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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
U.S. Spy Boss: Iraq WMD Intel Failure Just 'A Bad Hair Day'
Calls Intel on Whether Iraq Had Nuclear Weapons 'The Single Worst Product' He Had Seen in His Career
By BRIAN ROSS
March 18, 2008—
The failure of U.S. intelligence in assessing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was like "a yearbook photo on your worst hair day ever," according to one of the country's top spy bosses, Thomas Fingar, deputy director of National Intelligence.
Fingar made the comment in defending the overall quality of U.S. intelligence during an appearance at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, five years to the week after the 2003 start of the Iraq war.
At another point, Fingar called the U.S. assessment of whether Iraq had nuclear weapons "the single worst product" he had seen in his 38 years serving in various U.S. intelligence agencies.
Fingar, who was at the State Department in 2003, says he has since instituted a number of new procedures to prevent a repeat of the intelligence failure that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, costing more than 3,900 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives.
Fingar said the CIA and other intelligence gatherers are required to better "scrub" information from their sources, and that intelligence analysis better reflects dissenting views.
CIA estimates on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction relied heavily on an Iraqi informant code-named "Curveball," who was later found to have fabricated his claims.
A former CIA official, Tyler Drumheller, told ABC News he was ignored when he tried to warn his superiors that "Curveball," controlled by the German secret service, was an unreliable informant.
Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures
Archivists block release of Clinton pardon papers
Chicago Tribune: What is Clinton hiding?
Judicial Watch Lawsuit Forces National Archives to Release Hillary Clinton’s White House Daily Schedule Records
Archives to Release Records on March 19 at 10 a.m.
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that the National Archives and Records Administration will release 11,046 pages of former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s daily schedule records, comprising 2,888 days of schedules, on March 19 at 10 a.m. in response to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit in the matter [Judicial Watch, Inc. v U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Civil Action No: 1:07-cv-01267 (JR)]. As soon as practical, Judicial Watch will post the documents on its Internet site at www.judicialwatch.org.
On March 1, the National Archives notified the U.S. District Court that it anticipated Hillary’s daily schedule records would be available on or before March 20, the date of a status hearing in Judicial Watch’s lawsuit: “The Clinton Presidential Library (“Library”) completed its exacting page-by-page, line-by-line review of approximately 10,000 of the 30,000 pages of records potentially responsive to [Judicial Watch’s] April 5, 2006 Freedom of Information Act request (“Request”) that is the subject of this action.”
The National Archives stated in its brief: “The Library has notified the Presidential representatives of the records scheduled for disclosure and anticipates that it will produce those records to plaintiff Judicial Watch, Inc. in advance of the March 20, 2008 hearing.” The National Archives, however, suggests it will take “one to two years” to begin processing Hillary Clinton’s telephone logs.
“It is about time. We’re pleased, thanks to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, that the American people will be able to review Hillary’s daily schedule records. The Clintons slow-pedaled this process but were unsuccessful in delaying the document release any further,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “However, this does not put an end to Judicial Watch’s pursuit of Hillary’s White House records, including her telephone logs. It would be an injustice to force the American people to wait ‘one to two years’ for the telephone logs of a candidate for the presidency. We are asking the court to force the National Archives to comply with the law and release these records as soon as possible.”
With respect to the telephone logs, Judicial Watch filed a new court brief on March 17, 2008 seeking limited discovery concerning the handling of documents requests by the Archives. Judicial Watch also seeks access to records related to the National Task Force on National Health Care Reform, a “cabinet-level” taskforce chaired by former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a separate lawsuit [Judicial Watch, Inc. v U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Civil Action No: 07-1987 (PLF)] .
For more information on Judicial Watch’s campaign to force the release of Hillary Clinton’s White House records, please visit www.judicialwatch.org.
March 18, 2008
McCain Says It's "Common Knowledge" That Iran Is Training Al Qaeda
So, if you were forming a terrorist group, would you call yourself, "The Toilet"?
By Robert, Sam and Nat Parry
March 18, 2008
Editor’s Note: The Iraq War – now ending its fifth bloody year – represents not only a human tragedy of enormous consequence and possibly the greatest strategic blunder in U.S. history but also a systemic failure of American political and journalistic institutions.
Instead of checking George W. Bush’s imperial impulse for the good of the Republic, the Congress – including Sen. Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats – and the national press corps tended to their careers and their political viability.
In recognition of this tragedy – and in honor of the thousands of American dead and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead – we are publishing the first of two excerpts from Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush:
Iraq’s “Day of Liberation” – as George W. Bush called it – was supposed to begin with a bombardment consisting of 3,000 U.S. missiles delivered over 48 hours, 10 times the number of bombs dropped during the first two days of the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
Officials, who were briefed on the plans, said the goal was to so stun the Iraqis that they would simply submit to the overwhelming force demonstrated by the U.S. military. Administration officials dubbed the strategy “shock and awe.”
In his 2003 State of the Union speech, Bush had addressed the “brave and oppressed people of Iraq” with the reassuring message that “your enemy is not surrounding your country – your enemy is ruling your country.”
Bush promised that the day that Saddam Hussein and his regime “are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.”
But never before in history had a dominant world power planned to strike a much weaker nation in a preemptive war with such ferocity. It would be liberation through devastation.
Many projections expected the deaths of thousands of Iraqi non-combatants, no matter how targeted or precise the U.S. weapons. For those civilians, their end would come in the dark terror of crushing concrete or in the blinding flash of high explosives.
In the prelude to the invasion, the United Nations predicted possibly more than 500,000 civilians injured or killed during the war and its aftermath and nearly one million displaced from their homes.
The International Study Team, a Canadian non-governmental organization, raised similar alarms. The invasion of Iraq would cause a “grave humanitarian disaster,” with potential casualties among children in “the tens of thousands, and possibly in the hundreds of thousands,” the group said.
Assuming U.S. forces succeeded in eliminating Saddam Hussein and his army with relative speed, the post-war period still promised to be complicated and dangerous. The Bush administration outlined plans to occupy Iraq for at least 18 months, installing a military governor in the style of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Japan after World War II.
But it was not clear how the United States would police a population that was certain to include anti-American militants ready to employ suicide bombings and other irregular tactics against an occupying force.
Bin Laden’s Message
There was the risk, too, that the U.S. invasion would play into the hands of Osama bin Laden, who circulated a message portraying himself as the defender of the Arab people.
“Anyone who tries to destroy our villages and cities, then we are going to destroy their villages and cities,” the al-Qaeda leader said. “Anyone who steals our fortunes, then we must destroy their economy. Anyone who kills our civilians, then we are going to kill their civilians.”
Some U.S. military strategists saw Bush’s war plan as the worst sort of wishful thinking.
What if the Iraqi army – instead of making itself an easy target for the U.S. missiles – melted into urban centers and began coordinating with an armed civilian population to resist a foreign invasion of their homeland? What if the Iraqi people chose to fight the American invaders, rather than shower them with rose petals?
Already, Saddam Hussein had begun concentrating his troops in urban centers and passing out AK-47s to Iraqis, young and old, men and women.
But Bush’s biggest gamble was whether the “shock and awe” bombardment from the air and the stunning American firepower during the ground invasion would intimidate the Iraqis into surrendering.
The relatively light invading force of a couple hundred thousand troops would be enough to take Baghdad, most military analysts believed, but significant resistance during the invasion would be an early sign that the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, was right when he told Congress that the occupation could require “several hundred thousand troops.”
After that alarming estimate, Shinseki was pushed into early retirement and drew a public rebuke from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who called Shinseki “wildly off the mark.”
A similar dispute erupted over the expected cost of the war. White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsay had estimated a figure as high as one or two percent of the gross national product or about $100 billion to $200 billion.
To head off American worries about this high cost, Bush’s budget director Mitch Daniels slapped down Lindsay’s estimate as “very, very high,” pegging it instead at between $50 billion and $60 billion. As for reconstruction costs, Wolfowitz and other administration officials suggested that Iraq’s oil revenues would pay for nearly all of that.
Lindsay was soon headed for the door, fired in December 2002 along with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, an even more outspoken Iraq War critic.
There is the old cliché about war, that its first casualty is truth. But – as U.S. forces began the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, still the evening of March 19 in Washington – an even more immediate casualty was the journalistic principle of objectivity.
Many U.S. news outlets dropped even the pretense of trying to stay neutral and just report the facts. TV anchors were soon opining about what strategies “we” should follow in prosecuting the Iraq War.
“One of the things that we don’t want to do is to destroy the infrastructure of Iraq because in a few days we’re going to own that country,” NBC’s Tom Brokaw explained as he sat among a panel of retired generals on the opening night of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
There was little sensitivity to the sensibilities of the region. U.S. networks used large floor maps of Iraq so American analysts could stride across the country to point out troop movements. They looked like giants towering over the Middle East.
When American troops faced resistance from Iraqi paramilitary fighters, Fox termed them “Saddam’s goons.” When Iraqi forces surrendered, they were paraded before U.S. cameras as “proof” that Iraqi resistance was crumbling.
Some of the scenes showed Iraqi POWs forced at gunpoint to kneel down with their hands behind their heads as they were patted down by U.S. soldiers. Network executives apparently felt no sense of irony when they ran these images over the words, “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the title for the coverage and the code name for the invasion.
Showing these degrading images of captured Iraqi soldiers generated not even the mildest concern. Neither the Bush administration nor a single U.S. reporter covering the war for the news networks observed that these scenes might violate the Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners of war.
But several days into the invasion, five American soldiers were captured in the southern city of Nasiriyah. When their images were broadcast on Iraqi TV, Bush administration officials immediately denounced the brief televised interviews as a violation of the Geneva Conventions, a charge that was repeated over and over by outraged U.S. television networks.
“It’s illegal to do things to POWs that are humiliating to those prisoners,” said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
In their collective outrage over Iraq’s alleged violation of international law, the U.S. networks seemed to forget the earlier scenes of the Iraqi POWs. They also left out how President Bush had stripped POWs captured in Afghanistan of their rights under the Geneva Conventions.
Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were shaved bald and forced to kneel down with their eyes, ears and mouths covered to deprive them of their senses. Their humiliation was broadcast widely for the world to see.
There also had been leaks to the news media that terrorist suspects were being subjected to “stress and duress” tactics, which in some cases could be considered forms of torture. U.S. officials admitted to the use of sleep deprivation in their interrogations of prisoners.
But senior U.S. officials defended these tactics, with one official telling The Washington Post, “If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job.”
Virtually confirming the new U.S. policy of using forms of torture, Cofer Black, former head of the CIA Counterterrorist Center, told a joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees that there was a new “operational flexibility” in dealing with suspected terrorists.
“There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11,” Black said. “After 9/11 the gloves come off.”
This background left many in the world shaking their heads over the U.S. outrage when Iraqi TV broadcast the videotapes of American POWs. The Bush administration – and the major American media – seemed to prefer their international law a la carte, picking and choosing when the rules should apply and when they shouldn’t.
As the invasion – or “liberation” – proceeded, Fox News and MSNBC competed in the sweepstakes to be the network that demonstrated the greatest pro-war patriotism.
Both Fox and MSNBC broadcast Madison Avenue-style montages of heroic American soldiers at war, amid thankful Iraqis and stirring background music. Fox News used a harmonica soundtrack of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
MSNBC brought even higher production values to its images of U.S. troops moving through Iraq. One segment ended with an American boy surrounded by yellow ribbons for his father at war, and the concluding slogan, “Home of the Brave.”
Another MSNBC montage showed happy Iraqis welcoming U.S. troops as liberators over the slogan, “Let Freedom Ring.”
Left out of these “news” montages – and much of the American news coverage – were images of death and destruction.
Rather than troubling Americans with gruesome pictures of mangled and dismembered Iraqi bodies, including many children, the cable networks, in particular, edited the war in ways that helped avoid negativity, boost ratings and give advertisers the feel-good content that plays best around their products.
Fox News may have pioneered the concept of casting the war in the gauzy light of heroic imagery, but the other U.S. networks weren’t far behind.
Not to be completely out-foxed, CNN offered startlingly different war coverage to Americans on domestic CNN than what other viewers saw on CNN International.
While domestic CNN focused on happy stories of American courage and appreciative Iraqis, CNNI carried more scenes of wounded civilians overflowing Iraqi hospitals.
“During the Gulf War in 1991, [CNN] presented a uniform global feed that showed the war largely through American eyes,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “Since then, CNN has developed several overseas networks that increasingly cater their programming to regional audiences and advertisers.”
Left unsaid by the Journal’s formulation of how CNN’s overseas affiliates “cater” to foreign audiences was the flip side of that coin, that domestic CNN was freer to shape a version of the news that was more satisfying to Americans.
Still, CNN – and MSNBC – lagged behind Fox in pulling in the viewers with super-patriotic war coverage, albeit not for lack of trying.
The U.S. networks fell over themselves to tell the glorious story of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was captured during the invasion’s early days. Her rescue was filmed by the U.S. military in the fuzzy green of night-vision equipment and played over and over again.
Only later was it revealed that the Lynch story had been embroidered for propaganda effect. The Iraqi doctors who had cared for Lynch said the rescue was staged, a kind of made-for-TV movie before it was destined to become a made-for-TV movie.
“They made a big show,” said Haitham Gizzy, a doctor who treated Lynch. “It was just a drama” filmed after Iraqi fighters had fled the scene and with only doctors manning the hospital.
While Americans were fed a steady diet of cheerleading journalism, the stronger-than-expected resistance from Iraqi forces on the ground in the war’s early days raised warning signs about trouble ahead.
Robert Parry tracked down some of his longtime military and intelligence sources who painted for him a much grimmer picture than was appearing in the major U.S. news media.
With the war less than two weeks old, he described their portents of disaster in a Consortiumnews.com article entitled “Bay of Pigs Meets Black Hawk Down.” It read:
“Whatever happens in the weeks ahead, George W. Bush has ‘lost’ the war in Iraq. The only question now is how big a price America will pay, both in terms of battlefield casualties and political hatred swelling around the world.
“That is the view slowly dawning on U.S. military analysts, who privately are asking whether the cost of ousting Saddam Hussein has grown so large that ‘victory’ will constitute a strategic defeat of historic proportions.
“At best, even assuming Saddam’s ouster, the Bush administration may be looking at an indefinite period of governing something akin to a California-size Gaza Strip.
“The chilling realization is spreading in Washington that Bush’s Iraqi debacle may be the mother of all presidential miscalculations – an extraordinary blend of Bay of Pigs-style wishful thinking with a ‘Black Hawk Down’ reliance on special operations to wipe out enemy leaders as a short-cut to victory.
“But the magnitude of the Iraq disaster could be far worse than either the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba in 1961 or the bloody miscalculations in Somalia in 1993. In both those cases, the U.S. government showed the tactical flexibility to extricate itself from military misjudgments without grave strategic damage.
“The CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion left a small army of Cuban exiles in the lurch when the rosy predictions of popular uprisings against Fidel Castro failed to materialize. To the nation’s advantage, however, President John Kennedy applied what he learned from the Bay of Pigs – that he shouldn’t blindly trust his military advisers – to navigate the far more dangerous Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
“The botched ‘Black Hawk Down’ raid in Mogadishu cost the lives of 18 U.S. soldiers, but President Bill Clinton then cut U.S. losses by recognizing the hopelessness of the leadership-decapitation strategy and withdrawing American troops from Somalia.
“Similarly, President Ronald Reagan pulled out U.S. forces from Lebanon in 1983 after a suicide bomber killed 241 Marines who were part of a force that had entered Beirut as peace-keepers but found itself drawn into the middle of a brutal civil war.”
Robert Parry continued: “Few analysts today, however, believe that George W. Bush and his senior advisers, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have the common sense to swallow the short-term bitter medicine of a cease-fire or a U.S. withdrawal.
“Rather than face the political music for admitting to the gross error of ordering an invasion in defiance of the United Nations and then misjudging the enemy, these U.S. leaders are expected to push forward no matter how bloody or ghastly their future course might be.
“Without doubt, the Bush administration misjudged the biggest question of the war: ‘Would the Iraqis fight?’ Happy visions of rose petals and cheers have given way to a grim reality of ambushes and suicide bombs.
“But the Bush pattern of miscalculation continues unabated. Bush seems to have cut himself off from internal dissent at the CIA and the Pentagon, where intelligence analysts and field generals warned against the wishful thinking that is proving lethal on the Iraqi battlefields. …
“Instead of recognizing their initial errors and rethinking their war strategy, Bush and his team are pressing forward confidently into what looks like a dreamscape of their own propaganda. …
“While the Bush administration once talked about administering Iraq for a couple of years after victory, that timetable was based on the pre-war assumptions that the war would be a ‘cakewalk’ and that the Iraqi population would welcome U.S. troops with open arms.
“After that easy victory, a U.S. proconsul administration would weed out Saddam loyalists and build a ‘representative’ government, apparently meaning that the U.S. would pick leaders from among Iraq’s various ethnic groups and tribes.
“However, now, with civilian casualties rising and a U.S. ‘victory’ possibly requiring a blood bath, the timeline for the post-war ‘reconstruction’ may need lengthening. Instead of a couple of years, the process could prove open-ended with fewer Iraqis willing to collaborate and more Iraqis determined to resist.
“A long occupation would be another grim prospect for American soldiers. Given what’s happened in the past 11 days, U.S. occupation troops and Iraqi collaborators can expect an extended period of scattered fighting that might well involve assassinations and bombings.
“U.S. troops, inexperienced with Iraqi culture and ignorant of the Arabic language, will be put in the predicament of making split-second decisions about whether to shoot some 14-year-old boy with a backpack or some 70-year-old woman in a chador. …
“Once the ‘shock and awe’ bombing failed to crack the regime and Iraqis showed they were willing to fight in southern Iraqi cities – such as Umm Qasr, Basra and Nasiriyah – where Saddam’s support was considered weak, Bush’s initial war strategy was shown to be a grave mistake.
“The supposedly decisive ‘shock and awe’ bombing in the war’s opening days amounted to TV pyrotechnics that did little more than blow up empty government buildings, including Saddam’s tackily decorated palaces. The U.S. had so telegraphed the punch that the buildings had been evacuated. …
“Unwittingly, Bush may be applying all the wrong lessons from America’s worst military disasters of the past 40-plus years. He’s mixing risky military tactics with a heavy reliance on propaganda and a large dose of wishful thinking.
“Bush also has guessed wrong on the one crucial ingredient that would separate meaningful victory from the political defeat that is now looming. He completely miscalculated the reaction of the Iraqi people to an invasion.
“More and more, Bush appears to be heading toward that ultimate lesson of U.S. military futility. He’s committed himself – and the nation – to destroying Iraq in order to save it.”
Part Two: Stiffer-Than-Expected Resistance
Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek, wrote Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. It can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. Or go to Amazon.com.
Voting machine firm threatens Princeton prof should he dare to publish any information regarding the behavior of their machines
March 17th, 2008 by Ed Felten
A copy of an email I received has been passed around on various mailing lists. Several people, including reporters, have asked me to confirm its authenticity. Since everyone seems to have read it already, I might as well publish it here. Yes, it is genuine.
Sender: Smith, Ed [address redacted]@sequoiavote.com
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Subject: Sequoia Advantage voting machines from New Jersey
Date: Fri, Mar 14, 2008 at 6:16 PM
Dear Professors Felten and Appel:
As you have likely read in the news media, certain New Jersey election officials have stated that they plan to send to you one or more Sequoia Advantage voting machines for analysis. I want to make you aware that if the County does so, it violates their established Sequoia licensing Agreement for use of the voting system. Sequoia has also retained counsel to stop any infringement of our intellectual properties, including any non-compliant analysis. We will also take appropriate steps to protect against any publication of Sequoia software, its behavior, reports regarding same or any other infringement of our intellectual property.
Very truly yours,
Sequoia Voting Systems
[contact information and boilerplate redacted]
By Eman A. Khamas
Whether their name is sectarian militias, paramilitary groups, death squads, mercenaries, criminal gangs, rogue elements in the new Iraqi security forces (no matter what they are called or how different they are), it is said they are controlling Iraq now and turning it into a no-man's land. It is said that the American occupation authorities, and their Iraqi agents in the government are helplessly incapable of controlling them. That they are ever stronger, better functioning, and more organized , and that they are consolidating their control over the north and the south of Iraq, making its division a de facto truth.
Operating independently, or as part of the Iraqi government security forces trained and equipped by the US, these gangs have committed the worst of atrocities, five years after the fall of the State of Iraq. They have dismantled the society and the State, robbed the country, kidnapped, brutally tortured and assassinated thousands, drove millions of their houses, terrorized the citizens, the question remains why and how is it possible for them to commit all these crimes, and why there is no investigation or judicial pursuit for them all these year.
The propaganda that preceded the American invasion and accompanied it created a myth that the occupation would do justice to the Shiites and Kurds who were persecuted by the Sunnis in the last regime or even through history, and the word Sunni , even Arab , was connected to the last regime, the Baath, and later to what is called insurgency, terrorism, resistance …etc. Remember the Sunni Triangle? A new division among the Iraqis was created between those who were supposed to accept the occupation because it would serve their interests, and those who rejected it, because it was against their interests. Of course this myth was eventually dispersed, but it created a seed of some kind of segregation by the sectarian parties and the occupation authorities.
From the first days after the American occupation, (then) unknown gangs led mob-raids on the State facilities, the libraries, the museums, destroyed the official documents of the ministries and other institutions, looted and then burned the governmental buildings while the American troops were watching supportively, not to say anything about the buildings which were destroyed by the bombing. They systematically dismantled the industrial infrastructure of Iraq , and sold it as scrap to Iran, and the Iraqi people were too shocked and bewildered to ask what was going on, or why, and took it as chaos due to the absence of authority, they could not imagine that any sectarian militias would do such things…
In the summer of 2003, a newspaper of the same sectarian party was publishing previously prepared lists of names of Iraqi personalities to be assassinated, the lists were also put on the internet. All of them were either high officials in the Iraqi State, or just well known scientists, academics, diplomats, writers, artists…etc. The majority of them were Sunnis.
On the other hand, even before the occupation, hundreds of Iraqis were trained by the American intelligence agency and US army special operatives, somewhere in eastern Europe or in the U.S, to accompany the invading troops as paramilitary units, and help in the counter insurgency war.
These agent units composed the nucleus and the senior officers of the new Iraqi security forces, after the original forces were completely disbanded. The majority of them were Shiites and Kurds, connected to the major parties which were brought to Iraq by the occupation: the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, the Dawa, the two main Kurdish parties, the Allawi and the Chalabi militias, working under the American supervision.
When the new Iraqi security forces were established in June 2004, they were chosen solely of these militias, specially of the Badr Brigades, the Iranian-trained wing of SCIRI , which constituted the Ministry of Interior commandos, and especially the Woolf Brigades, and the Kurdish Peshmerga. The Sadr militia, known as Jeish Al-Mahdi was "given" the Facilities Protection services, although they joined the police as ranks later in 2005 and specially in 2006. Other commandos brigades, such as the snake, the scorpion, the thunder, the tiger…are just different names for similar forces.
The Peshmerga, however, is a different story. Known as the liberators of Kurdistan, they supported the US occupation troops in 2003, and also in Fallujah. More than 100.000 militia men serving in the security forces of the regional government of Kurdistan. They are abducting thousands of Arabs, Turkmens and other minorities from Mosul, Kirkuk, and other hundreds of smaller towns and villages in the north of Iraq, and imprisoning them in many secret prisons, of which only five are known in Suleimaniya, Arbil, Shaqlawa, Dahok, and Aqrah …and the Peshmerga refuse to admit that. Trained by hundreds of elite Israeli intelligence officers, the Peshmerga four battalions are controlling Mosul, practicing brutal ethnic cleansing in Kirkuk and many other northern towns. They forced 100.000 Arab families out of Kirkuk, again committing different kinds on grave human rights violations. Eye witnesses of a huge explosion in Mosul last January, which killed tens families and injured hundreds, say that the Peshmerga was behind it.
The Iraqis were shocked by the extremely brutal techniques that the Iraqi police and the American troops were using to track down what they call "insurgency". A woman in her mid sixties was repeatedly raped by 13 Kurdish militiamen in Kirkuk, for example, a whole village was burnt south of Baghdad, its men arrested and tortured and killed because an American convoy was attacked in a place near by… But it is very important to mention here that it was in the interest of both sides (the Americans and their Iraqi agents) that the reputation of extreme brutality was deliberately attributed to the sectarian and ethnic militias, more than to their Americas. On the one hand to provoke the sectarian tensions, and to give the occupation a better humane face. Even after Abu Greib, families were very anxious to know if their sons were arrested by the Americans, not the Iraqi forces!!
Politically, decisions were made to deepen the discrimination sensitivities among the Iraqis: creating a governing council along sectarian and ethnic representation, a constitution draft focusing on the diversity (not the unity) of the Iraqi people and on federalism, the hasty elections and electoral fuss which provoked sectarianism, the decision to do the election for the transitional government in 2004, attacking Fallujah in the name of preparing the ground for the election, but worst of all was Bremer's decision of including the sectarian militias in the security forces, as away to fight the insurgency and also to find a solution for the private armed militias. Actually, they provided an official cover to the sectarian killings and death squads, giving the militia-loyal policemen, mostly Shiite, the money, training, and the weapon to scourge the other sect. Tow years later, the American commander general Petraeus, created yet a new militia, the Awakening councils, of Sunnis who are supposed to fight Al-Qaida, obviously they are a Sunni militia equivalent to the Shiite militias, specially Sadrists . They are supposed to protect their areas were they attacked by other sectarian militias, thus Petraeus planted more seeds for civil war, on grassroots level this time.
Probably the first obvious blow to the social fabric was when these Iraqi sectarian and ethnic troops were used to kill their brothers in Fallujah, and the propaganda that accompanied that. One of the new Iraqi TVs put pictures of some militias dancing a specific local dance of Kurdistan on the bodies of families in Fallujah, refugees running away from the bombing told stories of how the sectarian policemen humiliated their faith and forced them to say bad words against their sacred symbols and such absurdities, leading to deepen the divisions.
Interestingly enough, the Iraqis were completely aware of the sectarian game. Demonstrations usually raise slogans against sectarianism. In fact, culturally, the Iraqis used to consider it rather un civilized or uncouth to ask or to talk about the ones' religious or sectarian affiliations. During the Fallujah attacks Shiite villages and towns took Sunni families in, near Karbala, the heart of Shiism. Shiite young men volunteered to fight with the Sunnis against the Americans in Fallujah. In the bridge stampede which killed about one thousands Shiites in 2005, people talk about a young Sunni, Othman, who managed to save lives of 6 Shiites from drowning, then he drowned of exhaustion and died. A Shiite friend, now , at this moment, is hiding 5 young Sunnis whose lives are threatened…etc.
After the Fallujah massacre, and the atrocities in the prisons of Abu Greib, Bucca, Badush and others, came the transitional government of Al-Jafari (Dawa party), which was very keen on giving the impression of being extremely sectarian and ruthless. A Badr Brigades officer, and a SCIRI senior, Bayan Jabr, was appointed a minister of Interior. He purged the ministry of any Sunni officer. During 2005, horrible stories were coming from different areas of Baghdad and out of the prisons. Families repeatedly talk bout tens of young men in uniform and in the interior ministry cars raiding certain neighborhoods, arresting men, who never come back again. When the families ask in the ministry of interior or in the police stations, the officials deny to have anything to do with the raids or to know anything about them.
The bodies of these arrested men are found some days later in remote places, in the garbage, or in the morgue, savagely tortured, executed and mutilated. Their trade marks are eyes torn out, bones and limbs broken, head and chest full of drill holes, burned skin…skin diseases spread due to lack of hygienic atmosphere. Released prisoners talk about notorious conditions inside the over crowded prisons, to the point that the air becomes insufficient… The targets are normally Sunni personalities, especially those well known for defying the occupation. What is really striking and conspicuous was how these thousands of crimes were never investigated, and always ignored by the occupation, and the immunity the police has to do the raids, which normally take hours after midnight, during the curfew, with tens of men and cars, shooting, shouting, without any one noticing what was going on.
The number of these prisoner is unknown, but according to the human rights organizations, they are 160.000-180.000. In this atmosphere operation "Lightening/Thunder" was done, and obviously failed. It was an American-Iraqi joint operation to impose security on Baghdad. What happened was an operation limited to few areas of the capital, with Sunni majority, to clean it of "terrorists" while other areas of Baghdad, well known to be the strong holds of the sectarian militias are exempt of any search. The result was arresting 6 hundreds of men, mainly on sectarian bases.
When Maliki got the office of prime minister, it took him 5 months to fix a coalition government in 2006 , but he could do that only through a deal with the Sadr militia, giving them 6 ministries of services, and a green light to carry out their sectarian agenda of cleansing the mixed neighborhoods of Baghdad and the surrounding areas, with the police complete complicity, and support. The new minister of interior Jawad Bloani, encouraged the infiltration of the sectarian militias as never before. In the words of the International Crisis Group "the Sadrists controlled new territories, attracted new recruits, accumulated recourses, and infiltrated the police…they were engaged in abhorrent sectarian killings, and restored to plunder and theft…executed untold numbers of Sunnis…merely because they were Sunnis".
Appalling stories began to come out of Iraq, of systematic sectarian cleansing, specially after the bombing of the Samarra Shrine. Tow more joint military operations were conducted in Baghdad in 2006-07. The same scenario was carried out regarding the exemption of the sectarian militias of any pursuit. In the south, however, the situation is different. The struggle is intr-Shiite militias. The Badr brigades are the most powerful and has moved aggressively to control the police in Amara, Diwaniya, and Nassiriya... They are accused of many assassinations of former officers, academics and professionals…other militias want their share of power, specially the Sadr militia and the Fadhila party. Many times, the conflict turned into armed fighting.
Last week, prime minister Maliki ordered that all the Iraqis have to hold their civil status IDs , not their personal of professional IDs, which is a very strange and dangerous decision, given the fact that in the civil Id, it is mentioned the full name of the person, his mothers', his tribe, his religion, his birth place…practically telling his sectarian affiliation, even if he does not believe in it. It is strange and dangerous because Maliki knows very well, and he has admitted it many times that the Iraqi security forces are infiltrated by what he called rogue elements, e.g. sectarian militias, who would use these information to liquidate the other sect.
On the other hand, Maliki knows very well, too, that there are false check points in the streets, specially of Baghdad, made by militias in uniform, and they would use these information to commit all their crimes of assassinations, kidnappings, killings… the question remains why would Maliki offer the militias this great help? On the other hand, at least 18.000 new militia member joined the security forces since the second half of last year, according to many sources.
For the Americans it was very useful this state of terror. Many eye witnesses talk about militias' raids done in daylight, with the American and the Iraqi forces watching and not moving a finger to help the victims. It is illogical that all these thousands of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, illegal raids, illegal check points which kidnap people and kill them, and horrible torture linked to the militias would go unnoticed.
These militias argue that the Sunni "terrorists", namely al-Qaida, are targeting the Shiite or mixed civilians in crowded areas like market places, bus garages, mosques, other religious gatherings…etc. They were attacked, killing thousands of them, in un understandable operations that kill the Iraqis, and does not hurt neither the occupiers, the political parties, nor the resistance…very mysterious and atrocious, specially that no one declares responsibility for them. Again they go un investigated or questioned. The question remains who would benefit from these mass killings? And the only logical answer we have is the American occupation itself, or any of the foreign intelligence elements who would benefit from the collapse of Iraq as a unified country.
It is well known now that the war in Iraq is also a mercenary war, there are dozens of thousands of foreign mercenaries, 180.000 hired killers, very beautifully paid by the American government (1000-1500$ a day) . Supervised by CIA "experts" , Bremer exempted them from having to obey any law, neither the Iraqi, nor the Pentagon. Armed men from Latin America to South Africa to eastern Europe to Asia…outlawed by the Geneva conventions, there they are in tens of thousands. In addition, there thousands of intelligence agents from all over the world, especially U.S., U.K., Israel, Iran. All these military men are not in Iraq for picnic. All serve their own agendas, there are stories by eyewitnesses of strange people and cars being near the place of the explosion which happens immediately after they leave, we have the outrageous story of the two British spies who were caught in Basra, wearing Arabic dresses, their cars heavily loaded with weapons, in the middle of the crowd. We do not know so far who exploded the U.N. headquarter, or the Samarra shrines…But we know that the American authorities in Iraq prevented the result of the investigation of the U.N. explosion to be declared.
By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
Can the Zionist militaristic society, with a century old blue print plan of action to settle Jews in all of Palestine, make concessions and compromise for the sake of peace? No, especially if it is the region’s only super-power supported and defended by the world’s only super-power. The Zionists have been either fighting a war or preparing to fight a war in Palestine and across its borders long before the establishment of Israel. Israel has been a military camp where every Israeli adult, male or female, is a soldier trained to kill. War science and technology and the Israeli warriors have become big commercial commodities ready for export as consultants and advisors. Israel’s military experience is sought by many countries after every one of its unending wars. Israeli leaders never set fixed borders for their state since its establishment. They always considered the pre-1967 borders as temporary armistice demarcation lines and that the land of Israel is “wherever the boots of its soldiers tread”.
Jewish historian Howard Sachar writes that Valdimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky has been considered by many historians as the second most charismatic Zionist figure after Theodore Herzl. Jabotinsky, a skillful journalist, eloquent orator and an ardent Zionist, was born in Odessa, Russia in 1880, immigrated to Palestine then exiled by Jamal Pasha, the Turkish military governor in Palestine. He pressed for colonizing Palestine by large scale immigration and the establishment of the Yishuv (pre-1948 settlements) armed forces in Palestine. Jabotinsky founded the Para-military Haganah organization in the Yishuv because he strongly believed that military power was necessary for establishing the Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River. He argued that since the Arabs would never agree voluntarily to turn Palestine into a country with Jewish majority, the Jews should establish settlements under the protection of their own military “behind an iron wall which they [the Arabs] will be powerless to break down”.
To enhance the British support for the Zionist program, Jabotinsky joined Joseph Trumpeldor, another exiled Zionist leader, in establishing a Jewish volunteer military unit within the British army to fight against the Turks in World War I. The decision to offer services to the war effort through several Jewish military units with their own Jewish symbols was a long term strategy by the Jewish leadership to develop and train the nucleus of the future military that would fight to establish and defend Israel. When Jabotinsky died in 1941, Menachem Begin emerged as his successor and became the leader of the Etzel organization.
Contrary to the prevailing perception of the 1948 Arab Israeli war, the 400,000 Jews in Palestine were able to provide more fighting men and women than all the invading Arab armies combined. According to Sir John Bagot Glubb, the Commader of the Arab Legion, Egypt dispatched 10,000 men, Syria 3,000, Lebanon 1,000, Iraq 3,000, and Trans-Jordan provided 4,500 soldiers. The military planning and extensive training to fight was another factor in providing the armed Jewish organizations with more strength and superiority in the 1948 war. Many of them had combat experience fighting against the Arab rebels in 1936-39 and later on against the Nazis with the British and the United States armies in World War II. The highly motivated veterans of the Haganah supported by the armed members of the Irgun, Stern, and LEHI paramilitary organizations were more than a match for the Arab armies that never had war experience. Arab military were poorly trained, badly equipped, and most importantly, their civilian leaders were rife with corruption. Israel defeated the Arab armies and by August 1949, an armistice agreement was announced by the U.N. Security Council. David Ben-Gurion led Israel to victory in 1948. Israel under all its historic leaders since Ben-Gurion never abandoned the Zionist strategy to dominate through overwhelming military power.
For Ben-Gurion, the 1948 War of Independence was only one step toward achieving the Great Zionist enterprise. After the 1949 armistice agreements with the Arabs, Ben-Gurion treated the negotiated borders only as temporary demarcations because he planned on expanding the State of Israel to absorb the thousands of Jewish immigrants who had been arriving in Israel every year. He wrote in his memoir that, “We [the Jews] have to set up a dynamic state bent upon expansion”. Ben-Gurion talked and wrote about peace with the Arab states, but his actions suggest he was reluctant to pursue permanent peace on the basis of the UN resolutions regarding the Arab refugees’ right of return. The armistice agreements provided Israel with immediate international recognition and security, and the potential to expand in the long run. With the passage of time the world forgets the UN resolutions regarding the partition or the right of return for the Palestinian refugees. In the meantime, Israel would use its military superiority and expand its borders when there was an opportunity to conquer more land.
Ben-Gurion believed that nuclear weapons that can be used as a deterrent to the Arab world would strengthen Israel. He authorized then Director-General of Defense, Shimon Peres, to seek a nuclear reactor from France to produce nuclear weapons. France built in 1957 the reactor in southern Israel with the capacity to produce weapon grade plutonium fuel and supplied the needed natural uranium to fuel it. Mordechai Vanunu, a technician from Dimona nuclear facilities, stole classified documents from his work-place, immigrated to Australia and published some secrets about Israel’s nuclear activity in the London Sunday Times in October 1986. He unveiled information about a sophisticated nuclear program that had produced over 200 bombs deliverable by F-16 aircrafts and Jericho missiles.
In the quest to establish a Jewish state over the whole of Palestine, there have been many Zionist parties and organizations, but they all strongly believed that the support of the great powers was indispensable in the struggle for creating and defending the Jewish state. The Zionists however, never hesitated to fight back against any groups or states including the great powers with acts of violence if their plans were even marginally undermined. There are known examples that support this view. When the Zionists perceived a change in the policy of the British regarding the partitioning of Palestine, they fought back with guns and explosives. Britain provided the Zionists with the most important tool to establish a homeland, the Balfour Declaration, but the beneficiaries of the Declaration revolted against the mandate authority, killed and even hanged British officers when the Malcolm MacDonald White Paper that called for one independent state was released in 1939.
On another occasion, the Israeli Air-force shot down five British unarmed reconnaissance planes on January 7, 1949 for their non-hostile flight over the borders with Egypt. Another example was the contempt the Zionists showed for the UN personnel when it was perceived not to adopt their policies. Despite the UN contribution to the establishment of Israel, members of Jewish militant nationalists assassinated its appointed mediator in 1949 for his views on the Palestinian refugee’s right of return. The United States has been supporting and defending the State of Israel before and after its inception, but the Israeli air force attacked the US reconnaissance ship, Liberty, off the coast of Gaza killing 34 and injuring 171 sailors during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It is believed that the Israelis attacked the ship to prevent its crew from hearing incriminating radio traffic regarding the treatment of the Egyptian prisoners of war.
Today, Israel occupies all of Palestine, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Lebanese Sheeba Farms and implements repressive measures against their indigenous population, especially in Palestine, because no one can challenge its military superiority. This land became the only region in the world under occupation by a neighboring country. Israel has created apartheid regime in the West Bank and applied sanctions and collective punishment to starve Palestinians who refuse to accept its humiliating conditions. Israel has been conducting a systematic holocaust in Gaza by its own government admission, daily assassinations in the West Bank and cleansing in Jerusalem.
The Israeli air force flew hundreds of miles, violating the airspace sovereignty of Turkey, bombed and destroyed a suspected research project under construction that belongs to Syria, a victim of the Israeli occupation. And Israel threatens to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities located one thousand miles beyond its borders so that it will continue to monopolize military superiority in the Middle East. Israel in effect became the bully and the policeman of the region only because it can, and there is no opposing military power to restrain it.
The Israelis believe every crisis has a military solution, and if the military failed, their Israeli critics blame it on the execution of the plan rather than on its rational. The Winograd commission criticized the handling of the 2006 war against Lebanon, not the rational of destroying Lebanon and killing more than thousand Lebanese because two Israel soldiers were taken prisoners by Hizbullah.
The Israeli leaders are talking about peace, but their actions in the occupied lands preclude any possibility of real peace. Peace for the Israelis means the surrender of every Palestinian in a military sense. In the struggle to have an independent state of their own in a small part of their ancestral land, the Palestinians can win the moral arguments. But in the absence of the will to enforce the UN resolutions and the international laws, their relations with the Israel is based only on the balance of power rather than on the morality of the their case.
Given the power asymmetry between Israel and the Arab states, which have been reduced to spectators or collaborators pretending that the present fiasco will lead to peace, it is hard to persuade the militaristic Israelis to make concessions and compromise for the sake of a just peace.
-Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan,Ph.D, is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
Reprieve reproduced Scream for Freedom from a description provided by al-Hajj
The US army has banned the publication of four cartoons drawn by Sami al-Hajj, the Al Jazeera cameraman held in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, according to his lawyer.
The pieces, called Sketches of My Nightmare, include a drawing depicting al-Hajj, who has been on hunger strike for eight months, as a skeleton being force fed by US guards.
The drawings were submitted to the military censor but they would not permit their release.
However, detailed descriptions of the sketches were allowed through the censorship process and Lewis Peake, a political cartoonist, was able to recreate one entitled Scream for Freedom.
Al Hajj described the way he sees himself being force fed in the so-called "Torture Chair" - the restraint chair into which they are strapped twice a day to have a 110cm tube forcibly inserted into one nostril so that liquid food can be administered.
The tube is pulled out after each feeding and the prisoner is left in the chair for up to two hours so he can be force fed again if he vomits.
"The first sketch is just a skeleton in the torture chair," he explained.
"My picture reflects my nightmares of what I must look like, with my head double-strapped down, a tube in my nose, a black mask over my mouth, with no eyes and only giant cheekbones, my teeth jutting out – my bones showing in every detail, every rib, every joint.
|Sami al-Hajj was seized as covered|
the Afghan war for Al Jazeera
"They are sitting like we do in interrogations, with hands shackled, feet shackled to the floor, just waiting. In between I draw the flag of Guantanamo – JTF-GTMO – but instead of the normal insignia, there is a skull and crossbones, the real symbol of what is happening here," he said.
Cori Crider, one of the Al Jazeera cameraman's lawyers, said that he first showed her the "very gruesome and incredibly detailed sketches" when she visited him on February 1.
"He explained he felt compelled to express the nightmare that he and the rest of the hunger strikers in Guantánamo have been suffering. Sami's sketches spoke volumes about what he goes through every time they strap him into that chair for forcefeeding," Crider said.
The cartoonist is also reproducing the other three sketches which show other aspects of the prisoners' treatment in US custody, Reprieve, a British charity which provides legal representation to Guantanamo detainees, said.
"You have to question, I have to question as an American, why the US government thinks that free speech in the form of this picture is a somehow a threat to US national security," Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, said.
He suggested that the US military was censoring the images to keep details of the treatment of Guantanamo detainees out of the media.
"I have seen plenty of evidence that is extremely embarrassing to the American government, and that's because this sort of picture gives you a visual image of what poor Sami goes through twice a day.
"I think a picture sometimes paints a thousand words, and I think that is what the US government is afraid of," he told Al Jazeera.
Al-Hajj was seized by the US military while he was covering the war in Afghanistan for Al Jazeera's Arabic channel and has been held as an "enemy combatant" without trial or charge since 2001.