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September 30, 2003

2003.09.30: G.I.s Stretched Thin, Lied to & Mistreated

Filed under: Antiwar — nyclaw01 @ 3:12 pm

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Tuesday, September 30, 2003 3:46 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: G.I.s Stretched Thin, Lied to & Mistreated
Importance: High

Stretched Thin, Lied to & Mistreated

by Christian Parenti, The Nation
October 6th, 2003

An M-16 rifle hangs by a cramped military cot. On the wall above is a message in thick black ink: “Ali Baba, you owe me a strawberry milk!”

It’s a private joke but could just as easily summarize the worldview of American soldiers here in Baghdad, the fetid basement of Donald Rumsfeld’s house of victory. Trapped in the polluted heat, poorly supplied and cut off from regular news, the GIs are fighting a guerrilla war that they neither wanted, expected nor trained for. On the urban battlefields of central Iraq, “shock and awe” and all the other “new way of war” buzzwords are drowned out by the din of diesel-powered generators, Islamic prayer calls and the occasional pop of small-arms fire.

Here, the high-tech weaponry that so emboldens Pentagon bureaucrats is largely useless, and the grinding work of counterinsurgency is done the old-fashioned way–by hand. Not surprisingly, most of the American GIs stuck with the job are weary, frustrated and ready to go home.

It is noon and the mercury is hanging steady at 115 Fahrenheit. The filmmaker Garrett Scott and I are “embedded” with Alpha Company of the Third Battalion of the 124th Infantry, a Florida National Guard unit about half of whom did time in the regular Army, often with elite groups like the Rangers. Like most frontline troops in Iraq, the majority are white but there is a sizable minority of African-American and Latino soldiers among them. Unlike most combat units, about 65 percent are college students–they’ve traded six years with the Guard for tuition at Florida State. Typically, that means occasional weekends in the Everglades or directing traffic during hurricanes. Instead, these guys got sent to Iraq, and as yet they have no sure departure date.

Mobilized in December, they crossed over from Kuwait on day one of the invasion and are now bivouacked in the looted remains of a Republican Guard officers’ club, a modernist slab of polished marble and tinted glass that the GIs have fortified with plywood, sandbags and razor wire.

Behind “the club” is a three-story dormitory, a warren of small one-bedroom apartments, each holding a nine-man squad of soldiers and all their gear. Around 200 guys are packed in here. Their sweaty fatigues drape the banisters of the exterior stairway, while inside the cramped, dark rooms the floors are covered with cots, heaps of flak vests, guns and, where possible, big tin, water-based air-conditioners called swamp coolers. Surrounding the base is a chaotic working-class neighborhood of two- and three-story cement homes and apartment buildings. Not far away is the muddy Tigris River.

This company limits patrols to three or four hours a day. For the many hours in between, the guys pull guard duty, hang out in their cavelike rooms or work out in a makeshift weight room.

“We’re getting just a little bit stir-crazy,” explains the lanky Sergeant Sellers. His demeanor is typical of the nine-man squad we have been assigned to, friendly but serious, with a wry and angry sense of humor. On the side of his helmet Sellers has, in violation of regs, attached the unmistakable pin and ring of a hand grenade. Next to it is written, “Pull Here.”

Leaning back on a cot, he’s drawing a large, intricate pattern on a female mannequin leg. The wall above him displays a photo collage of pictures retrieved from a looted Iraqi women’s college. Smiling young ladies wearing the hijab sip sodas and stroll past buses. They seem to be on some sort of field trip. Nearby are photos clipped from Maxim, of coy young American girls offering up their pert round bottoms. Dominating it all is a large hand-drawn dragon and a photo of Jessica Lynch with a bubble caption reading: “Hi, I am a war hero. And I think that weapons maintenance is totally unimportant.”

The boys don’t like Lynch and find the story of her rescue ridiculous. They’d been down the same road a day earlier and are unsympathetic. “We just feel that it’s unfair and kind of distorted the way the whole Jessica, quote, ‘rescue’ thing got hyped,” explains Staff Sgt. Kreed Howell. He is in charge of the squad, and at 31 a bit older than most of his men. Muscular and clean-cut, Howell is a relaxed and natural leader, with the gracious bearing of a proper Southern upbringing.

“In other words, you’d have to be really fucking dumb to get lost on the road,” says another, less diplomatic soldier.

Specialist John Crawford sits in a tiny, windowless supply closet that is loaded with packs and gear. He is two credits short of a BA in anthropology and wants to go to graduate school. Howell, a Republican, amicably describes Crawford as the squad’s house liberal.

There’s just enough extra room in the closet for Crawford, a chair and a little shelf on which sits a laptop. Hanging by this makeshift desk is a handwritten sign from “the management” requesting that soldiers masturbating in the supply closet “remove their donations in a receptacle.” Instead of watching pornography DVDs, Crawford is here to finish a short story. “Trying to start writing again,” he says.

Crawford is a fan of Tim O’Brien, particularly The Things They Carried. We chat, then he shows me his short story. It’s about a vet who is back home in north Florida trying to deal with the memory of having accidentally blown away a child while serving in Iraq.

Later in the cramped main room, Sellers and Sergeant Brunelle, another one of the squad’s more gregarious and dominant personalities, are matter-of-factly showing us digital photos of dead Iraqis.

“These guys shot at some of our guys, so we lit ’em up. Put two .50-cal rounds in their vehicle. One went through this dude’s hip and into the other guy’s head,” explains Brunelle. The third man in the car lived. “His buddy was crying like a baby. Just sitting there bawling with his friend’s brains and skull fragments all over his face. One of our guys came up to him and is like: ‘Hey! No crying in baseball!'”

“I know that probably sounds sick,” says Sellers, “but humor is the only way you can deal with this shit.”

And just below the humor is volcanic rage. These guys are proud to be soldiers and don’t want to come across as whiners, but they are furious about what they’ve been through. They hate having their lives disrupted and put at risk. They hate the military for its stupidity, its feckless lieutenants and blowhard brass living comfortably in Saddam’s palaces. They hate Iraqis–or, as they say, “hajis”–for trying to kill them. They hate the country for its dust, heat and sewage-clogged streets. They hate having killed people. Some even hate the politics of the war. And because most of them are, ultimately, just regular well-intentioned guys, one senses the distinct fear that someday a few may hate themselves for what they have been forced to do here.

Added to such injury is insult: The military treats these soldiers like unwanted stepchildren. This unit’s rifles are retooled hand-me-downs from Vietnam. They have inadequate radio gear, so they buy their own unencrypted Motorola walkie-talkies. The same goes for flashlights, knives and some components for night-vision sights. The low-performance Iraqi air-conditioners and fans, as well as the one satellite phone and payment cards shared by the whole company for calling home, were also purchased out of pocket from civilian suppliers.

Bottled water rations are kept to two liters a day. After that the guys drink from “water buffaloes”–big, hot chlorination tanks that turn the amoeba-infested dreck from the local taps into something like swimming-pool water. Mix this with powdered Gatorade and you can wash down a famously bad MRE (Meal Ready to Eat).

To top it all off they must endure the pathologically uptight culture of the Army hierarchy. The Third of the 124th is now attached to the newly arrived First Armored Division, and when it is time to raid suspected resistance cells it’s the Guardsmen who have to kick in the doors and clear the apartments.

QUOT-The First AD wants us to catch bullets for them but won’t give us enough water, doesn’t let us wear do-rags and makes us roll down our shirt sleeves so we look proper! Can you believe that shit?” Sergeant Sellers is pissed off.

The soldiers’ improvisation extends to food as well. After a month or so of occupying “the club,” the company commander, Captain Sanchez, allowed two Iraqi entrepreneurs to open shop on his side of the wire–one runs a slow Internet cafe, the other a kebab stand where the “Joes” pay US dollars for grilled lamb on flat bread.

“The haji stand is one of the only things we have to look forward to, but the First AD keeps getting scared and shutting it down.” Sellers is on a roll, but he’s not alone.

Even the lighthearted Howell, who insists that the squad has it better than most troops, chimes in. “The one thing I will say is that we have been here entirely too long. If I am not home by Christmas my business will fail.” Back “on earth” (in Panama City, Florida), Howell is a building contractor, with a wife, two small children, equipment, debts and employees.

Perhaps the most shocking bit of military incompetence is the unit’s lack of formal training in what’s called “close-quarter combat.” The urbanized mayhem of Mogadishu may loom large in the discourse of the military’s academic journals like Parameters and the Naval War College Review, but many US infantrymen are trained only in large-scale, open-country maneuvers–how to defend Germany from a wave of Russian tanks.

So, since “the end of the war” these guys have had to retrain themselves in the dark arts of urban combat. “The houses here are small, too,” says Brunelle. “Once you’re inside you can barely get your rifle up. You got women screaming, people, furniture everywhere. It’s insane.”

By now this company has conducted scores of raids, taken fire on the street, taken casualties, taken rocket-propelled grenade attacks to the club and are defiantly proud of the fact that they have essentially been abandoned, survived, retrained themselves and can keep a lid on their little piece of Baghdad. But it’s not always the Joes who have the upper hand. Increasingly, Haji seems to sets the agenda.

A thick black plume of smoke rises from Karrada Street, a popular electronics district where US patrols often buy air-conditioners and DVDs. An American Humvee, making just such a stop, has been blown to pieces by a remote-activated “improvised explosive device,” or IED, buried in the median between two lanes of traffic. By chance two colleagues and I are the first press on the scene. The street is empty of traffic and quiet except for the local shopkeepers, who occasionally call out to us in Arabic and English: “Be careful.”

Finally we get close enough to see clearly. About twenty feet away is a military transport truck and a Humvee, and beyond that are the flaming remains of a third Humvee. A handful of American soldiers are crouched behind the truck, totally still. There’s no firing, no yelling, no talking, no radio traffic. No one is screaming, but two GIs are down. As yet there are no reinforcements or helicopters overhead. All one can hear is the burning of the Humvee.

Then it begins: The ammunition in the burning Humvee starts to explode and the troops in the street start firing. Armored personnel carriers arrive and disgorge dozens of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne to join the fight. The target is a three-story office building just across from the engulfed Humvee. Occasionally we hear a few rounds of return fire pass by like hot razors slashing straight lines through the air. The really close rounds just sound like loud cracks.

“That’s Kalashnikov. I know the voice,” says Ahmed, our friend and translator. There is a distinct note of national pride in his voice–his countrymen are fighting back–never mind the fact that we are now mixed in with the most forward US troops and getting shot at.

The firefight goes on for about two hours, moving slowly and methodically. It is in many ways an encapsulation of the whole war–confusing and labor-intensive. The GIs have more firepower than they can use, and they don’t even know exactly where or who the enemy is. Civilians are hiding in every corner, the ground floor of the target building is full of merchants and shoppers, and undisciplined fire could mean scores of dead civilians.

There are two GIs on the ground, one with his legs gone and probably set to die. When a medevac helicopter arrives just overhead, it, too, like much other technology, is foiled. The street is crisscrossed with electrical wires and there is no way the chopper can land to extract the wounded. The soldiers around us look grave and tired.

Eventually some Bradley fighting vehicles start pounding the building with mean 250-millimeter cannon shells. Whoever might have been shooting from upstairs is either dead or gone.

The street is now littered with overturned air-conditioners, fans and refrigerators. A cooler of sodas sits forlorn on the sidewalk. Farther away two civilians lie dead, caught in the crossfire. A soldier peeks out from the hatch of a Bradley and calls over to a journalist, “Hey, can you grab me one of those Cokes?”

After the shootout we promised ourselves we’d stay out of Humvees and away from US soldiers. But that was yesterday. Now Crawford is helping us put on body armor and soon we’ll be on patrol. As we move out with the nine soldiers the mood is somewhere between tense and bored. Crawford mockingly introduces himself to no one in particular: “John Crawford, I work in population reduction.”

QUOT-Watch the garbage–if you see wires coming out of a pile it’s an IED,” warns Howell. The patrol is uneventful. We walk fast through back streets and rubbish-strewn lots, pouring sweat in the late afternoon heat. Local residents watch the small squad with a mixture of civility, indifference and open hostility. An Iraqi man shouts, “When? When? When? Go!” The soldiers ignore him.

“Sometimes we sham,” explains one of the guys. “We’ll just go out and kick it behind some wall. Watch what’s going on but skip the walking. And sometimes at night we get sneaky-deaky. Creep up on Haji, so he knows we’re all around.”

“I am just walking to be walking,” says the laconic Fredrick Pearson, a k a “Diddy,” the only African-American in Howell’s squad. Back home he works in the State Supreme Court bureaucracy and plans to go to law school. “I just keep an eye on the rooftops, look around and walk.”

The patrols aren’t always peaceful. One soldier mentions that he recently “kicked the shit out of a 12-year-old kid” who menaced him with a toy gun.

Later we roll with the squad on another patrol, this time at night and in two Humvees. Now there’s more evident hostility from the young Iraqi men loitering in the dark. Most of these infantry soldiers don’t like being stuck in vehicles. At a blacked-out corner where a particularly large group of youths are clustered, the Humvees stop and Howell bails out into the crowd. There is no interpreter along tonight.

“Hey, guys! What’s up? How y’all doing? OK? Everything OK? All right?” asks Howell in his jaunty, laid-back north Florida accent. The sullen young men fade away into the dark, except for two, who shake the sergeant’s hand. Howell’s attempt to take the high road, winning hearts and minds, doesn’t seem to be for show. He really believes in this war. But in the torrid gloom of the Baghdad night, his efforts seem tragically doomed.

Watching Howell I think about the civilian technocrats working with Paul Bremer at the Coalition Provisional Authority; the electricity is out half the time, and these folks hold meetings on how best to privatize state industries and end food rations. Meanwhile, the city seethes. The Pentagon, likewise, seems to have no clear plan; its troops are stretched thin, lied to and mistreated. The whole charade feels increasingly patched together, poorly improvised. Ultimately, there’s very little that Howell and his squad can do about any of this. After all, it’s not their war. They just work here.

Christian Parenti is the author, most recently, of The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America From Slavery to the War on Terror (Basic) and a fellow at City University of New York’s Center for Place, Culture, and Politics.

September 25, 2003

2003.09.25: Behind U.S. Attacks on Afghanistan & Iraq

Filed under: Antiwar — nyclaw01 @ 3:12 pm

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2003 2:36 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Behind U.S. Attacks on Afghanistan & Iraq
Importance: High

Pilger claims White House knew Saddam was no threat

Sidney Morning Herald (Australia), September 23, 2003 – 2:33PM

Australian investigative journalist John Pilger says he has evidence the war against Iraq was based on a lie which could cost George W Bush and Tony Blair their jobs and bring Prime Minister John Howard down with them.

A television report by Pilger aired on British screens last night said US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice confirmed in early 2001 that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had been disarmed and was no threat.

But after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 that year, Pilger claimed Rice said the US “must move to take advantage of these new opportunities” to attack Iraq and claim control of its oil.

Pilger uncovered video footage of Powell in Cairo on February 24, 2001 saying, “He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.”

Two months later, Rice reportedly said, “We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.”

Powell boasted this was because America’s policy of containment and its sanctions had effectively disarmed Saddam.

Pilger claims this confirms that the decision of US President George W Bush – with the full support of British Prime Minister Blair and Howard – to wage war on Saddam because he had weapons of mass destruction was a huge deception.

Pilger interviewed several leading US government figures in Washington but said he did not ask Powell or Rice to respond to his claims.

“I think it’s very serious for Howard. Howard has followed the Americans and to a lesser degree Blair almost word for word,” Pilger told AAP before his program was screened on ITV tonight.

“All Howard does is say ‘well it’s not true’ and never explains himself.

“I just don’t believe you can be seen to be party to such a big lie, such a big deception and endure that politically.

“It simply can’t be shrugged off and that’s Howard’s response.

“Blair has shrugged it off but Blair is deeply damaged. It’s far from over here, there’s a lot that is going to happen and much of it could wash onto Howard.

“And it’s unravelling in America and Bush could lose the election next year.

“I’ve not seen political leaders survive when they’ve been complicit in such an open deception for so long.”

Howard last week dismissed an accusation from Opposition Leader Simon Crean that he hid a warning from British intelligence that war against Iraq would heighten the terrorist threat to Australia.

In his report, Pilger interviews Ray McGovern, a former senior CIA officer and friend of Bush’s father and ex-president, George Bush senior.

McGovern told Pilger that going to war because of weapons of mass destruction “was 95 per cent charade.”

Pilger also claims that six hours after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he wanted to “hit” Iraq and allegedly said “Go Massive … Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

He was allegedly talked down by Powell who said the American people would not accept an attack on Iraq without any evidence, so they opted to invade Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden had bases.

Pilger claimed war was set in train on September 17, 2001 when Bush signed a paper directing the Pentagon to explore the military options for an attack on Iraq.


This story was found at:

September 10, 2003

2003.09.10: Thoughts On 9/11: This War On Terrorism Is Bogus

Filed under: Antiwar — nyclaw01 @ 3:13 pm

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2003 2:29 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Thoughts On 9/11: This War On Terrorism Is Bogus
Importance: High,3604,1036571,00.html

This war on terrorism is bogus
The 9/11 attacks gave the US an ideal pretext to use force to secure its global domination

Michael Meacher
Michael Meacher MP was environment minister from May 1997 to June 2003 Saturday September 6, 2003 The Guardian

Massive attention has now been given – and rightly so – to the reasons why Britain went to war against Iraq. But far too little attention has focused on why the US went to war, and that throws light on British motives too. The conventional explanation is that after the Twin Towers were hit, retaliation against al-Qaida bases in Afghanistan was a natural first step in launching a global war against terrorism. Then, because Saddam Hussein was alleged by the US and UK governments to retain weapons of mass destruction, the war could be extended to Iraq as well. However this theory does not fit all the facts. The truth may be a great deal murkier.
We now know that a blueprint for the creation of a global Pax Americana was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy), Jeb Bush (George Bush’s younger brother) and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America’s Defences, was written in September 2000 by the neoconservative think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

The plan shows Bush’s cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says “while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

The PNAC blueprint supports an earlier document attributed to Wolfowitz and Libby which said the US must “discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role”. It refers to key allies such as the UK as “the most effective and efficient means of exercising American global leadership”. It describes peacekeeping missions as “demanding American political leadership rather than that of the UN”. It says “even should Saddam pass from the scene”, US bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will remain permanently… as “Iran may well prove as large a threat to US interests as Iraq has”. It spotlights China for “regime change”, saying “it is time to increase the presence of American forces in SE Asia”.

The document also calls for the creation of “US space forces” to dominate space, and the total control of cyberspace to prevent “enemies” using the internet against the US. It also hints that the US may consider developing biological weapons “that can target specific genotypes [and] may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool”.

Finally – written a year before 9/11 – it pinpoints North Korea, Syria and Iran as dangerous regimes, and says their existence justifies the creation of a “worldwide command and control system”. This is a blueprint for US world domination. But before it is dismissed as an agenda for rightwing fantasists, it is clear it provides a much better explanation of what actually happened before, during and after 9/11 than the global war on terrorism thesis. This can be seen in several ways.

First, it is clear the US authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of 9/11. It is known that at least 11 countries provided advance warning to the US of the 9/11 attacks. Two senior Mossad experts were sent to Washington in August 2001 to alert the CIA and FBI to a cell of 200 terrorists said to be preparing a big operation (Daily Telegraph, September 16 2001). The list they provided included the names of four of the 9/11 hijackers, none of whom was arrested.

It had been known as early as 1996 that there were plans to hit Washington targets with aeroplanes. Then in 1999 a US national intelligence council report noted that “al-Qaida suicide bombers could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House”.

Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers obtained their visas in Saudi Arabia. Michael Springman, the former head of the American visa bureau in Jeddah, has stated that since 1987 the CIA had been illicitly issuing visas to unqualified applicants from the Middle East and bringing them to the US for training in terrorism for the Afghan war in collaboration with Bin Laden (BBC, November 6 2001). It seems this operation continued after the Afghan war for other purposes. It is also reported that five of the hijackers received training at secure US military installations in the 1990s (Newsweek, September 15 2001).

Instructive leads prior to 9/11 were not followed up. French Moroccan flight student Zacarias Moussaoui (now thought to be the 20th hijacker) was arrested in August 2001 after an instructor reported he showed a suspicious interest in learning how to steer large airliners. When US agents learned from French intelligence he had radical Islamist ties, they sought a warrant to search his computer, which contained clues to the September 11 mission (Times, November 3 2001). But they were turned down by the FBI. One agent wrote, a month before 9/11, that Moussaoui might be planning to crash into the Twin Towers (Newsweek, May 20 2002).

All of this makes it all the more astonishing – on the war on terrorism perspective – that there was such slow reaction on September 11 itself. The first hijacking was suspected at not later than 8.20am, and the last hijacked aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania at 10.06am. Not a single fighter plane was scrambled to investigate from the US Andrews airforce base, just 10 miles from Washington DC, until after the third plane had hit the Pentagon at 9.38 am. Why not? There were standard FAA intercept procedures for hijacked aircraft before 9/11. Between September 2000 and June 2001 the US military launched fighter aircraft on 67 occasions to chase suspicious aircraft (AP, August 13 2002). It is a US legal requirement that once an aircraft has moved significantly off its flight plan, fighter planes are sent up to investigate.

Was this inaction simply the result of key people disregarding, or being ignorant of, the evidence? Or could US air security operations have been deliberately stood down on September 11? If so, why, and on whose authority? The former US federal crimes prosecutor, John Loftus, has said: “The information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 was so extensive that it is no longer possible for either the CIA or FBI to assert a defence of incompetence.”

Nor is the US response after 9/11 any better. No serious attempt has ever been made to catch Bin Laden. In late September and early October 2001, leaders of Pakistan’s two Islamist parties negotiated Bin Laden’s extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for 9/11. However, a US official said, significantly, that “casting our objectives too narrowly” risked “a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr Bin Laden was captured”. The US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Myers, went so far as to say that “the goal has never been to get Bin Laden” (AP, April 5 2002). The whistleblowing FBI agent Robert Wright told ABC News (December 19 2002) that FBI headquarters wanted no arrests. And in November 2001 the US airforce complained it had had al-Qaida and Taliban leaders in its sights as many as 10 times over the previous six weeks, but had been unable to attack because they did not receive permission quickly enough (Time Magazine, May 13 2002). None of this assembled evidence, all of which comes from sources already in the public domain, is compatible with the idea of a real, determined war on terrorism.

The catalogue of evidence does, however, fall into place when set against the PNAC blueprint. From this it seems that the so-called “war on terrorism” is being used largely as bogus cover for achieving wider US strategic geopolitical objectives. Indeed Tony Blair himself hinted at this when he said to the Commons liaison committee: “To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11” (Times, July 17 2002). Similarly Rumsfeld was so determined to obtain a rationale for an attack on Iraq that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to 9/11; the CIA repeatedly came back empty-handed (Time Magazine, May 13 2002).

In fact, 9/11 offered an extremely convenient pretext to put the PNAC plan into action. The evidence again is quite clear that plans for military action against Afghanistan and Iraq were in hand well before 9/11. A report prepared for the US government from the Baker Institute of Public Policy stated in April 2001 that “the US remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma. Iraq remains a destabilising influence to… the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East”. Submitted to Vice-President Cheney’s energy task group, the report recommended that because this was an unacceptable risk to the US, “military intervention” was necessary (Sunday Herald, October 6 2002).

Similar evidence exists in regard to Afghanistan. The BBC reported (September 18 2001) that Niaz Niak, a former Pakistan foreign secretary, was told by senior American officials at a meeting in Berlin in mid-July 2001 that “military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October”. Until July 2001 the US government saw the Taliban regime as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of hydrocarbon pipelines from the oil and gas fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. But, confronted with the Taliban’s refusal to accept US conditions, the US representatives told them “either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs” (Inter Press Service, November 15 2001).

Given this background, it is not surprising that some have seen the US failure to avert the 9/11 attacks as creating an invaluable pretext for attacking Afghanistan in a war that had clearly already been well planned in advance. There is a possible precedent for this. The US national archives reveal that President Roosevelt used exactly this approach in relation to Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941. Some advance warning of the attacks was received, but the information never reached the US fleet. The ensuing national outrage persuaded a reluctant US public to join the second world war. Similarly the PNAC blueprint of September 2000 states that the process of transforming the US into “tomorrow’s dominant force” is likely to be a long one in the absence of “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor”. The 9/11 attacks allowed the US to press the “go” button for a strategy in accordance with the PNAC agenda which it would otherwise have been politically impossible to implement.

The overriding motivation for this political smokescreen is that the US and the UK are beginning to run out of secure hydrocarbon energy supplies. By 2010 the Muslim world will control as much as 60% of the world’s oil production and, even more importantly, 95% of remaining global oil export capacity. As demand is increasing, so supply is decreasing, continually since the 1960s.

This is leading to increasing dependence on foreign oil supplies for both the US and the UK. The US, which in 1990 produced domestically 57% of its total energy demand, is predicted to produce only 39% of its needs by 2010. A DTI minister has admitted that the UK could be facing “severe” gas shortages by 2005. The UK government has confirmed that 70% of our electricity will come from gas by 2020, and 90% of that will be imported. In that context it should be noted that Iraq has 110 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in addition to its oil.

A report from the commission on America’s national interests in July 2000 noted that the most promising new source of world supplies was the Caspian region, and this would relieve US dependence on Saudi Arabia. To diversify supply routes from the Caspian, one pipeline would run westward via Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Another would extend eastwards through Afghanistan and Pakistan and terminate near the Indian border. This would rescue Enron’s beleaguered power plant at Dabhol on India’s west coast, in which Enron had sunk $3bn investment and whose economic survival was dependent on access to cheap gas.

Nor has the UK been disinterested in this scramble for the remaining world supplies of hydrocarbons, and this may partly explain British participation in US military actions. Lord Browne, chief executive of BP, warned Washington not to carve up Iraq for its own oil companies in the aftermath of war (Guardian, October 30 2002). And when a British foreign minister met Gadaffi in his desert tent in August 2002, it was said that “the UK does not want to lose out to other European nations already jostling for advantage when it comes to potentially lucrative oil contracts” with Libya (BBC Online, August 10 2002).

The conclusion of all this analysis must surely be that the “global war on terrorism” has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda – the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project. Is collusion in this myth and junior participation in this project really a proper aspiration for British foreign policy? If there was ever need to justify a more objective British stance, driven by our own independent goals, this whole depressing saga surely provides all the evidence needed for a radical change of course.

September 9, 2003

2003.09.09: Overview of “Enemy Combatant” Detention

Filed under: Antiwar,Civil Liberties,Criminal Justice — nyclaw01 @ 3:16 pm

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2003 4:34 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Overview of “Enemy Combatant” Detention
Importance: High,1,3830179.story

Administration Is Making Special Case Out of Padilla Diverse experts call the detention of the American citizen suspected of plotting a ‘dirty bomb’ attack an abuse of power.
By David G. Savage
Times Staff Writer

LA Times, September 7, 2003

WASHINGTON – Even among the extraordinary terrorism cases of the last two years, Jose Padilla’s has stood out.

Although born in the Bronx and arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, he is classified as an enemy combatant and locked up in a brig in South Carolina. He is accused of planning to build a “dirty bomb,” one that uses conventional explosives to spread radioactive material.

Padilla is believed to be the only U.S. civilian since World War II to be held on a president’s order alone and denied all rights – including talking with his family and lawyers.

Although the U.S. Constitution says, “No person shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law,” presidents have claimed emergency powers to detain citizens in wartime. Shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the detention of thousands of Japanese Americans.

To prevent abuses of power, Congress passed a law in 1971 that says, “No citizen shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an act of Congress.”

Lawyers for the Bush administration maintain that Padilla may be held indefinitely at the president’s order – and without a hearing in any court.

Padilla, 31, was arrested by the FBI on May 8, 2002, after arriving in Chicago on a flight from Pakistan. He had a criminal record as a youth in Chicago and as a young adult in Florida. He converted to Islam while in prison and took the name Abdullah al Muhajir.

Upon his arrest at O’Hare, Padilla was taken to New York and held as a “material witness,” presumably to testify against others. He was assigned a lawyer, Donna R. Newman, who met with him several times.

The following month, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft announced that the government had “disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive ‘dirty bomb.’ ” He was referring to Padilla’s case.

According to Ashcroft, Padilla had been “exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or ‘dirty bomb,’ ” in the United States.

“We know from multiple, independent and corroborating sources that Abdullah al Muhajir was closely associated with Al Qaeda and that he was involved in planning future terrorist attacks on innocent American civilians,” Ashcroft said.

Padilla was transferred to a military prison in South Carolina and was no longer able to meet with his attorney. Newman and her co-counsel, Andrew Patel, filed a writ of habeas corpus in New York contending Padilla was being held illegally.

In response, the government’s lawyers pointed to the “Mobbs declaration” – a six-page narrative filed by Michael Mobbs, a Defense Department official. The paper cited Padilla’s travels in the Mideast and meetings with Al Qaeda operatives.

The Mobbs declaration, however, includes a footnote that appears to cast doubt on the two “confidential sources” who pointed to Padilla.

“It is believed that these confidential sources have not been completely candid about their association with Al Qaeda and their terrorist activities,” the footnote said. “Some information remains uncorroborated and may be part of an effort to mislead or confuse U.S. officials.

“One of the sources, for example recanted some of the information that he had provided, but most of the information has been independently corroborated by other sources,” the footnote continued. “In addition, at the time of being interviewed by U.S. officials, one of the sources was being treated with various types of drugs to treat medical conditions.”

In an ordinary criminal case, the notation would give defense lawyers an opening to attack the government’s case, but Padilla’s attorneys have had no such opportunity.

In their brief filed in July with the U.S. appeals court in New York, government attorneys said no additional evidence was needed to hold Padilla.

Asserting there is “great deference owed the president’s determination that Padilla is an enemy combatant,” they said that “any effort to ascertain the facts concerning Padilla’s conduct while amongst the nation’s enemies would entail an unacceptable risk of obstructing war efforts authorized by Congress and undertaken by the executive branch.”

The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York says it will hear oral arguments in November. But the government’s lawyers assert that the court has no jurisdiction, since Padilla is now held in a military prison, and they say they have no intention of abiding by a judge’s order that would even allow Padilla to speak with an attorney.

“Petitioner Padilla is a being held by the military as an enemy combatant in the course of the continuing armed conflict,” the government’s lawyers told the appeals court. “The commander in chief has wartime authority to detain enemy combatants, including, as here, in the case of a United States citizen captured on United States soil.”

Last month, a group of prominent lawyers and retired judges – Republicans and Democrats – filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to reject what they called an “astonishing” claim of presidential power.

“Though we go across the political spectrum, all of us agreed if there is one case that represents the worst of this administration’s post-Sept. 11 intrusions on civil liberties, this is it,” said Robert A. Levy, a constitutional scholar at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian group. “The executive branch doesn’t have the unilateral authority to suspend the law and seize a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.”

He was joined by Judge Harold R. Tyler, who was second in command at the Justice Department under President Ford.

“This man is an American citizen. He has been confined without charges,” Tyler said of Padilla. “Our Constitution says you can’t do that. There’s nothing in the law that says if the president signs some piece of paper, that takes care of it. The law says the president can’t get away with that.”

Padilla’s case represents one of several paths that the administration has followed in its legal war on terrorism. Most of nearly 1,000 persons arrested and detained after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were aliens, and they were held on immigration charges.

John Walker Lindh, the California native who was fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Richard Reid, the Briton who tried to set off a shoe bomb on a flight from Paris, were charged with crimes in federal court and pleaded guilty.

Zacarias Moussaoui, the French-born Muslim accused of aspiring to hijack an airliner, was charged as an Al Qaeda conspirator in a federal court in Virginia. He has insisted on defending himself in a criminal trial.

Unlike Moussaoui and Reid, Padilla is a U.S. citizen. And unlike Lindh, he was not fighting on the battlefield.

In order to hold Padilla, the administration declared a new category of civilian prisoner: the enemy combatant.

“The military may detain a United States citizen who has joined the enemy and has entered our country to carry out hostile acts,” Ashcroft said.

Since then, two more persons have been designated as enemy combatants: Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen who allegedly fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Saudi native who was described as an Al Qaeda operative. Both were transferred to military custody.

Some legal observers say the president is simply exercising a traditional authority of the commander in chief.

“Under the laws of war, it has long been legitimate to hold enemy combatants as prisoners until the end of hostilities,” said John Yoo, a law professor at UC Berkeley who served in the Justice Department until June. “No criminal charges are involved because the detention is not a punishment. It is a measure to prevent the enemy from returning to fight against us.”

Pepperdine University law professor Douglas Kmiec also said he believed the administration’s stand would be upheld. “I don’t think this is totally without precedent,” he said. “When someone is fighting outside an organized army and contrary to the laws of war, that person can be held as an unlawful combatant.”

But Jenny Martinez, a law professor at Stanford who worked on the friend-of-the-court brief in Padilla’s case, said the administration would be rebuked if the case reaches the Supreme Court.

“This is an outrageous case, an extension of presidential power beyond anything we have seen,” she said.Administration lawyers have cited the World War II case of the Nazi saboteurs – eight German soldiers who landed on U.S. shores with a plan to carry out sabotage. A special military court found them guilty, and six of the eight were executed.

The case established that “unlawful combatants,” unlike prisoners of war, can be tried and condemned to death.

Padilla’s lawyers point out that the Nazi saboteurs had two things their client does not: access to their lawyers and a trial.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” co-counsel Patel said, “that a Nazi soldier during a war should have more rights than a non-soldier during a non-war.”

September 8, 2003

2003.09.08: 9/11 Anniversary Antiwar Events

Filed under: Antiwar — nyclaw01 @ 3:16 pm

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Monday, September 08, 2003 5:08 PM
To: 1199 Members
Subject: 9/11 Anniversary Antiwar Events
Importance: High

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Public forum for new book: “September 11th Families For Peaceful Tomorrows: Turning our Grief into Action for Peace.” The Puffin Room. 425 Broome Street (between Broadway and Crosby). Information:

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 12:45 p.m.
Emergency NYC Protest Against Ashcroft & the PATRIOT Act.
Federal Hall 26 Wall Street (across the street from NYSE).

Concert for Peaceful Tomorrows, St. Peter’s R.C. Church.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 6:45 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
“CANDLELIGHT” VIGIL to ENCIRCLE the WTC site. 6:45 Gather at Union Square Park. 7:15 Silent Procession. “Candlelight”
vigil 9:30. Information:

New Yorkers Say No To War with mourning, reflection, and hope for peace Union Square. Information:

WBAI/Ain’t That Good News Forum:
Reframing 911: Alternatives to Endless War – We Must Connect the Dots. Information:

No WTO: Parade and Festival of Resistance to War & Corporate Rule (WTO Solidarity Events). A festive “tour of shame” parade in NYC to highlight the links between globalization, war, and immigrant rights. Union Square. Information:

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