Saturday, January 20, 2007

Show Me The Intelligence By Ray McGovern

Have you noticed? Neither President George W. Bush nor Vice President Dick Cheney have cited any U.S. intelligence assessments to support their fateful decision to send 21,500 more troops to referee the civil war in Iraq. This is a far cry from October 2002, when a formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was rushed through in order to trick Congress into giving its nihil obstat for the attack on Iraq.

Why no intelligence justification this time around? Because there is none.

Having successfully cooked intelligence four years ago to get authorization for war, the Bush administration has zero incentive to try a repeat performance. Nor is there any sign that the new Democratic chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees will even think to ask the intelligence community to state its views on the likely effect of the planned “surge” in troop strength. This, even though an NIE on Iraq has been “almost ready” for months.

For the Bush administration, it has been difficult enough whipping its fickle but ultimately malleable generals into line. The civilian intelligence chiefs have proven more resistant. So the White House is playing it safe, avoiding like the plague any estimate that would raise doubts about the wisdom of the decision to surge. And that is precisely what an honest estimate would do. With “sham-dunk” former CIA director George Tenet and his accomplices no longer in place as intelligence enablers, the White House clearly prefers no NIE to one that would inevitably highlight the fecklessness of throwing 21,5000 more troops into harm’s way for the dubious purpose of holding off defeat for two more years.

From Mushroom Cloud to Lead Balloon

The NIE, which leaned so far forward to support the White House’s warnings of a made-in-Iraq “mushroom cloud,” remains the negative example par excellence of corrupted intelligence. The good news is that Tenet and his lackeys were replaced by officers who, by all indications, take their job of speaking truth to power seriously. Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, Tom Fingar, is a State Department professional not given to professionally selling out. And his boss, John Negroponte, is too smart to end his government career by following the example of his servile predecessors in conjuring up “intelligence” to please the president—not even for a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Unvarnished NIEs sent to the White House by the Negroponte/Fingar team have not shied away from unwelcome conclusions undercutting administration claims, and have gone over like proverbial lead balloons. An estimate on Iran completed in early 2005, for example, concluded that the Iranians will not be able to produce a nuclear weapon before “early to mid-next decade,” exposing Cheney’s fanciful claims of more proximate danger. And an NIE produced in April ‘06 on global terrorism concluded that the invasion of Iraq led to a marked increase in terrorism, belying administration claims that the invasion and occupation had made us “safer.”

Worse still from the administration’s point of view, patriotic truth-tellers (aka leakers) inside the government apparently decided that administration rhetoric on both of these key issues had deliberately misled the American people, who were entitled to know the truth.

The two unwelcome estimates meant two strikes on Negroponte. Then the White House learned of an impending strike-three—this one an NIE assessing the future in Iraq and apparently casting doubt on the advisability of U.S. escalation. In a classic Cheneyesque pre-emptive strike, the estimate was put on hold; Negroponte was given a pink slip and assigned back to the State Department. There are rumors that Fingar is clearing out his desk as well.

NIEs Can Be Important

National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative genre of analytical product, embodying substantive judgments on key national security issues. They are coordinated throughout the 16-agency intelligence community and then signed by the Director of National Intelligence in his statutory capacity as chief intelligence adviser to the president. In times past, presidents and their senior advisers actually read them and often took their judgments into account in the decision making process.

There have been good estimates, and bad ones. In the latter category, an NIE of Sept. 19, 1962, entitled “The Military Build-Up in Cuba” estimated that the Soviet Union would not introduce strategic offensive missiles into Cuba (even while such missiles were en route). Embarrassing, but an honest mistake. The NIE issued on Oct. 1, 2002, 10 days before the congressional vote on the war, was dishonest from the get-go. It was prepared by spineless functionaries eager to please their boss (Tenet) and his boss (Bush) by parroting the faith-based analysis of senior analyst Dick Cheney. It is by far the worst NIE ever produced by the U.S. intelligence community. But, hey, it achieved its primary purpose of scaring Congress into approving a war of aggression.

In the wake of that debacle, few of us intelligence alumni harbored much hope that honesty could be re-introduced into the estimative process any time soon. Former CIA Director Stansfield Turner went so far as to tell a TV host that he thought the CIA should be “dismantled.” Thus, it was a very welcome surprise to learn, thanks to patriotic truth-tellers, of the gutsy judgments of more recent NIEs—and to discover that a remnant of analysts of the old truth-to-power school have been able to ply their trade unencumbered under Fingar and Negroponte.

Some History: Estimates on Vietnam

As one of the intelligence analysts watching Vietnam in the sixties and seventies, I worked on several of the NIEs produced before and during the war. All too many bore this title: “Probable Reactions to Various Courses of Action With Respect to North Vietnam.” Typical of the kinds of question the president and his advisers wanted addressed: Can we seal off the Ho Chi Minh Trail by bombing it? If the U.S. were to introduce X thousand additional troops into South Vietnam, will Hanoi quit? Okay, how about XX thousand?

Our answers regularly earned us brickbats from the White House for not being “good team players.” But in those days we labored under a strong ethos dictating that we give it to policymakers straight, without fear or favor. We had career protection for doing that. And—truth be told—we often took a perverse delight in it.

Our judgments (the unwelcome ones, anyway) were pooh-poohed as negativism; and policymakers, of course, were in no way obliged to take them into account. The point is that they continued to be sought. Not even Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon would be likely to decide on a significant escalation without seeking our best guess as to how U.S. adversaries would likely react to this or that escalatory step

What About Now?

As noted above, an intelligence estimate on Iraq has been in process for months—and months—and months. It is not that the analysts are slower these days; it is that the White House has decided that, for political reasons, no estimate at all is better than an unwelcome one. The White House thought process seems to be this:

With Fingar and Negroponte and their benighted ideas about fact-based, rather than faith-based, intelligence analysis, it is far better to duck the issue altogether—at least for as long as the congressional oversight committees continue to slumber. Besides, if Cheneyesque pressure were again to be applied to intelligence analysts, there is a growing risk that this might turn some of them into patriotic truth-tellers. Besides, we already have the needed authorization—and even enough funding to send 21,500 additional troops.

It seems quite clear that the additional troop decision was made without any formal input from the intelligence community. There would be no NIE on “Probable Reactions to Various Courses of Action With Respect to Iraq”—no formal paper that could make the president’s decision appear highly questionable. Let the on-again-off-again NIE on prospects for Iraq languish.

And let former CIA director, now Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pretend, as he did on Jan. 12 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that he is “unaware” of the existence of an NIE draft on prospects for Iraq. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., raised the subject with Gates, saying that Negroponte had assured him the NIE would be issued at the end of the month.

Don’t hold your breath.

Ray McGovern chaired NIEs and prepared the President’s Daily Brief during his 27-year career as a CIA analyst. He now works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C.

This article was first published at

Bush’s War on Perception, or perhaps the CIA/Mi5 really blew up the Golden Mosque

Bush’s War on Perception

The bombing of the Golden Mosque

By Mike Whitney
01/20/07 "ICHBlog" -- - We’ve heard a lot about the bombing of Samarra’s Golden Mosque lately. Bush has brought it up twice in the last week alone. It’s a critical part of the administration’s rationale for the occupation of Iraq, so we can expect to be reminded of it nearly as often as 9-11.

The destruction of the Golden-dome Mosque took place in February 2005 and has been identified as the “catalyzing event” that plunged the country into sectarian violence. That, at least, is just the official version. No one knows really what happened because the administration refused to conduct an independent investigation and the media excluded any account that didn’t square with the Pentagon’s spin on events.

What we’re left with is mere speculation.

Here's what we know: Less than 4 hours after the explosion, the Bush public relations team cobbled together a statement that the bombing was the work of Sunni extremists or al Qaida terrorists. But, how did they know? They didn’t have witnesses on the ground in Samarra and they’ve never produced a scintilla of evidence to support their claims. It may be that the administration simply saw the bombing as an opportunity to twist the facts to suit their own purposes?

After all, the incident has been a propaganda-bonanza for the Bush team. They’ve used it to support their theory that Iraq is “the central battle in the war on terror” and that “we must fight them there if we don’t want to fight them over here”. It’s become one of the main justifications for the occupation; implying that the US military is needed as a referee to keep the warring factions from killing each other. It’s all just nonsense that’s designed to advance the administration’s political agenda.

If there had been an investigation, it would have shown whether the perpetrators were experts or not by the placement of the explosives. There’s a good chance they would’ve found bomb-residue which could have determined the composition of the material used. Forensics experts could have easily ascertained whether the explosives came from Iraqi munitions-dumps (as suggested) or from outside the country (like the USA, perhaps?)

The incident may well have been a “false flag” operation carried out by US intelligence agencies to provoke sectarian violence and, thus, reduce the number of attacks on American troops.

In any event, as soon as the mosque was destroyed the media swung into action focusing all of its attention on sectarian violence and the prospect of civil war. The media’s incessant “cheerleading” for civil war was suspicious, to say the least.

In the first 30 hours after the blast, more than 1,500 articles appeared on Google News providing the government version of events without deviation and without any corroborating evidence; just fluff that reiterated the Pentagon’s account verbatim and without challenge.

1500! Now that’s a well-oiled propaganda system!

Most of the articles were “cookie cutter-type” stories which used the same buzzwords and talking points as all the others; no interviews, no facts, no second opinions; simple, straightforward stenography---nothing more.

The story was repeated for weeks on end never veering from the same speculative theory. Clearly, a great amount of effort was being exerted to convince the American people that this was a significant event that would reshape the whole context of the war in Iraq. In fact, the media blitz that followed was grander than anything since 9-11; a spectacular display of the media’s power to manipulate public opinion.

There were a few articles that didn’t follow the party-line, but they quickly disappeared into a cyber-“black hole” or were dismissed as conspiracy theories. One report in AFP said that the bombing “was the work of specialists” and the “placing of explosives must have taken at least 12 hours”. The article continued:

“Construction Minister Mohammed Jaafar said, ‘Holes were dug into the mausoleum’s four main pillars and packed with explosives. Then charges were connected together and linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to a detonator which was triggered at a distance.”

Of course, what does that prove? Perhaps, al Qaida has skilled explosives experts? But why not investigate? After all, if this was the “catalyzing event” which was thrusting the country towards civil war; why not have the FBI come in and have a look-around?

A professional team of investigators could have quickly determined whether highly-trained saboteurs were operating in the area. (which meant that American troops would be at greater risk) Isn’t that worth checking out?

Nope. The Pentagon did nothing. There was no effort at all to find out who might have been involved. It was an open and shut case; wrapped up before the dust had even settled in Samarra.

Very strange.

Apparently, there was at least one witness who was interviewed shortly after the bombing. He said that he heard cars running outside the mosque “the whole night until morning” but, he was warned “to stay in your shop and don’t leave until morning”.

At 6:30 AM the next morning, the vehicles outside the mosque left. 10 minutes later the bombs exploded.

None of the people living in the vicinity of the mosque were ever questioned. Likewise, the Construction Minister Mohammed Jaafar has never resurfaced in the news again. I expect that his comments in the newspaper may have had something to do with his sudden disappearance, but then maybe not.

The Golden Mosque; truth or psy-ops?

The Bush administration is very serious about controlling information. That’s why they launched the Pentagon’s Dept of Strategic Information. The military is now deeply engaged in “full spectrum dominance” of all information technologies. Consequently, “controlling the narrative” is more important than one might think. Propaganda is the cheapest and most effective way to control public behavior. The growth in public relations illustrates the importance that political leaders put on managing perception in a way that compels the masses to conform to an elite agenda. That’s why the administration has spent zillions on PR campaigns and inserted themselves into every area of human communication. They are forever looking for the right combination of patriotic and religious imagery that will get the public to march along in harmony.

The Bush administration has made some notable contributions to the traditional propaganda-paradigm. In fact, former Counselor at the State Dept, Philip Zelikow, (who was also executive director of the 9-11 Commission and author of the National Security Strategy NSS) is an expert in “the creation and maintenance of ‘public myths’ or ‘public presumptions’, which he defines as beliefs thought to be true although not necessarily known to be true with certainty, shared in common with the relevant political community (sounds like Rumsfeld)….He has taken a special interest in ‘searing’ or ‘molding’ events that take on ‘transcendent’ importance and, therefore, retain there power even as the experiencing generation passes from the scene”. (“Thinking about Political History” Miller Center report; winter 1999)

“Searing’ or ‘molding’ events that take on ‘transcendent’ importance”?!? Like 9-11, for example?

“In the Nov-Dec 1998 issue of Foreign Affairs he co-authored an article called ‘Catastrophic Terrorism’ in which he speculated that if the 1993 bombing of the World Trade center had succeeded ‘the resulting horror and chaos would have exceeded our ability to describe it. Such an act of catastrophic terrorism would be a watershed event in American history. ‘It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented in peacetime and undermine America’s fundamental sense of security, as did the Soviet bomb test in 1949. The US might respond with draconian measures scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force. More violence could follow, either future terrorist attacks or US counterattacks. Belatedly, Americans would judge their leaders negligent for not addressing terrorism more urgently”. (Wikipedia)

The previous paragraph is certainly worth rereading 2 or 3 times KEEPING IN MIND THAT ZELIKOW'S ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN IN 1998!?! 3 YEARS BEFORE 9-11!

Where, one might ask, did Zelikow get his crystal ball?

Zelikow correctly assumed that if a “catastrophic” event were to take place in America, it would trigger a massive revaluation of all our ideological commitments; “civil liberties, surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force”.

History would be divided into "pre 9-11 and post 9-11." And, all the restrictions on presidential power, inalienable rights, and aggressive war could be swept away in an instant.

Isn’t this the exact blueprint for what is taking place right now? What part of Zelikow’s dark-vision has not been actualized?

This theory is the intellectual foundation for the creeping fascism that has infected our country. Its evil-brilliance is that it goes beyond propaganda’s limited ability to shape public opinion and actually creates history by fabricating events that have a “searing” or “molding” effect on the collective psyche.

Zelikow has figured out that the real essence of controlling behavior is not simply “propagating” ideas but understanding how humans process information and, then, corrupting that process so it meets the objectives of the ruling elite.

Both 9-11 and the blowing up of the Golden dome Mosque are examples of how this theory works. 9-11 has been used to erase 200 years of legal precedent and establish a “unitary president” who has absolute power. The destruction of the mosque transforms a brutal colonial occupation into a "humanitarian intervention" which requires the US military to stay on indefinitely to prevent Iraqis from killing each other. In both cases, the “catastrophic” event creates the internal logic for the subsequent response.

Doesn’t this explain why the administration has devoted so much energy to controlling the narrative?

The Salvador Option and the Bush Caliphate

The Defense Department developed its strategy for counterinsurgency in Iraq with the assumption that they were “fighting a new kind of war”. The days of large land-based armies and conventional weapons-systems are over. The coming century will require new skills for overpowering loosely-configured “indigenous” resistance organizations who can undermine the goal of seizing dwindling resources.

The war on terror conceals the fact that the US is presently engaged in a global resource war.

An article by Michael Hirsh in Newsweek magazine, “The Salvador Option” (Jan 2005), summarized the details of the strategy saying:

“Newsweek has learned the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against a leftist guerilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the US government funded or supported ‘nationalist’ forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers.”

The same pattern of terrorizing the public through “the application of extreme violence” has reemerged in Iraq with many of the same US leaders supervising the covert operations. The plan was clearly designed to eliminate the need for more US troops to provide security and, instead, aimed at “pacifying” the resistance through a well-coordinated and fully-funded campaign of terror.

The (predominantly) Shiite militias operating out of the Interior Ministry were armed and trained by the CIA and were used to secretly to carry out assassinations and torture of suspected “Sunni insurgents.” In his recent article “The Battle of Baghdad”, Chris Sanders expands on this point:

“Even more important is the fact that it has been the Americans in the form of one Colonel James Steel, who, reporting to then ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, oversaw the training of the Shia death squads a.k.a. “security forces” that have been turned loose on the Sunni population, a project called the “Salvador Option”. This is not a civil war…so much as deliberate mayhem incited, aided and abetted by the occupying power with the objective of forcing the disintegration of the country.”

There’s nothing new in Sander’s observations although they are scrupulously omitted in the mainstream press. The Bush administration set out to apply its neoconservative theories in Iraq by deliberately destroying the social fabric of Iraqi society so they could rebuild the country according to their “free market” neoliberal ideology. The neocon principle of “creative destruction” was used with lethal precision and with devastating effects; the country is now in a state of total ruin.

The Pentagon’s counterinsurgency strategy was developed long before the mutilated bodies of Sunni men began showing up daily bobbing along the Euphrates River. It’s part of a broader plan to dominate the entire region through military force. The purpose is to extend the Bush Caliphate--the “new world order”-- throughout the entire Middle East.

Somewhere along the line, things went horribly wrong and the Pentagon warlords lost control of their “brainchild” in the Interior Ministry. Now the Shiite death squads operate independent of their American overlords purging Baghdad of its Sunni population and laying the foundation for a future Islamic state. Events are simply beyond Bush’s control. As author William Lind said recently, “The forces our invasion and destruction of the Iraqi state unleashed, far overpower any army we can deploy to Iraq, surge or no surge.”

The neocon plan to decimate Iraqi society by inciting sectarian violence (divide and conquer) was concocted long before the destruction of the Golden dome Mosque. In fact, the blowing up of the mosque was probably an attempt to disguise US involvement in the random bombings (markets, mosques, busy streets etc.) and death squad activity which soon spread throughout the Sunni heartland.

Consider Bush’s comments in his speech to the nation last week:

“The violence in Iraq has overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaida terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq’s election posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis…They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam—the Golden Mosque of Samarra—in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq’s Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked Radical Shia elements; some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.”

Is that what happened or is this just a clever way of shifting the blame from the real perpetrators of the bloodshed to the victims of Washington’s dirty war?

Zelikow’s theories have provided a master-plan for shaping public opinion around “searing” events. He is right to assume that people will accept all manner of absurdities if they are assembled in the context of a larger catastrophe. Clearly, the Bush administration is venturing into uncharted waters, proactively fabricating “historical events” to create their own reality and, thus, support the narrow objectives of an elite agenda.

The destruction of the Golden dome Mosque bears the same bloody fingerprints as do the victims of the occupation’s unrelenting violence. The guilty parties may have escaped accountability so far, but when the smoke clears, we’ll know whose bombs they really were.

African tyrant: The truth about who really installed (Mi5) Idi Amin

Like the young British doctor in 'The Last King of Scotland', Richard Dowden was living in Uganda when Idi Amin seized power. But he says the film is wrong to blame the UK for the coup that brought the tyrant to power

Published: 16 January 2007

The first time I saw Idi Amin was when - as in the film - he leapt on to a platform in my local town to address the people. He used much the same words as he does in the film. "I am one of you, I know you, we are going to make life better..." And, like Nicholas Garrigan, the film's young Scottish doctor, I was swept along by Amin's ebullient enthusiasm, joining the crowd to shout a huge "O ye" in answer to his. He then picked us white muzungus out of the crowd and praised us, telling the people we had come to help Uganda, and Ugandans should welcome us and respect us. We got a huge cheer too. If he had offered me a job at that moment...

Forest Whitaker is a brilliant Idi Amin. The voice, the stance but most of all the eyes flicking this way and that until he chooses his mood: smile or smite. Seconds tick by as he weighs the choice, and then the huge smile lights up his face; or the storm breaks, menacing, murderous.

My challenges to the film are factual. The first concerns who put Amin in power. There is a moment when he confides in Garrigan: "Who put me here? - It was British." The assertion is repeated by Stone, a British diplomat, who says: "Given we were so intimately involved in him coming to power..."

Most Brits in Uganda believed their government organised the coup in 1971. Amin had been a loyal sergeant in the King's African Rifles, doing Britain's dirty work against the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in the 1950s. It was assumed he was still "their boy". I too believed it was the British, until I read papers concerning the coup at the Public Record Office at Kew in London.

If the British did have a hand in the events of 25 January 1971, the plotters neglected to tell the British high commissioner in Kampala, Richard Slater. Foreign Office telegrams reveal a man shocked and confused at reports of shooting in the streets. As the day rolls on, Slater reports that the man who knows all about the coup is Colonel Bar-Lev, the Israeli defence attaché - the ambassador was away. Quoting Bar-Lev as the source, Slater reports: "In the course of last night, General Amin caused to be arrested all officers in the armed forces sympathetic to Obote ... Amin is now firmly in control of all elements of [the] army ... the Israeli defence attaché discounts any possibility of moves against Amin."

In the following days, the Israelis take the lead. Bar-Lev is in constant contact with Amin. Slater tells London that Bar-Lev has explained to him "in considerable detail [how] ... all potential foci of resistance, both up-country and in Kampala, had been eliminated." How does he know this? The Uganda military radio network had been provided by the Israelis. Soon afterwards, Amin made his first trip as president - to Israel.

At the time of the coup, Slater had recently declared that Amin had "just enough intelligence to realise he couldn't run the country". He also said that he was fed up with the president, Milton Obote, who had taken a strong stand against British arms sales to South Africa, and was threatening to nationalise British companies in Uganda.

The suspicion at the time was that the British prime minister, Edward Heath, wanted Obote out of the way at the Commonwealth Conference then taking place in Singapore, where arms sales to South Africa would be a hot topic. But elsewhere in Africa, Britain tolerated critics. In Tanzania, President Julius Nyerere had nationalised British companies and was even more anti-apartheid than Obote. But when he had been threatened by a coup, the British sent in the Marines to keep him to power. The British never tried to remove President Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia, despite his critical stance on South Africa.

But why should Israel be interested in Uganda? Slater never directly accused Israel of being behind the coup, but he did explain why they might have been. In the Six-Day War, Sudan had backed the Arab cause, and Israel wanted to take the fight to its enemies. They were supporting rebellion in southern Sudan, supplying the Anya-Nya fighters with weapons. As Slater said: "They do not want the rebels to win. They want to keep them fighting."

Obote had been trying to make peace in Sudan, but, unknown to him, Amin, then head of his army, had been secretly supplying the Israeli weapons to the rebels. Amin had good friends in Israel, and suddenly the Israelis had the opportunity to remove the man who was trying to broker peace, and put their man in power.

But if the British did not organise the coup, they were quick to take advantage of it. Bruce McKenzie, MI6's senior Africa operator, was also the Kenyan president's foreign affairs adviser. (Perhaps that was a deal they had made with Jomo Kenyatta. The British would keep him in power if he accepted that one of their agents was in the heart of his government.) McKenzie urged London to support Amin. His first trip after the coup was also to Israel, where he met the prime minister, Golda Meir. She was said to be shocked at Amin's shopping list for arms.

McKenzie reported to the Foreign Secretary, Alec Douglas-Home: "The way is now clear for our high commission in Kampala to get close to Amin." The British press also welcomed Amin. The Financial Times declared him "Man of the Week"; The Daily Telegraph called him "a welcome contrast to other African leaders and a staunch friend of Britain".

In Kampala, however, Slater - who comes across in the records as a decent and honest man - is worried about Amin, and wants to keep a distance. But, urged on by McKenzie, Douglas-Home gives Slater his orders: "The PM will be watching this and will, I am sure, want us to take quick advantage of any opportunity of selling arms. Don't overdo the caution."

Despite the reports of mass murder of the ethnic groups who had supported Obote, and the assassination or disappearance of anyone who spoke out, the Heath government invited Amin to London for a state visit, where he rode with the Queen in an open carriage, and dined at Buckingham Palace. He was also taken on visits to army camps and invited to buy whatever weapons he wanted. Sell before the Israelis do, was the message.

Around the end of 1971, Amin visited Libya and came away a changed man - not in character but in political direction. Perhaps they gave him nicer weapons, or did not charge him. Maybe he felt patronised by the British, as he had been all his life. Not even now he was president did they really respect him. Perhaps he was persuaded that Africans should stand with the Palestinians. He was not alone. Arab countries did a deal with Africa: support the Palestinians, and we will support you against apartheid in South Africa. So Amin turned on his British supporters, and on the British in Uganda. In 1972, he expelled Uganda's Asians and took hostages. Life became difficult for whites even out in the villages, and when Amin declared that we were all British spies, I decided it was time to leave.

My second problem is with the film's ending, which announces on screen that Idi Amin was overthrown by the Tanzanian army in 1979, having killed 300,000 people, as if that was the end of the nightmare. In fact, it was only half way through.

When I arrived, he was very popular among the Baganda people, whohad hated Obote. He also had that streak of populism the film captures perfectly. He could move crowds to cheer and dance and sing. In a strange way, many Ugandans learned to duck and weave and live with him. I had become a journalist then, and Ugandan friends begged me not to write bad things about Amin because that would enrage him - and when he was enraged he was dangerous.

How many people he killed can only be speculation, but the terrible truth is that things got worse. In the next months there were three presidents and Milton Obote, Uganda's first president, was returned to power in a fraudulent election in 1980. To its eternal shame, the Commonwealth gave it a stamp of approval. That is when southern Uganda's nightmare begun.

Amin had killed anyone who threatened him, and purged the army with massacres of ethnic groups that he thought did not support him, but on the whole he left the little people alone. His successor was very different. Between 1980 and 1985 in the Luwero triangle around Kampala, the number of civilians murdered by Obote's British-trained soldiers approached genocidal levels, as whole villages were exterminated.

And that war has, in a way, continued until today in the north. In Acholi district the Lord's Resistance Army, which never accepted President Yoweri Museveni's rule, has killed tens of thousands, but many more have died in disease-ridden camps they have been forced to live in. That war is hopefully coming to an end with peace talks in Sudan, and this could heal the rift between the northern and southern peoples of Uganda that politicians have kept open since colonial times.

Later this year, the Commonwealth will be able to make amends, holding its heads of government meeting in Uganda. They will meet in the conference centre - the very one that, in the film, Amin is shown smiling over Dr Gilligan. (It had just been built at that stage).

I nearly met Amin in Jeddah in 1986. The Saudis had caged him there in a comfortable house, as he was a Muslim. Through an Ethiopian journalist who knew him, I sent him a message, and he invited me for lunch. But as I approached his house, the Saudi secret police politely turned me back. A few months later he escaped, flying to Nigeria in pink robes. He still looked in perfect health - British-spread rumours that he was dying of syphilis and alcoholism turned out to be untrue. He finally died in Jeddah in 2003. He will never be rehabilitated, but to this day when you mention his name many Ugandans laugh rather than weep.

Richard Dowden is the director of the Royal African Society

How Congress Can Stop the Iran Attack or be Complicit in Nuclear War Crimes by Prof. Jorge Hirsch

Global Research, January 20, 2007

President Bush is invoking his "commander in chief" authority to escalate the war in Iraq, and he will likely also invoke it to launch an aerial attack against Iran. Congress has long ago abdicated and delegated to the President its constitutional responsibility to initiate wars. Yet Congress still has one surefire way to influence events: it has the constitutional authority to make the "nuclear option" against Iran illegal. In so doing, it would stop the relentless drive to war against Iran dead in its tracks.

Notwithstanding Joe Biden's threat of a "constitutional confrontation" if Bush attacks Iran without Congressional authorization, the fact is that such an attack would be perfectly legal: the War Powers Act gives the US President legal authority to wage war against any country for 60 days. It would also be legal for Bush to order nuclear strikes against Iran: under NSC-30 of 1948, "the decision as to the employment of atomic weapons in the event of war is to be made by the Chief Executive". Neither Congressional "resolutions" nor votes to withold funding will have any effect on preventing such events.

However, Congress could pass a law making a nuclear attack on a non-nuclear nation in the absence of Congressional authorization illegal. In so doing, Congress would effectively be preventing Bush from launching any attack against Iran without its authorization, thus reclaiming its broader constitutionally assigned duties. Because Bush will not dare putting 150,000 American lives in Iraq at risk of Iranian retaliation without having the nuclear option on the table. By removing the nuclear option from the Bush toolkit, Congress would be forcefully imposing its will and that of the American people on an administration gone mad.

If Congress chooses not to face the fact that US military action against Iran is likely to lead to the first US use of nuclear weapons since Nagasaki, each one of its members will share responsibility for the nefarious chain of events that is likely to follow, and should be preparing to face his/her very own nuclear Nuremberg trial.

Preparations for the Iran attack

The following recent events have led to widespread suspicions that a US/ Israeli attack on Iran is imminent:

Additional aircraft carriers deployed to the Persian Gulf.
US Patriot missiles just deployed to the Persian Gulf.
F16 fighter planes just deployed to the Incirlik base in Turkey.
Increased number of US nuclear submarines in Persian Gulf.
Admiral Fallon named Centcom commander.
Israeli pilots training for Iran bombing mission.
Increased rethoric and provocations against Iran.
The F-16's can deliver B61-11 nuclear bunker busters, and there may be such bombs at Incirlik.

A conventional aerial attack against Iran will not destroy the underground facilities that Israel and the US have set their sight on. And it will provoke a violent Iranian response, with missiles targeting US forces in Iraq and Israeli cities. The US administration will argue that these missiles could potentially carry chemical or biological warheads as "justification" for nuclear strikes on Iran, as anticipated in the new US nuclear weapons policies, to achieve "rapid and favorable war termination on US terms".

How Congress can act

Congress can pass a law that will have a real, immediate and historic effect: outlaw the US use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states . Article I, Sect. 8, Clause 14 of the US constitution empowers Congress to regulate the Armed Forces. Congress cannot micromanage the conduct of war, that is up to the President, the Commander in Chief. But Congress can outlaw broad war practices, such as torture, or the use of nuclear weapons in any or all circumstances, by regulating what US Armed Forces can and cannot do. An example of such a bill, vetted by prominent constitutional law experts, is given here.

Critics will say that nuclear weapons may be necessary against countries on the verge of acquiring them. The law can allow for it: it should specify that Congress has the authority to designate any country it chooses as a "nuclear weapon state", not subject to this restriction.

Congress could even outlaw the US "first use of nuclear weapons" against anybody without "the prior, explicit authorization of Congress". Such legislation was considered and voted down by the US Senate in 1972, and it was considered again in hearings in the House of Representatives in 1976: "First use of nuclear weapons: preserving responsible control". We are suggesting here a much milder restriction on presidential authority.

Would the passage of such a law implicitly condone a conventional attack on Iran? In no way. On the contrary, it would instantly bring the drive to attack Iran to a screeching halt, because Bush will not dare attacking Iran without having his "nuclear option" on the table. Such a law will absolutely constrain the choices the President has. No matter how much "Commander in Chief" power President Bush thinks he has, he would not be able to ignore such a law without committing an impeachable offense. If Congress decides that attacking Iran is a good idea, Congress can vote to declare that Iran is a nuclear-weapon state, subject to US nuclear attack, putting the nuclear option back on the table (and by showing its determination, making the "nuclear option" a more credible "deterrent"). The President, however, would be forced to bring his case to Congress.

Would the passing of such a law "embolden" Iran? Not likely. Iran has not been deterred from continuing enrichment by US threats, UN sanctions, nor statements that the "nuclear option" is on the table. A forceful statement by the US that it will use overwhelming conventional force against Iran if necessary, and reserving the right to declare Iran a nuclear country subject to US nuclear attack at any time, should be more than enough to keep Iran in check.

Such a bill would put the momentous decision to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states in the hands of Congress, closer to the American people, where it belongs, rather than at the sole discretion of an Executive gone mad. More sweeping measures such as "abolishing nuclear weapons" are unrealistic and have no chance of succeeding, hence they are counterproductive.

Majority vote of both chambers, then overturning the presidential veto: a mere 2/3 of Congress willing to avert a course of action that would bring humanity to the brink, is all that's needed. Which Congressperson will have the courage to step up to the plate and get the ball rolling? Dennis Kucinich? Ron Paul? Robert Byrd? Chuck Hagel? Russ Feingold? John Murtha? Jim Webb?

Or, Congressmembers can choose to continue the posturing, make lofty speeches, write letters to the President, pass "sense of Congress" resolutions, even cut funding, all the while balancing their individual aspirations for 2008. None of it will stop this administration.

US nuclear weapons use

This column and others have been exposing for many months the evidence that this administration has been carrying out a deliberate plan to set up the conditions that will lead to the US use of nuclear weapons against Iran, and its motivations for it [1], [2], [3].

Congress is on notice and cannot claim ignorance. The President has publicly refused to take the "nuclear option" against Iran off the table. US nuclear weapons policies have undergone sweeping changes in the last 6 years, laying the doctrinal foundations that invite US nuclear strikes against non-nuclear adversaries under a variety of easily satisfied conditions. Military command structure and Pentagon guidelines have been "transformed" by Rumsfeld for that purpose. The B61-11 nuclear bunker busters are in the stockpile, ready to be used. The President has sole full authority to order their use, Congress has no say.

Congress knows full well what this President is capable of doing. By not acting, Congress is condoning this state of affairs, effectively putting its seal of approval on what is about to happen. America will hold each member of Congress fully responsible for it.

The German Reichstag in 1933 formally voted to transfer its powers to the Executive, thus avoiding being complicit in the impending war crimes. The US Congress has not had such good sense, even while abdicating its powers in practice, and it will face the consequences of its inaction. Time is running out.

Crimes against humanity

Using nuclear weapons against Iran, even just destroying one Iranian underground facility with nuclear bunker busters, with minimal "collateral damage", is a crime against humanity because:

It will break the 60-year old taboo against the use of nuclear weapons. Once a nuclear weapon is used again, it will invite use by others. There is no sharp line dividing small from large nuclear weapons, nor between nuclear weapons targeting facilities and those targeting humans, civilians or military.
Iran is years away from the capability of acquiring nuclear weapons by any estimate, hence it is a "non-nuclear-weapon state" (NNWS).
A US or Israeli use of a nuclear weapon against a NNWS will instantly destroy the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and lead to widespread nuclear proliferation.
" Weight for weight, the energy produced by a nuclear explosion is millions of times more powerful than a conventional explosion". So is the number of people it kills.
With no NPT and many more nuclear countries the potential for escalating nuclear war will be exponentially enhanced.
Nuclear war can lead to hundreds of millions of deaths, to the destruction of civilization and to the destruction of all life on earth.
The American Physical Society, representing the community of scientists that brought nuclear weapons into existence, has recently for the first time in its history issued a statement of deep concern about "the possible use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states" and its consequences for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and some of America's most eminent scientists recently wrote to President Bush that such action would be "gravely irresponsible" and lead to "disastrous consequences".

Does Iran share responsibility?

Iran is pursuing a civilian nuclear program, allowed under the NPT. There is no evidence whatsoever that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, only "suspicions". It is always possible to interpret any action by Iran in a negative way. If Iran slows down its enrichment activity, the press reports that "diplomats in Vienna began to worry that there was so little activity at Iran's main nuclear site that perhaps work had started on a secret site elsewhere in the country". (Of course no mention on who those "diplomats in Vienna" are). If Iran accelerates its enrichment activity, "Iran heightened international concerns by announcing April 11 that it had enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges". Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Saddam Hussein "chose war" by not being able to allay "concerns" that he didn't have the weapons he didn't have.

Vice-President Cheney stated last Sunday on national TV "There's no reason in the world why Iran needs to continue to pursue nuclear weapons". This is the same Vice-President that stated in 2002 "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." His statements then were as categorical and as unsubstantiated as his statements today, and the 2002 statements were proven categorically false. Why doesn't Congress demand that Cheney substantiate his statements today or else shut up or else step down? Isn't lying on matters of national security an impeachable offense?

Iran bears no responsibility for the rising tensions. When Cheney states "Iran's a problem in a much larger sense. At the same time, of course, they're pursuing the acquisition of nuclear weapons. They are in a position where they sit astride the Straits of Hormuz, where over 20 percent of the world's supply of oil transits every single day, over 18 million barrels a day. So the threat that Iran represents is growing, it's multi- dimensional, and it is, in fact, of concern to everybody in the region" he is candidly stating the Bush administration agenda, just as he did in 2002. And Fox news' Chris Wallace is happy to spell it out: "In fact, it was the basis of the Bush doctrine: You will not allow the world's most dangerous powers to get access to the world's most dangerous weapons. Can you pledge that, before you and the president leave office, you will take care of the threat of Iran?" Cheney's ominous answer: "I think we're working right now, today, as we speak, on key elements of that problem", as America is massing up its military power in the Persian Gulf, just like it did at this same time of the year in 2003.

On March 6, 2003, when asked whether or not the US would attack Iraq, President Bush answered "we're days away from resolving this issue at the Security Council", and "we're working with Security Council members to resolve this issue at the Security Council". 14 days later the US attacked Iraq, without Security Council's approval. Watch for a similar script in the weeks ahead.

Congress' guilt

Each member of Congress knows that the US President has full legal authority today to launch a nuclear attack against any country in the world. Each member of Congress knows that the Constitution assigns Congress the responsibility to regulate the Armed Forces, and that Congress has the authority to regulate the use of nuclear weapons. Each member of Congress knows the sweeping changes in US nuclear weapons policies and planning undertaken during this administration.

Any private assurances that Bush may have given to members of Congress that he will not order the use of nuclear weapons against Iran without congressional authorization are worthless. He can legally do it, and he will.

Any arguments the administration may put forth that legislating over nuclear weapons use will have a detrimental effect on the diplomatic effort vis-a-vis Iran will be as disingenuous as the arguments in September 2002 that Congress should authorize the use of force against Iraq so that diplomacy could succeed: "I've asked for Congress' support to enable the administration to keep the peace"; "If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force. But it's -- this will be -- this is a chance for Congress to indicate support. It's a chance for Congress to say, we support the administration's ability to keep the peace. That's what this is all about."

Crimes of omission are punishable under international [1] and US domestic law. Principle VII of the Nuremberg tribunal stated "Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law."

If Congress doesn't legislate on the US use of nuclear weapons, and President Bush orders the use of nuclear weapons against Iran, he will be doing it in the name of each and every member of the 110th Congress.

The United States will have instantly offered the world 535 new defendants for future war crimes tribunals. Nuclear weapons are million-times more powerful than conventional weapons. If 535 million people die in ensuing nuclear conflicts, each member of the 110th Congress will have 1 million human lives on his/her own personal account.

Saddam Hussein and Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti went to the gallows for a mere 148.

Jorge Hirsch is Professor of physics at the University of California San Diego and a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Global Research Articles by Jorge Hirsch

Palestine 2007: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank

Palestine 2007: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank

by Ilan Pappe

January 18, 2007

On this stage, not so long ago, I claimed that Israel is conducting genocidal policies in the Gaza Strip. I hesitated a lot before using this very charged term and yet decided to adopt it. Indeed, the responses I received, including from some leading human rights activists, indicated a certain unease over the usage of such a term. I was inclined to rethink the term for a while, but came back to employing it today with even stronger conviction: it is the only appropriate way to describe what the Israeli army is doing in the Gaza Strip.

On 28 December 2006, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem published its annual report about the Israeli atrocities in the occupied territories. Israeli forces killed this last year six hundred and sixty citizens. The number of Palestinians killed by Israel last year tripled in comparison to the previous year (around two hundred). According to B'Tselem, the Israelis killed one hundred and forty one children in the last year. Most of the dead are from the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli forces demolished almost 300 houses and slew entire families. This means that since 2000, Israeli forces killed almost four thousand Palestinians, half of them children; more than twenty thousand were wounded.

B'Tselem is a conservative organization, and the numbers may be higher. But the point is not just about the escalating intentional killing, it is about the trend and the strategy. As 2007 commences, Israeli policymakers are facing two very different realities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the former, they are closer than ever to finishing the construction of their eastern border. Their internal ideological debate is over and their master plan for annexing half of the West Bank is being implemented at an ever-growing speed. The last phase was delayed due to the promises made by Israel, under the Road Map, not to build new settlements. Israel found two ways of circumventing this alleged prohibition. First, it defined a third of the West Bank as Greater Jerusalem, which allowed it to build within this new annexed area towns and community centers. Secondly, it expanded old settlements to such proportions so that there was no need to build new ones. This trend was given an additional push in 2006 (hundreds of caravans were installed to mark the border of the expansions, the planning schemes for the new towns and neighborhoods were finalized and the apartheid bypass roads and highway system completed). In all, the settlements, the army bases, the roads and the wall will allow Israel to annex almost half of the West Bank by 2010. Within these territories there will be a considerable number of Palestinians, against whom the Israeli authorities will continue to implement slow and creeping transfer policies -- too boring as a subject for the western media to bother with and too elusive for human rights organizations to make a general point about them. There is no rush; as far as the Israelis are concerned, they have the upper hand there: the daily abusive and dehumanizing mixed mechanisms of army and bureaucracy is as effective as ever in contributing its own share to the dispossession process.

The strategic thinking of Ariel Sharon that this policy is far better than the one offered by the blunt 'transferists' or ethnic cleansers, such as Avigdor Liberman's advocacy, is accepted by everyone in the government, from Labor to Kadima. The petit crimes of state terrorism are also effective as they enable liberal Zionists around the world to softly condemn Israel and yet categorize any genuine criticism on Israel's criminal policies as anti-Semitism.

On the other hand, there is no clear Israeli strategy as yet for the Gaza Strip; but there is a daily experiment with one. Gaza, in the eyes of the Israelis, is a very different geo-political entity from that of the West Bank. Hamas controls Gaza, while Abu Mazen seems to run the fragmented West Bank with Israeli and American blessing. There is no chunk of land in Gaza that Israel covets and there is no hinterland, like Jordan, to which the Palestinians of Gaza can be expelled. Ethnic cleansing is ineffective here.

The earlier strategy in Gaza was ghettoizing the Palestinians there, but this is not working. The ghettoized community continues to express its will for life by firing primitive missiles into Israel. Ghettoizing or quarantining unwanted communities, even if they were regarded as sub-human or dangerous, never worked in history as a solution. The Jews know it best from their own history. The next stages against such communities in the past were even more horrific and barbaric. It is difficult to tell what the future holds for the Gaza population, ghettoized, quarantined, unwanted and demonized. Will it be a repeat of the ominous historical examples or is a better fate still possible?

Creating the prison and throwing the key to the sea, as UN Special Reporter John Dugard has put it, was an option the Palestinians in Gaza reacted against with force as soon as September 2005. They were determined to show at the very least that they were still part of the West Bank and Palestine. In that month, they launched the first significant, in number and not quality, barrage of missiles into the Western Negev. The shelling was a response to an Israeli campaign of mass arrests of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in the Tul Karem area. The Israelis responded with operation 'First Rain'. It is worth dwelling for a moment on the nature of that operation. It was inspired by the punitive measures inflicted first by colonialist powers, and then by dictatorships, against rebellious imprisoned or banished communities. A frightening show of the oppressor's power to intimidate preceded all kind of collective and brutal punishments, ending with a large number of dead and wounded among the victims. In 'First Rain', supersonic flights were flown over Gaza to terrorize the entire population, succeeded by the heavy bombardment of vast areas from the sea, sky and land. The logic, the Israeli army explained, was to create pressure so as to weaken the Gaza community's support for the rocket launchers. As was expected, by the Israelis as well, the operation only increased the support for the rocket launchers and gave impetus to their next attempt. The real purpose of that particular operation was experimental. The Israeli generals wished to know how such operations would be received at home, in the region and in the world. And it seems that instantly the answer was 'very well'; namely, no one took an interest in the scores of dead and hundreds of wounded Palestinians left behind after the 'First Rain' subsided.

And hence since 'First Rain' and until June 2006, all the following operations were similarly modeled. The difference was in their escalation: more firepower, more causalities and more collateral damage and, as to be expected, more Qassam missiles in response. Accompanying measures in 2006 were more sinister means of ensuring the full imprisonment of the people of Gaza through boycott and blockade, with which the EU is still shamefully collaborating.

The capture of Gilad Shalit in June 2006 was irrelevant in the general scheme of things, but nonetheless provided an opportunity for the Israelis to escalate even more the components of the tactical and allegedly punitive missions. After all, there was still no strategy that followed the tactical decision of Ariel Sharon to take out 8,000 settlers whose presence complicated 'punitive' missions and whose eviction made him almost a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, the 'punitive' actions continue and become themselves a strategy.

The Israeli army loves drama and therefore also escalated the language. 'First Rain' was replaced by 'Summer Rains', a general name that was given to the 'punitive' operations since June 2006 (in a country where there is no rain in the summer, the only precipitation that one can expect are showers of F-16 bombs and artillery shells hitting people of Gaza).

'Summer Rains' brought a novel component: the land invasion into parts of the Gaza Strip. This enabled the army to kill citizens even more effectively and to present it as a result of heavy fighting within dense populated areas, an inevitable result of the circumstances and not of Israeli policies. With the close of summer came operation 'Autumn Clouds' which was even more efficient: on 1 November 2006, in less than 48 hours, the Israelis killed seventy civilians; by the end of that month, with additional mini operations accompanying it, almost two hundred were killed, half of them children and women. As one can see from the dates, some of the activity was parallel to the Israeli attacks on Lebanon, making it easier to complete the operations without much external attention, let alone criticism.

From 'First Rain' to 'Autumn Clouds' one can see escalation in every parameter. The first is the disappearance of the distinction between civilian and non-civilian targets: the senseless killing has turned the population at large to the main target for the army's operation. The second one is the escalation in the means: employment of every possible killing machines the Israeli army possesses. Thirdly, the escalation is conspicuous in the number of casualties: with each operation, and each future operation, a much larger number of people are likely to be killed and wounded. Finally, and most importantly, the operations become a strategy -- the way Israel intends to solve the problem of the Gaza Strip.

A creeping transfer in the West Bank and a measured genocidal policy in the Gaza Strip are the two strategies Israel employs today. From an electoral point of view, the one in Gaza is problematic as it does not reap any tangible results; the West Bank under Abu Mazen is yielding to Israeli pressure and there is no significant force that arrests the Israeli strategy of annexation and dispossession. But Gaza continues to fire back. On the one hand, this would enable the Israeli army to initiate more massive genocidal operations in the future. But there is also the great danger, on the other, that as happened in 1948, the army would demand a more drastic and systematic 'punitive' and collateral action against the besieged people of the Gaza Strip.

Ironically, the Israeli killing machine has rested lately. Even relatively large number of Qassam missiles, including one or two quite deadly ones, did not stir the army to action. Though the army's spokesmen say it shows 'restraint', it never did in the past and is not likely to do so in the future. The army rests, as its generals are content with the internal killing that rages on in Gaza and does the job for them. They watch with satisfaction the emerging civil war in Gaza, which Israel foments and encourages. From Israel's point of view it does not really mater how Gaza would eventually be demographically downsized, be it by internal or Israeli slaying. The responsibility of ending the internal fighting lies of course with the Palestinian groups themselves, but the American and Israeli interference, the continued imprisonment, the starvation and strangulation of Gaza are all factors that make such an internal peace process very difficult. But it will take place soon and then with the first early sign that it subsided, the Israeli 'Summer Rains' will fall down again on the people of Gaza, wreaking havoc and death.

And one should never tire of stating the inevitable political conclusions from this dismal reality of the year we left behind and in the face of the one that awaits us. There is still no other way of stopping Israel than besides boycott, divestment and sanctions. We should all support it clearly, openly, unconditionally, regardless of what the gurus of our world tell us about the efficiency or raison d'etre of such actions. The UN would not intervene in Gaza as it does in Africa; the Nobel peace laureates would not enlist to its defense as they do for causes in Southeast Asia. The numbers of people killed there are not staggering as far as other calamities are concerned, and it is not a new story -- it is dangerously old and troubling. The only soft point of this killing machine is its oxygen lines to 'western' civilization and public opinion. It is still possible to puncture them and make it at least more difficult for the Israelis to implement their future strategy of eliminating the Palestinian people either by cleansing them in the West Bank or genociding them in the Gaza Strip.

Ilan Pappe is senior lecturer in the University of Haifa Department of political Science and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies in Haifa. His books include, among others, The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (London and New York 1992), The Israel/Palestine Question (London and New York 1999), A History of Modern Palestine (Cambridge 2003), The Modern Middle East (London and New York 2005) and his latest, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Depleted Uranium, Diabetes, Cancer And You by Dr. Alan Cantwell

Global Research, January 18, 2007

Recently, I received an intriguing email claiming that the rapidly increasing worldwide epidemic of diabetes was caused by depleted uranium (DU). As a medical doctor I never heard of such an idea. Every physician knows that radiation can lead to cancer, but the DU and diabetes connection seemed ludicrous. Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to check it out on the Internet.

The best tool for medical research on the Net is the PubMed website sponsored by the US National Library of Medicine. I typed in the keywords: depleted uranium and diabetes. No citations to scientific papers in the medical journals appeared on my computer screen, which further assured me there was no scientific connection. Even when I used key words - depleted uranium and human disease - only a mere 16 papers were cited on the subject from 1994 to 2005; and only half these papers addressed the medical problems of soldiers exposed to DU in the Gulf War.

What was revealed is that DU accumulates in lymph nodes, brain, testicles, and other organs, and the short term and long term effects of DU were not known. There was a definite increase of birth defects in the offspring of persons exposed to DU; and Gulf War vets who inhaled DU were still excreting abnormal amounts of uranium in the urine 10 years later.

Why was there so little written about DU and its effects on the human body? Having written extensively on the man-made epidemic of AIDS and its cover-up for two decades, I was not surprised. I strongly suspected research into the health effects of DU on Gulf War veterans was "politically incorrect." On the other hand, a quick Google Internet search of - "side effects" + "depleted uranium" - referred me to 71,000 English pages on the web. When I added the key word "diabetes" there were 22,000 pages.

I also discovered that articles about the health dangers of DU rarely, if ever, appear in the major media. In a January 2001 press release FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) accused the media of "depleted coverage of depleted uranium weapons." Nevertheless, a great deal of information on DU can be found on the Internet.

DU was first used by the US in the 1991 Gulf War, then in the Balkans in the late 1990s, in Kosovo in 2000, in the war against Afghanistan, in Iraq in 2003, and also by the Israelis in the 2006 war with Lebanon. Needless to say, US military and government officials totally deny any health danger from DU. A reassuring New York Times article of 9 January 2001 entitled "1999 U.S. document warned of depleted uranium in Kosovo" by Marlise Simons, noted "while acknowledging the hazards, both the Pentagon and NATO, pointing to medical experts, have denied any links could exist between exposure to depleted uranium and the illness and deaths of veterans."

DU weapons were developed by the US Navy in 1968, and were first given to Israel by the US in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Since then, the US has tested, manufactured and sold DU weapons systems to 29 countries. Vieques Island, a testing site in Puerto Rico, was repeatedly bombarded with DU in 1999 prior to its use in Kosovo.

DU is a byproduct of the enriching of natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors. As nuclear waste, DU is costly to keep but relatively inexpensive to obtain. Due to their tank armour-piercing capabilities, DU weapons are extremely effective and the reason why the military is so enthralled with them.

Depleted Uranium Whistleblowers

Major Doug Rokke is a leading DU expert who has become a whistleblower against its use. He claims each tank round is composed of 10 pounds of solid uranium-238 contaminated with plutonium, neptunium, and americium. The round is pyrophoric, meaning it generates intense heat on impact, easily penetrating a tank because of the heavy weight of the metal. When DU munitions hit, they produce a firestorm inside any vehicle or structure, resulting in devastating burns and injuries to those who escape immediate death and incineration.

On impact, DU produces uranium oxide dust and pieces of uranium explode all over the place. Once inside the body the tiny nanoparticles enter the lungs and blood stream and are carried throughout the body. When Rokke and his team were assigned to "clean up" the DU after the first Gulf War, all his men got ill within 72 hours with respiratory problems, rashes, bleeding, and open sores. In an Australian interview with Gay Alcorn in 2003, Rokke admitted: "After everything I've seen, everything I've done, it became very clear to me that you can't take radioactive wastes from one nation and just throw it into another nation. It's wrong. It's simply wrong."

According to Asaf Durakovic MD of the Uranium Medical Research Centre in Washington DC, the term "depleted uranium" is a misnomer. Both "depleted" and "natural" uranium are over 99% composed of uranium 238. DU is almost as highly concentrated as pure uranium and may contain plutonium (a deadly element) in trace amounts.

Leuren Moret is an independent American scientist who works on radiation and health issues with communities around the world. At age 61, she is the leading activist against the use of DU, having worked in two nuclear weapons labs, including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, run by the US Department of Energy. She is the ultimate antigovernment whistleblower on DU, along with Rokke and Durakovic, and all three have personally suffered (including death threats) for their anti-DU views.

In her article "Depleted uranium: The Trojan Horse of nuclear war," which appeared in the June 2004 World Affairs Journal, Moret claims: "The use of DU weaponry by the US, defying all international treaties, will slowly annihilate all species on Earth including the human species, and yet this country continues to do so with full knowledge of its destructive potential."

DU travels. DU radioactive particles are picked up by the atmosphere and are transferred by wind storms and air currents. They permanently contaminate vast regions and slowly destroy the genetic future of populations living in those areas. As the Trojan Horse of nuclear war, Moret calls DU "the weapon that keeps on killing." There is no way to turn it off - and no way to clean it up. It meets the US government's own definition of "weapons of mass destruction."

Depleted Uranium over the United Kingdom

DU has a very high affinity for cellular DNA and permanently damages it. DU is the "fourth generation" of nuclear weapons. First came the atomic bomb, then the hydrogen bomb, then neutron bombs, and now DU. Moret claims the contaminated DU-dust from the Middle East gets absorbed into the atmosphere. Via dust storms and air currents it ends up in Europe and Britain. Eventually it spreads and get absorbed into the atmosphere globally. There is no safe place; no possible way to escape it.

Moret's concerns are confirmed by a 2006 report from England by Chris Busby and Saoirse Morgan, appearing in European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics and titled "Did the use of Uranium weapons in Gulf War 2 result in contamination of Europe?" Data (obtained with the help of the Freedom of Information Act) from the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, Berkshire, UK, revealed that after nine days of the "shock and awe" start of the Iraq war on 19 March 2003, much higher levels of uranium were picked up on five sites in Berkshire. On two occasions, levels exceeded the threshold at which the Environment Agency must be informed, though still within safety limits. These levels were the highest levels of depleted uranium ever measured in the atmosphere in Britain. The report also confirmed weather conditions over this war period, which showed a consistent flow of air from Iraq northwards.

Not surprisingly this research was vigorously denied as "uranium of natural origin" by various government officials. However, Busby and Morgan insist the findings are the first evidence that DU particles were able to travel thousands of miles from Baghdad to England. Their report can be found on the Internet.

Gulf War Syndrome

About 300 tons of DU were dispersed over Iraq in 1991. Yet the US Department of Defense (DoD) has found little health risk to soldiers who inhaled DU and continues to claim exposure to DU is safe. Nearly 580,000 soldiers were deployed in the war. 294 soldiers died and 400 were wounded or became ill. As of year 2000, there were 325,000 on permanent medical disability, and over 11,000 have died. Obviously something serious happened to the health of these men and women who served in the Gulf.

DU is known to be neurotoxic. Gulf War vets are twice as likely to come down with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) than vets who did not serve in Iraq. ALS, a fatal neuromuscular disease, is now considered a "service-connected" disease and vets can get disability. Gulf War vets have nearly twice the prevalence of "chronic multi-system disease" than soldiers who served elsewhere at the same time. But so called "Gulf War Syndrome" continues to be denied as a specific illness. The Department of Defense's evaluation does not consider GWS as a unique syndrome, unique illness, or unique symptom complex in deployed Gulf War vets. The Worldwide Diabetes Epidemic

A half century ago, during the early years of the Cold War when I went to medical school, diabetes was not a common disease. Now in the 21st century it is common to hear of diabetes as an impending epidemic. Certainly the statistics bear this out.

Currently, 7% of Americans have diabetes (17 million). In addition, a Los Angeles Times front-page report on 16 September 2006, claims that there are more than 41 million Americans with abnormal blood glucose abnormalities, "that indicate they may soon develop diabetes." In Puerto Rico (where DU was tested) 10% of the population has diabetes.

The Centres of Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta declares that "unless Americans change their ways," 33% of the babies born this year will be diabetic by the year 2050. Also by 2050 there are expected to be 45 million diabetics in the US. A vet support group, Veterans with Diabetes International, says there are 143 million people worldwide with the disease, and 300 million people are expected to have diabetes in 2025.

Type 1 diabetes, most often seen in children and young adults, comprises 5-10% of the cases. Type 2, a metabolic disorder resulting from the body's inability to make enough or properly use insulin, frequently strikes adults, especially obese adults. This group comprises 90% or more of diabetics. The CDC predicts that Type 2 diabetes will increase 165% by 2050. People with Type 2 diabetes are also twice as likely to get pancreatic cancer.

Thirty-four years after the Vietnam war ended, the DoD finally presented the "strongest evidence" that Type 2 diabetes can be connected to Agent Orange. Eighteen million gallons of this plant defoliant and poison was sprayed over Vietnam by the US military. It is now known to cause cancer and birth defects. Starting in the year 2002 diabetes is now recognised as a "service-connected" disease for all Vietnam vets. At present, diabetes is not service-connected for Gulf War vets.

Nine percent of Vietnam vets have Type 2 diabetes. There is no current evidence that Gulf War vets have a heightened incidence of diabetes, but I could find no solid research to confirm or deny this. Perhaps in one or two more decades government scientists will discover a connection to DU.

The common causes of diabetes are thought to be obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise. Leuren Moret believes the cause of the new epidemic is more sinister: namely the increasing levels worldwide of depleted uranium in the atmosphere, combined with emissions from the proliferation of nuclear power plants.

Unlike government scientists, Moret says DU is very, very, very nasty stuff; and that diabetes is an immediate response to DU, in contrast to the decades it can take for uranium to produce radiation-induced cancer. Although she cannot prove it, she is the first scientist to strongly suggest a connection between the new worldwide diabetes epidemic and DU.

Moret insists the medical profession has been active in the cover-up of low level radiation from atmospheric testing and nuclear power plants. I have been unable to verify this, but it is consistent with the passive role the health profession took during the Cold War nuclear testing in the US (more later). She has also spoken about medical professionals in hospitals who were threatened by government officials with $10,000 fines and jail time if they talked openly about the returning Iraq war soldiers and their medical problems. This could explain the paucity of reports in the scientific literature regarding vets exposed to DU and their war-associated illnesses.

Moret also says reporters have been prevented access to more than 14,000 medically evacuated soldiers from the current Iraq War, brought back to Walter Reed Hospital near Washington, DC. To learn more about Leuren Moret and her research, Google: Leuren Moret + videos. In addition, she appears in the recent documentary film Beyond Treason, detailing the horrific effects of depleted uranium exposure on American troops and Iraqi civilians in the Gulf region in 1991. Is Depleted Uranium Safe?

Ronald L. Kathren is Professor Emeritus at Washington State University and a leading authority vouching for the safety of DU. Unlike Major Rokke, he does not appear to have ever served in the military or to have come in contact with DU on a battlefield. Nevertheless, his opinions carry a lot of weight in the scientific world.

Kathren does not dispute the fact that military personnel who may have had contact with DU are suffering from various illnesses, but he believes that exposure to uranium is very unlikely to be the cause.

Writing for the Portland Independent Media Centre on 3 July 2005, he declares: "Health physicists are deeply concerned with the public health and welfare, and as experts in radiation and its effects on people and the environment, are quite aware that something other than exposure to uranium is the cause of the illnesses suffered by those who have had contact with depleted uranium from munitions. A truly enormous body of scientific data shows that it is virtually impossible for uranium to be the cause of their illnesses. Despite this body of scientific data to the contrary, misguided or unknowing people continue to allege that the depleted uranium, and specifically the radioactivity associated with the depleted uranium is the cause of these illness. This is indeed unfortunate, for health physicists and other scientists and physicians already know that depleted uranium is not the cause of these illnesses and thus any investigations into the cause of these illnesses should focus on other possible causes. If we are to offer any measure of relief or solace to these suffering people, and to gain some important additional knowledge of the cause of their illness, we should not waste our valuable and limited energies, resources and time attempting to point the finger at depleted uranium as the culprit, when it is already known that uranium is almost certainly not the cause of the problem." ( "No Level of Radiation is Safe for Humans"

As a physician it is inconceivable to me that government-approved experts like Kathren can so quickly dismiss DU as safe and harmless, particularly when on 29 June 2005, a National Academy of Sciences panel in Washington DC has found that no level of radiation is safe for humans.

The panel concluded that "any dose of radiation, no matter how small, can induce cancer. Exposure to radiation is becoming more and more likely for most people because of the growing use of radiation in medicine. The new findings could lead to changes in medical practices and the levels of radiation allowed at former nuclear sites." The panel also contradicted the often heard dictum of some government pro-nuclear scientists that "a little radiation is good for you."

The idea that low doses of radiation are safe is the myth that allowed extensive nuclear testing during the Cold War without a huge protest from every member of the human race. It is this myth that still allows DU weapons to be used on battlefields against "terrorists."

Historically, the proof of the danger of nuclear warfare was provided a decade ago by the publication of a US Congressional committee report authorised by President Bill Clinton and entitled, The Human Radiation Experiments. The report showed clearly that government scientists and physicians could not be trusted in their pronouncements regarding the safety of nuclear weapons. Even worse was the documentation of countless covert and secret radiation experiments conducted on unsuspecting citizens during the Cold War "in the name of science." Unfortunately, this horrific 1996 report did not deter Clinton from allowing DU weapons in Kosovo in 1999, nor did it deter President George W. Bush, who authorised their use again in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Anyone with Internet access can simply Google "the human radiation experiments" for details of the shameful science surrounding nuclear testing and the disastrous health effects on unsuspecting American citizens.

In 2001, a half century after extensive nuclear weapons testing in the American West, the US National Cancer Institute was finally forced to reveal its finding that bomb testing in Nevada, which spread radioactive fallout across every state of the Union, has caused at least 15,000 cancer deaths and up to 212,000 non-fatal thyroid cancers. John LaForge of reminds us that "the 67 bomb tests blown off between 1946 and 1958 were said at the time to be safe." Money, Power and Depleted Uranium

Who is profiting from this global uranium nightmare? In The Enemy Within (1996) Jay Gould reveals that the British Royal family privately owns investments in uranium holdings worth over $6 billion through Rio Tinto Mines, an Anglo-Australian company, which is the world's largest mining company with more than 60 operations in 40 countries. Africa and Australia are two of the main sources of uranium in the world; and the Rothschilds control uranium supplies and prices globally.

Gould notes that nuclear radiation has brought dramatic increases in breast cancer mortality, especially in communities 50 to 100 miles downwind from nuclear reactors. Book reviewer Donna Lee writes: "The Enemy Within has enough scientific data to address those bureaucrats who deny that living near a nuclear reactor is a hazard to one's health. It also includes enough direct, clear prose to convince me, a breast cancer survivor, that I grew up during the Cold War as an unknowing guinea pig, further victimised by the politics of suppression and denial."

Lee continues: "After reading the book, however, I am bothered by one persistent question. I was born and raised and continue to live in San Francisco, California, which has the highest incidence of breast cancer in the world. The Enemy Within concerns itself with breast cancer mortality rates, which are highest in the communities around New York City. San Francisco isn't within 100 miles of a nuclear reactor and it isn't even mentioned in the book. If low level radiation explains clusters of breast cancer throughout the US, what explains us?"

Actually there was a nuclear power plant located in Sacramento, less than 100 miles from San Francisco, which became active in 1975. Gould probably did not include this in his 1996 book because the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant was forced to shut down its operations in 1989, due to a public outcry and a referendum.

David Bradbury says child cancer rates on Vieques Island have soared 250% above the Puerto Rican national average in the last thirty years. In his 2005 documentary film, Blowin' in the Wind, the provocative Australian filmmaker and two-time Academy Award nominee also provides some answers regarding the huge financial interests involved in uranium production and DU weapons. Australia provides one-third of the world's uranium supply, and Bradbury reveals a secret treaty that allows the US military to train and test its DU weaponry on Australian soil. He exposes plans to extract over $36 billion from uranium mines over the next six years, and shows the finished construction of a 1,000 mile railway from the mining area to a port on the north coast of Australia to transport the ore.

The railway project was built by Texas-based Halliburton Company. In 1995 US Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO of that company. The film maker says, "The Queen's favourite American buccaneers, Cheney, Halliburton, and the Bush family, are tied to her through uranium mining and the shared use of illegal depleted uranium munitions in the Middle East, Central Asia and Kosovo/Bosnia. The major roles that such diverse individuals and groups as the Carlyle Group, George Herbert Walker Bush, former Carlyle CEO Frank Calucci, the University of California managed nuclear weapons labs at Los Alamos and Livermore, and US and international pension fund investments have played in proliferating depleted uranium weapons is not well known or in most instances even recognised, inside or outside Australia. God Save The Queen from the guilt of her complicity in turning Planet Earth into a 'Death Star'."

Depleted Uranium and the War on Terror

There is nothing more terrifying than the thought of exposing all life forms on the planet to DNA-altering radiation in order to provide us with "safety" and "democracy." It is truly diabolic to think that the destruction of the planet is now occurring with so few people comprehending what is going on - and still fewer people taking an active stand against this tragedy. It is apparent that most of the world's political and spiritual leaders, as well as scientists, physicians, lawyers, and health professionals do not care about the dangers of DU weapons and other forms of nuclear energy. If they cared we would certainly be hearing and reading about it on television and in the major media.

As a researcher and writer over the part few decades, I have focused on the man-made origin of AIDS and the little-known bacterial cause of cancer, paying little attention to nuclear radiation. However, in 2001 I wrote an article entitled "The Human Radiation Experiments: How Scientists Secretly Used US Citizens as Guinea Pigs During the Cold War", which was published in the September-October 2001 issue of New Dawn, and is posted on several websites. But I must admit I was unaware of the serious planetary problems posed by DU. I simply assumed that no civilised and peace-loving country would ever be reckless and heartless enough to use these radioactive weapons. How wrong I was!

What I find most pathetic and inconceivable is that we have learned nothing from the detrimental health effects unleashed by the atomic bombing of Japan - and nothing from the nuclear testing horrors of the last half of the 20th century. Instead we continue to contaminate vast areas of the world with radiation we don't know how to get rid of.

I remember as an eleven year-old boy how jubilant everyone was by the atomic attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which brought the war to a rapid end. A half century later my Caucasian niece married a Japanese-American man. Shortly after the wedding she noticed a lump in his neck, which proved to be thyroid cancer. His mother was a child when she lived 50 miles outside of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. Decades later, in her forties, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, undoubtedly due to the radiation fallout. The doctors considered the possibility that my niece's husband might have developed thyroid cancer because of radiation-altered and thyroid cancer-causing genes passed on to him by his mother. Of course the family wonders if their two young children will eventually also get thyroid cancer. Who would have thought that the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 would have a cancerous effect five decades later on my family living in California?

A few years ago I developed a thyroid nodule, which was biopsied and proved non-cancerous. As a teenager in the 1950s I received "superficial" radiation treatments for acne at the recommendation of a well-known New York dermatologist, a treatment that was later banned because of its potential to cause thyroid cancer.

It is almost a cliché to remind people that "all of us are connected." The fallout from DU and nuclear energy now binds us all together in an increasingly radioactive planet. No one is immune from the deleterious effects of radiation, and no one knows how to clean it up.

What can we do about it? The only thing we can do is to stop the madness immediately. However, power and greed and politics and religion make that highly unlikely.

We have met the perpetrators of the new radiation-induced "war on terror." And, sadly, it is us.

Dr. Alan Cantwell is a retired dermatologist and author of five books on the man-made origin of AIDS and the infectious origin of cancer, published by Aries Rising Press, PO Box 29532, Los Angeles, CA 90029, USA ( ). His book, Queer Blood: The Secret AIDS Genocide Plot, is available in Australia through New Dawn Book Service. His latest book is Four Women Against Cancer: Bacteria, Cancer and the Origin of Life. His books are also available on and in the US through Book Clearing House @ 1-800-431-1579. Email:

Alan Cantwell FOUR WOMEN AGAINST CANCER: Bacteria, Cancer and the Origin of Life

Agent Orange Toxic Injustice Part II: What Must Be Done

* Read Part I

The devastating effects of Agent Orange are a blemish on the US national record and an obstacle impeding true reconciliation between the US government and both Vietnamese and American victims of the toxic herbicide For this reason, issues of international law, justice, and corporate and governmental responsibility must be addressed clearly and directly. Those who are currently suffering from the poisonous effects of Agent Orange, though, have found that the struggle for justice can be as toxic.

"I died in Vietnam, but I didn't even know it," announced veteran helicopter crew chief Paul Reutershan when he appeared on the Today show in the spring of 1978, according to Fred Wilcox in Waiting for an Army to Die. Reutershan, a helicopter crew chief and self-described "health nut" who did not smoke or drink, died at the age of 28 of virulent abdominal cancer. However, before he died, he contacted a personal injury lawyer and launched the first lawsuit against the chemical manufacturers that produced Agent Orange, a lawsuit that would grow into some of the largest and most important litigation of the time. Awareness of Agent Orange spread rapidly due to this lawsuit and the data collected by Maude DeVictor, an employee in the Benefits Division of the VA's Chicago office. DeVictor began keeping track of chemical-related complaints, despite the orders of her supervisor to stop, and the data she collected became the source for the 1978 CBS documentary, Agent Orange, the Deadly Fog. By May of 1979, a class action suit filed by the lawyer Victor Yannacone against seven chemical manufacturers included 4,000 claims and continued to grow.

The case would drag on for six tumultuous and costly years, concluding in 1984 with what was the largest tort settlement in history. According to Peter Schuck in Agent Orange on Trial, Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and five other chemical manufacturers paid $180 million to over 50,000 veterans, but still denied liability. Few of the plaintiffs ever received more than $5,000. While this was an important case with an impressive cash settlement, it did little to satisfy the afflicted veterans or to address the politics of responsibility. The corporations were never found guilty nor did they admit wrongdoing. Further, due to the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Feres/Stencel immunity doctrine, the veterans were unable to file a lawsuit against the federal government or the military. To this day, the political issues of Agent Orange have been mishandled, evaded, and ignored.

While achieving a modicum of justice took many years for American veterans, Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange have less hope of seeing any form of justice in the near future. In 2004, several of these victims, led by the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA), filed a federal lawsuit against 37 US defoliant producers that created and distributed Agent Orange. The case was dismissed on March 10th of 2005 because of a variety of factors that led the Judge to conclude in his 233-page decision that no domestic or international law had been violated. The lawsuit sought "billions of dollars in damages and environmental cleanup, on behalf of . . . four million Vietnamese victims." The ruling was met with great disappointment from Vietnamese citizens, the Vietnamese government, and American veterans who helped the Vietnamese victims, some of whom were formerly Vietcong, file the lawsuit.

Of the ruling, Nguyen Trong Nhan, the Vice-President of VAVA, says, "We are disappointed . . . [Judge] Weinstein has turned a blind eye before the obvious truth . . . We just want justice, nothing more." One problem that plagued the plaintiffs is that of causation -- of proving that Agent Orange directly led to their health problems -- an obstacle exacerbated by the lack of funding with which research could be conducted among other scientific factors. Perhaps even more crucial to the outcome of the case was the fact that "the court had come under heavy lobbying from the US Justice Department to rule against the plaintiffs, because of Washington's fears of the legal precedent it would set in other countries ravaged by US military interventions." John McAuliff of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development (FRD), which supported the lawsuit, echoed this unpleasant reality when he said, "Judge Weinstein has made it easier for our country to continue to evade moral responsibility for the consequences of its actions . . . We constantly hold other countries responsible, but never ourselves." Though this ruling is a setback for the Agent Orange victims, it is not an unexpected one. The magnitude of this unprecedented situation and its international scope make it incompatible with the technicalities and minutiae of the American justice system. No court has the precedent or the jurisdiction to adequately seek justice on such a large and multi-dimensional scale. The call for accountability must be made to the government that launched the war in Vietnam and left a deadly, toxic legacy.

While all calls for governmental accountability or reparations entail at least a degree of symbolic justice, the situation in Vietnam is unique in that it also demands relatively clear-cut and practical action. The lawsuit brings at least some attention to the fact that there are still heavily contaminated "hot-spots" in Vietnam afflicting new victims.

The spraying of Agent Orange covered a vast amount of space and cleaning up only three of the most contaminated "hotspots" will cost as much as $60 million. Only recently has the US pledged to contribute to this cause, in the amount of just $300,000. Pledges from the US to aid these efforts with scientific research have been common, but actual results have been few. In the past several years, Congress has charged the National Academy of Sciences with studying the health effects of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese population, but this underfinanced research is a low priority and "at least two joint research efforts have fallen through," one as recently as February of 2005. Almost all of the decontamination efforts have come from non-profit organizations like the Ford Foundation and international bodies like the United Nations Development Programme.

The suffering that continues because of American policy in Vietnam and the lack of assistance from the US or admission of responsibility emphasizes the federal government's preference of global power and hegemony over international law, reconciliation, and moral concerns. The lawsuit on behalf of Vietnamese victims transcends mere legal matters; as VAVA President Dang Vu Hiep says, "The suit is not only for the life of Vietnamese Agent Orange victims, but also for the legitimate rights of all victims in many other countries, including the United States . . . We believe that conscience and justice are still respected in this earth." The American people tend to agree with him.

According to a Zogby Poll from 2004, 79.1 percent of Americans agree that the chemical companies should have had to pay compensation to American veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and 51.3 percent agree that Vietnamese victims should receive US compensation. From a moral standpoint, 64.4 percent agree that the US government "has a moral responsibility to compensate US servicemen and Vietnamese civilians who were affected by Agent Orange." People 18 to 29 years old were the demographic most likely to endorse compensation for the victims, demonstrating a commitment of the younger generations to reconciliation and foreign policy conducted within a framework of morality.

While the Justice Department heavily supported the chemical companies in court against the Vietnamese victims, claiming that a ruling against the firms "could cripple the president's power to direct the military," many American Vietnam War veterans see reparations as indispensable to achieving reconciliation, both on a personal level and an international one. American veteran Chuck Searcy has been in Vietnam for ten years cleaning up "unexploded ordnance" from what was the demilitarized zone as part of Project Renew. Searcy says, "It wasn't so much about undoing what had been done. That was impossible. But we could build on the ashes and the bones of the war -- build on the hopes for the future, better understanding and reconciliation." Despite the US government's occasional rhetoric about human rights and reconciliation, these wounds are likely to remain open, as most paths to healing diverge in some way with American might and dominance.

The Vietnam War, in conjunction with US military aggression elsewhere in the world in the Cold War and post-Cold War era, demonstrates that American interests and priorities are more aligned with military power and economic dominance than they are with international law or human rights. In response to the use of Agent Orange, resolutions were introduced in the United Nations as early as 1966 "charging the United States with violations of the 1925 Geneva Protocol limiting the use of chemical and biological weapons," according to Schuck. Perhaps more than any other nation, the United States is rigidly averse to having its course of military action influenced by international norms. It is for this reason that the US did not sign the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons, which bans the use of incendiary weapons against civilians, and that the US is "in near total isolation in [opposing] the global effort to ban [land] mines," according to Human Rights Watch. The unwillingness of the US to sincerely endorse international law or embrace an international justice system is well conveyed by former Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues David Scheffer, who says, "There is a reality, and the reality is that the United States is a global military power and presence. Other countries are not. We are."

The failure of domestic courts to provide justice or adequate compensation to victims of Agent Orange reinforces the need for political solutions that are grounded in international norms. The often amoral interplay between global "justice" and global "power" makes it necessary for the international community and the citizens of the US to insist on the protection of human rights and fundamental respect for human life. In her book Between Vengeance and Forgiveness, Martha Minow asserts, "Forever after [the Vietnam War era], efforts to create tribunals for war crimes would raise questions from many inside the United States about its own accountability to such tribunals." For nations with power and resources, nationalism and unrestrained decision-making tend to supersede justice.

The best that can emerge from trials like those regarding Agent Orange are revivals of discourse surrounding US actions in Vietnam and empowered movements that call for dedication to human rights and international law. Yet, in situations like this, trials alone have very limited potential for effecting positive and permanent change. It is the US government that must, in addition to compensating victims and helping to detoxify Vietnam, face the past by publicly committing to the prevention of such abuses in the future.

One of the most important ways to do this is to rethink opposition to a standing International Criminal Court, which, if given sufficient powers of prosecution, would enable the punishment of war criminals fairly and efficiently and aid the cause of reconciliation. Though US objections to this court, particularly from the current Bush administration and former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, center around a fear of a new judicial body threatening American sovereignty and eroding the Constitution, these concerns are largely unfounded unless international law is breached. The International Criminal Court operates under the principle of complementarity, meaning that it only functions if a state is charged with an international crime and fails to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute. Even abominations of justice -- like the show trial of William Calley (but not of any senior officers) for ordering the murder of approximately 500 civilians in the hamlet of Song My in 1968, which resulted in a life sentence that soon became three days in prison -- would be considered "investigation" and "prosecution."

Instead of a commitment to justice in Vietnam, the United States has sought "reconciliation" through the gospel of international commerce. After the US and Vietnam entered into a bilateral trade agreement in 2000, President Clinton delivered a speech extolling the act's significance: "This is another historic step in the process of . . . reconciliation and healing between our nations. Improvements in the relationship . . . have depended from the beginning upon progress in determining the fate of American who did not return from the war . . . Since 1993, we have undertaken 39 joint recovery operations in Vietnam, and [40 are] underway as we speak . . . And we, too, have sought to help Vietnam in its own search for answers . . . "

Exactly what answers have been given to the Vietnamese is unclear. During Clinton's visit to Hanoi, Vietnamese President Tran Duc Long asked the US "to acknowledge its responsibility to de-mine, detoxify former military bases and provide assistance to Agent Orange victims." No answer was given. Clearly, settling the American conscience about MIAs in Vietnam outweighs the lingering poison that contaminates swaths of the nation.

Not only are diplomatic and economic relations inadequate in achieving reconciliation, but they have the potential of adding further injustice by distorting the historical record. According to the Asia Times, "The Vietnamese government, which for decades publicly documented the impact of Agent Orange on civilian populations at its War Crimes Museum in Hanoi, recently toned down the exhibition in line with a warming trend in relations with Washington." With no justice, accountability, or compensation over the Agent Orange assaults, truth and historical memory are all the people of Vietnam have. Documentation of Agent Orange's tragic effects, especially on generation after generation of children, must be maintained and made publicly available in order for the gravity and criminality of such foreign policy decisions to be understood.

The use of Agent Orange in Vietnam is undoubtedly one of the most shameful foreign policy disasters in American history and one for which justice is unlikely to be achieved. Agent Orange, though unique in the continuous harm that it causes, was only one aspect of a larger catastrophe. Colonel David Hackworth, a decorated veteran, says "Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go. There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the number of bodies you counted." The United States has failed to repair the damage it caused, hold war criminals accountable, provide compensation to victims, and make a commitment to human rights and international law to prevent the recurrence of the atrocities in Vietnam. As the woeful past is rationalized, distorted, and denied, the victims of Agent Orange become not just casualties of war, but casualties of memory and injustice -- the Vietnam War's most toxic legacy.

Aaron Sussman is the co-founder and Executive Editor of Incite Magazine; he can be contacted at For more of Sussman's work, visit