Saturday, July 23, 2005

Re: Canada's Troops Head for Battle, Commentary by Annamarie

I have just finished reading in today's (Saturday, July 23) Toronto Star that a contingent of Canadian troops will be heading for Afghanistan, this time for the trouble-spot of the Kandahar region, to fight the insurgency there. Come October, Canada's military mission in Kabul will be wound down and troops transferred to Kandahar, with the addition of 250 troops. By February 2006, Canada will have 1,500 troops taking command of the southern region.

I am incensed by this decision of our government, especially Defence Minister Bill Graham. While I realise that the violence there has escalated, I can see no reason why Canada should be involved in ongoing combat. The "War on Terror" on Afghanistan's soil was the U.S. government's retaliatory answer to the tragic events of 9/11. I have no problem with finding the perpetrators of that tragedy but I fail to see the logic behind a long, drawn-out war, and Canada's role in it. After several years of troops and fighting in Afghanistan, nothing has been accomplished in the way of being any closer to Osama bin-Laden and his Al Queda cohorts. The Taliban was not vanquished that is why more troops are needed. If anything, the situation is worse, and between the warlords and Taliban, the opium trade is flourishing better than ever. However, listening to the Bush administration's spin, things have "improved" and "are continually improving" in that desolate land. That empty rhetoric begs the question: "Why are more troops needed if the situation is improving?" And if the situation is worsening, why are we not told in so many words? Are we such imbeciles that we need to be placated?

According to Bill Graham, Canada "couldn't walk away from the Afghanistan mission". Why not? Ostensibly, our troops there are to bolster Canada's presence by a 250-troop "reconstruction team", swelling to 1,500 troops in all by next February. Is this truly a "reconstruction team" or in reality more fighters to aid the U.S. efforts, which are already greatly extended due to Bush's failed, unjust War on Iraq? Mr. Graham also cited that this new mission will boost Canada's relations with the U.S. Why do we need kudos from the U.S.? Canada is a sovereign country, NOT another U.S. state.

A genuine "reconstruction mission" is understandable, for much of Afghanistan is still rubble after the U.S. bombings a few years ago. But combat? Appeasing the Bush administration is definitely not worth our soldiers' lives. The billions of U.S. dollars being spent - much of it mismanaged - on futile efforts in Iraq could have been used to help Afghani farmers grow viable crops instead of having to depend on cultivating opium for their livelihood. George W. Bush attacked two countries during the first term of his presidency. Both of those countries are terribly failed states, his quagmired 'legacies'. Canada must not be complicit in these crimes against humanity.

The Americans are stretched thin by the their unwarranted, illegal invasion of Iraq while new recruit levels have reached all-time lows. Bush and his neocons should have thought about finishing their mission in Afghanistan before invading a sovereign country - Iraq - under false pretenses. They should never have invaded a country which posed them no threat. Spreading U.S. imperialism in the guise of "democracy" is a policy that only Bush's sycophants and the neutered commercial, corporate "mainstream" media believe. The rest of the world know it's all about 'black gold': oil. Anyone who has doubts about this, please read Canadian writer-political commentator Linda McQuaig's 2004 book, "It's the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet", published by Doubleday Canada. It is definitely an eye-opener!

Go to original:The Toronto Star

Friday, July 22, 2005

t r u t h o u t Issues: Iraqi Civilians Are Victims of an Endless War, by Delphine Minoui

Iraqi civilian death toll keeps climbing relentlessly. These beleagured people will never forget the horrors of this war waged upon them for no other reason than U.S.-British hegemony in that region, which unfortunetely has the coveted 'black gold': oil. Indeed, this war will live in infamy forever. --- Annamarie

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Iraqi Civilians Are Victims of an Endless War
By Delphine Minoui
Le Figaro

Friday 22 July 2005

Baghdad: Twenty-five thousand people killed in Iraq since March 2003.

Akil Hakim's grocery store, in the heart of the Qadesiya neighborhood, was the circle of buddies' meeting place, one of the rare spots where Amir Ta'ei and his friends could continue to get together after nightfall, to drink sodas and play video games, in spite of the risks of staying out late in Baghdad. Last week, Akil Hakim was killed, and his store has never reopened. Thirty years old, the father of three children, he had no particular enemies. "All that we know is that armed men at the wheel of a Korean car stopped in front of his store around 10 p.m. and shot him," confides 27-year-old Amir Ta'ei, one of his best friends. Overwhelmed by more serious cases, the police didn't even deign to open an investigation. "We don't dare get together in the same neighborhood any more. The next time, it could be our turn," Amir Ta'ei worries.

Akil Hakim was young, discreet, and of modest origins. His story is the story of thousands of Iraqis, victims of a war with no front, and no visible combatants, that is getting worse every day in post-Saddam Iraq.

According to an alarming report made public by the Iraq Body Count organization, close to 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion of their country by American and British troops in March 2003, with an average of 34 deaths a day. These numbers, which remain approximate, are based on an analysis of more than 10,000 media reports between March 2003 and March 2005.

For its part, the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior advances the number of 8,175 Iraqis killed in ten months from July 2004 to May 2005. Again, according to the Iraq Body Count report, close to half these deaths have taken place in Baghdad. Thirty-seven percent of civilian losses have been caused by occupation forces under American command, versus 9% by the insurgency. Criminal activity is the source of 36% of the deaths counted. "We cannot remain silent in the face of these victims. Our country is at war. We thought that, with the installation of a new government, the situation would stabilize. But the opposite is happening. The situation gets worse from day to day," worries Raja Habib al-Khuzai, a deputy of the new Iraqi Parliament. After a period of relative calm, recent days have been particularly deadly, with more than 24 children killed last week right in the center of Baghdad and the death of a hundred people after the explosion of a tanker-truck in the market of Mousayeb.

More than two years after the fall of Baghdad, Iraq has never trembled so much. Every day brings its batch of kidnappings, murders, and terrorist acts. The violence, which originally targeted occupation troops, no longer spares anyone: politicians, women, children, whatever their ethnicity or religion. In two years, the insurgents, whether Islamists or former Baathists, have professionalized their attacks. They now have recourse to a multitude of subterfuges like that of the man who pretended to faint on the university campus and waited until a large crowd gathered around him to detonate his explosives belt. In Tikrit, the resistance also practices the technique of booby-trapping dead dogs' bodies.

According to Iraq Body Count's report, occupation forces remain at the top of the list of those responsible for civilian deaths. The recent hardening of the rules of engagement has provoked an increase in "blunders," like the death of the young Heither Mohammad Moussa, from Sadr City. Two months ago, this economics student had just left the University of Mustansiriya grounds when he was shot dead by an American soldier from the side of a Humvee. Had he been taken for a potential "enemy" or was he caught in the middle of an exchange of fire between occupation troops and insurgents? In the absence of a witness, the question remains unresolved.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has just had discussions with representatives of occupation troops to assure that victims' families are compensated. The Iraqi Parliament is considering a proposed law designed for "victims of terrorists' acts," that would allocate a pension to the families of persons killed in an attack. In the meantime, Heydar has just signed a petition launched by the radical young imam Moqtada Sadr, which calls for the immediate departure of foreign troops.

Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.


t r u t h o u t Editorial: The Spies Who Came In From the Hot Tub, by Tom Engelhardt

As they say in the parlance of mystery writers, the plot gets thicker. The CIA's La Dolce Vita War on Terror indeed .... Read on! --- Annamarie

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The Spies Who Came In from the Hot Tub
By Tom Engelhardt

Be all that you can charge: The CIA's La Dolce Vita War on Terror.

Like so much else in our moment, it contravened laws the US had once signed onto, pretzeled the English language, went directly to the dark side, was connected to various administration lies and manipulations that preceded the invasion of Iraq, and was based on taking the American taxpayer to the cleaners. I'm talking about a now-notorious Bush administration "extraordinary rendition" in Italy, the secret kidnapping of a radical Muslim cleric off the streets of Milan in early 2003, his transport via US airbases in Italy and Germany to Egypt, and there, evidently with the CIA station chief for Italy riding shotgun, directly into the hands of Egyptian torturers. This was but one of an unknown number of extraordinary-rendition operations - the estimate is more than 100 since September 11, 2001, but no one really knows - that have been conducted all over the world and have delivered terror suspects into the custody of Uzbeki, Syrian, Egyptian, and other hands notorious for their use of torture. It just so happens that this operation took place on the democratic soil of an ally that possessed an independent judiciary, and that the team of 19 or more participants, some speaking fluent Italian, passed through that country not like the undercover agents of our imagination, but, as former CIA clandestine officer Melissa Boyle Mahle told Reuters, "like elephants stampeding through Milan. They left huge footprints."

Those gargantuan footprints - and some good detective work by the Italian police based on unsecured cell phones (evidently from a batch issued to the US diplomatic mission in Rome), hotel bills, credit card receipts, and the like - have given us a glimpse into the unexpectedly extravagant "shadow war" being conducted on our behalf by the Bush administration through the Central Intelligence Agency. So let me skip the normal discussions of kidnappings, torture, or whether we violated Italian sovereignty, and just concentrate on what those footprints revealed. If the President's Global War on Terror has been saddled with the inelegant acronym GWOT, the Italian rendition operation should perhaps be given the acronym LDVWOT or La Dolce Vita War on Terror.

Of course, if Vice President Dick Cheney could say of administration tax cuts, "We won the [2002] midterms. This is our due"; if House Majority Leader Tom DeLay could charge his transatlantic airfare to Great Britain on an American Express card issued to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and food and phone calls at a Scottish golf-course hotel on a credit card issued to Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham; if Halliburton could slip a reputed $813 million extra in "costs" into a contract to provide logistical support for US troops (including "$152,000 in 'movie library costs' [and] a $1.5 million tailoring bill"); then why shouldn't the Spartan warriors of the intelligence community capture a few taxpayer bucks while preparing a kidnapping in Italy?

Here's what we know at present about this particular version of La Dolce Vita:

* The CIA agents took rooms in Milan's 5-star hotels, including the Principe di Savoia ("one of the world's most luxuriously appointed hotels") where they rang up $42,000 in expenses; the Westin Palace, the Milan Hilton, and the Star Hotel Rosa as well as similar places in the seaside resort of La Spezia and in Florence, running up cumulative hotel bills of $144,984.

* They ate in the equivalent of 5-star restaurants in Milan and elsewhere, evidently fancying themselves gourmet undercover agents.

* As a mixed team - at least 6 women took part in the operation - men and women on at least two occasions took double rooms together in these hotels. (There is no indication that any of them were married - to each other at least.)

* After the successful kidnapping was done and the cleric dispatched to sunny Egypt, they evidently decided they deserved a respite from their exertions; so several of them left for a vacation in Venice, while four others headed for the Mediterranean coast north of Tuscany, all on the taxpayer dole.

* They charged up to $500 a day apiece, according to Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post, to "Diners Club accounts created to match their recently forged identities"; wielded Visa cards (assumedly similarly linked to their fake identities); and made sure they got or used frequent flier miles. (The Diner's Club, when queried by Tomdispatch, refused to comment on any aspect of the case.) Our master spies "rarely paid in cash," adds Whitlock, "gave their frequent traveler account numbers to desk clerks and made dozens of calls from un-secure phones in their rooms."

* To move their captive in comfort - for them - they summoned up not some grimy cargo plane but a Learjet to take him to Germany and a Gulfstream V to transport him to Egypt, the sorts of spiffy private jets normally used by CEOs and movie stars.

You would think that our representatives in Congress, reading about this in their local newspapers, might raise the odd question about the rich-and-famous life-styles of our secret agents. So far, however, despite the well-reported use of taxpayer dollars to fund trysts, vacations, and the good life, nary a peep on the subject has come from Congress; nor has anyone yet called for the money to be returned to the American people.

Now, because a Milan prosecutor had the temerity to issue arrest warrants for thirteen of our high-flying spies and to seek warrants for another six of them - the great majority are officially "on the run" and assumedly have been pulled out of Europe by the Agency. The CIA station chief who headed the operation had even bought a retirement house near Turin. "That he thought he could live out his golden years in Italy," reports Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Times, "is another indication of the impunity with which he and the others felt they were operating, Italian prosecutors say."

A small tip for Interpol investigators: If any of these agents are still at large in Europe, I wouldn't be checking out obscure safe-houses. The places to search are top-of-the-line hotels, Michelin-recommended restaurants, and elite vacation spots across the continent.

When evaluating the CIA's actions in Italy, you might consider the Agency's mission statement as laid out at its website: "Our success depends on our ability to act with total discretion... Our mission requires complete personal integrity... We accomplish things others cannot, often at great risk... We stand by one another and behind one another." Or you might simply adapt an ad line from one of the few credit cards the team in Milan seems not to have used: The nightly cost of a room in Milan's Hotel Principe di Savoia, $450; the cost of a Coke from a mini-bar in one of its rooms, $10; the cost of leasing a GulfstreamV for a month, $229,639; that feeling of taking the American taxpayer for a ride, priceless.

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of American triumphalism in the Cold War.

Special thanks go to Nick Turse for his typically invaluable research aid.


Jump to today's TO Features:

t r u t h o u t Perspective: Bush's Soviet State, by William Rivers Pitt

William Rivers Pitt draws intelligent, keen, well-founded parallels between the Bush administration and the last legs of the Soviet Cold War regime. Definitely an excellent, worth-while read! For info about books by the same author, please go to the bottom of his article. ---- Annamarie

Bush's Soviet State
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 22 July 2005

It's funny in an awful sort of way. The defining events of the last fifty years all centered around the Cold War and the eventual demise of the Soviet system. Toward the end of the Soviet regime, their government was often forced to grossly overstate the size of grain harvests or the preparedness of their military in order to maintain an illusion of strength and order. In other words, intelligence and facts were fixed around the policy. In essence, fixing the facts became the policy.

Self-deception was piled upon self-deception. Rather than address the systemic problems within the nation, the Soviet regime chose instead to massage the illusions until the problems became too huge to overcome. Pretending everything was fine became the chosen course of action, and the state's ability to manufacture a pleasing reality became a perfect circle of inaction and delusion. By the time the tanks rolled and the Wall fell, the deal had already gone down.

Sound familiar?

There has been a lot of noise lately in the news media about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, and whether Bush advisor Karl Rove was the button-man who brought her down. Press coverage of this issue has been unexpectedly tenacious. White House spokesman Scott McClellan has been leaving his podium after press conferences lately with fresh bite marks all over his ankles and legs. The intensity of the pursuit on this issue has a lot to do with Times reporter Judy Miller. Like her, hate her, respect her or disdain her, but one thing is clear: The White House press corps is bird-dogging this story with alacrity because one of their own has wound up in the bucket because of it.

Yet even with all the coverage - The Time cover, the Newsweek cover, the growling at the press conferences, the intensity of media attention that has not even been deflected by a Supreme Court nomination - the press and far too many people seem to be letting the larger issue slide by. Reporters, columnists and talking heads chew over minute permutations of the story like whether Rove actually said Plame's name, or whether he used her maiden name, or whether he "knowingly" did any of this. The trees are certainly interesting, but the forest deserves a lot more attention.

In short, George W. Bush and his administration are pursuing a course of determined unreality that mirrors the delusional fantasies that ultimately consigned the Soviet Union to the dustbin of history. This Rove-Plame thing is but one small aspect of the main.

Valerie Plame's career as a covert CIA operative was spent keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. Her career was destroyed by the White House because her husband, Joseph Wilson, had the gall to publicly contradict Bush and his people regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It was so important for the Bush administration to maintain the fiction that Iraq possessed these weapons that they were willing to torpedo a vital intelligence network set up to protect us all. That fiction was more important than the truth.

It seems clear that Rove was central to this action, regardless of all the arguments over the definition of "is." It is likewise becoming clear that Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, was also in on this action. However, focusing only on which laws these two may have violated in wrecking Plame's ability to do her job does not encompass the totality of the issue. Valerie Plame is not a central character in all this, but only another casualty.

George W. Bush and his people spent months telling the American public that Iraq was a direct threat to our security. They invaded based upon false pretenses. They maintain the fiction that the war was necessary when it has become manifestly clear that it was not. They maintain the fiction that freedom has been brought to Iraq when it has become manifestly clear that it has not. Perhaps worst of all, they maintain the fiction that the United States and the world are safer because of the invasion. Recent events in London rip this fantasy to shreds, and never mind the reports from the French news media that the London explosives may have been made from materials stolen from the unsecured Al-Qaqaa facility in Iraq.

A recent article from the Associated Press titled "Experts Fear Endless Terror War" noted, "An Associated Press survey of longtime students of international terrorism finds them ever more convinced, in the aftermath of London's bloody Thursday, that the world has entered a long siege in a new kind of war. They believe that al-Qaida is mutating into a global insurgency, a possible prototype for other 21st-century movements, technologically astute, almost leaderless. And the way out is far from clear. In fact, says Michael Scheuer, the ex-CIA analyst, rather than move toward solutions, the United States took a big step backward by invading Iraq."

The article continues, "Scheuer, who headed the CIA's bin Laden unit for nine years, sees a different way out - through US foreign policy. He said he resigned last November to expose the US leadership's 'willful blindness' to what needs to be done: withdraw the US military from the Mideast, end 'unqualified support' for Israel, sever close ties to Arab oil-state 'tyrannies.'"

Willful blindness is an appropriate phrase. It captures not only the fact that we are manufacturing threats to our security every day we remain in Iraq, but the fact that virtually everything associated with Bush administration policy depends on self-delusion and the manipulation of data to fulfill political desires. Even the most fundamental underpinnings of conservative political philosophy have been ground up in the gears of this grand fantasy.

Truth no longer matters. Ethics no longer matter. Facts are there for the twisting. Decades-old conservative ideals regarding the budget and the size of the Federal government have been thrown under the bus because they are no longer convenient, and get in the way of the manufacture of reality. Soviet self-delusion led that nation into Afghanistan and disaster. The Bush administration’s self-delusion has led us into Iraq. Res ipsa loquitor.

The parallel between this Bush administration and the old, failed Soviet regime can be taken one step further. One of the main reasons the Soviet government was able to stagger on for years making up facts out of whole cloth was that the leaders of that regime were accountable to no one. The Politburo said it, and so it must be true, and if it wasn't true, there was no authority or check to their power that could blow a whistle, throw a flag or demand an investigation. The old Soviet government lived in a bubble, free from the fear that they might be called to the carpet for lying, getting a lot of people killed and putting the State in mortal danger.

Sound familiar? Bush and his people have managed to walk through the raindrops since 2001, managed to pull off more than a few impeachable crimes, for no other reason than that they are accountable to no one in government ... or, more properly, no one in government who has the power to call them to account has done so. Congress is run by Bush allies, the Justice Department is run by his longest-standing hatchet man, and all of them prefer to maintain the pleasant fictions over any attempt to fix what has gone so drastically and demonstrably wrong.

We watched the Soviets smash themselves to pieces because they refused to deal with what ailed them, because lies made life easier on the powerful, because actually attempting to address a problem might expose the powerful to censure or even removal, because no one had the power to stop them.

It is happening again, right before our eyes.

** William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

t r u t h o u t Issues: No.10 Blocks Envoy's Book on Iraq

Bush and Crony Blair again apply their heavy-handed censorship of every piece of paper which attempts to tell the truth about the total mishandling of Iraq and the reasons for the deplorable war waged on this once-sovereign nation. ---- Annamarie

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No. 10 Blocks Envoy's Book on Iraq
By Martin Bright and Peter Beaumont
The Observer UK

Sunday 17 July 2005

A controversial fly-on-the wall account of the Iraq war by one of Britain's most senior former diplomats has been blocked by Downing Street and the Foreign Office.

Publication of The Costs of War by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the UN during the build-up to the 2003 war and the Prime Minister's special envoy to Iraq in its aftermath, has been halted. In an extract seen by The Observer, Greenstock describes the American decision to go to war as 'politically illegitimate' and says that UN negotiations 'never rose over the level of awkward diversion for the US administration'. Although he admits that 'honourable decisions' were made to remove the threat of Saddam, the opportunities of the post-conflict period were 'dissipated in poor policy analysis and narrow-minded execution'.

Regarded as a career diplomat of impeccable integrity, during his time in post-invasion Iraq, Greenstock became disillusioned with the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Paul Bremer. Their relationship had deteriorated by the time Greenstock returned to Britain.

The decision to block the book until Greenstock removes substantial passages will be interpreted as an attempt by ministers to avoid further embarrassing disclosures over the conduct of the war and its aftermath from a highly credible source.

Officials who have seen the book are understood to have been 'deeply shocked' over the way in which Greenstock has quoted widely from 'privileged' private conversations with Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and from the private deliberations of the UN Security Council.

Greenstock has been asked to remove all these sections before the book can be cleared for publication. 'I think some people are really quite surprised that someone like Sir Jeremy has done this,' said one source. 'In particular the way he has quoted private conversations with the Prime Minister.' Greenstock is also thought to be scathing about Bremer and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Greenstock's British publishers, Random House, were remaining tight-lipped but it is thought that the book is almost certain not to be published in the autumn as planned. It was also to be serialised in a British newspaper.

Greenstock, now director of the foreign policy think tank, the Ditchley Foundation, was set to give a series of public appearances, including one at next month's Edinburgh Book Festival. The Foreign Office last night issued a statement: 'Civil Service regulations which apply to all members of the diplomatic service require that any retired official must obtain clearance in respect of any publication relating to their service. Sir Jeremy Greenstock's proposed book is being dealt with under this procedure.'

t r u t h o u t Perspective: George W. Strangelove and the Triumph of Nuclear Faith, by Norman Solomon

George W. Strangelove and the Triumph of Nuclear Faith
By Norman Solomon
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 19 July 2005

The silver-spooned cowboy in the Oval Office just presented a fine new saddle to the nuclear horseman of the apocalypse.

It was a gift worthy of hell. "President Bush agreed yesterday to share civilian nuclear technology with India, reversing decades of U.S. policies designed to discourage countries from developing nuclear weapons," the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The lead was more understated in the New York Times: "President Bush, bringing India a step closer to acceptance in the club of nuclear-weapons states, reached an agreement on Monday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to let India secure international help for its civilian nuclear reactors while retaining its nuclear arms."

No matter how the story was spun, it could only be read in the world's capitals as further proof that U.S. nuclear policies are grimly laughable -- thanks to policymakers in Washington who simultaneously decry and promote nuclear proliferation. And nowhere will the hypocrisy-laced ironies be more appreciated than in Tehran.

More than 50 years after the U.S. government launched its "atoms for peace" program, faith in the peaceful atom is alive and well -- in Iran. While a large proportion of the American public distrusts nuclear power, Iranians routinely echo the positive themes that the industry and its supporters have labored to promote ever since President Dwight Eisenhower pledged "to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma" by showing that "the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life."

Touting the use of nuclear fission to generate electricity, American presidents have strived to make sharp rhetorical distinctions between atomic power and nuclear weapons technologies, despite their extensive overlap. Such reassuring distinctions now have wide credibility in Iran, as I found last month during conversations with Iranian political campaigners, clerics, bazaar merchants, shoppers, teachers and students. Almost all gave notably similar responses when asked whether their country should acquire nuclear energy.

The replies -- often tinged with indignation that the atomic prerogative would even be questioned -- reflected why nuclear development was a non-issue in Iran's latest presidential campaign. The Iranian public appears to believe what nuclear-power boosters loudly proclaimed to the world for several decades -- that nuclear energy can be safe and distinct from the capacity to build nuclear weapons.

If nuclear power plants are good enough for the United States, the prevailing logic goes, then Iran is certainly good enough for nuclear power plants. Present-day Iran, with its eagerness to use nuclear reactors to generate electricity, is a success story for generations of pro-nuclear politicians in Washington.

A civil atomic pact, signed in 1957, initiated nuclear assistance from the United States to Iran. In 1972, President Richard Nixon urged the Shah to build nuclear power plants. The Shah fell in 1979, but after many delays the Islamic Republic resumed work on the nuclear plant near Bushehr, a project that is currently being denounced in Washington.

In Tehran, no one I talked with seemed to have any doubt that such projects should continue. At the city's bazaar -- where I could not find any expression of support for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons -- there appeared to be something close to a consensus for building nuclear power plants.

"It should be done," said a 26-year-old owner of a carpet shop who gave his name as Nahdi. "If it's going to be dangerous, it's dangerous for everyone in the world, not just for the Iranian people. How come they all have access to that kind of energy and just talking about Iran and Iranians?" In a baby supply shop, the man behind the counter said: "It is Iran's right, like other countries."

Cleric Hassan Khomeini -- the most prominent grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founding leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran -- responded to my question in much the same way. He pointed back at the country now pointing the finger at Iran: "The same thing happened in the United States. You've got access to lots of oil and gas resources, and what happened? The United States is producing nuclear energy."

In a mid-June interview, shortly before the first round of the presidential elections, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told me that nuclear weapons are antithetical to Islamic law and that Iran should never try to acquire any. Yet, like every one of his opponents, Rafsanjani (then seen as the frontrunner) expressed strong support for nuclear power in Iran.

Given its vast untapped reserves of oil and natural gas, Iran's claim of needing nuclear-generated electricity might seem farfetched. But arguments about whether Iran really "needs" nuclear power may be beside the point. For the Iranian government, the issue is a matter of national sovereignty and basic prerogatives. In a region where Israel, Pakistan, and India have atomic bombs (made possible by nuclear technology exported from the West), Iran appears to want to keep its nuclear options open.

Unwilling to forsake the myth of the peaceful atom, the United States continues to proselytize for nuclear power while practicing what it preaches. As long as that continues, Washington is in no position to convincingly question the merits of nuclear fundamentalism in Iran or anywhere else.


Norman Solomon is the author of the new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. For information, go to:


t r u t h o u t Editorial: Oil-Control Formula, by Robert Dreyfuss

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Oil-Control Formula
By Robert Dreyfuss

Monday 18 July 2005

George W. Bush's war in Iraq may not be going as planned. But for those who've stopped believing the myth that prewar Iraq represented any sort of threat to the United States, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence mounting that the real reason for the American invasion of Iraq was the most obvious one: Oil. In this case, "oil" doesn't mean that we went to war for the commercial benefit of U.S. oil companies-and in fact, as I reported in Mother Jones magazine in early 2003, before the war, most U.S. oil firms and their executives were against the war. But in Iraq, "oil" means the strategic commodity that is the single most important world resource. Even a novice geostrategist knows that who controls oil controls the world. And in this case, America's rival for control of oil is, first and foremost, China.

Last week, China, Russia and four Central Asian "Stans," including Uzbekistan, rather impolitely asked the United States to withdraw from Central Asia. That part of the world is a significant oil and gas region, and neither Moscow nor Beijing want the United States to put down roots there. But Central Asia's oil and gas resources pale next to the Middle East, and that is where America's imperial presence has set off alarms in Beijing.

Consider oil the Occam's Razor explanation of the war in Iraq.

A June 24 New York Times article subtly attacked China and its CNOOC oil firm over its bid to buy Unocal, a U.S. oil company with long experience in Asia, calling the intended purchase (in its page-one headline) a "costly quest for energy control." But if any nation "controls" energy, it is the United States. Buried in the article was this fairly explosive paragraph:

Privately, Chinese officials and analysts say oil is treated as a strategic crisis. They have sounded the alarm about Western and particularly American domination of oil supplies and influence over major oil-exporting nations, including Saudi Arabia and now Iraq, which has made China dependent on what many here refer to as American economic and military hegemony.

Together, Saudi Arabia and Iraq control roughly half of the world's oil deposits, a share that is likely to rise as oil countries deplete their reserves. Saudi Arabia has long been in America's back pocket, and now Iraq- though not going well for the United States-is occupied by the American army and its quisling government is comprised of American puppets. It isn't shocking for the Chinese to have a legitimate beef here. Consider the following from the July 13 Washington Post . The headline read: "Big Shift in China's Oil Policy" and the subhead, more revealing, was "With Iraq Deal Dissolved by War, Beijiing Looks Elsewhere." It began:

Until recently, China's view of the global energy map focused narrowly on the Middle East, which holds roughly two-thirds of the world's oil. Special attention was directed toward one well-supplied country: Iraq.

Through cultivation of Saddam Hussein's government, China sought to develop some of Iraq's more promising reserves. Beijing advocated lifting the United Nations sanctions that prevented investment in Iraq's oil patch and limited sales of its production.

Then the United States went to war in Iraq in 2003, wiping out China's stakes. The war and its aftermath have reshaped China's basic conception of the geopolitics of oil and added urgency to its mission to lessen dependence on Middle East supplies. It has reinforced China's fears that it is locked in a zero-sum contest for energy with the world's lone superpower, prompting Beijing to intensify its search for new sources, international relations and energy experts say.

So. We went to war in Iraq, "wiping out China's stakes" in Iraq. And so, Chinese "officials and analysts" call the current situation an oil crisis, says the Times.

Meanwhile, neoconservatives, Bush administration officials, some members of Congress and (unfortunately) a few labor-connected liberals are making a big deal of CNOOC's Unocal bid. For perspective, let's recall that Unocal is the company that did more to support the Taliban than any other U.S. entity, courting those Islamic radicals in search of a pipeline, oil and gas deal in central Asia-and hiring various malleable U.S. strategists to support the Taliban on its behalf, including incoming U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. It's hard to imagine anything that China could do with Unocal that would do more damage to U.S. interests than Unocal has already done. Still, the outcry goes on, most recently during a congressional hearing at which Jim Woolsey, the former CIA director, and Frank Gaffney, the neocon-linked military strategist, railed against China. (CNOOC, by the way, is partly owned by Shell Oil, which bought a big chunk of the mostly state-owned firm when it conducted a public stock offering in 2002.)

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, road transportation in China will be the driving force for that country's enormous oil appetite in the next two decades, noting that "the Chinese passenger car market grew tenfold between 1990 and 2000." By 2025, says EIA, China's oil demand will reach nearly 13 million barrels of oil per day. (Saudi Arabia's entire output is only about 8 million barrels a day.) To meet such demand, China is searching everywhere, from Sudan to Venezuela to Central Asia. Iran and China are making oil deals, too. But by invading and occupying Iraq, the United States has pretty much locked up the most easily expanded source of oil in the world; Iraq, which manages to eke out about 2 million barrels a day, can produce six to eight times that much oil if it made sufficient investments in production facilities. Quite a prize, Iraq-if Washington can hold onto it. No wonder various neoconservative world hegemonists consider talk of an Iraq exit strategy to be treasonous.


Robert Dreyfuss is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va., who specializes in politics and national security issues. He is a contributing editor at The Nation, a contributing writer at Mother Jones, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, and a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone. His book, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, will be published by Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books in the fall.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Common Justice is Best Weapon in Fight for Peace, by Alison Broinowski

Published on Tuesday, July 19, 2005 by the Sidney Morning Herald (Australia)
Justice is Best Weapon in Fight for Peace
by Alison Broinowski

We used to read our children a book, long since lost, called Six Men. It was about a little band of men seeking a country where they could live and work in peace.

They found one, and built a farming village, and all went well until they realized there was another village across the river. Knowing nothing about it, they assumed that its people would be envious of their prosperity and freedom. So they built a tower to observe the other village, and soon they saw its people do the same.

Then they made bows and arrows and spent so much time training to use them that their crops began to fail. The same happened on the other side.

One day, desperate for a good dinner, a watcher in one of the towers shot at a passing duck: his arrow fell across the river and all hell broke loose.

This tale's moral message is obvious, and so is its 1970s subtext about the dangers of relying on military technology to assure mutual destruction and hence security. How things have changed in our lifetime.

Today's sophisticated bedtime audience would notice the six men's shortcomings in protective security and technological superiority. Absent, too, from the story is ideology.

Nowadays the six men would claim to be defending their "civilization" against "evildoers" on the other side, crying "Our weapons are good, and our war is just. The other side's weapons, aimed at us, are evil and must be destroyed. To protect our way of life, we must wage endless war for endless peace." If it works, it's legitimate, the young now notice, power makes the rules, and ideology justifies destructive technology.

Ideology and technology march side by side to war, and each is deployed in the service of the other. Modern leaders plan their defense strategies on having the best available technology to deter enemies and win wars, but also to keep each new generation of young people signing up to fight in them.

By promising to win the "mother of all battles", as Saddam Hussein did, or to inflict "shock and awe" on Baghdad, as the US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, did, both were trying to convince their troops that because they had overwhelming force and God on their side, the war would be quick and successful.

Indeed this is what warlike leaders have done for as long as there have been civilizations.

Ideology occasionally goes to war lacking technology, as it did when ancient Britons wearing nothing but woad faced invaders wearing armour. In the Philippines and parts of East Africa, militant tribal groups took on their enemies, armed with little more than magic amulets, powerful potions, a few blowpipes - and conviction. Their impact was not great, nor was their life expectancy. In other cases, though, ideology is more potent than weapons.

The marauding Assassins in Iran, the Japanese army on its advance down the Malay peninsula by bicycle, and the puritanical Taliban, controlling life in Afghanistan, all owed more to ideological inspiration than technological sophistication.

Subversive operations, large or small, can run for years on maximal ideology and minimal technology. Think of the Bader-Meinhof gang, the Vietcong, the Palestinians, and the Zapatistas. And, of course, the hijackers of September 11, 2001, and the bombers of July 7, 2005, who got in under the radar.

Still we rely on overwhelming military and intelligence technology to keep us safe. All a born-again president or prime minister has to do is add ideology and stir.

Credulously, we now go along with Star Wars, which we thought laughable during the Reagan years. This month, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Review conference collapsed, but did we panic? No. We were relaxed, comfortable, or focused on industrial relations. Our leaders pride themselves on being hard-headed, practical and not ideological. But ideology has beaten technology in recent encounters, and we still have Iraq and Afghanistan to go.

War is a theatre in which ideologies, armed with technology, compete for supremacy. Those who want to star want to give it all they've got. The US military-industrial complex can virtually tell Congress and the White House who to fight, where and with what. An American who had been in Canberra explained to me recently that the Pentagon and his company, Boeing, were jointly planning not only future weapons but the wars to use them in. He didn't seem to have any ideological issues, as we say these days, with that. Nor, apparently, did Madeleine Albright who, as secretary of state, asked why the US had such an array of weapons if it wasn't going to use them.

What, then, stands in the way of technology-fueled devastation? In fact, ideological resistance. For just as technologies can be safe or destructive, ideologies can, and do, serve benign or malign ends.

Terrorist attacks for two decades - if we add them up - have been hitting back at what their perpetrators see as humiliating foreign occupation of Muslim countries. Yet in Europe, where for centuries wars powered by religion, greed, xenophobia and technology were waged for the ideologies of patriotism and alliance, the euro has at last dropped.

Bosnia and Kosovo helped prove to the Europeans the futility of such fights. Even in Croatia people told me in June that they still hated the Serbs, but they had more important things to do than fight them. Libya after Lockerbie was dealt with by law, not by invasion; London will deal with its criminals the same way.

Haltingly, the European Union is trying to evolve as a community that can sink its civilizational differences (even if they still hate each others' cuisine). Perhaps the evolved Europeans will eventually stop exporting arms too.

This year, Australia has an opportunity to evolve ideologically and put war behind us. Our neighbors in the Association of South-East Asian Nations, who have observed the EU's progress for over 40 years, wrote into their Treaty of Amity and Co-operation a similar regional ideology of non-intervention.

If our government, which says it is "values-based", is serious in acceding to the treaty, it will be obliged to forgo its declared determination to invade our neighbors at will in pursuit of terrorists.

Much derided by reactionary Australians, accession could be a wise move, if it's not already too late.

Dr Alison Broinowski's forthcoming book, with Jim Wilkinson, is The Third Try: Can the UN Work?

©2005 Sydney Morning Herald

Common "White House v. Wilson/Plame" Matters

Common Dreams News Center

Now More Than Ever...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

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Published on Tuesday, July 19, 2005 by
Why “White House v. Wilson/Plame” Matters
by Ray McGovern

The key issue in the affair has little directly to do with former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson; or his wife, Valerie Plame; or Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; or even President George W. Bush's alter ego, Karl Rove. White House v. Wilson/Plame is about Iraq, where our sons and daughters—and many others—are daily meeting violent death in an unwinnable war.

And it's about manipulation.

It's about how our elected representatives were deceived into voting for an unprovoked war and what happened when one man stood up and called the administration's bluff. And it's about the perfect storm now gathering, as:

* more lies are exposed (whether in journalists' e-mails or in the minutes of high-level meetings at 10 Downing Street),
* the guerrilla war escalates in Iraq, and
* more and more Americans find themselves agreeing with Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., that administration leaders seem to be "making it up as they go along."

It wasn't envisaged this way by the naïve "neoconservative" ideologues that got us into the quagmire in Iraq. Actually they still seem to believe that all will be well if the Iraqi people can only get it into their heads that we are liberators, not occupiers.

So much smoke is being blown over White House v. Wilson/Plame that it is becoming almost impossible to see the forest for the trees. Bewildered houseguests from outside the Beltway throw up their hands: "It's all just politics...and character assassination." And that may well be precisely the impression the media wish to leave with us. Otherwise, left to our own devices, we might conclude they served us poorly with the indiscriminate, hyper-patriotic cheerleading that helped slide us into the worst foreign policy debacle in our nation's history.

Our weekend guests had a hard time trying to understand why the White House two years ago blew the cover of CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson. Sure, Wilson had caught and exposed the Bush administration in a very serious lie. But almost immediately, top officials conceded that Ambassador Wilson was essentially correct in dismissing the flimsy report that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium in Africa.

Betrayal of Trust

So why the neuralgic reaction? Why go to such lengths to impugn Wilson's credibility; and what purpose would be served by harming his wife as well? At first blush, it does seem awfully petty. But dig a little deeper and you'll get a glimpse of what lies beneath the White House campaign against the Wilsons.

Revenge? There was certainly a strong desire to retaliate. And Karl Rove did tell NBC's Chris Matthews at the time that wives were "fair game." Angry at White House dissembling, Wilson had doffed his ambassadorial hat and thrown down the gauntlet when he told the press that the Iraq-Niger caper "begs the question about what else they are lying about." And, indeed, how many more untruths have been uncovered over the past two years?

Was the relentless White House campaign to vilify the Wilsons aimed primarily at serving notice that a similar fate awaits any whose conscience might prompt them to expose still more of the lies used to "justify" the attack on Iraq? That, too, was surely part of it. And, sad to say, it has worked—at least until now. Yes, we have learned about the misdiagnosed aluminum tubes, the "Curveball" deception on Iraqi biological warfare, and the "unpiloted aerial vehicles" (UAVs) that Congress was told could threaten our coastal cities. But it was basic physics that held administration arguments up to eventual ridicule.

None of the exposés came from the mouths of people like Joe Wilson, who simply could not abide crass deception in matters of war and peace.

The main motivation of the White House character assassins had more to do with the particular lie that Joseph Wilson exposed and the essential role it played in the administration's plans. For a nuclear-armed Iraq was the most compelling threat that could be peddled to our elected representatives and senators to deceive them into approving a war launched for reasons unrelated to any putative Iraqi WMD program.

The Big Lie

The Bush administration needed to assert that Iraq was on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. Taking that line posed a huge challenge. On the one hand, a new threat had to be created/hyped out of thin air; and, on the other, the pundits had to be too lazy to refresh their memories on what senior U.S. officials had said about Iraq's military capability before 9/11.

"Saddam Hussein has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors." (Colin Powell, Feb. 24, 2001)

"We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt." (Condoleezza Rice, July 29, 2001)

These statements went quickly down the memory hole. Immediately after 9/11, administration officials, with Vice President Dick Cheney in the lead, began to warn that Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" were just over the horizon. On August 26, 2002, a month after senior U.S. officials had explained to their British counterparts that intelligence was being "fixed" around a policy of war, Vice President Dick Cheney was the first to use that fabricated and twisted intelligence to deceive Americans at large. In a major speech he claimed:

"We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors—including Saddam's own son-in-law."

In fact, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, had told us just the opposite: "All weapons—biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed," he told his debriefers in 1995. Everything else he told them was true. And so was that. Kamel had been in charge of those programs; the weaponry was destroyed at his command.

But no matter. Cheney's speech, and the subsequent National Intelligence Estimate cooked to his recipe, allowed the president to raise the specter of mushroom clouds over U.S. cities, to force a yes vote in Congress for war and, not incidentally, to win back the Senate the following month.

The Iraq-Niger lie was thus both the cornerstone of the Bush agenda for war and the key to unraveling how the "fixing" worked. Rove, master of the administration's strategy yet only two years out of Texas, joined by Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby spread red herrings to divert reporters off the scent and wound up triggering the eventual appointment of a special prosecutor and the convening of a grand jury.

So it was the president’s and vice president’s own men who brought the skunk to the picnic—Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. He shows no inclination to join in the fun and games, and still less to speak prematurely, or to speak at all. Rather, Fitzgerald appears to be a real pro, and as long has he can avoid being fired, he could potentially take all the fun out of things. “Neo-conservative” pundit William Kristol was clearly reflecting growing uneasiness when he commented recently that Fitzpatrick is "the problem for the White House; we have no idea what he knows."

*** Common Dreams News Center

Ray McGovern works at Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He had a 27-year career as an analyst at CIA and is on the Steering Committee of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.


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t r u t h o u t Opinion: Tunnel Vision, by Sidney Blumenthal

What do you think? The t r u t h o u t Town Meeting is in progress. Join the debate!

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Tunnel Vision
By Sidney Blumenthal

Thursday 21 July 2005

For Bush, it's always either the day after 9/11 or the day before the Iraq invasion. He needs to rethink his war on terror.

"The war on terror goes on," proclaimed President Bush on the day of the London bombings. Throughout the 2004 campaign Bush's winning theme was terror. He achieved the logic of a unified field theory connecting Iraq to Afghanistan by threading terror through both despite the absence of evidence. In almost every city and town, Bush insisted that if we didn't fight the terrorists there, we would be fighting them at home. In January of this year, the CIA's think tank, the National Intelligence Council, issued a report describing Iraq as the magnet, training and recruiting ground for international terrorism. The false rationale for the invasion had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But with his popularity flagging, Bush returned to the formulations that had succeeded in his campaign.

In Bush's "global war on terror," Iraq and Afghanistan present one extended battlefield against a common enemy, and the strategy is and must be the same. So far as Bush is concerned, it's always either the day after 9/11 or the day before the Iraq invasion. Time stands still at two ideal political moments. But his consequences since are barely managed chaos.

"I was horrified by the president's last speech on the war on terror [on June 28] - so much unsaid, so much disingenuous, so many half-truths," James Dobbins told me. Dobbins was Bush's first envoy to Afghanistan and is now director of international programs at the Rand Corp., a defense think tank. Afghanistan is now the scene of a Taliban revival, chronic Pashtun violence, dominance by US-supported warlords (who have become narco-lords, exploiting the exploding traffic in opium poppies), and a human rights black hole. "Afghanistan is going better than Iraq," Dobbins said. "That's not much of a standard."

From the start, he said, the effort in Afghanistan was "grossly under-funded and undermanned." The military doctrine was the first error. "The US focus on force protection and substitution of firepower for manpower creates significant collateral damage." But the faith in firepower sustained the illusion that the mission could be "quicker, cheaper, easier." And that justification fit with Afghanistan's being relegated to a sideshow to Iraq.

At the same time, according to Dobbins, there was "a generally negative appreciation of peacekeeping and nation building as components of US policy, a disinclination to learn anything from the previous [administration's experience] in Bosnia and Kosovo."

What's more, lack of accountability began at the top and filtered down. On the day of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's inauguration in December 2001, Dobbins met Gen. Tommy Franks, the CentCom commander, at the reopened Afghan airport. As they drove to the ceremony, Dobbins informed Franks of press reports that US planes had mistakenly bombed a delegation of Afghan tribal leaders traveling to Kabul for the inauguration and killed perhaps several dozen people. "It was the first time he heard about it. When he got out of the car, reporters asked him about it. He denied it happened. And he denied it happened for several days. It was classic 'deny first, investigate later.' It turned out to be true. It was a normal reflex."

Democracy was at best an afterthought for the Bush administration, which believed that it had little application to Afghans. At the conference in Bonn, Germany, establishing international legitimacy for the new Afghan government, "the word 'democracy,'" Dobbins points out, "was introduced at the insistence of the Iranian delegation."

Democracy, now the overriding rationale for the global war on terror, does not, however, include support for human rights, at least in Afghanistan. "In terms of the human rights situation," said Dobbins, "Karzai is well meaning and moderate and thoroughly honorable. But he's overwhelmed, he's not a great manager, he has few instruments of power."

Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon and the White House removed restraints on torture - in Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq. "These were command failures, not just isolated incidents, in that we dismantled systems designed to protect us from these kinds of events. You didn't have the checks and balances. They've had consequences in terms of public image," Dobbins said.

In April, the United States succeeded, after refusing to cooperate for two years with the United Nations rapporteur on human rights for Afghanistan, in abolishing the office altogether. The U.N. representative, Cherif Bassiouini, a distinguished expert on international law who has helped train hundreds of judges in Afghanistan, told me, "Karzai was in favor of keeping the mandate. But the US was quite adamant. The US came to the conclusion they needed to kill the messenger with hope the message would die. The tactics are contrary to any valid strategy. If the strategy is to stabilize Afghanistan, have a democratic regime, cut narco-trafficking and terrorism, what is being done is precisely the opposite."

Dobbins believes that the operation in Afghanistan has improved, but that the US administration "hasn't readily acknowledged its mistakes and has corrected them only after losing a good deal of ground, irrecoverable ground." For all the problems there, "most of the violence is not al-Qaida type, but Pashtun sectarian violence. It's not international terrorism."

For Bush, however, facts on the ground cannot alter his stentorian summons to the global war on terror. "I've never liked the term 'war,'" said Dobbins. "This is a campaign conducted primarily, [as it] should be, by law enforcement, diplomatic and intelligence means. The militarization of the concept is a theme that mobilizes the American public effectively, but it's not a theme that resonates well in the Middle East or with our allies elsewhere in the world. I think some reconceptualization would be helpful. But the White House probably doesn't. Karl Rove doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about the impact of his strategies in the Muslim world."

"We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad so we don't have to face them here at home," Bush declared in June - and repeated endlessly - finally appearing vindicated with the London attacks. His apparent doublethink relieves any anxiety of cognitive dissonance. London, like Iraq and Afghanistan, is "there," not "here."

Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton and the author of The Clinton Wars, is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian of London.


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Open Democacy: Iraq In the Mirror of Fallujah, by Paul Rogers

Iraq in the mirror of Fallujah
Paul Rogers
21 - 7 - 2005

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After two sieges and under an intense security regime, armed resistance to United States forces continues in Fallujah.

How is the Iraq war related to the wider “war on terror”? The question is of acute political saliency to George W Bush and Tony Blair, though the pressures of domestic politics are currently pulling their answers in opposite directions.

The British prime minister and his government clearly see the London bombings as part of the broader struggle, but cannot admit any connection with the Iraq insurgency. The United States president and his administration, by contrast, is obliged by ideology and the sharp decline in domestic support for the Iraq war to see Iraq as integral to the “war on terror” begun on 11 September 2001.

The problem for both leaders is that events in Iraq itself are answering the question, and in ways that put the respective rhetoric of the two leaders under close scrutiny.

If you find Paul Rogers’s weekly column on global security valuable, please consider supporting openDemocracy by sending us a donation so that we can continue our work and keep it free for all.

The core issue facing the United States and its dwindling band of coalition partners in Iraq is whether the insurgency there is being or can be brought under control. Many areas in the south and east of the country remain relatively untouched by violence, while the Kurdish northeast operates as a quasi-independent political entity. But in the Sunni-majority areas north and west of Baghdad – including cities like Mosul and Kirkuk where Kurdish-Arab tensions are high – the security problems appear endemic.

The past month has seen a high level of attacks in the area often referred to as the “Sunni triangle”, with insurgents acting with increased impunity. Yet the pattern of events even over a short period is less important than the longer-term trends. In this respect three distinct sources of evidence or reporting indicate a marked deterioration in security in Iraq.

The first indicator is this week's dossier on the war's civilian casualties from IraqBodyCount and the Oxford Research Group. Their remarkably careful methodology, based on multiple sources, catalogues 24,865 civilian deaths and 42,500 civilian injuries in the first two years of the war.

The twenty-six page report's conclusion on the levels of civilian casualties since the end of the so-called "invasion phase" in April 2003 is revealing: 6,215 Iraqi civilians died in the first year after that "mission accomplished" event; 11,351 died in the second year.

The second indicator is a report from the BBC's experienced world affairs editor, John Simpson ("Iraq's Descent into Bombing Quagmire", BBC, 18 July 2005). He lists twenty-two car bombs in Baghdad alone last week; ten exploded in a single day, 15 July. Another car bomb that day in the nearby town of Musayyib killed almost 100 Shi’a Muslims.

Simpson comments that while similar peaks in the insurgency occurred in the summers of 2003 and 2004, 2005’s is higher: "the shadowy resistance movements seem to be operating on a new and much more ambitious level." This is Simpson’s eleventh visit to Iraq since May 2003 and his depressing conclusion is that "each time the security situation has been markedly worse than the time before."

Fallujah’s failed lockdown

The third indicator is recent developments in Fallujah, the “city of mosques” west of Baghdad that has endured two large-scale assaults by United States forces (in April and November 2004) in an attempt to subdue insurgency there.

The November operation – against a city seen as the heart of the insurgency, and designed to inflict irreparable damage on it – was the largest undertaken by the US in Iraq since April 2003.

A substantial assault by the US marine corps backed by heavy air power did take control of Fallujah. It was a costly “victory”. Many Iraqis were killed (the IraqBodyCount report estimates 1,874 over the two-year period); most of the 137 US troops killed and 1,400 injured across Iraq in November died in Fallujah. By the assault’s end, half the houses in the city had been destroyed and another quarter were damaged; almost every mosque, school or public building had been destroyed or damaged; the great majority of the 300,000 inhabitants had been forced to become refugees.

The Fallujah operation had very little effect on the Iraqi insurgency – within days there was an upsurge in violence elsewhere in the country, particularly Mosul (see an earlier column in this series, “No direction home”, 25 November 2004). But what is really significant is what has happened in Fallujah since November.

In addition to his weekly openDemocracy column, Paul Rogers writes an international security monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group; for details, click here.

Fallujah should be the most secure city in Iraq. The United States has assigned a force of 4,300 marines to the Fallujah area; they are supplemented by 800 Iraqi paramilitary troops, 2,800 Iraqi army soldiers, and the regular Iraqi police. There is a nightly curfew, and six carefully controlled entry and exit routes to and from the city, where citizens must show identity papers and undergo a search.

In these circumstances, it is extraordinary that the insurgents are staging a comeback (Edward Wong, "8 Months after US-Led Siege, Insurgents Rise Again in Fallujah", New York Times, 15 July 2005). Car bombs are actually being assembled within the city; of the four detonated in the area in recent weeks, one killed six US troops, and another narrowly missed assassinating the Iraqi paramilitary force commander, Mehdi Sabeeh Hashim. Of the five police forts built in Fallujah, two have already been firebombed.
The violence has also impacted at the local political level. Three of the twenty-one members of the new city council have resigned, and a fourth has stopped attending meetings after a car-bomb attack on his house. Even permanent "lockdown" – with one police officer, Iraqi soldier or US marine for every twelve inhabitants – cannot, it seems, contain the Fallujah insurgency.

The combination of the Fallujah experience and the longer-term evidence from IraqBodyCount and the BBC is sobering. The Iraqi insurgency is not under control, nearly two and a half years after the start of the war. A significant shift of language, even in official circles, reflects this: few now talk about a “three-week war” followed by “a period of disorder”. Iraq is now widely seen as an ongoing war, begun in March 2003, whose end is not in sight. Whether domestic political calculations see it as integral to (Bush) or separate from (Blair) the “war on terror”, Iraq is an issue that will not go away.

Further Links:

Electronic Iraq

Informed Comment

A Place Where Women Rule:All-Female Village In Kenya Is A Sign Of Burgeoning Feminism Across Africa

This very interesting, uplifting article shows the positive changes women can make when they unite in the face of adversity. It brings to mind a recent quote by Jane Fonda: "When women find their voice and men their hearts". Indeed, a far better world this would be! As evidenced by the tragic state of our planet and its war-torn, afflicted, poverty-stricken inhabitants, men have managed to wreak havoc worldwide, by their greed-driven, territorial actions, wars, oppression, tyrannical subjugation of their conquests. Women can only do better. -- Annamarie

t r u t h o u t Issues

A Place Where Women Rule
By Emily Wax
The Washington Post

Saturday 09 July 2005

All-female village in Kenya is a sign of burgeoning feminism across Africa.

UMOJA, Kenya - Seated cross-legged on tan sisal mats in the shade, Rebecca Lolosoli, matriarch of a village for women only, took the hand of a frightened 13-year-old girl. The child was expected to wed a man nearly three times her age, and Lolosoli told her she didn't have to.

The man was Lolosoli's brother, but that didn't matter. This is a patch of Africa where women rule.

"You are a small girl. He is an old man," said Lolosoli, who gives haven to young girls running from forced marriages. "Women don't have to put up with this nonsense anymore."

Ten years ago, a group of women established the village of Umoja, which means unity in Swahili, on an unwanted field of dry grasslands. The women said they had been raped and, as a result, abandoned by their husbands, who claimed they had shamed their community.

Stung by the treatment, Lolosoli, a charismatic and self-assured woman with a crown of puffy dark hair, decided no men would be allowed to live in their circular village of mud-and-dung huts.

In an act of spite, the men of her tribe started their own village across the way, often monitoring activities in Umoja and spying on their female counterparts.

What started as a group of homeless women looking for a place of their own became a successful and happy village. About three dozen women live here and run a cultural center and camping site for tourists visiting the adjacent Samburu National Reserve. Umoja has flourished, eventually attracting so many women seeking help that they even hired men to haul firewood, traditionally women's work.

The men in the rival village also attempted to build a tourist and cultural center, but were not very successful.

But the women felt empowered with the revenue from the camping site and their cultural center, where they sell crafts. They were able to send their children to school for the first time, eat well and reject male demands for their daughters' circumcision and marriage.

They became so respected that troubled women, some beaten, some trying to get divorced, started showing up in this little village in northern Kenya. Lolosoli was even invited by the United Nations to attend a recent world conference on gender empowerment in New York.

"That's when the very ugly jealous behaviors started," Lolosoli said, adding that her life was threatened by local men right before her trip to New York. "They just said, frankly, that they wanted to kill me," Lolosoli said, laughing because she thought the idea sounded overly dramatic.

Sebastian Lesinik, the chief of the male village, also laughed, describing the clear division he saw between men and women. "The man is the head," he said. "The lady is the neck. A man cannot take, let's call it advice, from his neck."

"She's questioning our very culture," Lesinik said in an interview at a bar on a sweltering afternoon. "This seems to be the thing in these modern times. Troublemaking ladies like Rebecca."

In a mix of African women's gumption and the trickling in of influences from the outside world, a version of feminism has grown progressively alongside extreme levels of sexual violence, the battle against HIV-AIDS, and the aftermath of African wars, all of which have changed the role of women in surprising ways.

A package of new laws has been presented to Kenya's parliament to give women unprecedented rights to refuse marriage proposals, fight sexual harassment in the workplace, reject genital mutilation and to prosecute rape, an act so frequent that Kenyan leaders call it the nation's biggest human rights issue. The most severe penalty, known as the "chemical castration bill," would castrate repeatedly convicted rapists and send them to prison for life.

In neighboring Uganda, thousands of women are rallying this month for the Domestic Relations Bill, which would give them specific legal rights if their husbands take a second wife, in part because of fear of HIV infection.

Eleven years after the genocide in Rwanda, in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed, women in the country hold 49 percent of the seats in the lower house of parliament. Many of them are war widows who have said they felt compelled to rise up in protest after male leaders presided over the 1994 slaughter of Tutsi tribal members by the Hutu majority.

Across the continent in West Africa, Nigerian women are lobbying strongly for the nomination of more women politicians, including a president in 2007, saying that men have failed to run the country properly.

Focusing on the meeting of Group of Eight leaders in Scotland this week, female activists said they hoped international aid intended for Africa would include funding for women who are seeking rights in their court systems and more representation in their statehouses.

"We are at the start of something important for African women," said Margaret Auma Odhiambo, a leader of western Kenya's largest group for widows. The members are women whose husbands have died of AIDS complications.

Lolosoli's effort to speak out for change in her patch of the continent shows the difficulties of changing the rhythm and power structure of village life. Before Lolosoli even went to the U.N. conference, she was going house to house in the nearby town of Archer's Post, telling women they had rights, such as to refuse to have sex with their husbands if they were being beaten or ill-treated.

"A woman is nothing in our community," she said, referring to the members of her tribe, including the men in the village across the road.

"You aren't able to answer men or speak in front of them whether you are right or wrong," she said. "That has to change. Women have to demand rights, and then respect will come. But if you remain silent, no one thinks you have anything to say. Then again, I was not popular for what I was saying."

At the U.N. conference in New York, Lolosoli said, she and other women from around the world bonded as they watched an episode of "Oprah" that focused on women, verbal abuse and cheating husbands.

"You just cry and cry," sighed Lolosoli, who said many men in her tribe still take several wives. "Then again, I was really inspired to know that a lot of women face challenges of this nature and make it."

When she came back to Kenya, armed with ideas and empowerment training workbooks, she stood her ground even when some of the men filed a court case against her, seeking to shut down the village.

"I would just ignore the men when they threw stones at me and ask, 'Are you okay? Are your children okay? Are your cows okay?' " she said. Her tactic and calm reaction was disarming, she recalled. "After everything, they weren't going to stop us."

Lolosoli is still battling her brother over his attempt to marry the 13-year-old.

But lately, the residents of the men's village have been admitting defeat. They are no longer trying to attract tourists. Some have moved elsewhere. Others have had trouble getting married because some women in the area are taking Lolosoli's example to heart.

"She has been successful, it's true." sighed Lesinik, who said maybe he is a little bit jealous. He then shrugged and said, "Maybe we can learn from our necks. Maybe just a little bit."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Explore the controversy surrounding a jailed journalist, outed spy, and a White House leak (from a Canadian perspective)

The Rove Affair

CBC News Online | July 14, 2005

Not since the days of the Clinton administration has so much journalistic energy been focused on the backroom dealings of the White House. No sex this time, but there are allegations of possible criminal activity at very high levels.

And America's role in the war in Iraq is at the heart of the matter.

Flashback to Jan. 28, 2003. The United States is a little more than two months away from attacking Iraq. On this night, President George W. Bush will give his annual state of the union address.

In that speech, Bush accuses Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of trying to expand his nuclear program by acquiring uranium from Niger. It was further evidence, Bush said, that Saddam was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

Six months later, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote in the New York Times that there was no evidence that Saddam had been trying to acquire uranium from Niger. Wilson had been sent to Africa a year earlier by the CIA to investigate such allegations.

Wilson criticized the Bush administration, saying it had twisted evidence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat in the months before the war.

Until then, Wilson had lots of credibility with a couple of presidents named Bush. Wilson was the last American official to meet with Saddam in the days leading to the first Gulf War. He also sheltered more than 100 Americans in the embassy in Baghdad and ignored Saddam's threats to execute anyone who refused to hand over foreigners.

Wilson's article in the New York Times cast doubt on one of Washington's key reasons for going to war – that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

Just over a week after the Times article, syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote that senior Bush administration officials said Wilson's wife – Valerie Plame – was a CIA agent and that she was involved in the decision to send her husband to Africa.

A few days later, Time magazine's Matthew Cooper published a story that made similar allegations.

The stories blew Plame's cover by identifying her as an agent. They also struck at Wilson's credibility, suggesting he was sent on the Africa mission by his wife.

It is illegal to reveal the identity of a CIA operative. A conviction for that could mean up to 10 years in prison.

By late September, the U.S. Justice Department had ordered an investigation into whether a criminal act had been committed. Bush said if the leak came from anyone in his administration, that person would be fired.

Karl Rove. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)There was speculation that the leak had been one of Bush's closest advisors, Karl Rove. Rove denied it and the administration denied it.

Still, the speculation did not go away. The investigation continued.

Within a year, the grand jury investigating the case had issued subpoenas to Time's Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller of the New York Times. Miller had been looking into the story, but never wrote anything about it.

Both reporters refused to co-operate with the investigation. They said they would not reveal their sources.

A judge ruled both reporters were in contempt of court. That ruling was upheld by a higher court. The Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal.

On July 6, 2005, Miller was ordered jailed until she agreed to testify and reveal her sources – or the investigation ended. Cooper avoided jail when he said he would testify because his source had signed a waiver.

The speculation surrounding Karl Rove only intensified after an internal Time memo from two years earlier was released. It was written by Cooper, shortly after he met with his source on his original story. Part of it read:

[I]t was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd issues who authorized the trip.

Rove is seen as the architect of Bush's White House victories. It was Rove who urged Bush to target evangelical Christians during the 2004 election campaign as the issues of abortion and gay marriage hit the voters' radar screens.

Exit polls showed that it wasn't Iraq or the economy that was on the minds of voters on election night – but moral issues. And more than three-quarters of that segment of the electorate parked their votes with Bush. It was the margin of victory.

Bush has been known to refer to Rove as Turd Blossom – after the wildflowers that sprout from cattle dung in Texas – because he manages to come out smelling great while surrounded by stink.

Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, says his client has co-operated fully in the investigation and had done nothing wrong.

Wilson, meanwhile, has called on Bush to fire Rove for abusing his power by talking to journalists about Plame's job.

Meanwhile, a reporter who never reported on the story sits in jail, while a grand jury tries to determine whether a crime was ever committed.

CBC News Online

Monday, July 18, 2005

"Deal with Them Here", The Toronto Star, July 18, 2005

Deal with them here
To deport detainees to countries where they will be tortured makes us complicit in these heinous acts

Are we ready for torture by proxy?

July 17.

Canada has been a country at the forefront of human rights. The tragedies of 9/11, the London bombings and bombings elsewhere must not change that. Although we share intelligence with other nations, notably the U.S., we must not allow our country to follow the American example of "extraordinary renditions," which is what torture by proxy is, regardless of the words used to whitewash this deplorable practice.

Suspected "terrorists" in our prisons must be dealt with judiciously by our courts — openly, where defendants are allowed due process under our laws. They have the right to counsel, as anyone else charged with a crime. If there is no evidence for charges, they must be set free.

Those who are neither residents nor citizens, or who have entered Canada illegally, or violated their visas in any way could be dealt with by our immigration service after they are set free, and deported from whence they came.

Canadian politicians are outspoken about basic rights and the transparency of trials abroad, but yet they allow cases such as Hassan Almrei's to proceed behind closed doors.

To deport detainees to countries where they will be tortured, degraded or ill-treated makes us complicit in these heinous, barbaric acts. Maher Arar is a case in point. Blatant disregard for human rights ultimately erodes and rends the fabric of a democratic, civil, "just" society, while accomplishing nothing toward protecting its citizens from harm.

We must end secret trial security certificates and deal with suspects on our own soil in open, transparent judicial proceedings. We must not give in to U.S. pressure to do otherwise.

Annamarie Bohus, Brampton

***This was my short response to yesterday's Star (Sunday, July 17, 2005) article, "Are We Ready for Torture by Proxy?", which was published in today's paper. I posted the full article previously, under its heading.

Are We Ready for Torture by Proxy? - The Toronto Star, July 17, 2005

Jul. 17, 2005. 01:19 PM

Hassan Almrei says he has never had any links to Al Qaeda and he fears the consequences of deportation. “Everybody knows in Syria you would be tortured,” he says, “and I would tell them I am Jesus’ dad if that would stop the torture.”

Are we ready for torture by proxy?
The government can't hold him indefinitely, but doesn't want to set him free on Canadian soil.


This is what we know about Hassan Almrei, who has spent almost four years alone in a Toronto jail cell.

Almrei, a 31-year-old Syrian refugee, attended a training camp in Afghanistan in 1990, where he learned how to use an AK-47 to fight with the U.S.-backed mujahideen against the Soviet Union's occupation of the region. He says he never actually used that training, but twice went to Tajikistan to "scout out Russian positions" with a Chechen commander.

He has also admitted to procuring a false document for a Syrian dissident who was initially charged on terrorism offences in the U.S., but was later cleared and sent back to Syria on an immigration violation.

Almrei came to Canada in 1999 from Saudi Arabia. RCMP officers, armed with an immigration order alleging he is a danger to national security, detained him in October 2001.

Almrei says he has never had any links to terrorism and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. The government, backed by a federal court justice relying on secret reports, believes he does.

For that reason, an adviser to federal Immigration Minister Joe Volpe is now weighing the options: send Almrei to Syria in the name of national security, even if the Canadian government acknowledges he's at risk of being tortured; if not, what then? Canadian law does not allow indefinite detention, nor since 9/11 has it grappled with imposing permanent conditions on someone the government believes poses a risk to national security.

Almrei is not charged criminally either in Canada or Syria. The immigration legislation under which he is detained provides a lower threshold of proof, since judges only need to be convinced there is a "reasonable" likelihood of a terrorism association, rather than the criminal standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt." The case has been heard largely in secret.

Almrei's case is a significant indicator of where Canada stands in the war on terror, yet most Canadians wouldn't recognize his name. Warning against such complacency, Louise Arbour, a former Supreme Court Justice and now the U.N.'s High Commissioner of Human Rights, cautioned in a speech in Toronto last month to "never underestimate the force of indifference."

Until Sept. 11, 2001, Canada's position on torture was clear. As a signatory to the Geneva Convention Against Torture and in compliance with international law, Canada condemned torture as morally reprehensible under any circumstances, for any reason. Thousands of torture survivors walk Canadian streets alongside thousands of others who faced being tortured in their homelands, had Canada not offered them a safe haven.

Toronto is home to Canada's Centre for Victims of Torture, a world leader in caring for torture victims since it was created 25 years ago. Torture, like that suffered by Montreal photojournalist Zahra Kazemi — whose nails were ripped from her fingers and whose body was broken and burned in an Iranian jail before she died — has been categorically denounced by the federal government.

But the war on terror has allowed moral ambiguity to creep in. The London bombings this month serve as a reminder that terrorism continues to threaten Western countries. How does Canada secure the country? Can these efforts trump the rights of individuals? Does George W. Bush's war on terror constitute an actual war, whereby certain civil liberties are suspended? Are we willing to change our stand on torture if it would make our country safer?

The United Nations has warned the federal government that deporting Almrei and four other non-citizens accused of links to terrorism would violate international laws. But human rights groups question whether we're already complicit in torture by sharing intelligence with states like Syria.

Those groups have long chronicled reports of abusive treatment of prisoners in Syria and allegations of torture.

At least three Canadian citizens claim they were detained and questioned in Damascus on information provided by Canadian security agencies. They believe this demonstrates Canada has its own form of the much-maligned practice of rendition, in which U.S. authorities deliver terror suspects to countries known for harsh interrogation methods in order to circumvent American laws prohibiting torture. In the words of Alex Neve, Amnesty International's Canadian secretary general, "Does Canada torture by proxy?"

"We need to respect the Charter of Rights," notes Colin Kenny, chair of the Senate's standing committee on national security and defence. "It's there for precisely these sorts of times. This is the test of us as a society, whether we are going to treat people with respect and ensure human rights. I'm a hawk on dealing with terrorists but I think we don't lower ourselves to their level."

Martin Rudner, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies, fears the debate over security and human rights is one-sided and that the Canadian public, despite the warnings this week, does not appreciate the real threat the country faces.

"It's a tremendous moral dilemma and it's not an easy decision," he says. Human rights must be respected, but for Canada to lose its right to expel non-citizens deemed a risk to security, Rudner argues, is "a welcome sign" to terrorists and militants, serving to bolster Canada's reputation as a haven for terrorists.

Almrei is held on what's known as a national security certificate, signed by two federal ministers on information provided by Canada's spy service and upheld by a federal court justice who hears much of the case in private. Security certificates have only been used 27 times in Canada's history and a federal court recently upheld the constitutionality of this immigration legislation.

In 2002, Canada's top court opened the door to deportations where torture is a likelihood, but only in "exceptional circumstances." What defines "exceptional" is still unclear.

One of the justices on the Supreme Court for that decision was Arbour, who now oversees the U.N. Committee Against Torture, which recently criticized the ruling.

"In my view, a country is as much at risk of destruction, and so are the ideals it stands for, by the collapse of its human rights norms, and of the rule of law that acts as their guardian, as it is by the explosion of bombs on its territory," Arbour told the Canadian Club in a speech last month in Toronto.

"When we are asked to decide how much of our liberty we are willing to abandon for our security, we are asked, in reality, how much of the liberty of others we are willing to sacrifice for our own security."

Arbour was questioned about the apparent contradiction between the Supreme Court ruling and the Geneva Convention Against Torture. She conceded that the laws many countries adopted after Sept. 11, 2001 are "evolving," then noted, "The international community has been urging Canada to reconsider that position and to close the door even more firmly (to torture) than it has."

Hassan Almrei's cheeks sag slightly from the weight he has lost after three weeks of a hunger strike and his hairline has crept further back from where it was the day the doors of Toronto's West Detention Centre first shut behind him.

When asked why Canada should not send him back to Syria, Almrei can quote Prime Minister Paul Martin's comments during a recent visit to Russia concerning the sanctity of human rights, or the words of Defence Minister Bill Graham, when he held the Foreign Affairs portfolio, who demanded Iran must conduct an open, fair and public trial to deal with Kazemi's death. It's ironic, Almrei argues, that Canadian politicians are outspoken about basic rights and the transparency of trials abroad, but will allow his case to proceed behind closed doors.

Forty-four months in solitary confinement afford a considerable amount of time to ponder the intricacies of his case. But simply put, Almrei says the best reason not to send him to Syria, a country he left when he was 7 years old, is that he's not guilty. Guilt or innocence wouldn't matter anyway if he's returned as a "suspected terrorist," he says.

"I spoke out publicly against my country, my government. They will be more than happy to put me in jail," Almrei says, as he twists a tissue in his hands during an interview in the detention centre this week.

"Thousands of Muslim people went to Afghanistan; it doesn't mean all these people were members of Osama bin Laden's organization, which is what the government believes," Almrei says. "Back then we were freedom fighters, now we're terrorists."

`A country is as much at risk of destruction ... by the collapse of its human rights norms ... as it is by the explosion of bombs on its territory.'

Louise Arbour

UN High Commissioner

for Human Rights


`Some people in Canada would be of the view that human rights

and dignity are absolute. But

we'll very seldom find a terrorist willing to speak.'

Martin Rudner

director, Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies


In an earlier conversation, Almrei scoffed at the prospect that he would be treated fairly and allowed to live freely in Syria.

"Everybody knows in Syria you would be tortured, and I would tell them I am Jesus' dad if that would stop the torture."

Almrei has recently acquired some high-profile supporters, including Alexandre Trudeau, the son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. When asked last month by a Toronto justice why he was coming forward with $5,000 to post for Almrei's release, Trudeau answered, "For my country."

"It's in the interest of Canada to not be detaining people who haven't been charged."

While not as high profile, but certainly as persuasive, Almrei has also received support from an unlikely source — three guards from Toronto West Detention Centre who work in the segregation range where Almrei is detained. At the same detention review hearing last month where Trudeau testified, the guards described him as a model prisoner, heralded not just for his upbeat attitude but also as the man who once came to the aid of a guard who was attacked by another inmate.

"From his demeanour and everything I know about him, I found him an honourable man. I would trust him," said John O'Connor, a 20-year veteran of the jail. When asked by Almrei's lawyer if he would accept Almrei as a neighbour if he were released, O'Connor unflinchingly answered "yes."

The fact that we have not suffered an attack here should provide no rationale for complacency or comfort," Jim Judd, the director of Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told a Senate committee in February.

"In many ways, we have made our own luck, by relentlessly pursuing our targets, using the legal means provided to us under our own legislation, the CSIS Act, but also, in concert with our partners, by using the new measure provided by the government to enhance its ability to fight terrorism at home and abroad."

That's why Canada's security services have forged relationships with intelligence agencies around the world, including countries with questionable human rights records, such as Syria and Egypt. As the cliché dictates, intelligence is the lifeblood of security operations. As Senator Kenny puts it, "you only get as good as you give."

How that intelligence is extracted is at the heart of the matter. Faced with jihadists who have been trained not to offer up information, and are very often prepared to die for their cause, governments have turned to techniques they once condemned.

"Some people in Canada and abroad would be of the view that human rights and dignity are absolute, paramount. But we'll very seldom find a terrorist willing to speak," says Rudner, arguing that there are some pressing cases where answers are needed quickly and coercive techniques do work.

This is the moral dilemma currently being played out in the United States, which was rocked by graphic photographs and reports of abusive treatment of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Just this week, a U.S. Senate committee investigating allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo heard from military investigators that interrogators degraded and abused a prisoner, forcing him to wear a bra and perform dog tricks. An Air Force lieutenant-general who headed the probe concluded the treatment of the Saudi man did not constitute torture and did not violate U.S. law or policy; in fact, he concluded, it was "safe, secure and humane." To which Senator John McCain, himself abused as a prisoner of war in Vietnam noted, "humane treatment might be in the eye of the beholder."

Recently, an RCMP superintendent forced to testify at the federal inquiry into the case of Ottawa engineer Maher Arar was unapologetic about Canada's co-operation with governments believed to use harsh interrogation methods.

"As appalling as it may sound to you, part of our duties in Canada in trying to protect the Canadian public means that from time to time we have to deal with countries that don't necessarily have the same record as we do and don't necessarily treat their prisoners the same way as we do," said RCMP Superintendent Michel Cabana.

But an Iraqi-Canadian named Muayyed Nureddin argues that when the information shared concerns Canadian citizens, then Canada is responsible for the fate of those individuals. Nureddin has sued the Canadian government for $35 million, claiming that information passed from Canada led to his detention in Syria and accuses the government of being complicit in his "kidnapping" and month-long detention, and the torture he said he endured during his interrogation.

His story is similar to those told by Abdullah Almalki and Ahmed Elmaati, also Canadian citizens. All three men say they were the subject of security investigations in Canada, but never charged. All three travelled in the last few years to Syria and were detained as terrorism suspects, claiming they were asked the same questions in Syria as they were in Canada. If Canada passed the information that led to their detention and harsh interrogation, is Canada complicit in their alleged torture?

Without a foreign intelligence service, Canada relies heavily on other countries for intelligence gathering. Kenny says he believes that while Canada has to be careful with what information is shared, our intelligence services need this help. Said CSIS chief Judd to the Senate committee, when explaining how Canada copes: "There has been a much greater degree of collaboration internationally between security and intelligence agencies of different countries that is an absolute prerequisite to dealing with a sophisticated and global threat."

But how reliable is information gleaned from countries with records of using physical and mental torture during interrogations?

If the highly rated television drama 24 is any guide, then torture is the most effective tool in fighting terror. CIA agent Jack Bauer, played by Keifer Sutherland, received one of his key breaks last season by defying a presidential order not to use torture. It was only after he broke the fingers of a suspect that he elicited the information he needed to stop a terrorist attack.

Within our own criminal justice code, information gleaned through torture or duress is discredited.

For good reason, says Michael Scheurer, the CIA's former head of a task force that tracked Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s and the author of Imperial Hubris, a blistering critique of U.S. policy on terrorism. Scheurer argues that whether it's extreme physical pain or what's often-called "torture-lite" and consists of sleep deprivation, loud music or other psychological abuse, torture doesn't work.

Al Qaeda trains their members to "either lie when they were being interrogated or to give us a lot of accurate information that was dated and generally led nowhere," he said in a recent interview. "So as far as I was concerned, and the officers that worked for me, once we got them off the street and got their documents, anything else that turned out to be positive was good, but we didn't expect very much from it."

Last Wednesday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to hold urgent talks with opposition leaders to push through legislation cracking down on those who encourage terrorist acts. The laws will target people who "glorify or endorse" acts of terrorism, or instigate or prepare such actions. Penalties could include deportation. Already, the loose language of the proposed bill and the potential for torture upon deportation has human rights activists speaking out.

Like other countries around the world, Britain introduced new legislation after 9/11 in an effort to protect against terrorist attacks on their own soil. One of the powers introduced permitted the indefinite detention of foreign nationals suspected of terrorism, held without trial. Three years later, due to a blistering indictment issued by Britain's highest court that called the law "draconian," the government was forced to release the nine terrorism suspects held under this legislation, imposing control orders or electronically monitoring their movements. After the July 7 bombings in London, some commentators and columnists began to renew claims that the government made a mistake by giving powers away.

What if Canada moves in the same direction — abolishing the legislation that detains Almrei and others, imposing restrictions on information sharing, effectively, as Arbour encouraged, "shutting the door" on torture? If that happens, what happens to the men Canada believes are a threat to national security?

"Canada's going to have to come up with alternatives. I don't think any Canadian court will say that someone can be kept indefinitely, that's just contrary to fundamental principles of fairness," says Barbara Jackman, the human rights and immigration lawyer representing three of the five security certificate detainees.

Hassan Almrei remains in a legal limbo waiting for a decision from the immigration minister on whether to deport him. Tomorrow he'll be back in court for the continuation of a detention review hearing, where Almrei is hoping a judge will order him released on bail conditions, until a decision is made on his deportation.

For now, Almrei continues to fight the smaller battles. Today marks day 25 of drinking only water and fruit juices. Previous hunger strikes helped him get shoes to wear in his cold cell in the winter. This time he's asking to be released for one hour each day for exercise.

Michelle Shephard is the terrorism and security reporter for the Star.

The Toronto Star



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