grossly at odds with the defector's actual testimony.
The Kamel story is a bombshell that necessitates a thorough reevaluation of U.S. media reporting on Iraq, much of which has taken for granted that the nation retains supplies of prohibited weapons. (See FAIR Media Advisory, "Iraq's Hidden Weapons: From Allegation to Fact," http://www.fair.org/press-releases/iraq-weapons.html .) Kamel's testimony is not, of course, proof that Iraq does not have hidden stocks of chemical or biological weapons, but it does suggest a need for much more media skepticism about U.S. allegations than has previously been shown.
Unfortunately, Newsweek chose a curious way to handle its scoop: The magazine placed the story in the miscellaneous "Periscope" section with a generic headline, "The Defector's Secrets." Worse, Newsweek's online version added a subhead that seemed almost designed to undercut the importance of the story: "Before his death, a high-ranking defector said Iraq had not abandoned its WMD ambitions." So far, according to a February 27 search of the Nexis database, no major U.S. newspapers or national television news shows have picked up the Newsweek story.
Read the Newsweek story: http://www.msnbc.com/news/876128.asp
Read Glen Rangwala's analysis of the Kamel transcript: http://middleeastreference.org.uk/kamel.html
If you'd like to encourage media outlets to investigate this story, contact information is available on FAIR's website:
Please support FAIR by subscribing to our bimonthly magazine, Extra! For more information, go to: http://www.fair.org/extra/subscribe.html. Or call 1-800-847-3993.
FAIR SHIRTS: Get your "Don't Trust the Corporate Media" shirt today at FAIR's online store:
FAIR produces CounterSpin, a weekly radio show heard on over 130 stations in the U.S. and Canada. To find the CounterSpin station nearest you, visit: http://www.fair.org/counterspin/stations.html.
FAIR's INTERNSHIP PROGRAM: FAIR accepts internship applications for its New York office on a rolling basis. For more information, see: http://www.fair.org/internships.html
Feel free to respond to FAIR ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your email correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to email@example.com .
You can subscribe to FAIR-L at our web site: http://www.fair.org. Our subscriber list is kept confidential.
A St. John's College Library visit by a former public defender was abruptly interrupted February 13 when city police officers arrested him about 9 p.m. at the computer terminal he was using, handcuffed him, and brought him to the Santa Fe, New Mexico, police station for questioning by Secret Service agents from Albuquerque. Andrew J. O Conner, 40, who was released about five hours later, said in the February 16 Santa Fe New Mexican, I m going to sue the Secret Service, Santa Fe Police, St. John s, and everybody involved in this whole thing.
According to O Connor, the agents accused him of making threatening remarks about President George W. Bush in an Internet chat room. Admitting he talked politics face-to-face in the library with a woman who was wearing a No war with Iraq button, O Connor recalled saying that Bush is out of control, but that I m allowed to say all that. There is this thing called freedom of speech. He also speculated that the FBI might have been observing him because of his one-time involvement in a pro-Palestinian group in Boulder, Colorado.
Earlier on the same day O Connor was questioned, officials at St. John s as well as at the College of Santa Fe and Santa Fe Community College issued warnings to students and faculty that the FBI had been alerted to the presence of suspicious people on campus within the past four weeks.
Concern about threats to individual privacy under the USA Patriot Act has prompted New Mexico legislators in both houses to propose resolutions urging state police not to help federal agents infringe on civil rights. The resolutions also encourage libraries to post prominent signage warning patrons that their library records are subject to federal scrutiny without their permission or knowledge.
A new CNN system of 'script approval' suggests the Pentagon will have nothing to worry about
Already, the American press is expressing its approval of the coverage of American forces which the US military intends to allow its reporters in the next Gulf war. The boys from CNN, CBS, ABC and The New York Times will be "embedded" among the US marines and infantry. The degree of censorship hasn't quite been worked out. But it doesn't matter how much the Pentagon cuts from the reporters' dispatches. A new CNN system of "script approval" ï¿? the iniquitous instruction to reporters that they have to send all their copy to anonymous officials in Atlanta to ensure it is suitably sanitizedï¿? suggests that the Pentagon and the Department of State have nothing to worry about. Nor do the Israelis.
Indeed, reading a new CNN document, "Reminder of Script Approval Policy", fairly takes the breath away. "All reporters preparing package scripts must submit the scripts for approval," it says. "Packages may not be edited until the scripts are approved... All packages originating outside Washington, LA (Los Angeles) or NY (New York), including all international bureaus, must come to the ROW in Atlanta for approval."
The date of this extraordinary message is 27 January. The "ROW" is the row of script editors in Atlanta who can insist on changes or "balances" in the reporter's dispatch. "A script is not approved for air unless it is properly marked approved by an authorized manager and duped (duplicated) to burcopy (bureau copy)... When a script is updated it must be re-approved, preferably by the originating approving authority."
Note the key words here: "approved" and "authorized". CNN's man or woman in Kuwait or Baghdad – or Jerusalem or Ramallah – may know the background to his or her story; indeed, they will know far more about it than the "authorities" in Atlanta. But CNN's chiefs will decide the spin of the story.
CNN, of course, is not alone in this paranoid form of reporting. Other US networks operate equally anti-journalistic systems. And it's not the fault of the reporters. CNN's teams may use clichés and don military costumes – you will see them do this in the next war – but they try to get something of the truth out. Next time, though, they're going to have even less chance.
Just where this awful system leads is evident from an intriguing exchange last year between CNN's reporter in the occupied West Bank town of Ramallah, and Eason Jordan, one of CNN's top honchos in Atlanta.
The journalist's first complaint was about a story by the reporter Michael Holmes on the Red Crescent ambulance drivers who are repeatedly shot at by Israeli troops. "We risked our lives and went out with ambulance drivers... for a whole day. We have also witnessed ambulances from our window being shot at by Israeli soldiers... The story received approval from Mike Shoulder. The story ran twice and then Rick Davis (a CNN executive) killed it. The reason was we did not have an Israeli army response, even though we stated in our story that Israel believes that Palestinians are smuggling weapons and wanted people in the ambulances."
The Israelis refused to give CNN an interview, only a written statement. This statement was then written into the CNN script. But again it was rejected by Davis in Atlanta. Only when, after three days, the Israeli army gave CNN an interview did Holmes's story run – but then with the dishonest inclusion of a line that said the ambulances were shot in "crossfire" (i.e. that Palestinians also shot at their own ambulances).
The reporter's complaint was all too obvious. "Since when do we hold a story hostage to the whims of governments and armies? We were told by Rick that if we do not get an Israeli on-camera we would not air the package. This means that governments and armies are indirectly censoring us and we are playing directly into their own hands."
The relevance of this is all too obvious in the next Gulf War. We are going to have to see a US army officer denying everything the Iraqis say if any report from Iraq is to get on air. Take another of the Ramallah correspondent's complaints last year. In a package on the damage to Ramallah after Israel's massive incursion last April, "we had already mentioned right at the top of our piece that Israel says it is doing all these incursions because it wants to crack down on the infrastructure of terror. However, obviously that was not enough. We were made by the ROW (in Atlanta) to repeat this same idea three times in one piece, just to make sure that we keep justifying the Israeli actions..."
But the system of "script approval" that has so marred CNN's coverage has got worse. In a further and even more sinister message dated 31 January this year, CNN staff are told that a new computerized system of script approval will allow "authorized script approvers to mark scripts (i.e. reports) in a clear and standard manner. Script EPs (executive producers) will click on the colored APPROVED button to turn it from red (unapproved) to green (approved). When someone makes a change in the script after approval, the button will turn yellow." Someone? Who is this someone? CNN's reporters aren't told.
But when we recall that CNN revealed after the 1991 Gulf War that it had allowed Pentagon "trainees" into the CNN newsroom in Atlanta, I have my suspicions.
According to a poll conducted by EKOS Research Associates for The Toronto Star, La Presse and the CBC, 74 per cent of Canadians oppose Canadian participation in a war with Iraq without the "full support" of the United Nations Security Council. Only 25 per cent would support a war without it. With Security Council approval, 63 per cent of those surveyed support Canadian participation, with 35 per cent opposed.
"The pattern is quite clearly one of a continued decline, and actually support by now is much lower than it has been at any point since well over a year ago," said Frank Graves, president of EKOS. He also noted that EKOS tracking of support for the war now shows it is at an all-time low. Last month about 59 per cent of Canadians polled were opposed to war without U.N. backing.
In the interest of avoiding potential searches under the Patriot Act, Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont has already discarded the names of books bought by its readers' club, and will purge purchase records for customers if they ask. "When the CIA comes and asks what you've read because they're suspicious of you, we can't tell them because we don't have it," store co-owner Michael Katzenberg said. "That's just a basic right, to be able to read what you want without fear that somebody is looking over your shoulder to see what you're reading."
The Patriot Act allows government agents to seek court orders to seize records "for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." Such orders cannot be challenged like a traditional subpoena; in fact, bookstores and libraries are barred from even stating that they have received such an order.
More on SFGate.
Remember all those 1950s films about constructing bomb shelters in your backyard? At The Department of Homeland Security's Ready website, that same spirit of paranoia is being trotted out again:
Terrorists are working to obtain biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological weapons and the threat of an attack is very real [ ... ] All Americans should begin a process of learning about potential threats so we are better prepared to react during an attack [ ... ] Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling a supply kit and developing a family communications plan, are the same for both a natural or man-made emergency.
UPDATE: It didn't take long for the "Ready" parodies to start to appear (like they used to say at SUCK, "A Fish, A Barrel, A Smoking Gun") ... you can find a few of them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.
by Julian Borger in Washington
The Bush administration is planning a secret meeting in August to discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including "mini-nukes", "bunker-busters" and neutron bombs designed to destroy chemical or biological agents, according to a leaked Pentagon document.
The meeting of senior military officials and US nuclear scientists at the Omaha headquarters of the US Strategic Command would also decide whether to restart nuclear testing and how to convince the American public that the new weapons are necessary.
The leaked preparations for the meeting are the clearest sign yet that the administration is determined to overhaul its nuclear arsenal so that it could be used as part of the new "Bush doctrine" of pre-emption, to strike the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of rogue states.
Greg Mello, the head of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear watchdog organization that obtained the Pentagon documents, said the meeting would also prepare the ground for a US breakaway from global arms control treaties, and the moratorium on conducting nuclear tests.
"It is impossible to overstate the challenge these plans pose to the comprehensive test ban treaty, the existing nuclear test moratorium, and US compliance with article six of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty," Mr Mello said.
The documents leaked to Mr Mello are the minutes of a meeting in the Pentagon on January 10 this year called by Dale Klein, the assistant to the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to prepare the secret conference, planned for "the week of August 4 2003".
The National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for designing, building and maintaining nuclear weapons, yesterday confirmed the authenticity of the document. But Anson Franklin, the NNSA head of governmental affairs, said: "We have no request from the defense department for any new nuclear weapon, and we have no plans for nuclear testing.
"The fact is that this paper is talking about what-if scenarios and very long range planning," Mr Franklin told the Guardian.
However, non-proliferation groups say the Omaha meeting will bring a new US nuclear arsenal out of the realm of the theoretical and far closer to reality, in the shape of new bombs and a new readiness to use them.
"To me it indicates there are plans proceeding and well under way ... to resume the development, testing and production of new nuclear weapons. It's very serious," said Stephen Schwartz, the publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who added that it opened the US to charges of hypocrisy when it is demanding the disarmament of Iraq and North Korea.
"How can we possibly go to the international community or to these countries and say 'How dare you develop these weapons', when it's exactly what we're doing?" Mr Schwartz said.
The starting point for the January discussion was Mr Rumsfeld's nuclear posture review (NPR), a policy paper published last year that identified Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya as potential targets for US nuclear weapons.
According to the Pentagon minutes, the August meeting in Strategic Command's bunker headquarters would discuss how to make weapons to match the new policy. A "future arsenal panel" would consider: "What are the warhead characteristics and advanced concepts we will need in the post-NPR environment?"
The panel would also contemplate the "requirements for low-yield weapons, EPWs [earth-penetrating weapons], enhanced radiation weapons, agent defeat weapons".
This is the menu of weapons being actively considered by the Pentagon. Low-yield means tactical warheads of less than a kiloton, "mini-nukes", which advocates of the new arsenal say represent a far more effective deterrent than the existing huge weapons, because they are more "usable".
Earth-penetrating weapons are "bunker-busters", which would break through the surface of the earth before detonating. US weapons scientists believe they could be used as "agent defeat weapons" used to destroy chemical or biological weapons stored underground. The designers are also looking at low-yield neutron bombs or "enhanced radiation weapons", which could destroy chemical or biological weapons in surface warehouses.
According to the leaked document, the "future arsenal panel" in Omaha would also ask the pivotal question: "What forms of testing will these new designs require?"
The Bush administration has been working to reduce the amount of warning the test sites in the western US desert would need to be reactivated after 10 years lying dormant.
Monday February 17, 2003
"I am afeard there are few die well that die in battle" says Shakespeare's soldier, the night before Agincourt. The "cause", the old sweats agree, is the only thing that can justify the next day's carnage. And here we are again, on the eve of battle. What then is the cause that has taken 46,000 British troops to the Gulf? Oil? Payback for the failed hit on dad? Homeland defence?
Add weapons-testing to the causa belli. Samurai knights, one is told, were permitted to try the cutting edge of their sword on the neck of any luckless (and soon headless) passing peasant.
The battlefield will be the testing ground for the US samurai. No more rhesus monkeys or pigs but real, live Iraqis.
In Afghanistan, the big new toy was the thermobaric bomb - the 15,000lb Daisycutter. It ploughed underground to release a "tsunami of air pressure". Your lungs were suddenly where your nose used to be. The bomb had been used twice in Gulf war one without success. Bunkers were obstinately unbusted. In 2001 it was profusely dropped on the Tora Bora cave complex. But, as Osama's recent bulletin told us, his warriors simply dug little holes elsewhere and escaped, their daisies uncut.
The newer, smarter weapon to be battlefield-tested in Gulf war two will be that fantasy of every sci-fi writer, a death-ray. The HPM (high-power microwave) bomb is the first viable product from America's top-secret Dew (directed energy weapon) programme. It is described as 100 lightning bolts, focused into a single pulse of radiation equivalent to two billion watts. Wow! The HPM bomb fries any electronic equipment within its impact area: computers, motors, radar. It all conks out, leaving the enemy defenceless.
The bomb is mechanically simple, robust, compact and - most important of all - ready to lock and load. "Vircator" (sounds Latin, but it is just short for Virtual Cathode Oscillator) has been fitted to small AGM-86 cruise missiles, carried by the cluster on B52s.
Currently, Vircator's destructive radius is a puny 300ft (they are working on that). But, if aimed precisely, it can penetrate underground without needing to blast its way into Saddam's bunkers. Well-earthed wire mesh built into the concrete fabric affords protection - but cunning radiation will eel its way through ventilation shafts, cracks, wires, radio antennae. You can burrow, but you can't hide.
The HPM arsenal has had highest priority in the run up to the war. It is, as the Pentagon coyly puts it, "the top item in our boutique of capabilities". And, in the past few weeks, it has been sold to the American public as a weapon of mass non-destruction - the Mother Teresa of bombs. "What's good about it," the Pentagon says, "is that it doesn't harm people." Regurgitating PR releases, the American press has hailed HPM as a humane "wonder weapon".
The only danger, apparently, is to those with pacemakers or on life-support systems. Since Saddam buries his nastiest labs under hospitals, that thesis may well be tested - having a pacemaker explode in your chest just might be classified as "harm".
Although not primarily an anti-personnel device, those who have been exposed to HPM report that its effect is agonising. The radiation penetrates below the skin, boiling nerve cells. It can blind. It induces uncontrollable panic (early research into HPM was as a crowd control agent).
Will the HPM bomb be employed as a "precision" weapon? Or as part of the declared "shock and awe" strategy to terrify the general population? Will it be used to destroy what infrastructure the last war left working? Will Iraqi civilians serve as guinea pigs? No one knows what the long-term effect of microwave exposure is. And, frankly, no one this side of the Tigris and Euphrates gives a damn. Peasant, bare your neck!
Suzanne Goldenberg in Baghdad
Monday February 17, 2003
At times it felt like hell on wheels. But the peace activists who travelled across a continent by London double-decker bus arrived at a Baghdad bomb shelter yesterday with their sense of mission just about intact.
Few places in Baghdad convey the horror of war as sharply as the al-Ameriya shelter, where 400 Iraqi civilians were incinerated by US missiles during the last Gulf war.
The visit to the shelter yesterday was one of the first duties of the newly arrived human shields, who joined a lively camp of the anti-war movement in Baghdad.
There can be no doubting their passion but the activists' epic voyage did not encourage clarity of vision.
There were breakdowns - a third bus painted black and labelled Enemy Combatant was abandoned in Milan - drop-outs, logistical snags, infighting, a leadership coup, and the usual frictions that can be expected among strangers sharing the same cramped quarters, and not entirely sure of their purpose.
Beyond paying £300 for their passage, the 30 or so protesters, from Britain, the US, Australia, Scandinavia and elsewhere had little in common. Several were just along for the ride: journalists hoping to be smuggled into Baghdad as activists.
For Grace Trevett, an artist from Stroud in Gloucestershire, the journey began in April last year when she took part in a peace rally in the US. Others signed on just before the buses left London. "I feel shame on the Bush government and the Blair government making it necessary for people to do this to be heard," Ms Trevett said.
For three weeks, the focus was all on the journey across Europe, Turkey and Syria to Iraq. "It felt like the closer we got the more dangerous it became, and the stronger the realisation that there is life here," Ms Trevett said.
The bus, advertising the website humanshields.org and with a rear panel showing pictures of the Beatles, finally reached Baghdad on Saturday night - too late for Iraq's anti-war demonstrations. The travellers had been awake for two days.
Arrival had its own complications. When the activists crossed over the Iraqi border at the weekend, they were greeted by a rent-a-mob chanting Saddam Hussein's praises - raising doubts about whether the activists were providing support for the regime.
It was also not exactly clear yesterday what the activists would do in Baghdad.
"It is a great challenge and worry what to do," said Godfrey Meynell, 68, a retired civil servant and by far the oldest activist. "There is no real point in the whole thing except if we are causing doubts in the mind of those preparing for war."
Some protesters were planning a speedy return. Some were clearly comfortable with their role as human shields deployed at potential bombing targets in Iraq.
Others bridled at the term, saying it obscured the real purpose of the journey: to put a human face on the Iraqi civilians who will be killed.
"For me it was never an issue of going to Baghdad, and saving the people," said Ms Trevett. "It was very much coming in to see what we can do."
February 17, 2003
(NEW YORK CITY)- Artist Emilie Clark and writer Lytle Shaw were arrested for posting pictures of people from Baghdad in Soho late Thursday night. Both have been released. A court date has been set to prosecute the two for showing New York City the people who will die in a possible war against Iraq.
Clark and Shaw were members of the Baghdad Snapshot Action Crew. Based in New York City, the crew of 75 artists and activists began posting simple flyers with pictures of ordinary Iraqi citizens around New York City, in anticipation and solidarity of the February 15th anti-war rally.
The pictures were taken by artist Paul Chan, who recently returned from Baghdad as a member of the Iraq Peace Team, a project of the Chicago based, Nobel Peace Prize nominated activist group, Voices in the Wilderness.
Clark and Shaw were taping the letter sized flyer on a lamppost at the corner of Mercer and Prince Streets when three undercover policemen arrested them. They were charged with criminal misdemeanors. Shaw was released after five and a half hours. Clark spent seven hours in jail before her release. Clark is pregnant with her first son, and is expecting this Spring.
The arrests were a clear attempt by the police to intimidate New Yorkers to stay away from the protest. "If there wasn't a march on Saturday we wouldn't have been arrested.," Shaw said. While in custody, police harassed Clark and Shaw with talk about how dangerous the rally will be. "They kept saying how mace was going to be used on all the protesters," Clark said. "And then they said they had heard suicide bombers might attack the rally."
What was most disturbing to Shaw was how the cops tried to justify their actions against the two. "They tried to appeal to us sentimentally," Shaw said, "as though the repression they were enacting was really in our best interest."
"They wanted to send a message that we should stay home because it [the protest] was dangerous, and they didn't want to see us hurt."
The court date is set for March 13.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
http://www.nationalphilistine.comBaghdad Snapshot Action Crew
http://unitedforpeace.orgFebruary 15 anti-war rally organizers
http://iraqpeaceteam.orgIraq Peace Team website
Demonstrators passing the Colosseum in Rome. (New York Times)
by Kim Campbell
Antiwar activists like to tell the story about how Richard Nixon used to claim he didn't pay attention to how many people showed up for war protests during the Vietnam War. He was too busy watching football, was the official word.
But later it came out that Mr. Nixon did care how many people took to the streets, and even likely changed war policy thanks to the size of marches in the late 1960s.
As another weekend of coordinated antiwar efforts gets under way, one of the tools of the activist trade - the demonstration - will be on display.
Protests often leave an imprint on the public - and make their way into the history books. But coming up with the next Boston Tea Party is tricky. How effective a big demonstration is depends on the memorability of its message and who is paying attention.
In the current campaign against a war with Iraq, large rallies are a valuable publicity tool for antiwar groups whose attempts to woo undecided Americans are frequently drowned out by a government that argues that it may be necessary to go to war. Given the disparity of antiwar groups and how some have tried to promote agendas that go beyond Iraq, swaying ordinary Americans on the issue isn't always easy.
"You get an opportunity to project an image on the 6 o'clock news that will go into the homes of mainstream Americans, many of whom are uncomfortable with this war. And so you don't want to blow it," says Tom Andrews, national director of Win Without War, a coalition of 29 civic and religious groups.
Over the weekend, protests will be held in New York, San Francisco, and cities across the US and the world. They follow major rallies held in October and January on both US coasts that totaled hundreds of thousands of people.
Unlike during the Vietnam era, or even a decade ago for the Gulf War, activists today can use the Internet to coordinate volunteers and disseminate information to the public about where and when to meet.
That gives access to more everyday Americans who might not otherwise know about such activities. At last month's rally in Washington, many first-time protesters showed up, some even with their children. Over the hubbub of conversation, a few spoke of how they viewed demonstrations as the only outlet for offering their opinion about the war.
Activists want people like that to go back to their communities and share what it was like with others to invigorate participation. They say word of mouth can be a more effective way of getting new recruits than through simply watching images on TV of crowds of strangers and speakers whose tone may not reflect their own.
As Mr. Andrews suggests, organizers have to be careful about how they present themselves when all of America is watching.
Last month in Washington, speakers selected by that rally's organizer, International ANSWER, addressed a wide range of topics, including American Indian rights and the release of imprisoned activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who killed a police officer in 1981. Critics say that diluted the message and left many observers with the impression that the antiwar movement lacks cohesion (an idea brought home in a recent "Saturday Night Live" sketch.)
Some of the average Americans in attendance were also put off. One high-schooler wrote an essay in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently observing that the protest had a wide range of attendees but that its leaders "were so extreme and blatantly anti-American that it might have pushed me to the other camp if I had arrived undecided."
Not all groups organizing protests present their agenda in the same way, but they do say that multiple issues are likely to be raised at rallies because there are so many concerns linked to fighting terrorism and Iraq: impositions on civil liberties, detaining immigrants, preemptive attacks.
"Right now, every major demonstration that will take place around the war will cover a lot of issues, and it's a challenge to keep a focus on Iraq," says Bob Wing, a spokesman for United for Peace & Justice, main sponsor of Saturday's New York rally.
The goal is to generate support from a broad range of Americans, which in turn influences politicians. Many political leaders claim they don't pay attention to the protests and their numbers - much the same way they say they are uninfluenced by polls. But some say they do notice.
"Demonstrations are important," says Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California. "It's one way the American people show their strength. In the war in Vietnam, that made a big difference."
What politicians look for, says Andrews, a democrat from Maine who served in the House of Representatives from 1990 to 1994, is to see how broad a range of demonstrators show up and how well organized they are.
They'll have another opportunity to evaluate that this weekend, when antiwar groups try to get the attention of the public. History suggests they will have to stay focused to be successful.
"I was in many marches during the Vietnam War," says Reginald Zelnik, a history professor at the University of California at Berkeley. "Some of them were just great, and some of them suffered from the same problem I think these last ones have. I think the jury is still out as to what direction these [weekend] ones will take."
• Staff writer Gail Russell Chaddock contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2003 The Christian Science Monitor
by Andrew Buncombe in Washington
Senior democrats have accused the CIA of sabotaging weapons inspections in Iraq by refusing to co-operate fully with the UN and withholding crucial information about Saddam Hussein's arsenal.
Led by Senator Carl Levin, the Democrats accused the CIA of making an assessment that the inspections were unlikely to be a success and then ensuring they would not be. They have accused the CIA director of lying about what information on the suspected location of weapons of mass destruction had been passed on.
The row is of heightened significance given the Bush administration's preparations to argue later today before the UN Security Council that the inspections have run their course and it is now time to move to military action.
France, Russia, Germany and other members of the Security Council are likely to back a counter-proposal to increase the number of inspectors, providing them, if necessary, with the support of armed UN soldiers, as a means of avoiding a military strike.
The accusation of US sabotage emerged from a series of Senate hearings on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, George Tenet, the CIA director, told the armed services committee panel that the agency had provided the UN inspectors with all the information it had on "high" and "moderate" interest locations inside Iraq – those sites where there was a possibility of finding banned weapons. But Mr Tenet later told a different panel that he had been mistaken and that there were in fact "a handful" of locations the UN inspectors may not have known about.
Senator Levin, from Michigan, responded by saying the CIA director had not been telling the truth. Citing a number of classified letters he had obtained from the agency, he said it was clear the CIA had not shared information with the inspectors about a "large number of sites of significant value".
He said the CIA had told him additional information would be passed to the inspectors within the next few days.
Mr Levin pushed Mr Tenet on whether he thought the inspections had any value. The CIA director replied: "Unless [President Saddam] provides the data to build on, provides the access, provides the unfettered access that he's supposed to, provides us with surveillance capability, there is little chance you're going to find weapons of mass destruction under the rubric he's created inside the country ... The inspectors have been put in a very difficult position by his behavior.
Mr Levin said later he believed the CIA had, in effect, taken the decision to undermine the inspections. "When they've taken the position that inspections are useless, they are bound to fail," he told The Washington Post. "We have undermined the inspectors."
Mr Levin has raised his concerns with the White House. In a letter to President Bush, the senator asked that America provide the inspectors with as much information as available.
He wrote: "The American people want the inspections to proceed, want the United States to share the information we have with the UN inspectors and want us to obtain United Nations support before military action is used against Iraq."
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
by Derrick Z. Jackson
I DO NOT really blame those poets who could not restrain themselves from telegraphing their intention to turn Laura Bush's poetry symposium at the White House into a rally against war in Iraq. Many poets equate restraint to anthrax. Still, I wish they had played it cool. Bush canceled or, more accurately, censored the event, which would have been held today, when she learned that hundreds of poets were writing antiwar pieces for an open letter to be given to her at her event.
Bush's press secretary said, ''While Mrs. Bush respects and believes in the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes that it would be inappropriate to turn what is intended to be a literary event into a political forum.''
The end result is that poets will be reading their angry words either before the proverbial choir in cozy coffee shops or in the cold, railing outside the locked walls of power. The funny thing is - although this is impossible for many poets to consider - this was one of those situations where the poets should have taken the attitude, ''Be careful of what you ask for; you just might hear it. ''
The symposium was supposed to celebrate the works of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Langston Hughes. Nearly a year ago the first lady held an event to salute the writers of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and '30s, which included Hughes. Bush even quoted Hughes's poem, ''Freedom,'' which said, in part, ''Some folks think by burning churches, they burn Freedom.... But Freedom stands up and laughs in their faces and says, `No, not so! No!'''
Had the poets been thinking a little more subversively, they could have burned the figurative roof off the White House with more Hughes. One work of Hughes that the first lady surely is not reading at bedtime to her husband during the buildup in Iraq is ''Message to the President.'' Probably written during World War II, Hughes wrote: ''In your fireside chats on the radio/ I hear you telling the world/ What you want them to know/ And your speeches in general/ Sound mighty fine,/ But there's one thing, Mr. President,/ That worries my mind./ I hear you talking about freedom/ For the Finn,/ The Jew,/ And the Czechoslovak -/ But you never seem to mention/ Us folks who're black! .../ That's why as citizens Mr. President,/ We have a right to demand/ The next time you make a speech,/ Take an all-out stand .../ No more segregation in the USA./ And when you mention the Finns,/ And the Jew,/ And the Czechoslovak,/ Don't forget the fourteen million/ Here who're black./ Such a speech, Mr. President, for me/ Would put a whole lot more meaning/ In Democracy.''
Hughes wrote deftly about the peril of propaganda in ''Mother in Wartime.'' That poem said: ''As if it were some noble thing,/ She spoke of sons at war/ As if freedom's cause/ Were pled anew at some heroic bar,/ As if the weapons used today/ Killed with great elan,/ As if Technicolor banners flew/ To honor modern man -/ Believing everything she read/ In the daily news,/ (no in-between to choose)/ She thought that only/ One side won,/ Not that both / Might lose.''
He also asked Americans to always question their sense of righteousness about war in ''War.'' ''Death is the broom/ I take in my hands/ To sweep the world/ Clean./ I sweep and I sweep/ Then mop and I mop./ I dip my broom in blood,/ My mop in blood -/ And blame you for this,/ Because you are there, / Enemy./ It's hard to blame me,/ Because I am here -/ So I kill you./ And you kill me./ My name,/ Like your name,/ Is war.''
Whoever the poets would have chosen to finish their presentation to the first lady could have ended with ''What I Think.'' In that, Hughes wrote, ''The guys who own/ The biggest guns/ Are the lucky ones/ These days./ being hip/ To your marksmanship/ Is what pays./ on the other hand/ There's some demand/ For a world plan./ Some folks wish/ The human race might/ Try to do right -/Instead of just fight./ But others still feel/ That any old heel/ Has a right/ To laissez faire/ Anywhere,/ And that's Empire's right./As for me,/ I can't agree,/ To my nose, colonies stink./ People ought to be FREE/ And have liberty -/ That's what I think.''
See how much fun - and political - it might have been, even on the first lady's terms?
By Ryan Singel
Unlike its hastily passed predecessor, the Justice Department's wide-ranging follow-up to the Patriot Act of 2001 is already facing intense scrutiny, just days after a civil rights group posted a leaked version of the legislation on its website.
The legislation, nicknamed Patriot II, would broadly expand the government's surveillance and detention powers. Among other measures, it calls for the creation of a terrorist DNA database and allows the attorney general to revoke citizenship of those who provide "material support" to terrorist groups.
Privacy advocates said the bill "gutted the Fourth Amendment," while prominent Democratic senators, including Patrick Leahy, ranking Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, immediately chastised the administration for its secrecy.
Despite assurances to lawmakers that no bill was in the works, the Justice Department internally circulated a confidential 120-page summary and text of the Domestic Security and Enhancement Act in early January.
The non-partisan Center for Public Integrity published a leaked copy of the bill on Friday.
"As recently as just last week, Justice Department officials have denied to ... the Judiciary Committee that they were drafting another anti-terrorism package," said Leahy in a written statement. "There is bipartisan concern ... about the administration's lack of responsiveness to congressional oversight."
"I have serious concerns ... and hope the Senate will give this bill more scrutiny than the first USA Patriot Act," said Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. He said he, too, had been misled about the bill's existence.
The Justice Department quickly released a statement that said, "It should not be surprising that the Department of Justice ... discusses additional tools to protect the American people."
The act allows the government to:
* Conduct domestic wiretapping without court order for 15 days following a congressional authorization of use of force or an attack on the United States.
* Secretly detain citizens.
* Deport any alien, including green-card holders, who are convicted of drug possession or an aggravated felony.
* Access a citizen's credit reports without a subpoena.
* Abolish federal court "consent decrees" that limit police surveillance of non-criminal organizations and public events.
* Criminalize the use of encryption software in the commission or planning of a felony.
* Apply strict gag rules to those subpoenaed by a grand jury.
* Collect DNA from suspected terrorists and indeed from any individual whose DNA might assist terror investigations.
* Extend authorization periods for secret wiretaps and Internet surveillance.
* Ease restrictions on the use of secret evidence.
"The administration is pushing everything to less and less judicial and public oversight," said Deirdre Mulligan, director of the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic. "It's hard to shock me, but this legislation rises to level of shock of consciousness. Alarming as the Patriot Act was, these provisions are right off the edge."
"We haven't been given the most general statistics on the Patriot Act," said Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued for information. "It doesn't make sense to expand their powers when we don't know how they are using the ones they got."
The hastily written Patriot Act faced little debate before being passed on Oct. 26, 2001, just weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11.
Since then, the Justice Department has been looking to tweak the Patriot Act, and some of the new proposals simply clean up the original's technically unclear passages.
Not everyone finds the draft outrageous.
"We need to come back and see if the Patriot Act's tools need strengthening," said Mike Scardaville, a policy analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation. "This is not a program for total government secrecy."
Some news accounts have incorrectly said that the legislation was sent to the vice president and the House speaker. However, the control sheet (PDF) indicates only that the document was sent to 10 internal divisions of the department.
Given the intense attention already focused on this bill, some doubt it will be introduced soon.
"This is a very audacious bill designed to strike while the iron is still hot, but I wonder if it is still hot," said Chris Hoofnagle, deputy counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "There is already resistance to new government surveillance powers."
"This is something you have on the shelf," said Hoofnagle. "You wait for an opportune moment, like going to war, to introduce it. They call this a draft, but this bill is definitely close to final and gives a good road map of what the Justice Department wants."
[The same mainstream UK paper that put the Amocoming to Kick Your Ass rebus on its cover, which it plagiarized from the internet, shows that plagiarism works both ways in this story on Tony Blair's ghost writer.]
JOURNALIST Sean Boyne and student Ibrahim al-Marashi have attacked Tony Blair for using their reports to call for war against Iraq.
Mr Boyne, who works for military magazine Jane's Intelligence Review, said he was shocked his work had been used in the Government's dossier.
Articles he wrote in 1997 were plagiarized for a 19-page intelligence document entitled Iraq: Its Infrastructure Of Concealment, Deception And Intimidation to add weight to the PM's warmongering.
He said: "I don't like to think that anything I wrote has been used for an argument for war. I am concerned because I am against the war."
The other main source was a thesis by post-graduate student, Ibrahim al-Marashi, the US-born son of Iraqis, who lives in California. His research was partly based on documents seized in the 1991 Gulf War.
He said: "This is wholesale deception. How can the British public trust the Government if it is up to these sort of tricks? People will treat any other information they publish with a lot of skepticism from now on."
After the dossier's origins were revealed, Mr Blair was accused by his own MPs of theft and lies. The fiasco has deeply damaged his attempts to win backing for military action.
It emerged the PA to Mr Blair's spin chief Alastair Campbell was involved in drawing up the dossier which was published last month.
Alison Blackshaw and a Government press officer were both named on the dossier when it was first put on the Government's website. But the names were later removed.
The bulk of the Government's document is directly copied, without acknowledgement, from Ibrahim's 5,000-word thesis - Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network - published last September.
He did not even know the dossier existed until Glen Rangwala, a Cambridge-based Iraq analyst, spotted the plagiarism and called him.
Ibrahim, whose parents fled to the US from Iraq in 1968, said the Government not only blatantly lifted much of his work, including typing and grammatical errors. Mr al-Marashi and Mr Boyne said their figures had been altered in the Government document.
Former Labour Defense Minister MP Peter Kilfoyle said: "It just adds to the general impression that what we have been treated to is a farrago of half-truths.
"I am shocked that on such thin evidence that we should be trying to convince the British people that this is a war worth fighting."
And Labour MP Glenda Jackson said: "It is another example of how the Government is attempting to mislead the country and Parliament.
"And of course to mislead is a Parliamentary euphemism for lying."
The PM's official spokesman rejected Ms Jackson's claims but admitted it had been a mistake not to acknowledge Mr al-Marashi's thesis in the dossier.
He added: "The fact we used some of his work doesn't throw into question the accuracy of the document as a whole. This document is solid."
Asked whether Downing Street was embarrassed about the affair, the spokesman said: "We all have lessons to learn."
The dossier had been praised by US Secretary of State Colin Powell in his speech to the UN Security Council. Mr Boyne added: "Maybe I should invoice Colin Powell."
© mirror.co.uk 2003
[I haven't read anything about this story in US papers; this one comes from a Toronto press, but apparently this documentary has already been playing in Europe and has been shown on German television and to several European parliaments.]
UK FILMMAKER SAYS GIS COVERED UP TALIBAN MASSACRE BY TED RALL New York City -- In a new documentary to be released in North America within the next few weeks, a Scottish filmmaker offers evidence that American soldiers may have been responsible for war crimes during the invasion of Afghanistan.According to eyewitnesses interviewed in Afghan Massacre: The Convoy Of Death, which few have seen on this side of the Atlantic, U.S. Special Forces supervised -- some say orchestrated -- the systematic murder of more than 3,000 captured Taliban soldiers in November 2001.
"There has been a cover-up by the Pentagon," says director Jamie Doran, a former producer for the BBC. "They're hiding behind a wall of secrecy, hoping this story will go away -- but it won't." Indeed, Afghan Massacre has already been shown on German television and to several European parliaments. The United Nations has promised an investigation. But thanks to a virtual media blackout, few North Americans are aware of the doc.
The allegations stem from the uprising at Qala-i-Jhangi fortress, a dramatic event that marked the last major confrontation between U.S.-backed forces of the Northern Alliance and the Taliban government. Several hundred prisoners, including "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, revolted against their guards and seized a weapons cache. Responding to Special Forces soldiers working with the Northern Alliance, U.S. jets used bombs to kill most of the rebels.
Eighty-six Talibs, including Lindh, survived the Qala-i-Jhangi revolt. Meanwhile, 8,000 more soldiers surrendered at Kunduz, the last Taliban redoubt in northern Afghanistan. Commanders loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord who later became Hamid Karzai's deputy defence minister, had painstakingly negotiated the surrender of the Taliban from Kunduz and Qala-i-Jhangi.
As I observed while covering the Kunduz front last fall, Northern Alliance commanders promised to quickly release ethnic Afghans among the Taliban once they laid down their arms. Many immediately joined the Northern Alliance. The status of foreign nationals, the so-called Arab Taliban, was somewhat nebulous since they didn't have hometowns in Afghanistan to which they might return after being released. In the end, Dostum guaranteed the lives of all 8,000-plus POWs. "Both British and American military officers were present" at the surrender deal, says Doran.
Newsweek reported that Special Forces commandos from the U.S. Fifth Group hooked up with Dostum in October 2001, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, advanced weaponry and the use of the air force to strike the targets he indicated. Special Forces soldiers turned Dostum and his top commanders into America's proxy army; the Afghans didn't dare to disobey the source of that largesse.
Although the Americans have been portrayed as tagging along with the Northern Alliance, Afghan forces followed their orders. U.S. troops were in de facto command of joint U.S.-Afghan operations, including Dostum's actions in the north.
Five thousand of the 8,000 prisoners made the trip to Sheberghan prison in the backs of open-air Soviet-era pickup trucks. But Dostum's soldiers were out for vengeance. They stopped and commandeered private container trucks to transport the other 3,000 prisoners. "It was awful," Irfan Azgar Ali, a survivor of the trip, told England's Guardian newspaper. "They crammed us into sealed shipping containers. We had no water for 20 hours. We banged on the side of the container. There was no air, and it was very hot. There were 300 of us in my container. By the time we arrived in Sheberghan, only 10 of us were alive."
One Afghan trucker, forced to drive one such container, says the prisoners began to beg for air. Northern Alliance commanders "told us to stop the trucks, and we came down. After that, they shot into the containers [to make air holes]. Blood came pouring out. They were screaming inside." Another driver in the convoy estimates that an average of 150 to 160 people died in each container.
When the containers were unlocked at Sheberghan, the bodies of the dead tumbled out. A 12-man U.S. Fifth Special Forces Group unit, Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595, guarded the prison's front gates and, according to witnesses, controlled the facility in the hopes of picking key prisoners for interrogation and possible transportation to Guantánamo Bay. (This is how Lindh was singled out.)
"Everything was under the control of the American commanders," a Northern Alliance soldier tells Doran in the film. American troops searched the bodies for al Qaeda identification cards. But, says another driver, "some of [the prisoners] were alive. They were shot" while "maybe 30 or 40" American soldiers watched.
Members of ODA 595, interviewed for the PBS program Frontline on August 2, 2002, confirm their presence at Sheberghan but cagily deny participating in war crimes. "I didn't see any atrocities, but I easily could have. Some prisoners may have died because they were sick or ill, and Dostum's forces just couldn't give them any care because they didn't have it."
But even General Dostum admits 200 such deaths. And the Northern Alliance soldier quoted above says U.S. troops masterminded the cover-up: "The Americans told the Sheberghan people to get rid of them [the bodies] before satellite pictures could be taken."
Ten minutes down the road from Sheberghan is the windswept scrub of Dasht-i-Leili. According to the Boston-based group Physicians for Human Rights, the 3,000 murdered Taliban POWs were brought to Dasht-i-Leili for mass burial. One witness tells the Guardian that a Special Forces vehicle was parked at the scene as bulldozers buried the dead. Despite a sloppy attempt to remove evidence after the fact, Doran's camera sweeps over clothing, bits of skull, matted hair, jaws, femurs and ribs jutting out of the sand. Bullet casings littering the site offer grim testimony that some Talibs were still alive before being dumped in the desert.
"If we're a civilized society, then when men surrender they have to be given basic protection,'' says Doran. "These men were murdered in a grotesque fashion, summarily executed and kicked into large holes in the ground as U.S. soldiers stood by."
In recent months, Doran says, two witnesses who appear in his film have been brought to Sheberghan prison and executed by men loyal to deputy defence minister Dostum. The Pentagon refuses to investigate these charges.
[Following is a link to an important memorandum on a new initiative to extend the Patriot Act to give the government power to make secret arrests (first time in US history), deport lawful permanent resident aliens without trial, etc. Click "More" to read the entire interview.]
There's an important story developing tonight at the Justice Department. The non-partisan Center for Public Integrity obtained a closely-guarded document that shows plans for a sweeping expansion of the government's police powers. Until now, few people outside of the department, not even members of key congressional committees have seen this draft legislation. It could lead to increased surveillance and greater secrecy - all in the name of the war on terror. It raises questions about how we balance liberty and security - the rights of individuals versus the rule of law. Bill Moyers talks to Chuck Lewis about the significance of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 and how it would affect civil liberties.
MOYERS: Chuck Lewis, whom you just saw in that piece is with me now. He is the Executive Director of the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, the organization responsible for obtaining that document. Chuck Lewis, thank you for joining us.
LEWIS: Thank you.
MOYERS: The Patriot Act was passed six weeks after 9/11. We know now that it greatly changed the balance between liberty and security in this nation's framework. What do you think what's the significance of this new document, called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003?
LEWIS: I think the significance is it just deepens and broadens, further extends the first Patriot Act. That act in 2001, they had six weeks, which was not a lot of time to throw something together. Now there's been 18 months of all kinds of things that have happened and court decisions that have tried to roll back some of the Patriot Act.
And other concerns, law enforcement, people have, and so they've had time to sift and sort what they want. And it's arguably might be a more thorough rendering of all the things law enforcement and intelligence agencies would like to have in a perfect world. It's sort of how I look at it, and I think it's a very tough document when it comes to secrecy and surveillance.
I understand the concerns about fear of terrorism. And it certainly…
MOYERS: We all have those…
LEWIS: We all have those and there are things in the legislation that make sense, and that are reasonable, I think for any American. But there are other things that really take some of the Patriot Act civil liberties issues that folks were concerned about and go even further. And I think it's gonna be very controversial. Some of these sections are gonna be debated for weeks and months.
MOYERS: So many of these powers latent in this draft legislation were powers that were taken away from the intelligence community some years ago because they were abused.
LEWIS: That's right.
MOYERS: Do you see any protection in here against potential abuse?
LEWIS: I don't think there's very much there's a lot more authority and power for government. There's less oversight and information about what government is doing. That's the headline and that's the theme. And the safeguards seem to be pretty minimal to me.
MOYERS: I just go through here, you know? "Will give the Attorney General the unchecked power to deport any foreigner?"
MOYERS: Including lawful permanent resident aliens. It would give the government the power to keep certain arrests secret until an indictment is found never in our history have we permitted secret arrests. It would give the government power to bypass courts and grand juries in order to conduct surveillance without a judge's permission. I mean these do really further upend the balance between liberty on the one hand and security on the other.
LEWIS: Well, they do. They reduce judicial oversight with the secret intelligence courts instead of saying the court may do this now it's the court will do this. They can have ex parte conversations where they go into the judge without anyone else around. In terms of information about detainees, not only can they detain anyone they'd like to detain, there is no public information about it.
Journalists cannot find out the names of we detained over a thousand people after September 11th because we thought they might all be terrorists. Not one of them was really found with any criminal charges to be a terrorist. And we don't know the names of almost all those people, still. And so it does appear that everything that folks might be concerned about with the Patriot Act, this is times five or times ten is what I look at it. I see it very serious.
MOYERS: You and I have had this kind of discussion often, we go back a long way together. The foundation that I serve on has been a big supporter of yours and you've been a big supporter of our journalism. If we were fighting terrorists instead of being journalists, wouldn't we want this kind of power in our hands?
LEWIS: Well, we would, but we operate in a democracy and there's other considerations. I mean I think, you know, there's no question, if you're in law enforcement, this is gonna make it easier for you to do your job. The problem is, we have a history in our country, just in our lifetime, in the last quarter century.
Where we've seen FBI and CIA abuses of ordinary citizens. Where mail has been opened, where homes have been broken into. Where infiltration has occurred in political groups. Informants have been used, misused. People's lives have been ruined. People have committed suicide because of the pressures brought against them by the government, by these kinds of secret intelligence agencies.
This is not a completely crazy idea to worry about the power of the government. And it was curbed and rolled back in the '70s. And there is something obviously occurring here in the public space around the whole issue of liberty and security right now.
And it is clearly changing and it's moving towards security. And the question for us as a people is what is the right balance. And I think my biggest personal concern is that there ought to be a debate about this. So the Patriot Act jammed through Congress in six weeks.
There was a Congressional there was a Senate hearing that lasted an hour and a half, there were no questions to the Attorney General by the senators. This is too important for our country. Whatever anyone's point of view, this should be a conversation that the country should have.
And if I'm afraid they're waiting for a war or something and then they're gonna pop this baby out and then try to jam it through.
MOYERS: You mean that if it were not rolled out and discussed publicly until the United States has had war in Iraq, people might not pay as much attention to it as they would now.
LEWIS: They wouldn't pay as much attention and you know, our worries and our fears are gonna be different than they are now. And there will be less of all these things will melt away. These are nice concerns about liberties but we'll be at war. And we'll have presidents and attorneys general and other government officials telling us things. And I just see a I see that it wouldn't work quite as easily for them if it comes out in the next few weeks as opposed to then.
MOYERS: Congressman Burton, Dan Burton, of Indiana, a very conservative congressman, who is Chairman on the Committee on Government Reform. He said recently, "An iron veil is descending over the executive branch."
Now your forte is moving information around in Washington trying to find out what's going on. Would you agree with what Congressman Burton has said here?
LEWIS: I absolutely agree with what he's saying. I mean there have been 300 roll-backs of the Freedom of Information Act since September 11th. All over America, at the state and local level, as well as the federal government. The Attorney General sent a message to every federal employee, when in doubt, deny any Freedom of Information request.
We have other things like presidential papers being sealed off. We have reporters trying to cover things in Afghanistan being locked in a warehouse and not able to file their stories. Even before September 11th, we had one reporter's home phone records seized by a grand jury without telling him or his news organization.
There's a lot of things happening with information, access to information, and efforts to stop journalism that I have not seen in 20 plus years of watching Washington and journalism and government interact. And it's not just information. It's not information for information's sake. This is about health, safety, lives…
MOYERS: What do you mean?
LEWIS: Well, you have this whole thing in this current draft legislation that there's a worst case scenario type requirement that every company that is making hazardous or toxic materials has to make that information available to the public. So if something terrible does happen they know that it's possible that it could happen and there's some sort of assessment about it. Well now that is not gonna be required. Chemical companies will not have to tell the world about these problems.
And they will the citizens in that community will not have access to that information in an easy accessible way. And that's new and that affects their life. If some problem occurs, they're unrelated to the terrorism. Something just goes wrong, they will not know anything about that in their community.
So we're rolling back health and safety and environmental and other considerations and sensitivities that have been in our culture now for decades. Are melting away because of all in the name of fighting terrorism.
MOYERS: What would be the Attorney General's justification for wanting to restrict access to information about toxic chemicals?
LEWIS: Well, the I haven't heard one. But I think the rationale is that terrorists could get information about a chemical plant and its security, bad security, inadequate security and somehow then bring about a threat.
But the problem is sunlight is the best disinfectant. If these plants have bad security or they're not being well run and they're actually unsafe it's usually exposing it and talking about it and the public being aware of it that ends up improving the plant or the facility or whatever it is.
I actually find that that's how change occurs usually. And so the ostensible rationale is to keep it away from terrorists. But I think it's also a rationale to protect companies frankly in this instance. Well I happen to know that's been the chemical lobbyist's dream for a long time.
A long time before 9/11. They did not want this information made available.
LEWIS: I see a lot of opportunism here around the fear and paranoia in the wake of September 11th. And taking advantage of the insecurity that we all feel today. And that is, to me, incredibly offensive. And that's why a conversation about it, there's 40 sections in this thing. The public needs to have a sense what exactly are we getting here.
There needs to be a chewing over. This should not jam through Congress. This should be out there and being be talked about.
I mean the realm between public and private, between foreign and domestic, all these things have morphed into the citizen against all of this out there this morass of regulations and rules and intrusions. And at the same time they can come after you, get your credit card data, your library records, your Internet searching, everything. And they'll decide whether or not you're a suspect or not.
Whether or not they like you. If you're a disfavored political group, or from the wrong ethnic background, then you might become on the radar screen of some folks that you don't know about, you can't find out about, and they can do things. They have this is incredible power.
MOYERS: One of the provisions in here as I understand it is that the government could actually strip citizenship from someone if for example, if you were found, according to this, if you were found making what you thought was a legitimate contribution to some non profit organization.
MOYERS: Foundation. And months from then, that foundation were deemed by the government or that organization were deemed by the government to have been in some way supporting terrorists, you could lose your citizenship because of your contribution, even if you didn't know…
LEWIS: That's right.
MOYERS: That you were contributing to an organization like that.
LEWIS: No, that's absolutely they have that power. They can also extradite all over world, even if we don't have treaties. I mean, some of the things in here are strain credulity for legal scholars. They're not sure, they've never seen these kinds of provisions trotted out. I mean, a lot of the question is if it does pass Congress, what would the courts do with it later.
I mean I think there are some legitimate issues there.
MOYERS: What do you make of this? This is the document that went from the Department of Justice with this draft legislation to certain very key people in government. Among them, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Vice President, Richard Cheney, for their comments on this obviously confidential document.
Why the Speaker of the House and the Vice President and not the committee chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate or the appropriate committee in the House?
LEWIS: It's a way to say you've consulted Congress to some extent by sending it to the Speaker and not really consulting Congress.
As far as I can tell, and we have not polled every member or anything like that, but it appears that virtually no one on Capitol Hill, except for the Speaker, has seen this legislation. I'm talking about the people at the judiciary committees in the House and Senate don't have this legislation. And have even been kind of yanked around a little bit for months about whether there will even be legislation.
MOYERS: The House Judiciary Committee actually asked the FBI a few months ago how it has used the new powers that had been given to it under the Patriot Act. And the Justice department said, "We can't tell you that information, it's classified."
And this prompted then-Congressman then Bob Barr, from Georgia, another conservative, by the way, he said the attitude of the Justice Department seems to be that even Congress isn't entitled to know how they are using the authority that Congress gave them.
LEWIS: It's incredible. I mean, if Congress doesn't have oversight over the Justice Department and these programs, who does? That's how it's supposed to work in our constitution and in our set up for government.
MOYERS: That's one of your real concerns, isn't it? That there's no oversight when secrecy is this tight.
LEWIS: Absolutely. The Congress is the people's chance to monitor the executive branch. That is the only… it is the closest branch of government to the people. The House members are up for election every two years. If the House of Representatives and the Congress in general cannot keep a watch on the executive branch and cannot be informed about their activities. There's something very serious here.
MOYERS: Chuck, I hear people out there in the audience thinking, you know, I'm scared. We're this is a new ballgame, to put it trivially. War on terrorists, they came on 9/11, we keep getting reports they're coming again, who knows where it'll happen. Everybody's scared.
You guys are living in Lotus Land, you journalists talking about this sort of thing. Because we really want the government to protect us from another World Trade Center attack on the Pentagon, which is not far from where your office is in Washington.
MOYERS: What about that?
LEWIS: Look, I wanna be protected by the government as much as anyone.
But actually, in some ways that's beside the point. There are also freedoms and rights and liberties that, you know, millions of Americas have fought for over 200 years to make sure that this is a special kind of country. And isn't it possible that to be secure and have liberties?
Why give all the power and authority and have no oversight and accountability. What are the safeguards. And that's the question.
MOYERS: When someone inside government, inside the Justice Department, presumably, gives you a confidential document marked, "Not For Distribution," The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, knowing that this administration has been cracking down on watchdogs and leaks from inside government, do you consider this person a patriot?
LEWIS: I really do. I think it takes incredible guts to take something that bothers someone, and for whatever reason, they feel they must give it out. And they know they're gonna be polygraphed, they're gonna be questioned. There's gonna be a clampdown found, there's gonna be a witch-hunt after this occurs. They could very likely not only lose their job but-- maybe worse.
MOYERS: Be sued by the government?
LEWIS: Be sued by the government and otherwise ruined professionally. That is the most incredible kind of courage. And I have an incredible respect for anyone who does that.
MOYERS: I should make this clear this is not marked "Top Secret" this is not a classified document. It is stamped "Confidential" but nobody is betraying the Secrets Act.
LEWIS: Yeah, that's right, I mean, I've I'm glad to say that that's right.
MOYERS: There was a story this week in Congressional Quarterly, which is a very respected non-partisan journal in Washington. It says "Pentagon's proposed changes strike some as difficult, dangerous and destabilizing." And one of the things Donald Rumsfeld wants is wavers of environmental laws so that troops can conduct more "realistic exercises."
And then this magazine, which is non-partisan, says this is part of the administration's broad campaign to run the federal government more like a private business. And with private businesses you have more control over employees, you have more control over information. Do you see that developing as a syndrome of this administration?
LEWIS: I think it's incredible what's happening. I see a wholesale assault on access to information in this country that has not really been seen, I have to just say it, since Richard Nixon.
When you look at the roll-backs of freedom of information, when you look at things like meeting with energy companies with the Vice President. It's simple things though in government property with government officials getting paid by taxpayer money and it's not available to the public.
When you see some of the things that we have talked about earlier with reporters from detainees to military actions not being able to see things. I see a lot of very aggressive behavior by government officials towards the act of getting information out and information itself. I think that we're in a very unusual situation right now. And it really worries me actually.
MOYERS: Chuck Lewis, Center for Public Integrity, thank you very much.
LEWIS: Thank you.
[Just fell into my inbox -- click "more" below and get links to the two papers in question.]
British 'intelligence' lifted from academic articles
Michael White and Brian Whitaker
Friday February 7, 2003
Downing Street was last night plunged into acute international embarrassment after it emerged that large parts of the British government's latest dossier on Iraq - allegedly based on "intelligence material" - were taken from published academic articles, some of them several years old.
Amid charges of "scandalous" plagiarism on the night when Tony Blair attempted to rally support for the US-led campaign against Saddam Hussein, Whitehall's dismay was compounded by the knowledge that the disputed document was singled out for praise by the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, in his speech to the UN security council on Wednesday.
Citing the British dossier, entitled Iraq - its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation in front of a worldwide television audience Mr Powell said: "I would call my colleagues' attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed... which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities."
But on Channel 4 News last night it was revealed that four of the report's 19 pages had been copied - with only minor editing and a few insertions - from the internet version of an article by Ibrahim al-Marashi which appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs last September.
Though that was not the only textual embarrassment No 10 seemed determined to tough it out last night.
Dismissing the gathering controversy as the latest example of media obsession with spin, officials insisted it in no way undermines the underlying truth of the dossier, whose contents had been re-checked with British intelligence sources. "The important thing is that it is accurate," said one source.
What Whitehall may not grasp is the horror with which unacknowledged borrowing of material - the crime of plagiarism - is regarded in American academic and media circles, even though successive US governments have a poor record of misleading their own citizens on foreign policy issues at least since the Vietnam war. On a special edi tion of BBC Newsnight, filmed before a critical audience last night, Mr Blair stressed that he was willing to forgo popularity to warn voters of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction: "I may be wrong, but I do believe it."
With trust a critical element in the battle to woo a sceptical public the first sentence of the No 10 document merely states, somewhat cryptically, that it "draws upon a number of sources, including intelligence material".
But Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University, told Channel 4: "I found it quite startling when I realised that I'd read most of it before."
The content of six more pages relies heavily on articles by Sean Boyne and Ken Gause that appeared in Jane's Intelligence Review in 1997 and last November. None of these sources is acknowledged.
The document, as posted on Downing Street's website at the end of January, also acci dentally named four Whitehall officials who had worked on it: P Hamill, J Pratt, A Blackshaw and M Khan. It was reposted on February 3 with the first three names deleted.
"Apart from passing this off as the work of its intelligence services," Dr Rangwala said, "it indicates that the UK really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq's internal policies. It just draws upon publicly available data."
Evidence of an electronic cut-and-paste operation by Whitehall officials can be found in the way the dossier preserves textual quirks from its original sources. One sentence in Dr Marashi's article includes a misplaced comma in referring to Iraq's head of military intelligence during the 1991 Gulf war. The same sentence in Downing Street's report contains the same misplaced comma.
A Downing Street spokesman declined to say why the report's public sources had not been acknowledged. "We said that it draws on a number of sources, including intelligence. It speaks for itself."
Dr Marashi, a research associate at the Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, said no one had contacted him before lifting the material.
But on the regular edition of Newsnight he later gave some comfort to No 10. "In my opinion, the UK document overall is accurate even though there are a few minor cosmetic changes. The only inaccuracies in the UK document were that they maybe inflated some of the numbers of these intelligence agencies," he said.
Explaining the more journalistic changes inserted into his work by Whitehall he added: "Being an academic paper, I tried to soften the language.
"For example, in one of my documents, I said that they support organisations in what Iraq considers hostile regimes, whereas the UK document refers to it as 'supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes'.
"The primary documents I used for this article are a collection of two sets of documents, one taken from Kurdish rebels in the north of Iraq - around 4m documents - as well as 300,000 documents left by Iraqi security services in Kuwait. After that, I have been following events in the Iraqi security services for the last 10 years."
Iraq's decision last night to let weapons inspectors interview one of its scientists for the first time without government "minders" signalled that Baghdad may be bending under international pressure.
But diplomats will be trying to determine over the next few days whether it is a token gesture or a real shift away from what they describe as Iraq's "catch us if you can" approach to inspections. Hours before the announcement, a Foreign Office source in London signalled that this was the kind of change of heart that Iraq would have to make to avoid war.
[A little news story about an incident that partly inspired this site.]
Thursday January 30, 2003 4:50 AM
NEW YORK (AP) - The White House said Wednesday it postponed a poetry symposium because of concerns that the event would be politicized. Some poets had said they wanted to protest military action against Iraq. The symposium on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman was scheduled for Feb. 12. No future date has been announced.
"While Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum." Noelia Rodriguez, spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush, said Wednesday.
Mrs. Bush, a former librarian who has made teaching and early childhood development her signature issues, has held a series of White House symposiums to salute America's authors. The gatherings are usually lively affairs with discussions of literature and its societal impact. But the poetry symposium soon inspired a nationwide protest.
Sam Hamill, a poet and founder of the highly regarded Copper Canyon Press, declined the invitation and e-mailed friends asking for anti-war poems or statements. He encouraged those who planned to attend to bring along anti-war poems.
Hamill said he's gotten more than 1,500 contributions, including ones from poets W.S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
"I'm putting in 18-hour days. I'm 60 and I'm tired, but it's pretty wonderful," says Hamill, based in Port Townsend, Wash., and author of such works as "Destination Zero" and "Gratitude."
Marilyn Nelson, Connecticut's poet laureate, said Wednesday that she had accepted the White House invitation and had planned to wear a silk scarf with peace signs that she commissioned.
"I had decided to go because I felt my presence would promote peace," she said.