17 June 2005

More Damning than Downing Street 

Published on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 by CommonDreams.org

by Paul Rogat Loeb

It's bad enough that the Bush administration had so little international support for the Iraqi war that their "coalition of the willing" meant the U.S., Britain, and the equivalent of a child's imaginary friends. It's even worse that, as the Downing Street memo confirms, they had so little evidence of real threats that they knew from the start that they were going to have manufacture excuses to go to war. What's more damning still is that they effectively began this war even before the congressional vote.

With Congressman John Conyers about to hold hearings, coverage of the Downing Street memo is finally beginning to leak into the media. In contrast, we've heard almost nothing about the degree to which this administration began actively fighting the Iraq war well in advance of the March 2003 official attack--before both the October 2002 US Congressional authorization and the November United Nations resolution requiring that Saddam Hussein open the country up to inspectors.

I follow Iraq pretty closely, but was taken aback when Charlie Clements, now head of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, described driving in a Baghdad neighborhood six months before the war "and a building would just explode, hit by a missile from 30,000 feet -'What is that building?'" Clements would ask. "'Oh, that's a telephone exchange.'" Later, at a conference at Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base, Clements heard a U.S. General boast "that he began taking out assets that could help in resisting an invasion at least six months before war was declared."

Earlier this month, Jeremy Scahill wrote a powerful piece on The Nation's website, describing a huge air assault in September 2002,

"Approximately 100 US and British planes flew from Kuwait into Iraqi airspace," Scahill writes. "At least seven types of aircraft were part of this massive operation, including US F-15 Strike Eagles and Royal Air Force Tornado ground-attack planes. They dropped precision-guided munitions on Saddam Hussein's major western air-defense facility, clearing the path for Special Forces helicopters that lay in wait in Jordan. Earlier attacks had been carried out against Iraqi command and control centers, radar detection systems, Revolutionary Guard units, communication centers and mobile air-defense systems. The Pentagon's goal was clear: Destroy Iraq's ability to resist."

Why aren't we talking about this? As Scahill points out, this was a month before the Congressional vote, and two before the UN resolution. Supposedly part of enforcing "no fly zones," the bombings were actually systematic assaults on Iraq's capacity to defend itself. The US had never declared war. Bush had no authorization, not even a fig leaf. He was simply attacking another nation because he'd decided to do so. This preemptive war preempted our own Congress, as well as international law.

I don't think most Americans know these prewar attacks ever happened, aside from those who've read Scahill's recent piece, or heard him on Democracy Now. I recall no mainline media coverage at the time, and little in the alternative press. The bombings that destroyed Iraq's air defenses were under the radar for both the American media and public.

If coverage of the Downing Street memo continues to increase, I suspect the administration will try to dismiss it as mere diplomatic talk, just inside baseball. But they weren't just manipulating intelligence so they could attack no matter how Saddam Hussein responded. They weren't only bribing would-be allies into participation. They were fighting a war they'd planned long before. They just didn't bother to tell the American public.

Paul Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books), named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and American Book Association. See www.theimpossible.org

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. The Enigmatic Flea has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is The Enigmatic Flea endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

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on emperor's old clothes ..... 

Both Colin Powell, US Secretary of State & Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's closest adviser, made clear before September 11, 2001 that Saddam Hussein was no threat - to America, Europe or the Middle East.

In Cairo, on February 24 2001, Powell said: ‘He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.’
This is the very opposite of what Bush & Blair said in public.
Powell even boasted that it was the US policy of ‘containment’ that had effectively disarmed the Iraqi dictator - again the very opposite of what Blair said time & time again. On May 15 2001, Powell went further & said that Saddam Hussein had not been able to ‘build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction’ for ‘the last 10 years’. America, he said, had been successful in keeping him ‘in a box’.
Two months later, Condoleezza Rice also described a weak, divided & militarily defenceless Iraq. ‘Saddam does not control the northern part of the country’, she said. ‘We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.’

Iraq: No Threat

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15 June 2005

hijacking catastrophe ..... 

9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire

by Karen Kwiatkowski (Lt. Col. USAF retired)

‘Hijacking Catastrophe is powerful, understated, straightforward and educational. In a single meticulously organized hour of evidence and analysis, viewers are treated to a thoughtful explanation of modern American empire, neo-conservatism as a driving force for the current Bush administration, and something I have not seen before, a real economic analysis of what is driving some of our current ‘global war on terror’.
The film examines the Bush Administration’s investment in neo-conservatism, and the early, and already horrific, results. While past performance is no guarantee of future earnings, Hijacking Catastrophe shows exactly why America’s ‘new conservatism’ is a pyramid scheme of inhumane proportions.
The film examines eight aspects of the current situation of American foreign policy. The film provides an explanation for the obvious continuity between Cold War policies and those of the present. It examines long-term neo-conservative thinking and how this peculiar version of Jacobin utopianism ascended from its rather inauspicious political roots. The film explores the dangerous territory of how the post 9-11 national shock was carefully cultivated by neo-conservatives in Washington to support their own long-held objectives in the Middle East.
Hijacking Catastrophe then documents the Pentagon and White House process of disinformation, exaggeration, and media-supported propaganda between 9-11 and America’s March 2003 invasion of Iraq. It describes the neo-conservative vision of military dominance over a supine, energy-rich Middle East, not only for its own sake, but as a warning to other potential international rivals.
Hijacking Catastrophe describes the cost of empire in a way so comprehensive that it becomes clear that neo-conservatism, as a foreign policy guide, comes with a very real moral, political and financial garnishment of every American, and of American children yet unborn. The cost is shown not only as a current financial outlay or in lives unlived on the part of soldiers and marines, but in terms of an alarming debt burden, loss of domestic freedom, the growing and invasive state, a permanent tattering of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.’
Hijacking Catastrophe

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13 June 2005

on the value of busking ..... 

The Editor
Sydney Morning Herald June 13, 2005

So Bono & Bob Geldorf have welcomed the G7 decision to write-off US$40billion in debt owed by the world’s poorest nations (‘Debt deal just the beginning, says Geldorf’, Herald, June 13)?

Would it were true.

Sadly, our well-intentioned prancing pop stars, like those they so badly wish to help, seem to have fallen victim to the latest cynical instalment of the west’s ongoing imperialistic shell-game.

Only US$10 billion owed by the world’s poorest is be ‘forgiven’, as this is the amount owed to multilateral institutions such as the IMF & the World Bank: the rest is owed to individual countries & the private sector.

Further, suggestions by British Chancellor, Gordon Brown, that aid to poor African countries will rise to US$50 billion over the next three years are also misleading, with the funds concerned to be raised through the international bond market in the first instance but to be backed by future government aid promises ie: no new money.

The reality is that the proposals approved by the G7 offer very little in the form of genuine debt reduction & the little that is offered is conditional on the countries concerned adopting policies supportive of the activities of trans-national corporations in exploiting their natural resources, in particular oil & minerals.

Hidden by the noise of the G7’s latest self-congratulatory announcements was news from the World Bank that more than US$20 billion or 40% of the world’s current aid budgets is misdirected or recycled in the form of ‘fees’ paid to consultants & has no direct impact on poverty.

And, if further perspective is required, British arms sales to the ‘new wild west’, as George Bush referred to Africa, have quietly quadrupled to more than £1 billion annually in the past four years, whilst the US has spent US$200 billion thus far on its war for ‘freedom & democracy’ in Iraq.

Keep busking boys.

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12 June 2005

on lying down with dogs ..... 

This month, General Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator of Pakistan, will visit Australia.

The good general is apparently visiting our haven of freedom & democracy to sign a ‘memorandum of understanding’ between Australia & Pakistan.

As there has been no announcement by the Howard government as the nature of the ‘memorandum’, its likely contents remain open to speculation.

Nevertheless, when interviewing the general on Dateline this week, George Negus canvassed the possibility that the memorandum might address government-to-government procedures for the handling of Australian citizens detained by Pakistan in the ‘war against terror’.

Pakistan is not a country brimming with ‘freedom & democracy’ (military dictators tend to discourage such inconveniences) & its handling of ‘detainees’, particularly those who have crossed its border from Afghanistan, has not only consistently contravened its own Constitution but also International law.

One Australian citizen who has had first-hand experience in such matters is Mamdouh Habib, who was pulled off a bus in Pakistan & arrested by intelligence officials, allegedly for objecting to the arrest of two German tourists who had been travelling on the same vehicle.

Habib was initially detained in Pakistan as a ‘suspected terrorist’, denied his rights under Pakistani law & then, in contravention of International law, ‘rendered’ to the custody of US officials & taken to Egypt.

Habib alleges that he was tortured in Egypt before being taken by the US to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he was held without charge & without access to due process for nearly three years: prior to his sudden release & return to Australia without charge earlier this year.

The Habib case raised all sorts of difficult & embarrassing questions for all the governments involved, including our own & if the memorandum of understanding to be signed between Pakistan & Australia is intended to address such issues, it will be particularly relevant to the tens of thousands of Australians who set-off to explore the silk route each year.

Mamdouh Habib was detained in Pakistan on October 5, 2001.

On October 29, 2001, the Australian High Commission in Islamabad advised Habib’s family in Sydney that he had been detained but that he had not been charged with any offence.

On December 20, 2001, some 21/2 months after he was detained in Pakistan, the Australian High Commission advised Habib’s family in Australia that they ‘believed he was being detained in Egypt.’

Article 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan provides legal safeguards in respect of arrest & detention. These include the right to be ‘informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest’ & the ‘right to consult & be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice’ & to be ‘produced before a magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of arrest’. Further legal safeguards are contained in the Pakistani Code of Criminal Procedure & other acts, including the Extradition Act, 1972.

The right to be treated in accordance with law without discrimination is explicitly recognised in the Pakistani Constitution as ‘the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he might be, and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan’.

Mamdouh Habib was never charged with any offence by the authorities in Pakistan & received no legal or consular assistance from our government & was never brought before a Pakistani court.

The Australian government has always asserted that it had no knowledge of the circumstances leading to Habib’s movement from Pakistan to Egypt, which begs the question as to what efforts our High Commission & government made to secure & protect the rights of this Australian citizen, held without charge in a foreign country & in contravention of the laws of that country for more than 2 months.

Re-enter general Musharraf.

When questioned by Dateline about Pakistani practices in dealing with ‘suspected terrorists’, the general said: ‘ …. the procedure that we follow that whoever we apprehend here, we ask the host country first of all because we don't want to keep them here after carrying out interrogation and corroborating with other evidence, we want to hand him over to the host country.’

General Musharraf went on to explain that: ‘Almost invariably we know that the countries don't want to take them. And therefore, we don't want them here and we hand them over to the United States.’

So Musharraf clearly suggested that the Australian government didn’t want Habib repatriated to Australia, once the Pakistani government had decided that it had no further reason to hold him & even though he had not been charged with any offence. Thereafter, just as Musharraf has claimed, Habib was handed-off to the US & promptly rendered to Egypt.

The actions of Pakistan & the US in arranging for Habib to be moved to Egypt were in direct contravention of customary International law, which includes the principle of ‘non-refoulement’ – a prohibition against states sending anyone to a territory where they would be at risk of human rights abuses. In cases where people risk torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, extrajudicial execution or ‘disappearance’ or arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, the prohibition of refoulement is absolute.

In acquiescing to this action, the Australian government was also in breach of International law & also failed in its primary duty of care to one of its citizens.

Habib’s treatment by the government of Pakistan was not exceptional. Pakistan’s record of such human rights abuses, particularly in handing-over ‘detainees’ to the US, is well documented: see the following Amnesty International Report Pakistan: Transfers to US custody without human rights guarantees - Amnesty International

Egypt’s reputation for torture is universally recognized & has been thoroughly documented & condemned for years by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International & even the US State Department.

Egypt’s regime of torture & abuse is not reserved just for ‘suspected terrorists’: quite to the contrary, torture & criminal abuse of prisoners is routine, even for the most trivial of reasons (see the following Amnesty International Reports from 2001 / 2002 Egypt: Torture Remains Rife - Amnesty International & Egypt: Systematic Torture Continues - Amnesty International

The US & Australian governments were well aware of the fate that awaited Habib in Egypt but they nevertheless facilitated his rendition to that country.

When George Negus asked Musharraf whether the ‘memorandum of understanding’ contemplated between Australia & Pakistan would specifically preclude the rendition of Australian citizens to countries that engage in torture, he said:

‘I believe whatever the memorandum of understanding, whatever the procedures, the policies we adopt, we should certainly not give comfort to the terrorist. We should give, in fact, comfort to acquiring information and intelligence from the individual and facilitating that.’

When Negus suggested that Habib could only at best have been regarded as a ‘suspected terrorist’, Musharraf said:

‘Well, originally, everyone is suspected, but when a person is suspected you start interrogating them and, I mean, these are difficult issues. I think the intelligence is doing very well to interrogate these people. For a few odd mistakes, it could be committed. I mean that should be acceptable.’

The general’s contempt for human rights, his own country’s Constitution & International law are evident not only from his remarks but by the behaviour of the military dictatorship that he heads in Pakistan.

But at least general Musharraf is honest enough not to deny his country’s position on such matters: unlike our own government.

The current Australian government has a remarkable record in ignoring its’ human rights obligations under International law, in particular when it comes to its own citizens.

Whilst it not only failed to provide any assistance to Mr Habib, the Australian government has the unique distinction of being the only government with citizens held at Guantanamo Bay not to have made representations to the US administration for their release & repatriation.

Even when the US administration finally decided to release Habib, our government persisted with its organized campaign to slander his reputation under the protection of parliamentary privilege, notwithstanding the fact that not a skerrick of evidence of any wrong doing on his part has been produced, even though he was subjected to torture.

And notwithstanding the outcome of the Habib affair, our government continues to ignore the plight of David Hicks, held at Guantanamo Bay for 31/2 years, charged with offences under US laws that were created more than 2 years after he was detained & facing a ‘trial’ governed by standards that are significantly inferior to judicial standards required under criminal & military law in both the US & Australia.

If found guilty, Hicks will have no right of independent appeal & even if he is found not guilty, there is no guarantee that he will ever be released.

But Hicks & Habib are not the only Australian citizens to have been caught-up in the so-called ‘war on terror’ & the trashing of International law by countries like Pakistan, Egypt, the US & Australia.

Dateline also detailed the case of Mohamed Abbass, another Australian citizen who disappeared from Egypt’s Cairo airport in 1999.

The Australian government claims that it doesn’t know where Abbass is, even though his wife has visited him in an Egyptian prison & Mamdouh Habib also claimed to have seen him in the same prison where he was being held in 2001.

When the Australian High Commission advised the Habib family back in 2001 that they ‘believed Habib was in Egypt’, it also said that the Egyptian government had denied any knowledge of him: a claim that was subsequently shown to be absolutely false.

The Egyptian government has also denied any knowledge of Mohamed Abbass, notwithstanding the direct evidence that he is being held in an Egyptian prison, & the Australian government has done nothing to secure his release.

Whilst the Australian government has responded to real & perceived public pressure to extend consular assistance & fund legal aid to assist Australians detained on drug charges in other countries, including Schapelle Corby & the ‘Bali 9’, it has failed to take any material action to protect & secure the legal & human rights of other Australians detained or allegedly detained by foreign governments in the absence of such pressure: thereby confirming that its stance is based purely on cynical political motives.

It is said that if you ‘lies down with dogs’, you shouldn’t be surprised if ‘you get up with fleas’.

To the shame of our nation, it is highly likely that General Musharraf will leave our once proud shores with a signed ‘memorandum of understanding’ that requires no change of behaviour on his part & accompanied by a good many more fleas than what he arrived with.

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