Jan. 22, 2005

Mystery in Iraq as $300 Million is Taken Abroad

Mystery in Iraq as $300 Million is Taken Abroad By DEXTER FILKINS

Published: January 22, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 21 - Earlier this month, according to Iraqi officials, $300 million in American bills was taken out of Iraq's Central Bank, put into boxes and quietly put on a charter jet bound for Lebanon.

The money was to be used to buy tanks and other weapons from international arms dealers, the officials say, as part of an accelerated effort to assemble an armored division for the fledgling Iraqi Army. But exactly where the money went, and to whom, and for precisely what, remains a mystery, at least to Iraqis who say they have been trying to find out."

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Good thing that there's elections coming up so hey can vote out.....who?

Mycos

Jan. 21, 2005

AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: The Gonzales Indictment

The Gonzales Indictment

By Marjorie Cohn, TruthOut.org. Posted January 19, 2005.

Instead of being confirmed as attorney general, Alberto Gonzales should be indicted for war crimes.

Alberto Gonzales should not be the attorney general of the United States. He should be considered a war criminal and indicted by the attorney general. This is a suggested indictment of Alberto Gonzales for war crimes under Title 18 U.S.C. section 1441, the War Crimes Act.

COUNT I: Application of Geneva Conventions; Definition of Torture

On or about Jan. 25, 2002 through Jan. 16, 2005, Defendant ALBERTO GONZALES, Counsel to George W. Bush, the president of the United States of America, did write, commission and concur in memoranda that advocated conduct by United States military forces, amounting to war crimes under Title 18 U.S.C. section 1441 (The War Crimes Act ).

The War Crimes Act defines as war crimes: grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions."

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Jan. 18, 2005

Transcript: Boxer, Rice Exchange Pointed Words:

Transcript: Boxer, Rice Exchange Pointed Words:

Excerpt

"Well, with you in the lead role, Dr. Rice, we went into Iraq. I want to read you a paragraph that best expresses my views, and ask my staff if they would hold this up -- and I believe the views of millions of Californians and Americans. It was written by one of the world's experts on terrorism, Peter Bergen, five months ago. He wrote: 'What we have done in Iraq is what bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams: We invaded an oil-rich Muslim nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very type of imperial adventure bin Laden has long predicted was the U.S.'s long-term goal in the region. We deposed the secular socialist Saddam, whom bin Laden has long despised, ignited Sunni and Shi'a fundamentalist fervor in Iraq, and have now provoked a defensive jihad that has galvanized jihad- minded Muslims around the world. It's hard to imagine a set of policies better designed to sabotage the war on terror.' This conclusion was reiterated last Thursday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank, which released a report saying that Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of professionalized terrorists. "

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Out of the Darkness

Out of the Darkness
By BOB HERBERT

Published: January 17, 2005

Columnist Page: Bob Herbert

Forum: Discuss This Column

Atlanta — You could get dizzy thinking about the history that has passed in and out of Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was the spiritual home (and primary safe house) of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 60's. There's now a spiffy new church right across the street, but the memories of the battles fought and the freedom gained in that tumultuous period live on in the old building, with its narrow stairways and creaking floors, and the basement where so many strategy sessions were held.

On Friday night I had the privilege of joining the actors Martin Sheen, Lynn Redgrave, Alfre Woodard, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson and others in a reading at the old church of Ariel Dorfman's play "Speak Truth to Power: Voices From Beyond the Dark," which is based on the book "Speak Truth to Power," by Kerry Kennedy and the photographer Eddie Adams. The occasion marked the 76th anniversary of Dr. King's birth (he was only 39 when he was killed) and the 40th anniversary of his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. Among those in the audience was Dr. King's widow, Coretta.

Excerpt: Both the play and the book are made up of passages from interviews of men and women who, in a wide variety of ways, defended human rights in countries that span the globe. Dianna Ortiz is an Ursuline nun from New Mexico who went to Guatemala in the 1980's as a missionary. She was abducted, gang raped and tortured by government agents. She said one of the men overseeing the torture appeared to be American. At one point she was lowered into a pit filled with the bodies of men, women and children who had been murdered. "To this day," said Sister Ortiz, "I can smell the decomposing of bodies disposed of in an open pit. I can hear the piercing screams of other people being tortured."

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The Bush Rule of Journalism

The Bush Rule of Journalism

By Robert Parry
January 17, 2005

“Don’t take on the Bushes” is becoming an unwritten rule in American journalism. Reporters can make mistakes in covering other politicians and suffer little or no consequence, but a false step when doing a critical piece on the Bushes is a career killer.

The latest to learn this hard lesson are four producers at CBS, who demonstrated inadequate care in checking out memos purportedly written by George W. Bush’s commanding officer in the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970s. For this sloppiness, CBS fired the four, including Mary Mapes who helped break last year’s Abu Ghraib torture scandal.

A painful irony for the CBS producers was that the central points of the memos – that Bush had blown off a required flight physical and was getting favored treatment in the National Guard – were already known, and indeed, were confirmed by the commander’s secretary in a follow-up interview with CBS. But even honest mistakes are firing offenses when the Bushes are involved.

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Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Special forces 'on the ground' in Iran

Special forces 'on the ground' in Iran: "Special forces 'on the ground' in Iran

Ian Traynor Monday January 17, 2005 The Guardian

American special forces have been on the ground inside Iran scouting for US air strike targets for suspected nuclear weapons sites, according to the renowned US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

In an article in the latest edition of the New Yorker, Hersh, who was the first to uncover US human rights abuses against Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison last year, reports that Pakistan, under a deal with Washington, has been supplying information on Iranian military sites and on its nuclear programme, enabling the US to conduct covert ground and air reconnaissance of Iranian targets, should the escalating row over Iran's nuclear ambitions come to a head."

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"CIA think tank: Iraq 'training ground' for terrorists

"CIA think tank: Iraq 'training ground' for terrorists

'2020' report says India, China will be US's economic and political rivals.

By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com

The war in Iraq is becoming a 'training ground for terrorists,' replacing Afghanistan as the center of that activity, according to a new report, 'Mapping the Global Future.' The report was prepared by the National Intelligence Center, an 'in-house CIA think tank,' The Los Angeles Times reports.

Agence-France Presse reports that the NIC believes that the likelihood of conflict between the 'great powers' is lower than at any time in the past 100 years. But the factors that have created the threat of international terrorism show no signs of abating."

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Iraq Dispatches

January 18, 2005
Odd Happenings in Fallujah

“The soldiers are doing strange things in Fallujah,” said one of my contacts in Fallujah who just returned. He was in his city checking on his home and just returned to Baghdad this evening.

Speaking on condition of anonymity he continued, “In the center of the Julan Quarter they are removing entire homes which have been bombed, meanwhile most of the homes that were bombed are left as they were. Why are they doing this?”

Continue reading "Odd Happenings in Fallujah"

The Media's New Cold War

The Media's New Cold War

By Stephen Cohen, The Nation. Posted January 18, 2005.

Ukraine's contested election seems to have served as a call to arms for a renewed Cold War with Russia – but it's not the usual suspects leading the charge.

Thirteen years after the end of the Soviet Union, the American press establishment seemed eager to turn Ukraine's protested presidential election on Nov. 21 into a new cold war with Russia. Still worse, its greatest enthusiasts were not the usual Russophobes but influential opinion-makers and publications reputed to be exemplars of balanced, moderate, even liberal, outlook.

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Iraq Dispatches: Iraqis Discuss Voting, Or Not, in Elections Held Amidst Chaos]

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches ** ** http://dahrjamailiraq.com **

Iraqis Discuss Voting, Or Not, in Elections Held Amidst Chaos

*With confusion, obscurity and disarray defining the lead up to Iraq’s elections, even people who have not decided to boycott or stay away in fear of violence have a reason to dismiss participation in the Jan. 30 polls.*

by Dahr Jamail and Brian Dominick, The NewStandard http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/1393

Baghdad, Jan. 17 -- Despite the continuing escalation of violence here, Iraqi officials insist the country's first-ever general assembly elections remain on schedule, even if preparations have fallen well off track in many areas where rebels have caused grave disruptions. While most Iraqis are consumed with the ever-present tasks of keeping their families safe, finding fuel for their cars and looking for jobs, there is much talk around Baghdad of the polls set for January 30.

On Election Day, among eligible Iraqis who do not cast ballots, it will be hard to differentiate between those holding off for any of various reasons. There are many who will simply be too afraid to go to their local polling places. Others will observe organized calls to boycott the elections in an attempt to withhold legitimacy from the process. And then there are still more who are just plain disgusted with the system, how it has been organized and what they see as an utter lack of legitimacy in even a best-case outcome.

But today, throughout the Baghdad area, there are plenty of Iraqis willing to express why they will or will not be voting later this month.

"If the US wants, we will have elections," said Aimin, a 43-year-old owner of an internet café in a predominantly Sunni area of Baghdad, "because they are planning on installing a pro-US government that will not oppose any of their policies."

There have been numerous calls for a postponement or outright boycott of the polls. Mostly from a range of Sunni Arab groups that fear utter disenfranchisement as a minority, the call has been echoed even by a prominent mainstream Sunni political figure, Adnan Pachachi, whose own party is engaged in the campaign.

Especially among the Sunnis of Iraq's populous central region, the sense for some people that their country is going somewhere without them is everywhere, and the desperation that accompanies such a shift is manifesting itself in different ways for different people. A growing minority is responding with violence, while the great majority seems to have resigned to helplessness, trusting in neither the gun nor the ballot.

But according to the US-imposed interim Iraqi Constitution, the ball is rolling down the path to Iraqi "democracy," and nothing can stop it. The elections must occur before the end of this month. Nearly everyone agrees that, according to the letter of the law, the Independent Commission for Elections in Iraq is not qualified to call the polls off or even to postpone them; neither are the Iraqi or United States governments.

Yet some Iraqis dispute the practical authority of the year-old document, insisting that bending rules is what "the Americans" do best. If the US-led coalition can overthrow a sovereign government in Iraq and the United Nations can rubber stamp that process, they argue, surely either Washington or the UN can alter temporary rules established to permanently replace that regime with a new one.

Some also say that if Iraq is truly sovereign in the wake of last summer's much ballyhooed "handing over," the interim government could step up and admit the process is too flawed to go forward under the current conditions of chaotic insecurity. But such a move would surely open Prime Minister Allawi and his government up to the opposite criticism: that they are resistant to relinquish the positions they have gained through undemocratic means. Besides, many of those currently in power are situated to obtain seats in the next phase of Iraqi political history.

"We are not against elections," said Saif, an 18-year-old Shiite biology student at Baghdad University, "but we are against the timing of them. Look at the security," he exclaimed.

Asked if he expected to vote, Saif promptly responded: "Even though the elections will happen, they will not be legitimate, and they will be a disaster. Anybody elected will be a puppet of Bush." He then concluded, "I will not vote, nor will anyone I know."

Charges that the United States has unduly influenced the elections are fairly standard in Baghdad. Since many of the best-known candidates have worked directly with Washington since long before the March 2003 invasion, or with occupying forces thereafter, Iraqis look upon them with deep-rooted skepticism. US-funded nonprofit organizations have been heavily involved in the development of political parties, and there is widespread suspicion that back room arrangements have been put in place for months now.

Aimin, the internet café owner, said that the way the elections are being handled is grounds for consternation, reflecting widespread fear that even those votes which are cast could be tampered with.

Indeed, the only international "observers" scheduled to assess the fairness of the polls two weeks from now will be operating out of Amman, Jordan, according to UN and European Union plans. Those groups' mission is to ensure that the Iraqi vote lives up to "international standards," as the head of the UN's small mission put it last November. How they will live up to that mandate from such a remote location remains to be seen.

Direct observation of the elections themselves -- which will be held across some 5,000 to 9,000 polling places if the Independent Commission's plans come to fruition -- will be monitored by Iraqis hastily trained and retrained by international organizations, including American partisans funded by US tax dollars. The number of polling places changes based on which official is consulted on what day, and their locations are being kept secret until Election Day, reportedly in order to discourage planned attacks.

"All of my friends are criticizing the elections and everyone involved with them," Aimin added sternly, echoing a sense in some areas that what could be considered "apathy" is actually rooted in beliefs held by large parts of entire communities. "I will not be voting," Aimin concluded.

But not everyone shares Aimin's pessimism. "There will be legitimate elections because everyone nominated will bring Iraq to peace," said Alia Khalaf, a 24-year-old biologist who is looking forward to the elections. "I will be voting for [current Prime Minister Iyad] Allawi," he added.

What Khalaf, a Shiite, actually meant is that he will be voting for the list of 240 candidates of which Allawi is a leading figure. Though some individuals are running independently, most candidates only come in sets, which is one of the factors leading to tremendous confusion and frustration among even those who are committed to voting at month's end.

Again depending which authority one asks, political parties, coalition slates and independent candidates, have fielded somewhere between 83 and 256 slates. In many cases, the names of candidates have been withheld for fear of retribution by rebel groups intent on ruining the election altogether. Each list reportedly contains the names -- or the "anonymous" placeholders -- of up to 275 candidates.

Among those names that are made public, Iraqis struggle to recognize anyone they can put their support behind. With over 5,000 candidates listed, anonymously or by name, and no one running as a representative of a particular locale, the task of deciding whom to back is too much for some. Many Iraqis say they cannot even figure out the differences between the platforms set forth by various political groupings.

"I have seen the lists, and I don't know any of them," said Mustafa, a 20-year-old physics student at Baghdad University. "I don't know if I'll vote yet because we don't know any of these people. I can't vote for someone I don't know."

Because a form of proportional representation will be used to select how many members of the most popular slates will earn seats on the 275-member National Assembly, even for those Iraqis who find agreeable candidates on winning slates, there is no guarantee that their favored politicians will ever hold office.

A 52-year-old tailor in Baghdad, Ibrahim Aziz, shared his aggravation concerning the chaotic electoral process. "Up until now we, I don't know anything concerning the elections," he said while mending some suit pants in his small shop. "Even the government doesn't know who is nominated. We don't know these lists with no names on them."

"If there are to be true elections there must be names of people we would be voting for," added Ahmed, a customer at Aziz's tailor shop.

For its part, the Independent Commission tasked with orchestrating the elections from start to finish, has offered little sympathy for those voters and candidates alike who feel excluded from the process for any reason.

Asked during an interview with the United Nations' IRIN news service what the Commission planned to do to help Iraqis learn more about the numerous options on the ballot, spokesperson Farid Ayar responded: "Since 15 December last year parties have been able to promote themselves. If they haven't done it yet, it's not our problem, we don't want to involve ourselves in this issue and add problems to ours."

Ayar also dismissed the significance of reports from Iraq's Interior Ministry that police officers are abandoning the force in droves during the lead up to Election Day. "Even if policemen are resigning, the [Defense Ministry] will offer the same security," he said.

Ayar added, "Any delay of elections can only make things worse, and when the insurgents see that there is an improvement in the country after it, they will think twice before attacking wrong places or innocent people," reflecting assertions previously made that the capture of former dictator Saddam Hussein, and then the handover of partial sovereignty from the US occupation government to Iraq's current government last June, would lead to increased security.

Like the government and the Electoral Commission, some Iraqis hold out hope, insisting that the elections present the only prospect for peace in their troubled homeland.

"The elections will happen, and I think they are a good idea," said Intisar, a 21-year-old college student in Baghdad. "We need a real government, and this will help with security," she added.

"I think the elections are good and I will vote," said Jassim, a 36-year-old grocery store owner in Khadimiya, a predominantly Shiite Muslim district in Baghdad. "I hope everybody votes, because the elections will help, I think."

Still, if current trends continue, there is a significant chance that far fewer than half of eligible Iraqis will cast a vote on January 30. The reasons for what could technically be called "apathy" are of course far more complex than those faced by most countries. The direct threat of retaliation by rebels, the constant threat of random violence by terrorists and even concerns that US or Iraqi security forces will attack or detain voters in certain places all provoke fear among everyday Iraqis.

Whether from the vantage point of Baghdad or New York, accurately reporting specific details of each day's events -- or of the overall situation -- is often close to impossible. Discrepancies are the norm as unverified claims and rumors abound on television, the internet and the streets of Iraq alike.

Injecting another level of confusion into the process, several prominent Iraqis have switched their stances on the elections, changed their alignments or maintained vague positions in he past two months. Officials involved with Shiite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr's popular movement have recently made deeply contradictory statements. While some have said Al-Sadr wishes to distance himself from the elections, others are themselves listed as candidates. More still have participated in promoting the vote, and one Baghdad area Al-Sadr spokesperson told The NewStandard on condition of anonymity that the widely admired cleric has not ruled out calling for a boycott.

Meanwhile, the most powerful Iraqi Shiite figure, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, has not wavered in his support for the elections, which he has been calling for since last January; but Al-Sistani has so far held off from specifically endorsing even the slate of candidates that some of his top aides helped assemble in the venerable cleric's own name. That has not stopped the group from taking advantage of Al-Sistani's perceived support, going so far as to include his revered image in some of their campaign posters.

It is also difficult to gauge the extent to which widespread attacks by rebel groups have damaged the potential for elections to even be held in substantial areas of Central and Western Iraq, as well as the northern city of Mosul, in large part presently under siege by US forces. In fact, the number, frequency and severity of attacks are likewise hard to determine, with reports of voter registration sites and materials coming under assault circulating on a daily basis.

Even determining how many lists of candidates will actually appear on the January 30 ballot is an elusive task, with the Independent Commission originally reporting 83, the UN claiming 256 during a ceremonial ordering of the ballot on December 20, and the Iraqi Independent Commission spokesperson putting the number at 111 during the recent IRIN interview.

However the process goes, and whatever its outcome, the one sure thing is that many Iraqis will refuse to accept the authority of whatever combination of 275 hopefuls eventually constitutes the country's first elected assembly.

"The elections cannot be legitimate because we are under occupation, so I will not be voting, nor will any of my friends," said Layla Hamad, a Shiite shop owner.

"It's not a matter of elections, because those in power will stay in power," commented Suhaid, a 23-year old Shiite who is an unemployed computer science engineer. "This is a big lie and the elections are illegitimate."

© 2004 The NewStandard www.newstandardnews.net

-- Gary Williams http://mycos.blogspot.com/

Jan. 16, 2005

Villagers furious with Christian Missionari

Villagers furious with Christian Missionaries

[India News]: Samanthapettai, Jan 16 : Rage and fury has gripped this tsunami-hit tiny Hindu village in India's southern Tamil Nadu after a group of Christian missionaries allegedly refused them aid for not agreeing to follow their religion.

Gary Williams