Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mercs Run Wild in Afghanistan

RT: Private security contractors wild in Afghanistan

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fifty questions on 9/11 By Pepe Escobar


It's September 11 all over again - eight years on. The George W Bush administration is out. The "global war on terror" is still on, renamed "overseas contingency operations" by the Barack Obama administration. Obama's "new strategy" - a war escalation - is in play in AfPak. Osama bin Laden may be dead or not. "Al-Qaeda" remains a catch-all ghost entity. September 11 - the neo-cons' "new Pearl Harbor" - remains the darkest jigsaw puzzle of the young 21st century.

It's useless to expect US corporate media and the ruling elites' political operatives to call for a true, in-depth investigation into the attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. Whitewash has been the norm. But even establishment highlight Dr Zbig "Grand Chessboard" Brzezinski, a former national security advisor, has admitted to the US Senate that the post-9/11 "war on terror" is a "mythical historical narrative".

The following questions, some multi-part - and most totally ignored by the 9/11 Commission - are just the tip of the immense 9/11 iceberg. A hat tip goes to the indefatigable work of;; architects and engineers for 9/11 truth; the Italian documentary Zero: an investigation into 9/11; and Asia Times Online readers' e-mails.

None of these questions has been convincingly answered - according to the official narrative. It's up to US civil society to keep up the pressure. Eight years after the fact, one fundamental conclusion is imperative. The official narrative edifice of 9/11 is simply not acceptable.

Fifty questions
1) How come dead or not dead Osama bin Laden has not been formally indicted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as responsible for 9/11? Is it because the US government - as acknowledged by the FBI itself - has not produced a single conclusive piece of evidence?

2) How could all the alleged 19 razor-blade box cutter-equipped Muslim perpetrators have been identified in less than 72 hours - without even a crime scene investigation?

3) How come none of the 19's names appeared on the passenger lists released the same day by both United Airlines and American Airlines?

4) How come eight names on the "original" FBI list happened to be found alive and living in different countries?

5) Why would pious jihadi Mohammed Atta leave a how-to-fly video manual, a uniform and his last will inside his bag knowing he was on a suicide mission?

6) Why did Mohammed Atta study flight simulation at Opa Locka, a hub of no less than six US Navy training bases?

7) How could Mohammed Atta's passport have been magically found buried among the Word Trade Center (WTC)'s debris when not a single flight recorder was found?

8) Who is in the possession of the "disappeared" eight indestructible black boxes on those four flights?

9) Considering multiple international red alerts about a possible terrorist attack inside the US - including former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's infamous August 6, 2001, memo - how come four hijacked planes deviating from their computerized flight paths and disappearing from radar are allowed to fly around US airspace for more than an hour and a half - not to mention disabling all the elaborate Pentagon's defense systems in the process?

10) Why the secretary of the US Air Force James Roche did not try to intercept both planes hitting the WTC (only seven minutes away from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey) as well as the Pentagon (only 10 minutes away from McGuire)? Roche had no less than 75 minutes to respond to the plane hitting the Pentagon.
11) Why did George W Bush continue to recite "My Pet Goat" in his Florida school and was not instantly absconded by the secret service?

12) How could Bush have seen the first plane crashing on WTC live - as he admitted? Did he have previous knowledge - or is he psychic?

13) Bush said that he and Andrew Card initially thought the first hit on the WTC was an accident with a small plane. How is that possible when the FAA as well as NORAD already knew this was about a hijacked plane?

14) What are the odds of transponders in four different planes be turned off almost simultaneously, in the same geographical area, very close to the nation's seat of power in Washington, and no one scrambles to contact the Pentagon or the media?

15) Could defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld explain why initial media reports said that there were no fighter jets available at Andrews Air Force Base and then change the reports that there were, but not on high alert?

16) Why was the DC Air National Guard in Washington AWOL on 9/11?

17) Why did combat jet fighters of the 305th Air Wing, McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey not intercept the second hijacked plane hitting the WTC, when they could have done it within seven minutes?

18) Why did none of the combat jet fighters of the 459th Aircraft Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base intercept the plane that hit the Pentagon, only 16 kilometers away? And since we're at it, why the Pentagon did not release the full video of the hit?

19) A number of very experienced airline pilots - including US ally Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a former fighter jet pilot - revealed that, well, only crack pilots could have performed such complex maneuvers on the hijacked jets, while others insisted they could only have been accomplished by remote control. Is it remotely believable that the hijackers were up to the task?

20) How come a substantial number of witnesses did swear seeing and hearing multiple explosions in both towers of the WTC?

21) How come a substantial number of reputed architects and engineers are adamant that the official narrative simply does not explain the largest structural collapse in recorded history (the Twin Towers) as well as the collapse of WTC building 7, which was not even hit by a jet?

22) According to Frank de Martini, WTC's construction manager, "We designed the building to resist the impact of one or more jetliners." The second plane nearly missed tower 1; most of the fuel burned in an explosion outside the tower. Yet this tower collapsed first, long before tower 2 that was "perforated" by the first hit. Jet fuel burned up fast - and by far did not reach the 2000-degree heat necessary to hurt the six tubular steel columns in the center of the tower - designed specifically to keep the towers from collapsing even if hit by a Boeing 707. A Boeing 707 used to carry more fuel than the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 that actually hit the towers.

23) Why did Mayor Rudolph Giuliani instantly authorized the shipment of WTC rubble to China and India for recycling?

24) Why was metallic debris found no less than 13 kilometers from the crash site of the plane that went down in Pennsylvania? Was the plane in fact shot down - under vice president Dick Cheney's orders?

25) The Pipelineistan question. What did US ambassador Wendy Chamberlain talk about over the phone on October 10, 2001, with the oil minister of Pakistan? Was it to tell him that the 1990s-planned Unocal gas pipeline project, TAP (Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/ Pakistan), abandoned because of Taliban demands on transit fees, was now back in business? (Two months later, an agreement to build the pipeline was signed between the leaders of the three countries).

26) What is former Unocal lobbyist and former Bush pet Afghan Zalmay Khalilzad up to in Afghanistan?

27) How come former Pakistani foreign minister Niaz Niak said in mid-July 2001 that the US had already decided to strike against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban by October? The topic was discussed secretly at the July Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Italy, according to Pakistani diplomats.

28) How come US ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine told FBI agent John O'Neill in July 2001 to stop investigating al-Qaeda's financial operations - with O'Neill instantly moved to a security job at the WTC, where he died on 9/11?

29) Considering the very intimate relationship between the Taliban and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the ISI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is Bin Laden alive, dead or still a valuable asset of the ISI, the CIA or both?

30) Was Bin Laden admitted at the American hospital in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on July 4, 2001, after flying from Quetta, Pakistan, and staying for treatment until July 11?

31) Did the Bin Laden group build the caves of Tora Bora in close cooperation with the CIA during the 1980s' anti-Soviet jihad?

32) How come General Tommy Franks knew for sure that Bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora in late November 2001?

33) Why did president Bill Clinton abort a hit on Bin Laden in October 1999? Why did then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf abort a covert ops in the same date? And why did Musharraf do the same thing again in August 2001?

34) Why did George W Bush dissolve the Bin Laden Task Force nine months before 9/11?

35) How come the (fake) Bin Laden home video - in which he "confesses" to being the perpetrator of 9/11 - released by the US on December 13, 2001, was found only two weeks after it was produced (on November 9); was it really found in Jalalabad (considering Northern Alliance and US troops had not even arrived there at the time); by whom; and how come the Pentagon was forced to release a new translation after the first (botched) one?

36) Why was ISI chief Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmad abruptly "retired" on October 8, 2001, the day the US started bombing Afghanistan?

37) What was Ahmad up to in Washington exactly on the week of 9/11 (he arrived on September 4)? On the morning of 9/11, Ahmad was having breakfast on Capitol Hill with Bob Graham and Porter Goss, both later part of the 9/11 Commission, which simply refused to investigate two of its members. Ahmad had breakfast with Richard Armitage of the State Department on September 12 and 13 (when Pakistan negotiated its "cooperation" with the "war on terror") and met all the CIA and Pentagon top brass. On September 13, Musharraf announced he would send Ahmad to Afghanistan to demand to the Taliban the extradition of Bin Laden.
38) Who inside the ISI transferred US$100,000 to Mohammed Atta in the summer of 2001 - under orders of Ahmad himself, as Indian intelligence insists? Was it really ISI asset Omar Sheikh, Bin Laden's information technology specialist who later organized the slaying of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi? So was the ISI directly linked to 9/11?

39) Did the FBI investigate the two shady characters who met Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi in Harry's Bar at the Helmsley Hotel in New York City on September 8, 2001?

40) What did director of Asian affairs at the State Department Christina Rocca and the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef discuss in their meeting in Islamabad in August 2001?

41) Did Washington know in advance that an "al-Qaeda" connection would kill Afghan nationalist commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, aka "The Lion of the Panjshir", only two days before 9/11? Massoud was fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda - helped by Russia and Iran. According to the Northern Alliance, Massoud was killed by an ISI-Taliban-al Qaeda axis. If still alive, he would never have allowed the US to rig a loya jirga (grand council) in Afghanistan and install a puppet, former CIA asset Hamid Karzai, as leader of the country.

42) Why did it take no less than four months before the name of Ramzi Binalshibh surfaced in the 9/11 context, considering the Yemeni was a roommate of Mohammed Atta in his apartment cell in Hamburg?

43) Is pathetic shoe-bomber Richard Reid an ISI asset?

44) Did then-Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence tell the CIA in 2001 that 25 terrorist pilots had been training for suicide missions?

45) When did the head of German intelligence, August Hanning, tell the CIA that terrorists were "planning to hijack commercial aircraft?"

46) When did Egyptian President Mubarak tell the CIA about an attack on the US with an "airplane stuffed with explosives?"

47) When did Israel's Mossad director Efraim Halevy tell the CIA about a possible attack on the US by "200 terrorists?"

48) Were the Taliban aware of the warning by a Bush administration official as early as February 2001 - "Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs?"

49) Has Northrop-Grumman used Global Hawk technology - which allows to remotely control unmanned planes - in the war in Afghanistan since October 2001? Did it install Global Hawk in a commercial plane? Is Global Hawk available at all for commercial planes?

50) Would Cheney stand up and volunteer the detailed timeline of what he was really up to during the whole day on 9/11?

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In Vietnam, You're Never Just a Tourist

By Larry Hildes

In this time when the U.S. is mired in two wars with no end in sight, no plan for ending them and absolutely no sense of history, it seems appropriate to look back at another war that the US fought for many years, under other regimes, Democrat and Republican, for no good reason, and based on lies.

It's too easy as Americans living in the relatively comfortable situation that we do, even as we work to end the wars, to not realize the full impact of the destruction being wreaked in our name.

We are as guilty of that as any. You don't really understand the depth of the war crimes, until you talk to the people and see the places where we inflicted them.

We traveled to Hanoi in June of this year to attend the Quadrennial Congress of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers which brings together radical civil rights and human rights lawyers from around the world. As we prepared to go and mentioned to various activists where we were going, the Vietnam Vets among them kept emphasizing the significance of going there because of the War. In our naiveté, we agreed, and thought to ourselves, ‘Yeah, I know, but the War has been over for 35 years. It'll come up. But mostly Vietnam is an exotic place to go for a great conference to discuss important issues of peace and human rights. It's a beautiful country, and it's been on our travel list for a long time.'

We could not have been more wrong. It is a beautiful country, very different from ours in a million ways both delightful and frustrating, and we're very glad to have gone there, but the War, the American War, as it is known by the Vietnamese, was a daily presence in the lives of the people, the suffering that continues, and the baggage we brought with us.

It came up soon after we arrived, and Karen encountered it first, on a government tour that was given to us by the host committee. We were on different conference tracks, and so went on different days, Karen did the tour of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and several fabulous museums and cultural sites on Sunday, two days after we arrived. This was her experience:

We came in to the Mausoleum through the VIP/foreigners' entrance; through a snafu with directions, some members of the tour and I had originally come to the People's entrance, the Vietnamese entrance. The line from there wraps around the huge complex; it looked like it was at least a mile, with 10,000 crammed into the narrow walkway just before the entrance. People come from all over Vietnam to pay their respects.

After you come out of the Mausoleum, the line snakes through the complex to view first the Presidential Palace, built by the French for their French-born governor and then appropriated by the Vietnamese. Ho Chi Minh felt it was too grand for a single, simple man, so he lived in two smaller buildings. One was his primary residence and conference room: above, on the second floor, a two-room simple wooden structure, raised on stilts to provide single wide area below, on the ground, left with a dirt floor, about the size of a small conference room, where the breeze could blow while he and his ministers met around a straight-forward table.

At that point, I spied them: a group of Vietnamese soldiers in the old green uniforms that I had seen so often from pictures of the war with the U.S., some of them with medals hanging from their front pockets. I became as curious and stared as much as all the Vietnamese stare at me (white faces are still vastly in the minority, despite the opening up of Vietnam and the encouragement of tourism). I was excited and so much wanted to talk to them: what state were they from? Where had they fought? Did they get to meet their Uncle Ho? Did they ever hear him talk? How do they feel about the U.S. today? We are supporters of the U.S. group, Veterans for Peace, which helped to start the Vietnam Friendship Village, an organization that helps children and veterans affected by land mines and Agent Orange. We know several Americans who fought in the war. I ached to reach out to them, to offer a bridge of peace, or even a contact of peace. But it was too sudden, to come across them like this. I could not formulate the words to tell our translator why I was so excited, and my Vietnamese is non-existent. We stared at each other several times in the walk through the complex, sometimes only two or three feet away, but it might as well have been opposite sides of the Grand Canyon. I finally asked permission to take a photo. I wanted to not just take a picture of them, but to have a picture with them, but even that part didn't come across. They shook their heads no. To have it come down to such a dumb tourist kind of gesture. I felt so sad. They are clearly all older; they must be in their 60s and 70s, who knew if we would have another chance. And who knows how they feel about being approached by this overweight middle-class white American woman after all they had been through.

For Larry, the first moment was easier and relatively safe, at least for Larry: When I took the tour the day after Karen, we went from Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and museums to the Army Museum. There was McCain's plane, and various captured US military equipment displayed outside, and inside, a guide from the Vietnamese Army proudly led us through exhibits on the Japanese, French, and American Wars and how the Vietnamese had won. We, a delegation coincidently or not, Japanese, French, and American lawyers and law students responded to the guide's gracious hope that we could all live in peace, with heartfelt statements about how glad we were that the Vietnamese had won their country back from each of our countries, the wave after wave of invaders. It was true, and allowed us to all feel good about defying empire.

A couple of days later, it became more personal.

On the last day of the Congress, Karen and I sat in on an incredible discussion between NLG law students and Vietnamese students, some law, some language students, and after feeling each other out and comparing educational systems, one of the US law students, Dan, brought the discussion to the heart of the issue, The War. The Vietnamese students are very angry about Agent Orange (the Orange Poison as they aptly call it) and everyone seems to know people who are affected by it, now into a third generation. There are now grandchildren being born affected by this scourge we have left on and, as the water leeches it, in the land, and worse, in the genes of the people we brutalized with our toxic chemicals, turned into weapons of war, sprayed from on high by those who never saw the effect of what they did. Shock and awe, 1970s style. Our war crimes continue long after we have left.

When the war itself came up, they were staggeringly gracious, differentiating between Lyndon Johnson and the American people. Citing the Mobilization march, and other demonstrations, they are taught in school, and talk about how the American people stood in solidarity with the people of Vietnam and made the government stop fighting the war. They have pictures in their history books and museums showing the major marches in the US against what we call the Vietnam War, and they call the American War, and display signs and leaflets from our end of the struggle to end that horrible War.

They talked about how American soldiers were victims and suffer as well.

I had to say something: They gave us way too much credit! It was a struggle then as it is a struggle now to get Americans into the streets, and to actually empathize about the suffering of others, to actually see the world beyond the U.S. In the midst of crying, I was able to apologize and to tell them how glad I was that they had won the war and to sit here in a free Vietnam.

Karen, the US law students, and others made wonderful eloquent statements.

One of the Vietnamese quoted Uncle Ho saying that we will drive the Americans out of the country and then, when they ask to come back as equals, to roll out the carpet and welcome us back. And, here we are.

We hugged and cried together, and posed for pictures. It was an amazing connection. Solidarity in beautiful radiance.

The next day, the war was revisited as we traveled as part of a delegation from the IADL to the Vietnam Friendship Village. The Friendship Village was established by a member of Vets for Peace to atone for his actions during The War. It is now funded by donations from at least five countries, four of which did not even participate in the War, as well as by the Vietnamese government. At the Friendship Village victims of Agent Orange (mostly children), now into the third generation, are treated, educated, and taught skills. We were, out of typical Vietnamese graciousness, not shown the worst victims, scarred, and deformed, but what we saw was still extraordinarily painful, and unknown in the US. As one of the students from the discussion the day before demanded with polite anger, "When will Americans accept responsibility for the suffering they cause?" When indeed. Larry found himself getting angry the rest of the day, and only later understood how much of that was anger at what we had seen in those children's faces and bodies.

At the Friendship Village, we finally made the connection that Karen had craved, meeting a group of Vietnamese Veterans of the American War, still in uniform, at the Friendship Village for medical treatment. Smiling, they greeted us, took our hands, and posed for pictures. There was a sense of unity and solidarity that Larry has yet to find language to express.

Throughout the remainder of our stay, once we knew how to look, we found shrines tucked into street corners and in town squares to the at least two million dead of the American War. The dead are mourned and honored as an ongoing, endless process of scar and healing.

One of the most powerful experiences awaited us on the last full day of our trip.

We were relaxing in Hanoi, in one of the most peaceful places we've ever found in a big city. We were sitting on a bench out at the temple in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, looking for the legendary turtles that inhabit the lake and are said to be emissaries from the Gods. We were approached by an elderly Vietnamese man, who at first said, "American?" When we nodded, he responded with a rush of Vietnamese. Karen held her hands up in confusion, and said, in English, that we don't speak Vietnamese. Again, he said, "American?" Larry said, yes, but we don't speak Vietnamese. We went through this another time, with him speaking Vietnamese and us speaking English. It was obviously very important to him to make the connection with us, but the Congress was over and we had no translators. Suddenly, he pulled his neatly tucked shirt out of his pants, squatted down in front of us, with his back turned to his. He continued to pull his shirt up to his shoulders, so that his entire back was clearly visible. He continued to speak in Vietnamese, very insistently. Larry suddenly connected: He was showing us the scars across the middle of his back. They could have been marks of torture, or marks from bullets. He was not content, and would not get up again, until both of us had touched the scars on his back, demonstrating that we knew that was what he was showing us.

A fellow US delegate had celebrated her birthday while on this trip. She had decided early on that a good way to celebrate would be to find someone who had been harmed in the War, and she would apologize to them. Karen remembered her story of having found a man working as a "cyclo" driver, taking people around on his combination bicycle-taxi, and the words she had used. We, too, said, "Sin Loi" (I'm sorry). He turned back around, and his smile was blinding, and his eyes lit up. With each of us, he took one hand in both of his, shaking our hands so warmly, and bowing. His face remains burned in our memories.

Now that we have returned to the US, which takes responsibility still for nothing and acts as if everything it does and every harm it causes, is approved by God, we struggle with the lessons we have learned:

The Vietnamese, as Iraqis and Afghanis, and the others that we wage war against were claimed not to value life as we do. There is the old stupid cliché spouted during the War and now again about Iraqis, Afghanis, Arabs and Muslims, that they don't value life as we do. As we traveled, met the Vietnamese, and came to understand the effect that the War has had on them, it became very clear, that they value life in ways that we as Americans can barely begin to understand. If we dig, it will not take long to find that that is true of the Iraqis and Afghanis as well.

Another lesson has given us hope as we struggle to end our current wars and feel, as we do, isolated, and hopeless. The students showed us that every little demonstration that we suffer through where we think no one is watching, no media are covering it, and only 50 people show up, makes a difference in solidarity. People are watching, and 30 years from now, young Iraqis will learn about our marches in their history books.

Imperialism can be defeated, by determined nations, under-armed, poor, but determined. The empire cannot maintain occupations in the face of committed resistance, and Empires always fall.

Stay strong and keep fighting. We must, if history is any judge, prevail, and one day we will walk in a free Afghanistan and a free Iraq and talk with gracious people who will thank us for our small contribution to ending the occupations and wars.

Larry Hildes is a civil rights lawyer based in Bellingham, WA specializing in the rights of demonstrators in particular anti-War demonstrators in Olympia, WA.. His wife Karen Weill is a former journalist and corporate HR manager who now works with him in their practice. Together they travel frequently to conferences around the world. The article came out of a series of postings Larry and Karen made to a blog the National Lawyers Guild's International Committee set up for participants to post their observations about the conference and Vietnam.

Former U.S. ambassador Timothy L. Towell, charged with forcing sex on male adult teen

Former U.S. ambassador to Paraguay Timothy L. Towell, 75, was charged in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia w ith having sex with an 18-year old male against the young man's will. According to the Washington Examiner, Towell plied the teen with drinks and then invited him to his house in the Georgetown section of Washington. The teen said he felt threatened when Towell brandished a machete and revolver.

Towell served as America's top envoy to Paraguay under the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, from 1988 to 1991. He also served in U.S. diplomatic posts in Brazil, Bolivia, Cuba, and Spain, where he served as an assistant to U.S. ambassador Angier Biddle Duke, and from 1991 to 1993 served as Director for Africa at the Peace Corps. He also served as depity director of the Peace Corps for Asia. Before serving in Asuncion, Towell was the deputy to State Department Chief of Protocol Selwa Roosevelt.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Towell has donated to the presidential campaigns of John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, and Mit Romney, as well as the U.S. Senate campaign of Arlen Specter, Republican-turned-Democrat of Pennsylvania.

On September 13, 2005, the Washington Times reported on a reception at the historic Bacon House in Washington, DC where Washington "flamboyant" lobbyist Edward von Kloberg was remembered by garden party guests, along with Chief Justice William Rehnquist and victims of Hurricane Katrina. Towell, who was present at the party, along with Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, said the death of von Kloberg, the chief of Washington World Group, who lept from the Castle St. Angelo in Rome the previous May, "left a vacuum on the diplomatic scene."

In October 2006, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina and Paraguayan and other Latin American newspapers reported that Towell was the administrator of a 173,000 acre ranch in the Chaco region of Paraguay on behalf of former President George H. W. Bush, under whom Towell served as U.S. ambassador to the country.

Towell served as U.S. ambassador to Paraguay during the presidency of General Andres Rodriguez, a former close associate of dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who was ousted by Rodriguez and the military in February 1989. Rodriguez, who was supported by Towell and the Bush administration, was accused of involvement in the international narcotics trade. Rodriguez was later charged with misappropriating Stroessner's sizable assets in the country after the dictator fled to exile in Brazil.

In the late 1990's, Towell was a Washington lobbyist for Paraguayan President Juan Carlos Wasmosy, one of Paraguay's richest businessmen. Towell, a Republican, also was chairman of the Paraguay-American Chamber of Commerce. More recently, Towell has supported the political opposition against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Towell has also been active in supporting the independence aspirations of the people of Baluchistan, a separatist region of Pakistan and Iran, and in 1995 attended a Washington lunch for Baluchi leader, Prince Mohammad ben Hassan Mohammad, sponsored by von Kloberg.

In a report on von Kloberg's "dive" from the Roman castle that resulted in his death, the London Daily Telegraph, on May 4, 2005, reported, "Edward von Kloberg III, 63, an American who changed his name [by adding 'van' and later, 'von'] because he thought it would sound better with a German twist, flung himself from the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome -- the site of Tosca's suicide in the Puccini opera. Among items found on his body was an American magazine cover with a picture of him meeting the first President George Bush." The report continued, "Italian newspapers said he had been depressed after a failed attempt at reconciliation with his Lithuanian homosexual lover. His suicide note was reported to include the words: 'The last years have been the darkest of my life. Thinking about what was and what is now no longer. The fact that [the lover] has spoken ill of our affair with others has made me suffer a great deal.'"

Von Kloberg's clients included some of the world's most notorious dictators, including Saddam Hussein, Samuel Doe of Liberia, the Burmese junta, Suriname's drig dealing dictator Deis Bouterse, and Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu. Von Kloberg also reprsented the governments of Nicaragua, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Benin, Cape Verde, Rwanda (prior to the 1994 genocide), Bahrain, Gambia, Dominica, Djibouti, Yemen, Lithuania, Lesotho, Slovakia, Kyrgyzstan, and Slovenia. Von Kloberg, who was apparently fond of "queens," was also an avid supporter of restorations of kings and was a good friend of Rwanda's exiled King Kigeli and Ermias Sahle-Selassie, the exiled prince of Ethiopia.

Von Kloberg bragged that there was one dictator he could not represent because he considered him too corrupt and ruthless: Stroessner of Paraguay, who was ousted from power while von Kloberg's friend Towell served as ambassador in Asuncion.

In an interesting side note, in 1996, the Honduran Apparel Manufacturers Association hired von Kloberg to defend it against charges that sexual abuse and child labor were rampant in Honduras's garment factories.

Pariah regimes form "Axis of Outcasts"

As a follow-up to WMR's report on September 1, 2009, about links between Myanmar's military junta, methamphetamine ("ice") production in Myanmar by Israeli intelligence-connected criminal syndicates, and gun factories in the Wa region along the Chinese border, our Asian sources have reported more details about Israeli intelligence cooperation with the Myanmar junta.

On September 1, WMR reported: "Israeli criminal gangs operating methamphetamine labs in northern Burma (Myanmar), under the protection of a sizable Israeli security and intelligence presence in the country, infiltrated the United Nations poppy eradication program, which seeks to convince ethnic Wa and Kokang's in the "Golden Triangle" region famous for opium production to change to other legal crops and turn in their weapons, mostly Chinese-made AK-47s, for cash." The Mossad became irritated when it was discovered that Iranian agents were buying the AK-47s from the tribal groups and shipping them to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

WMR has learned that a former Mossad intelligence operative, with the last name of Aron, which may be short for Aronowitz, serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in Myanmar's Tatmadaw military intelligence service. In return for the Israeli intelligence alliance with the Myanmar junta, the Burmese generals receive Israeli intelligence on U.S. and Indian arms development and policies toward the Burmese regime. Israel benefits from the relationship by being allowed to set up "pharmaceutical" laboratories in Myanmar for the export of illegal drugs from the country. When the Israelis discovered that Iranian Revolutionary Guard agents were buying guns from the Wa right under their noses, they wanted revenge. The Myanmar junta then ordered a military offensive against the Wa and Kokang, driving many refugees and guerrillas across the border into China, thus destabilizing China's southern border when it is already facing insurrections in Xinjiang and Tibet.

However, the Israelis also discovered a North Korean angle to the gun factory in the Wa. It is suspected that the Wa were using North Korean advisers to manufacture AK-47 assault rifles.

North Korea, which, like Myanmar, is considered a pariah nation, also has maintained close links to the Mossad. When it was discovered that North Korea was selling missile technology to Iran, Israel countered the Iranian move by offering Pyongyang its own military technology, including security fence technology for its borders with South Korea and China, and investment capital from wealthy Jewish interests in Israel and abroad.

Israel is no stranger to cutting deals with pariah governments. It maintained very close military, economic, nuclear, and intelligence links with the apartheid government of South Africa and intelligence and security links with military dictatorships in Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua (the Anastasio Somoza regime), and other Latin American countries. Israel, through its connections in white minority-ruled Rhodesia, also maintained intelligence contacts with Rhodesia's intelligence and security services.

When practically every country in the world has broken relations with and cut off assistance to the Honduran military junta that ousted President Manuel Zelaya, Israel has agreed to act as the representative of the regime of Honduran junta leader Roberto Micheletti. After the Honduran junta severed diplomatic relations with Argentina, Israel agreed to represent the junta through the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. The Honduran junta announced that Israel had been the only country to recognize it after the coup, however, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Honduran statement was "unfounded."

Private Israeli security contractors were also reportedly very active in Honduras in advance of the coup against Zelaya. Israeli mercenaries and torture advisers had been active in Honduras on behalf of "death squads" formed while John Negroponte was U.S. ambassador in Tegucigalpa. An Israeli unit that arrived in Honduras in 1988, headed by the notorious Yair Klain, also taught Honduran death squads how to carry out terrorist bombings and kidnappings.

The neocons are fond of citing their "Axis of Evil" of Iran, North Korea, and whatever other nation they find irritating to their designs. However, there does exist an "Axis of Outcasts" - a bloc that links Israel with the unsavory regimes ruling Myanmar, North Korea, and now, Honduras.

Afghanistan - like Iraq, another magnet for corporate malfeasance

WMR has discovered from a private security company source who worked in Afghanistan additional details about RA International, the Dubai-based contractor for whom Terry Pearson, the British contractor who blew the whistle on lewd and homosexual-oriented drunken orgies engaged in by security guards at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, worked until he was forced to resign or face being fired.

Pearson was a supervisor in Afghanistan. He worked under a sub-contract that RA International had at Camp Sullivan where the U.S. embassy guards worked under a State Department contract awarded to ArmorGroup North America, now owned by Wackenhut.

WMR's source described RA International, for whom he once worked, as a "total scam." RA International's Chairman is Soraya Narfeldt, a Lebanese citizen born to a Scottish father and a Lebanese/West African mother. Narfeldt's company has had contracts for UN peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone, Chad, Uganda, and Darfur, and, under a U.S. government sub-contract from ArmorGroup, in Afghanistan. RA International is a member of the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), the Washington lobbyist group that represents a number of private military contractors, including MPRI International, Dyncorp International, and Triple Canopy and seeks to expand their presence in U.S. and UN military operations around the world. Narfeldt's husband is a former UN official stationed in Afghanistan and she was named by Arabian Business Online 90th in its ranking of the hundred most influential Arabs.

WMR was told by the ex-RA International employee that the firm received sweetheart contracts with Dyncorp in Afghanistan, as well as the British embassy, the German military missions, and other clients. The former employee stated that RA International employees had French, German, and British security contractors in Kabul who were usually under the influence of prescription drugs and maintained a "hooker house" in Kabul.

As previously reported by WMR, press-ganged young Chinese females serve as prostitutes in Kabul and, against their wishes, double as Chinese intelligence agents. WMR has learned from our former RA International source that a British senior RA International official in Kabul abused the Chinese sex workers on a regular basis. WMR has also learned that RA International routinely supplied weapons to its employees in Afghanistan without the permission of the Afghan government, permitted routine drug use by its employees, purchased food from local Afghan suppliers instead of from parties already under contract, and failed to provide security for personnel or provide secure vehicles for their use. The only security provided was for food storage compounds.

Another senior RA International official in Kabul is known to live in Kabul's Light House brothel among Chinese prostitutes and is tied to a number of local Afghan crime gangs. Some members of President Hamid Karzai's government have complained about the presence of the prostitutes in Kabul and RA International's involvement with them with no response from the United States, Britain, or NATO.

The Department of State's Inspector General is reportedly investigating ArmorGroup's security guards and RA International claims to be cooperating in that investigation.

U.S. Mercenaries in Pakistan

September 2009 -- RT: Private security mercs in Pakistan

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Enduring Freedom until 2050 By Pepe Escobar

Enduring Freedom until 2050
By Pepe Escobar

And it's one, two, three
what are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn
next stop is Vietnam

- Country Joe and the Fish, 1969

After eight long years, now more than ever, the United States invasion and (partial) occupation of Afghanistan is on a roll, courtesy of US President Barack Obama's "new strategy".

This - which Pentagon supremo Robert Gates insists is "working" - includes US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) staging mini-Guernicas, al la the bombing of Guernica, Spain, by German and Italian warplanes in 1937, as painted by Pablo Picasso.

It also includes General Stanley McChrystal - the former number one hit man for General David Petraeus in Iraq - assaulting Washington to demand (what else is new?) an extra 45,000 US boots on the ground.

Add 52,000 US troops and no less than a staggering 68,000 US contractors as of late March - don't even count NATO - and soon there will be more Americans wallowing in the Afghan mire than Soviets at their occupation peak during the 1980s. In only 450 days, Enduring Freedom plus NATO boots swelled up from 67,000 to 118,000.

Does it matter that, according to a McClatchy/Ipsos survey, almost eight years after the "war on terror" bombing of the Taliban, 54% of Americans think the US is "losing" the war while 56% are against sending more troops? Of course not.

We want our cut
The latest mini-Guernica is the air strike on two fuel trucks hijacked by the Taliban and stuck in a riverbed near a market in the Ali Abad district in Kunduz province. The strike was ordered by a helpless, intelligence-impaired German colonel under the NATO banner, and has now degenerated into a caustic war of words between Washington and Berlin.

NATO's "mission" in Afghanistan is extremely unpopular in Germany. According to Kunduz locals, the NATO air strike killed more than 100 villagers; NATO says no more than 25; all this while insisting it made sure no civilians were in the area before the hit. It's the same mini-Guernica scenario of Herat in August 2008 and Farah in May 2009.

None of this slows down the relentless Gates/Mullen/McChrystal gravy train - the Pentagon superstar trio obsessed with milking a Vietnam-style escalation of Obama's self-described "necessary war" whose final objective, according to super-envoy Richard Holbrooke, is of the "we'll-know-it-when-we-see-it" kind.

As for the United States Agency for International Development, it has just "discovered" that the Taliban - as a protection racket - take a cut from the international development aid pouring into Afghanistan. But the cut pales in comparison to what the Hamid Karzai government and his warlord compadres divert from the European Union coffers under United Nations supervision - via one "Afghan reconstruction" bash after another (Tokyo 2002, Berlin 2004, London 2006, Paris 2008).

Maybe not as much as Americans, European taxpayers are also being fleeced. In a devastating post at the Italian byebyeunclesam blog, Giancarlo Chetoni explains how Afghanistan is costing Italian taxpayers 1,000 euros (US$1,433) a minute, or 525.6 million euros a year, to "free the country from terrorism and drugs". Surrealism is the norm. Italy famously gave 52 million euros to "reform Afghanistan's judicial system" when, Chetoni notes, "3.5 million penal cases and 5.4 million civil lawsuits are currently pending" in Italy. During the next four years, Italy will practically double its contingent, from 3,250 troops to more than 6,000.

New NATO head, former president George W Bush-friendly Anders Rasmussen from Denmark, has been trying to explain the new "strategy" in pyrotechnic NATOese to skeptical Europeans. But the real plot of the non-stop tragicomedy is never spelled out. The US and its NATO allies will do - and spend - whatever it takes to implant military bases on the doorstep of both Russia and China and - Allah only knows - get their Trans-Afghan Pakistan gas pipeline on track.

From November 2001 to December 2008, the Bush administration burned $179 billion in Afghanistan, while NATO burned $102 billion. Former NATO head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the West would keep troops in Central Asia for 25 years. He was corrected by the British army's chief of general staff, General David Richards: it will be 40 years. Expect the "evil", fit Taliban - immune to global warming - to be fighting Enduring Freedom by 2050.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

Monday, September 07, 2009

The double betrayal of Philips

Reflections of Fidel
The double betrayal of Philips
(Taken from CubaDebate)

THE United States owns the most patents in the world. It has stolen scientists from every country, developed or developing, who are undertaking research in a myriad of spheres, from the production of weapons of mass destruction to medicines and medical equipment. For that reason, the economic and technological blockade is not something that merely serves as a pretext for blaming the empire for our own difficulties.

Public healthcare is one of the most advanced fields in our country, despite the fact that the United States stole close to 50% of the doctors who had graduated from the only university in Cuba, a figure in excess of 5,000, many of whom lacked employment.

In that area, one of the most beautiful pages of international cooperation on the part of the Cuban Revolution was written, initiated thanks to a group of doctors who were sent to the recently-independent Algeria almost half a century ago. That policy has not ended, and in that highly humane field our country enjoys universal recognition.

No one supposes that it has been an easy task. The United States has done everything possible to prevent it from happening. During the time that has passed, it has made maximum efforts to sabotage it. It applied against Cuba all possible variants of its criminal economic blockade which, later on, in virtue of the Helms-Burton Act, acquired an extraterritorial nature during the administration of Bill Clinton.

When the socialist bloc collapsed and, months later, its principal bastion the Soviet Union disintegrated, Cuba decided to keep on fighting. By then, our people had acquired a high level of awareness and political culture.

In 1992, Hugo Chávez led a military uprising against the bourgeois oligarchic government of the Punto Fijo pact that had pillaged Bolívar’s homeland for more than three decades. He suffered imprisonment, just as we did. He visited Cuba in 1994 and years later, with the full support of his people, he assumed the presidency and initiated the Bolivarian Revolution.

The Venezuelan people, like that of Cuba, soon had to confront the hostility of the United States, which planned the fascist coup d’état in 2002 that was defeated by the people and revolutionary military personnel. Months later, came the oil coup, creating the most difficult moment and one in which, once again, the leader, the people and the Venezuelan military were outstanding. Chávez and Venezuela offered us total solidarity in the midst of the Special Period and we have given them ours.

At that time, our country had no less than 60,000 specialized doctors, more than 150,000 experienced teachers and a people who had written brilliant internationalist pages. After the oil coup, the river of our cooperative workers in education and healthcare programs began to flow, and they cooperated with the Bolivarian Revolution in one of the most profound and rapid social programs undertaken in any Third World country.

I cite these precedents because they are indispensable when it come to judging the treachery of imperialism and comprehending the issue that I am tackling today: the abandonment and betrayal of Cuba and Venezuela by what was a well-known and relatively prestigious European multinational: the Dutch transnational Philips, which specializes in the manufacture of medical equipment.

I wrote a Reflection on this subject two years ago – July 14, 2007 – but I did not want to mention that company by name. I still held out the hope that the situation would be rectified.

We had cooperated with the Venezuelan people in order to create one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Tens of thousands of specialized doctors and other Cuban healthcare professional had lent their services there. President During one of his visits to Cuba, Hugo Chávez, satisfied with the work of the first contingents who traveled to Venezuela to work within Barrio Adentro – the program aimed at providing healthcare services in the country’s poorest urban and rural areas – asked us to create a program that could benefit every sector of Venezuelan society, working class, middle class or the rich. This led to the emergence of the Advanced Technology Diagnosis Centers; these would complement the task of the 600 Comprehensive Diagnosis Centers which, like polyclinics with a wide range of services, with their laboratories and equipment, would support the Barrio Adentro doctors’ offices. A significant number of rehabilitation centers would assume the humane task of attending to any patient with physical or learning disabilities.

In virtue of this request from the president, we acquired the relevant equipment for 27 Advanced Technology Diagnosis Centers distributed throughout the 24 states of Venezuela, three of which possess two each because of the size of their populations.

It is standard practice for us to always purchase medical equipment from the most prestigious and advanced companies at world level. We even try to ensure the participation of at least two of the most specialized companies in the supply of the most complex equipment.

In this way, the most sophisticated and costly medical imaging equipment, such as multi-slice computed tomography (CT), nuclear magnetic resonance, diagnostic ultrasound and other similar machines were purchased from the German firm Siemens and the Dutch company Philips. Neither of the two produces all of the equipment but they do manufacture some of the most complex and sophisticated equipment. Both are in competition with each other in terms of quality and price. We acquired diagnostic equipment from the two companies for Venezuela and for Cuba, where we were developing a similar plan for medical services that had received very few resources in the most difficult years of the Special Period.

For more than 10 different specialties, we acquired equipment from the two companies for services in the two countries. I will not mention those of the German firm Siemens, which met its commitments. I will confine myself to Philips; this company supplied equipment for 12 specialties sharing the provision of the most important and costly items with the other company: 15 40-slice CT machines, 28 0.23 Tesla Nuclear Magnetic Resonance machines, eight tele-command stations for Urology, 37 3D diagnostic ultrasound machines, two neurological angiograms, two cardiology angiograms, two polygraphs, one double-headed gamma camera, three single-head gamma camera, 250 mobile X-ray machines, 1,200 non-invasive monitors and 2,000 cardioversion monitors.

In total, 3,553 machines at a value of $72,762,694.

I personally participated in negotiations with these two companies for these purchases.

The prices discussed for each piece of equipment implied significant price reductions, given the quantity – the items for both Cuba and Venezuela together - and the fact that they were to be paid for in cash. It would not be possible to urgently acquire the goods as required, particularly in that country, given the accumulated needs of the poorest sectors of its total population, which numbered 27 million people at that time.

The most complex equipment were destined for the Advanced Technology Centers, the less sophisticated and plentiful items for the Barrio Adentro Diagnosis Centers, although they were not the only ones to use this equipment. Almost all of them were purchased at the beginning of 2006.

I became seriously ill at the end of July of that year. Philips supplied items until the end of 2006. In 2007, it stopped completely: not a single item was supplied.

In March of that year, a Cuban delegation was sent to Brazil where the Philips headquarters for Latin America – the branch that negotiated with Cuba – is located. They began to explain their difficulties. The Bush government had requested detailed information on equipment supplied to Cuba by their company, alleging that some of them contained programs and, occasionally, components bearing a yanki patent, and Philips provided the information requested on the purchases made by Cuba and Venezuela. There had never been any problem with that before.

The director of Philips in Brazil textually informed the Cuban delegation: "There is brutal intransigence on the part of the U.S. government in relation to regulations regarding equipment and the request for permits with respect to Cuba.

"I know that the problem is affecting the Comandante’s plan. Our organization is being affected and threatened. All our organizations are very scared." He immediately reiterated: "They are very scared."

Finally, they added that they wished to cooperate and find solutions.

In mid-July 2007, in a so-called White House Conference on the Americas, Bush, the secretary of state, and other U.S. government leaders "talked nineteen to the dozen" according to an AP report, on issues of education and healthcare. It seemed unreal. They were promising to distribute healthcare services throughout Latin America.

They placed special emphasis on the Confort, a former aircraft carrier converted into the "biggest hospital boat in the world," according to the report, which was to visit each country in this hemisphere south of the United States for 10 days at a time. That was their healthcare program. What they did not say at the time, was that, in Venezuela, they were sabotaging the most serious healthcare program ever proposed for a Third World country.

Despite the coincidence of the timing, at that moment I did not wish to directly tackle the Philips problem. The company had promised to resolve the problem the following March. I still held out the hope that it could be rectified.

I limited myself to writing in that very Reflection: "The problem is that the United States cannot do what Cuba is doing. On the contrary, it is brutally pressuring the manufacturing companies of the excellent medical equipment that is being supplied to our country to prevent them from replacing certain computer programs or providing some spare parts that are under U.S. patents. I could cite concrete cases and the names of the companies. It is repugnant…"

Despite Philips’ solemn promise to Cuba, the rest of 2007 passed by, as well as the whole of 2008 and half of 2009 without a single piece of equipment arriving from that company.

In June 2009, after paying a fine of 100,000 euros to the Barack Obama government, not so distant from the practices of his illustrious predecessor, Philips deigned to communicate that it was about to provide equipment for Cuba.

On the other hand, nobody has recompensed the Cuban people, or the Venezuelan patients of our doctors in the Barrio Adentro program and those attending the Advanced Technology Diagnostic Centers for the human damages that have occurred.

As is logical, we have not acquired a single piece of equipment from Philips since the last purchase in early 2006.

On the other hand, we have cooperated with Venezuela in purchasing medical equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars for its national healthcare network, with a wide range of sophisticated state of cutting-edge equipment from other prestigious European and also Japanese companies. I wanted to believe that that company would make an effort to meet its commitment.

Venezuela now possesses modern equipment in its public hospital network; the richest private clinics will only have been able to acquire some of them. Now, all the rest will depend on the country’s efficiency in its services. The Venezuelan president is seriously interested in achieving this objective. I believe that it will do so very well if it mitigates the Venezuelan custom of purchasing U.S. medical equipment, not on account of its quality – which is very good although with less demanding regulations than those of Europe – but because of what lies at the heart of the policy of this country, capable of blocking the supply of equipment as it did with Cuba.

Of course, we have dispatched to the Venezuelan Diagnosis Centers, the Advanced Technology Centers and others where our doctors are in attendance, equipment of known international makes such as Siemens, Carl Zeiss, Drager, SMS, Schwind, Topcon, Nihon Kohden, Olympus and other European and Japanese companies, some of which were founded more than 100 years ago.

Now that Bolívar’s homeland, which Martí asked to serve, is more threatened than ever by imperialism, the organization, work and efficiency of our efforts must be greater than ever; not just in the healthcare sector, but in all the fields of our cooperation.

Fidel Castro Ruz
September 6, 2009
7.17 p.m.

Translated by Granma International

- Reflections oF Fidel