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by Bill Weinberg

Hussein and his fellow abusers
Have been caught and must face their accusers
Because after the war
What the trial is for
Is to punish all crimes--of the losers

Limerick Times, Vol. 1, #19-July 1, 2004
Jonathan J Dobkin, Editor
Subscription: limericktimes@yahoo

On June 28, the US transferred sovereignty to Iraq's interim government two days ahead of schedule, as the New York Times announced to a banner headline spreading across all five columns of the front page. By a vote of the US-appointed (and now-disbanded) Governing Council, Iyad Allawi, leader of the CIA-backed Iraqi National Accord, became Iraq's new interim prime minister. Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, a traditional Sunni tribal leader and a figure far less conciliatory towards the US, filled the far less powerful post of interim president. But it remains doubtful whether the new regime will have either stability or any real sovereignty in an Iraq still facing armed insurgency and under occupation by some 150,000 US troops.


On June 30, the US officially transferred custody of Saddam Hussein to the new regime. On July 1, the world was treated to the spectacle of a defiant Saddam appearing at his first court hearing, where he refused to recognize the authority of either the court or the new government, insisting he remains the legitimate leader of Iraq. Eleven other old regime members were also arraigned, including Saddam's deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, and "Chemical Ali" Hassan al-Majid. Unlike Saddam, the other regime members signed court papers and requested legal counsel. (Al-Jazeera, July 2) The fact that the 12 are still being held at a secret location by US forces even as they are ostensibly under the custody of a sovereign Iraq reveals much about the true nature of power in the country. The US is said to be planning a large role in Saddam's prosecution through Regime Crimes Liaison Office. (LAT, June 30) The office was created by the Coalition Provisional Authority to loan US federal prosecutors to the Iraqi regime for the case. (AP, July 5)


On June 8, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the coalition security force in Iraq and US-managed transfer to "sovereignty." But the grisly dialectic of insurgent and counter-insurgent terror showed no signs of abating--indeed, there are signs that the entire region is being drawn into the Iraqi maelstrom.

At least 64 were killed in car bombs throughout Iraq in the first two weeks of June. On June 15 two pipeline blasts near a Persian Gulf terminal again shut down oil exports. On June 17, the central Baghdad base of the New Iraqi Army was hit by suicide bombers, killing at least 35, mostly new recruits. (NYT, June 15, 16, 18)

On June 18, Saudi militants beheaded Paul M. Johnson Jr., an abducted US Lockheed Martin engineer working on Apache helicopters. The New York Times quoted a statement from an un-named web site: "He tasted what thousands of Muslims taste every day because of the fire from the American Apache, its rockets and its flames that tortured Muslims." Pictures of the beheaded corpse were also posted on the web. The beheading was followed by skirmishes between militants and Saudi security forces, but the presumed leader Abdelazis al-Muqrin is still said to be at large . (NYT, June 19)

On June 24, coordinated bomb attacks and ambushes in Mosul, Fallujah, Muhawil, Baqouba and Baghdad left 100 dead, including three US troops.

The US blamed resistance leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for the attacks. The Jordan-born al-Zarqawi is said to have operated his own training camps under Taliban protection in Afghanistan, but to have a rivalry with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. He was formerly imprisoned in Jordan on charges of conspiring to overthrow the monarchy and establish an Islamic caliphate. Having lost a leg in a US airstrike on his Afghan camp in Herat, he entered Iraq after the fall of Saddam, and may be drawing on followers from his native Beni Hassan clan, which straddles the Iraq-Jordan border. In 2003, he was named as the brains behind a series of lethal bombings from Casablanca to Istanbul. (Sofia News Agency, July 10)

On June 25, the US attacked supposed insurgent strongholds in Falluja with airstrikes, indicating that little was gained by the strategic US pull-out from the restive city in May--except possibly a propaganda victory for the resistance. As the AP reported July 17: "Through Web sites, headlines and graffiti, the Arab world is celebrating the people of Fallujah as victors over a superpower. This embrace of the Iraqi city has raised fears that it will become a magnet for recruits to al-Qaeda's anti-Western campaign."

The radical Shiite militia of Moktada al-Sadr still controls Najaf's Imam Ali shrine, the New York Times reported July 10, and the new authorities are reluctant to move against them, fearing a resurgence of armed conflict. The Times reported June 26 that the US used extensive bribes to get Sadr militia fighters to lay down arms in the April fighting--but the movement clearly remains a potential threat to the new order in Iraq. The Christian Science Monitor reported claims by US and Iraqi authorities July 15 that Iran has some 80 agents in Iraq secretly arming and training the Sadr forces. Michael al-Zurufi, security chief for Najaf province, told CSM: "The Iranian people are trying to reorganize Sadr's militia so they can fight again."

This constitutes the first attributed claim that Iran, officially patron of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a rival Shiite faction cooperating with the new regime, is backing the Sadr forces, who have heretofore been suspicious of Tehran. On July 13, the Tehran Times ran declarations by SCIRI head Abdelaziz Hakim denying accusations that Iran is meddling in Iraq's internal affairs--while not specifically mentioning al-Sadr.

The chaos caused by ongoing violence in Iraq is compounded by that of ongoing infrastructure problems. The New York Times reported June 14 that the US had missed its electricity restoration goal by 30% for the start of summer, and blackouts remain frequent in Baghdad.

The chaos is not, however, interfering with Iraq's march towards a market economy. BBC reported July 16 that on the advice of the US Treasury, Iraqi interim Finance Minister Adel Mahdi has launched a bond market. The new Iraq Stock Exchange, with a fully automated trading floor, opened on June 24. The nascent Iraq Stock Exchange, listing 27 companies held over from the Saddam era, had more than 500 million shares traded on its opening day--more then the former Baghdad Stock Exchange ever did.


Days after taking power, Allawi announced emergency legislation granting him sweeping powers in a bid to put down the insurgency. The US was said to object to Allawi's grab for emergency powers--but he is more likely to get in trouble with Washington over his proposed amnesty for resistance fighters who have not killed or raped Iraqis. Insurgents who have killed US troops are implicitly included in the amnesty. Allawi also warned that measures against the insurgency could include postponing Iraq's first post-Saddam elections, now slated for January 2005. He denied that the emergency powers constitute martial law, but said martial law could be declared in certain provinces . (Al-Jazeera, June 27)

On July 8, US troops battled masked gunmen in Baghdad as the emergency legislation was drawn up.

On July 14, following a two-week lull, a suicide blast at a checkpoint outside the heavily-guarded government zone in Baghdad left 11 dead. The governor of Nineveh province was also assassinated in an ambush. And a bomb blast knocked out the crucial northern pipeline that delivers oil from Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

The following day, Allawi announced the creation of a new internal intelligence agency to "annihilate" the insurgency. He claimed Iraq lost nearly $1 billion in oil revenues due to pipeline blasts over the past 10 days. ''This is money taken from the pockets of Iraqis," Alawi said. (Boston Globe, July 16)

On July 17, two days after Allawi's announcement, the convoy of Iraqi interim Justice Minister Malik Dohan al-Hassan was hit by a suicide car bomber, killing five of his bodyguards. In a second suicide bombing, attackers struck the Iraqi National Guard headquarters in Mahmudiya, just south of Baghdad, killing two and injuring nearly 50.

Allawi's draconian moves against the insurgency were cast in an ironic light by June 9 claims in the New York Times) --citing former intelligence officials--that his CIA-backed Iraqi National Accord used car bombs and other sabotage in a 1990's campaign to destabilize the Saddam Hussein regime. Hushed up by both the CIA and Saddam, the Times claims "[n]o public records of the bombing campaign exist..." But former CIA officer Robert Baer told the Times that a bombing during that period "blew up a school bus; schoolchildren were killed." While Baer said he did not recall which resistance group set off that bomb, other former intelligence officials said Allawi's organization was the only one involved in bombings and sabotage at that time.

Adding to the irony, the Times also aired claims that as an official of the Baath regime in the 1970s, Allawi supervised public hangings and espionage against Iraqi dissidents living abroad.


Allawi could also be asking for trouble with his plan to re-instate units of Saddam's disbanded army. Ex-CIA officer Reuel Marc Gerecht, now with American Enterprise Institute, warned in a June 30 New York Times op-ed that "the prime minister's plans may well capsize Iraq. The primary Shiite political organizations have tentatively agreed to integrate their paramilitary organizations into a new Iraqi army. This agreement will unravel, however, if Mr. Alawi is serious bout recreating old Iraqi units. The average Shiite detests the uniform and standards of Saddam Hussein's military... If Shiite paramilitary organizations are not incorporated into a new army--with freshly minted Shiite officers in commanding positions--it is unlikely that the new Iraq can survive."

On June 9, the New York Times reported that Kurdish leaders had threatened to leave the interim government unless the autonomy of their northern zone was constitutionally guaranteed in perpetuity. The Turkish newspaper Zaman reported July 17 that Allawi said the northern city of Kirkuk, which the Kurdish leaders are accused of seeking to annex to their autonomous zone, might be afforded its own special autonomous status in a bid to head off further violence in the region. Turkish leaders fear an expansion of Kurdish power in Iraq as setting a precedent for their own restive Kurdish region. Zaman said that Allawi also pledged a crackdown on the PKK, the Kurdish separatist group active in Turkey which has been taking refuge in Iraq since the fall of Saddam.

In the June 28 New Yorker finding that Seymour Hersh claimed that Israel is secretly aiding Iraq's Kurds to offset the power of the Arab Sunni and Shiite militias and parties. Citing anonymous Israeli intelligence sources, Hersh claimed Israel currently has military advisors on the ground in Iraq's Kurdish zone. "The former Israeli intelligence official acknowledged that since late last year Israel has been training Kurdish commando units to operate in the same manner and with the same effectiveness as Israel's most secretive commando units, the Mistaravim."

Hersh also cited a November 2003 secret assessment by the CIA station chief in Baghdad, code-named Aardwolf and leaked to Knight-Ridder, finding that the security situation in Iraq was nearing collapse. The document stated that "none of the post-war Iraqi political institutions and leaders have shown an ability to govern the country" or hold elections.


On July 13, Manila announced a pull-out of its 50-troop contingent from Iraq as militants from a group calling itself the Islamic Army threatened to kill a Filipino truck-driver held hostage. The news came as a Bulgarian hostage was executed by his captors. Manila's decision was predictably blasted by Bush. Spain pulled its troops from Iraq following the March election of Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Small contingents from Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, which had been under Spanish command, also left with them. (Toronto G&M, July 16)

Abducted US Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, shown in grainy TV footage blindfolded with a sword above head and initially said to have been killed, later showed up at the US Embassy in Beirut (where he has family). He is still being questioned at the Marine base in Quantico, VA. (Reuters, July 16)

The Pentagon says it does not keep track of Iraqi civilian casualties. But the web site Iraq Body Count continues to monitor world press reports to arrive at a daily update of the total Iraqi civilian dead from war-related causes since the US campaign began last March. At press time, the minimum estimate stands at 11,252 and the maximum at 13,213.However, Iraq Body Count is now including in its toll those killed by insurgent forces, considering these to be "civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order."

On July 14, Newsday reported that the US continues to offer Iraqi families $500 for each civilian death, and $250 for an injured relative.

Ongoing violence in Iraq goes largely unreported, and US media are far more likely to play up insurgent attacks than those by occupation forces. Comprehensive daily updates on attacks by resistance and occupation forces alike are provided by the Jihad Unspun website--from a perspective openly partisan to the resistance. Unlike the more objective Iraq Body Count, it does not provide sources.

As of July 17, the number of US troops killed in Iraq stood at 892.


On June 3, George Tenet resigned as CIA director. Deputy Director John McLaughlin took over as acting director, but pointedly did not move into the office of Director of Central Intelligence at the CIA's headquarters in Langely, VA. James L. Pavitt, Tenet's clandestine services chief, resigned as well. (NYT, June 4, 5)

The resignation came as charges against the agency are mounting from official sources. A report of the Senate Intelligence Committee found that CIA warnings on Saddam's WMD capabilities were unfounded; the committee was split on whether there was intentional manipulation of data. (NYT, July 10, 11) The New York Times announced in a front-page headline June 17 that the 9-11 Commission found no Saddam tie to al-Qaeda.

The FBI has also opened a probe into claims that Ahmad Chalabi, the former Pentagon favorite on Iraq's Governing Council, had informed Tehran that the US had broken the secret code used by Iran's military and intelligence services. (Newsday, June 3)

The debacle is reminiscent of the "Iraqgate" scandal that shook the White House after Operation Desert Storm and helped bring down the first Bush administration. But the CIA's current humiliation may only presage exponentially greater powers for the intelligence apparatus. The New York Times reported July 17 that the soon-to-be-released 9-11 Commission report is calling for creation of a cabinet-level post to oversee the intelligence agencies. The report also once again faults the CIA and FBI for not sharing data, the Times says--a complaint that serves the agenda of actually merging the two agencies. The article suggests the CIA will oppose the move to create a cabinet position, miffed at having "to cede significant authority over the government's estimated $40 billion annual intelligence budget and other policy matters." The trajectory, however, seems to be towards a single super-agency with both international and domestic powers. Even if bureaucrats now balk at having their power usurped, the intelligence apparatus as a whole seems poised for a hypertrophic expansion unrivalled by anything since the dawn of the Cold War.


Dick Cheney's old pals at Halliburton have also got caught up in the new web of media scrutiny. When Time magazine revealed a newly unearthed Pentagon e-mail about Halliburton contracts in Iraq, it prompted fresh calls on Capitol Hill for probes into whether the vice president helped his old firm get the deals. Sen. Patrick Leahy said the e-mail provided "clear evidence" of a relationship between Cheney and the lucrative contracts Halliburton has received in Iraq. "It totally contradicts the vice president's previous assertions of having no contact," Leahy said. "It would be irresponsible not to hold hearings."

The March 2003 Pentagon e-mail says action on a no-bid Halliburton contract to rebuild Iraq's oil industry was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. Cheney was CEO of the oil industry services giant from 1995 until he joined the Bush presidential ticket in 2000. US officials estimate the Texas company's Iraq contracts could total some $18 billion. (Reuters, June 3)


The supposed power turn-over in Iraq occasioned a retrospective on US policy on the troublesome nation in the July-August issue of Foreign Affairs, journal of the elite Council on Foreign Relations. The special issue is entitled "Rethinking Iraq."

In the first in the series of articles, "History and the Hyperpower," Eliot A. Cohen (Johns Hopkins U policy wonk) explicitly draws an analogy between the US and Imperial Rome, arguing that by virtue of its unparalleled military superiority, the US is better poised to maintain "hegemony." Cohen crows that "the legions of the United States have no match, and the gap between them and other militaries is only growing." He notes approvingly: "The United States now accounts for between 40 and 50 percent of global defense spending, more than double the total spending of its European allies... In virtually every sphere of warfare, the United States dominates, an unprecedented phenomenon in military history." While ironically warning against "hubris" that could alienate US allies, Cohen (in awkward and redundant prose) finds the potential for "anarchy unleashed after a disgusted United States recalls its legions in a spurt of democratic disgust at and indifference to the rest of the planet...too horrifying to contemplate. The real alternatives, then, are US hegemony exercised prudently or foolishly..." The cover-line for the piece lamented "The Burdens of Empire," implicitly invoking the 19th century concept of "white man's burden."

The next piece, "Saving Iraq From Its Oil," notes the "resource curse" which frequently results in those developing countries richest in oil and minerals becoming the most corrupt and dictatorial. The authors, Nancy Birdsall (Center for Global Development president) and Arvind Subramanian (IMF division chief), note the allure of easy riches as an inducement to corruption by local elites and an over-reliance on the resource sector. Ironically, the same phenomenon was observed through a very different lens by the Uruguayan leftist historian Eduardo Galeano in his 1973 classic Open Veins of Latin America: the book's Part One is entitled "Mankind's Poverty as a Consequence of the Wealth of the Land" and relates numerous instances of US intervention precisely to impose corrupt and dictatorial regimes which granted easy access to oil and mineral (and banana) companies.

Birdsall and Subramanian, in contrast, see the US as providing tutelage in democracy in Iraq--seemingly ignorant of the long US role of propping up or even installing corrupt and brutal regimes in the country (including the Baathists). They do, to their credit, admit that oil companies "too often abet local corruption." Their proposed solution of distributing Iraq's oil proceeds directly to the people at first seems somewhat progressive--but ultimately appears designed to guarantee a weak Iraqi state and encourage a free-market economy. They call for their plan to be imposed on Iraq's constitution for ten years even if it means a "forfeiture of traditional sovereignty." They implicitly applaud the US intervention for providing "a relatively clean slate" for Iraqi oil policy.

The next in the series, "Containing Iraq: Sanctions Worked" by George A. Lopez (Notre Dame wonk) and David Cortright (Fourth Freedom Forum president), sees in the apparent absence of WMD in Iraq a vindication of US policy. Of course, the reverse would have also conveniently been a vindication of US policy. The authors boast: "Sanctions had left Saddam's once-vaunted war machine in a state of utter disrepair." Yet they offer only lukewarm criticism that Washington, blind to its own success, "discarded an effective system of containment" in favor of "preventative war."

The final entry, "Berlin to Baghdad: The Pitfalls of Hiring Enemy Intelligence" by Timothy Naftali (co-author, US Intelligence and the Nazis), is probably the most prescient. Recalling the CIA's adoption of Hitler's Eastern Front spy chief Reinhard Gehlen to head West Germany's new intelligence agency after World War II--leading to the official protection of Nazi war criminals and enabling the Communists to "sow doubt" in the democratic order--Naftali warns against "the temptation to rely on tainted personnel from the former regime" in Iraq. He does not mention that such "tainted" personnel may include interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi--apparently a former Baathist thug-turned-CIA terrorist.

Interestingly, not appearing in the issue is Foreign Affairs senior editor Jonathan Tepperman, who in a June 10 New York Times op-ed provided a real insight on how the Iraq adventure could undermine US power. The piece, "An American in The Hague?", warned that lack of accountability over torture in Iraq could spell defeat for Bush in November. And "if American officials are not held legally accountable, the damage abroad could be even more severe. Part of the terrible legacy of Abu Ghraib may be that the United States will find it difficult to prosecute foreign war criminals if it refuses to accept for itself the legal standards it accuses them of breaking."


Despite columnist William Safire's relentless harping in the New York Times, the corruption scandal around the UN's Saddam-era oil-for-food program, aimed at alleviating the human toll of the sanctions, has yet to hit the headlines in a big way.

In a page-six story, the Christian Science Monitor reported July 15 that former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker is heading the UN-approved independent inquiry into what may be the "biggest financial scandal in history," involving 270 companies and individuals in 46 countries. Saddam Hussein is said to have hauled in $5.7 billion from illicit oil sales and $4.4 billion more in kickbacks. Documents have been subpoenaed from ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, among other oil majors. Various other probes of the scandal have received even less attention. The Iraqi interim regime's own auditor, Ehsari Karim, was conveniently killed in a July 1 car bombing in Baghdad. Nina Bang-Jensen, director of DC-based Coalition for International Justice, which monitors issues of war crimes and international law, told CSM: "This was a well-intentioned program that went badly wrong. What disturbs us is that this is becoming a partisan issue, when there are serious culpability issues that need to be investigated. For a program that was supposed to aid Iraqis, whom Saddam was starving, to wind up in his hands is a travesty."

In a June 27 column, the Times' Safire quoted an anonymous UN whistle-blower: "Everybody--traders, contractors, banks, inspectors--was milking it. It was supposed to buy food with the money from oil that the UN allowed Saddam to sell, but less than half went for that. Perfume, limos, a shipment of 1,500 Ping-Pong tables, for God's sake."

With the exception of cranky old UN-haters like Safire, everybody seems to have an interest in keeping this scandal off the front pages--certainly, for reasons too obvious to note, Exxon and Texaco, and the numerous international banks which have been served subpoenas. But, in a case of the proverbial strange bedfellows, the usual leftist muckrakers have also left the story alone--because the notion that Saddam was massively skimming raises questions about the "sanctions-are-genocide" mantra they have been bleating for years.

Very few leftist commentators have even grappled with the allegations. Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies , quoted by Inter-Press Service April 12, noted the irony that the scandal is being used for UN-bashing by supporters of US unilateralism: "It's the members of the Security Council, most significantly the United States and its allies, who were responsible for approving all contracts in the oil-for-food program. This is one more in a long series of efforts by Washington to divert responsibility for its own failures to blame the United Nations instead.''

Longtime sanctions opponent Joy Gordon makes valid points in an April 4 USA Today opinion piece, but hurts her own credibility by putting the word "scandal" in quotes and seeking to exculpate both Saddam and the UN: "Iraq's economy plummeted from $60 billion a year in output to $13 billion. That's what brought about the terrible impoverishment. Imagine if the US lost three-quarters of its economy. The results would be disastrous for every part of society. Had Saddam put each cent from the UN program into the economy, the situation would not have differed much. It still would have meant a virtual collapse of agriculture, industry, education and health care."

She is more on target in pointing out the hypocrisy of the scandal-mongers: "Have we forgotten that massive no-bid contracts were handed out to US corporations such as Bechtel and Halliburton? Or that Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi Governing Council member leading the investigation into the oil-for-food charges, fled embezzlement charges in Jordan? The UN is the better choice for nation-building with integrity and competence."

See also WW3 REPORT #58


The US Supreme Court's June 28 decision granting detained "enemy combatants" at least a vaguely-defined right to judicial review was hailed as a victory by civil libertarians. Few seemed to note that the ruling sets a dangerous precedent by giving a cover of legitimacy to the "enemy combatant" designation, heretofore a legal fiction created by the Bush White House. The San Francisco Chronicle offered a typical quote from ACLU legal director Steven Shapiro. "The court deserves great credit for recognizing that the rule of law cannot be enforced in the absence of meaningful judicial review.'' But the Chronicle itself noted that "the court did not order the release of any prisoner and did little to interfere with day-to-day military control of the detainees."

The court actually ruled in four related cases. In Rasul v. Bush and al-Odah v. US, the court found six-to-three that detainees at Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba--mostly foreign nationals detained by US troops in Afghanistan--have the right to have their cases heard before a US judge or "other neutral decision-maker."

A decision also came down in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld--concerning Yaser Esam Hamdi, US citizen captured in Afghanistan and held for two years as an "enemy combatant" at a Naval base in Norfolk, VA. Eight justices--all but Clarence Thomas--held that Hamdi has the right to have his case heard in US courts.

The fourth case was Rumsfeld v. Padilla, concerning accused would-be "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla, another US citizen who--despite being arrested in Chicago--has been designated an "enemy combatant" and held without access to the courts. The justices dodged this one, finding that his petition for release should have been filed in a district court in South Carolina, where he is being held in a naval brig, not in New York. The Padilla case must now wend its way back through the federal court system to the Supremes.

Whatever the dangerous limitations of these rulings, it is clear that the hardcore freedom-haters on the court are even more dangerous. Antonin Scalia, dissenting in the Guantanamo cases (along with Thomas and William Rehnquist), protested that "the court boldly extends the scope of the habeas corpus statute to the four corners of the earth." Actually, it only extends it to a single US naval base in Cuba. And hey Tony, I thought the whole point of "extending" US power to "the four corners of the earth" through the War on Terrorism was to expand freedom?

The Pentagon predictably exploited the wiggle-room in the rulings. Two weeks after the high court ruled, it announced that no "enemy combatants" would get their day in the civilian courts, but that it was creating its own Combatant Status Review Tribunal, overseen by military judges.

(NYT July 3, 17)

See also a WW3 REPORT #s: 95, 43, 40


Even if the Iraq debacle has pushed it from the front page, things aren't looking too good in Afghanistan, Bush's first "victory" in the War on Terrorism. On June 30, bomb blasts in Jalalabad killed one and wounded 27, warning of a likely insurgent threat to the upcoming first post-Taliban elections in September. At least 180 are dead in attacks by presumed Taliban insurgents so far this year--55 in June alone. (NYT, July 1)

On July 18, a presumed Taliban rocket exploded in the Shashdarak section of Kabul, mortally wounding a woman. The area is less than a kilometer from the headquarters of the NATO-led "peacekeeping" force. (VOA, July 18)

Demonstrating the extent to which his government is a fiction even as it prepares for elections, President Hamid Karzai said July 14 that "warlordism" was a bigger threat to the country than Taliban insurgents, and signed a decree imposing criminal penalties against warlords resisting disarmament. But it remains to be seen if Karzai's still-embryonic national army has the power to enforce the decree. (Eurasianet, July 14)

Only some 10,000 of Afghanistan's estimated 60,000 militia fighters have been demobilized so far under a UN-sponsored program. (AP, July 17) The CIA World Fatcbook entry on Afghanistan reads: "Afghan National Army, currently being trained by the US with the assistance of the international community, is 7,000 strong; note--the December 2001 Bonn Agreement called for all militia forces to come under the authority of the central government, but regional leaders have continued to retain their militias and the formation of a national army remains a gradual process; Afghanistan's militia forces continue to be factionalized, largely along ethnic lines"

And at least some US elements in Afghanistan appear to be fueling the atmosphere of lawlessness. Three US citizens were arrested in early July by Afghan authorities on charges of running a private clandestine prison. Afghan officials say the men and their Afghan crew unlawfully imprisoned and interrogated people they believed to be "terrorists." Afghan and US officials have branded the men "vigilantes" who wore fake uniforms. At his July 18 arraignment, the group's leader, Jonathan Idema, claimed to have secret contact with the Pentagon, but apparently did not provide evidence to substantiate his claim. (VOA, July 18)

Finally, the New York Times reported July 1 that the US-led anti-opium campaign has failed so dramatically that tomatoes selling for more than opium in the markets of Helmand province. The Times pictured a shot of a Helmand farmer tending a sprawling poppy field. The article found the only ironic glimmer of hope in the fact that over-supply has caused the bottom to drop out of the opium market.


Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, July 18, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Reprinting permissible with attribution.