Monday, May 28, 2007

Hypocrisy: Thy Name Is Bush

Sources: Global Research.Ca

Hypocrisy: Thy Name Is Bush

by Robert Parry

Global Research, April 23, 2007

George W. Bush likes to present the “war on terror” as a clear-cut moral crusade in which evildoers who kill innocent civilians must be brought harshly to justice, along with the leaders of countries that harbor terrorists. There are no grays, only blacks and whites.

But evenhanded justice is not the true core principle of the Bush Doctrine. The real consistency is hypocrisy: violence which Bush favors – no matter how wanton the slaughter of innocents – is justifiable, while violence that goes against Bush’s interests – even an insurgency against a foreign military occupation – must be punished without remorse as “terrorism.”

In other words, if Bush hates the perpetrators, they are locked up indefinitely without charge and, at his discretion, can be subjected to “alternative interrogation techniques,” what most of the world considers torture. The rule of law is out the window. Wild West hangin' justice is in. Even the ancient fair trial right of habeas corpus is discarded.

However, when the killers of civilians are on Bush’s side, they get the full panoply of legal protections – and every benefit of the doubt. Under this Bush double standard, therefore, right-wing Cuban terrorists Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, though implicated in a string of murderous attacks on civilians, get the see-no-evil treatment.

On April 19, the 79-year-old Posada was released on bail from federal custody for an immigration violation and allowed to fly to Miami where he will live at home while his case winds its way through the U.S. courts. Bosch, too, has been allowed to live out his golden years in south Florida with the help and protection of the Bush family.

But the evidence in U.S. government files is overwhelming that Posada and Bosch were the architects of the 1976 mid-air bombing of a civilian Cubana airliner, killing 73 people, including young members of the Cuban national fencing team.

Since the conspiracy was hatched in Caracas, Venezuela, where Posada worked as a Venezuelan intelligence officer, the Venezuelan government has sought Posada’s extradition. However, when a Posada friend testified at Posada’s immigration hearing that Venezuela practices torture, Bush administration lawyers let the unverified claim go unchallenged, leading the judge to forbid Posada’s deportation there.

So, the Bush administration, which has subjected its own terrorism suspects to such practices as painful stress positions and simulated drowning by “water-boarding,” wasn’t willing to take the chance that Posada might be abused in Venezuela, even though there was no real evidence that he would be.

Justifying Terrorism

The Bush administration also took no note a year ago when Bosch publicly justified the 1976 mid-air bombing. The stunning TV interview of Bosch by reporter Juan Manuel Cao on Miami’s Channel 41 was cited in articles on the Internet by José Pertierra, a lawyer for the Venezuelan government. But Bosch’s comments caused him no further difficulty. [For Pertierra’s story, see Counterpunch, April 11, 2006]

“Did you down that plane in 1976?” Cao asked Bosch.

“If I tell you that I was involved, I will be inculpating myself,” Bosch answered, “and if I tell you that I did not participate in that action, you would say that I am lying. I am therefore not going to answer one thing or the other.”

But when Cao asked Bosch to comment on the civilians who died when the plane crashed off the coast of Barbados, Bosch responded, “In a war such as us Cubans who love liberty wage against the tyrant [Fidel Castro], you have to down planes, you have to sink ships, you have to be prepared to attack anything that is within your reach.”

“But don’t you feel a little bit for those who were killed there, for their families?” Cao asked.

“Who was on board that plane?” Bosch responded. “Four members of the Communist Party, five North Koreans, five Guyanese.” [Officials tallies actually put the Guyanese dead at 11.]

Bosch added, “Four members of the Communist Party, chico! Who was there? Our enemies…”

“And the fencers?” Cao asked about Cuba’s amateur fencing team that had just won gold, silver and bronze medals at a youth fencing competition in Caracas. “The young people on board?”

Bosch replied, “I was in Caracas. I saw the young girls on television. There were six of them. After the end of the competition, the leader of the six dedicated their triumph to the tyrant. … She gave a speech filled with praise for the tyrant.

“We had already agreed in Santo Domingo, that everyone who comes from Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks as those men and women that fight alongside the tyranny.” [The comment about Santo Domingo was an apparent reference to a strategy meeting by a right-wing terrorist organization, CORU, which took place in the Dominican Republic in 1976.]

“If you ran into the family members who were killed in that plane, wouldn’t you think it difficult?” Cao asked.

“No, because in the end those who were there had to know that they were cooperating with the tyranny in Cuba,” Bosch answered.

In an article about Bosch’s remarks, lawyer Pertierra said the answers “give us a glimpse into the mind of the kind of terrorist that the United States government harbors and protects in Miami; terrorists that for the last 47 years have waged a bloody and ruthless war against the Cuban people.”

CIA Files

Beyond Bosch’s incriminating statements, the evidence of his and Posada’s guilt is overwhelming. Declassified U.S. documents show that soon after the Cubana Airlines plane was blown out of the sky on Oct. 6, 1976, the CIA, then under the direction of George H.W. Bush, identified Posada and Bosch as the masterminds of the bombing.

But in fall 1976, Bush’s boss, President Gerald Ford, was in a tight election battle with Democrat Jimmy Carter and the Ford administration wanted to keep intelligence scandals out of the newspapers. So Bush and other officials kept the lid on the investigations. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Still, inside the U.S. government, the facts were known. According to a secret CIA cable dated Oct. 14, 1976, intelligence sources in Venezuela relayed information about the Cubana Airlines bombing that tied in anti-communist Cuban extremists Bosch, who had been visiting Venezuela, and Posada, who then served as a senior officer in Venezuela’s intelligence agency, DISIP.

The Oct. 14 cable said Bosch arrived in Venezuela in late September 1976 under the protection of Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, a close Washington ally who assigned his intelligence adviser Orlando Garcia “to protect and assist Bosch during his stay in Venezuela.”

On his arrival, Bosch was met by Garcia and Posada, according to the report. Later, a fundraising dinner was held in Bosch’s honor during which Bosch requested cash from the Venezuelan government in exchange for assurances that Cuban exiles wouldn’t demonstrate during Andres Perez’s planned trip to the United Nations.

“A few days following the fund-raising dinner, Posada was overheard to say that, ‘we are going to hit a Cuban airplane,’ and that ‘Orlando has the details,’” the CIA report said.

“Following the 6 October Cubana Airline crash off the coast of Barbados, Bosch, Garcia and Posada agreed that it would be best for Bosch to leave Venezuela. Therefore, on 9 October, Posada and Garcia escorted Bosch to the Colombian border, where he crossed into Colombian territory.”

The CIA report was sent to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, as well as to the FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies, according to markings on the cable.

In South America, police began rounding up suspects. Two Cuban exiles, Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo, who got off the Cubana plane in Barbados, confessed that they had planted the bomb. They named Bosch and Posada as the architects of the attack.

A search of Posada’s apartment in Venezuela turned up Cubana Airlines timetables and other incriminating documents.

Posada and Bosch were charged in Venezuela for the Cubana Airlines bombing, but the men denied the accusations. The case soon became a political tug-of-war, since the suspects were in possession of sensitive Venezuelan government secrets that could embarrass President Andres Perez.

Lost Interest

After the Reagan-Bush administration took power in Washington in 1981, the momentum for fully unraveling the mysteries of anti-communist terrorist plots dissipated. The Cold War trumped any concern about right-wing terrorism.

In 1985, Posada escaped from a Venezuelan prison, reportedly with the help of Cuban exiles. In his autobiography, Posada thanked Miami-based Cuban activist Jorge Mas Canosa for providing the $25,000 that was used to bribe guards who allowed Posada to walk out of prison.

Another Cuban exile who aided Posada was former CIA officer Felix Rodriguez, who was close to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and who was overseeing secret supply shipments to the Nicaraguan contra rebels, a pet project of President Ronald Reagan.

After fleeing Venezuela, Posada joined Rodriguez in Central America and was assigned the job of paymaster for pilots in the White House-run contra-supply operation. When one of the contra-supply planes was shot down inside Nicaragua in October 1986, Posada was responsible for alerting U.S. officials to the crisis and then shutting down the operation’s safe houses in El Salvador.

Even after the exposure of Posada’s role in the contra-supply operation, the U.S. government made no effort to bring the accused terrorist to justice.

By the late 1980s, Orlando Bosch also was out of Venezuela’s jails and back in Miami. But Bosch, who had been implicated in about 30 violent attacks, was facing possible deportation by U.S. officials who warned that Washington couldn’t credibly lecture other countries about terrorism while protecting a terrorist like Bosch.

But Bosch got lucky. Jeb Bush, then an aspiring Florida politician, led a lobbying drive to prevent the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from expelling Bosch. In 1990, the lobbying paid dividends when Jeb's dad, President George H.W. Bush, blocked proceedings against Bosch, letting the unapologetic terrorist stay in the United States.

In 1992, also during George H.W. Bush’s presidency, the FBI interviewed Posada about the Iran-Contra scandal for 6 ½ hours at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras.

Posada filled in some blanks about the role of Bush’s vice presidential office in the secret contra operation. According to a 31-page summary of the FBI interview, Posada said Bush’s national security adviser, Donald Gregg, was in frequent contact with Felix Rodriguez.

“Posada … recalls that Rodriguez was always calling Gregg,” the FBI summary said. “Posada knows this because he’s the one who paid Rodriguez’ phone bill.” After the interview, the FBI agents let Posada walk out of the embassy to freedom. [For details, see Parry’s Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & Project Truth.]

More Attacks

Posada soon returned to his anti-Castro plotting.

In 1994, Posada set out to kill Castro during a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Posada and five cohorts reached Cartagena, but the plan flopped when security cordons prevented the would-be assassins from getting a clean shot at Castro, according to a Miami Herald account. [Miami Herald, June 7, 1998]

The Herald also described Posada’s role in a lethal 1997 bombing campaign against popular hotels and restaurants inside Cuba that killed an Italian tourist. The story cited documentary evidence that Posada arranged payments to conspirators from accounts in the United States.

“This afternoon you will receive via Western Union four transfers of $800 each … from New Jersey,” said one fax signed by SOLO, a Posada alias.

Posada landed back in jail in 2000 after Cuban intelligence uncovered a plot to assassinate Castro by planting a bomb at a meeting the Cuban leader planned with university students in Panama.

Panamanian authorities arrested Posada and other alleged co-conspirators in November 2000. In April 2004, they were sentenced to eight or nine years in prison for endangering public safety.

Four months after the sentencing, however, lame-duck Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso – who lives in Key Biscayne, Florida, and has close ties to the Cuban-American community and to George W. Bush’s administration – pardoned the convicts.

Despite press reports saying Moscoso had been in contact with U.S. officials about the pardons, the State Department denied that it pressured Moscoso to release the Cuban exiles. After the pardons and just two months before Election 2004, three of Posada’s co-conspirators – Guillermo Novo Sampol, Pedro Remon and Gaspar Jimenez – arrived in Miami to a hero’s welcome, flashing victory signs at their supporters.

While the terrorists celebrated, U.S. authorities watched the men – also implicated in bombings in New York, New Jersey and Florida – alight on U.S. soil. As Washington Post writer Marcela Sanchez noted in a September 2004 article about the Panamanian pardons, “there is something terribly wrong when the United States, after Sept. 11 (2001), fails to condemn the pardoning of terrorists and instead allows them to walk free on U.S. streets.” [Washington Post, Sept. 3, 2004]

Posada Arrives

Posada reportedly sneaked into the United States in early 2005 and his presence was an open secret in Miami for weeks before U.S. authorities did anything. The New York Times summed up Bush’s dilemma if Posada decided to seek U.S. asylum.

“A grant of asylum could invite charges that the Bush administration is compromising its principle that no nation should harbor suspected terrorists,” the Times wrote. “But to turn Mr. Posada away could provoke political wrath in the conservative Cuban-American communities of South Florida, deep sources of support and campaign money for President Bush and his brother, Jeb.” [NYT, May 9, 2005]

Only after Posada called a news conference to announce his presence was the Bush administration shamed into arresting him. But even then, the administration balked at sending Posada back to Venezuela where the government of Hugo Chavez – unlike some of its predecessors – was eager to prosecute.

At a U.S. immigration hearing in 2005, Posada’s defense attorney called as a witness a Posada friend who alleged that Venezuela’s government practices torture. Bush administration lawyers didn’t challenge the claim, leading the immigration judge to bar Posada’s deportation to Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez accused the Bush administration of applying “a cynical double standard” in the “war on terror.”

“The United States presents itself as a leader against terrorism, invades countries, restricts the civil rights of Americans in order to fight terrorism, but when it is about its own terrorists, it denies that they be tried,” Alvarez said.

As for the claim that Venezuela practices torture, Alvarez said, “There isn’t a shred of evidence that Posada would be tortured in Venezuela.” Alvarez added that the claim was particularly ironic given widespread press accounts that the Bush administration has abused prisoners at the U.S. military base in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Posada-Bosch cases point to one unavoidable and unpleasant conclusion: that the Bush family regards terrorism – defined as killing civilians for a political reason – as justified or at least tolerable in cases when their interests match those of the terrorists.

Terrorism is only a moral evil to the Bushes when the violence against civilians clashes with the Bush family’s interests.

This blatant hypocrisy often has been aided and abetted by the U.S. news media, which intuitively understands the double standard and acts accordingly. The U.S. press corps downplays or ignores cases in which terrorism has connections to U.S. government officials – and especially to the Bush family.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Robert Parry is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Robert Parry
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Congress helps Bush's war for what?

Source: ZNet

What Congress Really Approved
Benchmark No. 1: Privatizing Iraq's Oil for US Companies
by Ann Wright

May 26, 2007

On Thursday, May 24, the US Congress voted to continue the war in Iraq. The members called it "supporting the troops." I call it stealing Iraq's oil - the second largest reserves in the world. The "benchmark," or goal, the Bush administration has been working on furiously since the US invaded Iraq is privatization of Iraq's oil. Now they have Congress blackmailing the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi people: no privatization of Iraqi oil, no reconstruction funds.

This threat could not be clearer. If the Iraqi Parliament refuses to pass the privatization legislation, Congress will withhold US reconstruction funds that were promised to the Iraqis to rebuild what the United States has destroyed there. The privatization law, written by American oil company consultants hired by the Bush administration, would leave control with the Iraq National Oil Company for only 17 of the 80 known oil fields. The remainder (two-thirds) of known oil fields, and all yet undiscovered ones, would be up for grabs by the private oil companies of the world.

No other nation in the Middle East has privatized its oil. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iran give only limited usage contracts to international oil companies for one or two years. The $12 billion dollar "Support the Troops" legislation passed by Congress requires Iraq, in order to get reconstruction funds from the United States, to privatize its oil resources and put them up for long term (20- to 30-year) contracts.

What does this "Support the Troops" legislation mean for the United States military? Supporting our troops has nothing to do with this bill, other than keeping them there for another 30 years to protect US oil interests. It means that every military service member will need Arabic language training. It means that every soldier and Marine would spend most of his or her career in Iraq. It means that the fourteen permanent bases will get new Taco Bells and Burger Kings! Why? Because the US military will be protecting the US corporate oilfields leased to US companies by the compliant Iraqi government. Our troops will be the guardians of US corporate interests in Iraq for the life of the contracts - for the next thirty years.

With the Bush administration's "Support the Troops" bill and its benchmarks, primarily Benchmark No. 1, we finally have the reason for the US invasion of Iraq: to get easily accessible, cheap, high-grade Iraq oil for US corporations.

Now the choice is for US military personnel and their families to decide whether they want their loved ones to be physically and emotionally injured to protect not our national security, but the financial security of the biggest corporate barons left in our country - the oil companies.

It's a choice for only our military families, because most non-military Americans do not really care whether our volunteer military spends its time protecting corporate oil to fuel our one-person cars. Of course, when a tornado, hurricane, flood or other natural disaster hits in our hometown, we want our National Guard unit back. But on a normal day, who remembers the 180,000 US military or the 150,000 US private contractors in Iraq?

Since the "Surge" began in January, over 500 Americans and 15,000 Iraqis have been killed. By the time September 2007 rolls around for the administration's review of the "surge" plan, another 400 Americans will be dead, as well as another 12,000 Iraqis.

How much more can our military and their families take?

[Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army and US Army Reserves and retired as a colonel. She served 16 years in the US diplomatic corps in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Micronesia and Mongolia. She resigned from the US Department of State in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.]

Friday, May 25, 2007

President Bush gets funding to continue the war in Iraq

BBC: Friday, 25 May 2007, 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK

Congress backs Iraq funding bill

The new budget does not set a timetable for US troop withdrawal
Both houses of the US Congress have passed a bill allocating $100bn of new funding for the Iraq war.

The House of Representatives voted in favour of the bill, and the Senate approved it shortly afterwards.

Earlier President George W Bush praised the bill, a compromise measure between Republicans and Democrats which has no timetable for a US troop withdrawal.

Hours after the votes, the US military reported that five of its soldiers had been killed in attacks across Iraq.

Correspondents say the death toll for US troops in May - currently at least 85 - looks like being one of the highest since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Senate voted to send the legislation to the president by 80 votes to 14, after the House gave its approval by a margin of 280 to 142.

The deal ended months of wrangling over demands by Democrats, who control Congress, for checks on Iraq funding.

Democrats had wanted timetables for withdrawal built into any funding bill, but those conditions prompted Mr Bush to veto earlier legislation.

Without a two-thirds majority in Congress, the Democrats were unable to overturn any threat of a further presidential veto and eventually agreed to a compromise deal.

"This is like a fig leaf, this is a token, this is a small step forward, instead we should have a giant step forward into a new direction," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Democrats did manage to secure cash for domestic issues, including a $2.10 rise in the minimum wage, and insisted the new budget was not a victory for the White House.

"The days of blank cheques and green lights for his failed policy are over," Senate majority leader Harry Reid said.

'Critical' summer

Speaking at the White House ahead of the vote, Mr Bush praised the negotiated compromise, saying the bill reflected "a consensus".

Among the terms of the new deal are requirements that the Iraqi government demonstrate progress on specific issues to be assured of continuing US support.

Those "benchmarks" were included after pressure from Democrats, but can be over-ruled by the president.

"We are going to expect heavy fighting in the next weeks and months and we can expect American and Iraqi casualties."

"By voting for this bill, members of both parties can show our troops and the Iraqis and the enemy that our country will support our servicemen and women in harm's way," the president said.

He also told reporters that the coming weeks and months in Iraq would be vital for the new US security strategy in Iraq.

"This summer is going to be critical time for the new strategy," he said.

The last of the 30,000 US troop reinforcements would arrive in Baghdad by the middle of June, Mr Bush predicted, saying he expected heavy fighting to continue in Iraq during this time.

"We are going to expect heavy fighting in the next weeks and months and we can expect American and Iraqi casualties," he said, pledging to stay on the offensive.

Meanwhile, a CBS News/New York Times opinion poll suggests that a record number of Americans are pessimistic about the outcome of the war in Iraq and now believe it was a mistake.

Seventy-six per cent of those polled said they thought the war was going badly, up ten points in one month, while 61% of those polled said the US should have stayed out of Iraq.

And six in 10 wanted a timetable for US troops to withdraw from Iraq - an issue that was dropped from the bill passed by Congress.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Blair admits guilt

Tony Blair in Iraq: War Criminal Admits Guilt

by Felicity Arbuthnot

Global Research, May 20, 2007

As Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Baghdad on Saturday, for an 'unexpected' visit, to bid the Iraqi people he has helped decimate, farewell, he was welcomed by mortar rounds which fell in the 'International Zone', the illegally squatted palace of former President Saddam Hussein. Just: 'usual business..' said his spokesman airily. Hope Blair and his entourage brought a spare pair of trousers, Whitehall's mandarins are not known for towering courage in the face of adversity, more for fiction writing, aka 'dodgy dossiers'. A bad tempered Blair, delusional as ever, talked of 'signs of progress on security.'

'I have no regrets about removing Saddam ...', said the man, the corpse of whose premiership will for ever lie in Mesopotamia's sands, with the possible million souls he and his Washington masters have sent - and continue to send - to their graves - and that is only since March 2003. No mention of the weapons of mass destruction he assured the world, threatened the very existence of the West and could be launched 'in forty five minutes.'

'Removing Saddam', whose leadership and government's sovereignty was guaranteed by the UN? No shame for sharing responsibility for the lynching of Iraq's President and colleagues, whose remaining legitimate government have been held, for over four years? No regrets about committing Nuremberg's 'supreme crime', a war of aggression? Turning the country into a radioactive wasteland from use of uranium weapons? Denying water, electricity, medicines and medical equipment (in contravention of the Geneva Convention) schooling, even gasoline in this possibly largest oil producer on earth? 'No regrets' at the ongoing deaths of at least one hundred people a day, the destruction of an entire civil society, sado masochistic and other war crimes committed by his troops in the south; their uncounted Pinochet style disappeared? Nearly one sixth of the country internally and externally displaced, most, like the Palestinians, without valid passports, credentials (all changed after the invasion, most Iraqis too frightened to approach the relevant Ministries imposed by the US and UK.) 'No regrets'? And in front of the world's media. If the lawyers at the International Criminal Court in the Hague have not got all they need now, they should consider a career move.

'The future of Iraq should be determined by Iraqis ...' said Blair, standing next to honoury Iranian 'Prime Minister' Nuri al Maliki and Iraq's non Arab, Kurdish 'President', Jalal Talabani, who wants the best of all worlds, independence for Kurdistan and the retention of his rule there and the top job in Iraq. Iraqis complain that in all the Ministries now - if they dare approach them (and indeed in Embassies abroad) they need to field a bank of Farsi (Persian) speakers and those who only speak Kurdish, before finding someone who speaks Arabic. 'We need to take advantage of the possible momentum in Iraqi politics ...' said another Blair spokesman. 'Momentum'? What stratosphere is planet Whitehall on?

'He builds palaces while his people starve', was the Blair-Bush mantra during the embargo years. Now the British and Americans are the illicit residents of Iraq's palaces, remaining state buildings, bases (another war crime) as the people for whom, they, as the occupying force, are responsible, starve, flee and die in hospitals decimated by liberation, whose facilities are non existent and over half of whose doctors have been killed or fled for their lives, under what some careful analysts call 'black ops' operations to set Iraqi against Iraqi by the US and UK. Iraqis did not fight each other before the invasion, so what changed? Divide and rule?

Blair (more trousers?) was welcomed by further ordnance as he stood in a base where the British troops, seemingly, cower, in Basra -' the war is lost and the troops in retreat', a correspondent commented of the British last week - an area now ruled too dangerous for Britain's Prince Harry to deploy with his troops. In Basra, Blair seemed especially dismissive of Iraqis. When an Iraqi journalist asked him about Iraq's future he replied tetchily that the 'authoritative voice' of Iraq was 'President' Talabani and the question should be addressed to him as ' the authentic voice of Iraq' . He clearly had not read the day's Guardian either, where in extensive coverage of the south in general and Basra in particular, their correspondent was greeted by an Iraqi General with a handshake and : ' Welcome to Tehran', referring to the near total Iranian influence in everything under British watch and largely facilitated by their errors. The troops themselves watched Blair with stony faces. 'It is important that neighboring countries understand and respect' (Iraq's sovereignty) said Blair, the man from far away who slavishly followed his Master's Washington follies.

As Blair arrived to the Baghdad bang, the airways were awash with former President Carter's scathing assessment of the Blair years. His : 'Support for Bush had been a major tragedy for the world', he had been 'loyal, blind and subservient.' Iraq's invasion had been 'unjustified, unnecessary ... a tragedy for the Iraqi, American and British people.'

That tragedy, the depth of which Blair could never comprehend, is encapsulated by Layla Anwar, an Iraqi blogger, who wrote of a friend who said this week: 'I wake up in the morning and death sits next to me. I have my tea and she has one too. I walk and she accompanies me. I go to sleep at night and she is in my bed. I see death, I hear death, I smell death ... she is everywhere. When she will pick me up, is only a question of time.'

Blair will return to the UK to some pretty scathing press, from the comment left by a reader on the Sunday Herald : ' Blair, just go will you, you murdering, lying filth', to former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, who told BBC Radio 4, the same day : 'Nothing can be done about Iraq except to put a sack over his head.'

The Messianic Blair, who joined George Bush's 'crusade', trespassed in Iraq's palaces, is involved in a global goodbye tour which will last forty days, the time, for believers, Christ wandered alone in the wilderness.

Speculations as to his future are myriad. However, in the recent Channel 4, soaringly spirit lifting docudrama ' The Trial of Tony Blair ', his tenure in Downing Street ended with him heading in an armored police van for Heathrow Airport and for trial the Hague. Now he has admitted his guilt to the world, fittingly in Baghdad, here's hoping.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bush Authorizes New Covert Action against Iran

Global Research, May 23, 2007
ABC News

Brian Ross and Richard Esposito Report:

ABC News, May 22, 2007. The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.

"I can't confirm or deny whether such a program exists or whether the president signed it, but it would be consistent with an overall American approach trying to find ways to put pressure on the regime," said Bruce Riedel, a recently retired CIA senior official who dealt with Iran and other countries in the region.

A National Security Council spokesperson, Gordon Johndroe, said, "The White House does not comment on intelligence matters." A CIA spokesperson said, "As a matter of course, we do not comment on allegations of covert activity."

The sources say the CIA developed the covert plan over the last year and received approval from White House officials and other officials in the intelligence community.

Officials say the covert plan is designed to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment program and end aid to insurgents in Iraq.

"There are some channels where the United States government may want to do things without its hand showing, and legally, therefore, the administration would, if it's doing that, need an intelligence finding and would need to tell the Congress," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official.

Current and former intelligence officials say the approval of the covert action means the Bush administration, for the time being, has decided not to pursue a military option against Iran.

"Vice President Cheney helped to lead the side favoring a military strike," said former CIA official Riedel, "but I think they have come to the conclusion that a military strike has more downsides than upsides."

The covert action plan comes as U.S. officials have confirmed Iran had dramatically increased its ability to produce nuclear weapons material, at a pace that experts said would give them the ability to build a nuclear bomb in two years.

Riedel says economic pressure on Iran may be the most effective tool available to the CIA, particularly in going after secret accounts used to fund the nuclear program.

"The kind of dealings that the Iranian Revolution Guards are going to do, in terms of purchasing nuclear and missile components, are likely to be extremely secret, and you're going to have to work very, very hard to find them, and that's exactly the kind of thing the CIA's nonproliferation center and others would be expert at trying to look into," Riedel said.

Under the law, the CIA needs an official presidential finding to carry out such covert actions. The CIA is permitted to mount covert "collection" operations without a presidential finding.

"Presidential findings" are kept secret but reported to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and other key congressional leaders.

The "nonlethal" aspect of the presidential finding means CIA officers may not use deadly force in carrying out the secret operations against Iran.

Still, some fear that even a nonlethal covert CIA program carries great risks.

"I think everybody in the region knows that there is a proxy war already afoot with the United States supporting anti-Iranian elements in the region as well as opposition groups within Iran," said Vali Nasr, adjunct senior fellow for Mideast studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"And this covert action is now being escalated by the new U.S. directive, and that can very quickly lead to Iranian retaliation and a cycle of escalation can follow," Nasr said.

Other "lethal" findings have authorized CIA covert actions against al Qaeda, terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

Also briefed on the CIA proposal, according to intelligence sources, were National Security Advisor Steve Hadley and Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams.

"The entire plan has been blessed by Abrams, in particular," said one intelligence source familiar with the plan. "And Hadley had to put his chop on it."

Abrams' last involvement with attempting to destabilize a foreign government led to criminal charges.

He pleaded guilty in October 1991 to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress about the Reagan administration's ill-fated efforts to destabilize the Nicaraguan Sandinista government in Central America, known as the Iran-Contra affair. Abrams was later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush in December 1992.

In June 2001, Abrams was named by then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to head the National Security Council's office for democracy, human rights and international operations. On Feb. 2, 2005, National Security Advisor Hadley appointed Abrams deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for global democracy strategy, one of the nation's most senior national security positions.

As earlier reported on the Blotter on, the United States has supported and encouraged an Iranian militant group, Jundullah, that has conducted deadly raids inside Iran from bases on the rugged Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan "tri-border region."

U.S. officials deny any "direct funding" of Jundullah groups but say the leader of Jundullah was in regular contact with U.S. officials.

American intelligence sources say Jundullah has received money and weapons through the Afghanistan and Pakistan military and Pakistan's intelligence service. Pakistan has officially denied any connection.

A report broadcast on Iranian TV last Sunday said Iranian authorities had captured 10 men crossing the border with $500,000 in cash along with "maps of sensitive areas" and "modern spy equipment."

A senior Pakistani official told the 10 men were members of Jundullah.

The leader of the Jundullah group, according to the Pakistani official, has been recruiting and training "hundreds of men" for "unspecified missions" across the border in Iran.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ignoring evil in America

By David R. Hoffman
22.05.2007 Source: URL:

Whenever I see images of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Katherine Harris and other minions of, or apologists for, the corrupt, inept, mendacious and venal Bush dictatorship, I am immediately reminded of this line from John Carpenter’s classic horror movie Halloween: “What is living behind [their] eyes is purely and simply evil.”

Yet in America there is a great reluctance to use the term “evil” when describing the cabal of thugs, hypocrites and war criminals who stole the White House in 2000 and 2004. Although singer/activist Harry Belafonte courageously proclaimed a few years ago that the Bush dictatorship was “possessed of evil,” it wasn’t until recently that others in positions of prominence began to acknowledge the veracity of Belafonte’s statement. A recent episode of the animated comedy Family Guy, for example, showed cartoon portraits of an inanely grinning Bush shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and, ultimately, the “Super Devil” (a being more evil than Satan).

Prior to this, most of the statements concerning the inherent evil of the Bush dictatorship came from foreign sources: Russian President Vladimir Putin indirectly suggested that Bush’s foreign policy was analogous to Hitler’s Third Reich; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez compared Bush to Satan; and the Mayan Indians felt compelled to “spiritually cleanse” a sacred site after Bush visited it earlier this year.

But even though more Americans feel emboldened to criticize the Bush dictatorship, there is still a reluctance to acknowledge and denounce its evil. This reluctance often affects some of the dictatorship’s most outspoken critics: Former American President, and Nobel Laureate, Jimmy Carter recently retreated from his clearly accurate assertion that the Bush dictatorship has been the worst administration in United States history, claiming his words were “careless or misinterpreted.” And syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer rejected the notion that Bush and/or his minions possessed the evil required to orchestrate the attacks of 9/11, even stressing that Dick Cheney was morally incapable of sanctioning the murders of over three thousand Americans simply to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq.

I disagree. While the Bush dictatorship is the domicile for many monsters cloaked in human attire, Cheney is arguably the monster most likely to promote mass murder for the sake of war profiteering. His very character endorses this reality. He possesses the attributes of many mass murderers—a sadist who often kills defenseless animals in “caged hunts” (where they have no means of escape), and a coward who, during the Vietnam war, obtained deferment after deferment to avoid facing an adversary capable of shooting back, only to become a vociferous warmonger once the prospect of being drafted into military service no longer confronted him.

But even if one does not subscribe to the theory that character presages deeds, the Bush dictatorship still cannot be absolved from culpability in the 9/11 attacks. In the legal realm, crimes can be committed through act or omission. It is undisputed that Bush, shortly after his coup of 2000, planned to invade Iraq. It is also undisputed that several warnings about the possibility of airline hijackings, some provided by foreign governments, were forwarded to the Bush dictatorship.

What most likely occurred was that Bush and his minions were aware of the planned attacks, but underestimated their magnitude, believing any hijacking would be of the “traditional” variety: An American aircraft would be forced to fly to an unplanned destination, followed by a lengthy standoff between the hijackers and the Bush dictatorship. Allowing a hijacking to occur would give Bush the opportunity to blame Iraq, and incite the American media and public into a jingoistic frenzy.

So the question becomes, “Why are Americans so willing to acknowledge the presence of evil when it comes to foreign governments, but so unwilling to acknowledge the presence of evil within their own government?”

One explanation may be the “arrogance syndrome.” Americans want to believe they are somehow more “civilized,” and therefore less gullible, than other nations of the world. Unfortunately this belief simply makes them more susceptible to being led into unjust and illegal wars. Also, since many Americans possess short-term memories as selective as the one possessed by Alberto Gonzales (America’s corrupt attorney-general, who recently answered “I cannot recall” over seventy times during his testimony before Congress), they can be duped into supporting such wars time and again.

Although most corporate-controlled media now refer to the illegal invasion of Iraq as an “unpopular war,” just a few years ago these same media were salivating at the ratings and profit potential this war would bring. Reporters and entertainers who criticized, or even questioned, the motives for war or other policies of George W. Bush were fired from their jobs and often-times blacklisted. Pro-war rallies drew record numbers of people, and these rallies frequently treated war criminals like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld as deities.

Another reason why evil is rarely acknowledged in America is simply because too many powerful people profit from it. Sadly, this has been the case throughout history.

A recent movie, Amazing Grace, recounted how British politician and abolitionist William Wilberforce often invoked the tenets of Christianity during his campaign against the slave trade in the early 1800s. This compelled many so-called Christians to embrace the film as a paradigm of how good can triumph over evil.

Forgotten in this zeal, however, is the sad reality that many Americans used (and in the case of racism continue to use) the Christian faith to justify bigotry and slavery. American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, in his book The Life of an American Slave, describes how a preacher/slaveholder often justified the whipping of his slaves by stating, “He who honors his master must wear his stripes.”

Today it is America’s military-industrial complex that profits from economic slavery and the exploitation of the poor and middle-class, who fight and die in wars waged by the rich and powerful. And as long as those in power can reward their cronies with lucrative rebuilding contracts, as long as war can be used to divert attention from government criminality and corruption (as demonstrated by the father of George W. Bush, who invaded Panama to divert attention from the “Savings and Loan” scandal that cost taxpayers billions of dollars), and as long as war can be used to increase the ratings and profit potential of the corrupt corporate-controlled media there will be little incentive to denounce evil in America.

A third reason for the failure of Americans to acknowledge evil in their own country is the uncanny ability of human beings to rationalize anything. When I was in law practice, I often noticed that there was little difference between “law breakers” and “law makers.” Both demonstrated an enormous capacity to rationalize their actions, no matter how much those actions defied morality or commonsense.

The incentive to rationalize is particularly prominent in today’s “sound bite” culture. Corporate-controlled media incessantly select the most “controversial” statements for repeated airplay, often taking them out of context. Meanwhile complex topics, if they are covered at all, are covered only superficially; therefore laypeople often do not have the political or historical background necessary to develop well-informed viewpoints, and thus erect their opinions on tenuous foundations that are frequently devoid of facts.

For example, a recent editorial on the CNN website argued that Americans would be remiss if they failed to honestly debate Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s contention that American foreign policy, particularly its proclivity to dominate or overthrow foreign governments for the sake of corporate profits, played a role in the build-up to the 9/11 attacks.

But it is unlikely that such a debate will ever transpire, particularly since former New York Mayor turned presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has already demonstrated that he will continue to exploit the emotions surrounding 9/11 for his own self-aggrandizement, just as he has opportunistically done in the past.

The final explanation for why the existence of evil in America is often ignored is because the terms “good and evil” often take one into the realm of religion. When science and logic fails, faith often prevails.

But faith can be a positive force or negative force. Since it cannot be disproved, a person does not require logic or science to acquire faith. But without such logic or science, people can often be deceived into believing concepts that have no factual basis at all. Hating another person because of his/her skin color, for example, is as illogical as hating one flower because it’s red and loving another because it’s yellow, particularly since neither possessed the ability to choose what color it would be. Yet racism is alive and well in America.

This is why charlatans often exploit the faith of others. If a situation has a positive outcome, they can claim it was because of the “strength of their faith,” and if a situation has a negative outcome, they can claim it was because their followers “didn’t believe deeply enough.”

It was this type of faith that made many Americans embrace the lies of the Bush dictatorship, naively believing that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction,” that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, and that war against Iraq would only be used as “a last resort.”

This exploitation of faith has been the modus operandi of the Bush dictatorship and its apologists—strategically designed to conceal their ineptitude, arrogance, dishonesty and evil. It has been so effective that many so-called “Christian” colleges and universities have invited members and supporters of the Bush dictatorship, including Bush himself, to be guest or commencement speakers.

Since I began this essay with a quotation from a movie, I will end it with one as well. In Bryan Singer’s remarkable film The Usual Suspects, a character named Verbal Kint remarks, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Sadly, this trick will continue to be effective as long as Americans refuse to acknowledge that their nation is being controlled by people who are “purely and simply evil.”

David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru

© 1999-2006. «PRAVDA.Ru». When reproducing our materials in whole or in part, hyperlink to PRAVDA.Ru should be made. The opinions and views of the authors do not always coincide with the point of view of PRAVDA.Ru's editors.

The US war and occupation of Iraq--Part three

The US war and occupation of Iraq—the murder of a society
Part three

By Bill Van Auken
22 May 2007

This is the final part of a three-part series. Part one was posted May 19 and part two on May 21. Its purpose is to examine a series of recent reports establishing the immense scale of death, destruction and oppression that have been wrought by the US occupation of Iraq, now in its fifth year. Taken together, these reports confirm that US operations in Iraq have amounted to sociocide—the deliberate and systematic murder of an entire society.

The assault on higher education

Estimates of the number of university professors killed since 2003 range between 250 and 1,000. These educators have been targeted by Islamist militias because they are seen as proponents of secularism and a national identity that cuts across religious-ethnic divides.

Attacks on universities have also driven away students. The first two months of this year saw two bombing attacks on Al Mustansiriya University that claimed a total of 111 lives.

The entire higher educational system—once considered one of the best in the region—is in a state of collapse. Classes are being taught by untrained graduate students and undergraduates.

“Violence and lack of resources have undermined the education sector in Iraq,” Professor Fua’ad Abdel-Razak of Baghdad University told the IRIN news agency. “No student will graduate this year with sufficient competence to perform his or her job, and pupils will end the year with less than 60 percent of the knowledge that was supposed to be imparted to them.”

He added that medical graduates in particular are leaving the university without the knowledge or confidence to provide care. “There is a really huge difference between now and the times of Saddam Hussein, when medical graduates left college with the competence to treat any patient,” he said.

Destruction of the economy and growth of mass poverty

At the base of society, the Iraqi economy has ground to a halt. The official unemployment rate is reported by the Iraqi Ministry of Social Affairs to be 48 percent. However, when one adds the hundreds of thousands of former employees of now closed state enterprises, who still receive 40 percent of their old salaries, the figure climbs to 70 percent.

The inflation rate for 2006 climbed to 50 percent, the second highest in the world. Increased prices for basic necessities, including food, have dramatically affected the living standards for the vast majority of Iraqis. Within the space of just the last two years, the price of fuel has increased five-fold.

The report released in April by the UN aid mission in Iraq found that 54 percent of the population is barely surviving on less than US$1 a day, while 15 percent must endure extreme poverty, with less than 50 US cents a day. The Iraqi regime’s Central Statistical Bureau echoed these findings, saying that 43 percent of Iraqis suffer from “absolute poverty,” lacking the necessary food, clothing or shelter to survive.

The International Monetary Fund has estimated the country’s per capita Gross Domestic Product at $1,687, less than half the figure reported 25 years ago. Even oil production—the principal concern of the American occupiers—has yet to be restored to the severely depressed pre-invasion levels, with sabotage curtailing operations and much of what is produced apparently being stolen.

On top of the armed violence and sabotage, decisions imposed by the US occupation authorities have deepened the economic crisis and the agony it has created for millions of Iraqis. Driven by the profit interests of US-based corporations and the right-wing ideology of the US administration, the occupation regime headed by L. Paul Bremer launched the wholesale privatization and shutdown of 192 state-owned enterprises that employed half a million Iraqis.

The Washington Post noted recently that among these enterprises—all decreed hopelessly outmoded and inefficient by Bremer—was “a bus and truck factory south of Baghdad that had a modern assembly line, talented managers and skilled employees.” It added, “All but 75 of 10,000 employees had been laid off,” as the Iraqi government, previously its sole customer, has been barred from buying the vehicles.

Clearly, the aim was to eradicate the national economy, sell off whatever profitable sectors existed to US transnationals and, above all, clear the way for the US oil companies to seize control of the Iraqi oilfields.

Bremer also decreed an end to all tariffs aimed at protecting Iraqi agriculture, ostensibly for the purpose of making imported goods cheaper. The effect—and it is hard to believe that it was unintended—was to bankrupt Iraq’s small farms, where production was already hampered by continuous military attacks. Now, as the occupation enters its fifth year, the Iraqi agricultural sector has collapsed and the country is totally dependent upon imported food, which sells at prices that are beyond the reach of much of the population.

Finally, the US colonial administrator implemented a “flat tax”—the dream of the Republican right in the US itself—and issued decrees allowing foreign corporations to repatriate all profits and giving them equal rights with domestic producers in the Iraqi economy.

Blaming the Iraqis for US war crimes

Both Democrats and Republicans in Washington now find it politically expedient to place the blame for the catastrophe in Iraq on the Iraqi people themselves. They claim that US troops are caught in a sectarian civil war and complain that the Iraqi government has failed to act decisively in quelling the violence and transforming political, economic and social conditions.

This is all self-serving and hypocritical nonsense. First of all, the sectarian violence that exists in Iraq is entirely the responsibility of Washington—legally, politically and morally. The US is an occupying power and, under the Geneva Conventions, is obliged to guarantee the security of the occupied population. But thousands of Iraqis are killed or wounded and tens of thousands driven from their homes every week.

More fundamentally, the eruption of sectarian violence was directly stimulated by US policy. Like colonial conquerors before it, Washington sought to dominate Iraq with a policy of divide and rule. Having destroyed every national institution in the country, it sought to reconstitute political life along ethno-religious lines, giving a weight to the division between Sunnis and Shia that had never before existed in Iraq.

The US occupation authorities handed out political positions in the emerging Iraqi puppet regime along strictly sectarian lines. Tensions between Sunnis and Shia were whipped up and the Iraqi security forces were handed over to the militias of Shia religious parties.

Now, the US occupation has reached the point of trying to erect walls around Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad, separating populations along ethnic lines in a practice that echoes brutal colonial counterinsurgency wars in a number of countries and, indeed, recalls the Nazis’ creation of the Warsaw ghetto.

Before the US invasion, Sunnis and Shia lived side-by-side in Baghdad and other cities, without friction and little concern over the religious background of their neighbors. Fully a third of marriages in Iraq were between the two communities. Now this ethno-religious identity is a matter of life and death for millions, forcing them to flee their homes and condemning them to summary executions at the hands of militias.

As for the demands that the Iraqi government meet “benchmarks,” this is strictly for political show. The fact remains that the regime headed by Nouri al-Maliki inside the US-controlled Green Zone is a largely powerless puppet, with the US continuing to exercise effective control over the country.

This reality was underscored last week with the release of a report by the leading British think tank, Chatham House, describing the Iraqi government as “largely irrelevant in terms of ordering social, economic and political life.” It added, in what is unquestionably a major understatement, that the country is on the “verge of becoming a failed state.”

The poisoning of the River Tigris

Among the most emblematic of the horrific stories coming out of Iraq is the transformation of the River Tigris, cited in the Bible as a tributary of the river flowing from the Garden of Eden and the historic lifeline of civilization in the region from ancient times. It has been turned into a stagnant and fetid waterway, hopelessly polluted by raw sewage, chemicals and toxic military waste produced by the US war and occupation.

While before the war the river supported fishermen, now it is virtually dead, with boats banned from the water and subject to hostile fire. Much of the river’s banks have also been turned into military no-go zones.

The river has also become a dump for corpses, which are pulled daily from the water, most of them bearing the marks of horrible torture. The IRIN news agency quoted an Iraqi Interior Ministry officer as saying that since January 2006, over 800 bodies have been pulled from one area of the river alone, where iron nets had been put in place to catch water lilies and garbage.

The impact of four years of US occupation upon the consciousness of the Iraqi people found at least partial reflection in the recent poll carried out in March by US, British and German news agencies. It found that fully 78 percent of Iraqis oppose the presence of US troops—up from 65 percent in 2005—and 51 percent, a majority, support armed attacks on US military forces, compared to only 17 percent in 2004.

Such a dramatic shift in public opinion is explicable only from the standpoint of the magnitude of the crimes that have been carried out against the Iraqi people, who have been subjected to a bloodbath and seen their society reduced to rubble.

These are world historic crimes, and those responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of American troops—and for the systematic destruction of an entire society—remain unpunished and occupy the leading positions of power within the US.

“Preemptive war” and the Nuremberg precedent

The government in Washington—both the Republican White House and the Democratic Congress—continues to embrace the doctrine of “preemptive war,” i.e., unprovoked aggression, as a principal instrument of US foreign policy. Both the US president and leading figures in the ostensible opposition party—the Democrats—regularly threaten to reprise this policy in an even more catastrophic form in a war against Iran.

A thorough criminal investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the Iraq war is an urgent political task confronting the American people. It is indispensable both for preventing new and even bloodier wars of aggression and for halting and reversing the unprecedented attacks on basic democratic rights within the US itself.

The handful of prosecutions that have been brought against junior enlisted personnel responsible for such horrors as the gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Mahmoudiya and the slaughter of her entire family, or the massacre perpetrated by Marines in Haditha, only underscores the reality that those who bear the ultimate responsibility not only for these individual atrocities but for the rape of an entire country enjoy continued impunity.

The premeditated destruction of an entire society carried out on the basis of lies and in pursuit of the financial and geo-strategic interests of America’s ruling elite constitutes a war crime of historic proportions, punishable under the same statutes and on the basis of the same principles as those used to condemn leading figures of Germany’s Third Reich at Nuremberg.

Those responsible for launching the war in Iraq consist not merely of the right-wing Republican cabal grouped around Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. They include also the Democrats who enabled this war, the heads of US energy conglomerates and finance houses that hoped to profit from it and the chiefs of the media monopolies that promoted it. All of these layers, constituting the political establishment and financial aristocracy of the United States, are guilty of the same fundamental crime for which the Nazis were prosecuted nearly 60 years ago: the plotting and waging of a war of aggression. It is from this principal crime that all the multiple crimes and horrors inflicted upon the Iraqi people have flowed.

For these crimes to go unpunished and those responsible to continue acting with impunity would have fatal implications for the political, social and indeed moral life of the US and indeed the world. It would only render the next round of war crimes and atrocities that much easier and more inevitable.

The struggle against the war in Iraq must be waged on the basis of the demand for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US troops, the implementation of a massive program of humanitarian and economic aid to the Iraqi people, and the prosecution of all those responsible for this war before an independent and international tribunal.

The six months since the US midterm elections have amply confirmed that none of these demands can be realized through the existing political parties or government institutions. As this is published, congressional Democrats, who gained the leadership of Congress as a result of the massive vote against the war last November, are holding closed-door meetings with their Republican counterparts and White House officials to work out a bill that will provide tens of billions of additional dollars to continue the bloodbath in Iraq. Behind their ever more transparent posturing as opponents of the war, the Democrats have made it clear that they remain committed to the imperialist aims of the 2003 invasion and are determined to maintain tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq to realize those aims.

Ending the war and holding the war conspirators accountable—to prevent further and even more catastrophic acts of aggression—can be achieved only by means of a direct political struggle against both parties of war: the Democrats and Republicans Workers, students and young people must fight for the building of an independent mass political movement of the working class based upon a socialist program that is directed against the American financial oligarchy in whose interests the war is being waged.


The US war and occupation of Iraq--Part two

Part two
By Bill Van Auken
21 May 2007

This is the second part of a three-part series. Part one was posted May 19. Its purpose is to examine a series of recent reports establishing the immense scale of death, destruction and oppression that have been wrought by the US occupation of Iraq, now in its fifth year. Taken together, these reports confirm that US operations in Iraq have amounted to sociocide—the deliberate and systematic murder of an entire society. The third and concluding part will be posted May 22.

Desperate plight of Iraq’s children

Iraq’s Ministry of Health estimates that fully half of the country’s children suffer from some form of malnutrition. According to a recent study by UNICEF, 10 percent of Iraqi children under five are acutely malnourished, while another 20 percent are chronically malnourished.

With the heat of Iraq’s summer coming on, medical authorities fear a sharp rise in child deaths from dehydration, cholera and infections, and they warn that the shattered Iraqi medical system is virtually powerless to stop it.

The desperate plight of Iraqi children and their families was summed up by one Iraqi mother. “Last year I lost my daughter and my mother because of dehydration,” Zahra Muhammad, 35, told the UN news agency IRIN. She said that the family had been forced from their home last May.

“We couldn’t afford cooling systems in our tent. My daughter was only four years old and couldn’t stand the hard living conditions in addition to the very hot weather,” she continued. “I have two more children and they are already sick because of malnutrition. The doctors have told me that without proper cooling and drinkable water, I should expect serious consequences in the coming months. If I lose another child for lack of electricity and clean water, then I would prefer to die with them.”

As many as 260,000 children have died since the March 2003 invasion, according to one estimate reported by the British daily The Independent in January.

For those children who do live to see their fifth birthday, Iraq has become a hostile and often deadly environment.

Less than a third of Iraq’s children now attend school, compared to 100 percent attendance before the March 2003 invasion. The principal reason students are staying out of the classrooms is fear of the endemic violence that makes a trip to school a deadly risk their families are unwilling to take.

At the same time, the relentless killing has left countless thousands of Iraqi children orphans, who have become a new and tragic fixture of life in Baghdad and other major cities, sleeping and begging in the streets. As the UN’s IRIN news agency reports: “Thousands of homeless children throughout Iraq...survive by begging, stealing or scavenging garbage for food. Only four years ago, the vast majority of these children were living at home with their families.”

The desperate conditions confronting Iraqi children led a group of 100 prominent British physicians to address an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair in January expressing their extreme concern over the impact of the occupation. “We are concerned that children are dying in Iraq for want of medical treatment. Sick or injured children, who could otherwise be treated by simple means, are left to die in their hundreds because they do not have access to basic medications or other resources. Children who have lost hands, feet and limbs are left without prostheses. Children with grave psychological distress are left untreated.”

There are fears that this last issue—the wholesale traumatization of an entire young generation—may have the most far-reaching and devastating effect upon Iraqi society. “Children in Iraq are seriously suffering psychologically with all the insecurity,” the Association of Psychologists of Iraq declared. Based on a survey of 1,000 school children, it found that 92 percent had learning impediments caused by the climate of violence and fear. “The only things they have on their minds are guns, bullets, death and a fear of the US occupation,” Maruan Abdullah, spokesman for the association told reporters.

The hellish conditions that have been imposed upon Iraqi children constitute a war crime. As the occupying power, the United States is enjoined by the Geneva Conventions to ensure “preferential measures in regards to food, medical care and protection” in favor of children under 15 years, expectant mothers, and mothers of children under seven, and to “maintain all institutions devoted to the care and education of children.”

A catastrophic decline in the status of women

The US war and occupation have driven Iraqi women back generations, condemning millions to statutory second-class citizenship and nightmarish conditions in which they are virtually prisoners in their homes.

This development is closely bound up with the record rise in infant mortality and is just as vital an indicator of social progress—or retrogression. It was Charles Fourier, the French utopian socialist, who wrote 155 years ago, in a passage cited by Marx and Engels: “Social progress and changes of a period are accompanied by the progress of women towards freedom, while the decay of the social system brings with it a reduction of the freedoms enjoyed by women.” He concluded: “Extension of the rights of women is the basic principle of all social progress.”

A report released in April by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) on human rights in the country recorded 40 cases of “honor killings” of women over a three-month period in the governorates of Erbit, Duhok, Sulaimaniya and Salahuddin. These women were murdered by their own family members, in some cases burned alive, for alleged “immoral” conduct.

A report by the Iraqi news agency Awena indicates that this hideous practice is even more widespread. Basing itself on data obtained from the Duhok criminal court and the Duchok Azadi Hospital, Awena reported last January that in this governorate there were 289 burning cases resulting in 46 deaths of women in 2005, and 366 burning cases resulting in 66 deaths in 2006. Meanwhile, the Emergency Management Center in Erbil cited 576 burning cases resulting in 358 deaths in that governorate since 2003.

Also in Erbil, the UN report found that the number of reported rapes quadrupled between 2003 and 2006.

The Iraqi constitution, drafted under US supervision, declares Islam the official state religion and establishes that no law may be enacted that “contradicts the immutable rulings of Islam.” This principal sets the stage for the overturning of Iraq’s more liberal civil laws governing divorce, family property and child custody, substituting in their place sharia law, which denies women most rights.

Already, these principles are being imposed in the streets by armed militias of the Islamist parties, which have killed women for daring to hold professional positions as professors or doctors or to play a visible directing role in a business. Vigilantes have also forced the use of Islamic dress, including the hijab, or veil, backed by the threat of violence. Such groups in some areas have also demanded that women not leave their houses after midday, not drive automobiles or walk outside without a male relative.

A report issued by the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq on the fourth anniversary of the US invasion declared: “Women of Iraq have gradually let go of most of their 20th century gains and privileges in the last 4 years of occupation. Iraq turned from a modern country of educated and working women into a divided land of Islamic and ethnic warlords who compete in canceling women from the social realm. Millions of women’s destinies are wasted between the destructive US war machine and different kinds of Islamic rule which have turned women into helpless black objects of no will or worth.”

The report cited growing violence against women, including gang rapes of female detainees and assaults on women by militias of other sects as an instrument of sectarian warfare. Kidnappings of women have also become rampant. A report issued by the group in March of last year found that the crime, virtually unknown under the regime of Saddam Hussein, claimed 2,000 female victims in the first three years after the US invasion, many of whom were raped or tortured. Such incidents, together with all other forms of violence, have escalated markedly over the last year.

Four women are on Iraq’s death row, waiting to be hanged, two of them imprisoned together with their young children.

The eradication of Iraq’s minorities

Also a telling sign of the social disintegration in Iraq is the status of minorities. A report issued this month by Minority Rights Group International warns that minority communities in Iraq are being systematically eradicated. It ranks Iraq as the second-worst country in the world in terms of the threat posed to minorities—better only than Somalia and worse than Darfur.

The report, entitled “Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq’s Minority Communities Since 2003,” tracks the situation confronting Iraq’s Armenian and Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, Bahais, Faili Kurds, Jews, Mandaeans, Palestinians, Shabaks, Turkomans and Yazidis, who together make up 10 percent of the country’s total population.

“Iraq continues to see targeted killings of people from minority groups, including Christians, Yezidis and Mandaeans. Other minority groups in Iraq face daily violence, torture and political assimilation, which has led to an exodus of these communities from the country,” the report states. Last year, Iraq ranked the worst in the world. Its decline to the second worst is a reflection of the marked deterioration of the situation in Somalia, where a US-engineered intervention has unleashed rampant violence.

Some of Iraq’s minorities predate the Arabs in terms of their presence in the country, which dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. Now, victims of violence and intimidation, they are disappearing from Iraq, many killed and the rest fleeing into exile.

The report’s authors blame the US occupation for this disaster. They write: “Following the occupation of Iraq in 2003, the coalition authorities established an Iraqi Governing Council in which membership was strictly apportioned along ethnic and sectarian lines. Political patronage ensured that whole ministries became dominated by officials from the minister’s own sect or group, and sectarian politics quickly became the defining feature of the new Iraqi state.” As a result, minority populations were excluded and subsequently repressed.

The decimation of Iraq’s medical professionals

The murderous violence in Iraq and the flight of millions of refugees have decimated the ranks of key professions who are indispensable for the maintenance of society.

The British non-governmental organization Medact, citing the official figures of the Iraqi Medical Association, reported in March of last year that 18,000 of Iraq’s 34,000 doctors have left the country. Another 2,000 have been murdered and at least 250 have been reported kidnapped.

In his article on the exodus of refugees from Iraq in the May 13 New York Times Magazine, Nir Rosen interviewed one such doctor, a family medicine specialist, who had fled to Damascus with her five children.

She left after her husband, a thoracic surgeon and a medical school professor, was dragged from his car by armed men, abducted and later found murdered. She told Rosen that when she asked the Iraqi police to investigate, they said, “He is a doctor, he has a degree and he is a Sunni, so he couldn’t stay in Iraq. That’s why he was killed.” Both the police and the Ministry of Health are controlled by Shiite Islamist factions. She was subsequently ordered by letter to leave her neighborhood.

The lack of trained medical staff, together with the shortage of basic supplies and the overwhelming burden of mass casualties, has left Iraq’s healthcare system in a shambles.

In an article published last October in the British Medical Journal, three doctors from the Diwaniyah College of Medicine in Iraq estimated that nearly half of the hundreds of thousands who have been killed since the 2003 US invasion could have survived if they had received adequate medical care.

“The reality is we cannot provide any treatment for many of the victims,” they wrote. “Emergency departments are staffed by doctors who do not have the proper experience or skills to manage emergency cases. Medical staff...admit that more than half of those killed could have been saved if trained and experienced staff were available.”

The article added: “Our experience has taught us that poor emergency medicine services are more disastrous than the disaster itself. But despite the daily violence that is crushing Iraq, the international medical community is doing little more than looking on.”

It is not just the international medical community. The state of the Iraqi healthcare system constitutes a US war crime. The Fourth Geneva Convention demands that an occupying power “[e]nsure the effective operation of medical services, including hospitals and public health programs, with special focus on preventing the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics, and allow medical personnel to carry out their duties.”

The Geneva Conventions also require that an occupying power guarantee the neutrality of hospitals, protecting them from attack and ensuring that all are able to seek medical care. Yet US occupation troops have repeatedly attacked hospitals. Moreover, militias have been given free rein in the medical facilities, often dragging away patients of other sects for execution.

The killing and kidnapping of doctors and their wholesale flight from the country are phenomena common to virtually every profession in Iraq. The Iraq Index, maintained by the Brookings Institution in Washington, estimates that 40 percent of Iraq’s “professional class,” including doctors, professors, pharmacists and other university-trained personnel, have left the country since 2003.

To be continued

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Global Policy Forum:

Having defeated and overthrown the government of Saddam Hussein in March 2003, the US assumed control over Iraq as the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). While the CPA maintained a near-monopoly of political authority for the first year, unrest and resistance pressed the occupiers to cede more power, at least symbolically, to the Iraqis. In June 2004, the US announced that it had “transferred sovereignty” to a newly-formed Interim Government. This was followed by elections in January 2005, in which some 8 million Iraqis voted. The vote, however, was criticized for its lack of Sunni participation and an absence of international observers, and the Iraqi insurgency shows no signs of dying down. Though nominally a “sovereign” state, the presence of 150,000 US troops leaves little question as to who controls the country.

The occupation has proven extremely violent, with thousands of US casualties and as many as 600,000 or more Iraqis dead and wounded. It has been stained by torture, massive use of force against civilian neighborhoods and other cruel and despotic methods that recall some of the worst moments of Western colonialism in the region.

Permanent bases
Since 2003, the US has been building long-term military bases in Iraq and a mammoth embassy complex in Baghdad. Although Washington refuses to acknowledge that the bases are permanent, the billions of dollars spent on these projects suggest that the US sees Iraq as a client state. While most of Iraqis has no access to basic necessities, the bases are provided with their own water and electricity, restaurants, swimming pools and movie theaters. The huge US embassy covers an area larger than Vatican City and Iraqis see it as an “arrogant” enterprise that aims to show US “superiority.” The US Congress opposes the base project and has rejected the spending of funds for this purpose. But the building goes on.

Oil in Iraq
Iraq has the world’s second largest proven oil reserves. According to oil industry experts, new exploration will probably raise Iraq’s reserves to 200+ billion barrels of high-grade crude, extraordinarily cheap to produce. The four giant firms located in the US and the UK have been keen to get back into Iraq, from which they were excluded with the nationalization of 1972. During the final years of the Saddam era, they envied companies from France, Russia, China, and elsewhere, who had obtained major contracts. But UN sanctions (kept in place by the US and the UK) kept those contracts inoperable. Since the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, everything has changed. In the new setting, with Washington running the show, “friendly” companies expect to gain most of the lucrative oil deals that will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in profits in the coming decades. The new Iraqi constitution of 2005, greatly influenced by US advisors, contains language that guarantees a major role for foreign companies. Negotiators hope soon to complete deals on Production Sharing Agreements that will give the companies control over dozens of fields, including the fabled super-giant Majnoon. However, despite pressure from the US government and foreign oil companies, the current Iraqi government has not passed a national oil law. While regional governments angle for influence over the foreign oil contracts, most Iraqis favor continued control by a national company and the powerful oil workers union opposes de-nationalization. Iraq’s political future is very much in flux, but oil remains the central feature of the political landscape.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Torture, murder and assassinations for American global empire

Nasir Khan

Professor Herbert Bix discusses how the American rulers use torture, murder and assassinations to expand their global hegemony and power. This article is a must read for those who want to know the facts about American rulers' barbarism, inhumanity and false propaganda. However, the American Establishment keeps on claiming that America stands only for freedom and democracy in the world. I agree with George Orwell's remark: In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
Z Magazine Online
July/August 2005 Volume 18 Number 7/8

Foreign Policy

Torture, Racism, & the Sovereign President
Torture, murder, and assassination have become vital to U.S. empire-building

By Herbert P. Bix

President George W. Bush has embedded murder, assassination, torture, and mistreatment of prisoners into the structure of the U.S. system of global domination. Many U.S. citizens, rightly outraged, want to know why this sort of barbaric, sadistic violence has become an integral part of U.S. security policy, and what the Administration’s justification of torture means institutionally for the future governance of this country. Above all, they want to know how Bush has been able to avoid impeachment for committing high crimes.

Here is a select list of typical tortures, abuses, and “outrages against human dignity” inflicted by U.S. forces and mercenaries on enemy captives in the course of their arrest, detention and interrogation:

* Beating, kicking, and treading on bodies
* Sleep deprivation and forced injection of drugs
* Rape and sodomy
* Water torture, a traditional U.S. Army practice since at least the Indian wars and the Philippines insurrection at the end of the 19th century
* Hanging prisoners whose arms are bound behind their back by shackles or handcuffs until their limbs pop from their sockets—a new U.S. form of lynching
* Tight handcuffing, close-shackling, and blindfolding or “hooding” for extended periods; sometimes the hoods are marked in order to alert the U.S. torturer to the particular crime that the prisoner is suspected of having committed
* Forced stripping of Muslim prisoners and keeping them naked for long periods
* Religious humiliation
* Sexual humiliation, insult, and debasement, including smearing with feces, urine, and what appears to be menstrual blood
* Screaming racial insults before, during, and after unleashing violence against captives
* Shocking with electrical instruments, another method of torture commonly used by U.S. troops in Vietnam
* Exposure for prolonged periods to extremes of light and dark, heat and cold, and noise so deafening as to rupture the eardrums
* Extraction of nails, burning skin with cigarettes, stabbing or cutting the bodies of prisoners
* Threatening prisoners or their relatives with death or by having them watch other victims being tortured
* Threatening with dogs or allowing dogs to actually assault prisoners during or before interrogation
* Forcing prisoners to stand or to remain in painful positions for extended periods
* Isolation in cells, cages, wooden boxes, and barbed wire-enclosed trailers for prolonged periods
* Depriving prisoners of food, water, drink, and toilet facilities
* Extreme or enforced rendition, i.e., torture by proxy in foreign countries

These acts were performed both before and after the Bush administration had unilaterally exempted itself from legal liabilities under international and domestic law. Some members of the U.S. military abused prisoners because senior military commanders such as Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez had explicitly authorized them to do so; some tortured the enemy because they found it to be “fun”; but most seem to have acted in the belief that their conduct was condoned because the White House and the Department of Defence had adopted a policy of fighting terror with terror.

In the U.S. mass media the routine, sometimes bone-shattering beating of prisoners in U.S. custody receives relatively little attention except as a public relations problem. Moral and legal concern seems to be reserved for the less common, more secretive practice of “rendition,” in which officials of the executive branch are protected because the abuse takes place outside the U.S., avoiding monitoring by the Red Cross and due process. More so than other modes of torture, this type of contract crime may be ordered mainly for reasons of deterrence—i.e., to teach an object lesson to all people who fall afoul of the U.S., regardless of their national origin. European governments rightly consider it to be a blatant violation of their local sovereignty and are investigating.

A Total War Strategy

The Bush administration’s increasing reliance on imprisonment, torture, and assassination as elements in its “war on terror,” needs to be explained from multiple angles, as part of a total war strategy for eliminating new challenges to the U.S. global empire. Fear, racism, and colonial wars in poverty-stricken Afghanistan and Iraq are historical frames that highlight the scope and complexity of the problem. The collapse of separation of powers, the decay of democratic processes and values, Congress’s unwillingness to destroy the perception of presidential impunity, and the increasingly secret nature of government combine to constitute a fourth frame. Let me touch briefly on each.

From the earliest days of the U.S., fear and racism have been striking features of U.S. culture. Although closely related, they are distinguishable. By fear I mean the inordinate susceptibility of the U.S. public to fits of real panic, during which fear and extremism override reason. Usually fear spreads when political elites sound the alarm and rally the country to fight some unbelievably powerful force that is out to destroy the world they inhabit. The threat can come from within or from outside, from a modern or a “failed state,” or from a social movement. But once defined, U.S. citizens imagine that only extraordinary leaders, willing to ignore the law, can protect them from the menace. Under strong presidents, citizens fight back in self-defense against the insidious enemy, using catastrophic weapons created by their technological genius. The enemy can be Indians, Blacks, or Chinese; it can be Britain in one period, Spain, Japan, the Soviet Union, or international terrorists in another. In almost every case, the enemy that their leaders exhorted them to hate later turns out to be whoever had something we wanted. The pattern is old and recurs throughout the history of U.S. empire. The most spectacular case of “punishing an aggressor” with an unprecedented new super weapon was President Truman’s nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By racism I mean attitudes of hatred and contempt directed toward those who are unlike us, mainly for reasons of color. In multicultural, allegedly color-blind U.S., with its many racial minorities, racism and de facto segregation continues. When Bush declared his “war on terror,” this old dynamic assumed forms suited to 21st century conditions. Racial profiling returned; civil rights for minorities and immigrants eroded; and both developments went hand in hand with war atrocities committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo, Cuba.

The effects of racial bias can be seen in the world’s largest, expanding prison system, where the percentage of Blacks, Latinos, and Hispanics remains high and racial violence and mistreatment of minority inmates occurs frequently. Not surprisingly, in the atmosphere of revenge galvanized by the 9/11 attacks, racial violence quickly spread from the domestic prisons and police departments to U.S. military prisons abroad. Abusive jailers and police officers from the U.S. volunteered to fight and ended up torturing prisoners at camps in Kandahar, Baghram, Guantanamo Bay, Mosul, Bucca in southern Iraq, and Abu Ghraib near Baghdad.

The Pentagon also recruited patrol officers and officials from the federal and state prisons for its war on terror and sent them to the U.S.-run prisons in Iraq. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, the U.S. state prison system is far larger than the federal system and in 2003 held nearly 1.2 million inmates, most of them ethnic minorities. Local jails contained 700,000 inmates; juvenile facilities over 100,000. Racial violence and mistreatment of inmates by guards is more likely to occur in the state prisons and local jails where the level of discipline is lower, the use of force greater. But from the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, where hundreds of Muslim detainees were recently abused, to the U.S. military prisons spread throughout the world, wherever prisoners of color have been tortured by guards, racism usually lies close to the surface.

Furthermore, race rather than national origin fundamentally shapes the U.S. soldiers’ image of the terrorist. The Army sent to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq was “whiter” than it had been since 2000 as a result of five straight years of declining Army recruitment of black Americans. The 17,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan reportedly turned virtually the entire country into one huge secret prison in which military guards and CIA interrogators inflicted gratuitous pain on the bodies of individual Afghani captives who are held incommunicado without charge or trial, according to a March 19, 2005 report in the Guardian. Whenever this happens the likelihood is great that they are exercising “racially-informed,” irrational violence against both their victims and the entire society to which they belong. The same phenomenon can be seen in Iraq where U.S. soldiers call the inhabitants “sand niggers” and “ragheads.”

A third framework for understanding the torture scandal is the regressive, colonial-like character of the current U.S. wars. Nothing illustrates this better than the bloody struggle to control Fallujah, a Sunni city located west of Baghdad on the edge of the Iraq desert, which before the U.S. invasion had a population estimated at 300,000.

The initial skirmish in what became the first battle of Fallujah (March and early April 2004) was fought after four U.S. military contractors were brutally murdered by young Iraqis. The killings were in revenge for the murder in Gaza of the paraplegic Sheik Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader of Hamas, by Israelis who were flying U.S. helicopters. Marines went into Fallujah allegedly searching for the killers of the civilian mercenaries but were forced out by its residents. To redeem their honor they mounted a full-scale assault. After three weeks of rebellion the casualty figures ranged from a low of 600 combatant and non-combatants killed and over 1,200 injured to estimates ranging upward from 1,000.

The second battle to retake Fallujah from its inhabitants began five months later in November 2004, after Marines again cut off food, water, and electricity to the city in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Their illegal acts of collective retribution were designed to empty the city of its women, children, and elderly while preventing the departure of able-bodied Iraqi civilian males. When something similar happened in Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1995 it was universally condemned in Europe and the U.S. as “genocide.” The main difference was that in Srebrenica the Serbs evacuated the women and children by truck while in Fallujah the U.S. bombed them out.

As U.S. ground attacks on entrances to the besieged city of Fallujah increased, aerial bombardment—torture from the air—commenced. A U.S. specialty since 1945, the bombing of cities tends to take a primary toll on civilians while seeking to force both noncombatants and combatants to sue for peace.

Iraqi popular resistance forces responded to these U.S. assaults by stepping up attacks in Baghdad, Samarra, Ramadi, and elsewhere, killing and wounding more foreign occupiers and their Iraqi collaborators by the week. Fallujah’s struggle to end U.S. occupation spread the nationalist resistance.

The retaking of Fallujah during November and early December through ruthless air, tank, and artillery bombardment resulted in the city’s complete destruction. Under rules of engagement approved in Washington, U.S. forces reportedly used banned napalm and poison gas, killed civilians holding white flags or white clothes over their heads, murdered the wounded, killed unarmed Iraqis who had been taken prisoner, and destroyed mosques, hospitals, and health centers protected under international law. One of the most amazing, well reported scenes from this battle took place at the Fallujah General Hospital where U.S. forces kicked down doors, cut the telephone lines, molested doctors, forced patients from their beds, and manacled their hands behind their backs. The hospital, said U.S. military spokesperson, was releasing casualty figures useful for the propaganda of the resistance fighters.

Fallujan residents were dispossessed of their homes and forced to live as refugees in surrounding towns and villages. To this day no one knows how many people died in the bloodbath. But a few months earlier, in September 2004, an Iraqi mortality researcher and his interviewer, working on a public health study jointly sponsored by Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University, managed to enter the city. What they discovered was such a high number of civilian deaths that they decided to exclude the Fallujah data from their final, conservative estimate of about 100,000 Iraqi civilians (mostly women and children) killed since the U.S. invaded. In a population estimated at 24 million, that is the U.S. proportional equivalent of 1.2 million deaths.

When legal restraints are removed during a war, needless death and destruction occurs; invariably the main victims are highly vulnerable civilians. In World War II, the “kill ratio” was one civilian death (mostly children, women, and the elderly) for every soldier killed. The smaller wars fought after 1945 ran the civilian-soldier count up to 8:1. But in Iraq the kill ratio is conservatively estimated to be much higher. Why do tens of millions of Americans refuse to confront this reality? Perhaps because they never heard about the Lancet study, thanks to the U.S. corporate media. Or perhaps misguided patriotism and militarism, drummed into youth through film, television, and video games, lead them to consider the enormous civilian loss and suffering as unavoidable “collateral damage” or a product of military necessity. Whatever the reasons, not only the Administration, but the mainstream press and many citizens profess to care only about the lives of fellow Americans and remain unconcerned about the barbaric treatment their soldiers mete out to Iraqis and Afghanis.

U.S. Assertion of Dominion

The problem of widespread, individualized interrogation-by-torture is inseparable from the pain and suffering inflicted on all those who resist U.S. assertion of dominion. In late April 2004, as the initial battle for Fallujah was winding down, the first photos appeared of uniformed, grinning U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison. Since then, the illegal acts of the Bush administration, its armed forces, and intelligence operatives have received relentless news media attention abroad and only desultory attention within the United States.

Earlier, there had been news reports coming out of Afghanistan about teams of U.S. Special Forces and their Northern Alliance allies committing war atrocities at Baghram, Kandahar, and other places in Afghanistan. UN officials had documented how uniformed U.S. officers connived in the mass killing of surrendered Taliban soldiers at Dash-E Leili. NGOs in many countries, including the International Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, had compiled massive dossiers documenting, from early 2002 onward, U.S. soldiers severely beating and kicking bound, helpless prisoners, and of Army medical personnel conniving in the abuse. Often recessed into the background of such reports was mention of U.S. forces treating Afghanis mercilessly, as subhuman, denigrating them through the use of racial epithets, demeaning their national culture.

Many people in the U.S. took news of atrocity charges in stride. During 2003, stories broke of Israeli military advisers being invited into Iraq and to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to train U.S. assassination squads. Neither did video pictures of U.S. helicopter pilots murdering wounded Iraqis lying on the ground or the U.S. seizure without charge of foreign nationals and their shipment to prisons outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts for purposes of torture. Well before the obscene photos from Abu Ghraib and their broadcast on national television struck a spark, the foreign place-names for atrocities committed by U.S. forces were steadily increasing. But the U.S. chose either not to know or to passively accept the president’s disregard of international law. When Bush boasted in his State of the Union speech in 2003, “The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others,” apologists for his unilateralism chimed in that “lawful” and “unlawful” had ceased to be meaningful terms.

By the time the torture scandal broke, Iraqi resistance against the U.S. presence had intensified and public support for the war was waning. The Bush administration rushed to deny that torture was intentionally ordered or widely practiced and blamed all abuses on a few rotten apples, acting on their own. Neither Bush nor Rumsfeld offered a public apology for torture nor admitted that they had prior knowledge of it. Congress and the public accepted the official White House/Pentagon version of events.

Yet the daily routine of U.S. war crimes was too widespread to be covered up. The story of the prisons staffed with racists and sadists, just as in the U.S, kept deepening; the number of prisoners kept on increasing—in Iraq, 8,000 at the time of the Abu Ghraib pictures, 10,500 as of March 2005; and in Afghanistan 500 as of January 2005.

Bush policy-makers had expressed from the outset a strong desire to inflict pain on enemy captives. They had denied the occupied peoples proper prisoner-of-war treatment, set aside the law of occupation, and ordered military strategies of indiscriminate violence against all who resisted their aims. Documents generated in the White House and the Departments of Justice and Defense appeared in the press after lawsuits were brought by the ACLU. They bore out that the president, by fiat, had set aside the Geneva Conventions, denied prisoner-of-war status to Taliban and Al Qaeda captives taken in Afghanistan, and sent them for indefinite detention to the naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba. This meant they would be interrogated without legal restriction under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s rules, which violated the Constitution, not to mention Bush’s worthless public promise to treat them humanely.

The torture documents reveal a mindset within the White House and Pentagon intent on destroying what remains of democratic processes. Right after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, Bush issued a secret directive authorizing the torture by proxy in foreign jails of those suspected of having information about terrorist operations. Thereafter he used the “war on terror” and his commander-in-chief authority to expand the little known “state-secrets privilege,” for which no constitutional foundation exists, in order to prevent the courts from discovering what crimes he has directed the CIA to commit.

The torture debate is about the Pentagon’s and the White House’s cover-up of the massive war crimes committed by members of the U.S. armed forces and CIA against Afghanis and Iraqis. But at a deeper level it is part of a larger debate in which the issues at stake are:

* Bush’s usurpation of power and his attempt to elevate the myth of presidential sovereignty
* Bush’s illegal attempt to exempt the U.S. from the Geneva Conventions and his Administration’s invention of the false category of “unlawful combatants” as a way of legitimating indefinite confinement and torture
* The evocation of “presidential secrecy” by executive officials to prevent the federal courts from prying into matters of national security both as they concern the Pentagon’s and the CIA’s global prison systems and Bush’s dereliction in the performance of his duties
* The federal Constitution’s modeling of the presidency on monarchy and its failure to protect from periodic presidential usurpations of power, which is exactly what its chief author, James Madison, intended

Turning to government memoranda, we see the most senior-level bureaucrats, lawyers, politicians, and soldiers—all of whom had sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution—debating, over a two-year period, (a) how to justify Bush’s decision to use interrogation techniques that were explicitly banned by international and domestic law; (b) how to limit the president’s legal exposure in the event that a federal district court tried to block him from getting around the law by issuing a writ of habeas corpus; and (c) how to prevent a court from assessing whether U.S. conduct in Afghanistan violated the norms of international law.

Another little known finding is that the U.S. may never have ratified any human rights convention without adding reservations that exempted itself—not the 1949 Geneva Conventions, not the subsequent protocols to it, and not even the 1948 Genocide Convention, which is the first of the post-World War II human rights treaties. Technically the Senate ratified the 1984 Torture Convention in 1994, but only after changing the definition of torture to make it more restrictive “than that set out in the Convention,” and thus more “interrogator-friendly.”

The torture documents show President Bush and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld using the legal opinions of their lawyers—including the now notorious August 1, 2002 memo written by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee—to assert a right to order the torture, maiming, and even murder of prisoners. Drawing on his commander-in-chief authority and the advice of his counsel, Alberto Gonzales, Bush suspended the Geneva Conventions, but later, in order to protect himself, issued a written directive cautioning all military interrogators to treat detainees “humanely.” At the same time, he allowed CIA interrogators to continue using cruel and unusual methods of interrogation. Bush also authorized the use of torture techniques against prisoners detained in the war on Iraq, which initially had nothing to do with the war against the Taliban or Al Qaeda. Rumsfeld took charge and turned the Pentagon into the “nerve center for directing torture and conducting secret missions.”

Over the years since U.S. forces entered Afghanistan and later attacked and occupied Iraq, U.S. soldiers have scoured villages, towns, and cities in both countries, searching for “insurgents.” Overall, they succeeded mainly in creating chaos and lawlessness, spreading armed resistance to their presence, and generating a keen desire for future revenge against the United States. The more U.S. forces have devastated Iraq, contaminated its land, destroyed its cities, and mistreated the Iraqi people in their local communities and inside their homes, the more resistance to U.S. presence has grown.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, as well as al-Qaeda suspects and Taliban fighters, have been rounded up and imprisoned under medieval conditions. U.S. soldiers, CIA agents (“case officers”), and mercenaries (“civilians”) working for privatized military firms under contract to the Pentagon, are known to have sadistically tortured large numbers of them while having their deeds photographed and filmed so that they could be seen by friends back home.

The Logic of Torture

A fourth frame for understanding why torture became just another weapon in the U.S. arsenal relates to the long decline in the spirit of democratic government that preceded 9/11. The growing immunity of the military from Congressional oversight is but an aspect of this phenomenon. At its heart is the corruption of the Congress under one-party control and the connivance of Senators and House members in shielding the president and his advisers from criminal liability for waging wars of aggression in which they themselves were complicit. The U.S. was already out of step with the rest of the world and sliding into an anti-democratic mode of governance long before the rise of the religious right and the neo-cons hastened this process. When a group of fundamentally dishonest ideological extremists took control of the presidency and the Congress, the corrupt condition of the U.S. political system began to be revealed in all sorts of criminal acts.

The conclusions I draw from this are, first, that in Europe during two world wars the United States seems not to have stooped to officially ordering the torture and mistreatment of prisoners of war, though only because arrayed against it were fighting forces that held U.S. prisoners and could retaliate. But in three Asian-Pacific wars—against Japan, North Korea, and the peoples of Indochina—the greater capabilities of U.S. forces made the fighting far more one-sided. In World War II, victorious U.S. troops in the Pacific confronted an enemy equipped with inferior weapons, usually took no prisoners, and often mutilated and murdered the wounded with impunity. The Japanese army too mistreated Allied prisoners and civilians on the battlefield and in occupied territories, but they alone were held criminally accountable for their actions. Vietnam and later interventions were unprovoked colonial wars against much weaker enemies. When going against the weak, the U.S. military has invariably used torture tactics on a wide scale.

Bush built on the legacy of war crimes and atrocities ordered by past presidents, including his own father and Bill Clinton, both of whom had issued presidential directives authorizing “extraordinary rendition.” In 2001 Bush expanded this practice without furnishing any meaningful guidelines. He is not the first president who ever turned his back on the fundamental principles that underpin the international order; but he and his top officials are certainly the first to have shattered the torture taboo while openly and repeatedly expressing contempt for international law. They are also the first to threaten the use of nuclear weapons even against non-nuclear states.

Today in the United States no strong public pressure exists for upholding the laws against torture of persons considered “enemy.” In 2002 a poll indicated “that one-third of Americans favored the use of torture on terrorist suspects.” The most recent Gallup poll, released March 1, 2005, suggested that 39 percent would support torturing “known terrorists if they know details about future terrorist attacks.” Clearly a large minority, whose views this Administration represents, believes that it is acceptable, if not wholly justified, to employ the tactics of torture in the fight against terrorist suspects in order to extract information that might save innocent lives. What this surely reflects is the passionate denial of the educated classes that the U.S. has been deeply involved in the gravest of international crimes.

To intentionally inflict pain and suffering on helpless detainees, whether or not they engaged in combat, is illegal and morally wrong, besides being cowardly and counter-productive. The legal prohibition on torture is absolute and unambiguous and can never be justified under any conditions. The only problem is that the U.S. government never actually ratified any humanitarian law without inserting loopholes that would allow it to make a claim of exemption.

The best available evidence suggests that torturing defenceless captives to obtain information doesn’t deter terrorist attacks. The information extracted under White House and Pentagon torture policy has proven singularly ineffective in defeating a popular resistance movement that has the support of the local population. In Iraq, Bush policies have only succeeded in creating terrorists, fuelling the flames of resistance to the U.S. presence, and breaking up the coalition of governments that unwisely sent troops to Iraq. Furthermore, the history of modern warfare shows that guerilla resistance movements do not depend on hierarchical chains of command that can be broken by such interrogation methods. To stop their pain, prisoners will say anything, rendering what they say unreliable.

Secretary of State Colin Powell found this out when he delivered his infamous address to the UN Security Council in February 2003, “which argued the case for a preemptive war against Iraq.” In his speech, Powell drew on the testimony of an unnamed “senior terrorist operative” who had told his interrogators that Saddam Hussein had offered to train Al-Qaeda operatives in the use of ‘chemical or biological weapons.’” After the U.S. invasion, it turned out that the terrorist, one Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, had been tortured by his CIA and Egyptian interrogators. Later, at Guantanomo, Libi recanted and admitted that he had lied. So much for evidence obtained through torture and the spin master who relied on it to justify aggression.

U.S. leaders have been intent on controlling the world ever since the Truman administration ended the war with Japan in a five-month orgy of conventional bombing before destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs. Their greed, ambition, and lack of foresight have left them with no solution but to pit themselves against the nationalism and desire for self-determination of weaker states throughout the world. Presidents and generals solved the problem of discovering who the enemy is by defining the entire population as enemy. When the “enemy” is the civilian population who won’t do our bidding, not only do the kill ratios have to be high, but reliance on torture, murder, and assassination also becomes vital. This is why Afghanistan and Iraq are in the same class as Korea and Vietnam: imperialism produces the logic of torture.

Herbert Bix, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan (HarperCollins 2000), is professor of history and sociology at Binghamton University. He has written extensively on problems of war and empire.