#. 17. Jan.. 19, 2002
By Bill Weinberg
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. Powell Does Kabul
2. Mountains Still "Shaking" Under Aerial Bombardment
3. 9-11 Survivors Meet Afghan Bombardment Survivors
4. Islamic Law is Back
5. Northern Alliance Terror in Kabul
6. Masoud Cult Shows Northern Alliance Power
7. Language Discrimination Shows Northern Alliance Power
8. Ecological Toll of Taliban Terror
9. Unarmed Minorities Seek Voice
10. Kandahar Castro: Un-closeted Again?
11. Dog-Fighting Out; Cock-Fighting In
12. Bamiyan Buddhas to be Rebuilt?
13. War Captives in Legal Limbo
14. Ex-Yugoslavia War Crimes Prosecutor Blasts US Tribunals
15. Ashcroft Wants Death for Accused Hippie Terrorist
THE NEW GREAT GAME
1. US Militarizes Kyrgyzstan
2. Russia Breaks Ranks With US on Afghanistan Bombardment
3. Death Merchants Salivate Over Indo-Pak Conflict
4. India Plays al-Qaeda Card
5. Pakistan Sells Out Fundamentalists (Sort Of)
6. ...Not to be Confused with Democratization
7. Talking Heads Debate China Posture
THE MIDDLE EAST
1. Uglier and Uglier in Holy Land
2. Israeli Chief of Staff Schmoozes Bush Cabinet
3. Terrorism by Bulldozer Continues
4. Israeli Bedouins Have Bad Deal
5. US Military Tribunals Pioneered in Egypt
6. Algeria Dictatorship on "Good Guy's List"
7. Turkey Sues Chomsky Publisher for Telling Unapproved Truth
THE WAR AT HOME
1. Feds Crack Down on "Un-American" Art
2. ...And Books
3. Bill in Congress to Bring Back Draft
4. Press Persuaded by Presidential Pretzel (But We Aren't)
NEW YORK CITY
1. Ground Zero Workers Have No Insurance
2. First Clean-Up Fatality; Contractor Fined $100
3. EPA Blasted on Clean-Up
4. WTC Survivors Protest Compensation Plan
5. WTC Survivors Protest Commodification of Disaster Site
6. Street Peddlers Cut Out of Downtown Revitalization Plan
7. Silverstein Wants to Rebuild Terrorist Bait
8. FEMA Loses WTC Disaster Probe
9. Laid-Off Workers: Marriott Exploits 9-11
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. POWELL DOES KABUL
Secretary of State Colin Powell touched the ground in Afghanistan's capital for barely 5 hours Jan. 17, the highest-ranking US official to visit Kabul since Secretary of State Henry Kissinger stopped by in 1976. Powell promised interim prime minister Hamid Karzai lots of reconstruction aid, but also lectured him about getting the warlords under control. Karzai responded: "Be sure that warlordism is over in Afghanistan. You may not see the signs, but it's over. And we will make sure it is over." Karzai also had some words of admonishment for Powell, implicitly invoking the US abandonment of Afghanistan after the Soviet occupation was defeated in 1989: "In all our meetings with the Afghan people, they ask us--'Is the United States committed? Will they stay with us?' Now I can tell them, 'Yes, the US will stay with us.'" (AP, Jan. 18) Donor nations are set to meet in Tokyo next week to divide up the $6 billion burden in Afghanistan reconstruction aid (Financial Times, Jan. 15). In reality, Karzai controls little outside Kabul, but is doing his best to make the city secure and presentable for visiting dignitaries. Authorities are disarming the citizenry, and issuing ID cards to those who can legally carry guns (NYT Jan. 14). Karzai also made much of his nationwide ban on opium planting--despite the fact that vast areas of Afghanistan are already planted with the stuff (NYT, Jan. 19). [top]
2. MOUNTAINS STILL "SHAKING" UNDER AERIAL BOMBARDMENT
The US aerial bombardment of Afghanistan continues despite its disappearance from US headlines. Suzanne Goldenberg wrote for the UK Guardian Jan. 15 from Zhawar in eastern Khost region how daily air-strikes on a presumed abandoned al-Qaeda camp are taking a deadly toll on neighboring mountain hamlets. "In darkness and in light, for 10 long days, US bombers have prowled above the winter clouds, pulverizing the slate and lava rock of Zhawar. The villagers gauge the danger by the engine noise. When the low whirr rises to a grinding roar, it's time to take cover. 'All the mountains are shaking,' says Khali Gul from Kaskai, a small hamlet a few hundred meters from the Americans' target. 'We are very afraid of these planes. We just want this to stop.'" Resident Noorz Ali told Goldenberg 15 people were killed when Shudiaki village was hit Jan. 15. "The village is completely flattened," Ali said. "My house was destroyed, and my neighbors were killed. There were so many bombs I lost count. The dead remain there in the village. Everybody else has left." Goldenberg said it was impossible to verify Ali's story
3. 9-11 SURVIVORS MEET AFGHAN BOMBARDMENT SURVIVORS
Four US citizens related to Sept. 11 victims arrived at Kabul's newly opened airport to meet a group of Afghans who lost family in the US bombardment. The San Francisco-based activist group Global Exchange organized the delegation. Derrill Bodley, a California music professor whose 20-year-old daughter was on the America Airlines flight that came down in Pennsylvania, is to meet the father of a five-year-old girl who was killed when a stray bomb hit a residential area in Kabul. Meetings with several Afghan families who lost relatives have been arranged, as well as a visit to a Kabul hospital. (UK Guardian, Jan. 16)
4. ISLAMIC LAW IS BACK
Afghanistan's newly appointed chief justice Fazal Hadi announced he will continue to implement Islamic law, saying thieves will have their hands cut off and adulterers will be lashed or stoned to death, the Afghan Islamic Press reported. Hadi said interim prime minister Hamid Karzai has assured him of his full support in implementing Islamic law in Afghanistan. "The world and United Nations had recognized Afghanistan as an Islamic country and that all decisions in Afghanistan would be taken under the Islamic laws," Hadi said. (AP, Jan. 12)
5. NORTHERN ALLIANCE TERROR IN KABUL
In the Jan. 17 UK Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg reported from Kabul on a wave of armed robberies, carjackings and murders by the Northern Alliance militiamen still occupying the city. The troops were supposed to have vacated by a Jan. 12 deadline set by interim prime minister Hamid Karzai. But there is little sign of that happening, and the government is moving "cautiously to avoid a head-on confrontation with the thousands of armed men roaming the streets."
6. MASOUD CULT SHOWS NORTHERN ALLIANCE POWER
Portraits of late Northern Alliance military commander Ahmad Shah Masoud saturate Afghanistan's capital. In Kabul's best hotel, his picture occupies the same spot where communist leader Babrak Karmal's photograph used to hang in the 1980s. A Masoud poster on a windscreen can get a car waved past security posts guarded by his former troops. Children carry framed pictures of him as believers would display images of a saint. The Northern Alliance occupiers of the city are distributing the portraits. But the personality cult may be fueling ethnic tensions. While Masoud's fellow Tajiks are the most fervent followers, the city's Hazara minority has bitter memories if his bloody attacks on their districts after the main Hazara militia broke with the warlord. In the Hazara districts of western Kabul that were nearly destroyed by Masoud's artillery, few of his posters are on display. (Reuters, Jan. 11)
7. LANGUAGE DISCRIMINATION SHOWS NORTHERN ALLIANCE POWER
Kabul police and officials who were fired by the Pashtun-dominated Taliban for speaking Dari, the lingua franca of the Tajiks and other northern ethnicities, are back on the force. But now Pashto-speaking officials are out of work. Dari has become the unofficial language of the new government. The agreement on the mandate of the 4,500 foreign peacekeepers who are to police Afghanistan is drafted in Dari and English versions only. Although interim prime minister Hamid Karzai is an ethnic Pashtun, he usually speaks in Dari on official business--a necessity of sharing power with the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance troops still occupying the capital. (Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 11)
8. ECOLOGICAL TOLL OF TALIBAN TERROR
The Shomali Plain north of Kabul was once Afghanistan's garden, a land of vineyards and orchards, watered by streams and sheltered by verdant hills. King Zahir Shah entertained guests at the local Gulhana Palace, overlooking green valleys. Merchants came from Iran and India to buy crops for export. Today the Shomali is a dust bowl littered with burnt farmhouses, skeletons of tanks and thousands of live mines. The region was destroyed on direct orders of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, as part of a scorched-earth strategy to deny advantage to Northern Alliance forces advancing on the capital. Al-Qaeda militants--Pakistanis, Arabs, Chechens--reportedly carried out most of the damage. The trees were cut down and the wood sold to Pakistani merchants; irrigation systems were exploded; houses, schools and clinics were bulldozed. Almost all of the plain's 600,000 inhabitants were driven out at gunpoint, and summarily shot if they resisted. Said Northern Alliance Commander Haji Daoud, who helped drive the Taliban from the plain after fighting them there for five years: "This was one of the richest parts of Afghanistan. Look at it now. Even with a lot of money it will take at least six years to get this back to a working area. Our political leaders say the international community will give us all the money we need. The same was said when the Russians left, but nothing happened." (UK Independent, Jan. 13)
9. UNARMED MINORITIES SEEK VOICE
Throughout a generation of warfare in Afghanistan, the country's roughly 2 million ethnic Turkmen raised no significant military force. Living largely in the northern areas controlled by Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, they instead concentrated on traditional pursuits of carpet weaving and agriculture. But the Turkmen community's determination to stay out of the fighting has come at a high political cost. With no warlords to represent them, the Turkmen had no voice in the Bonn peace deal. The interim government established at Bonn shares ministerial posts among the signatory parties--principally Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. Now Turkmen leaders have formed a shura, or council, to meet with interim government officials. Delegates of the council--representing both Turkmen in northern Afghanistan and those exiled in Pakistan--recently visited Kabul and spoke with interim prime minister Hamid Karzai. The delegation will also travel to Mazar-i-Sharif in hopes of meeting with Dostum, who was recently named interim deputy defense minister. One of the delegates, Jamahir Anwari, said the council offered to raise Turkmen units for the United Nations-mandated peacekeeping force: "The Turkmen people did not want to take part in the feuding [of recent years]. Now we are ready to announce that we are prepared to play a role as peacekeepers if necessary. Our young people volunteer to do duty beside the UN peace forces." ( Charles Recknagel for EurasiaNet, Jan. 4)
10. KANDAHAR CASTRO: UN-CLOSETED AGAIN?
With the Taliban overthrown, it is not only TVs, kites and razors which have re-emerged in their southern stronghold of Kandahar. Visible again are men with their ashna, or beloveds--young boys they have groomed for sex. Kandahar's Pashtuns have been notorious for their homosexuality for centuries, particularly their fondness for young boys. Before the Taliban arrived in 1994, Kandahar was the gay capital of Central Asia, and the streets "were filled with teenagers and their sugar daddies, flaunting their relationship," said a Jan. 12 London Times account. "Such is the Pashtun obsession with sodomy--locals tell you that birds fly over the city using only one wing, the other covering their posterior--that the rape of young boys by warlords was one of the key factors in Mullah Omar mobilizing the Taliban." Under the Taliban, men accused of sodomy faced the punishment of having a wall toppled on to them by a tank, usually resulting in death. Said one local militiaman: "They say birds flew with both wings with the Taliban. But not any more."
11. DOG-FIGHTING OUT; COCK-FIGHTING IN
In a nod to Western sensibilities, Kandahar's reigning warlord Gul Agha Sherzai--a veteran Mujahedeen commander and former dog-fighting impresario--has banned dog-fighting from the city. The controversial "sport" attracts frenzied betting, and is now deemed inappropriate. (Reuters, Jan. 14) But New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote Jan. 16: "I've got good news and bad news from Kabul. The good news is that sporting events have returned to the city, even before electricity or law and order have been fully restored. The bad news is that the sport is cock-fighting." All sports had been banned by the Taliban.
12. BAMIYAN BUDDHAS TO BE REBUILT?
Afghanistan's interim regime says it plans to rebuild the historic giant statues of Buddha at Bamiyan, shelled to rubble as an affront to Islam last March on Taliban orders. The interim minister of culture, Raheen Makhdoom, said his government would like to rebuild the destroyed statues as soon as possible--although the rebuilt Buddhas would not be exactly what they once were. The two statues stood between 40 and 50 meters high and were over 1,500 years old, built under the Greek-Buddhist Kushan dynasty. The UN cultural organization UNESCO described the destruction of the statues as an act of cultural barbarism. Makhdoom said he hoped reconstruction of the statues would attract tourists back to Afghanistan--but admitted that may be some way off. (BBC, Dec. 30)
Another candidate for restoration is Kabul's Argh Palace, where the elaborately painted walls and mosaic ceilings are gouged wherever the face of a human or animal once appeared, courtesy of the Taliban. (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15)
13. WAR CAPTIVES IN LEGAL LIMBO
Chained, manacled, hooded, even sedated, their beards shorn off against their will, captured Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are being flown around the world to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they are kept in tiny chain-link outdoor cages. Since Guantanamo Bay Naval Station is technically foreign territory, the detainees have no rights under the US constitution and cannot appeal to US federal courts. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the detainees "will be handled not as prisoners of war, because they are not, but as unlawful combatants." He maintains that "unlawful combatants" have no rights under the Geneva Convention Under the 1949 Convention, POWs can only be tried by "the same courts according to the same procedure as in the case of members of the armed forces of the detaining power." The Pentagon intends to prosecute many detainees in special military tribunals with looser rules of evidence and a lower burden of proof than regular military or civilian courts. The position of the International Committee of the Red Cross is that the Convention has to be interpreted in the context of modern international conflicts, which increasingly tend not to involve regular troops on both sides. Since the Convention is designed to protect persons, not states, the guiding principle must be the furtherance of that protection, with a presumption that every detainee is a POW until a competent court or tribunal determines otherwise. (Michael Byers in the UK Guardian, Jan 14)
14. EX-YUGOSLAVIA WAR CRIMES PROSECUTOR BLASTS US TRIBUNALS
Richard Goldstone, first chief prosecutor of the ex-Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal in the 1990s, stated he is "very worried about the way the US detain alleged Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners on their bases in Cuba." Goldstone, one of the world's most esteemed experts on international criminal law, believes Washington has created a "new criminal category" by calling the detainees "unlawful combatants." "If they are not POWs, then they are ordinary criminals who should face trial in the US proper," said Goldstone, now a justice in the Constitutional Court of his home South Africa. Goldstone warned a complaint could be filed with the International Court of Justice at The Hague against the Guantanamo detainment and the special tribunals. Goldstone said he knows of "no justification in international law for such behavior." (BBC, Jan. 17)
15. ASHCROFT WANTS DEATH FOR ACCUSED HIPPIE TERRORIST
THE NEW GREAT GAME
John Walker, the 20-year-old California spiritual seeker allegedly captured fighting for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, waits on a warship in the Arabian Sea while the Justice Department prepares his trial in Alexandria, VA. The government accuses him of training with rocket-propelled grenades for unspecified "special missions" to kill Americans--and joining Osama bin Laden's personal militia after 9-11. Attorney General John Ashcroft told reporters he is considering additional charges which carry the death penalty, pending an ongoing investigation. (Daily News, Jan. 16)
1. US MILITARIZES KYRGYZSTAN
The US is establishing a strong military presence in Kyrgyzstan, affording strategic leverage in Central Asia. A US-Kyrgyzstan agreement, signed late last year, allows the Pentagon extensive use of the country's only international airport, at Manas, near the capital, Bishkek. US troops are building a 37-acre base there to accommodate some 3,000 soldiers. US military personnel will be immune from prosecution by the Kyrgyz authorities. They will be free to enter and leave the country without hindrance, and to wear uniforms and carry arms. A Pentagon representative announced Jan. 3 that the deployment "will be long-term, rather than temporary." Chinara Jakypova, writing for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), sees two US aims in the Kyrgyzstan build-up: loosening Russia's grip on the region and keeping a close eye on China, the "sleeping giant of Asia," which borders Kyrgyzstan on the east. Many local politicians and journalists are critical of US motives. Kyrgyz legislative assembly member Adakham Madumarov said the US wants to use Kyrgyzstan as a base to pull Central Asia away from Moscow. Another concern is that bombing raids might be launched from Kyrgyzstan, embroiling the country in the region's turmoil. Commented Madumarov: "We could become a main target for terrorists. The US presence is a strategic handicap for Kyrgyzstan." Said journalist Beken Nazaraliev: "The Americans may ruin our good relations with neighbors like China. Washington, because of its own interests, could at some stage sacrifice little Kyrgyzstan, leaving it to face the anger of the Arab world." The Islamic organization Khizb-ut-Takhrir, whose cells have recently proliferated in Kyrgyzstan, has already called for "the overthrow of leaders who have turned Kyrgyzstan into a humiliated colony."
The IWPR's Yevgeny Nurabaev writes that the US base especially alarms Kyrgyzstan's ethnic Russians--and many are leaving country. Russian Emigration Service staff in Kyrgyzstan say forms for citizens seeking repatriation to Russia increasingly cite the US military presence. "Why is the US planning to be stationed in Kyrgyzstan when the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan is almost completed?" asked Mikhail Butnev, founder of the Cossack movement, uniting descendants of the militia that helped the Russian Czars conquer Central Asia in 19th century. Answers local historian Danil Kvashuk: "I'm sure the Americans aren't worried about our security concerns and the struggle against terrorism--they're pursuing their geopolitical aims." He asserts the public should have been consulted on the move. "If Kyrgyzstan is calling itself the second Switzerland, then why wasn't a referendum held, as is done in Switzerland on the smallest issues?"
2. RUSSIA BREAKS RANKS WITH US ON AFGHANISTAN BOMBARDMENT
Russia called for an end to US bombings in Afghanistan and reaffirmed its opposition to the long-term presence of US troops in its former "backyard" of the Central Asian republics. Moscow "wishes peace to return as soon as possible to Afghanistan and is against the current bombing going on indefinitely," the speaker of the State Duma (lower house) Gennady Seleznyov said on his arrival for talks in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. (AFP, Jan. 11)
3. DEATH MERCHANTS SALIVATE OVER INDO-PAK CONFLICT
The British government is pushing an intensive campaign to boost arms sales to India--including 60 Hawk jets worth nearly $1.5 billion--despite of the escalation of the India-Pakistan dispute towards open war. The arms push comes only a week after Tony Blair visited India and Pakistan, where he expressed the hope that "we can have a calming influence" and warned of the "enormous problems the whole of the world would face if things went wrong." Hawk manufacturer BAE Systems is confident of striking a deal. In 2000, the UK granted export licenses for over $90 million in war material for former colony India--combat aircraft parts, helicopter gunships, missiles. Critics say the BAE deal would contravene guidelines adopted by Britain in 1997 banning arms sales to countries facing likelihood of imminent war, or a threat to "regional stability." The head of the Indian army, Sunderajan Padmanabhan, said last week the build-up of forces along the Kashmir border has brought India and Pakistan "quite close to an actual war." Richard Bingley of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said: "It is diabolical that just days after Tony Blair was promoting peace in India, his government uses taxpayers' money to fund activity which could achieve the exact opposite." British arms companies will be prominent at an arms fair next month in New Delhi, Defexpo 2002. The pavilion is being organized by the Defense Manufacturers Association with financial support from Trade Partners UK, a government body. (Guardian Weekly, Jan. 17)
4. INDIA PLAYS AL-QAEDA CARD
Seeking to portray its conflict with Pakistan as part of the US war on terrorism, India announced that two Islamic militants arrested in Kashmir Jan. 14 were tied to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited India and Pakistan this week in an effort to defuse tensions. Pakistan arrested some 1,500 Islamic militants under pressure from both the US and India this week, and banned the two organizations India accuses in the Dec. 13 attack on New Delhi's parliament building. But Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf refuses India's demands for extradition of the groups' leaders. Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji also visited India this week--the first visit by a Chinese prime minister in over a decade. This is a signal that Beijing, which has traditionally backed Pakistan against mutual rival India (including with nuclear weapons technology), is swayed by the portrayal of Pakistan as a base for Islamist subversion and terrorism in China's restive northwest. Meanwhile, New Delhi claimed one Indian soldier was killed by Pakistani artillery fired across the Kashmir cease-fire line. (Financial Times, Jan. 15)
5. PAKISTAN SELLS OUT FUNDAMENTALISTS (SORT OF)
Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf, under pressure from the US and India, is rapidly distancing himself from the Islamist militants his regime has supported--but with some equivocation. "The day of reckoning will come," he said in his TV address announcing a ban on Islamist groups. "Do we want Pakistan to become a theocratic state? Or do we want Pakistan to emerge as a dynamic Islamic welfare state?" This may seem a narrow distinction to secularists. (Newsday, Jan. 16)
6. ...NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH DEMOCRATIZATION
But don't expect the crackdown on fundamentalists to mean a transition to democracy. Human Rights Watch reports that Musharraf has tightened the military's grip since 9-11: "Gen. Pervez Musharraf took steps that further consolidated the army's authority and all but ensured that any future government would operate under military tutelage. With media attention focused on internal unrest following Pakistan's break with the Taliban and its public support for the United States-led intervention, Musharraf's movement toward establishing a controlled democracy faced little international opposition... Mainstream political parties continued to operate under tight constraints. A ban on rallies remained in force, and the authorities detained thousands of political party members and activists to forestall planned demonstrations against government policies and continued military rule." ( Human Rights Watch 2002 Report)
7. TALKING HEADS DEBATE CHINA POSTURE
On Dec. 7, ABC News cited two recent reports, in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, portraying a Chinese tilt to the Taliban to offset growing US influence in Central Asia. The reports said China had sent diplomats to Kabul on a regular basis and signed a memorandum with the Taliban on construction of dams and other technical assistance. The reports also said one Chinese company was assisting the Taliban in building a telephone network. These reports were denied by the Chinese government as "groundless and absurd."
Tom Gouttierre of the University of Nebraska (which sponsored a program aimed at better US-Taliban relations--seeWW3 REPORT #5) insisted China supports US war aims because of its own fears of internal Islamist subversion: "We know that there have been at least 1,000 Chinese, Uighurs primarily, from the northwestern parts of China, who have been trained in the camps of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. And so the Chinese are very mindful of the terrorist threats in their western territories... So I suspect that the Chinese at this stage are probably very much in support of the way things are going, because I think it bears more positive potential for its own long term interests."
But even if Prof. Gouttierre is right, those bent on posing China as the USA's new enemy in Asia may get their wish. China's fears of Taliban-sponsored subversion have led to tensions with its traditional ally Pakistan--also a close US ally. Right up to Sept. 11, Pakistan had been aiding the Taliban. In response, suggests ABC's Edmond Roy, China started tilting towards Iran--a regime hostile to the US, but which was also backing the Northern Alliance. Reported Roy: "A Chinese-Iranian partnership is already developing to build strategic oil and gas pipelines in Central Asia, which in effect would counter both the United States and Russian pipelines, and give the Central Asian states alternative routes to export their energy."
THE MIDDLE EAST
1. UGLIER AND UGLIER IN HOLY LAND
On Jan. 17 , six Jewish revelers were killed in an attack at a bat mitzvah ceremony in Hadera, Israel. The Al Aqsa Brigades, a militia linked to Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah political organization, claimed responsibility for the attack, in which a former Palestinian police officer opened fire with an assault rifle before being gunned down himself. The next day, Israeli warplanes destroyed the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank town of Tulkarem. The Palestinians claimed one police officer killed and some 20 injured in the air-strikes. (AP, Jan. 18) The bat mitzvah attack followed the Jan. 14 killing of Al Aqsa leader Raed Karmi, who was blown up by a bomb after being lured from his Tulkarem home by a phone call. Hundreds of Tulkarem residents paraded Karmi's body through the streets clamoring for revenge, and an Israeli soldier was shot dead in retaliation later that day. An Al Aqsa statement said Israel had "opened the fire of hell upon itself" by assassinating Karmi. Israeli officials did not confirm or deny responsibility for Karmi's death, but released a list of his alleged crimes, claiming he had killed nine Israelis in shooting attacks. Karmi had narrowly escaped assassination in Sept. when Israel launched a rocket attack on a car he was travelling in, killing two passengers. He was high on a list of militants Israel has asked the Palestinian Authority to arrest. (BBC, Jan. 14) On Jan. 19, the situation escalated yet further as Israeli troops blew up the Voice of Palestine radio station in Ramallah, and surrounded the Palestinian Authority's central headquarters there with armored vehicles, placing Arafat under virtual house arrest. (NYT, Jan. 19)
2. ISRAELI CHIEF OF STAFF SCHMOOZES BUSH CABINET
As the bombs fell on Tulkarem, Israel's Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz was in Washington meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Joint Chiefs of Staff head Gen. Richard Myers and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Seeking to integrate Israel's war with Palestine into the US war on terrorism, Mofaz accused Iran of deep involvement in terrorism against Israel, anonymous sources said. (AP, Jan. 18)
3. TERRORISM BY BULLDOZER CONTINUES
The Israel Defense Forces' Jan 10 demolition of 70 Palestinian homes in a Gaza refugee camp drew sharp international protest. Israeli claims that the homes were abandoned and used by gunmen and arms smugglers were contradicted by UN workers who stepped in to provide emergency shelter for some 700 evicted residents (seeWW3 REPORT #16). On Jan. 13, two days after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the bulldozings as "collective punishment," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's administration announced an end to home demolitions in the Occupied Territories--while denying it was ceding to international pressure. But on the very same day, bulldozers razed at least 5 newly-built Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem's Isawiya neighborhood--at least one of them inhabited. Police scuffled with dozens of residents as 15 bulldozers and land-movers knocked down walls. Two protesters were detained. These demolitions were done under cover of municipal bureaucracy rather than military retaliation. Jerusalem city authorities said 17 demolition orders have been issued for structures in Isawiya. Dozens of homes have been demolished in East Jerusalem because they were built without permits, and Israel says it enforces the law equally against Arab and Jewish residents. But the Palestinians say they have no choice but to build illegally because they are rarely granted permits. Jerusalem officials acknowledge the government is trying to limit Palestinian population growth in the city. The Palestinians want to establish a capital in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed to its capital in a move not recognized by the UN. Jerusalem city council members opposed to Likud Mayor Ehud Olmert tried to block further demolitions, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions petitioned the Jerusalem Magistrates Court to halt the bulldozings. (Haaretz, Jan. 14)
4. ISRAELI BEDOUINS HAVE BAD DEAL
The slain gunmen on both sides in the Jan. 9 attack on Israeli troops which sparked the Gaza demolitions were neither Jews nor Palestinians, but Bedouins--descendants of Arab nomads from the Negev Desert. Bedouins have long served in the Israel Defense Forces' desert patrol battalion, and many now also live in the Palestinian refugee camps. Disenfranchised from their traditional lands, Bedouins have ironically turned to the Israeli military for survival--but are increasingly throwing in their lot with the Palestinian resistance. Many inhabit "unrecognized villages," dozens of Arab communities that Israeli authorities refused to make legal after the 1948 war. "Unrecognized villages" are denied access to the electrical, water or sewage systems, and conditions are miserable.
Fuar Naim, 75, of "unrecognized" Al-Naim, just outside Haifa, told a journalist: "It started in 1948 when they took away our livelihood--our herds of goats, cows and sheep. Then, in the early 1960s, they erected a fence around our homes, telling us the land was a military zone and that any animals that strayed outside the fence would be confiscated." The Bedouins' 4,000 dunums (1,000 acres) shrank to 800--hardly more than the ground their homes stood on. Most were forced to give up their livestock, becoming laborers or unemployed. Worse was to come. "One day in 1963 the army entered the village and arrested all the men," said Naim. "We were taken to the jail in Akko [Acre] for five days, none of us knowing why we had been arrested." Upon their release, they returned to find their homes demolished by army bulldozers, and their wells opened and pumped dry. Naim claimed four children were killed when they fell into the empty wells. The villagers built temporary shelters, hoping for permission to rebuild their village. Nearly 40 years later, they are still waiting, living in tents or corrugated-iron huts that provide little protection against the severe Galilee winters. There are no toilets, and water is supplied by illegal pipes from two tanks filled with water from a nearby "legal" village. Electricity is available for a few hours each day from a generator. Residents can be arrested for any building construction or improvement. Israeli policy calls for the inhabitants of Al-Naim--and three nearby Bedouin villages of Demaide, Husseini and Kamani--to move to Wadi Salami, a "planned town" for Arabs. The villagers refuse.
Khaled Khalil of the Association of Forty, an organization campaigning for the unrecognized villages, says conditions in Al-Naim are the worst outside the Negev, where Israeli authorities seek to force over 60,000 Bedouin to relocate by denial of services. "[T]he government earmarked this land for Jewish development," he says. "They kept up enormous pressure to make sure the inhabitants moved out." Al-Naim residents finally won recognition 3 years ago, along with 8 of the Galilee's other largest Arab villages. But little changed, as new bureaucratic obstacles were found. Said Khalil: "Although the village is officially legal, in practice this means almost nothing. Under planning laws, the land is classified as an agricultural zone and so residential buildings on it are still illegal. Any houses they build can be demolished. In effect the village is legal but every house in it is illegal." (Jonathan Cook for Al-Ahram Weekly Online, Jan. 10-6)
Israel's Bedouin--130,000 in the Negev and 70,000 in the Galilee--constitute one quarter of Israel's Muslim citizens, and are Israel's most disadvantaged sector. Now undergoing a traumatic transformation from their traditional nomadic way of life to a nearly forced urbanization, they have Israel's lowest level of education, health care and housing, and the highest level of unemployment. Conflicting land claims remain unresolved since 1948. Slum conditions at Bedouin towns established by Israeli authorities in the Negev do not attract the 70,000 Bedouin still living in nomadic encampments or "unrecognized settlements." Writes one commentator: "The Bedouin who for many years refused to identify with Palestinian radicalism or Islamic fundamentalism, many of whose sons demonstrated their loyalty to Israel by volunteering for service in the IDF, are in recent years being steadily driven into the arms of the Islamic Movement." (Moshe Arens in Haaretz, Jan. 15)
5. US MILITARY TRIBUNALS PIONEERED IN EGYPT
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak is happy that the US has decided to try terrorist suspects in military tribunals. For ten years, Egypt has been taking fire from the West for military trials of civilians. The new US policy, and a new British anti-terrorism law allowing indefinite detention of suspects, "prove that we were right from the beginning in using all means, including military trials, [in response to] these great crimes that threaten the security of society," Mubarak told the Egyptian press. "There is no doubt that the events of Sept. 11 created a new concept of democracy that differs from the concept that Western states defended before these events, especially in regard to the freedom of the individual." In 1992, Mubarak, his regime under attack from a radical Islamist insurgency, authorized referral of civilians to military courts. The trials, held at desert barracks, are still going strong despite the fact that the movement has been largely crushed since 1997. The military courts have much looser standards of evidence. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights counted 32 trials involving 1,001 defendants in 1999, of whom 625 were sentenced to prison and 94 to execution (with 67 since executed). Mubarak declared that military courts "would only be used to confront terrorism." But in 2000, 15 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were given prison terms of up to 5 years for "conspiring" to run for office in local and parliamentary elections. While many of those convicted in the military trials are murderous fanatics, rights activists say many are swept up indiscriminately from suspect mosques. The US State Department's 2000 report on human rights in Egypt read: "[T]he use of military courts to try civilians continued to infringe on a defendant's right to a fair trial before an independent judiciary." (Steve Negus in The Nation, Jan. 3)
6. ALGERIA DICTATORSHIP ON "GOOD GUYS LIST"
Algeria's military-backed regime used to approach Western governments for arms deals cautiously, fearing an outcry about human rights. But the regime anticipates a post-9-11 windfall of war material. "They ask for weapons every time they hold meetings with anyone," said one Western diplomat. "After Sept. 11, they're on the good guys list." The regime portrays Algeria's strife, which has claimed 100,000 lives since 1992, as entirely an Islamic "terrorist" assault. Two Algerian groups are on the US list of organizations tied to Osama bin Laden. Algeria's offer of anti-terrorist cooperation won President Abdelaziz Bouteflika a visit to the White House in Nov., his second in a year. After meeting with President Bush, Bouteflika told reporters: "Algeria is aware of the importance [of 9-11] because it has been fighting in the past alone for a tragic decade, with the indifference of many and the ingratitude of others." Counters Ali Yahya Abdennour of Algeria's Human Rights League: "The West has not understood that internal terrorism in our case is caused by dictatorship at the top." The violence was sparked by the army's 1992 cancellation of a second parliamentary elections round to thwart victory by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). The FIS took up arms, and splinter groups began attacking civilians. But the regime was accused of manipulating armed groups to discredit the FIS. There were reports of army troops standing by as civilians were massacred. The regime refused demands for investigations. With the Islamists largely defeated, the 1,000 average monthly deaths in the mid-'90s is down to last year's 200 per month. The regime's real priority is now a civil uprising by the Berber minority in eastern Kabylia region, launched to protest the hogra--contempt--shown by the authorities. After April's police killing of a Berber youth, protests escalated to riots. The Berber movement is explicitly anti-Islamist. Said Ikhelf Bouaichi of the Berber-based Socialist Forces Front: "The regime is now trying to capitalize on the international situation and to be recognized as a partner in the anti-terror campaign when it should be addressing the issues that trouble ordinary Algerians. Exclusion and misery are what create violence and terror." (Financial Times, Jan. 15)
7. TURKEY SUES CHOMSKY PUBLISHER FOR TELLING UNAPPROVED TRUTH
THE WAR AT HOME
In another astonishing demonstration of the profound commitment to democracy on the part of the USA's coalition partners in the war on terrorism, the Turkish government brought charges against Istanbul's Aram Publishing for printing a translated Noam Chomsky essay collection, entitled "American Interventionism." The book includes a lecture Chomsky gave at Ohio's University of Toledo last March, in which he said the Turkish government had "launched a major war in the Southeast against the Kurdish population," and described the conflict as "one of the most severe human rights atrocities of the 1990s." Aram director Fatih Tas faces a year in prison if convicted on charges of "conducting propaganda against the state." The trial is due to begin in Feb. The indictment issued by Istanbul's State Security Court said passages in the book constitute "propaganda against the indivisible unity of the nation." Chomsky said the lecture was based on material from "the leading human rights organizations...the most respected standard scholarship, and official US government documents." Turkey's government has been fighting a war against Kurdish rebels demanding autonomy in the southeast for over 15 years. The conflict has eased since the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) announced a unilateral cease-fire in 1999. But the government rejected the cease-fire, and sporadic fighting continues. About 37,000, mostly Kurdish rebels and civilians, have been killed in the fighting since 1984. Dozens of Turkish writers and intellectuals have been jailed under strict laws forbidding criticism of the war. (A-Infos News Service, Jan.)
1. FEDS CRACK DOWN ON "UN-AMERICAN" ART
Michael Niman reports in High Times magazine's on-line edition (www.hightimes.com) on the nationwide post-9-11 wave of federal harassment of those who display the work of dissident artists. On Oct. 12, two Secret Service agents visited the North Carolina apartment of Durham Tech freshman AJ Brown. According to a report in The Progressive (www.progressive.org), the agents said, "We're here because we have a report that you have un-American material in your apartment." When Brown asked what they were talking about, the agents specified that they were investigating reports that she had an "anti-American poster" on her wall. The work in question was an anti-death penalty poster chastising George Bush for overseeing 152 executions as governor of Texas. It showed Bush holding a noose and read, "We hang on your every word. George Bush, Wanted: 152 Dead." Brown opened the door so the agents could inspect her posters, ask a battery of questions, and take notes. They called her two days later to verify her telephone number and ask her if she had any nicknames.
In New York City, the Chashama art gallery near Times Square leased billboard space to Adbusters Media Foundation to display the " Corporate Flag," an American flag with corporate logos replacing the 50 stars. Shortly after 9-11, a Pentagon investigator visited Chashama, asking who paid for the billboard and created the image--questions easily answered by reading the billboard itself, which contained the Adbusters web address.
On November 7th, an FBI agent and a Secret Service agent paid a call on Houston's eclectic Art Car Museum (artcarmuseum.com). They explained that they received "several reports of anti-American activity [at the museum] and wanted to see the exhibit." The museum was then running a show entitled "Secret Wars," an artistic commentary on US military interventions. Once inside, the agents read a few words by Noam Chomsky, saw a painting depicting George Bush dancing with a devil, and asked numerous questions about the museum's funding, curator, etc.
2. ...AND BOOKS
Even personal reading material is not immune from the paranoid atmosphere. On October 10, 22-year-old Neil Godfrey of Philadelphia was en route to Phoenix to meet with his family for a vacation in Disneyland. After checking his luggage, he proceed to his departure gate carrying only a copy of The Nation magazine and Edward Abbey's novel of radical environmentalists in the American West, "Hayduke Lives!" Airport officials said it was the novel--adorned with a picture of a first grasping sticks of dynamite--which got Godfrey flagged by National Guardsmen. Godfrey was detained for 45 minutes by Guardsmen, Philadelphia police and state troopers who took notes as they thumbed through the book and probed Godfrey on why he was reading it. He was barred from his flight. A United Airlines employee explained that he was banned for the book he was reading, the fact that he purchased his ticket online 8 hours before the 9-11 attack, and because his driver's license was expired. (Philadelphia Citypaper.net, Oct. 18)
According to a Nov. 1 open letter to bookstore owners from the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the new anti-terrorist PATRIOT Act gives the feds authority to search bookstore records to ascertain what customers are reading. The law also explicitly criminalizes protest against such inquisitions, threatening booksellers with arrest if they disclose to anyone that they were served with a government information request. Writes Mike Niman for High Times: "Booksellers and librarians, for years, have attempted to protect patron privacy. While few books give instruction in bomb making, many give information about how to survive with HIV or explore one's sexuality--information many would-be readers might want to keep personal."
3. BILL IN CONGRESS TO BRING BACK DRAFT
A bill to reinstate the military draft has been introduced in the US House of Representatives by two Republicans, Nick Smith of Michigan and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania. The Universal Military Training & Service Act of 2001 (HR 3598) would "require the induction into the Armed Forces of young men registered under the Military Selective Service Act" and (as sugar-coating for the liberals) "authorize young women to volunteer, to receive basic military training and education..." Since 1980, all male residents of the US have been required to register with the Selective Service System upon turning 18. Under the bill, all young men between 18 and 22 would be required to serve up to a year (with limited exemptions for personal hardship, conscientious objection, etc.).
4. PRESS PERSUADED BY PRESIDENTIAL PRETZEL (BUT WE AREN'T)
NEW YORK CITY
The official story is that President Bush got those unseemly, un-presidential bruises on his face by choking on a pretzel while watching TV at the White House Jan. 13. The nation's media are swallowing this line with far greater ease than Bush himself apparently did the pretzel. Some observers, however, are skeptical. Writes WW3 REPORT subscriber Ivo Skoric ( balkansnet.org): "And what about this choking on a pretzel? I've talked to several doctors. A man choking on a pretzel, sitting on a couch, does not fall on the floor. He chokes and dies sitting on the couch. Even if he gets up and then falls on the floor, he does not fall on his face. The particular scenario involving falling on the face has to include a violent jerk and the loss of one's faculties before falling down--a common occurrence in an epileptic seizure. That picture would become even more intriguing if we consider that such seizures may result from a history of alcohol and drug (cocaine) abuse. But I think the pretzel-choking-theory sounds much better in the media."
1. GROUND ZERO WORKERS HAVE NO INSURANCE
The contractors who run work crews at the World Trade Center disaster site have been denied any liability coverage against injury, property damage or death. After more than 120 days of round-the-clock work with no fatalities, contractors are petitioning Congress to provide insurance--which no private company will. The contractors say they risk being pushed to bankruptcy by a barrage of lawsuits over exposure to asbestos, mercury and other toxins. The 4 main contractors--Bovis, Tully, Turner and AMEC--fear plaintiffs will look to them because Congress has already passed legislation limiting 9-11-related liability for New York State, the Port Authority and WTC leaseholder Larry Silverstein. (NYT Jan. 18)
2. FIRST CLEAN-UP FATALITY; CONTRACTOR FINED $100
Worker Angel Quiroga, who was cleaning debris in a building a few blocks from Ground Zero, complained of lightheadedness Oct. 18 and was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he died the next day. Employer Calvin Maintenance was fined $4,000 by the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to report the incident in the required 8-hour period. But OSHA dropped the fine to $100 after Bellevue said Quiroga died of "natural causes." The company, which was not at the address provided to OSHA and could not be reached for comment by reporters, has had at least 7 workplace violations since 1998. Joel Shufro of the NY Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH), which is investigating the incident, protested the reduction: "There are thousands of examples where workers' cases, particularly those of immigrants, are not reported. What is outrageous is that they cut the fine for a company that has a history of violating the law." (Newsday, Jan. 18) A NYCOSH street medical unit providing free check-ups to clean-up workers reports complaints of persistent cough, chest pains and other symptoms. Workers crowd around van at Broadway and Barclay even in the cold, desperate to be tested. (Newsday, Jan. 15)
3. EPA BLASTED ON CLEAN-UP
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), a member of the Ground Zero Elected Officials Task Force, revealed that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had its offices at 290 Broadway, just blocks from the WTC, professionally cleaned by an asbestos removal contractor after 9-11, while advising local residents to clean their homes with "wet rags." Said Nadler: "The EPA must test residential homes immediately and, if necessary, clean all contaminated areas using properly trained personnel under the strictest fed guidelines." (Newsday, Jan. 18)
4. WTC SURVIVORS PROTEST COMPENSATION PLAN
Sen. Hillary Clinton met with the WTC United Family Group, Hispanic Victims Group, September's Mission, 9-11 Widows and other survivors' groups to voice her support of their protest against terms of the federal victims' compensation plan. (Newsday, Jan. 14) Mayor Mike Bloomberg also met a rally by nearly 1,000 WTC survivors at a midtown Manhattan armory, and pledged his support for their grievances. The fund was established by Congress to protect the airline industry from losses as a result of the attacks. The legislation limits airline liability and requires survivors to waive their right to sue in order to participate in the fund. Survivors protest the $250,000 cap on awards for non-economic damages and requirements that life insurance payments be deducted from the award amount. They also oppose the requirement that injured victims show proof they sought medical treatment within 24 hours of the attack (Newsday, Jan. 18)
5. WTC SURVIVORS PROTEST COMMODIFICATION OF DISASTER SITE
Antoinette Rubino, whose daughter Joanne was killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, broke down when she told New York Times reporter Dean Murphy Jan. 13 about her objections to the city's new Ground Zero reviewing stand. "It is like a freak show, these people passing by curious to see if they find a body or a head or something. It is horrible. That is supposed to be a sacred place now. My child's body is all over that place." While visitors to lower Manhattan swarm to the first of several platforms planned along the disaster site perimeter (at Broadway and Fulton), relatives of the casualties say they are deeply offended. And the sense of outrage is worsened by the city's decision last week to issue free tickets at the nearby South Street Seaport tourist attraction. Insisted Francis McCarton of the city Office of Emergency Management: "We have created a system to assist people in viewing the sacred area of Ground Zero by also alleviating some of the crowding conditions there. We feel the system is working." But Manhattan lawyer Tim Gray, whose brother Christopher is among the missing, wrote letters to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to complain. "Perhaps I will be lucky and my brother's corpse will be rescued, but if it is, it absolutely sickens me to think that it will be done in plain view of a frenzy of onlookers, who...will be readied with all forms of technology to record the event," he wrote in one of letter. "I once wished that my brother's body be recovered, now I wonder if I should pray that it remain entombed in Lower Manhattan forever."
6. STREET VENDORS CUT OUT OF DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION PLAN
Activist Robert Lederman protests that an aggressive city plan to lure tourists back to the financial district coincides with a crackdown on street peddlers selling WTC memorabilia. In a Jan. 17 letter to Newsday, Lederman accuses the downtown business improvement district of "advertising tourist discounts and even a happy hour linked to the disaster" while vendors are demonized for exploiting the tragedy.
7. SILVERSTEIN WANTS TO REBUILD TERRORIST BAIT
Larry Silverstein who leased the WTC from the NY-NJ Port Authority, wants to rebuild the complex, but is being held up by a dispute with the complex's insurers (seeWW3 REPORT #16). However, the 47-story 7 WTC was insured separately, and Silverstein wants the Tishman Construction Corp. to begin reconstruction on Sept. 11, 2002. 7 WTC housed Salomon Smith Barney and then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's emergency command bunker (and a secret CIA station--see WW3 REPORT #7) (Newsday, Jan. 14)
8. FEMA LOSES WTC DISASTER PROBE
Following weeks of criticism from experts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lost responsibility for the official probe into why the WTC towers collapsed. Engineers and forensics specialists contracted by FEMA for the probe accused the agency itself of hindering their efforts (seeWW3 REPORT #15). Leadership of the investigation has been turned over to the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NYT, Jan. 17).
9. LAID-OFF WORKERS: MARRIOTT EXPLOITS 9-11
Marriott--one of the largest hotel chains in the US, with 2,300 hotels worldwide and more than $10 billion in sales last year--now stands to receive a share of the $20 billion in federal aid pledged to help rebuild New York. But staff at the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel, which was destroyed in the 9-11 attack, have all been laid off--and claim that workers at two new Marriot locations in the city have been hired at lower wages. The laid-off workers, who held a rally at the Times Square Marriott Marquis Jan. 16, say this violates a pledge by Marriot "to assist with placement into new positions." ( National Mobilization Against Sweatshops.
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