Saturday, December 17, 2005

As Iraq votes, historian, iconoclast looks to Vietnam; Says lack of position cost Democrats in 1968

Howard Zinn, critically acclaimed historian and political scientist, is author of the "People's History of the United States," a radical and popular retelling of American history. Zinn, 83, has written fifteen books and is a longstanding critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is now a professor emeritus at Boston University.

Raw Story's John Byrne:
Speaking to elementary school children Tuesday, Lynne Cheney compared this week's parliamentary elections in Iraq to America's own early struggle for democracy. "Two hundred and seventeen years ago, we held our first vote under our Constitution," she said. "We started then on the path the Iraqis are walking now." What do you make of that?

Boston University Professor Emeritus of Political Science Howard Zinn:
[Laughs] It's sort of ridiculous the juxtaposition of an election that took place in the United States after we had gotten rid of an occupying power, England, an election which represented our independence, with an election that is taking place now, which is in the midst of an occupation. It's like saying when the British were still maintaining troops throughout the 13 colonies, while still maintaining control, had pronounced that now democracy was being brought to the 13 colonies. We were holding an election after ousting the occupying power.

Raw Story:
Do you think the Iraq situation is "better" than Vietnam because they are having elections?

Well, elections are a very, very superficial way of judging whether there is democracy in the country. There were elections taking place in Vietnam in 1967, and they said this is a good sign. It meant nothing, because we were still bombarding the country... the Vietnamese people were not liking us anymore.... the elections are held amidst the military occupation of the country.

Raw Story: So basically democracy under the gun is not democracy.

Zinn: Yeah, exactly.

Raw Story: If you were a Democratic member of Congress and involved in shaping the party's plan and statements with regard to the Iraq conflict, what would you tell your colleagues? What would you tell the country?

Zinn: If I were Nancy Pelosi I would certainly say to my fellow Democrats, "If we want to win the next election we better get with the American people, they're way ahead of us. The American people are forthrightly against the war and we're forthrightly about [nothing]." The American people are much more bold and forthright. If I were any Democratic leader, if I were Howard Dean - who unfortunately has been the kind of silent head of the Democratic National Committee - I would say to my fellow Democrats, wake up. If you don't give the American people what the American people want, then you are going to go down in history as a party that loses and loses and loses.

Raw Story: How do the Democratic positions compare now to their positions during Vietnam?

Zinn: Certainly when the elections were taking place in 1967, the Democratic Party still had not taken a position against the war. Only by 1968 when the election was coming up did we have an anti-war candidate. Johnson was out of the race because in fact he recognized that he somehow was missing history. Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy understood by 1968 that the war was wrong and furthermore that the American people knew the war was wrong. And so they at least provided some leadership to the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, neither of them made it and the Democratic Party devolved into the hands of Hubert Humphrey who had been a supporter of the war, and Humphrey lost narrowly to Nixon... similar to the 2004 election because Humphrey did not give a clear support for what the American people wanted, which was to get out of Vietnam.

Raw Story: Rumsfeld was recently seen dining with Henry Kissinger, one of the architects of the Vietnam War and Secretary of State to Presidents Nixon and Ford. What tips do you suppose Kissinger could offer Rumsfeld, given his experience in that war?

Zinn: The two belong together. They're birds of feather and I would say vultures of a feather. If Kissinger really understood what we did in Vietnam then he would have been telling Rumsfeld to get out of the Iraq war as fast as possible, and tell him that people will forget that we cut and run. They'll only be grateful that we stopped the killing. I think he would be telling him - if he were really giving him good advice - that no amount of American troops put in there will help; sending more troops to Vietnam didn't help the situation at all. We had 500,000 troops in Vietnam. Basically, if the people don't want us to be there, then no amount of troops is going to make our position satisfying. In fact, the more troops we send the more unsatisfying our presence will be.

Raw Story: In a recent CBS poll, 17 percent of Americans surveyed said they felt the war in Iraq was about oil - a greater percentage than those who thought the war was aimed at fighting terrorism or deposing Saddam Hussein. Do you believe the war was about oil?

Zinn: I think the war is about several things... [not so much about oil as] about the availability of oil, because if we didn't control the oil, Iraq would have to sell the oil; they would sell it to us and to everybody else. The war isn't really about oil but about the price of oil which makes the loss of life even more horrendous.

The control of oil is certainly a major factor. All of our policies since the end of World War II have been based on the control of oil, hence the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 over his nationalization of oil. Beyond oil, it's a matter of empire. Were the French in Indochina because of rubber? Yes, but that was only part of it. Did Mussolini go into Ethiopia because the Italians needed land? No, Mussolini wanted to restore the glory of the Roman Empire, and the United States is hellbent on creating the greatest empire in world history. It's oil, and it's empire and it's business.

And it's control. Wars create a situation where the ruling party is better able to control the situation, hence the Patriot Act, and war is an opportunity for profiteering.... I remember during the Vietnam war one of the great posters was done by a quite well-known artist Seymour Chwast, and the poster simply said in big letters: "War Is Good for Business: Invest Your Son." Very chilling, but true.

Raw Story: Do you think we can win in Iraq?

Zinn: The overall sense is not even it's a question of being a winnable war, it's a war we shouldn't win. If we were winning that wouldn't have made it right; the point is we shouldn't be there in the first place. We don't belong there. We invaded that country. It didn't attack us. It's as clear cut a case of naked aggression as you can find. People were sentenced to hang at Nuremberg in World War II for engaging in a war of aggression against other nations and that's what we've done in Iraq. Just reading about Tookie [who was executed by lethal injection in California]... and here is Schwarzenegger showing no remorse... Bush and Cheney and the whole White House group are responsible for the killing of millions of people. They have shown no remorse. So we are in a crazy world where this black man who may have killed four people twenty years ago is sent to prison and other people who are killing people daily right now are free. We've living in absurdity.

Raw Story: How well do you think the media is doing at explaining the situation in Iraq?

Zinn: The media is not educating the America public. The media is not playing the role that the media should be which is to sharply criticize the government when it knows the government is wrong and to represent the interests of the people. And you see the press conferences, and you see how soft the questions are. Take what's supposed to be the best of the media, that is public television, and the Lehrer Newshour, and what you see is... blatant government policies. They have a discussion on torture and they have a lawyer for torture and a lawyer who is sort of against torture. And you wouldn't there have someone on the Holocaust - you wouldn't have somebody who supports the Holocaust and someone who is sort of against the Holocaust. The spectrum that's represented in the media runs from slightly left of center to the extreme right.

Raw Story: There have recently been revelations of secret CIA prisons. Is this unusual for the CIA?

Zinn: The government has never been reluctant to go outside the law to carry out its policies. If you look at the reports of the Church Committee in 1975 of the CIA and the FBI and you see absolutely blatant violations of law by both the CIA and the FBI. You see planned assassination attempts, you see all sorts of skullduggery going on. But I think what we are seeing now in the detention of people in Guantanamo Bay and secret places overseas, you're seeing something more far reaching in the violation of basic constitution rights than we've ever seen before.

In World War I, people were put on trial or sent to prison. But here we have a situation where people aren't even put on trial, they are just put away and nobody hears from them again. You might say the Bush Administration is taking the history of the abuse of civil liberties and just going twenty degrees beyond it.

Raw Story:
What's going well?

Zinn: What's going well is the growing rejection of the war by Americans, the growing willingness of the Americans to speak up against the war, the growing protest against high school recruiting by young people and people all over the country. What's going well is what has always gone well - the willingness of the American people to resist the war and growing consciousness of what is wrong. The graph is moving in the direction of greater public understanding and also going in the direction of the crumbling of the legitimacy of this Administration.

The New York Times and the NSA's Illegal Spying Operation - Time-Delayed Journalism

The first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation. The statesman collects his information secretly and by secret means; he keeps back even the current intelligence of the day with ludicrous precautions The Press lives by disclosures For us, with whom publicity and truth are the air and light of existence, there can be no greater disgrace than to recoil from the frank and accurate disclosure of facts as they are. We are bound to tell the truth as we find it, without fear of consequences--to lend no convenient shelter to acts of injustice or oppression, but to consign them at once to the judgement of the world.

Robert Lowe, editorial, London Times, 1851.
Lowe's magnificent editorial was written in response to the claim of a government minister that if the press hoped to share the influence of statesmen it "must also share in the responsibilities of statesmen". It's a long, sad decline from what Lowe wrote in 1851 to the disclosure by the New York Times on Friday that it sat for over a year on a story revealing that the Bush administration had sanctioned a program of secret, illegal spying on US citizens here in the Homeland, by the National Security Agency.

And when it comes to zeal in protecting the Bill of Rights, between December 22, 1974 and December 16, 2005 it's been a steady run down hill for the New York Times. Thirty-one years ago, almost to the day, here's how Seymour Hersh's lead, on the front page of the NYT, began:
The Central Intelligence Agency, directly violating its charter, conducted a massive, illegal domestic intelligence operation during the Nixon Administration against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States, according to well-placed Government sources.
And here's the lead paragraph of the NYT's page one story this Friday by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau:

Months after the September 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.
Government illegality is the sinew of Hersh's first sentence. He says that that what the CIA did was illegal and that it violated the CIA's charter. What the NSA has been doing is also illegal. Its warrantless domestic eavesdropping is in direct violation of the 1978 law which came about as a direct result of Hersh's expose and the congressional hearings that followed. The eavesdropping it also violates the NSA's charter, which gives the Agency no mandate to conduct domestic surveillance.

Stealing from Workers and the Poor - The Class War Economy

Call it the class war economy--a shocking transfer of wealth out of the pockets of working people and the poor and into the overstuffed bank accounts of the super-rich.

Rising profits and a smart 4.3 percent annual growth rate in third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) are happening side-by-side with falling wages, sinking family income, evaporating pensions and a failing health-care system.

This is the face of the real "new economy" in Bush's America. It comes without the bubble of the late 1990s economic boom and Bill Clinton's political salesmanship in the White House. Back then, mainstream economists marveled at rapid growth and low unemployment as evidence of a technology-driven "miracle economy," with profit rates peaking at levels not seen since the 1960s.

In that long boom following the Second Word War, steady economic growth and rising productivity allowed for regular increases in real wages and a rising standard of living for most workers--giving rise to the belief in an "American Dream."

By contrast, the 1990s boom was very different for working people. The rise in family income came not from increases in wages, but mostly from growing numbers of women working--and more hours on the job for all wage earners.

Today, however, family income can't compensate for the decline in wages since the recession. According to an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analysis of the latest available figures, pre-tax income for married-couple families with children fell by 3.1 percent between 2000 and 2003.

In the Footsteps of Che Guevara: Democracy in South America

Presidential candidate, coca grower and Aymara Indian leader, Evo Morales, the front-runner in Bolivia’s presidential race, delivered a defiant speech in the country's economic capital as his campaign wound down, vowing to fight 'parasitic' businesses that feed off the poor.

Evo Morales (R), and his vice presidential candidate Alvaro Garcia Linera, wave to supporters at the Felix Capriles stadium in Cochabamba, Bolivia, during their electoral campaing closing rally.

Evo Morales is poised to become the first indigenous president of the impoverished country which has been run by politicians of European descent since independence in 1825
The red carpet shines like blood in the intense heat of a La Paz summer afternoon. It marks the path of a marching band in colonial uniform, cutting a swath down and across Plaza Murilla, the capital's main square. The toy soldiers in their Spanish-era coats pass in front of the fresh bullet-holes pock-marking the Council headquarters and march on to the decorative façade of the National Congress. They are flanked by colleagues in combat fatigues bearing tear-gas rifles, a reminder of the unrest that threatens to engulf Bolivia.

Inside the grand and gloomy neo-classical hallways, the Congress is filled with yellowing portraits of the great and good, of European descent, offering a gilt-edged history lesson on who has ruled Latin America’s poorest, highest and most racially polarised country since independence in 1825.

At the end of one of its corridors, just visible through office doors, hangs the more modern image of Che Guevara. Inside the room, he is everywhere. Among the myriad images is a black and white poster showing his patchy, iconic beard and piercing eyes above the slogan, "I'd rather be an illiterate Indian than a North American millionaire".

Thirty-eight years after his death in the foothills of the Bolivian Andes, trying to spark a Marxist revolution, the socialist soldier of fortune’s boast reverberates in the dilemma now facing the country.

Bolivia is at a crossroads and goes to the polls on Sunday to choose between a Harvard-educated, American-married, member of the business elite and an indigenous Aymara Indian and radical former coca farmer.

The two leading presidential candidates, Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga and Evo Morales, personify the bitter divide between the European-descended haves and the majority indigenous have-nots, in Bolivia and beyond.

Despite its poverty, Bolivia contains a wealth of natural resources, from minerals to significant oil reserves, and the second largest proven gas reserves on the continent. But an estimated 63 per cent of the people remain rooted in poverty, and its indigenous people – mainly Aymara and Quechua Indians – who make up more than half of the population, are suffering disproportionately.

Bolivia was in the vanguard of nations that experimented with the neoliberal "shock tactics" of privatisation and austerity measures that swept Latin America during the 1980s and 1990s, known as the Washington consensus. These policies helped to control hyperinflation but failed utterly to deliver the promised prosperity to all but a few of the business elite.

Popular anger and disbelief that hydrocarbon wealth had failed to lift them out of poverty has brought the country to the edge of disintegration, with two presidents forced out of office inside two years by mass social protests. These demonstrations catapulted Mr Morales, a leading trade unionist and passionate campaigner for the legalisation of coca-leaf production, into the international spotlight. He is now within touching distance of becoming the first full-blooded indigenous president in Latin America.

His commitment to nationalise the gas and oil industry, taking back control from the multinationals, has become a rallying point for the disenfranchised.

Bolivia is poised to join Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and possibly even Mexico next year in an extraordinary rebirth of the Latin American left. Such is the anti-American mood among Bolivians that a warning from the US embassy backfired. During the 2002 vote, they warned they would withdraw all aid from the country if Mr Morales was elected, and that sent him surging in the polls. He missed out last time by less than two percentage points.

This time he is the frontrunner and Washington, publicly at least, is keeping its counsel. Privately, the 38-year-old has been labelled a narco-terrorist, compared to Cuba's Fidel Castro and is said to be relaunching Che's project of a peasants' revolution in the country.

White House ire has led the State Department's new head of western hemisphere affairs to link him to narco-trafficking and accuse him of receiving cash and possibly arms from the hated Venezuelan left-wing leader Hugo Chavez. These scare tactics are echoed by the opposition Quiroga camp as they try to close the gap in the polls, and get their man, a right-wing former president, back into office.

Fernando Messmere, a former ambassador and now senior aide to Mr Quiroga, says Mr Morales' black and white, belligerent style is a danger to the existence of Bolivia. "His proposals divide Bolivia and isolate it internationally,” he says. “He’ll turn Bolivia into a drugs paradise." Mr Messmere accuses Mr Morales' Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) of vote-rigging in rural areas and of making threats of armed insurrection. No evidence is produced.

At his campaign headquarters in La Paz it is hard to connect Mr Morales with Washington's bogeyman. His broad Indian face breaks into an easy smile and his informal dress, jeans and a battered old fleece, owe more to his days as a provincial activist than a presidential front-runner. He is quietly spoken with a calm, yet charismatic style.

"I’m not only a follower of Chavez, but a follower of Castro and a follower of Che," he says, sitting at a table piled high with coca leaves and flanked by a man and woman, who remain silent but chew the leaf continuously.

"This does not mean I am going to implement their programmes here because Bolivia is not Cuba." He obviously revels in his role as a White House hate figure but professes himself open to negotiation with the Bush administration on its policy to combat the cocaine trade.

"If they want to talk about the war on drugs, fine. But the discussion should start with demand and not supply." Mr Morales is as eloquent a defender of the rights of the cocaleros as one could expect from a man who came to prominence as their spokesman in the Chapare region, which produces 90 per cent of the country's coca yield.

His family were victims of Bolivia's first skirmishes with globalisation that caused closure of the tin mines in his native Oruro, and an enforced migration to the lowlands to farm llamas and later coca leaf.

"I'm willing to sign an effective agreement to combat narco-trafficking. If they cut demand we'll work to cut supply but at the moment it's not the traffickers that are in jail it's the farmers."

Mr Morales litters his conversation with Aymara references and reminders that Europeans have been exploiting the indigenous people for 500 years. He links this with a swift critique of the US policy of preventative war and points to Iraq as evidence that the real aim of Washington policy is not to combat drugs or terror but to control oil-producing countries.

Few observers, even within Bolivia, know how seriously to take his vow to depenalise coca leaf production. Away from his populist stump speech he hints at a more pragmatic style, reminiscent of the Brazilian leader Lula Da Silva, a social democrat in radical clothing.

This has not stopped his US critics, foreign investors and multinationals from being terrified of the second plank of his campaign: to nationalise the hydro-carbon industry. The scaremongers, and many of Mr Morales' supporters, expect him to expropriate oil and gas facilities within months of taking office. This will land Bolivia in an international court battle with the likes of British Gas and British Petroleum; drive out foreign investment and the already stricken economy will collapse, they say.

But the reality is very different, says Carlos Villegas, a researcher at the University of San Andres in La Paz and Mr Morales' main economic adviser. "What we are talking about is changing the rules of the game," he says. "Bolivia owns the hydro-carbons only while they’re in the ground; the minute they’re extracted they belong to the trans-nationals and they can exploit them and price them as they see fit." He says present contracts are illegal and they must be renegotiated, if the companies involved are willing to talk.

If not, Mr Villegas says, other major players will. Feelers have been put out to China, India, Canada and Venezuela. A new law was driven through Congress this year by MAS, reasserting sovereignty on hydro-carbon reserves and raising taxes on the industry to 50 per cent. "So far the government has failed to enforce this law," Mr Villegas says. "We are going to enforce it and we're going to extend it."

But even if Mr Morales does win the vote he is almost certain to fall short of the 51 per cent needed to claim office. Then the conservative-controlled Congress, which is likely to entrench its advantage in the same elections, will hold the constitutional key to who is appointed. There is no run-off in Bolivia. This is the nuclear scenario says Cesar Rojas Rios, an analyst with the political institute UNIR in La Paz. "There will be chaos," he says. "He must be given a chance to rule." Mr Rojas Rios says people no longer trust the neoliberal alternatives and Mr Morales, as the first serious indigenous candidate, has symbolic importance that should not be underestimated. "He’s not a domesticated politician, which scares a lot of people. Morales has not been broken in."

"Tuto" Quiroga, despite rebranding himself as a caring conservative, backing tax increases for multinationals and even expropriating red with a white star as his campaign signature, has failed to make inroads. Many of his US-style presidential posters, showing the conspicuously European-looking candidate in a red polo shirt have been sprayed with a black swastika. "Tuto is a marketing exercise," says Mr Rios Rojas. "MAS is a grassroots movement."

The approach to the square where Evo, as everyone calls him, is staging his final rally is choked. Regiments of blue-black MAS party flags are interrupted only by the multicoloured grid of the pan-Andean banner. Hundreds more people are arriving for what is set to be a long night. On stage, three boys and a stack of amplifiers put the old leftist standard, "Commandante Che Guevara" to a violent death by heavy metal.

Miners, still wearing their helmets, form an honour guard between the stage and throng. A volunteer feeds them coca leaves from a plastic bag. There are no police. The atmosphere is one of adoration and pure impatience. The chant goes up, "Now, Now, Now, Evo Presidente!"
As the sun sets against the serrated peaks of Villa Fatima, the rock trio give voice to the anger and expectation that will make managing Bolivia such a tightrope-walk for their hero. The singer grabs the microphone and screams: "The place to eradicate coca is in the noses of those gringo sons of bitches!"

Leaders of the United States, Britain and Australia are war criminals and should be hauled up and tried for war crimes

War in Iraq a crime, say legal experts

KUALA LUMPUR: Leaders of the United States, Britain and Australia are criminals who have committed crimes against humanity and should be hauled up and tried for war crimes, according to two law professors.

Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi of Universiti Teknologi Mara Malaysia said George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and their accomplices had blatantly disregarded the laws of war.

He said the international community must file reports against them for genocide and crimes against humanity with the International Criminal Court for violating the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal.

"Terrorism is a crime against humanity and must be combated by concerted international action that examines causes as well as cures."

Prof Francis A. Boyle of Illinois University said Bush's attempt to assassinate the president of Iraq was an international crime in its own right.

"His administration’s war of aggression against Iraq also constituted a crime against peace as defined by the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgement and the Nuremberg Principles as well as by paragraph 498 of US Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956)," he added.

According to him, the US government's installation of the Interim Government of Iraq was nothing more than a "puppet government" under the laws of war.

"As the belligerent occupant of Iraq, the US government is free to establish a puppet government if it so desires. But under the laws of war, it remains fully accountable for the behaviour of its puppet government."

Prof Dr Shad said unlawful use of force by the US in Iraq threatened to "return us to a world in which the law of the jungle prevails over the rule of law."

This, he said, had potentially disastrous consequences for human rights not only for Iraqis but for the whole world. He suggested the United Nations General Assembly to pass a resolution to end the US occupation of Iraq and leave within a declared time frame.

"Iraqi government should have authority over its economy and oil revenues. It should have the right to set terms for the operation of foreign troops on its soil," he said.

We Won't Go Back

It looks like the ugly days of government paranoia and official lawbreaking are making a comeback

Reading the new reports about the Pentagon conducting surveillance of peaceful anti-war groups and protests, I feel like I'm having a bad '60s flashback.

But I'm not seeing psychedelic lights and thinking I can fly. I'm remembering how the Defense Department aggressively infiltrated anti-war and civil rights groups during that era, spying and collecting files on over 100,000 Americans -- and how J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI used every dirty trick in the "black bag operation" handbook to sabotage the anti-war and civil rights movements.

Now it looks like those ugly days of government paranoia and officially sanctioned lawbreaking might be making a comeback. A secret DoD database obtained by NBC News indicates that Pentagon intelligence and local law enforcement agencies are using the guise of the war on terror to keep an eye on the constitutionally protected activities of anti-war activists.

And, despite strict restrictions on the military maintaining records on domestic civilian political activity, evidence suggests the Pentagon is doing just that. According to NBC, the DoD database includes "at least 20 references to U.S. citizens," while other documents indicate that "vehicle descriptions" are also being noted and analyzed.

And it's not just the Pentagon. Documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has also been recording the names and license plate numbers of peaceful anti-war protesters.

With apologies to Buffalo Springfield: There's something happening here… and what it is is painfully clear.

The Bush administration has a long and ignominious history of rhetorical intimidation, routinely equating dissent with a lack of patriotism and a lack of support for our troops. Now it appears it's moving on to actual intimidation.

The need in a post-9/11 world for greater domestic intelligence gathering, processing, and sharing is obviously paramount. Indeed, don't we all wish someone in authority had been paying attention to the Phoenix memo before the 2001 attacks? And the national security agencies responsible for the Pentagon database were originally tasked with creating "a domestic law enforcement database that includes information related to potential terrorist threats." This intel-gathering system is a tangle of acronyms -- including CIFA (Counterintelligence Field Activity), TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notice), and NORTHCOM (U.S. Northern Command) -- but they are all geared toward helping the government keep ahead of terrorists.

There is even a U.S. Army-operated 800 number for reporting suspicious activity, 1-800-CALL-SPY. I kid you not, dial it and you will hear: "You have reached the U.S. Army Call-Spy Hotline. You may remain anonymous. Please leave a detailed message of the incident you with to report. Your call is important. If you wish to be contacted, please leave your name and telephone number…"

But, as is emblematic of this administration, these agencies now appear to be overreaching, moving away from identifying "possible terrorist pre-attack activities" and heading into the murky waters of spying on U.S. citizens doing nothing more than voicing their objections to U.S. policy.

President Bush and many of his closest associates have always positioned themselves as a counterpoint to the '60s counterculture. (Indeed, Bush was so detached from it that he once claimed he had no memory of anti-war activity at Yale during his time there -- even though the campus was a hotbed of student protest) And now his administration has adopted the worst domestic intelligence practices of the '60s establishment.

That's why Congress needs to flex its oversight muscle -- and make sure that the tragic mistakes of the past are not repeated.

It wasn't that long ago that Hoover's notorious COINTELPRO program was illegally infiltrating Students for a Democratic Society and setting out to destroy "Negro radicals" like Dr. Martin Luther King. Our government lied, cheated, harassed, intimidated, burglarized, vandalized, framed, and spread false rumors -- to say nothing of keeping voluminous files on everyone from John Lennon to Allen Ginsberg -- all in an effort to quash legitimate dissent against the war and the racist practices of the South. We can't let it happen again.

Let's start the chant: Hell no, we won't go… back!

Bolivia’s election deserves a history lesson By Saul Landau

The prospect of socialist peasant leader Evo Morales as Bolivia's next president disturbed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Charles Shapiro. "It would not be welcome news in Washington to see the increasingly belligerent Cuban-Venezuelan combo become a trio," he emailed on October 21, 2005 to the Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer (Dec 4, 2005).

Shapiro combined buzz words with clichés. "The nature and scope of our cooperation with the next Bolivian government will depend on our shared interests: strengthening democracy, fostering economic development and combating illegal narcotics, along with that government's commitment to its international obligations."

These trite but coded phrases tell the next Bolivian government: do Washington’s bidding, or get your butt kicked. Shapiro may think that phrases like "shared interests" and "democracy" turn him into a literary magician: "Presto, the coin (history) has vanished."

Such routine pronouncements on U.S.-Latin America policy presume that a policy exists, something beyond Washington demanding Latin American obedience to its dictates, so that U.S. companies can continue their looting. Throughout the last century, the United States provided different labels for its domination. By the early 20th Century, the Monroe Doctrine took the form of "Gunboat Diplomacy." The Navy would routinely intervene to protect U.S. investments and ensure "stable" – read obedient – governments.

Fifty years of US terrorism against Cuba - The true responsibility for international terrorism

In his intervention during the round table on the rise of international terrorism, on the occasion of the Axis for Peace 2005 conference, Salim Lamrani took record of the US’s secret actions against Cuba. He shows, in an undisputable manner, that Washington – currently and for long time – practices international terrorism although it pretends to fight it.

The case of Cuba has an exceptional and unique character in the history of international terrorism. Since 1959 to this day, Cuba has been a victim of an intense terrorism campaign that has included sabotage, armed invasions, the threat of nuclear war, extremely severe economic sanctions and implacable diplomatic, political and media aggression. [1].

International Terrorism and Economic Sabotage

US official documents that have been recently been declassified show that, between October 1960 and April 1961, the CIA smuggled in 75 tons of explosives into Cuba during 30 clandestine air operations, and infiltrated 45 tons of weapons and explosives during 31 sea incursions. Also during that short seven-month time span, the CIA carried out 110 attacks with dynamite, planted 200 bombs, derailed six trains and burned 150 factories and 800 plantations.

Between 1959 and 1997, the United States carried out 5,780 terrorist actions against Cuba – 804 of them considered as terrorist attacks of significant magnitude, including 78 bombings against the civil population that caused thousands of victims.

Terrorist attacks against Cuba have cost 3,478 lives and have left 2,099 people permanently disabled. Between 1959 and 2003, there were 61 hijackings of planes or boats. Between 1961 and 1996, there were 58 attacks from the sea against 67 economic targets and the population.

The CIA has directed and supported over 4,000 individuals in 299 paramilitary groups. They are responsible for 549 murders and thousands of people wounded.

In 1971, after a biological attack, half a million pigs had to be killed to prevent the spreading of swine fever. In 1981, the introduction of dengue fever caused 344,203 victims killing 158 of whom 101 were children. On July 6th, 1982, 11,400 cases were registered in one day alone.

Most of these aggressions were prepared in Florida by the CIA-trained and financed extreme right wing of Cuban origin.

Impunity for Terrorists

Nuclear Deployment for an Attack on Iran And the nuclear hitmen behind it

Are U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed in the Persian Gulf, on hair-trigger alert, and ready to be launched against Iran at a moment's notice?

The answer is contained in presidential directive NSPD 35, "Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization," issued May 2004, which is classified. Nevertheless, we can infer the answer from the fact that every other element needed for a nuclear strike on Iran is now "deployed" and ready, namely:

Persian Fire

So now we know: Next time the fire will come in Iran. The blow will be delivered by proxy, but that will not spare the true perpetrator from the firestorm of blowback and unintended consequences that will follow. Even now, the gruesome deaths of many innocent people in many lands are growing in futurity's womb.

The Rubicon of the new war was crossed on Oct. 27. Oddly enough for this renewal of the ancient enmity between the heirs of Athens and Persia, the decisive event occurred on the edge of the Arctic Circle, at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, where a Russian rocket lifted an Iranian spy satellite, the Sinah-1, into orbit. This launch, scarcely noticed at the time, has accelerated the inevitable strike on Iran's nuclear facilities: Israel is now readying an attack for no later than the end of March, The Sunday Times reports.

An Incredible Day in America

Today, for two separate reasons, has been an incredible day in America. First, the United States has legitimized torture and secondly, the President has admitted to an impeachable offense.

First, the media has been totally misled on the alleged Bush-McCain agreement on torture. McCain capitulated. It is not a defeat for Bush. It is a win for Cheney.

Torture is not banned or in any way impeded.

Under the compromise, anyone charged with torture can defend himself if a "reasonable" person could have concluded they were following a lawful order.

That defense "loophole" totally corrodes the ban. It is the CIA, or the torturing agency, who will decide what a "reasonable" person could have concluded. Can you imagine those agencies in the interrogation business torturing on their own in trying to decide what is reasonable or what is not? What is not "reasonable" if the interrogator (wrongfully or rightfully) believes he has a ticking-bomb situation? Will a CIA or military officer issue a narrow order if he knows his interrogator believes, in this case, torture will work?

The Bush-McCain torture compromise legitimizes torture. It is the first time that has happened in this country. Not in the two World Wars, Korea, the Cold War or Vietnam did the government ever seek or get the power this bill gives them.

The worst part of it is that most of the media missed it and got it wrong.

Secondly, the President in authorizing surveillance without seeking a court order has committed a crime. The Federal Communications Act criminalizes surveillance without a warrant. It is an impeachable offense. This was also totally missed by the media.

Martin Garbus is a partner in the law firm of Davis & Gilbert LLP and one of the country's leading trial lawyers.

Coca Growers' Leader Nancy Obregón Arrested in Peru

In a "legal" action spurred by the coca growers' protests in April and May of 2004, the Peruvian police arrested leader Nancy Obregón yesterday. This is part of a strategy of legal harassment being carried out by the Alejandro Toledo administration against Peru's coca growers' movement. After last year's protests — in which "cocaleros" blocked two highways, clashed with police for days and besieged the city of Lima — a judicial process was initiated against the movement's leaders. This is an urgent, breaking story, so let's go...

It was no coincidence. Peru is in its pre-electoral phase these days and Ollanta Humala, a patriotic soldier who has led several military and social revolts against the state, has become a new hope for the humble people in that country. Especially for the farmers of Peru's coca-growing basins, where Humala enjoys as much as 90 percent support among the people.
Nancy Obregón, Elsa Malpartida and other cocalero leaders have sympathized with Humala's quest, above all because he is one of the few Peruvian political figures to have supported the peasant farmers' right to legally cultivate the sacred leaf of the Andes. And just during the last few days, after a ruling was passed down against them, Both Elsa and Nancy had gone underground, refusing to recognize the Peruvian court’s decision.

On December 14, the court presided over by Magistrate Alberto Gonzales Ortiz issued arrest warrants for Obreón and Malpartida, accusing them of the crime of “disturbing the public order” by creating disturbances and publicly defending the commission of crimes.

Yesterday, during the afternoon of December 15, an unusually effective police officer found Nancy in the town of Tingo María, withdrawing money from an ATM machine, and arrested her. In these moments, during which Narco News has been unable to contact any of our allies in Peru, Nancy is in the custody of that town's police department, a town that is the center of one the most organized sectors of the Peruvian cocalero movement.

We have followed Peruvian coca growers in their process of struggle and dignity very closely in Narco News, and we know that this arrest is nothing but another form of criminalizing the social movements, at a time in which both the state and the failed war on drugs are facing major setbacks in that country.

As such, we are merely doing part of our job in denouncing the arbitrary arrest of a recognized social leader... and we advise those behind this act, as well as you our dear readers, that this could become the motivation for a new explosion in Perú... Toledo's followers may have, without thinking, sat down in a powder keg.

Stay tuned...

Defiant Bolivia clashes with US over coca crops

A FEW hours north of Bolivia's capital of La Paz, a nearly impassable dirt road runs along the edge of cliffs covered in a thick jungle canopy. It is difficult to imagine that this little-known Yungas region has become South America's latest drugs battlefront, bringing the United States and Bolivia on to a collision course.

Bolivian coca cultivation is still associated with the southern Bolivian Chapare region, which provided the basic ingredient for almost half the world's cocaine during the 1980s and 1990s. After decades of looking the other way, the Bolivian government, with the help of millions of dollars of US military aid, launched the Dignity Plan in 1998, almost eliminating Chapare's coca production by 2001.

Since then Yungas, an almost inaccessible area, has become the country's main coca-growing area. The government allows 12,000 hectares of legal coca cultivation in Yungas, but real production is nearly double that and growing - explaining the 35 per cent increase in cocaine production last year from 2003, according to the latest UN World Drug Report, and consolidating Bolivia as the world's third-largest cocaine producer.

The US now seems determined to put an end to this situation, despite stern opposition from Evo Morales - a leader of the Chapare coca growers and favourite to win next Sunday's presidential elections - who defends the legalisation of coca for traditional uses such as medicinal tea.

A senior member of Mr Morales's party said the American embassy had told them Yungas was one issue the US would stand firm on. The US ambassador to Bolivia, David Greenlee, warned that Mr Morales' idea of legalising coca would have repercussions.

But Mr Morales refuses to budge. "We'll have zero cocaine but not zero coca," he told The Scotsman. "The US isn't really interested in cocaine eradication - it uses the war against drugs like the war against terror in Iraq, as an excuse to dominate other countries.

"The fact that it doesn't really target the demand for drugs demonstrates this."

Influential members of Mr Morales' party are even pushing to expel US anti-narcotics police from Bolivia.

In the midst of the growing US-Morales power struggle stand impoverished Bolivian peasants such as Antonio Florencio, 34, a father of four who cultivates a small, steep patch of coca land near Coroico, a town in the heart of Yungas.

"I used to grow coffee, but couldn't maintain my children so I decided to move here seven years ago," he said. "But it's a very hard life, we barely make enough money to survive."

If Mr Morales wins the election, Bolivia could feel the full force of US wrath, but with so few allies in the region, the Bush administration will have to think long and hard about how to act on its displeasure.

America's Own Chronicle of Its Hellish Descent - Iraq, Ourselves

Every week as I prepare to write this piece I tell myself: Not Iraq, not this time. Almost every week something makes it impossible to stay away, to get away. Iraq is 6,800 miles from our shores in geography only. What happens there in any given week has more bearing on what we're becoming here than anything happening between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains in any given month. And what we're becoming is a fraud of our former selves.

The 1970s had "Our Bodies, Ourselves," the Talmud-like treatise on gender and sexual identity that midwifed feminism's ascent toward the ankles of America's power structures. This decade has "Iraq, Ourselves." Less Talmudic, more communal, it's written every day and -- fittingly for the Internet age of diffusion -- in innumerable parts by anyone who chooses, and by many who don't, and whose last words are etched on tombstones in every state.

"Iraq, Ourselves" traces the descent of American values into various circles of hell. The lust and gluttony for power, the greed for cheap and easy profit from Iraq's ruins, the wrath of our terrified military, of our mercenary "private security" goons, and now of Iraq's government-backed death squads and their hunt for heretics: All of it combines into a three-ring circus of violence with the Tigris for a River Styx and the Potomac for a Rubicon. Our imperial president crossed that one three years ago, with fraud on his lips and hubris in his plastic laurels.

He, of course, is the head writer of this shameful testament, its editor-in-chief, though he cannot see past fictions. The White House has become his very own Eighth Circle where he wallows in the sloth of flatterers, false prophets, falsifiers, counterfeiters and roving hypocrites. He plays with them in their little ditches, then rises every once in a while to spin their tales in front of big audiences in uniform before sending them off to etch their marble stones while he retreats back to his circle, unrepentant.

The Bush-Pentagon vast disinformation campaign in Iraq is finally generating the reaction it ought to have generated back when, in the earliest days of the war, the Pentagon was spilling Jessica Lynch-like lies as liberally as it was spilling other people's blood, staging statue-toppling victory parades in the heart of Baghdad and manufacturing a "Mission Accomplished" celebration on the deck of an aircraft carrier. No one should be surprised about the vast right-wing confabulations that take their source in the White House's messianic conviction that its little junta should represent the Middle East's second coming. But the sense of outrage isn't discouraging still more dangerous fantasies on the part of the administration's foot soldiers. Television's fair-and-bollix propagandists, radio's dittoheads, the blogosphere's approximation of a mobosphere -- they think more disinformation abroad, more censorship at home, more of the same policies and strategies everywhere, inc! luding torture and secret prisons, are the answer.

Charles Krauthammer's defense of torture in last week's issue of The Weekly Standard gave every intellectual sadist and me-generation jingoist reason to cheer. The argument is too craven to answer. But Krauthammer throws in a popular myth along the way, that the Pentagon treats Guantanamo's inmates so well that "our scrupulousness extends even to providing them with their own Qurans, which is the only reason alleged abuses of the Quran at Guantanamo ever became an issue."

"That we should have provided those who kill innocents in the name of Islam with precisely the document that inspires their barbarism is a sign of the absurd lengths to which we often go in extending undeserved humanity to terrorist prisoners," Krauthammer says.

Never mind the assumption about the Quran's barbarism, which is demonstrably false, or the more serious guilty-until-proven-innocent assumption about the detainees, even though not one of them has been found guilty of anything. There's a more monstrous fallacy here. As a new book by James Yee, the Army chaplain falsely accused of having "infiltrated" Guantanamo as an al-Qaida member, makes clear, the Quran has itself become an instrument of torture. Because of the petty abuse heaped on the book by their captors (dropping it, kicking it, mishandling it), Gitmo inmates took to refusing to have a book in their cell. They weren't allowed to refuse. Those who still resisted were forced, violently, to accept a book -- a procedure known as a "forced cell extraction" -- then placed in isolation until they relented. Their captors, with creative cruelty, have turned the inmates' one and only haven against them while still making us believe that "our scrupulousness extends even to p! roviding them with their own Qurans."

No lie more demonically speaks of the undivine comedy of this whole war, of the falsehoods corrupting its core assumptions, of the brutality that shadows America in others' eyes, and not only in others'. Rot is replacing our ideals from here to Baghdad, to ourselves.

Pierre Tristam is a News-Journal editorial writer and author of Candide's Notebooks . Reach him at

Iran May Buy Russian Surface-to-Air Missile Complex — Report

Iran and Russia have prepared and approved an agreement project on the purchase of the Russian surface-to-air missile complex Pechora-2A in the second half of 2006.

Pechora-2A can hit the air targets at distances from 3.5 to 38 kilometers and at heights from 0.02 to 20 kilometers, flying at a speed of up to 700 meters per second. The complex was successfully tested at a Middle East firing range, hitting an F-16 fighter and an analogue of a Tomahawk cruise missile.

The complex has a new optic-electronic system that allows it to seek out air targets during daylight and at night. It uses modern missiles and modern protection devices.

The Pechora may provide air security for the Russian-built power plant at Bushehr, the Grani.Ru website reported citing a source in Russia’s Federal Military Technical Cooperation Service.

"Helping Tehran build a power plant, Russia simply must provide security for this object, the destruction of which may cause an ecological disaster for the whole of the Middle East. That is why cooperation with Iran in the area of anti-aircraft systems will be continued," the source said.

Earlier, Russian media said that Moscow had agreed in November to sell $1 billion worth of weapons to Iran, including up to 30 Tor-M1 missile systems over the next two years. Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said a contract for the delivery of Tor air defense missiles to Iran had been signed.

U.S. Arranges 'Pre-Deployment' Training for Haiti-Bound Private Police (MERCENARIES)

The U.S. State Dept. is reaching out to independent contractors (MERCENARIES) to train other private contractors (MERCENARIES) who will be deployed as "civilian police" -- hired guns for so-called peacekeeping missions taking place in Haiti and other geopolitical hotspots. The senior adviser selected for the task "must oversee pre-deployment training currently being conducted" by Dyncorp International, Civilian Police International and Pacific Architects and Engineers/Homeland Security Corporation, according a recently released procurement document.

The three companies currently work under the supervision of State's Office of Civilian Police and Rule of Law (CIVPOL office) and the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). The INL CIVPOL contractors already have a presence in several "post-conflict locations throughout the world," according to the document. However, Haiti appears to be a priority, evidenced by a prominently displayed notice on the PAE/HSC website currently announcing that the company is "soliciting applications specific to CIVPOL Officers fluent in French interested in a UN deployment to Haiti."

The senior advisor also will be responsible for "establishing a ready roster of rapidly deployable CIVPOL as well as building foreign capacity" to provide such contractor services, it says. Programs are currently underway "in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Haiti, Liberia, East Timor, Serbia & Montenegro and Sudan," but the "number and location of programs are subject to change."

State facilitates the creation and deployment of these privately hired "police officers and law enforcement and criminal justice experts" because "the U.S. does not have a national police force from which to draw personnel." An additional justification, according to the State document, is the CIVPOL office’s existing relationship with the above-mentioned private contractors, an arrangement which provides the U.S. government with ability to swiftly "recruit, select, train, equip, deploy and support the officers and experts" needed for such missions.

This latest endeavor requires the provision of "10-day pre-deployment training" courses for CIVPOL candidates, involving subjects such as physical fitness, agility, firearms, and driving tests; psychological testing and evaluation; "history and culture of the deployment region"; defensive tactics; human rights; trafficking in persons; and "expatriate taxation issues."

The senior advisor will be based in Washington, D.C. Training sites are located in Fredericksburg, Va. and in Leesburg, Va.

Bolivia’s Struggle for "Black October" Justice Continues

She clings to her father's pant-leg. Her classic Aymara face--round with red cheeks--tilts upwards. He strokes her thick black hair as he speaks to the crowd of fifty in Warisata's town-center. For the rest of the day she is independent, bouncing among strangers and family friends alike. But these few moments, she is still, attentive, listening to her father recall the events of her sister's death in this Bolivian altiplano (highland) town two years ago. It probably does not register in her mind that she is not even the age her sister was when a Bolivian soldier's bullet took her life: 8 years old.

Marlene Nancy Rojas was murdered on September 20, 2003, but her death was one of the first in what has come to be known as "Black October." The four-week period beginning with Marlene's death and ending with then President Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada's resignation on October 17, 2003 burns in the memories of all Bolivians, but particularly those of the families of the 67 killed and over 300 wounded during Bolivia's first "Gas War."

The successes of the mass protests (covered by Narco News), including Goni's resignation, were bitter-sweet: Bolivia paid a high price in human life and Goni fled to the United States with $1.5 million of Bolivian state money where he has resided with impunity ever since.

Two years have now passed but here in Bolivia, rather than healing all wounds, time only deepens the pain and strengthens the resolve.

Fun Bits About American Torture - In many ways, the U.S. is now just as inhumane and brutal as any Third World regime. Oh well?

"We do not torture." Remember it, write it in red crayon on the bathroom wall, tattoo it onto your acid tongue because those very words rang throughout the land like a bleak bell, like a low scream in the night, like a cheese grater rubbing against the teeth of common sense when Dubya mumbled them during a speech not long ago, and it was, at once, hilarious and nauseating and it took all the self-control in the world for everyone in the room not to burst out in disgusted laughter and throw their chairs at his duplicitous little head.

Oh my God, yes, yes we do torture, America that is, and we do it a lot, and we do it in ways that would make you sick to hear about, and we're doing it right now, all over the world, the CIA and the U.S. military, perhaps more often and more brutally than at any time in recent history and we use the exact same kind of techniques and excuses for it our numb-minded president cited as reasons we should declare war and oust the dictator of a defenseless pip-squeak nation that happened to be sitting on our oil.

This is something we must know, acknowledge, take to heart and not simply file away as some sort of murky, disquieting unknowable that's best left to scummy lords of the government underworld. We must not don the blinders and think America is always, without fail, the land of the perky and the free and the benevolent. Horrific torture is very much a part of who we are, right now. Deny it at your peril. Accept it at your deep discontent.

Torture is in. Torture is the tittering buzzword of the Bush administration, bandied about like secret candy, like a hot whisper from Dick Cheney's gnarled tongue into Rumsfeld's pointed ear and then dumped deep into Dubya's Big Vat o' Denial.

The cruel abuse of terror suspects is sanctioned and approved from on high, and we employed it in Abu Ghraib (the worst evidence of which -- the rapes and assaults and savage beatings -- we will likely never see), and we use it in Eastern Europe and Guantánamo and in secret prisons and it has caused deaths of countless detainees. And Rumsfeld's insane level of Defense Department secrecy means we may never even know exactly how brutal we have become.

Torture is right now being discussed in all manner of high-minded articles and forums wherein the finer points of what amount of torture should be allowable under what particular horrific (and hugely unlikely) circumstances, and all falling under the aegis of the new and pending McCain anti-torture legislation that would outlaw any and all "degrading, inhumane" treatment whatsoever by any American CIA or military personnel at any time whatsoever, more or less.

All while, ironically, over in Iraq, our military is right now inflicting more pain and death upon more lives than any torture chamber in the last hundred years, and where we have recently discovered the fledgling government that the United States helped erect in Saddam's absence, the Iraqi Interior Ministry, well, they appear to be so giddy about torture they might as well be Donald Rumsfeld's love children. But, you know, quibbling.

There is right now this amazing little story over at the London Guardian, a fascinating item all about a group of hardy hobbyists known as "planespotters," folks whose solitary, dedicated pastime is to sit outside the various airports of the world and watch the runway action and make intricate logs and post their data and photos to planespotter Web sites. It's a bit like bird-watching, but without the chirping and the nature and with a lot more deafening engine roar and poisonous fumes.

These people, they are not spies and they are not liberals and they are not necessarily trying to reveal anything covert or ugly or illegal, but of course that is often exactly what they do, because these days, as it turns out, some of those planes these guys photograph are involved in clandestine CIA operations, in what are called "extraordinary renditions," the abduction of suspects who are taken to lands unknown so we may beat and maul and torture the living crap out of them and not be held accountable to any sort of pesky international law. Fun!

It is for us to know, to try and comprehend. The United States has the most WMD of anyone in the world. We imprison and kill more of our own citizens than any other civilized nation on the planet. We still employ horrific, napalm-like chemical weapons.

And yes, under the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld regime, we abuse and torture prisoners at least as horrifically as any Islamic fundamentalist, as any terrorist cell, to serve our agenda and meet our goals -- and whether you think those goals are justifiable because they contain the words "freedom" or "democracy" is, in many ways, beside the point.

Go ahead, equivocate your heart out. It is a bit like justifying known poisons in your food. Sure mercury is a known cancer-causing agent. Sure the body will recoil and soon become violently ill and die. But gosh, it sure does taste good. Shrug.

Maybe you don't care, maybe you're like Rumsfeld and Cheney and the rest who think, well sure, if they're terrorists and if they'd just as willingly suck the eyeballs out of my cat and rip out my fingernails with a pair of pliers as look at me, well, they deserve to be tortured, beaten, abused in ways you and I cannot imagine. Especially if (and this is the eternal argument) by their torture we can prevent the deaths of innocents.

Maybe you are one of these people. Eye for an eye. Water torture for an explosive device. Does this mean that you are, of course, exactly like those being tortured, willing to go to extremes to get what you want? That you are on the same level morally, energetically, politically and, like Cheney and Rumsfeld, you are dragging the nation down into a hole with you? You might think. After all, fundamentalists terrorize to further a lopsided and religious-based agenda. We torture to protect ours. Same coin, different side.

It is mandatory that we all acknowledge where we are as a nation, right now, how low we have fallen, how thuggish and heartless and internationally disrespected we have become, the ugly trajectory we are following.

Because here's the sad kicker: Torture works. It gets results. It might very well save some lives. But it also requires a moral and spiritual sacrifice the likes of which would make Bush's own Jesus recoil in absolute horror. Yet this is what's happening, right now. And our current position demands a reply to one bitter, overarching question: What sort of nation are we, really?

Friday, December 16, 2005

We vote, then we throw you out By Pepe Escobar

First, a quick look at the environment ahead of Thursday's elections in Iraq. Political assassinations, party headquarters burned, abductions (all largely unreported by Western corporate media). A former prime minister, Iyad Allawi - widely known in Baghdad as "Saddam without a moustache" - saying on the record that human rights in President George W Bush's Iraq are worse than they were under Saddam.

Current Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's Da'wa Party accusing Allawi of defending the occupiers. Allawi accusing Jaafari's government of corruption. Former Pentagon asset Ahmad Chalabi's campaign posters with the inscription, "We liberated Iraq."

A network of secret torture prisons and charnel houses. Fear and loathing in militia hell. American military operations to "secure peaceful voting". All traffic circulation prohibited by the occupiers (to prevent car bombings). The borders with both Syria and Jordan, as well as Baghdad's airport, all closed.

Satanic, free and fair

We all knew what some were going to say. Saddam Hussein - preparing his next coup de theater in court - declared the elections "a farce". Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers, plus four other jihadi groups, denounced them as "a satanic project", vowing to perpetuate the jihad, fighting for "an Islamic state ruled by the book [the Koran] and the traditions of Prophet Mohammed".

GOP right-wing and Russian arms smuggler Links

December 16, 2005 -- More details emerge of links between GOP right-wing and Viktor Bout's African client, President Yahya Jammeh. Richard Hines, a close ally of GOP right wingers and the owner of RTH Consulting, signed contracts with the military dictatorship of Gambia, a client of Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout to obtain for the Gambian dictatorship "meetings with the President's National Security Advisor, Deputy Secretary of State, and new CIA Director." The contract, dated November 23, 2004, refers to Condoleezza Rice, Richard Armitage, and Porter Goss. The contract also states that RTH will "recast the image of the . . . President of . . . Gambia [Yahya Jammeh] in a favorable light that reflects the party's, the President's, and the government's actual, proud history with the early focus on the Washington, DC media and minds of the conservative Republican leadership in the U.S. Congress." In addition, RTH commits to "gain the support of the conservative Republican leadership in the United States Congress for the government of The Gambia and President Jammeh, and thereby weaken opposition in Washington, DC."

It is also noteworthy that The Gambia has reportedly been involved in selling off-shore oil blocks to Houston-based oil companies linked to Bush and Cheney business interests. There are also interesting connections between World Air Leasing of Hondo, Texas and Gambia. World Air has leased several repainted U.S. commercial aircraft to Gambia.
More recently, RTH signed a contract with the Akwa-Ibon State of Nigeria, an oil-rich state in the southern Niger River delta. RTH is to "arrange meetings with White House staff" and other government agencies.

See consulting agreements: Gambia 1 Gambia 2 Gambia 3 Gambia 4 Gambia 5

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Secret CIA Camp in Polish Training Center? / Geheimes CIA-Lager in Ausbildungszentrum?

Secret CIA Camp in Polish Training Center?

Is the CIA still using a Polish Intelligence Service training center for the interrogation of Al-Quida prisoners? This is suggested by a "Stern" magazine report.

12/14/05 -- "Der Spiegel" -- -- Hamburg - In it's latest issue, the magazine reports that there are indications that the Americans are using the Intelligence Camp near the town of Kiejkuty as their base. According to information from a high ranking Polish intelligence officer from Kiejkuty, a number of Americans have lived for several months on the premises during the past five or six years. At that time, an area of about 3 kilometers (2 miles) long and 1.5 kilometers wide was even cordoned off for an isolated area within the camp: a 100 meter long, ca. 50 meter wide, surrounded by barbed wire and a three meter high wall.

Geheimes CIA-Lager in Ausbildungszentrum?
Nutzt die CIA noch immer ein Ausbildungszentrum des polnischen Geheimdienstes zum Verhör von al-Qaida-Gefangenen? Ein Bericht des "Stern" legt dies nahe.

Hamburg - Wie das Magazin in seiner neuen Ausgabe berichtet, deuten nun auch weitere Indizien darauf hin, dass Amerikanern das Geheimdienstcamp nahe des Ortes Kiejkuty als Stützpunkt dient. Nach Aussagen eines hochrangigen polnischen Geheimdienstoffiziers aus Kiejkuty lebten Amerikaner für jeweils mehrere Monate schon seit fünf oder sechs Jahren auf dem Gelände. Damals sei auch innerhalb des etwa drei Kilometer langen und eineinhalb Kilometer breiten Camps eine abgeschirmte innere Zone angelegt worden: gut 100 Meter lang, etwa 50 Meter breit, geschützt von Stacheldrahtzaun und einer 3 Meter hohen Mauer.

Gewöhnliche polnische Geheimdienst-Mitarbeiter hätten dazu keinen Zutritt, wohl aber die US-Amerikaner. Auf dem Lagergelände parkten zudem Kleinwagen mit verdunkelten Scheiben - eben solche Modelle, von denen Mitarbeiter des Flughafens Szymany dem "Stern" schon zuvor berichtet hatten, sie seien immer zu den CIA-Flugzeugen vorgefahren, die am Ende der Rollbahn des Flughafens von Szymany mit laufenden Motoren warteten.

Das Geheimdienstlager Kiejkuty liegt etwa zehn Kilometer vom Flughafen Szymany im Nordosten Polens. 1968 plante die Sowjet-Armee von hier die Niederschlagung des Prager Frühlings.

Regular polish secret service employees, unlike the Americans, had no access to this area. American cars with tinted glass windows parked on the camp grounds, the same type of cars that had previously been described to "Stern" by employees at the Szymany airport as having always driven out to the CIA airplanes that waited at the end of the Szymany Airport runway with engines running.

The secret service camp Kiejkuty is about 10 kilometers from the Szymany airport in Northeast Poland. In 1968 the Soviet army planned the quashing of the "Prague Spring" at this camp.

Copyright Der Spiegel

The CIA's torture taxi in Reno Nevada

The trail of a secret spy plane leads to a mysterious outfit in Reno with ties to a prominent Nevada politico.

THIS IS A story about an airplane, a Boeing 737 passenger jet.

This is also a story about torture, the war on terrorism, and the Central Intelligence Agency's practice of quietly snatching suspected terrorists and transporting them to dungeons in far-off lands, where, allegedly, they're detained indefinitely – without charges in any court of law in any country – drugged, beaten, threatened, and interrogated. –These two narrative threads, as you've probably guessed by now, are interwoven. A growing body of evidence suggests the plane you're about to read about is used by CIA agents to shuttle prisoners to clandestine jails around the world. And new clues, revealed here for the first time, link this airliner to a small office in Reno, Nev. – and to one of the biggest figures in Nevada politics.

• • •
read more

Hillary Clinton, a Star-Spangled Panderer

Last month Justice Antonin Scalia was politely quizzed by Norman Pearlstine, the outgoing Time Inc. editor in chief. The event, held in Time Warner's New York headquarters, was supposedly off the record, but so much of it has already been reported that it will not hurt to add Scalia's views on flag burning. He explained why it was constitutionally protected speech. It's a pity Hillary Clinton was not there to hear him.

The argument that this famously conservative member of the Supreme Court advanced -- actually, reiterated -- was that while he may or may not approve of flag burning, it was clear to him that it was a form of speech, a way of making a political statement, and that the First Amendment protected it. I could not agree more.

Clinton, apparently, could not agree less. Along with Sen. Robert Bennett, a Utah Republican, she has introduced a bill that would make flag burning illegal. It is probably important to note that this is not a proposed constitutional amendment, and it is written in a cutesy way that does not explicitly outlaw all flag burnings -- just those intended to "intimidate any person or group of persons." That's a distinction without a difference to your average police officer. Not many cops belong to the ACLU.

Condi, Torture and Christmas by Margaret Kimberley

After a short drive, I was dragged out of the car, pushed roughly into a building, thrown to the floor, and kicked and beaten on the head, the soles of my feet, and the small of my back. I was left in a small, dirty, cold concrete cell. – Khaled El-Masri describing detention in CIA prison.
Insane American Christians are spending this Christmas season torturing and defending the use of torture. Condi Rice, church going queen of torture, traveled to Europe where she tried to justify extra judicial kidnappings and secret prisons. She began her visit by scolding uppity Europeans who took exception to the American inquisition. She told them that interrogations and renditions were saving their wimpy, unappreciative lives.

It was a bit inconvenient for Dr. Rice when Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen, sued former CIA director George Tenet during her European tour. El-Masri was accused of being a terror suspect upon entering Macedonia. He was flown to a CIA run prison in Afghanistan, where he was denied access to counsel or any contact with the German government. His imprisonment lasted for a total of four months. George Tenet kept him behind bars even after his identity and proof of his innocence in any wrong doing were confirmed.

History will Absolve Fidel

On my way to Panama recently, I had the theoretical options of going by way of Miami or through Cuba. Obeying my instincts and listening to my intelligence, I decided more than a year ago that my life could do without my tempting fate and the PATRIOT Act. I would no longer apply for a visa to visit the US. "Coward man keep soun' bone” as the Jamaican aphorism says.

Since the Cubans prefer Canadian dollars to US currency, I decided to change some US dollars at the airport cambio. The lady in charge asked me for my passport, I supposed to ascertain that I was who I said I was. But there was more. She scanned my passport into a machine and then phoned someone. I presumed that my name had come up on some list connected with my passport. I asked her if she scanned every passport to change $100. She didn't answer, nor did she answer when I asked her whether the joint was run by the CIA.

When I was leaving Panama to return to Jamaica my passport again occasioned surprise at the COPA airline check in. The matter was, however, resolved without my ever knowing what was at issue.

I may be paranoid, but as Henry Kissinger once quoted, "even paranoiacs have enemies".

I say this because I would be a fool not to know that I am, in some circles, considered if not an enemy of the United States, at least unqualified to be embedded with the Marines.

I have known this for years, in fact, for nearly forty years. American paranoia is not a product of the Bush administration. It has almost always been there.

I mention all this because of the relative ease with which it is possible to defame people, particularly in Third World politics, with the enthusiastic participation of the United States press. While they demonize Aristide, Castro and Chavez, for instance, they say very little about terrorists like Posada Carriles and his protector and co-conspirator Santiago Alvarez (not the filmmaker). The Master Narrative, as Tom Blivens calls it, omits the context.

Merry Fitzmas - Celebrating Years of the Republican Culture of Corruption

Here's your opportunity to decorate your very own interactive Fitzmas tree! Click on the image above, and don't forget to open your presents!

Pentagon Reveals Plan to Brainwash Human Race

A $300 million Pentagon psychological warfare operation includes plans for placing pro-American messages in foreign media outlets without disclosing the U.S. government as the source, one of the military officials in charge of the program says.

Run by psychological warfare experts at the U.S. Special Operations Command, the media campaign is being designed to counter terrorist ideology and sway foreign audiences to support American policies. The military wants to fight the information war against al-Qaeda through newspapers, websites, radio, television and "novelty items" such as T-shirts and bumper stickers.

The program will operate throughout the world, including in allied nations and in countries where the United States is not involved in armed conflict.

The description of the program by Mike Furlong, deputy director of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element, provides the most detailed look to date at the Pentagon's global campaign.

The three companies handling the campaign include the Lincoln Group, the company being investigated by the Pentagon for paying Iraqi newspapers to run pro-U.S. stories. (Related story: Contracts for pro-U.S. propaganda)

Military officials involved with the campaign say they're not planning to place false stories in foreign news outlets clandestinely. But the military won't always reveal its role in distributing pro-American messages, Furlong says.

"While the product may not carry the label, 'Made in the USA,' we will respond truthfully if asked" by journalists, Furlong told USA TODAY in a videoconference interview.

He declined to give examples of specific "products," which he said would include articles, advertisements and public-service announcements.

The military's communications work in Iraq has recently drawn controversy with disclosures that Lincoln Group and the U.S. military secretly paid journalists and news outlets to run pro-American stories.

White House officials have expressed concern about the practice, even when the stories are true.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley said President Bush was "very troubled" by activities in Iraq and would stop them if they hurt efforts to build independent news media in Iraq. The military started its own probe.

It's legal for the government to plant propaganda in other countries but not in the USA. The White House referred requests for comment about the contracts to the Pentagon, where officials did not respond.

Special Operations Command awarded three contracts worth up to $100 million each for the media campaign in June. Besides the Lincoln Group, the contractors are Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) of San Diego and SYColeman of Washington.

SAIC and Lincoln Group spokesmen declined to comment on the contract. Rick Kiernan, a spokesman for SYColeman, says its work for Special Operations Command is "more in the world of advertising."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has emphasized that Washington must promote its message better. "The worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press and reported and spread around the world," he said last week.

The Iraq example may cause Arabs to doubt any pro-American messages, says Jumana al-Tamimi, an editor for the Gulf News, an English-language newspaper published in the United Arab Emirates.

Placing pro-U.S. content in foreign media "makes people suspicious of the open press," says Ken Bacon, a Clinton administration Pentagon spokesman who heads the non-profit group Refugees International.

No contractor for the global program has made a final product, Furlong says. Approval will come from Rumsfeld's office and regional commanders. Some of the development work is classified.

"Sometimes it's not good to signal ... what your plans are," he says.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Be very afraid

At a time when their actions are under question in the fatal shooting of an airline passenger, federal air marshals will expand their work beyond airplanes, launching counterterror surveillance at trains stations and other mass transit facilities in a test program this week, according to a published report.
Teams of undercover air marshals and uniformed law enforcement officers will fan out to bus and train stations, ferries, and mass transit facilities across the country to "counter potential criminal terrorist activity in all modes of transportation," The Washington Post reported on its Web site Tuesday night, quoting documents from the Transportation Security Administration.

The Post said documents showed the teams will take positions in public areas along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and Los Angeles rail lines; ferries in Washington state; and mass transit systems in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Teams will patrol the Washington Metro system, as well and will consist of two air marshals, one TSA bomb-sniffing-canine team, one or two transportation security inspectors, one local law enforcement officer, and one other TSA employee.

Federal officials said there is no new intelligence indicating that terrorists are interested in targeting transportation modes, the Post said.

Rather, the Transportation Security Administration is trying to expand the role of air marshals, who have been eager to conduct surveillance activities beyond the aircraft, and provide a beefed-up law enforcement presence at bus, train and other public transit stations over the busy holiday period.

"We think this is a very good approach to test our tools and quickly deploy resources in the event of a situation or a threat," the Post quoted Federal Air Marshal Service spokesman David Adams as saying. "It shows we could be at any of these places."

Some members of the team will be obvious to the traveling public and wear jackets bearing the TSA name on the back. Others will be plainclothes air marshals scanning the crowds for suspicious individuals. It is unclear how many viper teams will be on patrol through the New Year's holiday, but air marshal officials confirm that they will be at seven locations across the country.

Although the department claims otherwise publicly, a confidential internal report within the Department of Homeland Security admits air marshals “overreacted” when they gunned down a Florida man at Miami International Airport last week.

The report, which may never be released publicly, confirms that preliminary interviews with witnesses conflict the statements of air marshals who claim Rigoberto Alpizar shouted he had a bomb as he stormed off a plane and up a jetway at the airport.

“Although witness statements contain conflicting information, none of those interrogated following the incident collaborate any utterance by the suspect that he either possessed, or intended to detonate, an explosive device,” the report say

Ignoring the Air War By Dahr Jamail

The American media continues to ignore the increasingly devastating air war being waged in Iraq against an ever more belligerent Iraqi resistance -- and, as usual, Iraqi civilians continue to bear the largely unreported brunt of the bombing.

When the air war shows up at all in our press, it is never as a campaign, but as scattered bare-bones reports of individual attacks on specific targets, almost invariably based on military announcements. A typical example was reported by Reuters on December 4th: "Two U.S. Air Force F-16 jets dropped laser-guided bombs" which, according to a military spokesperson, killed two "insurgents" after they attacked an army patrol near Balad, 37 miles west of Baghdad. On the same day, Reuters reported that "a woman and two children" were "wounded when U.S. forces conducted an air strike, bombing two houses in Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad."

And even this minimalist version of the American air war rarely makes it into large media outlets in the U.S.

Ignoring the Obvious

Author and media critic Norman Solomon asked the following question recently: "According to the LexisNexis media database, how often has the phrase ëair war' appeared in the New York Times this year with reference to the current U.S. military effort in Iraq? As of early December, the answer is: Zero." Solomon went on to point out that the phrase "air war" had not appeared in either the Washington Post or Time magazine even a single time this year.

Curiously enough, U.S. Central Command Air Force (CENTAF) reports are more detailed than anything we normally can read in our papers. On December 6, for example, CENTAF admitted to 46 air missions over Iraq flown on the previous day -- in order to provide "support to coalition troops, infrastructure protection, reconstruction activities and operations to deter and disrupt terrorist activities."

Albeit usually broadly (and vaguely) described, and seldom taking possible civilian casualties into account, these daily tabulations by the Air Force often flesh out bare-bones reports with a little extra detail on the nature of the air war. On that December 6th, for instance, the report added that "Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, an MQ-1 Predator and Navy F/A-18 Hornets provided close-air support to coalition troops in contact with anti-Iraqi forces near Balad and Ramadi."

Not surprisingly, given their source, such reports glide over or underemphasize potentially damaging information like the fact that bombing runs of this sort are regularly conducted in heavily-inhabited areas of Iraq's cities and towns where the resistance may also be strongly embedded. Oblique statements like the following are the best you are likely to get from the military: "Coalition aircraft also supported Iraqi and coalition ground forces operations focused on creating a secure environment for upcoming December parliamentary elections."

As a result, aside from reportage by one of the rare western independent journalists left in Iraq or the many Arab journalists largely ignored in the U.S., the American air assault on Iraq remains devastatingly ill-covered by larger outlets here. This remains true, even as, militarily, air power begins to move center stage at a moment when large-scale withdrawals of American ground troops are clearly being considered by the Bush administration.

I have worked as an independent reporter in Baghdad for over eight months during the U.S. occupation of Iraq thus far and I can confirm that a day never passed in the capital city when the low rumblings of an Apache helicopter or the supersonic thundering roar of an F-16 fighter jet didn't cause me to look up for the source of the noise. Many a night I would be awakened by the low, whumping blades of U.S. helicopters scouring the rooftops of the capital city -- flying at almost building height to avoid rocket-propelled grenades from resistance fighters. I would oftentimes wonder where they were coming from, as well as where they were going.

It is impossible, really, to miss the overt signs of the ongoing air war in Iraq when you are there, which makes the lack of coverage all the more startling. At night, while standing on the roof of my hotel in Baghdad during the November 2004 assault on Fallujah, a city some 40-odd miles away, I could see on the horizon the distant flashes of U.S. bombs that were searing that embattled city.

I often wondered how the scores of journalists in Baghdad working for major American papers and TV networks could continue to ignore the daily air campaign the U.S. military was waging right over their heads or within eyesight. Along with countless eyewitness interviews I did on the damage caused from the air, this is what prompted me to write Living Under the Bombs for Tomdispatch some ten months ago. But it has only been thanks to the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, a journalist who has never even been to Iraq, that the important subject of the air campaign there has finally been brought to public awareness on a wider scale. In a recent interview with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman about his latest piece in that magazine, aptly titled, Up in the Air: Where is the Iraq War Headed Next? he commented, "Clearly there's all sorts of anecdotal reason to believe that the bombing has gone up exponentially, certainly in the last four or five months in the Sunni Triangle, the four provinces around Baghdad." But he also pointed that, when it comes to the American air campaign, "There's no statistics… We don't know what's going on with the air war."

However, we have at least an idea.

Vietnamizing Iraq

The statistics we can glean from CENTAF indicate a massive rise in the number of U.S. air missions in Iraq for the month of November as compared to most previous months. Excluding weekends -- for some reason the Air Force does not make the number of sorties they fly in Iraq and Afghanistan on Fridays and Saturdays known to the public -- 996 November sorties were flown in Iraq according to CENTAF.

The size of this figure naturally begs the question, where are such missions being flown and what is their size and nature? And it's important to note as well that "air war" does not simply mean U.S. Air Force. Carrier-based Navy and Marine aircraft flew over 21,000 hours of missions and dropped over 26 tons of ordnance in Fallujah alone during the November 2004 siege of that city.

In his recent article and interview, Hersh rightly reflects the concern of American military men that, in any proposed draw-down plan for American forces, Iraqi security forces are likely to be given some responsibility for Air Force targeting operations. After all, they'll be the ones left on the ground. It's an idea, he reports, that is "driving the Air Force crazy," because they fear it may involve them in a future revenge war of ethnic and religious groups in Iraq.

Even Pentagon figures indicate that 10-15% of laser-guided munitions don't land where intended, but having those munitions land (or not land) where "the Iranians" intend doesn't please U.S. officials. Senior intelligence personnel complained to Hersh that "Iran will be targeting our bombers."

Ironically, President Nixon's Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird recently wrote an article in Foreign Affairs magazine arguing that his "withdrawal" policy of "Vietnamization" during that war, actually worked. (It involved withdrawing American troops while fiercely increasing the American air war in what was then South Vietnam and surrounding countries.) So, argues Laird, would "Iraqification."

"The truth about Vietnam that revisionist historians conveniently forget is that the United States had not lost when we withdrew in 1973. I believed then and still believe today that given enough outside resources, South Vietnam was capable of defending itself, just as I believe Iraq can do the same now."
Though Laird's rewriting of the history of the last years of the Vietnam War (and his own dismally failed policies) may be striking at this moment, he is clearly hardly alone in holding onto the idea that a "withdrawal" that would involve ever more bombs dropped and missiles fired from American aircraft is now the way to go. In a classic case of history repeating itself (as tragedy but also possibly farce), the Bush administration appears to be seriously considering an "Iraqification" policy of its own.

U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski used to work in the Pentagon and for the National Security Agency before retiring in 2003. Well known as a Pentagon whistleblower for speaking out about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's corrupt Office of Special Plans in which so much of the pre-war "intelligence" for Iraq was cherry-picked and passed on, Kwiatkowski has been consistently critical of the Bush Administration.

Kwiatowski believes the administrations' new policy of substituting air power for troops harkens back to the failure of Vietnam. "Let me see if I have this right," she says in an interview with Tomdispatch.

"We have a foul-mouthed Texan in the White House, facing a domestically unpopular war that he never expected to have to fight. In order to stop a persistent anti-American insurgency in a faraway country, this President will now escalate the use of air power, striking deep into the heart of insurgency strongholds and destroying the will of those that support the insurgency.
"This sounds like a replay of Rolling Thunder, March 1965. The Pentagon, led by the last remnant of those who were supposed to have directly experienced the danger of politicized wars managed out of the White House and the sheer uselessness of air power to win hearts and minds, must indeed be out of its collective mind to support a strategic shift like this."

It is important to note that, as in Vietnam, troop morale in Iraq now seems to be plummeting. According to the Army's own figures, in a study conducted last summer with all units in Iraq, 56% of them reported either "low" or "very low" morale. Keep in mind that towards the end of the war in Vietnam, the Army was in a state of ongoing revolt and incipient collapse. By the time direct U.S. involvement ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, the sort of mixed morale statistics seen in our military in Iraq last summer would have been an impossible dream.

Getting large numbers of troops out while intensifying the air war might seem then like a reasonable formula for solving certain of this administration's problems without abandoning its basic Iraq policies, but this will undoubtedly prove a perilous undertaking in its own right, as Hersh recently pointed out: "A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President's public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what."

One can easily imagine the potential for disaster at a future moment when Shia and Kurdish militia members in Iraqi army uniforms would be calling down air-strikes on Sunni neighborhoods, settling old scores as civilian casualties went through the roof.

Current Trends

But visions of a frightful future in Iraq should not be overshadowed by the devastation already caused by present levels of American air power loosed, in particular, on heavily populated urban areas of that country.

CENTAF reports, for example, that on November 14th of this year, "Air Force F-15 Eagles, MQ-1 Predators unmanned aerial vehicles and Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircraft flew air strikes against anti-Iraqi forces in the vicinity of Karabilah. The F-15s dropped precision-guided bombs and the Predators fired Hellfire missiles successfully against insurgent positions." The tactic of using massively powerful 500 and 1,000 pound bombs in urban areas to target small pockets of resistance fighters has, in fact, long been employed in Iraq. No intensification of the air war is necessary to make it a commonplace.

The report from November 14th adds, "Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons flew air strikes against anti-Iraqi forces near Balad. The F-16s successfully dropped a precision-guided bomb on a building used by insurgents. F-16s and a Predator also flew air strikes against anti-Iraqi forces in the vicinity of Karabilah. The Predator successfully fired a Hellfire missile against insurgent positions."

The vagueness of certain aspects of such reports from CENTAF is troubling, however. The reasons for bombing raids are usually given in generic formulas like this typical one found in official statements released on November 24th and 27th: "Coalition aircraft also supported Iraqi and coalition ground forces operations to create a secure environment for upcoming December parliamentary elections." Such formulations, of course, tell us, as they are meant to, next to nothing about what may actually be happening -- and as the air war is virtually never covered by American reporters in Iraq, these and other versions of the official language of air power are never seriously considered, questioned, explored, or compared to events on the ground.

Another common mission, as stated on the 17th, 22nd and several other days in November (and used again in CENTAF's December statements) has been the equally vague: "included support to coalition troops, infrastructure protection, reconstruction activities, and operations to deter and disrupt terrorist activities."

One of the busier days for the U.S. Air Force in Iraq recently was the last day of November, when 59 sorties were flown. CENTAF reported that "F-15 Eagles successfully dropped precision-guided munitions against an insurgents' weapons bunker near Baghdad. F-16 Fighting Falcons, an MQ-1 Predator and Navy F/A-18 Hornets and F-14 Tomcats provided close-air support to coalition troops in contact with anti-Iraqi forces near Al Hawijah, Al Mahmudiyah and Fallujah." In addition, Royal Australian Air Force were also flying surveillance and reconnaissance missions that day, as the British Air Force often does on other days.


A broad overview of the types of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft the U.S. military is employing in Iraq gives an idea of the scope of the air war currently underway and the sort of destructive power available on an everyday basis. It can also offer hints of what we might expect in an air-power intensified draw-down future.

While this is in no way an inclusive list, fixed-wing aircraft include the F-14D Tomcat and F/A 18 fighter jets which are being used by the Navy and Marines. The F-18 fires the laser-guided, 630 pound Maverick Missile (at a cost of $141,442 per shot, by the way). In addition, both the F-14 and F/A 18 fire a 20mm hydraulically operated gatling gun which emits between 4,000 and 6,000 rounds per minute at a range of "several thousand yards."

The Air Force is using F-15 Eagle and F-16 Falcon fighter jets, along with AF MQ-1 Predator drones which are armed with Hellfire missiles. AV-8 Harrier fighter jets have also been used in Iraq as have AC-130 gunships, especially in urban battles like the fighting for Fallujah last year. These planes are capable of circling targets for long periods while raining thousands of rounds of ammunition per minute down from above. Then there is the A-10 Warthog military jet which is used as ground support, as it is capable of firing 4,200 armor piercing 30mm rounds per minute.

At this point, bombs used commonly range in explosive power from 250-2,000 pounds, with cluster bombs, the MK-77 500 pound fire bomb (napalm) and the infamous White Phosphorous also having been employed at various moments. The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bomb, ranging from 250-2,000 pounds, was used extensively during the most recent military operation against Fallujah. The 2,000 pound variety, for example, has the capacity to blast a crater in a concrete street 70 feet in diameter and 30 feet deep. This size of bomb has a blast radius of 110 feet within which a human being will die, while fragmentation from the bomb casing can achieve velocities up to 9,000 feet per second and reach areas over 3,000 feet away from the detonation site.

The U.S. military is also using a wide variety of helicopters offensively in Iraq. These include the Apache, Kiowa, Black Hawk, Cobra, Pave Low, Chinook, and Iroquois.

Most of the available data -- and it's minimal -- about how all this airpower is being used in Iraq comes from the Air Force. One of their news reports from June, 2005, for example, typically reported a single incident in which air power was brought to bear: "Coalition aircraft dropped seven precision-guided bombs while providing close-air support to coalition troops in the western Al Anbar province of Iraq on June 11. Anti-Iraqi forces had taken refuge in buildings in an attempt to shield themselves from coalition attack. An estimated 40 insurgents were killed."

Brig. Gen. Allen G. Peck, deputy combined forces air component commander, added "Our job was to provide close-air support and intel to coalition troops in direct contact with anti-Iraqi forces. Airpower support extends well beyond dropping munitions. Our top priority is providing close-air support and reconnaissance to our Soldiers, Marines and coalition forces in contact with enemy forces on the ground."

The Air Force claims that "nearly 70 percent of all munitions used by the air component since the start of the operation have been precision-guided," and "every possible precaution is taken to protect innocent Iraqi civilians, friendly coalition forces, facilities and infrastructure." However, a serious study of violence to civilians in Iraq by a British medical journal, the Lancet, released in October, 2004, estimated that 85% of all violent deaths in Iraq are generated by coalition forces and claimed that many of these are due to U.S. air strikes. While no significant scientific inquiry has been carried out in Iraq recently, Iraqi medical personnel, working in areas where U.S. military operations continue, report to me that they feel the "vast majority" of civilian deaths are the result of actions by the occupation forces.

Given the U.S. air power already being applied largely in Iraq's cities and towns, the prospect of increasing it is chilling indeed. As to how this might benefit the embattled Bush administration, we return to Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski

"Shifting the mechanism of the destruction of Iraq from soldiers and Marines to distant and safer air power would be successful in several ways. It would reduce the negative publicity value of maimed American soldiers and Marines, would bring a portion of our troops home and give the Army a necessary operational break. It would increase Air Force and Naval budgets, and line defense contractor pockets. By the time we figure out that it isn't working to make oil more secure or to allow Iraqis to rebuild a stable country, the Army will have recovered and can be redeployed in force."
But if current trends continue, the end of the U.S. occupation in Iraq may more closely resemble the ending in Vietnam -- a view Kwiatkowski agrees with. The political climate at home may force a decrease in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, but the compensatory upswing in air power meant to offset this will be inevitable and will inevitably lead to unexpected problems.

Why? Because the Bush administration will still be committed to permanently hanging onto a crucial group of four or five mega-military bases (into which billions of construction and communications dollars have already been poured) along with a massive embassy, directing political and military "traffic" from the heart of Baghdad's Green Zone -- and that means an unending occupation of Iraq, something that, air power or no, can only mean endless strife.

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist from Anchorage, Alaska. He has spent eight months reporting from occupied Iraq, and recently has been giving presentations about Iraq around the U.S. He regularly reports for Inter Press Service, and contributes to the Independent, the Sunday Herald, and Asia Times as well as He maintains a website at: