Friday, June 30, 2006

More From Nir Rosen, World's Bravest Human

Here's more from Nir Rosen. Even if you've read a ton of reporting from Iraq, you haven't read this:

Americans, led to believe that their soldiers and Marines would be welcomed as liberators by the Iraqi people, have no idea what the occupation is really like from the perspective of Iraqis who endure it. Although I am American, born and raised in New York City, I came closer to experiencing what it might feel like to be Iraqi than many of my colleagues. I often say that the secret to my success in Iraq as a journalist is my melanin advantage. I inherited my Iranian father’s Middle Eastern features, which allowed me to go unnoticed in Iraq, blend into crowds, march in demonstrations, sit in mosques, walk through Falluja’s worst neighborhoods.

I also benefited from being able to speak Arabic—in particular its Iraqi dialect, which I hastily learned in Baghdad upon my arrival and continued to develop throughout my time in Iraq.

My skin color and language skills allowed me to relate to the American occupier in a different way, for he looked at me as if I were just another haji, the “gook” of the war in Iraq. I first realized my advantage in April 2003, when I was sitting with a group of American soldiers and another soldier walked up and wondered what this haji (me) had done to get arrested by them. Later that summer I walked in the direction of an American tank and heard one soldier say about me, “That’s the biggest fuckin’ Iraqi (pronounced eye-raki) I ever saw.” A soldier by the gun said, “I don’t care how big he is, if he doesn’t stop movin’ I’m gonna shoot him.”

I was lucky enough to have an American passport in my pocket, which I promptly took out and waved, shouting: “Don’t shoot! I’m an American!” It was my first encounter with hostile American checkpoints but hardly my last, and I grew to fear the unpredictable American military, which could kill me for looking like an Iraqi male of fighting age. Countless Iraqis were not lucky enough to speak American English or carry a U.S. passport, and often entire families were killed in their cars when they approached American checkpoints.

In 2004 the British medical journal The Lancet estimated that by September 2004 100,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the American occupation and said that most of them had died violently, mostly in American airstrikes. Although this figure was challenged by many, especially partisans of the war, it seems perfectly plausible to me based on what I have seen in Iraq, having spent most of the postwar period there...

It's a really long piece, but read it all.

Seriously, all of it.

Guantanamo Bay doctors under fire


An NI doctor has criticised the World Medical Association for not tackling the role doctors are playing at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

The camp currently houses about 490 detainees

Dr Iain Banks said it was a scandal that doctors were "becoming involved in torture practices".

He said the practices were "the worst thing doctors can be involved in".

The camp currently houses about 490 detainees from about 40 countries, and is said to include terrorist suspects picked up in Eastern Europe and Africa.

Dr Banks said: "Not having the WMA taking a strong stance on this is a nonsense."

He said prisoners had been force-fed under the direct supervision of US doctors.
It is a disgrace when you have something like Guantanamo, but it becomes a scandal when you have doctors actually involved in torture practices as well
Dr Iain Banks
The doctor, who practices in Ballynahinch in County Down, is raising the matter at the British Medical Association's conference in Belfast on Thursday.

"Guantanamo is completely outside of the normal regulations and the normal ethos for an international community," he told BBC News.

"There is now an international cry to close down Guantanamo.

"It is quite amazing when the president of the United States says that he would like to see it closed, but seems powerless to do anything about it.

"It is a disgrace when you have something like Guantanamo, but it becomes a scandal when you have doctors actually involved in torture practices as well.

"Unfortunately, there is a history of doctors and torture that goes back a long way, not least to Auschwitz."

'Intense scrutiny'

Dr Banks said he acknowledged that it was the most serious allegation which could be made against a doctor.

"But what is critical about this is that the American government, and indeed the American doctors who are involved in this, seem to be unable to accept that what they are doing is unacceptable.

"To have a doctor involved in actually harming patients - even if it is for the state - is still wrong.

Governments and rights groups have deplored the camp

"These are people who are being held against their will with no court proceedings."

The US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay has come under intense scrutiny since it began to receive foreign detainees in early 2002.

The US has faced frequent attacks for holding inmates without trial and for their alleged mistreatment.

United Nations human rights investigators have called for the camp's immediate closure.

But the US government has been steadfast in its defence of the camp and says inmates are treated humanely.

Housed on a naval base in Cuba, the camp was established to hold suspected terrorists captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

Atenco: Never Again By Adolfo Gilly

Atenco: Never Again
Adolfo Gilly’s Words for the Presentation of the CCIODH’s Human Rights Report on the Events at Atenco

By Adolfo Gilly
The Other Mexico
June 28, 2006

Editor's Note: On Monday, June 26, the International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation presented its Preliminary Report on the events in Atenco on May 3 and 4, 2006. The report is available, in English, for download in PDF format, here, from the Comission’s web site. At the presentation, celebrated journalist and scholar of Mexican history and politics Adolfo Gilly gave the following speech, which we publish here with his permission.
-Dan Feder

The Preliminary Report Concerning Atenco presented by the International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation is an exceptional document. We Mexicans must thank the Commission for its commitment, its objectivity, its professionalism and its invaluable support in this difficult moment for the country and for our rights.

The report demonstrates the premeditated and organized character of the rapes, the beatings, the humiliations, the raids without warrants carried out by the federal and state police. It proves the existence of a will to intimidate, demoralize, and tear apart a Mexican town as an example, as vengeance, and as a norm for the future. It makes evident the responsibility of the state and federal authorities and the complicity of the justice system in the commission and covering up of those abominable acts.

Atenco has exceeded the limits of earlier repressions in which there were indeed dead, tortured, disappeared, and imprisoned political opponents or social organizers. But not even Gustavo Díaz Ordaz [translator’s note: president of Mexico from 1964–1970, overseeing the Tlatelolco massacre] ordered his troops to engage in the widespread rape of the women in a Mexican town. These are actions in the same savagery as the occupation armies in Lidice, in My Lai, in Bosnia, but committed, in this unprecedented case, against the violators’ own national community and against an entire rural town. This is the limit now passed – not by paramilitaries, but by the uniformed forces of the same nation to which those humiliated, imprisoned and (in the case of two of them) murdered men and women belong.

Atenco is an attempt to morally push the limit for future repression. As the report says, in the police tucks, whose personnel can be identified perfectly well from the police’s own records, “a special space was created from the time of the arrests until the turning over of the detained to prison authorities, where all the guarantees and rights of the detained disappeared.” There, the sexual and physical violence against the women and also the men was unleashed. During the six endless hours of transport to the prisons, those trucks were a national replica of Abu Ghraib, but one where Mexican police committed mass rape against Mexican women.

Judges, prosecutors and prison authorities have united in a closed act of denial of justice to the tortured, the prisoners, the wounded and the townspeople whose belongings were robbed from their own homes. The prisoners go unheard, the proven events are cynically denied. The extreme degradation to which the administration of justice in this country has come to leaps from this report with tragic evidence: legal process with no accusers or evidence present, prisoners without rights, judges and prosecutors without conscience.

The report shows how Atenco has been an organized and planned attempt to instill fear in the Mexican people, and especially a fear concentrated among those who are least protected in terms of their civil rights and living standards. “Repression first for the poor,” seems to have been the motto. In the town of Atenco, the fear is still there – legitimate fear, as the report confirms – as well as an immense, unfathomable rage, just like the rage breaking out today in Oaxaca, in Pasta de Conchos, in Sicartsa, in La Parota – all across the national landscape.

Reports like this one help us to reason through that fear; to think clearly about that rage; to better understand what is occurring and what is happening to us. This is a necessary condition for organizing the widest defense possible, without any distinctions or sectarianism, uniting many who, from whatever political standpoint, want to free the prisoners of Atenco now and protect the rights, liberties and property of the town’s residents.

With Atenco it is essential to bring together, without distinctions, our will and strength, to halt the avalanche of abuses and humiliations against Mexican people that the current national powers are committing, tolerating or silencing, in order to pass them down to our future politicians as well.

The small town of San Salvador Atenco is one of our national tragedies of these times. Five candidates, one of them a woman, ask the Mexican people for their votes to be elected president this July 2. Four of them, in the great national debate, said not one word about Atenco: silence, total silence on the tragedy. One, the PAN candidate, touched on the subject in order to give his express approval of this disgrace.

The International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation has sent its shocking report to those five candidates. I ask that each of them say something about Atenco during the immanent closing of their campaigns. I ask that they join with the national and international clamor that keeps growing in defense of Atenco and for the freedom of its prisoners.

I am not asking for much: just loyalty, solidarity and human decency toward a small rural Mexican town on the outskirts of the City of Palaces, from which one of them aspires to govern this tragic Mexico of ours in the coming years.

Kirchner and Evo Morales sign integrationist agreement

BUENOS AIRES, July 29.—The presidents of Argentina, Néstor Kirchner, and Bolivia, Evo Morales, emphasized the Latin American focus and the integration oriented essence of the new energy sector agreements signed by the two countries.

During a public event in the Hurlingham neighborhood of the capital, Morales expressed thanks for the solidarity demonstrated by the Argentine government in accepting a price increase in the natural gas that Bolivia exports to that country.

He expressed his willingness to increase the sale volume of the vital fuel to Argentina, which currently purchases 7.7 million cubic meters daily, and said that he would continue negotiating the price of that resource with other governments.

"More than 70% of our population is indigenous and they have the right to benefit from their natural resources," Morales affirmed during his brief visit to Buenos Aires.

He lauded the collaboration of his Argentine counterpart in resolving Bolivia’s problems and also mentioned the assistance received from Venezuela and Cuba on diverse issues.

In turn, the Argentine president praised the nobility and generosity of the dialogue with his guest, and stated that the agreements signed will contribute to the growth of both countries.

He indicated that the accords will guarantee an energy balance in the region and that they represent a significant step towards the construction of the Northeastern Argentine Gas Pipeline and the Grand Gas Pipeline of the South.

Looking for an excuse in Gaza

From (Mazuz is the Israeli Attorney General; my emphasis in red):
"The detention of Hamas parliamentarians in the early hours of Thursday morning had been planned several weeks ago and received approval from Mazuz on Wednesday. The same day, Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin presented Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with the list of Hamas officials slated for detention."
In other words, Israel used the Palestinian attack on the Israeli military post as an excuse to do what it was looking for an excuse to do, arrest a democratically elected government and destroy Palestinian access to electricity. And the world sits back and lets it happen.

Impeachment Movement

The Supreme Court ruling yesterday that declared the Bush administration actions in Guantanamo a violation of both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions has now set the stage for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. At a meeting in Raleigh last night, I co-appeared with Al McSurley -- a veteran civil rights attorney, who reads these tea leaves as well as anyone I know. The ruling class is recongizing that the Bush administration has become an albatross, and this is a clear signal from the judiciary that appointed them in the first place that they have become a political liability. The repeated criticisms from Republican Arlen Specter are also an indication. The fear among Republicans that the Democrats might win the House and award the House Judiciary Committee to Representative John Conyers, who is openly calling for impeachment, is palpable. Many Republicans are already eyeing the lifeboats. There will likely be a move to draft John McCain into the presidential contender slot as a way of disavowing the blackshirted edge given the Party's image by the neocons. In the interim, this is a window of opportunity that may open wider as more scandals come to the surface over the next four months. Berkely, California is actualy hosting a referendum on impeachment, and other small cities have already passed resolutions. What this means, in short-range tactical terms, is that there is now an opportunity to build a movement to turn the 2006 elections into a referendum on the entire Bush presidency... and this necessarily includes the war. Those who know me, know that I am the last person out there to encourage tailing Democrats as a principle. But I am also opposed to the kind of ultra-leftism that cannot see tactical opportunities out of some presumed purity. There is a real possibility to build a very broad movement between now and November 8th that targets state capitol newspaper editorial boards (which local television and radio news inevitably follow) and uses its movement visibility to educate the public on the kinds of crimes that have been committed by the Bush adminstration. There will be the usual carping about bad Democrats, like we don't know that, which is a perennial excuse for sitting on our asses and doing nothing. Politicians go the way the wind blows. It takes a movement to make the wind. And anyone who doesn't think there is a fissure here needs to help us understand why a Republican stacked Supreme Court just went on record saying the Bush administration violated the law. There are always plenty of laptop bombardiers who grouse and carp and have a million excuses to continue doing nothing but grouse and carp. Tell them to call 1-800-WAA-WAA, and then just keep moving. They are anchors ties to our behinds. Cut them free. The combination of anti-war forces generally and progressive Democrats, as well as women's groups, African-American groups, and Hispano-Latina groups, have immense potential to break through this fissure and exploit it. Success in this would create the kind of oxygen bolus that was created for the period during and immediately after the Watergate hearings in 1973. If we can make this happen, there is no doubt that the Democratic Leadership Council and others will try to conceal the systemic roots of our issues, but that is the next phase of this struggle... overcoming that. First, we need an impeachment movement. Be assured that the ruling class will not let this get to the point of an actual impeachment and conviction. Newspaper editorial boards to cover actual crimes of the Bush administration. Municipal referenda or resolutions for impeachment. Massive public education. The wall is weak here... PUSH!

35th anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers by Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK)

This editor attended a dinner last evening at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC that marked the 35th anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers by Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK) during a Senate subcommittee hearing. Gravel, who is the first Democrat who has filed for the presidency in 2008, and Daniel Ellsberg, were present at the dinner and reminisced about the series of incidents that led to a dramatic showdown with the Nixon administration 35 years ago. In June 1971, the Pentagon Papers were submitted for inclusion in the Congressional Record by Gravel after the Nixon administration managed to get a restraining order that enjoined the New York Times from publishing further classified Pentagon Papers extracts that showed the Pentagon had deceived the American people about the Vietnam War. Gravel personally loaded two heavy carrying cases containing copies of the Pentagon Papers into the trunk of his car that -- parked in front of the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue, just four blocks from the White House. The papers had been transported by plane from Los Angeles by a Washington Post editor who had received them from Ellsberg. The White House was trying every method to prevent the publication of the papers. Gravel, knowing this, kept the two carrying cases under his bed until he took them to the Senate for public release.

Ironically, the anniversary dinner was held during a time when the New York Times is once again dealing with a Republican administration threatening it with legal action over the publication of so- called "classified information" about the faux "global war on terror." A number of speakers saw one big difference between 1971 and 2006: the press was vehemently opposed to the Nixon administration's attempt to stifle the press. Now, the corporate-controlled media rolls over every time the White House makes a demand. Journalists put their jobs and status ahead of their professional duty to inform the public. Ed. note: As long as this situation continues, WMR will continue to inform the public, regardless of the bellicose threats against the press from the Bush administration.

More on Gravel and Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers at Gravel 08 campaign web site.

DUBYA: Thou Shalt not question my war!

President Bush's tryst with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush's disgust with the relationship

As much as the White House wants the story of President Bush's tryst with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush's disgust with the relationship to go away, The Globe tabloid is running the story for the second week in a row (and WMR's initial story on the affair is once again cited). The Globe's neuro-linguistic (body language) expert analyzes Bush's and Rice's cavorting incidents. The White House has also altered its story on Mrs. Bush's Secret Service detail being seen at the Mayflower Hotel for at least one night (when Mrs. Bush reportedly stormed out of the White House after a confrontation with Mr. Bush over the affair). The White House at first denied the First Lady was even at the Mayflower. A White House source now concedes that the First Lady arranged to transport an old college female friend back to the Mayflower from the White House and that the First Lady remained at the hotel until 11:00 PM. The White House continues to deny that the First Lady remained at the hotel for at least one entire evening. Sorry Karl, this story has legs and isn't going away any time soon.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Another neo-con outrage: Pentagon forcing U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq to take Prozac and other drugs for anxiety and depression.

U.S. military personnel in Iraq are caught in a dangerous and nightmarish vise created by neo-con politicians in Washington. U.S. troops are being forced to take drugs like Prozac and Seroquel for anxiety and depression. Troops cannot refuse to take the drugs without consequences from their superiors. Resistance by U.S. troops to their orders is also running high. Some U.S. military patrols decline to carry out their "search and kill" missions and, instead, return to their bases claiming they carried out their orders.

The anti-Iraq war group, Military Families Speak Out (, is conducting a vigil outside the Cannon House Office Building. Anne Roesler of California, whose son will be soon serving his third Iraq tour with the 82nd Airborne Division, and Elizabeth Frederick of New York, whose boyfriend is serving in Iraq with the New York National Guard, are receiving some surprising comments and rather lukewarm support from Senate and House members, Republican and Democratic. Although the group, which has placed boots and shoes representing dead U.S. military members and Iraqi civilians near the House office buildings, has received support from a few Democrats, the reaction to their vigil by some, including California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, has been hostile. One House member passed their display of boots and shoes and turned around and shouted, "Just get over it!" Another staffer said, "don't you people remember what happened on 911?" There were no connections between 911 and Iraq.

Incidents of suicide among U.S. troops in Iraq is also reaching troubling levels. There are also reports of defections by U.S. troops to neighboring Turkey, Iran, and Syria, where they can get passage to Europe and Russia.

Incidents of fighting between regular U.S. military personnel and private military contractors, who wear uniforms similar to those worn by regular U.S. soldiers and Marines, is also increasing. U.S. troops are frustrated that they come under attack for atrocities carried out by private contractors who receive triple and quadruple the salaries U.S. military personnel receive. This situation has created a tinderbox between U.S. troops and private contractors.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


The Right Wing has gone hog-ass wild over the New York Times' "shocking" report that the Bush Administration is actually tracking terrorists' money transfers. Oh my!

The fruitcakes are in flames! "Stand them in front of a firing squad or put them in prison for the rest of their lives," says one pinhead on Fox TV.

For what? The stunning news that the government is hunting the source of al-Qaeda's cash? "Osama! You must stop using your ATM card! Condi Rice is reading our bank statements!"

Somehow, I suspect bin Laden already assumes his checkbook is getting perused.

It is worth noting that the fanatic screeching for a "firing squad" is a guy who claims to be a former CIA agent. No one can confirm his claim of course, but this character, Wayne Simmons, has made his career blabbering away juicy intelligence secrets to sell himself as an "expert," stuff far racier than the Times' weak report. Well, hypocrisy never stood in the way of the Foxes in the news house.

You want to talk "treason"? OK, let's talk treason. How about Dick Cheney telling his creepy little hitman 'Scooter' Libby to reveal information that led to the naming of a CIA agent? Mr. Simmons, do you have room in your firing squad schedule for the Vice-President?

And no one on Fox complained when the Times, under the by-line of Judith Miller, revealed the secret "intelligence" information that Saddam was building a bomb.

Yes, let's talk treason. How about this: Before the 9/11 attack, George Bush's intelligence chieftains BLOCKED the CIA's investigation of the funding of al-Qaeda and terror.

The "Back-Off" Directive

On November 9, 2001, BBC Television Centre in London received a call from a phone booth just outside Washington. The call to our Newsnight team was part of a complex pre-arranged dance coordinated with the National Security News Service, a conduit for unhappy spooks at the CIA and FBI to unburden themselves of disturbing information and documents.

The top-level U.S. intelligence agent on the line had much to be unhappy and disturbed about: what he called a "back-off" directive.

This call to BBC came two months after the attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Towers. His fellow agents, he said, were now released to hunt bad guys. That was good news. The bad news was that, before September 11, in those weeks just after George W. Bush took office, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) personnel were told to "back off" certain targets of investigations begun by Bill Clinton.

The agent said, "There were particular investigations that were effectively killed."

Which ones? His reply was none too comforting: Khan Labs.

On February 11, 2004, President Bush, at an emergency press briefing, expressed his shock -- shock! -- at having learned that Dr. A. Q. Khan of Pakistan was running a flea market in fissionable material. But, we knew that from the agent's call -- nearly three years earlier. As the intelligence insider told us, the Khan investigation died because the CIA was not allowed to follow down the money trail ... to Saudi Arabia.

Apparently, the Saudis, after Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait in 1991, switched their funding for an "Islamic bomb" from Iraq to Pakistan. Dr. Khan used the Saudi loot to build and test his bomb -- then sell off the blueprints and bomb-fixings to North Korea and Libya. This was, one might say, a somewhat dangerous situation. But Bush's spymasters made it a policy to "See No Saudi Evil" -- so the investigation died.

What You "Ought Not to Know."

Closing the agencies eyes to the Khan bomb was not the only spike. That same week in November 2001, unhappy FBI agents "accidentally" left an astonishing dozen-page fax on the desks of our NSNS colleagues. It was marked, "199-I -- WF" and "SECRET."

The code "199-I" means "national security matter" in FBI-speak. It was about what the FBI deemed "a suspected terrorist organization." What made the document special -- and earned the anger of the two agents who "lost" it for us -- is that it indicates that the "suspected terrorist" activities were not investigated until September 13, 2001, despite a desire by agents to investigate these characters years earlier.

Who was exempt from investigation? That was on page 2 of the 199-I document. The FBI was hunting in Falls Church, Virginia, for "ABL," Abdullah bin Laden, nephew of Osama. They were also seeking another relative, Omar bin Laden (or "Binladden" in the alternative translation of the Arabic name). But by September 13, when the restrictions on agents were removed, the bin Ladens were gone.

Why did buildings have to fall before the FBI could question the bin Ladens? Because, frustrated agents noted, the "suspected terrorist organization" was funded directly by the Saudi Royal family.

The suspect group, the World Association of Muslim Youth, operated soccer clubs -- and a whole lot more. For example, there was its shuttle operation for jihadi warriors to Bosnia and, foreign intelligence agencies told us at BBC, alleged involvement of WAMY members in bombings.

In the face of these accusations, the Saudi supreme dictator, King Abdullah, praised WAMY, saying, "There is no extremism in the defending of the faith." That's his opinion.

Abdullah bin Laden brought WAMY to the USA where, in a summer camp in Florida, little kids were given instruction in baseball and in the glories of hostage-taking (no kidding).

But the FBI's investigation of the bin Ladens and their group was out of the question so long as the Bush Administration kept intelligence agencies from following the funds transfers of the House of Saud.

That November night in 2001, when we were about to televise the 199-I memo, my BBC producer, Meirion Jones, sought out the FBI's comment, assuming we'd get the usual, "It's baloney, a fake, you misunderstand, it ain't true."

But we didn't get the usual response.

Rather, FBI headquarters in Washington told us: "There are lots of things the intelligence community knows and other people ought not to know."

"Ought not to know"?!?

We ran the story of the Bush Administration's impeding investigations of the funding of terror. BBC ran it at the top of the nightly news in Britain and worldwide. It hit the front pages of newspapers around the globe -- except in the USA. In America, the New York Times and our other news outlets were still accepting the Bush Administration's diktat that intelligence "information" -- that is, news of disastrous intelligence failures -- was something the Times' readers, "ought not to know."

So I'm tempted to say that, Yes, the New York Times has committed treason -- not by reporting on what Bush's spies are doing, but on failing to report on what Bush's spies did not do: a deadly failure to follow the money before September 11 because the House of Bush chose to protect the House of Saud.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

BOLIVIA Another desperate obsession for the empire

Elections for Constituent Assembly July 2
BY NIDIA DIAZ— Granma International staff writer

WHEN Bolivians go to the polls this Sunday, July 2 to elect their representatives in the Constituent Assembly, responsible for giving the country a new Charter whose words and spirit protect their equal rights and defend their national heritage from foreign plunder, attempts by the opposition and Washington to bring down the first indigenous government of Latin America and close the door on further experiences of this kind in the region could be interred.

Since Evo Morales, demonized by campaigns against him and manipulations of surveys won the elections last December with 54% of the vote, another thorn has been embedded in the side of President Bush and his principal advisors in the White House.

Getting rid of that irritation has become one of the main tasks of this administration, which in its second and final terms has accumulated more failures than it ever imagined when it capitalized on the tragedy of the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

At that time Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba were perceived as "dark corners" of the earth which could be swept away with a simple thumbs down.

Evo Morales’ electoral victory was unthinkable and giving him a minute’s thought in relation to its strategy of global domination was unnecessary.

When the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) won the elections last December Washington had suffered several reverses: it had failed to pacify Afghanistan, more and more U.S. soldiers were dying in actions by the Iraqi insurgency, Iran was refusing to bend to its will and Cuba and Venezuela were continuing to advance on the road to socialism.

The options on its destabilizing menu have included attacking Bolivia, creating problems for the nation, subverting internal order by backing the bourgeois opposition, fuelling the flames of the fabricated separatist issue, and inventing defamation campaigns against president in the context of his alleged subordination to the Caracas government and its Bolivarian leader.

On May 1 this year the MAS government nationalized hydrocarbons, announced the intensification of its agrarian reform program and a review of miners’ contracts in order that benefits would go to the people and not to the transnationals that having been draining the country of its profits. It also intends to recover vital enterprises, such as electricity and telecommunications, where the state is to control 51% of decision making and profits; as well as taking education and health to the most remote and needy parts of Bolivian geography. For the empire’s liking, these are too many attainments for a people who have lived with their heads bowed by so many centuries of domination and colonization.

Among other maneuvers to deter those actions, it has pulled a minor player out of the props box: Antonio Franco, none other than the head of the Latin America Department of the U.S. Aid for International Development (USAID), a euphemism concealing a veritable network of calumnies, discredit and subversion which serves all administrations against the continent.

Franco expressed U.S. fears of supposed "anti-democratic dangers" in Bolivia, opinions reproduced with great fanfare by the ultra-conservative and right-wing daily The Miami Herald.

He added that on many occasions, the new Bolivian government had demonstrated an inclination to consolidate executive power and promote potentially anti-democratic reforms via the Constituent Assembly and other means. He also charged Evo Morales with pressuring for the Constituent Assembly to be similar to the one that Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president, fostered in Venezuela.
Among the arguments quoted by Franco and which he presents as evidence of Morales’ anti-democratic intentions is the decision to nationalize natural resources, including those in the energy sector, as well as his alleged decision to interfere in judicial and electoral issues. And as if those statements were not sufficient, Franco announced with the certainty of a White House ventriloquist that USAID would support a counterweight to the control of one sole party, as much in the judicial sphere as in terms of media independence, as well as the training of leaders of a strong and educated civil society.

Those interventionist threats are compounded by the camouflaged presence of U.S. soldiers in La Paz posing as academics, who were at the center of the attention and condemnation of the Bolivian media last week.

It was the state Bolivian Information Agency (ABI) that affirmed that the above infiltration has been going on for months, a charge for which the Bolivian president himself demanded an explanation from the U.S. ambassador in that country, given that the information had been confirmed by national intelligence reports that a large part of the 23 U.S. citizens participating in a course on "internal conflicts" in La Paz are from the military.

The exposé was backed by Vice President Alvaro García and Alicia Muñoz and Walker San Miguel, ministers of government and defense, respectively.

The revelations are exemplified by the already confirmed cases of Sergeants Mark Patric Peláez and Michael Humire, the latter, in addition to having been trained as a sharpshooter, being an explosives and special operations expert.

The Bolivian leader has reiterated condemnation of a conspiracy against his government by the Bush administration that involves not only the internal opposition, representatives of the defeated traditional parties but the oil transnationals that can see their interests adversely affected. That corroborates Franco's astonishing statement when, in the height of arrogance, he threateningly warned that the president of the United States is losing his patience with Bolivia.

After the result of the elections of this Sunday, July 2 we shall see how far U.S. impotence at the decision of a people like that of Bolivia to take over its own destiny without interference and without fear, might lead the empire.

Monday, June 26, 2006

FIDEL CASTRO - UNDEFEATED. (Silvio Rodriguez- Playa Giron)

FIDEL CASTRO - UNDEFEATED. (Silvio Rodriguez- Playa Giron)

The People's Path to Impeachment

You wouldn't know it from the media, but grassroots movements are afoot all over the country to hold the president legally accountable for his lies.

On June 6, Jim Bronke of Concord, Penn., addressed the Concord Township board of supervisors:
Township supervisors and friends, I come here today not as a Republican or as a Democrat but as an American citizen concerned for our way of life. I hope that you can view this package not as a political statement but as a plan for the future … Rules of the House of Representatives explicitly allow state and city legislatures to introduce resolutions. Our First Amendment guarantees any citizen, city, or state "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." This is what I ask you to do with this motion.
Bronke requested that the board consider a motion to request an impeachment inquiry of the president of the United States. When a board supervisor told Bronke that the only path to impeachment was through U.S. senators and representatives, Bronke corrected the supervisor, stating that "there are multiple paths toward impeachment, this is another."

Bronke was absolutely right.

The Concord board is hardly national news. But taken in conjunction with the staggering number of state legislatures and city and town councils across the country that have passed impeachment resolutions, the lack of coverage of the movement is a conspicuous absence in mainstream media.

Illinois, Vermont and California state legislatures have impeachment resolutions pending. The Democratic parties of Vermont, New Hampshire, Alaska, Maine, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, California and Hawaii have all passed resolutions. Then there are the 18 city and town councils that have passed resolutions, with seven more resolutions (including Concord) pending, to say nothing of the 27 local political groups and parties across the country that have adopted impeachment resolutions.

The broad sweep is not surprising as the evidence is well-documented: President George W. Bush lied to Congress and the American people in order to lead the country into war, and continues to conduct illegal wiretaps, sanction torture and violate the separation of powers by picking and choosing congressional legislation.

Despite the clear case, impeachment has become a taboo word in D.C. politics. A chasm has emerged between high-level politicians too afraid to push for accountability, the media that seeks the "news" that comes from these politicians and their circles, and the American public they are supposed to be serving.

In a recent Zogby poll, Americans were asked what would restore their trust in government and the No. 1 reply was "personnel changes/impeachment." As David Swanson of notes, polls by Ipsos, Zogby and American Research Group have found support between 43 percent and 53 percent. And if it's Democrats, the numbers shoot up to 80-90 percent, with a consistent majority of Independents supporting impeachment.

Swanson says, "For impeachment to have anything close to majority support despite opposition by both political parties and almost no positive coverage in the media is remarkable."

Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House Publishing is intimately familiar with the divide between Americans and the political representatives and media who are supposed to represent them. Johnson worked with lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to create the book Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush -- a concise reader that makes the legal case for impeachment. Says Johnson, "We've had more than one friendly mainstream journalist tell us they pitched a story to their editor and were told, 'Don't even go there.'"

Despite the media blackout, people from every state in the union have participated in the Melville House campaign, sending copies of the book to their representatives. Johnson notes that they have heard from groups as varied as Veterans for Peace, Goldstar Families and Republicans for Impeachment. "A lot of people were paying more attention in civics class than you think," he quips.

Teaming up again, Melville House and CCR have arranged a National Impeachment Teach-In launching on July 19 with events around the country. Centered on a 30-minute DVD, "How to Impeach a President," materials are being made available online, providing the information and tools to reclaim political power. It's telling that the constitutional lawyers at CCR are appealing to the public -- attesting to the fact that holding this administration legally accountable will not happen without public support.

As CCR lawyer Michael Ratner says in the film, "This is not going to happen in a court. It's going to happen when the people of the United States say to their members of Congress, we've had enough."

But what of the political likelihood? Johnson thinks it's a "winnable fight." He says,

This is not about party politics. It's about the very real damage being done to the constitutional separation of powers by this administration. This is a grassroots movement that represents American democracy at its best -- people from all walks of life trying to work with their government to enact the corrective measures put into the Constitution by the founding fathers for exactly this purpose.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri is a former assistant editor of AlterNet.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The agent provocateur in Miami

I wrote yesterday about my expectation that the Miami "terror" arrests would turn out to be a case of an agent provocateur. On the money:
The defendants had no guns or other weapons when they were arrested. The informant did provide some boots and a camera for the suspects to photograph a North Miami Beach FBI office and other local targets, the indictment says.

But it's unclear from the indictment if the alleged conspirators actually visited their most ambitious target, the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago.

I'm not quite clear why you need boots to take photographs, but the fact that this group didn't even own a camera and had to depend on the government agent to loan them one pretty much says it all; cameras aren't exactly expensive items these days. And remember, photograping alleged suspected targets is the only concrete action in the entire "conspiracy," and that one action was clearly facilitated, and most likely (here I'm surmising) suggested, by the agent. As for visiting the Sears Tower, its rather unlikely that a group which had to borrow boots and a camera could afford a trip from Miami to Chicago, much less actually stage an operation there.

Latin America’s Challenges to Imperialism

For the indigenous peoples of Latin America, neoliberalism exists as "merely" the latest wrinkle in 500 years of genocidal subjection and enduring resistance

More than 25 years of neoliberalism in Latin America have undermined the region’s local industry, small farms, and employment opportunities. The resulting gradual economic genocide has generated humiliating poverty for three-fourths of Latin Americans, downward mobility for shrinking intermediate classes, last-ditch fight-backs by dwindling ranks of organized labor, and waves of internal and external migration. It has also produced a new wave of social movements and leftward electoral swings.

There are, to be sure, strong counter-tendencies, including attempts to destabilize governments; counter-revolutionary plots and mobilizations; more repression and paramilitary terrorism; and accelerating violence against women, gays, transsexuals, ethnic minorities, nonconformist youth, journalists, and human rights groups.
What is at stake in Latin America is nothing less than national sovereignty and control of basic resources, including oil, gas, water, low-wage labor, biodiversity, schools, hospitals, housing, transportation, pensions, banks, and industries.

The social movements are protesting the privatization of nature, the commodification of life, and the pillage imposed by neoliberal globalization, together with the illegitimate, unpayable foreign debts passed down from the dictatorships.

The presidential electoral shift from the “hard neoliberal” right to the “soft neoliberal” center is exemplified in the elections of Lula in Brazil, Néstor Kirchner in Argentina, Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, Michelle Bachelet in Chile, even Nicanor Duarte in Paraguay who initially backed MERCOSUR, South America’s alternative to FTAA that recently has incorporated Venezuela. Similar electoral shifts are expected in upcoming elections in Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, a few smaller nations of the Caribbean Basin, and possibly even Colombia. Candidates routinely pledge not to implement free-market fundamentalism and the FTAA, even though after being elected these politicians give life support to the moribund neoliberal economic model, and in some respects strengthen it.

This is in part due to the last few decades’ weakening of the state by privatization schemes, free trade pacts, and foreign debt burdens, leaving governments vulnerable to what amounts to foreign capital blackmail. That is a major reason why social movements target the IMF, World Bank, FTAA, and WTO, in addition to US and European imperialisms (Spain having passed the United States in Latin American investments).

The space for a more "humane" neoliberalism or bourgeois nationalism has disappeared. That is why Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, while on many issues cooperating with the other recently elected presidents, reject their “soft neoliberalism” approach, advocating instead revolutionary changes based on state support for the demands of the social movements. Morales calls for a “communitarian socialism based on reciprocity and solidarity,” while Chávez emphasizes the need to internationalize the revolution and create “a new socialism for the 21st century” because “another world is not possible within capitalism.”

A striking new element of today’s social movements is their increased resistance to co-optation, their growing numbers of impoverished participants and their tactical inventiveness. Traditional class structures and modes of struggle today are barely recognizable because of neoliberalism’s slashing of state social programs and use of “flexible labor” leading to the collapse of the minimum wage, immiseration of the masses, rising unemployment, and for even well educated professionals “precariousness” of work and “over-exploitation.” The lines dividing social classes and social movements have become blurred.

For the indigenous peoples of Latin America, neoliberalism exists as "merely" the latest wrinkle in 500 years of genocidal subjection and enduring resistance. In this sense, they are aware of certain historic realities, such as the continuity of colonialism/imperialism; ecological destruction; the creation and perpetuation of an unpayable debt as a tool for dominating a people; and the routine use of kidnappings, disappearances, torture, and violence against women.

Women have borne the brunt of the economic suffering under neoliberalism, not to mention the stepped-up violence of everyday life. Protests about the escalated abuse of women and the sex trade (now an even larger economy than narco-trafficking) have become a focus of not only feminist movements like the World March of Women, but of social movements in general.

Examples of female leadership range from the Zapatista comandantas to the Argentine piquiteras (unemployed people blocking busy intersections) and Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Especially noteworthy are the women who led the nationwide outpouring to save President Hugo Chávez’s life during the two-day reign of Pedro Carmona (“Pedro El Breve”) after the US-sponsored military coup of April 11, 2002, and the Bolivian workers, street vendors, and heads of households of El Alto who have organized defense-and-struggle committees.

The role of peasants and small farmers, in spite of increased repression, has become prominent. In most cases, the multi-ethnic “peasantry” constitutes a new inexpensive, flexible, and migrant labor force. Whether Andean coca cultivators or landless workers like Brazil’s Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem-Terra (MST, part of the Via Campesina, a network of peasant movements in 87 countries), the rural masses have mobilized, even in the cities.

A new labor militancy has also arisen against transnational corporations and corrupted trade-union bosses (called charros in Mexico). Independent trade-union confederations like Mexico’s Authentic Labor Front (FAT) or split-offs from old confederations like the National Union of Workers (UNT) in Venezuela and Mexico are springing up everywhere. In Chile, “Workers Collectives” have begun to fill the virtual void of trade unions left by the still not completely dismantled state-terrorist Pinochet dictatorship.

As importantly, workers’ struggles are being internationalized, linking up campaigns such as that of Coca Cola workers in Guatemala, Colombia, and India, as well as the unionization fights in the maquiladoras (low-wage assembly plants) of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Latin American workers have occupied so many factories abandoned by their owners and made them productive again that in late 2005, Venezuela hosted a continental congress for workers of recuperated factories.

There is also a growing recognition among Latin American peoples of the need to form alliances and to internationalize their struggles. Examples of the new internationalism, besides those already mentioned, include the Continental Campaign against the FTAA sponsored by the Continental Social Alliance and the campaign for the demilitarization of Latin America that Mexico’s Zapatistas began in Chiapas in 2003 and which currently links up with the international campaign to close the more than 700 US military bases in 130 countries. The Zapatistas’ “Other Campaign,” initiated in 2006, also has a very internationalist perspective.

Socialism is of growing interest in Latin America. Public opinion polls in Venezuela and Brazil show more than half of each nation’s population favoring socialism, a word rarely heard in countries like Chile and Mexico; but there is a growing debate about the kinds of socialisms that should be sought. There already exists a process of initiating what might be called “two, three, many socialisms,” starting with the Cuban Revolution of 1959. As the famed Peruvian Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui (d. 1930) wrote, Latin Americans do not want a replica of European socialism, but instead want one based on their own reality, in Peru’s case the indigenous peoples. Thus, Cuba’s socialism is distinctly Cuban, Venezuela’s is rooted in the ideas of Simón Bolívar, Bolivia’s is based on indigenous traditions, and Ecuador’s indigenous leader Blanca Chancoso suggests “a plurinational, pluricultural state that we can build together.” And the Zapatistas (who do not speak of socialism) advocate a system where all power comes from below, as in their autonomous “juntas of good government” in Chiapas.

The debates show Latin America’s multiple socialist perspectives to share four characteristics: (1) Human-values driven, seeking an end to patriarchy, racism, sexism, class exploitation, and genocide, based on values of love (as in the works of Ché and José Martí), respect for others, and social justice; (2) Participatory, without Stalinist-type authoritarianism, but with multiple-level planning, worker-controlled enterprises, and “politics instead of politicking” (in the words of Fidel Castro), rooted in using the state and people’s participation from below instead of “party-ocracy” or “vanguardism”; (3) Internationalist, planning both home markets and international ones, defending peoples against neoliberalism and imperialist interventions, and building veto-free inter-state organizations to promote peace and human rights; and (4) Pro-sovereignty of nation-states in defense of the principles of non-intervention, non-aggression, and self-determination, including new states created to link up many peoples (as in Bolivia and Venezuela) and ones aspiring to true “national independence” through unification into a Latin American state or confederation (as in Martí’s concept of “Our America” and Bolivar’s “Gran Patria”).

Critical to the future of humanity and the planet will be the speed with which transitions away from neoliberal capitalism occur and the frequency of breaks, or ruptures, with capitalism. Ultimately, there can be no saving of humanity without a swiftly expanded practice of internationalism, already given new life by recent developments in Latin America and the alter-globalization movement. Internationalism is a process of human solidarity and exchange of experiences, learning from “the other.” People in what Martí called “the belly of the beast,” that is, the United States, have a chance to make a critical difference.

All will depend on how much unity and internationalism can be built among the social movements and among different governments in the face of imperialism’s stepped-up pressures. Debates about Latin American socialisms, even among the supporters of the Zapatista “Other Campaign,” are based on the principle of creating ecologically responsible states of “people’s power,” where the people (or in Zapatista language, those of below) are, in the words of Venezuela’s new Constitution, the “protagonists.” All agree on the overarching goal: to liberate humanity, celebrate life, honor death, and save the planet.

James D. Cockcroft/

The Hariri Mirage: Lessons Unlearned By Robert Parry

[I knew from the beginning that this assassination was a CIA/MI5/MOSSAD black op]

In October 2005, the drumbeat had begun for a confrontation with a rogue Middle East regime based on supposedly strong evidence about its nefarious secret activities. The U.S. news media trumpeted the regime’s guilt and agreed on the need for action, though there was debate whether forcible regime change was the way to go.

A half year later, however, much of that once clear evidence has melted away and what seemed so certain to the TV pundits and the major newspapers looks now to be another case of a rush to judgment against an unpopular target.

The drumbeat in October 2005 was directed at the Syrian government for its alleged role in masterminding the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a bomb blast in Beirut, Lebanon, on Feb. 14, 2005. A preliminary United Nations investigative report fingered senior Syrian officials as the likely architects of the killing.

“There is probable cause to believe that the decision to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security officials and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services,” declared the U.N.’s first interim report on Oct. 20. President George W. Bush immediately termed the findings “very disturbing” and called for the Security Council to take action against Syria.

The U.S. press quickly joined the stampede in assuming Syrian guilt. On Oct. 25, a New York Times editorial said the U.N. investigation had been “tough and meticulous” in establishing “some deeply troubling facts” about Hariri’s murderers. The Times demanded punishment of top Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies implicated by the investigation, although the Times cautioned against the Bush administration’s eagerness for “regime change.”

But – as we noted at the time – the U.N. investigative report by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis was anything but “meticulous.” Indeed, it read more like a compilation of circumstantial evidence and conspiracy theories than a dispassionate pursuit of the truth. [See’s “The Dangerously Incomplete Hariri Report.”]

Mehlis’s initial report, for instance, had failed to follow up a key lead, the Japanese identification of the Mitsubishi Canter Van that apparently carried the explosives used in the bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others. The van was reported stolen in Sagamihara City, Japan, on Oct. 12, 2004, four months before the bombing, but Mehlis’s hasty report indicated no effort to investigate how the vehicle got from the island of Japan to Beirut or who might have last possessed it.

False Leads

The report also relied heavily on the testimony of two dubious witnesses. One of those witnesses – Zuhair Zuhair Ibn Muhammad Said Saddik – was later identified by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel as a swindler who boasted about becoming “a millionaire” from his Hariri testimony.

The other, Hussam Taher Hussam, later recanted his testimony about Syrian involvement, saying he lied to the Mehlis investigation after being kidnapped, tortured and offered $1.3 million by Lebanese officials.

Some observers believed Mehlis had found himself under intense international pressure to reach negative conclusions about Syria, much like the demands put on U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix when he was searching Iraq for alleged weapons of mass destruction in early 2003. Unable to find WMD despite U.S. insistence that the WMD was there, Blix tried to steer a middle course to avert a head-on confrontation with the Bush administration, which nevertheless brushed aside his muted objections and invaded Iraq in March 2003.

Similarly, after the Hariri assassination, the Bush administration made clear its animosity toward Syria by escalating its anti-Syrian rhetoric, also blaming the government of Bashar Assad for the infiltration of foreign jihadists into Iraq where they have attacked U.S. troops. So, Mehlis’s accusations against Syria helped advance Bush’s geopolitical agenda.

But having relied on “witnesses” who now appear to have been set-ups, Mehlis found his investigation under a cloud. In a follow-up report on Dec. 10, 2005, he sought to salvage his position by hurling accusations of witness tampering at Syrian authorities. But by then, as noted in a New York Times news article, the conflicting accusations had given the Mehlis investigation the feel of “a fictional spy thriller.” [NYT, Dec. 7, 2005]

Mehlis withdrew from the investigation and was replaced by Serge Brammertz of Belgium in early 2006.

Revamped Probe

Over the past several months, Brammertz quietly jettisoned many of Mehlis’s conclusions and began entertaining other investigative leads, examining a variety of possible motives and a number of potential perpetrators in recognition of the animosities Hariri had engendered among business competitors, religious extremists – and political enemies.

Brammertz said “the probe was … developing a working hypothesis regarding those who had commissioned the crime,” according to a U.N. statement, which was released after Brammertz briefed the Security Council on June 14. “Given the many different positions occupied by Mr. Hariri, and his wide range of public and private-sector activities, the [U.N.] commission was investigating a number of different motives, including political motivations, personal vendettas, financial circumstances and extremist ideologies, or any combination of those motivations,”

In other words, Brammertz had dumped Mehlis’s single-minded theory that had pinned the blame on senior Syrian security officials and was approaching the investigation with an open mind. As part of his “wide reach,” Brammertz said he had made 32 requests for information to 13 different countries.

Though Syria’s freewheeling intelligence services and their Lebanese cohorts remain on everyone’s suspect list, Brammertz has adopted a far less confrontational and accusatory tone toward Syria than Mehlis did. Brammertz said cooperation from Syria “has generally been satisfactory” as its government responded to investigative requests “in a timely manner.”

Syria had kind words for Brammertz’s report, too. Fayssal Mekdad, Syria’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, praised “its objectivity and professionalism” and said the investigators “had begun to uncover the truth a few months ago,” after Mehlis departed. Mekdad promised that Syria would continue supporting efforts “to unveil and uncover the truth about the assassination,” according to the June 14 U.N. statement.

Mekdad said he believed the biggest danger from the investigation was “exploitation by certain parties, inside or outside the region, the tendency to ‘jump to conclusions or prejudgments not based on clear evidence or proof,’ and attempts to provide false evidence to the [U.N.] commission for the main purpose of pressuring Syria,” the U.N. statement read.

The Syrian diplomat added that the investigation should continue in its pursuit of solid evidence about Hariri’s murder, free from “politicization and false and erroneous hypotheses,” according to the U.N. statement.

Missed Story

Though the U.N. statement contained no direct criticism of Mehlis’s earlier efforts, Brammertz’s investigation represented an obvious break from the approach of his predecessor. Still, the U.S. news media, which had played the initial Mehlis accusations against Syria as front-page news, barely mentioned the shift in the revamped U.N. probe.

Virtually nothing has appeared in the U.S. news media that would alert the American people to the fact that the distinct impression they got last year – that the Syrian government had engineered a terrorist bombing in Beirut – was now a whole lot fuzzier. Much like the failure to highlight contrary evidence against the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction in 2002 and early 2003, the national press corps apparently doesn’t want to be seen as questioning the evidence against Syria.

On one level, this failure to be evenhanded with an unpopular regime like Syria goes to the career fears of journalists who can expect that balanced reporting in such a case might earn the label “Syrian apologist.” That risk rises dramatically if it turns out later that the Syrian security officials were guilty after all.

Journalists faced similar worries during the run-up to the Iraq War when any skepticism about the Bush administration's WMD claims brought down the wrath of many readers, political leaders and even news executives caught up in the war fever. Career-minded reporters judged that the smart strategy was to play up the anti-Iraq WMD claims – even when they came from dubious and self-interested sources – and to play down or ignore counter-evidence.

However, after three years of bloody war in Iraq and the failure of the U.S. government to find any WMD stockpiles, Americans might have expected the major U.S. news media to show a little more skepticism and exercise a little more caution when a new round of unproven allegations were leveled at another unpopular Middle Eastern regime, such as Iran on its nuclear program or Syria on the Hariri assassination.

In the Syria case, however, other factors – most notably the military quagmire that has bogged down 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq – gave cooler heads the time to take a second look at the evidence about the Hariri assassination and examine a wider range of possibilities. By refusing to be led in any one direction, the Brammertz investigation might even succeed in finding the truth.

But the other more intractable question remains: Is today’s U.S. press corps capable of learning any lasting lessons from its past mistakes?

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Intelligence Officers, Learn From History (or at least they should) By Ray McGovern

The truth will out. If you fabricate, or acquiesce in the fabrication of, evidence used to "justify" launching a war of choice, you will have to live with that for the rest of your life.

Call me quaint, but having spent 27 years in intelligence on both the analysis and operations ends of the business, I continue to believe that most intelligence officers have a conscience. The problem is they are often too late in acting on it.

Take the former chief of the European Division of CIA's directorate of operations, Tyler Drumheller, for example, who is now spelling out chapter-and-verse the deceitful "intelligence" adduced by "Slam Dunk" George Tenet and his "if-you-say- so" deputy John McLaughlin. Today's Washington Post article by Joby Warrick has Drumheller elaborating on the raging dispute within CIA over the credibility of a defector labeled (appropriately) "Curveball." Curveball is the source of bogus stories about "biological weapons trailers" to which then-Secretary of State Colin Powell gave such prominence in his (in)famous speech on February 5, 2003 at the UN: "We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and rails."

Who's Telling the Truth?

I think Drumheller. My reasoning has much to do with motive. Readers can come to their own judgments. Here's some background that might help.

I knew McLaughlin well. When he was a young analyst, I chaired his first National Intelligence Estimate and shared after-hour sandwiches as we crafted articles for the President's Daily Brief. Sadly, he fell in with bad companions and let himself be seduced by Robert Gates, who had his own agenda as he climbed the ranks to be head of CIA analysis and then CIA director.

Full disclosure: Gates worked for me when I was chief of the Soviet foreign policy branch in the early seventies. To this day, I am proud to have put in his efficiency report a warning about the Cassius-like ambition that later succeeded in advancing his career so rapidly.

Were there Soviets under every rock? Gates found two. Were there "moderates" in the Iranian leadership? Gates found as many as you would like. How about the Soviet Union, Gates' area of substantive specialty; would the Communist party every lose control? Never, said Gates, as he pandered to his mentor, William Casey, at whose feet he learned so well. Gates has publicly admitted that he watched Casey on "issue after issue sit in meetings and present intelligence framed in terms of the policy he wanted pursued." (He was quoted by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post on March 15, 1995.)

McLaughlin was a perfect choice to head the Soviet analysis division. His lack of expertise in Soviet affairs was seen by Gates as an asset, as was the fact that - unlike Gates - he came across as a "nice guy." Above all, he did what he was told. And his career zoomed, like Gates'.

As Drumheller listened to President George W. Bush's state of the union address on January 28, 2003, he was amazed to hear him describe Curveball's "mobile laboratories" in detail. Drumheller's earlier warnings about Curveball had been ignored. When just a few days later Curveball's "intelligence" turned up featured in an advance copy of Powell's UN speech, Drumheller called McLaughlin's office and was summoned there at once. Sitting across from McLaughlin and an aide in a small conference room, Drumheller told him of a warning from a German intelligence officer (the Germans were debriefing Curveball) that, "He's a fabricator and he's crazy." McLaughin says he has "no recall" of that meeting.

According to an aide to then-Deputy Director for Operations, James Pavitt (Drumheller's immediate boss), McLaughlin's executive assistant held two meetings in December 2002 to discuss the issue and was told that the Operations Directorate "did not believe that Curveball's information should be relied upon." The two meetings took place during the week before Christmas 2002. Ironically, George Tenet's famous "slam-dunk" came that same week (on Dec. 21), according to Bob Woodward.

Boss, There's Problems.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

On the night before Powell's UN speech, Drumheller's home telephone rang; Tenet was calling to get a telephone number. A Los Angeles Times story of April 2, 2005 quotes Drumheller:

"I gave him the phone number for the guy he wanted, then it struck me, 'I better say something.' I said, ‘You know, boss, there's problems with that [Curveball] case.' He says, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm exhausted. Don't worry about it.'"
More recently, Drumheller told the Washington Post's Joby Warrick that he referred directly to the draft of Powell's speech: "Hey, boss, you're not going to use that stuff in the speech...? There are real problems with that." Warrick, too, quotes Drumheller on how "distracted and tired" Tenet seemed to be.

Tenet must have been really tired not to remember that.

Let's assume for the moment that Drumheller's memory is better than Tenet's. It is then easier to sympathize with Tenet's predicament, without excusing his behavior.

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, senior aide to Powell, who was at Powell's side as he prepared his address, has told the press of his own and Powell's misgivings because there were no photos of the "mobile labs" - just artist renderings. According to Wilkerson, Tenet and McLaughlin that same day (February 4, 2003) "described the evidence on the mobile labs as exceptionally strong, based on multiple sources, whose stories were independently corroborated." Speech rehearsals showed that the CIA graphics shop could still turn out eye-catching artist renderings, and copies had been distributed to top aides. How inconvenient to have a senior CIA officer still casting cautions at this time of night.

What is truth? The president wants war, and we're here to help. Besides, Curveball's reporting is no worse than the other cockamamie garbage we've given Powell to say. We'll win this war handily; the Iraqis will welcome us with cut flowers and open arms. We'll be in the Middle East big time, sitting on all that Iraqi oil and building permanent military bases, having deposed a "ruthless dictator" and eliminated a sworn enemy of Israel - now tell me, who is going to come along at that point and fault us for using bogus intelligence?

Enough on Tenet's possible motives. How about Drumheller's? In the days ahead, expect to hear that he is just trying to promote the book he has written, or that he has axes to grind with Tenet and McLaughlin. I had a chance to hear Dremheller speak, together with Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), on Iraq at George Mason University on June 21. He was asked about Curveball, but never once mentioned the book - strange way to promote it. He did not go much beyond what he had already told the press and the various commissions investigating CIA performance.

The Ugly Question

And then it came up. Drumheller was also asked why he did not go public before the war, when his candor might have contributed to stopping unnecessary killing. In an apologetic tone, he adduced the familiar reasons: the hope that by staying in place he might prevent still worse; a sense of responsibility to his colleagues, especially those he had mentored; a mortgage; the fact that he had not yet reached retirement age.

One ringing lesson here is the need for whistleblower protection for those working in the national security arena. There is none now, and Congress has just rejected all recent attempts to craft legislation with teeth in it.

The tone of Drumheller's remarks left the distinct impression that he regrets remaining silent and wishes he had summoned the courage to blow the whistle. It was also clear that he does not look forward to having to answer that ugly question for the rest of his life.

That said, better late than never. Drumheller deserves a lot of credit for coming clean. It takes no little courage to come forward at the risk of ostracizing yourself from many years-worth of colleagues in the brotherhood and making yourself vulnerable to the "Joe-Wilson" treatment he can now expect from the administration and our domesticated press.

Drumheller's boss at the time, Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt, has shown no such courage. He made light of the whole issue in telling the Los Angeles Times:

"I remember the guffaws by myself and others when we said, 'How could they have put this much emphasis on this guy? ... He wasn't worth [anything] in our minds."
It would have been nice if you shared that with us at the time, Jim.

The Silberman-Robb commission's investigation of intelligence performance on Iraq called the failure to prevent Curveball's material from being included in Powell's UN speech a "serious failure of management and leadership."

No One Accountable

Surprise, surprise. No one has been held accountable. And please, don't tell me that is the job of the congressional "watchdog" committees. This week witnessed the latest hoax from Hoekstra, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), chair of the House intelligence committee, who tried to support Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-PA) lagging election campaign by supporting his fanciful claim that the US did indeed find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. With customary chutzpah, FOX News immediately aired a statement by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the effect that the 20 year-old degraded chemical munitions in question "are weapons of mass destruction." I don't know how that squares with his answer to my questioning on May 4 in Atlanta, when he stated "Apparently there were no weapons of mass destruction." There is no other sign that he means to revise that judgment - but, hey, if it will help Santorum, Hoekstra will oblige - even if that means holding them both up to ridicule from those who have been paying attention (perhaps not too many of them in Pennsylvania). Some watchdog, Hoekstra.

The Senate intelligence committee is headed by arch-White House loyalist Pat Roberts (R-KS), the fellow who refused to investigate the Iraq-Niger forgery and the Wilson-Plame affair and reneged on a promise to complete the so-called Phase II study regarding what the administration did with the intelligence it got on Iraq. Drumheller's revelations provide yet another case study making clear why Roberts has been dragging his feet on the Phase II study.

Intelligence Failure?

It depends on your vantage point. From the point of view of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, and Bush - and Hoekstra and Roberts - Tenet and McLaughlin performed well, with their elastic consciences never feeling much apparent strain. The "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" (Col Wilkerson's label) and associates got their war with Iraq with the help of intelligence cooked to their recipe. Tenet was the quintessential "team player," an attribute antithetical to his statutory duty to tell the emperor when he had no clothes on.

Rumsfeld adviser (and former House Speaker) Newt Gingrich, like Cheney a frequent visitor to CIA Headquarters, told the press in 2003 that "George Tenet is so grateful to the president [presumably for not firing him on September 12, 2001] that he will do anything for him." When Tenet retired a year later "for family reasons," Bush reciprocated and gave him the highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, for services performed. John McLaughlin now has a cushy job as national security adviser for CNN, and is still showing great elasticity - in commenting on NSA's end-run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, for example. Drumheller will have to be content with the satisfaction of having told the truth. But, for some of us, this is no little thing.

Lessons for Today

No one will be held responsible for the corruption of intelligence unless there are changes in Congress and the White House. Meanwhile, as intelligence is used/abused to support administration aims vis-a-vis Iran and North Korea, Drumheller's former colleagues will probably have to grapple with difficult decisions. Let me close by citing our pre-war appeal to CIA and other intelligence officers from a Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity Memorandum of March 12, 2003, "Cooking Intelligence for War."

"Many former colleagues and successors are facing a dilemma all too familiar to intelligence veterans - the difficult choices that must be faced when the demands of good conscience butt up against deeply ingrained attitudes concerning secrecy, misguided notions of what is true patriotism, and understandable reluctance to put careers - and mortgages - on the line...We appeal to those still working inside the Intelligence Community to consider turning state's evidence."

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Rebuilding Not Yet a Reality for Fallujah by Dahr Jamail and Ali Fadhil

*FALLUJAH, Jun 24 (IPS) - One and a half years after the November 2004
U.S. military assault on Fallujah, residents tell of ongoing suffering,
lack of jobs, little reconstruction and continuing violence.*

The U.S. military launched Operation Phantom Fury against the city of
Fallujah-destroying an estimated 70 percent of the buildings, homes and
shops, and killing between 4,000 and 6,000 people, according to the
Fallujah-based non-governmental organisation the Study Centre for Human
Rights and Democracy (SCHRD).

IPS found that the city remains under draconian biometric security, with
retina scans, fingerprinting and X-raying required for anyone entering
the city. Fallujah remains an island: not even the residents of the
surrounding towns and villages like Karma, Habbaniya, Khalidiya, which
fall under Fallujah's administrative jurisdiction, are allowed in.

Security badges are required for anyone wishing to enter the city. To
obtain a badge, one has to be a Fallujah native from a certain class.
That is, if one is from Fallujah and a government official, a high-class
badge of grade G will be issued. Journalists with an X-grade badge will
be allowed. Then there are B for businessmen and C for those who have
contracts with U.S. military in the city. Last are the R-grade badges,
which will not be admitted through the main checkpoint at the east side
of the city, and must seek entrance through "second class" checkpoints

Having entered the city through the main checkpoint, the first thing
visible is the destroyed homes in the Al-Askari district. Virtually
every home in this area has been completely destroyed or seriously damaged.

"I could not rebuild my house again because rebuilding is rather costly
nowadays," Walid, a 48-year-old officer with the former Iraqi army, told
IPS. With sorrow in his eyes he told of how he built his home six years
ago. After the destruction, "They [U.S. Military] paid us 70 percent of
the compensation and with the unemployment in the city we spent most of
it on food and medicines. Now everybody is waiting for the remaining 30

Slightly different version of this same story could be told by the
hundreds of people who lost their houses in the April and November 2004
bombing campaigns.

Across the Euphrates River from the city sits Fallujah General Hospital.
Built in 1964, the hospital was unable to function during either U.S.
siege because it was being occupied by the U.S. military.

Doctors were reluctant to talk to IPS unless promised anonymity. "It is
more a barn than a hospital and we are not honoured to work in it," said
one doctor. "There is a horrible lack of medical supplies and equipment,
and the Ministry of Health is not doing much about it," added another
doctor, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

When IPS mentioned a new hospital under construction in the city, one of
the doctors replied, with irony, that half of the people of Fallujah
would be dead before that hospital project was completed. He said an
emergency plan for the existing hospital is essential, especially
because people are too afraid of seeking medical attention in any of the
Baghdad hospitals for fear of being kidnapped and killed by death
squads. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Ramadi
General Hospital, often used by residents of Fallujah, is no longer
accessible due to the ongoing U.S. military siege of that city.

During the interview of the doctors, patients and their companions
gathered around and started complaining about "the lack of everything"
in the hospital. "You press people always come here and talk to us, but
there is no result," said an elderly woman in a challenging tone. "If
you put me on television, I will tell the whole world how bad the
situation is in this city."

The doctors interviewed, however, did praise the role of some local and
international NGOs that had offered help to the hospital on occasion.

The people of Fallujah are struggling to survive amidst skyrocketing
unemployment, lack of supplies and ongoing violence in the city. At a
grocery market, there was another side to the story. Haji Majeed Al
Jumaily, 64, was a blacksmith before his hands weakened. He asked the
grocer a dozen times how much an item cost before saying, "I only have
2,000 dinars, less than a dollar and a half, to spend and I don't know
what to buy with it. Everything is so expensive and my nine family
members must be fed."

He told IPS how his two sons were killed by random gunfire from the new
Iraqi army two years ago. "Now I have to take care of their two wives
and six children as well as my wife," he said. The market was full of
people, but poverty is obvious from the way people wandered about trying
to balance what to spend with what they have in hand.

"Unemployment in Fallujah is a major problem that should be handled,"
commented Jassim Al Muhammadi, a lawyer. "The financial situation is
collapsing every day and people do not know what to do. The siege is
adding a lot to this problem."

Ali Ahmed, a 17-year-old student, interrupted: "We do not need press
releases in this city, sir. What we really need is a solution to the
everlasting problem of this city... The Americans and Iraqis in power
accused us of terror, killed thousands of us and now they are just
talking about reconstruction. Well, they are all thieves who only care
for what they can pinch off the Iraqi fortunes. Just tell them to leave
us alone as we do not want their fraudulent reconstruction."

Ahmed added that the U.S. military continues to kill and arrest people
for any reason whatsoever, and sometimes for no reason.

Infrastructure in Fallujah is just as bad as any other part of Iraq.
Water, electricity, cooking gas, fuel, telephone and mobile services are
very poor. All of the residents interviewed complained about the
government's indifferent attitude towards them. The majority believed it
was for sectarian reasons, although some others thought it is the same
all over Iraq.

The mayor of Fallujah was not available to interview, but in his latest
appearance on television he announced his resignation. In his statement
televised on Jun. 14, he declared firmly, "The Americans did not fulfill
their promises to me and so I resign."

Similar reports about the situation in Fallujah were made by the United
Nations Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) on May 21: "there
is still slow progress on humanitarian issues, according to local

The report stated that two-thirds of the city's residents had returned,
but 15 percent remained displaced in the outskirts of Fallujah, "living
in abandoned schools and government buildings."

"Approximately 65,000 people are still displaced out of Fallujah,"
reported Bassel Mahmoud, director of the city's reconstruction projects.

The IRIN report, similar to what IPS found here, said, "Despite Baghdad
allocating 100 million dollars for the city's reconstruction and 180
million dollars for housing compensation, very little can be seen
visibly on the streets of Fallujah in terms of reconstruction. There are
destroyed buildings on almost every street. Local authorities say about
60 percent of all houses in the city were totally destroyed or seriously
damaged and less than 20 percent of them have been repaired so far...
Power, water treatment and sewage systems are still not functioning
properly and many districts of the city are without potable water."

Residents complained to IPS that they had less than four hours of
electricity per day, and there was great frustration that at least 30
percent of the allocated reconstruction funds were shifted to pay for
extra checkpoints and security patrols in the city.

And while the residents continue to wait for the promised compensation
funds, of the 81 reconstruction projects slated for the city, less than
30 have been completed and many others will most likely be cancelled due
to lack of funding, according to a Fallujah council member who spoke
with IPS on condition of anonymity.

Current estimates of the amount needed to rebuild Iraq are between 70
and 100 billion dollars. Only 33 percent of the 21 billion dollars
originally allocated by the United States for reconstruction remains to
be spent. According to a report by the U.S. inspector general for
reconstruction in Iraq, officials were unable to say how many planned
projects they would complete, nor was there a clear source for the
hundreds of millions of dollars a year needed to maintain the projects
that had been completed.

As for Fallujah in particular, security has eaten up as much as 25
percent of reconstruction funding, but even more has reportedly been
siphoned off by corruption and overcharging by contractors.

Last year, a U.S. congressional inspection team was set up to monitor
reconstruction in Iraq. On May 1, they published a scathing report of
the failure of U.S. contractors to carry out projects worth hundreds of
millions of dollars. The report also noted that nearly nine billion
dollars in Iraqi oil revenues which had been disbursed to ministries was