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ISSUE:#. 24. March 10, 2002 By Bill Weinberg


1. Operation Anaconda: Afghanistan Starts to Look Like Vietnam
2. Chinook Down in Paktia
3. Bush: More to Come
4. Gen. Franks' "Gaffe" Tells it Like it Is
5. Local Residents: 15 Killed by US Bombs
6. Five "Peacekeeping" Troops Killed
7. "Peacekeeping" Force Set to Expand; Al-Qaeda to Resist
8. Ex-King Calls US-Led War "Stupid and Useless"?
9. Ethnic Cleansing of Northern Pashtuns
10. Where the Roads Stop, Starvation Begins
11. War Drives Ecological Collapse
12. RAWA Prepares Trial Against Warlords
13. RAWA Statement on International Women's Day
14. Karzai Calls for Truth Commission
15. "Turkmenbashi" Eyes Afghanistan Pipeline

1. Bloodiest Week of New Intifada
2. Diminishing Prospects for Saudi Peace Plan
3. Ultra-Hardliners to Sharon: Recapture the Territories
4. Sharon Cabinet Minister Calls for Targeting Civilians?
5. "Revenge of the Infants" Plots to Kill Children

1. Chinook Down in Mindanao; Pentagon Says No Survivors

1. Indians March for Peace
2. Arundhati Roy Fined, Briefly Jailed for Political Dissent
3. Bechtel/General Electric Helped India Get the Nuke

1. Leaked Pentagon Report Reveals Nuclear War Plans
2. New Thermobaric Weapon Used in Afghanistan: Slippery Slope to Battlefield Nukes?
3. Tip on NYC Nuke Attack Threat Supressed
4. Congressional Testimony on "Dirty Bomb" Threat

1. Does the FBI Have a "Short List" of Suspects?

1. Ruppert v. Weinberg: You Decide


US forces are engaged in the bloodiest military campaign of Operation Enduring Freedom so far--leaving eight US troops and at least three allied Afghan fighters dead, as well as hundreds of enemy. Throughout the week, B-52s, B-1s and carrier-based jets pounded presumed Taliban/al-Qaeda positions in Shah-i-Kot valley in the snow-covered mountains of Afghanistan's conflicted Paktia province. The New York Times reported that windows were shaking in Gardez, 30 miles away. Kabul is sending 1,000 troops from its nascent army, and Pakistani troops are said to be pursuing al-Qaeda forces who fled across the border. (NYT, March 8). Some 12 armored Northern Alliance vehicles, including six tanks, were reported heading from Kabul toward the frontline in Paktia, apparently from the forces of Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum (AFP, March 7). 1,200 US troops are already on ground at Shah-i-Kot, as well as 900 Afghan fighters under local US-allied warlords and 200 troops from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, Norway "and one other unidentified country."(NYT, March 7) Known as Operation Anaconda, it is the largest offensive since the war began in Oct. The US troops are mainly from the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions. The European coalition soldiers include special operations units with training in winter mountain fighting. French Premier Lionel Jospin announced March 5 on French radio that bombers based in Kyrgyzstan and on the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle were striking Taliban positions in Paktia. "We are playing our part in this offensive," he said. "The forces that remain from the terrorist network must be broken, and our determination in this respect is total." (Christian Science Monitor, March 6) US Army Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck boasted to reporter at Bagram air base outside Kabul: "In the last 24 hours, we have killed lots of al-Qaeda and Taliban. I won't give you precise numbers but we've got confirmed kills in the hundreds." (BBC, March 6) [top]

Seven US troops were killed in Operation Anaconda March 4. The incident began after a rocket-propelled grenade hit a Chinook helicopter as US troops were being dropped off in snowy and rugged territory. US Army Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck said a Predator surveillance drone got video footage of Navy SEAL Neil C. Roberts being captured after the Chinook was disabled. "We saw him on the Predator being dragged off by three al-Qaeda men. Another helicopter flew in to rescue the downed aircraft, and that helicopter included...about 30 special operations troops." Within hours, Roberts and six other US troops were dead. The troops were initially sent in to back up local warlord Zia Lodin, whose fighters were unable to dislodge presumed al-Qaeda forces from the town of Sirkamkel which they had occupied. (AP, March 6) Including one killed last weekend (see WW3 REPORT #23), Operation Anaconda has left a total of eight US troops dead, and 40 wounded. (NYT, March 5) [top]

President Bush predicted March 8 that the military will fight more battles like the one raging in Paktia, where US forces have sustained the heaviest casualties of the war in the past week. "It is a sign of what is going to happen for a while," Bush told employees at America II Electronics during a day trip to Florida. "We will take loss of life, and I'm sad for loss of life." (Reuters, March 8) [top]

US war commander Gen. Tommy Franks opened a Florida briefing March 4 by saying: "First, let me say that our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the friends of the service members who have lost their lives in our ongoing operations in Vietnam. Certainly, that sacrifice is appreciated by this nation." When his mistake was pointed out at the end of his briefing, he dismissed any suggestion that the bloody fighting made him think of Vietnam. "Absolutely not," he said. "I guess, it just comes with being an old guy. Afghanistan, not Vietnam. I appreciate the correction. Vietnam was a long, long time ago, and not at all like what we're seeing now." Franks, 56, experienced his first combat as an artillery officer in Vietnam. Earlier, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed a Vietnam analogy of his own. Asked if the assault in Paktia had stalled, he said, "I think that the word 'stall' is a little like 'quagmire,' and it may be premature." (AP, March 4) [top]

Reports from the conflict zone in eastern Afghanistan say 15 civilians were killed March 8 when US aircraft bombed the vehicles they were travelling in. The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said the civilians, from the Kharoti tribe in Paktika province, were travelling to a local shrine when they were hit. A local resident of Paktika's Barmal district told the BBC they wanted to pray for the release of some relatives, who have been detained by US forces. (BBC, March 9) [top]

Three Danish and two German soldiers serving in the Afghanistan "peacekeeping" forces were killed in an accident while attempting to defuse two Soviet-era anti-aircraft missiles. The explosion occurred at a demolition site five miles from the center of Kabul, according to spokesperson Capt. Graham Dunlop. (NYT, March 7) [top]

Western governments are discussing plans to double the international "peacekeeping" force in Afghanistan and deploy troops outside the capital, Kabul. The number of troops could rise to 9,000. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, met UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, March 5 and confirmed the discussions were under way. US intelligence reports allegedly revealed an al-Qaeda plot to attack western troops and Kabul's interim government with a series of car bombings. In addition, e-mail intercepted by US intelligence allegedly shows al-Qaeda is attempting to regroup in Pakistan's remote tribal regions, across the eastern border from Paktia. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul also warned of a threat to kidnap journalists in retaliation for Operation Anaconda. A Canadian journalist was injured near Gardez March 4 when a grenade was thrown at her car. In Spin Boldak, a border town near Kandahar, an Afghan fighter was killed and three injured in a gunfight with Taliban followers. Troops from the interim government raided a nearby refugee camp March 5 and were fired on by gunmen who fled. Handwritten pamphlets found in the camp threatened a "holy war" against the US and its allies. A large cache of arms and ammunition was also found. Posters of Osama Bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar have appeared in Spin Boldak. One read: "Mullah Omar and Osama are the pride of all Muslims." US military officials say they want a national Afghan army to secure peace, and 600 recruits are being trained in Kabul as a first step. But the new army is likely to be riven by internal rivalries between commanders of different ethnic militias. (The UK Guardian, March 7)[top]

Afghanistan's exiled king Mohamed Zahir Shah, due to return in two weeks for a meeting of tribal elders to decide the future of the war-torn nation, was quoted by the Italian paper La Stampa saying the US-led military campaign should be called off. "It is a stupid and useless war and it would be better to stop it immediately," the 87-year-old ex-monarch allegedly said. He blamed foreign meddling in Afghanistan for the crisis: "My people have always fought for freedom and democracy.... Terrorism and al-Qaeda are foreign phenomena, not Afghan." (AFP, March 7) However, the ex-king quickly backtracked from the comments. "The king never said the words attributed to him," his secretary Hamid Sadiq told AFP after drafting a statement denying the interview ever took place. "We never invited journalists" to the informal meeting over tea with a Red Cross official, where the comments were allegedly overheard. "We never knew there were journalists present," Sadiq said. (AFP, March 9) [top]

A front-page March 7 New York Times story told of abandoned Pashtun villages in Northern Afghanistan, where residents all fled to take refuge in caves after being attacked by Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara militias affiliated with the Northern Alliance. Many had lists of stolen items taken by the plundering militiamen. That same day, Human Rights Watch released a report of recent testimonies documenting abuses against ethnic Pashtuns in northern Afghanistan--and calling for "deployment of an expanded international security end a campaign of violence and intimidation there." Said senior HRW researcher Peter Bouckaert: "Our research found that Pashtuns throughout northern Afghanistan are facing serious abuse, including beatings, killings, rapes, and widespread looting, The interim Afghan government will need much greater support from the international community to bring security and stability to the north." HRW researchers just completed four weeks of research in northern Afghanistan, visiting dozens of communities affected by violence. Their research established that the three armed factions currently in power in northern Afghanistan--Junbish-i-Milli (Rashid Dostum's Uzbek militia), Jamiat-i-Islami (Burhanuddin Rabbani's Tajik militia), and Hezb-i-Wahdat (Karim Khalili's Hazara militia)--"are subjecting ethnic Pashtuns to murder, beatings, sexual violence, abductions, looting, and extortion." The Pashtun heartland is in southern Afghanistan, but Pashtuns were encouraged to migrate to the north to colonize the region under the Pashtun-based Durrani dynasty (1747-1973). Today many local Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara continue to resent the Pashtuns because the Taliban regime was also largely Pashtun. WW3 REPORT notes the irony of HRW's call for an expanded western troop presence to protect the Pashtuns; the Northern Alliance militias achieved power in the region with massive aid, training and air cover from the US and other western powers.[top]

A front-page March 8 New York Times report from the remote Afghan village of Kangori, Sar-i-Pol province, told of a local man who took two of his 10 children to the bazaar in the nearest town and traded them for bags of wheat--an increasingly common story in drought-stricken mountain regions where international food aid does not reach. Wrote the Times: "Last fall, when US bombing raids hindered emergency food deliveries, humanitarian groups were concerned about mass starvation. As winter comes to a close, the famine has not proved as lethal as feared, leaving millions in the vicinity of the grave without quite pushing them in." After the usual horror stories about starving peasants being forced to scavenge the bare hills for grass, the article quotes Alejandro Chicheri of the UN World Food Program: "Always, in any situation like this, people are going to die, but we've done a lot to minimize the loss of life. If there is starvation, it's only in small pockets." Wheat, and sometimes beans and cooking oil, have been distributed to 6.5 million Afghans--sometimes delivered in a relay from trucks to camels to donkeys. But in high mountain villages not easily accessible even by donkey train, residents are reduced to selling their children and eating grass. "We call them internally stuck people," said Ahmed Idrees Rahmani of the International Rescue Committee. "Wherever the roads stop, disaster seems to start. Reaching some villages requires four or five days on a donkey. People might be starving. We wouldn't know." [top]

Michael Kamber reports for Mother Jones: "As dusk falls in Kabul, the streets fill with a choking gray smoke, despite the city's near-complete lack of industry. Nearly every family in this capital of one million is cooking its evening meal and trying to keep the bitter winter chill at bay. But in a partially destroyed city where most homes lack electricity, the only fuel available is wood, cut from the surrounding hillsides and trucked into Kabul and other cities. The interiors of the dilapidated concrete homes--and, presumably the lungs of inhabitants--are covered with soot." Urban air pollution equals Mexico City's, and surviving forest cover in the devastated countryside is rapidly disappearing. "Losses of natural resources are beyond estimation," said Abdul Wajid Adil, of the Society for Afghanistan's Viable Environment (SAVE), based in Peshawar, Pakistan. A four-year drought and war damage to infrastructure have emptied rivers and irrigation canals. With corrupt warlords plundering timber to smuggle to Pakistan for guns and money, "after very few years the forest will all be gone," according to Adil. In its place is barren land is seeded with mines and unexploded bombs. "In Afghanistan, between 1 and 2% of the land is forested," estimated Mohammed Mujib Khan, head of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in Sarhad, Pakistan. "This represents a 33% decrease from 1979." And as the 3 million Afghan refugees are repatriated from Pakistan and Iran, they are likely to converge on Kabul and other cities rather than returning to bombed-out villages and land-mined fields--further burdening infrastructure and worsening the sanitation crisis in a city with open sewers.

But some environmentalists hope that the 10 million landmines and dormant bombs now littering Afghanistan will help protect some of the country's wildlife. "Landmines tend to keep people out of areas," said Dr. Joshua Ginsberg, Asia Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). "That can be good for animals." Ginsberg says Afghanistan's Caspian tigers have completely disappeared, but he still hopes that scientists will find traces of bears, Marco Polo sheep and endangered snow leopards. All of these have been hunted for food or profit in the years of war. Leopard pelts fetch thousands of dollars on the black market. It is probably too late for the endangered Siberian crane, which followed a migratory route through Afghanistan. In 1978, the Afghanistan flock numbered 70. Today it is down to one pair with a chick, according to SAVE. The WCS, SAVE and other organizations are trying to get back in to Afghanistan to start environmental restoration programs--despite the continuing warfare. Said Ginsberg: "We have to get in there soon and start working. We can not wait for the right government, because if we wait, there will be nothing left to save." (Mother Jones, March 6) [top]

The regional Basque government of Spain and the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) signed a protocol in Islamabad, Pakistan, to bring Afghan warlords before international criminal courts. Basque representative Javier Madrazo Lavin said his government would provide legal, political and financial assistance to RAWA for legal action against Afghan war criminals. RAWA representative Saba Sehar accused several Afghan leaders of war crimes, genocide and systematic abuse of women, including Northern Alliance leaders Burhanuddin Rabbani, Abdul Rashid Dostum and Karim Khalili, as well as fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar. She said Northern Alliance war criminals have no right to power, and protested that some of the worst hold important posts in the US-backed interim government. She also said killings, beatings and restrictions on women remain rampant in Afghanistan beyond Kabul, the capital. (Dawn, Pakistan, March 6) [top]

A RAWA Statement on International Women's Day, March 8, stated that "the Taliban, Osama & Co., and other fundamentalist bands in Afghanistan are creatures of myopic US policies... As long as such Frankenstein monsters were useful for the pursuance of US policies, successive US governments supported them... RAWA takes great pride in the fact that we persistently condemned this US policy and never caved in to pressure...nor to the lure political or financial opportunism." The statement called the US military campaign in Afghanistan "a fracas between patron and ex-proteges." Protesting US aid to the Northern Alliance, RAWA said "One fundamentalist band cannot be fought by siding with and supporting another." The statement accused interim prime minister Hamid Karzai of being a "hostage in the hands of Northern Alliance criminals." It warned Karzai that "the Afghan people...will not forgive the indefinite continuation of your spineless leniency, or your concurrence with Jihadi cutthroats."

On the prospect of a Loya Jirga, or traditional summit of tribal chiefs, to form a new government, the statement said: "RAWA does not consider a Loya Jirga a democratic institution... However, we believe that under the current circumstances...the anachronistic Loya Jirga can still play a positive national historical role. We have our strong reservations, though, in that none of the 21-member Preparatory Committee for the Convocation of the Loya Jirga has any background of struggle against Jihadi criminals, and some of them have records of spineless silence and compromise vis-Ã-vis the Taliban."

The statement demanded that Afghanistan's new permanent government be based on: "Unqualified adherence to the principles and criteria of democracy and its major tenet, secularism"; "Strict prohibition of all forms of decrees, fatwas, etc. in regard to women and what they should wear, etc."; "Total and absolute abrogation of political police organizations or other institutions of civil espionage, torture or harassment"; "Prosecution of all individuals who, during the past 23 years have committed high treason, war crimes, blatant violations of human rights and plunder of national assets"; "Abolishment and proscription of all religious madrassas and other terrorist dens where Jihadi and Taliban mindsets are promoted"; "Investigation and extraction of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funds embezzled and misappropriated by Jihadi and Taliban thieves from public coffers" and barring "higher-echelon individuals of Jihadi and Taliban parties from holding high public office."[top]

Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai and UN human rights chief Mary Robinson on March 8 called for a truth commission for Afghanistan to investigate human rights abuses committed over two decades of war. "I believe we must have a truth commission very soon to find out more about the atrocities committed and to address those people who have been violated, whose relatives have been killed," Karzai told reporters during a UN-sponsored human rights conference in Kabul. "Afghanistan must find a way to cure those wounds." The conference in Kabul was attended by UN officials, Afghan leaders and international activists, including Bianca Jagger. (AP, March 8)[top]

The leaders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan met March 7 and discussed plans for a pipeline to send natural gas to global markets--a project long stalled by Afghanistan's turmoil. Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai stopped off for a half-day in Ashkabad, capital of Turkmenistan, to meet with the country's reclusive and autocratic ruler, President Saparmurat Niyazov (who goes by the moniker "Turkmenbashi," leader of the Turkmen). "There is a project from Turkmenistan, over Afghanistan to Pakistan and then India," Niyazov told reporters after talks with Karzai. "We agreed to discuss this soon, both together and with the leader of Pakistan Everyone would benefit. Afghanistan would receive employment and a twelfth of the overall profits." Karzai and Niyazov also said they agreed on Turkmen supplies of gas and electricity for Afghanistan, and building new road links between the countries. Niyazov promised to hook northern Afghan cities up to Turkmenistan's electric grid within a year, and help light the capital Kabul in two. "We hope that we will soon receive electricity from Turkmenistan, and we expect to discuss other forms of cooperation soon during your visit to Kabul," Karzai told Niyazov. The pipeline plan, initially pushed by the Texas-based Unocal corporation, which has oil and gas interests in Turkmenistan, was dropped due to instability in Afghanistan. Turkmenistan is the only former Soviet state bordering Afghanistan that does not host US troops in the anti-terror campaign. (Reuters, March 7) [top]


Some 42 Palestinians were killed March 8 in Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations against refugee camps, Palestinian Authority (PA) buildings and other targets in the Palestinian territories. In Tul Karm, elite IDF Golani troops seized control of a refugee camp; 17 Palestinians and one IDF soldier died in the operation, and some 1,300 camp residents were detained. Paratroopers took control of large areas in Bethlehem and surrounding camps. Israeli helicopters also fired on a refugee camp near Ramallah, killing one man, and Israeli tanks entered Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli helicopters and gunboats totally destroyed the Gaza headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat early March 10, hours after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 11 and injured over 50 at a busy cafe in West Jerusalem, with the militant group Hamas claiming responsibility. Two Israelis were also killed and 50 injured in another attack in the northern coastal town of Netanya, when two Palestinian gunmen opened fire at passers-by late March 9, with the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claiming responsibility. On March 7, a Palestinian gunman armed with an assault rifle and grenades infiltrated the Atzmona settlement in the Gaza Strip and killed five Israeli students before being shot by Israeli soldiers. (Haaretz, March 10) On March 5, three Israelis were killed and 30 wounded when a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a Tel Aviv restaurant before being gunned down. On March 4, at least 17 Palestinians were killed in IDF attacks on the Jenin and Rafah camps in Gaza and PA buildings in the West Bank. It was the worst week of violence since the Palestinian intifada (uprising) began in Sept. 2000. (NYT, March 5) Among the dead was Major Gen. Ahmed Mefraj, PA deputy commander in Gaza and most senior Palestinian to be killed since the start of the intifada. (BBC, March 9) [top]

Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, at a Cairo conference with Arab heads of state to develop a peace plan for Israel-Palestine, called the March 8 violence, which left over 40 Palestinians dead, "Black Friday." (NYT, March 9) The Saudi peace plan, which had called for the Arab nations to "normalize" relations with Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal from all territories conquered in the 1967 war, was subsequently toughened. The term "normalization" was dropped, and demands were added for restitution for Palestinian refugees, as well as a specific reference to Israeli withdrawal from East Jerusalem. (Haaretz, March 10) Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who previously insisted that there must be seven days of calm before talks could resume with the Palestinians, ostensibly dropped this demand after "Black Friday," with both US special envoy Anthony Zinni and US Vice President Dick Cheney set to arrive in Israel this week, and the White House calling for a halt to military strikes. (BBC, March 9) But earlier in the week, Sharon said Palestinians "must be dealt a heavy blow, which will come from every direction. Anyone wishing to conduct negotiations with [the Palestinians] must first hit them hard, so that it is clear to them that they will achieve nothing through terror... We must inflict heavy losses on their side." (Newsday, March 5) [top]

The escalation of violence came with renewed pressure on Sharon to actually re-occupy and annex the Palestinian territories (see WW3 REPORT #19). Wrote the Israeli daily Haaretz March 9: "This week was marked by the call to recapture the territories. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon heard it from every direction: from cabinet ministers of his party and from cabinet ministers on the far right, from his close friends and from Likud branches across the country." [top]

Israel's Minister of Infrastructure, Avigdor Lieberman, urged Prime Minister Sharon to order a systematic bombing of Palestinian population centers, the Palestine Media Center claimed. Citing "Israeli sources," the PMC said Lieberman suggested during a cabinet meeting on March 5 that the IDF bomb Palestinian "markets, mosques, banks, and malls." ( Palestine Media Center, March 6 ) The UK Independent reported the following exchange March 7. Lieberman reportedly told the meeting: "At 8 AM we'll bomb all the commercial centers... at noon we'll bomb their gas stations... at two we'll bomb their banks." Foreign Minister Shimon Peres interrupted to say: "And at 6 PM you'll receive an invitation to the international tribunal in The Hague." In Nov., after the US bombing of Afghanistan began, Lieberman decried the "double standard" by which "The Americans blow up a hospital and a Red Cross station, and nobody asks them such questions," while Israel is pressured for civilian casualties in retaliation to Palestinian terrorism. (US News & World Report, Nov. 5) [top]

In southern Jerusalem's Arab neighborhood of Sur Bahir March 5, metal cones hidden in a grove of pines in a school yard exploded, spraying bullets and shrapnel all over the yard, breaking windows in the schoolhouse and sending students scrambling under their desks. The bomb was set to go off during morning exercises when the yard is usually filled with some 400 Palestinian junior high school students--the death toll would have been high if the cones hadn't been discovered ten minutes before detonation and the yard evacuated. An Israel Radio reporter received a message claiming responsibility for the attack in the name of "Revenge of the Infants," saying it was intended to avenge the killing of Jewish children by Palestinian suicide bombers. Four Israeli children were killed in the previous weekend's suicide attacks. But Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert suggested the bombing was a provocation by Palestinian militants: "Suicide, killing themselves, is not foreign to their repertoire. So one can imagine the possibility that they're doing it to themselves in an attempt to create a provocation, to stir up this population." Angry students later marched out of the schoolyard, holding signs raeidng "Stop killing our children," and hurling rocks at Israeli riot police, who responded with stun grenades and tear gas. (NYT March 6) [top]


Philippine and US military authorities have called off search and rescue operations in the Feb. 22 crash of an MH-47 Chinook helicopter 150 miles northeast of Zamboanga in the southern Philippines, dashing hopes of any survivors among the 10 US servicemen aboard the aircraft. The chopper was participating in the joint US-Philippine Balikatan counter-terrorist exercises. US Brig. Gen. Donald Wurster, commander of the joint Task Force 510, announced that the operations have shifted to "search and recovery." The Chinook crashed into a ball of fire while flying from Basilan to Mactan. The Pentagon has ruled out hostile fire as the cause of the crash. The Chinook was part of a two-helicopter contingent transporting supplies and personnel to Basilan, the major theater of operations in the Philippine anti-terror campaign. Basilan is a major base of the Abu Sayyaf organization, who are holding a US missionary couple for ransom and are suspected of links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. (Philippine News, March 5) [top]


Hindus and Muslims marched together for peace through streets bloodied by India's worst religious strife in ten years. An uneasy calm has settled over Gujarat state after days of violence which left over 570 dead, mainly Muslims. Dressed in white, some 250 walked past the wreckage of torched shops and homes to the riverside spiritual retreat where Mohandas Gandhi declared his philosophy of non-violence. Soldiers and paramilitary troops patrolled the streets of Gujarat's cities, but officials still reported sporadic violence in the countryside. The violence was sparked when a Muslim mob burned 58 Hindu militants alive in an attack on a train headed for a contested holy site Feb. 27 (see WW3 REPORT #23). (Newsday, March 6) [top]

Novelist and Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy served one day in jail for contempt of court before paying a $42 fine. Roy was sentenced to three months or the fine for participating in a protest outside India's Supreme Court building in October 2000 after it approved the construction of the giant Narmada Dam complex, which calls for the relocation of small farmers and villagers and the flooding of their traditional lands. Roy, also now an outspoken critic of the US-led War on Terrorism, donated her $35,000 Booker Prize to the campaign against the dam. (NYT, March 8; Times of India, March 6) [top]

Although it has largely disappeared from the headlines, India and Pakistan each have hundreds of thousands troops amassed on either side of the border ready for war, and both of the nuclear-capable neighbors have brought missiles into place along the border zone (see WW3 REPORT #18). What has escaped world media coverage of the potential nuclear crisis in the subcontinent is the role of US corporations in helping India attain nuclear capability. Although the US slapped sanctions on India and Pakistan after both nations tested nuclear weapons in May 1998 (see WW3 REPORT #15), India's first nuclear test was actually in May 1974, at the bottom of a mine shaft in the Rayartham Desert. In the outcry following the Rayartham test, it was revealed that the bomb had been developed with plutonium produced at the Tarapur nuclear power plant near Bombay--and with heavy water supplied by the administration of President Richard Nixon. The Tarapur plant had been built by a partnership between two top US nuclear contractors, construction giant Bechtel (see WW3REPORT #11)) and reactor designers General Electric (see WW3REPORT #8)). There were reports of chronic mismanagement at the plant, resulting in radioactive contamination of workers and nearby waters which supplied fish for the Bombay market. The Rayartham test prompted Congress to halt plans for GE/Bechtel to sell uranium enrichment technology to India. (See "The Bechtel Story: The Most Secret Corporation and How it Engineered the World" by Laton McCartney, Simon & Schuster, 1988, p. 199-207) [top]


A classified Pentagon report obtained by the Los Angeles Times reveals that the Bush administration has directed the Pentagon to prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons in at least seven countries, and develop new nuclear weapons for use in battlefield situations. The secret report, provided to Congress Jan. 8, outlines contingencies for use of nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria. The three scenarios: "against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack"; in retaliation for attack with weapons of mass destruction; or "in the event of surprising military developments." The cited countries are all believed to hold potential for any of the scenarios: "All have long-standing hostility towards the United States and its security partners. All sponsor or harbor terrorists, and have active WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and missile programs." Examples cited of "surprising military developments" include an Arab-Israeli conflict, war between China and Taiwan and North Korean attack on the south. A copy of the report, entitled Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), was obtained by LA Times defense analyst William Arkin. Pentagon spokesman Richard McGraw declined to comment because the document is classified. Congress requested the reassessment of US nuclear "posture" in September 2000. The last such review was in 1994. The new report, signed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is now being used by the US Strategic Command to prepare nuclear war plans. (LAT, March 9)

The NPR says that "ideological sources of conflict" with Russia have been eliminated, and a nuclear contingency involving Russia is "not expected"--but still "plausible." States the NPR: "In the event that US relations with Russia significantly worsen in the future, the US may need to revise its nuclear force levels and posture." It also cites the utility of small nuclear warheads in destroying hardened bunkers. "New capabilities must be developed to defeat emerging threats such as hard and deeply-buried targets (HDBT) defeat chemical and biological agents, and to improve accuracy and limit collateral damage," the NPR states. The review calls for research to begin next month on fitting an existing nuclear warhead into a new 5,000-pound "earth penetrating" munition explosive. Arkin writes that "the NPR's call for development of new nuclear weapons that reduce 'collateral damage' myopically ignores the political, moral and military implications--short-term and long--of crossing the nuclear threshold." (LAT, March 10) [top]

Operation Anaconda in eastern Afghanistan saw the first use in combat of the BLU-118B "bunker-buster" bomb March 2. The BLU-118B is a 2,000-pound "thermobaric" air-fuel explosive, the most powerful class of conventional bombs, specially designed to destroy caves and hardened bunkers. (NYT, March 4). The next generation currently under development are low-yield nuclear "bunker-busters," which the Pentagon has already considered for use in Iraq. (See WW3 REPORT #14)[top]

A month after the Sept. 11 attacks, senior Bush administration officials received an intelligence report that terrorists had procured a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon from the Russian arsenal and were planning to smuggle it into New York City, a federal official admitted. Confirming an account in Time magazine this week, the official said the highly classified report was based on a source of questionable reliability. It was circulated among a few top federal officials, who concluded--after several weeks--that it was false. Then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani , the NYPD and FBI were all kept in the dark as the report was distributed to CIA Director George Tenet and high-ranking officials from little-known federal agencies such as the White House Counter-terrorism Security Group (part of the National Security Council) and the Energy Department's ultra-secret Nuclear Emergency Search Team, based in Nevada. Bernard Kerik, who was New York police commissioner at the time, protested the federal government's silence: "If they had information like that, that's appalling. I was never told. I was concerned we weren't being fed all the information." Time said the source of the report was a "mercurial agent code-named dragonfly." While the agent's reliability was questioned, his claim was compounded by that of a Russian general in the 1990s that his forces were missing a 10-kiloton device. The claim was denied by the Russian government. A 10-kiloton bomb detonated in lower Manhattan would kill 100,000 people, contaminate 700,000, and flatten everything within a half-mile. (NYT, March 4)[top]

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from Henry Kelly, president of the Federation of American Scientists, on the potential for terrorist attack with a "dirty bomb"--which would contaminate a wide area by dispersing radioactive material with a conventional explosive. This radioactive "dirty bomb" would be much cheaper and easier to make than an actual nuclear explosive. Kelly said blowing up a piece of mildly radioactive medical equipment that recently turned up in a North Carolina scrap-yard would contaminate a mile-long area. Blowing up a highly radioactive rod of Cobalt or Cesium used to kill bacteria in food would leave Manhattan so heavily contaminated "that anyone living there would have a one-in-100 chance of dying from cancer. It would be decades before the city was inhabitable again." (Newsday, March 7) [top]


Following accusations by Federation of American Scientists researcher Barbara Hatch Rosenberg that the FBI has a suspect in the anthrax letter attacks but is "dragging its feet" in making an arrest because of likely ties to military research (see WW3 REPORT #22), the nation's press ran a series of stories portraying Justice Department progress in the investigation. But the press accounts, sourced to anonymous officials, were sketchy and even contradictory. The New York Times reported Feb. 27 that in "an important step for narrowing the pool of anthrax suspects," the Justice Department is sending subpoenas to microbiology laboratories across the country for samples of the Ames strain of anthrax. But "experts expressed surprise" that subpoenas for the samples were only going out more than four months after the Ames strain was identified as the one in the Fall letter attacks.

The Washington Post reported Feb. 26 that investigators are said to "keep a running list of as many as 20 people who are under scrutiny at any time." The FBI has conducted anthrax tests in the homes, offices and vehicles of about a dozen people who have been investigated in the deadly mailings, but all were cleared of suspicion when the tests came back negative, "officials said." The tests were conducted with the consent of those under investigation and did not require search warrants, according to authorities. At one lab, the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, MD, FBI agents have reportedly conducted hundreds of interviews. One FBI agent now is assigned full-time to USAMRIID, and is supervising "a hastily-formed reference library of anthrax strains." Investigators have determined that fewer than 20 labs possessed live cultures of the Ames strain, all but three in the US. The FBI has dispatched agents to a Canadian defense lab, and plans more visits are to research agencies in the UK and France. But anonymous "authorities" said no individual has remained on the FBI's list for more than a month, and none has emerged as a solid suspect.

The same day as the Washington Post article, the New York Times contradicted the implication that the list of 20 is rotating, claiming the FBI has identified a "short list" of 18 to 20 people "who had the means, opportunity and possible motive to have sent the anthrax-laden letters last fall." White House press secretary Ari Fleischer was quoted saying that the FBI had several "suspects" in the case--a characterization the Times said was contested by law enforcement. "It would be inaccurate to say that these people are suspects in the classic sense," one law enforcement official reportedly said. One person on the short list is apparently from Somalia, and did graduate work in biology at a Midwestern university that possessed Ames strain anthrax. Wrote the Times: "A Muslim, the student repeatedly sent money home to Mogadishu, the Somali capital well known for its feuding warlords and terrorists." (NYT, Feb. 26) [top]


Last week, WW3 REPORT Editor Bill Weinberg took up From the Wilderness e-newsletter editor Michael Ruppert on his public challenge to provide "$1,000 to anyone who can prove any of his sources were misrepresented or inauthentic." (See WW3 REPORT #23) Weinberg cited two examples of misrepresented or inauthentic sources--one concerning claims by the French daily Le Figaro that Osama bin Laden met with a CIA officer at a Dubai hospital last summer, the other concerning allegations the White House provided $43 million in aid to the Taliban last year. Michael Ruppert offers the following reply:

"I am amazed at the unfounded and personal nature of this attack. I will presently prove that it is meritless. I am also amazed that you did not have a journalist's standard code of ethics at your fingertips to contact me and ask for a response before you unilaterally made the statement that I had been 'Caught in Misrepresentations.' As you will see below that is not true and I believe that a personal apology is in order...

"Point one of your allegations: Le Figaro did not confirm the story as I stated. Following is an exact copy of the translation of the Le Figaro piece I received from a colleague. I have a date certain copy and a send-and-receive verification of the document. Please read the second sentence of the first paragraph. I believe that you will see that the original French also says exactly the same thing. Je parle un peu de FranÙais. Et Vous?

"'Le Figaro, Alexandra Richard October 31, 2001 page 2: Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the federation of United Arab Emirate in the north-east of Abu Dhabi. This city of 350,000 inhabitants was the discreet locus of a secret meeting between Osama Ben Laden and the local representative of the CIA, in July. A member of the administration of the American Hospital of Dubai confirms that the public enemy number one stayed in the hospital from July 4th to July 14th...'

"Do you happen to see the word 'confirms' there? Also you suggest bias in my reporting by failing to note that some of the hospital staff later denied the story. Yet you failed to mention that I wrote in my timeline story the following, dated November 7, 2001: 'Even though Le Figaro reported that it had confirmed with hospital staff that bin Laden had been there as reported, stories printed on November 1 contained quotes from hospital staff that these reports were untrue. On November 1, as reported by the Ananova press agency, the CIA flatly denied that any meeting between any CIA personnel and Osama bin Laden at any time.'

"Point Two of your allegation pertains to the Robert Scheer column from the Los Angeles Times and the $43 million given to the Taliban. You are not alleging that I misquoted Scheer, which I did not. What you are accusing me of is not reaching the same conclusion that you did and calling that 'misrepresentation.' I can list a number of sources which indicate that the payment was a reward that was given at a time when the Taliban had shown signs of cooperation by destroying their opium crop and that, in conjunction with the drought, the lack of cash from opium sales had made it impossible to purchase food. Nonetheless, the point is that at a time when the US gov't knew that terrorist attacks were likely it gave $43 million to its so-called enemy. You do not dispute this point, I take it. So, did I misrepresent Scheer? No, I did not. To quote Scheer: 'The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the US the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that 'rogue' regime for declaring the that opium growing is against the will of God.'

"No, I will not pay you $1,000 because I did not do what you allege. My sources are authentic and they are accurately quoted by any standard. And I will be assuming herewith that you have carefully examined every other one of the 46 points in my timeline story and found them to be correct. It would be a good thing for journalism and for all the people of this country if you would show some outrage at what is therein documented rather than engaging in personal attacks that suggest insecurity--or an interest in something other than the welfare of the people--on your part. Sincerely, Mike Ruppert, Publisher/Editor, From The Wilderness "

Bill Weinberg, in turn, offers the following counter-response:

The sentence in the original French version of the Figaro story (on-line at actually reads: "Un homme, partenaire professionnel de la direction administrative de l'húpital amÚricain de Dubað, affirme que l'ennemi public numÚro un a sÚjournÚ dans cet Útablissement hospitalier du 4 au 14 juillet." The verb in question here is "affirmer." My French-English dictionary (Robert-Collins, 1984) translates "affirmer" as "to maintain" or "assert." The correct translation for "confirm" is given as "confirmer"--which appears nowhere in Le Figaro's story. The logical conclusion is that Le Figaro was reporting unconfirmed assertions, not confirmed fact. (Just for the record, my blurb did indeed quote the hospital staff's refutation of the allegation as it appeared in From the Wilderness.)

As for the supposed $43 million in aid to the Taliban: I did not accuse Ruppert of misrepresenting Scheer, but of relying on an inaccurate or misleading source. Scheer's May 22, 2001 LA Times opinion piece was contradicted by a May 18 AP news story, which read: "US aid to Afghanistan bypasses the ruling Taliban militia, which controls the bulk of the country but has no official relationship with the United States because of its alleged role as a sponsor of terrorism... The assistance is donated through international agencies of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations." There are numerous reports of covert CIA aid to the Taliban, but no bureaucratic mechanism exists for overt development aid to a regime with which the US has no diplomatic relations. Therefore the $43 million went to UN and private agencies working in Afghanistan, and was not "a gift to the Taliban."

Ruppert's challenge was public, and it was entirely legitimate to answer it publicly. WW3 REPORT's highest commitment is to accuracy, and concedes only the possibility that Ruppert's misrepresentations were unintentional. I hereby leave the matter to the judgement of our readers. [top]


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