Saturday, May 31, 2003

This is the best letter I've read on the anarchy that is Iraq, a country which has come to resemble a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. One excerpt:

"Sheik Ali Ala leads me through a slum bordering on Sadr City (formerly
Saddam City). He has installed a makeshift first aid station in a school.
Children with burned faces are being treated here; there is a paraplegic
boy whose spinal cord has been severed by a projectile. Doubled up, he
lies in a corner. Innumerable patients are waiting in the courtyard.
The first aid station is set up in the empty rooms of a school - a school
where there is no water, no electricity, no glass in the windows and where
some of the children are being taught while sitting on the floor. The
public teachers who teach here have recently called on the sheik - for
almost three months there has been no pay and they do not know how they
can survive. Approximately 50,000 people live in this slum which has
neither sewers nor functioning running water. The sheik tells of many
civilian victims in this residential quarter. The Iraqi army had
positioned its tanks near the residential buildings and the Americans
bombarded these buildings and killed the inhabitants. Cluster bombs were
also used here. In a ruined apartment building the sheik shows me an
unexploded bomb. Someone asked the Americans to remove it because it is
hard to keep the children away from it. The response was that clearance
work was not their responsibility."

More on Iraq:
  • In Baghdad:

    1. The complete lack of security, and the absence of any real policing, continues to be the main problem.

    2. The total incompetence of the American occupiers means that garbage is still not collected, people are still not being paid (and therefore have insufficient money for food), the water system still doesn't work, and people have to stay cooped up in their increasingly hot houses as it is too dangerous to go out (they can no longer sleep on their roofs at night because of the danger of gunfire). The lawlessness has led to a combination of vigilanteism and strict fundamentalist control.

    3. American troops raided the Palestinian Authority's mission in Baghdad, ransacked the building, and arrested a number of people, including its charge d'affairs. It's nice to know that the Israeli dirty-work squad, formerly known as the American Army, is on the job.

    4. Orphanages have been looted, thus throwing children who lived there out on the streets.



  • In Basra:

    1. The United Nations says that the number of confirmed cases of cholera is already higher than in the whole of last year (64 cases already, with many more cases probably as yet undetected, as compared to 39 for all of last year). Of course, the number of cases last year would have been elevated because of the application of the punitively-applied Anglo-American sanctions.

    2. Garbage:

      "The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported an agreement to resume the cleanup of garbage that has been accumulating on the streets of Basra, Iraq's second largest city, for more than two months, posing a potential health hazard.

      The accord was signed by UN agencies, coalition forces, the United States Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and municipal authorities."

      If this kind of multilateral agreement is required to pick up the last two months of garbage, it is little wonder that nothing is getting done.

    3. Generally, by British MP Bernard Jenkin, who has recently returned from Iraq:

      "In Basra itself, there is an impression that things are half-working - markets are buzzing (there is not a shortage of food in Basra at the moment), shops are open, there are cars on the roads. Even smart yellow buses are running, but all this gives a false impression. In reality, nobody is in charge of anything. The only reason there are buses is because the drivers themselves hid them during the conflict. They now run each bus as a private business. There is no bus company or municipal authority, no rubbish collection, virtually no public services of any kind, no courts, no magistrates or prison service. There are piles of rubble, burnt-out vehicles and squalor in the streets. There are queues at petrol stations, for cooking gas and for potable water delivered by British army tankers."


    4. The love for democracy expressed as one of the reasons for the attack on Iraq by Blair-Bush is only a theoretical love, as the British have disbanded the city council in Basra, a council they were quite proud of a few weeks ago. The stated reason for the disbandment is that the council was dominated by hated Baathists, which may be true, but the locals are understandably upset that the local government is now going to be run by the British. If they really cared about democracy, they would get rid of the bad leader, but leave a locally chosen council in place as the local government.



  • In Hit, the Americans arrived to disarm the population, applied their usual charm - NOT! - and were met with a riot. The general failure of social services and the failure to pay salaries have led to a simmering anger in the whole country, and anger which came to the boil when combined with overly aggressive house invasions by the clumsy American troops. To add to the anger, the Americans used the assistance of the hated local police in their gun searches. Resident Amer Aziz said:

    "The Iraqi police were very rough with our women. They forced their way into houses without knocking, sometimes when women were sleeping. This is a very conservative town."

    The most interesting aspect of the searches is that the appear to be a form of revenge taken by the Americans for the previous day's rocket-propelled grenade firing on a U.S. convoy. Fawzi Saud, a teacher whose house was searched Tuesday, said:

    "They are provoking us. This is a violation of our dignity.They have no right to enter our house and search it.I'm not a soldier, I'm not a policeman, I'm not a party member."

    Unless the Americans grow some brains soon, it is going to be a long summer.

  • On Nasiriyah, by Salam Pax on May 22 (I find it amusing that Salam Pax was the hero of the warmongers until he had the bad taste to say some things mildly critical of the people who were dropping bombs on his head, at which point he became some sort of Baathist spy for Saddam):

    "Something in the Nasiriyah electricity station exploded, this station feeds most of the southern areas with the exception of Basra. Between Karbala and Diwaniya the grid is down. Nasiriayh does not have drinking water at all and people are drinking untreated river water, you can imagine what that will do. An hour and a half down the road is Basra where the RO Water is now more than they need but no one is driving water tanks to Nasiriyah. The type of 'humanitarian aid' reaching the southern governorates turns the situation into a sick comedy. Nasiriayh Hospital got 20 boxes; six of them had only shampoo in them. Need a blood transfusion? Have shampoo, it smells nice. Another four or five were full of past-use-date stitching thread. In Basra the trucks of 'humanitarian aid' coming from Saudi Arabia have crates of Pepsi in them. The Pediatric ward there is running out of medicine to suppress a fever, but they do have Pepsi. If this was in a movie it would be hilarious."


  • Villagers in the area of the looted Tuwaitha nuclear facility continue to show signs of radiation poisoning, probably caused by the radioactive material in the containers they looted. The Americans have finally allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the site to see how bad the situation is. Looting continues, as the Americans, after removing the Iraqi guards, still haven't placed sufficient troops at the site. A source close to the IAEA said:

    "It's been two months now. It's absolutely crazy. If you've got a nuclear emergency, you get the IAEA in. It's getting the sheepdog to look after the sheep."


  • Looters are starting to steal from the gasoline pipelines (you can bet that gasoline looting won't be tolerated as the other looting is, as gasoline looting reaches right into Bush's friends' pockets).

  • British troops appear to have tortured Iraqi POW's, with one brilliant soldier actually providing evidence in his trophy photos, which he tried to have developed in England.

  • In Samarra, American soldiers opened fire on a wedding parade, killing three teen-agers and wounding seven others after the celebrants fired weapons in the air, a custom in Iraq now banned by the 'liberators'. "Very irritable" soldiers with rifles then entered the hospital to obtain the names of the wounded, causing some people to flee in fear. The day after the shooting, the Americans issued a curfew which interferes with evening prayers.

  • I remember noting the death of a woman who had just completed her PhD in psychology. At the time, what struck me was the unlikelihood of there being any more female doctorates in an Iraq controlled by fundamentalist Islam. Women are already starting to notice the beginnings of restrictions on freedom with the control shifting to Shiite clerics, and I don't doubt that they will be living in the Middle Ages fairly soon. Due to the complete lack of security, women have basically disappeared from the streets, and are prisoners in their own homes. Female children are being taken out of school as their families don't feel they can be protected. One of Saddam's few virtues was that he was a secularist and, in the context of the Arab world, a feminist, and I can see his social reforms all disappearing down the slippery slope that starts with head scarfs and chaperones.


  • More soon, as it is hard to keep up with the insanity of the occupation.

    Thursday, May 29, 2003

    I haven't commented on Sharon's supposed (highly, highly qualified) acceptance of the 'roadmap', because to accept any of this nonsense is just silly. For years, every few months has resulted in the appearance of a new solution to bring peace, each time the Israelis play along by making somewhat accepting noises, and each time the whole thing is a sham for domestic American political purposes. Sharon has spent his whole career ensuring that there will never be a Palestinian state by encouraging the building of the illegal settlements, and he is currently in power at the pleasure of people so evil they make Sharon himself look saintly. I can say, without the tiniest fear of being wrong, that this roadmap is going nowhere. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting each time that somehow it will result in a different outcome. This same American-Israeli game has been played out so, so many times, and yet the American press plays along with each new sham, as if it will finally result in peace. Here is an excellent quote by Alexander Cockburn, which sums up the whole thing perfectly:

    "The recipe is unvarying. The Palestinians are required to pledge that they will instantly abandon all vestiges of resistance to Israel's onslaughts on their persons, children, houses, land, crops, water, trees, livestock, roads, schools, universities, graveyards and public buildings.

    In return Israel agrees that a few years down the road the government of Israel will begin to ponder the outlines of a dim possibility of formal ratification as a Palestinian statelet of whatever tiny sliver of territory they haven't already appropriated.


    Amid choruses of approbation for its courage from Israel's vast lobby of politicians and opinion makers in the United States, Israel gouges a couple of extra billion out of Uncle Sam and gets on with the day-to-day business of making life hell for Palestinians. Anytime Israel wants to suspend whatever 'peace' charade is in progress, it acts with more than its habitual savagery, elicits a terror bomb or two, and then says the Palestinians have not abandoned terror and can't be dealt with."

    With each passing day, the tiny sliver is whittled down even more, so that each successive 'accomodation' by the Israelis refers to a smaller percentage of a percentage of a percentage of what the Palestinians ought to be entitled to. Eventually, the combination of the increasing size and number of the settlements (increasing with each day as the settlers wipe their behinds with the roadmap, all the while, for the benefit of the American press, complaining bitterly - while no doubt laughing to themselves - about how Sharon is selling them out), the destruction of orange and olive trees, the murder of Palestinian civilians and the collective punishment resulting in the destruction of Palestinian homes and businesses (an increasingly serious enterprise, such that protestors who try to stop it and journalists who witness it are being murdered in cold blood by the IDF), and the construction of the wall, together with the passing of time, is intended to make any Palestinian state in 'Greater Israel' impossible. I think it is fair to say that the spin put on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that it is the Palestinians who are the terrorists, and the Israelis who are the victims, is the single most successful black propaganda operation in the history of propaganda. The mismatch in power, and the single-minded psychopathy of the Israelis and their American defenders, reminds me of a teenager killing a kitten with a hammer, with the American press then reporting on the terrible little scratch inflicted on the poor victimized boy by the kitten as it lay dying. The reporting of the situation, and the honest belief of many Americans (but no one else in the world) of the victimhood of the Israelis, is so ridiculous it is almost impossible to believe it is happening. The mentality that decency in the world is facing is exemplified by Bush's insane Christian fundamentalist backers, both ideologically agreeable to Bush and whose votes are necessary for his reelection, who continue to say things like Gary Bauer:

    "The land of Israel was originally owned by God. Since He was the owner, only He could give it away. And He gave it to the Jewish people."

    So if it is God's will, the Israelis and their American defenders don't have to worry about the niceties of human morality in accomplishing it. The plan is to crush all hope of the Palestinians through what is essentially a military defeat in the undeclared war being conducted by the IDF on Palestinian citizens, leading to the 'final solution' proposed by David Ben-Gurion (in 1936!):

    "For only after total despair on the part of the Arabs, a despair that will come not only from the failure of the disturbances and the attempt at rebellion, but also as a consequence of our growth as a country, may the Arabs possibly acquiesce in a Jewish state of Israel."

    This remains the plan of Sharon, the Likudnik right in Israel, the settlers, the whole neo-con crowd, the Christian fundamentalist right, and the Bush Administration. None of them wants anything less than the complete removal of the Palestinian people from The Palestine through ethnic cleansing, and the roadmap is just another lie to buy more time for the completion of the cleansing.

    Tuesday, May 27, 2003

    John Bolton, who is Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs in the Bush Administration, not to mention one of the PNAC ideologues and a signatory of the warmongering January 26, 1998 letter on Iraq to President Clinton, has given a speech at a luncheon hosted by the National Defense University Foundation. In this speech, he extends the justification for the attack on Iraq to the breaking point. Referring to the lack of WMD found in Iraq, he said: "There has been a lot of misunderstanding as to exactly what it was we expected to find and when we expected to find it." He continued: "The most fundamental, most important thing that was not destroyed [by international weapons inspectors] was the intellectual capacity in Iraq to recreate systems of weapons of mass destruction." He said that U.N. and International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors:

    ". . . could have inspected for years and years and years and probably never would have found weapons-grade plutonium or weapons-grade uranium. But right in front of them was the continued existence of what Saddam Hussein called the 'nuclear mujahadeen,' the thousand or so scientists, technicians, people who have in their own heads and in their files the intellectual property necessary at an appropriate time . . . to recreate a nuclear weapons program."

    He claimed that the United States was justified in attacking Iraq because of this capacity. I have two comments:

    1. In the light of the failure to find WMD, Bolton has changed his tune. In a Radio Sawa Interview on April 17, 2003, not so very long ago, he responded to the question "Do we have a specific plan to locate Iraq's chemical and biological agents after the end of the war?":

      "We have a very detailed plan to try to locate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction storage areas, chemical agents, biological agents, warheads, production facilities, the files and records of the weapons programs, so that these can be exposed to the world so that everybody can see the extent of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and also so that we can begin the process of destroying them finally; so when a new Iraqi government comes into power, representatives of all the elements of Iraqi society committed to not pursuing weapons of mass destruction, that we will be able to say that in fact Iraq is completely free of such weapons and therefore should be a full participant again in the international economy and political scene."


    2. The so-called 'Bush doctrine' is that the United States can preemptively use war in self-defense against countries that may pose a threat to the security of the United States. As it stands, this doctrine is of highly questionable validity in international law, and should be limited to cases where: 1) the threat is real and imminent; 2) war is the only possible alternative; and 3) there is no time to consult the United Nations. If we add to the 'Bush doctrine' the idea that the threat does not even have to be real, but can just rest on the American view of the potential threat sometime down the road due to the imagined capability of scientists and engineers in the target country, the whole 'Bush doctrine' is revealed as a sham. Just about any country in the world has the 'intellectual capacity' to begin a program of creating weapons of mass destruction. The doctrine has become simultaneously so wide and vague that it is transparently simply a way of rationalizing the complete destruction of the sovereignty of nations if the United States should decide it would like to take the assets of any given country through a unilateral attack. People have tried to compare the 'Bush doctrine' to the geopolitics of Hitler, but Bush is far worse than Hitler, for Hitler at least tried to come up with some justification for his predations. The Americans can destroy a country and steal its assets based solely on their imagination that something bad might happen at some indeterminate time in the future if nothing is done to stop it. The failure to find the promised weapons of mass destruction, and the scrambling of the PNAC philosophers to rationalize the attack on Iraq in the absence of such discovery, has revealed the 'Bush doctrine' for the thuggery which it truly is.


    Monday, May 26, 2003

    Dr. Asaf Durakovic, of the Uranium Medical Research Center, which does research on the health effects of exposure to depleted uranium, has studied uranium levels in the urine of small samples of Afghans. He has found 'astonishing' levels (or here) of uranium, and, what is even more astonishing, the isotopic ratios show that the uranium is non-depleted uranium, rather than the expected depleted uranium (of which he found no trace). Depleted uranium exposure was expected because the allies are known to have used depleted uranium munitions (e. g., in the Gulf War and in the Balkans). The test subjects had concentrations of toxic and radioactive uranium isotopes many times what the researchers would have expected. A later sampling supported the original results. Many of the subjects suffer from symptoms similar to Gulf War Syndrome. Dr. Durakovic said:

    "In Afghanistan there were no oil fires, no pesticides, nobody had been vaccinated - all explanations suggested for the Gulf veterans' condition. But people had exactly the same symptoms. I'm certainly not saying Afghanistan was a vast experiment with new uranium weapons. But use your common sense."

    The only obvious possible non-military explanation for this exposure would be some source of natural uranium. It is interesting that the U. K. Defence Ministry says it used no DU weapons in Afghanistan, nor any others containing uranium in any form, while a spokesman for the U. S. Department of Defense told BBC News Online that the U. S. had not used DU weapons there (see also here), leaving open the question of whether other forms of uranium were used by the Americans. Most of the discussion has revolved around depleted uranium. Is it possible that the famous 'thermobaric' bombs, which were supposedly used for 'bunker busting' (and which may have triggered earthquakes in Afghanistan), may have warheads containing non-depleted uranium (ironically, one of the defenses made for the use of depleted uranium is that it is less radioactive than non-depleted uranium; it would be even more ironic if they were able to deny they were using depleted uranium because they were using non-depleted uranium)? If non-depleted warheads have already been used by the American military, this puts the recent approval of the Congress for the development of 'mini-nukes' in a new perspective, as there is no practical difference between a warhead which produces a small nuclear explosion and a warhead which does not produce a nuclear explosion but produces the same amount of nuclear fallout. If the Americans used experimental weapons with warheads which would create aerosol non-depleted uranium, and that is the cause of the health problems amongst the Afghans living in the area of the bombing attacks, this may create a long-term public health disaster for the Afghans, as well as soldiers and aid workers who have spent time in Afghanistan. I note that while the Pentagon apparently did not use the BLU-118/B or BLU-109/B bombs in Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld claimed that the U. S. military did use the new AGM-114N Metal Augmented Charge Hellfire, which uses a 'thermobaric warhead' which is described in comparison with the munitions used in Afghanistan as having "a different warhead composition to create a similar blast wave effect" (scroll down to see the chart of various forms of such weapons and their use in various wars). It will be interesting to see if Iraqi civilians and 'coalition' soldiers start to pay the medical price for the Pentagon's new toys.

    Sunday, May 25, 2003

    Iraq:

    1. Why is there anarchy in Iraq?:

      "The US Army came to make war but is now under intense pressure from Washington to end the disorder in Baghdad, part of which can be blamed on the determination of Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defence, to use small numbers of troops. According to well-placed British sources, the Americans had two divisions fewer than the number required to protect the city's main installations."


    2. Heavily armed gangs are taking over Iraq, particularly in the south, rendering some neighborhoods so dangerous that it is not safe to enter without armed guards (so Iraq is becoming more like Los Angeles every day).

    3. The Kurdish purging of Arabs from traditional Kurdish areas is starting to cause much suffering amongst the dispossessed Arab population. Sabrir Hassan Ismael, a mother of six, has now been forced to find shelter in Khan Bani Saad prison:

      "Look at me; look at my family. We live in prison. We can't buy food because we don't have money. We have no gas to cook. We can't sleep because it's very hot. There are huge insects that bite us. All night my daughters cry and they can't sleep. I live without any hope. Just look at us."

      Hadeb Hamed Hamed, her tribe's sheikh, said:

      "The Americans promised us food and medicine and freedom. But we have lost our homes, our land, our crops. Now we live in prison with nothing, and they ignore us. It is the allied forces that have done this to us. When we run out of food, I don't know what we will do. If we don't have a solution, we will fight the Americans even if they kill us. It is better than sitting here with nothing and just dying."


    4. The Americans are supposedly attempting to disarm the Iraqis (I wonder what Charlton Heston has to say about this), but are allowing the Kurdish militias to keep their assault rifles and heavy weapons, while disarming Shiite and other militias. This makes the bona fides of the disarmament very suspect. The Americans actually had to disarm members of the militia group of Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon's choice to run Iraq, after they engaged in a gun battle in a Baghdad suburb. It appears that whether you get to carry a gun or not has less to do with public safely and more to do with politics.

    5. Dr Hamas Assad Walid of the pediatric ward of the Khadessia Hospital in Thawra City on the edge of Baghdad: "We have been seeing some 1,000 patients a day, and taking in about 60 to 70 - turning away hundreds of children a day." Due to water contamination children now dying from chronic dehydration and gastroenteritis, and the first cases of jaundice and suspected cholera are appearing. As many as 1,000 children arrive at Baghdad Pediatric Hospital every day, more than 700 of them with diarrhea. Children are also being shot each day, and killed or maimed by unexploded munitions.

    6. Iraqi looters are destroying archeological sites all over Iraq. The United States and Britain have an obligation to secure these sites, but are not doing so. The information that is lost in the looting can never be recovered.

    7. General Franks has now admitted that senior Iraqi officers who commanded troops crucial to the defense of key Iraqi cities were bribed not to fight by American special forces. Therefore, at least part of the thesis that Iraq was not won in battle but was purchased has been confirmed.

    8. The United States is holding thousands of Iraqi POW's and other captives at compounds close to Baghdad airport, denying them access to human rights officials, and thus breaching the Geneva Convention. A French cameraman saw an encampment with 'hundreds of men' hooded, with their arms tied behind their backs, and a worker for a non-governmental aid organization said that he saw men in a similar state on a truck. The Americans are under an obligation to treat prisoners of war humanely.


    Friday, May 23, 2003

    Iraq:

    1. In Baghdad:

      • At least 1,700 Iraqi civilians died and more than 8,000 were injured in Baghdad during the attack on Iraq and in the weeks afterward (on top of which, undocumented civilian deaths in Baghdad number at least in the hundreds and could reach 1,000).

      • Almost all the police stations have been destroyed or looted, with only two having reopened, and there is still no police chief.

      • The communications center, which had been hit by two cruise missiles during the attack on Iraq, nevertheless had suffered little damage, with most of the equipment surviving. It could have been functioning within months, thus restoring Baghdad's phone service. The director of the center reported this to the Americans, who, needless to say, failed to put it under guard, and it was burned to the ground.

      • Water and sewage systems are falling apart all across Iraq, and human waste is backing up and out of the drains in many parts of Baghdad. The Al Rustumia sewage plant is not being guarded and looters were operating on a daily basis, rendering the plant inoperable. As a result, one million tons of raw sewage is discharged into the Tigris and Diyala Rivers every day.

      • Iraqis have begun to kill former members of the Baath Party, with possibly several hundred victims in Baghdad alone.

      • Even the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance admits that about 40 percent of the Baghdad's residents are without potable water supplies.

      • Bremer of Baghdad visited a police station in the Karkh district of Baghdad for a photo op to hear about the new U.S. Army-Iraqi police patrols. Angry policemen began pointing at a man in uniform named Abdul Razak, a former Baath Party member and colonel in the Iraqi security services who had been chief of police stations in Baghdad's western district and kept his job under the American occupation, and who may have been invited to the photo op by the Americans (although they later denied it and claimed Rasak had been fired as a Baathist, although the preceding day he had been in a planning meeting with Col. Ted Spain, head of the military police brigade in charge of Baghdad). As a crowd began to gather, a U.S. military officer told journalists that a bomb had been found at the end of the block and led them away, although nobody at the police station when later asked about the bomb had heard of one being found or reported!



    2. 5,000 to 10,000 Iraqi civilians may have died during the attack on Iraq. Since the war was completely illegal, let's not say 'died', let's use the proper term, 'murdered'. Knowledge of the carnage is still incomplete, but much detail is available. Human Rights Watch has found evidence of "massive use of cluster bombs in densely populated areas."

    3. Looting is still a major problem in Basra, with Basra University being looted out of existence.

    4. In Falluja, which is getting used to American violence, gunmen fired anti-tank rockets at a U.S. armored vehicle, resulting in the American response of random fire from tanks towards the city center, killing two passengers of a pickup truck traveling 300 yards from the scene. Safi Jaber, a witness, said: "They went crazy, they fired everywhere." U.S. soldiers later stopped an ambulance trying to approach the truck and a tank rammed it.

    5. In Kirkuk, ethnic tensions between Arabs and Kurds are resulting in violent conflict, resulting in at least 10 deaths. In Erbil, the Kurdish regional parliament passed a law that would "cancel the history of Arabization in Kurdistan," meaning the forced eviction of Arabs who had been settled in Kurdish areas by Saddam. Several Arabs were probably killed in a battle at Hawija with American troops, who claim they were trying to stop illegal checkpoints established by the Arabs, checkpoints which had been set up due to rumors that the Kurds were going to attack the Arabs. Forced evictions of Arabs from Kurdish areas and Palestinians from all across the country have already caused much suffering. The highly-touted 'free' elections for town council which are being held in Kirkuk seem to be heavily managed by the Americans, who appear to be siding with the Kurds against the Arabs.

    6. The Washington Times reports:

      "U.S. military inspection teams have concluded that material looted from Iraq's main nuclear facility at Tuwaitha poses little or no danger to the people who stole it and cannot be converted into an effective 'dirty bomb.'"

      In the real world, the families of the looters are beginning to suffer from probable radiation sickness. American denials of the problem mean that Iraqis will continue to use contaminated containers to store water and food, and since the danger from radiation depends on cumulative exposure, people will become ill and die who might have been saved. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has warned the United States for the third time of the danger of radioactive contamination in Iraq.

    7. A prominent British officer, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins, has been accused by the Americans (of all people) of having pistol-whipped an Iraqi civic leader, gashing his head; punched and kicked prisoners of war; shot the tires of vehicles when there was no threat to 'coalition' lives; and fired on the ground near the feet of Iraqi civilians and spoken to civilians in a threatening fashion. The British are attempting to portray these allegations as the result of a feud between the Americans and this officer.

    8. American troops have vandalized the remains of the ancient city of Ur. Soldiers have spray-painted the remains with graffiti ('SEMPER FE') and stolen kiln-baked bricks. The Pentagon has decided to build a massive and potentially permanent base alongside the site. Important archeological sites, some which have never been touched before, are being systematically and rapidly looted all across the country.

    9. Children, in attempting to recover the brass shell casings of ammunition in order to sell them, have to remove the gunpowder from inside the ammunition, and are dying in the resulting explosions (nine in one week). Reports of children dying when 'playing' with ammunition may very well be cases where the children died in attempting to obtain the metal from the shells.

    10. The lawlessness has actually started to damage the oil production in Iraq (Oh, the Humanity!), and the failure by the Americans to secure the gas stations and depots has led to the creation of a large gasoline black market.


    Thursday, May 22, 2003

    The book "My Jihad: The True Story of an American Mujahid's Amazing Journey from Usama Bin Laden's Training Camps to Counterterrorism with the FBI and CIA" (Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2002 - available here or here or as an ebook; reviews here and here and here and here) by Aukai Collins, describes his adventures in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Albania/Kosovo, and particularly, Chechnya (where he had two tours, the first when he seriously injured his leg, and the second wearing a prosthetic leg), not to mention his adventures as a counterterrorism agent acting for the FBI and CIA. Reading Collins, you get the impression that the battle is between pusillanimous and stupid Arab jihad leaders up against vile and officious American counterterrorist agents (and Janet Reno probably wouldn't be on his Christmas card list if he sent Christmas cards). It is a ripping yarn well worth reading for its entertainment value alone, and helps to explain the mechanics of how fundamentalist fighters are trained and sent on jihad and the mentality that would lead someone to have his leg voluntarily amputated so that he could continue on jihad. Collins had a rather unfortunate upbringing and youth, and, like many other Americans, converted to Islam while in prison. To put it mildly, he is very committed to fighting for his religion. His book does not contain much specific information on 9-11, but there are a few nuggets:

    1. On Harakat-ul Jihad, who ran the camp he attended in Afghanistan (pp. 9-10):

      "Harakat-ul Jihad was a Pakistani jihad group whose primary goal was to annex Kashmir or form a separate emirate. It also sent its mujahideen to other conflicts, such as those in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The leadership (and the dozens of other jihad organizations) was supposed to have a sort of loose confederacy with Al Qaeda. At the time I visited - four years after the Soviets had been pushed out of Afghanistan - American influence and support for the mujahideen had waned and other anti-Communist and anti-Westerm influences, such as Dr. Abdullah Azzam and his wealthy protege Usama Bin Laden, had stepped in. . . . In 1993 the mujahideen were still the 'freedom fighters' of Reagan administration lore, and nobody outside the circle of active mujahideen knew about Usama Bin Laden."

      Collins notes that the Pakistani ISI used Islamic fundamentalist fighters as cannon fodder to fight the battles against India over Kashmir, and thus kept the battle going without risking the lives of as many Pakistanis. The martyrdom which people like Collins sought was much more likely to happen in Kashmir than anyplace else.

    2. Collins, after quite an involved process, finally ended up in the training camp in Afghanistan (pp. 31-32):

      "After a while, a man named Umar showed up. He was Pakistani by blood but had been born and raised in the United Kingdom. . . . Umar was an intersting guy. He wore a full beard - as we all did - and he had bulging forearms and was taller than the average Pakistani. He was a devout Muslim, but back in Britain, he'd been a professional arm wrestler. I thought that many of the guys in the camp were a little soft, but Umar was a tough guy. He also had Western sensibilities, and between the two of us we never ran out of ideas about how to stay busy."

      and (pp. 33-34)

      "I'd assumed from the beginning that Umar had come to the camp the way I had, through the auspices of Harakat-ul Jihad. But when the tension started to grow with the commanders he told me that he was affiliated with another Pakistani group, which I later found out was Harakat-ul Ansar, and that he was here on an exchange program of sorts. Harakat-ul Ansar was funded by Usama Bin Laden and was the same group that John Walker Lindh would later belong to. By running around with Umar and causing a ruckus, we were creating tension with the Harkat-ul Jihad guys."

      One of the themes of the book is how passive and unimaginative most of the fighters were, especially the Arabs, and Umar and Collins made themselves unpopular with the camp leaders by engaging in their own training exercises. They eventually both left and returned to Pakistan, and Collins returned to the United States. Umar went to Kashmir to conduct a hostage operation against some British tourists for Harakat-ul Ansar. He is now better known as Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

    3. Collins started to act as an American counterintelligence agent for the FBI and CIA, but was constantly frustrated by the bureaucratic problems caused, particularly by the CIA. He actually had an invitation (p. 178) to visit Bin Laden's camp, but the CIA refused to let him go.

    4. When in London, Collins was told about a Saudi living in the United States named Ghareeb, who was described to him as a good person who was involved in the jihad (p. 179). "He's just moved from Oregon to Sierra Vista, Arizona. That's funny, I thought, wondering if he knew he was living next to Fort Huachuca, the base for the army's military-intelligence school and an FBI training area." Back in the States, he met Ghareeb, and they became good friends, and hung out for almost a year preparing for jihad, until Collins left for his very unsuccessful mission to Kosovo, which actually was sabotaged (p. 212) by the CIA (by telling the Albanian officials that he was working for bin Laden and by stealing his luggage!), for whom he was supposed to be working.

    5. On attempts to obtain funding for his jihad (p. 212):

      "The so-called Islamic community in America is so afraid of its own shadow that it won't even listen to a subject that has anything to do with fighting. I tried to go to the mosques, but I was known too well as one of the mujahideen, and no one would even listen to me. I laugh when I hear the FBI talk about 'terrorist' activities being funded through the mosques in America. I have literally been asked to leave certain mosques because the Arabs there feared me as being too militant. The Muslims of Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Kosova, and other places have been slaughtered while the Islamic community in America has done nothing more than send letters to the president of the United States, begging him for his help."


    6. Back in Arizona, Collins started to hang out with Ghareeb again (pp.213):

      "While in Phoenix we would spend time playing with Ghareeb's Arab buddies. We generally avoided the mosques but would occasionally hang out at one of them to meet with other Saudis. One of Ghareeb's friends would later be one of a handful of people who would alter our world forever. I didn't particularly like him when I met him. I didn't have anything against him; I just didn't like him all that much. He was a little scrawny guy, short and maybe 150 pounds with his clothes on. He seemed like more of a follower than anything, the kind who would get caught up in something just because other people were doing it. He was one of many Arabs whom Ghareeb would visit to talk about jihad.


      I didn't like how these guys acted. They were what I call 'hanky-panky Arabs'; they participated in forbidden activities, like drinking alcohol or perhaps eating hotdogs and screwing around. They lived in America as any other person might but got all excited about jihad stuff when Ghareeb told them stories or brought them videos. Yet you'd never find a single one of them on the front lines. I never saw any of these guys in Chechnya, Kosova, or Kashmir."

      and (p. 214 - 'Andy' was one of his FBI counter intelligence handlers)

      "The little scrawny guy was taking flying lessons in Scottsdale, right up the road from my house. I'd known some of his roommates before Ghareeb started talking to him and was good friends with one of them. They were all taking flying lessons . . . . I was still working for the Bureau at this time and reporting to Andy regularly. Both the FBI and Andy were fully aware of all the Arabs whom Ghareeb and I had contact with, including the scrawny little guy, whose name is widely known now: Hani Hanjoor. Hani Hanjoor would get his pilot's license in 1999 and would fly an American Airlines plane into the Pentagon. They were hardly 'deep-cover sleepers,' as the FBI is calling them now. They lived very openly, and although I had no idea of what some of them would eventually do, they made no secrets about what they thought or believed."


    7. On his motivation for acting as a counterterrorist agent, and his reasons for quitting (p. 216):

      "I'd started working for them with honorable intentions. I never considered myself a traitor, although many Islamic figures will view me that way. I considered myself to be a mujahid, and I thought that working with them would be a way to fight the real terrorists of the world, the cowards who have never spent a single minute on the front lines and then go and kill unarmed civilians and call it jihad. Nothing was being done about this in the world of Islam. . . . Once it became clear that the FBI considered everything I believed in as 'terrorism' I could no longer work for them in good conscience."

      Whether you agree with him or not, there is an intellectual consistency in his distinguishing attacks on civilians, prohibited by morality and his religion, and fighting a battle against soldiers who are killing civilians.

    8. Something that comes out very vividly in the book from his two tours in Chechnya are the unbelievable horrors being inflicted by the Russians on the civilians of Chechnya, a topic that has mostly been avoided by the western press.

    9. From p. 248, discussing September 11:

      "I was very mistrustful about the fact that Usama Bin Laden's name was mentioned literally hours after the attack. When I combined this with the fact the FBI had no apparent desire to accept what I brought to the table, I became very skeptical about anything anybody said about what happened, or who did it. I thought back to when I was still working for them and we had the opportunity to enter Bin Laden's camp. Something just hadn't smelled right. There were also the details I knew personally about Hani Hanjoor, one of the 'hanky-panky' hijackers on the Pentagon flight. He wasn't even moderately religious, let alone fanatically religious. And I knew for a fact that he wasn't part of Al Qaeda or any other Islamic organization; he couldn't even spell jihad in Arabic."

      Let that sink in for a moment: "He wasn't even moderately religious, let alone fanatically religious. And I knew for a fact that he wasn't part of Al Qaeda or any other Islamic organization; he couldn't even spell jihad in Arabic." And yet we are supposed to believe that this 'hanky-panky Arab' was so full of commitment to jihad that he piloted Flight 77 into the Pentagon on September 11? Leaving aside the fact that Hani Hanjour wasn't nearly skilled enough to have piloted that plane into the Pentagon, he also clearly wasn't anywhere close to being pious enough to give up his life for a religious cause.


    Collins caused a bit of a flap after 9-11, when he announced that he had tried to tip off the FBI about the suspicious activities of the group of Arabs taking flying lessons, a group which included Hani Hanjoor (the FBI denies that he provided them with any information on Hanjour prior to 9-11, but are perhaps just quibbling about the fact that Collins did not single out Hanjour, but informed them about the whole group). Indeed, one of the arguments that Moussaoui has made in his defense is that the FBI avoided arresting Hanjour because he was preparing to be involved in the September 11 terrorism, and arrested Moussaoui because he was not involved in the September 11 terrorism, but his big mouth may have brought too much attention to Arabs taking flying lessons, thus endangering the whole plot. Collins is clear in his book that his counterterrorism handler and the FBI "were fully aware of all the Arabs whom Ghareeb and I had contact with", including Hanjour.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2003

    One of the clearest incidents of foresight of September 11 has come back into the news. A sting operation involving an undercover FBI agent and a man about to go to jail for fraud who wanted to help the government in order to reduce his sentence resulted in the ensnarement of two New Jersey men, Diaa Mohsen and Mohammed R. Malik (the whole story is summarized here). The man about to go to jail for fraud, Randy Glass, knew Mohsen, and Mohsen knew Malik, and Malik was able to bring prospective buyers to the sting operation. These prospective buyers included men from Pakistan (not to mention someone referred to as "high-ranking Egyptian official Shirin Shawky") who wanted to buy various weapons, including stinger missiles (they also claimed to be in the market for heavy water, a component of a system to manufacture plutonium). Mohsen has been convicted and is in jail (with a surprisingly short sentence of probably 30 months - it is impossible to be sure for the sentence itself is sealed - considering the possible maximum sentence for what he did), but the prospective purchasers from Pakistan were never apprehended, and Malik's file was sealed and he was never tried. For reasons that remain mysterious, the arrest warrants for the Pakistani purchasers were sealed, and the identity of these purchasers was only confirmed when the warrants were recently unsealed, with the FBI now apparently actively seeking their apprehension. At one of the meetings to discuss the purchase in 1999, at the TriBeca Grill in New York, one of the Pakistanis, called 'Abbas' (or 'R. G. Abbas'), said, pointing to the World Trade Center, that "those towers are coming down". What has been obscured for much of the case is that the prospective purchasers were Pakistani, and even more shocking, that Abbas claimed to be working for the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI. This raises a number of issues:

    1. The nationality of these purchasers has been obscured for much of the case, presumably for political reasons, and the fact that the men were described as working for the ISI has still not been officially admitted. Malik appears to have avoided being tried due to the fact that the U. S. government did not want the name of the country involved to come out (Mohsen's conviction was on the basis of a plea bargain). Early (June 2001) reports mention Pakistan, but specifically state that the purchasers were 'private buyers'. Another account has the defendants claiming that the purchaser, of unspecified nationality, is "a well-known former military official who wanted to partially pay for the weapons with heroin" (see also here and here). Glass believes that the State Department was involved in stopping the investigation in order to protect Pakistani President Musharraf.

    2. Many of the articles on the subject report all the details of the operation, but fail to note the specific prediction concerning the World Trade Center (see here and here and here). It is very odd to print an article containing all the pertinent information except for the most interesting specific threat to bring down the World Trade Center by someone claiming to work for the Pakistani government.

    3. The ISI is the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA, and is associated with the Pakistani military. Many feel that it is the real government of Pakistan. Why, then, would it have to send men to a warehouse in Florida to buy these arms? Presumably, it could buy arms openly in the international market whenever it wanted to. The most obvious reason to buy arms in the United States is that they were intended to be used in the United States. A less obvious reason is that the whole Pakistani connection was intended to lead a false trail back to Pakistan (of course, leaving such a false trail betrays foreknowledge of the eventual fate of the WTC). The name of a Pakistani arms procurement officer mentioned by the prospective Pakistani purchasers apparently checks out as the name of an actual Pakistani arms procurement officer. The deal was never concluded as the Pakistanis strung out the sellers for months and never did come up with any money, but you wouldn't think money would be a problem if they were actually working for the ISI.

    4. The ISI was involved, on behalf of the CIA, in setting up the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was and is involved in the Islamic fundamentalist training camps situated in Afghanistan along the Pakistani border. The route of most of the trainees who attended these camps was to fly into Karachi, take an internal flight within Pakistan to Islamabad, and then be driven from Islamabad across the border into Afghanistan. There appears to be an organized 'underground railroad' to make all these connections, with everything done with the tacit approval of the Pakistani government (the only difficult part seems to be crossing the border into Afghanistan, where the locals are still very suspicious of foreigners). Travelling to Pakistan keeps coming up in the stories we hear about various terrorists and alleged terrorists. It is almost as if the Pakistanis were running a travel agency for trips to Afghanistan.

    5. The ISI constantly appears as the key liason between the CIA and the various groups of Islamic fundamentalist warriors that have been used by the CIA in various places in the world (Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, etc.) to further U. S. geopolitical goals, mainly fighting against what are perceived as Russian interests. It is this connection which may really lie behind the leeway that the American government gives to Pakistan.

    6. When the man calling himself 'Mohamed Atta' was still in Hamburg, Germany, his original 'best friend' was Atif Ahmed bin Mansoor, a pilot in the Pakistani Air Force. Mansoor eventually left Germany and returned to Pakistan, and very little has been found out about him since. One very interesting fact, however, is that he returned to Pakistan to attend the funeral of his brother, another pilot who had died in a Pakistani Air Force crash. If Atif Ahmed bin Mansoor was originally intended to be a suicide pilot, it would make sense to relieve his family of this burden once one son had already died in the service of his country. Atif Ahmed bin Mansoor was immediately replaced as the 'best friend' of 'Mohamed Atta' by Marwan Alshehhi, who of course stayed with him through Florida and the terrorism.

    7. Much, and perhaps too much, has been made of the fact that a senior Pakistani Army general, and in fact the head of the ISI, Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed, was meeting with senior American politicians and bureaucrats in Washington on the morning of September 11, and in fact had been in meetings with American officials for a few days. He had met with with Marc Grossman, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and at the very time of the first crash on the morning of September 11 was at a meeting hosted by Senator Bob Graham and Rep. Porter Goss, the chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence committees, respectively. On September 12 and 13, he actually met with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (Armitage is truly the darkest figure in the Bush Administration, seemingly the head of covert ops - his probable role behind the attempted Venezuelan coup is starting to come out - and makes evil characters like Perle and Wolfowitz look almost saintly in comparison; he has also always been close to Pakistan). In the evening of September 13, he met with Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said, of Pakistan: "They will be cooperative in every way." It seems very odd for a Pakistani general to make himself so conspicuous in Washington on the morning of September 11 if in fact Pakistan was involved in the attacks. On the other hand, if part of the Pakistani government was involved in 9-11 and that general was unaware of it, sending him to Washington in that week may have been part of the tactics of the operation. The general would already be in place to coordinate Pakistan's role in the 'war on terror', and to negotiate the restructuring of Pakistani loans that would be made in gratitude for Pakistan's anticipated cooperation in rooting out Islamic fundamentalism. The most important thing to remember was that Pakistan was in deep, deep trouble with the Americans in the summer of 2001, being blamed for supporting fundamentalist terrorism and owing billions of dollars it couldn't pay. It is highly implausible to think that Pakistan would have risked sending a known fundamentalist to negotiate with the Americans at such a critical time.

    8. Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed, the same general who was meeting in Washington at the time of the attacks, allegedly was in cell phone communication with terrorist Omar Shaikh Saeed. Omar Shaikh Saeed transferred $100,000 from a UAE bank to Mohammed Atta. Just before September 11, Atta and one or two other of the September 11 terrorists are supposed to have wired the remaining money back to the UAE, where Omar Shaikh Saeed is said to have collected it and immediately returned to Pakistan. All the reports on this are somewhat vague and improved in the telling, but General Ahmed allegedly either was aware of the payment (or actually directed it, which is the way the issue is often described, possibly without factual basis), and this was discovered by Indian intelligence somehow through the investigation of Omar Shaikh Saeed's cell phone conversations. Somehow they obtained his number, and the FBI, through the use of data at the cell phone company, was able to connect Ahmed to Omar Shaikh Saeed (but how could they be sure of what Ahmed actually knew, and how could they be sure that it was Ahmed who was using the phone?). Indian intelligence is also the probable helpful source behind the idea that Ahmed's September 2001 meeting with Mullah Omar, where he was supposed to ask Mullah Omar to hand over bin Laden, was subverted by Ahmed when he told Mullah Omar not to hand over bin Laden and in fact offered military advice to the Taliban on how to fight the U. S. (I note the rather obvious fact that the failure of this mission to visit Mullah Omar was devoutly wished by the Americans, as the handing over of bin Laden would have removed their excuse for the war on Afghanistan, meaning that Ahmed's actions may prove he was actually working for the Americans!), and the idea that Ahmed tipped bin Laden off to the 1998 American attacks directed at his satellite phone, an attack bin Laden escaped by abandoning his satellite phone (just how would Indian intelligence know this?). It appears that the whole case against Ahmed may be the creation of Indian intelligence, who may have their own reasons for wanting Pakistan to get rid of him. Ahmed was replaced when his role in all this was revealed. Why Ahmed used an insecure cell phone to implicate himself, and why the ISI was forced to use a British fundamentalist fighter to send the money, and why the money was sent by easily traceable bank wire transfer, when the ISI presumably had completely secure methods to transfer this relatively small sum of money (but enough to be noticed), has never been explained. Just think if George Tenet wanted money to be sent to some CIA assassin. Would he discuss it over a cell phone? Would he have it sent in an insecure way that could be traced back to the CIA? Would he get personally involved in the transaction? It is almost racist to see how quickly people accept that Ahmed and the ISI must be incompetent idiots, when in fact that ISI, set up by British intelligence and mentored by the CIA, is as sophisticated as any intelligence operation in the world. It is interesting how Ahmed is described as particularly non-fundamentalist and particularly fundamentalist. My guess is that Indian intelligence has done a particularly good job at confusing the issue. So much has been made of the $100,000 story, which when you think about it is preposterous on its face, and appears to be pure misdirection.

    9. The man about to go to jail who operated the sting, Glass, attempted to pass the information about the World Trade Center threat on to Florida State State Sen. Ron Klein, and more intriguingly, to Sen. Bob Graham and U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler. Graham acknowledged at a news conference in Boca Raton that Glass had contact with his office before September 11 about an attack on the World Trade Center, saying (or here), "I was concerned about that and a dozen other pieces of information which emanated from the summer of 2001." Later, Graham said he was unaware of the infomation supplied by Glass until after the terrorist attacks! Graham is the guy who: 1) was meeting with Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed on the morning of September 11; and 2) said (or here), in an interview with Gwen Ifill of NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: ". . . I was surprised at the evidence that there were foreign governments involved in facilitating the activities of at least some of the terrorists in the United States" and "I think there is very compelling evidence that at least some of the terrorists were assisted not just in financing - although that was part of it - by a sovereign foreign government . . . . "


    So what do we make of all this? There is a clear Pakistani connection to the attacks of September 11. However, I feel that much of the evidence of this connection is simply too neat. The transfer of money to Ahmed, which too clearly implicates Ahmed, looks like a set up. Similarly, the presence of Ahmed in Washington at the time of the attacks seems contrived. Ahmed is an interesting character, usually described by the Indian press as a doctrinaire fundamentalist, too close, for emotional and ethnic reasons, to the Taliban, and finally forced out when Indian government investigators convinced the FBI that he was behind the $100,000 sent to Atta. Another view, however, is that he was dismissed by Musharraf because he was too close to the Americans, who wanted Musharraf to make him vice-chief of the army staff, where his position and American friends would have made him a threat to Musharraf himself. The real strangeness is that it is likely Ahmed who was behind the 180 degree shift in Pakistani policy from supporter of Mullah Omar to grudging supporter of the American war against terror, as it was Ahmed who took the American message back to Pakistan, and who left Biden thinking Pakistan 'will be cooperative in every way' (the main evidence of this shift is the constant series of arrests by the Pakistanis of alleged al-Qaeda members of interest to the Americans, not to mention the extreme cost of the 'war on terror'). Graham, who was meeting with Ahmed at the time of the attacks, is probably referring to Pakistan as the foreign government involved in the terrorism, but it may be that he was intended to think that way. All signs point to the fact that there was Pakistani involvement, but probably not Pakistani government involvement or even official ISI involvement. Reasons for suspecting some Pakistani involvement:

    • the general ISI involvement, acting for the CIA, in the establishment of militant Islamic fighters against the Russians in Afghanistan and in many other places right up to the present time

    • the fact that many of the 9-11 terrorists visited Afghan training camps, which were accessed through contacts in Pakistan

    • clear ISI support for the Taliban, reaching all the way up to Musharaff's military role before he became a politician

    • the likelihood that one of the countries Graham was referring to, especially given he was meeting with Ahmed when they received news of the September 11 attacks, was Pakistan

    • the unexplained story of Atta's friend, Pakistani pilot Atif Ahmed bin Mansoor.


    Reasons for suspecting that there wasn't official Pakistani government involvement in 9-11:

    • the failure of the American government to pursue the Mohsen/Malik matter, and the short sentencing of Mohsen and non-trial of Malik, and the sealing of the files

    • the suspicious failure of the American press to report the whole story, including the specific threat in 1999 to the WTC (the cynicism of the American press knows no bounds: compare the whitewash treatment of nominal U. S. ally Pakistan to their searching for every little tidbit on Iraq!)

    • the peculiar relationship of Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed to the Americans, for whom he is either a great friend or behind the funding of the 9-11 attacks

    • the fact that a man identified by some as a fundamentalist Islamicist is an odd choice for the man to be representing Pakistan in Washington if you know that there is going to be an Islamic fundamentalist attack on the United States while he is there

    • the fact that Abbas had specific knowledge of the events of 9-11, but never actually came through with the money to buy anything, despite trailing the sellers along for a long time

    • the very important fact, which I will consider later, that the whole operation appears to have been in two parts, with only one part under the control of Pakistanis.


    I think 'rogue' elements of the ISI, probably working with 'rogue' elements of some American government agency, were behind the Pakistani support for the September 11 attacks ('rogue' is almost a term of art, and in no way indicates that the actions are against government policy, but provides the veneer of 'plausible deniability' for dangerous political operations). Part of the plan appears to have been to set up and remove Ahmed, possibly as part of some internal Pakistani or ISI politics (Ahmed's removal suited 1) Musharraf, who probably considered him a threat, especially if he was perceived as being thought by the Americans as a better choice to lead Pakistan than Musharraf himself; 2) the Pakistani elites, who sacrificed Ahmed to prove to the Americans how serious they are in fighting terrorism; and 3) the Indian government, who would rather not see a closer friend to the Americans than Musharraf lead Pakistan). The irony may very well be that Ahmed was set up to be removed because he was considered by fundamentalists in the Pakistani government to be too close to the United States, a closeness proven by the number and importance of American officials he was meeting with on and around September 11, and the whole operation may have been intended to force Musharraf, still in a delicate balancing act, to sacrifice Ahmed (Ahmed doesn't look like a fundamentalist, not with a 'stache like that; in fact he looks like the 'very model of a modern Major-General', a modern British Major-General). It may be that Pakistanis feared that the Americans were cultivating Ahmed as a replacement for Musharraf, meaning that Musharraf had to remove him to protect his own position, or it may just be that Ahmed thought he had American backing (it was actually Musharraf himself who, as Director-General of Military Operations at Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, oversaw ISI assistance for the Taliban - maybe people are looking for the fundamentalist in the wrong place). Pakistan is one of the few countries, and the only Muslim country (besides possibly Turkey), to have benefitted from 9-11. The U. S. government is apparently playing a complicated game in its relationship with Pakistan, afraid that pushing too hard on obvious problems will lead to the downfall of Musharraf, who appears to have convinced the Americans that he alone can guide Pakistan away from fundamentalism (while the Pakistani government does nuclear deals with North Korea and continues to support Islamic fundamentalist militants). In order to really figure out what was really behind the events of September 11, the next step is to travel many miles from Pakistan and consider the role of Germany in the events of September 11.

    Monday, May 19, 2003

    The United States is in the process of putting itself in the position to have available to its military for use as part of the battlefield arsenal relatively small nuclear weapons, called 'mini-nukes'. This evil idea was part of the leaked Nuclear Posture Review of the Bush Administration (see the story of Keith 'Dr. Strangelove' Payne, for the background to these ideas), and has now made it through the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has approved the revoking of a law which prohibited the development of such weapons. The Pentagon also wants the Administration to withdraw from the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which would allow the U. S. to back out of the 1992 moratorium on nuclear tests, and thus would allow the Pentagon to develop and test its new toys. To be able to use mini-nukes the Americans are effectively trashing the whole concept of nuclear non-proliferation - the idea that nuclear arms holders will gradually disarm and no new nuclear arms holding countries will be allowed - and leaving the door open to a new worldwide arms race. It is amazing that such a major detrimental change to the security of the world is happening with relatively little attention. The Bush junta has done some pretty terrible and stupid things, but this may top them all. Richard Butler was interviewed by Mark Davis for an Australian television show, and explains why the Americans are doing this:

    "Well, one can say they're just plainly selfish or this is the consequence of September 11 and so on. Not really. It's this - this administration has a view of the special character of the United States, the singular and exclusive character that is new. I've talked to them about it and they make this plain. They say 'We are the sole super power, we're therefore the exceptional country, we're outside of international law. Others have to obey the law and obey the rules, but we don't.' I mean, I'm not making that up. If they were sitting here tonight, Mark, the people I've talked with would readily agree. They'd say 'Yeah, that's right, that's who we are. We are the exceptional country and we don't have to obey the law because we're different.' Now, that's where this is proceeding from. And I ask you to recognise what happens when the most powerful country, the same as the most powerful people within a domestic society, consider themselves to be above the law. What happens? Citizens, or countries, decide that the law itself is no good and that's what will happen in the nuclear area."

    Is the rest of the world asleep? We have a particular situation where one big rogue nation is hell-bent to take actions which will destroy the world. They have already taken a good run at the concept of the international law of war and the United Nations, and are rapidly heading towards the weaponization of space. Once nuclear buildup is fashionable again, there will be no putting the genie back in the bottle, and the whole world will be under constant risk of nuclear war. The United States cannot be defeated militarily. It is, however, extraordinarily vulnerable economically. There has been much talk about using currencies other than the American dollar in the oil market to remove the advantage the American empire has when the dollar is used as the currency of oil transactions. This would have an effect on the American economy, but not the large effect that some people seem to hope for. There is some advantage for the Americans in having oil priced in dollars, but since dollars can be readily converted to other currencies, and other currencies into dollars, all for relatively small transaction fees, the advantage is not crucial to the health of the American economy. The key to the American economy is the tacit agreement by oil producers to reinvest the largest part of their oil revenues into the American economy, and the robustness of the economy caused by this constant massive injection of capital has attracted huge amounts of other capital (it is not a coincidence that the dominance of the American economy coincided with the militancy of OPEC). All this investment pushes up the dollar, thus improving the value of the investments in the eyes of non-Americans, thus further making the American economy a desirable place to invest. The high dollar policy is practically a perpetual motion machine, but carries with it a severe danger of crashing once the dollar starts to fall. The key to forcing the Americans to their senses is to reduce the flow of investment capital into the United States. If Europe, China, Japan and the oil-producing states agreed to gradually decrease the massive flow of capital into the United States, it would not take long for the American economy, and thus politicians who hope to be reelected, to get the message. Indeed, the recent rapid fall of the American dollar has been caused by just such a withdrawal of investment (it would be interesting if this withdrawal of capital was the start of such a secret organized international program). There is a cost to such a process, as the world is so invested in the success of the U. S. that these other countries will lose money if they damage the American economy. Can greed be stifled long enough for the rest of the world to save everyone from the evil men who currently run the United States?

    Sunday, May 18, 2003

    Iraq:

    1. In Baghdad, banks have been looted of at least $500 million, importers are afraid to bring goods into Iraq as they are ambushed on the highway from Amman to Baghdad, and the electrical system can't be repaired as the looting is taking away the equipment needed for repairs. The complete lack of security has prevented most commercial activity. Othman, a taxi driver, said:

      "Under Saddam we lived in fear, now we live in terror from crime and we live in poverty."

      Retired Christian teacher Sabah Yusef said:

      "If this anarchy and unemployment continues for another month, people will rise against the Americans and bring about a more chaotic situation."

      Sa'ad Kathem, who is unemployed, said:

      "I don't allow my sisters outside the house. When I leave home, I'm worried the criminals will come for my sisters, and when I'm at home I'm worried they will steal my car, it's impossible to live like this."

      242 people have died in Baghdad in just over three weeks, almost all from bullet wounds. In the past 10 days there have been 124 violent deaths, almost all gunshot homicides. The American solution to this is to shoot looters on sight, or perhaps not shoot looters on sight, depending who you listen to (see also here).

    2. The weapons of mass destruction excuse didn't pan out, and the Iraqis obviously didn't care to be 'liberated', and the lack of response from the Iraqi army shows how weak it actually was and disproves the allegation that Iraq posed a threat to its neighbors or even (!) the United States itself. So you might think that at least one benefit of the attack on Iraq might be the Americans giving the Iraqis the benefits of government by and for the people, free speech, and a right to defend themselves. Er, no:

      • The United States and Britain have indefinitely (or here) postponed allowing Iraqi opposition forces to form a national assembly and an interim government by the end of the month. The British and Americans will remain in charge for an indefinite period.

      • The new U.S.-sponsored Iraqi television news station was censored (or here, slightly different) by the Americans before it went on the air. It has postponed plans to air a live news program because of disputes over editorial control. The Americans wanted the content of the show to be reviewed by the wife of a Kurdish leader before being broadcast. Weeks earlier, in Mosul, the U.S. Army issued orders for troops to seize (or perhaps not 'seize', but something like it) the only television station, an order disobeyed by a true hero of free speech, Maj. Charmaine Means, who was relieved of duty (and who should receive some sort of award for her devotion to free speech as she disobeyed because she felt that the presence of American soldiers would intimidate the station's Arab employees into airing only programming acceptable to the American military).

      • That Second Amendment thing the Americans keep talking about obviously only applies to Americans, as the U. S. military is now telling Iraqis that it is illegal to own or sell guns, leaving many people with nothing to defend themselves with against the looters.



    3. The looting of the Tuwaitha nuclear complex, which the Americans allowed to happen, resulted in the theft of radioactive material. Melissa Fleming of the International Atomic Energy Agency said:

      "The radioactive sources, some very potent ones, could get on to the black market and into the hands of terrorists planning dirty-bomb attacks."

      I thought that the Americans were really concerned about dirty bombs - remember the story of Jose Padilla, still rotting in jail for allegedly planning dirty bomb attacks? - but I guess that was just part of the effort to scare Americans half to death to allow for the continued domestic political oppression and international adventures.

    4. The first rule of international politics is, whatever else happens, the Palestinians get screwed. Saddam had taken up the policy of housing Palestinian refugees in houses in Baghdad, some of which he had obtained by taking them from his political enemies, or forcing such enemies to rent them at an extremely low rent. Now, the gangs of house-jackers are starting to dispossess these Palestinians from their homes in Baghdad, and kicking them out on the street. Many of the Palestinian refugees have lived in Iraq since 1948 (I wonder what happened in 1948 to make them want to leave their homeland in the Palestine?). It is quite possible that many of these people will need to be housed somewhere else, but leaving them homeless and at the mercy of the street justice of the house-jackers can hardly be the right answer. Iranian refugees living in Iraq may also have been the victims of being forced from their refugee camps.

    5. There are allegations which are being investigated by Amnesty International that British and American troops tortured (or here) prisoners of war in Iraq with night-long beatings and, in at least one case, electric shocks. Investigators received "full cooperation" from the British, but, perhaps needless to say, not from the Americans, who were "denying access to PoWs to determine their treatment."


    Friday, May 16, 2003

    I have already mentioned the refusal of physicist Dr. Daniel Amit to review a paper submitted to him by the American Physical Society, representing a boycott by him of American institutions in protest against recent American actions (the original e-mail correspondence is here). Dr Amit was interviewed (or here or here) by the Arab News, and here are some exerpts:

    "One of the central problems of modern global society is that the culture that publicizes itself as the example of democracy, enlightenment, modernity, culture, and freedom, is the one that puts global survival in danger. It does that by robbing the environment, and the war indicates that it can put such destruction into open military practice, with no internal (American) corrective forces."

    and

    "We must confront the dominant idea that American culture is the source of all good and wisdom, in all fields of culture. I chose the field of science for this particular personal revolt because the American domination in this field is especially apparent and effective (both materially and spiritually); because the war has exposed, in a double way, the horror in which science participates on both sides of the aggression: First, to expose and destroy Iraqi weapons (inspections), and then to develop technology which renders an entire people a hunting ground for raving technological cowboys (in the style they hunted the Native American Indians); because my colleagues in the scientific universe must open their eyes to the implications of their 'pure' activity, which produces such weapons, allows the development of biological weapons, bigger and more devastating bombs (and this is done in universities)."

    and

    "The crime is not over: Iraq is occupied and its people and its resources are treated like the Wild West, with total impunity. What is going on in Iraq (and in Afghanistan and Palestine for that matter) is against every international convention, and exceeds the horrors imagined when such conventions were formulated."

    and, on the problem in the Palestine:

    "The requirement that cessation of violence must be a precondition for political progress is a sure formula for no progress. So many of us, including hundreds of military officers and expert journalists, have come to the conclusion that it is an intended policy of the Israeli government to provoke Palestinian violence, whenever it senses a political process that may threaten the continuation of the occupation and the settlements."

    In stark contrast to what the Americans are doing, or not doing, the United Arab Emirates decided to rebuild a hospital in Baghdad. Here is a quote from an article in the Jordan Times:

    "One excellent example of almost instant rebuilding is the Sheikh Zayed hospital in Baghdad. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) decided to establish a hospital. It took over a building, the Olympic hospital built by Uday Hussein, the former president's elder son. That hospital had been completely looted. Even the electrical wiring had been stolen. A week later, it was a functioning hospital, an island of cleanliness and sanity in a sea of decay and dirt. Its gates are under siege throughout the day, six days a week. It is closed on Fridays. Hundreds of Iraqis line up under the simmering summer sun, waiting for hours to get a subscription filled or see a doctor. The hospital opened on May 4. Dr Yusif Muhammad, the head doctor, said: 'On the first day, we had 450 patients, on the second 600, on the third 800 and on the fourth 1,500. That is the highest number so far. Now it is about 1,000. So far, we have only an outpatient department, but we will soon have a section for surgery and then make it into a general hospital covering all the specialities. It is a gift to the Iraqi people from the United Arab Emirates. All the medical staff come from the UAE, all the equipment and all the medicines and supplies. We have established an airbridge to bring in supplies whenever we need them, seven days a week if necessary.'"

    So if the UAE can reestablish a completely looted hospital in a week, why can't the Americans? Because they don't want to spend any money. The key to understanding Iraq's reconstruction, or lack of same, is that the American plan is to soak up all the oil revenues with the lavish reconstruction contracts given to friends of the Bush regime. As the oil is not flowing, there is no money to pay these contracts, and therefore absolutely no interest by the Americans in reconstruction. Indeed, as far as the Americans are concerned, this is the period of deconstruction, where looting and destruction of the infrastructure of Iraq can be used as a sort of bank of future corrupt reconstruction projects to be handed out to the Bush cronies once there is oil revenue enough to pay for them. What we're seeing in Iraq is the theft of all the wealth of an entire country for the sole benefit of a tiny elite who happen to be friends of the Bush Administration. Such a meticulous and thorough theft hasn't been seen since the days of the Nazis, and the clever use of inflated reconstruction contracts to hide the theft is unprecedented. It is the application of Enron-style accounting to international pillaging.

    Thursday, May 15, 2003

    More on the lawlessness and anarchy in Iraq:

    1. Some quotes from Baghdad:

      • from Carol Morello of the Washington Post:

        ". . . this city looks very much like a city of men. You rarely see women around. When you talk with women, when you can track them down in their houses, they'll tell you they're scared out of their wits by the lawlessness.



        There is a growing sense here that the lawlessness has been increasing. The looters had started out against the government ministries, then they started doing carjackings, and now many people are saying that there are reports of criminals going into peoples' homes and committing murders and carjackings and theft. So, people are very afraid. Also, there is still no electricity here."

        and

        ". . . it seems to be getting worse. You hear more gunfire at night than you did even a few days ago.



        And so, there are supposed to be some more police on the streets. But you can drive around the city, the size of Los Angeles or Chicago, you can spend a whole day driving around the city without seeing a single police officer."



      • from Anne Morris, a senior CARE staff member, after an office and warehouse belonging to CARE were attacked Sunday night, and two CARE vehicles were seized by armed men over the weekend:

        "The violence is escalating. We have restricted staff movement for their own safety. What does it say about the situation when criminals can move freely about the city and humanitarian aid workers cannot?"


      • from Dr. Raghad Sursan, a psychiatrist at the now largely wrecked Al Rashad state psychiatric hospital, after the looting of the hospital:

        "I am disappointed. I am mad, and if there is a word that is bigger than mad, I am that, because the marines were there and could have done something to stop it."


      • from Karim Salih, whose family (five brothers, his father, and a sister) were slaughtered by looters in the middle of the night:

        "I want to know who did this. Why did they kill them? They could have taken what they wanted and gone. What is happening with the world when people cannot sleep safely in their beds? We live in the jungle here. No one is safe."




    2. The World Health Organization has confirmed that there has been an outbreak of cholera in Basra caused by lack of access to clean water. Spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said:

      "In the past, the Basra department of preventative medicine was running a very efficient cholera control program, including quality control of hospital laboratories, screening of food handlers and food items, routine control of quality of water, and screening of contacts. Today, the situation is different. There is no longer a functioning surveillance system to centralize the information, investigate the causes and monitor the situation."

      The WHO claims that Basra's central laboratory, which had been totally ransacked, has to be rebuilt, or cholera and other contagious diseases could spread unchecked.

    3. There is a report (or here) by Walter Sommerfeld, a Professor of Oriental Philology in Marburg, that the Americans actually participated in and encouraged the looting of the Museum of Antiquities:

      "A high-ranking museum official reports that . . . two tanks rolled up, and American soldiers broke open the doors of the main building and spent around two hours unobserved in the display galleries. Afterward, they removed certain objects and transported them away. Which objects these were, could not be identified by him or other observers. What is certain is only that most of the large and conspicuous exhibits were still present, due to their difficulty of transportation, and that only the smaller exhibits had been removed from their display cases to storerooms.


      A resident reports how US soldiers commanded chance Iraqi bystanders on the museum grounds, to go into the museum and help themselves: 'This is your treasure, get in!' For three days the plunderers worked unhindered and carried away their booty in front of running cameras.  The few museum employees who had returned to work tried desperately to get American troops to protect the museum. A few soldiers turned up for a short while, looked at what was going on and disappeared again with the remark: 'This is not our order.'"

      and

      "Stolen antiquities were particularly sought-after by journalists, so that armed gangs specialized in robbing them along the 500-kilometre long highway from Baghdad to the Jordanian border. One of those robbed reported that after he was robbed of his car, the first thing the bandits wanted to know was: 'Where are the antiquities?' In one journalist's car, twelve boxes of antiquities were turned up."

      The fighting, which the Americans used as one of the excuses for their inaction, was over before the looting started. The Americans actually facilitated looting by opening doors and then encouraging the looting. The Americans forced open the Technical University, opened computers and removed their hard drives, and then allowed looters in. All but one of the 15 universities of Iraq have been totally looted and burned.

    4. There is a report that many of the books in the National Library were saved by Iraqis who removed them once it became clear that the Americans were going to provide no protection. Here is an interesting quote from the article (my emphasis added):

      "Librarians say that as American troops pressed into Baghdad April 9, they pleaded with soldiers to protect the site from looters and Kuwaiti arsonists. They said the Kuwaitis were bent on revenge for the 1990-91 invasion and war."

      Robert Fisk reported seeing the arsonists arrive in identically colored buses. Is it possible that there was an organized Kuwaiti arson squad which had been allowed in to Baghdad by the Americans with the intention of getting revenge for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait?

    5. There is a water crisis in Nassiriyah, as reported by Chris Stuart, Public Health Promoter with Oxfam in Iraq:

      "The water quality is very poor and smelly and after the intense bombing of this town, many homes have no water. Every civic building has been destroyed. . . . . it is a town of rubble and despair. . . to access water . . . breaking into the pipes is the only option, but this leads to the risk of disease and contamination."

      and

      "Some mothers were telling me that they could only afford enough fuel to boil the water for their children, but this is the exception and not the rule. The overriding main issue for everybody is water and the urgent need to have clean drinking water. Mothers are the ones I feel for most, and they have absolutely no means to protect their children from getting sick from water related sicknesses. The number of admissions for diarrhoeal diseases in the hospitals has increased and these are mainly children. Up to a couple of days ago, there were hardly any drugs available to treat these children."


    6. Now the Americans are claiming that money found by U. S. troops in Baghdad may be the money allegedly stolen by Qusay Hussein from the Iraqi central bank. There are still many problems in this story, but at least this version avoids the need for four tractor-trailers. It is entertaining to watch the American military lies evolve.

    7. You might have thought with all the professed worry of American officials over nuclear programs and 'dirty bombs' that the Americans might have seen fit to secure the Iraqi nuclear facilities. Well, they didn't, the Iraqis went in and looted radioactive material, and many residents in villages close to the Tuwaitha Nuclear Facility are showing signs of radiation sickness. When International Atomic Energy Agency officials made their last visit to Tuwaitha in January, they found nearly two tons of partially enriched uranium, along with significant quantities of highly radioactive medical and industrial isotopes. When American soldiers arrived, Iraqi armed guards were holding off looters. What did the soldiers do? They disarmed the guards, and thus ensured that the looting would occur! Mohammed Zaidan, the former chief agricultural engineer at Tuwaitha, said:

      "The soldiers had promised us they would secure the site but they did not and we wonder why. Perhaps it was because they always knew there were no real weapons there, despite all their claims. But, nevertheless, these materials represent a major health hazard and before long we may start to see people developing cancer and deformed babies because they did not stop the looting."