Sunday, June 27, 2004

Pseudo-sovereignty for Iraqis....

Predictably, pseudo-sovereignty is the best Iraqis can hope for in the foreseeable future:

Washington Post Foreign Service - Sunday, June 27, 2004

U.S. Edicts Curb Power Of Iraq's Leadership By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Walter Pincus

BAGHDAD, June 26 -- U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has issued a raft of edicts revising Iraq's legal code and has appointed at least two dozen Iraqis to government jobs with multi-year terms in an attempt to promote his concepts of governance long after the planned handover of political authority on Wednesday.

Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq's interim government, restrict the power of the interim government and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country's democratic transition. Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.

The effect of other regulations could last much longer. Bremer has ordered that the national security adviser and the national intelligence chief chosen by the interim prime minister he selected, Ayad Allawi, be given five-year terms, imposing Allawi's choices on the elected government that is to take over next year.

Bremer also has appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government. He has installed inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry. He has formed and filled commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. He named a public-integrity commissioner who will have the power to refer corrupt government officials for prosecution.

Some Iraqi officials condemn Bremer's edicts and appointments as an effort to exert U.S. control over the country after the transfer of political authority. "They have established a system to meddle in our affairs," said Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Governing Council, a recently dissolved body that advised Bremer for the past year. "Iraqis should decide many of these issues."

Bremer has defended his issuance of many of the orders as necessary to implement democratic reforms and update Iraq's out-of-date legal code. He said he regarded the installation of inspectors-general in ministries, the creation of independent commissions and the changes to Iraqi law as important steps to fight corruption and cronyism, which in turn would help the formation of democratic institutions.

"You set up these things and they begin to develop a certain life and momentum on their own -- and it's harder to reverse course," Bremer said in a recent interview.

As of June 14, Bremer had issued 97 legal orders, which are defined by the U.S. occupation authority as "binding instructions or directives to the Iraqi people" that will remain in force even after the transfer of political authority. An annex to the country's interim constitution requires the approval of a majority of Allawi's ministers, as well as the interim president and two vice presidents, to overturn any of Bremer's edicts. A senior U.S. official in Iraq noted recently that it would "not be easy to reverse" the orders.

It appears unlikely that all of the orders will be followed. Many of them reflect an idealistic but perhaps futile attempt to impose Western legal, economic and social concepts on a tradition-bound nation that is reveling in anything-goes freedom after 35 years of dictatorial rule.

The orders include rules that cap tax rates at 15 percent, prohibit piracy of intellectual property, ban children younger than 15 from working, and a new traffic code that stipulates the use of a car horn in "emergency conditions only" and requires a driver to "hold the steering wheel with both hands."

Iraq has long been a place where few people pay taxes, where most movies and music are counterfeit, where children often hold down jobs and where traffic laws are rarely obeyed, Iraqis note.

Other regulations promulgated by Bremer prevent former members of the Iraqi army from holding public office for 18 months after their retirement or resignation, stipulate a 30-year minimum sentence for people caught selling weapons such as grenades and ban former militiamen integrated into the Iraqi armed forces from endorsing and campaigning for political candidates. He has also enacted a 76-page law regulating private corporations and amended an industrial-design law to protect microchip designs. Those changes were intended to facilitate the entry of Iraq into the World Trade Organization, even though the country is so violent that the no commercial flights are allowed to land at Baghdad's airport.

Some of the new rules attempt to introduce American approaches to fighting crime. An anti-money-laundering law requires banks to collect detailed personal information from customers seeking to make transactions greater than $3,500, while the Commission on Public Integrity has been given the power to reward whistleblowers with 25 percent of the funds recovered by the government from corrupt practices they have identified.

In some cases Bremer's regulations diverge from the Bush administration's domestic policies. He suspended the death penalty, and his election law imposes a strict quota: One of every three candidates on a party's slate must be a woman.

Iraqis have already scoffed at some of the requirements. Judges on the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, who were appointed by Bremer, have refused to impose 30-year sentences on people detained with grenades and other military weapons. At the same time, many Iraqi politicians contend that banning the death penalty was a mistake. Several have said they will push to reinstate capital punishment after the transfer of political authority.

Some of the Iraqis recently appointed by Bremer as inspectors and commissioners said they should have been given their jobs months ago. Had that happened, they insisted, they would have had more time to build support for the activities.

"There are some doubts about my work," said Nabil Bayati, the inspector general in the Ministry of Electricity, who is charged with rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. People in the ministry, he said, "don't understand it yet."

Siyamend Othman, the chief executive of the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission, said his fellow commissioners were only appointed three weeks ago. "Had this commissions been set up six months ago, we would have been in a far more secure position than we are today," he said. "We would have had six months to prove and to show to the Iraqi people our worth and what we're capable of doing, and why this commission is such an important institution."

In recent weeks, Bremer has issued orders aimed at setting policy for a variety of controversial issues, including the future use of radioactive material, Arab-Kurd property disputes and national elections planned for January.

On June 15, Bremer signed an order establishing the Iraqi Radioactive Source Regulatory Authority as an independent agency regulating radioactive material in Iraq. His order forbids, even after the transfer of sovereignty, any activity involving radioactive material except under requirements established by the agency.

On June 19, in an effort to keep unemployed Iraqi weapons scientists from working for other nations, Bremer established the Iraqi Non-Proliferation Programs Foundation, a semi-governmental organization set up to provide grants and contracts to people who worked on Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs. An initial grant of $37.5 million was set aside by Bremer to pay the scientists' expenses to attend international conferences so they can be retrained for non-weapons employment.

The foundation, which has been exempted from a ban on government support to former high-ranking members of Hussein's Baath Party, is also supposed to establish a venture capital fund to promote the commercial development of products and technologies by former employees of Iraqi weapons programs, according to the order setting up the foundation.

On May 28, Bremer signed an order establishing a Special Task Force on Compensating Victims of the Previous Regime. The task force, appointed by Bremer, is to devise a means for determining the number of victims, estimate fair compensation and recommend a system under which claims could be made and adjudicated. An endowment of $25 million was set aside from oil income to be used to compensate victims and their families, according to the order authorizing the task force.

But perhaps Bremer's most far-reaching and potentially contentious order is the election law, which he signed June 15. The law states that no party can be associated with a militia or get money from one. It also requires the electoral commission to draft a code of conduct barring campaigners from using "hate speech, intimidation, and support for, the practice of and the use of terrorism."

The law, signed last week, is intended to establish the framework and policies that will govern next year's national elections to select a 275-member national assembly. But experts in Arab world elections have questioned how the law will be received by the Iraqi people once its terms are widely known. Some predicted that the rules would be challenged and perhaps ignored by the interim Iraqi government.

"I foresee real political conflict about these rules," said Amy Hawthorne, an Arab specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who studies elections.

"The laws came out from behind a curtain while armed conflict is going on," said Hawthorne, who expects people and parties to challenge the laws after July 1 because "they were created under the [occupation] authority and their legal status is a bit murky."

"The notion of [the U.S.] decreeing election law prior to June 30 is unfortunate," said Leslie Campbell, who has worked in Iraq for the National Democratic Institute.

Financing elections, difficult in the United States, could be an even greater problem in Iraq where not only the wealthy but also foreign countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and even the United States are openly putting money into political parties and politicians. The Bremer law calls on parties to "strive to the extent possible to achieve full transparency in all financial dealings" and calls on the electoral commission to consider issuing regulations.

Campbell said such a law "may be a lot cleaner than letting the commission have it out with the interim government in a messy way, but it is not good that the electoral commission is not promulgating key parts of the law."

Campbell said it would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce the provision separating militia members from politics since all the major Iraqi political parties are associated with armed organizations. Although the occupation authority has attempted to demobilize militias, most have not yet disbanded.

Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who specializes in Iraq, said the appointed electoral commission's power to eliminate political parties or candidates for not obeying laws would allow it "to disqualify people someone didn't like."

He likened the power of the commission to that of religious mullahs in Iran, who routinely use their authority to remove candidates before an election. "In a way, Mr. Bremer is using a more subtle form than the one used by hard-liners in Iran to control their elections," Cole said.

"Winning the Hearts and Minds" of Iraqis....

"Winning the hearts and minds" of Iraqis....

A war dictated by a combination of greed and paranoia...justified under false arrogant, self-righteous individuals who stopped at nothing to drag our nation into an UNprovoked war was highly unlikely to win anything but contempt from the Iraqi people:

The Guardian - Saturday 26 June 2004

The Multibillion Robbery the U.S. Calls Reconstruction By Naomi Klein
The shameless corporate feeding frenzy in Iraq is fuelling the resistance.

    Good news out of Baghdad: the Program Management Office, which oversees the $18.4bn in US reconstruction funds, has finally set a goal it can meet. Sure, electricity is below pre-war levels, the streets are rivers of sewage and more Iraqis have been fired than hired. But now the PMO has contracted the British mercenary firm Aegis to protect its employees from "assassination, kidnapping, injury and" - get this - "embarrassment". I don't know if Aegis will succeed in protecting PMO employees from violent attack, but embarrassment? I'd say mission already accomplished. The people in charge of rebuilding Iraq can't be embarrassed, because, clearly, they have no shame.

    In the run-up to the June 30 underhand (sorry, I can't bring myself to call it a "handover"), US occupation powers have been unabashed in their efforts to steal money that is supposed to aid a war-ravaged people. The state department has taken $184m earmarked for drinking water projects and moved it to the budget for the lavish new US embassy in Saddam Hussein's former palace. Short of $1bn for the embassy, Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, said he might have to "rob from Peter in my fiefdom to pay Paul". In fact, he is robbing Iraq's people, who, according to a recent study by the consumer group Public Citizen, are facing "massive outbreaks of cholera, diarrhoea, nausea and kidney stones" from drinking contaminated water.

    If the occupation chief Paul Bremer and his staff were capable of embarrassment, they might be a little sheepish about having spent only $3.2bn of the $18.4bn Congress allotted - the reason the reconstruction is so disastrously behind schedule. At first, Bremer said the money would be spent by the time Iraq was sovereign, but apparently someone had a better idea: parcel it out over five years so Ambassador John Negroponte can use it as leverage. With $15bn outstanding, how likely are Iraq's politicians to refuse US demands for military bases and economic "reforms"?

    Unwilling to let go of their own money, the shameless ones have had no qualms about dipping into funds belonging to Iraqis. After losing the fight to keep control of Iraq's oil money after the underhand, occupation authorities grabbed $2.5bn of those revenues and are now spending the money on projects that are supposedly already covered by American tax dollars.

    But then, if financial scandals made you blush, the entire reconstruction of Iraq would be pretty mortifying. From the start, its architects rejected the idea that it should be a New Deal-style public works project for Iraqis to reclaim their country. Instead, it was treated as an ideological experiment in privatisation. The dream was for multinational firms, mostly from the US, to swoop in and dazzle the Iraqis with their speed and efficiency.

    Iraqis saw something else: desperately needed jobs going to Americans, Europeans and south Asians; roads crowded with trucks shipping in supplies produced in foreign plants, while Iraqi factories were not even supplied with emergency generators. As a result, the reconstruction was seen not as a recovery from war but as an extension of the occupation, a foreign invasion of a different sort. And so, as the resistance grew, the reconstruction itself became a prime target.

    The contractors have responded by behaving even more like an invading army, building elaborate fortresses in the green zone - the walled-in city within a city that houses the occupation authority in Baghdad - and surrounding themselves with mercenaries. And being hated is expensive. According to the latest estimates, security costs are eating up 25% of reconstruction contracts - money not being spent on hospitals, water-treatment plants or telephone exchanges.

    Meanwhile, insurance brokers selling sudden-death policies to contractors in Iraq have doubled their premiums, with insurance costs reaching 30% of payroll. That means many companies are spending half their budgets arming and insuring themselves against the people they are supposedly in Iraq to help. And, according to Charles Adwan of Transparency International, quoted on US National Public Radio's Marketplace programme, "at least 20% of US spending in Iraq is lost to corruption". How much is actually left over for reconstruction? Don't do the maths.

    Rather than models of speed and efficiency, the contractors look more like overcharging, underperforming, lumbering beasts, barely able to move for fear of the hatred they have helped generate. The problem goes well beyond the latest reports of Halliburton drivers abandoning $85,000 trucks on the road because they don't carry spare tyres. Private contractors are also accused of playing leadership roles in the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. A landmark class-action lawsuit filed by the Centre for Constitutional Rights alleges that Titan Corporation and CACI International conspired to "humiliate, torture and abuse persons" in order to increase demand for their "interrogation services".

    And then there's Aegis, the company being paid $293m to save the PMO from embarrassment. It turns out that Aegis's CEO, Tim Spicer, has a bit of an embarrassing past himself. In the 90s, he helped to put down rebels and stage a military coup in Papua New Guinea, as well as hatching a plan to break an arms embargo in Sierra Leone.

    If Iraq's occupiers were capable of feeling shame, they might have responded by imposing tough new regulations. Instead, Senate Republicans have just defeated an attempt to bar private contractors from interrogating prisoners and also voted down a proposal to impose stiffer penalties on contractors who overcharge. Meanwhile, the White House is also trying to get immunity from prosecution for US contractors in Iraq and has requested the exemption from the new prime minister, Iyad Allawi.

    It seems likely that Allawi will agree, since he is, after all, a kind of US contractor himself. A former CIA spy, he is already threatening to declare martial law, while his defence minister says of resistance fighters: "We will cut off their hands, and we will behead them." In a final feat of outsourcing, Iraqi governance has been subcontracted to even more brutal surrogates. Is this embarrassing, after an invasion to overthrow a dictatorship? Not at all; this is what the occupiers call "sovereignty". The Aegis guys can relax - embarrassment is not going to be an issue. <<

Saturday, June 26, 2004

"How the Press was Manipulated"

As head of the INC (Iraqi National Congress) Ahmed Chalabi and his group of wealthy Iraqi exiles were subsidized by U.S. tax payers to spread DISinformation among...U.S. tax payers.

Cheney and his "neoconservative" cohorts, both in the White House and the Pentagon, were fully aware of this exercise in DECEPTION. In fact, they were the driving force of this exercise in illegal disinformation:

Le Nouvel Observateur Hebdomadaire - Week of 24 July 2004

How the Press was Manipulated By Vincent Jauvert
    Beginning in October 2001, several Iraqi renegades offered their revelations to the media. They only wanted to talk to the most prestigious journalists, however. The first was a certain Sabh Alami, a former captain in Saddam Hussein's army. Ahmed Chalabi introduced him to "Washington Post" editorialist, Jim Hoagland. The former soldier offers a scoop to the talented reporter. "You see," he tells Hoagland, "Iraq is training Islamic terrorists to hijack airplanes in a camp near Baghdad, called Salman Park. I even believe," he adds, "that the cockpits they use look like the Boeing's, you know, like the planes that crashed September 11, you know what I mean?" Jim Hoagland walks into the trap and reports the fascinating story. The next day, the White House rushes to broadcast the devastating testimony without any risk: its guarantee is the illustrious "Washington Post".

    Three weeks later, Chalabi contacts the other influential United States daily paper, the "New York Times". He says that a certain Major Harith has just shown up in Turkey. He would have much to say. The great paper sends its star terrorism reporter, Judith Miller, to Ankara.

    Incredible coincidence: Major Harith has also been to the terrible Salman Park camp. He worked there several years. At what? Training Islamic terrorists, by God, fanatics ready for anything, "even suicide". But there's still more. The indefatigable Major Harith has been charged with secret missions.

    The first was to buy eight Renault trucks. What for? For mobile biological weapons labs, obviously! His second mission: nothing less than finding material to make an atomic bomb.

    Should she believe him? The journalist Judith Miller is in a state. American officials reassure her: Harith, whose real name is Abu Zeinab, is "the most important secret service officer to have fled Iraq". So, then! Confident, on November 8, 2001, the "New York Times" publishes in their entirety the so-called master spy's inventions. All the media relay the information guaranteed by the totally trustworthy Judith Miller. And, in mid-November, 74% of Americans declare themselves in favor of military action against Saddam Hussein. However, the war clan wants to keep up the pressure. Preparations for an invasion will last several months. Public opinion might recoil. It must continue to be watered with frightening testimony about the Iraqi regime and weapons of mass destruction. Chalabi will see to it.

    From October 2001 to May 2002, Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC) will generate over 100 articles in the Anglo-Saxon press (and the AFP): 108 precisely! How do we know this? Through an indiscretion on the part of Ahmed Chalabi's Washington confidence man, Francis Brooke. In a June 26, 2002 letter to the United States Senate, the preposterous Brooke boasts of his beloved boss' exploits. The proof: he hands over as an appendix the detailed list of 108 "inspired" articles. The objective of this unbelievable letter: to show the American legislature that the INC, entirely financed by Washington, is an effective organization that doesn't waste the taxpayers' money.

    Indeed, it is effective. Too much so, with regard to American legislation. One diplomat explains: "The money was supposed to be used to inform Iraqis living in Iraq and abroad only, not to make propaganda in American newspapers. There was an absolute prohibition against that."

    But that doesn't bother Ahmed Chalabi. Last February, he declared to the "Daily Telegraph": "We have totally succeeded: the tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. Whatever was said before is not important!" <<

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

What next? A war of civilizations?

Israeli Sharonites, always active in the background, not only helped drag our nation into an UNprovoked war but, continue attempting to dictate U.S. foreign policy both, at the macro and micro levels.

Sharonites not only suffer from paranoia and are unwilling to settle their bloody conflict with Palestinians that serves as the most effective recruiting tool for al Qaeda, but...are taking actions in N. Iraq that could easily lead to an implosion in the whole region.

The following article is a must read for every individual interested in what is going on behind the scenes.

The question then becomes: Is what is in Israel's interests also in the best interests of the U.S.? The answer is clearly: NO!

The New Yorker - Monday 21 June 2004

Plan B By Seymour M. Hersh
As June 30th approaches, Israel looks to the Kurds.

    In July, 2003, two months after President Bush declared victory in Iraq, the war, far from winding down, reached a critical point. Israel, which had been among the war's most enthusiastic supporters, began warning the Administration that the American-led occupation would face a heightened insurgency - a campaign of bombings and assassinations - later that summer. Israeli intelligence assets in Iraq were reporting that the insurgents had the support of Iranian intelligence operatives and other foreign fighters, who were crossing the unprotected border between Iran and Iraq at will. The Israelis urged the United States to seal the nine-hundred-mile-long border, at whatever cost.

The border stayed open, however. "The Administration wasn't ignoring the Israeli intelligence about Iran," Patrick Clawson, who is the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and has close ties to the White House, explained. "There's no question that we took no steps last summer to close the border, but our attitude was that it was more useful for Iraqis to have contacts with ordinary Iranians coming across the border, and thousands were coming across every day - for instance, to make pilgrimages." He added, "The questions we confronted were 'Is the trade-off worth it? Do we want to isolate the Iraqis?' Our answer was that as long as the Iranians were not picking up guns and shooting at us, it was worth the price."

Clawson said, "The Israelis disagreed quite vigorously with us last summer. Their concern was very straightforward - that the Iranians would create social and charity organizations in Iraq and use them to recruit people who would engage in armed attacks against Americans."

   The warnings of increased violence proved accurate. By early August, the insurgency against the occupation had exploded, with bombings in Baghdad, at the Jordanian Embassy and the United Nations headquarters, that killed forty-two people. A former Israeli intelligence officer said that Israel's leadership had concluded by then that the United States was unwilling to confront Iran; in terms of salvaging the situation in Iraq, he said, "it doesn't add up. It's over. Not militarily - the United States cannot be defeated militarily in Iraq - but politically."

Flynt Leverett, a former C.I.A. analyst who until last year served on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, told me that late last summer "the Administration had a chance to turn it around after it was clear that 'Mission Accomplished'" - a reference to Bush's May speech - "was premature. The Bush people could have gone to their allies and got more boots on the ground. But the neocons were dug in - 'We're doing this on our own.'"

Leverett went on, "The President was only belatedly coming to the understanding that he had to either make a strategic change or, if he was going to insist on unilateral control, get tougher and find the actual insurgency." The Administration then decided, Leverett said, to "deploy the Guantánamo model in Iraq" - to put aside its rules of interrogation. That decision failed to stop the insurgency and eventually led to the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison.

In early November, the President received a grim assessment from the C.I.A.'s station chief in Baghdad, who filed a special field appraisal, known internally as an Aardwolf, warning that the security situation in Iraq was nearing collapse. The document, as described by Knight-Ridder, said that "none of the postwar Iraqi political institutions and leaders have shown an ability to govern the country" or to hold elections and draft a constitution.

A few days later, the Administration, rattled by the violence and the new intelligence, finally attempted to change its go-it-alone policy, and set June 30th as the date for the handover of sovereignty to an interim government, which would allow it to bring the United Nations into the process. "November was one year before the Presidential election," a U.N. consultant who worked on Iraqi issues told me. "They panicked and decided to share the blame with the U.N. and the Iraqis."

A former Administration official who had supported the war completed a discouraging tour of Iraq late last fall. He visited Tel Aviv afterward and found that the Israelis he met with were equally discouraged. As they saw it, their warnings and advice had been ignored, and the American war against the insurgency was continuing to founder. "I spent hours talking to the senior members of the Israeli political and intelligence community," the former official recalled. "Their concern was 'You're not going to get it right in Iraq, and shouldn't we be planning for the worst-case scenario and how to deal with it?'

Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister, who supported the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq, took it upon himself at this point to privately warn Vice-President Dick Cheney that America had lost in Iraq; according to an American close to Barak, he said that Israel "had learned that there's no way to win an occupation." The only issue, Barak told Cheney, "was choosing the size of your humiliation." Cheney did not respond to Barak's assessment. (Cheney's office declined to comment.)

In a series of interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel's strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq's Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Several officials depicted Sharon's decision, which involves a heavy financial commitment, as a potentially reckless move that could create even more chaos and violence as the insurgency in Iraq continues to grow.

Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel's view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria. Israel feels particularly threatened by Iran, whose position in the region has been strengthened by the war. The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad, Israel's clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports.

Asked to comment, Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said, "The story is simply untrue and the relevant governments know it's untrue." Kurdish officials declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the State Department.

However, a senior C.I.A. official acknowledged in an interview last week that the Israelis were indeed operating in Kurdistan. He told me that the Israelis felt that they had little choice: "They think they have to be there." Asked whether the Israelis had sought approval from Washington, the official laughed and said, "Do you know anybody who can tell the Israelis what to do? They're always going to do what is in their best interest." The C.I.A. official added that the Israeli presence was widely known in the American intelligence community.

The Israeli decision to seek a bigger foothold in Kurdistan - characterized by the former Israeli intelligence officer as "Plan B" - has also raised tensions between Israel and Turkey. It has provoked bitter statements from Turkish politicians and, in a major regional shift, a new alliance among Iran, Syria, and Turkey, all of which have significant Kurdish minorities. In early June, Intel Brief, a privately circulated intelligence newsletter produced by Vincent Cannistraro, a retired C.I.A. counterterrorism chief, and Philip Giraldi, who served as the C.I.A.'s deputy chief of base in Istanbul in the late nineteen-eighties, said:

Turkish sources confidentially report that the Turks are increasingly concerned by the expanding Israeli presence in Kurdistan and alleged encouragement of Kurdish ambitions to create an independent state. . . . The Turks note that the large Israeli intelligence operations in Northern Iraq incorporate anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian activity, including support to Iranian and Syrian Kurds who are in opposition to their respective governments.

In the years since the first Gulf War, Iraq's Kurds, aided by an internationally enforced no-fly zone and by a U.N. mandate providing them with a share of the country's oil revenues, have managed to achieve a large measure of independence in three northern Iraqi provinces. As far as most Kurds are concerned, however, historic "Kurdistan" extends well beyond Iraq's borders, encompassing parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey. All three countries fear that Kurdistan, despite public pledges to the contrary, will declare its independence from the interim Iraqi government if conditions don't improve after June 30th.

Israeli involvement in Kurdistan is not new. Throughout the nineteen-sixties and seventies, Israel actively supported a Kurdish rebellion against Iraq, as part of its strategic policy of seeking alliances with non-Arabs in the Middle East. In 1975, the Kurds were betrayed by the United States, when Washington went along with a decision by the Shah of Iran to stop supporting Kurdish aspirations for autonomy in Iraq.

Betrayal and violence became the norm in the next two decades. Inside Iraq, the Kurds were brutally repressed by Saddam Hussein, who used airpower and chemical weapons against them. In 1984, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or P.K.K., initiated a campaign of separatist violence in Turkey that lasted fifteen years; more than thirty thousand people, most of them Kurds, were killed. The Turkish government ruthlessly crushed the separatists, and eventually captured the P.K.K.'s leader, Abdullah Ocalan. Last month, the P.K.K., now known as the Kongra-Gel, announced that it was ending a five-year unilateral ceasefire and would begin targeting Turkish citizens once again.

The Iraqi Kurdish leadership was furious when, early this month, the United States acceded to a U.N. resolution on the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty that did not affirm the interim constitution that granted the minority Kurds veto power in any permanent constitution. Kurdish leaders immediately warned President Bush in a letter that they would not participate in a new Shiite-controlled government unless they were assured that their rights under the interim constitution were preserved. "The people of Kurdistan will no longer accept second-class citizenship in Iraq," the letter said.

There are fears that the Kurds will move to seize the city of Kirkuk, together with the substantial oil reserves in the surrounding region. Kirkuk is dominated by Arab Iraqis, many of whom were relocated there, beginning in the nineteen-seventies, as part of Saddam Hussein's campaign to "Arabize" the region, but the Kurds consider Kirkuk and its oil part of their historic homeland. "If Kirkuk is threatened by the Kurds, the Sunni insurgents will move in there, along with the Turkomen, and there will be a bloodbath," an American military expert who is studying Iraq told me. "And, even if the Kurds do take Kirkuk, they can't transport the oil out of the country, since all of the pipelines run through the Sunni-Arab heartland."

  A top German national-security official said in an interview that "an independent Kurdistan with sufficient oil would have enormous consequences for Syria, Iran, and Turkey" and would lead to continuing instability in the Middle East - no matter what the outcome in Iraq is. There is also a widespread belief, another senior German official said, that some elements inside the Bush Administration - he referred specifically to the faction headed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz - would tolerate an independent Kurdistan. This, the German argued, would be a mistake. "It would be a new Israel - a pariah state in the middle of hostile nations."

A declaration of independence would trigger a Turkish response - and possibly a war - and also derail what has been an important alliance for Israel. Turkey and Israel have become strong diplomatic and economic partners in the past decade.

Thousands of Israelis travel to Turkey every year as tourists. Turkish opposition to the Iraq war has strained the relationship; still, Turkey remains oriented toward the West and, despite the victory of an Islamic party in national elections in 2002, relatively secular. It is now vying for acceptance in the European Union. In contrast, Turkey and Syria have been at odds for years, at times coming close to open confrontation, and Turkey and Iran have long been regional rivals. One area of tension between them is the conflict between Turkey's pro-Western stand and Iran's rigid theocracy. But their mutual wariness of the Kurds has transcended these divisions.

 A European foreign minister, in a conversation last month, said that the "blowing up" of Israel's alliance with Turkey would be a major setback for the region. He went on, "To avoid chaos, you need the neighbors to work as one common entity."

The Israelis, however, view the neighborhood, with the exception of Kurdistan, as hostile. Israel is convinced that Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, and that, with Syria's help, it is planning to bolster Palestinian terrorism as Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip.

    Iraqi Shiite militia leaders like Moqtada al-Sadr, the former American intelligence official said, are seen by the Israeli leadership as "stalking horses" for Iran - owing much of their success in defying the American-led coalition to logistical and communications support and training provided by Iran. The former intelligence official said, "We began to see telltale signs of organizational training last summer. But the White House didn't want to hear it: 'We can't take on another problem right now. We can't afford to push Iran to the point where we've got to have a showdown.'"

    Last summer, according to a document I obtained, the Bush Administration directed the Marines to draft a detailed plan, called Operation Stuart, for the arrest and, if necessary, assassination of Sadr. But the operation was cancelled, the former intelligence official told me, after it became clear that Sadr had been "tipped off" about the plan. Seven months later, after Sadr spent the winter building support for his movement, the American-led coalition shut down his newspaper, provoking a crisis that Sadr survived with his status enhanced, thus insuring that he will play a major, and unwelcome, role in the political and military machinations after June 30th.

    "Israel's immediate goal after June 30th is to build up the Kurdish commando units to balance the Shiite militias - especially those which would be hostile to the kind of order in southern Iraq that Israel would like to see," the former senior intelligence official said. "Of course, if a fanatic Sunni Baathist militia took control - one as hostile to Israel as Saddam Hussein was - Israel would unleash the Kurds on it, too." The Kurdish armed forces, known as the peshmerga, number an estimated seventy-five thousand troops, a total that far exceeds the known Sunni and Shiite militias.

    The former Israeli intelligence officer acknowledged that since late last year Israel has been training Kurdish commando units to operate in the same manner and with the same effectiveness as Israel's most secretive commando units, the Mistaravim. The initial goal of the Israeli assistance to the Kurds, the former officer said, was to allow them to do what American commando units had been unable to do - penetrate, gather intelligence on, and then kill off the leadership of the Shiite and Sunni insurgencies in Iraq. (I was unable to learn whether any such mission had yet taken place.) "The feeling was that this was a more effective way to get at the insurgency," the former officer said. "But the growing Kurdish-Israeli relationship began upsetting the Turks no end. Their issue is that the very same Kurdish commandos trained for Iraq could infiltrate and attack in Turkey."

    The Kurdish-Israeli collaboration inevitably expanded, the Israeli said. Some Israeli operatives have crossed the border into Iran, accompanied by Kurdish commandos, to install sensors and other sensitive devices that primarily target suspected Iranian nuclear facilities. The former officer said, "Look, Israel has always supported the Kurds in a Machiavellian way - as balance against Saddam. It's Realpolitik." He added, "By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq, and Syria." He went on, "What Israel was doing with the Kurds was not so unacceptable in the Bush Administration."

    Senior German officials told me, with alarm, that their intelligence community also has evidence that Israel is using its new leverage inside Kurdistan, and within the Kurdish communities in Iran and Syria, for intelligence and operational purposes. Syrian and Lebanese officials believe that Israeli intelligence played a role in a series of violent protests in Syria in mid-March in which Syrian Kurdish dissidents and Syrian troops clashed, leaving at least thirty people dead. (There are nearly two million Kurds living in Syria, which has a population of seventeen million.) Much of the fighting took place in cities along Syria's borders with Turkey and Kurdish-controlled Iraq. Michel Samaha, the Lebanese Minister of Information, told me that while the disturbances amounted to an uprising by the Kurds against the leadership of Bashir Assad, the Syrian President, his government had evidence that Israel was "preparing the Kurds to fight all around Iraq, in Syria, Turkey, and Iran. They're being programmed to do commando operations."

    The top German national-security official told me that he believes that the Bush Administration continually misread Iran. "The Iranians wanted to keep America tied down in Iraq, and to keep it busy there, but they didn't want chaos," he said. One of the senior German officials told me, "The critical question is 'What will the behavior of Iran be if there is an independent Kurdistan with close ties to Israel?' Iran does not want an Israeli land-based aircraft carrier" - that is, a military stronghold - "on its border."

    Another senior European official said, "The Iranians would do something positive in the south of Iraq if they get something positive in return, but Washington won't do it. The Bush Administration won't ask the Iranians for help, and can't ask the Syrians. Who is going to save the United States?" He added that, at the start of the American invasion of Iraq, several top European officials had told their counterparts in Iran, "You will be the winners in the region."

    Israel is not alone in believing that Iran, despite its protestations, is secretly hard at work on a nuclear bomb. Early this month, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for monitoring nuclear proliferation, issued its fifth quarterly report in a row stating that Iran was continuing to misrepresent its research into materials that could be used for the production of nuclear weapons. Much of the concern centers on an underground enrichment facility at Natanz, two hundred and fifty miles from the Iran-Iraq border, which, during previous I.A.E.A. inspections, was discovered to contain centrifuges showing traces of weapons-grade uranium. The huge complex, which is still under construction, is said to total nearly eight hundred thousand square feet, and it will be sheltered in a few months by a roof whose design allows it to be covered with sand. Once the work is completed, the complex "will be blind to satellites, and the Iranians could add additional floors underground," an I.A.E.A. official told me. "The question is, will the Israelis hit Iran?"

    Mohamed ElBaradei, the I.A.E.A. director, has repeatedly stated that his agency has not "seen concrete proof of a military program, so it's premature to make a judgment on that." David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who is an expert on nuclear proliferation, buttressed the I.A.E.A. claim. "The United States has no concrete evidence of a nuclear-weapons program," Albright told me. "It's just an inference. There's no smoking gun." (Last Friday, at a meeting in Vienna, the I.A.E.A. passed a resolution that, while acknowledging some progress, complained that Iran had yet to be as open as it should be, and urgently called upon it to resolve a list of outstanding questions.)

    The I.A.E.A. official told me that the I.A.E.A. leadership has been privately warned by Foreign Ministry officials in Iran that they are "having a hard time getting information" from the hard-line religious and military leaders who run the country. "The Iranian Foreign Ministry tells us, 'We're just diplomats, and we don't know whether we're getting the whole story from our own people,'" the official said. He noted that the Bush Administration has repeatedly advised the I.A.E.A. that there are secret nuclear facilities in Iran that have not been declared. The Administration will not say more, apparently worried that the information could get back to Iran.

    Patrick Clawson, of the Institute for Near East Policy, provided another explanation for the reluctance of the Bush Administration to hand over specific intelligence. "If we were to identify a site," he told me, "it's conceivable that it could be quickly disassembled and the I.A.E.A. inspectors would arrive" - international inspections often take weeks to organize - "and find nothing." The American intelligence community, already discredited because of its faulty reporting on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, would be criticized anew. "It's much better," Clawson said, "to have the I.A.E.A. figure out on its own that there's a site and then find evidence that there had been enriched material there."

    Clawson told me that Israel's overwhelming national-security concern must be Iran. Given that a presence in Kurdistan would give Israel a way to monitor the Iranian nuclear effort, he said, "it would be negligent for the Israelis not to be there."

    At the moment, the former American senior intelligence official said, the Israelis' tie to Kurdistan "would be of greater value than their growing alliance with Turkey. 'We love Turkey but got to keep the pressure on Iran.'" The former Israeli intelligence officer said, "The Kurds were the last surviving group close to the United States with any say in Iraq. The only question was how to square it with Turkey."

    There may be no way to square it with Turkey. Over breakfast in Ankara, a senior Turkish official explained, "Before the war, Israel was active in Kurdistan, and now it is active again. This is very dangerous for us, and for them, too. We do not want to see Iraq divided, and we will not ignore it." Then, citing a popular Turkish proverb - "We will burn a blanket to kill a flea" - he said, "We have told the Kurds, 'We are not afraid of you, but you should be afraid of us.'" (A Turkish diplomat I spoke to later was more direct: "We tell our Israeli and Kurdish friends that Turkey's good will lies in keeping Iraq together. We will not support alternative solutions.")

    "If you end up with a divided Iraq, it will bring more blood, tears, and pain to the Middle East, and you will be blamed," the senior Turkish official said. "From Mexico to Russia, everybody will claim that the United States had a secret agenda in Iraq: you came there to break up Iraq. If Iraq is divided, America cannot explain this to the world." The official compared the situation to the breakup of Yugoslavia, but added, "In the Balkans, you did not have oil." He said, "The lesson of Yugoslavia is that when you give one country independence everybody will want it." If that happens, he said, "Kirkuk will be the Sarajevo of Iraq. If something happens there, it will be impossible to contain the crisis."

    In Ankara, another senior Turkish official explained that his government had "openly shared its worries" about the Israeli military activities inside Kurdistan with the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "They deny the training and the purchase of property and claim it's not official but done by private persons. Obviously, our intelligence community is aware that it was not so. This policy is not good for America, Iraq, or Israel and the Jews."

    Turkey's increasingly emphatic and public complaints about Israel's missile attacks on the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip is another factor in the growing tensions between the allies. On May 26th, Turkey's Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, announced at a news conference in Ankara that the Turkish government was bringing its Ambassador in Israel home for consultations on how to revive the Middle East peace process. He also told the Turkish parliament that the government was planning to strengthen its ties to the Palestinian Authority, and, in conversations with Middle Eastern diplomats in the past month, he expressed grave concern about Israel. In one such talk, one diplomat told me, Gul described Israeli activities, and the possibility of an independent Kurdistan, as "presenting us with a choice that is not a real choice - between survival and alliance."

    A third Turkish official told me that the Israelis were "talking to us in order to appease our concern. They say, 'We aren't doing anything in Kurdistan to undermine your interests. Don't worry.'" The official added, "If it goes out publicly what they've been doing, it will put your government and our government in a difficult position. We can tolerate 'Kurdistan' if Iraq is intact, but nobody knows the future - not even the Americans."

    A former White House official depicted the Administration as eager - almost desperate - late this spring to install an acceptable new interim government in Iraq before President Bush's declared June 30th deadline for the transfer of sovereignty. The Administration turned to Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations special envoy, to "put together something by June 30th - just something that could stand up" through the Presidential election, the former official said. Brahimi was given the task of selecting, with Washington's public approval, the thirty-one members of Iraq's interim government. Nevertheless, according to press reports, the choice of Iyad Allawi as interim Prime Minister was a disappointment to Brahimi.

    The White House has yet to deal with Allawi's past. His credentials as a neurologist, and his involvement during the past two decades in anti-Saddam activities, as the founder of the British-based Iraqi National Accord, have been widely reported. But his role as a Baath Party operative while Saddam struggled for control in the nineteen-sixties and seventies - Saddam became President in 1979 - is much less well known. "Allawi helped Saddam get to power," an American intelligence officer told me. "He was a very effective operator and a true believer." Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. case officer who served in the Middle East, added, "Two facts stand out about Allawi. One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his strongest virtue is that he's a thug."

    Early this year, one of Allawi's former medical-school classmates, Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, published an essay in an Arabic newspaper in London raising questions about his character and his medical bona fides. She depicted Allawi as a "big husky man . . . who carried a gun on his belt and frequently brandished it, terrorizing the medical students." Allawi's medical degree, she wrote, "was conferred upon him by the Baath party." Allawi moved to London in 1971, ostensibly to continue his medical education; there he was in charge of the European operations of the Baath Party organization and the local activities of the Mukhabarat, its intelligence agency, until 1975.

    "If you're asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does," Vincent Cannistraro, the former C.I.A. officer, said. "He was a paid Mukhabarat agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff." A cabinet-level Middle East diplomat, who was rankled by the U.S. indifference to Allawi's personal history, told me early this month that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat "hit team" that sought out and killed Baath Party dissenters throughout Europe. (Allawi's office did not respond to a request for comment.) At some point, for reasons that are not clear, Allawi fell from favor, and the Baathists organized a series of attempts on his life. The third attempt, by an axe-wielding assassin who broke into his home near London in 1978, resulted in a year-long hospital stay.

    The Saban Center's Flynt Leverett said of the transfer of sovereignty, "If it doesn't work, there is no fallback - nothing." The former senior American intelligence official told me, similarly, that "the neocons still think they can pull the rabbit out of the hat" in Iraq. "What's the plan? They say, 'We don't need it. Democracy is strong enough. We'll work it out.'"

    Middle East diplomats and former C.I.A. operatives who now consult in Baghdad have told me that many wealthy Iraqi businessmen and their families have deserted Baghdad in recent weeks in anticipation of continued, and perhaps heightened, suicide attacks and terror bombings after June 30th. "We'll see Christians, Shiites, and Sunnis getting out," Michel Samaha, the Lebanese Minister of Information, reported. "What the resistance is doing is targeting the poor people who run the bureaucracy - those who can't afford to pay for private guards. A month ago, friends of mine who are important landowners in Iraq came to Baghdad to do business. The cost of one day's security was about twelve thousand dollars."
Whitley Bruner, a retired intelligence officer who was a senior member of the C.I.A.'s task force on Iraq a decade ago, said that the new interim government in Iraq is urgently seeking ways to provide affordable security for second-tier officials - the men and women who make the government work. In early June, two such officials - Kamal Jarrah, an Education Ministry official, and Bassam Salih Kubba, who was serving as deputy foreign minister - were assassinated by unidentified gunmen outside their homes. Neither had hired private guards. Bruner, who returned from Baghdad earlier this month, said that he was now working to help organize Iraqi companies that could provide high-quality security that Iraqis could afford. "It's going to be a hot summer," Bruner said. "A lot of people have decided to get to Lebanon, Jordan, or the Gulf and wait this one out." <<

Only "regime change" in the U.S. and Israel will prevent a war of civilizations.    

Friday, June 18, 2004

"The Torturer in Chief"

The whole world will breath a sigh of relief when this arrogant, deceptive, abusive Gang is replaced by decent, experienced, thoughtful individuals led by President Kerry:

t r u t h o u t | Perspective - Friday 18 June 2004

The Torturer-in-Chief By Marjorie Cohn

The teflon that has enveloped George W. Bush is chipping off. Arriving in office with the promise of a "humble" foreign policy, Bush was sitting pretty at the beginning of his term. But George’s honeymoon has turned sour.

From the first day of his presidency, the neocons in Bush’s cabal determined to "stabilize" Iraq for U.S. corporate investment. Bush had his own motives to "git" Saddam for his would-be hit on George I. The tragedy of September 11 gave them just the opportunity they’d been waiting for.

Cloaking themselves in the "War on Terror," Bush and his minions methodically wove an intricate web of deception to convince the American people that Saddam was about to launch the "mushroom cloud," ending civilization as we know it.

It was our mission, Bush preached, to save the Iraqis from Saddam-the-torturer. But a telling phrase in Bush’s January 2003 State of the Union Address should have prepared us for the emergence of Bush-the-torturer.

"All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries, and many others have met a different fate," Bush said. "Let's put it this way," he clarified, "they are no longer a problem for the United States and our friends and allies."

This was an implicit admission by Bush that he had sanctioned the summary execution of the "many others."

Gradually, it became clear there were no weapons of mass destruction. This week, the 911 Commission reported there is no credible evidence Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda cooperated in the 911 attacks. Yet, this same week, Dick Cheney intoned that Saddam "had long-established ties with al Qaeda." More disinformation.

Americans soon began to tire of Operation "Iraqi Freedom." Most feel there was no good reason to suffer the deaths of nearly 1000 American soldiers and thousands of Iraqis, no need to spend billions of precious taxpayer dollars on the Iraqi quagmire.

In the face of waning support for the war and the impending U.S. election, the Bushies devised a strategy to hand-over "sovereignty" to the Iraqi people on June 30. Notwithstanding the titular end of the occupation, 138,000 American troops will remain on the ground in Iraq. Although the violence in Iraq has intensified, with Iraqis fighting both the occupiers and other Iraqis, the June 30 date stands firm.

Meanwhile, the photographs began to emerge. The world was treated to images of pyramids of naked Iraqis, forced masturbation, unmuzzled dogs snarling at prisoners a few inches away, bleeding and dead Iraqis.

Major General Antonio Taguba’s report was released. It documented sodomy with a chemical light and electric wires attached to the penis of a nude hooded prisoner.

As fingers began to point up the chain-of-command, prisoners were released and commanders reassigned. The cover-up got underway.

Donald Rumsfeld called it "abuse," not "technically" torture. A few bad apples. Nothing too serious.

Seven low-ranking soldiers were quickly charged with crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice - the fall guys and gals.

And then "the leaks" began. The photographs and testimonials of torture had empowered those on the inside to contact the media with the bombshells. We learned that Bush’s hired guns had secretly penned two tomes, one for the Defense Department and the other for the Justice Department. Both documents purport to justify the use of torture under the President’s war-making power, notwithstanding the Constitution’s clear mandate that only Congress can make the laws.

The Congressional powers enumerated in the Constitution: "Congress shall have the power - to define and punish - offenses against the law of nations; to declare war - and make rules concerning captures on land and water; - [and] to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces."

As commander-in-chief, however, the President has a "constitutionally superior position" to Congress, according to the memo written for the Defense Department. It seems the president’s men have now taken on the tripartite Separation of Powers doctrine enshrined in the Constitution.

Their constitutional apostasy flies in the face of the landmark ruling in the Korean War case, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, where the Supreme Court held, "In the framework of our Constitution, the President’s power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes the idea that he is to be a lawmaker." For, as the Court noted, "The Founders of this Nation entrusted the law making power to the Congress alone in both good and bad times."

Try as they might, the lawyers commissioned by Donald Rumsfeld and presidential counsel Alberto R. Gonzales were unable to find a loophole in the Torture Convention’s absolute proscription on torture. "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture," according to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The Torture Convention, ratified by the United States, is part of the supreme law of the land under the Constitution. Congress implemented our obligations under this treaty by enacting the Torture Statute, which provides 20 years, life in prison, or even the death penalty if death results from torture committed by a U.S. citizen abroad. The USA PATRIOT Act added the crime of conspiracy to commit torture to the Torture Statute.

Bush’s lawyers used tortured reasoning to opine that the Torture Statute cannot be utilized to prosecute Americans in Guantanamo because it lies within the "territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and accordingly is within the United States."

The Bush administration has hypocritically taken the opposite position in denying the Guantanamo prisoners access to U.S. courts to challenge their indefinite detention.

The Torture Convention prohibits the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering on a person to (a) obtain a confession, (b) punish him, or (c) intimidate or coerce him based on discrimination of any kind. To violate this treaty, the pain or suffering must be inflicted "by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

Ashcroft’s legal eagles redefined torture, narrowing it to require the infliction of physical pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." For mental pain or suffering, they would require "significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years."

The Istanbul Protocol of 9 August 1999 is the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It sets forth international guidelines for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Included in the Protocol’s list of torture methods are rape, blunt trauma, forced positioning, asphyxiation, crush injuries, humiliations, death threats, forced engagement in practices violative of religion, and threat of attacks by dogs. The photographs and reports from prisoners in Abu Ghraib include all of these techniques.

Moreover, the Defense Department analysis maintained that a torturer could get off if he acted in "good faith," not thinking his actions would result in severe mental harm. If the torturer based his conduct on the advice in these memos, he would, according to this argument, have acted in good faith.

Who authored the "whorific" rationalizations for the Justice and Defense Departments? A Washington Post editorial called it "a shocking and immoral set of justifications for torture." William J. Haynes II, Bush’s nominee for a lifetime seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, oversaw the preparation of the report for the Department of Defense. And another Bush nominee for a federal judgeship, former Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, now a permanent judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, drafted the document for the Department of Justice. How cozy.

Not only has Bush received legal [sic] advice on how to get around our obligations under the Torture Convention and the Torture Statute. His lawyer Alberto Gonzales, opining on whether to apply the Geneva Conventions to Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners, told Bush the "new paradigm" of the war on terror "renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

Evidently the Bush administration thinks prohibitions on torture, and Congress’ lawmaking authority in our own Constitution, are quaint.

Gonzales, who is often mentioned as a prospective Bush nominee for the Supreme Court, went on to assure his boss that "your determination [to bypass the Geneva Conventions] would create a reasonable basis in law that Section 2441 [the War Crimes Statute] does not apply, which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution." So Bush’s own decision to bypass Geneva gives him a defense to violating Geneva.

One year ago, Bush repudiated torture in a statement on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture: "Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere," he assured us disingenuously.

Trying to calm the mushrooming public relations disaster occasioned by the leaking of the legal opinions, Bush said flippantly, "The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you." But last week, when Bush was asked whether he had seen the Justice Department memo, he answered, "I don’t remember."

Rumsfeld, who, according to a Defense Department spokesman, approved 24 of 35 interrogation techniques in a classified directive, refuses to state publicly what he sanctioned. Ashcroft defied Congressional requests to release the legal policy memo prepared at his instigation.

"There are some extremely damaging documents around, which link senior figures to the abuses," according to former New York Bar Association chairman Scott Horton, who is advising dissenters at the Pentagon. He maintains, "The biggest bombs in this case have yet to be dropped."

If Bush knew or should have known about the torture, and failed to stop or prevent it, he could be liable for "command responsibility" if prosecuted under the War Crimes Act or the Torture Statute. A federal court in Miami in July 2002 held two retired Salvadoran generals liable for torture, even though neither had perpetrated or ordered it.

On January 21, 2004, a prisoner gave a sworn statement to the Washington Post about his experience in Abu Ghraib. He reported being beaten on his kidneys and ear until he lost consciousness, being tied to the window with his hands behind his back until he lost consciousness, and being sodomized with a stick about 2 centimeters into his anus.

Sgt. Greg Ford, a California National Guardsman, said he repeatedly revived prisoners who had passed out after being choked in an Iraqi police station. Ford saw a soldier stand on the back of a handcuffed detainee’s neck and pull his arms until they popped out of their sockets. "Twice I had to pull burning cigarettes out of detainee’s ears," according to Ford.

Another former National Guardsman was choked and beaten to the point of brain damage, while acting as a detainee being beaten by fellow military policeman during training at Guantanamo.

These accounts do not describe conduct befitting a civilized country.

George W. Bush came into the White House - albeit through the back door - pledging to restore honor to the White House. Instead, he has dishonored America by leading us into an illegal war under false pretenses.

In light of the Defense and Justice Department documents, there is probable cause to believe that the commander-in-chief condoned the methodology of torture to secure information from prisoners.

The Constitution mandates the impeachment of a President for high crimes and misdemeanors. There is no higher crime than a war crime. Willful killing, torture and inhuman treatment constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, which are considered war crimes under The War Crimes Act of 1996. Even if Bush’s lawyers could successfully parse the meaning of torture, they cannot deny that the atrocities we’ve seen constitute inhuman treatment.

Bush impliedly admitted sanctioning willful killing, torture and inhuman treatment in his 2003 State of the Union Address. He would be liable under the doctrine of command responsibility for war crimes committed in Iraq as well. The captain goes down with his ship. It is time to call for the Impeachment of George W. Bush.

Marjorie Cohn, is a contributing editor to t r u t h o u t, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists.


Europeans are NOT easily fooled...

Fully aware that Bush's new conciliatory approach is directly tied to the upcoming U.S. election, Europeans react cooly to the guy, fully aware that IF (Heaven forbid) he is reelected, it will be business as usual as he drags the world into a war of...civilizations.

Obviously, policies implemented by Bush and his "neoconservative" cohorts have transformed the world into a MUCH more dangerous place than it was before 9/11.

What had been a relatively small group of terrorists, has grown into a full fledged uprising throughout the Middle East, with Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia figuring prominently in the picture and thousands of young people joining the call for Jihad.

Bush-Cheney continue making noises about the Saddam-Osama connection totally ignoring the fact that al Qaeda connections can be found in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, Syria and Iran, to mention just a few, but...were NOT present in Iraq before U.S. war mongers decided to drag our nation into an UNprovoked war.

Der Spiegel (Germany) - June 14, 2004

New York Times - June 18, 2004

Summit Meeting

Bush's New Conciliatory Approach by Ralf Beste and Stefan Simons -

Diplomacy in an election year: At the G8 conference on Sea Island, the beleaguered US president uses the once-shunned representatives of "Old Europe" as political props. But this staged harmony does a poor job of concealing continuing differences.

George W. Bush has selected politically correct terrain for his next trip. At next week's summit meeting in Dublin, the US president plans to meet with Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister and current president of the European Council. His principal objective is to improve relations between the United States and the European Union. Despite the summit's mundane agenda, Bush' excursion to the Green Isle, which will include spending a night at picturesque Dromoland Castle, is more than just diplomatic routine. It's been more than a year since the US president jeopardized traditional alliances and alienated America's long-time friends by invading Iraq, and since Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ridiculed opponents of the bloody adventure as representatives of an "Old Europe." And now Bush has suddenly rediscovered politicians, chided until recently, as valuable negotiating partners.

The US president, beleaguered at home more than ever since the beginning of his term in office three and a half years ago, is now looking for support wherever he can find it. Visits to friendly nations are intended to distract the public from the bloody conflict in Iraq and from bothersome problems on the political home front. A photo op with the frail Pope John Paul II, a handshake with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – at this point, Bush welcomes any opportunity to portray himself as a dynamic, world-class politician.

Just as the campaign begins to heat up, the president's image and popularity have reached a dramatic low point. Neither the installation of the new transitional government in Baghdad nor local cease-fires have reduced the intensity of the bloody conflict in Iraq. Attacks are also on the rise in the supposedly pacified Afghanistan, where Chinese workers were massacred just last week near Kunduz. It gets even worse: Last Thursday, the successes Bush has proclaimed in the global fight against terrorism ("The world has become a safer place") proved to be nothing but an embarrassing error in government statistics. In reality, the number of attacks and deaths in 2003 increased in comparison to the previous year. In light of such failures and Bush' declining standing in public opinion polls, his political supporters are now being forced into the role of cheerleaders, their sole objective being to improve the image of the US president. It is for this reason that Bush, at the recent celebration commemorating the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landing in Normandy, portrayed himself as the conciliatory leader of a superpower. Disagreements over Iraq? Forgotten and forgiven. Instead, historic friendships were celebrated at old battlefields and military cemeteries.

And when the world's political elite came together in Washington last Friday to attend the state funeral for Ronald Reagan, the Republican descendant of the 40th US president attempted to portray himself as the worthy heir of a man who has been elevated to the status of national hero, a man who, in Bush's words, was a "defender of freedom." The G8 meeting on summery, chic Sea Island, where father George and mother Barbara spent their honeymoon in 1945, was also intended to present George W. Bush as a leisurely, though perhaps not legendary, communicator. Instead of arriving in armor-plated limousines, guests were treated to cheerful rides on golf carts. Instead of a rigid dress code, the attire was leisurely. And, instead of difficult round-table debates, there were relaxed strolls on the beach.

The three-day excursion conveyed the impression of collective harmony and portrayed candidate George W. as a casual buddy, someone who could solve the most complex political problems in the twinkling of an eye while engaging in small talk with "Tony," "Gerhard," "Vladimir" and his remaining G8 guests. At the end of the day, however, the conclusion was simple: "Mission not accomplished." In spite of pleasant temperatures, Bush's summer guests turned out to be not nearly as sunny as the President would have liked. Public expressions of empathy notwithstanding, the US president was forced to accept a series of disappointments.

There was general agreement on the matter of Israel's plans for withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and the summit attendees were unanimous in calling upon the parties to the civil war in Sudan to accept a cease-fire. However, aside from a few other, relatively non-controversial items, such as efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the joint training of peacekeeping troops for Africa, host Bush was given a rather undiplomatic brush-off. His grandiose vision of democratic reform and a new economic order in the Arab world, announced months ago? Reduced to a modest call for reform. NATO deployment in Iraq? Off the table, at least for now. A generous debt cancellation plan for the new government in Baghdad? Generally rejected. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac, who, consistently wearing a suit and tie, also distanced himself from the group in terms of attire, formed a well-functioning tandem of "nein" or "non"-sayers. With a straightforwardness bordering on rudeness, Chirac criticized the Middle East initiative championed by Bush. In commenting on the plan, perceived by many Arab states as nothing but crass meddling on the part of the US, the Frenchman sarcastically said that the countries in the region "have no need for missionaries of democracy." Instead, Chirac called for a partnership based on "pragmatism, respect, trust and dialogue," and was seconded by Chancellor Schröder, who said that "changes should not come from the outside."

In explaining his concessions to the public after the meeting, Bush clumsily said that "there were certainly concerns that we want the world to look like America. This will not happen." The US president was also forced to admit defeat in his cause of achieving the cancellation of Iraq's debt, which has grown to 120 billion dollars in monetary claims among other countries (Germany: 5.3 billion). The attendees agreed that instead of relieving Iraq's burdens, the debts of the world's poorest countries should be reduced or cancelled entirely. However, the US president met with his most embarrassing rebuff when he proposed sending NATO combat troops to Iraq. Just as Bush had praised the recent UN resolution on the future of Iraq as a "great victory," and British Prime Minister Blair, Bush' closest European ally, had claimed that the rebels now face a "unified world," cracks began to form again in the much-lauded international solidarity. Because NATO troops are already deployed in Iraq, Bush hedged, "NATO should be involved there. We will work with our NATO friends so that they can at least continue to play the role they have assumed until now or, hopefully, expand it a little further."

"Not opportune," was Chirac's prompt and direct response, "I have the greatest reservations in this regard." Chancellor Schröder's reaction was also not particularly encouraging to Bush. During a meeting between the two leaders, the US president showered his visitor with compliments, chatted about his dog Barney, and even praised Foreign Minister "Jokscha" Fischer's Middle East policies. But when it came to the subject of Iraq, the American found little support in the beguiled chancellor. In a vaguely worded statement after the meeting, a Bush aide commented that "no attempt was made to come to an agreement over details." Schröder was more straightforward, saying that, in the past, the Americans had wanted NATO to "replace the coalition" in Iraq. This, according to Schröder, is no longer on the table. Schröder laconically referred to the US' change in position as "remarkable."

In an interview with Der Spiegel the next day, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer expressed a somewhat different view: If the Iraqis ask for NATO deployment, one cannot "slam the door in Baghdad's face." However, even Chancellor Schröder was surprised by Bush' flexibility. Late in the evening, sitting in front of the fireplace at an elite golf club, he reflected on German-American relations: "Six months ago, I would have said that the US' willingness to be flexible is a complete impossibility." The diplomatic truce is not likely to last. Disagreement over "substantial debt forgiveness" for Iraq, which, in diplomatic jargon, amounts to about 80 percent of the country's debts, has simply been postponed. And when the Middle East quartet (United States, UN, EU and Russia) meets in mid-June, transatlantic unity is likely to fall apart again over differing interpretations of the so-called roadmap. Although Gerhard Schröder also has few illusions about the recent reconciliation, he was reluctant to issue a prognosis: "not too optimistic," said the Chancellor.

Of course, even these words could not deter the US president from his untiring attempt to play the role of the host: "Freedom is underway in the Middle East," he loudly proclaimed at the closing press conference in the Savannah convention center. Fully assuming the stance of the victor, Bush said: "This summit came at a decisive moment." The clueless Bush even tried to put a positive face on his meeting with his toughest opponent, President Chirac. When the Frenchman praised the local American cuisine, Bush maliciously gloated over his feared opponent's culinary discovery: "And he was especially fond of our cheeseburgers." "Excellent," Chirac agreed, and concluded with an epicurean assessment of the feel-good atmosphere during the G-8 summit meeting on Sea Island: airy shell, artificial aroma, little substance. <<

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

True patriots speak up...

"For people who don't do this for a living and who pay attention to foreign policy only when it's in the news, it's probably hard to comprehend how radical the current administration's foreign policy approach is, as well as how dramatic the effects have been internationally in terms of America's plummeted standing
around the world."

"We've been in existence for two and a quarter centuries, and I don't think
we've ever experienced this degree of hatred and fear. One of the most
disturbing things I heard, and I can't remember which nationalistic member
of the administration it was who said it, was the answer to a concern
expressed that the United States was feared: "Well, if you're feared you
get your way, don't you?"

June 16, 2004 

National emergency

A spokesman for a new bipartisan group of retired diplomats and military
officers says Bush must be removed for the good of the country By Eric Boehlert

Angered by what they see as President Bush's dangerous and
radical foreign policy initiatives, a unique bipartisan group of nearly two dozen
former senior U.S. government officials -- drawn heavily from the Washington
establishment -- has founded a new activist organization that calls for Bush's
defeat in November. Calling itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for
Change, the group is scheduled to release a statement at a Wednesday morning
press conference, arguing that Bush's foreign policy has damaged both the
United States' national security and its standing around the world.

Traditionally, diplomats and members of the military, each of whom must work
seamlessly with administrations from both parties, studiously shun election-year
politics. And avoiding the political spotlight usually extends to those who have
retired from the Pentagon and the State Department as well. The Bush
administration, however, has sparked more diplomatic outcries than most. Last
year, on the eve of the war with Iraq, John Brady Kiesling resigned from the
State Department in protest, as did a handful of others. Earlier this year, some
50 retired U.S. diplomats urged Bush to reverse his Middle East policy, insisting
he had "placed U.S. diplomats, civilians and military doing their jobs overseas in
an untenable and even dangerous position."

And while the new group insists it is not partisan in the sense that it's working
with the campaign of Sen. John Kerry, its members say the surest way to right
today's foreign policy wrongs is to defeat Bush in November. "We think the only
way to reverse the situation is to elect a different team," says William Harrop,
one of the group's primary organizers, who spoke with Salon. A 39-year veteran
of the Foreign Service, Harrop served under Presidents Carter and Reagan as
ambassador to Guinea, Kenya, Seychelles, Zaire and Israel. Along with Harrop,
the list of signatories to the group's statement includes a number of senior
officials who served under Republican presidents. Among them are Arthur A.
Hartman, Reagan's ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1981 through 1987;
Jack Matlock Jr., appointed by Reagan as ambassador to the Soviet Union in
1987; Allen Holmes, an assistant secretary of state under Reagan; Charles
Freeman, ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the elder Bush; and retired
Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East under
the elder Bush.

Tell me how this group came together and why you're doing this now.

It came together in late March and early April of this year. There were two
things that happened. First, many of us, who have worked for both Republican
and Democratic administrations, had talked to each other, and we could see
there was a real discontent with the direction our country was going. Second,
the thing that really kind of tipped it for me was that Pew global attitudes poll
that showed the extraordinary drop in international support for the United
States -- and how we're more feared and less respected than at any point in
our history. That was kind of a cold shower.

Were there any reservations about going public?

As public servants you don't normally get involved in politics, and it wasn't easy
for a lot of people to do it. But we decided we had to speak out and found that
many people wanted to join in. In fact, after the Los Angeles Times wrote about
our group, we got calls from people saying, "Hey, why did you leave me out?" So
we're going to have a Web site, which will go up tonight [at], and with
the Web site people will be able to get more involved.

You mentioned the Pew poll. It's interesting in that most Americans traditionally
pay very little attention to foreign affairs; probably even fewer pay attention to
how America is perceived internationally. But as a former diplomat, I assume
that's your life's work?

Some of us feel that we've spent 20, 30, 40 years working to create a
circumstance in which the United Sates could exert influence and could see its
policies carried out because we were respected, because we had alliances and
people were accustomed to working with us through the United Nations and
bilaterally in other ways. We feel that a lot of this has been undermined by the
philosophy and style and policies implemented by this administration.

And the centerpiece of that is the war in Iraq?

The war in Iraq is very important. There really was a disingenuousness in the
way the war was presented. Most of my colleagues probably did believe there
were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But the intelligence that was
available was shaped and distorted, and [there was] downright dissembling
regarding whether Iraq was involved with al-Qaida and 9/11 -- there just
wasn't evidence of that.

But it's not just Iraq by any means. And it's not just about Israel and Palestine.
If you look at the list of people who have signed the statement, they've
primarily worked in Latin America, Europe and Africa. It's more a feeling that
the approach toward the world of the United States, now that we are the only
dominant world power, is that we can get our way by muscle and not by leadership.

In the Los Angeles Times piece, a Republican strategist close to the White House
suggested Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change doesn't understand
that 9/11 changed everything.

Well, in my opinion, things have not changed that much since 9/11. Most of us
involved in this group have dealt with terrorism. This is not new -- 9/11 is the
first time [terrorism] has happened on U.S. soil, but 9/11 does not really change
the nature of the world or the importance of developing allies or a coalition of
governments to collaborate in trying to reach common goals. It doesn't change
that. I think there's been an attempt under President Bush to give the impression that he alone decides foreign policy in the wake of the terrorist attacks because the whole world has changed.

Another comment in the L.A. Times piece, by a White House ally, suggested that
your group is made up of former State Department Arabists, whose diplomatic
approach, perhaps more evenhanded than the Bush administration's, never
succeeded in the Middle East, and now that the White House has staked out a
different course people are offended by that.

Some of us got together to talk about our press conference on Wednesday, and
we had all read the story. And one fellow said, "It just occurred to me I'm the
only Arabist in this crowd." That was Michael Sterner, a former deputy assistant
secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. I just don't think there's anything
to that accusation -- it's a desperate retort on the White House's part.

Another point made by the White House is about the timing, that forming the
group doesn't make sense now because we just saw President Bush go to the
U.N. and do what critics said he hadn't done, which was to mend fences and
try to come up with a consensus approach to Iraq. What do you say to that?

I welcome those developments at the U.N. and think they're very good things.
But I think [they occurred] because the administration came to the realization
that its approach in Iraq was simply untenable, that they couldn't be going it
alone and that they had to go back to the U.N. They made some important
concessions and got a resolution passed in the Security Council, but it's awfully
late in the day. We've already spent a great deal of money and lost a great many American lives. Nobody has offered more troops, which is what the United
States needs in Iraq. I welcome the developments, but I do not believe they
represent a policy sea change in the administration.

There was a lot of talk last week about Ronald Reagan's legacy and within that
discussion was a small one about whether Reagan would have supported the war
on Iraq and the neoconservative approach to foreign policy this administration
has taken. As someone who worked for his administration, do you have any
thoughts on that?

All you can do is speculate, but I don't really think that he would support this
approach. I think Reagan's and Bush's approaches were quite different. There
were certain hints in Reagan's righteousness about good vs. bad. But it hadn't
developed toward anything like the circumstances we're seeing now.

You mentioned that Foreign Service officers usually don't get involved in politics
and that forming this group was a difficult decision. At what point do you think
such people should get involved -- and what precedent does that set?

I don't think people "in harness," so to speak, should. If you feel that strongly
you should resign. You can't really take part in partisan politics as a diplomat
when you've sworn an allegiance to the Constitution and to serve the
administration. I think when diplomats retire there might be a little more
involvement. I think people have a lifetime habit of not getting involved and
have a hard time breaking it.

Would there be any downside if more former diplomats and military commanders
were routinely involved in partisan politics?

I don't think so. Your loyalty is to your country, and as a citizen you have every
right, even responsibility, to become involved. And I'll tell you that hardly anyone we spoke with didn't share our views. But there were a couple who said they just didn't think going public was right.

In March 2003, I interviewed John Brady Kiesling, a career U.S. diplomat who
was serving in Athens and who resigned on the eve of the Iraq war, fed up with
the rationale for the war he was forced to spin to his diplomatic counterparts in
Greece. You mentioned that if you get to that point during service, then your only
option is to resign. Looking back at your time served, at what point might you have
thought of resigning, and if you were an ambassador today, do you think you
would have come to the same conclusion?

I don't know. There are so many personal considerations. You've got to educate
your children, and it's not easy to do that when you resign. But at some point you
might have to. Quite a few members of the Foreign Service resigned, probably
30, over the incursion into Cambodia in 1970. But there has not been a long
tradition of resignations in the Foreign Service, and there probably should be
more than there have been. I've always admired the British system, where it's
not all that uncommon.

Do you think those who signed the group's statement represent the traditional,
internationalist foreign policy community in Washington, those who believe in
the interlocking relationships the United States relies upon around the world?

I think the key people involved in this have learned from their decades of
experience in the business that alliances and improved relationships are a
necessity to solving problems, and that the approach we're seeing now by the
United States is probably not going to prove very durable.

For people who don't do this for a living and who pay attention to foreign policy
only when it's in the news, it's probably hard to comprehend how radical the
current administration's foreign policy approach is, as well as how dramatic the
effects have been internationally in terms of America's plummeted standing
around the world.

None of us would argue against the right of the United States -- if its national
security were in danger -- to take whatever action is required. We just think
military action should not be a first resort; it should be a last resort, and it
should be done in a political context that you prepare to make sure you obtain
the results you want. In contrast, this war appears to have been an ideological
war. People had been thinking about taking out Saddam Hussein for many, many
years, then moved to take that action and had to overcome a lot of objections.
I think that was radical.

And what about the dramatic effects on the world's perception of the U S?

We've been in existence for two and a quarter centuries, and I don't think
we've ever experienced this degree of hatred and fear. One of the most
disturbing things I heard, and I can't remember which nationalistic member
of the administration it was who said it, was the answer to a concern
expressed that the United States was feared: "Well, if you're feared you
get your way, don't you?"

And what is the problem with that, because it sounds very appealing?

The problem with that is that you get your way for the moment, on whatever the
immediate issue is. But you're not able to persuade people to listen to you and
go along with your general conceptual view.

In our statement, we list a number issues that are going to be very difficult for
the United States to deal with in coming years. There are lots of things you
could solve because people agree with you. The tougher issues require leadership
to get other countries to work together and to get people looking in the same
direction and feeling your same urgency. Over the long haul, we don't think
leading through fear will work.

The group's statement clearly calls for working toward the defeat of Bush in
November. Is that because you think we're past the point of his being able to
correct the errors of his ways?

Some people have said that if the neocons who strongly backed the war were
replaced, then the situation could be changed in the administration. Most of us
don't really believe that's possible. We believe Bush is a strong president. We
don't think he's a puppet of any particular group. And we think it would be very
hard to get him to change direction. He has a strong personality and character
and is strong-willed; he knows what he wants. So we think the only way to
reverse the situation is to elect a different team.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Iran-Contra redux...on a totally different scale

"Iran-Contra, on a totally different scale...."

Using the C.I.A. as their personal property is just par for the course for the Bush family as the name that was slapped on the Agency -- George H.W. Bush -- clearly indicates....courtesy of George Tenet.

I almost had an accident the first time I saw the sign driving from McLean, VA on route 123 toward the District given that it was one of the last names I expected to see given the former president's involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal.

After all, when intelligence agencies are politicized, what's the point in spending zillions of tax payers' dollars for info that the occupants of the White House want to hear as opposed to reasonably reliable intelligence?

"There is no question that over the last couple of years it's become clear that the various U.S. intelligence agencies have numerous weaknesses and institutional deficiencies. But the biggest problem is really the politicization of intelligence under Bush. It's happened in two ways. First, because of the politics surrounding 9/11, the intelligence agencies have not been able to speak about it honestly and directly. Iraq is the other big issue: The intelligence agencies have not been able to speak about that honestly and directly either, because they've been pressured by the White House, especially before the war, to take a certain view."

" The agency is politicized to an extreme. It is under the control of the Bush White House. Tenet is leaving in the middle of an unresolved political crisis - what really amounts to a constitutional crisis. It's somewhat like Iran-Contra, though on a totally different scale. The president wanted to go to war. He's supposed to have the support of the Congress. How did he get it? Well, his administration made up a scary story about imminent dangers." - Monday 14 June 2004

 A Temporary Coup  By Mark Follman
Author Thomas Powers says the White House's corruption of intelligence has caused the greatest foreign policy catastrophe in modern U.S. history - and sparked a civil war with the nation's intel agencies.

    The U.S. is now waging three wars, says intelligence expert Thomas Powers. One is in Iraq. The second is in Afghanistan. And the third is in Washington - an all-out war between the White House and the nation's own intelligence agencies.

    Powers, the author of "Intelligence Wars: American Secret History From Hitler to Al Qaeda," charges that the Bush administration is responsible for what is perhaps the greatest disaster in the history of U.S. intelligence. From failing to anticipate 9/11 to pressuring the CIA to produce bogus justifications for war, from abusing Iraqi prisoners to misrepresenting the nature of Iraqi insurgents, the Bush White House, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies they corrupted, coerced or ignored have made extraordinarily grave errors which could threaten our national security for years.

By manipulating intelligence and punishing dissent while pursuing an extreme foreign- policy agenda, Bush leaders have set spy against U.S. spy and deeply damaged America's intelligence capabilities.

    "It's a catastrophe beyond belief. Going into Afghanistan was inevitable, and in my opinion the right thing to do. But everything since then has been a horrible mistake," Powers says. "The CIA is politicized to an extreme. It's under the control of the White House. Tenet is leaving in the middle of an unresolved political crisis - what really amounts to a constitutional crisis."

    The bitterest dispute, though not the only one, is between the CIA and the Pentagon, whose own secret intelligence unit, the Office of Special Plans, aggressively promoted the war on Iraq. While departing CIA Director George Tenet played along with the Bush administration - a fact which Powers says reveals the urgent need for a truly independent intelligence chief - much of the agency is enraged at the Pentagon, which put intense pressure on it to produce reports tailored to the policy goals of the Bush White House. The simmering tensions between the Pentagon, with its troika of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith, and rank and file CIA personnel boiled over in July 2003, when the White House trashed the career of veteran CIA operative Valerie Plame by leaking her identity. The move was a crude retaliation against Plame's husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had exposed the Bush administration's specious claim that Saddam had sought "yellowcake" from Africa to build a nuclear bomb.

    The struggle between the CIA and the Defense Department reached a bizarre climax a few weeks ago when Ahmed Chalabi's office was very publicly ransacked by officers working under the command of the CIA; the Iraqi exile leader was later accused of leaking vital information to Iran, among other allegations. The abrupt fall from grace of the man hand-picked by neoconservative policymakers to lead post-Saddam Iraq, says Powers, lays bare the brutal turf war between the two sides.

    "It reveals an extraordinary level of bitter combat between the CIA and the Pentagon. It's astonishing that the CIA actually oversaw a team of people who broke into Chalabi's headquarters - which was paid for by the Pentagon - and ransacked the place. The CIA single-handedly destroyed him."

    The collapse of U.S. intelligence and the arrogance and extremism at the top of the Bush administration are also at the root of the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison, Powers says. With U.S. troops facing a mounting insurgency from an enemy they couldn't find, Powers believes Bush officials signed off on a systematic policy of hardcore interrogation in a frantic attempt to deal with the problem. He says that while it's unlikely Defense Secretary Rumsfeld gave specific orders as to what type of abuse should be meted out to the Iraqi prisoners, there is strong reason to believe Rumsfeld "issued blanket permission for them to turn up the heat."

    In an explosive conjecture, Powers also speculates that the Israelis, "who've had the most experience," cooperated with the U.S. on the techniques used to humiliate and break Arabs, including sexual degradation.

    As for the dubiously timed Tenet resignation - with its fairy-tale like cover story of "I'll be spending more time with my family" - Powers thinks one possibility is that the CIA director may have been forced out after Pentagon officials, enraged by the Chalabi debacle, pressured Bush to get rid of him.

    But what troubles Powers the most, he says, is that the Bush administration completely subverted American democracy, browbeating Congress and the national security agencies to launch a war. "They correctly read how the various institutions of our government could be used to stage a kind of temporary coup on a single issue: Whether or not to go to war with Iraq."

    Salon reached Powers by phone at his office in Vermont.

    Let's start with the problems inside Iraq itself. We know there was a dearth of intelligence assets on the ground for years before the war. What's your assessment of the situation now?

    This is one of the most closely guarded secrets of the agency, and I don't know anybody outside of it who really has a sense of the assets they had inside the country then, or what they have there now. But I don't think that was the biggest problem.

    The biggest problem has to do with the decision at very high levels to look at things in a certain way. There was no shortage of warnings in the U.S. government from various branches and offices that the postwar period was going to be complicated and difficult. In that respect there was no failure of intelligence. But for institutional reasons - political reasons - the White House and the Defense Department didn't want to hear it. The Defense Department was very explicit that they weren't going to pay attention to those studies, that they wouldn't seriously consider increasing their estimate of how much money and troops would be required - because once that went down on a piece of paper Congress would want to see it.

    There is already ample evidence that the abusive treatment of Iraqi prisoners proceeded from systematic policy at some level. With U.S. forces facing a rising insurgency and a severe lack of intelligence infrastructure there, do you think Bush policymakers decided that the situation required a kind of dragnet interrogation system? That in order to deal with the problem they had to round up anybody remotely suspicious and "take the gloves off" - as Rumsfeld ordered done with American Taliban John Walker Lindh - in order to figure out who and where the enemy was?

    Well, we know Gen. [Geoffrey D.] Miller went from Guantanamo to Iraq [last August] in order to beef up the whole intelligence gathering apparatus so that we could try to begin to understand who we were fighting there. For a long time the administration had been claiming we were fighting Baathists and dead-enders, or foreign terrorists pouring in across Iraq's borders. Part of the reason for those claims was that politically that's what was needed to explain the continuing resistance. It was also clear that we didn't really know who we were fighting.

    Fallujah is a good example: The administration has never given a clear answer as to who we've been fighting there. Our behavior suggests that when we finally decided to back off, we had concluded that whoever it was didn't pose a direct threat to us. It was a resistance to us - but we were perfectly prepared to live with it. We turned it over to an Iraqi officer and said, "Hey, you deal with this." They didn't have to shoot all the Iraqi insurgents, they reached an agreement and the fighting appeared suddenly to just stop.

    How would you connect that to the administration's broader interrogation policy?

    I think the attempts at Abu Ghraib - and in many other places, I'm sure - to extract information about what was happening on the ground were based on a real need. But the military had at least one success that suggested how they might do it correctly: tracking down Saddam Hussein. As far as I understand it, that was essentially a bookkeeping success. They really paid attention to detail, kept very good files and eventually identified and located everybody who was connected to Saddam, to 10 degrees of separation. They realized that somebody would tell somebody else in that network where he was. So that kind of complete encompassing of the subject appears to have been effective.

    But the notion that Abu Ghraib prison was chaotic and out of control, that's what people say who don't want to take responsibility for it. I don't believe that for a second. Rumsfeld wouldn't sit down and say, "The best way is to photograph these guys pretending to masturbate," but I think he did create the circumstances and the pressure for that kind of thing - in effect issued blanket permission for them to turn up the heat.

    Then you have to ask who actually instructed U.S. interrogators in Arab psychology and suggested this would be a good way to get Arabs to feel powerless and vulnerable and tell you what you want to know. My guess is the people who've had the most experience in that, namely the Israelis, who've been at war with Arabs for decades, must've cooperated with us on a method. Of course, that's pure speculation on my part.

    Clearly this kind of treatment shatters the U.S. relationship to the Geneva Accords, not to mention the professed morality of our mission. What do you make of the latest Pentagon memo to come to light, which said the president could ignore the anti-torture laws?

    The answer seems pretty clear to me. The U.S. government has people who specialize in interrogation, and they have a long list of things they can't do. But when you're feeling desperate, you simply take some of the things from list B, what you're not allowed to do, and you move them over to list A, the things you are allowed to do.

    What do you make of the Byzantine twists of the Ahmed Chalabi story? By the time photos of his ransacked Baghdad compound filled the newspapers, the tale of his rise and fall seemed almost unbelievable, the stuff of a spy novel.

    I think it reveals an extraordinary level of bitter combat between the CIA and the Pentagon. It's astonishing that things would get to such a level, where the CIA actually oversaw a team of people who broke into Chalabi's headquarters - which was paid for by the Pentagon - and ransacked the place and carried away his computers. Who do you think bought those computers? Those are your American tax dollars at work.

    That level of internal animosity is amazing. Look at the chronology: First you have a moment when the Pentagon announces that it's cutting off the funds to Chalabi's intelligence operation. A few days later this raid takes place. Well, it looks pretty clear that somebody warned the Pentagon this was going to happen, so that they could at least cut off his funding and not be caught with their pants down. Chalabi was the Pentagon's candidate to run Iraq. Richard Perle [the influential neoconservative advisor to the Pentagon] still says that the single greatest mistake we've made so far was not putting Chalabi in power as soon we got there.

    And who has actually gone into power now? The CIA's man: Iyad Allawi [the interim Iraqi prime minister]. That's a dramatic shift. As it was, Chalabi didn't appear to be the candidate that [U.N. envoy] Lakhdar Brahimi was going to choose, but that invasion of Chalabi's office made it an impossibility. The CIA single-handedly destroyed him by doing that.

    Chalabi is clearly a shady figure, but given the timing and chronology here, do you find the recent charges that he could be working for the Iranians believable? Or is it ultimately a smear campaign? What's at the center of all this?

    Who knows! [Laughs]. We can only try to follow the logic of where the information about the leaked Iranian code would've come from. The conversation between Chalabi and the Iranian intelligence office was likely collected by the National Security Agency, which is normally in charge of that kind of data, who would've then passed it on to counterintelligence in the CIA. Or, the CIA might have actually sent a team into Chalabi's office to plant bugs or broadcasting devices, they might have conducted that type of black-bag operation in order to get access to that communication traffic. It's also conceivable the [Pentagon's] Defense Intelligence Agency was involved.

    The information about Chalabi could certainly be real, but meanwhile, the CIA's guy Allawi apparently benefits by the removal from the scene of a principal rival - right before Brahimi gets to choose the new government.

    So this is ultimately the CIA fighting back against the Pentagon?

    I think so - can it really be a coincidence that this happens right before Brahimi announces the new government? U.S. intelligence knew about the compromised Iranian code about six weeks before the raid. So why wait till just before Brahimi's announcement? And why the large team of people and the very public display of trashing Chalabi headquarters and carting everything away? Regardless of the truth, when something like this happens, Brahimi is incapable of sorting it out. He just has to step away. It's one of those things you can't touch with a 10-foot pole.

    I don't know exactly what it all represents, but I'm certain that it involves bad blood between the CIA and the Pentagon. It puzzled me at first why Tenet would be resigning after this apparent CIA triumph. I did wonder if the Pentagon had mustered enough high-level fury to reach the president.

    How else do you view Tenet's resignation? The innocuous framing of it accompanies perhaps the biggest series of intelligence disasters in U.S. history.

    There is no question that over the last couple of years it's become clear that the various U.S. intelligence agencies have numerous weaknesses and institutional deficiencies. But the biggest problem is really the politicization of intelligence under Bush. It's happened in two ways. First, because of the politics surrounding 9/11, the intelligence agencies have not been able to speak about it honestly and directly. Iraq is the other big issue: The intelligence agencies have not been able to speak about that honestly and directly either, because they've been pressured by the White House, especially before the war, to take a certain view.

    That's where all this internal trouble with the intelligence system comes from. It's not as if they're all Keystone Kops who can't figure out where their left shoes are. It's all about the politics of it.

    And that's only further complicated by the long history of turf wars between the agencies, between the FBI and CIA, and now apparently between the State Department and the Pentagon intelligence operations.

    Exactly, and now they're all fighting over a policy which represents perhaps the single most aggressive and resolute endeavor in the history of U.S. foreign relations. It's astonishing, not just that President Bush got a bee in his bonnet that he had to invade another country and establish a major new American military presence in the Middle East, but that he would do it in this way.

    Do you think Tenet essentially was pushed out by the White House?

    Tenet was pushed out by the accumulating circumstances, not because he failed to do what Bush wanted him to do, which was essentially two things: The first was to not speak too clearly about the warnings that he'd given the White House before 9/11. You can be certain that it was not easy for Tenet to do that. Tenet has never spoken out clearly and said, "I told the president everything he needed to know to at least start responding to the threat."

    Secondly, Tenet hasn't spoken clearly on the reason why they got Iraqi WMD wrong. And it's not because people in the bowels of the agency had it all balled up, it's because in the process of writing finished intelligence - which was required to extract a vote for war from congress - it got turned on its head at the upper levels of the CIA. They found certainty where there wasn't any; the evidence for WMD stockpiles and programs was extremely thin. Who else could have created this situation besides the policymakers themselves?

    What about the timing of Tenet's departure? It comes in tandem with more alerts about terrorist attacks this summer, and right around the June 30 transition of power in Iraq. Do you think Tenet was explicitly asked to leave?

    I think he was definitely asked to leave. He showed every sign of extreme distress.
    And there's been plenty of speculation that has to do with the forthcoming congressional reports on 9/11 and Iraq intelligence, which won't look good for him.
    The obvious answer is probably the correct one. Tenet would spend all his time defending himself against the reports. Everybody knows that another guy could run the agency just as well and could run it the same way. Bush has even made sure it'll be run the same way by keeping the same leadership, with [Deputy Director] John McLaughlin taking over. Bush would end up spending a lot of political capital fighting for Tenet; it's much simpler just to get him off the stage - just like they did with Gen. Ricardo Sanchez in Iraq. Once somebody made clear that Sanchez knew about Abu Ghraib, they didn't argue about it. They got rid of him.

    What does Tenet's departure say about the state of the agency at a critical time for U.S. national security operations?

  The agency is politicized to an extreme. It is under the control of the Bush White House. Tenet is leaving in the middle of an unresolved political crisis - what really amounts to a constitutional crisis. It's somewhat like Iran-Contra, though on a totally different scale. The president wanted to go to war. He's supposed to have the support of the Congress. How did he get it? Well, his administration made up a scary story about imminent dangers.

    Doesn't Tenet's departure make him the fall guy implicitly, even if President Bush delivered him cordially?

    Of course the implicit blame is there, and that's one of the reasons why he looked and sounded so distressed. He had plenty reason to be; there was a cumulative insistence that the CIA had to be at fault. He could change that picture dramatically by standing up and saying, "Look, you want to know what I really told the president before 9/11? Here it is." Obviously that would be quite a bombshell and you can be sure the president would never speak to him again.
    I think the truth about what happened at the policy level will eventually come out. We know, because it was on paper, that on Aug. 6, 2001 the CIA gave the president a very explicit warning. When 9/11 actually occurred, you would expect to look back and see, once the distress light was on, various U.S. intelligence and police organizations scurrying around frantically responding to the warning. But what do you find? Nothing.

    While Tenet appears to have equivocated about Iraqi WMD in some instances, we also know that the CIA expressed significant doubt about specific intelligence on Iraq long before the war - the bogus Niger-uranium report, for example - that the Bush administration still used to make its case. How can the administration possibly continue to promote the idea that the CIA got it all wrong?

    Well, who else is the administration going to blame? If they don't say that, then they would have to ask, "Why did the CIA write a report that went in certitude beyond the evidence?" The answer is very likely to be, "Because that's what the president wanted, and he made sure that was understood."

    Is the war inside the U.S. intelligence system completely off the charts historically? Is there any precedent for this?

    I can't think of any. It's not uncommon for the various secret branches of the U.S. government to be at odds with each other. The CIA quarreled with the Defense Department for years over Soviet missiles, but I don't remember anything like this. The CIA was present when that team of Iraqi police went in and ransacked Chalabi's compound. I mean, that's amazing. The only thing that would've made it more amazing was if it had happened in Washington.

    In a way it reminds me of the "Night of the long knives" in 1934, the night when Hitler got rid of the Brown Shirts, the street fighting organization that had helped the Nazi Party come to power. It was a highly organized institution bitterly hated by the army. It was run by a bunch of people who were politically ambitious and were direct rivals of the group that came into power with Hitler. Literally in one night the offices and headquarters of this group were raided and many of them were killed in their beds. Immediately all kinds of propaganda came out about their low behavior and betrayal. It was an internal government bloodletting where one faction just simply swept the other off the scene.

    What the CIA did to Chalabi isn't exactly the same, but it makes me worry even more about the level of covert fighting inside our own government.

    Just last week the New York Times reported that the CIA is still struggling with a "major flaw" in its operations. A senior agency official, Jami Miscik, described conditions still ripe for the distortion of information, and similar problems reportedly plague the Defense Intelligence Agency. What's your view of the rising chorus within Congress to overhaul the intelligence system?

    I think it's a good idea, and I never thought that before. It ought to be set up with a devoted Cabinet post, a secretary of intelligence who would have a wide range of powers and authority to oversee the whole system. But that person can't run everything; each of the agencies is distinct for good reasons, and each one has to be run by its own chief.

    Separating intelligence and police operations is absolutely essential. If you put it all under a single authority it would represent the greatest threat by far to American democracy. Other countries have proven that. A single intelligence organization will abuse the power of secrecy to protect itself - all intelligence organizations routinely abuse the power of secrecy to protect themselves.

    Just look back at the way we got into this war: There was nobody in the public who had the capacity to seriously question the CIA's evidence and arguments. We just had to take it on trust.

    And that's a dangerous prospect when you have a White House with an inflexible agenda that's in control of the system.

    I think so. I don't know how else to explain getting it completely wrong. If you go back and look at Powell's speech at the U.N., he makes dozens of claims and not one of them was ever robustly confirmed - in fact, almost all of them were completely false. I mean, how could he get it that wrong?
    The most important thing to do now is to alter the chain of command. I think it makes sense to have the secretary of intelligence serve for a four-year term that overlaps presidential terms, an appointment that begins at the end of the first year of every presidential term. In other words, each president coming into office inherits the previous intelligence leader for at least a year. That provides continuity and avoids election year politics.

    How do you view the Bush administration in terms of dealing with this whole series of intelligence problems that have come to light?

    It's a catastrophe beyond belief. Going into Afghanistan was inevitable, and in my opinion the right thing to do. But everything since then has been a horrible mistake, one that has made it more difficult to fight the war on terror, has driven away allies and diminished the degree of cooperation from a number of intelligence services and governments in the Arab world. And it promises to get worse. This was a completely unnecessary, distracting, expensive war that has isolated the United States.

    It seems like there has almost never been direct acknowledgement by the White House of any policy problems.

    Yes, but they've done something else which troubles me more than anything. They correctly read how the various institutions of our government could be used to stage a kind of temporary coup on a single issue: Whether or not to go to war with Iraq.

    President Bush used the intelligence system as a blunt instrument, and they forced Congress to go along - the Congress was in an almost impossible position. When the president uses the maximum power of his own office and says, "I am soberly telling you that this is necessary for the safety of the country," you gotta listen to the guy. At least once. <<