28 May 2004

Al Qaeda prepared to strike 'hard' at U.S., officials warn 

ANALYSIS: Skeptics wonder whether politics motivated warnings

Attorney General John Ashcroft's solemn announcement that al Qaeda planned to attack America in the next few months seemed to provoke as much skepticism as fear Wednesday, raising doubts as to whether any terror warnings will be taken seriously in the heat of an election campaign.

Terror's chill summer wind
Threat of 'dirty' bombs leads US to fund global radioactive cleanup.

US leaders had summer on their minds Wednesday, but they weren't thinking sunny beaches and carefree picnics.
Announcements about the possible threat of another terrorist attacks, perhaps employing a "dirty bomb," at venues such as the two political conventions in the US or the Olympics in Greece, sent a winter chill around the world.

Press Conference Exposes Administration's Political Agenda on Terrorism

Attorney General John Ashcroft's national press conference yesterday did little to increase public confidence in the Bush administration's handling of terrorism. Why go through the trouble of holding a national press conference to warn Americans of impending terrorist attacks and not raise the national alert status to reflect the seriousness of the warnings? Given the president's sagging job approval numbers and troubles in Iraq, it is difficult not to see politics playing a bigger role than security in yesterday's announcement.

Warning on al-Qaeda rings hollow

The Bush administration, in an apparent effort not to make the same mistake twice, has warned the US public of an imminent attack by al-Qaeda. The administration had come under fire for not taking seriously warnings in 2001 that al-Qaeda was preparing to strike, which it did that September 11.

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A Salute to Joe Darby, Sam Provance and Jim Massey 

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by Karen Kwiatkowski

Army Reserve Specialist Joe Darby, Army Staff Sergeant Samuel Provance, and Marine Staff Sergeant Jim Massey are the kind of soldiers and marines we need to recruit in droves.

Darby, knowing what he was seeing in Abu Ghraib was wrong, said something about it and then took action to stop it. It worked.

Provance, after he was interviewed as part of the Army investigation into the abuses in part exposed by Darby’s actions, suspected a cover-up. He may have been wrong about that, but he followed his conscience in publicly saying what he heard in the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion regarding abuses inside the prison. It worked.

After leaving the Marines, SSgt Jim Massey is speaking out about the actions he and his platoon took in Iraq, specifically in terms of civilian casualties and un-gentlemanly behavior on the battlefield. Massey’s participant account of what Iraq is really like on the ground obviously contradicts the official storyline. He is therefore a pariah.

Darby, Provance and Massey are notably NOT among the best loved of American soldiers and marines, at least within the higher reaches of the Department of Defense. If they were, you would hear about their public invitations to meet with and be congratulated by General Richard Myers and Secretary Rumsfeld. Instead, Darby has been threatened with prosecution for failing to report a crime, and Provance is now reportedly redlined for honors, awards and promotions, with his security clearance suspended. Massey is simply a guy who had problems, and still does, according to the official organs.

For those who understand how large governments tend to work, whether in the time of the Caesars and King Harod, or Stalin and Mao, or future/present times as envisioned by George Orwell, whom the state will love and whom it will hate is predictable and consistent.

The state will love the ones who do what they are told, quietly and without resistance or questions.

The state will adore the cravenly enthusiastic ones, who for a silvery piece of no-risk, no responsibility advantage over their neighbors, will do whatever the state asks, and even think up new tricks to please their master.

The state especially enjoys the morally minded ones who mistakenly put faith in the higher virtue of the state, and those who feel that somehow God guides the state in some special way unique from and above the way He guides the individual within the apparatus.

On the other hand, the state hates the noisy ones who think they are right, or have rights.

The state despises the backboned unimpressed ones, who quietly resist while doing the best work they can.

It becomes angry to the point of rage with those who suggest the state isn’t really all about all those virtues it keeps yacking about. Liberty, freedom, truth, justice and the American way, that kind of thing.

The state detests the independent ones, in part because it finds them so necessary to produce the wealth that fuels its coprophagic existence.

What is the secret of the Darbys, the Provances, and the Masseys? And if we knew those secrets, could we somehow grow more of these guys?

Darby was remembered by friends and family as someone who "has an independent streak and knew ‘right from wrong.’" His high school football coach said, "He wasn't one that went along with his peers."

Instead of telling our children to try to behave like everyone else, keep their head down, don’t ask too many questions, fit in, even prescribing prescription drugs to soothe their advent into the group, maybe we should just say, "Tell me about it."

We might want to consider promoting thinking for oneself at an early age. As television induces intellectual passivity, perhaps we ought not let our children be entertained by it too often. And independence doesn’t mean mannerless children. As Claes Ryn recently pointed out, children with manners are in fact non-conforming oddities.

The public school system is dominated by the kinds of people the state likes. In particular, über-patriotic feminized robots for whom an articulate challenge to state authority is far more sinful and dangerous than breaking any of the six or eight or ten commandments. Perhaps we ought to send our children forth only as if to battle, and barring that, find an alternative to a state indoctrination in the tender years before they are capable of fighting back.

Where did we find such men? Waynesville, North Carolina. Jenners, Pennsylvania. Williamsburg, Virginia.

I grew up in North Carolina, not far from Waynesville. My hometown of Brevard seemed small to me when I signed up with the Air Force. I bet Joe and Jimmy and Sam felt the same way at one time. But they brought the best part of community, neighborliness, and love of country with them to the Army, the Marines, to Iraq.

The state may continue to vilify them, but this will be of no account. Power that matters has never been in the wind, the earthquake or the fire, but in the still small voice. We learned this as children, reading about it as if a fable. Thanks to these humble men of honor, we have confirmation.

May 27, 2004

Karen Kwiatkowski is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and writes a bi-weekly column on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com.

Copyright © 2004 LewRockwell.com

Kerry attacks Bush foreign policy

"There is still a powerful yearning around the world for an America that listens and leads again - an America that is respected, and not just feared," the senator said.

Analysis: Foreign policy lookalikes

Based on Senator John Kerry's Thursday speech laying out his vision for American foreign policy, most US voters would be hard pressed to find much difference between the challenger and the incumbent George W Bush.

Dodging using words like 'torture'

Word games, a favorite pastime in Washington, don't seem so playful during times of war.
Recent statements from the Pentagon seemed to echo denials from an earlier era -- Watergate. They began when Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had personally approved a secret program for interrogating detainees that festered into the prison abuse scandal in Iraq.

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IRAQ: Bush's Failure; Headlines From Around The USA 

The 10 Mistakes

Bush's prime-time speech highlights deepening crisis over Iraq

Bush speech can't set U.S. right on Iraq

A Great Job?--Bush is Running on Empty

Iraq: Still No Direction
Poll Finds Rising Worry and Anger Over Iraq Situation

Right Hook: National Review Pundits do Battle over Bush's Iraq

U.S. plan for Iraq too vague, not a true power transfer

Rhetoric vs. Reality in Iraq: June 30 handover not exactly 'full sovereignty'
Support for war among U.S. teens slips to 28%
Bush's draft underscores his incoherent Iraq policy
How to Leave Iraq in Three Simple Steps

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The Times and Iraq 

"Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge."

Over the last year this newspaper has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq's weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves. [NYT, requires registration]

Go to original

A Speech That's No Joke

It has always been easy to make fun of Al Gore. But if there's any truth to the thunderous criticism he's turned loose on the Bush administration this week, it's time to dispense with the jokes and listen seriously to what the man is saying.

If Mr. Gore is right, the nation is faced with a crisis of leadership that is perilously close to an emergency.

If he's wrong, then all the folks who have made the easy jokes at his expense can consider themselves vindicated.

The war in Iraq, said Mr. Gore, in an interview on Wednesday, "is the worst strategic fiasco in the history of the United States. It is an unfolding catastrophe without any comparison."

In an echo of the growing chorus of criticism here and around the world, he said the war has not only damaged "our strategic interests" and isolated the U.S. from its allies, it has also made the country more — not less — vulnerable to terror.

In a widely covered speech earlier in the day, Mr. Gore said that Iraq had not become, as President Bush has asserted, " `the central front in the war on terror.' " But he said it has become, unfortunately, "the central recruiting office for terrorists."

The speech was extraordinary — blunt, colorful and delivered with the kind of passion you seldom see in politics anymore. The former vice president described Mr. Bush as incompetent and untrustworthy, and said his policies had endangered the nation.

The president, said Mr. Gore, had "planted the seeds of war, and harvested a whirlwind."

In the view of Mr. Gore (and many others), the essential problem has been the triumph in the Bush crowd of ideology over reality. The true believers knew everything better than everybody else, and the arrogance born of that certainty led, step by tragic step, to the war with no exit doors that we are locked in today.

That arrogance gave rise to the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, the contempt for international agreements like the Geneva Conventions, the dismissal of concerns by some of the highest-ranking military professionals about the way a war in Iraq should be fought and the willingness of top administration figures to blow smoke in the eyes of ordinary Americans who were traumatized by Sept. 11 and worried about the possibility of further terrorist attacks.

"The same preference for ideology over reality has turned trillion-dollar surpluses into multitrillion-dollar deficits," said Mr. Gore. "And that same approach has led to the locking up of American citizens without recourse to lawyers or access to courts or even a right of their families to know they're being held in secret."

These and other matters are transforming the United States into a country that is more warlike, more brutal, less free, less just, less admirable and much less appealing than the nation that existed when Mr. Bush stepped into the presidency in January 2001.

Those who disagree with Mr. Gore should challenge him on his facts. Those who agree must look for ways to defend the honor and perhaps the very identity of the United States as we've known it.

The least serious part of Mr. Gore's speech was the part that got the most attention, his call for top officials of the Bush administration to resign. As an attention-getter, it worked.

But this was a speech in which the former vice president said: "What makes the United States special in the history of nations is our commitment to the rule of law and our carefully constructed system of checks and balances. Our natural distrust of concentrated power and our devotion to openness and democracy are what have led us as a people to consistently choose good over evil in our collective aspirations, more than the people of any other nation."

This is a time to remember the principles that made this a great nation, and to reaffirm them. I don't know what will happen in the election in November. What I know is that the nation is facing a crisis now. The Bush administration needs to step back from the abyss its ideology has dragged us to.

It may be that the president never understood what made the U.S. great. In that case, he'd be among those who could benefit most from a reading of Mr. Gore's speech. If he followed that up with a look at the Bill of Rights (it would only take a few minutes), he'd have a better understanding of what this country, at its best, is about.

E-mail: bobherb@nytimes.com

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Other Headlines from the NYT [ requires registration ]
Why Did The Press Lie About Bush Virtues?
Bush Talks Nuke Security, But He Has Secured Less Dangerous Materials Since The Iraq War

Cheny-Bush Obsession With Iraq Has Allowed Buildup Of Dangerous Nuke Threat

Bush Officials Defend At Least 100 Semitrailers/Day Loaded With New U.S. Equipment Being Looted Out Of Iraq
Israel Insures Eternal Palestinian 'Homicidal' Hatred By Taking Their Buildings, Roads, And Water,

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Al Gore: George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility.  

Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as
he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the
opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind." He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.

How did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a leading French newspaper ran a giant headline with the words "We Are All Americans Now" and when we had the good will and empathy of all the world -- to the horror that we all felt in witnessing the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib?

To begin with, from its earliest days in power, this administration sought to radically destroy the foreign policy consensus that had guided America since the end of World War II. The long successful strategy of containment was abandoned in favor of the new strategy of "preemption." And what they meant by preemption was not the inherent right of any nation to act preemptively against an imminent threat to its national security, but rather an exotic new approach that asserted a unique and unilateral U.S. right to ignore international law wherever it wished to do so and take military action against any nation, even in circumstances where there was no imminent threat.

All that is required, in the view of Bush's team is the mere assertion of a possible, future threat -- and the assertion need be made by only one person, the President. More disturbing still was their frequent use of the word "dominance" to describe their strategic goal, because an American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people. Dominance is as
dominance does.

Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens -- sooner or later -- to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul.

One of the clearest indications of the impending loss of intimacy with one's soul is the failure to recognize the existence of a soul in those over whom power is exercised, especially if the helpless come to be treated as animals, and degraded. We also know -- and not just from De Sade and Freud -- the psychological proximity between sexual depravity and other people's pain. It has been especially shocking and awful to see these paired evils perpetrated so crudely and cruelly in the name of America.

Those pictures of torture and sexual abuse came to us embedded in a wave of news about escalating casualties and growing chaos enveloping our entire policy in Iraq. But in order understand the failure of our overall policy, it is important to focus specifically on what happened in the Abu Ghraib prison, and ask whether or not those actions were representative of who we are as Americans? Obviously the quick answer is no, but unfortunately it's more
complicated than that.

There is good and evil in every person. And what makes the United States special in the history of nations is our commitment to the rule of law and our carefully constructed system of checks and balances. Our natural distrust of concentrated power and our devotion to openness and democracy are what have led us as a people to consistently choose good over evil in our collective
aspirations more than the people any other nation.

Our founders were insightful students of human nature. They feared the abuse of power because they understood that every human being has not only "better angels" in his nature, but also an innate vulnerability to temptation -- especially the temptation to abuse power over others.

Our founders understood full well that a system of checks and balances is needed in our constitution because every human being lives with an internal system of checks and balances that cannot be relied upon to produce virtue if they are allowed to attain an unhealthy degree of power over their fellow citizens. Listen then to the balance of internal impulses described by specialist Charles Graner when confronted by one of his colleagues, Specialist Joseph M. Darby, who later became a courageous whistleblower. When Darby asked him to explain his actions documented in the photos, Graner replied: "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the Corrections Officer says, 'I love to make a groan man piss on himself.'"

What happened at the prison, it is now clear, was not the result of random acts by "a few bad apples," it was the natural consequence of the Bush Administration policy that has dismantled those wise constraints and has made war on America's checks and balances.
The abuse of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib flowed directly from the abuse of the truth that characterized the Administration's march to war and the abuse of the trust that had been placed in President Bush by the American people in the aftermath of September 11th.
There was then, there is now and there would have been regardless of what Bush did, a threat of terrorism that we would have to deal with. But instead of making it better, he has made it infinitely worse. We are less safe because of his policies. He has created more anger and righteous indignation against us as Americans than any leader of our country in the 228 years of our existence as a nation -- because of his attitude of contempt for any person, institution or nation who disagrees with him.

He has exposed Americans abroad and Americans in every U.S. town and city to a greater danger of attack by terrorists because of his arrogance, willfulness, and bungling at stirring up hornet's nests that pose no threat whatsoever to us. And by then insulting the religion and culture and tradition of people in other countries. And by pursuing policies that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children, all of it done in our name.

President Bush said in his speech Monday night that the war in Iraq is "the central front in the war on terror." It's not the central front in the war on terror, but it has unfortunately become the central recruiting office for terrorists. [Dick Cheney said, "This war may last the rest of our lives."] The unpleasant truth is that President Bush's utter incompetence has made the world a far more dangerous place and dramatically increased the threat of terrorism against the United States. Just yesterday, the International Institute of Strategic Studies reported that the Iraq conflict "has arguably focused the energies and resources of Al Qaeda and its followers
while diluting those of the global counterterrorism coalition." The ISS said that in the wake of the war in Iraq Al Qaeda now has more than 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the world and the war in Iraq is swelling its ranks.

The war plan was incompetent in its rejection of the advice from military professionals and the analysis of the intelligence was incompetent in its conclusion that our soldiers would be welcomed with garlands of flowers and cheering crowds. Thus we would not need to respect the so-called Powell doctrine of overwhelming force.

There was also in Rumsfeld's planning a failure to provide security for nuclear materials, and to prevent widespread lawlessness and looting. Luckily, there was a high level of competence on the part of our soldiers even though they were denied the tools and the numbers they needed for their mission. What a disgrace that their families have to hold bake sales to buy discarded Kevlar vests to stuff into the floorboards of the Humvees! Bake sales for body armor.

And the worst still lies ahead. General Joseph Hoar, the former head of the Marine Corps, said "I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss." When a senior, respected military leader like Joe Hoar uses the word "abyss," then the rest of us damn well better listen. Here is what he means: more American soldiers dying, Iraq slipping into worse chaos and violence, no end in sight, with our influence and moral authority seriously damaged.

Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, who headed Central Command before becoming President Bush's personal emissary to the Middle East, said recently that our nation's current course is "headed over Niagara Falls."

The Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Army Major General Charles H. Swannack, Jr., asked by the Washington Post whether he believes the United States is losing the war in Iraq, replied, "I think strategically, we are."

Army Colonel Paul Hughes, who directed strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, compared what he sees in Iraq to the Vietnam War, in which he lost his brother: "I promised myself when I came on active duty that I would do everything in my power to prevent that ... from happening again." Noting that Vietnam featured a pattern of winning battles while losing the war, Hughes added "unless we ensure that we have coherence in our
policy, we will lose strategically."

The White House spokesman, Dan Bartlett was asked on live television about these scathing condemnations by Generals involved in the highest levels of Pentagon planning and he replied, "Well they're retired, and we take our advice from active duty officers."

But amazingly, even active duty military officers are speaking out against President Bush. For example, the Washington Post quoted an unnamed senior General at the Pentagon as saying, "the current OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) refused to listen or adhere to military advice." Rarely if ever in American history have uniformed commanders felt compelled to challenge their commander in chief in public.

The Post also quoted an unnamed general as saying, "Like a lot of senior Army guys I'm quite angry" with Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush Administration. He listed two reasons. "I think they are going to break the Army," he said, adding that what really incites him is "I don't think they care."

In his upcoming book, Zinni blames the current catastrophe on the Bush team's incompetence early on. "In the lead-up to the Iraq war, and its later conduct," he writes, "I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption." Zinni's book will join a growing library of volumes by former advisors to Bush -- including his principal advisor on terrorism, Richard Clarke; his principal economic policy advisor, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill,
former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who was honored by Bush's father for his service in Iraq, and his former Domestic Adviser on faith-based organizations, John Dilulio, who said, "There is no precedent in any modern White House for whatis going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, run by the political arm. It's the
reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki told Congress in February that the occupation could require "several hundred thousand troops." But because Rumsfeld and Bush did not want to hear disagreement with their view that Iraq could be invaded at a much lower cost, Shinseki was hushed and then forced out. And as a direct result of this incompetent plan and inadequate troop
strength, young soldiers were put in an untenable position. For example, young reservists assigned to the Iraqi prisons were called up without training or adequate supervision, and were instructed by their superiors to "break down" prisoners in order to prepare them for interrogation. To make matters worse, they were placed in a confusing situation where the chain of command was criss-crossed between intelligence gathering and prison administration, and further confused by an unprecedented mixing of military
and civilian contractor authority.

The soldiers who are accused of committing these atrocities are, of
course, responsible for their own actions and if found guilty, must be
severely and appropriately punished. But they are not the ones primarily responsible for the disgrace that has been brought upon the United States of America. Private Lynndie England did not make the decision that the United States would not observe the Geneva Convention. Specialist Charles Graner was not the one who approved a policy of establishing an American Gulag of dark rooms
with naked prisoners to be "stressed" and even -- we must use the word -- tortured -- to force them to say things that legal procedures might not induce them to say.

These policies were designed and insisted upon by the Bush White House.

Indeed, the President's own legal counsel advised him specifically on the subject. His secretary of defense and his assistants pushed these cruel departures from historic American standards over the objections of the uniformed military, just as the Judge Advocates General within the Defense Department were so upset and opposed that they took the unprecedented step of seeking help from a private lawyer in this city who specializes in human rights and said to him, "There is a calculated effort to create an atmosphere
of legal ambiguity where the mistreatment of prisoners is concerned."

Indeed, the secrecy of the program indicates an understanding that the regular military culture and mores would not support these activities and neither would the American public or the world community. Another implicit acknowledgement of violations of accepted standards of behavior is the process of farming out prisoners to countries less averse to torture and giving
assignments to private contractors.

President Bush set the tone for our attitude for suspects in his State of the Union address. He noted that more than 3,000 "suspected terrorists" had been arrested in many countries and then he added, "and many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: they are no longer a problem to the United States and our allies."
George Bush promised to change the tone in Washington. And indeed he did.

As many as 37 prisoners may have been murdered while in captivity, though the numbers are difficult to rely upon because in many cases involving violent death, there were no autopsies.

How dare they blame their misdeeds on enlisted personnel from a Reserve unit in upstate New York. President Bush owes more than one apology. On the list of those he let down are the young soldiers who are themselves apparently culpable, but who were clearly put into a moral cesspool. The perpetrators as well as the victims were both placed in their relationship to one another by the policies of George W. Bush.

How dare the incompetent and willful members of this Bush/Cheney
Administration humiliate our nation and our people in the eyes of the world and in the conscience of our own people. How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace. How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein's torture prison.

David Kay concluded his search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq with the famous verdict: "we were all wrong." And for many Americans, Kay's statement seemed to symbolize the awful
collision between Reality and all of the false and fading impressions
President Bush had fostered in building support for his policy of going to war.

Now the White House has informed the American people that they were also "all wrong" about their decision to place their faith in Ahmed Chalabi, even though they have paid him 340,000 dollars per month. 33 million dollars and placed him adjacent to Laura Bush at the State of the Union address. Chalabi had been convicted of fraud and embezzling 70 million dollars in public funds from a Jordanian bank, and escaped prison by fleeing the country. But in spite of that record, he had become one of key advisors to the Bush Administration on planning and promoting the War against Iraq.

And they repeatedly cited him as an authority, perhaps even a future
president of Iraq. Incredibly, they even ferried him and his private army into Baghdad in advance of anyone else, and allowed him to seize control over Saddam's secret papers.

Now they are telling the American people that he is a spy for Iran who has been duping the President of the United States for all these years!

One of the Generals in charge of this war policy went on a speaking tour in his spare time to declare before evangelical groups that the U.S. is in a holy war as "a Christian Nation battling Satan." This same General Boykin was the person who ordered the officer who was in charge of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay to extend his methods to Iraq detainees, prisoners. ... The testimony from the prisoners is that they were forced to curse their religion.

Bush used the word "crusade" early on in the war against Iraq, and then commentators pointed out that it was singularly inappropriate because of the history and sensitivity of the Muslim world and then a few weeks later he used it again. "We are now being viewed as the modern Crusaders, as the modern colonial power in this part of the world," Zinni said.

What a terrible irony that our country, which was founded by refugees seeking religious freedom -- coming to America to escape domineering leaders who tried to get them to renounce their religion -- would now be responsible for this kind of abuse.

Ameen Saeed al-Sheikh told the Washington Post that he was tortured and ordered to denounce Islam and after his leg was broken one of his torturers started hitting it while ordering him to curse Islam and then, "they ordered me to thank Jesus that I'm alive." Others reported that they were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol.

In my religious tradition, I have been taught that "ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit ... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."

The President convinced a majority of the country that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11th. But in truth he had nothing whatsoever to do with it. The President convinced the country with a mixture of forged documents and blatantly false assertions that Saddam was in league with Al Qaeda, and that he was "indistinguishable" from Osama bin Laden. He asked the nation, in his State of the Union address, to "imagine" how terrified we should be that Saddam was about to give nuclear weapons to terrorists and stated repeatedly that Iraq posed a grave and gathering threat to our nation. He planted the seeds of war, and harvested a whirlwind. And now, the "corrupt tree" of a war waged on false premises has brought us the "evil fruit" of Americans torturing and humiliating prisoners.

In my opinion, John Kerry is dealing with this unfolding tragedy in an
impressive and extremely responsible way. Our nation's best interest lies in having a new president who can turn a new page, sweep clean with a new broom, and take office on January 20th of next year with the ability to make a fresh assessment of exactly what our nation's strategic position is as of the time the reigns of power are finally wrested from the group of incompetents that
created this catastrophe.

Kerry should not tie his own hands by offering overly specific, detailed proposals concerning a situation that is rapidly changing and unfortunately, rapidly deteriorating, but should rather preserve his, and our country's, options, to retrieve our national honor as soon as this long national nightmare is over. Eisenhower did not propose a five-point plan for changing America's approach to the Korean War when he was running for president in 1952.

When a business enterprise finds itself in deep trouble that is linked to the failed policies of the current CEO the board of directors and stockholders usually say to the failed CEO, "Thank you very much, but we're going to replace you now with a new CEO -- one less vested in a stubborn insistence on staying the course, even if that course is, in the words of General Zinni, "Headed over Niagara Falls."

One of the strengths of democracy is the ability of the people to
regularly demand changes in leadership and to fire a failing leader and hire a new one with the promise of hopeful change. That is the real solution to America's quagmire in Iraq. But, I am keenly aware that we have seven months and twenty five days remaining in this president's current term of office and that represents a time of dangerous vulnerability for our country because of the demonstrated incompetence and recklessness of the current administration. It is therefore essential that even as we focus on the fateful choice the
voters must make this November, that we simultaneously search for ways to sharply reduce the extraordinary danger that we face with the current leadership team in place. It is for that reason that I am calling today for Republicans as well as Democrats to join me in asking for the immediate resignations of those immediately below George Bush and Dick Cheney who are most responsible for creating the catastrophe that we are facing in Iraq.

We desperately need a national security team with at least minimal
competence because the current team is making things worse with each passing day. They are endangering the lives of our soldiers, and sharply increasing the danger faced by American citizens everywhere in the world, including here at home. They are enraging hundreds of millions of people and embittering an entire generation of anti-Americans whose rage is already near the boiling point.

We simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country with more blunders by this team. Donald Rumsfeld, as the chief architect of the war plan, should resign today. His deputies Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and his intelligence chief Stephen Cambone should also resign. The nation is especially at risk every single day that Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense.
Condoleeza Rice, who has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy, should also resign immediately.

George Tenet should also resign. I want to offer a special word about George Tenet, because he is a personal friend and I know him to be a good and decent man. It is especially painful to call for his resignation, but I have regretfully concluded that it is extremely important that our country have new leadership at the CIA immediately.

As a nation, our greatest export has always been hope: hope that through the rule of law people can be free to pursue their dreams, that democracy can supplant repression and that justice, not power, will be the guiding force in society. Our moral authority in the world derived from the hope anchored in the rule of law. With this blatant failure of the rule of law from the very agents of our government, we face a great challenge in restoring our moral authority in the world and demonstrating our commitment to bringing a better life to our global neighbors.

During Ronald Reagan's Presidency, Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan was accused of corruption, but eventually, after a lot of publicity, the indictment was thrown out by the Judge. Donovan asked the question, "Where do I go to get my reputation back?" President Bush has now placed the United States of America in the same situation. Where do we go to get our good name back?

The answer is, we go where we always go when a dramatic change is needed. We go to the ballot box, and we make it clear to the rest of the world that what's been happening in America for the last four years, and what America has been doing in Iraq for the last two years, really is not who we are. We, as a people, at least the overwhelming majority of us, do not endorse the decision
to dishonor the Geneva Convention and the Bill of Rights ... .
Make no mistake, the damage done at Abu Ghraib is not only to America's reputation and America's strategic interests, but also to America's spirit.

It is also crucial for our nation to recognize -- and to recognize quickly -- that the damage our nation has suffered in the world is far, far more serious than President Bush's belated and tepid response would lead people to believe. Remember how shocked each of us, individually, was when we first saw those hideous images. The natural tendency was to first recoil from the images, and then to assume that they represented a strange and rare aberration that
resulted from a few twisted minds or, as the Pentagon assured us, "a few bad apples." But as today's shocking news reaffirms yet again, this was not rare. It was not an aberration. Today's New York Times reports that an Army survey of prisoner deaths and mistreatment in Iraq and Afghanisatan "show a widespread
pattern of abuse involving more military units than previously known."

Nor did these abuses spring from a few twisted minds at the lowest ranks of our military enlisted personnel. No, it came from twisted values and atrocious policies at the highest levels of our government. This was done in our name, by our leaders.
These horrors were the predictable consequence of policy choices that flowed directly from this administration's contempt for the rule of law. And the dominance they have been seeking is truly not simply unworthy of America -- it is also an illusory goal in its own right.

Our world is unconquerable because the human spirit is unconquerable, and any national strategy based on pursuing the goal of domination is doomed to fail because it generates its own opposition, and in the process, creates enemies for the would-be dominator.

A policy based on domination of the rest of the world not only creates enemies for the United States and creates recruits for Al Qaeda, it also undermines the international cooperation that is essential to defeating the efforts of terrorists who wish harm and intimidate Americans. Unilateralism, as we have painfully seen in Iraq, is its own reward.

Going it alone may satisfy a political instinct but it is dangerous to our military, even without their Commander in Chief taunting terrorists to "bring it on." Our troops are stretched thin and exhausted not only because Secretary Rumsfeld contemptuously dismissed the advice of military leaders on the size of the needed force -- but also because President Bush's contempt for
traditional allies and international opinion left us without a real coalition to share the military and financial burden of the war and the occupation. Our future is dependent upon increasing cooperation and interdependence in a world tied ever more closely together by technologies of communications and travel.

The emergence of a truly global civilization has been accompanied by the recognition of truly global challenges that require global responses that, as often as not, can only be led by the United States -- and only if the United States restores and maintains its moral authority to lead.

Make no mistake, it is precisely our moral authority that is our greatest source of strength, and it is precisely our moral authority that has been recklessly put at risk by the cheap calculations and mean compromises of conscience wagered with history by this willful president.

Listen to the way Israel's highest court dealt with a similar question
when, in 1999, it was asked to balance due process rights against dire threats to the security of its people:

"This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual's liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day they (add to) its strength."

The last and best description of America's meaning in the world is still the definitive formulation of Lincoln's annual message to Congress on December 1, 1862:

"The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history ... the fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation ... We shall nobly save, or meanly lose the last best hope of earth ... The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just -- a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."

It is now clear that their obscene abuses of the truth and their
unforgivable abuse of the trust placed in them after 9/11 by the American people led directly to the abuses of the prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison and, we are now learning, in many other similar facilities constructed as part of Bush's Gulag, in which, according to the Red Cross, 70 to 90 percent of the victims are totally innocent of any wrongdoing.

The same dark spirit of domination has led them to -- for the first time in American history -- imprison American citizens with no charges, no right to see a lawyer, no right to notify their family, no right to know of what they are accused, and no right to gain access to any court to present an appeal of any sort. The Bush Admistration has even acquired the power to compel librarians to tell them what any American is reading, and to compel them to keep silent about the request -- or else the librarians themselves can also be

They have launched an unprecedented assault on civil liberties, on the right of the courts to review their actions, on the right of the Congress to have information to how they are spending the public's money and the right of the news media to have information about the policies they are pursuing.

The same pattern characterizes virtually all of their policies. They
resent any constraint as an insult to their will to dominate and exercise power. Their appetite for power is astonishing. It has led them to introduce a new level of viciousness in partisan politics. It is that viciousness that led them to attack as unpatriotic, Senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in combat during the Vietnam War.

The president episodically poses as a healer and "uniter." If he
president really has any desire to play that role, then I call upon him to condemn Rush Limbaugh -- perhaps his strongest political supporter -- who said that the torture in Abu Ghraib was a "brilliant maneuver" and that the photos were "good old American pornography," and that the actions portrayed were simply those of "people having a good time and needing to blow off steam."

This new political viciousness by the President and his supporters is
found not only on the campaign trail, but in the daily operations of our democracy. They have insisted that the leaders of their party in the Congress deny Democrats any meaningful role whatsoever in shaping legislation, debating the choices before us as a people, or even to attend the all-important conference committees that reconcile the differences between actions by the Senate and House of Representatives.

The same meanness of spirit shows up in domestic policies as well. Under the Patriot Act, Muslims, innocent of any crime, were picked up, often physically abused, and held incommunicado indefinitely. What happened in Abu Ghraib was difference not of kind, but of degree. Differences of degree are important when the subject is torture. The apologists for what has happened do have points that should be heard and clearly understood. It is a fact that every culture and every politics sometimes expresses itself in cruelty. It is also undeniably true that other countries have and do torture more routinely, and far more brutally, than ours has. George Orwell once characterized life in Stalin's Russia as "a boot stamping on a human face forever." That was the ultimate culture of cruelty, so ingrained, so organic, so systematic that everyone in it lived in terror, even the terrorizers. And that was the nature and degree of state cruelty in
Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

We all know these things, and we need not reassure ourselves and should not congratulate ourselves that our society is less cruel than some others, although it is worth noting that there are many that are less cruel than ours. And this searing revelation at Abu Ghraib should lead us to examine more thoroughly the routine horrors in our domestic prison system.

But what we do now, in reaction to Abu Ghraib will determine a great deal about who we are at the beginning of the 21st century.
It is important to note that just as the abuses of the prisoners flowed directly from the policies of the Bush White House, those policies flowed not only from the instincts of the president and his advisors, but found support in shifting attitudes on the part of some in our country in response to the outrage and fear generated by the attack of September 11th.

The president exploited and fanned those fears, but some otherwise
sensible and levelheaded Americans fed them as well. I remember reading genteel-sounding essays asking publicly whether or not the prohibitions against torture were any longer relevant or desirable. The same grotesque misunderstanding of what is really involved was responsible for the tone in the memo from the president's legal advisor, Alberto Gonzalez, who wrote on January 25, 2002, that 9/11 "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

We have seen the pictures. We have learned the news. We cannot unlearn it; it is part of us. The important question now is, what will we do now about torture? Stop it? Yes, of course. But that means demanding all of the facts, not covering them up, as some now charge the administration is now doing. One of the whistleblowers at Abu Ghraib, Sergeant Samuel Provance, told ABC News a few days ago that he was being intimidated and punished for telling the truth. "There is definitely a coverup," Provance said. "I feel like I am being punished for being honest."

The abhorrent acts in the prison were a direct consequence of the culture of impunity encouraged, authorized and instituted by Bush and Rumsfeld in their statements that the Geneva Conventions did not apply. The apparent war crimes that took place were the logical, inevitable outcome of policies and statements from the administration.

To me, as glaring as the evidence of this in the pictures themselves was the revelation that it was established practice for prisoners to be moved around during ICRC visits so that they would not be available for visits. That, no one can claim, was the act of individuals. That was policy set from above with the direct intention to violate U.S. values it was to be upholding. It was the kind of policy we see -- and criticize in places like China and Cuba.

Moreover, the administration has also set up the men and women of our own armed forces for payback the next time they are held as prisoners. And for that, this administration should pay a very high price. One of the most tragic consequences of these official crimes is that it will be very hard for any of us as Americans -- at least for a very long time -- to effectively stand up for human rights elsewhere and criticize other governments, when our policies have resulted in our soldiers behaving so monstrously. This administration has shamed America and deeply damaged the cause of freedom and
human rights everywhere, thus undermining the core message of America to the world.

President Bush offered a brief and half-hearted apology to the Arab world -- but he should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions.

He also owes an apology to the U.S. Army for cavalierly sending them into harm's way while ignoring the best advice of their commanders.

Perhaps most importantly of all, he should apologize to all those men and women throughout our world who have held the ideal of the United States of America as a shining goal, to inspire their hopeful efforts to bring about justice under a rule of law in their own lands.

Of course, the problem with all these legitimate requests is that a
sincere apology requires an admission of error, a willingness to accept responsibility and to hold people accountable.

And President Bush is not only unwilling to acknowledge error. He has thus far been unwilling to hold anyone in his administration accountable for the worst strategic and military miscalculations and mistakes in the history of the United States of America.

He is willing only to apologize for the alleged erratic behavior of a few low-ranking enlisted people, who he is scapegoating for his policy fiasco.

In December of 2000, even though I strongly disagreed with the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to order a halt to the counting of legally cast ballots, I saw it as my duty to reaffirm my own strong belief that we are a nation of laws and not only accept the decision, but do what I could to prevent efforts to delegitimize George Bush as he took the oath of office as president.

I did not at that moment imagine that Bush would, in the presidency that ensued, demonstrate utter contempt for the rule of law and work at every turn to frustrate accountability ...
So today, I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the character and basic nature of the American people and
at odds with the principles on which America stands.

I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable -- and I
believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, "We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility."

Web Site: http://www.MoveOnPAC.org

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27 May 2004

National Guard Living In Unprotected Tents At Iraq Base 

"The National Guard has always done more with less. They are well trained and they GAVE UP HIGHER PAYING JOBS TO GO TO IRAQ. This is not acceptable. and any hint that the Guard is less than the regular Army or Reserves is UN-AMERICAN!!!!" ~~~ Myra Kinderknecht, SMSgt, USAF {AirNationalGuard}, (ret)

National Guard Living In Unprotected Tents At Iraq Base
Guardsman Says Mortar Attacks Occur Almost Daily

POSTED: 11:15 am EDT May 26, 2004

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Regular Army soldiers in Iraq sleep in fortified accommodations while National Guard troops are in unprotected tents and using filthy showers, according to e-mail messages from several North Carolina soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Roosevelt McPherson, of Raeford, said in a series of e-mail messages from Forward Operating Base McKenzie near Samarra that the National Guard soldiers have nowhere to seek shelter from almost daily mortar attacks, The News & Observer reported Wednesday.

McPherson serves in the Monroe-based B Battery of the 1-113th Field Artillery.

"The regular Army troops have bunkers, hangars or fortified connexes," he wrote. "It is only by the grace and mercy of God that no one has been injured or even worse."

Army officials said Tuesday that the base is not attacked as often as McPherson claims but that they are working to provide safer accommodations for the Guard troops.

"No conscious decision has been made in this unit to put the interests of Active Duty Soldiers ahead of National Guard soldiers' lives," said an e-mail message from Capt. Ian Palmer, public affairs officer for the 1st Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry, the unit to which B Battery is attached.

"We are as eager to get those soldiers out of tents as they are, and action is being taken every day towards that goal."

Palmer also challenged the idea that the base is attacked often, saying it had been shelled by mortars once and "rocket attacks are less than once a week."

National Guard members are citizen soldiers who usually drill one weekend a month and spend two weeks training a year. Unlike the reserves, which are part of the regular Army, Guard units report to state governors but can be activated by the federal government.

With U.S. armed forces stretched thin, many Guard and reserve units have been called to active duty and about 40 percent of the estimated 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are Guard and reservists.

Battery B is one unit of the N.C. Guard's 30th Heavy Separate Brigade. Most of the brigade's almost 5,000 soldiers are attached to the regular Army's 1st Infantry Division in the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.

McPherson said his unit arrived at McKenzie about 70 miles north of Baghdad around March 15 and was told the unit would be out of tents in a month.

There are 25 tents, and when the unit first arrived, only four or five had board floors, McPherson said. The rest had small rocks as a flooring to help keep the dust down. McPherson said if a round hit inside a tent area, with rocks as a foundation throughout, the rocks would join the shrapnel from the explosion.

McPherson called living conditions "filthy" and said E. coli bacteria was discovered in one of the three showers in April.

John Grosvenor of Concord received an e-mail message last weekend from his brother, Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Grosvenor, who is also in B Battery. John Grosvenor said his brother noted "that the real Army were in better shelters and they were in tents."

"The military knows that they have more people over there than they thought they were going to have, so somebody has got to get the short end of the stick," John Grosvenor said.

Lt. Col. Mark Strong, the 1-113th's commander, said in an e-mail message that his soldiers "don't have it great, but they also are not in extreme danger."

Another $80 billion of a war that has been declared over for 1 year:

Lying about reason to declare war is a high crime:

Forwarded by Myra Kinderknecht, SMSgt, USAF {AirNationalGuard}, (ret)

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Powell: Bush told of Red Cross reports 

President may have known about Iraqi prisoner abuse earlier than he's admitted

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Tuesday that he and other top officials kept the president “fully informed in general terms,” about complaints made by the Red Cross and others of ill-treatment of detainees in American custody.
Powell’s statement suggests Bush may have known earlier than the White House has previously acknowledged about complaints raised by the International Committee of the Red Cross and human rights groups about abuse of detainees in Iraq.

Who Would Try Civilians of U.S.? No One in Iraq

Though civilian translators and interrogators may have participated in the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, prosecuting them will present challenges, legal experts say, because such civilians working for the military are subject to neither Iraqi nor military justice.
(NYT-regestration required)
Israeli Agents Believed Involved in Abu Ghraib

Diplomatic sources in Washington tell NewsMax's U.N. correspondent Stew Stogel that Israeli nationals are believed to be involved in the Iraq prison controversy.
"Who has better experience in dealing with the Arabs than Israel?"

Stretched thin: Big shortage of supplies for forces in Iraq, brass admits

Humvees are running on bald tires, and tank treads are falling off armored vehicles as the Army's supply chain is stretched as thinly as the troops in Iraq, top officers and enlisted soldiers said yesterday.

Trucks made to drive without cargo in dangerous areas of Iraq

Empty flatbed trucks crisscrossed Iraq more than 100 times as their drivers and the soldiers who guarded them dodged bullets, bricks and homemade bombs.
Twelve current and former truckers who regularly made the 300-mile re-supply run from Camp Cedar in southern Iraq to Camp Anaconda near Baghdad told Knight Ridder that they risked their lives driving empty trucks while their employer, a subsidiary of Halliburton Inc., billed the government for hauling what they derisively called "sailboat fuel."

Corruption stench as company loses Iraq contract

One of Australia's largest postwar contracts in Iraq has collapsed, with the partners embroiled in a multi-million-dollar legal battle and allegations of corruption in the awarding of contracts by a leading Pentagon supplier.

As Spain Withdraws, Italy Pledges to Keep Troops In Iraq

Even as the last Spanish troops are pulled out of Iraq this week, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has announced his government will keep troops in the country until democracy and stability are ensured.

US tried to plant WMDs, failed: whistleblower

According to a stunning report posted by a retired Navy Lt Commander and 28-year veteran of the Defense Department (DoD), the Bush administration’s assurance about finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was based on a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plan to “plant” WMDs inside the country. Nelda Rogers, the Pentagon whistleblower, claims the plan failed when the secret mission was mistakenly taken out by “friendly fire”, the Environmentalists Against War report.

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No Such Thing as Paranoia 

On the culture of conspiracism

Like conspiracies themselves, conspiracy theories are as old as gossip and politics. To understand the world one inhabits, it is impossible to credit the idea of contingency or chance as the root of all weirdness. Just as any psychotic tends to utter something true in the process of saying something crazy, there is usually a kernel of reality in even the most far-fetched conspiracy theory.

From Sarin to the Berg beheading: why do the news media keep silent when rumors sweep the internet?

Aside from the usual imprecations, my e-mail has been bristling with messages urging me to investigate the circumstances of Nicholas Berg's beheading. I'm told to consider the white plastic chair he was sitting on and the orange prison suit he wore—not the usual Al Qaeda gear. Then there's the lack of visible blood, and the soundtrack that records his screams before he was attacked. Are these the signs of a U.S. psy-op?

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Israel pulls army out of Rafah after international outcry over killings 

The Israeli Army finally pulled out of Rafah yesterday
- for the moment at least - after a week-long operation, that has left 45 Palestinians dead, 67 homes demolished, and a trail of destroyed or damaged farmland, roads and infrastructure.

Mid-East civilians 'suffer most'

Aid agency Oxfam is calling for more to be done to protect civilians caught up in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Both sides have failed to safeguard civilians as required under international law, it says in a report.

Bush's message and Mideast reality

The Middle East policy debate, here in the United States, has sunk to a shamefully low level. As Israeli forces ravage Gaza, laying waste to its people and their property, neither the president nor his opponents appear to even wince in recognition of the damage done.

Meet Norman G Finkelstein

Norman G Finkelstein is a professor of political science at DePaul university in Chicago. A Jew whose parents survived Nazi concentration camps, he is well known as a critic of Israel and the commodification of Jewish suffering during World War II which he called "the Holocaust industry" in the book of the same name.
Interviewed by Chris LaVigne

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26 May 2004

Reuters reveals details of journalists abused in Iraq  

Go to original

Monday May 24, 2004 "The Guardian" -- Reuters has released details of the full extent of the brutal treatment it claims was meted out to three of its journalists by US soldiers in Iraq.

The respected news agency made available a transcript of interviews it had conducted with three of its employees who accused US forces of subjecting them to prolonged beatings and degrading sexual abuse, after the Pentagon rejected claims it had failed to conduct an adequate investigation in the incident and declared the case "closed".

The account of what happened to the Reuters journalist and a fellow NBC cameraman at the military camp near Fallujah makes for shocking reading and paints a picture of widespread and systematic abuse of prisoners taken by US forces in Iraq.

One of the journalists involved told how he was repeatedly beaten during interrogations and forced to spend hours kneeling with his feet raised off the ground. "If my hands or feet went down they would hit me, he said. "The interrogation lasted three or four hours.

"They put tissue paper in my mouth. I could hardly breathe. They said that we had fired at the helicopter. I said: 'I swear to God it wasn't me.' They said 'If you swear to God again, we'll break you into a thousand pieces.'

"When I was knocked over they helped me up again. But if I fell down again they would come and hit me more. There was a shoe on the ground and they told me to chew and lick it. They made me suck my middle finger. They told me to stick my finger in my anus and then lick it," he said.

The three men, cameraman Salem Ureibi, who has worked for Reuters since 1991, Ahmad Mohammad Hussein al-Badrani, a TV reporter employed on a freelance basis since July 2003 and Sattar Jabar al-Badrani, a driver, were held on January 2 after attempting to report on the aftermath of the crash of a US helicopter near Fallujah.

They were interviewed by the Reuters' Baghdad bureau chief, Andrew Marshall, shortly after their release.

Mr Marshall said the three were accused of operating as enemy resistance fighters, despite identifying themselves as members of the press and the presence of camera equipment and press badges in the car they were using. He concluded that the worst treatment inflicted on the prisoners came after he had contacted the 82nd Airborne Division, the unit involved, to inform them of the identity of the men.

In his interview with Mr Marshall, Mr al-Badrani said the abuse started even before they reached the military camp, when they were transferred to an armoured vehicle.

"They lifted the seats inside the APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier), put us under the seats, then pushed the seats on our backs. That was the most difficult part, because of the pressure on our bodies. The soldier sitting on the seats had his legs placed around my neck, pressing down. If I moved my neck left or right, he would hit me or press harder with his foot on my head.

Mr al-Badrani said they arrived in the camp where 40 or 50 other prisoners were being held late in the evening.

"They gave us one blanket between two people, a small blanket. We didn't know whether to put it on the floor, because the floor was cold, or put it on our bodies.

"We were seated and whenever we turned to our colleagues or tried to speak to them we were punished. They were saying 'No sleep, no sleep'."

Asked how they were punished, Mr al-Badrani said: "They would make people lift their hands in the air, make them go up and down from their knees, put them against the wall with their hands out and leave them there for hours.

"They were checking people's eyes with torches and if they found anyone sleeping they would take them away and punish them. But then at around two o'clock they allowed us to sleep. But it wasn't real sleep because the floor was too cold. In the morning they gave us some food that was inedible. The smell of it made me feel sick."

"In the morning they took us to the toilet with a bag on our heads. Soldiers were hitting us [with their hands] on the way to and back from the toilets.

"Even if my clothes touched the barbed wire fence, I would be hit. Around 11 they took me for interrogation. It was in a metal container, a caravan, with chairs. [Ahmad demonstrates how he was forced to kneel, with his feet in the air and his arms raised in the air]. If my hands or feet went down they would hit me. The interrogation lasted three or four hours. They put tissue paper in my mouth. I could hardly breathe. They said that we had fired at the helicopter. I said: 'I swear to God it wasn't me.' They said 'If you swear to God again, we'll break you into a thousand pieces.'"

Mr al-Badrani said the three interrogators in the room ignored his explanation that he was a Reuters journalist and was knocked to the floor repeatedly during the questioning.

"When I was knocked over they helped me up again. But if I fell down again they would come and hit me more. There was a shoe on the ground and they told me to chew and lick it. They made me suck my middle finger. They told me to stick my finger in my anus and then lick it," he told Marshall.

Once his interrogation was over Mr al-Badrani said he was placed in a room with his two Reuters colleagues and NBC cameraman Ali Muhammed Hussein Ali al-Badrani. "they took us to a room that was three metres by three, and started abusing us," he said.

"To sit on the ground was forbidden. They made me suck my thumb. They made me lie on the ground and shake my backside in the air. They were taking photographs. They were cursing us throughout the night: 'You fuckers'. The interrogator would say something on the radio so all his colleagues could hear and they would all laugh loudly. They had music played very loud on huge speakers and they made us dance. It was played straight into our ears. There was abuse throughout the night.

"We were beaten on the ground. They placed tape on our mouths, and bags on our heads. They made us stand one behind the other with our hands on each other's shoulders and made us walk around. It lasted until dawn the next morning. They kept bags on our heads and made us walk around the room for about two hours. I fell on the ground. Then they would come and kick me.

"They would bring a big bottle of water and make me drink it as punishment. Through the night, several times they made me drink a full bottle of water. I may have drunk four or five bottles. At one point from the way we were beaten and my tiredness, I was almost unconscious.

"We had a badge put on our chest with the letter "C" on it. Every time a soldier saw it they would hit me. Then they brought in the second meal. We couldn't eat it. They came back, handcuffed us, put a bag on our heads and took us off. They took us outside in turn, threw us on the ground. They didn't care how we landed on the ground. They put us in a jeep and took us away. They were saying 'Cuba, Cuba' all the time, and laughing."

After further bouts of questioning the four men received some medical treatment and food before being released.

Reuters made the case public last week after the US military investigators said they had found no evidence to suggest the men had been abused and in the light of the photographs of abuse meted out to prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.

A spokesman for Reuters said the company would continue to press for the case to be reopened given the weight of evidence suggesting serious abuse and contradictions in the US investigation's report.

"We certainly are not satisfied with this at all. To us its is unconscionable that they would not reopen the case.

In particular he pointed to the fact that the first version of the US military investigation report into the incident had admitted that "sleep deprivation" techniques had been used on the three Reuters and NBC employee, despite statements from coalition leaders that such methods were banned.

A second version of the report sent to Reuters had changed the terminology to "sleep management".

"The facts speak for themselves," said the Reuters spokesman. 'It just doesn't wash."

The Pentagon was unavailable for comment.

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Dear Friends:

Many, many words have flown across the Internet in the past month about the events in Iraq. I’ve been reluctant to add mine to the blizzard. I am an American but I live my life abroad. Since President Bush began America’s adventure in Iraq I have spent time working with citizen groups on every continent but Australia and Antarctica. Everywhere I go I get an earful and along with it some insight into my country and how it is thought of in the world – probably more than I would if I was still living in California. I know this is an emotional issues on all sides. Here in this difficult moment in the world, are some reflections about looking at my country from far away.

Jim Shultz

The Democracy Center


In the autumn of 1862 President Abraham Lincoln was presiding over a war that was not going well for the Union. Casualties were mounting, costs were climbing, and no clean ending appeared in sight. According to one of his biographers Lincoln turned to God, prayed, and made a deal with the almighty. Show me a sign that we are on the right track, that our cause is just and I will act. Weeks later Lincoln reportedly took the Union victory at Antietam as that sign and kept his deal by announcing his intention to issue a Presidential Proclamation freeing the salves of the confederacy.

President Bush, by all reports, considers himself a devout Christian. It may well be that he has offered up the same kind of “show me a sign” prayer that Lincoln did. If so, it is hard to imagine how many more signs the President needs to understand that God is not smiling on the US occupation or Iraq.

President Bush launched the US into a war based on the warning that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that threatened us. Most of the nation and the Congress took him at his word, only to find out later that no such weapons existed and that the intelligence upon which that warning was issued was “cooked” by Iraqi exiles who had their own reasons for wanting US soldiers on the streets of Baghdad.

Then the President told us that, even if Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, our real motive all along was to support freedom and democracy there. A year later freedom and democracy looks like 5,500 Iraqis (many of them children) killed by violence, Americans torturing prisoners in one of Saddam Hussein’s jails, the suspension of the Geneva Convention, more than 700 US soldiers home in coffins that we aren’t allowed to see on TV, and a one year bill high enough to have given every Iraqi family of four $14,000 in cash, more than a year’s worth of income.

The US spent most of the weekend denying that we had accidentally bombed a wedding, which we mistakenly thought was a camp of armed insurgents. In the meantime the Associated Press found a videotape from the wedding in which the faces and clothing of the happy guests matched the bodies found at the scene of the US bombing.

To modify an old line, there are three kinds of lies – lies, damn lies, and official statements by the Bush Administration. If all these events are not a sufficient answer to a Presidential prayer for a sign, than they must certainly be a message to the rest of us that the US occupation of Iraq is an ugly, bloody error getting worse.

I saved a clipping a few months back about a hearing before the US Senate in which a panel of diplomats reported that the “bottom had fallen out” of support abroad for the United States. I am an American who has lived outside the US since 1998. One of the recommendations was that the US needed people who could speak Arabic and make the case for US policy on Arab TV. In other words, it isn’t our policy that is the problem but bad marketing. How do you market bombing a wedding?

Last year I got my first glimpse of Arab TV, Al Jazeera, in a cheap hotel room on the Islamic island of Zanzibar. I didn’t understand much of it. I did understand the program blaring out of a small TV propped up on a chair in an ancient plaza, surrounded by men dressed in white robes drinking strong coffee – an episode of Friends with Arabic subtitles. Maybe the State Department could get the actors from the show to explain the war to people in the Arab world. I hear they ate less busy now.

A while later I sat on a beach getting an earful from a former Tanzanian official, a Muslim, that I happened to run into. This was weeks before the US started the Iraqi war. “Number one idiot!,” is what he called President Bush. Tony Blair came in number two. Rabid, unchangeable anti-Americanism? He then went on to sing the praises of former President Bill Clinton. “President of the world,” he told me. “Look at what he did for peace in Ireland, between the Palestinians and Israelis.” Who America is and how we are seen – it could be so different. Not so long ago it was.

I see it here in Bolivia, US arrogance. It isn’t hard to spot. In October when the whole nation, including the Vice President, had decided it was time for the President to go (after he sent out troops that killed more than 70 people) the Bush administration propped him up with statements of support. He finally did leave a week later and the deaths of thirty people killed in the interim can be planted squarely on the shoulders of the US government. I know a woman, a close friend of ours, who was jailed here for almost two years with her baby son, an innocent but handy statistic in the US war on drugs here.

I think Kurt Vonnegut, that sage old writer of science fiction, got it right when he wrote a few weeks ago that the Bush administration’s approach to bringing democracy to the Arab world was starting to look like the way the Spaniards brought Christianity to the Indians of the Americas. Sometimes evangelism is not pretty, especially when you have to kill thousands of people to make your point.

The point here is not to Bush bash, or to add another “I told you so” to the rising chorus of US concern about the “mother of all big muddies” that the US finds itself in now in Iraq. The point is that who the US is in the world was once very different and can be and has to be again.

What is America? Looking at my homeland from abroad, and through the eyes of the people I live with in Bolivia and with whom I have worked with these past few years in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia, I have come to this conclusion. The United States of America is still one of the greatest promises ever made in the world.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” True, those words were written by a slaveholder. Yes, they were the opening lines of a nation (as a minister friend of mine once put it), “founded on the genocide of one race and the enslavement of another.” But the two centuries and a quarter since have been filled with one noble effort after another to hold America to that promise. Lincoln invoked it when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Martin Luther King invoked it again a century later when he stood on the steps of Lincoln’s memorial.

What the US is doing in the world at this moment is no march to stand true to the nation’s grand promises. We have not been asked to evangelize the rest of the world in our image, under our armies, and managed by our corporations (In Iraq that same Bechtel that did such a bang up job with Bolivia’s water).

As an American living in a foreign land I have always found these three rules to be the best wisdom. First, always assume that you don’t understand what the hell is going on. That assumption is almost always likely to be more right than wrong. Second, listen before you talk. Third, whatever you do, do it with humility. These rules wouldn’t make a bad basis for US foreign policy. There are plenty of Americans all over the world doing good works and who represent how a wealthy nation ought to reach out to those with less. There are plenty of Americans at home who think it is time for our actions abroad to live up to the nation’s promise and not some warped version of it dressed up in a red, white and blue lapel pin.

America needs “friends” in the world in this moment, and not just the ones in syndication with Arabic subtitles. We will win them not by what we say are our intentions but by the reality of our actions.

My thanks and my best wishes to all of you at home who are doing something, anything, to help bring my country back from its dance with madness.

Reposted with permission

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Hard lessons from poetry class: Speech is free unless it's critical  

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15 May 2004

Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.

The "Slam Team" was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy.

The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal.

After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison.

Then to all students and faculty who did not share his political opinions, the principal shouted: "Shut your faces." What a wonderful lesson he gave those 3,000 students at the largest public high school in New Mexico. In his mind, only certain opinions are to be allowed.

But more was to come. Posters done by art students were ordered torn down, even though none was termed obscene. Some were satirical, implicating a national policy that had led us into war. Art teachers who refused to rip down the posters on display in their classrooms were not given contracts to return to the school in this current school year.

The message is plain. Critical thinking, questioning of public policies and freedom of speech are not to be allowed to anyone who does not share the thinking of the school principal.

The teachers union has been joined in a legal action against the school by the National Writers Union, headquartered in New York City. NWU's at-large representative Samantha Clark lives and works in Albuquerque.

The American Civil Liberties Union has become the legal arm of the lawsuit pending in federal court.

Meanwhile, Nevins applied for a teaching post in another school and was offered the job but he can't go to work until Rio Rancho's principal sends the new school Nevins' credentials. The principal has refused to do so, and that adds yet another issue to the lawsuit, which is awaiting a trial date.

While students are denied poetry readings, poetry clubs and classes in poetry, Nevins works elsewhere and writes his own poetry.

Writers and editors who have spent years translating essays, films, poems, scientific articles and books by Iranian, North Korean and Sudanese authors have been warned not to do so by the U.S. Treasury Department under penalty of fine and imprisonment. Publishers and film producers are not allowed to edit works authored by writers in those nations. The Bush administration contends doing so has the effect of trading with the enemy, despite a 1988 law that exempts published materials from sanction under trade rules.

Robert Bovenschulte, president of the American Chemical Society, is challenging the rule interpretation by violating it to edit into English several scientific papers from Iran.

Are book burnings next?

Hill is a retired News-Journal reporter.

Daytona News-Journal

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25 May 2004


Ex-US military chief blasts Pentagon

A former chief of US Central Command has accused senior Pentagon officials of failure in executing the Iraq war, saying their strategy was flawed from the start.
Retired Marine Corps general Anthony Zinni, who headed Central Command from 1997 to 2000, said "everyone in the military knew" that the Bush Administration's plan for Iraq consisted of only half the troops that were needed. He said Iraq was now "a powder keg" that could break apart into warring regions.

Dead buried as Israel pulls out

Thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets of Rafah yesterday to bury 16 of those killed in Israel's offensive here, hours after the army ended its occupation of the battered Tal al-Sultan area.

Australian embassy targetted

Iraqi police believe the Australian embassy in Baghdad may have been the primary target in an apparent car bomb attack outside a city hotel today.

US wants its army in sovereign Iraq

The United States and Britain were to present the United Nations Security Council yesterday with the first draft of a resolution that would recognise the new Iraqi government that is to take power on June 30.
The resolution would also clear the way for foreign forces to remain in the country after that.
Despite the presence of 130,000 US troops, the text of the resolution calls for "full sovereignty" for Iraqis.
It seeks approval for a US-led multinational force to provide security.

West's monopoly on modernity challenged by Asia's waking giants

The invasion of Iraq may come to represent the last hurrah for so-called superior values, writes Martin Jacques.

Underpinning the argument in support of the invasion of Iraq has been the idea of the moral virtue of the West. In contrast to Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship, the "coalition" espouses the values of democracy and human rights. The invasion of Iraq represented the high-water mark of Western moral virtue.

Bush defends his vision for Iraq

President Bush has said the US remains committed to defeating its enemies and creating a democratic Iraq.
In a keynote speech aimed at reassuring the US public, he said he was taking five "specific steps" to help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom.

Rumsfeld Bans Camera Phones in Iraq: Report

LONDON - Cellphones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a business newspaper reported.

Did Rumsfeld ban Iraq camera phones?

Did Donald Rumsfeld ban camera phones for soldiers in Iraq? The story has appeared on the wires, and says he did. But while there are doubts about whether the story is true, there should be bigger doubts about whether it is even possible.

How Fascism Starts
by Molly Ivins

It's pretty easy to get to the point where you don't want to hear any more about Abu Ghraib prison and what went on there. But there are some really good reasons why Americans should take a look at why this happened.

US intelligence fears Iran duped hawks into Iraq war

An urgent investigation has been launched in Washington into whether Iran played a role in manipulating the US into the Iraq war by passing on bogus intelligence through Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, it emerged yesterday.
Some intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the hawks in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighbour, and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq.

Andy Rooney: Our Darkest Days Are Here

"The image of one bad young woman with a naked man on a leash did more to damage America's reputation than all the good things we've done over the years ever helped our reputation. "

U.S. presents new U.N. resolution on Iraq

The United States and Britain sought U.N. backing for their post-occupation plans for Iraq, proposing a new resolution Monday that would endorse the June 30 handover of power and authorize a U.S.-led multinational force to keep the peace.

Mr. President, What Planet Are You On?

In “Spin City,” the nation’s capital, presidential administrations often believe their own propaganda. The Bush administration, however, has been especially self-delusional—particularly when it comes to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Not since the Johnson and Nixon administrations during the Vietnam War and Watergate has an administration been in such denial about its policy course. Like a naïve fawn caught in the headlights, the Bush crowd seems paralyzed and condemned to the oncoming crash.

More than 5,500 Iraqi civilians killed since occupation began, according to morgue records

Punctured by bullets or torn by bombs, broken bodies keep coming into Baghdad's main morgue. Some are dumped on the blood-splattered concrete floor. Others lie naked on metal gurneys in a hallway, waiting for autopsies as flies buzz in the spring heat.

War, religion and national interests

President Bush's statement to Bob Woodward that he asked God for advice before starting war with Iraq deserves attention. It gives Bush's war a special context.

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