Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Iraq War as War Crime (Part Two)

by Robert, Sam and Nat Parry

From the start of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the toll on Iraqi civilians and on out-gunned Iraqi soldiers was staggering. Indeed, that appears to have been part of the message Bush’s neocon advisers wanted to send to other countries that might think of resisting Washington’s imperial ambitions.

Yet back home, most of the horror was kept out of view for Americans watching on TV who wanted to feel good about their brave soldiers and not think much about how their country was crossing a line into an imperial aggressor.

On the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq -- and in honor of all who have died -- we are publishing the second part of an excerpt from Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush:

Despite the stiffer-than-expected resistance, the U.S. military continued to blast its way toward its goal of toppling Saddam Hussein.

From the first days of the war, that violence took a heavy toll on Iraq’s civilians, though the bloody images were often sanitized from the American broadcasts so as not to dampen the war enthusiasm and depress the TV ratings.

The Bush administration’s lack of sensitivity about civilian casualties was reflected in the hasty decision to bomb a residential restaurant where Hussein was thought to be eating. It turned out that the intelligence was wrong, but that wasn’t discovered until after the restaurant was leveled and 14 civilians, including seven children, were killed.

One mother hysterically sought her daughter and collapsed when the headless body was pulled from the rubble.

“When the broken body of the 20-year-old woman was brought out torso first, then her head,” The Associated Press reported, “her mother started crying uncontrollably, then collapsed.”

The London Independent cited this restaurant attack as one that represented “a clear breach” of the Geneva Conventions ban on bombing civilian targets.

Hundreds of other civilian deaths were equally horrific. Saad Abbas, 34, was wounded in an American bombing raid, but his family sought to shield him from the greater horror. The bombing had killed his three daughters – Marwa, 11; Tabarek, 8; and Safia, 5 – who had been the center of his life.

“It wasn’t just ordinary love,” his wife said. “He was crazy about them. It wasn’t like other fathers.”

The horror of the war was captured, too, in the fate of 12-year-old Ali Ismaeel Abbas, who lost his two arms when a U.S. missile struck his Baghdad home. Ali’s father, pregnant mother and siblings were all killed.

As he was evacuated to a Kuwaiti hospital, becoming a symbol of U.S. compassion for injured Iraqi civilians, Ali said he would rather die than live without his hands.

For its part, the Bush administration announced that it had no intention of tallying the number of Iraqi civilians who were killed in the war.

Outgunned Iraqis

On the battlefield, rather than throwing down their weapons, the Iraqi army sometimes fought heroically though hopelessly against the technologically superior U.S. forces.

Christian Science Monitor reporter Ann Scott Tyson interviewed U.S. troops with the 3rd Infantry Division who were deeply troubled by their task of mowing down Iraqi soldiers who kept fighting even in suicidal situations.

“Even as U.S. commanders cite dramatic success in the three-week-old war, many look upon the wholesale destruction of Iraq’s military and the killing of thousands of Iraqi fighters with a sense of regret,” Tyson reported. “They voice frustration at the number of Iraqis who stood their ground against overwhelming U.S. firepower, wasting their lives and equipment rather than capitulating as expected.”

“They have no command and control, no organization,” said Brig. Gen. Louis Weber. “They’re just dying.”

Commenting upon the annihilation of Iraqi forces in one-sided battles, Lt. Col. Woody Radcliffe said, “We didn’t want to do this. Even a brain-dead moron can understand we are so vastly superior militarily that there is no hope. You would think they would see that and give up.”

In one battle around Najaf, U.S. commanders ordered air strikes to kill the Iraqis en masse rather than have U.S. soldiers continue to kill them one by one.

“There were waves and waves of people coming at them with AK-47s, out of this factory, and they [the U.S. soldiers] were killing everyone,” said Radcliffe. “The commander called and said, ‘This is not right. This is insane. Let’s hit the factory with close air support and take them out all at once.’”

This slaughter of young Iraqis troubled front-line U.S. soldiers.

“For lack of a better word, I felt almost guilty about the massacre,” one soldier said privately. “We wasted a lot of people. It makes you wonder how many were innocent. It takes away some of the pride. We won, but at what cost?”

Bush seemed to share none of these regrets. Commenting about the Iraqi soldiers to his war council, Bush said they “fight like terrorists.”

To Bush, Iraq had become a demonstration of both America’s military might and his own itchy trigger finger, Bush had made Iraq his Alderaan, the hapless planet in the original Star Wars movie that was picked to show off the power of the Death Star.

“Fear will keep the local systems in line, fear of this battle station,” explained Death Star commander Tarkin in the movie. “No star system will dare oppose the emperor now.”

Similarly, the slaughter of the outmatched Iraqi military sent a message to other countries that might be tempted to resist Bush’s dictates.

At a Central Command briefing, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks took note of this awesome power on display as he described the “degrading” of Iraqi forces south of Baghdad.

“They’re in serious trouble,” Brooks said. “They remain in contact now with the most powerful force on earth.”

The enthusiasm of many Americans for the war in Iraq – and their lightly considered acquiescence to this crossover to imperial power – delivered another chilling message to the world.

The message was that the American people and their increasingly enfeebled democratic process would not serve as a check on George W. Bush, at least in the near term.

Iconic Ending

The fall of Baghdad after three weeks of fighting washed away most of the remaining doubts for a majority of the American people.

The iconic image of an American soldier and tank helping Iraqis topple a statue of Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdus Square on April 9 became Exhibit A to prove that Bush was right about “liberating” the Iraqis.

After being pulled down by the U.S. tank, the toppled statue was set upon by dancing Iraqis who carried off the head as a prize.

For many Americans the scene was a catharsis, bringing relief that the war might end quickly and satisfaction that the Iraqis were finally acting like the grateful people that administration officials had said they would be.

However, Americans seeking a fuller understanding of the moment needed to search the Internet or access foreign newspapers. Those who did found the victorious images were misleading.

Rather than a spontaneous Berlin Wall-type celebration by hundreds of thousands, the toppling of the statue was a staged event with a small crowd estimated in the scores, not even the hundreds. One photo from a distance showed the square ringed by U.S. tanks with a small knot of people gathered around the statue.

Indeed, given the political importance of the images, some intelligence experts expressed surprise that so few Iraqis were present. One CIA veteran told us that such images are never left to chance because of their psychological warfare potential.

He said all U.S. battle plans include a “psy-war annex,” a kind of public-relations script meant to influence the target population – in this case, the Iraqis – as well as the larger world public, including the American people.

Despite the scene’s shortcomings, it served its purpose.

The ouster of Hussein – and the apparent U.S. victory after a three-week campaign – solidified Bush’s reputation as a decisive leader who wouldn’t tolerate petty tyrants getting in America’s way.

For his neoconservative enthusiasts, the conquest of Iraq also marked an important step in establishing an American global empire that would punish any upstart who threatened U.S. interests and would send a message to potential American enemies everywhere.

As Hussein fled into hiding, Bush gained the political advantage over his domestic critics, too. The anti-empire side found itself pinned down by accusations that its opposition to the Iraq invasion had been naïve and even disloyal.

The war skeptics still tried to warn their fellow citizens of the dangers from the neoconservative plan to transform the American Republic into a new-age empire.

But many Americans were too caught up in the joy and excitement of military success to worry about such concerns as whether some fundamental change was occurring to the U.S. system of government.

The Iraq War naysayers also were a scattered lot, a disorganized mix of political interests, including old-time conservatives and traditional liberals, from the likes of Pat Buchanan to Howard Dean. The anti-imperial groupings also emphasized different points.

For instance, Buchanan made the case to his conservative backers that neoconservative ideologues had won over Bush and were pushing their strategies in the interests of hard-liners in Israel’s Likud Party who opposed ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

“We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests,” Buchanan wrote in The American Conservative.

In contrast, former Vermont Governor Dean, one of the few Democratic presidential contenders at the time who opposed Bush’s Iraq War resolution, stressed the damage Bush was doing to international cooperation needed to protect American long-term interests.

“This unilateral approach to foreign policy is a disaster,” Dean wrote in explaining his opposition to the so-called Bush Doctrine. “All of the challenges facing the United States – from winning the war on terror and containing weapons of mass destruction to building an open world economy and protecting the global environment – can only be met by working with our allies.”

Early Concerns

Without doubt, Bush and the neoconservatives were on a roll. But there were early signs that not everything was going as well as the neocons had hoped.

Chaos and looting followed the removal of the Hussein government. While U.S. Marines guarded offices associated with the oil industry, other unprotected government buildings were burned, including the central library where ancient Arabic texts were stored.

The national museum – one of the prides of the Islamic world – was ransacked with many priceless antiquities stolen and others smashed.

“They lie across the floor in tens of thousands of pieces, the priceless antiquities of Iraq’s history,” wrote Robert Fisk of London’s Independentnewspaper. “The looters had gone from shelf to shelf, systematically pulling down the statues and pots and amphorae of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the Sumerians, the Medes, the Persians and the Greeks and hurling them on to the concrete.

“Our feet crunched on the wreckage of 5,000-year-old marble plinths and stone statuary and pots that had endured every siege of Baghdad, every invasion of Iraq throughout history only to be destroyed when Americans came to ‘liberate’ the city.”

The CIA veteran told us that the post-combat chaos was partly the fault of inadequate Pentagon deployment of civil affairs personnel with the troops.

The wishful thinking about capitulation immediately after the demonstration of “shock and awe” left U.S. forces without enough experts to deal with the breakdown of police operations, the need for riot control, and the lack of electricity, food and medicines, he said.

As Marines and other front-line combat troops were forced into controlling anti-American demonstrations, killings of civilians resulted.

In the northern city of Mosul, Marines fired into angry crowds, killing 17 Iraqis in the city’s main square, the director of the city’s hospital said. Marines said they had been fired upon, but Mosul residents denied those claims.

“We must be united and support each other against the Anglo-American invasion,” declared Sheik Ibrahim al-Namaa, who emerged as a rising leader in Mosul, where the looting of that city’s ancient treasures also fed anger over the U.S. occupation. “We must try to put an end to this aggression.”

Thousands of Iraqis also demonstrated against the U.S. occupation in Baghdad, with nearly 100 Islamic leaders calling for the ouster of Americans and the creation of an Islamic state.

“You are the masters today,” said Islamic leader Ahmed al-Kubeisy about the Americans. “But I warn you against thinking of staying. Get out before we kick you out.”

But in those heady days, after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s government, Bush was living the life of a conquering emperor.


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

Robert Parry's web site is Consortium News

Living by the Sword by Rep. Ron Paul

It has been said that "he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword." And in the case of Eliot Spitzer this couldn't be more true. In his case it's the political sword, as his enemies rejoice in his downfall. Most people, it seems, believe he got exactly what he deserved.

The illegal tools of the state brought Spitzer down, but think of all the harm done by Spitzer in using the same tools against so many other innocent people. He practiced what could be termed "economic McCarthyism," using illegitimate government power to build his political career on the ruined lives of others.

No matter how morally justified his comeuppance may be, his downfall demonstrates the worst of our society. The possibility of uncovering personal moral wrongdoing is never a justification for the government to spy on our every move and to participate in sting operations.

For government to entice a citizen to break a law with a sting operation – that is, engaging in activities that a private citizen is prohibited by law from doing – is unconscionable and should clearly be illegal.

Though Spitzer used the same tools to destroy individuals charged with economic crimes that ended up being used against him, gloating over his downfall should not divert our attention from the fact that the government spying on American citizens is unworthy of a country claiming respect for liberty and the Fourth Amendment.

Two wrongs do not make a right. Two wrongs make it doubly wrong.

Sacrifice of our personal privacy has been ongoing for decades, but has rapidly accelerated since 9/11. Before 9/11 the unstated goal of collecting revenue was the real reason for the erosion of our financial privacy. When nineteen suicidal maniacs attacked us on 9/11, our country became convinced that further sacrifice of personal and financial privacy was required for our security.

The driving force behind this ongoing sacrifice of our privacy has been fear and the emotional effect of war rhetoric – war on drugs, war against terrorism, and the war against third world nations in the Middle East who are claimed to be the equivalent to Hitler and Nazi Germany.

But the real reason for all this surveillance is to build the power of the state. It arises from a virulent dislike of free people running their own lives and spending their own money. Statists always demand control of the people and their money.

Recently we've been told that this increase in the already intolerable invasion of our privacy was justified because the purpose was to apprehend terrorists. We were told that the massive amounts of information being collected on Americans would only be used to root out terrorists. But as we can see today, this monitoring of private activities can also be used for political reasons. We should always be concerned when the government accumulates information on innocent citizens.

Spitzer was brought down because he legally withdrew cash from a bank – not because he committed a crime. This should prompt us to reassess and hopefully reverse this trend of pervasive government intrusion in our private lives.

We need no more Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act!

No more Violent Radicalization & Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Acts!

No more torture!

No more Military Commissions Act!

No more secret prisons and extraordinary rendition!

No more abuse of habeas corpus!

No more PATRIOT Acts!

What we need is more government transparency and more privacy for the individual!

Rachel Corrie's Case for Justice By TOM WRIGHT and THERESE SALIBA

Five Years Later

The darkness is infinite
As I leave the curtain's edge
It is filled with watchers
Silent judges

--Rachel Corrie, about 11 years old

As their plane touches down in Tel Aviv this week, Cindy and Craig Corrie will mark five years since their daughter's death. On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie, 23, was crushed to death beneath an armored Israeli bulldozer. The Corries are a short distance from Gaza, where Rachel was killed, and where in the past few weeks, an Israeli military incursion killed over 100 Palestinians, including many women and children.

This week, the Corries come to Israel to attend the first Arabic-language performance of the acclaimed one-woman play, My Name is Rachel Corrie.

Compelling though her story was -- an American peace activist killed trying to block the demolition of her Palestinian host family's home, killed by the military of her own government's major regional ally -- Rachel's story might well have faded quickly, subsumed in the weekly news cycle just three days before the "Shock and Awe" of the attack on Iraq. But her family's instinct, even in the first hours of grief and bewilderment, felt imperative: "We must get her words out." Rachel's emails home during her month in the Gazan border town of Rafah, volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement, had stirred and shaken her family and friends. Having traveled from her comfortable life in her hometown of Olympia, Washington, she had sat smoking late into the night, passionately reporting the other-worldly scenes of violence and destruction from the military occupation around her.

From Rachel's habit since childhood of journal-keeping and poetry-writing, her parents knew her to be a writing talent of great originality and promise, and they sensed that her dispatches from Gaza could have a broader reach. Editors at theGuardian in London felt similarly, and told the Corries that Rachel's words "connected readers to the occupation more than anything they had read in a long while." The Corries granted the London newspaper permission to publish the e-mails nearly in total, yet to their knowledge, no U.S newspaper picked them up. [The first way many met Rachel was through CounterPunch which published many of her dispatches, before and after her death. AC / JSC ]

From there, Rachel's writing came to the attention of the British actor Alan Rickman (best known here as "Snape" of the Harry Potter films), whose collaboration with Katherine Viner of theGuardian would lead to the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie, produced by the Royal Court Theatre in London. That project, which germinated and was nurtured in London, would later reach audiences in the United States and around the world.

In the days following Rachel's death, the Corries' whole world was upended. With little connection to Mideast issues, they found themselves "catapulted into the midst of an international conflict and controversy." They moved back to Olympia, Washington, and immersed themselves in work, from local grassroots campaigns to national and international work on behalf of peace between Israel and Palestine. It was the beginning of an education.

The Search for Accountability

The family wanted the help of their own government in the painful task of securing the return of Rachel's body, as well as in determining responsibility and seeking redress. According to the U.S. Dept. of State, on the day after Rachel's death, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President Bush a "thorough, credible, and transparent" investigation. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher assured: "When we have the death of an American citizen, we want to see it fully investigated. That is one of our key responsibilities overseasto find out what happened in situations like these." U.S. Representative Brian Baird, whose district includes Rachel's native Olympia, introduced House Concurrent Resolution 111 calling on the U.S. government to conduct a full investigation of her death.

When Israeli officials said that an autopsy had to be performed before Rachel's body could be returned, the Corrie family insisted that an official from the U.S. Embassy be present. They also requested that it not be performed by anyone associated with the Israeli military, since after all, these were the people who killed her. Even an Israeli court ordered that a U.S. official be a witness, and with this understanding the Corries acquiesced. Not until 2007 would the family learn that their requests, and the court order, weren't honored. Although the State Dept. knew for four years that no American had been attendant, the Corries discovered this only through a Freedom of Information Act request. Furthermore, the autopsy had been performed by someone the IDF used regularly.

The results of Israel's investigation were announced in May of 2003. Eyewitnesses had reported that Rachel was clearly visible, at eye level, to the two drivers of the Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, surely plausible given her Day-Glo flak jacket, and the highly charged context of the skirmishes with the ISM activists throughout the day. (One soldier entered into the log that day, referring to the International activists: "Those foreigners should be handled and their entrance into the Gaza Strip forbidden. Additionallythe firing orders must state (illegible) that every adult person should be shot to kill"). But the military report simply found that they did not see her.

The case was closed and no charges were brought. The report would not even be released to the U.S. government, whose billions in annual largesse ranked Israel as by far the largest recipient of American aid. Pressed by the Corries, Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson acknowledged that regarding the Israeli Defense Forces report, "Your ultimate question, however, is a valid one, i.e., whether or not we view that report to have reflected an investigation that was 'thorough, credible, and transparent.' I can answer your question without equivocation. No, we do not consider it so." But the U.S. government declined to conduct its own investigation, and claimed it could not force a "thorough, credible and transparent" inquiry from the Israelis. Congressman Baird's resolution calling for an investigation had gathered 77 cosponsors, yet died in committee that year without a hearing.

The Corries persisted. It took nearly two years before they had a contact in the Justice Department, and were able to meet with the U.S. Attorney in Seattle, John McKay. He explained that one of the elements to enable a prosecution was a certification by the U.S. Attorney General that the killing was intended "to coerce, intimidate or retaliate against a civilian population or government." This anti-terrorism statute was used against Indonesia, when the FBI went to investigate the killing of an American, Rick Spier. Cindy explained how McKay told them, "'I'll give you as much time as you need, but I'm here to tell you that no Attorney General-past, present or future-will ever certify against Israel.' Maybe that's what shocked me the most," she said. "I couldn't believe that Mr. McKay was being so forthright. I was dumbfounded."

On March 17, 2005, the family met with Barry Sabin, head of the Counterterrorism Section of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department. Sabin told them that the applicable criminal statutes could be applied to the military of a foreign country and that Rachel's killing could meet the criteria of "trying to coerce, intimidate, or retaliate," if there was proper evidence for it.

The Corries said that such evidence was abundant, citing the killing of Rachel and two other international human rights observers within a seven week period by the IDF in Rafah, all of whom were documenting civilian home demolitions on the border between Gaza and Egypt. They pointed to the intimidation of internationals and Palestinian municipal water workers trying to repair water wells destroyed by the IDF in Rafah; finally, the mass demolition of civilian homes in Rafah was itself evidence of precisely such intimidation and coercion.

But, echoing U.S. Attorney McKay, Sabin told them there would be no investigation without the ability to prosecute, which would required certification by the U.S. Attorney General.

The family would meet once more with Justice Dept. officials Sabin and Michael Mullaney, more than a year later, when they were duly informed that the only applicable statute was Title 18, 2332, which required that Rachel's killing come under the rubric of a "serious, violent attack on a U.S. citizen or U.S. interests." But Justice wasn't going to pursue an investigation under Title 18, because, as Mullaney explained, they had to go back to the original intent of Congress in that statute, which meant it only to apply to "terrorist" attacks on Americans.

Cindy says, " I really asked the question twice: 'Are you saying that no matter what amount of evidence we bring to you there will never be a U.S. investigation into Rachel's killing?' And Barry Sabin said, 'I never say never, but no.' And our daughter Sarah said, 'Even if we could show intent?' And he nodded."

Sabin counseled that the criminal justice system was not the means to solve all problems. He suggested to the family that perhaps the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, was the best way to address the issue.

Caterpillar-the Question of Liability

Weighing more than 60 tons with its armored plating, the Caterpillar D9 bulldozer that killed Rachel Corrie is built to destroy a reinforced concrete house in a matter of minutes. More than 70,000 Palestinians have seen their homes destroyed by the IDF since the occupation began, and some 1,600 of these homes were demolished in Rafah alone, between 2000 and 2004. The wholesale destruction of neighborhoods on pretexts that were at best flimsy has long attracted the condemnation of the major human rights organizations, and executives at the Caterpillar Corporation can hardly claim innocence of the controversy. Rights groups have spent the last twenty years filling Caterpillar's In-box with appeals about grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to no effect.

In April 2002, the home of Mahmoud Omar Al Sho'bi was bulldozed to rubble in the middle of the night, without warning, in the West Bank town of Nablus. Perishing inside were his father Umar, his sisters Fatima and Abir, his brother Samir and pregnant sister-in-law Nabila, and their three children, Anas, Azzam and Abdallah, ages 4, 7, and 9.

In 2005, the Corries joined Mahmoud and four other Palestinian familes as plaintiffs in a major lawsuit against Caterpillar.

The suit charged not only wrongful death, public nuisance and negligence, but that Caterpillar violated international and federal law by selling the bulldozers to the IDF despite its knowledge of their intended, unlawful use. In doing so, claimed the lawsuit, Caterpillar aided and abetted war crimes such as collective punishment and destruction of civilian property.

Judge Franklin D. Burgess in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington dismissed the case without permitting discovery or hearing oral argument. His reasoning included the disturbing interpretation that a company cannot be held liable for selling its products-merely knowing they will assist war crimes-- unless it actually intended that the war crimes be committed. It is hard to imagine the corporate tort case that could surmount this kind of impediment.

Corrie v. Caterpillar then proceeded to the appellate level, before the Ninth Circuit. Just before the Court was set to issue its ruling, the Government weighed in on the matter with a late amicus brief -- standing with Caterpillar, and against the Corrie plantiffs. In the brief, the U.S. first stooped to argue that there should be no liability for aiding and abetting human rights violations under the statutes germane to this suit, namely the Alien Torts Statute of 1789, and the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1992. (These Acts are part of the foundation of individuals' access to U.S. courts in cases of human rights violations.)

Then, in the same brief, the government declared (without submitting evidence) that it had reimbursed Israel for the cost of the bulldozers. Therefore, went its argument, to hold the company liable would be to implicate U.S. foreign policy itself in criminal violations. Foreign policy being the prerogative largely of the Executive branch, the Court lacked jurisdiction. To hear the case would be a breach of the separation of powers.

Incredibly, the Ninth Circuit embraced this "foreign policy" argument, and in September, 2007 affirmed the dismissal of the suit.

"Foreign policy" challenges of this kind, based on the so-called "political question" doctrine, do come before the courts, but are usually rejected, explains Maria LaHood, Senior Attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and who led the legal team. It's just not the kind of dispute that has been found to involve a genuine "separation of powers" conflict, she argues. "Here we have private partiessuing Caterpillar for war crimes and other violations, and way off to the side we have the possibility that the U.S. is paying for the bulldozers. It's so far attenuated that it is a stretch to call this a political question. We allege violations of international law. That's what the court's role is-to adjudicate. Take this to its logical extension: you sue corporations, foreign officials, foreign governments, and anytime it may be a party that receives aid from the US government, it somehow interferes with U.S. foreign policy? That just can't be."

The plaintiffs are now awaiting a reply on their petition for a re-hearing of the appeal.

The Reach of Rachel's story

In Rachel's case, all three branches of the US government have now taken a stand -- against her, and in favor of Israeli and corporate impunity. The Corries aren't deterred. "The kind of impotence in government around this whole issue, after five years with Rachel's case," says Cindy, "points to the need for people at the grassroots level to find other channels, other ways of keeping the communications open, of building those relationships that ultimately are going to lead to some change in the world."

Rachel's parents, along with many community activists, have established the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice ( and the Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project (, local initiatives fostering exchanges and projects with Palestinians. With Gaza under siege, and Hamas declared a "terrorist organization", ORSCP faces financial obstacles, and delegates from both the US and Rafah face difficulties getting in and out of Gaza. Cindy states that the extreme difficulties "make it all the more important to keep trying to do the work. It's because it's that bad that it's so crucial for us to not just back away and say it's too hard."

Yet even on the local level, the government is a hurdle to be overcome. The Olympia City Council rejected official sister-city status in April 2007 after a concerted campaign by local activists. Despite broad community support, as well as the backing of Sister Cities International, the City Council thwarted the initiative, deferring to some in the community who viewed the Palestinians as "terrorists" and the project as "divisive." As one organizer wrote from Portland, "If Rachel Corrie's city cannot gain official recognition, then who can?" Still, the Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project, initiated by Rachel, won't go away. In the past month, two local delegates got in to Rafah to witness conditions under siege and the temporary breeching of the border wall, and to offer some slight economic relief through fair trade exchange of Palestinian embroidery, even as people imprisoned in Rafah are running out of basic supplies, such as thread, baby formula and medicines, not to mention food, water, and electricity.

If all official avenues have been closed to Rachel's case and vision of justice, the power of her words has proven indomitable despite efforts to silence them. And if, as Justice Dept. official Barry Sabin claimed, the stage play was indeed the best means of addressing Rachel's killing, then the play indicts the Israeli military in the deliberate killing of Rachel, as well as in the systematic onslaught on the Palestinians' ability to survive. My Name is Rachel Corrie, which opens this week in Haifa, in Arabic, is reaching audiences worldwide. From the cities of Lima, Montreal, Athens, New York, Des Moines, Seattle, and scores more, and with showings performed or scheduled throughout Europe, and in South Africa, Australia, even Iceland, Rachel's story continues to have what Cindy describes as an "unexpected impact." In several US cities, theaters have backed out due to political pressure. "If people aren't familiar with the political landscape," states Craig, "they can be blindsided and easily scared by the pressure." Yet artists and activists offended by the censorship and silencing, usually find creative ways to stage the play, bringing even more attention to Rachel's story.

Moreover, this month has seen the release of Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie, a major publication by Norton. Here, as in the play, Rachel becomes more than a political symbol. As Cindy explains, "Sometimes she is demonized; sometimes she is lionized, but it makes it more possible for her to have more impact if people see her as human." The sustained beauty of Rachel's writings and sketches, and her incisive observations into personal and global relationships, from 10 years old into young adulthood, expose a young woman who is deeply caring, creative, quirky, wise beyond her years, anything but naïve.

"People accuse Rachel of being naïve, which of course she wasn't," says Craig. "Though she may have been naïve about US pressure on Israel." Up to the day of her death, Rachel worked tirelessly, building relationships with Palestinians and Israeli activists, engaging in direct action, and strategizing on the grassroots level to stop the "massive destruction of civilian homes" in Rafah. In a press release from March 2003, she writes, "We can only imagine what it is like for Palestinians living here, most of them already once-or-twice refugees, for whom this is not a nightmare, but a continuous reality from which international privilege cannot protect them, and from which they have no economic means to escape."

Today, the Corries share Rachel's sense of urgency, even as they point to the hypocrisy of the US government, the world's superpower, claiming impotence and abdicating responsibility in Rachel's case, and in the case for Palestinian justice. As Craig says, "We have the luxury to sit around and discuss all of this, yet we feel the growing impatience. We want to drive home Rachel's message that we have a responsibility to act."

Tom Wright directed the documentary, Checkpoint: The Palestinians After Oslo, and was a founding member of the Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project.

Therese Saliba is faculty of International Feminism and Middle East Studies at The Evergreen State College, Olympia, and is a board member of The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice. Mail can be sent to

There’s Something About Condi - IDIOT…OR SOCIOPATH?

Long the secret weapon of Bush era diplomacy, Condoleezza Rice charms and confounds her adversaries with a steady barrage of glib non-sequiturs and hilariously transparent fibberoonies. She is brilliant and disturbing to watch, a Kafkaesque Teri Hatcher who reminds us, ultimately, that we are all doomed.

Anyway this week our enigmatic overlady was down in South America pretending that the Bushes hadn’t just pushed the region to the brink of war. Her interview with Brazilian magazine Epoca revives the old debate: is Condi an idiot….or a sociopath? We investigate, after the jump!

March 13, 2008

QUESTION: President Chavez insists that the U.S. is his enemy. Does the U.S. consider him to be the same?

SECRETARY RICE: We’ve always had a good relationship with Venezuela, and I want to be very clear the United States has a broad policy in Latin America where we stand for social justice based on economic growth and economic development, where we stand for equality for women and for people of different racial backgrounds. Today, I’m going to be signing an agreement in which we look to alleviate all forms of discrimination. That’s the positive agenda. The United States doesn't have enemies in Latin America. So we -- no, we don’t have enemies in Latin America.

Hi. What? “Good relationships” with Venezuela? “Doesn’t have enemies” in the region? That’s sort of a cute and weirdly blatantly obviously wrong. And she’s “Signing an agreement” to “alleviate all forms of “discrimination”? WTF does that even mean? And should we be worried?

Idiot…or Sociopath? Idiot. Look it’s tempting to read a lot into the pregnant pause in the last line, but being diplomatic ourselves we’re going to chalk it up to jet lag or sleep deprivation. She wanted to stay positive, and just effed it up in her own little way. I think.
QUESTION: But is Chavez a threat for the stability and peace for the region?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the problem is that some of the activities of Venezuela, I think, are questionable in this regard, and we watch it carefully. But we build on our strong relationship with our allies, and we don’t have an ideological test. We are absolutely able to work with countries from the left, countries from the right –

Haha. If by “work with” you mean “violently overthrow their democratically elected leaders of the really lefty ones and refuse to talk to the others,” then ok maybe.

Idiot…Or Sociopath? I’m going to have to go with “sociopath” on this one. Even an idiot would know she’s not giving an interview with somebody from the dumbass U.S. press corps, and that obviously the Brazilians know the U.S. role in Venezuela. And Haiti. And Colombia. And Argentina…

QUESTION: Despite the speeches?


QUESTION: Despite the speech?

SECRETARY RICE: What speech?


SECRETARY RICE: Oh, it’s not worth talking about.

Hahahaha. Eek. Ok you’re both right. It doesn’t have to be an either/or.

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army (FARC-EP)

The Cost of Unilateral Humanitarian Initiatives

By James Petras

President Uribe’s troop and missile assault, violating Ecuadorian sovereignty came very close to precipitating a regional war with Ecuador and Venezuela. During an interview I had with President Chavez, at the time of this bellicose act, he confirmed to me the gravity of Uribe’s doctrine of ‘preventive war’ and ‘extra-territorial intervention’, calling the Colombian regime the ‘Israel of Latin America’. Earlier, during his Sunday radio program ‘Alo Presidente’, in which I was an invited guest, he followed up with an announcement that he was sending ground, air and sea forces to the Venezuelan frontier with Colombia.

Uribe’s cross-border attack was meant to probe the political ‘will’ of Ecuador and Venezuela to respond to military aggression, as well as to test the performance of US-coordinated remote, satellite directed missile attack. There is no doubt also that Uribe aimed to scuttle the imminent humanitarian release of FARC prisoner, Ingrid Betancourt, being negotiated by the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, Ecuador’s Interior Minister Larrea, the Colombian Red Cross and especially Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Kouchner, Larrea and Chavez were in direct contact with FARC’s leader, Raul Reyes who, along with 22 others, including non-combatants of various nationalities, were assassinated in Ecuador by Uribe’s American-coordinated missile and ground attack. Uribe’s military intervention was in part directed at denying the important diplomatic role, which Chavez was playing in the release FARC-held prisoners, in contrast to the failure of Uribe’s military efforts to ‘free the prisoners’.

Raul Reyes was recognized as the legitimate interlocutor in these negotiations by both European and Latin American governments, as well as the Red Cross; if the negotiations succeeded in the prisoner release it was likely that the same governments and humanitarian bodies would pressure Uribe to open comprehensive prisoner exchange and peace negotiations with the FARC, which was contrary to Bush and Uribes’ policy of unrelenting warfare, political assassinations and scorched earth policies.

What was at stake in Uribe’s violating Ecuadorian sovereignty and murdering 22 FARC guerrillas and Mexican visitors was nothing less than the entire military counter-insurgency strategy, which has been pursued by Uribe since coming to office in 2002.

Uribe was clearly willing to risk what eventually happened – the censure and sanction of the Organization of American States and the (temporary) break in relations with Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua. He did so because he could count on Washington’s backing, which covertly (and illegally) participated in and immediately applauded the attack. That was more important than jeopardizing cooperation with Latin American nations and France. Colombia remains Washington’s military forward shield in Latin America and, in particular, it is the most important politico-military instrument to destabilize and overthrow the anti-imperialist Chavez government. Clinton and Bush have invested over $6 billion dollars in military aid to Colombia over the past 7 years, including sending 1500 military advisers and Special Forces, dozens of Israeli commandos and ‘trainers’, funding over 2000 mercenary fighters and over 10,000 paramilitary forces working closely with the 200,000-man strong Colombian Armed Forces.

Notwithstanding these and other international considerations, influencing Uribe’s extra-territorial ‘act of war’, I would argue that the main consideration in this attack on the FARC campsite in Ecuador was to decapitate, weaken and isolate the most powerful guerrilla movement in Latin America and the most uncompromising opponent to Washington and Bogotá’s repressive neo-liberal policies. International politicians, including progressive leaders like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Rafael Correa, who have called for the end of armed struggle, seem to overlook the recent experiences of FARC efforts to de-militarize the struggle, including three peace initiatives (1984-1990), (1999-2001) and (2007-2008) and the heavy costs to the FARC in terms of the killing of key leaders, activists and sympathizers. During the mid-1980’s many leaders of the FARC joined the electoral process, formed a political party – the Patriotic Union. The scores of successfully elected local and national officeholders and…5,000 of their members, leaders, congress-people and three presidential candidates were slaughtered. The FARC returned to the countryside and guerrilla struggle. Ten years later, the FARC agreed to negotiate with then President Pastrana in a demilitarized zone. The FARC held public forums, discussed policy alternatives for social and political reforms to democratize the state and debated private versus public ownership of strategic economic sectors with diverse sectors in ‘civil society’. President Pastrana, under pressure from US President Clinton and later Bush, abruptly broke off negotiations and sent the armed forces in to capture the FARC’s high level negotiating teams. The US-funded and advised Colombian military failed to capture the FARC leaders but set the stage for the scorched earth policies pursued by paramilitary President Uribe.

In 2007-2008, the FARC offered to negotiate the mutual release of political prisoners in a secure demilitarized zone in Colombia. Uribe refused. President Chavez entered into negotiations as a mediator. The French government and others challenged Chavez to ask for ‘evidence’ that the FARC prisoners were alive. The FARC complied with Chavez request. It sent three emissaries who were intercepted and are being detained by the Colombian military under brutal conditions. Still the FARC continued with Chavez request and attempted to relocate the first set of prisoners to be turned over to the Red Cross and Venezuelan officials – but they came under aerial attack by Uribe’s armed forces thus aborting the release. Still later, under increased risk, they were able to release the first batch of captives. The French Foreign Minister Kouchner and Chavez made new requests for the release of Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian national and former presidential candidate. This was sabotaged when Uribe, with high-level US technical assistance, launched a major military offensive throughout the country, including a comprehensive monitoring program, tracing communications between Reyes, Chavez, Kouchner, Larrea and the Red Cross. It was this high-risk role played by Reyes as the highest level FARC official involved in the negotiations and coordination for captive release that led to his assassination. Outside pressures for a unilateral release of prisoners caused the FARC to lower their security. The result was the loss of leaders, negotiators, sympathizers and militants – without securing the release of any of their 500 comrades held in Colombian prisons. The entire emphasis of Sarkozy, Chavez, Correa and others demanded unilateral concessions from the FARC - as if their own tortured and dying comrades in Uribe’s jails were not part of any humanitarian consideration.

The subsequent summit in the Dominican Republic during the weekend of March 8-9 led to a condemnation of Colombia’s violation of Ecuador’s territorial sovereignty, but the Uribe government, responsible for the invasion, was not actually named or officially sanctioned. Moreover, no mention was made (let alone respect shown) for the treacherously assassinated leader, Raul Reyes, whose life was lost in pursuit of a humanitarian exchange. If the meeting itself was a disappointing response to a tragedy, the aftermath was a farce: a smiling Uribe, walked across the meeting hall and offered a hand shake and perfunctory apology to Correa and Chavez, while Nicaraguan President Ortega embraced the murderous leader of Colombia. By that vile and cynical gesture, Uribe turned the entire military mobilization and weeklong denunciations by Chavez and Correa into a comic opera. The post-meeting ‘reconciliation’ gave the appearance that their opposition to a cross-border attack and the cold-blooded murder of Reyes was merely political theater – a bad omen for the future if, as is likely, Uribe repeats his cross border attacks on an even larger scale. Will the people of Venezuela or Ecuador and the armed forces take serious another call for mobilization and readiness?

Less than a week after the Santa Domingo ‘reconciliation’ meeting, Chavez and Uribe renewed an earlier military agreement to cooperate against ‘violent groups whatever their origins’. Clearly Chavez hopes that by dissociating Venezuela from any suspicion of providing moral support to the FARC, Uribe will stop the large-scale flow of paramilitary infiltrators from entering Venezuela and destabilizing the country. In other words, ‘reasons of state’ take precedence over solidarity with the FARC. What should be clear to Chavez however is the fact that Uribe will not abide by his side of the agreement because of his ties to Washington, and the latter’s insistence that the Chavez government be destabilized by any or all means, including the continued infiltration by Colombian paramilitary forces into Venezuela.

Uribe could apologize to Correa and Chavez because the real purpose of his military attack was to destroy the FARC leadership, any way, any place, any time and under any circumstance – even in the midst of international negotiations. Washington placed a $5 million dollar bounty on each and every member of the FARC secretariat, long before Chavez or Correa came to power, Washington’s top priority – as witnessed by its military aid programs ($6 billion dollars in 7 years), size and scope of its military advisory mission (1500 US specialists) and the length of its involvement in counter-insurgency activities within Colombia (45 years) – was to destroy the FARC.

Washington and its Colombian surrogates were willing to incur the predictable displeasure of Correa, Chavez and the slap on the wrist by the OAS if they could succeed in killing the Number Two commander of the FARC. The reason is clear: it is the FARC and not the neighboring leaders, who influence a third of Colombia’s countryside; it is the FARC’s military-political power which ties down a third of Colombia’s armed forces and prevents Colombia from engaging in any major military intervention against Chavez at the behest of Washington. Uribe and Washington have pressured Correa into cutting most of the FARC’s logistical supply lines and many security camps on the Ecuadorian-Colombian border. Correa claims to have destroyed 11 FARC campsites and arrested 11 guerrillas. The Venezuelan National Guard has turned a blind eye to Colombian cross border military pursuit of FARC activists and sympathizers among the Colombian refugee-peasantry camped along the Venezuelan-Colombian border. Uribe and Washington’s pressure has forced Chavez to publicly disclaim any support for the FARC, its methods and strategy. The FARC is internationally isolated – the Cuban Foreign Ministry proclaimed the phony ‘reconciliation’ at Santo Domingo to be a ‘great victory’ for peace. The FARC is diplomatically isolated, even as it retains substantial domestic support in the provinces and countryside of Colombia.

With the ‘neutralization’ of outside support, or sympathy for the FARC, the Uribe regime – before, during and immediately after the Santo Domingo meeting – launched a series of bloody murders and threats against all progressive and leftist organizations. In the run-up to a March 6, 2008 200,000-strong ‘march against state terror’, hundreds of organizers and activists were threatened, abused, followed, interrogated and accused by Uribe of ‘supporting the FARC’, a government label, which was followed up by the death squad killings of the leader of the march and four other human rights spokespeople. Immediately following the mass demonstration, the principle Colombian trade union, the CUT (the Confederation of Colombian Workers) reported several assassinations and assaults including the head of the banking employees union, a leader of the teachers union, the head of the education section of the CUT and a researcher at a pedagogical institute. All told, over 5,000 trade unionists have been killed, 2 million peasants and farmers have been forcibly removed and their land seized by pro-Uribe paramilitary forces and landlords. Former self-confessed death squad leaders publicly have admitted to funding and controlling over one-third of the elected members of Congress backing Uribe. Currently 30 congress-people are on trial for ‘association’ with the paramilitary death squads. Several of Uribe’s most intimate cabinet collaborators were exposed as having family ties with the death squads and two were forced to resign.

Despite international disrepute, especially in Latin America, with powerful support from Washington, Uribe has built up a murderous killing machine of 200,000 military, 30,000 police, several thousand death squad killers and over a million fanatical middle and upper class Colombians in favor of ‘wiping out the FARC’ – meaning eliminating independent popular organizations of civil society. More than any other past Colombian oligarchic rulers, Uribe is the closest to a fascist dictator combining state terror with mass mobilization.

The opposition political and social movements in Colombia are massive, committed and vulnerable. They are subject to daily intimidation and gangland-style murder. Through terror and mass propaganda, Uribe has so far been able to impose his rule over the working class opposition and attract mass middle class support. But he has utterly failed to defeat, destroy or disarticulate the FARC – his most consequential opposition. Each year since he has come to power, Uribe has pledged massive, all-out military sweeps of entire regions of the country, which would finally put an end to the ‘terrorists’. Tens of thousands of peasants in FARC-influenced regions have been tortured, raped, murdered and driven from their homes. Each of Uribe’s military offensives has failed. Yet he absolutely and totally fails to recognize what some generals and even US officials observe: the FARC cannot be militarily annihilated and at some point the government must negotiate.

Uribe’s failures and the enduring presence of the FARC have become a psychotic obsession: All territorial, legal, international constraints are thrown overboard. Alternating between euphoria and hysteria, faced with internal opposition to his mono-maniac strategy of terror, he screams ‘FARC supporters’ at any and all overseas and Colombian critics. To Ecuador and Venezuela, he promises ‘not to invade their territory again’ unless ‘circumstances warrant it.’ So much for ‘reconciliation.’

The period of humanitarian exchange is dead; the FARC cannot and will not accommodate the requests of well-intentioned friends, especially when it puts in risk the entire FARC organization and leadership. Let us concede that Chavez intentions were well meant. His pleas for a mutual release of prisoners might have made sense if he had been dealing with a rational bourgeois politician responsive to international leaders and organizations and eager to create a favorable image before world public opinion. But it was naïve for Chavez to believe that a psychotic politician with a history of annihilating his opposition would suddenly discover the virtues of negotiations and humanitarian exchanges. Without question, the FARC understands better than its Andean and Caribbean friends through hard experience and bitter lessons, that armed struggle may not be the desired method but it is the only realistic way to confront a brutal fascist regime.

Uribe’s killing of Raul Reyes was not about Chavez initiatives or Ecuador’s sovereignty or Ingrid Betancourt’s captivity, it was about Raul Reyes, a consequential and life-long revolutionary and leader of the FARC. The war-scare is over, differences have been papered over, the leaders have returned to their palaces, but Raul Reyes has not been forgotten – at least not in the countryside of Colombia or in the hearts of its peasants.

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). His latest book is "The Power of Israel in the United States" (Clarity Press, 2006).

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi - Life in Iraq Under U.S. Occupation

Bush versus Chavez By Stephen Lendman

Bush versus Chavez

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, March 17, 2008

Imagine the following - the nation Martin Luther King called "The Greatest Purveyor of Violence in the World Today" may brand democratic Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism if extremist lawmakers on the Hill get their way.

On March 12, George Bush accused Hugo Chavez of backing Colombian-based "terrorists" and using Venezuela's oil wealth for an anti-American campaign. He further claimed Chavez has a "thirst for power....of squander(ing his country's) oil wealth....of prais(ing a) terrorist leader as a good revolutionary and order(ing) his troops to the Colombian border. This is the latest step in a disturbing pattern of provocative behavior by the regime in Caracas. He has also called for FARC terrorists to be recognized as a legitimate army (and his) senior regime officials have met with FARC leaders in Venezuela."

At the same time, 21 extremist lawmakers want Venezuela named a state sponsor of terrorism and added to the State Department's list of five others for "repeatedly provid(ing) support for acts of international terrorism" under three US laws:

-- the Export Administration Act, section 6 (j);

-- the Arms Export Control Act, section 40; and

-- the Foreign Assistance Act, section 620A.

Countries now listed include - Syria (1979), Cuba (1982), Iran (1984), North Korea (1988), and Sudan (1993). Designation triggers sanctions that "penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with state sponsors."

The US Code Definition of Terrorism

The US Code defines "international terrorism" as follows:

(A) "violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended -

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States...."

The US Army Operational Concept for Terrorism (TRADOC Pamphlet No. 525-37, 1984) shortens the definition to be "the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature....through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear."

The US Definition of War Crimes - Part I, Chapter 118, Number 2441 of the US Code

(a) "Offense. - Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.

(b) Circumstances. - The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).

(c) Definition. - As used in this section the term "war crime" means any conduct -

(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;

(2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;

(3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any Protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict; or

(4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians."

Two Hemispheric Neighbors Worlds Apart

Under US terrorism and war crimes statutes as well as by any international standard, the US is a flagrant and serial abuser. The record is hardly disputable in spite of efforts made to sanitize it.

In contrast, Hugo Chavez seeks unity; wants stability; embraces his neighbors; and promotes global solidarity, equality and political, economic and social justice quite mirror opposite to Washington's conquest and imperial agenda. Unlike America, Venezuela doesn't attack or threaten other nations. It offers no-strings aid (including low-priced oil to US cities) and mutually beneficial trade and other alliances.

Chavez champions human rights, has no secret prisons, doesn't practice torture or state-sponsored killings, respects the law and everyone's rights under it. He's a true social democrat in a participatory democracy, and has been elected and reelected overwhelmingly under procedures independently judged open, free and fair. That's what Bolivarianism is about, but try hearing that from Washington or the dominant media using any pretext to vilify it and the man who leads it.

Chavez is a hero in the region and around the world, and that makes him Washington's target. Imagine the Bush administration matching his December 31 gesture or the media reporting it fairly. He granted amnesty to imprisoned 2002 coup plotters, except for those who fled the country. The decree pardoned figures accused in the scheme, who took over state television at the time, who tried to murder him in recent years, and who later sabotaged state oil company PDVSA during the 2002 - 2003 management lockout. He also pardoned 36 other prisoners in a conciliatory measure to turn "the page (and direct the) country....toward peace."

In a post-9/11 environment, here's how Washington rewards him:

-- he's relentlessly targeted by measures that so far stop short of disrupting business;

-- on December 11, three Venezuelans and one Uruguayan were arrested and charged in US federal court with acting and conspiring as agents of the Venezuelan government without having notified the US Attorney General; they were accused of conspiring to conceal the source, destination and role of the Venezuelan government to deliver $800,000 to Argentina with a US businessman as conduit;

-- on November, 2007, by conspiring with Colombia to halt mediation efforts with the FARC-EP for the release of 45 hostages at the time, including three US contractors;

-- for repeatedly denying Venezuela's extradition request for Luis Posada Carriles who's wanted for outstanding crimes and in spite of a legally-binding extradition treaty between the countries dating since 1923;

-- on November 5, for approving H. Res. 435 EH (by voice vote) condemning Iran as the "most active state sponsor of terrorism;" it also targeted Venezuela with examples of relations between the two countries that are hostile to Washington;

-- on September 14, 2007, citing Venezuela for the third consecutive year for failing to observe international counternarcotics agreements;

-- on June 21, for approving representative Connie Mack's H. Amdt. to H.R. 2764 to direct $10 million for propaganda broadcasting into Venezuela;

-- on June 12, the State Department targeted Venezuela in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report that placed the country in Tier 3 status for not making adequate efforts to combat trafficking in persons;

-- on May 24, for unanimously approving S. Res. 211 condemning Venezuela's disregard for free expression for not renewing (one of) RCTV's operating licenses;

-- on May 14, for the second consecutive year, condemning Venezuela for not fully cooperating in antiterrorism efforts; other nations listed were Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria;

-- on April 30, the State Department condemned Venezuela for being unwilling to prevent the country's territory from being used as a safe haven by Colombian "terrorist groups;"

-- on March 6, the State Department cited Venezuela's human rights situation showed "politicization of the judiciary, harassment of the media, and harassment of the political opposition;"

-- on March 1, the State Department condemned Venezuela for being one of the principal hemispheric drug transit countries because of its location, rampant high-level corruption, weak judicial system, and lack of international counternarcotics cooperation;

-- on February 7, Secretary Rice accused Chavez of "assault(ing) democracy in Venezuela (and) destroying his own country economically (and) politically;" and

-- on January 11, National Intelligence Director (and serial killer) John Negroponte accused Chavez of being "among the most stridently anti-American leaders anywhere in the world (whose) try(ing) to undercut US influence in Venezuela, in the rest of Latin America, and elsewhere internationally;" he also said his military purchases were threatening his neighbors and could fuel a regional arms race.

The above examples only covered 2007 with many comparable and more extreme ones in earlier years. Excluded as well are continuing covert actions with open-checkbook funding to destabilize and topple the Chavez government. One of them is what Latin American expert James Petras mentions in his March 12 article on the FARC-EP and "The Cost of Unilateral Humanitarian Initiatives." He explains that Chavez's diplomatic rapprochement with Uribe won't halt "large-scale (Columbian) paramilitary (infiltration into) Venezuela (that) destabiliz(e) the country" because Washington wants it continued.

So far, actions have stopped short of disrupting business, but anything is possible before January 2009 or thereafter. Washington fears Chavismo's good example. It's strengthening, spreading and creating angst in American hard right circles and for Democrats as well.

Charges and Countercharges

The March 13 Wall Street Journal reported that US intelligence officials have been examining "computer files (claimed to have been) seized from (FARC-EP) guerrillas earlier this month by Colombian commandos." The Uribe government (with no supportive evidence) says they show Chavez "was in contact with the rebels and plann(ed) to give them $300 million. If true, that could open Venezuela to US sanctions," but Washington will likely use lesser measures instead.

White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe gave no indication either way in stating: "Our intelligence agencies are looking at the material acquired....and we will see where that lands." Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon said: "Declaring somebody a state sponsor of terrorism is a big step, a serious step. It's one that we will only take after very careful consideration of all the evidence." For her part, Secretary Rice was true to form adding: "it is an obligation of every member of the United Nations...not to support terrorists."

There was more as well from an unidentified senior US official who said government lawyers were asked to clarify "what goes into effect in terms of prohibitions or prohibited activities" when a "state sponsor" designation is made. He added that if Washington accepts the computer documents as valid, then "I think it will beg the question of whether or not Venezuela, given Chavez's interactions with the FARC, has....crossed the threshold of state sponsor of terror."

Former State Department arms trafficking expert, James Lewis, explained further. He said "state sponsor" (designation) immediately imposes (restrictions) on the abilities of US companies to work in" the country. They'll be "forbidden from operating there, forbidden from receiving any money from Venezuela. It would make it very hard for Venezuela to sell oil to the US. All the arrangements we have now where Venezuelan oil is routinely sent to the United States would have to stop." Lewis stopped short of speculating this will happen, but his tone suggests it's unlikely. Corporate interests would also balk because business in Venezuela is booming, so are profits, and at a time companies are struggling for every source they can get.

That wasn't on Mary Anastasia O'Grady's mind in her March 10 Wall Street Journal column. She was all venom and agitprop in her commentary on "The FARC Files - Four presidents (Chavez, Correa, Morales and Ortega), four best friends of terrorists." She claimed laptop documents "show that Mr. Chavez and (FARC-EP leader) Reyes were not only ideological comrades, but also business partners and political allies in the effort to wrest power from Mr. Uribe." She also attacked the FARC-EP with a menu of charges, including efforts to buy 50 kilos of uranium for a possible dirty bomb and a (mysterious) letter explaining "terrorist efforts to acquire missiles from Lebanon." And she jumped on four regional leaders for "support(ing) FARC violence and treachery against Mr. Uribe."

On the same page, a Journal editorial referred to the "Venezuelan strongman" and "Chavez Democrats" who help "our enemy by spurning our best Latin ally," and it "isn't the first time Democrats have (done it), but it would be the most destructive." The reference is to the Colombia (US) Free Trade Agreement. It's stalled in Congress and likely dead this session with Democrats not wanting to touch it in an election year - unless they can cut a deal with the administration for something they want.

The Journal blasts them and Jimmy Carter, too, for blessing Chavez's 2004 electoral victory. It then claimed Democrats "oppose the deal on grounds that Mr. Uribe has not done more to protect 'trade unionists.' In fact, Mr. Uribe has done more to reduce violence in Colombia than any modern leader in Bogota. The real question for Democrats is whether they're going to choose Colombia - or Hugo Chavez." And the beat goes on with 10 more months under George Bush for it to boil over and plenty of media support heating things up.

In the face of criticism, Caracas wasn't quiet. Reaction was swift with Venezuela's OAS representative, Jorge Valero, calling the administration "the terrorist government par aberration, an absolutely stupid thing to say (by a government in Washington) that practices state terrorism, that has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan without respect for international law, that commits genocidal practices (around) the world, that has invaded Latin American and Caribbean countries, that aims to present itself as the moral conscience of the world."

Venezuela's Information Minister, Andres Izarra, added that US officials are considering measures against Venezuela because "they are searching for new ways to attack....and move forward with their plan to finish with the Bolivarian Revolution."

In a March 14 televised speech, Hugo Chavez dared the Bush administration to designate Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism. He said doing it is Washington's response to the country's success and added: "We shouldn't forget for an instant that we're in a battle against North American imperialism and that they have classified us as enemies - at least in this continent they have us as enemy No. 1." Their "imperial plan is to overthrow this government and knock down the Bolivarian Revolution. They're afraid of (its impact in) Latin America" (and, indeed, he's right).

As for allegedly paying $300 million to the FARC-EP, the Venezuelan government denounced the claim as an "exercise in falsification (and added) that the only foreign government that finances the conflict in Colombia is the United States." Caracas also affirms that its only guerrilla contacts were for hostage releases with key peace interlocutor Reyes now dead because of Colombia's (made in USA) incursion.

Other countries have also negotiated, including France, Ecuador and the US as recently declassified documents show. In 1998, Philip Chicola, State Department Office of Andean Affairs director, met secretly in Costa Rica with FARC-EP leaders Reyes and Olga Marin after Secretary of State Albright designated the group a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in 1997.

In the end, where will this lead with views on that score mixed. Venezuela is America's third or fourth largest oil supplier, the price of crude now tops $100 a barrel, and the Wall Street Journal suggests measures far short of cutting off a vital supply source are likely. Other analysts agree because ending trade would harm both countries at a time world markets are roiled and the US economy is shaky.

Nonetheless, Republican congressman Connie Mack says Chavez "is using his vast oil wealth to fund terrorism in his own backyard (and it's) critical that the administration now act swiftly and decisively" against him. On March 13, he and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced H. Res.10-49 (with eight co-sponsors) "calling for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism" and "condemn(ing) the Venezuelan government for its support of terrorist organizations" with direct reference to the FARC-EP.

Even with support in Congress, this effort won't likely get far according to Venezuelan expert Dan Hellinger. He notes how anti-Chavez forces are capitalizing on events but says "the odds are against them precisely because I think there's probably not much interest in the Congress (overall) in terms of making things worse with Venezuela at the moment." Key State Department diplomats aren't " want to pour gasoline on the fire" or take any action that may harm the economy in an election year and on an issue that's mainly an administration one - and a lame duck one on the way out.

Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue went further in suggesting Latin American leaders won't tolerate designating Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism and "would react very strongly, because of all the political, security, and economic implications."

It remains to be seen what's next, but Chavez knows what he's up against from a rogue administration in Washington with lots of time left to destroy Bolivarianism, oust its main proponent, vaporize Venezuela, and end the republic if that's what it has in mind. Stay tuned for further updates in Bush v. Chavez.

Global Research Associate Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research New Hour on Mondays from 11AM - 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

To become a Member of Global Research

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author's copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact:

For media inquiries:

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008


By Sherwood Ross

Muslim prisoners held in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison were submerged in water-filled garbage cans with ice or put naked under cold showers in near-freezing rooms until they went into shock, Sgt. Javal Davis, who served with the 372nd Military Police Company there, has told a national magazine.

Davis, from the Roselle, N.J., area, said while stationed at the prison he also saw an incinerator with “bones in it” that he believed to be a crematorium and said some prisoners were starved prior to their interrogation.

Another soldier that had been stationed at Abu Ghraib, M.P. Sabrina Harman---who gained dubious fame for making a thumbs-up sign posing over the body of a prisoner she believed tortured to death---said the U.S. had imprisoned “women and children” on Tier 1B, including one child was as young as ten.

“Like a number of the other kids and of the women there, he was being held as a pawn in the military’s effort to capture or break his father,” write co-authors Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris in the March 24th issue of The New Yorker magazine, which describes Abu Ghraib in a 14-page article titled “Exposure.”

They assert “the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was de facto United States policy. The authorization of torture and the decriminalization of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of captives in wartime have been among the defining legacies of the current Administration.”
They add that the rules of interrogation that produced the abuses documented in the prison ”were the direct expression of the hostility toward international law and military doctrine that was found in the White House, the Vice-President’s office, and at the highest levels of the Justice and Defense Departments.” (President Bush has insisted “We do not torture,” The Associated Press reported on November 7, 2005.)

Imprisoning suspects in a war zone, torturing and/or murdering them, and holding their wives and children as hostages, are all banned practices under international law. Some prisoners died from rocket attacks on the compound.

Harman said she didn’t like taking away naked prisoners’ blankets when it was really cold. “Because if I’m freezing and I’m wearing a jacket and a hat and gloves, and these people don’t have anything on and no blanket, no mattress, that’s kind of hard to see and do to somebody---even if they are a terrorist.” (Note: the prisoners were suspects, not terrorists, being held without due process on charges of which they were often ignorant and without legal representation.)

Harman said the corpse she posed with likely was murdered during interrogation although a platoon commander said he had died of a heart attack. Harman and another soldier, Corporal Charles Graner unzipped his body bag and took photos of him and “kind of realized right away that there was no way he died of a heart attack because of all the cuts and blood coming out of his nose.” Harman added, “His knees were bruised, his thighs were bruised by his genitals. He had restraint marks on his wrists. “

Asked why she posed making a “thumbs up” gesture over the corpse, Harman said she thought, “Hey, it’s a dead guy, it’d be cool to get a photo next to a dead person. I know it looks bad. I mean, even when I look at them (the photos) I go, ‘Oh Jesus, that does look pretty bad.’”
The corpse, said to have died under interrogation by a CIA agent, was identified as that of Manadel al-Jamadi. An autopsy found he had succumbed to “blunt force injuries” and “compromised respiration” and his death was classified as a homicide, The New Yorker article said. The dead man was removed from the tier disguised as a sick prisoner, his arm taped to an IV, and rolled away on a gurney, apparently as authorities “didn’t want any of the prisoners thinking we were in there killing folks,” Sergeant Hydrue Joyner, Harman’s team leader, told the magazine.

Harman said she saw one naked prisoner with his hands bound behind his back raised higher than his shoulders. This forced him to bend forward with his head bowed and his weight suspended from his wrists and is known as a “Palestinian hanging” as it is said to be used in Israeli prisons, Gourevitch and Morris write.

In a letter to a friend Harman described “sleep deprivation” used on the prisoners: “They sleep one hour then we yell and wake them---make them stay up for one hour, then sleep one hour---then up etc. This goes on for 72 hours while we fuck with them. Most have been so scared they piss on themselves. Its sad.” On one occasion, she wrote, sandbags soaked in hot sauce were put over the prisoners’ heads.

The CIA agent that interrogated al-Jamadi at the time of his “heart attack” was never charged with a crime but Harman was convicted by court-martial in May, 2005, of conspiracy to maltreat prisoners, dereliction of duty and sentenced to six months in prison, reduced in rank, and given a bad-conduct discharge.

Five other soldiers involved in taking pictures were sentenced to terms of up to ten years in prison. Gourevitch and Morris write, “The only person ranked above staff sergeant to face a court-martial was cleared of criminal wrongdoing.”

Sergeant Javal Davis, describing Abu Ghraib generally, said the prison reminded him of something out of a “Mad Max” movie, explaining, “The encampment they were in when we saw it at first looked like one of those Hitler things, like a concentration camp, almost.” The inside, he said, is “nothing but rubble, blown-up buildings, dogs running all over the place, rabid dogs, burnt remains. The stench was unbearable: urine, feces, body rot. Their (prisoners’) rest rooms was running over. It was just disgusting. You didn’t want to touch anything. Whatever the worst thing that comes to your mind, that was it --- the place you would never ever, ever, ever send your worst enemy.”

When a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited the prison in October, 2003, they were denied full access (contrary to international law) and, The New Yorker said, “what they were permitted to see and hear did not please them: men held naked in bare, lightless cells, paraded naked down the hallways, verbally and physically threatened, and so forth.”

The ICRC reported the prison was plagued by gross and systematic violations of the Geneva Conventions, including physical abuses that left prisoners suffering from “incoherent speech, acute anxiety reactions…suicidal ideas.”
(Sherwood Ross is a Miami, Florida-based journalist and veteran public relations consultant who suspects the Bush regime may be bad for the image of the United States. He is founder of the Anti-War News Service. Reach him at

A Short History of the Republic of Iraq By Dr. Sadiq H. Wasfi and Dahlia Wasfi

“For the poor throughout history who have suffered violence, death, hunger, sickness, and indignity at the hands of powerful oppressors who would not respect their humanity, and especially for the Iraqi, Arab, and other victims of the fire this time—with a call for action to end the scourge of war, economic exploitation, and poverty.”—Ramsey Clark

Dedication for The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf. Thunder’s Mouth Press, New York 1992.

The region of Mesopotamia—modern-day Iraq —has been a magnet for greedy conquerors for thousands of years. Time and again, thieving invaders coveting her rich natural resources and advanced society have pillaged “the land between two rivers.” Time and again, the invaders were defeated and expelled. The Americans led by “leaders” comprised of rich oil barons and neo-conservative Zionists are the latest in a long line of imperialists. If they had only read history, however, they could have predicted that they, too, would suffer great losses from an unwavering resistance. They could have predicted that they, too, will have to leave. In the words of Yogi Berra, they “made the wrong mistake.” But while imperialism in Western Asia is nothing new, our weaponry and war crimes may put Americans in the history books as Iraq ’s most barbaric invaders ever.

Throughout the last hundred years, Iraqis have experienced much social, political, and economic turmoil. The British occupied the region in the early 20th century, and installed a puppet monarchy to serve the interests of the Empire. King Faisal, with pro-British agents Nuri Al-Said and Saleh Jabr, traded Iraq ’s wealth and their own dignity for power and greed.[i] Many Iraqis identified them as traitors, as evidenced by demonstration slogans: “Nuri Al-Said, Al-Qundara; Saleh Jabr, Al-Qeetanheh” (“Al-Said is the shoe, Jabr is its shoelace.”) On July 14th, 1958 (marked as Iraq ’s first Independence Day), a coup lead by General Abdul Karim Qasim— Iraq ’s self-proclaimed “only leader”—resulted in the dissolution of the “Kingdom” of Iraq . The royal family was assassinated, and the “ Republic of Iraq ” was born—a development that took Western powers by surprise.

Iraqis had suffered greatly under the exploitation of the British and their Indian and Nepalese “Gurkha” militias. With the end of the Kingdom, they hoped conditions would improve, and for a brief time, they did. General Qasim, influenced by his allies in the Iraqi Communist Party, introduced sweeping socio-economic reforms to distribute the nation’s wealth more equitably. Also, in 1959, he withdrew Iraq from the U.S.-orchestrated Baghdad Pact, established to confront the Soviet Union . However, pan-Arab nationalists (including members of the Ba’ath Socialist Party) led by Qasim’s second-in-command, Abdul Salam Arif, wanted Iraq to move in a different direction. At the time, they sought to join Iraq with Egypt and Syria in the United Arab Republic (UAR). In October 1959 during a failed coup, there was an attempt on Qasim’s life by a group of militant Ba’athists, including one young Iraqi from the town of Tikrit named Saddam Hussein.[ii]

Qasim’s rule lasted only until 1963, when he was assassinated by his former deputy

Abdul Salam Arif. According to the late King Hussein of Jordan , the American CIA backed this coup and fed the rebels information on leftist intellectuals and communists, who were summarily executed by the rising Ba’athists.[iii] Arif’s rule, however, also was short-lived; he died in a plane crash in 1966 while visiting Basra . His brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, succeeded his rule, but yet another coup was simmering.

In 1968, former General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and Saddam Hussein—leaders of Iraq ’s Ba’ath Party—toppled Arif to become President and Vice-President, respectively. The Ba’athists had gained popularity among Iraqis in the 1950’s for their strong opposition to British imperialists and their agents. In the early hours of July 17—Iraq’s second Independence Day—General Al-Bakr drove up to the barracks of the Republican Guard outside Abdul Rahman Arif’s palace. He was followed by a convoy of armed Ba’athists, including Saddam Hussein and his half-brother Barzan. Promised his life, Arif quickly surrendered, and the “White” Revolution was complete. Bloodshed would soon follow, however, as Al-Bakr and Hussein consolidated their power over the Republic. Any threat to their rule—from collaborators with imperial Europe to members of opposing political parties to challenges within their own party—was quickly eliminated.

While al-Bakr was the nominal leader, Hussein ran the Party, the National Guard, and the state’s security apparatus. He played major roles in establishing treaties with Kurdish parties in northern Iraq and nationalizing Iraq ’s oil (1972-1975),[iv] to profit Iraq instead of foreign companies. Though the regime remained politically oppressive until its fall in 2003, Iraqi society and the economy flourished once autonomy over oil sales was reclaimed from foreign hands. By the late 1970’s, the value of the Iraqi dinar was equivalent to over three American dollars. Education and literacy rates were on the rise, and the healthcare system was considered the “jewel of the Arab World.” (Thirty years later, however, gas-guzzling Americans and British shocked and awed their way back into the driver’s seat, resulting in the destruction of Iraq ’s infrastructure and civil society.)

Saddam Hussein remained the behind-the-scenes de facto ruler until July 16, 1979, when al-Bakr retired and gave the presidential seat to his second-in-command. Soon thereafter, the lives of Iraqis would return to suffering. In 1980, tensions were rising between Iraq and Iran . Although the 1975 Algiers Accord between the two nations established a diplomatic resolution to their long-standing territorial disputes, neither country abided by its terms. In addition, Iran ’s new leader, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, sought to extend theocratic rule to secular Iraq and the Gulf monarchies. As tensions rose, each side accused the other of encouraging internal uprisings. In September 1980, with the tacit approval of the United States , Saudi Arabia , and the rest of the Gulf States whose leaders feared Khomeini’s aspirations of regional hegemony, Hussein launched a massive military assault. The Iran-Iraq War officially began.

The United States appeared to side with Iraq by supplying the Iraqi army with conventional, biological and chemical weapons as well as intelligence. In secrecy, however, the Reagan Administration also sold arms to Iran without Congressional approval, and used the funds to support the U.S.-backed Contra insurgency against the Sandinista Government in Nicaragua . This criminal activity is remembered as the Iran-Contra scandal, for which no one has been brought to justice. In fact, many of its culprits remain top U.S. government officials, including members of the recent Iraq Study Group, such as the new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Before a cease-fire was declared between Iraq and Iran on April 20, 1988, over a million lives were lost.

In 1988, Saddam Hussein’s regime was developing a $40 billion plan for post-war reconstruction. Kuwait , however, was selling oil in quantities exceeding those mandated by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) agreements. This inexplicable violation of OPEC-established limits dropped the price of oil per barrel, which drastically reduced Iraq ’s export earnings. Kuwait ’s Al-Sabah monarchy was also demanding repayment of the 10 billion dollar financial support given to Iraq to defend against the Ayatollah’s regime that would depose them. Furthermore, the Kuwaitis were stealing oil from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq by “slant-drilling” under the border. As diplomatic efforts to resolve these and the long-standing border disputes between the two countries were dismissed by the Al-Sabah sheikhs, Saddam Hussein threatened military action to end Kuwait ’s intransigence. On August 2, 1990—once again with tacit approval from the United States —Iraqi troops crossed the border of one of its neighbors.

Since then, punishment for the Iraqi government’s actions has been carried out against the country’s civilian population, in violation of the basic standards of international law. U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq ’s economy on August 6, 1990, lasted until the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime after the American invasion of 2003. It is estimated that between 1.2 and 1.8 million Iraqis died during those years, due to starvation, destruction of electrical and sewage treatment plants during the Gulf War, daily bombing by US and British warplanes, and denial of basic medical supplies and equipment. But today, Iraqis see those as their “better days”—a testimonial to the grave human suffering under the brutal, illegal American-British occupation.

Every Iraqi knows of Al-Hajaj bin Yusef Al-Thaqafi, a ruler from a thousand years ago reputed to have led the most brutal and repressive regime in Iraq’s long history. The name “Al-Hajaj” is invoked in casual conversation to describe times when conditions have hit rock bottom. Ironically, Saddam Hussein admired the rule of that brutal leader. Some Iraqis thought the now assassinated president would replace Al-Hajaj in the colloquial lexicon—that is, until the 2003 arrival of “Al-Dijaj” (in Arabic, “the chicken”): George W. Bush and his chicken hawk administration. Those rich politicians in Washington , who send poor Americans to kill and be killed in the name of stealing control of Iraq ’s oil, evaded their own opportunities for military service. And just as the British used King Faisal as a puppet ruler in the 1920’s, the Americans have their own stooges today, including Ahmed Chalabi, Iyad Allawi, Ibrahim Jafaari, and Nuri Al-Maliki. Al-Dijaj and the rest of the chicken coop know nothing of combat, poverty, or human suffering either at home or abroad.

Since 1958, Iraqis have hoped that each regime change might bring a better life. Have they hit rock bottom now?


[i] Ali, Tariq. Bush in Babylon : The Recolonisation of Iraq . Chapter 3. Verso, London . 2003.

[ii] Ali, Tariq. Bush in Babylon : The Recolonisation of Iraq . Chapter 4. Verso, London . 2003.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Munier, Gilles. Iraq: An Illustrated History and Guide. Interlink Publishing Group, Inc., Northampton. 2004.

Rape in the military

Too important to ignore….. Did you know………?

  • 25 % of women will be sexually assaulted on a college campus.
  • 12 % of women will be raped while in college.
  • 28-66 % of women in the military REPORT sexual assault *
  • 27 % of women are REPORTED raped in the military

Sexual assault remains a pervasive problem for women in the military, including those currently deployed overseas. The military's hierarchy is ill-equipped and unwilling to deal fairly with rape complaints.

AND what are they doing about it currently……………?

According to the Department of Defense's own statistics 74-85% of soldiers convicted of rape or sexual assault leave the military with honorable discharges (meaning the rape conviction does not appear on their record!). Only 2-3% of soldiers accused of rape are ever court marshaled. And only 5-6% of soldiers accused of domestic abused are ever court marshaled. In fact several multiple homicides have recently taken place on military bases that have not even been criminally prosecuted!

Department of Defense's definition of Morale Booster, for male soldiers:


Take as needed, dispose when finished and continue serving with 'honor'

Please remember………… Many suffer in silent shame. Never forget.

**Statistics taken from various sources including studies done by the Department of Veterans Affair (VA).

Blowing Them Away Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry - Globalization Bush-style

By Tom Engelhardt
17/03/08 " " -- - Imagine, for a moment, that you live in a small town somewhere near the Southern California coast. You’re going about your daily life, trying to scrape by in hard times, when the missile hits. It might have come from the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) — its pilot at a base on the outskirts of Tehran — that has had the village in its sights for the last six hours or from the Russian sub stationed just off the coast. In either case, it’s devastating.

In Moscow and Tehran, officials announce that, in a joint action, they have launched the missile as part of a carefully coordinated “surgical” operation to take out a “known terrorist,” a long-term danger to their national security. A Kremlin spokesman offers thefollowing statement:

“As we have repeatedly said, we will continue to pursue terrorist activities and their operations wherever we may find them. We share common goals with respect to fighting terrorism. We will continue to seek out, identify, capture and, if necessary, kill terrorists where they plan their activities, carry out their operations or seek safe harbor.”

A family in a ramshackle house just down the street from you — he’s a carpenter; she works at the local Dairy Queen — are killed along with their pets. Their son is seriously wounded, their home blown to smithereens. Neighbors passing by as the missile hits are also wounded.

As it happens, there are no terrorists in the vicinity. Outraged, you organize your neighbors and march angrily in protest through the town, shouting anti-Russian, anti-Iranian slogans. But, of course, there is nothing you can really do. Iran and Russia are far away, their weaponry powerful, your arms nonexistent. The state of California is incapable of protecting you. This is, in fact, at least the fourth time in recent months that a “terrorist” has been declared “taken out” from the air or by a ship-based cruise missile, when only innocent Californians have died.

As news of the “collateral damage” from the botched operation dribbles out, the Russian and Iranian media pay next to no attention. There are no outraged editorials. Official spokesmen see no need to comment further. No one is held responsible and no promises are made in either Tehran or Moscow that similar assassination strikes won’t be launched in the near future, based on “actionable intelligence,” possibly even on the same town. In fact, the next day, seeing UAVs once again soaring overhead, you load your pick-up and prepare to flee.

Swatting Flies in Somalia

Philip K. Dick meet George W. Bush. When it comes to such a thing happening in the United States, we are, of course, at the wildest frontiers of science fiction. The U.S. is a sovereign nation. We guard our air space and coastal waters jealously. Any country violating them for purposes of aggressive action, no less by launching a missile against an American town, would be committing an act of war and would certainly be treated accordingly.

If, somehow, such an event did occur, it would be denounced in Washington and on editorial pages across the country as a shocking contravention of international legal conventions and a crime of war… unless, of course, we did it in a country where sovereignty has been declared meaningless.

In fact, an almost exact replica of the above fictional incident — at least the fourth of its kind in recent months — did indeed take place at the beginning of March in the embattled failed state of Somalia. (For that country’s most recent abysmal collapse, the Bush administration, via an invasion by Ethiopian proxy forces, can take significant credit.) One or two houses in Dobley, a Somali town, were hit, possibly by two submarine-launched Tomahawk Cruise missiles in what a U.S. official termed “a deliberate strike against a suspected bed-down of known terrorists.”

The missiles were evidently meant for Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, an al-Qaedan suspect in the bloody bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He was, however, not in Dobley, despite the “actionable intelligence” on hand. Accounts of the dead and wounded in the town vary. One report claimed only wounded Somalis (and two dead cows); most spoke of anywhere from four to ten dead civilians. Local district Commissioner Ali Nur Ali Dherre told CNN that three women and three children had been killed and another 20 people wounded; while a “U.S. military official said the United States is still collecting post-strike information and is not yet able to confirm any casualties. He described [the] strike as ‘very deliberate’ and said forces tried to use caution to avoid hitting civilians.”

For the dead Somalis, not surprisingly, we have no names. In stories like this, the dead are regularly nobodies and, though the townspeople of Dobley did indeed march angrily in protest yelling anti-American slogans, just about no one noticed.

In our world, only the normal smattering of small news reports dealt with this modest sidebar in the President’s Global War on Terror (GWOT). On the GWOT scorecard — if you remember, for a long time George Bush kept “his own personal scorecard” of top terror suspects in a desk drawer in the Oval Office, crossing off al-Qaedan figures as U.S. forces took them down — this operation hardly registered. One terrorist missed, and not for the first time, possibly a few dead peasants in some god-forsaken land. Please, move on…

In a recent Pentagon briefing for reporters featuring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen, who had just returned from a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, 4,500 words of back-and-forth were interrupted by this question from a reporter:

“Secretary Gates, the strike on Somalia two days ago — did the missiles that were fired — did they strike their target? And was the target Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan? Do you have a report back from the field? And Admiral Mullen, what message did you give to President Musharraf, and why did you meet with him?”

Gates responded to the Somali part of the question in eight words: “You know we don’t talk about military operations.” He might have added: …unless they’re successful.

That was evidently all that the incident and its minor “collateral damage” deserved in such a global war. So Gates and Mullen moved on immediately. So many matters more important than a single “decapitation” strike that didn’t succeed to consider.

The Decapitation Strike as Global Policy

Minor as that Somali mis-strike might seem, this is not, in fact, a small matter. Think of that strike and the many like it around the world over these last years as reflections of George Bush’s post-9/11 update of globalization. After all, the most basic principle of his Global War on Terror has been the erasure of global boundaries and whatever international agreements about war-making might go with them.

Across the Islamic world, in particular, boundaries simply no longer matter. In fact, in such regions no aspect of sovereignty can now constrain a U.S. president from acting as he pleases in pursuit of whatever he may personally define as American interests.

“Assassinations by air” are, writes David Case in Mother Jones magazine, “a relatively new tactic in warfare.” By the beginning of 2006, however, U.S. Predator drones “bearing Hellfire missiles — the preferred weapon in decapitation [strikes] — had already hit ‘terrorist suspects overseas’ at least 19 times since 9/11.” Such strikes and other similar operations by air, land, and sea have been a crucial follow-on to the Bush administration’s proclamations, immediately after 9/11, that there would be no “safe havens” for terrorists on the planet, nor safety for those countries which housed them, inadvertently or otherwise. Within days of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, Bush administration officials were already identifying up to 60 countries-cum-targets.

This aspect of the Bush Doctrine, of what the President likes to call staying “on the offensive,” when mixed with a couple of decades of “advances” in air warfare, including the development of sophisticated, missile-armed drones, “smart bombs,” “precision-guided munitions,” and the like, has resulted in a lethal globalizing brew of assassination and destruction. It recognizes neither boundaries, nor sovereignty across much of the planet. With all its “actionable” possibilities, it will surely be with us long after George W. Bush has left office.

Of course, those few nameless dead or wounded Somali civilians — swatted like so many flies and forgotten as quickly as flies would be — don’t faintly match up against the “dozens” of Iraqi civilian deaths that, according to Human Rights Watch, were caused by 50 decapitation strikes launched against the top officials of Saddam Hussein’s regime back in March 2003. (Not a single official was harmed.) Nor do they quite make it into the company of the “Afghan elders” being taken to President Hamid Karzai’s inauguration back in 2001, who were mistaken “for a Taliban group” and bombed, with 20 killed; nor the 30 or more guests at an Afghan wedding party back in 2002 blown away by 2,000-pound bombs after celebratory gunfire was evidently mistaken for an attack (no apologies offered); nor that wedding party in the Western desert of Iraq near the Syrian border wiped out in 2004 with 42 deaths, including 27 in one extended family, 14 children in all. They were, of course, taken for terrorists. (As U.S. Major General James Mathis put the matter in offering an explanation: “How many people go to the middle of the desert… to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?”) And these are just a few prominent cases, not including the civilians killed in periodic Predator and other strikes in Pakistani border areas, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere about whom no fuss is ever made — not here, anyway.

After all, there’s always going to be “collateral damage” when you keep your eye — and your 2,000-pound bomb or Hellfire missile — focused on the prize.

The “Right” to Kill Civilians

Remember back in the 1990s, when the glories of an economically borderless world were being limned? Just after September 11, 2001, the Bush administration proudly declared us to be in a far darker world without borders (except, of course, when it came to our own). In this new world, whether we knew it or not, whether we cared or not, we granted our highest officials — specifically our military and intelligence services — the full powers of prosecutor, defense counsel, judge, jury, and executioner, as well as the right to report on such events only to the extent, and as, they wished. This was the sort of power that monotheistic religions normally granted to an all-powerful god, that kingdoms generally left to absolute rulers, and that dictators have always tried to take for themselves (though just, of course, in the domains under their control).

Our domain, it seems, is now much of the globe, when it comes to the bloody work of assassinating individuals via bombs or missiles that, however precise, surgical, and smart, are weapons meant to kill en masse and largely without discrimination.

There are still limits of sorts on such actions. These put bluntly — though no one is likely to say this — are the limits imposed, in part, by racism, by gradations, however unspoken, in the global value given to a human life.

The Bush administration has, so far, only been willing to carry out “decapitation” strikes in countries where human life is, by implication, of less or little value. It has yet to carry one out in London or Hamburg or Tokyo or Moscow or the Chinese countryside, even though “terrorist suspects” abound everywhere, even (as with the anthrax attacks of 2001) in our own country. On the other hand, given the impetus of this kind of globalization, who knows when such a strike might come. After all, the CIA has already carried out clearly illegal, sovereignty-violating “extraordinary rendition” operations (kidnappings of terror suspects) on the streets of European cities.

In this country, we still theoretically venerate the sovereign self (”the individual”) and that self’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Despite George Bush’s “Freedom Agenda,” however, the sovereignty, not to say the life, liberty, and happiness of other peoples, individually or collectively, have not really been much on our minds these last years. Our freedom of action, our safety, has been the only freedom, the only “security,” to which we have attached much global value. And don’t for a second think that, when the “actionable intelligence” comes in to John McCain’s, Hillary Clinton’s, or Barack Obama’s Oval Office, those Predators won’t be soaring or those cruise missiles leaving subs lurking off some coast — and that innocent civilians elsewhere won’t continue to die.

In places like Somalia, we deliver death, and every now and then an American bomb or missile actually obliterates a terrorist suspect. Then we celebrate. The rest of time, it’s hardly even news. When the deeper principle behind such global strikes is mentioned in our papers, in some passing paragraph, it’s done — as in a recent Washington Post article about a Predator strike, piloted from Nevada, that killed a suspected “senior al-Qaeda commander” in Pakistan — in this polite way: “Independent actions by U.S. military forces on another country’s sovereign territory are always controversial…” (Imagine the language that the Washington Post would use, if that had been a Pakistani drone strike in Utah.)

This version of globalization is already so much the norm of our world that few here even blink an eye when it’s reported, or consider it even slightly strange. It’s already an American right. In the meantime, other people, who obviously don’t rise to the level of our humanity, regularly die.

And here’s the thing: In our world, there is a chasm that can never be breached between, say, a Sunni extremist clothed in a suicide vest who walks into a market in Baghdad with the barbaric intent of killing as many Shiite civilians as possible, and an air or missile attack, done in the name of American “security” and aimed at a “known terrorist,” that just happens to — repeatedly — kill innocent civilians. And yet, what if you know before you launch your attack, as American planners certainly must, that the odds are innocents (and probably no one else) will die?

Not so long ago in the United States, presidentially sanctioned assassinations abroad were illegal. But that was then, this is so now. Nonetheless, it’s a fact that the “right” to missile, bomb, shell, “decapitate,” or assassinate those we declare to be our enemies, without regard to borders or sovereignty, is based on nothing more than the power to do it. This is simply the “right” of force (and of technology). If the tables were turned, any American would recognize such acts for the barbarism they represent.

And yet, late last week, like clockwork, the Associated Press brought us the latest notice: “In Afghanistan, a spokesman for the American-led coalition said troops had used ‘precision-guided munitions’ to strike a compound about a mile inside Pakistan…” This operation was, as they all are, said to be based on “reliable intelligence”; in this case, “senior” Taliban commanders were said to be in residence.

As it happened, according to the Pakistani military and the AP reporter who made it to Tangrai, a village of about forty houses, the residence hit was that of “Noor Khan, a greengrocer who said the house was his family home.” The AP reporter added that “only one of its four walls was standing amid a tangle of mud bricks, bedding and cooking pots.” And Noor Khan, who was quoted saying, “We are innocent, we have nothing to do with such things,” claimed that six of his relatives, four women and two boys, had been killed. (The Pakistani military, on investigating, reported that two women and two children had died.)

This was but the latest minor decapitation strike, and — we can be sure of this — not the last. Philip K. Dick move over. We’re already in your future.

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute’s, is the co-founder of the American Empire Project. His book, The End of Victory Culture (University of Massachusetts Press), has been thoroughly updated in a newly issued edition that deals with victory culture’s crash-and-burn sequel in Iraq.

[Note: Let me strongly recommend David Case’s article, “The U.S. Military’s Assassination Problem,” in the March/April issue ofMother Jones magazine, quoted in the above piece. A well researched, thoughtful, and rare discussion of what we know about the Bush administration’s global assassination campaign from the air, it is an accomplishment. I have relied on it in writing this essay.]