Saturday, September 27, 2003

I have not updated my links for a while. At the start of the Iraqi invasion I started reading the Daily Kos regularly. My favorite posting were by Steve Gilliard, who was sort of the foreign correspondent for Kos. Anyway, Steve has started his own blog, please go check it out.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

It looks like the Kay Report that was supposed to prove what a wise choice it had been to spend $7 billion a week on the Iraqi invasion and occupation by documenting what a clear and present danger the Saddam Hussein was to the rest of the world, is going to finally see the light of day. This should knock about ten more points off Bush’s numbers, if it’s followed up by some strong Democratic attacks.

The hunt for weapons of mass destruction yields – nothing.

Intelligence claims of huge Iraqi stockpiles were wrong, says report

Julian Borger in Washington, Ewen MacAskill and Patrick Wintour
Thursday September 25, 2003
The Guardian

An intensive six-month search of Iraq for weapons of mass destruction has failed to find a single trace of an illegal arsenal, according to accounts of a report circulated in Washington and London.

A draft of the report, compiled by the CIA-led 1,400-strong Iraq Survey Group (ISG), has been sent to the White House, the Pentagon and Downing Street, a US intelligence source said, and will contain no evidence of Iraqi stockpiles of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

"It demonstrates that the main judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in October 2002, that Saddam had hundreds of tonnes of chemical and biological agents ready, are false," said the source.

The timing of this disclosure could hardly be worse for Tony Blair, just days before the start of the Labour party conference. Iraq has dogged the prime minister almost continuously for five months, overshadowing the domestic agenda. Downing Street had been hoping for respite after the end of Lord Hutton's inquiry, which closes today.

Mr Blair put forward Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as the reason for going to war and he has repeatedly insisted that the weapons would be found.

He told a sceptical Conservative MP in the Commons on April 30 that he was absolutely convinced that Iraq had such weapons and predicted that, when the report was published, "you and others will be eating some of your words."

Although Downing Street last night officially dismissed the leak as speculation, government sources confirmed that it was accurate.

A No 10 spokesman said: "People should wait. The reports today are speculation about an unfinished draft of an interim report that has not even been presented yet. And when it comes it will be an interim report. The ISG's work will go on."

He added: "Our clear expectation is that this interim report will not reach firm conclusions about Iraq's possession of WMD."

The government defence will be to stress that failure to find WMD does not mean that it does not exist.

Last night's leak will fuel the anti-war sentiment ahead of Saturday's demonstration in London for withdrawal of US and British troops from Iraq. It will also make it harder for Labour party organisers to resist grassroots pressure for a debate on Iraq.

The interim report is at present pencilled in for publication next week but the Labour, party, anxious to avoid it landing in the middle of its conference, is trying to get that changed.

The results of the ISG's search are also disappointing for the White House.

There is a debate within the administration over whether the report would be delivered to Congress at all, but congressional aides said they expected to hear from the head of the ISG, the former UN in spector David Kay, as early as next week.

He arrived back from Iraq last Wednesday and since then has been working on the report.

It is now thought that the ISG investigation will dwell on Saddam Hussein's capability and intentions.

The NIE was put together by the CIA and other US intelligence agencies, and claimed that the Iraqi leader had chemical and biological stockpiles, and a continuing nuclear programme that could produce a home-made bomb before the end of the decade.

The NIE became a key document in the propaganda war waged by President Bush in the runup to the invasion of Iraq in March, although intelligence officials warned that many of the nuances and cautionary notes from original reports had been removed from the final documents.

According to accounts of the ISG draft, captured Iraqi scientists gave the investigation an account of how weapons were destroyed, but those accounts refer back to the period immediately after the 1991 Gulf war.

The nuclear section of the survey group has also finished its work and left Iraq.

After addressing the Senate in July, a bullish Mr Kay claimed "solid evidence" was being gathered and warned journalists to expect "surprises".

No such surprises appear to be in the draft.

The CIA took the unusual step of playing down expectations of the report yesterday. "Dr Kay is still receiving information from the field. It will be just the first progress report, and we expect that it will reach no firm conclusions, nor will it rule anything in or out," the chief agency spokesman, Bill Harlow, said.

An intelligence official added yesterday that the timing of the report's release "had yet to be determined".

In London, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "It is David Kay's report. We do not have it. We will comment on it when it is presented.

"When it comes, it will be an interim report. ISG's work will continue. The reports are speculation about an unfinished draft of an interim report that has not yet even been presented yet."

David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector, said: "It's clear that the US and British governments wildly exaggerated the case for going to war." But he added that the fact that the survey group had not found concrete evidence of weapons did not mean that the Baghdad regime did not have programmes to quickly reconstitute programmes and weapons at short notice.

"Just because they can't find it, doesn't mean its not there," Mr Albright said.

"I'm not surprised, given how incompetent this search had been. They've had bad relations with the [Iraqi] scientists from the start because they treated them all as criminals."

Many of the Iraqi scientists and officials who surrendered to US forces have been held in detention for months without contact with their families, despite assurances they would be well treated if they cooperated.

But recently the Bush administration, under mounting pressure to justify the invasion, has been trying to improve the incentives for former Saddam loyalists to provide information.

Reuters quoted a senior US official yesterday as saying that the former defence minister, Sultan Hashim Ahmed, had been given "effective" immunity in the hope that he would provide information on Saddam's weapons programmes.

The foreign secretary Jack Straw, speaking at the United Nations general assembly in New York, declined to comment on the ISG report.

"If people want evidence, they don't have to wait for Dr Kay's report, what they can do is look at the volumes of reports from the weapons inspectors going back over a dozen years including the final report from Unmovic on March 7 this year, which set out 29 separate areas of unanswered disarmament questions to Iraq," he said.

The shadow foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, described the leak as "another damaging blow to the prime minister's credibility" and renewed calls for a judicial inquiry into the war.

The Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Menzies Campbell, said: "If this report is true, there was no

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Al-Qaeda the winner: Beazley
By Don Woolford
September 24, 2003
The Australian

OSAMA bin Laden and al-Qaeda have been winners from the Iraq war, former Opposition leader Kim Beazley said tonight.

Mr Beazley said the removal of Saddam Hussein gave al-Qaeda the opportunity to operate freely in Iraq and the war had taken pressure off Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The former defence minister, who lost a Labor leadership challenge against Simon Crean in the middle of the year, said in a Perth lecture United States forces in Iraq were a magnet for anti-American Jihadists through the region.

"It is probable that Saddam's security services had communication with al- Qaeda from the time of the organisation's foundation," Mr Beazley said.

"It is also true that bin Laden made supportive remarks about Hussein in the lead up to the war.

"These are tactical issues. Strategically the removal of Saddam Hussein and the provision of political opportunity for jihadist forces to operate freely in Iraq has been a core al-Qaeda objective.

"There is little yet in the Iraqi outcome to cause bin Laden regret."

Mr Beazley said from al- Qaeda's point of view, the shift of the focus from Afghanistan and pressure on Pakistan was even more satisfactory.

This was where bin Laden had been bottled up.

Mr Beazley said Afghanistan was a disgrace.

A resurgent Taliban had been able to move from individual terror acts to more complex military campaigns, temporarily seizing territory, terrifying populations and undermining the government.

This had forced alliances with warlords who flouted control from Kabul and lived off the proceeds of crime, including drug sales to Australians.

"It is good that Saddam has gone, but the price has been high enough to provide an argument for a different way of doing it," he said.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

For anyone who still may be questioning whether it was incompetence or just outright lying that led the Bush Administration to claim that Iraq possessed WMD’s and were about to destroy the “free” world with them, the following transcript may clear up the debate:

Transcript: Briefing by Secretary Colin Powell, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa

(Iraq sanctions, Mideast peace, U.S.-Egyptian ties)

Following is a transcript of the Powell-Moussa briefing: 24 February 2001
(begin transcript)

Office of the Spokesman (Jerusalem)
For Immediate Release
February 25, 2001

Remarks by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell And Foreign Minister of Egypt Amre Moussa Ittihadiya Palace Cairo, Egypt February 24, 2001

QUESTION: The Egyptian press editorial commentary that we have seen here has been bitterly aggressive in denouncing the U.S. role and not welcoming you. I am wondering whether you believe you accomplished anything during your meetings to assuage concerns about the air strikes against Iraq and the continuing sanctions?

SECRETARY POWELL: I received a very warm welcome from the leaders and I know there is some unhappiness as expressed in the Egyptian press. I understand that, but at the same time, with respect to the no-fly zones and the air strikes that we from time to time must conduct to defend our pilots, I just want to remind everybody that the purpose of those no-fly zones and the purpose of those occasional strikes to protect our pilots, is not to pursue an aggressive stance toward Iraq, but to defend the people that the no-fly zones are put in to defend. The people in the southern part of Iraq and the people in the northern part of Iraq, and these zones have a purpose, and their purpose is to protect people -- protect Arabs -- not to affect anything else in the region. And we have to defend ourselves.

We will always try to consult with our friends in the region so that they are not surprised and do everything we can to explain the purpose of our responses. We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions -- the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. (Emphasis added ) So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq, and these are policies that we are going to keep in place, but we are always willing to review them to make sure that they are being carried out in a way that does not affect the Iraqi people but does affect the Iraqi regime's ambitions and the ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and we had a good conversation on this issue

Thursday, September 18, 2003

I usually ignore Friedman’s amateurish attempts to show he knows something about foreign policy, but when I saw the title of today’s commentary, I had to take a peek.

Our War With France

The New York Times

It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.

This sounds a bit like the outburst of an angry child who, after being told repeatedly by his parents not to play with matches, ended up getting burned anyway when he ignored the warnings.

“I hate you Mommy”

If you add up how France behaved in the run-up to the Iraq war (making it impossible for the Security Council to put a real ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that might have avoided a war), and if you look at how France behaved during the war (when its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to answer the question of whether he wanted Saddam or America to win in Iraq), and if you watch how France is behaving today (demanding some kind of loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government, with the rest of Iraq's transition to democracy to be overseen more by a divided U.N. than by America), then there is only one conclusion one can draw: France wants America to fail in Iraq.

Friedman makes it clear here that France is obviously rattling its sabers in a dangerous, high-stakes game of Strategic Reverse Psychology. Knowing full well that Bush and his neo-con gurus will instinctively do the opposite of what ever France tell them to do, the Gauls have purposefully ensnarled us into this Iraqi quagmire.

If only France 2 had shown footage of Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin home in his chateau, , seated in his recliner watching Fox in nothing but his boxer shorts and a Bud, cheering every time a bomb exploded during the Shock and Awe phase of the ongoing Iraqi war, then our soldiers would have had the proper fighting spirit to make it through the long struggle that they then faced.

“Look Junior, I’m sorry about your burnt fingers, but I told your repeatedly not to play with matches.”

“Mommy, you just want me to fail in life!”

France wants America to sink in a quagmire there in the crazy hope that a weakened U.S. will pave the way for France to assume its "rightful" place as America's equal, if not superior, in shaping world affairs.

This sounds something like an actual conspiracy theory.

“Mommy, I know you put those matches in our neighbors backyard purposely so that I would find them.”

Yes, the Bush team's arrogance has sharpened French hostility. Had President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld not been so full of themselves right after America's military victory in Iraq — and instead used that moment, when the French were feeling that maybe they should have taken part, to magnanimously reach out to Paris to join in reconstruction — it might have softened French attitudes. But even that I have doubts about.

What I have no doubts about, though, is that there is no coherent, legitimate Iraqi authority able to assume power in the near term, and trying to force one now would lead to a dangerous internal struggle and delay the building of the democratic institutions Iraq so badly needs. Iraqis know this. France knows this, which is why its original proposal (which it now seems to be backtracking on a bit) could only be malicious.

What Friedman does not understand here is that the clock is ticking, and I would say sometime around Thanksgiving the Shia’s are going to very politely order us out of their country, for the simple reason that there is no coherent, legitimate American authority able to assume power in the near term, and trying to force one now would lead to a dangerous internal struggle and delay the building of the democratic institutions Iraq so badly needs.

What is so amazing to me about the French campaign — "Operation America Must Fail" — is that France seems to have given no thought as to how this would affect France. Let me spell it out in simple English: if America is defeated in Iraq by a coalition of Saddamists and Islamists, radical Muslim groups — from Baghdad to the Muslim slums of Paris — will all be energized, and the forces of modernism and tolerance within these Muslim communities will be on the run. To think that France, with its large Muslim minority, where radicals are already gaining strength, would not see its own social fabric affected by this is fanciful.

Friedman uses Israeli-style racist thinking to come to his usual wrong conclusions. First of all, America is well on its way to being beaten by Iraqis, full stop. The coming withdrawal will only serve to unite the Muslim and Christian communities in France as both groups will be out in the streets, hand in hand, celebrating America’s humiliation.

If France were serious, it would be using its influence within the European Union to assemble an army of 25,000 Eurotroops, and a $5 billion reconstruction package, and then saying to the Bush team: Here, we're sincere about helping to rebuild Iraq, but now we want a real seat at the management table. Instead, the French have put out an ill-conceived proposal, just to show that they can be different, without any promise that even if America said yes Paris would make a meaningful contribution.

“Mommy, if you really loved me, you would buy me a hundred Bic lighters.”

But then France has never been interested in promoting democracy in the modern Arab world, which is why its pose as the new protector of Iraqi representative government — after being so content with Saddam's one-man rule — is so patently cynical.

Actually if Friedman had any historic perspective, he would have commented here about how France supported Algeria when it called off legislative elections in 1992. I have read a number of embarrassing (for France, that is) quotes about how democracy is a slow process.

Clearly, not all E.U. countries are comfortable with this French mischief, yet many are going along for the ride. It's stunning to me that the E.U., misled by France, could let itself be written out of the most important political development project in modern Middle East history. The whole tone and direction of the Arab-Muslim world, which is right on Europe's doorstep, will be affected by the outcome in Iraq. It would be as if America said it did not care what happened in Mexico because it was mad at Spain.

This sounds like some cheesy power-point, dot-com era, pitch for re-capitalization. “This is one of the most important e-commerce marketing projects in modern Bay Area history, please contribute $20,000 and work sixteen hours a day for the next two years for free“

Says John Chipman, director of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies: "What the Europeans are saying about Iraq is that this is our backyard, we're not going to let you meddle in it, but we're not going to tend it ourselves."

Look, the French and British “tended” that backyard for a number of years after the fall of the Ottoman empire. Most of the current problems can now be directly linked to various military dictatorships that were “tended” into place by a number of different American administrations.

But what's most sad is that France is right — America will not be as effective or legitimate in its efforts to rebuild Iraq without French help. Having France working with us in Iraq, rather than against us in the world, would be so beneficial for both nations and for the Arabs' future. Too bad this French government has other priorities.

“Oh come on Mommy, lets just light up the whole house!”

Sunday, September 14, 2003

A hail of bullets, a trail of dead, and a mystery the US is in no hurry to resolve

By Robert Fisk
13 September 2003

A human brain lay beside the highway. It was scattered in the sand, blasted from its owner's head when the Americans ambushed their own Iraqi policemen.

A few inches away were a policeman's teeth, broken but clean dentures, the teeth of a young man. "I don't know if they are the teeth of my brother - I don't even know if my brother is alive or dead," Ahmed Mohamed shouted at me. "The Americans took the dead and the wounded away - they won't tell us anything."

Ahmed Mohamed was telling the truth. He is also, I should add, an Iraqi policeman working for the Americans. United States forces in Iraq officially stated - incredibly - that they had "no information" about the killing of the 10 cops and the wounding of five others early yesterday morning. Unfortunately, the Americans are not telling the truth.

Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division fired thousands of bullets in the ambush, hundreds of them smashing into the wall of a building in the neighbouring Jordanian Hospital compound, setting several rooms on fire.

And if they really need "information", they have only to look at the 40mm grenade cartridges scattered in the sand near the brains and teeth.

On each is printed the coding "AMM LOT MA-92A170-024". This is a US code for grenades belt-fired from an American M-19 gun.

And out in Fallujah, where infuriated Iraqi civilians roamed the streets after morning prayers looking for US patrols to stone, it wasn't difficult to put the story together. The local American-trained and American-paid police chief, Qahtan Adnan Hamad - who confirmed that 10 died - described how, not long after midnight yesterday morning, gunmen in a BMW car had opened fire on the Mayor's office in Fallujah.

Two squads of the American-trained and American-paid police force - from the local Fallujah constabulary established by US forces last month and the newly constituted Iraqi national police - set off in pursuit.

Since the Americans will not reveal the truth, let Ahmed Mohamed, whose 28-year-old brother, Walid, was one of the policemen who gave chase, tell his story.

"We have been told that the BMW opened fire on the mayor's office at 12.30 am. The police chased them in two vehicles, a Nissan pick-up and a Honda car and they set off down the old Kandar roads towards Baghdad.

"But the Americans were there in the darkness, outside the Jordanian Hospital, to ambush cars on the road. They let the BMW through, then fired at the police cars."

One of the policemen who was wounded in the second vehicle said the Americans suddenly appeared on the darkened road. "When they shouted at us, we stopped immediately," he said. "We tried to tell them we were police. They just kept on shooting."

The latter is true. I found thousands of brass cartridge cases at the scene, piles of them like autumn leaves glimmering in the sun, along with the dark green grenade cartridges. There were several hundred unfired bullets but - far more disturbing - was the evidence on the walls of a building at the Jordanian Hospital. At least 150 rounds had hit the breeze- block wall and two rooms had burned out, the flames blackening the outside of the building.

And therein lies another mystery that the Americans were yesterday in no hurry to resolve. Several Iraqis said that a Jordanian doctor in the hospital had been killed and five nurses wounded. Yet when I approached the hospital gate, I was confronted by three armed men who said they were Jordanian. To enter hospitals here now, you must obtain permission from the occupation authorities in Baghdad - which is rarely, if ever, forthcoming.

No-one wants journalists prowling round dismal mortuaries in "liberated" Iraq. Who knows what they might find?

"The doctors have gone to prayer so you cannot come in," an unsmiling Jordanian gunman at the gate told me. On the roof of the shattered hospital building, two armed and helmeted guards watched us. They looked to me very like Jordanian troops. And their hospital is opposite a US 3rd Infantry Division base. Are the Jordanians here for the Americans? Or are the Americans guarding the Jordanian Hospital? When I asked if the bodies of the dead policemen were here, the armed man at the gate shrugged his shoulders.

So what happened? Did the Americans shoot down their Iraqi policemen under the mistaken impression that they were "terrorists" - Saddamite or al-Qa'ida, depending on their faith in President George Bush - and then, once their bullets had smashed into the hospital, come under attack from the Jordanian guards on the roof?

In any other land, the Americans would surely have acknowledged some of the truth.

But all they would speak of yesterday were their own casualties. Two US soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a raid in the neighbouring town of Ramadi when the occupants of a house fired back at them.

It gave the impression, of course, that American lives were infinitely more valuable than Iraqi lives. And had the brains and teeth beside the road outside Fallujah been American brains and teeth, of course, they would have been removed. There were other things beside the highway yesterday. A torn, blood-stained fragment of an American- supplied Iraqi policeman's shirt, a primitive tourniquet and medical gauze and lots and lots of dried, blackened blood. The 3rd Infantry Division are tired, so the story goes here. They invaded Iraq in March and haven't been home since. Their morale is low. Or so they say in Fallujah and Baghdad. But already the cancer of rumour is beginning to turn this massacre into something far more dangerous. Here are the words of Ahmed, whose brother Sabah was a policeman caught in the ambush and taken away by the Americans - alive or dead, he doesn't know - and who turned up to examine the blood and cartridge cases yesterday. "The Americans were forced to leave Fallujah after much fighting following their killing of 16 demonstrators in April. They were forced to hire a Fallujah police force. But they wanted to return to Fallujah so they arranged the ambush. The BMW gunmen' were Americans who were supposed to show there was no security in Fallujah - so the Americans could return. Our police kept crying out: We are the police - we are the police'. And the Americans went on shooting." In vain did I try to explain that the last thing Americans wanted to do was return to the Sunni Muslim Saddamite town of Fallujah. Already they have paid "blood money" to the families of local, innocent Iraqis shot down at their checkpoints. They will have to do the same to the tribal leader whose two sons they also killed at another checkpoint near Fallujah on Thursday night. But why did the Americans kill so many of their own Iraqi policemen? Had they not heard the radio appeals of the dying men? Why - and here the story of the Jordanian Hospital guards and the policemen's relatives were the same - did the Americans go on shooting for an hour and a half? And why did the Americans say that they had "no information" about the slaughter 18 hours after they had gunned down 10 of the very men whom President Bush needs most if he wishes to extricate his army from the Iraqi death trap?

Wounded troops shouldn't be billed for hospital meals

By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Friday, September 12, 2003

ARLINGTON, Va. — Talk about adding insult to injury, said one U.S. Congressman. Troops wounded in combat in the nation’s war on terrorism are being handed more than just discharge papers when they leave military hospitals — some also are getting a bill. At a daily rate of $8.10, hospitalized troops, including those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, are being charged for their meals. “I was amazed. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it,” said Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, who has introduced a bill to repeal what he calls an “offensive” law. “Some things don’t meet the common-sense test, and this is one of them,” said a soldier injured in Iraq in June, and who has received two meal bills, one for $24.30 from the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and a second for more than $300 from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. “It’s not a good precedent to have when a servicemember, having received wounds in Iraq, to see the first correspondence from his government after he gets out is a bill to pay for the hospital stay,” said the 16-year Army veteran, who asked his name not be used for fear of reprisal. The law now in effect was set in place to prevent troops from double- dipping, said Lt. Col. Rose-Ann Lynch, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “Deployments aside, if any servicemember is in a military hospital, they are getting meals paid for by the military. If they were regularly collecting BAS, Basic Allowance for Subsistence — the monies received monthly for personal subsistence — they are obligated to pay for the hospital meals. If the servicemember is not receiving BAS, they will not be charged for the meals. “In a nutshell, a servicemember cannot receive the meal and the money, too,” Lynch said. Enlisted troops have the fee automatically deducted from their paychecks, while officers have to visit hospital cashiers and pay their meal ticket out of pocket, said Bill Swisher, a spokesman at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where approximately 1,250 patients from Operation Iraqi Freedom have been treated since the war began. To make a point about their objection, Young and his wife, Beverly, recently paid the $210.60 hospital from the National Navy Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for a Marine Corps reservist who lost part of his foot during a recent deployment in which, according to Young, a 10-year-old Iraqi dropped a grenade in the staff sergeant’s Humvee. “We paid the bill, and when we did, we reminded the hospital commander we did it. “But I have to tell you … they don’t like to have to do it. In fact, they’re almost embarrassed to present a bill to the wounded troops,” Young said during an interview. Young’s proposed legislation, which he said he hopes to tack on to the 2004 Defense spending bill now in conference as the House and Senate work out differences, would amend the current law to prohibit charging servicemembers who are hospitalized as a result of being injured or wounded while in combat or training for combat, Young said. Military hospitals have been charging officers for their food since 1958. Enlisted members have had to pay the tab since 1981. “No one wants to see these men and women have to write a check for their hospital stay, least of all the staff of our nation’s military hospitals,” Young said. “We should be honoring and thanking those in uniform for their service to the cause of peace and freedom, not billing them for their food. “And we should be doing all we can to help them recover from their injuries, not ask them to write a check to the U.S. Government.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

On a recent trip to California, I was astounded by some of my more intellectually challenged relative’s obsession with illegal immigration. Apparently they had become hooked on some rightwing radio and televison stations and were hopping mad about the fact that children of illegal immigrants are allowed to attend “schools” in California. With all the problems in America at the moment, I was a little taken aback that immigration was seen to be a major concern. Barely mentioned was the fact that “schools” there close at 1:30pm now because of budget cuts.

In response, I say we need to support our troops, so be nice to our illegal immigrant friends:

Pentagon targets Latinos and Mexicans to man the front lines in war on terror

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
The Independent

10 September 2003

With the casualty rate in Iraq growing by the day and President George Bush's worldwide "war on terrorism" showing no signs of abating, a stretched United States military is turning increasingly to Latinos - including tens of thousands of non-citizen immigrants - to do the fighting and dying on its behalf.

Senior Pentagon officials have identified Latinos as by far the most promising ethnic group for recruitment, because their numbers are growing rapidly in the US and they include a plentiful supply of low-income men of military age with few other job or educational prospects.

Recruitment efforts have also extended to non- citizens, who have been told by the Bush administration that they can apply for citizenship the day they join up, rather than waiting the standard five years after receiving their green card. More than 37,000 non-citizens, almost all Latino, are currently enlisted. Recruiters have even crossed the border into Mexico - to the fury of the Mexican authorities - to look for school- leavers who may have US residency papers.

The aim, according to Pentagon officials, is to boost the Latino numbers in the military from roughly 10 per cent to as much as 22 per cent. That was the figure cited recently by John McLaurin, a deputy assistant secretary of the army, as the size of the "Hispanic ... recruiting market", and it has also been bandied about in the pages of the Army Times.

But while officials praise the willingness of Mexican Americans and other Latinos, the strategy has been denounced by anti-war groups as a cynical exploitation of impoverished young men who are lined up to be little more than cannon fodder.

Rick Jahnkow, of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft, said: "They are vulnerable economically. That's why they are targeting them. [These people are] going to provide them with the means to carry out future wars."

Recent statistics from the Pew Hispanic Centre, a non-partisan think-tank, show that Latinos are already doing the most dangerous combat jobs in disproportionate numbers. While they are still under- represented in the armed forces as a whole - they made up 9.4 per cent of enlisted men in 2001, compared with 13.4 per cent of the general population - they are over- represented in jobs that involve handling weapons (17.7 per cent).

In Iraq, the first US casualty was a Latino non- citizen, a Guatemalan orphan raised in Los Angeles called Jose Gutierrez. Although a precise breakdown of ethnic numbers is not available, the Pentagon's list of dead and wounded has included dozens of Spanish names. At least 10 out of almost 300 dead have been non-citizens.

An ethnic group has never before been the target of such a recruitment drive.

In the Vietnam war, when the US military was still conscripting soldiers for compulsory service, the de facto characteristic of the men who did the fighting and dying was class. Poor people - whether black, white or Mexican - were much more likely to be drafted, and more likely to find themselves in the front lines.

Now the military operates what Mr Jahnkow calls a "poverty draft" - selling itself as an attractive career option or stepping stone to further education in communities that have few other options. In the poorer parts of the country, army recruiters talk to children as early as primary school. At a predominantly Latino high school in east Los Angeles, students became so exasperated by the presence of army recruiters at careers fairs that they began a campaign to get rid of them with the slogan "students not soldiers".

Such activities are apparently common even across the border. A recruiter in San Diego told an Army radio show: "It's more or less common practice that some recruiters go to Tijuana to distribute pamphlets, or in some cases they look for someone to help distribute the information on the Mexican side." A recruiter who visited a technical high school in Tijuana in May triggered a diplomatic incident after the headmaster threw him out and the Mexican government protested vehemently to Washington. The army subsequently sought to deny that this was standard practice.

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Sunday, September 7, 2003

A generation of Americans, after the first Gulf War, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, is getting its first experience of what losing a war feels like.

From today’s Independent

Britain and US will back down over WMDs

By Andy McSmith, Raymond Whitaker and Geoffrey Lean

07 September 2003

Britain and the US have combined to come up with entirely new explanations of why they went to war in Iraq as inspectors on the ground prepare to report that there are no weapons of mass destruction there.

The "current and serious" threat of Iraq's WMD was the reason Tony Blair gave for going to war, but last week the Prime Minister delivered a justification which did not mention the weapons at all. On the same day John Bolton, US Under- Secretary of State for arms control, said that whether Saddam Hussein's regime actually possessed WMD "isn't really the issue".

The 1,400-strong Iraq Survey Group, sent out in May to begin an intensive hunt for the elusive weapons, is expected to report this week that it has found no WMD hardware, nor even any sign of active programmes. The inspectors, headed by David Kay, a close associate of President George Bush, are likely to say the only evidence it has found is that the Iraqi government had retained a group of scientists who had the expertise to restart the weapons programme at any time.

Foreshadowing the report, Mr Bolton said the issue was not weapons, or actual programmes, but "the capability that Iraq sought to have ... WMD programmes". Saddam, he claimed, kept "a coterie" of scientists he was preserving for the day when he could build nuclear weapons unhindered by international constraints. "Whether he possessed them today or four years ago isn't really the issue," he said. "As long as that regime was in power, it was determined to get nuclear, chemical and biological weapons one way or another. Until that regime was removed from power, that threat remained - that was the purpose of the military action."

Last week Mr Blair declared at his Downing Street press conference: "Let me say why I still believe Iraq was the right thing to do and why it is essential that we see it through. If we succeed in putting Iraq on its feet as a stable, prosperous and democratic country, then what a huge advertisement that is for the values of democracy and human rights, and what a huge defeat it is for these terrorists who want to establish extremist states."

He added that if anyone were to ask the average Iraqi whether they would prefer to be still living under the old regime, "they would look at as if you were completely crazy".

This contrasts starkly with what the Prime Minister said in his speech to the Commons on 18 March, the day when MPs voted to endorse the decision to go to war. Then Mr Blair asserted, "I have never put the justification for action as regime change."

Just as Britain and the US send more troops to Iraq and seek international help to restore stability, it has emerged that Mr Blair, almost alone among leaders of major nations, is to stay away from the opening of the UN General Assembly later this month. The development is bound to increase the Prime Minister's isolation following his decision to join the US in going to war without a UN resolution, and has led to speculation that he is reluctant to leave the country at a time when his conduct is under examination in the Hutton inquiry.

Downing Street yesterday refused to comment on the grounds that it does not disclose the Prime Minister's movements in advance. But this has not applied to other international summits, where his attendance has been announced well in advance.

From the Observer:

Bush seeks an exit strategy as war threatens his career

Report by Paul Harris in New York, Jason Burke and Gaby Hinsliff

Sunday September 7, 2003

George Bush will attempt tonight to convince the American people that he has a workable 'exit strategy' to free his forces from the rapidly souring conflict in Iraq, as Britain prepares to send in thousands more troops to reinforce the faltering coalition effort.

Frantic negotiations continued this weekend in New York to secure a United Nations resolution that would open the way for other countries to deploy peacekeeping troops to help after Bush - with one eye on next year's presidential election - signalled a change of heart on America's refusal to allow any but coalition forces into Iraq.

The President has been left with little practical choice. Concern among the American public has reached such a pitch that, with his approval ratings plummeting, he will deliver a televised address to the nation tonight to reassure them that they do not face another Vietnam. With their sons and daughters dying daily in guerrilla attacks, Americans may now be becoming more frightened of being bogged down in a hostile country than of the terrorist threat against which Bush has pledged to defend them.


The question now being asked on both sides of the Atlantic is how the allies could find themselves in such trouble. One key mistake both Washington and London made was to assume that, once Baghdad fell, countries such as France and Germany, which had stood on the sidelines, would relent and offer peacekeeping troops. They underestimated the unexpected domestic popularity of anti-war leaders.

'That was the diplomatic advice. That was what we believed would happen, and it didn't,' said one Whitehall source. 'What we were unable to read was how popular the decision [to stay out of Iraq] would be in the long run for the leaders who took it.'

In New York, diplomats were upbeat last night about the chances of securing a UN resolution allowing troops to operate under a UN mandate but with the US retaining operational command. One source in the office of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said such an agreement could 'transform the occupation'.

Complications remain, however. The French and, to a lesser extent, the Germans are playing it tough, aware that they have Bush over a barrel, British sources say. 'They can squeeze more concessions out of Bush at the moment and they know it,' one source said.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who flew to Lake Garda in Italy for an informal meeting with his European Union counterparts late last week, is attempting to mediate between EU governments and the White House, but have want a fundamental shift in US policy on Iraq. Sticking points include a firm timetable for handing over power to Iraqi authorities, drawing up a constitution and holding elections.

Other anti-war nations, such as Russia, China and Germany, have signalled that they expect a deal. 'It is a remarkable change for the better,' Chile's UN ambassador and Security Council member Heraldo Munoz told The Observer.

After being sidelined in the build-up to the war the UN is now moving centre stage, but it the risks of becoming embroiled in a dangerous, unpredictable mission means few nations will be willing to take casualties without securing serious concessions. 'The US has come seeking assistance and there will be a price for it,' said one senior UN diplomat.

But Bush has now accepted the warnings of his Secretary of State Colin Powell and the more hawkish Under Secretary John Bolton that there will be a worse price if he doesn't back down. Bush's approval ratings have sunk to around 55 per cent - around 20 points lower than those of his father after the 1991 Gulf War.

Bush Senior still went on to lose the next election: and the American economy is more fragile now than it was then. The nation can ill afford the extra $60 billion the White House is expected to ask Congress to occupy and rebuild Iraq next year, and sabotage to Iraqi oil pipelines and infrastructure means oil revenues will not rescue them.

Although the polls show Bush would still beat any likely Democrat contender, Bolton argues that approval ratings are a better guide. Voters feel it is unpatriotic to threaten to vote against a President during a war, so the polls could underestimate Bush's plight.

The Democrats, who once saw Iraq as their weakness, now scent blood: last week's live televised debate between eight Democratic candidates echoed to easy potshots at the President, with front-runner Howard Dean saying it was time for troops to come home.

Yet more than Bush's political survival resting on the outcome of the talks: with less domestic support than Bush for the war to start with, Blair is even more vulnerable to public anger if British casualties go rising. A leaked memo from Straw, published in the Daily Telegraph last week, warned that up to 5,000 extra British troops might be necessary or the Iraqi mission risked failure.

Its emergence has, however, only fuelled suspicions at Westminster about the skill with which Straw is now positioning himself over Iraq. He has managed to escape being summoned before the Hutton inquiry into the death of David Kelly, even though his department originally employed the scientist, or embroiled in the wider row about intelligence in the run-up to the war.

With the departure of key Blairites such as former Health Secretary Alan Milburn from the Cabinet, Straw is now considered a possible contender as the 'anyone but Gordon' candidate to succeed Tony Blair, and MPs report he has been cosying up to the Parliamentary Labour Party since the early summer. With Blair facing another three weeks of minute scrutiny by Lord Hutton over every twist and turn of the run-up to the Iraq war, nerves are taut.

Similarly in Washington, a rapid revision of the pecking order in the White House is going on, with the hawks wrongfooted by the unravelling of their thesis on Iraq. 'They were true believers, and are stunned by the fact that its not worked out,' said the University of San Francisco political scientist Richard Stoll.

A classified report drawn up by the US US Joint Chiefs of Staff and leaked last week blamed hurried and inadequate planning for the crisis, with too great a focus on an invasion and not enough on organising the peace. As the leading dove, Powell's stock is now rising in the White House, while that of the President's hawkish National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is judged to be falling.

'Condi Rice is in trouble,' said one Whitehall source.

'She has been consistently wrong since this thing started, wrong about what would happen, and Colin Powell has been consistently right.' The Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's insistence during a trip to Iraq last week that the situation was 'getting better every day' is also ringing increasingly hollow.

Rumbling in the background in America, meanwhile, is the same debate that is at the foreground of Westminster politics: question marks over intelligence. Although the official line in Washington is that weapons of mass destruction are still being looked for, there is no sign of the 38,000 litres of deadly botulintoxin or the 25,000 litres of anthrax or the 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent claimed by Bush in his State of the Union speech last January as a justification for going to war.

The President has much to explain to the American people when he takes to the airwaves tonight.

This war on terrorism is bogus

Michael Meacher
Saturday September 6, 2003
The Guardian

Massive attention has now been given - and rightly so - to the reasons why Britain went to war against Iraq. But far too little attention has focused on why the US went to war, and that throws light on British motives too. The conventional explanation is that after the Twin Towers were hit, retaliation against al- Qaida bases in Afghanistan was a natural first step in launching a global war against terrorism. Then, because Saddam Hussein was alleged by the US and UK governments to retain weapons of mass destruction, the war could be extended to Iraq as well. However this theory does not fit all the facts. The truth may be a great deal murkier.

We now know that a blueprint for the creation of a global Pax Americana was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy), Jeb Bush (George Bush's younger brother) and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America's Defences, was written in September 2000 by the neoconservative think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

The plan shows Bush's cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says "while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

The PNAC blueprint supports an earlier document attributed to Wolfowitz and Libby which said the US must "discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role". It refers to key allies such as the UK as "the most effective and efficient means of exercising American global leadership". It describes peacekeeping missions as "demanding American political leadership rather than that of the UN". It says "even should Saddam pass from the scene", US bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will remain permanently... as "Iran may well prove as large a threat to US interests as Iraq has". It spotlights China for "regime change", saying "it is time to increase the presence of American forces in SE Asia".

The document also calls for the creation of "US space forces" to dominate space, and the total control of cyberspace to prevent "enemies" using the internet against the US. It also hints that the US may consider developing biological weapons "that can target specific genotypes [and] may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool".

Finally - written a year before 9/11 - it pinpoints North Korea, Syria and Iran as dangerous regimes, and says their existence justifies the creation of a "worldwide command and control system". This is a blueprint for US world domination. But before it is dismissed as an agenda for rightwing fantasists, it is clear it provides a much better explanation of what actually happened before, during and after 9/11 than the global war on terrorism thesis. This can be seen in several ways.

First, it is clear the US authorities did little or nothing to pre- empt the events of 9/11. It is known that at least 11 countries provided advance warning to the US of the 9/11 attacks. Two senior Mossad experts were sent to Washington in August 2001 to alert the CIA and FBI to a cell of 200 terrorists said to be preparing a big operation (Daily Telegraph, September 16 2001). The list they provided included the names of four of the 9/11 hijackers, none of whom was arrested.

It had been known as early as 1996 that there were plans to hit Washington targets with aeroplanes. Then in 1999 a US national intelligence council report noted that "al-Qaida suicide bombers could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House".

Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers obtained their visas in Saudi Arabia. Michael Springman, the former head of the American visa bureau in Jeddah, has stated that since 1987 the CIA had been illicitly issuing visas to unqualified applicants from the Middle East and bringing them to the US for training in terrorism for the Afghan war in collaboration with Bin Laden (BBC, November 6 2001). It seems this operation continued after the Afghan war for other purposes. It is also reported that five of the hijackers received training at secure US military installations in the 1990s (Newsweek, September 15 2001).

Instructive leads prior to 9/11 were not followed up. French Moroccan flight student Zacarias Moussaoui (now thought to be the 20th hijacker) was arrested in August 2001 after an instructor reported he showed a suspicious interest in learning how to steer large airliners. When US agents learned from French intelligence he had radical Islamist ties, they sought a warrant to search his computer, which contained clues to the September 11 mission (Times, November 3 2001). But they were turned down by the FBI. One agent wrote, a month before 9/11, that Moussaoui might be planning to crash into the Twin Towers (Newsweek, May 20 2002).

All of this makes it all the more astonishing - on the war on terrorism perspective - that there was such slow reaction on September 11 itself. The first hijacking was suspected at not later than 8.20am, and the last hijacked aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania at 10.06am. Not a single fighter plane was scrambled to investigate from the US Andrews airforce base, just 10 miles from Washington DC, until after the third plane had hit the Pentagon at 9.38 am. Why not? There were standard FAA intercept procedures for hijacked aircraft before 9/11. Between September 2000 and June 2001 the US military launched fighter aircraft on 67 occasions to chase suspicious aircraft (AP, August 13 2002). It is a US legal requirement that once an aircraft has moved significantly off its flight plan, fighter planes are sent up to investigate.

Was this inaction simply the result of key people disregarding, or being ignorant of, the evidence? Or could US air security operations have been deliberately stood down on September 11? If so, why, and on whose authority? The former US federal crimes prosecutor, John Loftus, has said: "The information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 was so extensive that it is no longer possible for either the CIA or FBI to assert a defence of incompetence."

Nor is the US response after 9/11 any better. No serious attempt has ever been made to catch Bin Laden. In late September and early October 2001, leaders of Pakistan's two Islamist parties negotiated Bin Laden's extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for 9/11. However, a US official said, significantly, that "casting our objectives too narrowly" risked "a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr Bin Laden was captured". The US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Myers, went so far as to say that "the goal has never been to get Bin Laden" (AP, April 5 2002). The whistleblowing FBI agent Robert Wright told ABC News (December 19 2002) that FBI headquarters wanted no arrests. And in November 2001 the US airforce complained it had had al- Qaida and Taliban leaders in its sights as many as 10 times over the previous six weeks, but had been unable to attack because they did not receive permission quickly enough (Time Magazine, May 13 2002). None of this assembled evidence, all of which comes from sources already in the public domain, is compatible with the idea of a real, determined war on terrorism.

The catalogue of evidence does, however, fall into place when set against the PNAC blueprint. From this it seems that the so- called "war on terrorism" is being used largely as bogus cover for achieving wider US strategic geopolitical objectives. Indeed Tony Blair himself hinted at this when he said to the Commons liaison committee: "To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11" (Times, July 17 2002). Similarly Rumsfeld was so determined to obtain a rationale for an attack on Iraq that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to 9/11; the CIA repeatedly came back empty-handed (Time Magazine, May 13 2002).

In fact, 9/11 offered an extremely convenient pretext to put the PNAC plan into action. The evidence again is quite clear that plans for military action against Afghanistan and Iraq were in hand well before 9/11. A report prepared for the US government from the Baker Institute of Public Policy stated in April 2001 that "the US remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma. Iraq remains a destabilising influence to... the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East". Submitted to Vice-President Cheney's energy task group, the report recommended that because this was an unacceptable risk to the US, "military intervention" was necessary (Sunday Herald, October 6 2002).

Similar evidence exists in regard to Afghanistan. The BBC reported (September 18 2001) that Niaz Niak, a former Pakistan foreign secretary, was told by senior American officials at a meeting in Berlin in mid-July 2001 that "military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October". Until July 2001 the US government saw the Taliban regime as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of hydrocarbon pipelines from the oil and gas fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. But, confronted with the Taliban's refusal to accept US conditions, the US representatives told them "either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs" (Inter Press Service, November 15 2001).

Given this background, it is not surprising that some have seen the US failure to avert the 9/11 attacks as creating an invaluable pretext for attacking Afghanistan in a war that had clearly already been well planned in advance. There is a possible precedent for this. The US national archives reveal that President Roosevelt used exactly this approach in relation to Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941. Some advance warning of the attacks was received, but the information never reached the US fleet. The ensuing national outrage persuaded a reluctant US public to join the second world war. Similarly the PNAC blueprint of September 2000 states that the process of transforming the US into "tomorrow's dominant force" is likely to be a long one in the absence of "some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor". The 9/11 attacks allowed the US to press the "go" button for a strategy in accordance with the PNAC agenda which it would otherwise have been politically impossible to implement.

The overriding motivation for this political smokescreen is that the US and the UK are beginning to run out of secure hydrocarbon energy supplies. By 2010 the Muslim world will control as much as 60% of the world's oil production and, even more importantly, 95% of remaining global oil export capacity. As demand is increasing, so supply is decreasing, continually since the 1960s.

This is leading to increasing dependence on foreign oil supplies for both the US and the UK. The US, which in 1990 produced domestically 57% of its total energy demand, is predicted to produce only 39% of its needs by 2010. A DTI minister has admitted that the UK could be facing "severe" gas shortages by 2005. The UK government has confirmed that 70% of our electricity will come from gas by 2020, and 90% of that will be imported. In that context it should be noted that Iraq has 110 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in addition to its oil.

A report from the commission on America's national interests in July 2000 noted that the most promising new source of world supplies was the Caspian region, and this would relieve US dependence on Saudi Arabia. To diversify supply routes from the Caspian, one pipeline would run westward via Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Another would extend eastwards through Afghanistan and Pakistan and terminate near the Indian border. This would rescue Enron's beleaguered power plant at Dabhol on India's west coast, in which Enron had sunk $3bn investment and whose economic survival was dependent on access to cheap gas.

Nor has the UK been disinterested in this scramble for the remaining world supplies of hydrocarbons, and this may partly explain British participation in US military actions. Lord Browne, chief executive of BP, warned Washington not to carve up Iraq for its own oil companies in the aftermath of war (Guardian, October 30 2002). And when a British foreign minister met Gadaffi in his desert tent in August 2002, it was said that "the UK does not want to lose out to other European nations already jostling for advantage when it comes to potentially lucrative oil contracts" with Libya (BBC Online, August 10 2002).

The conclusion of all this analysis must surely be that the "global war on terrorism" has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda - the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project. Is collusion in this myth and junior participation in this project really a proper aspiration for British foreign policy? If there was ever need to justify a more objective British stance, driven by our own independent goals, this whole depressing saga surely provides all the evidence needed for a radical change of course.

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