Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo

Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo
“The International Committee of the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to the United States government that the American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The finding that the handling of prisoners detained and interrogated at Guantánamo amounted to torture came after a visit by a Red Cross inspection team that spent most of last June in Guantánamo.

The team of humanitarian workers, which included experienced medical personnel, also asserted that some doctors and other medical workers at Guantánamo were participating in planning for interrogations, in what the report called "a flagrant violation of medical ethics."

Doctors and medical personnel conveyed information about prisoners' mental health and vulnerabilities to interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly, but usually through a group called the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, or B.S.C.T. The team, known informally as Biscuit, is composed of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators, the report said.

The United States government, which received the report in July, sharply rejected its charges, administration and military officials said.

The report was distributed to lawyers at the White House, Pentagon and State Department and to the commander of the detention facility at Guantánamo, Gen. Jay W. Hood. The New York Times recently obtained a memorandum, based on the report, that quotes from it in detail and lists its major findings.

It was the first time that the Red Cross, which has been conducting visits to Guantánamo since January 2002, asserted in such strong terms that the treatment of detainees, both physical and psychological, amounted to torture. The report said that another confidential report in January 2003, which has never been disclosed, raised questions of whether "psychological torture" was taking place.”

The Red Cross said publicly 13 months ago that the system of keeping detainees indefinitely without allowing them to know their fates was unacceptable and would lead to mental health problems.

The report of the June visit said investigators had found a system devised to break the will of the prisoners at Guantánamo, who now number about 550, and make them wholly dependent on their interrogators through "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions." Investigators said that the methods used were increasingly "more refined and repressive" than learned about on previous visits.

"The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture," the report said. It said that in addition to the exposure to loud and persistent noise and music and to prolonged cold, detainees were subjected to "some beatings." The report did not say how many of the detainees were subjected to such treatment.…

The conclusions by the inspection team, especially the findings involving alleged complicity in mistreatment by medical professionals, have provoked a stormy debate within the Red Cross committee. Some officials have argued that it should make its concerns public or at least aggressively confront the Bush administration.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is based in Geneva and is separate from the American Red Cross, was founded in 1863 as an independent, neutral organization intended to provide humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war.

Its officials are able to visit prisoners at Guantánamo under the kind of arrangement the committee has made with governments for decades. In exchange for exclusive access to the prison camp and meetings with detainees, the committee has agreed to keep its findings confidential. The findings are shared only with the government that is detaining people.

Beatricé Mégevand-Roggo, a senior Red Cross official, said in an interview that she could not say anything about information relayed to the United States government because "we do not comment in any way on the substance of the reports we submit to the authorities."

Ms. Mégevand-Roggo, the committee's delegate-general for Europe and the Americas, acknowledged that the issue of confidentiality was a chronic and vexing one for the organization. "Many people do not understand why we have these bilateral agreements about confidentiality," she said. "People are led to believe that we are a fig leaf or worse, that we are complicit with the detaining authorities."

She added, "It's a daily dilemma for us to put in the balance the positive effects our visits have for detainees against the confidentiality."

Antonella Notari, a veteran Red Cross official and spokeswoman, said that the organization frequently complained to the Pentagon and other arms of the American government when government officials cite the Red Cross visits to suggest that there is no abuse at Guantánamo. Most statements from the Pentagon in response to queries about mistreatment at Guantánamo do, in fact, include mention of the visits.

In a recent interview with reporters, General Hood, the commander of the detention and interrogation facility at Guantánamo, also cited the committee's visits in response to questions about treatment of detainees. "We take everything the Red Cross gives us and study it very carefully to look for ways to do our job better," he said in his Guantánamo headquarters, adding that he agrees "with some things and not others."

"I'm satisfied that the detainees here have not been abused, they've not been mistreated, they've not been tortured in any way," he said.

Scott Horton, a New York lawyer, who is familiar with some of the Red Cross's views, said the issue of medical ethics at Guantánamo had produced "a tremendous controversy in the committee." He said that some Red Cross officials believed it was important to maintain confidentiality while others believed the United States government was misrepresenting the inspections and using them to counter criticisms.

Mr. Horton, who heads the human rights committee of the Bar Association of the City of New York, said the Red Cross committee was considering whether to bring more senior officials to Washington and whether to make public its criticisms.

The report from the June visit said the Red Cross team found a far greater incidence of mental illness produced by stress than did American medical authorities, much of it caused by prolonged solitary confinement. It said the medical files of detainees were "literally open" to interrogators.

The report said the Biscuit team met regularly with the medical staff to discuss the medical situations of detainees. At other times, interrogators sometimes went directly to members of the medical staff to learn about detainees' conditions, it said.

The report said that such "apparent integration of access to medical care within the system of coercion" meant that inmates were not cooperating with doctors. Inmates learn from their interrogators that they have knowledge of their medical histories and the result is that the prisoners no longer trust the doctors.…


Monday, November 29, 2004

Bush's Social Security Plan Is Said to Require Vast Borrowing

Bush's Social Security Plan Is Said to Require Vast Borrowing
“White House and Republicans in Congress are all but certain to embrace large-scale government borrowing to help finance President Bush's plan to create personal investment accounts in Social Security, according to administration officials, members of Congress and independent analysts.

The White House says it has made no decisions about how to pay for establishing the accounts, and among Republicans on Capitol Hill there are divergent opinions about how much borrowing would be prudent at a time when the government is running large budget deficits. Many Democrats say that the costs associated with setting up personal accounts just make Social Security's financial problems worse, and that the United States can scarcely afford to add to its rapidly growing national debt.

But proponents of Mr. Bush's effort to make investment accounts the centerpiece of an overhaul of the retirement system said there were no realistic alternatives to some increases in borrowing, a requirement the White House is beginning to acknowledge.…”

Proponents say the necessary amount of borrowing could vary widely, from hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars over a decade, depending on how much money people are permitted to contribute to the accounts and whether the changes to Social Security include benefit cuts and tax increases.

Borrowing by the government could be necessary to establish the personal accounts because of the way Social Security pays for benefits. Under the current system, the payroll tax levied on workers goes to benefits for people who are already retired. Personal accounts would be paid for out of the same pool of money; they would allow workers to divert a portion of their payroll taxes into accounts invested in mutual funds or other investments.

The money going into the accounts would therefore no longer be available to pay benefits to current retirees. The shortfall would have to be made up somehow to preserve benefits for people who are already retired during the transition from one system to the other, and by nearly all estimates there is no way to make it up without relying at least in part on government borrowing.

Mr. Bush has vowed to push hard to remake Social Security. Republicans in Congress say the White House has signaled to them that Mr. Bush will put the issue at the top of his domestic agenda in the coming year.

But the White House has never answered fundamental questions about Mr. Bush's plan. In particular, it has not explained how it would deal with the financial quandary created by its call for personal accounts.

Some conservative analysts and Republicans in Congress say a portion of the temporary financial gap that would be created by personal accounts could be closed through measures like holding down the growth in overall government spending. But nearly everyone involved in the debate over Social Security agrees that some borrowing will be necessary.

The main Republican players in Congress on the issue say they expect to endorse an increase in borrowing to finance the transition to a new system. But they remain split over whether to back plans that would include larger investment accounts and few painful trade-offs like benefit cuts and tax increases - and therefore require more borrowing - or to limit borrowing and include more steps that would be politically unpopular.

"Anybody who thinks borrowing money for the transition to personal accounts is going to solve the problem of the long-term solvency of Social Security doesn't understand the size of the problem," said Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the retirement system.…


Saturday, November 27, 2004

Big Iraqi Parties Are Urging Delay in Jan. 30 Voting

Big Iraqi Parties Are Urging Delay in Jan. 30 Voting
“Some of Iraq's most powerful political groups, including the party led by the interim prime minister, called Friday for a six-month delay in elections scheduled for Jan. 30, citing concerns over security.

The list of groups includes some that have been among the strongest backers of American policy in Iraq, and their call gives sudden momentum to those arguing for a postponement. The two main Kurdish parties supported the delay request, marking the first time the Kurds, closely allied with the Americans, have taken a clear stand on the issue.

President Bush told reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., that he hoped the elections would proceed on schedule. But in recent days, administration officials have indicated in private comments that they would insist on January elections only as long as Iraqi officials did.

The Iraqi government itself did not join in a petition issued Friday to the electoral commission calling for a delay. The party of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi gave oral assent rather than a signature to the document.

It was signed by 15 groups and orally backed by dozens of individual political and religious figures after an impassioned two-hour meeting at the Baghdad home of Adnan Pachachi, a prominent Sunni politician.

‘The participants call for postponement of the elections for six months in order to address the current security situation and to complete the necessary administrative, technical and systematic arrangements,’ the petition said.

One participant said the party of Dr. Allawi, the Iraqi National Accord, did not sign the petition perhaps because of fear that a written call by him would be seen as a self-serving effort to stay in power.”

Shiite Muslims, who make up at least 60 percent of the population, have been adamant about holding elections by the end of January. Sunni Arabs, and Kurds to a lesser degree, have expressed fears that Shiites will vastly dominate the new government and exercise their power unchecked. The Sunni Arabs and the Kurds each make up about a fifth of the population, and Sunnis ruled what is now Iraq for centuries until the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

An interim constitution approved last spring says elections must be held by the end of January. On Sunday, an Iraqi electoral commission independent of the government set Jan. 30 as election day. But even before that, some parties, particularly ones dominated by Sunni Arabs, had begun agitating for a delay, arguing that violence in the Sunni regions of central and northern Iraq would cut voter turnout.…

Most of the groups that met at Mr. Pachachi's home are secular and led by Sunni Arabs. The call for delay widens the growing political rifts between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs, and underscores the stark sectarian divisions that threaten to unravel the very social fabric of this country.

Most secular parties also have little name recognition right now and want more time to organize campaigns against religious candidates.

But those arguing for a delay on Friday cited the deteriorating security condition as the main reason.

Four employees of a British security company, Global Risk Strategies, were killed and up to 15 wounded when a rocket or mortar shell landed Thursday in Baghdad inside the fortified Green Zone, security contractors said Friday. Reports indicated that perhaps all four of the men who died were former Gurkha warriors from Nepal.

American troops in the devastated city of Falluja continued going house to house searching for insurgents, occasionally engaging in gun battles. Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, said troops had cleared about half of the city's buildings in the nearly two weeks since the American-led offensive ended.

Thousands of American-led troops continued a sweep through Babil Province, a Sunni area immediately south of Baghdad that is rife with bandits and insurgents.…


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

NEW ECONOMY:Building a Medical Data Network

NEW ECONOMY:Building a Medical Data Network:

At a conference last week at Rockefeller University, sponsored by I.B.M., a panel of health care experts discussed the innovations that promised to be the most intriguing and the most necessary over the next decade or so. They chose one grand pursuit in clinical care - the probable rise of "predictive medicine." The idea is that advances in genetics would make it possible to know from birth a person's genetic predisposition for, say, obesity, heart disease or cancer, and that knowledge could be used to tailor treatment or alter personal behavior.

Yet the panel spent more time on the need to bring patient records and prescriptions out of the ink-and-paper era and into the computer age. "The problem I see is that we have so much information and we need to be able to translate that information into care," said Dr. Edward D. Miller, dean of the Johns Hopkins University medical school.

Last week's dialogue was a brief chat in a larger national discussion about how to make the transition to electronic health records and the implications of such a move. To date, the impetus for bringing information technology to health care has centered somewhat narrowly on reducing administrative costs and medical errors - both of which are huge problems.

An estimated 31 percent of this year's total national health care bill of $1.79 trillion is spent on administration. Electronic record-keeping would eliminate enormous amounts of paper-shuffling, which could save hundreds of billions of dollars and many lives. An estimated 45,000 to 98,000 people die each year from medical errors, including those attributable to misunderstood handwritten prescriptions and hospital charts, or lost laboratory test results.

But digital patient records are merely a first step toward a broader vision. Those records could become building blocks in a nationwide biomedical computer network for assembling and distributing up-to-the-minute epidemiological studies. The network could show researchers and physicians what treatments work for people with similar characteristics, ailments and, eventually, gene markers. To protect privacy, personal identifiers would be stripped out of the national network.”

There are plenty of technical obstacles and privacy concerns that would have to be overcome. Yet such a network is part of the 10-year plan being promoted by the National Institutes of Health, among others. "The dream is that every physician will be able to tap into that national biomedical network from his or her desktop computer," said Dr. Eric Jakobsson, who heads the Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative at the National Institutes of Health.

The presumed benefits would be improved quality and higher standards of health care. But such a network would also provide the basis for far more efficient markets in health care - and would have the potential to shake up both the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries.


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Civilians: For One Family in Falluja, a Simple Drive Turns Deadly

Civilians: For One Family in Falluja, a Simple Drive Turns Deadly:
"I forgot all my pain when I saw the condition of the mosque," Ms. Abdullah said. "I saw the Americans sitting on boxes full of Korans, and at that moment I wanted to grab one of them and kill him. I would have preferred to stay in the car bleeding rather than witness that scene."

"The Americans may have been sympathetic to me," she said, "but they slaughtered other people."

"The drive was supposed to take no more than 15 minutes, a quick dash across a few rubble-strewn blocks of Falluja to spirit Sahar Muhammad Abdullah, 23, and her family to safety in a house near a mosque.

But hundreds of feet short of their destination, the family stumbled into a company of marines who had transformed the mosque into a temporary fortress, with snipers and machine gunners perched on the roof. They spotted the gray car carrying the family, inching along.

A barrage of bullets followed. Minutes later, Ms. Abdullah's mother lay bloodied and dying in the rear seat, glass shards strewn about her. Ms. Abdullah, hit in the back by a bullet, collapsed into her mother's lap. Three men in the car were lightly wounded.

The family's journey ended there, and a much longer one began.

"There are days when I can't sleep at all," Ms. Abdullah said from a hospital bed in Baghdad. "I keep thinking of what happened to us." Her family has not yet told her that her mother is dead."

What befell Ms. Abdullah and her family on Nov. 12 is just one incident in which civilians were reported wounded or killed during the week-long Falluja offensive. While no neutral group has been able to enter the city to count casualties, officials of the International Red Cross in Baghdad estimate that as many as 800 civilians may have died.

Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, said Thursday that he did not know of any civilian deaths.

The marines at the mosque, from Company B, First Battalion, Eighth Marines, had spent the morning of Nov. 12 fending off insurgent attacks, and they were operating under rules of engagement that said "unauthorized movement of civilian vehicles towards Marines may pose" a suicide bomb threat. The same rules tell marines to "spare civilians and civilian property, if possible."

Ms. Abdullah's family was not aware that American troops had stormed the Abdul Aziz Mosque, just blocks from their home in the Nazal neighborhood, and that battles were raging all around, she said.

"We were used to the bombing," Ms. Abdullah said. "But then we thought, 'If we're injured, who would treat us?' So we decided to move to a place where people could attend to us if that happened."

That meant driving to the house of Mr. Khalif, a few blocks away.

The family knew the Iraqi government had imposed a curfew on the city. Anyone moving in the streets could be shot. But they saw only mujahedeen outside, not Americans. Besides, "we thought if we get hit, we'll be martyrs," Ms. Abdullah said.

On Nov. 12, at 2:30 p.m., the five packed clothes and bags of food and piled into the car. The uncle drove. The neighbor, Mr. Latif, rode in the passenger seat holding a white towel out the window, Ms. Abdullah said. Gunfire rattled nearby, then died down.

"We had no idea what had happened to the blocks of houses next to us," Ms. Abdullah said. "We thought, 'We've never seen anything like this.' The car could barely move because of the debris in the streets."

They rounded a corner by the mosque and saw the marines for the first time, crouching atop the roof, their guns pointed outward. Tanks had rammed through the mosque compound's outer wall, leaving large holes.

Mr. Khalif veered onto the street where he lived. The marines opened fire, Ms. Abdullah said. "I fell into my mother's lap and started screaming," she said.


Slavery and the Making of America

Slavery and the Making of America:
"'Slavery was no side show in American history - it was the main event,' says historian James Horton.

'The value of slaves was greater than the dollar value of all America's banks, all of America's railroads, all of America's manufacturing put together.'

With 139 years separating us from the official end of slavery, the oppression that marked the first two centuries of American history may seem simply like an ugly, but ancient, chapter from our school books. But from the village that would one day become Manhattan to the small tobacco farms of British Virginia, from the sweltering fields of lucrative Carolina plantations to the construction sites of icons like the U.S. Capitol, it was millions of enslaved men, women and children who turned a barely charted territory with a shaky future into one of the strongest and richest nations in the world."

Coming to PBS in February 2005, Thirteen/WNET New York's groundbreaking four-part series SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA chronicles the institution of American slavery from its origins in 1619 - when English settlers in Virginia purchased 20 Africans from Dutch traders - through the arrival of the first 11 slaves in New Amsterdam, the American Revolution, the Civil War, the adoption of the 13th Amendment and Reconstruction. With such unprecedented breadth comes entirely new perspectives on and facts about slavery. These new perspectives challenge many long-held notions (such as the idea that slavery was strictly a Southern institution; it was, in fact, a national institution) and highlight the contradictions of a country that was founded on the principle of "liberty and justice for all" but embraced slavery. Acclaimed actor Morgan Freeman narrates the series, which features a score by Michael Whalen and Ellis Hall III.

SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA delves beyond the concept of slavery as a whole to focus on the remarkable stories of individual slaves, demonstrating that these Africans and African Americans were not passive victims but survivors who refused to concede their culture, character or spirit to the system that persecuted them. Over the last decade, leading scholars have unearthed a wealth of information that affirms and substantiates slavery's integral role in the development and growth of the United States.


Friday, November 19, 2004

NYTimes > Reuters > International > Iraqi Troops Raid Baghdad Mosque, 17 Detained

The New York Times > Reuters > International > Iraqi Troops Raid Baghdad Mosque, 17 Detained:
"Hundreds of Iraqi troops backed by U.S. forces stormed a Sunni Muslim mosque in Baghdad after Friday prayers, killing four people and wounding at least nine, witnesses and an influential group of Sunni clerics said.

The Iraqi troops raided the Abu Hanifa mosque in the Sunni district of Aadhamiya, firing percussion grenades and damaging the doors, the Muslim Clerics Association said.

They opened fire when furious worshippers began to chant ``Allahu Akbar'' (God is Great) and tried to beat back troops by throwing shoes at them -- a grave insult in Islam.

Around 17 people were detained but the objective of the raid was not immediately clear."

U.S.-led forces have stormed at least two mosques in recent weeks and detained clerics critical of the Falluja operation.

But guerrillas kept pressure on Iraq's U.S.-backed security forces with a suicide car bombing on a police convoy in the capital. A policeman and a bystander were killed and at least five people wounded, police said.

And in the troubled northern city of Mosul, an unexplained fire destroyed voter registration papers and other materials being stored at a warehouse in anticipation of the vote.


Slaying Monsters

Slaying Monsters:

I'm afraid we don't get it. The people of Falluja see us as monsters, based on what they perceive as our murderous, monstrous, behavior. Telling people they didn't see what they think they saw seems to work here in the United States, but won't work in Iraq. It only works with us, because we don't believe that we're monsters, that people like us, from among us, can be monsters.

But wait, it's easy for us to believe strangers, Iraqis, muslims, are monsters; It's easy to believe strangers, Americans, Christians, can be monsters. Monstrous acts, committed by strangers, are indelible. Just as we can't forget the World Trade Center, they can't forget what they've seen. Whether we want to believe it or not is as irrelevent as the fact that some muslims couldn't believe Bin Laden was responsible for 9-11.

This all started in April when the people of Falluja did what people usually do with what they believe to be monsters. They lynched them, set fire to their bodies, and mutilated the corpses.

We've been doing this to "monsters" throughout recorde history, and probably longer. Sometimes they've been called witches as in the Spanish Inquisition. And then there's our wonderful south from the 1890's to the civil rights era. Lest we think it's regional, lynchings occured in Minnesota and Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Like the people in Falluja, they slew the "monster" and celebrated.

I think this whole thing started when incensed scared american soldiers shot up some "monsters" who were demonstrating. (How dare they attack us and then have a Pro Saddam demonstration?) When you have people actually believing Iraqis were responsible for 9-11, anything is not just possible, but likely. Next the demonstration protesting the first shootings was shot up. Finally, policemen along with a Jordanian hospital security guard were shot at point blank range with all the evidence showing that American troops weren't shot at at all.

So now, we're each others "monsters." That means wounded unarmed "monsters" get killed. It means Margaret Hassan, despite the unlikely plea of al Zarkawi for her freedom, gets killed.

So here we are. If the cold war, in which over forty million people died, can be considerd World War Three, this is World War Four. Einstein, when asked what weapons world war three would be fought with said he didn't know, but ww4 would be fought with sticks and stones. He never imagined precision guided bombs or improvised explosive devices.

For now, I will fight with words.

These are some links to the story of Falluja which, for the most part, remain untold by our press. If a fraction of what was done to the people of Falluja ws done to us, there'd be no end to the killing.

Unfortunately, this may be the future of Iraq






NYTimes > MidEast Insurgents: House in Falluja Base for Jordanian Terrorist

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Insurgents: House in Falluja Seems to Have Been Base for Jordanian Terrorist:
"Falluja is known as the City of Mosques, but the landscape is now dotted by broken minarets, many destroyed by airstrikes.

The interior minister, Falah al-Naqib, said at a news conference in Baghdad that families who fled would receive 150,000 dinars, or about $110, with their next monthly food ration. Engineers are evaluating how to restore power, water and sewage systems to the city, where hazards like downed power lines continue to pose a danger. ."

Almost all of the city has been heavily damaged, and the biggest question is how residents will react to seeing the vast swaths of destruction. Even before the devastation, residents were opposed to any American presence. American commanders say rebuilding efforts will win over the Fallujans, but attempts at reconstruction in other urban battle zones have stumbled badly.

An American commander also said the weeklong offensive to take the city had "broken the back of the insurgency."

Despite that assessment, gun battles and mortar fire continued to shake the city, and the commander, Lt. Gen. John Sattler of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, said it would be "some time" before it was safe enough to allow many of Falluja's 300,000 residents to return. A wave of assaults continued across areas of central and northern Iraq dominated by Sunni Arabs, who controlled the country under Saddam Hussein.

Marines continued to engage in firefights on Thursday with pockets of insurgents in southern Falluja. A marine and an Iraqi soldier were killed at sunset when they came under fire as they were trying to clear a building.

So far, at least 51 American servicemen have been killed and 425 wounded in the city since the began on Nov. 8, General Sattler said at a news conference at the Marine headquarters. Eight Iraqi soldiers have been killed and 43 wounded. About 1,200 insurgents appear to have been killed, he said.

The offensive had crippled the insurgents and "disrupted them around the country," he said.

But violence continued across central and northern Iraq. Bombings in Baghdad and two northern cities killed at least eight Iraqis. In Mosul, pushed to the brink of chaos by a revolt last week, rebels attacked a police station and lobbed 10 mortar shells at the provincial government center, wounding at least four of the governor's bodyguards. The Iraqi government was investigating reports that 63 freshly trained police had been abducted at gunpoint as they were driving in from Jordan.

In Basra, in the south, about 300 Shiite Arabs have banded together into a group called the Anger Brigades to battle extremist Sunni Arabs, Ali al-Mahdi, a spokesman for the group, said in an interview. The founding of the group raised the specter of new sectarian conflict in this deeply divided society.

General Sattler's assertions about routing the insurgency appeared optimistic, given the fact that Abdullah Janabi, the leader of Falluja's mujahedeen council, was still operating in the city. A recent Marine intelligence report also warned of the resurrection of the insurgency in the Falluja area should the American military reduce troop levels there, as has been planned.

Continuing skirmishes will slow the return of Falluja's civilians, many of whom fled before the fighting began. The decision to move people back is to be made by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi after recommendations by American commanders.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

NYTimes > Middle East > On the Ground: Sides in Falluja Fight for Hearts and Minds

The New York Times > International > Middle East > On the Ground: Sides in Falluja Fight for Hearts and Minds:
"In the minds of the people of Falluja, at least, it seems clear who has the edge in this war. Ismail Abdulla, a 55-year-old shop owner, said that on the second day of the invasion last week, as the imam at his local mosque called for prayers through loudspeakers on the minaret, an American sound truck boomed 'disco' - the word that Iraqis use for most Western popular music - drowning him out."

"That will increase the hatred against the Americans," said Mr. Abdulla, who spoke Tuesday in the village of Karma, just north of Falluja, where he had been evacuated by American military trucks, he said.

Another Falluja resident, who asked to be identified only as Said, said that even before the invasion of his city, leaflets routinely fell onto his roof and elsewhere in the neighborhood. He said the leaflets always had about the same theme - that the insurgency was preventing reconstruction efforts in Falluja. But Said and other residents of the city knew that reconstruction was also halting in Baghdad, he said, and so they ignored the American leaflets.

But given how much is at stake here, the Americans are certain to keep trying. Falluja remains a potent symbol of resistance, and both sides see a public-relations victory here as crucial to the broader struggle before elections set for January.

The insurgents may have lost the physical battle, but Islamist Web sites have already begun using the events of the past week as a recruiting tool, presenting distorted accounts of the action in which American troops commit atrocities and insurgents inflict devastating losses on their attackers.

The insurgents have the added advantage of the Arabic-language satellite networks, particularly Al Jazeera, which endlessly repeat video clips of events like what appeared to be the shooting this week of an injured Iraqi prisoner in a Falluja mosque, helping to stoke the flames of Arab resentment.

Falluja was a center not only of military resistance but also of propaganda that has helped fuel the insurgency throughout Iraq. After the Marines first invaded the city in April, inflated civilian casualty figures from Falluja General Hospital inflamed opinion throughout the country, driving up the political costs of the conflict and ultimately forcing the American occupation authority to order a withdrawal.

A flood of insurgent materials also emanated from here: pamphlets, books, posters, tapes and DVD's. The DVD's tend to mix jihadist sermons with video of American tanks and warplanes followed by grisly images of bloodied Iraqi children.

Military officials do not expect the fall of the city to affect the propaganda flow greatly, partly because many of Falluja's militants escaped before the war. That is why the Americans are redoubling their efforts in the propaganda war now that most of the bombs have stopped falling.

I'm afraid we don't get it. The people of Falluja see us as monsters, based on what they perceive as our murderous, monstrous, behavior. Telling people they didn't see what they think they saw seems to work here in the United States, but won't work in Iraq. It only works with us, because we don't believe that we're monsters, that people like us, from among us, can be monsters.

But wait, it's easy for us to believe strangers, Iraqis, muslims, are monsters; It's easy to believe strangers, Americans, Christians, can be monsters. Monstrous acts, committed by strangers, are indelible. Just as we can't forget the World Trade Center, they can't forget what they've seen. Whether we want to believe it or not is as irrelevent as the fact that some muslims couldn't believe Bin Laden was responsible for 9-11.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town THE POLITICAL WAR

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town THE POLITICAL WAR

Earlier this year, the United States Agency for International Development, or U.S.A.I.D., hired a team of independent experts to go to Iraq and evaluate the agency’s programs there. The experts came back with a mixed review that included plenty of reason for worry: the reconstruction of Iraq was taking place in an ad-hoc fashion, without a consistent strategy, without the meaningful participation or advice of Iraqis, within paralyzing security constraints, and amid unrealistic claims of success. But something happened to the report on the way to publication. U.S.A.I.D. kept sending parts of it back for revision, draft after draft, weeding out criticism, until the agency finally approved a version for internal use which one member of the team called “a whitewash” of his findings. Another expert said, “It’s so political, everything going on out there. They just didn’t want to hear any bad news.” Pointing out that some of the numbers posted on the agency’s Web site were overly optimistic, he concluded, “They like to make their sausage their way.”

This would be a minor footnote in the history of the Iraq war, if only the entire story didn’t read the same. President Bush has been making the sausage his way from the beginning, and his way is to politicize. He forced a congressional vote on the war just before the 2002 midterm elections. He trumpeted selective and misleading intelligence. He displayed intense devotion to classifying government documents, except when there was political advantage in declassifying them. He fired or sidelined government officials and military officers who told the American public what the Administration didn’t want it to hear. He released forecasts of the war’s cost that quickly became obsolete, and then he ignored the need for massive expenditures until a crucial half year in Iraq had been lost. His communications office in Baghdad issued frequently incredible accounts of the progress of the war and the reconstruction. He staffed the occupation with large numbers of political loyalists who turned out to be incompetent. According to Marine officers and American officials in Iraq, he ordered and then called off critical military operations in Falluja against the wishes of his commanders, with no apparent strategic plan. He made sure that blame for the abuses at Abu Ghraib settled almost entirely on the shoulders of low-ranking troops. And then, in the middle of the election campaign, he changed the subject.

No one can now doubt the effectiveness of the President’s political operation. Here’s one measure: between May and September, the number of Iraq stories that made page 1 of the Times and the Washington Post dropped by more than a third. During the same period, the percentage of Americans who support the President’s handling of the war increased. It’s the mark of a truly brilliant reëlection campaign that these trends at home are occurring against a background of ever-increasing violence and despair in Iraq. The latest reports from mainstream think tanks, such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, show every indicator of progress moving in the wrong direction. In July, the National Intelligence Council issued a classified and quite gloomy analysis of Iraq which had no effect on the President’s rhetoric or on his policy. After a year and a half of improvising and muddling through, there seems to be no clear way forward and no good way out. But because the President–as his chief of staff, Andrew Card, recently said–regards Americans as ten-year-old children, don’t expect to hear an honest discussion about any of this from the White House. (The President’s party, however, is trying to force congress to vote, just before the election, on a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning–no doubt to bring the country a little closer to victory in Iraq.)

The problem with making sausage the President’s way–other than the fact that it deceives the public, precludes a serious debate, bitterly divides the body politic when war requires unity, exposes American soldiers to greater risk, substitutes half measures for thoroughgoing efforts, and insures that no one will be held accountable for mistakes that will never be corrected–is that it doesn’t work. What determines success in this war is what happens in Iraq and how Iraqis perceive it. If U.S.A.I.D. releases a report that prettifies the truth, officials here might breathe easier for a while, but it won’t speed up the reconstruction of Iraq. Covering up failures only widens the gap in perception between Washington and Baghdad–which, in turn, makes Washington less capable of grasping the reality of Iraq and responding to it. Eventually, the failures announce themselves anyway–in a series of suicide bombings, a slow attrition of Iraqi confidence, a sudden insurrection. War, unlike budget forecasts and campaign coverage, is quite merciless with falsehood.

In refusing to look at Iraq honestly, President Bush has made defeat there more likely. This failing is only the most important repetition of a recurring theme in the war against radical Islam: the distance between Bush’s soaring, often inspiring language and the insufficiency of his actions. When he speaks, as he did at the Republican Convention, about the power of freedom to change the world, he is sounding deep notes in the American political psyche. His opponent comes nowhere close to making such music. But if Iraq looks nothing like the President’s vision—if Iraq is visibly deteriorating, and no one in authority will admit it—the speeches can produce only illusion or cynicism. In what may be an extended case of overcompensation, so much of the President’s conduct in the war has become an assertion of personal will. Bush’s wartime hero, Winston Churchill, offered his countrymen nothing but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. Bush offers optimistic forecasts, permanent tax cuts, and his own stirring resolve.


Monday, November 15, 2004

Falluja, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark

Falluja, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark

Nail holes claimed as evidence they were fired on
Dec 04, 1969 Chicago

As they lie sleeping in their Chicago, Illinois, apartment, Fred
Hampton and Mark Clark are gunned down by 14 police officers. Nearly a hundred bullets had been fired in what police described as a fierce gun battle with members of the Black Panther Party. However, ballistics experts later determined that only one of those bullets came from the Panthers' side. In addition, the "bullet holes" in the front door of the apartment, which police pointed to as evidence that the Panthers had been shooting from within the apartment, were actually nail holes created by police in an attempt to cover up the attack. Four other Black Panthers were wounded in the raid, as well as two police officers.

The raid, which had been led by Cook County State Attorney Edward Hanrahan, was only one of many attempts by the government to weaken the Black Power movement. Under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI had been battling civil rights activists and other minority leaders for years with their Cointelpro program, whose purpose, according to one FBI document, was to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist hate type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership and supporters. " Although the FBI was not responsible for leading this particular raid, a federal grand jury indicated that the bureau played a significant role in the events leading up to the raid; Hanrahan had utilized information provided by FBI informant William O'Neal, who was third in command of the Chicago Panthers, to plan his attack. There was also a conscious effort by the FBI to use "aggressive and imaginary tactics" to prevent the "rise of a 'messiah' who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement. " They apparently considered Fred Hampton, an outspoken, charismatic activist who was chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, to be such a potential leader.

Despite the evidence provided by ballistics experts showing that police had fired 99 percent of the bullets and had falsified the report on the incident, the first federal grand jury did not indict anyone involved in the raid.
Despite the evidence provided by ballistics experts showing that police had fired 99 percent of the bullets and had falsified the report on the incident, the first federal grand jury did not indict anyone involved in the raid. Furthermore, even though a subsequent grand jury did indict all the police officers involved, the charges were dismissed. Survivors of the attack and relatives of Hampton and Clark filed a $47.7 million suit against Hanrahan and 28 other officials in 1970. After an 18-month trial, which did not take place until 1977, all charges were dismissed. However, two years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Federal Government had obstructed justice by withholding information and reinstated the case against 24 of the defendants. The relatives and survivors finally won their case in 1979.



April 28,2003 Falluja
In the view of the soldiers, they acted appropriately to the threat as perceived at the time. "That night there was an escalation of force," platoon Sgt. Crosson said. "We don't want to wait until one of our guys gets hit. You can only take so much before you respond."

In addition, they responded in accordance with the rules of engagement, the soldiers said, which were described as the "seven S's": shout, shove, smoke, spray, show, strike and shoot. "We fired precision fire at those who were firing at us from inside a crowd-and they chose that environment," Nantz claimed.

U.S. soldiers gave a similar account to journalists who visited al-Falluja in the aftermath of the incident. 2LT. Davidson, for example, according to the New York Times, said that twenty to thirty protesters were shooting rifles mostly in the air, and that soldiers had responded with smoke grenades before several more armed people appeared from homes across the street and began shooting directly at the soldiers, forcing the soldiers to return fire.39 U.S. soldiers, according to the Jerusalem Post, said that the school compound was fired upon from three directions and that "armed militants no more than six meters outside the compound blasted away at the school."40 An unnamed soldier gave a similar account of the battle, according to the Guardian:

We've been sitting here taking fire for three days. It was enough to get your nerves wracked. When they [protesters]marched down the road and started shooting at the compound there was nothing for us to do but defend ourselves. They were firing from alleyways and buildings where we couldn't see. Guys were in line with hot chow. When bullets fell into the compound, people in that chow line ran for cover. From that moment it was all business. We started putting on body armor and went up on that roof.

As detailed as these accounts are, the physical evidence at the school does not support claims of an effective attack on the building as described by U.S. troops.

Human Rights Watch researchers and the organization's senior military analyst spent several hours at the al-Qa'id school, closely inspecting all rooms of the school, the exterior walls and perimeter wall for evidence of bullet damage that would support the soldiers' contention that gunmen had fired at the school. Human Rights Watch found no compelling evidence to support that claim.
Human Rights Watch researchers and the organization's senior military analyst spent several hours at the al-Qa'id school, closely inspecting all rooms of the school, the exterior walls and perimeter wall for evidence of bullet damage that would support the soldiers' contention that gunmen had fired at the school. Human Rights Watch found no compelling evidence to support that claim.

The inspection found two spots on the schools façade facing the street that might indicate bullet impact. The southern side of the wall near the second floor had two shallow pockmarks that might have been caused by bullets, but could also have come from thrown rocks. Three pockmarks on the northern corner of the front wall (below where the machine gun had been placed on the roof) might also have been caused by bullets. Given the lack of deep penetration into the wall, the bullets in both places, if that is what caused the marks, must have had a soft lead core. No damage was seen in any of the school's rooms or the perimeter wall.

The bullet holes that some journalists reported seeing on the perimeter wall turned out to be holes left by nails-some of the nails were still in the holes, and the square patterns formed by the different holes showed they had been used to hang posters or signs. Human Rights Watch found no evidence of the "bullet holes in a second-story window" or the school façade "pocked with bullet holes" described by one journalist.

There was, however, evidence of rock-throwing. Human Rights Watch found numerous broken windows at the school, chipped walls and rocks both inside the classrooms and at the base of the school (possibly thrown from outside). Such evidence was particularly clear on the north side of the building.





Coalition Forces in Iraq are not subject to Iraqi law. According to Coalition Provisional Authority Regulation Number 17, coalition personnel are "immune from local criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction and from any form of arrest or detention other than by persons acting on behalf of their parent states."

Given the absence of Iraqi legal structures to hold coalition forces accountable, it is incumbent on the occupying powers of the participating countries to investigate all allegations of abuse, and to punish those found to have violated domestic military codes, international humanitarian law, or human rights standards. Both the laws of war and non-derogable human rights standards require the investigation of suspicious or apparently unlawful killings, even during times of armed conflict. As of mid-October 2003, the United States military was not fulfilling that obligation, thus creating an atmosphere of impunity for U.S. troops.

Two types of investigations are possible in the U.S. military: administrative and criminal. Administrative procedures such as a Commander's Inquiry or an Army Regulation 15-6 investigation can result in "adverse administrative action," such as fines, extra duty or confinement. Criminal investigations involve a military court and can lead to a court martial.

Human Rights Watch is not aware of any criminal investigations into cases of alleged use of excessive or disproportionate force. As of October 1, the U.S. military said it had completed five administrative investigations above the division level, and all of them under the authority of the Deputy Commanding General in Iraq.

In addition to the cases mentioned above, a high-level investigation is ongoing into the friendly fire killing of eight Iraqi police and a Jordanian guard by the 82nd Airborne in al-Falluja on September 12. The U.S. military apologized for the incident and appointed Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, assistant commander of the 101st Airborne Division, to head an investigation. The U.S. JAG was not aware of other investigations ongoing as of September 23, although officials said they might not know of investigations conducted on the division level.


Iraqi Civilians Fall Victim to Hair Triggers 'Regrettable' Incidents Claim Bystanders, Police Officers, Even Children.


Crypto-Gram Newsletter November 15, 2004 Secure the Vote?

Crypto-Gram Newsletter November 15, 2004
by Bruce Schneier Founder and CTO Counterpane Internet Security, Inc.

In this issue:

Electronic Voting Resrouce Sites:

Problems with 2004 Presidential Election:

An open-source project to develop an electronic voting machine:

Essays on e-voting:


Sunday, November 14, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Barren Ground for Democracy

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Barren Ground for Democracy:
"Whether one views the war in Iraq as a noble effort in democratization or a brutal exercise in imperialism, there can be little doubt that it has proved the proverbial 'bridge too far' for those who planned and, like myself, supported it. While much has been made of the strategic missteps the Bush administration has made since the Saddam Hussein regime was toppled, it seems likely that even the best—executed occupation would have been a daunting prospect. "

What we are witnessing is a legacy of history and geography — factors often denied by both liberal and conservative interventionists — catching up with America. Had our political leaders considered such factors, I suspect, they might have avoided some of the disasters of the occupation. These factors should also give President Bush pause as he plans to "spread freedom" in his second term. To see all this clearly, one must look at the campaign in the Persian Gulf region not as an isolated effort but as the culmination of a decade-long effort to bring the vast lands of the defunct Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and Asia into the modern world and the Western orbit.

After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, communist satellites like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary promptly evolved into successful Western democracies. This transition was relatively easy because the countries boasted high literacy rates, exposure to the Enlightenment under Prussian and Hapsburg emperors, and strong industrial bases and middle classes prior to World War II and the cold war. In retrospect, it seems clear that only the presence of the Red Army had kept them from developing free parliamentary systems on their own.

But the idea that Western-style democracy could be imposed further east and south, in the Balkans, has proved more problematic. Beyond the Carpathian mountains one finds a different historical legacy: that of the poorer and more chaotic Ottoman Empire. Before World War II, this was a world of vast peasantries and feeble middle classes, which revealed itself in Communist governments that were for the most part more corrupt and despotic than those of Central Europe.

Unsurprisingly, upon Communism's collapse, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania struggled for years on the brink of anarchy, although they at least avoided ethnic bloodshed. Of course, Yugoslavia was not so lucky. Though democracy appears to have a reasonably bright future there thanks to repeated Western intervention, it is wise to recall that for 15 years it has been a touch-and-go proposition.

Undeterred, Wilsonian idealists in the United States next put Iraq on their list for gun-to-the-head democratization. But compared with Iraq, even the Balkans were historically blessed, by far the most culturally and politically advanced part of the old Turkish Empire. Mesopotamia, on the other hand, constituted the most anarchic and tribalistic region of the sultanate.

… In the 1990's, those supporting humanitarian intervention in Yugoslavia branded references to difficult history and geography as "determinism" and "essentialism" — academic jargon for fatalism. In the views of liberal internationalists and neoconservatives, group characteristics based on a shared history and geography no longer mattered, for in a post-cold war world of globalization everyone was first and foremost an individual. Thus if Poland, say, was ready overnight for Western-style democracy, then so too were Bosnia, Russia, Iraq — and Liberia, for that matter.

That line of thinking provided the moral impetus for military actions in 1995 in Bosnia and in 1999 in Kosovo: interventions that reclaimed the former Yugoslavia into the Western orbit. But the people who ordered and carried out those interventions, liberal Democrats in general, were canny. While they agreed with the idealists' moral claims, they realized that it was the feasibility of the military side of the equation that made the interventions ultimately worth doing. Yes, they also favored democracy in places like Liberia, but they were wise enough not to risk the lives of Americans in such endeavors. They intuited that a modest degree of fatalism was required in the conduct of international affairs, even if they were clever enough not to publish the fact.

By invading Iraq, Republican neoconservatives — the most fervent of Wilsonians — simply took that liberal idealist argument of the 1990's to its logical conclusion. Indeed, given that Saddam Hussein was ultimately responsible for the violent deaths of several times more people than the Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic, how could any liberal in favor of intervention in the Balkans not also favor it in the case of Iraq? And because the human rights abuses in Iraq showed no sign of abatement, much like those in the Balkans, our intervention was justified in order to stop an ongoing rape-and-killing machine.

But rather than a replay of the Balkans in 1995 and 1999, Iraq has turned out like the Indian mutiny against the British in 1857 and 1858, when the attempts of Evangelical and Utilitarian reformers in London to modernize and Christianize India — to make it more like England — were met with a violent revolt against imperial rule.

As for our overstretched military, increasingly it will have to work unobtrusively through native surrogates in the hunt for terrorists: for as the histories of Rome, France and Britain all reveal, the successful projection of power is less about direct action than about the training and subsequent use of indigenous troops.

Moreover, in a world where every field operation is subject to intense scrutiny by global news media, the only empire that can be broadly acceptable is one consisting of behind-the-scenes relationships. That, in turn, will require an increased emphasis on what academics and diplomats call "area expertise." A good model can be found in "Wax and Gold," a classic work of area studies about the Amhara people of Ethiopia written by the sociologist Donald N. Levine of the University of Chicago in 1965. Mr. Levine defined pragmatism as a respect for liberal progress not in a fixed, ideological sense, but in terms of "the cultural context" in which such progress takes place: each people and terrain according to its own pace of political development, in other words.

While democracy can take root anywhere (look at Indonesia and Afghanistan), it cannot be imposed overnight anywhere.


Saturday, November 13, 2004


"Through December 2004, C-SPAN is making part of its 2004 Vote video archive available (roughly 175 hours of our most notable election-related events) for keyword searches that identify segments in video files where the topic or word is discussed."

The danger, of course, is that you might put your foot through your monitor. Excercise restraint.

NYTimes > Middle East >Rights Lawyers See Possibility of a War Crime

Rights Lawyers See Possibility of a War Crime

Human rights experts said Friday that American soldiers might have committed a war crime on Thursday when they sent fleeing Iraqi civilians back into Falluja.

Citing several articles of the Geneva Conventions, the experts said recognized laws of war require military forces to protect civilians as refugees and forbid returning them to a combat zone.

"This is highly problematical conduct in terms of exposing people to grave danger by returning them to an area where fighting is going on," said Jordan Paust, a law professor at the University of Houston and a former Army prosecutor.

James Ross, senior legal adviser to Human Rights Watch, said, "If that's what happened, it would be a war crime."

…300 men, women and children, were detained by American soldiers as they left southern Falluja by car and on foot. The women and children were allowed to proceed. The men were tested for any residues left by the handling of explosives. All tested negative, but they were sent back.

In April our soldiers did the same thing barring all “military age men” from leaving. See Fallujah and the Reality of War http://www.empirenotes.org/fallujahreality.html

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

He Was Human

He Was Human

Nov. 11 - Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, died early this morning in a Paris hospital, a French military spokesman announced.

Within hours of his death, Mahmoud Abbas, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was elected chairman of the group, succeeding Mr. Arafat. Mr. Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, is also expected to take over its largest movement, Fatah,

Under the rules of the Palestinian Authority, the speaker of the Parliament, Rawhi Fattouh, will serve as acting president until new elections are held for the post within the next 60 days.

In towns and refugee camps across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip today, thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets, wailing in grief and shooting off volleys of gunfire.

No other individual so embodied the Palestinians' plight: their dispersal, their statelessness, their hunger for a return to a homeland lost to Israel. Mr. Arafat was once seen as a romantic hero and praised as a statesman, but his luster and reputation faded over time. A brilliant navigator of political currents in opposition, once in power he proved more tactician than strategist, and a leader who rejected crucial opportunities to achieve his declared goal.

At the end of his life, Mr. Arafat governed Palestinians from an almost three-year confinement by Israel to his Ramallah headquarters. While many Palestinians continued to revere him, others came to see him as undemocratic and his administration as corrupt, as they faced growing poverty, lawlessness and despair over prospects for statehood.

A co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1994 for his agreement to work toward peaceful coexistence with Israel, Mr. Arafat began his long political career with high-profile acts of anti-Israel terrorism.

Mr. Arafat presided over an autonomous Palestinian sector that was, relative to most Arab states, tolerant and politically free-wheeling. And his popularity prevailed relative to challengers.

Ever the careful balancer, he insisted on making decisions alone and in private. Indeed, he found himself increasingly isolated in his final years, with almost all his former close aides having been killed over the years by Israeli or Arab assassins.

Plagued by a neurological illness that doctors said stemmed from an airplane crash in the Libyan desert that nearly killed him in 1992, Mr. Arafat slowed down. No longer able to work his legendary 18-hour days, he was forced to delegate some power, if not real authority, as he grew ever more frail. His trembling lower lip and shaking hands increased Palestinian concerns about the future. He had not appointed or groomed an obvious successor.

Some Americans and Israelis involved in the Oslo peace negotiations continued to view him as the only Palestinian leader willing and able to make the compromises needed to end the bitter conflict. They disagreed with the growing number of Israelis who suspected that he secretly sought Israel's destruction while negotiating for peace.

This upbeat assessment, however, was challenged in Israeli and American eyes by the collapse of the Oslo talks at Camp David in July 2000 and a last ditch round of negotiations that continued despite growing violence until January 2001.

Arafat never sold out his people for the momentary praise of America or anyone else.

In fact, he resisted almost unbearable pressure to accept a set of bantustans which would have killed a true Palestinian state.

Arafat, the Palestinian leader was unwilling to budge from his position that East Jerusalem must be the capital of the new Palestinian state.

According to officials involved in the negotiations, the prospects for an accord finally fell apart just after midnight Monday night, the second all-night session that President Clinton had led after returning to Camp David from Japan on Sunday evening.

On Sunday and Monday nights, Mr. Clinton worked with negotiators from both sides and progress was reported on the borders of a Palestinian state, on the fate of the three million Palestinian refugees scattered through the Middle East and on security arrangements.

The question of sovereignty over the holy sites in Jerusalem, home to major places of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims, was at the heart of the problem.

''Think of Jerusalem as four concentric circles. 'Outer suburbs, inner suburbs, the Old City and the religious sites. As you move into the center, the issues become more intense, historical, religious.'' There was surprising convergence on how different parts of the city would be managed but severe disagreement on the notion of sovereignty.

Impasse at Camp David: The Overview; Clinton Ends Deadlocked Peace Talks

Shops closed and verses of the Koran blared out from loudspeakers as hundreds of thousands of refugees in camps in Jordan mourned the death of Mr. Arafat today, Reuters reported.

Several thousand people marched in the crowded Bakaa Camp, whose inhabitants live in makeshift homes with corrugated iron roofs, the agency said, adding that Arafat loyalists carried a symbolic coffin draped with the Palestinian flag as hundreds of youths chanted anti-Israeli slogans and later burned the Jewish state's flag.

Some 1.8 million of the nearly 4 million Palestinian refugees scattered across Arab countries live in camps in Jordan. Many of Jordan's 5.3 million citizens are Palestinians whose families settled after successive Arab-Israeli wars, placing the kingdom at the heart of the conflict.

Jordan's royal court announced that flags would be lowered to half-staff for 40 days and that the country would mark three days of national mourning.

Similar demonstrations of mourning were mounted by Palestinian refugees in other Middle East countries, including Lebanon.

Arafat's Body on Way to Egypt as Palestinians Mourn Loss of Icon

The New York Times > AP > National > Alberto Gonzales to Replace Ashcroft

The New York Times > AP > National > Bush Picks Alberto Gonzales to Replace Ashcroft at Justice Dept.:
"Gonzales has been at the center of developing Bush's positions on balancing civil liberties with waging the war on terrorism -- opening the White House counsel to the same line of criticism that has dogged Ashcroft. "

instance, Gonzales publicly defended the administration's policy -- essentially repudiated by the Supreme Court and now being fought out in the lower courts -- of detaining certain terrorism suspects for extended periods without access to lawyers or courts.

He also wrote a controversial February 2002 memo in which Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture law and international treaties providing protections to prisoners of war. That position drew fire from human rights groups, which said it helped led to the type of abuses uncovered in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it expected the Senate to closely examine those issues during confirmation hearings. The ACLU said it had no position on Gonzales, but added: "Particular attention should be devoted to exploring Mr. Gonzales' proposed policies on the constitutionality of the Patriot Act, the Guantanamo Bay detentions, the designation of United States citizens as enemy combatants and reproductive rights."

Mr. Gonzales went on to say that the war against terrorism, "in my judgment renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners."

Given the allegations of mistreatment of some detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and the scandal over the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, some senators can be expected to ask the nominee whether he still embraces those views.

Mr. Gonzales wrote memos which basically said that the President had the power to authorise torture. Ashcroft complained to Bush that these measures were unconstituional. Now Ashcroft's gone and Gonzales is nominated. This tells me that though Ashcroft was the “lightening rod”, Bush was the true source of our constitutional threat.


Empire Notes: Fallujah and the Reality of War

Empire Notes: Fallujah and the Reality of War:
"The assault on Fallujah has started. It is being sold as liberation of the people of Fallujah; it is being sold as a necessary step to implementing “democracy” in Iraq. These are lies.

I was in Fallujah during the siege in April, and I want to paint for you a word picture of what such an assault means.

Fallujah is dry and hot; like Southern California, it has been made an agricultural area only by virtue of extensive irrigation. It has been known for years as a particularly devout city; people call it the City of a Thousand Mosques. In the mid-90’s, when Saddam wanted his name to be added to the call to prayer, the imams of Fallujah refused.

U.S. forces bombed the power plant at the beginning of the assault; for the next several weeks, Fallujah was a blacked-out town, with light provided by generators only in critical places like mosques and clinics. The town was placed under siege; the ban on bringing in food, medicine, and other basic items was broken only when Iraqis en masse challenged the roadblocks. The atmosphere was one of pervasive fear, from bombing and the threat of more bombing. Noncombatants and families with sick people, the elderly, and children were leaving in droves. After initial instances in which people were prevented from leaving, U.S. forces began allowing everyone to leave – except for what they called “military age males,” men usually between 15 and 60. Keeping noncombatants from leaving a place under bombardment is a violation of the laws of war. Of course, if you assume that every military age male is an enemy, there can be no better sign that you are in the wrong country, and that, in fact, your war is on the people, not on their oppressors,, not a war of liberation."

The main hospital in Fallujah is across the Euphrates from the bulk of the town. Right at the beginning, the Americans shut down the main bridge, cutting off the hospital from the town. Doctors who wanted to treat patients had to leave the hospital, with only the equipment they could carry, and set up in makeshift clinics all over the city; the one I stayed at had been a neighborhood clinic with one room that had four beds, and no operating theater; doctors refrigerated blood in a soft-drink vending machine. Another clinic, I’m told, had been an auto repair shop. This hospital closing (not the only such that I documented in Iraq) also violates the Geneva Convention.

In Fallujah, you were rarely free of the sound of artillery booming in the background, punctuated by the smaller, higher-pitched note of the mujaheddin’s hand-held mortars. After even a few minutes of it, you have to stop paying attention to it – and yet, of course, you never quite stop. Even today, when I hear the roar of thunder, I’m often transported instantly to April 10 and the dusty streets of Fallujah.

In addition to the artillery and the warplanes dropping 500, 1000, and 2000-pound bombs, and the murderous AC-130 Spectre gunships that can demolish a whole city block in less than a minute, the Marines had snipers criss-crossing the whole town. For weeks, Fallujah was a series of sometimes mutually inaccessible pockets, divided by the no-man’s-lands of sniper fire paths. Snipers fired indiscriminately, usually at whatever moved. Of 20 people I saw come into the clinic I observed in a few hours, only five were “military-age males.” I saw old women, old men, a child of 10 shot through the head; terminal, the doctors told me, although in Baghdad they might have been able to save him.

One thing that snipers were very discriminating about – every single ambulance I saw had bullet holes in it. Two I inspected bore clear evidence of specific, deliberate sniping. Friends of mine who went out to gather in wounded people were shot at. When we first reported this fact, we came in for near-universal execration. Many just refused to believe it. Some asked me how I knew that it wasn’t the mujaheddin. Interesting question. Had, say, Brownsville, Texas, been encircled by the Vietnamese and bombarded (which, of course, Mr. Bush courageously protected us from during the Vietnam war era) and Brownsville ambulances been shot up, the question of whether the residents were shooting at their own ambulances, I somehow guess, would not have come up. Later, our reports were confirmed by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and even by the U.S. military.

The best estimates are that roughly 900-1000 people were killed directly, blown up, burnt, or shot. Of them, my guess, based on news reports and personal observation, is that 2/3 to ¾ were noncombatants.&hellip

Empire Notes is a must read. http://www.empirenotes.org


American Journalism Review: Images of War

American Journalism Review: Images of War:
"This year the American news media have displayed pictures of burned bodies in Fallujah, flag-draped coffins coming home from Iraq and the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. But were they too squeamish when it came to showing the carnage of war during the invasion last year?"

In April 2003, Time magazine published a number of photographs from the Iraq war, each dramatically spread across two full pages. Among them, the image of a dead Iraqi lying in the desert. The photograph was powerful--the man's mouth slightly open, his face fully visible, his body lying on the dry, cracked red earth, a column of U.S. military vehicles in the distance. It was a tragic image of war, but more poetic than graphic.

On the last page of the same issue, Joe Klein showed readers a 1943 Life magazine photo of American soldiers, dead on the shores of Papua New Guinea. Where, he wondered in the essay, in this war of embeds and digitally transmitted images, were photos as unsettling as this black-and-white taken by George Strock in World War II? "We are closer to war than ever before--hardly half an hour goes by without some embedded ace breathlessly reporting, in real time, from the front," Klein wrote. "But the war we are seeing is bowdlerized, PG-rated... At a moment like this, the media should be an irritant--shocking us, shaking us, making sure that we're as alert and uncomfortable as possible in the comfort of our living rooms."

Klein was among friends with such comments--many chastised the media for presenting a sanitized version of events. Where were the shocking photographs? Where were the bodies? It was a war in which hardly anyone seemed to die.

A year later, few--besides Michael Moore--were still criticizing the press for holding back. In April 2004 the public saw the mutilated, burned and beaten bodies of four American contractors in Fallujah; the rows of flag-draped coffins coming home from Iraq; and the unfathomable images of the abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. "It is as though, rather suddenly, the gloves have come off, and the war seems less sanitized, more personally intrusive," wrote Michael Getler, ombudsman at the Washington Post.

In retrospect, was the press, in the beginning, reluctant to show graphic images from Iraq? Were editors passing over pictures of the war's human toll in favor of those depicting military might? Was there a fear that showcasing bloody images would be deemed critical of the war effort?

Some argue news executives still are worrying a bit too much about what the public's reaction might be to blood and gore. But most of the journalists interviewed for this article reject the notion that the media shied away from using images of civilian casualties and the like. The images changed as the nature of the conflict changed, they say--though many believe the U.S. press has crept toward the conservative over the years in its handling of graphic images.…


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > Judge Halts War-Crime Trial at Guantánamo

The New York Times > Washington > Judge Halts War-Crime Trial at Guantánamo>:
“The president is not a panel," Judge Robertson wrote. "The law of war includes the Third Geneva Convention, which requires trial by court-martial as long as Hamdan's P.O.W.status is in doubt.”

"A federal judge ruled Monday that President Bush had both overstepped his constitutional bounds and improperly brushed aside the Geneva Conventions in establishing military commissions to try detainees at the United States naval base here as war criminals."

The ruling by of United States District Court in Washington brought an abrupt halt to the trial here of one detainee, one of hundreds being held at Guantánamo as enemy combatants. It threw into doubt the future of the first set of United States military commission trials since the end of World War II as well as other legal proceedings devised by the administration to deal with suspected terrorists.

The administration reacted quickly, saying it would seek an emergency stay and a quick appeal.

Judge Robertson ruled against the government in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan who is facing terrorism charges. Mr. Hamdan's lawyers had asked the court to declare the military commission process fatally flawed.

The ruling and its timing had a theatrical effect on the courtroom here where pretrial proceedings were under way with Mr. Hamdan, a 34-year-old Yemeni in a flowing white robe, seated next to his lawyers.

About 30 minutes into the afternoon proceedings, the presiding officer, Col. Peter S. Brownback III, was handed a note from a Marine sergeant. Colonel Brownback immediately called a recess and rushed from the room with the commission's two other officers. When he returned, he announced that the proceeding was in recess indefinitely and he departed quickly.

Neal K. Katyal, a Georgetown Law School professor who is one of Mr. Hamdan's lawyers and who supervised the federal lawsuit, told the puzzled courtroom audience, "We won."

Judge Robertson ruled that the administration could not under current circumstances try Mr. Hamdan before the military commissions set up shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but could only bring him before a court-martial, where different rules of evidence apply.

In the 45-page ruling, the judge said the administration had ignored a basic provision of the Geneva Conventions, the international treaties signed by the United States that form the basic elements of the laws governing the conduct of war.

The conventions oblige the United States to treat Mr. Hamdan as a prisoner of war, the judge said , unless he goes before a special tribunal described in Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention that determines he is not. A P.O.W. is entitled to a court-martial if there are accusations of war crimes but may not be tried before a military commission.

The United States military did not conduct Article 5 tribunals at the end of the Afghanistan war, saying they were unnecessary. Government lawyers argued that the president had already used his authority to deem members of Al Qaeda unlawful combatants who would be deprived of P.O.W. status.

But Judge Robertson, who was nominated to be on the court by President Bill Clinton, said that that was not enough. "The president is not a panel," he wrote. "The law of war includes the Third Geneva Convention, which requires trial by court-martial as long as Hamdan's P.O.W. status is in doubt."

The government is in the midst of conducting a separate set of tribunals here at Guantánamo, similar to those required by the Geneva Conventions, to determine whether detainees were properly deemed unlawful enemy combatants. Those proceedings, called combatant status review tribunals, were quickly put into place by the Bush administration after the Supreme Court's ruling in June that the Guantánamo prisoners were entitled to challenge their detentions in federal court. Judge Robertson said, however, that those tribunals were not designed to satisfy the Geneva Convention requirement and were insufficient.

The ruling on Monday may also make those tribunals obsolete, but Scott L. Silliman, professor of military law at Duke University, said the military might modify them to fit the Geneva Convention requirements.

The judge also said that in asserting that the Guantánamo prisoners are unlawful combatants and outside the reach of the Geneva Conventions, "the government has asserted a position starkly different from the positions and behavior of the United States in previous conflicts, one that can only weaken the United States' own ability to demand application of the Geneva applications to Americans captured during armed conflicts abroad."…

Critics have said that the military commissions fall short of the rights that defendants have in courts-martial in two respects. But Judge Robertson said that one of those reasons, the inability to appeal to the federal judiciary, was not a serious problem. The principal problem, he said, was that defendants before commissions did not have a fair opportunity to respond to charges because some of the evidence was classified and would be withheld. He said that no American court could approve of any proceeding that had such a glaring lack of the right to confront one's accusers and the evidence.

Stephen Saltzburg, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, said it was inevitable that a federal judge somewhere would find fault with the administration's approach "that you can keep people locked up for two and three years and you still don't really know who they are and why we're keeping them."


Monday, November 08, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > : Voting Without the Facts

The New York Times > Opinion > By BOB HERBERT: Voting Without the Facts:
"I think a case could be made that ignorance played at least as big a role in the election's outcome as values. A recent survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters believe the U.S. has come up with 'clear evidence' that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda. A third of the president's supporters believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion."

This is scary. How do you make a rational political pitch to people who have put that part of their brain on hold? No wonder Bush won.

The survey, and an accompanying report, showed that there's a fair amount of cluelessness in the ranks of the values crowd. The report said, "It is clear that supporters of the president are more likely to have misperceptions than those who oppose him."

I haven't heard any of the postelection commentators talk about ignorance and its effect on the outcome. It's all values, all the time. Traumatized Democrats are wringing their hands and trying to figure out how to appeal to voters who have arrogantly claimed the moral high ground and can't stop babbling about their self-proclaimed superiority. Potential candidates are boning up on new prayers and purchasing time-shares in front-row-center pews.

A more practical approach might be for Democrats to add teach-ins to their outreach efforts. Anything that shrinks the ranks of the clueless would be helpful.

You have to be careful when you toss the word values around. All values are not created equal. Some Democrats are casting covetous eyes on voters whose values, in many cases, are frankly repellent. Does it make sense for the progressive elements in our society to undermine their own deeply held beliefs in tolerance, fairness and justice in an effort to embrace those who deliberately seek to divide?

What the Democratic Party needs above all is a clear message and a bold and compelling candidate. The message has to convince Americans that they would be better off following a progressive Democratic vision of the future. The candidate has to be a person of integrity capable of earning the respect and the affection of the American people.

The question that needs to be answered is not, “How can 58 million people be so dumb?” but, “How did they come to be so uninformed?” It's not a values problem at all. the problem is media cowardice and laziness.

con·cept: November 2004