Monday, January 01, 2007

Saddam Takes His Secrets To The Grave. Our Complicity Dies With Him By Robert Fisk

He Takes His Secrets To The Grave. Our Complicity Dies With Him

How the West armed Saddam, fed him intelligence on his 'enemies', equipped him for atrocities - and then made sure he wouldn't squeal

By Robert Fisk

12/31/06 "The Independent" -- -- We've shut him up. The moment Saddam's hooded executioner pulled the lever of the trapdoor in Baghdad yesterday morning, Washington's secrets were safe. The shameless, outrageous, covert military support which the United States - and Britain - gave to Saddam for more than a decade remains the one terrible story which our presidents and prime ministers do not want the world to remember. And now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that Western support - given to him while he was perpetrating some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War - is dead.

Gone is the man who personally received the CIA's help in destroying the Iraqi communist party. After Saddam seized power, US intelligence gave his minions the home addresses of communists in Baghdad and other cities in an effort to destroy the Soviet Union's influence in Iraq. Saddam's mukhabarat visited every home, arrested the occupants and their families, and butchered the lot. Public hanging was for plotters; the communists, their wives and children, were given special treatment - extreme torture before execution at Abu Ghraib.

There is growing evidence across the Arab world that Saddam held a series of meetings with senior American officials prior to his invasion of Iran in 1980 - both he and the US administration believed that the Islamic Republic would collapse if Saddam sent his legions across the border - and the Pentagon was instructed to assist Iraq's military machine by providing intelligence on the Iranian order of battle. One frosty day in 1987, not far from Cologne, I met the German arms dealer who initiated those first direct contacts between Washington and Baghdad - at America's request.

"Mr Fisk... at the very beginning of the war, in September of 1980, I was invited to go to the Pentagon," he said. "There I was handed the very latest US satellite photographs of the Iranian front lines. You could see everything on the pictures. There were the Iranian gun emplacements in Abadan and behind Khorramshahr, the lines of trenches on the eastern side of the Karun river, the tank revetments - thousands of them - all the way up the Iranian side of the border towards Kurdistan. No army could want more than this. And I travelled with these maps from Washington by air to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt on Iraqi Airways straight to Baghdad. The Iraqis were very, very grateful!"

I was with Saddam's forward commandos at the time, under Iranian shellfire, noting how the Iraqi forces aligned their artillery positions far back from the battle front with detailed maps of the Iranian lines. Their shelling against Iran outside Basra allowed the first Iraqi tanks to cross the Karun within a week. The commander of that tank unit cheerfully refused to tell me how he had managed to choose the one river crossing undefended by Iranian armour. Two years ago, we met again, in Amman and his junior officers called him "General" - the rank awarded him by Saddam after that tank attack east of Basra, courtesy of Washington's intelligence information.

Iran's official history of the eight-year war with Iraq states that Saddam first used chemical weapons against it on 13 January 1981. AP's correspondent in Baghdad, Mohamed Salaam, was taken to see the scene of an Iraqi military victory east of Basra. "We started counting - we walked miles and miles in this fucking desert, just counting," he said. "We got to 700 and got muddled and had to start counting again ... The Iraqis had used, for the first time, a combination - the nerve gas would paralyse their bodies ... the mustard gas would drown them in their own lungs. That's why they spat blood."

At the time, the Iranians claimed that this terrible cocktail had been given to Saddam by the US. Washington denied this. But the Iranians were right. The lengthy negotiations which led to America's complicity in this atrocity remain secret - Donald Rumsfeld was one of President Ronald Reagan's point-men at this period - although Saddam undoubtedly knew every detail. But a largely unreported document, "United States Chemical and Biological Warfare-related Dual-use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War", stated that prior to 1985 and afterwards, US companies had sent government-approved shipments of biological agents to Iraq. These included Bacillus anthracis, which produces anthrax, andEscherichia coli (E. coli). That Senate report concluded that: "The United States provided the Government of Iraq with 'dual use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-systems programs, including ... chemical warfare agent production facility plant and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment."

Nor was the Pentagon unaware of the extent of Iraqi use of chemical weapons. In 1988, for example, Saddam gave his personal permission for Lt-Col Rick Francona, a US defence intelligence officer - one of 60 American officers who were secretly providing members of the Iraqi general staff with detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning and bomb damage assessments - to visit the Fao peninsula after Iraqi forces had recaptured the town from the Iranians. He reported back to Washington that the Iraqis had used chemical weapons to achieve their victory. The senior defence intelligence officer at the time, Col Walter Lang, later said that the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis "was not a matter of deep strategic concern".

I saw the results, however. On a long military hospital train back to Tehran from the battle front, I found hundreds of Iranian soldiers coughing blood and mucus from their lungs - the very carriages stank so much of gas that I had to open the windows - and their arms and faces were covered with boils. Later, new bubbles of skin appeared on top of their original boils. Many were fearfully burnt. These same gases were later used on the Kurds of Halabja. No wonder that Saddam was primarily tried in Baghdad for the slaughter of Shia villagers, not for his war crimes against Iran.

We still don't know - and with Saddam's execution we will probably never know - the extent of US credits to Iraq, which began in 1982. The initial tranche, the sum of which was spent on the purchase of American weapons from Jordan and Kuwait, came to $300m. By 1987, Saddam was being promised $1bn in credit. By 1990, just before Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, annual trade between Iraq and the US had grown to $3.5bn a year. Pressed by Saddam's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, to continue US credits, James Baker then Secretary of State, but the same James Baker who has just produced a report intended to drag George Bush from the catastrophe of present- day Iraq - pushed for new guarantees worth $1bn from the US.

In 1989, Britain, which had been giving its own covert military assistance to Saddam guaranteed £250m to Iraq shortly after the arrest of Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft in Baghdad. Bazoft, who had been investigating an explosion at a factory at Hilla which was using the very chemical components sent by the US, was later hanged. Within a month of Bazoft's arrest William Waldegrave, then a Foreign Office minister, said: "I doubt if there is any future market of such a scale anywhere where the UK is potentially so well-placed if we play our diplomatic hand correctly... A few more Bazofts or another bout of internal oppression would make it more difficult."

Even more repulsive were the remarks of the then Deputy Prime Minister, Geoffrey Howe, on relaxing controls on British arms sales to Iraq. He kept this secret, he wrote, because "it would look very cynical if, so soon after expressing outrage about the treatment of the Kurds, we adopt a more flexible approach to arms sales".

Saddam knew, too, the secrets of the attack on the USS Stark when, on 17 May 1987, an Iraqi jet launched a missile attack on the American frigate, killing more than a sixth of the crew and almost sinking the vessel. The US accepted Saddam's excuse that the ship was mistaken for an Iranian vessel and allowed Saddam to refuse their request to interview the Iraqi pilot.

The whole truth died with Saddam Hussein in the Baghdad execution chamber yesterday. Many in Washington and London must have sighed with relief that the old man had been silenced for ever.

'The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East' by Robert Fisk is now available in paperback

Puppet [BUSH] Kills Puppet {HUSSEIN] By Marc Ash

Monday 01 January 2007

Shortly after Saddam Hussein was hanged at a US installation in Baghdad, the New York Times called him a "Dictator Who Ruled Iraq With Violence." The Washington Post dubbed Hussein an "Architect of ruthless Iraqi dictatorship." President Bush said, "Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial."

Curiously absent from US mainstream media accounts were a few additional details. Saddam was indeed a ruthless dictator, true, but specifically ruthless on behalf of his benefactors: US multinational petroleum and arms dealers and their patrons well-placed in Washington.

As long as Saddam obediently protected and facilitated the economic and territorial interests of the American (and European) colonialists who backed him, his ruthlessness was their profit, and clearly tolerable. When Saddam said he needed assistance to quell internal resistance, he got all the help he needed in the form of cash and training for his security forces. If that meant 143 Shiites received "red cards," that was no problem for his backers.

In 1979, Iranian revolutionaries ousted the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and with him foreign corporate domination. He was replaced by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who hated the US. None other than Donald Rumsfeld flew to Baghdad as Reagan's "special envoy," to make sure Hussein understood that he had a friend in Washington. Saddam reciprocated by promising to defeat the very same Iranian revolutionaries. What followed was a long, bloody, regionally devastating stalemate.

Puppet exits the reservation.

Saddam was less obedient than Reagan and Rumsfeld had hoped. Hussein dreamed of "reuniting Mesopotamia," a plan not in keeping with the designs for the region held by his foreign partners. Saddam decided to hedge his bets and began accepting favors from the Soviets as well, which had a chilling effect on his relationship with Washington, to be sure. However vile and objectionable Saddam Hussein's methods were, he clung to his dream of ridding his region of foreign domination. Saddam Hussein's final words were, "Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies and the Persians."

The game came to a screeching halt shortly after midnight August 2, 1990, as Saddam's army crashed into the territory of the US-Western protectorate of Kuwait. It had become time for George H. W. Bush to dispatch the former puppet, and the price would be high for the human instruments of war.

Enter al-Maliki.

In the sixteen years that passed between the end of the first Gulf War and the execution of Saddam Hussein, a lot changed, but a lot didn't.

In fairness, finding Iraqis willing to execute Saddam Hussein should not have been difficult. His victims were many, and they suffered greatly. That, however, is not what brought the former president of Iraq to the end of a rope. Iraq, and particularly newly selected Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, are firmly under the boot heel of the US military and its commander in chief, George W. Bush. Saddam Hussein existed, was tried, and was executed at US direction, by US rules and under total US control. Bush made the final decision, and his newly designated puppet simply carried out the orders.

What price empire?

Immediately after the execution, bombings in predominantly Shiite areas of Iraq claimed the lives of at least 68 Shiites - half the number that Saddam Hussein was hanged for killing. Clearly, dead Shiites are still no concern to the American rulers of Mesopotamia. Total domination is all that matters.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Posada Carriles: Washington and Miami’s Preferred Terrorist

“One who shelters a terrorist, is a terrorist” – President George W. Bush

The Bush Administration is harboring perhaps the Western Hemisphere’s most insidious terrorist, whose application for U.S. citizenship is presently on the docket and if granted, would represent an effrontery to this nation’s bona fides, as well as the legitimacy of its worldwide anti-terrorist crusade and what remains of its good name abroad

The White House feverishly searches for a country willing to receive Posada in order to spare it from having to cross swords with the Miami leadership by either extraditing him to Cuba or Venezuela, or trying him here

The Posada case as well as the Cuban Five represents perhaps a defining moment in which the Bush administration’s ideological passions have snuffed out a proper application of justice – an unacceptable sense of ethical values and public rectitude

Meanwhile, the fate of the Cuban Five, whose crimes were negligible compared to Posada’s homicides, does not seem to either confuse or disturb Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Thus, the White House will likely have a problem regarding who it denominates as a “terrorist” and who it fetes as a patriot

The upcoming immigration hearing for Luis Posada Carriles, the 78 year-old felon who is a self-confessed co-conspirator responsible for the detonation of a bomb which killed 73 passengers and crew members aboard a Cuban passenger airliner as it flew over Barbadian waters on October 6, 1976, represents a huge political burden for the White House and its deteriorating relations with Latin America. The disposition of the case will now also test the authenticity of the U.S.’s War on Terror, since Posada is responsible for some of the worst pre-9/11 crimes perpetrated in the Western Hemisphere. However, he has never been conclusively tried for being one of the region’s most notorious psychopaths, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) lawyers as well as his detractors continue to cavil over whether he should be accorded the gallows or be granted U.S. citizenship.

Posada originally had admitted to a New York Times reporter of masterminding the 1976 bombing of Cuban Flight 455, in which 73 passengers lost their lives, including a nine-year-old girl, Cuba’s award-winning national fencing team, a young mother-to-be, as well as Guyanese and North Korean travelers. However, in deference to the ultra rightist faction of Miami’s Cuban exile community, Washington has repeatedly offered its protection to this world class criminal from prosecution by U.S. authorities or in any other germane jurisdiction. In doing so, the Bush administration almost has gone out of its way to debase the process of shaping a corpus of applicable international standards against terrorism by protecting those whom others might describe as “terrorists,” who are considered to be in good standing by some U.S. authorities. But, as the Washington-based lawyer, Jose Pertierra – who has been retained by Venezuelan authorities to represent their country’s interests in this case – explains “the fight against terrorism cannot be fought à la carte.”

A Case Wrought with Painful Irony
Washington has heard continuous international appeals, mainly as a result of Havana and Caracas initiatives, that Posada (who is both a Cuban national and Venezuelan citizen) be brought to justice. Venezuela and the U.S. have an extradition treaty in place dating back to 1922, which obligates the U.S. to immediately extradite any Venezuelan national in this country who has been indicted on murder charges in their home jurisdiction. Under the applicable terms of this bilateral treaty, Venezuela formally applied for Posada’s extradition in May of 2005. Not surprisingly, the Bush administration immediately rebuked this effort by maintaining that the leftist, pro-Castro nature of the Venezuelan government would preclude a fair trial to Posada in a Venezuelan courthouse, and that the defendant would be subject to torture: a self-serving assumption that U.S. prosecutors have never bothered to evidence.

On the domestic front, Washington’s unwillingness to prosecute Posada or facilitate terrorism charges against him brought in other venues, demonstrates that its War on Terror unmistakably involves double standards based on selective indignation. On September 11, 2006 (the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks), the lack of forward motion by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami regarding the resolution of Posada’s status, led to a judge ruling that the mastermind terrorist be released due to a lack of evidence that would establish that he was a world-class terrorist.

Since the federal prosecutor failed to mount a well-coordinated case, but mainly relied upon screening films and citing general grounds for detention, Magistrate Norbert Garney was forced to be exceedingly lenient in his ruling, by lodging only a relatively minor charge of illegal entry into the U.S. against Posada. Garney forcefully scolded the prosecution for its failure to produce critical, factual evidence regarding his professed terrorist status in proving that the only prudent path to take was to continue Posada’s detention. To the families of Posada’s scores of victims, the Bush administration’s DOJ’s legal team handling of the case was a caricature of what should have been an orderly and professional disposition.

Magistrate Garney then gave the prosecutors an extension of time to strengthen their case against Posada, whose U.S. citizenship application was simultaneously being heard by the USCIS. The judge’s reasoning for the extension stemmed from an unequivocal belief that Posada was “an admitted terrorist with a history of involvement in terrorist activities,” and that releasing him could have “significant national and foreign relations consequences.” However, on October 5, the day before the 30th anniversary of the destruction of Cuban Flight 455, the DOJ’s deadline to present adequate evidence to move the trial ahead, came to an end. At this point, the presiding U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez extended a new deadline, February 1, 2007, for the federal prosecution to present its case. In Martinez’s view, Posada has been detained “well beyond” what the U.S. Supreme Court permits. Thus, as of today, at most 30 days remain for the Bush-Gonzales justice to be dispensed.

Amongst the legal community, the DOJ’s lassitude has raised suspicion over whether the U.S. attorneys’ lack of aggressiveness could be attributed to the private biases of Attorney General Gonzales’ in this high profile case, or were they simply trying to gain time by arranging an indefinite trial extension for a self-admitted mass murderer.

What is the U.S. Government Hiding?
There is no reason to scoff at the notion that the U.S. Attorney’s office may be calculatedly sabotaging the Posada case in order to spare the administration an embarrassing outcome brought about by its not applying the full weight of the law against him. Certainly, the executive branch has an interest in shielding the case from widespread publicity. Over the years, Republican administrations on several cases acted to protect Posada, a political icon in Miami. Understandably, the government might not want the U.S. public to know about Posada’s long-standing cooperative relationship with U.S. authorities on various conservative causes, including his role as a CIA agent.

For starters, during the vice-presidency of George Bush Sr., Posada was granted sanctuary in El Salvador where he worked for the U.S. Embassy assisting Contra efforts operating out of neighboring Honduras shortly after escaping for a second time from a Caracas jail on August 18, 1985 where he awaited trial for the destruction of the Cuban airliner. Perhaps only coincidentally, when Posada arrived to San Salvador, Col. Emilio T. Gonzalez, the current Director of the USCIS, was the Assistant Military Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. Conceivably the U.S. Congress would find it appropriate to conduct a hearing investigating any possible conflicts of interests considering that the Director of the USCIS, now Dr. Gonzalez, has substantial leverage over Posada’s hopes of being granted asylum in the U.S. Furthermore, the fact that Dr. Gonzalez is an exiled Cuban national, whose family left Cuba in 1961 shortly after the failed attack on Playa Giron, might also be of interest to Congressional investigators. Dr. Gonzalez’s known intense personal anti-Castro elements and personal friendship with the now detained Posada should be addressed after the Democrats take over Congress.
Moreover, documents in the possession of National Security Archives reveal that Bush Sr., as the CIA director at the time of the downing of Flight 455, was likely to have picked up rumors of Posada’s plan at a time when the explosives were being wired to detonate on board Flight 455. Much of the evidence against Posada has come from declassified FBI and CIA documents, including evidence of Posada’s meeting with another notorious terrorist, such as his accomplice and co-conspirator in Caracas, Orlando Bosch. One report states that “We [Posada and Bosch] are going to hit a Cuban airplane. Orlando has the details.” The DOJ even lists Bosch as a “terrorist, unfettered by laws, or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims.” Revealingly, Bosch today dwells as a free man in Miami after former President Bush Sr. granted him a full pardon from all U.S. charges on July 18, 1990, a decision made at the behest of the arch Castro-basher, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, Otto Reich.

But Posada, whose fate has not yet been determined, is guilty of more than just the destruction of the Cuban flight. The demolition training he received while enrolled in the notorious School of the Americas and thereafter as a CIA proxy, enabled him to mastermind several Cuban hotel bombings while operating under cover in Havana. These attacks were decried around the world as blatant acts of violence against tourists and other civilians, yet the U.S. authorities downplayed their significance at the time.

Posada was also implicated in the highly controversial Operation 40, which, throughout the 1960s, involved conducting sabotage operations and assassination plots in hopes of inciting a civil war in Cuba between pro and con Castro forces. Posada is also suspected of helping Bosch orchestrate the 1976 car bombing of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his U.S. assistant, Ronni Moffitt, on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., in which both lost their lives. Most recently in Panama, Posada was preparing himself to go on trial for attempting to assassinate Castro, while the Cuban president was attending a gathering with more than 2,000 students at the University of Panama in 2000. Extraordinarily enough, former Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, now residing in Miami, found no problem in pardoning him on August 25, 2004, on the eve of her leaving office, after Posada had been detained with 200 pounds of explosives in his possession. Perhaps Moscoso was so preoccupied with the good life awaiting her in Miami, that the matter did not adequately catch her attention. What we do know is that she was able to block from her conscience the impact of the death of 73 innocent victims – who died in the fatal airplane bombing three decades ago – out of which she was able to find the grounds to free him.

Justified Incredulity from Abroad
The Bush administration may be attempting to placate Miami and ease itself out of the Posada affair by attempting to find him a safe haven outside the U.S. However, to their dismay, upon contacting authorities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Canada, Panama, El Salvador and Honduras, Bush officials were repeatedly told that they would only facilitate Posada’s extradition to Venezuela or Cuba, if such papers were ever filed against him.

Posada’s Miami-based lawyer, Eduardo R. Soto, has consistently fought such third-country deportation efforts on the grounds that he would be treated in a prejudicial manner wherever he would end up, something of a tacit admission of his guilt in itself. Other nations understandably want nothing to do with the man, who is viewed by many as a “monster,” and “Latin America’s bin Laden.” Meanwhile, the two countries which overwhelmingly have the greatest justification in seeing Posada brought to justice – Cuba and Venezuela – where Posada remains a fugitive from justice, have systematically been ruled out as they are considered “rogue” nations where Posada would face “the threat of torture…and therefore could not be returned under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.” This is a conclusion that most legal experts would turn their back on.

Cuba has long been awaiting the administration of justice for the mass murder of its nationals on board the Cuban airliner. Havana has found widespread sympathy for the enormous loss and pain suffered by its population over this horrific misdeed. In 1998, Fidel Castro unveiled a monument in Barbados commemorating the passengers aboard the ill-fated flight. Venezuela also continues to vehemently assert its right to try Posada, whose successful escape from a Caracas jail is universally believed to be the result of well-heeled Miami confederates pulling strings and bribing prison guards. The Miami capos are also believed to be responsible for bringing Posada into contact with CIA operatives who signed him up as a useful “can-do” asset, and then again, were said by some to be involved in bringing President Moscoso into the scenario that ended up with her inexplicable pardon of him.

The Cuban Five
The fundamentally biased nature of the current Posada proceedings are highlighted by comparing them to the zealous dynamism displayed by U.S. prosecutors from the same office who were involved in the trial of five Cuban nationals: Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and René González. Now all serving lengthy prison terms, these Havana militants were arrested by the FBI in Miami on September 12, 1998 and were accused of espionage and murder. Andrés Gómez, the Director of the pro-Castro Areítodigital magazine, insists: “The federal government lied and is still lying. The Five, as everyone knows, were not in Miami to spy against the government of the United States, but to infiltrate the terrorist organizations of the Cuban-American extreme right-wing, which with the full knowledge and protection of the federal government, plans and directs from that city terrorist actions…”

Indeed, the only real “threat” that these men seemed to pose from their monitoring of several extremist Cuban exile groups in Miami like CORU, Alpha 66, Omega 7 and Brothers to the Rescue, all of which were documented for their involvement in attacking Cuban personnel and property, bombing island tourist facilities, and illegally dropping pamphlets over Havana and other of the island’s major urban centers.

Double Standards at Work
The Cuban Five were arrested shortly after alerting Havana officials of flights that were being planned by the Miami-based anti-Castro extremist organization, Brothers to the Rescue. When two planes flown by exile pilots professedly penetrated Cuban airspace, they were shot down by Cuban pilots after warnings by Cuban air patrol officials to reverse their course. The blatant bias of trial judge Joan Lenard against the Cuban Five throughout their Miami proceedings, led to their conviction on all 26 counts, in which the jury deliberated for only four days.

The deportment throughout the proceedings of Judge Lenard, who acted more as a government prosecutor than a crusader for justice, only underscores Washington’s obsessive tactics when it comes to the interpretation of international terrorism in its favor. The fact that both the judge and jury foreman were outspokenly anti-Castro should have led to a dismissal of the indictments or certainly a change of venue. It is true that some Florida wags have been know to mutter, yet with her handling of this case, Judge Lenard proved that she is as fair to justice as Katherine Harris is to a fair vote. Notably, a UN Working Group reviewing the case was able to determine that the trial did not take place in a climate of objectivity and impartiality, which is required in order to conclude on the observance of the standards of a fair trial. The UN report also charges that the Cuban Five were wrongfully held for seventeen months in solitary confinement after their arrest, and that their lawyers were deprived of the opportunity to examine all of the available evidence before the government invoked the Classified Information Protection Act.

As a result, Hernández was sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus fifteen years, Labañino to one life term plus 18 years, Guerrero to one life term plus 10 years, and Fernando González and René González to nineteen and fifteen years respectively. The defense’s argument that Miami-Dade County was “a basic nucleus of anti-Castro Cuban exiles, where the conditions for a fair trial do not exist,” was summarily rejected in the pre-trial phase of the adjudication. On August 9, 2005, after Leonard Weinglass, the U.S. attorney for the Cuban Five, had appealed this ruling, a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals issued a 93-page reversal of the initial conviction as well as nullified the sentences. In response to the reversal, the Bush administration and Attorney General Gonzales vehemently pushed for the Solicitor General to appeal the verdict of the three-judge panel’s decision before all twelve judges of the 11th circuit in Atlanta. Its finding, to the surprise of many, in a 10-2 vote, reversed the previous pro-Cuban Five ruling, affirming the initial trial’s convictions and providing at least a temporary victory for the Bush administration and its Miami political backers.
Nevertheless, the defense counsel for the Cuban Five was quick to act and called for the conviction to be remanded back to the three judge panel (now only a two-judge panel because one had since retired) for the adjudication of the nine remaining issues under appeal. As Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild, Heidi Boghosian explains, “The case of the Five is now in the hands of the very two judges who earlier reviewed this country’s history of crimes against Cuba, and concluded that […] it was impossible for these five Cubans to receive a fair trial in Miami.” Considering the defense’s previous success with this panel of judges, Boghosian expects that they “will again rectify this travesty of justice.”

The case of the Cuban Five is going to haunt the Bush presidency because even those opposed to the Castro regime have raised concern over the harsh treatment and violation of rights exercised upon the Five. The DOJ’s handling of these men has raised a ubiquitous fervor of nationalism profoundly affecting the younger Cuban generation who feel the U.S. has acted on immoral grounds. Considering Castro’s terminal illness, this will be a unifying factor for the Cuban system considering that the Miami-orchestrated case against the Cuban Five will be viewed as a trivial offense on all Cubans. Truly, the concepts of liberty and justice – which attracted thousands of Cubans to the U.S. shores – are not being preached by U.S. and its authorities.

U.S. War on Terror Lacks Consistency and Integrity
While a final decision on the fate of the Cuban Five is expected to be reached in the first half of 2007, the U.S. government’s single-minded hectoring of the Cuban Five – which is propelled by ideology as much as by law – vividly contrasts with the privileged treatment of Posada, whom after being accused of orchestrating the death of 73 innocent individuals, is now leading a protected life while his immigration status is being argued over in an El Paso, Texas, courthouse. Don’t be too startled if Posada is released at any time, by a lightning move on the part of the government since the DOJ has been guided by more of an ideological mission rather than by a faithful administering of the law.

If the U.S. government insists on its sovereign right to preemptively invade other nations to prevent terrorist attacks on its homeland, it might want to consider the illogicality of not attributing the same rights to its neighbor, particularly when that neighbor has repeatedly warned U.S. authorities that the Brothers to the Rescue were routinely violating international law by their repeated over-flights of Cuba.

On September 11, 2001, President Bush announced to the world that “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” Nevertheless, the U.S. continues to harbor Posada. If he is not brought to justice on this round, the U.S., by its own definition, can be identified as safe-haven for “evil-doers,” invalidating its own justifications for conducting its War on Terror. Posada’s El Paso-based lawyer, Felipe D.J. Millan disagrees, and asks “How can you call someone a terrorist who allegedly committed acts on your behalf?” Interestingly, Millan’s own query proves the need to judge Posada in another country such as Venezuela or some neutral third country, where he would have to respond to international charges, that, in effect, if found guilty on them, would make him complicit in criminal acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity. If the U.S. does not facilitate this process, as Michael Avery, the former President of the National Lawyers Guild concluded, “Allowing Posada into the United States and entertaining an asylum request from a confessed terrorist is an open acknowledgement of accomplice liability…” Perhaps a viable neutral candidate for a suitable venue to conduct Posada’s trial would be Spain, as the Los Angeles Times editorial board has argued: “Madrid is a credible interlocutor between Washington and Latin America, and Spanish courts have a recent tradition […] of aggressively taking on cases of universal jurisdiction.”

If the spotlight doesn’t stop focusing on Posada, in all likelihood, the administration could calculatedly announce to the general public – on a slow news day or on the eve of a three-day holiday – that Posada should be allowed to proceed with his citizenship application hoping that the case would disappear from the screen. This holiday season, with all the distractions that it entails, could be a period of suspense for scores of grieving family members seeking justice from Miami-spawned violence. The Bush administration has repeatedly displayed its political savvy in the timing of its archly political releases of controversial documents, other information, or individuals. This can be seen in the announcement of Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation as Secretary of Defense, which was made public on the morning after the Democrats’ triumph in the congressional elections, conveniently distracting the population by masking the Republicans’ near political implosion.

Meanwhile, the lives of the five incarcerated Cubans will continue to be squandered because of the intense ideological and political prejudices that define President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales’ way of formulating U.S. policy when it comes to the Cuban issue, or how it uses its criminal justice system for revenge rather than vindication. By setting an arch terrorist free while simultaneously continuing the draconic sentences against the five Cubans on the most meager of charges – who many would argue should never have been behind bars in the first place – Bush continues to build on the Bush family-Posada relationship, while at the same time scrapping all hopes of rendering U.S. relations towards Venezuela and Cuba more rational and responsive to the best of the U.S. tradition of the pursuit of justice and preserving, in good health, its humanitarian legacy.

This analysis was prepared by Research Associate Brittany Bond and co-edited by Research Associates Magali Devic, Danielle Ryan, and Eytan Starkman
December 27th, 2006

Bush Silences a Dangerous Witness: Bush has now guaranteed that Hussein could not give testimony on scandals, which threaten the Bush Family legacy

Bush Silences a Dangerous Witness

By Robert Parry
December 30, 2006

Like a blue-blood version of a Mob family with global reach, the Bushes have eliminated one more key witness to the important historical events that led the U.S. military into a bloody stalemate in Iraq and pushed the Middle East to the brink of calamity.

The hanging of Saddam Hussein was supposed to be – as the New York Times observed – the “triumphal bookend” to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. If all had gone as planned, Bush might have staged another celebration as he did after the end of “major combat,” posing under the “Mission Accomplished” banner on May 1, 2003.

But now with nearly 3,000 American soldiers killed and the Iraqi death toll exceeding 600,000 by some estimates, Bush may be forced to savor the image of Hussein dangling at the end of a rope a little more privately.

Still, Bush has done his family’s legacy a great service while also protecting secrets that could have embarrassed other senior U.S. government officials.

He has silenced a unique witness to crucial chapters of the secret history that stretched from Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979 to the alleged American-Saudi “green light” for Hussein to attack Iran in 1980, through the eight years of the Iran-Iraq War during which high-ranking U.S. intermediaries, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, allegedly helped broker supplies of war materiel for Hussein.

Hussein now won’t be around to give troublesome testimony about how he obtained the chemical and biological agents that his scientists used to produce the unconventional weapons that were deployed against Iranian forces and Iraqi civilians. He can’t give his perspective on who got the money and who facilitated the deals.

Nor will Hussein be available to give his account of the mixed messages delivered by George H.W. Bush’s ambassador April Glaspie before Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Was there another American “green light” or did Hussein just hear what he wanted to hear?

Like the climactic scene from the Mafia movie “Casino” in which nervous Mob bosses eliminate everyone who knows too much, George W. Bush has now guaranteed that there will be no public tribunal where Hussein gives testimony on these potentially devastating historical scandals, which could threaten the Bush Family legacy.

That could have happened if Hussein had been turned over to an international tribunal at the Hague as was done with other tyrants, such as Yugoslavia’s late dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Instead Bush insisted that Hussein be tried in Iraq despite the obvious fact that the Iraqi dictator would receive nothing close to a fair trial before being put to death.

Hussein's hanging followed his trial for executing 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail in 1982 after a foiled assassination attempt on Hussein and his entourage. Hussein's death effectively moots other cases that were supposed to deal with his alleged use of chemical weapons to kill Iraqi civilians and other crimes that might have exposed the U.S. role.

[For details on what Hussein might have revealed, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege or’s “Missing U.S.-Iraq History” or “The Secret World of Robert Gates.”]

Thrill of the Kill

Some observers think that Bush simply wanted the personal satisfaction of seeing Hussein hanged, which would not have happened if he had been sent to the Hague. As Texas governor, Bush sometimes took what appeared to be perverse pleasure at his power to execute prisoners.

In a 1999 interview with conservative writer Tucker Carlson for Talk magazine, Bush ridiculed convicted murderer Karla Faye Tucker and her unsuccessful plea to Bush to spare her life.

Asked about Karla Faye Tucker’s clemency appeal, Bush mimicked what he claimed was the condemned woman’s message to him. “With pursed lips in mock desperation, [Bush said]: ‘Please don’t kill me.’”

But a more powerful motive was always Hussein’s potential threat to the Bush Family legacy if he ever had a forum where he could offer detailed testimony about the historic events of the past several decades.

Since stepping into the White House on Jan. 20, 2001, George W. Bush has made it a top priority to conceal the history of his father’s 12 years as Vice President and President and to wrap his own presidency in a thick cloak of secrecy.

One of Bush’s first acts as President was to sign an executive order that blocked the scheduled release of historic records from his father’s years. After the 9/11 attacks, Bush expanded his secrecy mandate to grant his family the power to withhold those documents from the American public in perpetuity, passing down the authority to keep the secrets to future Bush generations.

So, even after George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are dead, those noted historians Jenna and Barbara Bush will control key government documents covering a 20-year swath of U.S. history.

Already, every document at the George H.W. Bush presidential library must not only be cleared for release by specialists at the National Archives and – if classified – by the affected agencies, but also by the personal representatives of both the senior and junior George Bush.

With their backgrounds in secret societies like Skull and Bones – and with George H.W. Bush’s work at the CIA – the Bushes are keenly aware of the power that comes from controlling information. By keeping crucial facts from the American people, the Bushes feel they can turn the voters into easily manipulated children.

When there is a potential rupture of valuable information, the Bushes intervene, turning to influential friends to discredit some witness or relying on the U.S. military to make the threat go away. The Bushes have been helped immeasurably, too, by the credulity and cowardice of the modern U.S. news media and the Democratic Party.

What Can Be Done

Still, even with Hussein’s execution, there are actions that the American people can take to finally recover the lost history of the 1980s.

The U.S. military is now sitting on a treasure trove of documents seized during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Bush administration exploited these documents to discredit the United Nations over the “oil for food” scandal of the 1990s, ironically when Hussein wasn’t building weapons of mass destruction. But the Bush administration has withheld the records from the 1980s when Hussein was producing chemical and biological weapons.

In 2004, for instance the CIA released the so-called Duelfer report, which acknowledged that the administration’s pre-invasion assertions about Hussein hiding WMD stockpiles were “almost all wrong.” But a curious feature of the report was that it included a long section about Hussein’s abuse of the U.N.’s “oil for food” program, although the report acknowledged that the diverted funds had not gone to build illegal weapons.

Meanwhile, the report noted the existence of a robust WMD program in the 1980s but offered no documentary perspective on how that operation had occurred and who was responsible for the delivery of crucial equipment and precursor chemicals. In other words, the CIA’s WMD report didn’t identify the non-Iraqis who made Iraq’s WMD arsenal possible.

One source who has seen the evidence told me that it contains information about the role of Chilean arms dealer Carlos Cardoen, who has been identified as a key link between the CIA and Iraq for the procurement of dangerous weapons in the 1980s. But that evidence has remained locked away.

With the Democrats taking control of Congress on Jan. 4, 2007, there could finally be an opportunity to force out more of the full story, assuming the Democrats don’t opt for their usual course of putting “bipartisanship” ahead of oversight and truth.

The American people also could demand that the surviving members of Hussein’s regime be fully debriefed on their historical knowledge before their voices also fall silent either from natural causes or additional executions.

But the singular figure who could have put the era in its fullest perspective – and provided the most damning evidence about the Bush Family’s role – has been silenced for good, dropped through a trap door of a gallows and made to twitch at the end of a noose fashioned from hemp.

The White House announced that George W. Bush didn’t wait up for the happy news of Hussein’s hanging. After the U.S. military turned Hussein over to his Iraqi executioners, Bush went to bed at his Crawford, Texas, ranch and slept through the night.

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.'

The trials of occupation - Executing Saddam will not bring peace to Iraq. That can only come when US forces leave by Burhan al-Chalabi

[Pre-Execution Reflection]

The imminent execution of Saddam Hussein is nothing but a smokescreen - a diversion in a series of diversions that will do nothing to address the price of the occupation of Iraq. If the Bush administration truly wanted to curb the cycle of bloodshed, it would come clean and share with the US public, the Iraqi people, and the international community the real goals of this disastrous neoconservative adventure.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was an act of US imperialism, marketed as a war of liberation. Iraq was chosen ahead of Iran or Syria because it had been weakened by 13 years of sanctions. It provided the opportunity to station US bases in the Middle East, and a vantage point to monitor Iran. Control of the massive oil reserves was not to be sniffed at, either. It was assumed that Iraqis' distaste for Saddam would somehow make occupation acceptable.

It has, of course, proved to be anything but acceptable. It has proven unacceptable to the people of Iraq, the Middle East, and the world over. Today, a country is occupied and its sovereignty violated. The UN's legal and moral authority has been undermined. Iraq's cultural heritage is in tatters, its natural resources squandered, its infrastructure destroyed.

Safety, security and the rule of law are nonexistent. Terrorism is on the rise. This is borne out even in Washington's own reports. More than 3 million Iraqis have fled their homes. More than 600,000 civilians have been killed.

Officials of the former regime are judged and punished - sometimes with death sentences as in Saddam Hussein's case. Regardless of the nature of the crimes, it is only right that allegations should be tested by a properly constituted court of law that meets the basic requirements of justice, fairness and independence. These qualities could not be found in the court in Iraq, established by US viceroy Paul Bremer, who appointed its judges in direct contravention of international law.

This death sentence lacks the legality that might make it worthy of respect. It also makes it less likely that those who still support Saddam Hussein will participate in the political process being called for by the US president and the Iraqi prime minister. So it is not surprising that few Iraqis believe such an illegitimate execution will help heal wounds.

The US presents the Iraqi people with this phoney act of accountability, but no one has been held accountable for invading and occupying Iraq or the mass human rights abuses carried out in the process. If this generation of Iraqis is not able to get justice, future generations will make sure they do. They will look to the established system of international justice to recognise these atrocities and hold people accountable retrospectively.

The occupying forces continue to peddle the nonsense that they cannot withdraw immediately - that this would only spark civil war. I am convinced that the opposite is true: when the occupiers leave, the prevailing civil war will subside. Ordinary Iraqis will have to choose between killing each other or rebuilding the country - which they can only do in an independent, sovereign Iraq.

The US and its allies should apologise to the Iraqi people for the suffering the war has caused. It should offer compensation based on criteria used in Kuwait after the first Gulf war. Under the auspices of the UN, it must end the occupation and hand over power to a sovereign Iraqi government mandated to respect human rights.

· Dr Burhan al-Chalabi is a former chairman of the British Iraqi Foundation and a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs